What are some ways of understanding consciousness? How do we measure it? How can we affect it?
Most of us think of consciousness as the opposite of sleeping, in other words, awake. But there are varying degrees of this “awake” state. There are however definable ways of understanding consciousness. Perhaps the easiest way of relating to this is to think of the most difficult person we know, the most intelligent person we know and the most loving person we know. All three of these people provide different ways of understanding consciousness. The difficult person who is hard to get along with is most likely at a lower level. The intelligent person is in the mid-range and believe it or not, the loving person is in the higher range. Consciousness is awareness, an ability to see the interconnectedness of all things, including the ability to objectively look at ourselves. Consciousness is not just observation; it is a “thought free” state of “knowingness.” Like all things in life we learn through a desire of wanting to know. We cannot easily raise our level of consciousness until we at least have an understanding of what it is. Only after knowing what something is, do we have the ability to work with it, until then we remain unconscious to it. Please see the previous post “Consciousness Using An Analogy” for another way of understanding consciousness.
Understanding consciousness at the lower levels. What do they look like and feel like?
At the lower levels people behave without a complete conscious awareness of how they effect other people. It is a realm of self-absorbed emotions. They have little regard for the feelings of other people because they are not conscious or aware of how others may feel. The exception to this is the relationships in where they receive validation. They are mostly caught up in how they themselves feel. They act and react in a way that is impulsive or instinctual, i.e. similar to an animal. They are often subject to remorse and guilt for what they said or something they did. It could be said they behave without “a present conscious awareness” of their actions.
They are prone to hurt others intentionally, but at other times they are truly unaware they are doing so. These lower levels are a sort of circular trap of inner emotions that feed off each other. This keeps a person mired in their own emotional drama. People who exist at these lower levels are generally not happy a majority of the time. They always feel they are a victim in life, in fact they thrive on being the victim. In a strange way their ego actually gets satisfaction from this. They want others to feel sorry for them because life hurts them. This is how they get attention. Since they feel like victims they are not likely to pursue any type of personal growth, this after all would be an indication of some self-awareness.
People at these levels tend to surround themselves with other victims who all help to reinforce the victim mentality within each other. Complaining about things, other people or life tends to be the main theme of most conversations. In these conversations everyone gets validated for being the victim. They are likely to raise children who grow up into the same victim mentality. This occurs by reinforcing the philosophy: “it is always someone else’s fault.” Unfortunately in the last thirty or so years there has been a marked shift in our society to glorify the victim, further reinforcing the victim mentality. This helps keep a large portion of society at a level where as a group, they can be manipulated by emotions.
It is difficult to help people at these lower levels because what they want more than anything is validation. If you suggest to them they may be part (or all) of their problem, they are likely to get very defensive, angry and hurt. Eventually this leads to contempt, hatred and finally outrage and revenge. They only want others to understand them and their feelings, because as they see it, they are the victim. They just want others to tell them they are OK for feeling the way they do. The only way they can be helped is when they acknowledge they are at the center of all their problems. They are the common denominator, the common element to all their drama. They have to truly acknowledge and “know” they are part of the problem. Only then can they seek to change themselves by pursuing higher levels of consciousness.
Are people even aware they are at a lower level?
Probably not. To admit this or see this requires a sort of humbleness, authenticity and vulnerability. These are traits that reside in those with a sense of inner personal power. Most people are doing all they can just to feel good about themselves. However making others out to be bad or wrong (judging) is not a truthful way to “feel good.” It is also not an effective way to build one’s true character and self-esteem for lasting strength, respect, prestige and well-being. Ironically people at lower levels would be much happier and feel much better about themselves if they could move up in awareness. By understanding consciousness they stand a better chance of raising their own level.
As a note, please do not take this a judgment on my part. I am only trying to bring an awareness to what these levels look like. Awareness is what this website is all about. That being said please know, everyone is perfect just as they are. Everyone is exactly where they should be. It is pain, suffering and heartache after all that gives life contrast and perspective. This is what drives us towards change and growth. Some require a little more suffering than others before they will change. My desire is for people to suffer as little as possible.
Understanding consciousness at the middle levels, what do they look and feel like?
In the middle range of consciousness people start to look at life with more courage, optimism and enthusiasm. They “take control” of their lives by being personally responsible for their actions and the corresponding results. This range incorporates the qualities of being more aware of one’s self and one’s shortcomings. There is a great deal of basic growth in this range as people start to learn: “they receive what they put in.” Put in little and you get little in return. Put in your best effort and you will get the best in return. Here people pursue personal growth as means of continually making their lives better. As their lives get better they receive reinforcement in the way of results, money, admiration, respect, nurturing relationships, etc.. This serves to further motivate one towards growth. People here are able to admit their shortcomings and either work to improve them or openly acknowledge them.
People in this range tend to associate with like minded individuals and therefore conversations are more about what they are working on or their personal interest. There is an ability to self-correct and rationalize decisions based on a higher awareness of more things. This middle level ends in the area of high intellect. Ironically it is this high intellect which does not allow these same people to rise higher in consciousness. High intellect can lead one to a sense of intellectual superiority, where education is pursued as a means of becoming an “authority” in a particular field. They are no longer ruled by emotions and therefore can become detached from the heart based feelings of love and empathy. Intelligence leads to an awareness we are responsible for ourselves.
Understanding consciousness at the higher levels.
Love, compassion, gratitude and peace are the overriding qualities of people in the higher levels. Here a person sees life in context with everything. They view all life as sacred and all living things as part of a oneness. At these higher levels everything is seen as interconnected. At the highest levels life itself is seen so differently that people at lower levels can’t even comprehend or conceptualize these higher states. In the highest levels the ego is transcended altogether. This puts the needs of others above the needs of the self (ego.) In other words this heart intelligence brings an awareness we are responsible for not only ourselves but for all others. Love takes all separated things and makes them whole. The sense of joy includes everything in that wholeness.
I know there are high intellect people who will read this and say “hogwash!” That is precisely the stumbling block to getting beyond the mid-levels. To get to these higher levels requires faith in something unseen. However once one has reached these higher levels they no longer need faith, “they know” without having to go through the mental process of rationalizing. It becomes an “inner knowing” that radiates from our “inner being.” It is interesting to note that as one rises in consciousness, they have a better sense of objectively understanding consciousness having risen from the lower levels.
How does consciousness affect life experience?
Understanding consciousness allows one to see that people at various levels have a very different experience of life. We may think of the human experience as universal but it is quite different based on consciousness. The death of someone close may be experienced as a devastating event in which life is no longer worth living; to another it can be experienced as an acknowledgment to a cycle of life experience of a person’s soul. Some struggle to cope with life, others welcome every experience. Some wish to push the limits of their own personal achievement, others choose a simple life of contemplation and inner searching. Some live in constant fear, others live without fear. Some seek love their entire lives in order to feel accepted and whole, others are the embodiment of love. They unselfishly extend it to others. Some review every life experience for the lesson it provides in growth; others get upset about why things have to always happen to them. It is consciousness that determines how one will experience life.
Consciousness research is a relatively new field and there are many theories and models that have developed starting with Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung, Abraham Maslow, William James, etc.. There are also general levels alluded to in ancient text such as the bible, Indian Sanskrit, Chinese, Egyptian and Buddhist scriptures, etc… Throughout time there has been a recognition of these varying levels. Understanding consciousness is the first step in the process of consciously raising it. As mentioned in my previous post, consciousness will by itself eventually rise over time. However we have the power within ourselves to influence and accelerate that pace. In fact as each person raises their own, they are raising the collective level of all people at the same time. A person who raises their own has the effect of creating a positive magnetic effect “pulling others” or “attracting others” along with them. It is the single biggest thing we can do personally to affect the world in a positive way.
Applying the idea:
- Does your level of consciousness interest you at all? If not why?
- Do you feel you are happy enough?
- Do you feel it doesn’t really apply to you?
- Do you think it is too difficult to understand?
- Would you like to achieve a level of happiness full of love and peace without anger and hated?
- Do you have an idea of where your current level of consciousness is at?
- Can you see how other people may fit into these general levels of consciousness?
In the next post we will use a diagram illustrating rings of evolutionary consciousness as another way of understanding consciousness. To go there now click here.
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Thank you for taking the time to read this post. : )