On whom, then, my God, am I the onlooker? How many am I? Who is me? What then is this gap between myself and me?

~~Fernando Pessoa

A recent email informed me that one of my favorite authors, as far as self actualization is concerned, had an ebook available for only $1.99. How could I resist? So I downloaded Transformation by Robert A. Johnson because frankly, it sounded as fascinating as his other works.

According to Johnson, Transformation is “a study of the evolution of consciousness through its three main levels of development.” While the book is masculine in character, using fictional male characters as a way to examine this development, it is just as applicable to women. Because English pronouns are limited to either the masculine or the feminine, Johnson sticks with masculine to avoid confusion.

So, what are these three levels of consciousness? Johnson claims that man is born with a simple consciousness before progressing to a complex consciousness. Unfortunately, this is where most of us remain. Only the rare few can attain an enlightened consciousness.

As Johnson explains, “A Zen proverb states: ‘When I was young and free, the mountains were the mountains, the river was the river, the sky was the sky. Then I lost my way, and the mountains were no longer the mountains, the river was no longer the river, the sky was no longer the sky. Then I attained satori (enlightenment), and the mountains were again the mountains, the river was again the river, and the sky was again the sky.”

If you want to see if from a Biblical standpoint, we go from the simple perfection of the Garden of Eden through every imaginable chaos until we reach the heavenly Jerusalem.

“Man evolves from acting instinctively to putting his psychic energy under the control of his ego,” he says. “Then he must evolve further, to place his psychic energy under the control of the Self.”

In our complex state, in between simple and enlightened, we remain trapped by our nostalgia for the past and our anticipation of the future. When enlightened, we find happiness living in the moment.

“Complex consciousness is so highly prized in our society that no cost is thought too high to gain freedom, self-determination, and choice, the qualities of this level of consciousness,” Johnson says. “We are so jealous in championing complex consciousness that we will export its way of life to any other less-advanced country, free of charge!”

Because our society revels in complex consciousness, and because we essentially force it on our children, it is very difficult to move beyond it. And, unfortunately, impossible to move backwards to simple consciousness. Essentially, we’ve been expelled from the garden and there are cherubim with flaming swords to prevent us from returning. The only way is forward.

In this book, Johnson will use Don Quixote, Hamlet and Faust as examples of the progression from simple consciousness to enlightenment.

Next Week: Don Quixote, the Two-Dimensional Man.