“Psychology stops when it reaches the limits of Mental Consciousness, or as it call is ‘Self-Consciousness,’ and denies that there is anything beyond. … Nevertheless, there are schools of thought that teach of these higher states, and there are men of all ages and races that have entered them and have reported concerning them. …
“There are two planes of Consciousness, of which we feel it proper to speak. … The first of these planes of Consciousness, above the “Self-Consciousness” of the psychologists (which we have called ‘Mental Consciousness’) may be called ‘Ego-consciousness,’ for it brings an ‘awareness’ of the reality of the Ego. … This Ego Consciousness is coming to many as a dawning knowledge—the light is just rising from behind the hills. …
“There is a stage still higher than this last mentions but it has come to very few of the race. … It has been called “Cosmic Consciousness” and is described as an awareness of the Oneness of Life.” ~William Walker Atkinson
While the three levels of consciousness described by Mr. Atkinson make sense, I think “Ego Consciousness” was a poor choice as a name for the second level. Most spiritual teachers consider ego to be a part of the lower level of consciousness. It might be more appropriate to call it Ego Plus Consciousness, or Beyond Ego Consciousness.
Whatever you call it, this is the first level of consciousness where you are aware that the lowest level of consciousness in a human is not the true you. You become aware that you are thinking about something, or reacting to something. That awareness is that second level of consciousness.
Three Levels of Consciousness
Mr. Atkinson keeps the levels of human consciousness at three. He admits, however, that the level he calls Ego Consciousness has a number of sub-levels. Other schools may break this down into more levels, and I think that makes more sense than to think of the level between simple animal awareness and Divine Cosmic Consciousness as one.
No matter how many levels you use, however, the ultimate goal remains that high level called “Cosmic Consciousness” or “Christ Consciousness”. As Mr. Atkinson rightfully states, this is the level where we become one with the All, one with God. At this level we don’t just theorize that we are part of the One, we experience it.
It is not a level that is easy to reach and few do so while still living on the material plane. Yet it is worth while developing toward that goal and going as far as we can toward it.
The Mind and the Soul
The part that Mr. Atkinson left out it that this Cosmic Consciousness, and even the higher levels if what he calls Ego Consciousness, cannot be achieved by the brain-mind alone. It can only happen to those who go beyond the physical and awaken their spiritual faculties.
No one would try to understand the physical world using only one of their physical senses. It would be foolish to not use the others as well. And the eyes may recognize the beauty of a rose, but cannot know its perfume. In the same way, the brain-mind which is limited to the physical cannot know the spiritual. And since those higher states of consciousness above Ego Consciousness are more spiritual than physical, they must be discovered and experiences by the spiritual. Our soul is like a mind within the spirit, and it is that soul-mind that understands the highest levels of consciousness.