I designed the above image to give a little perspective on the stages of growth.
1) When we mature in a human form, if we’ve not been connecting to our source and inner nature, we experience ourselves as an individual person distinct from others. If our identification is stronger, we also identify with our form, role, and possessions. I am Fred the barber who lives in the South Bronx and drive a Chevy. This is who I am.
2) If we take up a decent spiritual practice, we begin to step out of this box here and there. We may get a sense of a deeper value of ourselves, often called the soul or jiva. Some describe this as a light in the space of the heart. This is the point value in the image above. We may also have tastes of expansion and space. The latter may seem empty or full. This is tickling the space of consciousness, labelled Wholeness in the image.
3) With further progress we shift towards consciousness. For some, the jiva or point can come alert, giving the sense that we’re a detached observer or witness. We watch the mind thinking, the emotions wave by, and the body acts. All those things we used to think of as me and my doing are simply happening. The ego begins to be seen through. This may come and go or become ongoing. Or it may wait until Awakening.
4) Eventually, the point wakes up to itself as wholeness. This is Awakening or Self Realization. We become infinite consciousness and identification with the personal me falls way. Yoga calls this Kaivalya, the singularity, as it is the point waking up to its wholeness.
Previously, I illustrated how consciousness becomes self-aware.On the right, if you join this circle at the top, this is the Wholeness illustrated at the top of the article. Self Realization is the point waking up to itself as the Observer aspect of wholeness, labelled “A”.
5) Living life awake, the perception refines, more clearing happens, and so forth. At some point, we become aware that consciousness underlies the appearance of the world as well. Then the resolute intellect recognizes that the Self behind the world and the Self within are the same Self. A wakes up to B and they become one Wholeness. Subject and Object unite. This is Unity Consciousness, the beginning of Nonduality.
Unity unfolds in stages. As we live life and recognize more and more is mySelf, an “aggregate” grows. The Wholeness becomes more and more complete. Eventually, consciousness is aware of itself globally. It is all of Wholeness and at every point within itself. We are all and every.
6) Once consciousness knows itself completely, it no longer needs to look in on itself as in the illustration above. It can turn and look beyond itself into Brahman. There are many ways people describe this process. But we step out of the Wholeness of consciousness into Brahman, the Great. We step outside the circle.
This can be a significant contrast, to go from a fullness of qualities into no-thing. But as we settle in, Brahman comes to know Brahman. And then that integrates and everything that has been before and the new come together in one Totality. Outside and inside the circle become a continuum, if we can use that word.
We might say ParaBrahman and pure Divinity are another ring beyond that but Brahman doesn’t have an edge. It’s more an afterglow of the Divine.
That’s the stages in consciousness in a nutshell. Or a banyan seed?