Wilber’s “Spectrum of Consciousness” is very interesting, to say the least. It describes the levels of consciousness that one can achieve through proper practice and understanding of each level, ultimately realizing the true self. The end of the spectrum is unobtainable, simply because it is the essence of all the other levels combined and is the basis of which the first levels of consciousness in which we develop and are experienced as waves within our consciousness. In the first levels, the ones concerned with personal existence, have a duality, in which, an interior part of consciousness is separated by an exterior part. With understanding and knowledge of each level, and through practice, one can combine the exterior and interior parts of the level and move toward the next level of consciousness.
The first level of consciousness according to Wilber is what he refers to as the persona level. The interior factor of this level is the persona, an impoverished self-image, how we express ourselves to the world, a social self. The exterior factor is the shadow where expectations or drives transform into negative connotations, for example, drive becomes pressure, excitement becomes anxiety. Most people who struggle with procrastination are troubled at this basic level. Through the understanding of the persona and the shadow aspect of reality, one can transcend or surmount above this struggle. By way of combining the persona and the shadow as equal, in a way, through the help of psychoanalysis brings us to the next level, the ego.
The ego level of consciousness, the ego is explained as being split from the body, which is the exterior factor of this level. Ego, being the interior factor, has a notion of being trapped within the body and repressing emotions, due to the split between mind and body. However, the body, in turn, is property of egoic will. So, there is a struggle between the ego and the body. There are different therapies in which to help with the unity or combining of mind and body. Gestalt therapy, one that is mostly dealing with expressing the embodied awareness. Other therapies like humanistic existential therapy, specialize in the experiences of self-actualization, embodied meaning, and existential life and death struggles. Within these realizations, the mind and body become unified and leads us to the next level.
Wilber refers to the third level of consciousness as the centaur level. This level deals with the whole of the organism (interior) and the environment (exterior). This level marks the end of personal aspects of self, and in turn, reflect the self as whole and its connection or disconnection from the environment of which it exists. Concentration toward the self is evident at this level, the self as a whole being, state of existence, and where its place in the world (environment) is. Realization of archetypes (Jung) and how they influence the self, and in what aspect they are expressed (religiously). This is unique to everyone, based on cultural and social influences. Perfecting the transcendental self, going from the finite/mortal ego, mind, and body to an immortal/beyond the physical self. A person struggling with the concept of the being-towards-death but knowing that it isn’t who they really are. A detached witness, realizing the self by looking in on one’s self. Which leads us to the ultimate transcendence, the ultimate state of consciousness.
Unity consciousness is explained, according to Wilber, as the water in which the waves of each level form. It has always been there through each level of consciousness. It is not something that can be found, or obtained, by ways of a specific path, or religion, it just is. It has always been there, lost among the “waves” of the personal concept or perception of the self.
Washburn account of the states of consciousness tends to conceptualize on more of a western tradition, a non-linear, non-hierarchical approach. Washburn introduces a tri-phasic form of development in five stages. Stage one, the embeddedness of ego or “dynamic ground.” Stage two, the pre-egoic, meaning the ego starts differentiating itself from the mind, yet tempted by recapture. Stage three, the egoic, mentality aspect of ego, repression of unconsciousness, in which most of life is stuck in this stage. Stage four, Regression in service of transcendence or a regeneration of spirit, repression of unconscious no longer exists, the ego then reconnects with the unconscious or the dynamic ground with a deeper understanding with/toward the concept of the dynamic ground. Within itself, stage four has sublevels, in which, transcendence occurs. Through periods of severe suffering does the self attain knowledge of a kind of spiritual awaking, this is also acknowledged by religious traditions. That leaves us with stage five, where the ground becomes the sovereign power and the ego is no longer the center of the psyche.