Life is the Essence of Spirit, so is Consciousness the Essence of Life. Spirit is One, yet it manifests in many forms of Life. Life is One, yet it manifests in many forms of Consciousness. While the forms of manifested Consciousness are innumerable, yet the wise know Consciousness to manifest on Seven Planes of Consciousness:
1. The Plane of the Elements On this Plane of Consciousness is manifested the actions and reactions between the subtle elements of which all material forms are composed. Here occurs the play between the atoms, the electrons, the ions, the corpuscles, and the still more tenuous particles of substance of which science has as yet no knowledge. It may be said that on this plane occurs the play of phases of substance as much more tenuous and subtle than the electrons as the latter are more tenuous than the atoms. Little can be said concerning these practically unknown forms and phases of matter, although the occult teachings are quite full of them.
2. The Plane of the Minerals On this Plane of Consciousness are manifested the actions and reactions of the molecules of which the minerals are composed, and of the masses of mineral matter as well. Just as the atoms of matter manifest attraction and repulsion, arising from “like and dislike” of consciousness, so do the molecules of matter manifest a similar “like and dislike,” resulting in the attraction and repulsion between molecules and masses of matter. The molecules or particles of which a piece of steel, for instance, is composed, hold together by reason of the attractive power of “cohesion,” and not because they are “fastened together” by any mechanical means employed by nature. In the same way, gravitation manifests its attractive force.
3. The Plane of the Plants On this plane of Consciousness are manifested the actions and reactions of the protoplasmic cells which the plants are composed. At the lower pole of this plane we find plant-life which is scarcely distinguishable from the higher forms of mineral life. There are the Diatoms, or “living crystals” which the best authorities regard as the “missing link” between the two great kingdoms of Life and Consciousness, but which really are plants rather than minerals. The Diatoms belong to an order of flowerless plants, a genus of the Algols. They are covered by a siliceous covering which gives them a crystalline appearance. They present the appearance of crystalline fragmentary particles, generally bounded by right lines, flat, stiff and brittle, usually nestling in slime in which they unite into various forms and combinations, and from which they often again separate.
4. The Plane of the Animals There is no fixed dividing line between the adjoining Planes of Consciousness. Just as the Mineral Consciousness is closely blended into the Plant Consciousness, so is the Plant Consciousness closely blended into the Animal Consciousness. In fact, in the lowly forms of animal life it is almost impossible to state positively whether the particular form under consideration is a plant or an animal. The occultist recognized that these disputed forms dwell in the region in which the two respective planes blend and intermingle. Consciousness in animal-life varies from the first faint glimmerings in the single-cell creatures in the slime of the ocean bed to the full dawn in the highest forms of animal-life like the horse. In each and every case, however, it will be found that each creature is endowed with a sufficient degree of intelligence to meet its needs and requirements - to adapt it to its environment. As the environment increases in complexity, the form of animal life has either adapted its consciousness to meet the requirements, or else has perished in the course of evolution.
5. The Plane of the Human Passing from the Plane of Animal Consciousness to that of the Plane of Human Consciousness, we soon become cognizant of the presence of a new element of Consciousness. This element is known as “Self Consciousness,” or the Consciousness which enables Man to say, knowingly, of himself “I am I” - to identify himself as the Thinker, apart from the thoughts; the Actor apart from the action; the Feeler, apart from the feelings; the Willer, apart from the voluntary activities; the Conscious Subject, apart from the phenomena of the senses. It is true that in the primitive forms of human life this new consciousness exists but as a faint dawn, but it is latent there; and as the ascent of Man progresses this new conscious flames out in higher and still higher forms.
6. The Plane of the Demi-Gods The characteristic feature of the Plane of Consciousness of the Demi-Gods is that of Oneness with Universal Life - the consciousness of the Life of All-Manifestation. Varying in many degrees and forms, of course, this is the characteristic feature of all experiences of this great plane of conscious activity. On this plane, the individual feels in close touch with all the rest of Creation - a united part of (not apart from) the ALL. The experience of even a slight momentary contact with this plane of being constitutes the common “mystic experience,” of which sages, seers, poets, and illumined souls of all ages have sung, and regarding which they have tried to inform us in words inadequate to the task.
7. The Plane of the Gods On this highest of all Planes of Consciousness dwell beings so high in the scale of knowledge, power, life, and bliss. This is the Plane of the Gods, in verity - of being so far advanced that they are practically akin to the conception of the Gods created by man to account for the Universe, and to serve as objects of worship. On this Plane are Personal Gods - many of them - but none of them, alone, may be regarded as GOD, in the sense of the Eternal Parent or Infinite Reality. For even the highest of them have their limitations and restrictions, and all are but Manifestations of the Infinite Unmanifest. Each of these exalted Beings has had its beginning or birth in Manifestation, and each will finally have its ending and disappearance into the Infinite Unmanifest, where all sense of separateness and personality will disappear.The highest authorities inform us that the characteristic element of this highest form of all consciousness is the conscious realization of the individual that he IS identical with the Infinite, and is only apparently separated therefrom by the most tenuous and subtle veil of illusion.
Portière made by Morris & Co (1892–93). ‘Oak’ green silk damask embroidered with silk (one of four). Designed by William Morris (1834–1896) and embroidered by May Morris (1862–1938). Inscription reads ‘Sumer. is. icumen. in, loudly sing cuccu.’