The word food does not satisfy hunger, nor the word water satisfy thirst. Both are labels only. However, they are pointers to something that is more substantial, actual, and needed for our physical survival.
In the more subtle realms of consciousness, labels are also valid pointers. These, subtle levels, however abstract, may also be pointed to.
Consciousness cannot be denied as it is a basic truth. You are aware and conscious of I am. Yet it becomes a little more circumspect when we begin to refine our terms as to exactly what consciousness is, and how we might understand it better.
When I speak of levels of consciousness it is but a refinement, a tuner of sorts into the subtleness of consciousness. Perhaps a little harder to grasp, but no less real than consciousness itself.
If you are traveling from A to B, no point on the journey is better than another as regards the objective. Each point is but a position between the two.
Just as a landscape has points of perspective, so do the various levels of consciousness. In a landscape, one can point to a bend in the road, a ridge, or a particular view. Just so, in the field of consciousness, points of perspective can be seen, and depending on the definitions used, be labeled and described.
In the refinement of our description of levels of consciousness, perspective is a key. The levels are defined by perspective, including beliefs, attitudes, and positionalities.
The world which appears in consciousness is determined by the positionalities that create the perspective. Though the scale and the demarcation points may be arbitrary, based on how the scale and levels are defined, the labels applied will point to something just as real as consciousness itself.
The levels can be roughly defined as a movement from fear to love. All the corollary attitudes between the two can be laid out. And how the world appears at points on the scale can also be outlined.
Realization and Enlightenment are points on the journey. Different points to be sure, than earlier perspectives which may have included suffering. Perspectives and attitudes prior to enlightenment can then be compared to earlier positions. It is only the difference that allows one to say, "Ah, now things are better."
Consciousness is a continuum. It is not static. Realization and enlightenment are not static states, though many assume that is so. Realization may be a satori that progresses no further, but sometimes it may. Just so, enlightenment is not necessarily static either. It may or may not progress further. In some, there is a further deepening and expansion.
It is due to this continuum that the understanding of realization and enlightenment is confusing. People think that realization or enlightenment is a one shot deal, all inclusive, final. It is not. A cooked goose can be more or less well done, and certainly different in shape and size.
There is a level of consciousness which can be assigned to realization. There is a level of consciousness to which enlightenment may can be assigned. Not an absolute assignment, but certainly indicating a certain level of consciousness. Most would consider it a higher state, or level, than what we would call the normal human condition.
Yet even these, realization, enlightenment, are not carved in stone, static, or final, in the sense that no further revelation may occur. Further development, advancement in understanding may still occur. Sometimes it does.
Consciousness is on a journey. A glorious and messy journey. Call it the play of Lila, or the mess of samsara, most want better than worse, and peace over conflict and suffering.
It is not an error to consider consciousness as a continuum with various levels. We are participants at different different positions, or levels if you will. We call some things good, some bad. We name up and down. To ascribe levels to what we experience in consciousness is not a sin.
We who have sought enlightenment have to admit that it appeared to be a better state, or condition, than what we were in. At least considered it better, perhaps a higher state, and had it as a goal. Perhaps we called it a search for truth, knowing nothing of the term.
Whether seeking truth, or enlightenment, or ultimate peace, we found it more desirable than our present condition. So, for the purposes of pointing, for education, we can say that enlightenment is higher on the scale than misery.
However arbitrary the scale, positions may be ascribed and labels applied. Is not jealousy lower, and unconditional love higher?
Whether or not there is a goal in the Absolute, we in our participation, our journey, perceive higher and lower levels of consciousness. We appear to strive for higher ground. And though there is no Rx, and no path, we are all at different levels.
Food, water, or levels of consciousness, all are words, concepts, yet pointing to something. Levels of consciousness can be described, and labels applied. It's useful for pointing to the subtleties of consciousness. Isn't enlightenment itself a label?