Third Level Awareness

Mark Pottenger


This musing was prompted by the discussion during the July 8 LA-CCRS meeting, which touched on several questions about levels, including:

Can a person live in this world while spending most of their time in Third Level Awareness?

Why is Third Level Awareness so hard to achieve?

A while ago I listed some Science Fiction for the Mystically Inclined. With my reading history, I naturally thought about some F&SF while writing this. The Skylark series by Doc Smith has a scene with an artificial universal thought along the lines of the Universal Mind as I describe it below. The Five Gods series by Lois McMaster Bujold includes books showing how arduous it would be for a human to prepare to be a mouthpiece or a doorway for divinity. Quite a few novels by John Dalmas are of interest for discussions of Second and Third Level Awareness, though naturally novels have a lot more conflict than class or personal explorations of levels of awareness. The Second Coming by Dalmas features the level of enlightenment that I remembered as being described by the term bodhisattva. A reread showed me that I remembered it that way because that is how it is used in the novel.

CCRS jargon for decades has talked about Levels of awareness (which are personal attempts to understand a complex actual reality). Even though we use the level labels, it should always be understood that there are no hard walls between levels—they form a continuum.

Some of this musing runs into issues which I touched on in Spiritual Science, and Implications of Infinity.

First Level Awareness sees the to-from daily-life world of external causes. This is what we learn to perceive as we grow up in this world. Our brains include what can be called reality (model) generators which synthesize sensory input (sight, hearing, smell, taste, touch [pressure, texture, temperature, etc.], proprioception, etc.) with prior knowledge and memory to create a perceived world. Raw sensations are not recognized as from an external world without processing by reality generators (or storytellers, as I believe brain science describes them). Our brains are very busy places, and the reality generators also act as filters and fillers-in, determining what inputs to ignore as well as what inputs to use and what gaps to fill with interpolations in synthesizing each reality. This usually includes ignoring any signals (noise) not recognized as coming from known sensory inputs. First Level Awareness is a level of survival needs, and any higher levels generally don’t get any brain resources until survival needs have been met. First Level is where we walk, drive, work, vote, build a house, raise food, cook, eat, etc.

I have intentionally used the term brain in describing First Level since this is territory that modern science has explored extensively. Beyond this level we get to minds and consciousness, including speculations not limited to a human body & brain.

Second Level Awareness adds awareness and possible development of internal causation. An individual with time and energy available after meeting survival needs may be able to engage in self-reflection and other mental efforts not limited to responding to external stimuli. This is where we can learn to take control of aspects of our own lives. This is where almost all self-help systems are practiced and where self-development (beyond simple learning of facts about the external world) occurs. This is still within the limitations of an individual consciousness (with both conscious and subconscious minds). I don’t pretend to know why some people who have met their survival needs grow beyond First Level Awareness and many others don’t. LA-CCRS classes have for years used the placeholder label “Spiritual DNA” to convey the concept that there is some inherent factor beyond simple physical makeup that will explain this difference once it is discovered. For Second Level Awareness it is possible that science will eventually discover some aspects of physical DNA that supply the explanation our “Spiritual DNA” placeholder is waiting for related to self-direction, creativity, originality, and even spirituality. If that happens, the label “Spiritual DNA” would still be appropriate, but the meaning would shift from an unknown spiritual substance to physical DNA that helps explain people’s potentials.

Third Level Awareness adds awareness and possible experiences of the infinite / universal. This moves beyond the scope of current physical (and physicalistic) science into mysticism and spirituality. My own beliefs include a mental component in all reality, making the widely used term “Universal Mind” a literal reference to the mind of the entire universe (or multiple universes, depending on how you use that word).

Thinking in these terms brings up one of the reasons Third Level Awareness can be hard for humans to achieve. The Universal Mind is not just human! The mind of all reality includes all human minds, but also the minds of all other forms of life on Earth and anywhere else, and minds of planets and stars and galaxies, on up to any scale that you want to look at. The mind of all reality also includes all time with omnitemporal access. Most thoughts in the Universal Mind will be too alien for most humans to be able to fully experience, comprehend, and remember. The phrase “spiritual beings having human experiences” takes on new meaning. More than once over decades James Pottenger suggested that Third Level is just as far as we have begun to explore, and we have no idea how many levels can eventually be reached. I suspect the Third Level Awareness label may eventually be clarified as the first transpersonal level of human thought.

The reality generator filter function I mentioned above is another reason Third Level Awareness can be hard. The storytellers in our brains pick and choose inputs to weave coherent stories to be able to perceive any reality. Thoughts from the Universal Mind will routinely get ignored whenever we are focused on First Level survival.

This naturally leads to looking at mystical and spiritual practices through human history and across human cultures. The vast majority involve one tool or another for getting the mind out of mundane First Level Awareness: (many forms of) meditation, koans, dancing, whirling, drumming, fasting, using psychoactive substances, prayer, visiting sacred (or naturally beautiful) spaces, etc. Quiet the monkey mind. Get out of your own way. Etc. In very broad terms, they are all ways to be open to thoughts / experiences / knowledge that can’t reach our conscious minds during First Level daily life.

Thinking about Third Level Awareness led me to consider possible variations and gradations within Third Level.

One scale is the nature of the Third Level manifestation:

There can be epiphanies leaving one with knowledge comprehensible in First Level.

There can be moments of cosmic awareness that are hard to describe in First Level object-oriented languages. Knowledge perceived during the Third Level moment may be impossible to convey in First Level.

There can be experiences that change the self and the surrounding world. One type of experience multiple sources have written about is a level of unity impossible in First Level. This is also where the instant change of a First Level habit can happen.

Another scale is control and intent:

It is possible that some AHA moments or creative thoughts are not just the results of personal subconscious mental processes but the Universal Mind spontaneously slipping through the barriers of mundane thoughts.

The Socratic model of knowledge says that knowledge already exists inside a person and can be drawn out by skillful questioning. That “inside” might just be a personal subconscious or it might be the Universal Mind. Socratic evoking from the Universal Mind to the conscious mind could be a second gradation of Third Level.

Intensely wanting something and having it manifest in your life (without practicing any explicit mental disciplines or exercises) could be another gradation. Counting on wants (desires) is unreliable because want is a very two-edged word (thought). Want can mean desire, but it also means lack. All too easily, focusing on wants can just reinforce lacks rather than satisfying desires.

Deliberately opening to possibilities without imposing mental conditions or requirements or restraints (“Let go and let God.”) could be next. This is another risky practice, because the Universal Mind is not omnibenevolent—it truly is Universal, including things that First Level will unequivocally label as bad or evil or dangerous. Removing all filters to be open to whatever comes is not guaranteed to be safe. During the years CCRS had a church in Pomona there was a practice of picking an “Animation Buddy” for everyone to send energy to until the next meeting. A month as the Animation Buddy was especially bad for someone with negative mental leanings.

I have seen one form of mental / spiritual discipline described as having or setting an intention without being attached to a specific outcome (intending without wanting). This and similar practices could be described as shaping the personal mind to allow / encourage / direct an aspect of the Universal Mind fitting that shape to fill it. With the Third Level equation of mind and world, succeeding in this could be an internal change that will see a matching external (First Level world) change.

Back to one of the opening questions: Can a person live in this world while spending most of their time in Third Level Awareness?

Even a person who has achieved a level of enlightenment where they can be in Third Level Awareness at any time they choose still must use First Level Awareness to live in this world. They will live a fundamentally different life from someone limited to only First Level Awareness because their default state is Third Level Awareness and they use First Level Awareness to deal with the world, so their First Level Awareness is much less toxic as a tool rather than a limiting reality. I thought the Buddhist terms arhat and bodhisattva referred to this level of enlightenment, but quick Wikipedia and Google searches showed me that there is a lot of wiggle room in these terms.

For an analogy, recall the personal computers of a few decades ago. The operating system for PCs was MS-DOS, with a command-line interface that many people found hard to use. Microsoft Windows, with a Graphical User Interface, later became the default PC operating system, but for several releases of Windows it still supported a DOS (command-line) window within Windows for people who preferred that interface for some tasks. In this analogy, the DOS window under Windows represents First Level Awareness used by a Third Level Awareness consciousness. It can be called up when wanted, then dismissed when the task at hand is completed, or it can be kept running in one window while doing other tasks.

I remember . . . .

One fact about memory is that it can be state-dependent. It is easier to remember things when we are in similar mental states to when the memories were created. Since day-to-day First Level Awareness is usually a very different mental state than Third Level Awareness, it will usually be harder to remember Third Level experiences and knowledge during mundane First Level life. This quirk of memory also means that it is quite possible to have had more moments of Third Level Awareness than we realize because we don’t remember them.

Copyright © 2023 Mark Pottenger

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