This article spins out of a discussion in comments on Is Brahman God, an article from November 2014.
All experiences and the world arise from consciousness interacting with itself. For a materialist that sees consciousness as a byproduct of the physical brain, this may seem delusional and ridiculous. And yet if we undertake an experiential study of consciousness itself, we soon experience consciousness by itself. This is known as samadhi or turiya. It gradually becomes clear that consciousness is not a byproduct but is the source of experience. The mind and brain are vehicles for that process, supporting and functioning on different levels of becoming.
From this perspective, we can say consciousness is the source. In the early stages of enlightenment, we experience consciousness as boundless and eternal. It has no prior origin.
As we go deeper into consciousness, we also discover consciousness underlies the world around us as well. The world is as if a screen on which experiences unfold. As Refined Unity unfolds, the process of experience itself becomes recognized. The full dynamics of consciousness are clear. There is an observer, the process of observation, and object of observation. The wholeness or samhita is the entirety of our shared world of experience.Brahman
When consciousness, through this vehicle, goes on to know itself globally and at every point, it knows itself fully. Then it can stop looking in on itself and look beyond itself. Turning beyond self-referral consciousness, pure Brahman is discovered.
For Brahman, nothing is named and no sense of self manifests as a being. It is prior to consciousness, existence, and all experiences. And yet Brahman knowns Brahman as it is alert to itself.
Beyond consciousness is prior to time. There is no temporal “beginning” to consciousness. It remains infinite and eternal and yet uncreated.
From Brahman, we can step back and see the totality of the self-interacting dynamics of consciousness. And then we come to see the three subtle “qualities” that give rise to consciousness in the first place.
The first quality is alertness. Alertness by itself is simply alert. It is not alert to anything because it is prior to consciousness and prior to any thing or object. But it is awake.
Then there is a quality of liveliness. This stirs alertness to become conscious. And then it stirs it further into flow. Flowing within itself, it is consciousness. Consciousness curves back on itself and becomes self-aware. This begins the dynamics of self-aware consciousness noted above – all of us experiencers and the objects of our world.
There is also a still more subtle quality of intelligence that gives that flow of consciousness a direction. Liveliness doesn’t just agitate alertness, it stirs it awake with intent. It becomes self-aware. It recognizes itself and expresses qualities from its inherent intelligence.
Once self-awareness arises, consciousness becomes aware that it is. The cosmic I-sense or Self or Atman arises. The sense of existence or being arises with self recognition. As Maharishi Mahesh Yogi said in the infamous SCI lesson 8 “Existence becomes conscious, then intelligence becomes intelligent.” In self-awareness is self-knowing.
In the dynamics of consciousness, we can say the quality of alertness expresses as the observer or Shiva quality of consciousness.
The quality of liveliness is dominant in the observed or expressed side of consciousness, in the forms and phenomena of the world. This has been called Brahma, the creator. But that liveliness, in itself, is Shakti, the feminine.
Intelligence is dominant in the devata value or process of experience, in our experiences themselves. They bring us our characteristics and talents and experiences. Intelligence also has a quality of memory.
In Brahman, there is no expression. Then consciousness arises and there is expression and all of time and space arise and complete in a timeless moment.
Yet in a moment, there isn’t time to unfold all the detail, all the nuances and variations of experience. Cosmic memory (smriti) of that expression is stirred by consciousness which can then unfold it over increments of time. This is where Dharma arises, that which sustains. By acting in harmony with this process (dharma), you and I can have experiences and unfold the full expression in all its detail.
Put another way, memory alive in consciousness sustains the appearance of the created world so we can experience and evolve though it. This sustaining is dharma, the Vishnu quality, driven by intelligence.
At first I thought the fundamental “qualities” of consciousness were qualities of Brahman. In time, it became clear these qualities came through Brahman rather than from it.
Their deeper source is ParaBrahman or pure Divinity. We could call them the afterglow of Divinity. Now we can see that ParaBrahman is the source of the source of all experience. The world is pure subjectivity.
Just as pure consciousness is awareness without content or expression, so too is pure Divinity without qualities or expression. Even Brahman is beyond the subtle dualities of being/ non-being and created/ uncreated. And yet, Divinity’s presence contains all qualities through intelligence. In the process of experience, the subtle qualities express in consciousness and thus to experiencers and the objects of the world.
The Lalita Sahasranama, for example, lists 1,000 names or qualities of the Divine. These are embodied qualities that can be experienced and described but point to more subtle, fundamental qualities. Yet even those fundamental qualities can be seen in the world like love, strength, clarity, etc. Lalita is “she who plays,” related to Lila, the Divine play.
(Most interpretations get muddled by a materialist perspective.)
We might say that nothing becomes something through the layered display of alertness, liveliness, and intelligence interacting within consciousness. But they all have to be in play before consciousness becomes self-aware and self-referencing. In this sense, consciousness is a side-effect of Divinity.
Stages of God
Just as we discover consciousness through stages, we also discover Divinity in several stages.
Most of us start on the level of belief. In the West, many were taught that our religious institution was our liaison with God. They would tell us what and how to believe. As we become adults, we consider what God belief-camp we’re in: I do, I don’t, I don’t know. Or even: I haven’t thought about it.
Yet all of this is on the level of mind. An opinion about how I believe. This entirely leaves out direct experience. In fact, the question of the Divine is often seen as an unknowable mystery or meaningless delusion. However, what I’m pointing to is the direct experience. This does not require belief.
While anyone can have tastes of qualities of Divinity, it helps to have a stable experiencer for a more refined ability to experience. It’s also important to recognize that subtle does not always mean Divine.
After the Self Realization shift, we gain a stable, infinite experiencer. The intellect becomes resolute – Buddhi becomes Buddha. When perception refines and the deeper heart (Hridaya) awakens, we notice the “hand of God” and gradually come to experience the Divine.
This is the first stage of knowing Divinity. It is not pure Divinity but expressed aspects of Divinity.
We can see this arise in two fundamental ways: as expressed qualities in form or as fundamental principles. This is known as the personal and impersonal aspects of God.
In the Personal, the heart is emphasized. God is experienced in form with distinctive qualities. This is the God of our highest ideals. Religions the world over describe some ways we might experience God. For some, the form will be more masculine, for others more feminine.
Alternately, some may open the heart more readily to their teacher or their mate, the upaguru.
In the Impersonal, the intellect is prominent. God is known through fundamental principles. Someone more devotional may favour the first. Someone more scientific, the second. And yet both have advantages we can tap in to. Both are available to us.
This is a profound relationship that cannot be underestimated. Losing this connection is the primary cause of suffering. And yet it pales compared to pure Divinity, just as waking state pales compared to pure infinite consciousness.
I use the word Realization as equivalent to ‘become’ or ‘realize oneself as.’ God Realization is the second stage of knowing Divinity. It can arise in late Unity stage when we realize we are one with God in their expressed value or aspect. This is the climax of both God Consciousness and the unification process of Unity.
While this writer is visual and uses visual words, this doesn’t mean we’ll come to the Divine by seeing. It may be through sound or feeling.
Yet without a process of refinement, Divinity from any perspective will not be unfolding in awareness. It is hidden by our inability to recognize those more refined qualities.
Enlightenment may lead us to see consciousness as the ultimate reality as it contains ourselves, the world, and expressions of the Divine. It is infinite and eternal.
But as we go beyond the field of expression into Brahman, we can leave behind qualities of the Divine and our prior relationship with them.
The nature of Brahman Consciousness is living Brahman in a body that is conscious. We’re still “in consciousness” but no longer see it as “who I am.” The body-mind is seen as an effect and a means of being in the apparent world, of living Brahman. In a sense, we need a “faint remains” of ignorance to live Brahman in the world.
We may not initially be aware of Brahman. But in time, Brahman comes to know Brahman. We can say it becomes conscious of itself or intelligently alert to itself but this is prior to the dynamics of consciousness. Subtle but a big distinction.
Some equate the term Brahman (meaning The Great) with the silence of samadhi or with the emptiness of a flat Self-Realization. This is not wrong, but it’s not pure Brahman. That’s what arises when we go beyond consciousness, just as pure consciousness arises if we go beyond the mind.
As we deepen into Brahman, the deeper value of the Divine unfolds in ParaBrahman. We reach a much deeper, fuller value of Divinity, beyond the constraints of our conceptions. This is the third stage when we can come to pure Divinity itself.
And yet, like consciousness, Divinity knows it’s totality but cannot fill out all the details unless it is experienced. Thus, the Divine expresses forward to explore all the detail and potential through love and intelligence.
Pure Divinity is also unfolded in a series of stages related to the structure of our vehicle of experience.
Our own bodies are made of trillions of cells, each with their own awareness and specialization. The body also houses an even larger number of microbes, some assisting with bodily processes like digestion.
There are innumerable other beings on this planet, from single-celled organisms right up through mammals that are each also composed of many other life-forms.
There are many other places in our galaxy with life, some with the diversity of our planet. Some of that is modeled in similar ways to ourselves. There are galaxies beyond count in our universe.
Concurrently, there is life throughout the other layers of being, on what we experience as our emotions, mind, intellect, and bliss body.
And yet our universe is only one of many distinct universes, each with a different combination of laws of nature to bring different experiences to its uncountable experiencers. Those universes exist in a larger field that I refer to as our creation. And there are many creations, each very distinct from our own. Many are less complex, experiencing fundamental principles more directly.
This may give us the tiniest peek into the range of experience required to bring out the detail of the profound intelligence of Divinity. Each of us has a role to bring our wholeness into totality.
When people are expressing oneness, they may say God is the Self or Atman is Brahman. But this doesn’t mean they’re the same thing. Rather, they’re recognizing them as one. Like apples and oranges are both fruit but not the same fruit. Oneness and diversity coexist and function on different layers.
When records of past figures have been translated without a fundamental understanding of the stages of enlightenment and of consciousness becoming, the information can get garbled.
But if we see there are 7 stages of enlightenment, each of which have their own reality and all of which build on our usual stages of human development, we have a better sense of our natural potential. And if we see that the world arises from consciousness in 7 primary layers, we can get a sense of fundamental principles that show in many ways on the surface of life.
That said, we shouldn’t confuse the map with the road. Your experience now is what is real for you. Adopting the ideas of a different stage can deny us the fullness of our life now. Go with what is real for you now and live it fully. That’s how the process evolves. Consciousness comes to know itself fully, then it can look beyond itself, for example.
Don’t try to figure it all out with the mind. The mind likes to have “the right answer” but there is no one right answer. There is a progressive series that will be somewhat unique to you. If you think you have it figured out, that will become a barrier to further unfolding. A mind that thinks it knows enlightenment is a barrier to enlightenment.
Moksha is liberation, even from the ideas of enlightenment.