Higher consciousness is not something we have to find, or develop, acquire, possess, or to build up, because it is always present here and now. It is not out there or up there somewhere. The kingdom of God is within you. It is here, and is available at all times, but because we are not giving any attention and awareness to it, the Truth/Reality remains hidden from us. The belief that one is the ego obscures the realization of the reality of the Self. The constant identification with the body-mind-ego complex keeps us in bondage. The ego deals in form and definition, so it is unable to comprehend the Self, which is beyond all form.
The sun is always shining brightly until the clouds cover it, or so it seems. Moving away the clouds does not cause the sun to shine but merely reveals that which was temporarily obscured. Similarly, the higher conscious Reality or Infinite Presence is always present. Everybody in this world has descended from the subtle causal state to the gross physical state. The majority of the souls here on earth have no conscious awareness or knowledge of the divine nature of the being that dwells within their own material form of mind-body. We feel finite, separate from the Divine Reality we call God, separate from one another, and more identified with this physical form.
The individual soul
God is one Supreme Being undivided and unrelated to creation, and yet the same God is also made up of an infinite number of individual shining souls. Just as there is a boundless ocean of water behind each and every wave, similarly the Supreme Consciousness is behind each and every individual consciousness. The one Supreme Consciousness has extended Itself from Its eternal pure-mind state to appear as innumerable individual souls living in a temporal universe of forms.
God is in the heart and soul of every being. And yet God remains undivided; the Supreme Being never loses Itself by becoming many. Just as water can be taken from the ocean and divided into numerous cups, without losing its quality of water, similarly, the ocean of God’s presence behind the wave of your consciousness always retains its original nature.
From the sahasrāra chakra Divinity descends to the ājrīā chakra, located at the junction of the eyebrows. Here the soul makes its entry into the physical body through the negative pole, the medulla oblongata, of the ājrīā chakra. It is here that the individual soul has come into existence, distinct from God. The soul has not forgotten God, but there is a separation,a duality.
As the soul descends from ājrīā chakra in the astral spine, to the fifth centre, viśuddha chakra, at the level of the throat, the soul is no longer in union with God The soul still feels God’s presence; there is still an intensity of feeling for God but it is not very clear.
The soul continues its journey downward in the spine to the level of the heart, anāhata chakra. At this level of the descent, the soul has awareness of God but the intensity of feeling for God is lessened.
The soul comes to rest
God is still within the heart and soul of the individual being as it descends through the chakras, but as it descends further below the three highest chakras, the soul’s awareness becomes more and more obscured. Below the level of the heart the soul enters the next centre at the navel, manipura chakra. Here identification with the body-mind-ego is beginning to take effect, and the awareness of God is fading.
The soul then passes deeper downward in the spine through the svādhisthāna chakra, becoming more entangled in bondage to matter. Finally, the soul reaches the lowest centre at the base of the spine, mulādhāra chakra. In this last stage of the downward journey through the chakras the soul comes to rest. Now the soul has become more aware and identified with gross matter, with the material form of the body and the mind. It has also forgotten God. Clothed in the physical form, the individual soul forgets its real identity. The primal life-force known as kundalini śākti now lies latent.
Now if we made our home or remained at the level of these lower centres of consciousness, the soul would essentially be conscious only of eating, sleeping and procreation. If a human being is functioning from these lower planes of consciousness, then he or she is behaving essentially like an animal.
The human being’s real nature is divine, and the aim of human life is to realize this divine nature: that you are sat-chid-ānanda (ever-existing, ever-conscious, ever-new joy). It is joy we seek, because joy is our true nature. Everybody will eventually awaken to some degree to that divine consciousness present in their lives. As souls we may turn to God, or as the Self we may turn within to our own identity; in both we experience the one Light, the one Pure Consciousness.
Know the truth
Eventually there comes a time when the soul becomes aware of its higher nature and spiritual ideas begin to enter the mind. The human soul begins to think, ‘There must be more to life than just eating, sleeping, procreating and enjoying the senses.’ ‘Who am I?’, ‘Where did I come from?’, ‘What happens after death?’, ‘What is my true purpose and what is the meaning of life?’, ‘Who or what is God? What is the Ultimate Reality?’
As we become more and more disillusioned with the nature of the world we begin to understand the inherent limitation of this life. We live in a world of dualities – life and death, growth and decay, knowledge and ignorance, happiness and sorrow, health and disease, success and failure – these opposites coexist. The world cannot be made perfect, but it can be used as an instrument, as a means to perfection. Jesus Christ said: ‘Know the truth and the truth shall make you free.’ Know the truth of your essential nature, the Divine Self, the fountain of Infinite Joy within you, then you will find freedom.
Now there is a glimmer of light, there is some hope. The individual soul aspires to something higher than what it has experienced in the lower states of the lower chakras. The soul tries to remove the veil of ignorance by meditating on God. When the mind turns towards God, the spiritual ascent begins. Kundalini begins to wake up. Now the soul becomes more and more disidentified with the mental-physical form and rises above the three lower chakras to the subtle state. Through deep God-conscious meditation the soul ascends through the same path it descended in the astral spine, reversing the primal life force and consciousness from matter, and retracing its steps back to Supreme Consciousness.
The world of inner light
In its upward journey, when the soul reaches the heart level of the anāhata chakra, it has left the world of darkness and has entered into the world of inner light, giving the individual soul a wonderful sense of relief and freedom as it moves towards the innermost consciousness. But at this level of the heart something of our attachment to the world is still left. There is still the danger of falling to a lower stage.
When the soul in its journey upwards advances to the level of the viśuddha chakra it is secure. Here the mind is no longer limited or bound by time and space. The mind is transformed from the lower to a higher consciousness, into a finer state, transcending the seeker’s negative and material vibrations. In viśuddha all the elements are purified and transmuted into their refined essence of ākāśa. It is then that the individual soul is established in pure consciousness.
The next stage of the soul’s ascent is from viśuddha to ājrīā chakra, the sixth centre of consciousness at the midpoint between the eyebrows. At ājrīā chakra, you have the first union with God in samādhi, in which the finite self as the meditator, the process of meditation, and the object of meditation – the Supreme Self (God) – become one. Consciousness of the body, and the sense of ‘I’ or ego consciousness disappears, and knowledge of the external world is lost. In this samādhi state which is called savikalpa samādhi, the meditator’s individual consciousness merges with the Cosmic Consciousness, and experiences ever-new joy (bliss). Like a wave dissolving into the ocean, the individual soul is merged in an effulgent ocean of bliss.
The pinnacle of consciousness
The last stage of the soul’s upward journey through the astral pathway in the spine is to the thousand ray lotus at the sahasrāra chakra, the pinnacle of consciousness. Reaching this plane of inner consciousness, there is a Divine awakening of the highest experience in nirvikalpa samādhi, which is identification with the Absolute. The individual soul and the Supreme Soul become one. The finite self becomes absorbed in the Supreme Self and the identity of the two as Pure Consciousness is realized. The forms or attributes of God disappear; God is experienced as the ultimate One, as undivided Pure Consciousness. The soul is resurrected from delusion and regains its Divinity. The individual soul becomes identified with the limitless Supreme Self – the two vanish, and one integral, undivided consciousness, beyond subject-object relationships, alone shines.
From The Book of Chakras and Subtle Bodies, ©2014 by Stephen Sturgess, published by Watkins Publishing.