Levels of Consciousness

We go through levels of consciousness both as a natural process as the brain develops and as a process of growth. However, we can also get stuck at lower levels.

We start our lives with a sensory mind; Jean Piaget called this the Sensorimotor stage (birth to 2 years) during which we learn about the environment through movement and the senses. Between 2 and 7 years (Piaget’s Preoperational stage) we develop the ability to use symbolic representation and our imagination. The Operational stage spans ages 7 to 11, when we learn to use logic and to hold concrete concepts in our minds. The Formal Operational stage starts at around 12 years of age - we move from concrete thinking to the ability to understand abstract concepts, such as social, moral and political ideas.

From this natural brain development, it is apparent that we are ‘wired’ to be able to think in terms of abstract concepts and gain an increasingly aerial view of life. However, as adults we can allow some of the earlier stages to still dominate and we can fail to fully develop our highest level of consciousness. These are my interpretation of these stages: -

Ground 3 Unconscious/ ‘body mind’

At this level of consciousness, we are largely living from conditioned ideas that we learnt in our early environments. There is also a strong emphasis on the body – what we look like, what others think of us and fitting in. We don’t question these ideas; in fact we aren’t even conscious of them. The main problem with this is that we are likely to perpetuate ideas that are destructive - I describe this as being ‘entangled in false programming’. Although people can function quite well at this level within a community who all subscribe to similar ideas, it is often an experience of trauma, or an unexpected challenge that will force us to change.

Ground 2 Mind

This stage involves facing the pain (of self-hatred, or a sense of meaninglessness, or of loss and trauma), becoming conscious of our internalised ideas and taking our power back by ‘untangling’ from ideas that no longer serve us. There is less emphasis on the body and more focus on our own individual minds. It is usually at this stage that we seek psychotherapy or start reading self-help books.

Ground 1 Spirit, meaning

At this level, we start to focus on our own innate values – what really matters in life. This is a process of letting go, clarifying and reconnecting to more universal principles – meaning, values, truth. There is a greater sense of our common humanity. We might start to explore spiritual teachings and to practice meditation.

Ground 0 One

At this level, we arrive back at our original being; the essence of life. We see the world free from faulty ideas. We no longer see ourselves as separate bodies but as one with universal intelligence, one with all. There is a wonderful liberation and joy at this stage. It may seem far-fetched, but quantum physics bears this out: the foundation of everything is energy and there are no discrete objects, despite how real they seem using perception. I call this the Matrix of Love. Although scientists cannot prove this by observation or calculation, when we are still and purely aware, we become conscious of this sense of love, calm and limitlessness.

For further reading, see Ken Wilber - Integral Psychology

Ann Fielding

Clinical Psychologist


Tel: 086 230 4853

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