Everyone wants to unfold, but we cannot always do it because we do not clearly know what this process entails.
The first thing for us to do is to recognize our state of consciousness. This recognition is the fundamental basis for our point of departure and is the direction for our unfolding.
We all have a state of consciousness. But we cannot really group people according to their states of consciousness, because that would lead to arbitrary classifications. And, besides, who can say what another person's state of consciousness is? It isn't always the same: at one point in life we express ourselves as though we have one state of consciousness and at another moment we act according to a different state of consciousness. Our inner world is also apparently contradictory, for it manifests various sometimes opposite tendencies simultaneously, which could indicate that there are different states of consciousness operating in us at the same time.
We could say that each of us is a soul, and the soul is a composite. Mind and heart, reason and passion, instinctual voices and spiritual yearnings are forces in us which struggle to predominate and don't always let us have a clear vision of who we are. Yet it is possible to outline certain stages of spiritual unfolding in the soul. Here we call these stages "states of consciousness." In spiritual life, each stage is really a state of consciousness.
Positive state of consciousness is what we call the stage in which we develop our personality, improve our will, develop rational thought and learn to categorize within the system of pairs of opposites. Most of us spend a long time in the state of positive consciousness.
Let us look for a moment at the state of consciousness of human beings long ago, when humanity first began to develop self-awareness: Early in our development, life was only an expression of the instinct for self-preservation. To live was to survive. The instinct of self-preservation was (and continues to be) the manifestation in human beings of the will of nature. At that stage, the human will is the will of nature. Love, at that stage, means obeying that law. Self-awareness is yet to be developed. Our state of consciousness, at that stage, is "I am-as-species.
But in order to survive, we needed to learn to defend ourselves. Such defense tenuously points to "something" we defend myself plus my first or foremost extension: weapons, tools, other people I identify with. This instinct of self-preservation has been necessary it bonded the first human groups. In time, the group became the family, peoples, races, nations.
We have evolved a lot in the course of the centuries of human development. We have expanded our notion of the group. But the growth of the group of the "greater I" doesn't necessarily mean that there has been a fundamental change in our states of consciousness. We still, as individuals, tend to identify with a group to the extent that that group is useful and that it protects us. This means that the number of people forming our groups expands or contracts according to circumstances. It is rare to find a person who loves everyone; we tend to love all the ones who are in our group. When the group changes, for any number of reasons, our love can also change, even to the point of becoming hate.
At one time we identify with the family, the people, the race or the country around us, at another time our feelings can completely change. Our identification isn't real; it is the identification of personal interest. Sometimes it seems complete, as happens in war or persecution which threatens the survival of our nation or race. But once danger is past, people so often again reduce their identification to the small group which, within their race or country, coincides with their personal interest. This means that our identification is not only partial but also superficial and temporary.
How do we develop this identification and this personality? Our personality is formed as a by-product of our self-defense. Since we don't yet have a deep self-awareness, we identify with what we defend: our bodies, possession, progeny, group. We tend to think: "I am all that." We don't yet have a real personality of our own.
If we remain in this early state of consciousness, the thing we identify with most tends to be our bodies. We then do everything we can to satisfy what the body demands. Satisfaction of physical needs leads rapidly to identification with the body. Will is at the service of a physical self. To love means loving a self which is mainly physical. The satisfaction of desires and of that self is the basic need, which is the basis on which the laws that rule life are structured.
This is the way we have developed the consciousness of being a separate, differentiated being. Human consciousness incarnates: I am-in-a-body. We create divisions: we divide races according to physical characteristics. Physical differences likewise accentuate our personalities. The meaning of personal property is defined. The personality acquires precise limits. Reason divides and separates in order to know and classify.
But each of us is left alone when we delimit ourselves within a personality. Before we were like the group; now we are facing the group. Instinctual love brings us together but doesn't unite us. We then seek encounter, communication. The need to share gives rise to reciprocal affection, which endures beyond physical need. We recognize others: "neighbors," someone like us.
An attitude of self-defense entrenches us deeply in a personality. We don't want to die, but since death is unavoidable, we entrench ourselves in life through children: they prolong "my" life. We entrench ourselves in posterity as a way of projecting ourselves beyond death, beyond time. Human beings want to escape from the prison of time. But the yearning to be free of time is a way of wanting to be free of the personality. The personality is not only limitation in a self, it is limitation in a particular time: during the lifetime of the self's physical body.
The desire to be free marks the beginning of the expansion of the state of consciousness. To discover another human being means perfecting love. When we discover our neighbor, charity is born. Charity is the capacity to sacrifice oneself for others. We suffer for them, work for them. Our consciousness expands.
But still, we do not know what real love is. We protect our neighbor, but we still attack and destroy our enemy. By fixing ourselves in a personality, we have fixed our vision of life in a system of pairs of opposites: myself and others; people like me and those who are different. Charity is the beginning movement of expansive love, but we are not yet able to see everyone as someone to love. Our consciousness has expanded, but it still sees existence through a dualistic vision, in which good and evil exist in a world of "good people" and "bad people." We only conceive of compassion toward good people. At this stage, our conception of God is that of a military god who protects the good himself included and destroys the bad.
The positive state of consciousness has allowed human beings to become masters of the world, nature, and space. But it has also perfected our capacity to destroy. It gave us material wings but did not teach us to fly inwardly. We can travel the cosmos with our spaceships, but we still cannot transcend our anguish or inner problems, or find the way out of the vicious circle of the problems created by our progress.
Yet love is like a flower which opens and expands until revealing all its beauty and releasing its fragrance. Love is the door which leads the soul to transcend the positive state of consciousness.
When love stops asking for something, mysticism begins.
To stop asking means to stop expecting, to stop pursuing personal objectives. The personal self interprets the perfecting of love as a renouncement, because the personal self is an expression of separateness. Our positive attitude prevents us from understanding that our consciousness won't expand unless we, individually, begin renouncing from now on.
The expansion of Renouncement is of a different nature from the positive expansion we were used to. The expansion that comes from Renouncement is a negative expansion. The word negative, of course, is incapable of explaining the nature of spiritual expansion. But it is the closest we can come to describing an expansion that is not positive. Positive expansion is an increase in extension; it's something that happens on the exterior. Negative expansion happens inside the self, it's an expansion in depth: it is the spiritualizing of the state of consciousness. From the moment negative expansion begins, our state of consciousness acquires a new dimension.
When we transcend the dualistic representation of existence, our love expands inwardly until it embraces everything: people, the world, the Divine. It turns into participation.
Until then, the act of loving was a movement-something we gave, something that came to us. In contrast to this movement, participation is spiritual identification: others live inside us. Communication is no longer a movement: communication is established through the expansion of self-awareness. To be is to be in all souls.
When we expand, we participate, and our life is Presence. We no longer spend life darting from one experience to another. Our awareness consists in having the Divine reside within us and ourselves in the Divine. We become the expression of the harmony between what is limited and human and what is Divine and limitless. Exteriorly our life is rhythm and measure; interiorly it is simple movement.
Every human being has a state of consciousness. Within that state of consciousness there are many possibilities which, when fulfilled, provide the knowledge of the range of things we embrace from our state of consciousness. But we begin to unfold when we expand our state of consciousness, transcending our limited, personal identification. We unfold when we learn to love without limits.
Reprinted from Mysticism and States of Consciousness
by Jorge Waxemberg