When we talk about spiritual evolution many people often utilize analogies that can be misleading. We talk about "spiritual heights" and moving up various planes of consciousness. While these images can sometimes point to an aspect of the spiritual journey or the involution of the soul, they are not indicating what is actually happening as we spiritually evolve.
Our spiritual evolution is actually a process of deepening, that can at times feel like we are soaring to new heights as we identify with the higher chakras, but is in actually a settling into ourselves and our awareness that grows more profound with each level of depth. As we move through these levels bear in mind that I'm talking below about the soul's journey and not necessarily the personality, which will experience these shifts in varied and numerous ways and may thwart or enhance these levels depending on level the level of health of the ego.
We begin with seeking to understand how our behavior in the world affects the world. We start to recognize that as we make decisions about our well being we may be affecting others around us with those decisions. At the beginning of the soul's spiritual evolution we becomes aware that something may be going on outside of its normal physical perception. That there may be more than meets the eye.
The soul may start to recognize a link between their emotions and the happiness they experience in life and as such may begin to relegate or seek to identify their emotions so they can work toward transforming them. This can be quite vague at the beginning of the soul's evolution and may take some time to fully recognize and name the thoughts/emotions that are present, and move into the desire to understand those thoughts and emotions on a more intimate level. Most notably at this stage we desire to master the physical world and may experience an underlying anxiety about survival and existence beyond the physical realm due to our comfort within it.
At some point we will decide to deepen our awareness of emotions and as such can become enamored with them. The recognition of the power of emotions; particularly intense emotions like anger, grief, lust and desire can become quite enchanting. We begin to play with different expressions of these emotions and work with them in a characteristic way suited to our personality.
Additionally, as we move into our emotions we recognize the effect our emotions have on our world. We use those emotions accordingly to affect change in the energetic and physical spheres and seek to understand how our own and other people's emotions shift what happens in our lives. Furthermore, we become aware of the energetic world and may awaken our subtle senses as a way of experiencing that world.
For example, as a soul we may choose to feel the feeling of being desirable, attractive and alluring and as such will manifest conditions in our lives to experience that sensation and what those experiences will tell us about ourselves. Conversely, we may want to experience the feeling of being undesirable, ignored and inconsequential and because of our identification with those emotional states we will experience a range of situations that allow that expression.
Either way it is an opportunity for the soul to see its way out of those experiences and identify with something deeper. At this point we see ourselves as emotionally creative and begin to work toward mastering the world of energy and emotion, glamour and piety, sadness and joy, work and play.
Eventually we begin to shift our inner attention to the power of intention and positive emotion. We move out of the lower emotions like lust, desire, anger and sadness as focal points (we experience the full range of emotion throughout our spiritual deepening) and start to focus on higher emotions such as happiness, empowerment, positivity and ambition. We begin to understand ourselves as powerful and see the world as an opportunity to either further our personal aspirations for positive (or selfish) purposes.
We may become intolerant of negative emotional states and instead chose of focus on the wellspring of power and energy that can make things happen on a larger scale in the world. We discover an identify with the seat of our personal power (the third chakra/belly), and want to empower others to recognize their power. We develop true compassion and sympathy and identify with triumph and success as virtues. Eventually we may be aware that while we want to achieve and access our power in the world to make things happen that our ability to empathize is thwarted by our avoidance of suffering and negativity, as as such shift again.
When we recognize our own power and the ability for our intention to shape our physical reality we deepen even further to recognize our connectedness to other living beings. We feel our compassion develop even more and move out of the third chakra as a focus to our heart center. As our hearts open and we move our focus into the heart we become aware of suffering on a deeper level. We recognize both our suffering and the suffering of others. As we begin to feel suffering at in our heart centers we desire to administer service to those in need.
At this point we recognize our spiritual power and how it intersects with our ability to transform grief and suffering. We move from sympathy to spiritual empathy and truly allow ourselves to feel the plight of others and make an effort to ease the pain of those in need, because we recognize the same pain in ourselves. At this point we are intuitively aware of ourselves as part of a connected spiritual whole (despite personal ideologies about what that looks like) and recognize that all souls are seeking salvation from needless suffering. At this stage we may also begin to intuitively recognize and feel that death is only a stage and that consciousness is more paramount to our existence.
When the heart deepens and develops to a point of saturation, and we have explored the spiritual necessity of grief and struggle we deepen even further (while simultaneously shifting our focus up the chakras into the throat) and move into identification with the mind. Thus we become identified with ourselves as creative beings.
We may have been creative at other points but at this level we recognize ourselves as integral parts of a creative system and our creativity is less emotional and more mental and synthesizing; because we intuitively know that we are part of a creative system and become interested in how those systems work together.
We start look for the deeper unifying truths about human life, the universe, thoughts, emotions and evolution/involution etc., through the exploration of various systems but conversely may grow weary of the ways in which they fall short in describing our intuitive knowing of the universal system we feel in our own being. Because of this we may cycle through system after system until we find what we think we're looking for, until we find the one (or collection) that matches our intuitive knowing of ourselves as part of an intricate pattern.
We begin to see the patterns in our own behavior and others, and understand the world through those patterns and how they relate to our emotional, mental and spiritual evolution and emancipation. We see God in the patterns of our behavior and the patterns of the world (even if we don't call it that). We begin to master thought (both high and low) and the nature of the mind.
Eventually however we begin to feel the systems are not enough. As we deepen our focus into ourselves we see that while the patterns and systems of the universe can indeed be signposts they are not the essence. We find that our relationship to our inner wisdom and intuition becomes our only signpost to truth. We also begin to feel our own divinity as connected to a greater source and see that reflected in the world through both the "positive" and "negative" things that happen to us personally and in the universe as a whole.
We become intimately connected with the feeling of the divine in whatever way it is manifesting at a given moment and as such can feel blissfully joyful or woefully devastated in the recognition of the lability of the larger framework. As we connect and identify with our intuitive insights we shift our habit of attention to our third eye and the intuitive information we receive is integrated into our experience and the world may become like a play of archetypal images representing divine play. We may experience deep moments of spiritual clarity at one time and then identify with the changing play of emotions within ourselves the next and as such may feel uneven and highly labile. Whatever the case we see God/The Divine at play outside of ourselves.
Finally we deepen our awareness to such a point that we must shed all illusions. We recognize that all feelings, intuitions, patterns, suffering and joy are all illusory and that through our deepening identification with different forms of truth we have missed the one truth; that we are God/The Divine expressing itself and creating the world in each moment. We become simultaneously identified with nothing and everything at the same time. The differentiation between ourselves and our emotions and thoughts and other beings are no longer real or important, merely representations of God/Divinity in action.
We see ourselves as God, not as a concept or an ideology but a realized understanding that unfolds in each moment. We respond only to what arises because nothing else exists while at the same time absolutely everything is possible. This is the level of realization that is taught in all of the worlds spiritual traditions. We realize that our thoughts, emotions, the physical world and its happenings are a dream and that we participate in that dream as both dreamer and the dream simultaneously. We know ourselves as God expressing itself as God without break or interruption in that realization.
We can move to any of the other points of realization within ourselves because we have experienced them all at some point and can play or not play "the game" as the moment suggests. We become free in our consciousness to know, feel and experience anything light or dark because we recognize ourselves as all of those things.
We also recognize at this level that our spiritual deepening is a never ending process that could continue ad infintum because there are always deeper aspects of divinity to discover.
We recognize that the journey into ourselves is never fully over, even after the physical shell has deteriorated, and may experience an effulgence of unifying light that understands that the sinner and saint are two sides of the same coin just as much as light and dark are necessities that exist in ourselves, and as such are reflected in the planet. We become God serving God without judgement, bias or ignorance (on the soul level...remember personalities have a way of muddying things up a bit).
Recognizing our level of spiritual depth takes honesty and courage, but understand our place in the spiritual deepening process can help to give meaning to our experiences and provide clues for where to focus our attention and a road map for where we may be headed.