Everyone is familiar with the three ordinary states of consciousness—waking, dreaming, and sleeping. Research has revealed that a fourth state of consciousness with its own physiological correlates exists, known as Transcendental Consciousness.1 This level of consciousness is stabilized when one begins to experience pure consciousness in a systematic way, and then one begins to experience further higher states.
Three higher levels of consciousness beyond Transcendental Consciousness have been described and they include Cosmic Consciousness, God Consciousness, and Unity Consciousness.2 Research to establish the physiological correlates for these three states is ongoing.3 Experiences of higher states of consciousness, however, have been described in literature throughout times, penned by poets and philosophers.4
The British poet William Blake, known for both his art and his poetry, is perhaps as well known in the literary world for his explorations of spirituality in his verse, so it is, perhaps, not surprising, that experiences of higher states of consciousness should appear in his work. In his text “A Memorable Fantasy,” he includes the following proverb in couplet form:
How do you know but ev’ry Bird that cuts the airy way,
Is an immense world of delight, clos’d by your senses five? (70).5
Here Blake captures an experience of the Infinite in the phrase “an immense world of delight.” Blake has turned to nature to discover a fitting metaphor for the infinite, which he describes as “the “immense world.” He contrasts that infinite experience when he speaks of the bird being “clos’d by your senses five.” Here he is presenting the ordinary limited, sensory nature of the human experience of the bird. In Science of Consciousness terms, we experience the world through our five senses but must transcend beyond the five senses to the source of thought to experience the transcendental level of that experience.
Other poets, including the iconic American poet, Walt Whitman, have also explored the nature of the infinite in their poetry. In his poem “ Passage to India,” Whitman uses the metaphor of a world connected by technology, travel, and commerce to capture the concept of the infinite. He locates this experience in his own soul:
O we can wait no longer,
We too take ship O soul,
Joyous we too launch out on trackless seas,
Fearless for the unknown shores on waves of ecstasy to sail,
Amid the wafting winds, (thou pressing me to thee I thee to me, O soul,)
Caroling free, singing our song of God,
Chanting our chant of pleasant exploration. (281)6
With these line, Whitman begins his exploration of the infinite and a few verses later names the level of consciousness where this experience takes place.
O Thou transcendent,
Nameless, the fibre and the breath,
Light of the light, shedding forth universes, thou center of them,
Thou mightier centre of the true, the good the loving,
Thou moral, spiritual fountain—affection’s source—thou reservoir . . . (282)
This transcendent level is truly infinite in scope, so immense that it is a multiverse, shedding universes around it and, ultimately, is the source of feeling, of affection, of all. This infinite is not lost in space; it resides in the human soul, which leaves the poet feeling safe to voyage on beyond, and he ends the poem with this declaration:
O my brave soul!
O farther father sail!
O daring joy, but safe! Are they not all the seas of God?
O farther, farther, farther sail. (281)
Whitman captures the experience of transcendence, of pure consciousness, the level of Transcendental Consciousness in the image of an ocean of consciousness, consisting of many seas, and locates this ocean within his soul. When we understand the ocean as the ocean of consciousness, his vision of a world connected by technology, transportation, and commerce can be read as spiritual growth that draws the world together on the level of consciousness.
You may want to find your own expressions of higher states of consciousness in your favorite pieces of literature. Feel free to share through the Comments link.
1 (1) American Psychologist 42 (1987): 879–8811. (2) Science 167 (1970):1751–1754. (3) American Journal of Physiology 221: 795–799.
2 More elaborated descriptions of these higher states of consciousness can be found in Lesson 23: The Seven States of Consciousness in Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. (1972). The science of creative intelligence. [[33-lesson videotape series]. Livingston Manor, NY: MIU Press.
3 Invincible America Assembly. Experiences of Higher States of Consciousness of Course Participants. Volume 1 (2006–2009). Fairfield, IA: MUM Press, 2012.
4 Pearson, Craig. The Supreme Awakening: Experiences of Higher States of Enlightenment throughout Time—and How to Cultivate Them. Fairfield, IA: MUM Press, 2014.
5 Blake, William. “A Memorable Fancy.” In Perkins, David (Ed.). English Romantic Writers. New York: Harcourt, Brace, & World, 1967.
6 Whitman, Walt. “Passage to India.” In Van Doren, Mark. The Portable Whitman. New York: Penguin Books, 1945 (rev. 1974).