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‘Ignorance’ and ‘Enlightenment’: What’s the Difference?
Abstract: An emphasis on logical reasoning emerged in ‘Western thought’ in the 18th Century –
the ‘Age of Reason’. Also heralded as an ‘Age of Enlightenment’, it led to the ‘Age of Science,’
with unprecedented technological advances. However, it is perhaps better characterized as an age
emphasizing the discriminative intellect. This is of major importance in order to clarify the
perspective from ancient ‘Eastern thought’ that the ‘Age of Reason’ would be the continuance of
an age of ‘ignorance’. This paper clearly distinguishes ‘ignorance’ from the profoundly different
stages of human development that characterize enlightenment in ‘Eastern thought’.
Key Terms: Age of Reason, Science, Intellect, Ignorance, Enlightenment
At least since the ‘Age of Reason’ in ‘Western’ thought, there has been a quite superficial view
of what enlightenment means.’ This paper briefly summarizes levels of mind and how the level
of intellect fits into natural processes of higher human development. ‘Enlightenment’ is not just
an intellectual process as implied by how the term ‘Age of Enlightenment’ was used.
“Enlightenment’ is based on profound experiences beyond ordinary waking. Extensively
described in ancient texts, these natural transformative experiences have been rare in both
‘Western’ and ‘Eastern’ traditions.
First, we will briefly consider general meanings of ‘ignorance’ in ancient ‘Eastern thought’.
Then, each higher state of consciousness will be described to clarify what is meant by
enlightenment. The descriptions detail empirical experiences deeper than intellectual insights or
appreciation of the awe-inspiring cosmic expanse in ‘Western’ theories of development and self-
actualization. Direct experience of higher, more unified states of consciousness are said to result
in permanent development beyond the ‘state of ignorance’. Given the fragmentation and chaos
on Earth today, it is imminently needed for the transformation to a healthy, peaceful human
What is the ‘state of ignorance’ in ancient ‘Eastern thought’? The term ignorance can refer
to ‘ignoring’ in the sense of missing knowledge – both understanding and direct experience – of
the fundamental unity of nature. In ancient ‘Eastern’ knowledge systems, there are higher, more
unified states of consciousness extending the range of human development, based on direct
empirical experiences resulting from natural refinement of mind and body. Most people today
don’t experience clearly enough the deeper levels of mind and consciousness needed to
appreciate what enlightenment means. With due respect, even great geniuses such as Einstein
simply didn’t experience them either – otherwise, they would have powerfully emphasized the
The three psycho-physiologically defined states of consciousness in ‘Western thought’ are
waking, dreaming, and sleeping. The ordinary waking state is associated with sensory
perception, thinking, and intellectual reasoning commonly experienced in our daily lives. This
state is characterized by the distinction of ‘experiencer’, ‘process of experiencing’, and ‘object of
experience’. The core phenomenal experience in the ordinary waking state is ‘subject-object
duality’, also identified as the ‘I’ - ‘it’ distinction (Shear, Sim, 2017). In the ordinary waking
state, the inner ‘subject’ or ‘I’ experiences an outer ‘object’ or ‘it’. This experientially dualistic
state is sometimes also called ‘object-referral’, referring to the inner ‘subject’ identifying with
and overshadowed by experience of the ‘object’. Ancient ‘Eastern’ knowledge systems –
especially the oldest continuous and most extensive system of Veda – further identify this natural
phenomenal experience in which the ‘experiencer’ is separate from the ‘object’ and
predominantly overshadowed in experiencing ‘it’ as the ‘state of ignorance’.
Another angle to describe ‘ignorance’ is when the experiencer doesn’t have the natural
experience of consciousness itself as the continuous, unchanging, unbounded inner silent
background of the ordinary three states of waking, dreaming, and sleep. Enlightenment involves
natural, spontaneous ‘witnessing’ of all phenomenal experiences, including any degree of pain or
Still another angle relates to how the level of mind called the intellect is habitually used. When
the discriminative function of the intellect dominates and the unified wholeness of nature is lost
to ‘direct experience’, this is called Pragya aparadha – ‘mistake of the intellect.’ It is natural and
common in the ordinary waking state of consciousness. The ‘mistake’ relates to incomplete
processing of objects of experience due to undeveloped mind/body functioning, such that the
‘object’ is not appreciated in its full value. The predominant experience is fragmentation into
independent ‘objects’. This results in incomplete, unfulfilling knowledge of the “object,” with
partial values of ‘objects of experience’ dominating and the wholeness not known or enjoyed.
When the vast majority of individuals contributing to the general consensus of understanding
about the world doesn’t experience the fundamental unity of nature, such experiences frequently
are considered by many who don’t have them as illusory or ‘unreal’. For people who have them,
however, they are described as much, much more real. This directly concerns limitations of
modern scientific thinking and education – related to the concept of paradigm blindness.
It’s important to recognize that modern science is practiced largely within the limitations of the
‘object-referral’ experience of ‘subject-object duality’ characteristic of the ordinary waking state.
And there has been almost no recognition in modern science of this state-dependent limitation.
Also, for centuries the major focus in education has been logical reasoning (Age of Reason) in
this dualistic state, fixating attention on surface fragmented levels rather than deeper holistic
levels – contributing to what might be termed an ‘attention-deficit’ culture focused on immediate
material gratification. This will be a key issue later in describing specific experiences indicative
of progress to natural higher states of human consciousness and enlightenment (Boyer, 2008).
However, there is at least beginning to be some recognition that the scientific consensus
necessary for ‘objective’ science depends on the developmental state of the contributors to the
consensus. When contributors to the scientific consensus empirically experience higher states of
consciousness, science can get beyond its current quandaries due to fragmented, partial
experiences to a mature science in which we no longer ignore our essential nature, appreciate the
fullest value of what we and the natural world are, and naturally act on it. For a deeper sense of
how profoundly different ‘ignorance’ and ‘enlightenment’ are, descriptions of natural higher
states can be very helpful, which this paper summarizes in simple language and descriptions. But
it does involve careful consideration of and openness to the actual, subtler empirical experiences
Ancient Vedic literature is a vast resource held to cover ontological levels of nature and
epistemological methods for experiencing them directly. This paper draws extensively from re-
clarification of the full range of states of human consciousness by Vedic scientist and educator
Maharishi Mahesh Yogi (1967), who points out that the ‘subject’ or ‘I’ can be overshadowed and
deeper appreciation of nature including own’s own nature can be overlooked:
“When a flower is seen, then only the flower remains in the mind, as if the mind had been completely
annihilated, void of its own glory, and the glory of the flower had overtaken it—as if the flower had
overshadowed the glory of the mind itself. The experiencer is missing, only the sight remains and the
object...” (p. 294)
Limitations of experience in the ordinary waking state. To clarify the idea of ‘object-referral’,
the ‘object’ is experienced as a separate outer object, frequently in the outer physical
environment and held to be independent from the inner ‘subject’ or ‘I’. It is experienced via the
senses of perception, which connect the outer environment with the inner self as experiencer of
it. But the ‘object’ also can be a sensation inside the body (such as tingling in the foot) or a
memory, thought, or feeling (such as a wave of love) deeper inside. Though the ’object’ may be
inside the body, or inside the mind, it is outside of the inner self – as an experience of an ‘it’ that
‘I’ have. If the ‘object’ is some quality of the inner self, it’s called self-reflective or self-
referential thought – ‘object-referral’. More generally, when the “object’ is some inner level of
mind or self, it’s called introspection – still ‘object-referral’. This also will be important later for
clarifying the fundamentally different ‘direct experience’ of ‘self-referral’ in contrast to ‘object-
referral’, as a fundamental experience for progress to natural higher states of consciousness and
The human body/nervous system is biologically complex enough to support reflective and self-
reflective thinking. Research supports the thesis that mammals, and other animals such as at least
some birds, also have a degree of ability to have these experiences – some sense of individuality
as a unitary whole organism. And there appears to be decreasing ability in insects, bacteria,
viruses, vegetables, fruits, nuts, and rocks – practically speaking, to no degree. To explain higher
states of consciousness, it is useful to consider degrees of ability in the human species also. The
body/nervous system in lower animals doesn’t have the genetic complexity to support these
abilities to the degrees humans have. But in humans with these abilities, deeper levels of mind
and of consciousness itself may not yet function to support these natural but subtler experiences
As an analogy, although the sun ‘always’ shines, the sunlight can be blocked by dense clouds.
When the clouds become less dense, more sunlight automatically shines through. The human
body/nervous system has the inherent ability to support the experience of higher states of
consciousness, but may not be refined enough for the total value of ‘sunlight’ (light of mind and
consciousness) to shine through. Though quite rare, some individuals may be born with
considerably higher development of mind/body functioning, so enlightenment develops quickly.
But most frequently, it seems that in the human body/nervous system the degree of refinement
may not be sufficient for the highest levels of human sensory perception, thought, feeling, and
states of consciousness to be experienced. Higher states and enlightenment require refining body/
mind to remove the ‘clouds’ – eliminating accumulated stress and culturing a more refined,
integrated, and coherent style of mind/body functioning. As Maharishi (1963) has stated:
“Those whose hearts and minds are not cultured, whose vision concentrates on the gross, only see the
surface value of life. They only find qualities of matter and energy… They do not enjoy almighty
Being in Its innocent, never changing status of fullness and abundance of everything that lies beyond
the obvious phase of forms and phenomena of matter and energy, and of mind and individual... Pure
Being is of transcendental nature because of Its status as the essential constituent of the universe. It is
finer than the finest in creation; because of Its nature, It is not exposed to the senses which primarily
are formed to give only the experience of the perception of the mind, because the mind is connected
for the most part with the senses (pp. 24-25).
Even in the ‘ignorance’ of ordinary waking, however, there is some degree of ‘subject-object
duality’, some degree of the ‘I’ - ‘it’ distinction, some degree of reflective and self-reflective
thought in us humans. This is the experiential basis for objectivity attributed to the measurement
process in scientific methodology. It relates to subject-object independence and to belief that the
‘object’ is an ‘independent variable’ that can be measured separately, unaffected by the observer.
In this context, it is important to recognize the substantive advances in modern science toward
more interdependence of the ‘object’, ‘process of measuring/observing’, and ‘observer’. The
distinction between objectivity and subjectivity is no longer adequate in the same way it was in
classical science, given the progress to deeper levels of nature. The process of measuring is now
known to affect the ‘object’ being measured. ‘Objects’ once thought to be independent from each
other for purposes of measuring them are now understood to be entangled and interdependent.
And toward unifying fundamental quantum fields to an ultimate unified field, these deeper levels
of nature are now recognized as necessarily interconnected. Recognition of the interrelatedness
of ‘observer’, ‘process of observing’, and ‘object’ in quantum theory brought mind and
consciousness to the center of modern science, and directly relevant to the ‘process of
Indeed, modern science has arrived at the doorstep of ultimate unification in unified field theory
– a profound development. It is interesting that the general concept of a single underlying source
of everything – apart from its specific descriptors and cultural icons – has been perhaps the most
widely-accepted intuitive belief across spiritual traditions. Unified field theory has brought
modern science to a unified conception of nature that spirituality and religion long ago intuited in
different language styles and contexts. When unified field theory and its implications – including
fundamental order rather than randomness – are taught in our educational systems, it can reverse
disintegrative trends from cultural relativism and existential meaninglessness that have eroded
societal coherence. It can also bridge the gap that contributed to modern science and religion
being in dreadful, unnecessary conflict (Boyer, 2008, 2021).
But so far, modern scientific progress toward ultimate unity has been only in terms of theoretical
understanding – an intellectual wholeness not also grounded in experiential wholeness. It has not
yet included direct empirical validation of unity. Validating theories of unification remains a
most daunting task, evident even with the most successful scientific theories – ‘evolutionary’,
relativity, and quantum theories. A logically consistent account of how the physical world links
to mind and consciousness has not been achieved in this worldview. The ‘objectified’ means to
gain knowledge in modern science fostered progress out of many superstitious beliefs. But with
its many successes in technological applications, unfortunately it also is associated with lack of
fundamental grounding that renders life meaningless for many. Focusing on the outer physical
level of nature, modern and post-modern thought have been bound to the superficial flatland of
material existence, and life on Earth has remained fragmented and fraught with disharmony
(Boyer, 2021) In the chaos and randomness of some levels of nature, the obvious deeper order
can be hard to validate.
The natural experience in ordinary waking is characterized by a gap between the outer objective
and inner subjective world – the mind-body problem. This gap needs to be bridged for the unity
that science rigorously pursues, and toward which it is inexorably progressing (Boyer, 2008).
Fortunately, major progress in modern science beyond this fragmented worldview is being made.
But it has taken considerable time to gain sufficient understanding to go beyond it given only
ordinary sensory experience. Some thoughtful theorists and researchers have become enthralled
with intellectual rigor, puzzle solving, wonder, cynicism, and sometimes existential empathy and
compassion – resigned to the reality of life as ephemeral, random, and fundamentally
meaningless. At some point in this thinking pattern, the reductive, objectifying intellectual mind
sort of paints itself into a corner and finds literally nothing. Fortunately, there is at least some
recognition that this thinking pattern is incomplete, inconsistent, outside oneself, and unfulfilling
The ‘scientific method’ is viewed as a self-correcting process of gaining knowledge through
repeatedly testing theories and improving them based on empirical findings. But the self-
correcting loop from theory to empirical validation and back to re-evaluation of the theory
doesn’t extend into the underlying basis of reason and experience in the scientist’s
consciousness. It remains on the ordinary levels of mental activity – with the underlying level of
pure consciousness itself overlooked and not experienced (Boyer, 2008, 2021). Discussed later,
the systematic mental practice of Vedic Yoga includes natural means to settle the mind to the
‘source of thought’ in consciousness itself. This involves much deeper self-correcting processes
than ordinary abstract intellectual reasoning, the result of natural healing processes activated by
deeper rest in the mind and body. This has immense positive implications for society, supported
by extensive research applying both indirect experimental and direct experiential methods.
Maharishi (1997) explains:
“Being objective in its approach, modern science brings only intellectual understanding about the
functioning of the laws of nature. It does not penetrate into the life of the scientist. It does not
integrate his personality. He can do some little jugglery here and there in the field of creation,
converting this into that and that into this, but he himself is open to all kinds of destructive values
because the modern approach to the investigation of natural law does not and cannot enable the
scientist to imbibe knowledge and live it in daily life.” (pp. 122-123).
Many factors influence reason and experience – the two accepted means to gain knowledge. In
the same way that a measuring device can malfunction, physiological and psychological
processes also can malfunction due to fatigue, stress, disease, or other disorderly influences. Our
daily lifestyles and choices affect how our mind and body functions, adding stress that decreases
coherent functioning or reducing stress that refines it. For example, alcohol, drugs, pollutants (in
food/air/water; e-smog), electronic and other behavioral addictions all have effects that
accumulate to reduce coherent mind-body functioning. Such factors subtly affect the reliability
and accuracy of knowledge in each individual – as well as across individuals in inter-subjective
agreement. How coherent the mind functions, and most fundamentally the state of
consciousness, shapes reasoning and sensory experience on which scientific consensus is built.
Levels of mind and functioning of the intellect. The Vedic knowledge system, along with other
ancient ‘Eastern’ traditions but with cultural and language differences, posits a transcendent
essence of nature – somewhat akin to the unified field as the source of everything. Some of these
traditions also hold that direct experience of that universal essence is possible because it is the
essence of individual consciousness – universal Being as the essence of individual being
(Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, 1972, 1967, 1963; Hagelin, 1987; Nader, 2021).
The term Veda simply means ‘knowledge’ (Maharishi Vedic University: Introduction, 1994). It is
not a ‘faith-based’ religious tradition. It holds that both the inner subjective mind (including
‘subject’ or ‘I’) and the outer ‘objective’ world (object’ or ‘it’) examined using it share the same
source and the same laws of nature (Boyer, 2008, 2021). Long classified by many ‘Western’
scholars as pre-scientific mythology, its methods to gain and validate knowledge had been
widely misinterpreted. A pivotal contribution to their re-clarification is Maharishi’s work to
revive and test them in the modern scientific context, adding systematic experiential means for
development of mind and consciousness from ‘ignorance’ to ‘enlightenment’. This brings us to a
brief introduction to the Vedic model of mind in order to explore further the systematic
development of natural higher states of consciousness.
A simple way to introduce the Vedic model of mind is to consider our own inner experiences.
This moment, looking outside to read this paper, you receive input through your senses. You
experience the input in your thinking mind, processing it for meaning and relevance. You may
also analyze it on the deeper level of the intellect to understand it better. You may further sense
deeper feelings about its relevance. And, you can sense that your self is the experiencer of these
sensations, thoughts, and feelings. Further, you can know directly that, behind all this, you are
conscious. These are the natural levels of inner subjective mind in the Vedic model of levels of
mind. Going deeper inside are the senses, the thinking mind, the intellect (which includes
discriminative and deeper unifying functions associated with feelings), the inner ‘I’/self/ego, and
consciousness – which you are ‘experiencing’ right now by being conscious (For detailed
explanations of levels of mind, see Pointless: The Reality behind Quantum Theory, 2021; or
Bridge to Unity: Unified Field-Based Science and Spirituality, 2008’).
The Vedic model of levels of mind enumerates the entire range of nature from the modern
concept of the unified field to the grossest level of tangible matter such air, fire, water, rocks and
earth (Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, 1967, Bernard, 1947). This chart is a vertical depiction of the
nested, hierarchical Vedic model of mind (‘S’ refers to stimulus input and ‘R’ refers to response
output). For comparative purposes, Vedic terms are on the right column (Boyer, 2021, p. 186.):
Sensory Environment Sensory Environment
S → →R S → →R
↓ ↑ ↓ ↑
Sense Organs Action Organs Gyanendriyas Karmendriyas
Mind (primarily thinking) Manas
Intellect (decision making and feeling) Ahamkara
Unitary self or ego Mahat
These levels of mind have some correspondence with the model in ‘Western’ psychology.
However, there are major differences, especially that the ‘Western’ psychology model is
unconscious-based, in contrast to the Vedic consciousness-based model. This also relates to the
view of the bottom line of nature as unconscious, inert, random fluctuations (quantum gravity as
random) versus the unified field as supersymmetric and perfectly orderly (Boyer, 2010). Now,
we will explore human development and how to unfold higher states of consciousness. There is
some redundancy in the discussion, hopefully useful to clarify the quite subtle experiences
Human development in ‘Western’ psychology. The most prominent ‘Western’ theory of
human development is Piaget’s cognitive theory of “formal operational” thought. In this theory,
the highest stage or end-point of human development is abstract reasoning (conventional
semantic representational thought, considered necessary to do science). Also, in ‘Western’
science generally, the fundamental motivation and purpose of life is meaningless biological
survival. Psychological theories of motivation expand this view to account for needs and
intentions that shape behavior. In Maslow’s ‘need hierarchy’ theory, higher-order needs develop
as lower-order needs are met, from physiological, safety, social, and esteem needs to self-
actualization. This extends to a synergistic model in which basic survival needs – deficiency
motivation – support a more inclusive and fundamental need for self-actualization – growth
motivation (Maslow, 1976).
Individual and species survival may adequately characterize motivation in lower animals. But in
humans, survival can be placed into a meaningful context of ethical and moral behavior
consistent with a natural motivation for higher development. Further in this direction,
contemporary theories propose development beyond Piaget’s theory of formal operations
(abstract reasoning) toward self-actualization (Alexander, Langer, 1990; Commons, Richards,
Armon, 1984; Arlin, 1989) (Maslow, 1976; Pascual-Leone, 1990). Related advanced moral
reasoning, called ‘post-representational’ development, is also associated with higher levels of
self-actualization (e.g., Alexander, Langer, 1990; Maslow, 1976; Pascual-Leone, 1990).
Another prominent theory, by psychologist Jane Loevinger (1976), extends Piaget’s theory into
emotional, moral, self/ego, and social development. Individuals at advanced stages in this theory
not only have abstract reasoning skills but also post-representational, self-actualizing and more
holistic integrative experiences. Research has indicated that perhaps less than one percent of the
general population achieves a mature level of self-actualization (Cook-Greuter, 1990).
And another prominent theory, focusing on moral judgment, also extends into post-
representational development. Proposed by psychologists Lawrence Kohlberg and R. A. Ryncarz
(1990), this theory extends Piagetian stages to a higher stage described as a “natural law”
orientation to ethical and moral questions, characterized by belief that “...human responsibilities,
duties, and rights are not arbitrary or dependent upon social convention but are objectively
grounded as laws of nature.” This highest stage is described as not achievable through Piagetian
formal operational thought. Rather, it is theorized to require experiences of transcendence – such
as transpersonal experiences of a connection with the cosmos, toward going deeper into ‘subject-
object duality’ of ordinary waking into more integrative experiences and views of nature.
These theories point to the Vedic model, in terms of an ultimate sense of safety and security. It is
associated with going beyond ordinary waking to the unity underlying the duality of ‘self and
other’. Many ancient cultural, religious, and spiritual traditions hold that permanent fulfillment in
enlightenment is the natural inherent direction of life – not meaningless biological survival. The
survival instinct, hierarchy of needs, and self-actualization are aspects of a super-ordinate
direction toward fulfillment that becomes more evident in higher life forms – an evolutionary
tendency throughout nature, the Vedic principle of Dharma (Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, 1997).
Reports of transcendence appear in the literature of most cultures (Maslow, 1976; James, 1929;
Alexander, Boyer, Alexander, 1987; Alexander, Boyer, 1989; Pearson, 2002). However. until
recent years, it had been quite difficult to investigate such reports using outer (third-person
perspective) ‘objective’ experimental methods. This can be understood to be due to lack of
comprehensive theories to interpret the reports, lack of experimental paradigms to examine the
reports formally, and especially lack of systematic means to replicate the reported experiences
under testing conditions (Alexander, Boyer, 1989). It has been estimated that as little as one-
tenth of one percent of the college population have such experiences (Loevinger, 1976).
In the Vedic model, post-representational development is within the ordinary waking state
(Alexander, Boyer, 1989; Alexander and Langer, 1991). Higher development is facilitated by
direct experience of a 4th natural state of consciousness in addition to the ordinary three states
(Alexander, Boyer, Alexander, 1987; Pearson, 2002; Orme-Johnson, 1988). This 4th state has
been proposed to be at least as fundamental for promoting development beyond representational
thought and abstract reasoning as language and symbol use are for facilitating growth beyond the
basic sensorimotor level to the advanced cognitive level of ‘formal operations’ in Piaget’s theory
(Chandler, Alexander, Heaton, 2005). In this view, however, ‘’transcendence does not refer to
cognitive thoughts and affective feelings such as more cosmic thinking or appreciation of our
world family. Rather, it refers to transcending all mental activity to unbounded inner silence.
Progress to higher states of consciousness and permanent enlightenment. In the Vedic
knowledge tradition, the Darshana (frequently identified by ‘Western’ scholars as the Six
Systems of Indian Philosophy) involve systematic means to develop higher states of
consciousness. The six Darshana (what is ‘seen’) are different perspectives of the totality of
nature. They include Nyaya, Vaishesika, Sankhya, Yoga, Karma Mimansa, and Vedanta. Each
have an extensive historical literature accumulating over perhaps thousands of years if not much
longer. Briefly, Nyaya can be associated generally with clarity of reasoning and logic;
Vaishesika with the basic categories or elements of nature; Sankhya with more detailed
enumeration of ontological levels of existence; Yoga with systematic epistemological means to
gain knowledge through direct experience; Karma Mimansa with careful investigation of the
dynamics of action (karma) and the evolutionary direction of change related to the fundamental
dynamics of nature; and Vedanta (‘end of Veda’) with complete understanding and direct
experience of nature in its ultimate Unity. These Darshana relate to seven states of human
consciousness from ‘ignorance’ to ‘full enlightenment’.
In ‘Western’ psychology, a consensus model of higher human development has not been
achieved. Thus, it has been challenging to comprehend the guidance of purported highly
developed individuals, including perhaps even ‘enlightened’ ones, who seem at times to differ
among themselves, in part due to perspectives expressed in the context of different states of
consciousness. As Maharishi (1972, p. 278) has emphasized, “Knowledge is different in different
states of consciousness.” The differences also may be due in part to different life experiences,
cultural backgrounds, and styles of language expression. Perhaps they are also due to different
levels of development these individuals were born with that led to ‘’enlightenment’ via different
developmental pathways. Hidden in the diversity of life are natural tendencies and sequences.
In the sense of our agreement on many features of waking, dreaming, and sleeping, a similar
consensus can be built for higher states and enlightenment if carefully described. In this light, the
Vedic model provides milestones that clarify characteristics of higher states. Although
developing sequentially, they can be glimpsed in the natural evolutionary process before each
state is fully established. Respecting cultural and language differences, reports of higher states
can be viewed in this Vedic model. In brief and simple terms, the seven states of human
consciousness are distinguishable by the experience of self and environment (‘subject/object’, ‘I’
– ‘it’, ‘self and other’). They are here depicted in a sequence and on a continuum from virtually
no wakefulness to full wakefulness of the totality of nature (Boyer, 2008, p. 408; 2021, p. 311).
Sleep (Sushupti Chetana) – virtually no experience of self or environment
Dreaming (Swapn Chetana) – imaginary individual self and environment
Waking (Jagrat Chetana) – individual self and relative environment
Transcendental consciousness (Turiya Chetana) – unbounded wakefulness, universal Self only
Cosmic consciousness (Turiyatit Chetana) – universal Self and separate relative environment
Refined cosmic consciousness (Bhagavad Chetana) – universal Self and maximum value of relative
Unity consciousness (Brahmi Chetana) – individual self and environment are the universal Self
In this Vedic model, each state of consciousness has its own perspective on phenomenal reality,
also related to the six Darshana. Nyaya, Vaishesika, Sankhya can be associated generally with
progress to an understanding of the 4th state of consciousness, transcendental consciousness –
transcending the ordinary three states. Yoga can be associated with repeated ‘direct experience’
of the 4th state to permanently establish the 5th state of consciousness, cosmic consciousness – the
first stage of enlightenment. Karma Mimansa can be associated with development of the 6th state
of consciousness, refined cosmic consciousness. Vedanta can be associated with the 7th state,
unity consciousness, complete understanding and direct experience of Unity as the pinnacle of
human evolution in full enlightenment. Clearly, this encompasses experiences far beyond
ordinary waking, abstract reasoning, and self-actualization. Also, it places evolution and
promotion of health, happiness, and optimal functioning in a vastly expanded and integrated
framework beyond meaningless survival. And though it extends further many of the core
principles in modern science, it also honors and is consistent with established scientific
knowledge. It is in tackling the most fundamental quandaries now prominent in modern science
that this ancient knowledge tradition makes most profound contributions. It emphasizes the
ultimate unity of nature, in addition to describing in great detail the dynamics of manifestation of
the vast phenomenal diversity of nature within the ultimate unity. Now, we’ll go into detail about
experiences associated with each higher state of consciousness. With respect to a sequence of
higher states, Maharishi (1963) explains:
For anyone to be, it is only necessary to be. No path to one’s own Being could be thought to
exist...because the very conception of a “path” takes one’s self out of one’s Being. The very idea of a
path introduces the conception of something far away, where Being is the essential oneself. A path
means a link between two points, but, in omnipresent cosmic Being, there cannot exist two different
points or states. Omnipresent means “present everywhere”; It pervades everything, and, therefore,
there is absolutely no question of a path.” (p. 270). Certainly, to talk in terms of “path” of realization
of one’s own Being seems to be unjustified, but because all the time in our life the attention is left
outside in the gross relative field of experience, we are as if debarred from the direct experience of the
essential nature of our own Self, or transcendental Being. That is why it is necessary to bring the
attention to the transcendental level of our Being. This bringing the attention is said to be a way to
realize. Thus, although we find the idea of a path to realization absurd metaphysically, it is highly
significant on a practical level.” (p.278).
Sankhya and the 4th natural state of consciousness: Transcendental consciousness. Like
sensory experience, reasoning involves active mentation. Whether thinking about matter, energy,
nothing, the unified field, or God, as well as introspection, self- reflection, or being mindful of
some object of experience, these ‘object-referral’ experiences keep the experiencer in the mental
activity of ordinary waking – ‘subject/object’, ‘self - other’, ‘I’ – ‘it’ duality. In our ‘Age of
Reason and Science’, materialistic and existential views that life is meaningless became
widespread, as if entirely disconnected from the universal unified value of life. This occurs when
only the ‘object-referral’ state is experienced and the scientist/observer remains within the
‘subject-object duality’ of ordinary waking. This certainly doesn’t mean to abandon the
discriminative function of intellect. Rather, it means to refine its functioning such that unity is
not overshadowed by diversity – unity/diversity, wholeness/parts, holism/reductivism,
universal/individual together (Boyer, 2021).
Sages from time immemorial have taught that direct experience of unity is not on the level of
intellectual reasoning alone. It’s not just an idea or a mood to try to maintain in attention on a
thinking or a feeling level. As teacher who has revived the natural ability to transcend to the
direct experience of unity from the ancient Vedic tradition of Yoga, Maharishi has systematized
this ancient means to gain knowledge in the context of modern scientific technology as the
Transcendental Meditation (TM) ® technique. In the past 60 years, it has been the most
extensively researched and validated mental technique for stress reduction, psychological health,
and consciousness development (e.g., Orme-Johnson, 2022; O’Connell, Bevvino, 2015;
Scientific research on Maharishi’s Transcendental Meditation and TM-Sidhi Programme –
collected papers, Vols. 1-5, 1977-90; Dillbeck, 2011; Eppley, Abrams, Shear, 1989; Alexander,
Rainforth, Gelderloos, 1991; Travis, Haaga, Hagelin, Tanner, Arenander, Nidich, Gaylord-King,
Grosswald, Rainforth, Schneider, 2009; Barnes, Treiber, Davis, 2001; Rosenthal, 2011) (Boyer,
Subjective experience in the ordinary waking state typically involves active mental attention
directed outward toward sensory objects. This can be viewed as the opposite of turning inward,
settling mental activity, and transcending to the inner silence of consciousness itself.
Transcending is described as an effortless process of allowing the mind to relax and naturally
settle to its least excited ground state – like a wave settling back into the unbounded ocean.
As a simple comparison, included in the ability to run is the ability to slow down; and included
in the ability to slow down and run less strenuously is the ability to stand still. Included in the
ability to talk is the ability to talk softer, and to be silent. Likewise, included in the ability to
think is the natural ability to settle to inner stillness – to effortlessly transcend all mental activity
of thinking and feeling to the underlying least excited ground state of the mind.
This process is held in Vedic knowledge to be a natural and inherent capability of the human
nervous system and mind. It is described in the well-known classic text Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras
as the practice of completely settling mental fluctuations to the state of samadhi. Experimental
and experiential research supports ancient Vedic references to this transcendent state as a distinct
4th state of consciousness (turiya chetana) – also identified in Vedic literature by various terms
such as Atma, para chetana, and parame vyoman. However, it’s been rarely experienced due to
ingrained belief that it is quite difficult to attain, both in secular and non-secular traditions.
Maharishi (1963) has explained that there has been wide-spread misunderstanding of how the
mind effortlessly settles to the inner silent state of samadhi. In trying to still the mind, the typical
experience is that it shifts from one object of experience to another. Long traditions have been
established based on belief that the mind must be controlled to attain inner stillness, and that it is
difficult to achieve. In contrast, Maharishi has emphasized that transcending involves deeper
relaxation in an effortless process that avoids sensory, emotional, or intellectual processing that
keep the mind on active surface levels. It’s so simple as to have been overlooked for millennia by
interpreters of the Veda as well as of other ancient traditions. Without this effortless practice, the
comprehensive, transformational benefits of regular meditation are not gained. The contrast
between the inner silent transcendent 4th state of consciousness and active mental states is also
becoming clearer through direct experimental comparisons. Some mental practices correlate with
increased gamma synchrony, proposed as the best measurable neural correlate of consciousness
(e.g., Hameroff, 2008; Stapp, 2007). This view is consistent with the ordinary waking state
understanding and experience of consciousness as being aware of some object of experience. But
this EEG pattern appears to be correlated with mental excitation, not with reported transcendence
to the 4th state of consciousness, which involves peak alpha power indicative of restful alertness,
spreading over the scalp in global coherence (Orme-Johnson, 2022; Travis, Arenander, 2006;
Alexander, Rainforth, Gelderloos, 1991; Travis, Shear, 2010).
Vedic Yoga extends fundamental knowledge of the lawfulness and orderliness of nature from the
outer natural world to include the inner natural world of subjective mind. It also extends the
fundamental requirement of the empirical testability of theories to the deepest levels of the mind.
Deeper knowledge of mind and of consciousness itself is verifiable through direct empirical
experience – in addition to indirect objective experimental methods. It can be described as direct
experiential science, in addition to indirect experimental science. Maharishi (1997) describes
similarities and differences between these means of gaining knowledge:
Science is universal. The terms ‘eastern science’ and ‘western science’ simply denote
different approaches to the object of inquiry, different approaches to knowing and to
living the reality of life... Western science is the investigation of reality through a purely
objective approach, while eastern science is the subjective investigation into the nature of
consciousness, the field of pure subjectivity, in order to systematically gain the knowledge
of the whole creation and live fulfillment in life... Western science rejects any trace of
subjectivity on the path of investigation because the observer’s state of awareness differs according to
the condition of his nervous system and when this changing subjective
element is involved in perception, perception will never by reliable... The subjective approach to
knowledge aspires to create a state of consciousness that does not change. On
the basis of this steady, non-changing value of consciousness...the observer’s perception
and evaluation of reality is always reliable... Through the eastern approach to knowledge
it is possible for every man to be a scientist, a knower of truth, by developing that non-
changing state of consciousness as a permanent reality (pp. 122-123).
According to this Vedic view, the ordinary waking state provides a fragmented conditional
experience of reality – the ‘state of ignorance’ – that can be understood to be quite unreal and
incomplete with respect to the full range of states of human consciousness. The outer-directed
focus of ‘object-referral’ can become so entrained that the only experiences of alertness are in
active thinking and memory, with virtually no clear experience of the deeper underlying
processes of knowing and knower. Alertness is associated only with active processing of objects
of experience, which fosters belief that the active mind is the only possible experience of
alertness. Relaxing and settling down is habitually associated with sleep and loss of alertness.
But in the delicate and subtle process of experiencing deeper levels of thought, the mind relaxes
its ordinary outer-directed focus and naturally settles to lesser excited interior states while
alertness is maintained. As the object of knowledge and process of knowing settle to the ground
state of the mind, the conceptual boundaries of ordinary active thinking are transcended. The
experiencer or ‘I’ then directly experiences the basis of her or his mental activity and sense of
self. Through this natural settling process – involving less excitation or effort – the individual
mind naturally settles to the underlying background of consciousness itself, unmixed with mental
activity. The common experience that the mind is more orderly and coherent when it is in a calm
but alert state is extended to its most coherent, settled, and alert ground state (Boyer, 2008,
This least excited state of the mind is experientially neither a state of sleep nor hypnotic trance. It
is a natural state of unbounded inner wakefulness. It is the simplest form of awareness, the direct
experience of the knower without any separate object of knowing. It is ‘self-referral’ because it
is the direct experience of no ‘object of experience’ other than consciousness itself – which is in
distinct contrast to ‘object-referral’ reflective or self-reflective thought (Boyer, 2008).
The phrase ‘direct experience’ as used here doesn’t refer to impressions the mind receives from
the senses or memory. All mental activity including perception, cognition, affect, memory, and
intuition is transcended. That ‘direct experience’ is outside of the boundaries of ordinary time
and space, and outside of conceptual and contextual limitations of individual mind. It is beyond
the division of ‘subject/object’ duality, beyond the ‘I’ – ‘it’ distinction. If it is to be described in
terms of subjective experience with some form or content, it can be described as ‘direct
experience’ of consciousness itself, beyond any object of experience other than itself. As we
unfold deeper levels of nature in deeper levels of experience, it becomes clearer that the concept
of empirical experience not only applies to familiar, ordinary sensory experience; it also includes
subtler, more refined and holistic levels of thinking and feeling and direct transcendent
‘experience’ beyond mental activity. Consciousness itself is described as the unified ‘self-
referral’ state in which the ‘known’ and ‘process of knowing’ naturally refer back to their basis
in the ‘knower’. It is a completely different state than ‘object-referral’ and distinct from
reflective, self-reflective, self-referential, and introspective thinking (Travis, Shear, 2010).
This 4th natural state of consciousness also is called transcendental consciousness because it
transcends or goes beyond all objects and processes of knowing and boundaries of mental
content – while alertness, wakefulness, or awareness remains. But it is transcending inside
deeper levels of mind to its all-time underlying silent basis. That simplest state is also called
pure consciousness, which suggests it is ‘directly experienced’ independent from any
experiential content or qualia. This may be difficult to comprehend if the state has not been
‘directly experienced’, because being conscious is ordinarily and habitually associated with some
content in awareness – awareness of some ‘object of experience’. In ordinary waking, typically
conscious experience is taken to be an intentional state that inherently has some content. In
contrast, the 4th state can be said to be non-conceptual, beyond content and intention, beyond
being aware of some outer ‘object.’ If it is thought of as necessarily having content, then the
content is nothing other than itself – conscious only of itself. If it is thought of as necessarily
intentional, it intends only to itself, with no other object of intent – completely ‘self-referral’
(Boyer, 2008, 2021).
The clarity of that simplest state is influenced by the condition of the mind and body
accompanying it at the time. Initially, it might be described as a brief period of no clear thoughts
but not sleep, remaining wakeful inside. It also might be described as a vague but comfortable
sense of inner quiescence; or a deep inner silence or stillness; or a moment of inner bliss; or a
clear period of no thoughts; or a period of ‘bare awareness’; or ‘experience’ without content; or
perhaps ‘direct experience’ of pure unbounded non-conceptual alertness. Through repeated
transcending, the ‘direct experience’ and descriptions of this simplest state become clearer
Transcending involves many levels of subjective experience, from closing the eyes and thinking
to the entire range of subtler, refined thoughts and feelings, and the transcendent state. No
particular experiences are be expected, except generally the natural tendency for mental activity
to settle if it is allowed to do so. Typically, the boundaries of discrete thoughts and feelings ease
or melt into deeper relaxation, inner peace, and moments or extended periods of pure unbounded
wakefulness. Although the mechanics of the TM technique don’t change through time, regular
practice typically results in increasing frequency, clarity, and duration of transcendental
consciousness. Initially, however, as well as at other times depending on the conditions of mind
and body, transcendental consciousness may be brief. It’s generally not that the mind
immediately settles to transcendental consciousness and remains there during an entire session of
the practice, though this sometimes does occur. It is typically a dynamic process of relaxation
and increasing subtlety of thoughts and feelings, softer and softer thinking, with periods of
unbounded consciousness itself. Commonly, there’s a deep sense of relaxation, freshness, and
expanded alertness after practice. Though systematic development is emphasized here, on a
practical level it needs to be recognized that progress may seem chaotic and frustratingly
unpredictable at times. Most often, it takes regular practice over an extended period to develop to
the stage in which mental activity can occur simultaneously with underlying unbounded
transcendental consciousness. This is due to restrictions from accumulated deep-rooted stress,
strain, and lack of mind/body refinement. Maharishi (1967) explains further:
Self has two connotations: lower self and higher Self. The lower self is that aspect of the
personality which deals only with the relative aspect of existence. It comprises the mind
that thinks, the intellect that decides, the ego that experiences. This lower self functions
only in the relative states of existence—waking, dreaming and deep sleep... The higher
Self is that aspect of the personality which never changes, absolute Being, which is the
very basis of the entire field of relativity, including the lower self... A man who wants to
master himself has to master the lower self first and then the higher Self. Mastering the
lower self means taking the mind from the gross fields of existence to the subtler fields,
until the subtlest field of relative existence is transcended (p. 339).
The difficulty of identifying the nature of consciousness in modern science has been due to
lack of systematic reliable means to isolate consciousness from the mental activity of ordinary
waking experiences of thoughts, feelings, and memories. Based on personal descriptions and
theoretical vantage points, many seem at best to have only a very foggy, conflated sense of mind
and consciousness. Presumably this is due to lack of systematic experience of the deepest levels
of mind and underlying transcendent nature of consciousness itself. The TM technique reliably
provides these experiences, and thus has been invaluable for experimental research on states of
consciousness. The waking state is characterized by experience of some separate object, the
dream state basically by experience of illusory objects, the deep sleep state basically by virtually
no experience, and transcendental consciousness by awareness without a separate object of
experience – the “self-referral” 4th state in which consciousness refers only to itself.
Millions of TM practitioners around the world have reported transcendence to the 4th state of
consciousness (Alexander, Boyer, 1989; Orme-Johnson, 1988, 1995; Wilber, 1998). Reports of
even higher state experiences in the direction of enlightenment also are being researched
(Wallace, 1986; Alexander, Boyer, 1989; Alexander, Langer, 1990; Travis, Arenander, 2006).
Results of major tests of the Vedic model of human development have appeared in peer-
reviewed journals (Chandler, Alexander, et al., 2005; Alexander, Rainforth, Gelderloos, 1991;
Alexander, Cranson, et al., 1986). For example, research showing increased EEG coherence in
TM practitioners is positively correlated with emotional stability and moral maturity (Travis,
Haaga, et al., 2009; Travis, Arenander, 2006; Chandler, Alexander, et. al, 2005).
Although consciousness itself is a natural ‘direct experience’, it can be difficult to understand
within the limitations of ordinary, active, ‘object-referral’ experience. The thought of the state
and ‘direct experience’ of the state frequently can be blurred. This concerns the general difficulty
of comprehending stages of development outside the current range of experience, a phenomenon
related to paradigm blindness. Though this may be challenging for many, not understanding how
the mind effortlessly and naturally settles to inner silence has resulted in a long history of
confusion in mental and spiritual development. In trying to still the mind, the common
experience is that the mind is fickle and wandering. Traditions have developed based on the view
that the mind must be controlled to attain inner stillness. Methods based on this common view
apply forms of contemplation – reflective thinking on some idea or object of attention – and
concentration – effortful focus on a particular object such as an image or the breath. In contrast,
an essential Vedic principle revived by Maharishi (1963, 1967) is that transcending is
accomplished through lesser and lesser mental activity and softer thinking without effort.
Effortlessness is essential for the efficacy of TM practice. Transcending is described as relaxing,
enjoyable, and frequently blissful. Spontaneously maintaining transcendent inner silence requires
purifying the mind-body system of deep-rooted imbalances, which allows the experiencer to stay
in the deeply settled state of inner silence for more than brief episodes – and eventually
permanently as an unbounded inner wakefulness in the fifth, sixth, and seventh states of
consciousness. The TM technique is designed to avoid mental effort or engaging in sensory,
intellectual, or emotional activity that can interfere with the natural settling process and even
prevent transcendence. Though simple and natural, it is subtle, and in vivo instruction by a
certified TM teacher is required.
When increasingly fulfilled from the inside, more freedom and less bondage to the inevitable
gains and losses of daily living grows automatically over time from deeper within the inner self.
Growing awareness and contentment spontaneously develop such qualities as self-sufficiency,
compassion, acceptance, and non-attachment. Ultimately, inner bliss is said to be the foundation
for natural freedom from all boundaries, even while living daily in the midst of boundaries on the
From the deep ground state of the mind, healing mechanisms that remove obstacles to healthy
functioning are naturally activated, similar to how sleep and dreaming rejuvenate from fatigue.
Research has shown that sub-periods during which subjects report having experienced the 4th
state of consciousness are positively correlated with breath quiescence or virtual breath
suspension indicative of profound physiological rest. They also are positively correlated with
simultaneous increases in skin conductance and peak alpha EEG power, indicative of a unique
integrative state of deep rest and increased alertness (Travis, Wallace, 1987; Badawi, Wallace, et
al., 1984; Farrow, Hebert, 1982). Advances in neurophysiological findings on EEG coherence
and brain integration show that EEG alpha coherence and synchrony are positively correlated
with neural integration and improved mental health, such as emotional stability and moral
maturity (Travis, Arenander, 2006). Extensive research has accumulated also in areas such as the
neuroendocrinology of stress, stress reactivity, cardiovascular health, rehabilitation, substance
abuse, academic performance, IQ, cognitive efficiency, ADHD, posttraumatic stress, and
reduced anxiety and depression (Dillbeck, 2011; Deans, 2005; Nader, 2000; Alexander,
Robinson, Rainforth, 1994) – as well as a wide range of positive effects on mental and physical
health (O’Connell, Bevvino, 2015).
With sufficient degree of deep rest, biochemical and structural imbalances in the nervous system
are said to dissolve naturally, termed the process of normalization. Correspondingly, this activity
in the body brings attention outward into active thinking again. Because there can be many
different thoughts arising during TM practice subsequent to processes of normalization, they
don’t facilitate it, attention is not placed on them, and time is not spent on analyzing them. On
occasion, some of the resulting thoughts subsequent to stress reduction can be somewhat
distressing or uncomfortable. Alertness is understood to be expanded and stronger when
experiencing deeply settled states, and the strongest when mental activity is transcended. This is
said to strengthen the mind during normalizing processes, and procedures are included to
maintain correct effortless practice and to smooth out such experiences (Boyer, 2012).
The TM technique has been taught to a wide range of individuals with different educational,
religious and cultural backgrounds in diverse conditions and venues – including prisons,
psychiatric wards, substance abuse treatment programs, nursing homes, as well as discipline-
challenged school settings. Extensive research shows significant benefits across these
challenging groups and settings. In addition, insurance statistics indicate that utilization rates for
many chronic medical and psychiatric conditions are lower in regular TM practitioners compared
to matched samples from the general population (Dillbeck, 2011; Orme-Johnson, 1995, 1987).
These findings document its safety and wide applicability (Boyer, 2008).
To keep TM practice simple and avoid straining or interfering expectations, the emphasis is on
cumulative benefits outside of the practice, with gradual progress as expanded awareness grows
underneath, in the background of mental activity, and naturally integrates it. Vedic principles
emphasize gentle naturalness to refine and integrate consciousness, mind, and body. Effortless
transcending is the holistic active ingredient. If transcending to pure consciousness is not
experienced, the practice needs to checked by a certified TM teacher to re-establish
Over time, with repeated experience of transcendental consciousness, the mind and body develop
spontaneous ability to maintain degrees of mental activity along with the unbounded inner silent
transcendent state. The refinement that naturally results from regular transcending eventually
purifies the mind/body system to maintain pure consciousness spontaneously all the time –
without attending to or thinking about it. This is the foundation for permanent higher states of
consciousness historically associated with enlightenment (Maharishi, 1963, 1967). Maharishi
(1967, p. 444) has emphasized: “Transcending thought is infinitely more valuable than thinking”.
[It seems appropriate here to add a personal note about my own experiences. I have had
experiences of the higher states described in this paper. But to be clear, I don’t claim to be
established in any permanent stage of enlightenment, and don’t want to give even a vague
impression of it. My knowledge of these states comes from careful listening and inquiry to
Maharishi as my and many other peoples’ teacher, my personal development from regularly
practicing the Vedic technologies he revived and taught, and their consistency with my studies of
modern science at its current stage of development. Also, it was my great fortune to work
directly with Maharishi in not-for-profit organizations to make the benefits of his much-needed
re-clarification of Veda available around the world. This work focused on administrative detail,
but also involved engaging in inner development. Being with Maharishi, and practicing what I
learned, at times I had higher state experiences (e.g., such as deep unbounded awareness and
inner freedom, clarity of thought, extended witnessing, as well as radiant golden waves of bliss,
‘celestial light’, and other very subtle experiences definitely were more real than any of my
ordinary life experiences). I continue to practice the Vedic technologies because what I was
taught, at least thus far, has been consistently validated by my own empirical experiences and by
teaching others – while also dealing with the many challenges of daily living, and increasingly
enjoying my loving family, friends, and work. It’s the most useful thing I do – for me and at the
same time for my active practical contributing to a better world.]
Yoga and the 5th natural state of consciousness: cosmic consciousness. Historically
fundamental to Indian traditions, today perhaps the most recognized aspect of the Vedic tradition
is Yoga. The word yoga has become popular world-wide with growing interest in healthier
lifestyles and the mind-body connection. Frequently, the emphasis is on the aspect of Yoga
associated with light physical exercise and body postures, asanas. Less emphasized is yoga as a
systematic technology to develop the mind directly. Yoga, as one of the Darshana, can be
associated with epistemology in terms of means to gain knowledge through direct experience
(Maharishi, 1967). ‘Yoga’ can be interpreted as ‘to yoke,’ ‘bind together,’ or bring into ‘union’
the individual self and universal Self, individual and universal consciousness.
In Vedic Yoga, unified experience of nature develops in higher states of consciousness. It also
fosters natural experiences of more refined feeling, thinking, and subtle perception.
Enlightenment involves permanent growth to the state in which the individual self is no longer
overshadowed by the ups and downs of daily life. Inner contentment brings balance and freedom
spontaneously, not practice of a mood or intentional mental state or ideas of non-attachment,
equanimity, or unity (Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, 1963, 1967). Permanent establishment of balance
of mind and simple non-attachment is due to the stabilization of bliss and inner happiness that
comes from direct contact with the cosmic value of the individual self – permanent unbounded
awareness in the 5th state of consciousness, the first stage of enlightenment.
Eventually, this more integrated style of mind-body functioning includes spontaneously
maintaining pure consciousness during waking and dreaming, and then even during deep sleep.
This doesn’t mean no longer sleeping. It means refining mind and body to allow the restful
rejuvenation of sleep while also maintaining continuity of unbounded awareness as the inner
silent background witness of all experiences in daily life. Deeply-rooted ‘clouds’ of stress that
limited coherent mind-body functioning are eliminated, and inner unboundedness becomes
Thus, one important criterion of growth toward stabilization of the 5th natural state of
consciousness – cosmic consciousness – is the spontaneous experience of witnessing, especially
maintaining inner wakefulness as a deep inner background continuum even during deep sleep.
This experience is clearly distinct from such experiences as light sleep, or lucid dreaming.
The ever changing is the form: the changeless is the reality. It is the awareness that
remains continuous and unbroken throughout waking, dreaming and sleep...just as space remains
continuous and unbroken within a house, through the wall and outside the house (and in the sky) (The
Concise Bhagavatam, 1989, p. 3).
‘Witnessing’ the natural cycles of waking, dreaming, and sleep may sound very unfamiliar, and
even perhaps might seem sort of uncomfortable. As one grows in establishing pure
consciousness permanently, at first there may be periods of feeling distant and less involved in
daily activities. It can be sort of like the changes associated with engaging in a routine to the
point where it no longer takes focal attention, just doing something automatically while focal
attention is on other things. But it is different in that deeper inside and underneath is
unboundedness of awareness itself, an inner freedom without individual restrictions. This
expanded state of inner unboundedness, along with engagement in other activities and
experiences in daily life, becomes appreciated as the normal, natural blissful state of inner
unbounded freedom in daily life.
To further clarify the inner experience of witnessing, it may be helpful to distinguish it from
other concepts given increased attention in psychological literature that might seem similar, such
as being in the ‘zone’, or of ‘flow’, or ‘lucid’ dreaming. These experiences are described as
involving ego separation or of watching ordinary activity. The experience of being in the ‘zone’
is described as a state of quiet observation of the smooth flow of one’s own dynamic behavior,
associated with ‘peak performance’. These experiences represent development of mind-body
coordination, frequently through extensive physical conditioning. Although quite positive
experiences, they rarely are accompanied by reports of clear unbounded awareness. The natural
experience of witnessing activity in cosmic consciousness is unbounded wakefulness in addition
to individual self-observation, memories, feelings, thoughts, perceptions, and bodily sensations.
Experiences of suffering or happiness are associated with what we identify ourselves to be.
Success and failure come and go, like sunshine and rain, according to the results of current and
past actions. If we identify with these changing processes, we ride the waves of change,
sometimes the peak and sometimes the trough. Identifying with the physical body, we experience
ourselves as going through the cycle of growth, youthful vitality, tiredness, aging, and death. If
we identify with our jobs, our house, our car, our family, our life partners, or our inner thoughts,
feelings, or memories, then we feel ourselves as going through the temporary ups and downs
associated with them – eventually they all fade away. But behind all of these changes is a deep
inner sense that we are the same self that experiences and observes these changes – who ‘I’ am.
At its deepest essence, that sense of self is never-changing – it is pure Being, lived by an
individual, that will never go away, never be lost, never end, never be annihilated (Maharishi
Mahesh Yogi, 1967).
As we grow to cosmic consciousness, the experience of happiness is based on inner fulfillment
through direct contact with unbounded awareness – not outer success in daily activity. There is
increasingly less reliance on outer performance and successful outcomes as the basis for
attributions of happiness, but rather inner wholeness and spontaneous experience of inner bliss in
the midst of any outcome on the relative field of behavior. At the same time, increased success in
daily life – generally along with improved health and enriching relationships with others – also
results naturally with this profound inner development. Successes and losses due to action –
although fully experienced and even more enjoyed – lose their power to overshadow the inner
sense of universal Self. Happiness comes from within, as inner bliss.
In the natural progress to higher stages of human development, the local individual self expands
to its universal status. It can be described as unifying with the infinite value that is always in
each point value, no longer overshadowed by identification with the point value of the individual
ego. Not being overshadowed doesn’t mean no longer existing as an individual self. As
Maharishi (2003) states, “The individual is cosmic.” This means the individual is comprised of
all levels of nature from the most inert material elements to the infinite eternal unity. This
recognition develops in cosmic consciousness – like the sun’s radiance encompasses starlight,
but doesn’t eliminate it. Maharishi (1980) states:
[T]he mind in Samādhi does not get extinct; it expands… The Jīva becomes Brahm [Totality]. It
doesn’t mean the Jīva gets lost and extinct, but it only expands; it’s the expansion of individuality….
In the cycle of the flow of energy through each of us, there is an outward flow of feelings and
thoughts, goals and plans, into action; and an inward flow of evaluation of the results of the
actions and some degree of fulfillment. The results of actions leave fewer binding impressions as
we develop natural inner fulfillment. It is not, however, that the ordinary cycles of the outward
and inward flow of energy and intelligence stop, or that desires cease, or that behavior
completely changes from the view of outside observers. There is said to be no particular
behavioral indicators of an individual who is permanently established in enlightenment
(Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, 1967). But there is a spontaneous direction for such highly developed
individuals to be motivated to engage in activity for the benefit of all humankind rather than
exclusively for personal gain – because one’s own life is already established in the benefit that
would come from achievement of additional individual goals. Again, Maharishi emphasizes this
is not based on any desire, mood, self-reflection, or any mental intention or attitude. It is a
spontaneous experience associated with a new integrated style of stress-free physiological
functioning. A powerful and full range of emotions, including profound empathy and
compassion, can be experienced and expressed, but they are not accompanied by any feelings of
being overshadowed or suffering deep inside.
A growing body of physiological and psychological research shows that the predicted
characteristics of cosmic consciousness increase with TM practice and its advanced programs.
These findings suggest development toward stress-free functioning, increased happiness and
fulfillment, and spontaneous skill in action. This doesn’t mean people no longer feel stressed and
tired, but that the stress is not deeply-rooted, does not accumulate, and is more easily reduced.
These findings are also positively correlated with reports of stabilization of transcendental
consciousness in daily activity and reports of the growth of witnessing sleep. Survey research has
indicated as high as 80% of long-term TM practitioners report some degree of experience of
witnessing sleep. (Cranson, 1989; Gackenbach, Cranson, Alexander, 1986). Studies also have
shown positive correlations between reported frequency of experiences of witnessing and length
of time practicing the TM program (Cranson, 1989), positively correlated with psychological
development such as creativity, efficiency of cognitive processing, and resilience as natural by-
products of mind-body refinement (Orme-Johnson, Clements, et al.,1977; Cranson, 1989.)
Previous reference was made to Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras as an important Vedic text that describes
the yogic practice of effortless transcending – settling to the unbounded inner silence of samadhi.
This text also describes direct experiences that naturally result from advanced yogic practices as
samadhi (pure consciousness) becomes permanently stabilized. When the mind-body system
becomes optimally refined, it develops the ability to maintain pure consciousness along with the
finest level of mental impulses of feeling and thought. Then specific practices, called ‘sidhis,’
result in special abilities not ordinarily developed.
In a scientific context, the Yoga Sutras serve not only as practical means to develop higher states
of consciousness, but also importantly as empirical tests of the degree to which higher states
have been stabilized. The Yoga Sutras relate to verification that the individual’s state of
consciousness is developed enough to produce tangible physical effects by mental intention.
They provide systematic empirical means to validate that mental reality is more fundamental
than physical reality, and that both are nothing other than the phenomenal fluctuations of
consciousness itself. (Helpful quotes from different individuals describing their own higher state
experiences are included in Bridge to Unity: Unified Field- Based Science and Spirituality; more
extensively in Craig Pearson’s The Supreme Awakening: Experiences of Enlightenment
Throughout Time and How You Can Cultivate Them; and most thoroughly explained in
Maharishi Mahesh Yogi On the Bhagavad-Gita: A New Translation and Commentary, Chapters
As a scientist and particularly as a student of physics, I find it quite reasonable that the existing laws
of nature have a level which comes into direct contact with human consciousness and which opens
entirely new possibilities for the direct interaction of the mental and the physical realms. Everything
we know about scientific theory, especially in the past fifty years, points in this direction... The new
and higher technology Maharishi is teaching today simply goes to a deeper level where consciousness
and human physiology are involved directly rather than indirectly. I am confident that when the
classic siddhis or supernormal powers are fully analysed, they will be seen to form a continuous
extension of science rather than a contradiction to it (Domash, 1977, p.3).
The natural tendency of the mind to go toward a field of greater happiness, the evolutionary
tendency throughout nature that underlies effortless transcending, also is the principle that
stabilizes the 5th state of consciousness. The individual naturally wants to sustain fullness of
bliss. When permanent, it is called cosmic consciousness because it simultaneously encompasses
the full range of cosmic existence – the non-changing universal Self along with all the changing
relative values of individual living. It is all-time stabilization of the 4th state, but no longer a
sense of transcending in settling mental fluctuations because one is the unbounded ocean of
consciousness (Nader, 2021) – fully awake to the core of oneself that is universal Being.
However, in this state there remains an experiential gap between these two levels: the individual
self is awake to the universal Self, but is a silent observer or witness to everything else. The
experience is cosmic in that the entire range of ever-changing and never-changing nature is
included, but is experienced in terms of dual features of the universal Self: the ultimate non-
changing level of nature and everything else as the constantly changing outer world. This natural
state may be clarified further by contrasting it with the characteristic waking state experience of
the independence of object and subject fundamental to the modern scientific concept of
‘objectivity’. Although again Einstein, for example, believed that the independence of subject
and object was a crucial foundation for science, in quantum theory this particular form of the
assumption of independence of observer and observed is no longer adequate. Now, however, we
can consider this deeper form of separation or gap that is a defining feature of experience in the
5th state of consciousness, cosmic consciousness. Now, the gap is between the non-changing
universal Self, which the individual self is fully in union (yoga) with, and the relative ever-
changing world that is witnessed. This is in distinct contrast to separation of objectivity and
individual subjectivity typical of the ordinary waking state of ‘subject-object’, ‘I’ - ‘it’ duality.
From the historical perspective of modern science, the independence of subject and object is
associated with the experience that the ‘objective’ world is somehow more real – in the sense of
more substantial, reliable, and consistent – than subjectivity. This has to do with the
objectification of nature, associated with the experience that inner subjectivity varies
dramatically – such as between sleep and waking – and is more changeable than the outer natural
Relatively speaking, the ‘objective’ world seems to remain as it is whether we are in one mood
or another, asleep or awake, experiencing it or not. In the constantly changing experiences of the
three ordinary states of consciousness, subjectivity varies significantly and thus seems in this
sense to be less stable and reliable than the ‘objective world’. This is due, however, to lack of
experience of the infinitely stable underpinning of the individual self – the universal Self. The
‘objective’ world is ephemeral – variable and constantly changing, and thus not a basis for
In ordinary waking, there is a fundamental sense that conscious experience is somehow separate
from the ‘objective’ world. The full significance of this inner sense of the independence of the
subject from the objects of experience becomes clear in the 5th state of consciousness. In this
state, the individual self no longer identifies with the constantly changing values of feelings,
thinking, and perception associated with ordinary experience of relative daily life. Rather, the
individual self realizes and is spontaneously established in full wakefulness of the universal Self,
the eternally non-changing, uninvolved background of all phenomenal change – without even
thinking about it.
Again, however, the separateness in ordinary waking between the inner individual self and the
outer natural world is not the same separateness as in the 5th state of consciousness. In this state,
the separation is between the unbounded universal Self each individual is fully established in and
everything else in relative existence – including the inner mental activity of memories, intuitions,
feelings, thoughts, sensory perceptions, as well as everything outside the individual self in the
entire cosmos. In the non-changing inner silence of the universal Self, the changing relative
values of life are witnessed. Thus, there can be said to be a phenomenal experience of separation
of subject and object in the 5th state of consciousness. But hopefully it is quite clear this gap in
experience is a completely different and much more profound state than in the ordinary waking
state experience of individual ‘subject-object duality’– the difference between ‘ignorance’ and
The worthy aspiration of scientists to be ‘objective’ in the sense of consistent and unbiased is
fully realized in the non-changing subjectivity of the individual self as the universal Self in the
state of enlightenment – permanent subjective consistency. Cosmic consciousness can be
understood to be the eternally stable and consistent platform of pure subjectivity from which
undistorted, unbiased observations of nature can be made. Systematic unbiased observation of
nature can be said to begin in its full sense in this first stage of enlightenment. It evolves to the
next higher state, the 6th state of consciousness, associated with analysis of the nature of change
in relative manifest creation, and naturally attending to subtler, more refined and fulfilling values
of the ‘objects of experience’.
In the first stage of enlightenment, the 5th state of consciousness, the infinite, eternal, non-
changing universal Self is real – always existing and never changing. It is who ‘I’ really am. In
this state, the ephemeral relative world of change can be said to be comparatively unreal –
always changing and never the same. This is basically the opposite of the experience of
consistency of objectivity and inconsistency of subjectivity in ordinary waking. If experience of
permanent unbounded awareness has not become the natural spontaneous inner background of
daily living, then this first stage of enlightenment has not yet been established. As it does, growth
to the 6th state unfolds.
Karma Mimansa and the 6th natural state of consciousness: Refined cosmic consciousness.
Modern science conceptualizes nature in levels from the gross macroscopic level through
molecular, atomic, and subatomic structures to abstract quantum fields and now ultimately the
theorized unified field. In Vedic science, the full range of these phenomenal levels and structures
span three domains – gross relative, subtle relative, and transcendent domains or levels in a
nested hierarchy. To its great credit, modern physics is attempting to characterize in
mathematical form the transcendent level, the unified field of nature. This theoretical
understanding is based on reductive analysis of the gross level of matter to its most fundamental
constituents, and then through abstract mathematical reasoning to the theorized unified field.
At the current stage, fundamental issues remain about how to connect unified field theory with
the classical microscopic and macroscopic world. Much of the cutting edge of the theoretical
work is trying to fill in the gap between these two realms. The progress has been from atoms to
elementary particles, wavicles, strings to the smallest quantum of spacetime, the Planck scale.
And progress is now toward subtle ‘non-particlized’ wave-field fluctuations below the Planck
scale that permeate relativistic quantized spacetime, in which energy and intelligence, substance
and form, are inherently more integrated. This work recognizes the necessity of accounting for
mind and consciousness. Theories are now developing that propose a subtler more abstract
information space, medium, ‘aether’, or field of nonlocal mind further underlain by the
completely abstract unmanifest unified field.
It’s quite challenging to envision non-physical, nonlocal mind subtler than the physical brain. In
the ordinary waking state, it feels like our mind is behind our eyes in the brain, as a localized
subjective ‘screen of the mind.’ In higher states, this ‘screen’ includes subtler sensory
experiences, along with the inner sense of ‘self’ as the background observer of the ‘screen.’ In
even higher stages, it is experienced as an unbounded, nonlocal observer of all levels of nature.
This means that our daily experience is then not restricted to a view of nature from a localized
inner individual experiencer. But this purported higher state is so far beyond the ordinary waking
state that attributes ‘self’ to a localized area centered somewhere in the brain that even the notion
of nonphysical, nonlocal mind permeating the physical can be hard to conceive (Boyer, 2008).
Fortunately, there is growing recognition of wholeness and unity as the basis of the parts of
nature (Hagelin, 1987, 1989). In unified field theory, the source of everything is an abstract field
of order, which can be said to be the opposite of fundamental randomness. As this holistic
understanding grows, it can reverse disintegrating trends from cultural relativism and existential
meaninglessness. In a somewhat analogous sense, it can be compared to the duality that
characterizes spontaneous inner experience in cosmic consciousness. In this state, the individual
self is fully established in the universal Self, pure Being, the unified field of all of nature. That
pure Being is the non-changing eternal witness of the ever-changing relative field of existence.
The natural process of growth from the 5th state to the 6th state involves further refinement in
perception such that the gap associated with the duality of universal Self and everything else is
narrowed. The gap between the unified field and ordinary classical experience can be related to
the ‘subject -object’ gap in ordinary sensory experience. This gap is expressed also in the mind-
body problem and the measurement problem. The means to bridge the gap is the direct
experience of the unified field of consciousness and deep experiences of the subtle levels
underlying ordinary classical sensory experience. These experiences naturally unfold with
refinement of mind and body, in which the full range of levels of nature is experienced and the
gap is increasingly bridged. Sometimes they seem to come in spurts of clarity, then fade; and
sometimes they just spontaneously occur sort of ‘out of the blue’ as a moment of deep insightful
perception of nature.
The 6th state of consciousness is referred to as refined cosmic consciousness because it involves
maximum refinement in experience of the relative ever-changing field of activity witnessed by
the infinite unbounded self-referral consciousness. The highest, most refined values of the
phenomenal relative objects of experience become increasingly appreciated. Maharishi (1967)
In the state of cosmic consciousness, the Self is experienced as separate from activity. This state of
life in perfect non-attachment is based on bliss-consciousness, by virtue of which the qualities of the
heart have gained their most complete development. Universal love then dominates the heart...the
silent ocean of bliss, the silent ocean of love, begins to rise in waves of devotion. The heart in its state
of eternal contentment begins to move, and this begins to draw everything together and eliminate the
gulf of separation between the Self and activity. The Union of all diversity in the Self begins to grow.
Before gaining that state, this finest value is hidden from view because our vision falls only on the
surface of the objects. When only the surface value of perception is open to our awareness, then the
boundaries of the object are rigid and well-defined – the only qualities that are perceived are those
which distinguish the object from the rest of the environment. However, when the unbounded
awareness becomes established on the level of the conscious mind – we have seen that this is the fifth
state of consciousness – then the perception naturally begins to appreciate deeper values of the object,
until perception is so refined that the finest relative is capable of being spontaneously perceived on
the gross, surface level (p, 307).
This 6th state is also referred to as God consciousness. This emphasizes the natural ability of the
individual in this state to perceive directly the entire range of gross and subtle levels of creation.
It includes the subtlest, most refined expressions of nature that permeate all the immense
diversity of subtle and gross levels of creation. There is complete opening of love for the beauty,
harmony, grandeur, and holiness of nature. Unrestricted appreciation develops of the divine
qualities of creation that can be only received in reverence and devotion. It is full acceptance in
one’s heart and mind of the omnipresent, omniscient, omnipotent glory of the entirety of creation
– creator, process of creation, and creation. Maharishi has explained:
In such a state of integrated life where behaviour is in perfect harmony and where all
the planes of living are infused with...universal love for everything...every perception, the sound of
every word, the touch of every little particle and the smell of whatever may be, brings a tidal wave
from the ocean of eternal bliss. Every rising thought, word or action is a rising of the tide of bliss...
Unless one is cosmically evolved, unless one lives the eternity in the day-to-day transitory activity of
life, it is not possible to overflow on the level of universal love... A man who has not risen to cosmic
consciousness, who is shrouded by selfish individuality and who is only awake in the identity of his
individual self, cannot have a clear and significant conception of love and devotion...that reaches
The world today has a very vague conception of God. There are those who like to believe in God,
those who love God, and those who want to realize God. But even they do not have a clear conception
of what God is. The word God has remained for the most part a fanciful, pleasant thought and a
refuge during the suffering and misery in life. And, for the custodians of many strange religions, the
word God is a magic word, used to control the understanding and religious destiny of many an
innocent soul. God, the omnipresent essence of life, is presented as something to fear... The kingdom
of God is the field of all good for man. God is to be realized, not to be feared (p. 271).
Maharishi (1973, pp. 18-19) further describes the gradual development of the 6th state of
consciousness in terms of the natural progression of the most refined feelings of love:
In its most infant state, love finds an expression on the lap of mother, in the sweetness of the mother’s
eyes. It grows in toys and playfields, in the sweetness of friends and folks of society, it grows in the
sweetness of husband and wife. With age and experience, the tree of love grows, it grows with the
growth of life and evolution and finds its fulfillment in the eternal love of the omnipresent God,
which fills the heart and overthrows the darkness of ignorance. And then, in the illumination of the
universal love, the abstract love of God finds concrete expression in everything.
And also, Maharishi (1967) states that this natural unfoldment involves higher integration of
neurophysiological functioning. The refined activity of devotion cultures the senses of perception
until the subtlest level of any object is automatically appreciated. The process of attending is not
limited and restricted, and naturally progresses to enjoy the fullest relative value of the object:
This integration of functions on the physiological level is brought about by a mental
activity of ultimate refinement. In order to define activity of this quality, we must analyze the whole
range of activity. The activity of the organs of action is the most gross, the activity of the senses of
perception is more refined, the mental activity of thought is finer still, and the activity of feeling and
emotion is the finest of all. One could further classify different levels of quality in emotional activity,
such as anger, fear, despair, happiness, reverence, service and love. The activity of devotion
comprises the feelings of service, reverence and love, which are the most refined qualities of feeling.
It is through the activity of devotion that cosmic consciousness develops into God consciousness (p.
When mind and body are stress-free, the most refined product of the human digestive system
supports refined levels of perception. In historical Vedic literature, this most refined digestive
product is sometimes called soma, the subtlest product of refined perception that is naturally
produced in the growth of refined cosmic consciousness. Maharishi (In Wallace, 1986) explains:
[A] normally functioning nervous system, free from stress and strain and any abnormality, produces a
chemical called soma... If there are no restrictions, no inhibitions, then awareness is unbounded, and
when this unbounded awareness is maintained spontaneously at all times, then the nervous system is
functioning normally... Now, the best product of such a normally functioning digestive system is
soma... So soma is that which helps all the fundamentals of individual consciousness rise above
boundaries, and have an unbounded status...in that unbounded self-awareness the perception is very
rich – the perception is richest! (p. 153).
However, Maharishi also has pointed out strongly that attempts to manipulate the gross physical
nervous system into deeper experiences artificially, such as with psychedelic drugs, have longer-
term stress-producing effects. These drugs strain and damage the nervous system, and are
counter-productive for developing the subtle refinement for natural higher states of
consciousness. (But this doesn’t mean natural herbal supplements that can help replenish the
body and protect it from highly processed, nutrient-depleted foods are not useful.)
In the Sankhya Darshana of Vedic science, all the gross objects of experience made of matter
have the subtle levels of nature embedded in them. This is said to be open to direct experience as
a natural by-product of the development and refinement of mind and body. Although rare, such
experiences can also occur at earlier stages of development – even on occasion in ordinary
waking. These inspiring experiences can be understood to be glimpses of higher state
experiences. Frequently, there is initial doubt about their reality, though the actual experiences
involve a fuller sense of reality than with ordinary experiences.
Further, the natural ability develops to perceive subtle objects that are not on the physical level.
With respect to subtle perception, going from gross to subtle can be likened to going from
looking through water to looking through air – only even a much more striking contrast. From
the gross level, out of the water things are much clearer. Also, the subtle sense of the passage of
time is said to differ. It is more like being completely in the timeless eternal present. The flow of
time is less bounded and restricted, compared to the ordinary sense of clock time on the classical
level of spacetime – somewhat akin to the sense of time when deeply absorbed. There is less
sense of time passing, of time lost, of limitations and shortage of time. There are also
corresponding differences in the sense of space, as well as distance in space through time, related
to different fields of as qualitatively different ontological levels of nature – gross, subtle, and
In the subtle level, there is naturally higher integration of energy and intelligence. Dynamic
orderliness is not hidden and latent as it is in more inert forms composed of particles of matter.
Some subtle functions and forms express a deeper, fuller self-luminous quality. At the subtle
level, it is not a matter of movement of inert particles that involve inertia, friction, and heat. The
subtle senses function more directly, not via their corresponding gross bodily organs made of
matter. The subtle essence elements are inherently more complete in sensory quality and
meaning. Movement is more flowing, with the capability of permeating gross physical objects.
This dynamic subtle movement doesn’t require mechanical and thermodynamic processes like
gross physical motion. This does not mean, however, that the subtle level is less real because it is
less tangible. It is relatively more real – embodying a much fuller, deeper, richer sense of reality.
When such subtle experiences are rare or unfamiliar and fleeting, they initially may seem sort of
dream-like, as if just vague, illusory images. It initially even may be difficult to distinguish
subtle experiences from strong imagination and dream images. Eventually, these differences are
sorted out with repeated experiences – associated with increased refinement of psycho-
physiological functioning with integrated development of higher states of consciousness.
Movement in the subtle level of nature is less restricted, more nonlocal and holistic. Action is
said to involve propagation directly through the thought impulses and intentions not requiring
classical physical mechanics. The subtle objects have both individuality/independence and
interdependence at the same time. This can be difficult to comprehend without direct experience.
Again, in cosmic consciousness the state of ‘union’ (yoga) involves union of the individual self
with the universal Self. In this state, there still is a phenomenal separation or experiential gap
between the unbounded universal Self and everything else in the relative world of experience.
Progress beyond cosmic consciousness involves refinement of experience of the outer relative
field of nature toward bridging the gap between the infinite, non-changing universal Self and the
ever-changing finite field of relative diversified existence. This transition involves the
spontaneous ability to observe increasingly refined levels of creation on the basis of the non-
changing platform of inner fulfillment in cosmic consciousness. Over time, the gap is bridged
through increasing appreciation of the immense beauty and grandeur of creation. This is
associated with the Darshana of Karma Mimansa, the analysis of action in the eternal silence of
cosmic consciousness, fostering unfoldment of the 6th state and culminating in full enlightenment
of the 7th state of consciousness.
Vedanta and the 7th natural state of consciousness: Unity consciousness. Maharishi (1967)
describes unity consciousness as the supreme level of human development in which every
phenomenally separate object of experience including one’s individual self is spontaneously
known, experienced, and attributed to be nothing other than the infinite value of one’s own
universal Self. In unity consciousness, there are no gaps in the infinite eternal oneness of Being:
In that perfect liberation he leads the life of fullness and abundance. His vision is such that it quite
naturally holds alike all things in the likeness of his own Self, because he himself and the vision that
he has are the expression of the Self... The pairs of opposites, such as pleasure and pain, which
present great contrasts on the lower levels of evolution, fail to divide the evenness of his vision. To
make such a vision more comprehensible to the ordinary level of consciousness, it may be compared
to a father’s even vision toward a variety of toys which, to the vision of his child’s undeveloped
consciousness, will present great differences... No diversity of life is able to detract from this state of
supreme Unity. One who has reached It is the supporter of all and everything, for he is life eternal. He
bridges the gulf between the relative and the Absolute. The eternal Absolute is in him at the level of
the perishable phenomenal world. He lives to give meaning to the paean of the Upanishads:
“purnamadah purnamidam”—That Absolute is full, this relative is full (pp. 448-449).
In the 7th state of consciousness, unity consciousness, wholeness, oneness of everything is the
primary locus of experience, permeating all phenomenal diversity and change. This highest state
of consciousness is the emphasis of the Darshana of Vedanta (the ‘end of the Veda’),
spontaneously living the ultimate oneness of everything. Maharishi (1967) explains that on the
basis of the profound intimacy between the knower and the known in refined cosmic
consciousness, complete unification of subjective and ‘objective’ existence simply unfolds
naturally as a matter of time.
Maharishi further describes that ultimate destination across the bridge to unity as experienced in
terms of levels of attention. The initial experience of unity is said to be experienced in the
primary focus of attention. In focal attention, the experience of unity merges with the knowledge
of unity. The object in focal attention is experienced not just at its subtlest relative value, but
further as having the same infinite status as one’s self, the universal Self. The phenomenal object
is experienced directly as being fluctuations of one’s eternal non-changing Self, the unified field
of consciousness, pure Being.
As this completely unified experience stabilizes in focal attention, it spontaneously extends to
secondary and tertiary objects of attention, eventually encompassing all levels of phenomenal
experience. Then the entire phenomenal display of nature in all its diversity is fully known to be
the play of the infinite dynamism and infinite silence of pure Being. In this ultimate holistic
perspective, one’s own self – identified as a limited and localized individual in the ordinary
waking state – is the universal Self at its ultimate core and on its surface. What was thought to be
the ‘objective’ world separate from oneself in the ordinary waking is fully appreciated as an
apparent phenomenal reality that for a time overshadowed and hid the ultimate Reality.
The 7th state of consciousness, the unification of everything in the universal Self, is sometimes
also identified as Brahman consciousness, the fully awake state of Brahman. The term Brahman
can be translated as ‘coming together’, the coming together of the infinite eternal wholeness of
life, fully awake to itself in all its phenomenal point and infinite values.
The process of evolution through states of consciousness can be viewed as a process of
eliminating the restrictions which appear to overshadow the universal Self and structure the
phenomenal experience of the individual self and the entire diverse universe. The process of
evolution is then one of going through all the phenomenal levels of nature by expanding
individual experience until it once again encompasses and fully recognizes its own universality.
The course of evolution is from the least degree of recognition to the infinite completely
unrestricted degree, encompassing every phenomenal level of gross, subtle, and transcendent
domains. Known, process of knowing, and knower are completely unified. All gaps are bridged,
and eternal infinite indivisible Unity is permanently all pervading (Boyer, 2008, 2021).
In Vedic science, individuality is inherent in universality and, ultimately, they are the same – the
inherent point-infinity nature of the unified field, the coexistence of the opposites of infinite
dynamism and infinite silence. There is no origin to individuality separate from universality.
From the holistic perspective, universal consciousness can be said to take on the primary
experience of individuality for a while, then re-establishes the primacy of its universality. This
process of evolution involves phenomenal manifestation of individuality in terms of an
individual soul, which develops and realizes in itself its full potential as the universal Self. In this
pinnacle of evolution, the individual’s universal status is directly and spontaneously lived as the
infinite eternal Totality.
The inherent purpose of this evolutionary process is the expansion of happiness. The full
expression of the infinite wholeness of life is ever continuing to reveal its infinite, universal
fullness through each of its diverse expressions. The entire phenomenal course of development
through states of consciousness can be described simply as a process of growth from universal to
individual singularity and then back to universal singularity. It thus can be described as
appearing to forget and then remember the Self in the self as the Self. But the forgetting is
phenomenal – we could say, an illusory ever-changing reality compared to the non-changing
universal Self. As infinite eternal self-referral consciousness, the Self is never unaware of Itself,
and appears to diversify itself into relative parts of phenomenal experience only in states of
consciousness that appear not to reflect full wakefulness of pure Being. Maharishi (1963)
discusses the distinction between the never-changing reality and the ever-changing phenomenal
The discrimination between the different phases of life, leading to the conclusion that
the whole field of life is a field of perishable nature, is the first lesson on the intellectual path of
enlightenment. It must first be known that the world is not real, even though it seems to be. The mind
concludes that these things are always changing and that which is always changing has no lasting
status of its own... On the sensory level, however, the world seems to be real. Through the intellect
we decide that because the world is ever-changing, it cannot be real; the real is described as that
which will always be the same. But the world cannot be dismissed as unreal, because we do
experience it... We experience that the wall is here, that the tree is there. We cannot say that the tree is
not there. If we say that the tree is unreal, we will have to say that it does not exist, and we are not in
a position to make such a statement. We acknowledge that the tree is there, but we must also say that
it is always changing. Because it is always changing it is not real, but, because it is there, for all
practical purposes, we have to credit the tree with the status of existence... What is that status between
real and unreal? The phenomenon of the tree is there, even though it is not real. So the tree has a
“phenomenal” reality. In Sanskrit it is called mithya. The word is “mithya,” phenomenal, not really
existing. The conclusion is, thus, that the world is neither real nor unreal... A strong cultured mind
analyzes his life in the world with discrimination and eventually comes to the conclusion that the
world is mithya—or, only a phenomenon (p. 278).
Maharishi (1994, pp. 322-323) describes the phenomenal world also as Maya:
It is in this conceptual (intellectual) aspect of intelligence within the nature of pure unity that the wise
locate the existence of Maya, and enjoy deriving the creation from the field of Maya... Maya is a
concept, which is the lively awareness of two values: dynamism…and silence... Maya is understood
to be the source of creation. Its seat is the eternal unified reality, the seat of Maya (relationship) in it
can only be a conceptual reality, and this concept is the rightful status of Maya... Its first display is in
the wakefulness of self-referral consciousness and the self-interacting dynamics within its nature…
Maya is the nature of Brahm (totality), inseparable from it. It enjoys all credit for creation...
To summarize, another angle to describe the development from the ignorance of ordinary waking
consciousness – in which one believes one is only an independent individual physical self – to
full enlightenment is in terms of progressive stages of experience of the gap. In the ordinary
waking state, a gap is experienced between the ordinary outer natural world and ordinary inner
experience of oneself. This gap of ‘subject – object’ duality’, or the ‘I ‘– ‘it’ distinction, is the
phenomenological basis of the ‘mind-body problem’ associated subjective/objective and the
‘measurement problem’. More recently, it is associated with the ‘explanatory gap’ between
consciousness and matter, and the ‘hard problem’ of consciousness. In these conceptions of a
gap, however, consciousness and mind are attributed to be an emergent by-product of the
individual nervous system. This is sometimes associated with an existential view of individual
life with no meaning beyond the fact of existence. Modern science is now going beyond this
fragmented view of nature with intellectual recognition of the ultimate unity. Because there is
frequently little or no experience of even the subtle levels of nature that connect the unified field
with the ordinary experience of classical reality, the ultimate unity of life is theoretical and not
generally experienced. This emphasizes the profound value of the developmental technology of
Yoga, which systematically allows the mind to experience all the gross and subtle levels and the
unified field of nature in the simplest state of consciousness (Boyer, 2021; 2008).
It is in the goal that the fundamental nature of consciousness becomes clear. In the ordinary
waking state, associated with reductive physicalism in modern science, consciousness emerges
from the physical brain. Maharishi (1974) has clarified this view as a valid perspective on the
path of knowledge, contrasting it with the holistic view of the goal of all knowledge in the 7th
state of consciousness:
The reality of the path is that consciousness is produced by activity of the brain. The reality of the
goal is that the brain is born of consciousness.
Even in the first stage of enlightenment, there remains an experiential gap between oneself as
universal Self and everything else in phenomenal nature. This also can be thought of in terms of
the gap between the non-changing Absolute and ever-changing Relative. In the 6th state of
consciousness, refined cosmic consciousness, this gap is almost bridged by refined perception of
the most profound relative value of nature. And in unity consciousness, the 7th natural state of
consciousness, it is completely bridged. In that state of full enlightenment, there is individuality
(individual self/ego) – the person still exists in the phenomenal world as a separate individual,
but this is not the whole story or the real story. The phenomenal individual aspect is described as
Lashya avidya, translated as the ‘remains of ignorance’. The experience of being an individual,
with an individual body and mind, as well as the experience of phenomenal creation as an
objective and subjective reality, is a conceptual reality associated with the ever-changing field of
relative phenomenal existence. Because it changes, it doesn’t have the ultimate status as that
which doesn’t change, and in this ultimate perspective – that is, beyond all perspectives – it
could be described as relatively unreal. As Maharishi (2004) stated: “Unity is real. Diversity is
Relative phenomenal reality is certainly ‘real’ within the realm of concepts and conditional
realities – not to undermine the sense of reality in dualistic states. These conditional perspectives
remain conditionally real, and they also can be experienced by an individual in the highest state
of consciousness. But they can be said to become a tiny part of the ultimate infinite wholeness of
experience. That level is so far beyond ordinary physical experience that it is impossible to
describe or fathom, but it inevitably is what we already are.
Because pure Being is beyond any specific manifestations, however, it still may be hidden from
the perspective of other individuals observing someone who is enlightened. One views others
from one’s own state of consciousness. An enlightened person still has an individual self,
performs individual behaviors, experiences the consequences of actions, and generally displays
the personal habits and range of personality that characterizes individuality. This includes
reacting to information from others, and sometimes even appearing to make what might be seen
as mistakes. It might include such things as dropping a pen, responding to a question in a manner
that suggests it might not have been heard clearly, making a comment that may be incorrect
grammatically, or suggesting that some action be taken that appears not to bring the intended
result. It’s not that individuality vanishes, but rather becomes permeated by fully awake
universality. The enlightened individual is simultaneously uniquely individual and fully
universal, point and infinity at the same time. In that state, individual life is fully in tune with and
conducted by the evolutionary patterns and cycles of nature, without deep stress, limitations, and
boundaries. There are individual desires and intentions, but not overshadowing attachment to the
outcomes of actions. The finite, ephemeral, mortal, conditional, individualized values are
relatively real and continue to be expressed on relative levels of phenomenal existence (R.
Orme-Johnson, 2019). The degree of pure Being and inner silence that one experiences in the
physical presence of a fully enlightened individual depends on one’s own stage of development.
The enlightened individual may seem ordinary in some ways, and extraordinary in other ways.
The localized life of individual joys and sorrows, are surface waves in the unbounded ocean of
infinite eternal Being. In that perspective, Maharishi has pointed out that even the entire process
of evolution through the seven states of consciousness can be said to be phenomenal delineations
of the ultimate non-changing reality of universal Being that is always Unity, the very nature of
one’s own individual being.
(Brihad-Aranyak Upanishad, 1.4.10)
“I am totality.” (Inaugurating Maharishi Vedic University, 1996, p. 181)
Summary and Conclusion
To summarize, the ultimate unified field of nature phenomenally manifests within itself to
express the vast diversity of nature from the subtlest, most holistic and integrated finite relative
levels to the most restricted, grossest finite relative level. The infinite value appears to be
increasingly hidden and limited and the point value increasingly prominent from subtler
‘interdependent objects’ to grosser ‘independent objects’. On the gross physical level, insentient
parts congeal into stars, galaxies, and planets, guided all along by inherent laws of nature. Over
time, living beings evolve that are complex enough to express conscious intelligence. In the
human species, the ability further develops to gain knowledge of oneself and one’s relationship
to nature. Eventually, the individual naturally evolves to experience the totality of nature and live
it spontaneously in full enlightenment. One could perhaps say ‘ignorance’ is lost and
‘enlightenment is gained; but individuality (part) is not lost in gaining universality (whole).
At this pivotal time in history, however, it is crucial to recognize that major advances toward
unified understanding and experience of nature won’t come from manipulating somewhat deeper
layers of the material surface of nature. This directly relates to holistic versus reductive
worldviews, and to the difference between natural versus artificial means of human development.
In some cases, artificial initiatives to manipulate the human species reflect sincere efforts to
address major concerns of humankind. But they are predicated upon a fundamentally incomplete,
fragmented understanding and experience of nature (Boyer, 2008, 2021). Of critical concern is
that given the current fragmented, partial understanding of nature – with the parts dominating
and the wholeness lost – we’re tearing into the parts of nature, then trying to put them together
based on incomplete understanding without knowing the consequences. Such artificial attempts
to reengineer human life could destroy our natural holistic connection to the cosmos and interfere
with our inherent ability to transcend. Rather than continuing in this disintegrating direction,
progress will come from subtler alignment with the deepest, holistic basis of nature. This can be
accomplished through scientific application of psychophysical laws for natural development in
the inner laboratory of our own minds. When understood more completely, the ancient Vedic
epistemology of Yoga makes available practical means to refine our minds and bodies,
systematically extending individual and societal development from the ‘state of ignorance’ to a
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