Almost any energetic or spiritual practice will lead you to the opening door of expanding consciousness.  I have met many runners, swimmers, team sports players and yoga practitioners over the years who tell of sudden leaps in what they assume is perception, where watching themselves from near or afar becomes the new norm for at least a few seconds and sometimes minutes.  They see another self, seemingly independent of the one who stretches and sweats, one who is calm, bemused, observant.

     Concert goers also report such momentary expansions: from rockers on psychedelics to classical fans transported by symphonic grandeurs and jazzers blissed out by the intricacy of small band interplay, the temporary blessing of being elsewhere nibbles away at the normalcy of flesh and physical function.  The experiencer glimpses the greater reality and is mysteriously gratified.  The meditator and obe projector can stretch this glimpse into a dreamy travelogue and tempt themselves to explore.  They may go around in circles for years but eventually moving up replaces moving out.

      Moving up through the levels to the god consciousness, the radiant void, the unmanifest, the ground of all being, Kether, etc. has been described and alluded to in many ways over the centuries.  Two of the simplest are the elevator and the ladder.  The ladder likely derives from the biblical story of Jacob’s Ladder, where he dreams of angels ascending and descending a ladder between earth and heaven.  Of the many interpretations one is an image of possible communication between man and the divine.   And the elevator is surely from the classic days of multi-storey department stores with a elevator attendant announcing the various floors and their departments as you rise.  Given our continuing consumerist culture I find the elevator metaphor still the most useful.

     As many spiritualist commentators insist that the hell realms are vibrationally lower than the earth plane on which we incarnate, it places us on level two with the departments of doubt, fear, desire and ambition.  Level three would be the out-of-body realms, explored, either with timidity or bravery, during sleep and meditation.  Floating about the bedroom, the house, the neighbourhood, urban or rural, the clouds in the sky.  Level four is the afterlife realms, the astral and mental, where all the dead, in their vast varieties, live and have their being.   It may sound somewhat simplistic but the astral levels are where folk feel their emotions, whether expressed or repressed on earth, flow more intensely, while the mental levels are where they tend to be thinking things over, questioning themselves and their surroundings.  These levels comprise many sub-planes catering to the various belief systems, – religious, cultural and political – held over by the dead from their earthly educations and indoctrinations.  There are plenty of comfort zones for every type of persuasion:  Agnostics, Atheists, Buddhists, Evangelicals, Animists, none of these have to mix unless they really want to.  Staying inside your community as some willing puppet of your culture bubble, waiting for whatever reward or punishment you have been promised, is entirely possible.  And if you have lived a life in the ethnic diversities of our great cities, sharing in their giddy blends of costume, chatter and cuisine, you will find such replicated somewhere in the spirit spheres.  And if you have expanded into a ‘free’ spirit, untethered to any belief system other than some brand of educative evolvement, that freedom will be there for you to explore in any way you choose.

     Level five, I have found, tends towards the formless, where landscapes, architecture and human bodies gradually fade into one or other grade of transparency.  The definition of a body without the body, the feeling of a mountain without the rock, the vibration of the lake without the water, the ‘frozen music’ of architecture without the audible harmonies.  Everything is barely there, suggestions not statements, of former selves.  Essence minus manifestation.  And when ‘you’ are on that level yourself you are also more essence than manifestation and thus in vibrational harmony with your various perceptions.  Just as in the astral world of the ‘dead’ you are travelling in your astral body and so in tune with your perceptions there.  You see the ‘dead’ in a variety of costumes, you hear their thoughts either through voice or telepathy, you feel their joy and love at their new found freedom.  Each of your bodies functions on their corresponding levels just as your physical does on this one.  You exit that elevator and poke about.

     Often the first two or three levels are more than enough for many souls freed from their earthly bondage.  Their anxieties have been quelled, some questions answered, joys awakened.  The pleasures and beauties of the astral worlds, both urban and rural, join with the joys of soul reunion to provide a very fulfilling platform for their new lives and further questioning and exploration seem pointless.  They have ‘arrived’ and the travails of their journey have ended.

    The adventurous traveler, while lucid and obe, will see through their joys, implicitly understanding its limitations and they move beyond to the formless energy planes that embody a bliss difficult to translate for the children of the astral.  You get it but you just can’t seem to package it.  Your dear departed, gleefully and gratefully living their paradise lives, may not see the significance and humour you politely.  Let them, and then leave on another of your crazy adventures.  Climbing the astral Alps was never good enough for you, they’ll think.

      As you expand/ascend/shift one being you might encounter on the way to Higher Self and the radiant void is the ‘solar angel’, mentioned in various esoteric teachings and experienced by some as an actual entity rather than a focus of consciousness.   Merging with an angel is wild enough, but knowing that it is a part of you that has waited, watching for your arrival through many incarnations of beliefs beset by confusion can be a shock of some proportions.  Angels had seemed so remote and special, so carefully selected by divinity, and here you are, one yourself!  Probably not something to brag about at a garden party.

     On these formless energy levels, sometimes referred to as the buddhic and causal, one can envision one’s meandering path to such heights, seeing how you trapped yourself in episodes of doubt and fear, and trying to maintain status in family and tribe.  One can also see the millions of souls still enchanted by the maze of experience in the worlds of form, seeming like children playing, fighting and taking their rest.  You smile in sympathy, knowing that you will rejoin them sooner or later, perhaps with a deeper perspective on the carnival and its oh-so-exciting rides.

     If you reach the radiant void, the ground of all being, the elysian fields, the nothingness of the god consciousness, with even but a glimpse you will ‘get’ the meaning of it all, the purpose behind the chaos of evolution, both form and spirit, the ecstatic production of sub-atomic particles and galaxies, and the myriads of sentient beings making the rounds to arrive at the center that you seem to be at, if only for the remaining seconds of your meditation about to be ended by the demands of body and brain.  Of course, the challenge is often to recall this illumination later as you tumble into one or other of life’s trapdoors.

     The elevator and the levels: we are always on one but we can be one with them all.  One at a time or all at once. Dizzying but do-able.