Stages of Conscious Awakening
It is imperative that we awaken from mundane awareness into full spiritual remembrance of who we are. The problem is that even when physically awake, we can still be mentally asleep, unaware of ourselves and entirely absorbed in whatever mechanical impulse or external stimulus captures our attention. This state of confluence, or mental absorption, keeps us in an unproductive dream state.
The common understanding of what it means to be “awake” disguises the truth, which is that despite walking around with eyes open, people tend to nonetheless be hypnotized, dimly conscious, sleepwalking, daydreaming, or in a state of trance. What all these states have in common is that the conscious core of the individual is absent or passive, blowing like a leaf in the winds of environmental stimuli.
In dreams we might make the strangest “logical” associations that amount to no logic at all, have little say in what happens to us, do things impulsively, and fail to question our reality or observe ourselves. Compare this to how people tend to behave in everyday life, the anecdotes and gossip they speak, how they might communicate via recitations of lines from movies or TV shows, speak in trite memetic phrases without conscious thought or originality, engage in ludicrous programmed behavior, engross themselves in petty dramas, and switch between goofy or borrowed personalities. For them, dreams do not end in the morning.
The world is an insane asylum but society is too asleep to notice the insanity. Just as you may not question insane dreams while having them, some people never question their insane lives. The implications of mass somnambulism is obvious: with billions of people asleep, those in power who are awake have the advantage. Sleeping people are easily controlled. Their conscious core exists within a mental prison, harvested for time, labor, and energy. They possess little or no freewill because they have abandoned the awareness necessary to harness it.
The mind and body can be asleep or awake independently of each other. With mind and body awake, one is truly awake. With mind and body asleep, one is dreaming. With mind awake and body asleep, one is lucid-dreaming. With mind asleep and body awake, one is sleepwalking. Gradations exist between these four states, ranging from hypnotism and trance to daydreaming and dim consciousness.
Stage 1: Breaking Negative Confluence
The first step to awakening requires breaking out of this negative confluence by gaining a degree of lucidity, a measure of self-awareness. At any moment you can turn your attention inward and observe yourself, placing your attention firmly in the present moment. You can notice your thoughts, analyze your feelings, pay attention to the sensations in your body, feel your breath, engage in self-examination, and survey your situation and surroundings from a higher perspective.
In doing so, you quickly become aware that all these perceptions ultimately originate from outside of you even if they are playing out inside your own mind. That is because at the very core of your mind is a center of perception that defines the true you, while the peripheral territory of your mind is populated by thoughts that may or may not be your own. This inner core is the silent observer, the consciousness watching through your eyes and thinking through your mind. It is that which experiences, chooses, realizes, and lives. The rest is just machinery.
Becoming lucid depends on being cognizant of your own awareness. Some call this self-remembering since confluence is the state of self-forgetting. Lucidity is as simple as turning within and remembering yourself in the present moment. Remembering yourself stops confluence, and stopping confluence is the first step to snapping out of what suffocates your spiritual identity. It is one thing to know that you are, but quite another to know who you are. In time, the first leads to the second.
Being consciously present in the moment is easy to implement but difficult to maintain. Books have been written on just this task alone. The problem is both physical and metaphysical. Initially, heightening one’s state of awareness requires both vital energy and an adequate supply of neurotransmitters. These deplete after a short period of exertion and one slips back into lowered consciousness. But like a muscle, mental focus grows with training because the physical and subtle bodies adapt to a greater demand for energy.
Maintaining lucidity becomes easier with practice, as with practice one gradually increases the length and depth of focus. By practicing lucidity in a controlled setting, the same state of heightened awareness can more easily be reached and maintained under more natural circumstances. Hence some forms of meditation assist the training of self-awareness.
One common method of exercising lucidity is mindfulness meditation, where you pay attention to your thoughts and sensations by being a calm and lucid third party observer. Unlike transcendental meditation where chanting a mantra for hours leads to self-hypnosis and a lowering of consciousness, mindfulness meditation raises consciousness.
Another practice called Vipassana requires that you relax and then pay attention to every sensation in your body, starting with the top of your head and working your way down to your toes, then back to the top. The primary benefit of this type of meditation is that we become conscious of signals that are otherwise ignored and forgotten. This is useful because in this modern age not only do we normally forget ourselves, but we tend to forget our own bodies. For instance, watching television or using the internet places our attention into virtual bodies that displace our own. This causes a schism between mind and body in addition to the already prevalent disconnection between self and mind. Dissociation of this type is antagonistic to higher awareness. Observing physical sensations goes toward mending the schism, which in turn assists conscious integration between self and mind.
Interestingly, the practice of such lucidity literally changes brain structure over time and increases the activity of gamma brainwaves, which are 40Hz oscillations of the entire brain resonating via quantum coherence.
Additionally, Vipassana and related exercises such as Robert Bruce’s New Energy Ways or the Microcosmic Orbit Meditation of Taoist yoga all have the effect of stimulating nonphysical structures and circuits within the etheric body, which if nothing else can help remove blockages and stagnant energies. If properly executed with sufficient regularity of practice, however, these can also awaken certain extrasensory abilities.
Dealing with Negative Emotions
Becoming mindful of your thoughts, feelings, and physical sensations is also useful in transmuting internal negative emotional energy. By observing negative emotions as they arise and objectively noticing the physiological sensations they evoke, one keeps from entering into a runaway feedback loop between thoughts and emotions that would otherwise explode into over-reactivity and generate a skewed sense of perception and judgment. In other words, this practice can break your confluence with external provocations.
If the negative emotion is triggered by some button-pushing event, lucid awareness of the emotion itself (rather than where it points, or the person/event that triggered it) is a way of defusing the negative energy without suppressing it. On the other hand, if negativity is more a constant pressure without any specific trigger, then self-awareness helps you stand upright against the pull of this emotional gravity.
In the midst of such storms, through lucidity you will find that you are the eye of that hurricane, an impersonal observer who stands above and beyond. That is the pivot point that disarms and transmutes the energy.
So, lucidity is the key to keeping one’s composure. Only when you have gotten the upper hand over an escalating emotion are you in a position to make an informed choice as to whether to go with it or reign it in; without awareness, that choice is never made and one simply reacts like an animal.
Suppressing emotions by allowing them to fester as you turn to look the other way will cause them to flare up in unexpected ways at unexpected times. This is not healthy; emotions must be dealt with, not ignored. By becoming aware of the raw emotional energy, you can instead harness it — when appropriate. This includes anger in cases where the imminent action fueled by that anger is both wise and necessary, meaning if one is too weak to take care of needed business otherwise.
If a negative emotion and its associated action is not appropriate, then awareness of that energy and remembrance of yourself as the transcendent observer will defuse the energy and transmute it into a higher grade of spiritual fuel for your soul.
Thus whether you harness the energy toward needed action or toward transmutation into a higher form of positive energy, either way you are dealing with it instead of suppressing it.
Stage 2: Positive Confluence
In summary, observing yourself expands the bandwidth of your awareness, breaks negative forms of confluence, and has enhancing effects on your brain and soul. Returning to your center allows you to choose in the moment what to think, feel, or do next. Without self-awareness there is no choice, just a mechanical reaction to a given stimulus. By default we behave like machines, but at any moment we can regain lucidity and disengage the autopilot.
It would therefore seem that self-remembering, mindfulness, or lucidity is all we need to develop spiritually, but unfortunately that is not sufficient. Some esoteric schools of thought stop there and become preoccupied with deprogramming and self-remembering in an effort to pick the weeds of the mind and soul. However, without planting the seeds, adding water and sunshine, what remains is an immaculate but ultimately barren field of dirt.
Notice that by itself, lucidity is merely a state of mindfulness that squelches mechanical reactivity and lets you think on what to do next, but it doesn’t necessarily offer a transcendental or transjective influence to direct you toward the ideal outcome. The sword is liberated from the stone but no map or compass is provided for the quest.
And thus there is need for a second stage in conscious development that goes beyond mere self-remembering. While the first stage aims to interrupt negative confluence, the second stage involves initiating positive confluence with the higher aspects of your being. Speaking from your heart, following your intuition, tapping into your subconscious, virtually “channeling” your Higher Self — these are all examples of positive confluence.
Here, you willingly seek out these higher impulses and let them flow as your self-awareness takes a back seat. Reflect upon times when words flowed from you that must have come from something higher. What you said was wiser and more helpful than anything you could have come up with solely on your own. And while they were flowing, you were unaware of yourself as though in a trance (not unconscious, just not self-aware). This is a state of being in the flow, in the so-called “zone”.
This type of confluence is productive and happens from time to time even without being trained in self-observation. However, self-observation helps you make these connections more consistently and intentionally by reducing interruptions by periods of negative confluence, mainly through your noticing them and nipping them in the bud.
The main function of the second stage is to strengthen your connection with the higher centers, the higher chakras, the uplinks to your Higher Self or Higher Mind. By grooving a conduit to these higher aspects through regular use, their influences become more permanent. This is important because at this second stage, becoming lucid while being in the flow will momentarily interrupt the flow. For instance, speaking from your heart but then suddenly becoming aware of yourself temporarily breaks the connection.
Lucidity hampers all types of confluence, even the positive ones. That is, unless the flow is sufficiently strong such that lucidity does not interrupt it. To illustrate, consider how when we first drift off to sleep at night, if we catch ourselves falling asleep we immediately wake up again. In this case, the initial sleep state is not strong enough to withstand the conscious mind suddenly withdrawing from confluence. However, once one has entered deeper sleep and begun dreaming, it is possible to become lucid and continue dreaming. Those who are unskilled in lucid dreaming have difficulty either maintaining their lucidity, whereupon they continue dreaming unaware, or maintaining their dream state, whereupon they break out of sleep upon realizing they are dreaming. But with practice the state of lucid dreaming can be prolonged.
Stage 3: Positive Lucidity
What does this say about positive confluence? It says that positive confluence is merely a means toward making the connection with one’s higher aspects sufficiently permanent (through repeated exposure and practice, which in turn changes the structure of the brain and soul to create a more hardwired connection) so that one can eventually have self-awareness and not break the connection.
This is the third stage: being simultaneously connected and lucid.
There are two categories of meditation, one lowers consciousness and the other raises it. Both seek to unify the conscious mind with the subconscious and thereby achieve integration of the whole being. But while the first category is regressive, the second is progressive.
Regressive meditation seeks to dissolve the ego into the subconscious so that, in theory, one becomes an unconscious extension of higher sources. If one thereby enters into positive confluence, then that is good.
But with the subconscious merely being a doorway to anything and everything outside the lower self, without deliberately setting a genuine positive destination that doorway could just as easily lead toward becoming a puppet of subconscious complexes, power tripping gurus, or negative entities.
This means that regressive practices carry the risk of losing ego in favor of potentially malevolent influences. Mindless chanting of a mantra, focusing on an external guru, practicing channeling with no filters in place, and slipping into altered states of consciousness for the sake of novelty are examples of things that carry this risk. If you are not engaged in positive confluence with your spiritual core by being and feeling it, then there’s no telling what you’re entering into confluence with.
Some forms of meditation marketed to the West should be called mindlessness meditations because that is precisely what they accomplish: a lowering of awareness into a murky state of unconsciousness that only ends up creating habitual mindless trance states and susceptility to manipulation by delusional or malevolent forces; it works for stress relief the same way psychiatric drugs take the edge off, but it is inappropriate for spiritual development since at best it merely inebriates and tranquilizes and at worst leads to becoming a mindless puppet.
Technically speaking, positive confluence is regressive because it puts us back into the naive childlike state of divine innocence as before the Fall. Self-awareness is lowered into mere awareness as one becomes an expression of a higher will. But as long as this remains a means rather than ends, that is okay. This state has its uses and is better than being in negative confluence, which is the sleepwalking state society seems to be in or the mindless puppet state that certain meditators and channelers enter into.
Despite being regressive, positive confluence is also better than being in a sterile state of lucidity not connected to anything positive, as happens with those who practice self-remembering for years without ever training their capacity for love, empathy, intuition, and other faculties of spirit. They become very lucid but also very cold and hardened, signifying the onset of ossification or Ahrimanization of the soul.
So as a means, positive confluence (Stage 2) is more useful as a stepping stone toward emerging into active divine consciousness (Stage 3). The goal is operating with self-awareness intact so that rather than being an unconscious extension of a higher source, one evolves into that higher source.
In this third stage, one practices self-awareness without interrupting the flow of impressions flowing from the higher centers. This amounts to a passive observation and gentle allowance of the influence your Higher Self exerts over your thoughts, feelings, words, and actions.
Why is lucidity important again after it was set aside in the second stage? Because staying lucid while letting positive influences work from within is simply an act of supervising the process so that you can step in as necessary to correct deviations or initiate a new line of inquiry and action.
The problem with Stage 2 is that positive confluence easily passes into negative because one is not always self-aware enough to catch the switchover. Think of a dreamer who is heartful and wise in one dream, then quickly sinks into stress and anger when the dream changes to something negative. There is no consistency. That is why I said positive confluence is fragile, just as Adam and Eve were in a fragile state that was good while it lasted, but ignorance is bliss and that ignorance allowed them to be easily swayed by interceding negative forces.
It is difficult enough to gain lucidity without interrupting the flow, which is why lucidity must at first be passive in the beginning of the third stage, meaning “watch yourself but do not interfere with the expression of your heart.” This, as distinguished from the “express your heart and higher wisdom by forgetting yourself” aspect of the second stage. The latter is a means toward achieving the first, however, so anyone stuck in Stage 1 to the point of having become more lucid but simultaneously colder inside, should practice entering into positive confluence. That means loosening up and absorbing yourself into positive, productive, creative, empathic, revelatory, and generally spiritual activities.
Once the lower self is free of negative confluence and the Higher Self has a clear and permanent communication link (achieved through brain and soul structure enhancements brought about through the aforementioned exercises) and both higher and lower are present at the same time, a mutual flow of communication is possible. The lower self becomes an adept assimilating the wisdom and essence of the Higher Self, thereby rising to its level. In this way, the lower finally merges with the higher and achieves total integration of being.
This is different from the higher sinking into the lower during positive confluence; it is different from annihiliation of ego and the return to a primitive pure state. Rather, it is a forward progression, an entelechy of human consciousness.
In practice, these stages of conscious awakening are not discretely sequential like grades in school. Rather, we occupy one of the stages as a primary center of gravity yet can spontaneously spike into the higher levels or drop into the lower.
The higher stages are trickier to access and maintain, but that does not mean we are barred from accessing them, just that without practice we access them less frequently. The glimpses we catch of the higher stages should motivate us to acquire them permanently as our new center of gravity. This is much like regular dreamers being motivated by spontaneous lucid dreams to practice and have them more frequently until it becomes the normal mode of dreaming. Higher awareness happens in flashes, like a fluorescent bulb flickering before fully igniting.
Shortcomings of Existing Systems
As for esoteric systems like Fourth Way claiming that the higher remains incomprehensible until the lower stages are mastered, remember that there is a difference between systems of conscious evolution and systems of conscious awakening. We are not here to grow our souls from scratch, as there is no time left for that, but rather to awaken ourselves into full spiritual remembrance. We don’t start off life as a blank slate, for the incarnating spirit is already quite seasoned from prior incarnations. The higher centers of the soul may simply be latent or atrophied due to biological and social programming factors we receive from birth that cause neglect and forgetting; if so, then accessing them is not as impossible and incomprehensible as Fourth Way makes it out to be. I think Fourth Way was speaking more for the general mass of dimly conscious people in this world (including spiritless humans) instead of those who are in the upper percentile, but in force fitting the latter into the first it does great harm.
So we have society in general advocating a kind of Stage 0 consisting of negative confluence (to the exclusion of anything higher), Fourth Way and similar paradigms advocating Stage 1 (to the exclusion of anything higher), and Christianity and Buddhism each emphasizing dissolution of the lower self per Stage 2 (to the exclusion of anything higher). While these are each progressively better than the previous, they all stop short of the aforementioned entelechy of human consciousness, which is the fulfillment of our potential without restrictions and exceptions.
Few systems concern themselves with Stage 3. For that, one would have to look toward the Hermetic, Gnostic, Rosicrucian, Toltec, Fifth Way, and Anthroposophical streams.
Interestingly, the stages of conscious awakening reflect the macrocosmic process of conscious evolution. What follows is a diagram comparing the two:
The process can be painted via the following story. A prince leaves his father’s kingdom and suffers a loss of memory then leads the life of a peasant until he grows weary of poverty. In his yearning for a better life, he suddenly remembers he is a prince and returns to see his father. From afar he watches his father carry out the duties of a king, then when certain of his own identity, the prince gathers enough courage to speak with his father. In the years following this reunion, the king teaches his son all his wisdom until one day the prince himself becomes king.
The goal is to retrieve what was locked away within us, to re-establish contact with our higher centers, and ultimately remember who we are. And it all begins with self-observation and listening to your heart.
Hypsoconsciousness – John Baines. A guidebook on “various exercises to aid the individual in elevating his level of consciousness through concentration, relaxation, centeredness, will power and the development of a superior I.”
The Stellar Man – John Baines. Synthesis of modern psychology and Hermeticism. Thorough explanation of the Hermetic Principles. Also includes a legend of how Moses screwed things up by making a pact with a demonic entity named “Y”.
Gnosis Book I, Book II, and Book III – Boris Mouravieff. Supposedly based on the original teachings of which Fourth Way is just a collection of fragments, Mouravieff considered his approach the Fifth Way. Main source is inner Eastern Orthodox, but probably traces back to Sufi and related groups. Something valuable on every page. Not a fan of his political views, but the esoteric stuff is spot on. Includes discussion on spiritless humans, called pre-Adamics.
2.0 – Jan 7, 2015. Merged with “You are Dreaming,” expanded on certain points, corrected other concepts.