By Patrick Horn (“Rishi”) 

Timeless questions puzzle humankind. Swami Vivekananda says, “These questions have been asked again and again, and so long as this creation lasts, so long as there are human brains to think, this question will have to be asked. Yet, it is not that the answer did not come; each time the answer came, and as time rolls on, the answer will gain strength more and more. The question was answered once for all thousands of years ago, and through all subsequent time it is being restated, reillustrated, made clearer to our intellect. What we have to do, therefore, is to make a restatement of the answer.” Surface appearances change, but the Reality remains the same. To know and become absorbed in the Reality is the purpose of Life.

Humanity exhibits great material progress and technical innovation, yet there is an evolution of consciousness that has thus far occurred only among a small number of the species. They stand as rare examples of human potential, and few imagine similar strength and greatness is possible for all willing to make the effort. We imagine countless projects and policies intended to improve the world, and we overlook that the greatest impact and benefit we can give to the world is the transformation of our own character and perspective. In other words, evolving consciousness toward a definite goal.

Human consciousness can be categorized into four states, encoded into the keyword AUM. According to the Mandukya Upanishad, AUM is three blended sounds plus the silence that contains the three sounds as one. “A” represents the physical world and the waking state (the World of Desire and Sensory Pleasures). “U” represents the intellect, psychic phenomena, and the dream state (the World of Pure Forms). “M” represents the formless causal state and dreamless deep sleep (the unchanging Existence).

Ken Wilber translates Vedic cosmology into a model of personality development. Human awareness is founded in the instincts and impulses of the body and a competitive will. This is the first state of consciousness. The second state is rooted in the norms and taboos of the social world; Wilber suggests a horizontal expansion from rule-oriented conformism and judging by stereotypes, clichés, and demographics to maturation as a conscientious achiever with technical competence and introspective critique. Awareness is dominated by concrete analysis (comparing and measuring) and appeals to expert opinion and reason, especially mechanistic empiricism and medical-scientism. This is the state of consciousness that is privileged and dominates in contemporary society. Wilbur describes the third state as vertical visionary logic that is mindful of assumptions and the global hierarchy and cosmic web. The fourth state of transpersonal unity is non-attached Superconsciousness and wisdom.

Thomas Merton, an American Catholic and apophatic theologian known in esoteric circles as “Rabbi Vedanta,” was recently declared by Pope Francis as a model of contemplation. He describes the horizontal movement as a “flight from God” in calculation, will, and solipsistic alienation. The “mystical consciousness” of the vertical axis is best exemplified by St. Teresa de Avila.