Yearning for More: The Quest for Enlightenment, Part Four
The Sixth State of Consciousness: Refined Cosmic Consciousness
“The sixth state of consciousness is the state of enlightenment in which the individual…experiences a much deeper appreciation of the profound harmony and grandeur of creation.” (Alexander et al)
Refined Cosmic Consciousness, the sixth state of consciousness, is characterized by full refinement of our senses of perception and our ability to love. I remember vividly when I first heard about this further state of enlightenment. It was a few months after I had learned TM and I was utterly fascinated.
We had discussed the fifth state of consciousness, Cosmic Consciousness (CC) during my TM course. CC is characterized by unbounded peace, freedom and bliss (see my last post). Already, within the first few weeks of my TM practice, I noticed some lifting of heaviness, a growing core of calmness, a lightness of heart. I could imagine the full extension of this in enlightenment. This certainly sounded like a desirable goal to me.
But then a few months later, at a gathering of some friends, I heard that there were even HIGHER states of enlightenment. As I listened to a friend of mine who had just become a TM teacher, I was riveted.
My friend explained that Cosmic Consciousness was just the first stabilized stage of enlightenment. In CC, the backlog of stress has been dissolved permanently. Our nervous system is now so resilient that any incoming stress is simultaneously eliminated. NOW we finally begin to function normally. And from here, growth can really take off. The nervous system begins to refine and develop, unfolding latent capacities of two kinds: the senses of perception, and the emotions—our ability to love.
This was profoundly intriguing to me.
Maharishi, teaching from the Vedic tradition, explained that we human beings have the capacity to refine the range of our senses, as well as our heart, to experience far, far more sublime dimensions of creation.
After being introduced to this possibility by my friend, I heard a tape of Maharishi where he explained:
When the unbounded awareness becomes established on the level of our 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 [aspect of the object] is capable of being spontaneously perceived on the gross, surface level. (1972)
Maharishi relates this state of awareness to something we all experience. He pointed out that when we are happy, we automatically appreciate more. In the sixth state of consciousness, where happiness is intense, our appreciation is maximum. (1971)
An intriguing feedback loop begins. As our machinery of perception (including all five senses) develops, allowing us to perceive more refined qualities, we then feel more love. In turn, this love nourishes further the machinery of perception. Thus we experience increasingly more beautiful aspects of creation. Maharishi has called this celestial perception.
Our hearts flow in waves of profound appreciation—wonder, awe, reverence—for creation and the Creator. Because of this, the sixth state is also referred to as God Consciousness. As we perceive the magnificent beauty of creation, we grow in appreciation of the Creator.
Maharishi (1970) explains the interactive growth of heart and perception:
“When the love is more, the crudeness is less. Greater love renders the tendency of perception to very great degrees of delicacy. When perception is gross, the vision falls on the gross; when the perception is delicate, the vision, even though it falls on the gross, picks up the subtle. This growth of the ability of perception to perceive even the most delicate on this gross surface value of life, increases with increased ability to love.”
Maharishi describes further the expansion of heart:
“When love is more, acceptance is more, and this acceptance increases the value of perception. Then the hidden value of the object begins to be obvious more and more because acceptance is increasing. When acceptance is increasing then much more hidden values show up; they begin to shine.”
Maharishi gives a beautiful example:
“The mother doesn’t mind what the child says, because deep within is the soul of the child, which is the soul of the mother—one together. Surface value of separation doesn’t matter. It is the refined vision of love that doesn’t mind the surface crudeness. It only appreciates, appreciates.”
This growth of appreciation spontaneously results in compassionate and altruistic behavior.
Magnificent accounts are surfacing through the media these days: experiences of such sublime beauty, bliss and love that they transform the person for the rest of their lives, leading to joy and compassion and purpose. People who had been shy to talk about such experiences are now feeling comfortable to share them.
A writer, Mary Austin, describes a childhood experience:
“I had walked down through the orchard alone and come out on the brow of a sloping hill where there were grass and a wind blowing and one tall tree reaching into the infinite immensities of blueness. Quite suddenly, after a moment of quietness there, earth and sky and tree and wind-blown grass and [myself] in the midst of them came alive together with a pulsating light of consciousness. There was a wild foxglove…and a bee dozing about it, and to this day I can recall the swift inclusive awareness of each for the whole – I in them and they in me and all of us enclosed in a warm lucent bubble of livingness. I remember…looking everywhere for the source of this happy wonder, and at last…questioned—‘God?’…. Deep inside, like the murmuring swinging of a bell, she heard the answer, ‘God, God…’.”
Another example is from a professor and psychiatrist. She writes that one day, while resting, “the world was flooded with light, the supernal light that so many mystics describe and a few of the poets. The experience lasted five days….” She recalls being on the campus where she taught, “with that glory blazing all around….” She said for those five days she was overwhelmed in “wonder at what was happening…. In the practical sense, my relation to my family was unaffected…. But I saw them now…and indeed everything around us, our house, the flowering world outside, the college where I worked, the commuter train I rode—all these people and things I now saw sub specie eternitatis [viewed in relation to the eternal], bathed in supernal light.” She said that this one experience “altered [her] life permanently, and that value of which I was permitted an awareness in those few days has for me transcended all others.“ Though at that time she had no trusted person with whom she could discuss this, “the experience was so overwhelmingly good that I couldn’t mistrust it.” This experience has guided every significant decision in her life. “It was the most important thing that ever happened to me.” (Genevieve Foster)
How do we return to such experiences? How do understand them? Is there a chance to cultivate them so that they are not mere flashes—like a flash of lightening at night, illuminating a glorious hidden landscape—for which we then yearn the rest of our lives? And are such transformations of consciousness possible even for those who have not yet had glimpses?
Many individuals who have had peeks into higher states of consciousness have later been burdened with an intense yearning to experience again the bliss, peace, knowledge and joy of those glimpses. Often they are left frustrated.
In the fascinating book, Conversations with Maharishi, Vernon Katz writes to this point: “One may have flashes of more refined perception, but the refinement of the machinery of perception really gathers speed only when the system is free of the stresses pushing the awareness to the surface…. When those depths of stress which were keeping the Self bound to the world of objects have been dissolved, the long-constricted heart can expand. It ‘begins to move, and this begins to draw everything together and eliminate the gulf of separation between the Self and activity.’ (Maharishi, 1967).”
The contribution of Maharishi is enormous in bringing to light again the teaching of the Vedic tradition about the systematic development of higher states of consciousness. Knowledge of the further capacity of human development is contained, to some extent, in almost every spiritual tradition, but has been lost through the long lapse of time. The Vedic model of higher states of consciousness has been invaluable as a lens through which we can understand the extraordinary accounts of enlightenment that have been treasured by all cultures through the ages.
Maharishi revived a natural technique for experiential development of higher states of consciousness. With the practice of TM, we have a way to dissolve the obstacle of stress—the only thing in the way of our full capacity of enlightenment and its higher stages, such as Refined Cosmic Consciousness.
Here is a beautiful description of refined perception and heart by a long-term meditator and teacher of TM, indicative of the sixth state:
“One evening, after teaching about 40 individuals to transcend, the light of the day was blending into the darkness of the night. I began to hear a perpetual music—it was there and not there at the same time. I placed my hand on a tree in front of the house, and I could feel a divine intelligence flowing through the tree and beneath my feet like pulsating energy. In that moment, there was nothing but infinite intelligence vibrating in every fabric of existence; there existed nothing without life energy at its core. The experience seemed to be the residue of the silence awakened in my consciousness and perception after I spent the day teaching people to meditate. The silence produced bliss and unconditional love flowing through my physiology.” (Ellis, A Symphony of Silence)
Describing the sixth state, psychologist Charles Alexander writes: “Perception and feeling reach their most sublime level, the finer and more glorious levels of creation are appreciated, and every impulse of thought and action is enriching to life.”
The theologian Teilhard de Chardin describes a glorious experience of creation in which all of life is perceived in harmony, all discord dissolved. He writes of an “intense yet tranquil rapture of a vision whose coherence and harmonies I can never exhaust…the powers of my inner being begin spontaneously to vibrate in accord with a single note of incredible richness wherein I can distinguish the most discordant tendencies effortlessly resolved.”
The joyous harmony that one experiences in such a state involves profound love. It is on this experiential basis of love that Maharishi has sought to create peace in the world. When we genuinely perceive the more delicate, refined qualities in others, we spontaneously feel acceptance, respect, compassion and love. Harmonious behavior with others is a natural expression of this inner state. In our next post, we will look at the supreme state of harmony in the highest state of consciousness, Unity Consciousness.
Charles Alexander. Peaceful Body, Peaceful Mind, Peaceful World http://www.mum.edu/m_effect/alexander.html
Charles Alexander, Robert Boyer and Victoria Alexander. Higher States of Consciousness in the Vedic Psychology of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. https://www.mum.edu/pdf_msvs/v01/alexander.pdf
Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, 1967. On the Bhagavad-Gita 4.35.
Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, 1970, 12 Aug, Humboldt. Lecture cited in Katz, below, pp 32-33.
Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, 1971, 11 Feb. Lecture. Growth of Perception from Multiplicity to Duality to Unity Proceeding from Ignorance to Enlightenment
Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, 1972. The Science of Creative Intelligence: Knowledge and Experience, Lesson 23. Cited in TheFlow of Consciousness: Maharishi Mahesh Yogi on Literature and Language, eds. Rhoda F. Orme-Johnson, Ph.D. and Susan K. Anderson, Ph.D. http://www.mumpress.com/books/other-authors/g04.html
Vernon Katz. Conversations with Maharishi. http://www.mumpress.com/books/other-authors/f06.html
Mary Austin cited in The Unattended Moment by Michael Paffard, p 17
Genevieve W. Foster. The World Was Flooded with Light: A Mystical Experience Remembered, pp 43-46
George Ellis. A Symphony of Silence, p 468. http://www.mumpress.com/books/other-authors/asos.html
Teilhard de Chardin, 1965. Hymn of the Universe, trans. Simon Bartholomew. Cited in Harmonies of Heaven and Earth: The Spiritual Dimensions of Music, Joscelyn Godwin (1987) p 76
About the Author
Cynthia Johnson is a teacher of the Transcendental Meditation program. She holds a Master of Theological Studies from Harvard Divinity School and is a mother, wife and writer. She is a contributor to the book A Symphony of Silence: An Enlightened Vision (1st and 2nd editions) by George Ellis.