(and of course there are other variations in how this may unfold)
It does Not require spiritual awakening to have an experience of the divine. People have been having such, in all kinds of ways, throughout the ages. However, these are normally brief perceptual experiences. They are often indirect tastes of some aspect and then they fade.
The shift of makara can be described as a drop of Mother Divine.
The awakening heart can bring profound flows of love.
Refined perception may enable us to see the light of life or hear creation becoming.
We may hear or see divine beings.
However, if we don’t know better, we may also get caught up in the flash of the astral. If we don’t know both astral and divine, we should consider it could be astral.
If there is enough sattva, some sort of relationship with a form of the divine may develop. But we’re still experiencing the divine as other, even if there is profound intimacy. Also, those early experiences are not often our ishta devata – the form of God we’ll most relate to.
As a result, we want to be careful not to invest in early experiences too much or the identification will hold us back from it deepening. And we certainly don’t want to confuse a manipulating astral being with the divine.
After Self Realization, consciousness begins the descent into our form. When it reaches the heart, there can be a profound blossoming of love and much deeper values of refined perception. This is called God Consciousness. We now also have the stable platform for the divine to unfold in.
However, if we have less clarity or a lot of unresolved energetic baggage, then we may not really notice this step for now.
Unity that follows is a progressive experience of uniting that climaxes at God Realization. At this point, we merge with the divine, however we know it. This opens the door to Brahman, beyond consciousness.
In Brahman, the prior intimacy with all that is vanishes and a new discovery takes place in coming to know what is here instead. As this experience refines, we eventually come to a place known as Parabrahman – beyond even Brahman. This is pure Divinity, known by itself alone.
It can’t be know by Brahman or by the dynamics of consciousness because it is beyond all of that. It is known by a divine-embodied heart, its own nature.
Each of these layers brings us closer to pure divinity, so each is progressively more profound. But the Divine is totality. How long does it take to know totality? From the perspective of Vedic time and the cycles of creation, something in the range of Sextillions of years and uncountable numbers of beings. So we do what we can. 🙂