The concept of the three levels of awareness is not my creation; I read it in an essay during high school. If anyone can recall this essay, please mention it.

The first level of awareness is basic consciousness. You know you exist. All sentient beings are at least 1st level. This is the good part. However, there's a lot of bad parts to it. You blindly accept things. You don't question, or wonder. You just exist. Many of your actions are emotional reactions to your environment. Much of humanity is 1st level - anyone who watches TV news and thinks they're actually paying attention to the world is a great example. Vote a straight party line? You're 1st level.

The second level of awareness is critical consciousness. You start to question, and you don't let your questions be waved away by others. You ponder things like the existence of God or the reason for authority by force. You seek to understand yourself as well. This doesn't mean you have any answers, and 2nd level awareness is often unhappy. To use an example for the essay, yes, Catholicism is irrational. Yes, most people believe it solely because that's how they were taught when young and a multi-cultural view of the world can blow their belief away. Just because this is so doesn't mean telling your girlfriend this is going to make either of you happy. Cynicism, bitterness and elitism are frequent characteristics of 2nd level awareness. A good example of a 2nd level awareness is the nihilist - they can tell you everything sucks, and prove it, but they don't have any answers on how to make it better. A fair amount of people have 2nd level awareness.

The third level of awareness is creative consciousness. You not only realize the problems of existence, you discover the solutions and work towards them. You are an active force for good in the world - not necessarily on a large scale, but most people who know you think you're a good person. This doesn't mean you're perfect or anything. The writer of the original essay presented Albert Einstein as an example of 3rd level awareness. I think Malcolm X is a better example actually - his autobiography almosts charts out his movement from one level to another. By the time before his death, he had truly changed from both his earliest life as a street thug (1st level) to his career with the Nation of Islam (2nd level) to his realization of its destructive nature and search for answers beyond (3rd level). 3rd level also doesn't mean that everyone will agree with you - Malcolm X's enlightenment came about through renewed dedication to Islam. This isn't a path I could follow or agree with, but it shows the difference between the levels again. A 1st level Muslim simply accepts, a 2nd level Muslim rejects it for irrationality, and a 3rd level Muslim moves past the irrationality and turns the religion into a positive thing for everyone. 3rd level people are rare, but they truly keep the world going.

There was no fourth level in the essay, and my very thought of it is an artifact of the politics of numbered lists, but I can't help but think that a true Christ or Buddha (note: both of these are titles, not personages) would have level four awareness.

Just like most people thing they're above average, one's place in the levels are awareness is subjective. I'd recommend asking someone else - you probably lie to yourself too much. At least I do.

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