book Power vs. Force by David R. Hawkins, there’s a hierarchy of levels
of human consciousness. It’s an interesting paradigm. If you read the
book, it’s also fairly easy to figure out where you fall on this
hierarchy based on your current life situation.
high, the levels of consciousness are: shame, guilt, apathy, grief,
fear, desire, anger, pride, courage, neutrality, willingness,
acceptance, reason, love, joy, peace, enlightenment.
we can pop in and out of different levels at various times, usually
there’s a predominant “normal” state for us. If you’re reading this
blog, chances are you’re at least at the level of courage because if
you were at a lower level, you’d likely have no conscious interest in
I’ll go over these levels in
focusing on the ones between courage and reason, since that’s the range
where you’re most likely to land. The labels are Hawkins’. The
descriptions of each level are based on Hawkins’ descriptions but
blended with my own thoughts. Hawkins defines this as a logarithmic
scale, so there are far fewer people at the higher levels than at the
lower ones. An increase from one level to another will result in
enormous change in your life.
Shame – Just a step
You’re probably contemplating suicide at this level. Either that or
you’re a serial killer. Think of this as self-directed hatred.
Guilt – A step above
shame, but you
still may be having thoughts of suicide. You think of yourself as a
sinner, unable to forgive yourself for past transgressions.
Apathy – Feeling
victimized. The state of learned helplessness. Many homeless people are
A state of perpetual sadness and loss. You might drop down here after
losing a loved one. Depression. Still higher than apathy, since you’re
beginning to escape the numbness.
Fear – Seeing the
world as dangerous
and unsafe. Paranoia. Usually you’ll need help to rise above this
level, or you’ll remain trapped for a long time, such as in an abusive
– Not to be confused with setting and achieving goals, this is the
level of addiction, craving, and lust — for money, approval, power,
fame, etc. Consumerism. Materialism. This is the level of smoking and
drinking and doing drugs.
– the level of frustration, often from not having your desires met at
the lower level. This level can spur you to action at higher levels, or
it can keep you stuck in hatred. In an abusive relationship, you’ll
often see an anger person coupled with a fear person.
Pride – The first
level where you
start to feel good, but it’s a false feeling. It’s dependent on
external circumstances (money, prestige, etc), so it’s vulnerable.
Pride can lead to nationalism, racism, and religious wars. Think Nazis.
A state of irrational denial and defensiveness. Religious
fundamentalism is also stuck at this level. You become so closely
enmeshed in your beliefs that you see an attack on your beliefs as an
attack on you.
– The first level of true strength. I’ve made a previous post about
this level: Courage is the Gateway. This is where you start to see life
as challenging and exciting instead of overwhelming. You begin to have
an inkling of interest in personal growth, although at this level
you’ll probably call it something else like skill-building, career
advancement, education, etc. You start to see your future as an
improvement upon your past, rather than a continuation of the same.
Neutrality – This
epitomized by the phrase, “live and let live.” It’s flexible, relaxed,
and unattached. Whatever happens, you roll with the punches. You don’t
have anything to prove. You feel safe and get along well with other
people. A lot of self-employed people are at this level. A very
comfortable place. The level of complacency and laziness. You’re taking
care of your needs, but you don’t push yourself too hard.
Willingness – Now
basically safe and comfortable, you start using your energy more
effectively. Just getting by isn’t good enough anymore. You begin
caring about doing a good job — perhaps even your best. You think about
time management and productivity and getting organized, things that
weren’t so important to you at the level of neutrality. Think of this
level as the development of willpower and self-discipline. These people
are the “troopers” of society; they get things done well and don’t
complain much. If you’re in school, then you’re a really good student;
you take your studies seriously and put in the time to do a good job.
This is the point where your consciousness becomes more organized and
– Now a powerful shift happens, and you awaken to the possibilities of
living proactively. At the level of willingness you’ve become
competent, and now you want to put your abilities to good use. This is
the level of setting and achieving goals. I don’t like the label
“acceptance” that Hawkins uses here, but it basically means that you
begin accepting responsibility for your role in the world. If something
isn’t right about your life (your career, your health, your
relationship), you define your desired outcome and change it. You start
to see the big picture of your life more clearly. This level drives
many people to switch careers, start a new business, or change their
this level you transcend the emotional aspects of the lower levels and
begin to think clearly and rationally. Hawkins defines this as the
level of medicine and science. The way I see it, when you reach this
level, you become capable of using your reasoning abilities to their
fullest extent. You now have the discipline and the proactivity to
fully exploit your natural abilities. You’ve reached the point where
you say, “Wow. I can do all this stuff, and I know I must put it to
good use. So what’s the best use of my talents?” You take a look around
the world and start making meaningful contributions. At the very high
end, this is the level of Einstein and Freud. It’s probably obvious
that most people never reach this level in their entire lives.
Love – I don’t like
“love” here because this isn’t the emotion of love. It’s unconditional
love, a permanent understanding of your connectedness with all that
exists. Think compassion. At the level of reason, you live in service
to your head. But that eventually becomes a dead end where you fall
into the trap of over-intellectualizing. You see that you need a bigger
context than just thinking for its own sake. At the level of love, you
now place your head and all your other talents and abilities in service
to your heart (not your emotions, but your greater sense of right and
wrong — your conscience). I see this as the level of awakening to your
true purpose. Your motives at this level are pure and uncorrupted by
the desires of the ego. This is the level of lifetime service to
humanity. Think Gandhi, Mother Teresa, Dr. Albert Schweitzer. At this
level you also begin to be guided by a force greater than yourself.
It’s a feeling of letting go. Your intuition becomes extremely strong.
Hawkins claims this level is reached only by 1 in 250 people during
their entire lifetimes.
– A state of pervasive, unshakable happiness. Eckhart Tolle describes
this state in The Power of Now. The level of saints and advanced
spiritual teachers. Just being around people at this level makes you
feel incredible. At this level life is fully guided by synchronicity
and intuition. There’s no more need to set goals and make detailed
plans — the expansion of your consciousness allows you to operate at a
much higher level. A near-death experience can temporarily bump you to
Total transcendence. Hawkins claims this level is reached only by one
person in 10 million.
– The highest level of human consciousness, where humanity blends with
divinity. Extremely rare. The level of Krishna, Buddha, and Jesus. Even
just thinking about people at this level can raise your consciousness.
think you’ll find this model worthy of reflection. Not only people but
also objects, events, and whole societies can be ranked at these
levels. Within your own life, you’ll see that some parts of your life
are at different levels than others, but you should be able to identify
your current overall level. You might be at the level of neutrality
overall but still be addicted to smoking (level of desire). The lower
levels you find within yourself will serve as a drag that holds the
rest of you back. But you’ll also find higher levels in your life. You
may be at the level of acceptance and read a book at the level of
reason and feel really inspired. Think about the strongest influences
in your life right now. Which ones raise your consciousness? Which ones
One thing I like about these levels of
consciousness is that I can trace back over my own life and see how
I’ve been moving through them. I remember being stuck at the level of
guilt for a long time – as a child I was indoctrinated into a belief
system where I was a helpless sinner, being judged according to the
standards of someone at the level of love or higher. From there I
graduated to the state of apathy, feeling numb to the whole thing. By
high school I had reached the level of pride — I was a straight-A
student, captain of the Academic Decathlon team, showered with
accolades and awards, but I became dependent on them. I hit the level
of Courage in my late teens, but the courage was very unfocused, and I
overdid it and got myself into all sorts of trouble. I then spent about
a year in neutrality and moved through willingness and acceptance
during my 20s with a lot of conscious effort. At present I’m at the
level of reason and getting closer and closer to completing the leap to
love. I experience the state of love more and more often, and it’s
guiding many of my decisions already, but it hasn’t yet stuck as my
natural state. I’ve also experienced the state of joy for days at a
time, but never with any permanence yet. That state is a pervasive
feeling of natural euphoria, as if I’m exploding on the inside with
positive energy. It literally forces me to smile. I’ve been in that
state for most of this morning, probably because I haven’t eaten
anything yet today (I find it easier to hit that state of consciousness
when I eat lightly or not at all).
between multiple states throughout the course of any given week, so
you’ll probably see a range of 3-4 levels where you spend most of your
time. One way to figure out your “natural” state is to think about how
you perform under pressure. If you squeeze an orange, you get orange
juice because that’s what’s inside. What comes out of you when you get
squeezed by external events? Do you become paranoid and shut down
(fear)? Do you start yelling at people (anger)? Do you become defensive
(pride)? What happens to me under pressure is that I become
hyper-analytical, but recently I just had a pressure situation where I
handled it mostly by intuition, which was a big change for me. This
tells me I’m getting close to the unconditional love state because in
that state, intuition can be effectively accessed even under pressure.
in your environment will have an effect on your level of consciousness.
TV. Movies. Books. Web sites. People. Places. Objects. Food. If you’re
at the level of reason, watching TV news (which is predominantly at the
levels of fear and desire) will temporarily lower your consciousness.
If you’re at the level of guilt, TV news will actually raise it up.
from one level to the next requires an enormous amount of energy.
Without conscious effort or the help of others, you’ll likely just stay
at your current level until some outside force comes into your life.
the natural progression of levels, and consider what happens when you
try to short-cut the process. If you try to reach the level of reason
before mastering self-discipline (willingness) and goal-setting
(acceptance), you’ll be too disorganized and unfocused to use your mind
to its full extent. If you try to push yourself to the level of love
before you’ve mastered reason, you’ll suffer from gullibility and may
end up in a cult.
Going up even one level can be
hard; most people don’t do so in their entire lives. A change in just
one level can radically alter everything in your life. This is why
people below the level of courage aren’t likely to progress without
external help. Courage is required to work on this consciously; it
comes down to repeatedly betting your whole reality for the chance to
become more conscious and aware. But whenever you reach that next
level, you realize clearly that it was a good bet. For example, when
you hit the level of courage, all your past fears and false pride seem
silly to you now. When you reach the level of acceptance (setting and
achieving goals), you look back on the level of willingness and see you
were like a mouse running on a treadmill — you were a good runner, but
you didn’t pick a direction.
I think the most
we can do as human beings is to raise our individual level of
consciousness. When we do this, we spread higher levels of
consciousness to everyone around us. Imagine what an incredible world
this would be if we could at least get everyone to the level of
acceptance. According to Hawkins 85% of the people on earth live below
the level of courage.
When you temporarily
higher levels, you can see where you must go next. You have one of
those moments of clarity where you understand that things have to
change. But when you sink into the lower levels, that memory becomes
We have to keep consciously taking
to the sources that can help us complete the next leap. Each step
requires different solutions. I recall when making the shift from
neutrality to willingness, I listened to time management tapes almost
every day. I immersed myself in sources created by people at the level
of willingness until I eventually shifted. But a book on time
management will be of little use to someone who’s at the level of
pride; they’ll reject the very notion with a lot of defensiveness. And
time management is meaningless to someone at the level of peace. But
you can’t hit the higher levels if you haven’t mastered the basics
first. Jesus was a carpenter. Gandhi was a lawyer. Buddha was a prince.
We all have to start somewhere.
Look at this
an open mind and see if it leads you to new insights that may help you
take the next leap in your own life. No levels are any more right or
wrong than others. Try not to get your ego wrapped up in the idea of
being at any particular level, unless you’re currently at the level of
pride of course.
article is from Steve Pavlina,
creator of the popular blog Personal Development for Smart People.