Unitive
Consciousness







A Merging of Being in the Universal Quintessence




     Begin this essay by contemplating the image above by Piero della Francesca (1420-1492). While meditating on this painting, reflect on specific elements:

     Return to image above.

John Keats, "Introduction to Endymion"


     While meditating on della Francesca's painting--and Keats' poem--you should attain a definite feeling of serenity, similar to contemplating such an image as this. Retain, as much as possible, that sensation of tranquility as you proceed.

"May not you and I be confluent in a higher consciousness, and confluently active there, though we now know it not? We finite minds may simultaneously be co-conscious with one another in a super-human intelligence."

William James A Pluralistic Universe


     In this essay, we're examining what is called unitive consciousness--a merging of our being with other beings in a higher state of awareness. William James referred to this state as being "confluent in a higher consciousness." We are able to achieve unitive consciousness because we are--in our highest reality--an aspect of the One Quintessence. 2 We've fallen into illusion by thinking that our body or mind is our self, when we are in reality our Higher Self, the One.

     From time immemorial, all persons working within--or in conjunction with--the Perennial Tradition have taught that humans are an aspect 3 of the Universal Quintessence. This identical message was brought to us from Hermes (about 1900 BCE), by Synesius (370-415 CE), Sankaracharya (510-478 CE), and Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822 CE), to mention only a few.


"True, without error, certain and most true; that which is above is as that which is below, and that which is below is as that which is above, for performing the miracles of the One Quintessence; and as all things were from one, by the mediation of the one, so all things arose from this One Quintessence by adaptation."
Hermes Trismegistus, "The Emerald Tablet"


"It is a clear Light, which fills with true virtue every mind that has once perceived it; it is the nucleus and bond of all the elements which are contained in it, and the spirit which nourishes all things, and by means of which nature operates universally; it is the virtue, true beginning, and end of the whole world; in plain terms, the quintessence. . ."

Synesius, The New Light of Alchemy



"This world is engendered by the Real, and has the Real as its Self, the Real is its material altogether. That Real than which there is none higher, THAT THOU ART, the restful, the stainless, secondless Eternal, the supreme."

Sankaracharya, The Crest-Jewel of Wisdom


          "The One remains, the many change and pass;
          Heaven's light for ever shines, Earth's shadows fly;
          Life, like a dome of many-colored glass,
          Stains the white radiance of eternity,
          Until death tramples it to fragments. -- Die,
          If thou wouldst be with that which thou dost seek!
          Follow where all is fled!"
Percy Bysshe Shelley,
"Adonais: An Elegy on the Death of John Keats"


   
"Man did not weave the web of life;
he is merely a strand in it.
Whatever he does to the web,
he does to himself."


Chief Seattle


Sensing Confluent Consciousness

     We can get a sense of unitive consciousness by contemplating images such as the one at the beginning of the essay and by reflecting on common experiences in which we have a feeling of merging with others in a shared event.

     While sitting in an auditorium or stadium as part of a large crowd, you experience an elementary form of group consciousness while joining in collective cheering or waving. Ordinary "crowd consciousness" is a lesser embodiment of a higher form of unitive consciousness as delineated in this essay.   
     
         I use the word "higher" to indicate that unitive consciousness occurs in a conceptual, metaphysical dimension unlike ordinary experience which takes place in the everyday perceptual, sense world of people, places, and things. In unitive Consciousness, our being is actually merged with that of others in a Great Ocean of Unity--the One Life.

     Crowd consciousness is a neutral factor; it can be used either for good or bad effect. A propagandist can use crowd consciousness to entrance a group into ideas and actions which the people would not ordinarily fall for in their usual state of consciousness. Conversely, a well-intentioned speaker can move an audience to lofty moral ideals and beneficent actions.

    We also get a genuine sense of unitive consciousness when viewing a transformative piece of art or listening to a transformative piece of music, such as:

  1. Listening to Miles Davis' Sketches of Spain, arranged and conducted by Gil Evans, we recognize that Miles and his band entered into a higher realm of consciousness when they created this piece of music. And listening to Sketches of Spain in a receptive mood allows us to enter that same confluent world of higher awareness.

  2. The most authentic example of unitive consciousness in a musical composition is Beethhoven's 9th Symphony , in both the orchestral and chorale symbiotic synchronization.

     Humans have always sought unitive consciousness at mundane as well as transformative levels. Language is essentially a tool which allows human connectedness. The invention of the telegraph and the telephone ushered in a process of two person distant-but-simultaneously-connected-consciousness. Radio and television allow for connectedness in a unidirectional mode at the mass level. Unfortunately, almost all of the content in current radio and television is mind-destroying instead of mind-expanding.

      Today, though millions of TV viewers are able to instantly hear and watch events happening thousands of miles away, there is no interaction, no feedback. The Internet has introduced an additional dimension, providing both bi-directional and multidirectional modes of communication. The Internet allows thousands of people, including complete strangers, to share experiences and emotions without ever coming together spatially.

     Thus far--except in a single modality--the "unitive consciousness" made possible by the Internet has not been used in a transformative manner.


Identification As a Neutral Element

     As unitive consciousness is a beneficent identification with the One Quintessence, humans can also allow themselves to become partially or totally possessed by negative or malevolent entities: personalities or ideologies. A creature that allows itself to become completely possessed by another entity, devolves into a mere host for the negative force, a sub-human.


State of Being

 Characteristics 

 Capabilities 


Unitive Consciousness
Union with the One Quintessence

Awareness of the Oversoul
and Higher Consciousness

Inspiration
Meditation
Contemplation

Self-Possession
Self-Awareness

Critical thinking
Awareness of self
and the world

Reasoning
Informing oneself
Improving oneself

Beginning of possession by outside personalities and ideologies

Egomania
Mindless pursuit of pleasure
Celebration of ignorance

No longer able to
think for oneself
Illiteracy (unable to read and unable to understand)

Total possession by outside personalities and ideologies

Hysterical blindness
Hysterical deafness
Suicidal behavior

Unable to see or hear what's happening in the world
Supporting people who are destroying you


     The purpose for our experiencing human existence appears to be our learning to identify with our Higher Self, not with our lower self: ego, body, appetites, will, intellect.

     At present, many persons are conditioned, through social influences (family, religion, education, TV) to become in their essence nothing but an egomaniac: a demented entity possessed by its ego; living only for itself; obsessed with mind-destroying activities and pleasures; capable of no genuine feelings for others; uninterested in learning, understanding, or developing to a higher state.

     Fortunately, the highest reality of humans is their participation in the One Quintessence--which is referred to as God, the Oversoul, the One Mind, Unity, Infinite Love and Goodness. If a human works assiduously, she can cast off the illusions with which she is programmed, and regain her essential oneness with her Higher Self: the Unitary Quintessence.


"Despite the soul's fall there lingers in it, although in a condition of atrophy and enchantment, a residual germ of that divine principle which once wholly actuated it; a germ capable of being so stimulated into activity as to raise the personal consciousness even to the point of unity and identity with the Universal Mind and through the healing efficacy of that principle's transmuting potencies, to effect such an organic change in the psychical, and even the physical parts of our present frail and imperfect nature as will bring them into a divinised condition."

M. A. Atwood, Hermetic Philosophy and Alchemy, 1850, 1960


The Quest for Confluent Consciousness

     One way of viewing the mystical quest within the Perennial Tradition is as the effort to attain unitive Consciousness. This enterprise can be described in several different ways, but they all amount to the same aspiration:
  • Joining the ordinary self with the Higher Self

  • Attaining to a Higher Consciousness

  • Ascending to Unity with the One


"There is a continuum of cosmic consciousness against which our individuality builds but accidental fences, and into which our several minds plunge as into a mother sea."

William James A Pluralistic Universe


     Advanced humans are realizing in their own lives and then teaching others how to become co-conscious with one another in a super-human Intelligence. Whatever is known within this super-consciousness is known at all points. Social evolution involves learning to create institutions which provide for the development of each individual to the limit of our potential.


lie in the lap of immense intelligence, which makes us receivers of its truth and organs of its activity. When we discern justice, when we discern truth, we do nothing of ourselves, but allow a passage to its beams."

Ralph Waldo Emerson, "Self-Reliance"


     We live in a universal spiritual substance by virtue of which all living things exist through their ability to transmute this general force into something individual. Humans are energy transformers; we are alive and developing in proportion to how much of this universal force we accept and how freely it flows through us.

     The better we transmit this energy or allow it to flow through us, the higher grade we occupy; the more alive and contented and effective we become. The great common carrier of universal spirit is an immense ocean connecting all individuals. The energy field, the psychic ocean, the all-surrounding substance in which individuals are suspended, is a great sea of undifferentiated force.

"We are living in, surrounded by, a finer more powerful substance. You can call it what you please - ether, electric field, or spiritual vibrations. When we are pervious we are permeated by it and obtain from it various elements of expansion and growth. But ordinarily in our world-absorbed consciousness is no chink or cranny by which its influence can enter. We are like people swimming in a sea completely encased in diving suits that admit no drop of the life-giving water. Only on comparatively rare occasions when we are off our guard, so to speak, do we permit ourselves even unconsciously to be reached by it."

Stewart Edward White, The Betty Book


Rebirth Into Unitive Consciousness

           We find ourselves in a "box" and if we're to advance in our personal development, we must break out into a higher state of being.

     We must DIE to our present state and be re-born in a higher state. But that shouldn't be too hard, since we've been breaking out of spaces since even before we became a fetus (when we pushed through cellular walls during mitosis) and then when we were "born" by passing out of our mother's body into this anything-but-ordinary world.

     

     If we're to advance beyond our current terrestrial state of being, we must shunt off (become detached from) our ordinary sense-based existence and attain spiritual re-birth. Only through introspective contemplation can we understand this process of spiritual regeneration into unitive consciousness, by the inwardly turned eye of the mind. Through the Divine Light of contemplation we penetrate that darkness which does not comprehend the Light, but in which Higher Reality lies concealed.

"What is at issue is the conversion of the mind from the twilight of error to the truth, that climb up into the real world which we shall call true philosophy."
Plato, The Commonwealth


      We realize it would be folly to stay in the old world and try to theorize our way into the Higher Consciousness. We break our shell--die to our old self--and stick our head up into a new world.

     We spring up to a Higher Life by struggling to consciousness and comprehension in the new realm of the One Quintessence. We release ourselves into the surrounding Universal Life so our experience can explain itself.

"Thou must thyself be the way; the understanding must be born in thee; thou must enter into it, so that the understanding of the work in the practic art . . . may be opened to thee."
Jacob Boehme




Attaining Unitive Consciousness

     Humans are, in essence, both mortal and immortal. The terrestrial phase of human existence is a school in which we learn to attain higher consciousness in its first stage. We are placed within this twofold world, experienced as the sense-world, so that we have the opportunity to acquire the requisite faculties that lead to the world of higher, unitive consciousness. We begin by examining ourselves and recognizing that we are the result of our own experience in an earlier state of being, when we passed from higher being to terrestrial existence.

      We recognize that we contain in ourselves the elements of a decaying sense-world. Those elements, we realize, are at work in us, and if we identify with them exclusively we devolve to a sub-human level of egomania. But if we work to understand ourselves and attain inner self-discipline, we can break the power of negative sensory-world influences, as the newly-forming immortal elements come to life within us. We not only slough off old, negative patterns of thought and behavior, but we develop new virtues, such as patience, sympathy, reasonableness, caring, and insight, to mention only a few.

     We gain an awareness of our transformative powers when we learn to discipline devolutionary forces in us that would pull us down to a regressive state. As we gain ascendancy over the elements of hatred, lust, greed, violence, and ignorance, we come to an understanding of higher powers within us that lead to unitive consciousness.

"The Perennial Tradition consists entirely in acting as the situation requires; he that acts appropriately in each occasion attains to the rank of savant."

Hujwiri, The Revelation of the Veiled Mysteries, 1042 CE


     To be fully understood, the unitive consciousness must be worked for, attained, and then manifested. I can only describe the features of the unitive consciousness and how it is attained; the actual achievement of the higher state must come from your own inner work beyond reading and studying.

"By no explanation, nor any familiar analogy do we here presume to aid the natural intellect to a conception that transcends it, and which can only be attained through the identical experience."

Mary A. Atwood, Hermetic Philosophy and Alchemy


     The first steps in achieving unitive consciousness are to relax our sensual bond, dissolve our ego, and purify our consciousness so it is capable of experiencing its higher life in the Elysian light. Learning to relax to the point of stepping outside the body requires diligent effort and experimentation to find just the right procedure that works for us.

      Overcoming the self-obsession which ordinary life encourages in us demands self-awareness and a commitment to a higher life of virtue and discernment.

"All that we teach is nothing else but to dissolve and recongeal the spirit, to make the fixed volatile and the volatile fixed, until the total nature is perfected by the reiteration. . .

            Albertus Magnus


     Falling away from our ordinary sense of being, we pass through subconscious allurements which we must reject--or become possessed by lower powers. This is what the mystics and poets refer to as the passage through Hades or the Underworld. We must have cleansed ourselves of egomaniacal desires and behaviors to withstand these potentially overwhelming temptations.

"It is necessary that a man should have his right opinion as firm as adamant in him when he descends into Hades, that there likewise he may be unmoved by riches or any such like evils, and may not, falling into tyrannies and such other practices, do incurable mischiefs and himself suffer still greater; but that he may know how to choose the middle life as to those things, and to shun extremes on either hand, both in this life as far as possible and in the whole hereafter."

Plato, The Commonwealth, Book 10


     As Plato explains in his writings, we attain the unitive state by gaining mastery of the essential procedures of philosophy (the search for wisdom): philosophic reasoning and dialectic.

"He who is not able by the exercise of his reason to define the idea of the Good, separating it from all other objects and piercing, as in a battle through every kind of argument, endeavouring to confute, not according to opinion but according to essence, and proceeding through all the dialectic energies with an unshaken reason--he who cannot accomplish this, neither knows the Good itself, nor anything that is properly denominated the Good. And would you not say that such a one, if he apprehended any certain truth or image of reality, would apprehend it rather through the medium of opinion than of science; that in the present life he is sunk in sleep and conversant in the delusions of dreams; and that descending into Hades, before he is roused to a vigilant state, he will be overwhelmed with a sleep perfectly profound."

Plato, The Commonwealth, Book 7


     Attaining the unitive state requires that we transform our entire state of existence, which is originally composed of bewitchment by our senses and possession by the beliefs of our culture. Only if we die to that old mode of thought and activity and are re-born as persons with the ability to think and act for ourselves, the capacity to discern truth and goodness, are we capable of the requisite virtue and understanding which make unitive consciousness possible.

     Plato made it clear that the ultimate attainment of unitive consciousness is possible only through muesis (literally, "closing of the eyes"): turning away from external sense-data and discovering truth through an introspective process of contemplation and meditation.

"Plato beautifully unfolds the passive method of the Divine Intuition, and the three elevating causes of love, hope, and faith, to those who do not negligently read what he has written. For what else than love conjoins the soul to beauty? and where else is truth to be hoped for, asks the philosopher, except in this place? And what else than faith is the cause of this ineffable muesis? For muesis, in short, is neither through intelligence nor judgment, but through the unical silence imparted by faith, which is then better than every gnositc energy (when it surpasses this), and which establishes both whole and individual souls in the ineffable Unknown."

M. A. Atwood, Hermetic Philosophy and Alchemy, 1850, 1960


     What we first experience in the unitive state is the essence of wisdom: illumination. This makes it clear why Plato said that the ultimate goal of human life is the search for and the love of wisdom (philosophy). This experience of illumination--an inner light making all things clear--is attested to by a great number of mystics and teachers:

  • Apuleius: "This knowledge sometimes shines forth with a most rapid coruscation like a bright and clear light in the most profound darkness." On the God of Socrates

  • Plato: "On a sudden a light, as it were a leaping fire, will be enkindled in the soul, and will there itself nourish itself." Letter 7

  • "When thou seest a Fire without Form,
    Shining flashingly through the depths of the World.
    Hear the voice of Fire."    Chaldean Oracles


      It is beneficial and necessary to experience moments of unitive consciousness, epiphanies, ecstasies, and inspirations. Through their inspiration, we gain the desire to enter the path leading us from death to the old sense-world to a higher life.

     We avoid becoming good-feeling junkies or seekers after psychic powers, because we know these are dead-ends. True ecstasy leads to a permanent state of continuous awareness of the divine. In the unitive state--a dimension separate from time or space--we naturally possess super-normal powers which are used in beneficent ways. We recognize that the terrestrial domain serves as a training ground in learning how to die to the elements in us which keep us from ascending to a higher life.

      We are grateful that the loam of our mortal life has matured the seeds of immortal being. And we know that if we remain as we are--seeds within the sense-world--that we will never experience re-birth into the Unitary Quintessence. Our earlier being in the transcendent came to an end with birth into the terrestrial plane. Now, earth life in the sense-world must move on to birth into the higher realm, by dying to our present earth-seed state of existence.

     It is possible to become what we might call "ecstasy junkies," persons who exult in the unitive life but feel no responsibility to others on the earth-plane. Our liberated powers must be applied to assist persons in the world of the senses. As we saw above, we gain permanent higher essence only as we allow ourselves to become conduits of higher knowledge to others on the terrestrial plane.

     Previously, it was our responsibility to seek our own release. But now, having attained the first stages of unitive consciousness, we're required to share whatever insight we've gained with others on the earth plane. Other teachers and prophets were our liberators, and we must now add to the common heritage of knowledge of the higher unitive state.

     Until now we've striven as individuals, but now we must seek to coordinate ourselves with the whole, so that we can bring into the supersensible world not only ourselves, but everyone existing in the world of the senses.We must now share with our fellow humans the powers which we've acquired. Entry into the higher regions of the supersensible world is barred so long as we haven't applied all the powers we've acquired to the liberation of our earthly companions.

     All of our instruction in the unitive state, to begin with, deals only with the development of collaborative powers in this work. The process of dying to old ways of understanding and acting and re-birth to new dimensions of being and experience must continue uninterruptedly.


Dialectical (Shared) Meditation


     An effective process for learning to enter the unitive consciousness is Dialectical (Shared) Meditation. 4

     Participants in Dialectical Meditation should be at the highest possible level of discernment of Dialectic, Higher Consciousness, and Unitive Consciousness

Illustrative Themes and Structures for Dialectical Meditation

See yourselves, outside your bodies, in a huge natural ampitheater in which an immense crowd of spiritually advanced beings (existent and transcendent) is in a state of unitive consciousness.

Everyone is thinking the same thoughts and carrying out the same acts simultaneously.

An advanced being thinks: "Gratitude, humility, and self-surrender constitute the essence of worship of the One Quintessence."

Immediately a silent, confluent, pulsing, psychic "cheer" goes up--in a manner superficially manifested on the terrestrial plane by a cheering crowd or a musical choir.

The participants in the Dialectical Meditation respond to and spark off each others' ideas, questions, and suggestions as to the direction the meditation takes.

All participants, by being in touch with their Higher Self, are able to discover and create new ideas, questions, and suggestions. All thoughts and actions blend within the confluent consciousness, while complete individuality is maintained throughout.


TheSupersensual Community

     At the end of The Commonwealth, 5  Socrates tells Glaukon that the moral principles of virtue and order, applying to both the soul and the society, will not likely be actualized in the world of untruth, but that they're already realized in a higher realm of supersensual communion.

"'Well,' said I [Socrates], 'perhaps there is a pattern of it laid up in the spiritual domain for him who wishes to contemplate it and so beholding to constitute himself its citizen. But it makes no difference whether it exists now or ever will come into physical reality. The politics of this city only will be his and of none other.'"

Plato, The Commonwealth


     Plato is one of the founders of a supersensual community of philosophers--truth-seekers--that lives through the ages. Hermes, Socrates, Plato, Jesus, Rumi, and other Perennialist teachers maintain the sovereignty of this higher realm through their creation of an entire way of life: the never-ending search for goodness, beauty, and wisdom. The social, mental, and psychic state of this transcendendal community is unitive consciousness.

     Only seekers of wisdom (philosophers) gain awareness of and participation in this supersensual commonwealth, because only they possess the spiritual qualities which make this possible. For example, our disturbing passions must be restrained by Sophrosyne: excellence of character and soundness of mind combined in a well-balanced personality. If egomania and greed are unrestrained, we will lead the life of a predator, one who loots everyone, friend or foe.

"Such a man cannot be the friend (prosphiles) of God or other men, for he is incapable of communion, and who is incapable of communion is incapable of friendship (philia) ."

Plato, The Commonwealth

     Philia, fidelity to oneself and others, is a prerequisite for entry into the higher community of unitive consciousness. Philia is the effectual bond between humans and between Heaven and Earth, God and man. It is because fidelity (philia) and order pervade true reality that the universe is a cosmos--an ordered realm--and not an anarchical chaos (akosmia, akolasia).

     The supersensual community has been created by the lives and teachings of the varied Perennialist teachers. Socrates revealed by his actions and his words that a true philosopher constantly practices the art of living in the soul apart from the body. By realizing our unity with the Higher Self, we gain an awareness of Forms: principles of being. There will be a few just and honorable persons in the terrestrial realm--such as Aristides, son of Lysimachus, during Plato's day--but most of the dwellers in the supersensual commonwealth will be those who have lived before us.


"There is really developing above us another hominisation, a collective one of the whole species, and it is quite natural to observe, parallel with the socialization of humanity, the same . . . psycho-biological properties rising upwards on the earth that the individual step to reflection originally produced.  . . .

"This second phase of hominisation is to be conceived of as the 'spirit of the earth,' the central element of the mind of a sentient planet. We are faced with a harmonized collectivity of consciousnesses equivalent to a sort of super-consciousness.

Teilhard De Chardin, Phenomenon of Man



Norman D. Livergood


Notes:

1    "The hanging ovoid object in Piero della Francesca's Montefeltro Altarpiece has long been the subject of controversies with regard to its identification and symbolic meaning. The present article argues that it can only be an ostrich egg (or imitation thereof), intended as an admonitory example. This is supported by further representations as well as by the interpretation of the 'Rationale Divinorum Officorum' and a late version of the Greek 'Physiologus.' It is also born out by the widespread practice of suspending ostrich eggs among Coptic, Armenian, Greek-Orthodox, Latin and Nestorian Christians as well as in Islam. The eggs, often in the context of hanging lamps or lamp crowns, always served as warning or admonitory examples. Their varying emblematic significance is almost always related to the ostrich's behavior towards its eggs, attested in post-classical natural--history tales with allegorical interpretations, which is interpreted as a symbol of man's relationship to God or to religious ideas."

Sebastian Bock, "The 'Egg' of the Pala Montefeltro by Piero della Francesca and its symbolic meaning"

2 We cannot use the term "Being" to describe this One Quintessence, since, as Sanai reminds us,

"How could there be place
for the creator of place,
heaven for the maker of heaven?"

In the same vein, how could the creator of being be a being or have being?

3 This reality of being an aspect, a true individuality within the One Quintessence, is perhaps best revealed by Shelly in his eulogy for the dead Keats:

"He is a portion of the loveliness
Which once he made more lovely. . ."

4 Some material found in this essay originated in a Dialectical (Shared) Meditation between the author and his wife.

5 This work of Plato's is often mis-translated as The Republic.