The stages of enlightenment are not a goal but a platform for living a better quality of life. Even the movement in that direction improves life, both personally and collectively.
Essentially, tamas (inertia) transforms to sattva (clarity, purity) through the fire of rajas.
Thus, while the gunas are subtle, they also express on the surface so can be recognized right in our daily experience. Further, we can recognize symptoms of their transformation, like refined perception or our emotional tone.
Spiritual groups that culture fear such as “eternal damnation” or guilt are not being helpful. They’re inviting us to culture energy that can take us to our own little hell. Although happily, that’s never eternal. Everything can be healed.
What I’ve talked less about is transforming the elements. The five elements are much less subtle than the gunas, but they operate behind the surface appearance.
For example, for most of us, space is an abstract idea. We pay little attention to the space of our experience. Yet it can become more prominent in some transformations, like when we fall back into witnessing or first wake up. When we’re the conscious container of experience, we’re more aware of the space value. When we say consciousness is infinite or boundless, that’s what we’re pointing to. Similarly, we may say full or empty. But again, these are the qualities of space, expressed by consciousness. Pure consciousness itself simply is, prior to expression.
The earth element is prominent in physical matter and the solid state, water on the energy/ emotional level and in the fluid state, fire on the mental level and plasma state, air on the intellect level and gaseous state, and space on the causal level.
And yet all are always present and all operate on the causal level, giving qualities that appear as other densities.
Because of this subtlety, most of us are oblivious to elemental qualities and thus their transformation.
Yet their transformation dramatically changes the flexibility and pliability on levels where the process is further along. However, the appearance can remain the same. We’re turning down the dial of subtle density.
People often report experiencing subtle beings, for example, that look as detailed and real as someone standing in a physical form. Yet they’re clearly not and do not need to be. We just need to be clear enough on their level to experience them like that.
(Note: this is not a reference to other “dimensions.” Subtle means finer resolution in the same space, not a different space.)
In the same way, two physical forms can have vastly different levels of density and resolution even if superficially they seem much the same. Yet zoom into one and they become translucent where the other maintains its solidity.
There are a variety of ways we may experience this process and thus various ways of framing it.
For example, as we purify, there is a shift from various qualities of release into flow. Instead of twitchy or sharp sensations, transformation takes on a flowing grace. Our arm doesn’t jerk, it flows like a dance move as various channels open and qualities shift from solid, to liquid, to gas.
Maharishi spoke of stress being like a line on rock. As we soften, it becomes like a line on sand, then water, then air.
Mixed in to this process for some of us is aging. Aging can take us in both directions. As we slow and get more stiff, we’re heading earthward. And yet, as we complete and let go more and more, that leads us the other way, supporting our spiritual process.
It’s a big topic that I’ve not closely defined. But recent work on the Yoga Sutra book highlights this process in abilities like mastery of the elements and yogic flying. When we’re less dense, our abilities can expand quite a bit. We’re not defined so much by resistance or inertia.
Of course, this development is also taking place in a collective that’s still pretty dense. Yet with so many awakening, and consciousness descending into more and more dense layers, everything is softening.
At some point, there will be a phase transition and life will transform in ways we can barely imagine.