“When the self has grown up from the ‘active’ to the ‘contemplative’ state of consciousness, it is plain his whole relation to his environment has changed. His world is grouped around a new center. It now become the supreme business of intellect to ‘gaze upon God,’ the supreme business of love to stretch out toward Him. When these twin powers, under the regency of the enhanced and trained will are set toward reality, then the human creature has done his part in the setting up of the relation of the soul to its Source, and made it possible for the music of the infinite to sound in him.” ~Evelyn Underhill
I would not refer to these two states of consciousness as “active” and “contemplative”, but Underhill makes a great deal of sense here.
I would refer to the first, more primitive state of “self” as the material mind, the ego, or the materialistic self. That may seem like splitting hairs, but there is a good reason why I wouldn’t call this the active state, which I will get to shortly. This is the self that is exclusively, or almost exclusively, interested in things of the material world. A person trapped on this level may be a materialist, but not necessarily. Surprisingly to many of us who have always been somewhat spiritual, many of those in conventional religions and churches fall into this category also. They see “doing God’s work” as things like feeding the poor and caring for those who have physical illnesses. They think that such behavior is the path to heaven, to enlightenment. While it is certainly good for all of us to do such things, in themselves, they will not get us to Heaven.
Instead of “contemplative”, I would call this second level of consciousness spiritual, with the goal of ultimately reaching the even higher level called: “Cosmic Consciousness”, “Spiritual Consciousness”, or “Christ Consciousness”. While one uses contemplation as one of the tools to get to this level, that doesn’t make it a contemplative level of consciousness. While one at this level does tend to contemplate himself, the world, and God far more than those trapped in the materialistic level, that doesn’t make it the contemplative level of consciousness. More importantly, this level is every bit as active as the egoic level, perhaps even more so, therefore calling the ego level “active” and the higher level “contemplative” simply doesn’t make sense to me. The difference, of course, is that being “active” on this higher, spiritual level is very different from being active on the lower level.
Generally speaking, when we think of someone being very active on the lower, material level, we thing of someone who spends a great deal of time playing sports, attending parties, and otherwise being constantly on-the-move physically, while rarely thinking about what they are doing. That is certainly an active person, not a contemplative one, but it is not the only type of person trapped on that level of being. You may find people who are doing yoga or Transcendental Meditation, or other “contemplative” activities are still trapped on this lower level as they have still not awakened and developed their spiritual faculties.
On the other hand, the truly spiritual person is also a very active person. This person seeks to develop her Self as much as possible, but is also active in trying to convince others to do the same, in trying to teach others who want to do the same, in trying to help those who have strayed from the path to get back on it, and in helping end those material institutions that, intentionally or accidentally, try to prevent spiritual growth and development. In fact, highly developed spiritual people are often among the most active people you will ever meet. They wake up early, go to bed late, and are constantly doing things. The difference is they are doing things like writing inspiring books, teaching spiritual development techniques, making spiritual tools to aid students, and giving talks at various events.