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The Evolution or Expansion of Consciousness
What does it mean to evolve or expand our consciousness?
We can consider the metaphor of our individual consciousness as being like an antenna designed to receive information from the greater consciousness.
In actual telecommunications, we might upgrade hardware from an “omnidirectional antenna” to a satellite dish. Why? Because this “directional antenna” is capable of receiving a greater amount of information. Continuing the metaphor, satellite dishes can be made from various materials created in various sizes.
Similarly, we can consider the “hardware” (our mindbody) that attunes our “receiver” (our individual consciousness) to that of the greater consciousness. Our “hardware” includes the body, brain and mind through which consciousness flows.
Time-tested practices designed to evolve or expand our “receiver” include meditation and contemplation.
The Mindbody Antenna
We are learning how the body is actually a multifaceted antenna system that receives lots of different kinds of information. That includes your physical body, all the way from your bones down to the cellular level of your existence. The brain processes the physical information that is coming in, and then there is also the subtle energy in your body that interprets information coming in from that way, as well. The mind-body antenna coordinates the whole thing and takes in information from everywhere. Much of my book is devoted to that concept, showing how physical antennae work like radio broadcast and TV antennae. It also delves into perspectives on how things like yoga and tai chi, which move our bodies through different ritual positions, help facilitate receiving these frequencies. We position ourselves just like we change the rabbit ears on an old TV set, and move through these different energy waves, like a radio scanner that moves through different bands of frequencies to pull in information.– MaAnna Stephenson (interviewed by Patrica Cori)
Ancient, Time-tested Practices Designed to Expand Consciousness
The concept of evolving human consciousness is not new; in fact it has been with us through the millenniums… Many practices such as yoga, meditation, contemplation, vision questing and others have as their ultimate goal the expansion of consciousness… Western religions take more of a summative or testing approach to the purpose of life, rather than the formative or developmental bent favored in the East. For example, in the Abrahamic religions of the West and Middle East… followers of these religions were given “commandments” or told what to do and how to act… No developmental techniques are mentioned; obedience to the law is demanded… Most Eastern religions operate with a more developmental direction… The idea of existence for man in these doctrines focuses on learning from life experiences in order to grow to be a better person (more highly conscious, compassionate, understanding etc.).– Paul Marko Ph.D.
Raising Your Vibration
The phrase “raise your vibration” is a closely related concept, but may be distinguished from consciousness evolution, in general, in that it’s usually referencing specific lifestyle practices designed to refine the mindbody as a vessel for increasing consciousness. Such practices may include:
- Eating a “high-vibratory” diet of foods as close to their natural state as possible, minimizing meat products (as appropriate for individual constitutions) and avoiding chemicals, preservatives and processed foods
- Healing traumas and psychological wounds
- Experiencing periods of solitude, silence, inactivity, meditation
- Practicing gratitude
- Being of service
- Releasing attachments, including the attachment to results of action
- Moving (walking, dancing, yoga, etc.)
- Being in nature
- Expressing joy
- Eliminating or minimizing “heavy” influences such as negative people, sensationalism and so on
- Seeking inspirational teachings
On the one hand, we have practices such as meditation that can lead to expanded consciousness. On the other, we have “peak events” or transcendent experiences — oftentimes seemingly spontaneous — whereby a person experiences a higher state of consciousness (that may be temporary or sustained). In the 2010 book, Waking From Sleep, Steve Taylor calls these higher states of consciousness “awakening experiences.”
Stephen Cope writes, “One beautiful June afternoon, as I stood on my ladder, I was overcome with a feeling of what I can only describe as profound and utter well-being. For no apparent reason, I dropped through some unexpected crack in my ordinary mode of consciousness into a state of ‘time out of time.’ The most mundane moments were infused with the deepest sense of satisfaction. The enchanting perfume of the iris at my feet; the steady hum of farm machinery in the distant field; the cat curled up in the sun, watching; even the rich oil smell of the paint. It all seemed so completely right. I was utterly OK.” Ecstatic oneness. Stephen Cope’s description of his experience of entering samadhi while painting a house one summer is so compelling because the images he describes are at once so ordinary and yet so haunting in their crystalline clarity. He is recounting an experience we have all had, and yet have probably discounted and relegated to our subconscious– Rolf Gates
Awakening Experiences are Relatively Common
People of every culture and every period of history have described such experiences. Awakening experiences seem to be universal… They have occurred in essentially the same form all over the world throughout history… They give us a glimpse of the world of beauty, meaning and unity that lies beyond the normal human world of separation and suffering – a new world which it is possible for us to inhabit permanently.– Waking from Sleep
Awakening experiences fall on a continuum of sorts but most include the following:
- Clarity, revelation, awareness of a deeper or higher level of reality
- A sense of harmony, meaning, unity or oneness
- A sense of everything being intensely real and alive
- Inner peace, joy, bliss or ecstasy
- An altered experience of time
Experiences of Illumination, Oneness, Transcendence, Samadhi, Enlightenment
From his research into awakening experiences, Steve Taylor came to categorize them along a continuum of intensity:
In the most basic kind of awakening experience, our normal “shadowy” vision of the world is transformed and we gain something of the intense vision of the world of children and some indigenous peoples. It’s as if a new dimension of reality is added, as if the world switches from monochrome to colour… At roughly a medium intensity… we become aware of the presence of a spirit-force in the world, pervading all things and the spaces between things. We realize that it’s this spirit-force that… is the source of the harmony and the radiance we can see everywhere.– Waking from Sleep
Awakening experiences in general have been described by many other names including illumination, oneness, transcendence, samadhi and enlightenment.
- Apollo astronaut Edgar Mitchell Ph.D. described a transcendent experience of oneness that he experienced in space. The experience is a classic description of the so-called “awakening experience.” Mitchell’s experience of oneness changed the trajectory of his life, and as he later searched for understanding of what had happened to him, he found the descriptions of samadhi accurate reflections of his experience. (source)
- Samadhi is a Sanskrit word that is described as a profound connection or unity, an experience of losing one’s self / identity / ego. The experience of samadhi is discussed extensively in a foundational text of yoga philosophy called the Yoga Sutras. In fact, of the four chapters or “books” of the Yoga Sutras, the entire first book is devoted to the subject of samadhi.
- Vast numbers of people have purportedly experienced spontaneous awakening experiences. A few famous stories include those of Paramahansa Yogananda, The Buddha and Eckhart Tolle and near death experiencers.
- But many people that aren’t known to most of us have had transcendent experiences as well. In his book, Taylor cites various collections, studies and surveys of awakening experiences, indicating they are far more common than most of us would think. He writes, “Why did I spend so long thinking there was something wrong with me when in reality around a third or even two-thirds of the people around me had had similar experiences to mine? The problem is that these experiences are slightly taboo. Like talking about sex in Victorian England, it’s not socially acceptable to tell our friends or colleagues about these visions of oneness and harmony and feelings of bliss.”
Cosmic Consciousness / Exoconsciousness
Here we look at the specific awareness of life beyond human physical life on Earth, including experiential awareness of the individual as a soul, of the Source or Divine Creator, or of advanced beings and civilizations other than Earth humans.
Is Cosmic Consciousness the Same as Samadhi?
In the 1921 book, Cosmic Consciousness, Richard Maurice Bucke M.D. defines “cosmic consciousness” as a “consciousness of the cosmos, that is, of the life and order of the universe.” He goes on to describe the elation and “consciousness of eternal life” that goes along with it:
The prime characteristic of cosmic consciousness is, as its name implies, a consciousness of the cosmos, that is, of the life and order of the universe… Along with the consciousness of the cosmos there occurs an intellectual enlightenment or illumination which alone would place the individual on a new plane of existence – would make him almost a member of a new species. To this is added… an indescribable feeling of elevation, elation and joyousness, and a quickening of the moral sense, which is fully as striking and more important both to the individual and to the race than is the enhanced intellectual power. With these come what may be called a sense of immortality, a consciousness of eternal life, not a conviction that he shall have this, but the consciousness that he has it already.– Richard Maurice Bucke M.D.
We might ask if there are qualitative differences between what Taylor calls “awakening experiences” and these experiences that Buck calls “cosmic consciousness.” When we look at the vast numbers of transcendent experiences that people have reported over humanity’s history, we appear to be getting glimpses of an endless possibility of experiences on a vast array of consciousness experiences. They all seem to be different expressions of one universal experience: tapping into the great field of consciousness.
Awareness of the Life and Order of the Universe
On the other hand, Bucke seems to point to a particular aspect of illumination that isn’t present in all samadhi experiences. That particular aspect is an awareness of the “life and order of the universe” beyond humanity’s physical experience on Earth. This awareness may come in the form of experiential awareness of the individual as a soul, of the Source or Divine Creator, or of advanced beings and civilizations other than Earth humans.
Similarly, Paramahamsa Yogananda, author of Autobiography of a Yogi and widely accepted as an enlightened spiritual teacher, had an intriguing response:
1949 saw a worldwide “stir” of sightings of “flying saucers” or UFOs. The newspapers generally made light of the reports, but Paramhansa Yogananda’s brief comment was: “What people have seen is true. Those phenomena are not imaginary.” About interplanetary travel, he once said, “Modern man thinks that everything must be accomplished by physical force. There are many subtler forces in Nature. These will come to light as the general sensitivity of man becomes more refined. Someday it will be a simple matter to travel from Earth to Mars, or to other planets.– Conversations with Yogananda
A more direct statement of this aspect of illumination is offered by the Institute for Exoconsciousness:
Exoconsciousness The ability of human consciousness to connect, communicate and co-create with extraterrestrials and multidimensionals.
Exoconscious Human A human who integrates, develops and applies the extraterrestrial origins, dimensions, and abilities of their consciousness.
Exoconscious Civilization A post-disclosure culture prospering with tools, technology, teaching, healing, and art co-created with ET and multidimensional contact and communication.– Institute for Exoconsciousness
Spiritual or Mystical Experiences
How is the expansion of consciousness and experiences of awakening, transcendence and samadhi related to “spiritual” or “mystical” experiences? Modern experts, as quoted below, find that with the introduction of these words into our discussion, we’re more likely to muddy the waters:
The real difficulty… is getting almost anyone to agree with what we call “spiritual.” The term is virtually useless for any sort of coherent discussion.– Ken Wilber
I have found that some people believe the term “spiritual experience” refers to a psychic or paranormal experience, while others use the term with a purely religious meaning (e.g., religious visions,”hearing” the voice of God or Jesus)… The terms “spiritual” and “mystical” experience are sometimes used interchangeably… However, the terms “mystical experience” and “mystic” are most commonly used by religious scholars (particularly in the Christian tradition), referring to “spiritual experiences” or to individuals who have reached a high level of “spiritual development” in the context of religion… [In some uses] a “mystic” is a person who has managed to expand and intensify his or her normal consciousness, and so has a more intense and truer vision of reality, and a new relationship to the world – including an awareness and sense of connection to the divine.– Steve Taylor
Measuring Individual Consciousness Levels
Whether a person uses meditation or has a spontaneous experience, how do we know if they’ve succeeded in expanding their consciousness? Can it be measured in levels? What does it look and feel like?
As individual consciousness is uplifted, conditions simultaneously take on a new aspect. One’s whole universe is transformed for him as he ascends in consciousness… As ignorance is overcome by Intelligence, so human sense is overcome by Spiritual consciousness… Spiritual awakening, or awakening to self as Spirit, is the uplifting of individual consciousness into eternal Truth.– Valiant Thor
Measuring a person’s “level” of consciousness or growth in consciousness over time isn’t something that western science is well-equipped to do. Quantum mechanics gives us measurable data that contributes to a Science of Oneness, whereby we might equate Aether with the field of greater consciousness. As for individual consciousness, however, we must look to different branches of science and research. The science of frequency and vibration, including the human body’s response to the earth’s magnetic field, may hold answers and Noetic Sciences and “consciousness studies” that typically study “paranormal” activity are other potential sources of data. Meanwhile, here are some general thoughts for consideration.
Developing consciousness may exhibit in such ways as:
- Feelings of well-being
- A sense of being connected to others, to something in oneself, and/or to something greater than oneself
- Enhanced experiences of telepathy, clairvoyance, precognition or other “paranormal” abilities
- A knowing of one’s spiritual beingness, the immortality of one’s soul or essence
- Experiences of illumination, oneness, samadhi, enlightenment
Our consciousness is driving us to assemble and survive through the creation and support of a global community.– Bruce H. Lipton Ph.D.
The “collective consciousness” is a term used to refer to not only the summation but the synergistic effects of individual consciousness levels on societies, culture, civilizations and planetary-wide.
Each of us is living in a field of energy — and each of us contributes to that energy through our consciousness. Each human is like a tuning fork whose brain is vibrating at a specific frequency. Therefore, a whole community can vibrate in harmony. By definition, the collective community manifests an energy field that is powerful and palpable enough to support the individuals sharing that field.– Bruce H. Lipton Ph.D.
Also called the Great Shift, “ascension” is related to the “uplifting” of consciousness, as in the evolution, expansion, or awakening of consciousness described above.
- David Wilcock describes ascension as “a graduation into a higher level of existence.” (The Ascension Mysteries)
- Ascension is usually referring to a leap of consciousness — a particular point at which we ascend to another “density” and “dimension.”
- Usage of the terms “density” and “dimension” is varied. One proposal is that the Earth’s current ascension process is a movement from third density to fourth density which results in a corresponding shift from three dimensions to five: 3rd to 4th density and 3D to 5D.
- Ascension often refers to an event that may be experienced by individuals, the collective and the planet herself.
- What exactly happens at the “moment” of ascension is the subject of extensive discussion.
Imagine a life of supernatural, godlike powers… The “veil” between living and dying, which caused you to forget that you had a greater identity beyond each mortal life, has now dropped. In every moment you are fully aware that you are a soul having a human experience. Your level of intelligence is now vastly greater than anything you had access to in the past. Is this a dream? A case of ridiculous wishful thinking that has no grounding in reality? Or is it possible that the world’s great spiritual teachers were telling you the truth?… Is ascension — a graduation into a higher level of existence — your ultimate goal for being human?– David Wilcock, The Ascension Mysteries
We’ll be bringing many more voices on this fascinating topic. Meanwhile, the following video by Jim Self is a wonderful teaching on the topic of ascension.
Sources & Resources
- Bucke, Richard Maurice M.D. — Cosmic Consciousness: A Study in the Evolution of the Human Mind — 1901 book (That’s not a typo! This book was published in 1901)
- Cori, Patricia — Beyond the Matrix: Daring Conversations with the Brilliant Minds of Our Times — 2010 book
- Enlightened People — Paramahansa Yogananda Enlightenment Story
- Enlightened People — Eckhart Tolle Enlightenment Story
- Gates, Rolf — Meditations from the Mat — 2002 book
- Grof, Stanislav M.D., Ph.D. — The Cosmic Game: Explorations of the Frontiers of Human Consciousness — 1998 book
- Institute for Exoconsciousness — Building an Exoconscious Civilization
- Kriyananda, Swami — Conversations with Yogananda — 2004 book
- Lipton, Bruce Ph.D., Uplift — The Science Behind Collective Awareness
- Mitchell, Edgar Ph.D. — The Way of the Explorer: An Apollo Astronaut’s Journey Through the Material and Mystical Worlds — 2008 book
- Self, Jim — Ascension: How Do You Do It? Part One
- Stephenson, MaAnna — The Sage Age: Blending Science with Intuitive Wisdom — 2008 book
- Taylor, Steve — Waking From Sleep: Why Awakening Experiences Occur and How to Make Them Permanent — 2010 book
- Taylor, Steve, Association for Transpersonal Psychology — Spontaneous Awakening Experiences: Beyond Religion and Spiritual Practice
- Wilcock, David — The Ascension Mysteries: Reveling the Cosmic Battle Between Good and Evil — 2017 book
- Zen Studies Sanga — Shakyamuni Buddha’s Enlightenment: What Did He Realize?