Human Development

Transcendental consciousness

Transcendental consciousness is said to be a fourth major state of consciousness after waking, dreaming and sleeping states. Its properties are described as empty, devoid of objects, yet wakeful, alert and conscious of self. Four states can be described as awake/asleep, with/without objects of consciousness. If waking is awake with objects of consciousness, dreaming is asleep with objects of consciousness and deep sleep is asleep with no objects of consciousness, then transcendental consciousness is awake with no objects of consciousness. In this latter case, although wide awake, mental activity ceases as normal thought is transcended. Where normally the object of experience is not the same as that which is experiencing (in other words, the subject), here subject and object are the same. The experience is that of bliss and attempts at its description have been made mystics and philosophers of many traditions, notably in the Upanishads, in the writings of Plotinus, in Buddhism, in mediaeval mysticism. It has been equated with states of quiet and enhanced awareness which include the [samadhi] of Hinduism, [fana] of Sufism, [ming] of Zen; and references also occur to it in poetry. Since it has none of the usual qualities of thought it nonetheless belies description. It is the state of the true self, pure and without attributes, which underlies all experience; the state of pure being, of oneness with the whole of creation.
The physiological characteristics are, among many others, alpha-wave production, lowering of blood pressure and skin resistance, and reduction in bodily consumption of energy. Breathing slows and may cease altogether for a minute or more, without effort.
Proposed originally by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, transcendental consciousness is probably one of the scientifically best-documented of the so-called higher states of consciousness. Rooted in the Upanishad and Vedanta conception of consciousness (turiya), experimental observation strongly suggests similarities to states described in various other traditions. It is also claimed that this state is not a state of consciousness among others but rather an underlying phenomenon, accompanying all other conceivable states with more or less clarity.<