"You must find the spaces between your thoughts and learn to live there." - Master Splinter
The well-known model of consciousness is the binary one of “conscious” and “unconscious”. “Conscious” is the state of an awake and present mind, capable of thoughts and analysis. The “unconscious” was previously understood to mean “unaware” or lack of awareness. But science has shown there is an awareness and processing of stimuli that occurs while people may be in an “unconscious” state, and therefore it is no longer a simple duality.
Civilizations have studied and created models of consciousness dating back to early recorded history. The Mayans and Incas had detailed theories of the stages of consciousness, or “pyramid of consciousness”. We later see similar models in Egyptian and Greek philosophy and religion. In fact, there are multiple Eastern and Western civilizations that had models that outlined certain stages of awareness and ultimate “enlightenment”. Sigmund Freud’s three-level model naming the conscious, preconscious and the unconscious has evolved into models like Ken Wilber’s integral theory of eleven stages of consciousness, which is a marriage of theories from psychology and spirituality.
A key concept in these models is that your soul is always “conscious” or aware of something at all times. Your soul is always perceiving, processing, and recording and is therefore experiencing multiple levels of awareness, over multiple lifetimes. The difference between the stages is an individual’s ability to access and process those experiences with your “forefront” conscious mind, and the levels of deepening that awareness of Self and connection to Spirit.
States of consciousness are transient; you flow in between all of them all the time. Through spiritual practices, we are able to bridge that awareness gap by pulling information from our subconscious/unconscious mind to our conscious mind in order to process what information is held there. If the conscious mind houses the language of the personality, the subconscious/unconscious mind contains the language of the soul. This is why it is important to learn to live between your thoughts, as Master Splinter said. By learning how to access and understand the other stages of consciousness, we can integrate the knowledge of the Soul and the power of our connection to Spirit and learn to live in service of our soul’s purpose in this lifetime.
Consciousness studies is a constantly changing landscape. There are new models of consciousness being developed based on scientific data and qualitative data. There are also the altered states of consciousness, which cover heightened stages that are brought about by specific “agents” such as near-death experiences or the use of psychotropic drugs. Therefore, it is important to “connect some dots” and define terms so you will have a better understanding of the materials you choose to explore moving forward.
“Consciousness” (also known as the waking or awake mind; the Self) - perceiving and interacting in this world within constructs of space and time.
“Unconscious” (also known as the subconscious; the higher consciousness; the superconscious; the inner mind; the Soul) - constantly aware and “turned on” so perceiving all the time without space and time constraints.
“One Consciousness” (also known as the universal mind; Spirit; God; creation energy) - that unifying force which we can’t explain but endeavor to understand.
Each state of consciousness that we experience, ranging from the familiar states of waking, sleeping, and dreaming, to the expansive spiritual states of psychedelic users, mystics, and mediums, has its own distinctly different mind-space and time construct. Our goal is to learn how to use the expansive states for spiritual growth and creative expression and how to easily navigate our way from the unhealthy states of fear and anger, addictions, and compulsions, into healthier, life-affirming states.
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