connecting psychotherapy and spiritual growth for human awakening
Spirituality is primarily concerned with consciousness since the fully conscious individual is by definition spiritual and has realized his spiritual Self. Spirituality and our identity with consciousness are one and the same. Therefore, in order to further our understanding of the spiritual condition of present day humanity we must look more deeply into consciousness and its developing or evolving levels.
People are different and one way of explaining just how they are different is to examine how they participate in life through different levels of awareness, or consciousness. At the first level is the realm of appearances. Here you are completely involved in what you see and experience without questioning, searching, or aspiring to anything else. Not too many people today are exclusively in this realm, but nonetheless, it is the basic level of awareness in which a cake is a cake, a human being is a human being, and that’s that. This is a basic, simple, unquestioning awareness of the world.
The second level of awareness is identifying with roles. Here you become a father, a lawyer, a racist, a cook, a bread-winner, a guitarist, a builder. The point to remember about this level is that your role is assumed. It is not who you are, rather it is an activity. The activity may be emotionally engaging (for example, mother) or it may simply be a means to earn a livelihood (for example, the truck-driver who wishes he was a country ‘n’ western singer), but roles are essentially costumes we wear and they imply duty and responsibility, ability and efficiency, accomplishment and ambition. The workaholic is someone whose work role may have become so important that their other roles are sidelined. For example, a very successful salesman may be a neglectful father.
The third level of consciousness is the one where we are questioning, exploring, trying to find further satisfaction and fulfillment in life. It can be summarized in the statement: there must be more to life. So it is a searching, questing (and questioning) awareness. Many, if not most, people today have reached this level of consciousness to some degree. Education and information technology that impart stimulating ideas, even entertainment, movies, novels, and popular music all reflect and create this milieu of exploration of oneself and the world. This level begins with awareness of self. The question is Who am I? and this initiates selfreflection and self-exploration.
Collective humanity has reached this level very rapidly. In the first half of the twentieth century, questing and questioning were for the minority. Partly because of economic constraints, difficulties in traveling, social mores, the devastating events of two world wars and societal expectations, the individual’s aspirations were more sober and inhibited. This meant experts – authority figures and people who possessed specialist knowledge – thrived. In many ways, knowledge was power.
Nowadays we all have knowledge if we can be bothered to look for it; in theory at least, we can all be experts. So, in the information age some of the mystique of possessing knowledge has been taken away. In the Mind-Body-Spirit (previously New Age) field the activities of consciousness-raising, which are full of methods and philosophies for selfawakening and psycho-spiritual growth, resulted in a great swell of interest. Predictably, commercial forces were quick to take advantage of this. From modern healing methods to ancient spiritual ideas, all has been packaged, repackaged, and sold and sold again. One of the problems is that the field of consciousness-raising, waking up, remembering yourself, healing etc. has become an attractive milieu in itself. And it is one that people may be reluctant to leave. Thus the very search alone has hindered aspirants from reaching any kind of destination or fulfillment. For many it is enough to have friends, companions, and kindred spirits to share with, to laugh and love with, and to share the search together.
But the fourth level of consciousness is the one you enter when you let go of these seductions and rewards, and cross the bridge of the heart and soul.4 It means capitalizing on your personal growth discipline. Your effort leads you to a place of letting go, surrender, and ultimate personal loss, where it is possible to become yourself, to participate in your true nature, and allow yourself to blossom in the flowering of inner work. This state I have called variously the bridge of the heart, the threshold of authenticity, the step into transformation and the meeting with your adult self, as well as the world of two…. because it is all of these. The fourth level is the state of being centered in heart energy. This means that you activate compassion on a pure level. We will come back to this, because it is central to the question of evolving spirituality and modern consciousness. But for now let’s complete this background picture of the levels of consciousness.
The fifth level is the level of unity. Freed from our exclusive identification with our individual soul we see ourselves as all souls, or really One soul, without separation. This is the beginning of the truly spiritual path, unhindered by personal identification and separation. The sixth level is the realization that all is One, all is inner, and therefore the dismissal of the outer world reality. Many aspirants withdraw from the world in this stage and merge with the spiritual, transcendent awareness of the group soul that extends out into eternity. Finally, the seventh stage is the acceptance and identification with the unassailable knowledge that all is Divine.
The collective level of human awareness is currently in the first three levels. The first three levels span the animalistic concerns for survival, food, shelter, comfort, mating – the biological layers of human experience, like family ties, loyalties, and interdependent relationships, and the further sophistication of relating to oneself and the impulse toward the quest for truth.
Significantly, the first three levels of consciousness are characterized by fear. Fear causes a contraction in the human organism. The creation of a false self is really the personification of fear. We possess fear as if it were a fact of life, whereas it is really a reaction to life. If we can be responsive to life rather than reactive, then the heart can bloom, expand, and flower. Fear takes our heart captive. The heart hardens and weakens under fearful self-contraction, and this is actually what characterizes the state of collective humanity in the modern era.
This article is an excerpt from Richard Harvey’s book Your Divine Opportunity.
This article was published on this site in December 2023.