The traditional Eastern description of
the seven stages is derived from subjective feeling, not objective
testing. It is therefore advised that you take the descriptions of the
seven stages as subjective states of consciousness, not as proven
physical science. The human brain contains approximately 100 billions
neurons, all connected by an estimated 50 trillion synapses. This ocean
of electrified living cells creates the holographic like phenomena we
know as consciousness. Is there a consciousness or 'soul' that is
separable from the physical body? That is the important question we
must try to find the answer to through both meditation and scientific
How is it possible to know oneself objectively and thus accurately? For example, subjectively your dog may know your automobile very well. He may have ridden in your car, smelled it, felt it, and seen it as clearly as you, but does that mean that your dog really knows what an automobile is objectively? Likewise, just because you may be able to feel the different layers of consciousness inside yourself does not mean that you understand the true nature of consciousness in an objective factual way.
The first stage
is simple awareness of the physical body which medical science
continues to map and explore. Those who reside primarily in the first
stage are concerned with the simple basics of life; food, shelter, and
family. They may believe in organized religions, but they lack deep
involvement in anything beyond the mere physical.
stage is the Emotional body, which
is closely communicative with the purely physical. Acupuncture has some
effect on the second energy body which is barely beyond our flesh and
bone. The second layer can be energized by deep breathing, yoga
postures, jogging, and good health in general.
(Most human beings primarily reside in the second level of consciousness and create the majority of our culture, art, politics, and organized religion. The second stage is not meditative, but is richly and complexly emotional. No actor could develop great "emotional range" unless they were at least a conscious resident of the second stage.)
The third stage, sometimes called the "Astral Body," is the first body
of meditation. When you sit in meditation and start to feel bigger than
the purely physical, that is the astral revealing itself. It is
colorful and pleasant, but fairly low in energy. The third and fourth
stages of consciousness are closely associated with the functions of
the brain, just as the second body is closely associated with the
function of the total physical body, including functions of the
peripheral nervous system and internal organs.
When one says that a person is in the third stage of consciousness, that means that is where he or she resides most of the time. Consciousness fluctuates up and down, burning brighter or becoming dimmer when one is tired or less attentive. Those who primarily reside in the third stage have frequent jaunts into the fourth stage but may also fall back into the second stage when their awareness is less activate. Those students who primarily reside in the fourth stage have frequent excursions into the fifth level of consciousness, which is called a 'satori.' Even those in the third stage may sometimes jump up temporarily to the fifth stage for a glimpse of freedom. These glimpses may be initiated by intense practice or triggered by close proximity to a teacher who resides in the fifth, sixth, or seventh stage. You can call this transference, transmission, or simply a "contact high."
The vast majority of
people who practice meditation are in the second or third stage, but
you would be surprised at the number of letters I receive from novice
students who automatically assume they are in the fifth stage or even
higher. Many are in a blind rush to become enlightened and naively
think they can achieve the ultimate after a few short years of
practice. It is a common mistake to believe that intellectual knowledge
about enlightenment is equivalent to enlightenment itself. The Indian
sage Ramana Maharshi once said that enlightenment was an "unlearning,"
not a learning. Meditation is a knack, an energy phenomena of the brain
and consciousness. It is not an accumulation of borrowed wisdom dumped,
like a landfill, into the thinking part of the brain. One must develop
tremendous patience in order to make real progress in meditation.
The fourth stage has been called the "Mental body" and subjectively
feels larger than the third. Subjectively, the fourth feels oceanic and
is filled with more intense energy and light than the third. The fourth
is highly projective and is the instrument of clarity, imagination, and
vivid dreams. The greatest artists of history have been awakened to the
fourth stage and drew inspiration and energy from its depths. Frank
Lloyd Wright was an obvious example of a fourth stage artist and
architect. His homes radiate the mysteries of higher consciousness and
celebrate man's intimate connection with nature. Many people love Frank
Lloyd Wright's homes but cannot comprehend what is so unique about
them. The answer lies in his depth of consciousness which he gracefully
expressed in wood, stone, and art glass.
Going beyond the
fourth stage to the fifth level is the truly difficult task for
students of meditation. Those who attain the fifth stage are said to
have reached the first level of self-realization. To reach the fifth
one must journey upwards, not just outwards, and this higher plane
facilitates a continuous state of super-consciousness. The fourth can be
described as an ocean of light that is highly projective. The fifth is
an absolutely non-projective layer of energy that is just beyond that
ocean of light, beyond the thought process, and beyond the human mind.
Subjectively, the fifth feels like an infinity of warm and comfortable
darkness that softly envelopes the mind ocean. The fifth stage is the
last and final layer of our individual personal being.
A glimpse of the fifth is called a satori, a temporary peak at self-realization. Many people confuse the blissfulness of the third and fourth stages they experience during meditation sessions with satori, which is a much more rare phenomena. Even to experience an authentic satori is relatively easy. To live in satori, the fifth stage, is relatively impossible. It is almost like the difference between visiting Hawaii and actually owning Hawaii.
The sixth stage
of consciousness has been called the "Cosmic body" and is said to be
discovered through a jump from all that is human into all that is
beyond. The sixth is described as the same size as the physical
universe and its realization is beyond the limits of mind. This is the
"uncharted" and "pathless" territory that Jiddu Krishnamurti spoke
about so intensely. Those who attain the sixth stage attract energy
from all sides of the universe and pass that energy through like a
clear lens. The 'enlightenment' is not in our small human brains, but
in the cosmic force that passes through us untouched.
Claims made by some gurus that the higher levels of consciousness make one capable of time travel are false. All seven stages and all of life exists only in the here and now. Even a full Buddha is not capable of seeing into the future in any magical way beyond ordinary reasonable guesses. Unfortunately, there is much self-promotion in the world of gurus which often leads to exaggeration. Likewise, such often claimed powers as the ability to materialize matter and the attainment of an all-seeing infallible wisdom are equally fictitious. Human beings in the fourth, fifth, sixth, and seventh stages often do have the authentic powers of telepathy and direct energy transmission.
The seventh stage is said to be beyond size and form and is the
limitless void from which all is born. The seventh stage is known as
'nirvana' and 'moksha'. When you reach this point there is literally nothing you cannot do or know. At the seventh stage you are God.