If we wanted to map the spiritual journey to God-consciousness, its contours would be different for each person. Nothing is more intimate and personal than our own awareness; we each relate to God on our own terms. But we can describe the general outlines of such a map.
At the outset, our primary perception is of a huge chasm between ourselves and God. On this side of the abyss lie error and confusion, inner conflict and suffering. On the other side is the promise that all can be healed. The duality of darkness and light will shape your experience at the beginning of the path.
We catch occasional glimpses of higher reality. The kinds of deeper experiences that are relevant cover a broad range, but they fall into a few simple categories: thinking, feeling, acting, saying, and being.
At any given moment a person might experience God on one of these levels, seemingly at random. Momentarily the gap between illusion and reality closes. The source of thinking, feeling, acting, and saying is consciousness, the ground state if existence. The fifth level, being, is consciousness itself without any mental activity.
At the turning point a critical event shakes the soul. Everyday life is interrupted, either by as crisis or by a sudden epiphany, or by both, in what is described as “the dark night of the soul.”
At this moment, something profound happens. It feels like being reborn, not simply because the old self drops away, but because the world shifts like a kaleidoscope. Your eyes register brighter colors, and a hidden light seems to be trying to break through the thin membrane of the world. Sounds become sweeter; nature seems to sing. Ordinary sensations acquire a delicious texture, like velvet or warm liquid, suffusing the body.
To an outsider the whole experience sounds dubious, like some kind of hallucination. Salvation is a glimpse of reality; perception begins to detect illusion.
Adapted from The Third Jesus: The Christ We Cannot Ignore, by Deepak Chopra (Harmony Books, 2008).