In brief, the seven levels of consciousness which make up the path of spiritual development, are:
1. the state of waking consciousness; 2. deep sleep; 3. dreaming; 4. transcendental consciousness; 5. cosmic consciousness; 6. god consciousness; unity consciousness.
The first three states — waking consciousness, deep sleep and the dreaming state of sleep — are known to every adult human being with a functional nervous system.
The last four levels — transcendental, cosmic, god and unity consciousness — are usually not available right away. These states become accessible only as one engages in regular practice of meditation.
What are these higher levels like? Here are some essential points from Jerry Freeman, student of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi for over 40 years.
4TH LEVEL: TRANSCENDENTAL CONSCIOUSNESS
COMPLETE SILENCE: “The fourth state of consciousness — the Pure Transcendental Consciousness — is just silence. That’s the state where the mind and the senses are completely silent, but consciousness is fully awake.”
BLISS: “This level of consciousness has the quality of bliss, and that’s, if you want to say so, a goal in the practice of meditation — to develop that contact, to dip in to that samadhi. To cultivate the ability of the nervous system to sustain that.”
IT’S ALL JUST A DREAM: “Our conditioned existence in this fleeting world is like a tiny drop of dew, or a bubble floating in a stream; like a flash of lightning in a summer cloud, or a flickering lamp, an illusion, a phantom, or a dream,” Buddha taught in his Diamond Sutra.
5TH LEVEL: COSMIC CONSCIOUSNESS
“Gradually, with the ability of the nervous system to stay in contact with the fourth state of consciousness, one develops the ability to sustain that inner silence, that unbounded inner reality simultaneously while one is doing things, thinking thoughts, [being] active. Eventually, that becomes stabilized and it becomes a permanent state of consciousness which Maharishi called the Cosmic Consciousness.”
GOING BEYOND THE SMALL ME: “You can also call this fifth state a ‘Witness Consciousness’ — you can say that the pure consciousness now is understood to be my real self. My sublime self is actually that pure, eternal consciousness.
A transformation takes place where everything that had previously considered to be ‘me’ is seen through and discovered to be just some phenomenal thing going on. It’s not me! My little ego that motors around and feels so important — you discover that oh, that is not what I am!”
IMPERMANENCE: “From that inner silence of the Atman, the whole outer world is seen as being transient, transitory, illusory. (…) That’s kind of the first permanent awakening.
It’s rare, really uncommon. And yet it is still just one unfoldment, just that first permanent awakening.”
6TH LEVEL: GOD CONSCIOUSNESS
“From the fifth state, a very similar progression takes place as one transcends thought and eventually reaches the Self, the Atman.”
DEEPENING OF BLISS: “Initially, our perception is on the surface of things. But because now there is this connection with the deepest within, this creates the capacity to see more deeply. As the perception of the outer world becomes deeper and more subtle, attention goes to more and more pleasing levels — subtler is more pleasing, more unbounded, closer to that pure level where everything is bliss.”
FINDING JOY IN EVERYTHING: “The heart opens up. That’s a very powerful force. The heart can overtake anything.
You begin to approach that same silence that you found within yourself at the subtlest level of what you see outside. Any contact, any experience in the material world — even the scolding of a black crow — becomes delightful.”
DEVOTION: “As that develops, the characteristic of devotion opens up with it.
That devotion can manifest itself in infinitely many different ways, as a reflection of each person’s unique individuality. It may come out as a deep devotion in a religious sense. It may be in a more generalized sort of way — a heart goes out and is overtaken with the perfection and the beauty of everything that is encountered.
That is called God Consciousness.”