In earlier instalments of this series, Hazrat Inayat Khan explained the first three stages of consciousness, which is to say, our usual waking consciousness, the dreamworld, and the state of deep repose that is the bridge from our usual condition to the spiritual world. Here, he explains two higher states of consciousness, one which he calls the experience of the mystic, and the state of union, or liberation. The previous post in the series may be found here.
There is a still higher plane or experience of consciousness, different from these three experiences which everybody knows more or less; and this fourth experience is that of the mystic. It is an experience of seeing without the help of the eyes, hearing without the help of the ears, and experiencing a plane without the help of the physical body, in a way similar to that of the physical body but at the same time independent of it. And as soon as one arrives at this experience one begins to believe in the hereafter, for it gives one the conviction that when the physical body is discarded the soul still remains; that it is independent of the physical body and is capable of seeing, living, and experiencing, and of doing so more freely and fully. Therefore this stage of experience is called the consciousness of the mystic.
People become frightened when they hear about nirvana or mukti.* Nirvana means to become nothing, and everyone wants to become something; no one wants to be nothing. There are hundreds and thousands interested in Eastern philosophy, but when it comes to being nothing, they find it a difficult thing to grasp, and they consider it most frightening to think that one day they will be nothing. But they do not know that it is the solving of this question that makes a person into a being, because what he believes himself to be is a mortal thing that will one day expire, and he will no more find himself to be what he thought himself to be.
Nirvana, therefore, is the fifth consciousness. It is a consciousness of a similar kind to that of a person in deep sleep. But in deep sleep one is asleep outwardly, that is to say in the physical body, while the mental body is also asleep. In this condition of Nirvana or highest consciousness, however, one is conscious all through of the body as much as of the soul. During this experience a person lives fully, as the consciousness is evenly divided and yet he remains conscious of the highest stage.
To conclude, what does the soul’s awakening mean? The body’s awakening means to feel sensation; the mind’s awakening means to think and to feel; the soul’s awakening means that the soul becomes conscious of itself. Normally man is conscious of his affairs, of the conditions of life, of his body and mind, but not of his soul. In order to become conscious of the soul one has to work in a certain way, because the soul has become unconscious of itself. By working through its vehicles, body and mind, it has become unaware of its own freedom, of its own beauty.
*Both words mean ‘liberation.’ Nirvana also carries the sense of ‘extinction,’ but it is the annihilation of the separate self in the realization of Unity.
To be continued…