According to Bunge, Friedrich Schleiermacher (1768-1834) made a distinction between lower and higher (self)consciousness. The lower consciousness is the animal part of mankind, and includes basic sensations such as hunger, thirst, pain and pleasure, as well as basic drives and pleasures. Higher consciousness "is the part of the human being that is capable of transcending animal instincts", and the "point of contact with God". It is the essence of being human. When this consciousness is present, people are not alienated from God by their instincts. The relation between the lower and the higher consciousness is akin to Paul's "struggle of the spirit to overcome the flesh", or the distinction between the natural and the spiritual side of human beings.
Higher consciousness is also described as a developed state of consciousness in which attention is improved, refined and enhanced, and aspects of the mind (such as thought, and perception) are transcended. It is considered thus to be a higher level of consciousness relative to ordinary consciousness, in the sense that a greater awareness of reality is achieved.
The concept of higher consciousness rests on the belief that the average, ordinary human being is only partially conscious due to the character of the untrained mind and the influence of 'lower' impulses and preoccupations. As a result, most humans are considered to be asleep (to reality) even as they go about their daily business. Gurdjieff called this ordinary condition of humanity "waking sleep," an idea gleaned in part from ancient spiritual teachings such as those of the Buddha.
In a secular context, higher consciousness is usually associated with exceptional control over one's mind and will, intellectual and moral enlightenment, and profound personal growth. In a spiritual context, it may also be associated with transcendence, spiritual enlightenment, and union with the divine.
In each person lie potentialities that remain inchoate as a result of the individual being caught up in mechanical, neurotic modes of behaviour where energy for personal spiritual development is not used effectively nor efficiently, but squandered in unskillful ways. As a result of the phenomenon of projection, the cause of such a person's suffering is often seen to lie in outer circumstances or other individuals. One prerequisite for the development of consciousness is the understanding that suffering and alienation are one's own responsibility and dependent on the mind's acquiescence (through ignorance, for example).
Traditionally, both in the Eastern and the Abrahamic spiritual traditions, a person who sought mind-body transformation came under the tutelage of a Master (Rabbi, Sheikh, Guru, Acarya, etc.) who would oversee their progress. In the past, as in some circumstances today, this education would often involve, periods of retreat in communities (ashrams, monasteries, meditation centers, etc.) whose sole purpose is the cultivation of awakening. Nonetheless, such states can also be developed by any serious practitioner who undergoes skillful and whole-souled training.
Higher consciousness is also called "Super consciousness" (Yoga), "objective consciousness" (Gurdjieff), "Buddhic consciousness" (Theosophy), "Cosmic consciousness" (Bucke), "God-consciousness" (Islam, Hinduism), "Christ consciousness" (Christian Mysticism) and Super-Human, as expressions used in various spiritual and intellectual traditions to denote the consciousness of a human being who has reached a higher level of development.
Psychedelic drugs can be used to alter the brain cognition and perception, some believing this to be a state of higher consciousness and transcendence. Typical psychedelic drugs are hallucinogens including LSD, cannabis, peyote, and psiloscybe mushrooms. According to Wolfson, these drug-induced altered states of consciousness may result in a more long-term and positive transformation of self.
According to Dutta, psychedelic drugs may be used for psychoanalytic therapy, as a means to gain access to the higher consciousness, thereby providing patients the ability to access memories that are held deep within their mind. 
- Bunge 2001, p. 341.
- Merklinger 1993, p. 67.
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