A Journey through the Four States of Consciousness
The goal of the spiritual work is to climb up the ladder of the Being, to reach higher and higher stages of the Path that can take one to the incarnation of all the parts of the inner Being. The consciousness that we have is the key factor in achieving that goal, because upon its transformation depends our movement forward. By performing the inner work, we go through esoteric initiations of the Path by which our consciousness is truly changed and expanded, and like this we journey through the four states of consciousness. Teachings about the latter have been put forward by several authors that dealt with esoteric things, such as Gurdjieff, Ouspensky, Samael Aun Weor etc.
The four states of consciousness are:
- Dreaming while the physical body is asleep
- Dreaming during the waking state
- Self- consciousness
- Awakened objective consciousness
“Normally, people live in the first two states of consciousness. People not only dream when they sleep, but also in the so-called waking state. It is very rare to find a conscious human being, yet people firmly believe they already have an awakened consciousness. It is impossible to have objective knowledge as long as we have not attained self-consciousness.
People dream while they live and work; nevertheless, they mistakenly believe they are awake. During the normal dream state of the physical body, the ego, enveloped in its body of desires, sleepwalks through the molecular region, dreaming. On returning to the physical body and then to the waking state, the individual continues his dreams.”
~ Samael, The Buddha’s Necklace
In another of his work, Samael Aun Weor has used the following names for the four states of consciousness: Eikasia, Pistis, Dianoia, Nous, and describes them like this:
“Eikasia is ignorance, human cruelty, barbarism, exceedingly profound sleep, a brutal and instinctive world, an infrahuman state.
Pistis is the world of opinions and beliefs. Pistis is belief, prejudices, sectarianism, fanaticism, theories in which there does not exist any type of direct perception of the Truth. Pistis is that level of consciousness of the common humanity.
Dianoia is the intellectual revision of beliefs, analysis, conceptual synthesis, cultural-intellectual consciousness, scientific thought etc. Dianoetic thought studies phenomena and establishes laws. Dianoetic thought studies the inductive and deductive systems with the purpose of using them profoundly and clearly.
Nous is perfect awakened consciousness. Nous is the state of Turiya: profound perfect inner illumination. Nous is legitimate objective clairvoyance. Nous is intuition. Nous is the world of the divine archetypes. Noetic thought is synthetic, clear, objective, illuminated.
~ Samael, The Perfect Matrimony
In one of his lectures, George Gurdjieff described the first two states of consciousness like this:
“Ordinary man, that is, man number one, number two, and number three, lives in the two lowest states of consciousness only. The two highest states of consciousness are inaccessible to him, and although he may have flashes of these states, he is unable to understand them and he judges them from the point of view of those states in which it is usual for him to be.
The two usual, that is, the lowest states of consciousness are first, sleep, in other words a passive state in which man spends a third and very often a half of his life. And second, the state in which men spend the other part of their lives, in which they walk the streets, write books, talk on lofty subjects, take part in politics, kill one another, which they regard as active and call ‘clear consciousness’ or the ‘waking state of consciousness.’ The term ‘clear consciousness’ or ‘waking state of consciousness’ seems to have been given in jest, especially when you realize what clear consciousness ought in reality to be and what the state in which man lives and acts really is.”
~ Ouspensky, In Search of the Miraculous
By default, everyone lives their life in only the first two states of consciousness – during the nighttime when we sleep we are for the most part submerged into the subconscious, and during what we call the waking state we have some available consciousness, however it is still profoundly influenced by the first state, by the subconscious mind, and the reason for this is the size of the ego compared to that of the consciousness. In an ordinary person, the ego takes up 97% of space in the consciousness, bottling up the latter in its own conditioning states. These states are numerous, which is why the ego is referred to as the legion, such as anger, lust, pride, greed, fear and many other aspects that are condensed into the subconscious mind.
Until we decide to work on ourselves, we mostly experience only those first two states of consciousness, and very seldom the third state, which is self-consciousness, or self-awareness. This third state opens up for us when we begin some form of inner work, and becomes strengthened and expanded when we take up a serious form of the work and when we do it consistently. It is this state that many newcomers in spirituality glimpse and describe by using terms such as magical, incredible etc. It truly is a sharp contrast to the first two states of consciousness, because when the consciousness is active in the present moment, part of our Being known as the Divine Spririt (Atman) becomes closer to us, and thus our body, mind and consciousness get to be properly inundated with higher and divine energies.
Gurdjieff have said that “the third state of consciousness is self-remembering or self-consciousness or consciousness of one’s being” and that we cannot possess this state by a decision alone. Indeed, a serious work is needed to acquire that state, and then to maintain it. Through self-remembrance we can strengthen our consciousness to be awake in any given moment, and then with exercises such as the mystical death it expands and enables us to do even deeper form of work.
“…The third state of consciousness constitutes the natural right of man as he is, and if man does not possess it, it is only because of the wrong conditions of his life. It can be said without any exaggeration that at the present time the third state of consciousness occurs in man only in the form of very rare flashes, and that it can be made more or less permanent in him by means of special training.”
~ Gurdjieff, In Search of the Miraculous
In his book titled Gnosis, Boris Mouravieff, the person who worked closely with Ouspensky, has described the four states of consciousness in the following way:
Esoteric science however distinguishes two levels of consciousness higher than waking consciousness. We do not have these by right of birth, nor do we acquire them by normal education or instruction. But they can be reached as a result of special efforts properly directed.
The first higher level is that of self consciousness: alternatively called the consciousness of the real ‘I’. Above that, there is the level of Consciousness—in the full sense of this word.
From bottom to top we can define the four levels in other terms, as follows :
1) Subconsciousness is the twilight consciousness of the body. Its force does not depend on the cultural level of the individual. We often find that elementary or primitive beings have a much stronger consciousness of their bodies than intellectuals.
2) Waking Consciousness is the daytime consciousness of the Personality. Putting pathological cases aside, its scope and its amplitude develop with the cultural development of the individual: it is the subjective consciousness of ‘I’.
3) Consciousness of the real ‘I’ is the consciousness of the Individuality, otherwise
described as objective consciousness of the individual ‘I’.
4) Consciousness is absolute consciousness: the consciousness of the Absolute.
~ Boris Mouravieff, Gnosis
The third state of consciousness can certainly be described as an objective state, because when in it, we function outside the mind’s dualism. We are still affected by all the processes of the ego that go on in the subconsciousness, however we can now recognize those processes and distinguish between them and the pure consciousness. It is in this state that we begin to learn about individuality for the first time, as previously we confused an ever-changing ego states and personality for individuality.
When it comes to the fourth state of consciousness, Gurdjieff have said the following about it:
“The fourth state of consciousness is called the objective state of consciousness. In this state a man can see things as they are. Flashes of this state of consciousness also occur in man.
In the religions of all nations there are indications of the possibility of a state of
consciousness of this kind which is called ‘enlightenment’ and various other names but which cannot be described in words. But the only right way to objective consciousness is through the development of self-consciousness. If an ordinary man is artificially brought into a state of objective consciousness and afterwards brought back to his usual state he will remember nothing and he will think that for a time he had lost consciousness. But in the state of self-consciousness a man can have flashes of objective consciousness and remember them.
“The fourth state of consciousness in man means an altogether different state of being; it is the result of inner growth and long and difficult work on oneself.
~ Gurdjieff, In Search of the Miraculous
The inner work makes us progressively more and more objective. Generally speaking, the less egos we have, the more objective we become. This objectivity increases exponentially each time we incarnate a part of the Being, as well as each time the bigger parts of the Being expand within our spiritual bodies.
We could then say, that it is the parts of the Being that enable us to be permanently placed in the fourth state of consciousness. With each new part, this state of consciousness deepens, we become more objective, more intuitive, living more in the presence and the light of the Being.