The Process of Personal Growth

July 9, 2000

1. Levels of Consciousness

Human consciousness consists of mental, vital and physical parts, each with its own unqiue characteristics and propensities. The physical consciousness lies completely below the level of our normal waking perception and functions independent of our conscious volition. It consists of the awareness, capacities and propensities of the physical body, physically inherited characteristics and psychological capacities, the impressions and early memories of childhood as well as the habits, skills, behaviors and attitudes that express automatically without need or regard for conscious mental intention. The primary urge of the physical consciousness is for survival, preservation, protection and comfort. It knows only what it has experienced personally and physically over an over again. It believes only in what it sees and experiences. Its natural tendency is toward inertia or only those actions necessary for its survival.

The vital consciousness or life consciousness in us is also almost entirely subconscious and spontaneous. It is the consciousness of desire and seeking for expansion and enjoyment.

The mental consciousness is more conscious, reflective and more self-aware. It expresses form of thoughts, understanding, sentiments, ideas, intentions and values.

All three levels exist and are simultaneously active in each person, though the extend of their relative development and the preponderance of the influence they exercise on the personality differs from person to person.

The three planes exist and function interdependently. Each of these three planes can be further subdivided into three sub-levels (physical, vital and mental), bringing the total to nine levels. This is the vertical scale of human consciousness.

There is also a horizontal scale from deepest inner to most exterior, from subliminal to surface, from substance of the plane to consciousness of the plane. Thus, on each of the nine planes, there is a substance and a consciousness. The substance of the physical physical is the material body. The consciousness of that plane is the material consciousness of the cells of the body. The substance of the mental physical (mind in the physical) is the physical brain and nerves and its consciousness consists of the skills (knowledge) of the body and nervous system. The substance of the mental mental consists of a pure ideas and its consciousness is composed of concepts.

2. Process

The evolution of life on earth begins in matter, from which first life and later mind emerge as higher principles and powers of consciousness, though in fact both exist in potential, involved, in material substance. The individual too progresses from physical to vital to mental levels of consciousness, each successive phase more conscious than the previous.

The evolution begins with progress in the physical plane of consciousness from level 9 to level 7. Level 9 is the physical physical, the consciousness of the material body. In this plane, knowledge expresses completely as unconscious instinct of the bodily functions and the animal instincts for survival in an indifferent or hostile environment. The pressure of internal biological needs (hunger, thirst, sleep) and external threats force the individual to energize himself for self-preservation and self-defense. The impact of painful and pleasurable sensations acts as a stimulus to awaken and stir the consciousness and press it into action.

As the consciousness progresses under this pressure and stimulus to level 8, the physical consciousness becomes energized by that which is pleasurable and painful. It learns to avoid the unpleasant and actively seek the comfortable and pleasant. Its actions become embued with the vital intensity of these sensations. The vital principle gives rise to social impulses and relationships between people, such as the institution of marriage which sublimates the physical sex impulse into a social relationship. Human relationships at this level are primarily determined by the bonds of heredity, family.

In level 7, the mental principle emerges in the physical consciousness. Experience gives rise to the acquisition of knowledge in the body, which we call skills. The mind's capacity for organization leads to the organization of physical activities, such as the shift from nomadic hunting to seditary agriculture.

The movement from level 7 to level 6 is a major transition. The needs of the physical consciousness gradually become subordinated to the needs and urges of the vital consciousness. The vital seeks not only survival, self-preservation and comfort, but also action, relationship, expansion, adventure, conquest and enjoyment. These needs express primarily in the field of social life in the relationships between people. The urge to dominate or submit, to belong to and be accepted by others, to enjoy and control one's environment.

In level 9 the individual struggles for survival. In level 8 he experiences attractions and repulsions. In level 7 he acquires practical knowledge and skills to improve his chances for survival and ease the burden of existence. The acquisition of this knowledge and the organization of life enables people to reduce the expenditure of energy on mere survival. This excess pushes for fields of expression, looks for something more. In level 6, the life consciousness becomes more alert and dynamic and seeks a greater intensity of enjoyment. The skills of level 7 become energized by the urge for acquisition and expansion. The individual becomes enterprising.

In level 5 the increasing vital energy expresses as an emotional consciousness. The attractions and repulsions of feeling, rather than the attractions and repulsions of physical sensation, become dominant. The individual is powerful drawn to express and find satisfaction for these emotions in human relationship and achievement.

The forging of intense emotional relationships is always unstable and insecure as long as both parties are on an equal footing. The strong emotional ego seeks greater intensity and security by attaining a higher level of control and domination over others. The weaker ego seeks the security of obeying a strong leader. In level 4 the mental element emerges strongly in the vital consciousness and gives a higher direction and organization to the expression of the vital energies. The entrepreneur and leader emerge. In this plane mind is fully at the service of life goals, not free to seek after its own ends.

The transition from level 4 to level 3 is a movement from a consciousness in which feelings and emotions dominate to one in which the mind increasingly governs and directs life and action. Level 3 is the plane of the physical mind. Mind here is fully absorbed with the external world, with seeking after material goals and understanding physical phenomena. The mental principle develops the capacity for systematic planning leading to organized action.

The true seeking and accomplishment for Mind is comprehension, not merely survival or conquest. Mind wants to understand. In level 3, the quest for understanding focuses on the mastery of physical and natural processes. The mind's excess energy expresses as a thirst for more and more information and understanding.

Mind's quest for comprehension is as insatiable as the vital's thirst for enjoyment. As it masters the physical world, it turns increasingly to the complex richness and subtlety of the human relationships and emotions, giving rise to poetry, art and music in level 2, where the emotions lend to mind a richness and intensity that thought along lacks.

At a higher level, the mental consciousness seeks for a pure knowledge that is not diluted either by the practical utility of level 3 or the emotional subjectivity of level 2. That quest for pure knowledge gives birth to the ideas and concepts of level 1. Here mental man living in the material animal body reflects self-consciously on the mystery of the universe and the meaning of his own place in creation.

This movement form level 9 to 1 describes the emergence of an increasingly powerful, awakened and conscious energy in man giving rise to an increasing capacity for self-preservation, enjoyment and comprehension. However, the ascending movement is only one side of the process. At each stage of ascent, there is also a corresponding descent of the newly emerging principle of consciousness to change the character of life at the previous level. The skills of level 7 are expressed to support the survival instinct of level 8. The emotional strength of level 4 is applied to the activities of level 5 and 6. The knowledge of level 3 is used to aggrandize life and master the physical environment.