Menu Close

The Highest Levels of Consciousness According to Ken Wilber

We’re about to travel forward in time and glimpse what could be the future of humanity – our galactic guide is the levels of consciousness as Ken Wilber presents them.

Dozens of models that outline the levels of complexity in human beings reveal that the highest levels of consciousness are self-transcendent and spiritual in nature.

We’re going to cover the highest levels uncovered by researchers to date. At this time, just a tiny fraction of us operate from these stages. But if history is a good basis for extrapolation, we can expect them to emerge in the mainstream in the coming decades, centuries and millennia.

This follows on from my article on the first eight of Ken Wilber’s altitudes of development, which is part of my Ken Wilber Series. Here we’ll look at the four altitudes or stages that follow those eight.

I cover these four together for a reason: though each is unique, they have undeniable commonalities. Models of human growth tend to group them together. In Wilber’s Integral Theory, for example, they comprise the 3rd-tier of human development.

Note that these descriptions are based on information garnered from individuals. The collective manifestations of these levels (like industrialisation for the Orange altitude) are in a germination stage. Just what they will be is a mystery. Only as a significant percentage of the population downloads them will we come to understand what they mean for technology, science, politics, culture, law, architecture, industry and so on.

Let’s look at the features that the four 3rd-tier stages share.

Features of The 3rd-Tier Levels of Consciousness

The quote above from Ken Wilber reveals one aspect they all share: a transpersonal component. That is, at these levels of consciousness we establish a permanent home beyond our limited, conventional sense of self, of merely being a person living inside a body. This is an authentic transition from ordinary mind, limited separate identity and broken perception into divine knowledge, supramental capacities and direct contact with Truth. In fact, each of the stages is linked to a certain state of consciousness.

They also share a “direct sense of wholeness”. This means a moment-to-moment perception that everything in the world is deeply interrelated and that we’re enmeshed in that wholeness. At Altitudes 7 and 8, we intuit this; at Altitudes 9 to 12, we perceive it directly.

And the third aspect they share is an awareness of awareness. This means a more or less constant perception of the fact we’re aware and are experiencing life through sound, sight, feeling and emotion. This gives us a vantage point beyond the senses. Most people are almost constantly lost in thought, absorbed in the senses and bound to the perception of physical matter and linear time.

The final point I’d like to make is that these stages come after altitudes 7 and 8. That might seem like an innocent point, but it’s crucial. While we might experience meditative growth, that doesn’t guarantee we’re embodying these stages. So to really reach them, 7 and 8 need to be active. I’ll return to this point later.

To summarise:

Here’s a visual summary of these four levels of consciousness:

Summary of four highest levels of consciousness by Ken Wilber

Now let’s dive into them.

Ken Wilber & The Highest Levels of Consciousness – 9: Indigo

Indigo, altitude 9, marks the beginning of our journey into these transpersonal levels. This altitude is called para-mind, “para” meaning beside the mind, beyond the mind. It is the junction between the 2nd- and 3rd-tiers.

Here we begin to drop our identification with the body-mind, seeing beyond the illusion that we are a separate person that lives behind the eyes and inside our head. We tune into a broader, wider sense of self that is beyond thought and physicality.

Accompanying this experiential distancing from the mind is the realisation that mental concepts deeply influence and warp our experience of the world. As a result, the sense that there’s a given, predefined world breaks down, and we see the world to be “psychophysical”, as Ken Wilber says. I’d describe this as transphysicality. Though the “physical” world doesn’t magically cease to exist, we realise the idea of physicality is itself relative to our perception, and that physicality rests in a deeper, more fundamental substrate. Our identity merges with The Great Web of Life.

We’re also aware of the ego’s fundamental need for meaning and cohesion to a new level. Seeing the limitations of the mind, we appeal more to vision and insight, and thought is subservient to this “spiritual sight”, to quote Sri Aurobindo. We relax into being and non-attachment.

Our perspective-taking also ramps up a level. There are three crucial components to this. First, we begin to sense the divine in all things: all people, animals, plants, even inanimate objects. In a similar vein, our compassion becomes cosmocentric: we feel an affiliation and fellowship with all of life. Finally, we can cherish the humanity of all people, regardless of how different their ways are to ours.

On to altitude 10: Violet.

Ken Wilber & The Highest Levels of Consciousness: 10 – Violet

At 10, many of the transpersonal components from the previous altitude strengthen.

Ken Wilber calls this stage meta-mind, meaning “moving beyond ordinary mind”, and Sri Aurobindo calls it intuitive mind.

As hinted before, here we become ever more transpersonal. While altitude 9 is still somewhat embedded in the first eight, this stage is anchored beyond them.

A defining feature of this stage is its “feeling-awareness”: intellect, feelings, knowing and being all come together. This represents a deep transcending and including of cognition, recapitulated in a higher form and merged with other capacities.

The sense of separation further breaks down, and we sense everything around us to be as close and intimate as our own skin. In a similar vein, we deeply feel all thoughts, feelings and sensations in our awareness, further dissolving the subject–object dichotomy and the sense of separation.

Deity mysticism, meaning a sense of identity with a deity form, is the prevailing form of spirituality here. Our knowledge faculty also develops further, allowing us to contact the truth of things by direct inner contact, rather than by rational deliberation or theorising. Hence Aurobindo’s choice of label.

On to the third 3rd-tier stage.

Highest Levels of Consciousness: 11 – Ultraviolet

Now we’re getting deep into transpersonal territory.

This stage links to the Witness state. Here we find revelations such as: “I have thoughts but I’m not those thoughts” and “I have emotions but I’m not those emotions.” We have an almost constant awareness of awareness now.

This stage is the Witness state plus all earlier altitudes, meaning it has features that Witnessing Mind alone does not. In fact, the literature describes this stage as “feeling witness” and “warm witnessing”. Instead of detached, Zen-like perception of everything in and around us, this is a loving, Rumi-like welcoming into awareness. The ordinary is spiritual; the spiritual is ordinary. That said, we still have the component of detachment that is characteristic of Witnessing Mind, and a boundless, universal identity replaces our dense individual self-sense.

On that same track, we’re now aware that thoughts and emotions come from beyond the mind and reverbate in the gross and subtle bodies. This is the first entirely supramental structure. We’ve transcended the self sense to a sufficient degree that we also transcend mental concepts.

Aurobindo frames this stage as a juncture between ordinary human operation and superhuman operation, which comes at the next stage. We’re absorbed in endless love, light and luminosity and are identified with pure consciousness. Absolute and relative truth become increasingly difficult to distinguish.

The jump to Supermind comes when the subject–object dichotomy collapses.

Ken Wilber & The Highest Levels of Consciousness – 12: White Supermind

Now we step into the highest altitude of development conjoined with the highest state of consciousness. Without non-dual awareness, we can’t move into supermind. This is non-duality plus all of 1st-tier, 2nd-tier and 3rd-tier.

Wilber and Aurobindo have described this stage as superhuman. In first person, it’s oneness with God and all the manifestations of God. There is no self, no subject and no object; all experience is now one, unified, overflowing Taste. Absolute and Relative truth also merge into one. What’s more, we see the same awareness looking out of all sentient beings everywhere, and they are immersed in this One Taste, experiencing a particular configuration of the universal.

We transcend the dichotomies of good and evil, pleasure and pain, and inside and outside. There is a deep unity and wholeness underlying these limited dualities. We rest in the oneness and find it in even the most partial and broken perspectives. Our desires, ideas and emotions now arise from that oneness.

There is infinite richness, endless knowledge and boundless connectivity. The present moment and all of time are no longer seperate: we’re aware that they coexist as particularities of eternity.

This is oneness felt, seen, tasted, drunk, eaten, perceived, with no distinction between any of those modalities of perception. It’s pure oneness with no subject or object, living you and you living it.

Wilber speculates that a large-scale embodiment of Supermind would lead to a superhumanity, one evolved far beyond the pain, suffering and torment that has hitherto characterised humankind. A tantalising claim.

By the time a significant number of humans have reached Supermind… those activities [art, morals, science] will scarcely be recognisable in today’s terms.

Ken Wilber

Beyond Supermind

Would the hunter-gatherers living in the savannahs and jungles 100,000 years ago have predicted Orange modernity, with its worldcentric outlook, industrial technology, modern architecture, capitalism, corporations and scientific philosophy? What about postmodernity, with its relativism, rights revolutions and drive for absolute equality?

We have to see ourselves as hunter-gatherers too, even if this undermines our tendency to think we’re at the top of the tree. The future of humanity is a mystery to us. We can gaze at maps like this and dream, but really we’re in the dark. And thousands of years from now, it’s likely that human life will have evolved to such a point that modern humans could hardly recognise it.

And who knows, the 3rd-tier itself may just be a beginning, a slither in the universal story, of humans reaching infinity and beyond.

What is psychology? Clare Graves quote

States and Altitudes

Let’s wrap up with a final, crucial point. In a nutshell, Integral Theory claims that each of these four altitudes are related to a fundamental state of consciousness. This requires some explanation.

Integral Theory holds that we can embody any state of consciousness (Gross, Subtle, Causal, Witness, Non-dual) at almost any altitude of development. So we could easily embody Non-duality and be identified with Green, meaning we’d interpret our non-dual experience of life in terms of social justice, postmodernity and sensitivity. At Teal, we’d appeal to Teal language – levels of complexity and evolution – to describe it.

Each of these four 3rd-tier altitudes is directly linked (or “conjoined”) to each of the four fundamental states. So if we’re centred at Ultraviolet, let’s say, we have at least a Witnessing capacity, but we don’t have exclusive identity to any 1st or 2nd-tier stages. Therefore, we’ll interpret the Witnessing Mind with Ultraviolet language.

There are plenty of gaps both in my knowledge and in our collective knowledge of these 3rd-tier stages, but the key is that they go beyond 1st- and 2nd-tier, and that merely embodying higher states of consciousness is not enough to reach them.

Master the stages of human growth and revolutionise your view of yourself, others and the world.

The Ultimate Stages of Human Development Online Course gives you 20+ audios packed with life-changing insights from human development and personal flourishing.

INCLUDED IN MEMBERS SUBSCRIPTION: Levels Of Personal Development Online Course – My system to guide your personal improvement journey with this wonderful theory!