The Evolution of Consciousness
For each of us, the journey through life has been a journey through consciousness, primarily because everything we experience through the nervous system and senses of the physical body is consciousness. We don’t “measure” our life experiences based on consciousness development because, in most cases, people don’t really understand consciousness; we are measured as individuals based on education, maturity and experience. However, in this journey of life, each of our experiences becomes stored memories, and these past memories are the content of our life experience. The totality of this content forms our concept of who we are; the content of our experience is consciousness. So the conscious awareness of who we are is actually an awareness of who we were, since we are basing the self-concept on past experiences. Let that sink in – we are who we were!
This means that almost everyone in the world, in reality, does not know who they really are, but instead, they only know who they were based on a concept comprised of experiences both: good and bad, painful and pleasant, joyful and frightening, harmful and beneficial, hopeful and disappointing, etc. The self-concept is the “platform” from which we engage the world and the stability of this platform is determined by what kind of experiences we have had; how well we process these experiences determines what kind of experiences we are currently having. This knowledge about the functioning of consciousness in the ego-persona makes it clear that the self-concept is fluid and changeable; on a daily basis our self-concept changes as new experiences are encountered.
The ego-persona is a very significant part of who we “think we are” and like all things in the universe, it is comprised of consciousness; it follows the same pattern described above of identifying itself from the contents of its past experiences, so it does not know who it is either, but only what it has experienced. The many experiences it has been through by the time it reaches adulthood have established a significant framework of: likes/dislikes, want/don’t want/, happy/sad, acceptable/unacceptable, plus an array of fears, anxieties and insecurities. It is through this filter that the ego-persona experiences life and people, so all events and individuals are evaluated based on the content of one’s life events. Since every new experience is compared to and judged from a similar past experience, it is impossible for the ego to be in the present moment.
This framework of content has “armored” or conditioned the individual so he or she is able to engage and function in the fearful and unknown aspects of the world, but this protective framework makes it very difficult to know or to be who we really are or to experience present-time reality. Not only does this “armoring” filter out those parts of the world we are reluctant to experience, but it also separates us from our divine Self. Today, our experience of life is unique and different from that of any human experience in history because consciousness evolves and develops into greater awareness every day, individually and collectively. Since we are one with consciousness, at some point in time, we will leave behind the ego and the concept of self that we cling to today. In order to understand where we are today and where we are going, we need to understand the more primitive structures of consciousness humanity has passed through and how we humans experience these same structures of consciousness in the early developmental periods of our individual life.
Structures of Consciousness
From inception, the soul and radiant body of the individual, which carries the matrix of the human body, draws to itself the matter of the elemental world to form our bodies. The 4-fold elemental universe is composed of the same matter as the bodies of humanity; our elemental bodies and the physical matter of the earth are identical and both are subject to the same universal laws. On this level of earth, our bodies and elemental matter are linked, but it is consciousness which determines the path of development; in other words, first comes the light, then the eye to see it. Who we “think” we are and the daily changes occurring in our bodies, are ALL transformations of consciousness; with each new altered conscious state, the particles of elemental matter are rearranged accordingly, for sickness, health or developmental progress. The body is not what defines us as an individual being; instead, it is conscious growth which defines the changing body. Conscious Intelligence and our soul, which represents the totality of our experiences, imprints and expresses itself onto, into, and through the elemental form of the body giving each person a unique image, characteristics, and presence which correspond to the individual’s soul.
The transformative changes which have occurred historically in the human experience are the results of consciousness advancing through different dimensions of perception referred to as structures of consciousness (See: Ever Present Origin by J. Gebser); they are Archaic, Magical, Mythical, and Mental states of consciousness. As the collective consciousness of humanity advances, the physical form, the brain and nervous system, the 4 senses, and the vital organs are genetically altered to correspond to these advancements. Consequently, the human life experience is a constant ebb and flow of advancing consciousness and the development and refinement of the physical body. The chronological evidence of how early humanity experienced the world in the different structures of consciousness is found in the visual depth perception of paintings, beginning with the Paleolithic cave paintings of France all the way through the Renaissance period. Early humans experienced these fluid states of consciousness as they transitioned from one-dimensional reality to three-dimensional perception; the paintings below represent the human experience at that time. Keep in mind that this is not a study in art, but an historical glimpse at how human perception changes the way we see the world.
To begin, for pre-historical humans, archaic consciousness was one-dimensional meaning that it was experienced as a background in which individual objects were indistinguishable and not recognized. There was vague evidence of depth perception, but it was not consciously recognized by the people in this period. Technically speaking, archaic consciousness (the ever-present origin) is “mass” consciousness as it has not yet developed into structured or dimensional consciousness, so animals, plants and elemental forces were indistinguishable one from another. Most paintings of this period did not depict interaction between the images, although one of the few is included which has both animals and humans (images below). These Paleolithic cave paintings are dated as being 30-35 thousand years old. More of these paintings can be seen in Bing/images of Chauvet and Lascaux cave paintings.
This is the rudimentary beginning of perception, or what could be called “on-ness” in which the images of life are perceived like flat images on a screen or canvas; even though they have height, breadth and thickness, these characteristics are not consciously recognized. Today, “on-ness mentality” is still active in many primitive people’s consciousness as they see the world primarily as being filled with objects; this includes people. This means their level of consciousness “objectifies” everything and everyone so as to determine how the objects relate to their individual life experience. Consequently, their interaction with the world is relatively rational, impersonal, and disagreements produce outbreaks of raw emotion. Regardless of whether a person has this type of low mentality, most people today perceive the world through “on-ness” meaning all objects are recognized by their exterior, and all objects reside “on” the surface of the earth. This perception denotes that archaic consciousness is still existent in the world today. Archaic Structure; On-ness; Element: Earth; Consciousness experienced by an infant.
The paintings below show evidence of greater awareness emerging regarding the details of the “background” and the interaction between people, but the view still appears as a flat backdrop to the painter’s eye. Below are paintings by Coppo di Marcovaldo (1250)
Christ in Majesty and Last Judgment notice the flat-surfaced, one-dimensional effect of the painting. This is not impressionistic, but realism; they are painting as their mind perceives life. Obviously, there was depth visible in their environment, but it was simlpy that the people of the time period were not conscious of it; it was a non-issue. This is one-dimensional perception, but the subjects in the paintings are conveying a meaningful and intangible energy which they are expressing. This perception is still “on-ness” but what is emerging in this period is the subjects are recognized and so are the feelings and sensibilities emanating from within them; this is the rudimentary expression of “in-ness.” Without in-ness there would be no on-ness; in-ness makes objects appear solid. These dimensional perspectives are the qualities and dimensional relationships of the matter in one-dimensional consciousness. Magical Structure; On-ness with emerging In-ness; Element: Earth and Water; Consciousness experienced by young children.
Next, 100 years later, see the painting Annunciation to the Shepards by T. Gaddi and Courtly Women Listen to Music by Orcagna (1350); these are still flat-surfaced, but the depth effect is much more noticeable. This is the perception of “in-ness” as the subjects are present, but they are now secondary to the feelings and sensibilities felt within the individuals in the scenes. These scenes express that in this period of time, people were beginning to awaken and to be conscious of feelings, their own and others, on a social and spiritual level. In humanity, “in-ness” indicates the awakening of the psychic nature represented by water. Symbolically, fluids in a two-dimensional world are contained IN something whether it is blood in the veins or sap in the tree. In present time terminology, the lower psychic consciousness is emotional as this is also the realm of the shadow, the personal unconscious; whereas, the higher psychic energies express common-sense feelings and empathy. The mentality expressed from the lower psychic is dark, volatile and/or irrational emotions; whereas, the sensibilities expressed from the higher psychic are refined, civilized and rational sentiment. Some people who are stuck in “on-ness” have difficulty clearly expressing their emotions. These thumbnail descriptions are only meant to convey, in general terms, the conscious energy characteristic of these levels of awareness. Mythical Structure; In-ness; Element: Water; Consciousness experienced by adolescents.
Next, another 100 years, see St. Jerome in his Study by Antonello da Messina and Agony in the Garden by Mantegna (1450) and notice the significant difference in the depth perception revealed in these paintings as well as proportion and realism. This is the beginning perception of “through-ness” in which the subjects, their feelings or activity, and the 3-dimensional scenery in all its detail are present and interrelated. These are the components which make third-dimensional reality as we know it – that is the seeing, hearing, tasting and smelling or perceiving all of the subjects, surfaces and circumstances of the moment. Through-ness is continuity and consecutive relationship between objects; it is the expression of the quality of matter which pervades all things. On-ness and in-ness comprise the mass of earthly life, whereas, through-ness relates the various parts of the mass and goes through them. This connection of life, feelings, and mind is the expression of civilized society. Mythical and emerging Mental Structure; In-ness with emerging Through-ness; Element: Water and Air; Consciousness of beginning maturity.
And finally, around 1500 in the Renaissance Period, here are the most famous painters of the time (L to R): Raphael - The Vision of Ezekiel; Da Vinci - Madonna of the Rocks; and Michelangelo - The Last Judgment; respectively. These artists painted what we see today in the third-dimensional mental structure of consciousness. This perception is the maturation of “through-ness” and indicative that humanity is beginning to take control of life. These paintings express a clear, albeit, symbolic reality in every detail in which we see the anatomy of the bodies in third-dimensional reality with the subjects expressing various feelings based on the particular theme. What is unique in the visionary paintings by Raphael and Michelangelo is their spiritual perspectives are striving to discover and express fourth-dimensional noetic reality or the next structure of consciousness, Christ-consciousness. Mental Structure; Through-ness; Element: Air; Consciousness of mature adult.
This brief overview of the structures of consciousness has been presented so the reader may understand how little we know about the ever-changing and multi-dimensional nature of consciousness. These structures of consciousness consist of the archaic, magical, mythical, mental and the noetic (element: fire/light) with its signature fourth-dimensional characteristic of Presence, meaning that it is everywhere at once and is not obstructed by the other dimensions; this is discussed below. On-ness, in-ness, through-ness and presence must all work together to create the scenery that surrounds us. On-ness is inert, but in-ness, through-ness and presence are dimensions of matter which are independent of the visible world, yet these active forces work through on-ness to create what we experience as solidity, color, outline, shadow, reflection, and refraction. Hopefully, it has been made clear that these structures of consciousness do not lay dormant in the historical past, but are still present in more or less latent and acute form in each one of us.
The importance of these third-dimensional structures should not be underestimated for in each new life we live, we will pass through these structures repeatedly, beginning with the archaic, in our development toward adulthood. We will come to rest at the point of consciousness to which we have risen in the past life and from this point the forward progress of conscious development once more begins. This repeated cycling is called recapitulation and its primary purpose is to embed these states into our consciousness as they are vitally important to the functioning of the instinctual, psychic, mental and spiritual nature of our being.Thus, in today’s world, people rise or sink to the level of life for which they are fitted, by: the quality of consciousness they have developed; the purity of their souls; the balance of their bodies; and the resilience of their self-determination. The social ascension of those who are most physically fit, mentally adept, morally established and spiritually enlightened should be encouraged. Individuals must find their natural place in the world based on the qualities of their being.
In the early developmental stages of life, consciousness in the human transitions through three stages of growth before the ego-persona makes its appearance in the mental stage. This means that what we know of today as the ego-persona is really a pliable and temporary state of consciousness which corresponds to an individual’s sense of personal identity, but this will change as consciousness awakens to higher levels of awareness. The stages of individual growth in the beginning of life correspond to the structures of consciousness that primitive humanity has passed through in past millennia; we still see primitive consciousness in some isolated societies today. The most basic form of consciousness that everyone passes through in infancy is archaic consciousness. Infants perceive life as being formless, meaning that the observer and the observed are one and the same; this state is conscious, but not yet self-conscious. In this state of consciousness, everything in the immediate surrounding is experienced as a single backdrop, like living in a dimly lit mist devoid of shadows. In this stage, newborn infants are only partially conscious because they are not fully integrated into their new bodies; the senses are in a very rudimentary state, and they are unable to distinguish themselves or others as individuals. Archaic consciousness is dull; sleep or dormancy maintains a strong pull on the individual.
As stated above, archaic consciousness is “mass consciousness” whereas the magical phase is the first structure of consciousness. Since magical consciousness is spaceless and timeless, it is spread over the world. Magical consciousness is not endowed with sufficient intensity or lucidity to perceive space as space; and there is no recognition of time because time needs a memory and memory needs a focused sense of self. In this state of consciousness, children and primitive individuals might perceive an object in motion, and the object may have some degree of significance, but they do not perceive the object in the void of space; it is like seeing dream images in sleep. This is one-dimensional awareness, but to the observer there is no personal identity and no sharp distinction between reality and imagination. This level of consciousness encounters events as they come without being capable of recognizing their causal origins. In other words, it is like living in a fish bowl and everything in the bowl is a living part of the person, including thunder, lightning, wind, rain, and all the creatures, plants and flowers.
In the magical phase, imitative behavior is a form of self-actualization within the tribe or family setting; a child will establish his/her rudimentary self-identity by drawing an invisible boundary around the family unit and placing himself or herself at the imaginary center. In this period, children primarily experience an emotive and imaginative participation with life rather than an experience through conceptualization; this is an essential characteristic of the magical phase, that is, a “participation mystique” or mystical partaking of the subject in the object. Although children are focused more on the unity of the family than on personal identity, the “self-sense” eventually grows to the point of recognizing oneself as distinct from the natural environment, but there is little interest in differentiating personal identity from the body which means that infant consciousness whose center of existence is the body, has not been outgrown.
In the developmental years, the individual moves through the instinctual archaic period of development into the emotive magical structure of consciousness, and eventually emerges into the two-dimensional mythical structure of consciousness which in our present reality is equivalent to the functioning intelligence of a young person from around 12 to 18 years of age. Like an adolescent living a fantasy like experience – “imaginative, storybook reality” is an essential subjective medium of mythical consciousness. High school is like a closed mythical society in which this storybook reality unfolds with its: imaginative adventures, its heroes and villains, and its princes, princesses and court jesters. It is also like a miniature society externalized in myth with its own mores, rituals, social structures, politics and injustices, lived out and enacted as the pre-ego sense of self.
With the emergence of mythical consciousness, feeling and psychic imagery are added to the imaginative and instinctual experiences of early life. Mythical consciousness opens up empathy and feelings associated with the world; its ritualistic practices are a psychic participation in life. Mythical consciousness brings the capacity for private feelings and the ability to participate in the private emotional world of another; this is the regulative principle behind humanity’s relationship to the world and to its own psychic nature. In contrast, the essential distinguishing characteristic of the magical structure is the emergent awareness of nature and imagination, whereas, the essential characteristic of the mythical structure is the emergent awareness of feelings and the psychic nature. Magical man’s dream-like imaginative consciousness in natural time was the precondition for mythical man’s coming to awareness of feeling, emotion and imaginative imagery.
Self-conscious awareness did not happen for humanity until the mental structure of consciousness dawned around 1500 A.D. during the Renaissance period, the Age of Enlightenment. Stepping out of the mythical space of polarized musing into third-dimensional reality coincided with the discovery of causality which replaced both the magical “interconnectedness of life” and the mythical “psychic destiny.” The laws of causality defined the connections between things or events that appear inevitable to the rational mind. Renaissance humanity was fascinated with asserting itself in objectified space rather than in the quietness of the inner space of the psyche.
In the Age of Enlightenment, the natural curiosity about the world was characteristic of wakeful human intelligence and it became the sweeping ideology that challenged the established sacred view of the world. It was the beginning of the end of the “myth” of God; science was now the self-liberated ego’s bid for omniscience. The emerging ego could not have known that a one-sided development of the spatially transfixed self-sense leads only to the disconnection, and ultimately, to the disintegration of the psyche. Indeed, the ego was exuberant about itself as the world piled on discovery upon discovery, invention upon invention, change upon change, gradually transforming society and the face of the earth. The rational mind, relegating to itself the powers of divinity, began to laboriously construct its own cosmos out of the chaos. With the emergence of the ego and mental consciousness, destiny ceased to be felt as inevitable. Rather people with their rational consciousness thought they were now in control of life. This rationale coincided with the conceptualization of time as a linear continuum which pointed from the past to the future via the present moment. This was the beginning of the Contemporary Age.
The experience of adulthood in the mental structure of consciousness centers on the interaction of the ego-persona in the material world. The individual has transitioned through early childhood development within the family into individual, autonomous identity in the adolescence phase, and finally, into the maturation of the self-concept as the ego-persona. Early in life, the “sense of self” is a vague, almost unconscious presence through childhood, but beginning in adolescence, we consciously and gradually formulate a concept of who we are based in part on the responses we have from our family, friends and peer group. The self-concept we begin to form as a teenager is very fragile as it is dependent on the reflection and feedback it receives from those significant “others” in its environment, and it is highly sensitive to what kind of positive or negative response it receives; these +/- feedback become the building blocks of the self-concept.
As we move into the late teens and early twenties, the content of experiences we receive during our adolescence years which comprised the self-concept morphs into something more concrete, and in most cases, something more self-assured and self-conscious, our self-image. Because of the accumulated life experiences we have gained in adolescence, we have more conscious content; nevertheless, still “we are what we were” even though we are more self-aware and self-confident in our worldly environment. As we explore, experience and adjust to this new world of adulthood, our self-image discovers that it is necessary to adapt to the mores of our social setting which requires conforming to the behaviors, attitudes, habits and manners of those we associate with. In many cases, this means that rather than speaking the truth and being who we are – we strive to be, to do and to say whatever is acceptable to the group. In order to do this, we have to hide who we “think we are” and how we really feel, which requires “masking or hiding” the truth that often reveals our “true” feelings. So our self-image adapts a persona – a fake or superficial “image” that can mask one’s true feelings. This consolidation of the self-concept gives one a sense of confidence and stability against the forces of the world.
In reality, the ego-persona and persona are a “pseudo sense-of-self” or what ancient texts referred to as the “counterfeit spirit.” Thus, in order to maintain their self-esteem and self-righteousness, people will fiercely defend their “personal identity” as well as their misconceptions and misunderstandings about life and people, even though such defensiveness often obstructs reality, new learning and personal growth. The truth is the ego-persona is just an illusion operating in the worldly illusion – what we actually experience in life is a perception of a reflection of a projection.
Reorientation of consciousness recognizes that misconceptions and misunderstandings are dangerous illusions which prevent people from seeing and experiencing life as it was meant to be. It is important to realize that while people have their share of misconceptions, the appropriate thing to do is to let go of them as soon as they are recognized. Albert Einstein said, “We must learn to differentiate clearly the fundamentally important, that which is really basic, from that which is dispensable, and to turn aside from everything else, from the multitude of things which clutter up the mind and drive it from the essential.” Reorientation of consciousness is about being humble enough to release worldly delusions and to attempt the reordering of one’s perceptions so they are aligned with the essentials of reality. In other words, it is making a continuous effort to let go of personal delusions and self-love in order to see life as if one were perceiving it through the eyes of God.
The Noetic Structure of Consciousness - Presence
Miraculously, what brings the spokes of multi-dimensional consciousness together as in the hub of a wheel is the commonality of the spiritual nature. In the spiritual core of all human beings, differences and distinctions are unknown. The enlightened soul perceives harmony and oneness, not separation and illusion. The awakening of the individual self from the confusion and attachment to the materialistic, fragmentary and illusory worldview of the ego-persona is likely to come only when extreme conditions and adverse circumstances leave no other choice, or perhaps the perils of the degeneration of society awakens the sense of urgency. A positive alternative would be to make a conscious decision based on inspiration or even common sense.
Liberating the individual from the snares of modern society is no easy task. To understand the necessity for such a change, and to possess the knowledge for realizing this change are not sufficient. What is required is the courage to unravel, to deconstruct and to voluntarily relinquish the present habits, impulses, and cravings of the ego-persona which keep one attached to the pleasures of the world. The individual cannot be liberated from the world without suffering. He/she is the marble and the sculptor. In order to uncover one’s true nature, the individual must shatter his/her own substance with heavy blows. It is not that the individual is incapable of personal transformation; it is that the individual lacks the volition to submit to such treatment unless driven by necessity or fear. The conditioning of humanity by modern society glazes the vision and instills apathy toward developing spiritual refinement; the concrete/rational mind deems the spiritual, moral, and creative sensibilities to be irrelevant.
Regardless of the motivating trigger, there must be a temporary separation of the individual from the ego-persona and worldview in order to interrupt the habitual attachments to the physical, sensual realm. The illusion that worldly pleasures can bring lasting comfort, in whatever form, must be acknowledged and renounced before self-consciousness can transition from the third-dimensional material world and ascend to the internal self-realization of fourth-dimensional Noetic (knowing) consciousness. This is the ever-present realm of consciousness that many will experience in “the twinkling of an eye;” a realm that transcends time, culture, sickness, pain, hunger, and separation as we will all experience oneness in Christ consciousness. The preparation for such a transition to occur requires that we as individuals must become proficient in the transformation of consciousness through the practices of renunciation, self-discipline, right living, humility through prayer, quiet self-reflection, and/or focused meditation. The sublime experiences that come from developing and living in these exceptional states are scarcely understood.
Those who understand the internal states of consciousness, turn their attention inward to find answers to their questions because they recognize that consciousness itself is the source for the answers. These individuals realize that their consciousness is actually connected to and one with the Universal Consciousness or Divine Presence. They know how to be receptive to the knowledge inherent in consciousness and how to modify their internal state to receive answers directly through intuition and insight. These people realize and accept responsibility for their lives, the condition of their conscious state, and for creating the circumstances of their lives. Those who give priority to contemplating the truth and beauty of the sacred over gratification from the mundane will develop inner sensibilities that bring peace, happiness, grace, and insight. When consciousness ascends the highest summits and is illuminated by intuition and creative imagination, it provides impetus for enthusiasm and inspiration toward the supreme goal – the awakening of moral ideals, spiritual sensibilities, and the appreciation of beauty, goodness, and light then truly we will be who we ARE rather than who we were.