Degrees Of Consciousness

It is a rarely stated fact that sleep and wakefullness are not binary states but that there are many degrees of consciousness. Until I mastered the understanding of these I had little chance of controlling my concentration or concentrating my control, both essential skills for the painter.


1. Brain death. Complete unconsciousness.
2. Sleep without dreams. A state intermediate between this and death might be appropriate to include drug induced unconsciousness.
3. Dreaming sleep.
4. Half wakeful dreams. This occurs in the last dream before waking and can be easily influenced by activities in the room. Elements from wakefullness can easily enter the dream. The dreamer might be aware and have influence over his or her body.
5. Half dreamful wakefullness. This occurs mostly just before sleep where images fill the mind yet enough consciousness remains to pay attention to sounds or activities in the room. This is like a "hypnotic" state.
6. Light wakefullness. Or tired wakefullness. For at least half of the day I am in this state, which is the state I am in now. A definate section of my brain remains in a rested state. Imagination and emotions flow easily and concentration for a prolonged period is difficult and tiring.
7. Full wakefullness. This is a rarer state of total awareness and full consciousness where complete concentration and focus is possible. Recall is acute and all skills honed. Emotions are present but have no influence beyond that of messenger.
8. Hyperawareness. On very rare occasions in my life I have experienced a feeling beyond the feeling of total wakefullness. A feeling of a powerful awareness, perhaps a vision of a form of reality beyond the domain of the corporeal. All objects appear equal, whether human, animate or inanimate. Lights appear brighter, sensory input enhanced and time seems to slows down.

There are of course many myriad graduations between these states and when tired the gap between 5 and 6 can be traversed very slowly. I spend most of my time in state 6, which I surmise is for efficiency. Using all of ones brain power will undoubtedly exhaust and deteriorate the brain. Awareness and recognition of the fact that at any point you might be partly asleep is, however, vital for any high performance activity, such as fine art painting, which as we all know is perhaps the most important activity in the world, surpassing even mathematics, or sex.

Those who take sleeping pills to move down the scale, or those who take stimulants to climb it will realise that it's not that simple, and while the body can rest in states of its own, the mind acts independently and can be highly aware and thinking with great power even while asleep. Only through diligent mental control and training can any hope for the manipulation of the states of awareness be attained, and even then that hope might be forlorn. I'm sure that the body controls these states for a good reason, and as such it is perhaps, like a friend, better to be aware of them than control them.

Mark Sheeky, 3 March 2009