Five Categories of Awareness

This essay describes different states of mind ranging from basic to ultimate. To do so, a distinction is made between consciousness and awareness. Consciousness is being defined as the information operating in one’s mind that gives rise to awareness, the experience one has interacting with reality. And, it is by knowing the depth and complexity of a particular state of awareness that we can determine the type of information that has given rise to it. This relationship between consciousness and awareness becomes particularly important as one’s awareness evolves into ever “higher” forms.

Attending to awareness, we comprehend human experience through the relational field of “me and other”, clarifying the way one interacts with all others, animate and inanimate. This shows the quality of one’s relationships in the cosmos, and reveals one’s identity and character, details integral to psychospiritual development and wellbeing.

When emphasizing awareness there are five outstanding characteristics to consider, presented here as five primary categories. Consider this idea in the same way you would the fact that three primary colors selected from a limitless spectrum of colors reveal important principles of the entire spectrum. These primary categories of awareness are material, transcendent, transpersonal, mysterious, and superlative. 

Material awareness initially arises from ordinary consciousness, the concrete information about the world we have been taught is warranted by physical reality. Awareness is preoccupied with a material and worldly existence. The human mind is culturally and socially conditioned to focus on physical and mental health, a life of fun and pleasure, securing wealth, and having a family. At its most satisfied and complete, this awareness expands to what is personally meaningful in life. The human mind becomes aware of its uniquely individual values and purpose, and uses the imaginative aspect of a synthesizing integral consciousness to create a pragmatically useful mythological understanding of one’s place in the cosmos. This is the material awareness in which one is more genuine, feels more whole and fulfilled, and is truly happy.

Transcendent awareness, originating from psychic consciousness, is operational whenever our experience is one that breaks the rules of existence as we know them. Most notably, those pertaining to time and space are bypassed; as are the rules we believe govern the relationship between mind and matter. These are often referred to as paranormal or supernatural experiences because they transcend the world as it is usually experienced. And also because we come to know ourselves as capable of things we did not believe were even humanly possible. Some representative experiences include poltergeist, clairvoyance, apparitions, and out of body experience. Many believe that transcendent awareness opens us up to our spirit. 

Transpersonal awareness occurs when we shed our familiar self, and come into union with a different and greater center of ourselves. Unity consciousness creates an identity that is larger, and more encompassing than our usual individual and independent self. Beginning levels of this state might occur experiencing sexual orgasm or viewing the vastness of a mountain range. Deeper states of meditation and prayer may also bring us into oneness with existence. Through practice we come to identify with this greater agency and its divine qualities, e.g. unconditional love. The inner essence of our identity is now believed to be the origin from which we have come. Notably, as we cultivate relationship with this higher self we often externalize and deify it as a god or goddess. 

Mysterious awareness, even though we can experience it, cannot be directly apprehended. That is to say, while formless consciousness from which it arises is present in the mind, one cannot have an awareness of it while it is occurring. By definition, awareness imposes form and therefore is possible only after the event. Therefore it cannot be conceptualized, and so is often inadequately described as no-thinking, emptiness, or no-mind. Another commonly used metaphor to which it is likened is deep sleep. But it is none of these and remains an indescribable mystery. While the mysterious awareness arising from this ultimate and absolute  formless consciousness defies conceptualization, these terms nevertheless point us toward the fullness that is beyond the concepts used. In limited ways we come to know the omniscience, omnipresence, and omnipotence of the Source from which we, and all else have come, that is, from what has existed since before the Big Bang. Through mysterious awareness we awaken to realize this Source as our true nature, and it is instrumental in moving us toward superlative awareness. 

Superlative awareness, arises from form-formless consciousness, a type of information that is both “more and other” than the seemingly paradoxical synthesis of the two opposing concepts, form and formless. It is presented here as the most evolved form of awareness humans may directly experience, and as limitless in its scope. Often called enlightenment, but more aptly described as Being, it is an awareness in which one is lived by the absolute identity. While individual “doing” remains in transpersonal awareness, it is all but eliminated here. Instead, we and the rest of existence are “not-two”, and “just-are”, eternally and forever. Mystic practitioners believe one has been absorbed into the God, Spirit, Source associated with one’s spiritual theology.

This has been a very brief, and perhaps oversimplified categorization of the rudimentary characteristics of awareness. It is meant to be used as a basis from which to further explore the infinite varieties of raised consciousness and awareness. And to assist one in understanding aspects of the human spiritual experience, especially those in which changes in one’s personal abilities, character, and identity occur. This, not only for enhancing one’s own worldview and practice, but also to assist one in understanding others’ spiritual beliefs and faith.   

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