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Levels of Consciousness – Part 1

So far, we have introduced two key notions:


1- A broad conception of Consciousness, that encompasses much more than just what we are aware of at one point. It is to say that we have much more going on in our psyche than what we are aware of and that we can benefit or suffer from it depending on our level of inner coherence and congruency.

2- The notion of Presence as our point of reference for anything related to Consciousness. Being Present has been described as a combination of being fully  aware of what is, Here and Now, while Observing, completely non-attached to whatever thought, emotion or sensed perception is going through our mind. The weight of past experiences or expectancies for specific outcomes have no more power over us. We can be free, even just for a moment.


These two notions have been approached both theoretically and practically, to some degree, with a set of exercises to actually experience them. It has now been stated more than once that most of what is related to Consciousness cannot really be described. It has to be experienced. Only then can words really make sense. There is no way around it. Words and images actually play the role of pointers or “signposts” to put us in the right direction, nothing more. Nevertheless, the right use of words and images can be of great help to open up to these new inner territories.


From now on, we should always keep in mind that whatever is presented in these articles is to be approached, as much as possible, from a state of Presence. It means, reading, listening, in a passive yet very attentive way, fully aware of whatever inner resonance, in the form of thoughts, emotions and other sensations, is brought to light. No judgment, labeling or even comment is necessary. It is about being a Witness, and letting things unfold naturally. Doing so, our own inner guidance system is triggered and we may become aware of much more than “just” what is explicitly described. It is a fantastic journey! One of countless Marvels, to be enjoyed yet not to get attached to. What could appear as causes of sorrow and suffering may also occur. They should just as well be welcomed and experienced with equanimity. By being Present, Here, Now and non-attached, we are creating something properly exceptional: A Space where Miracles can occur. As stated previously, we shouldn’t do it as a mean to an end though. It would indeed become a serious limitation. Yet we should be aware of the value of what we are building in and around us.


It has been said by wise, seasoned practitioners that our main goal is actually to allow as much Consciousness as possible to reach the dimension we live in. By so doing, everything is made better spontaneously, in ways and measures that will always surpass our wildest dreams. It doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t make plans and have dreams! Absolutely not! We should just make sure that we  plan and consider our projects from that state of Presence, allowing ourselves to be inspired by our real Self, the part of us that is beyond tribulations, perturbations and influences, the part of us that is already Free, the one we would indeed want to experience more of.  


That being said, practically speaking, it may not seem that easy… That is why we are going to explore the third basic Consciousness notion: the Levels of Consciousness.


The concept of Levels of Consciousness refers to the degree of awareness one has of reality, beyond all filters and interpretations. Our state of Consciousness is indeed not binary, Conscious or NonConscious. There is an almost infinite spectrum of possibilities as to one’s openness to what is. Having a map to navigate this inner ocean will prove to be a great asset, almost a necessity.


There has been many attempts to create such a map. In recent times many “emotional scales” tried to fill that gap. One that caught my attention early on and that I would recommend to the serious student, is Dr David Hawkins’ scale of Consciousness. It is described in-depth in the many books he wrote on the subject. Out of his profuse work, I would particularly recommend two books: “Power vs Force” and “Transcending the Levels of Consciousness”. Dr Hawkins’ approach have made a great contribution to my own understanding. Yet, like with any author, including me of course, you should always stay Present and let go of what does not resonate with you at the moment. You may come back to it later or just decide that it is not for you. Although congruent with Dr Hawkins’ scale, the version presented here is a free interpretation that came as a result of my own research on the topic.


First let’s clarify what is here understood by Levels of Consciousness. We may have previously mentioned that we consider Consciousness as an energy field. This energy field is not confined to the physical frontiers of our skull or our body for that matter. Just for the sake of communication, it could symbolically be pictured as a “cloud of information” expanding inside and around the body. Some have called the densest layers closest to the body, the Aura, the Etheric Body, and by many other names. Now, imagine that, like the temperature is not exactly the same all over the body, this Field of Consciousness has different zones with different degrees of clarity, organization and coherence, aka different Levels of Consciousness. The Levels of Consciousness are here describing degrees of quality of that Consciousness. As stated earlier: clarity, freedom from reactivity, freedom to spontaneously express oneself, awareness of ones true Nature and of the true Nature of things, (…) are considered relatively high quality of Consciousness. Like the temperature, even if we have established a convention as to determine a set temperature for the body in general, we are well aware that it is just a convention. The reality is that there is a whole spectrum of temperatures represented on and in the body, even if they are never to part too far from one another for the body to function properly. So there is more of a range of temperatures than a fixed number. And, of course, it all evolves and fluctuates depending on what the body has to adapt to. It is quite the same with the Levels of Consciousness. There is a range in which one is functioning, most of the time. Yet, it may evolve and there might be picks and drops depending on the inner and outer circumstances. Take a calm, poised person. Having him or her experience a traumatic event could drastically change their Level of Consciousness, for the worse. Take a frantic, stressed individual, give them good news or a foot massage and they might, not automatically but they might see their shoulders drop and the whole ambiance in their mind may change for the better. These are very simple examples. The fact is that our inner state (thoughts, feelings and emotions) depends entirely and then reliably depicts our current Level of Consciousness.


Going back to the temperature allegory, it is a well known fact that certain physiological features require the body to increase or decrease its temperature. We warm up before being able to exercise at full intensity. Anger and other “fight or flight” related emotions may induce a sudden increase in temperature to prepare the body for any required action. We cool down before going to sleep yet not too much, as being too cold may prevent us from relaxing! And yet, if the cold becomes extreme, it may be very difficult to stay awake. The temperature will influence almost everything: muscles, digestion, emotions, even the kind of thoughts we have! Again, the Levels of Consciousness work exactly the same way. Each level will facilitate certain functions and potentially inhibit others.


So, what does it look like? Dr Hawkins’ scale has no less than one thousand levels! It is a numerical, highly detailed and comprehensive scale. The version proposed here displays six categories falling in three main sectors: Suffering (Submission and Survival), Growth (Repair and Contribution) and Peace (Liberation and Bliss).


1- Submissive Suffering

Here, life events are undergone from a submissive point of view, there is not much hope for betterment. It is the realm of the most “fixed” mindsets. Life is perceived as rather dark and desperate, confusion reigns (often not consciously). It does indeed corresponds to very low Levels of Consciousness that usually goes with quite low vitality levels. In some cases the energy would, on the contrary, seem to be high. This can happen particularly when the individual is undergoing a severe crisis and/or is suffering from a serious mental condition.


Emotionally, such Levels of Consciousness manifest as shame, despair, guilt, blame, judgement, apathy, powerlessness, grief, … It is particularly interesting to note that guilt, blame and judgment are vibrating at exactly the same level! It starts with judgement. Then, directed inward the energy becomes guilt and directed outward it becomes blame. Therefore, it is so common (and easy!) to shift from guilt to blame or vise-versa. Yet, the vibration staying at the same “level of quality” it will not change much in terms of real betterment of the situation or the outcome.


2- Survival

The environment is perceived as hostile and to be protected from. The  mind is in a Reactive mode. Stress, in all shapes and forms, is the main motivation to action. So much so that an absence of stress could easily be mistaken for apathy. Thoughts like, “If I’m not worried, it means that I don’t care” may come to mind. So stress is used to try and gather energy. The possibility to react makes this stage quite better than the previous one. There is, even unconsciously, a beginning of hope. Yet, it is still not a sustainable state. The vital energy is still drained, it just appears as if there were more of it, as it is more focused and thus expressed more intensely.


It is the emotional realm of fear, lack, worry, desire, jealousy, anger, pride, … All these are reactive emotions that may prompt us into automatic reactions to situations, with little to no awareness, nor concern, for the long term consequences.


The key here is that in the first sector, Suffering, the Life Force is drained, consumed, depleted. It may take time to become aware of it, but on the long run, it will only promote decay, disease and death. Suffering may still be a state of Consciousness we have to go through, from time to time, as long as we do not have enough awareness in our system in general or regarding a specific situation, just like an alarm system. If there is yet enough awareness in our system, suffering can actually “force us” to evolve and search for a better approaches of our life situations. Crazy as it may sound, the prevailing unconscious belief here is that by creating more negative energy, we may impact our situation positively. We literally create more negative energy, more suffering, in the delusional hope to make our situation better! That is a profound fact that would deserve to be deeply meditated on for a while, for real understanding and integration to emerge.


3- Repair

This is the beginning of the healing phase. It all starts with the return to Integrity. It is the tipping point, the very notion without which there can be no real positive, life sustaining, endeavor. That is another critical element to ponder and meditate on. With Integrity and Courage, Life force starts to be added instead of drained. We literally have more of it and so the “feeling better” is much deeper than whatever could be experienced at the lower levels. It will also last much longer. Here can start the real learning and healing process. Out of the survival mode, we may now be able to learn from our experiences. The passage from Stress to Courage, is indeed a crucial one. These emotional states need to be recognized and acknowledged when experienced. Being able to identify when we are stressed by a challenging situation and get ourselves back to feeling courageous, for real, no wishful thinking, is indeed a worthy skill to acquire! The shift from suffering and stress back to Integrity is THE key to healing. The word Integrity can actually be used almost as a synonym for balance or health. It is illustrated in the concept of “physical integrity” for instance.


Below that level, the energy at our disposal, when there is any, is quite shallow and superficial, as intense as it may appear. Like a shot of caffeine, it consumes whatever vitality we still have as a flash in the pan that will leave us even worse afterwards. From the stage of Integrity and Courage upward, the energy comes from a much deeper place in us and we may feel like our efforts are supported and sustained “by the Universe”, or whatever is congruent with our beliefs. The fact is that our relatively higher Level of Consciousness actually changes our physiology. It literally changes the way our mind/body manages energy. In other words, healing and growth are physiologically impossible when stress reigns. When we manage to overcome stress, we may still experience some struggle but it is welcomed and the “emotional bottom line”, if you will, is still on the positive side.


The emotional spectrum here includes integrity, courage, respect, positive will power, peaceful determination, other people’s perspective may be considered, a sense of something greater than ourselves may appear, … Life already feels so much better experienced from here! There is kind of a “day and night” contrast, compared to the previous stages. Instead of reacting we are now able to respond to whatever situation we find ourselves in.


4- Contribution

Our perception of “how the world works” is now much clearer and the universe feels like a much more friendly place. We literally understand it better and our relationship to Life in general is much more positive. Our ability to act, in harmonious resonance with Natural laws, is significantly greater. We are much less attached to certain outcomes, we naturally adapt and see the positive side of things. Or we can just accept things as they are, without being disempowered or dragged down by it whatsoever.


Emotions experienced here include goodwill, trust, openness, hope, acceptance, understanding, really taking full responsibility for whatever happens in ones life, … The ability to choose freely is now present. Action is thus free from reactive programming or the illusory necessity to respond a certain way. The universal inherent beauty and underlying harmony, despite appearances, can be perceived here. It is a space where the highest levels of reasoning may be expressed. It fosters the expression of human intelligence at its best.


This second sector, Growth, marks the real beginning of Life sustaining states. There is definitely more and greater quality of Life Force here. It only gets better and better as we progressively evolve and open up to more Conscious ways. “More Life in our life” means less efforts to get results, more flow… At the top levels of this category, things may seem to unfold almost spontaneously, as if we were not “doing” anything.


5 and 6- Liberation and Bliss

We now enter a totally different realm. Without first hand direct experience, words, again, will not be of great help here. Let us just say that it starts with the end of linear thinking. For example, the boundaries between self centeredness and altruism may reveal their illusory nature. Not as an idea or a concept, but as the way we actually experience our lives. The term Liberation implies a dis-identification from what “used to be” our sense of self, our personality, and its replacement by some deeper understanding of who we really are. It is the realm of real unconditional Love, the kind of Love that would make us as close to the homeless in the street as we can be to our parents, spouse or children. Again, not out of morality or principle, absolutely not. It is just as obvious and real as the solidity of the ground under your feet.


Needless to say that, even though some of us may have had glimpses of such states, we have now far exceeded what most of us can even start to comprehend! Nor would most of us actually wish to truly experience that level of non-attachment, to anything… Yet, it is the territory of real freedom. Like in the previous categories, it evolves progressively as we rise up the scale. We may reach the point where emotions, and feelings, our inner states of Consciousness, are now totally free from all external circumstance. The inner Peace, the deep Joy and Aliveness experienced are indeed solely related to the direct Awareness we have of who we really are, of our essential oneness with all things. Again, at that Level, words are just abstractions and they do not do justice to the experienced reality.


While reading all this it is important to keep in mind that what is described here is not a moral code, a set of principles or a dogma of some kind. It is a digest of what has been described and reported by human beings of different cultures and time periods since the earliest recorded times. It is about how human beings feel, for real. It is about what makes us think and act the way we do. The implications and practical applications of such a scale are incredibly wide and profound. In part 2, following this article, we are going to explore how to practically make use of it.


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