I started this blog because I was inspired by a man named Steve Pavlina who writes a blog called Personal Development for Smart People. One of his early pieces that caught my attention was based on a book called Power v. Force. In Power versus Force the author: David Hawkins introduced me to a the concept of levels of consciousness. It’s a good read but honestly I recommend reading Steve’s post. That said here’s my take on the topic based on my personal experiences and sourced from my personal information database haha.
Side Note: Because I wrote this for school my communication style is much more formal than usual, unfortunately.
I heard an axiom a while ago that went something like this: Enlightenment isn’t some mystical thing that’s hard to find it’s just that most people aren’t looking. I agree. In today’s society most people aren’t looking for an end to their worldly suffering. If they were they would find as most wise people do that indeed happiness is sitting right under their nose.
Defining enlightenment is first pursuit that we must undertake to answer the question. What is Enlightenment? Someone might say it depends who you ask because that concept might vary from culture to culture. But someone who admits that also admits at the same time that this concept of spiritual enlightenment is transcendental: in that it’s found on every continent. Webster offers up a pretty useless definition: “the action of enlightening or the state of being enlightened”. It doesn’t shed any light on the root of the concept at hand. What does it mean to be enlightened? In Zen Buddhism it’s the complete comprehension of the concept of big mind and small mind in practice. That is to say the understanding that there exists a universe inside of you and a universe outside of you at the very same time while more importantly freeing yourself your own thoughts so that you can watch and appreciate that infinite cosmic dance. In other words a return to our original nature. To recognize that we are the world around us just as much as the opposite is true ultimately leads us down a path of compassion.
Dr. David Hawkins author of Power v. Force does the world a favor and deduces experience of consciousness to a hierarchy that rates the individuals proximity to enlightenment on a numerical scale. From low to high, the levels of consciousness are: shame, guilt, apathy, grief, fear, desire, anger, pride, courage, neutrality, willingness, acceptance, reason, love, joy, peace, enlightenment. That’s possibly why whenever we think of an enlightened figure rather it be Mother Teresa or Dave Chappelle we think of peace and love. He makes it clear that these states aren’t final and can represent phases in our life that can come and go. He also makes it clear that a lot of the time people can be stuck in a particular phase for their entire lives.
Shame – Just a step above death. You’re probably contemplating suicide at this level. Either that or you’re a serial killer. Think of this as self-directed hatred.
Guilt – A step above shame, but you still may be having thoughts of suicide. You think of yourself as a sinner, unable to forgive yourself for past transgressions.
Apathy – Feeling hopeless or victimized. The state of learned helplessness. Many homeless people are stuck here.
Grief – A state of perpetual sadness and loss. You might drop down here after losing a loved one. Depression. Still higher than apathy, since you’re beginning to escape the numbness.
Fear – Seeing the world as dangerous and unsafe. Paranoia. Usually you’ll need help to rise above this level, or you’ll remain trapped for a long time, such as in an abusive relationship.
Desire – Not to be confused with setting and achieving goals, this is the level of addiction, craving, and lust — for money, approval, power, fame, etc. Consumerism. Materialism. This is the level of smoking and drinking and doing drugs.
Anger – the level of frustration, often from not having your desires met at the lower level. This level can spur you to action at higher levels, or it can keep you stuck in hatred. In an abusive relationship, you’ll often see an anger person coupled with a fear person.
Pride – The first level where you start to feel good, but it’s a false feeling. It’s dependent on external circumstances (money, prestige, etc), so it’s vulnerable. Pride can lead to nationalism, racism, and religious wars. Think Nazis. A state of irrational denial and defensiveness. Religious fundamentalism is also stuck at this level. You become so closely enmeshed in your beliefs that you see an attack on your beliefs as an attack on you.
Courage – The first level of true strength. Courage is the Gateway. This is where you start to see life as challenging and exciting instead of overwhelming. You begin to have an inkling of interest in personal growth, although at this level you’ll probably call it something else like skill-building, career advancement, education, etc. You start to see your future as an improvement upon your past, rather than a continuation of the same.
Neutrality – This level is epitomized by the phrase, “live and let live.” It’s flexible, relaxed, and unattached. Whatever happens, you roll with the punches. You don’t have anything to prove. You feel safe and get along well with other people. A lot of self-employed people are at this level. A very comfortable place. The level of complacency and laziness. You’re taking care of your needs, but you don’t push yourself too hard.
Willingness – Now that you’re basically safe and comfortable, you start using your energy more effectively. Just getting by isn’t good enough anymore. You begin caring about doing a good job — perhaps even your best. You think about time management and productivity and getting organized, things that weren’t so important to you at the level of neutrality. Think of this level as the development of willpower and self-discipline. These people are the “troopers” of society; they get things done well and don’t complain much. If you’re in school, then you’re a really good student; you take your studies seriously and put in the time to do a good job. This is the point where your consciousness becomes more organized and disciplined.
Acceptance – Now a powerful shift happens, and you awaken to the possibilities of living proactively. At the level of willingness you’ve become competent, and now you want to put your abilities to good use. This is the level of setting and achieving goals. I don’t like the label “acceptance” that Hawkins uses here, but it basically means that you begin accepting responsibility for your role in the world. If something isn’t right about your life (your career, your health, your relationship), you define your desired outcome and change it. You start to see the big picture of your life more clearly. This level drives many people to switch careers, start a new business, or change their diets.
Reason – At this level you transcend the emotional aspects of the lower levels and begin to think clearly and rationally. Hawkins defines this as the level of medicine and science. The way I see it, when you reach this level, you become capable of using your reasoning abilities to their fullest extent. You now have the discipline and the proactivity to fully exploit your natural abilities. You’ve reached the point where you say, “Wow. I can do all this stuff, and I know I must put it to good use. So what’s the best use of my talents?” You take a look around the world and start making meaningful contributions. At the very high end, this is the level of Einstein and Freud. It’s probably obvious that most people never reach this level in their entire lives.
Love – Unconditional love, a permanent understanding of your connectedness with all that exists. Think compassion. At the level of reason, you live in service to your head. But that eventually becomes a dead end where you fall into the trap of over-intellectualizing. You see that you need a bigger context than just thinking for its own sake. At the level of love, you now place your head and all your other talents and abilities in service to your heart (not your emotions, but your greater sense of right and wrong — your conscience). I see this as the level of awakening to your true purpose. Your motives at this level are pure and uncorrupted by the desires of the ego. This is the level of lifetime service to humanity. Think Gandhi, Mother Teresa, Dr. Albert Schweitzer. At this level you also begin to be guided by a force greater than yourself. It’s a feeling of letting go. Your intuition becomes extremely strong. Hawkins claims this level is reached only by 1 in 250 people during their entire lifetimes.
Joy – A state of pervasive, unshakable happiness. Eckhart Tolle describes this state in The Power of Now. The level of saints and advanced spiritual teachers. Just being around people at this level makes you feel incredible. At this level life is fully guided by synchronicity and intuition. There’s no more need to set goals and make detailed plans — the expansion of your consciousness allows you to operate at a much higher level. A near-death experience can temporarily bump you to this level.
Peace – Total transcendence. Hawkins claims this level is reached only by one person in 10 million.
Enlightenment – The highest level of human consciousness, where humanity blends with divinity. Extremely rare. Even just thinking about this level can raise your consciousness
– Steve Pavlina
Right now our values as a society do not encourage the pursuit of spiritual growth however I feel that it is in our best interest to begin to place personal development at the very top of the human values totem pole.
Instead of the pursuit of wealth in the form of riches it would make more sense to encourage wealth in the form of compassion, knowledge, and wisdom. The wealth that we seek in the form of riches will come about as a natural consequence of a more enlightened civilization. Abundance would flow freely from our society even if we tweaked our values system to merely include these at the root level while still maintaining our current competitive capitalism. Think about it. If we produced more minds that operated for the benefit of the universal good society itself would bloom. Science, compassion, and the pursuit of happiness would eventually overwhelm cynics for ever.
Hawkin’s position is that the current state of the our society abides to 80/20 principle more technically known as Pareto’s principle. Which states that there’s 80/20 dichotomy in all things which means that 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes. In this case the principle would be referencing the figure that Hawkin’s claims to be overall statistical breakdown of the consciousness averages around the world. Hawkin’s figured that 80% of the world operated at a level below pride which does make sense when you figure that the first world countries are the only ones with luxuries we take for granted. Not to say that attaining enlightenment is easier in a first world country because we do have our own setbacks and contradictions but it is to say that survival is.
I believe that if we were to place a premium on the thinking lightly of ourselves and heavily of the world that number would begin to shift in the right direction and the eventually we might begin to see signs of a more utopian civilization.
Materialism: A materialist or someone who believes in a mainly physical universe would argue that the world is only what our five senses can perceive. They might point out that the they believe the universe is merely material and that a spiritual pursuit is a waste of time. More specifically that we should spend our time working on more practical pursuits. Even more specifically: something testable. They would point out the flaws in Hawkin’s testing methods deeming it incredulous.
Rebuttal: Despite the fact that they might point out flaws in Dr. Hawkin’s testing methods I would point out that his chart is merely a tool used to better understand and visualize the concepts at hand since they are so conceptual. Also even if we fundamentally disagree about the nature of the universe I like to believe we all can agree that a better world is in all of our best interest. It’s important not to get hemmed up on the nature of testing because it makes you forget that life has always been the most important teacher here. Most lessons that are learned in life really can’t be measured. However happiness can be measured pretty easily with simple questionnaires or observational studies.
Traditionalist: Someone with traditional values might feel this very concept goes against their values. An old abrahamic religious person might see the word enlightenment and feel like it goes against their religion.
Rebuttal: Seeing the concept as merely eastern instead of human, might force a person to put the anything they’re unsure about in the fear category. It’s important to realize when your communicating with someone who has deep rooted beliefs from their perspective their very soul is at risk so they’re more likely to be skeptical of anything that isn’t from their socio-religious background. However I feel that two route are easily available when it comes to communicating a seemingly foreign idea to someone resistant to the concept of enlightenment. First one could take the time find a relatable concept from their religion or philosophy and show them the overlap between the two in the hopes of finding common grounds. The other would be to find a commonality that resonates with the nature of the human heart. Something so overwhelming simply human that it makes senses no matter what corner of the earth you come from. That’s simple in this department because joy and peace are concepts that are pretty universal.
Cynic: A cynic might point out a lot of flaws from their perspective. They might point to the fact that our current wealth is derived from wars and the blood of slaves. Making it clear that they believe a wrong can produce right or more specifically: the business of death can produce wealth. They might go on to say that the idea that wealth and abundance would come from an enlightened society is hogwash or unreasonable.
Rebuttal: This might be the most difficult point to argue because recent historical facts are on their side. It’s true that America’s wealth is derived from blood money no dysphemism intended. It is what it is. However I would remind them that our current representative democratic republic is falling apart at it seams. Due in fact to the vices that stand across from the virtues that support enlightenment. Perspective in this case is priceless as well because if you aren’t familiar with history you would be aware that America’s 241 years is not very long in comparison with Dynastic Egypts 3000 years. Dynastic Egypt placed spirituality at the top of their totem pole of values. This combined with their amazing geographic location being on the Nile river with it’s predictable nature made it one of the longest last civilization that we know of. Not to say that they were perfect because they weren’t but it’s imperative that we learn what we can from all success stories in order to make ours more glorious.
Their last point could be complicated to deal with if you let it, however I don’t think it has to be. It’s simple really does one really believe that cynical society would be better? Does one really assume that society based on vice could possibly be more beneficial than one based on virtue. Not to say that all vice could be eliminated or would be. Isn’t balance superior to imbalance? In most cases and this case I believe so.
In closing I know this is a very conceptual topic and can be seen as complicated but really it’s not. It’s a simple as one plus one equals two. The more enlightened a society grows the more the universe and our universes will benefit. Having more people who care could never be a bad thing. Having more people who care and have the capabilities and mental capacities to make a difference has to be a great thing.
Pavlina, S. (n.d.). Personal Development for Smart People. Retrieved March 08, 2019, from https://www.stevepavlina.com/