Levels of Consciousness by David R. Hawkins
Table of Contents
- The Levels of Consciousness
- Calibration Levels Below 200: The Ego
- Shame: Despair
- Calibration Levels 200-499: Linear Mind
- Calibration Levels 500-599: Spiritual Reality
- The Levels of Consciousness in Your Life
- Environmental Influences
- Raising Your Level of Consciousness
- Further Reading
Because we don’t know what consciousness is or where it is generated, people often struggle with the concept of raising their consciousness.
Moreover, there seems to be a limitless plethora of levels of consciousness.
Some states are of short-term nature, for example, the effects of a drug. And some states are of long-term nature when you for instance have a transformative experience that changes your perception of life forever.
There are different concepts about the levels of consciousness out there, like the three levels of consciousness by Philip Holder, the four levels of consciousness by Dr. Bob Günius Gibson, and the seven levels of consciousness by Richard Barret.
However, the levels of consciousness, or map of consciousness, I am going to talk about in this article is by the late Dr. David R. Hawkins.
As stated before, we experience different levels at various times but usually, we are in a predominant state of consciousness.
Personally, I find the levels of consciousness practical. When you read his book, you can fairly easily discern at what stage you find yourself, and when you have transitioned into the next level. A shift from one level into another will have an enormous impact on your life.
Hawkins defines his map of consciousness as a logarithmic scale, meaning they’re far more people on the lower levels than on the higher ones.
The good news, however, is if you are reading this you are most likely already at least at the level of courage because at a lower level you’d probably have no interest nor the capacity for personal growth.
The Levels of Consciousness
Your rate of happiness is in correlation with your level of consciousness.
Calibration Levels Below 200: The Ego
This level is close to death. At this level, you are probably contemplating suicide or do not take the steps necessary to prolong life. Either that or you are a serial killer.
Victims of shame often become cruel to others and themselves (self-directed hatred). On this level, you are also prone to other negative emotions such as anger, guilt, and false pride. On a clinical level, this may manifest as severe depression.
As transitory state despair can be a major obstacle to spiritual evolution manifesting in the form of the dark night of the soul. Overcoming this, however, will lead to great transformation. As Zen teachings say: “Heaven and hell are only one-tenth of an inch apart.”
Guilt is the level of remorse, self-recrimination, and masochism. Moreover, blame (victimhood) is often used to manipulate and punish others.
In guilt, you see yourself as a sinner and are unable to forgive yourself for past actions and behavior.
Unconscious guilt can have serious consequences for the body in the form of diseases, accidents, and suicidal behavior.
Guilt is self-indulgence and to alleviate guilt we require acceptance and forgiveness. By being compassionate towards ourselves we can see that it is not necessary to suffer from one mistake over and over again.
Learn more about how to overcome guilt here.
The level of apathy is, among others, characterized by indifference, neglect, poverty, low energy, and hopelessness. It is the level of many homeless people and isolated seniors.
This level of consciousness is a learned state of helplessness, which makes its victims needy in many aspects. The lack of resources and energy results in a passive lifestyle.
While they are highly dependent, society often considers individuals on this level as a burden and drain of resources. Therefore, the motivation to help such individuals is often low. Many people feel even disgusted towards the homeless and others at this level of consciousness.
Underlying apathy is often the belief of “I can’t” or “I don’t want to” which can be considered disguised pride.
This level is higher than apathy because by feeling something you are at least starting to escape the numbness. Grief is a state of loss and sadness, and most of us have experienced it for a period of time.
However, a prolonged stay at this level of consciousness can lead to depression, mourning, and remorse about the past.
Many people who spend a lot of time on this level accept failure and sorrow as part of their life. Individuals in grief see life as sad and the world as a sad place.
Its cure is surrender and acceptance. Interestingly, it is often not the loss of someone or something we are surrendering but the attachment to this person or thing itself.
Everyone of us experiences fundamental fears: fear of death, rejection, loss of control, conformity, etc. Fear is often the basis of many decisions and is used as a tool of oppression and control.
On this level of consciousness, you see the world as a dangerous and threatening place. Fearfulness is contagious and can lead to paranoia. The media plays a big role in infecting whole societies with fears by feeding them fearful thoughts.
People on this level of consciousness are in a state of hyperarousal and can often be stuck there for a long time. On a pathological level, fear can manifest in the form of anxiety disorders, phobias, PTSD, social withdrawal, or even substance addiction.
Fear is an unpleasant physiological and emotional experience. Therefore, ironically, often the thing we fear the most is fear itself.
“We have nothing to fear but fear itself.” – Franklin D. Roosevelt
To process fear it helps to recognize and accept the physical sensations that accompany fearfulness. By that means we can reduce fear to physicality.
More on how to overcome fears here.
While desire is a common motivator in humans it is also the level of craving, addiction, and never having enough. More money, more fame, more power, more prestige. Desire is associated with accumulation and acquisition and is often unsatiable.
That’s where desire becomes the subject of craving itself. Desire is not setting and achieving goals, it is more of an obsessive nature.
Victims of this level of consciousness crave and want more regardless of how much of their desires have already been fulfilled. It is a vicious cycle.
On the level of desire, we think that the source of happiness and satisfaction is ‘out there’ and has to be obtained. We believe a new car, house, or relationship will make us happy. And when we see that one thing is not the answer we go after another thing.
Desire is a common reason for suffering as it leads to frustration, envy, and jealousy.
Many believe that a strong desire is necessary to achieve one’s goals. However, it is rather that we achieve our goals despite desire.
Above the consciousness level of 200, desire and wantingness are replaced by decision, commitment, and choosing. It is then not necessary to crave but to just follow the steps to actualization.
Read more about how desire causes suffering here.
Desire leads to frustration which then leads to anger. In Anger, we can either act constructively or destructively. Anger led to social justice movements and freedom of oppressed groups.
However, people at this level of consciousness tend to live in resentment and are often irritable and oversensitive. Anger can then result in rage, temper tantrums, and hatred, which easily poisons a person’s life.
Occasionally, anger can manifest as overly aggressive behavior and physical assault. In relationships, this is expressed as spousal or child abuse. A person that is on the level of anger, tries to get their way through intimidation and dominance.
Movements fueled by anger lose sight of solving a problem and see the initial good cause only as a way to vent their anger and frustration.
Pride is the first level where you start to feel good. However, this is deceiving, as the good feeling comes from an inflated ego perspective. Being better than someone else and looking down on others.
A person dwelling in the false self-esteem of pride is fragile and can be knocked down to the level of shame. Pride is divisive and can lead to a me versus you, or us versus them attitude.
This level of consciousness was and is the reason for many wars and much suffering. Religious wars and zealotry, political terrorism, and nationalism are the results of pride and hatred.
On this level, you strongly identify with your beliefs and world view. You take every criticism personally and see an attack against your beliefs as an attack against yourself.
Paradoxically, a person may even fall into the trap of spiritual egotism where one takes great pride in one’s humility. In extreme cases, some even wear assumed poverty and asceticism as a badge of spiritual pride.
Calibration Levels 200-499: Linear Mind
This is the first level of true power. On this level of consciousness, you want to grow and improve. In courage, you have the capacity to care for your personal and spiritual development.
You see life as challenging, exciting, and stimulating. Your future is not a repetition of the past anymore and you feel confident that you can overcome difficulties.
Courage can be considered as a gateway to higher levels of consciousness. You are not free of negative emotions, but you have the resources to deal with them in a healthy manner.
Even though you fear things you still act and move forward. Challenges that would have defeated you on the lower levels are stimulating on the level of courage.
Yet higher than courage is the level of neutrality. At this level of consciousness, you are flexible, relaxed, and non-judgmental.
You are not dependent on the outcome anymore, and you don’t get angry and frustrated when things don’t go your way. Therefore, neutrality leads to greater freedom.
In neutrality, there is a sense of well-being and safety. A person on this level experiences inner confidence and feels capable to live in this world.
Moreover, they are non-controlling and easy to get along with. It is accompanied by a laissez-faire attitude, “live and let live.” Neutrality is neither destructive nor contributive to life.
At the level of willingness, one is committed to participating in life. Work is not only being done but done well. This commonly leads to success in all areas of life; willingness attracts abundance.
This level of consciousness is the level of people who are not fazed by starting from the bottom. More so, they usually don’t complain and don’t fear hard work.
At this level, you are friendly and sociable and experience a rise in self-esteem.
People in willingness get positive feedback from society and contribute to society. They are willing to face inner issues, tend to become self-correcting, and learn from others. You have willpower, self-discipline, and are an excellent student.
At the level of acceptance, you start to take full responsibility for your life. You understand that you are the source and creator of your experience in life.
Here you are taking back your power and realize that happiness and love are created from within yourself and not something to be obtained from outside.
Contrary to what it sounds like, acceptance is not passivity but proactively taking part in life. When something doesn’t suit you anymore you make a decision and initiate change.
Your perception is less distorted, and you begin to see the bigger picture.
On the individual level acceptance is characterized by emotional calm, self-discipline, and mastery. On the social level by equality and inclusion.
At this level emotionalism of the lower levels is transcended. Reason is characterized by intelligence and rationalism.
You fully start to use your intellectual and reasoning capabilities. You use your abilities and talents to make meaningful contributions to the world.
Hawkins states this is the level of science and medicine, the level of Einstein and Freud. At this level of consciousness knowledge and education are highly valued. Think of rationality, conceptualization, comprehension, understanding, logic, and clear thinking.
On the flipside, reason leads to identification with the mind. That is why reason itself is the major block to higher levels of consciousness.
One has to move from objective linearity, which is prominent in reason, to subjective non-linearity which occurs in higher states of consciousness.
Calibration Levels 500-599: Spiritual Reality
This is not the emotion of love as in romantic love.
Love as a level of consciousness is unconditional, it is an energy field, a state of being. The understanding of being connected to everything. It is the level of true happiness.
Love manifests in the form of compassion, forgiving, nurturing, and support. In love, you bypass reason as you recognize and understand the core and totality of a problem without resorting to thoughts and intellectualization.
At the level of love, you transcend the motives of the personal ego desires.
Your intuition becomes strong, as you increasingly feel guided by a greater force. You follow your hearts way and awaken to your true purpose, so to speak.
According to Hawkins, only 4% reach this level.
Joy shines forth when love becomes increasingly unconditional. In contrast to spontaneous joy in pleasurable activities, joy as a level of consciousness is experienced in all activities.
This is the level of saints, spiritual healers, and advanced spiritual teachers. Being in the presence of such people makes you feel amazing and already raises your level of consciousness.
That’s why many spiritual and religious traditions emphasize the benefit of a guru or spiritual teacher.
At this level, everything happens effortlessly by synchronicity, and personal will merges into Divine will. This is also the level where so-called miracles occur. These are facilitated by the power of the all-encompassing energy field.
Near-death experiences often allow people to experience this state temporarily.
This is the level of complete transcendence. The experience may also be stated as Illumination, Bliss, God-consciousness. However, words don’t seem to be able to make this experience justice.
At the time of writing his book Transcending the Levels of Consciousness, Hawkins claimed there have only been 6 people who calibrated at or over the level of 600.
This is the highest level of consciousness. At this state humanity blends with divinity.
This is the level of the greatest avatars in history. Think of Buddha, Jesus, and Krishna. Only thinking about or meditating on people at this level can already raise your level of consciousness
The Levels of Consciousness in Your Life
Although you can see that the higher levels are rare you shouldn’t feel discouraged. Many people are stuck on one level for a long time. Yet the intention to raise your level of consciousness continuously can already have a significant effect.
According to Hawkins, basically everything can be ranked according to the levels of consciousness. People, objects, places, events, and even whole societies.
When you start to reflect upon your own life you can start to see that some areas may be on a lower level and some on a higher level. Nonetheless, you should be able to identify your current overall level of consciousness.
So, you might be at the level of willingness overall but prideful about your work (level of pride).
Interestingly, the areas in your life where you are on a lower level than your overall level might be holding you back from advancing to a higher level.
On the other hand, there may be areas in your life where you find higher levels than your overall level.
For instance, you could be on the level of reason but use your spare time to do selfless community work (level of love).
Try to identify in which areas you are operating from a higher level of consciousness and start to align with this state of being. You may find that you can transmit this higher level of consciousness to the areas where you are acting from a lower level of consciousness.
In any given week we may fluctuate between 3-4 levels. A good way to find out which your base level is is to observe how you react and perform under pressure or in otherwise stressful situations.
Do you blame yourself or others? (Guilt) Do you act hopeless and helpless? (Apathy) Do you yell at others or turn aggressive? (Anger) Do you become defensive? (Pride)
“True character is revealed in the choices a human being makes under pressure – the greater the pressure, the deeper the revelation, the truer the choice to the character’s essential nature.” ― Robert McKee
Moreover, everything in your environment can affect your level of consciousness.
TV, books, movies, music, food, people, objects, places. Occasional exposure to things on a lower level of consciousness won’t affect your overall level. Apart from that, in our busy world, it’s sometimes impossible to avoid such exposures.
Yet, constantly being in a low-level environment may lower your overall level of consciousness. The same is true for the opposite. A high-level environment may raise your overall level of consciousness.
Though as is stated by Hawkins, at the higher levels (above 500) environmental influences will affect you less and less, and eventually you’ll transcend them.
Raising Your Level of Consciousness
Raising your level of consciousness requires constant commitment. Especially on the lower levels, great effort is required to progress from one level to the next. And below courage, help from others is most often necessary.
While it can seem difficult to progress on the map of consciousness the effort is always worthwhile.
The progression from one level to another can radically change and improve your entire life. All your worries and anxieties from the previous level will seem comical.
Sometimes you temporarily experience a higher level of consciousness and this is a good indicator of where you must go next. Moreover, these moments of clarity can keep you on track and committed to the process.
But be aware a lower level might cloud the memory of a higher level.
This is similar to when you have an amazing vacation but towards the end of it, everything goes wrong. We tend to forget about the good parts and focus on the bad ones because they are the most recent ones.
The most important thing each of us can do in life is to raise our individual level of consciousness. When we raise our own level, we do not only spread this level to those around us but also the whole world. And you might even be the catalyst for another person’s progression to a higher level. Even one drop raises the level of the sea.
Furthermore, when every one of us is working to raise our individual level of consciousness the progression from one level to another will require less effort and be much faster for everyone.
Just imagine how incredibly different the world would be if everyone would be at the level of acceptance. According to Hawkins, 85% of the people on earth are still below courage.
I invite you to reflect upon this model and be open-minded about it. Maybe it can give you insights and understanding of how to progress in your life.
However, try to leave your ego out of it. Don’t get wrapped up in the idea of being on a specific level too much.
No level of consciousness is more right or wrong than another and you shouldn’t get attached to one level as there is always a way up.
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If you want to learn more about transcending the levels of consciousness I recommend:
And if you are interested in a practical guide to raising your level of consciousness, definitely check this one out:
Personally, I found this book life-changing.