New Thought Beliefs
Higher consciousness, also called Super consciousness (Yoga), objective consciousness (Gurdjieff), Buddhic consciousness (Theosophy), Cosmic consciousness, God-consciousness (Islam, Hinduism), Christ consciousness (Christian Mysticism) and Super- Human are expressions used in various spiritual and intellectual traditions to denote the consciousness of a human being who has reached a higher level of development and who has come to know reality as it is (Sanskrit: Yatha bhuta). It also refers to the awareness or knowledge of an 'ultimate reality' which traditional theistic religion has named God and which Gautama Buddha referred to as the unconditioned element. Evolution in this sense is not that which occurs by natural selection over generations of human reproduction but evolution brought about by the application of spiritual knowledge to the conduct of human life, and of the refinement of the mind brought about by spiritual practices. Through the application of such knowledge (traditionally the preserve of the world's great religions) to practical self-management, the awakening and development of faculties dormant in the ordinary human being is achieved. These faculties are aroused by and developed in conjunction with certain virtues such as lucidity, patience, kindness, truthfulness, humility, and forgiveness towards one's fellow man – qualities without which, according to the traditional teachings, higher consciousness is not possible. As an inter-connected group, it is called Collective Consciousness in Philosophy.
Higher consciousness is generally regarded 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. 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.
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 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.
Ordinary consciousness as projection
In the spiritual traditions of India, consciousness is understood to be obscured by defilements (kilesa) which are compared to clouds covering the sun. These defilements are the result of conditioning (sanskara), accumulations in the unconscious caused by past actions (karma) . As a result, what any individual perceives as reality is a picture of the world at one particular moment filtered through his unconscious conditioning – a ‘reality’ that western psychology calls ‘projection’ (i.e., of the contents of the unconscious). Every individual human being has their own store of conditioning based on their unique past experiences, their 'reality tunnel'. The goal of spiritual practice (buddhadharma, shariah, yoga, etc.) is the transformation and higher integration of these contents so that any practitioner following a spiritual path comes closer to reality as the causes of delusion are dissolved. Enlightenment (also called salvation, kaivalya, moksha, union with God, etc.) furthermore, involves the complete dissolution of all the causes for future becoming so that reality is seen, finally, as it is, rather than through the veils of projected unconscious contents.
Consciousness: spiritual approaches
Spiritual approaches to consciousness involve the idea of altered states of consciousness or religious experience. Changes in the state of consciousness or a religious experience can occur spontaneously or as a result of religious observance. It is also maintained by some religions, religious factions and some scientists that the universe itself is consciousness (panpsychism).
In shamanic practices, changes in states of consciousness are induced by activities that create trance states, such as drumming, dancing, fasting, sensory deprivation, exposure to extremes of temperature or the use of psychoactive drugs. The experience that occurs is interpreted as entering a real, but parallel, world. In many polytheistic religions a change in emotional state is often attributed to the action of a god; for instance love was ruled by Aphrodite and Eros in Ancient Greek polytheism. In Hinduism the change in state is induced by the practice of yoga. Yoga means "union" and is intended to produce a state of oneness between the practitioner and the divine. In Islamic Mysticism and Christianity, the change of state can occur as a result of prayer or as a religious experience. The change in state of consciousness in Hinduism, Buddhism, New Thought, Christianity and Islam is reported to be quite similar. The pursuit of yoga and the Buddhist Jhanas involve feelings of oneness with the world that give rise to a state of rapture. This is also reported by those undergoing some forms of Christian (or Islamic) religious experience.
Meditation is used in some forms of yoga such as Raja Yoga, Hatha yoga, Transcendental Meditation (TM), the Buddhist Jhanas, in the practices of Christian monks and Islamic mystics (Sufis). Meditation can have a calming influence on practitioners, as well as changing the state of consciousness. Theravada Buddhism views the Jhanas – the cultivation of which is similar to practices in Hindu Yoga – as a preliminary, in which it is demonstrated that states such as rapture are not ultimately satisfactory (see The Jhanas in Theravada Buddhist Meditation by Mahathera Henepola: "With the fading away of rapture, he dwells in equanimity, mindful and discerning"). In most types of Buddhism, serenity meditation is followed by insight meditation in which one uses the sharpened mind to penetrate the true nature of all mental phenomena.
Theravada Buddhism views the Jhanas – the cultivation of which is similar to practices in Hindu Yoga – as a preliminary, in which it is demonstrated that states such as rapture are not ultimately satisfactory (see The Jhanas in Theravada Buddhist Meditation by Mahathera Henepola: "With the fading away of rapture, he dwells in equanimity, mindful and discerning"). In most types of Buddhism, serenity meditation is followed by insight meditation in which one uses the sharpened mind to penetrate the true nature of all mental phenomena.
Cosmic consciousness and transcendental meditation
Higher consciousness is a level of inner consciousness that may be achieved and produce new, enlightening experiences. Higher consciousness is not limited to one type, but many. There are also multiple ways to achieve this state, and gain a new insight from such an experience. The following piece will describe first and foremost what higher consciousness is, explain one type of higher consciousness known as cosmic consciousness, and also explain one type of meditation, known as transcendental meditation which can further be related to cosmic consciousness. In the beginning, psychologist James provided theories for the development and definition of higher consciousness. James saw that “inner experiences” were significant, and connected these inner experiences to our own human knowledge and experiences throughout the lifespan. James studied this subject both philosophically and scientifically, and then connected it to psychological processes. (Alexander, Alexander, Boyer, 1987, p 90). James connected psychological processes to philosophy, “He appreciated the rich inheritance of understanding about consciousness and self-knowledge from both Western and Eastern philosophical traditions, but he also appreciated the value of the systematic empirical approach in the emerging science of psychology” (Alexander, Alexander, Boyer, 1987, p 90). James was one of the first in the field to connect Western and Eastern schools of thought, and also use approaches such as those mentioned. However, James did have some difficulty in the beginning connecting the states of consciousness with empirical research. James concluded that the experiences had personal and historical significance, but that he and the rest of the science world should focus their studies on things more accessible and quantifiable. (Alexander, Alexander, Boyer, 1987, p 90). Later, another psychologist, Maslow, described a connection of two states, “self- actualization” which articulates “exalted states and higher levels of human growth.” (Alexander, Alexander, Boyer, 1987, p 90). These higher levels of human growth are what the world knows today as higher consciousness. When one envelops them self in this state, they are, in a sense, opening up their mind to new developments. These developments are often a product of the higher consciousness experience, and are new insights that the person may then continue to use throughout their life. In modern day, it is still difficult to pinpoint exactly what higher consciousness is, what it achieves, and how to get there. Loevinger explains, Research psychologists avoided serious consideration of such exceptional inner experiences, largely because of the lack of a sufficiency comprehensive theoretical framework to interpret the significance of the reported experiences, the lack of an experimental paradigm to test the verity of the experiences, and the lack of a systematic subjective methodology to replicate the experiences. Although some psychologists have recognized the potential relevance of these subjectives to developmental theory, there has been in general agreement with James that these states are very rare, transient, and difficult to investigate experimentally (Loevinger, 1976, p. 140) (Alexander, Alexander, Boyer, 1987, p 90). As James mentioned previously, little can be known about higher consciousness, or any consciousness for that matter, because of how subjective it is. No one but the person in such a state can known exactly what another person is feeling. Loevinger shows how difficult it would be to create experiments for this, and obtain valid results. However, we do know that higher states of consciousness can be achieved by anyone with a little practice, and often gives the subject an enriching life experience. Concluding on the subject of higher consciousness as a whole, the state of higher consciousness is a transient state that is a higher level of human growth and potential. Although the study of this theory is still growing, it has been proven to coincide with developmental theorists’ views. Following the subject of higher consciousness as a whole, one type of higher consciousness this paper will focus on is known as cosmic consciousness. The definition of cosmic consciousness is as follows: According to Vedic Psychology the fifth state of consciousness (cosmic consciousness) is gained when the fourth state (transcendental consciousness) is maintained as a continuous non changing level of awareness along with the changing experiences of waking, dreaming, and sleeping. Initially, transcendental consciousness is not sustained outside of meditation because the nervous system, restricted by accumulated stress, lacks the flexibility and refinement of functioning to maintain inner silence while engaged in dynamic activity (Alexander, Heaton, Chandler, 1994, p 46). Vedic psychology shows briefly that there are multiple states of consciousness, and cosmic consciousness is the fifth. Vedic psychology also mentions another state, the transcendental state, which will be discussed shortly. Yet another definition of the state is, as described by Maharishi, “‘The Self has separated itself completely from the filed of activity’ and stands as a peaceful inner observer or ‘silent witness (Maharishi, 1969, p 312-313)’” (Alexander, Heaton, Chandler, 1994, p 47). When a person is subjecting them self to cosmic consciousness, they are separating mind and body. They are allowing them self to simply exist, and take in the world around them. Cosmic consciousness has been seen to have physiological aspects connected to it. The connections incorporate two different steps of organizing the functions of the nervous system along with keeping these two identities separate. (Alexander, Heaton, Chandler, 1994 p 48). As mentioned previously, one must separate mind from body in order to enter into the fifth state of consciousness. Continuing on, higher consciousness can most likely be associated with and obtained through a method called meditation. There are multiple kinds and methods for meditation. One method in particular is transcendental meditation. As mentioned previously, the transcendental level of consciousness occurs just before cosmic consciousness. A definition of transcendental meditation is, as described by Yogi, “Turning the attention inwards towards the subtle levels of a thought until the mind transcends the experience of the subtlest states of the thought and arrives at the source of the thought (Yogi 1969, p. 470)” (Hjelle, 1974, p 623). Another, more in depth definition has been explained by Maharishi, “This is a state of inner wakefulness with no object or thought or perception, just pure consciousness aware of its own unbounded nature. It is wholeness, aware of itself, devoid of differences, beyond the division of subject and object-transcendental consciousness (Maharishi, 1976, p 123)” (Alexander, Heaton, Chandler, 1994, p 44). Simply put, these definitions are once again describing the separation of the self. When in this state, one’s consciousness is, in a sense, opened up. There is no limit to what one’s own consciousness can do when in a state such as this. In order to perform this type of meditation, one must “sit with eyes closed and mind passively focused inward on a repeated sound, twice a day for about 20 min. at a time. Transcendental Meditation is claimed to be an effortless and highly enjoyable activity, requiring no strict concentration, unusual postures, or particular changes in the life style” (Hjelle, 1974, p 623). An easy explanation of this is sitting, without crossing any body parts, and repeating a calming phrase, the most popular being “aum.” By repeating a phrase such as this, and keeping the body open, the mind can separate itself and focus not on legs touching and the like, but the outside world, and the mind can then begin to take it all in. (Omharmonics). Transcendental meditation has multiple effects on the person performing the act. Transcendental meditation has been seen to pacify the effects of drug abuse, some psychosomatic disorders and promote good mental health. People who use transcendental meditation claim to have more stable emotions and less stress. (Hjelle, 1974, p 623-624). Concluding, transcendental meditation is shown to have a positive effect on the person and their psyche. By performing this type of meditation daily, many people have experienced positive outcomes which have helped their health both physically and mentally. By using this type, or any mediation, one has the ability to open up their mind to the world. By subjecting oneself to any of the levels of consciousness, levels four and five most significantly, it is possible to separate body and mind and experience the limitless effects on one’s own consciousness.
Psychedelic drugs are used to alter the brain cognition and perception, some believing this to be a state of higher consciousness and transcendence. (Dutta, 2012) The reason psychedelic substances are alluring is because they offer the possibility of seeing the higher consciousness. The psychoactive substance-induced alteration of consciousness has been around for thousands of years. (Tart & Davis, 1991) The history of substances used depends on its native areas. (Clark, 1976) Psychedelic drugs were certainly being used as early as 4000 BC. (Johanson & Krebs, 2013) Typical psychedelic drugs are hallucinogens including LSD, cannabis, peyote, and psiloscybe mushrooms. (Dutta, 2012) These psychedelic drugs are used for many purposes as in medical treatments, religious and spiritual journeys and recreational use. (Clark, 1976) These “mind trips” were believed to be a way into ones higher consciousness. Psychedelic drugs can cause temporary changes in a person’s thought processes and perception by producing a psychosis of higher consciousness. (Clark, 1976) A bad trip is usually caused by an uncomfortable setting under stressful circumstances and it can result in fear, paranoia, and a recoil from open spaces that might be perceived as threatening.
The use of psychedelic drugs for religious purposes has been used for centuries. Ancient Greece used secret potions of mixed herbs, while Aztec Indians used the Peyote cactus. (Stasko, Rao, & Pilley, 2012) Native Americans reported a high rate of life time use within legally protected religious experiences. (Johanson & Krebs, 2013) These psychedelic experiences were supposed to heighten empathy.
“This awareness can manifest as love and affection; as the ability to see another's point of view and put oneself in the other person's shoes; as deep respect and regard; as elimination of barriers that separate; as communion with nature; or as a transcendent feeling of warmth for all things. That may occur as an intimate acute experience or a form-shaking permanent alteration.” (Wolfson, 2011) Integration of the mind and spirit is a state of higher conscious. Integration is the key to maintaining transformation. Integration is a function of intentional conscious and unconscious. Integration occurs without effort. A redesign of the central processor of the minds and voluntarily as a deliberate effort to understand, find meaning, and as rectification of our behavior towards others and towards ourselves. (Wolfson, 2011) The psychedelic experience in itself may be transformed from the consciousness. Support for change by deliberate and disciplined absorption in the myriad spiritual emotional psychological activist opportunities for increasing clarity and breath most probably results in a more long-term and positive transformation of self. (Wolfson, 2011)
Psychedelic drugs are given in small doses to patients during sessions for psychoanalytic therapy. (Dutta, 2012) It is believed that by finding their higher consciousness that patients are able to access memories that are held deep within their mind. Psychedelics are used in Catharsis release therapy sessions. (Dutta, 2012) It is also believed that using psychedelics in alcoholism, helps to eliminate the want of alcohol by speaking to the higher conscious. (Dutta, 2012) Common uses for Psychedelics include curiosity, introspection, and mystical experiences. (Johanson & Krebs, 2013) A prolonged use of hallucinogens are currently thought to be causes of medical diseases such as Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, and Schizophrenia. LSD was very popular in the 1960s. Psychedelic use affects the personal/psychological matrix. Starting a journey forces an encounter with a fear of the unknown, of the lurking dangers believed hidden in one's own mind, of coming back altered. (Wolfson, 2011) The first session is generally absorbed with the personal relationships, guilt, love, longing, grief, attachments, and self-concepts. This experience opens a way to introspect, release, change, and to be able to reframe a heightened awareness of self and the others. (Wolfson, 2011)
Clark, W. H. (1976). Religious Aspects of Psychedelic Drugs. Social Psychology, pp. 86–99. Dutta, V. (2012, July–September). Repression of Death Consciousness and the Psychedelic Trip. Journal of Cancer Research and Therapeutics, pp. 336–342. Johanson, P., & Krebs, T. S. (2013, August). Psychedelics and Mental Health: A population study. PLOS ONE. Lerner, M. M. (2006, June). Values and Beliefs of Psychedelic Drug Users: A Cross Cultural Study. Volume 38, pp. 143–147. Stasko, A., Rao, S. P., & Pilley, A. (2012). Spirituality and Hallucinogen Use: Results from a pilot study among college students. International Journal of Transpersonal Studies, 23-32. Tart, C. T., & Davis, C. (1991). Psychedelic Drug Experiences on Students of Tibetan Buddhism, A preliminary Exploration. The Journal of Transpersonal Psychology, 139-173.
Wolfson, P (2011) Tikkun January/February Vol. 26 Issue 1, p10, 6p
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