Consciousness is a double helix, a ladder that takes us from finite-lived sentient beings on Earth to eternal being in the heavens.

The first rung on the ladder is animal consciousness, awareness of oneself as an entity apart and separate from that which is not oneself. This duality has the self as its center and all else relatively close or far from the center, but separate from the center. It is sustained when one identifies with affinity groups, as groups also see themselves as separate from other non-group members.

The second rung is self-consciousness, awareness of one’s awareness; awareness that one’s perceptions are not necessarily reality, but solely our mind’s perceptions. Self-consciousness is unsettling as we feel uncertain about our perceptions in light of the perceptions of others, especially group perceptions for which we are ridiculed if we question.

Above self-consciousness, the third rung, is awakening consciousness, the realization that the generalizations, meanings and stories our mind and others have created are empty illusions that frame and limit how we experience the now. Upon awakening, we are freed from the prison of these illusions which have us experience things not as they are but as our self and the selves of others are.

On the forth rung, having dispensed with illusions, one synthesizes a rainbow of views into white light that reveals the nature of things. This is wisdom consciousness.

With the clarity of white light, we realize that what we see everywhere is who we are. Thus, we treat all that heretofore we saw as other than ourselves as we treat ourselves, presumably with kindness and compassion. This is compassion consciousness, the fifth rung.

On the sixth rung of consciousness we enter the clouds, mystical consciousness. Here we realize that every-thing is nothing before it is what it is whatever it is and that the nothing is eternal, endless, timeless and forever changing in its manifestations as things. The nothing cannot be named; for if it is this, it is not that; what it is is what is beneath the surface of everything. The nothing is the now-thing; experiencing the now which is temporary manifestations of the nothing. However, we know we are conscious of the now-thing only after it is no longer; our experience of the now-thing is just memories; thinking otherwise is also an illusion. Those who speak of the nothing do not know it because by its nature it cannot be named or described; those who know do not speak. (Lao Tzu, paraphrased)

The seventh rung brings us to the heavens, above the clouds; ultimate consciousness, enlightenment. Now, all there is, including us, is light. Our consciousness is awareness that we are is one of infinite temporary manifestations of the nothing that cannot be named, one with all its manifestations and, essentially, one with the nothing; eternal.