Levels Of Consciousness
Knowing about reflex, and having learned about sentience and sapience it will be tempting to build a tower of consciousness.
- At level zero, no consciousness at all. The consciousness of a rock. It has no chemical receptors, no light receptors, it behaves as an inert object.
- At level one, reflex action. A simple mechanism which enables an organism to run from light, to turn to face a noise. A sort of almost-conscious consciousness.
- At level two, sentience. The ability to feel, to pay attention and to learn. A more complicated feedback which allows an organism to respond to it’s entire history rather than just the stimulation of the moment.
- At level three, sapience. The ability to learn about one’s own sentience, to understand, model and control your world.
- At level four, higher consciousness, an ability to understand, model and control yourself, to apply sapience to your own self, to learn how you work, to bend yourself into a better shape.
Tempting, but obviously wrong.
A mouse-trap has a reflex action. Do we think a mouse-trap is conscious to the amount of one? A worm can learn, is it level one or level two? What about a rat? Is it the same level as that worm? A computer can be used to design the blue-prints for it’s successor, it can model it’s own existence, but it’s clearly less conscious than that worm is.
In fact there are many levels of consciousness between level zero and level one, many more levels between there and level two. All organisms will be more conscious of some things than others and any given organism is likely so complex it’ll be impossible to fit into a chart like that.
However, understood as a metaphor, this hierarchy can be enlightening. One of the Transcendence Institute’s favourite examples is the human urinary system. As a baby you had no control over when you pee. Your bladder fills up, the reflex goes *snap* and the bladder empties. All automatic, all without thinking, all without conscious control. By reflex. Then at around 2 years old, we are taught to pay attention to our bladder system. To learn to direct and control it. To gain conscious control over when we pee. As a result, although you probably could pee if I paid you to right now, you aren’t. You have raised your consciousness over this system. Reached up to a higher level of consciousness. You can take it still further and learn to pee cartoon figures in the snow if you so desire.
While that four-tier hierarchical model is almost utterly unrealistic and simplified, it can teach you what we mean by raising consciousness. Firstly: Understanding. Our language calls it a “gut level” understanding, though of course the gut isn’t really involved. Not an intellectual grasp, not a linguistic explanation, but a visceral neural model. The understanding you need to catch a ball rather than the understanding you need to pass a ballistic equations question in a maths exam.
This is the understanding that comes almost inevitably as a result of how your neurons grow together when you pay attention to something and practice it. When you focus and repeat and study, over and over again. Each time, you get better.
By “higher consciousness” we mean simply using that understanding upon itself. Learning, on that visceral non-verbal gut level, how your consciousness works. Becoming more conscious of it!
As we have said, this understanding, this higher level of consciousness, is not a linguistic understanding. It’s not the understanding which this article hopes to give you through words. These words and the words in our meditation will help you to understand the path to higher consciousness but the words alone can never actually show you that higher consciousness. The only thing which will enable that deep understanding is actually spending the time to apply your sentience to itself, to take the time to try to understand how you think. Time spent observing your own consciousness, concentrating on it as fully as possible. Just as you won’t learn how to catch a ball by reading a book you won’t learn how to transcend your consciousness by reading these words. You will learn either only through practice. By actually doing.
We will devote an entire meditation in the next loop around the spiral to the subject of language, but at this point it is worth wondering how many members of non-human species would realize that in order to master their consciousness, they must pay attention to it? How many creatures without language and metaphor and simile and teaching would ever think to study their own thought? To think their own mental processes as worthy of attention as the search for food or sex or safety? If a cow could study it’s mind, how often would it actually do so? How would you instruct it to? It’s worth noting how loaded your every-day conversation is with references to thinking processes, how much those you talked with as you grew up were constantly directing your attention inward, encouraging you to pay attention to your own mind. Asking you how you feel, discussing what you think. Using metaphor to explain their own conscious processes. All these things are in every healthy human’s environment and understanding, but in no animals understanding at all.
Introducing Our Consciousness Raising Meditation
We use words to remind you to pay attention first to your senses, then to your sentience, your experience of understanding those senses, and then on to your sapience, your understanding of your own understanding.
If you’ve never thought about these things before, you may feel like a blind man being ordered to see. You may find it difficult to understand how to direct your attention at your own attention. Trust your own mind though: whatever you practice for a while you get better at. Just focus on your mind, visualise it, think about it. If you try this for ten minutes a few dozen times over a few months your brain’s neurons will grow new connections, strengthen synapses. You will start to grow, slowly at first, that gut-level understanding of your own gut-level understanding.
You can and will transcend your current consciousness, raise to a higher consciousness, a deeper understanding.
|Guided Meditation File 12 – Consciousness – Sentience
Backing Music “Meet Your Maker” By Adatek