Thursday, April 15, 2021

11. The Four Kingdoms Of Consciousness

I discussed the joyful opportunity to learn from Jacob Glass in Lessons 15, 27, and 43.  His lectures and teachings have helped me in countless over the past eighteen years to relax, find peace, and enjoy a quality of life I hadn’t appreciated before.

His framework for “The 4 Kingdoms Of Consciousness” has offered me a way of perceiving my own emotional reactions, and behavioral decisions.  I’m going to present Jacob’s diagram as it was originally shown to me, and still offer my own spin as I’ve come to understand its usefulness in terms of getting older, doing valuable Work, and  finding peace and play. [Tap the picture in order to enlarge size]

Kingdom one:  “I am a victim of the world.”  This is the playing field most people in this culture are operating on at most times of the day.  This is the realm in which we are an emotional “leaf”, i.e., we blame others for how we feel, expect others to make us feel “special”, become angry and resentful when others do not meet our “needs.”  I see people at this level complaining about being “ignored” and “invisible” when other people don’t deliver the attention and validation they think they need and deserve.  At its best playing the victim offers relief from being responsible for making poor decisions, engaging in toxic relationships, having agency in the outcomes of the world.  At worst it leads to severe depression, suicidal ideation, even violence.  

Kingdom two:  “I am in control of the world.”  This is the realm where people start to realize they have some agency and responsibility for their lived experience.  We see a lot of people in the self-help field on this level seeking to “manifest” external outcomes and “success.”  This is definitely a step up from the victim narrative in level one, but it’s still inherently problematic given it is the opposite side of the same coin. Both the “victim” and the “controller” are still practicing “leaf” energy, giving away their emotional energy to external forces.  I’ve seen many well-intended leaders crack under the pressure of constantly being in control, always having their sense of agency or joy threatened by the slightest outcome going wrong.  This is also the stage where I’ve seen many younger people get overwhelmed by career choices and potential life decisions.

Kingdom three:  “I am a vessel for Spirit.”  Ahhh, this is the realm where sustainable peace can live.  In this realm we put aside the need to be a victim, the need to be in control, and practice a rational faith, “I’m just here to serve.”  We practice self-care, gratitude, connection with a Higher Power, and then use that energy to decide where to go, what to do, who to talk to, what to say, how to act and react.  This is the level that makes aging, growing, and connecting so much graceful than the first two.  It is from the space of “God moves through me” that one can make clear headed decisions, take on new responsibilities, and connect with others in a mutually rewarding way.

Kingdom four:  “I am One with God and all beings.”   This is a nice realm to visit, but you don’t necessarily want to live here.  This is the immersion people often describe at the peak of an intentional drug trip, during deep periods of meditation, or even during intense sexual connections.  It is a complete loss of the physical identity and joining into the abundant energy state described in Lesson 43. It can be incredibly rewarding, but not sustaining.  Eventually you’ll need to come back to earth to use the bathroom.  

When I look on fifty years I can see various moments where I occupied these kingdoms of consciousness in ways that were necessary at the time.  For the early part of my childhood I occupied in kingdom one full time:  I gave my power away to people who hurt me, to thoughts that scared me, and didn’t know how there was an alternative.

In my teenage years I started learning from the incomparable Joni Migdal, and speakers like Jack Canfield, that I could take back control over my self-love and power by changing my thoughts.  I listened to cassette tapes, read books, did affirmations to restore a sense of agency and control.  Throughout my twenties I frequently vacillated between kingdom one (giving others power to diminish me) and kingdom two (I have control over my future).  

As mentioned in Lesson 15, my early 30s presented an opportunity to go deeper.  I didn’t want to be a victim anymore, nor did I want be in control mode every second.  It was then I found true calm in being able to say, “Let Spirit move through me.”  People sometimes mistake this with kingdom three with a sense of complacency or inaction, but for me it was the opposite.  It provided a huge sense of relief and space to set some real intentions in my life.  I focused on finally getting my psychotherapy license in California, moving to New York, opening my own business, speaking and teaching about PrEP and U=U.  All of that came from the “through me” energy, not the “control the universe” energy of level two.  By doing it this way, the process of showing up for my Work remains rewarding, meaningful, and fun.  

As for kingdom four? Well I’ve been there a few times through intentional drug experiences and/or sexual connections.  It’s very hard to verbalize these moments — the best I can describe is just a complete loss of identity with the body complimented by an awareness of the being one with all life and humanity.  These fleeting moments are followed by gratitude, laughter, and a greater depth of respect for interconnected energies.  

For me and for most people, this is not consistently a sequential process.  I can start the day in kingdom three, read a comment about U=U or PrEP that brings me back to kingdom one, respond to it in kingdom two, and let go of it in order to return to the peace of kingdom three.  This may take seconds or hours on any given day.  

I just had an experience of this in real time while I'm writing this Lesson.  I sat down to type these words thinking, "I can't wait to share something that has helped me so much" [Kingdom three].  A friend sent me a message saying they are sitting in a work training where a speaker claimed that U=U makes it "highly unlikely" to transmit HIV [while the risk is factually zero].  My initial thought was, "I can't believe people are still lying about this in 2021!!  How could someone be so naive, so careless, so reckless!!" [Kingdom one].  Next thought was, "We have to change this! Call him out!" [Kingdom two].  My next thought was, "Maybe he doesn't know.  Maybe he hasn't been given adequate education or information himself.  Maybe there's a way to call him in instead of call him out. " [Kingdom three].  I sent my friend a copy of the CDC's statement that U=U is 100% effective at reducing risk of transmitting HIV and a 2019 memo from CDC urging providers not to use inaccurate wording.  [Kingdom three].  My friend showed me the feedback they sent to the presenter:

So I return to kingdom three, not because the issue has been resolved, but because I chose to return to a mindset and allows me to carry on the rest of my day with peace and clarity.   Yes, I had my kingdom one moment, and yes, I spent a little time in kingdom two trying to control the narrative.  Then in kingdom three I sought for ways to call in this facilitator's integrity and better self. In my past, I would have spent the rest of the day in kingdom one telling a narrative of anger and victimhood to anyone who would listen.  Now, my reaction is easier.   

At this stage of my life I am very well aware of my participation and consent in this process.  I may sometimes visit the victim consciousness, and if I do so that will be a decision.  I may get into the control-the-universe stress mode and that too will be a decision. The older I get, the more the “through-me” energy offers appeal.  It is in this place I feel excited about new challenges, peaceful in my personal relationships, grateful for the experience to have lived this long to learn these beneficial lessons.  But trust me, I'm still going to enjoy those visits to kingdom four on occasions as well! 

Damon L. Jacobs is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist helping individuals and couples enjoy life with peace, purpose, and pleasure. His books "Absolutely Should-less" and "Rational Relating" help people experience connection with joy, serenity, and meaning. His work has been featured on CNN Health, The New York Times, MSNBC, USA Today and more. He can be reached at or 347-227-7707

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