4. Layers of Consciousness

This is the fourth of nine articles that lay out guiding, foundational principles for this project:

Something is true–with a little “t”–when only one aspect of a given circumstance is addressed. Spun and manipulated a certain way, these can easily become lies.

It is a little “t” truth to recognize the partial animal nature of humans, and from there, cite instances in human mating behaviors that equate us to animals.

For example, an evolutionary biologist can draw parallels between a group of humans congregating at a bar and a group of animals seeking mates in the forest or on the plains. But does that mean we’re just animals?

Exclusionary focus on such “little t” truths, as sectioned off parts of the bigger picture, are too often blown up and taken out of context.

We mistake the part for the whole.

The parts may allude to the whole, or they may be emanations of the whole, containing certain properties of the whole. In the final analysis, however, they remain but parts.

It’s like mistaking the rays of the sun for the sun itself. The rays contain light and heat (elements of the sun for sure), but the sun’s rays are still not the sun.

One understanding of the basic structure of life (a more material-based model is discussed further in the next article), presents the following three-tiered order.

The transcendent plane–pure, limitless source

precedes the psychic plane (or mind, ideas, essences)

which precedes the physical plane (form).

As a quick nod to the more material-minded, keep in mind when continuing that perhaps these three can correlate with the three general layers we’re aware of in the brain:

the old inner reptilian core of the brain, corresponding to purely physical drives for survival, reproduction, and territory.

the mammalian brain layered over that for more developed cognitive abilities, decisions, bonds of the pack/clan, emotions.

and the “transcendent” linked with the brain’s neocortex and pineal gland for intuition, spirituality, higher consciousness/virtues/ideals.

To continue here with the metaphysical terms:

The transcendent plane denotes pure being, with no agenda, no corruption. Going by many names, it has been referred to as Spirit, the Absolute, Truth, pure Reason, and that loaded word “God” (with different traditions distinguishing how they conceive both personal and absolute attributes of God–keeping in mind that in order to maintain meaning and a life-affirming attitude, we as people must be able to relate in some personal fashion to the Divine).

The transcendent is the harmony of the cosmos, which even includes the cycles of destruction that necessarily serve the greater machinations of life.

The transcendent is why life is and it is that life is.

The transcendent plane necessarily contains, pervades, and yet evades what we perceive of as our “regular lives.”

For the purpose of this discussion, we can imagine this ultimate, transcendent reality as a center emanating outward, or as a high point emanating downward (like the sun). Again, it manifests into the next two levels, the psychic/mental (what we experience as thoughts and inspirations) and also physical life.

The transcendent, it must be understood, is not limited even by its own limitlessness.

Therefore, in the fields of manifestation–in what we may call “day-to-day life” and our thinking about it–the possibility exists for people, veiled and distracted by the smaller details of our immediate personal story, to choose to turn away from that absolute transcendent Center, the eternal Reality.

All of the earthly, human life we experience is thus some edited, incomplete aspect of the Ultimate. A spiritually-inclined person may sum that up this way:

It is up to us to determine the degrees to which we pursue and at least remain open to the transcendent–as opposed to denying it and fighting it–which is where the tragedy of our necessary separation from the transcendent in this fragile world crosses a threshold and becomes evil.

Different philosophies and traditions further break down the second, psychic plane, and even the next realm, our physical existence, into smaller sub-categories.

For the purpose of this article we will only consider the three broad categories of Transcendent, Psychic, and Physical.

It is in the second, psychic plane that we initially encounter the varying degrees by which creation can choose to turn away from that primary transcendent center. In other words, our thoughts, ideas, feelings and inspirations can lie.

The psychic plane of thought forms is populated with the fragmented emanations of the pure source. In the most refined sense, the psychic plane is potentials.

The real life examples of feral children (1, 2)–raised by animals and not humans, and acting like the beasts who reared them–may do much to illustrate how we can understand and experience the psychic plane of ideas and symbols as real.

As humans, we pass on language, symbols, and ideas to the receptive, fertile minds of our young children.

If left in the wild long enough, children lose the capacity to learn language, which apparently may de-activate in the human brain after a certain age if not exercised (3).

This is not to say that the feral child example proves that a newborn is a blank slate, and raises many interesting questions. But for the purposes of the present discussion, it merely serves to demonstrate that the full human experience requires a transference of ideas and symbols (not just rote behaviors), like the transference of radio waves from sender to receiver.

As Huston Smith said, “the brain breathes mind like the lungs breathe air.”

A broad term for the psychic realm is “the collective unconscious.” The thoughts and ideas that we arrive at can be deceitful or virtuous, aligned or misaligned with the truth and purity of the ultimate, transcendent source–just like the other human beings we encounter on the physical level.

Again, after the transcendent source level, every aspect of our experience presents us with some degree of an incomplete, edited view of the ultimate reality.

As an aside, the potential dangers of a number of endeavors– from drug use, to “channeling/ séances,” to certain forms of meditation, even to willing our own thoughts to manifest our desires– is that they often engage solely with the psychic level (just as full of deceptions as the physical) without further hooking into the ultimate, transcendent, Source level.

That is–without getting the final word (Logos?)

Not to get too sidetracked in how that’s supposed to be done, I’ll briefly mention the following for now.

One path to forging a connection with pure source, advocated by varying traditions, is simple meditation (not just guided visualizations etc.) that brings you beyond the realm of passing ideas, into the silence behind the silence.

The best and most concise practice I’ve ever studied and myself implemented for such is meditating upon one word. Distractions–even so called positive, insightful distractions–may arise, but the practice is solely about the purity of being filled with the name of (and thus becoming more open to) God.

Contemplating moments, experiences, creations of profound beauty, things that deeply move you can begin the process. After all, we live in this world of particulars, and the particulars must necessarily serve as the entry point to what lies beyond the forms, or perhaps it would be more apt to say, the fullness of the form. But it cannot remain a contemplation, you must be subsumed into a melding with pure beauty, wholeness, harmony–without remaining fixated on the particular experience/work of beauty that served as the entry point. Again, interfacing with the transcendent is not an exercise of the analytical mind of measures, justifications, and quantifications.

Intimate engagement with a holistic experience of one’s ethno-culture and the holistic life of one’s people also provides a vital way to appreciate the more fundamental patterns and ground state of being from which your own identity and cultural/familial experiences arise. For those able to take a more esoteric look at their own cultural traditions, one can glean the more subtle backdrop against which all of earthly life and expressions plays out. Of course this does not mean that we flatten everything out and try to make all cultures and people the same (more on identity later).

I’d also add that what we’d commonly call a more scientific inquiry into how life works has the potential to reveal and inspire awe and an openness to the transcendent, as it would express through the personality type suited for such an orientation. This requires that such a person does not remain stuck and grow proud by making an idol of the intellect and intellectual knowledge itself. And it behooves us to remain very aware that in our age of scientism, science is not exempt from being a tool in the hands of those with a nefarious agenda; nothing in human life is “neutral.”

At the most basic level, making an appeal to the transcendent, divine aspect of life, earnestly and humbly opening yourself to it, begins the process.

To return to the notion of interfacing with the psychic layer: if the idea of spirit channeling sounds “out there” to you, please consider the fascinating fact that many cherished scientific theories and inventions, some tremendously shaping our outlook and world, were influenced and informed by “channeling.” (4, 5, 6)

This is not to say whether the ideas and insights gleaned from practices such as channeling are for good or ill. Nor is it to start a debate on whether these ideas are actually coming from some kind of outside entity, or simply the practitioner’s subconscious (or where the difference between those two interpretations even lies).

It is merely to demonstrate that famed and influential scientists have used varying techniques to try and open themselves up to the realm of ideas, the mind plane.

The more materially minded may scoff at this “top-down” model being described, where pure Source begets essence (mind/psychic  plane) and essence in turn begets form (material, physical plane).

Of course, these models exist as a way to describe what cannot be contained in the structures we are accustomed to thinking in.

It’s like projecting a three dimensional object onto a two-dimensional surface. Something will be lost, but at least these metaphors serve as guides.

However, the reverse model of material life giving rise to consciousness does not change what we are considering here– which is simply an acknowledgement of and an attempt to articulate the different planes that humans function on and can engage with.

Life and our experience of it is really a symbiotic process between consciousness and the material.

When considering the transcendent plane as the peak and cause of both the psychic and physical, the triangle serves as a symbolic metaphor (or pyramid when considered three dimensionally).

More on this in the following foundational article…

This concludes the fourth of nine foundational articles for this project. The next article in this series is Does Consciousness Really Precede Form?




(1) Feral Children Documentary

(2) Feral Children Clip

(3) Article on the window of time in which the human brain needs to learn language.

(4) This article (under “Attendees” section) notes how Alfred Russell Wallace, the lesser-known evolutionary biologist who co-developed the theory of evolution with Charles Darwin, was an attendee of séances. As were Alexander Graham Bell, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Guglielmo Marconi (inventor of radio) and John Logie Baird (inventor of the television).

(5) Ten famous scientists who held surprisingly supernatural beliefs.

(6) Sir Isaac Newton’s obsession with the occult.

Archived web pages are linked to as sources when available. These provide a permanent record of articles that have appeared on the Internet.