The following description of consciousness is written from a Transmodern Spirituality perspective; and done intentionally without reference to God or Spirit. Readers should feel free to add them if they wish.
Over the millennia philosophy, science, religion, and spiritual traditions have studied human consciousness and have distinguished ordinary from higher consciousness. The mind is considered raised into higher consciousness when it transcends, but also retains its usual personal capabilities. Consciousness is discerned and distinguished by its resulting awareness on a spectrum from ego self-awareness to enlightened non-dual awareness. Along the way ordinary individual consciousness matures into integral consciousness. Lived as existential awareness, one uses abstract reasoning and intuition to identify commonalities, drawing conclusions about oneself, life, and the world. Resulting experience is characterized by meaning, authenticity, and fulfillment. Consciousness beyond ordinary and integral is considered raised, and referred to as transpersonal.
There are four major forms of higher awareness recognized in consciousness studies: psychic awareness, unitive awareness, unmanifested awareness, and non-dual awareness. These states may occur for only a moment, or may last considerably longer. Notably, these forms may combine in various ways and to various degrees. Sometimes spontaneously, but usually through disciplined practice, one’s mind and behavior become permanently changed. One remains in, or has easy access to a higher state of consciousness.
Psychic awareness is when one experiences reality without the usual restrictions placed upon it by time and space, or by the relationship laws of mind and matter. Colloquially, these are frequently referred to as psychic phenomena, extraordinary human experience, or supernatural phenomena. Whether occurring by chance or by intention, these events involve a subtle consciousness that reveals a reality not usually seen or lived by the ordinary mind.
Unitive awareness occurs when one transcends one’s individuality and joins with another person, object, event, etc. Awareness expands outward into the other, while simultaneously moving deeply into the unconscious, resulting in a profound feeling of oneness. If permanently in this state of unity consciousness one’s character is significantly more virtuous, altruistic, and unconditionally loving than average. One is said to be heart-realized, living in an ongoing compassionate union with the world.
The next form of higher consciousness is the state of unmanifested awareness that is beyond concepts. It is awareness without either a thinker or an object of thought, often described as no-thinking or emptiness. It is believed to be the direct apprehension of one’s true nature, a meeting of the absolute source of existence, the mystery second to none. It is called self-realization when this consciousness becomes primary, and is experienced as no-mind.
Non-dual awareness results from a manifested-unmanifested consciousness that arises from, but transcends all previously mentioned forms of ordinary and raised consciousness. More than the unity of these, it is its own unique type of information, with its own unique awareness called enlightenment. Non-dual awareness experiences itself as being the universe. A direct-knowing wisdom and immortal cosmology inform this non-dual existence, and one thinks, feels, and acts without conscious volition. One lives in a subjective state of “being” with a profound presence of beatific peace. Like the other types of higher consciousness, one may experience enlightenment more frequently over time until it remains a permanent state of mind.