Rather than looking at consciousness as belonging to a child or an adult, let us look at the idea of consciousness being both an energy and at the same time a state of being. There are two states: one state is becoming, when we use the potential, the activity and the power to change what we are at present to something else. The other state is being. We become, we are.
In consciousness both these possibilities exist, of becoming and of being, and these possibilities actualize themselves when in the right environment. When we are born, our consciousness is pure, without any influences or impressions of the present day environment. That pure consciousness remains with us in our young days until the age of eight. This state of consciousness is like a sponge, it is simply absorbing everything, absorbing the information received through the senses, absorbing the information received through the interactions, absorbing the information received through the intellectual and emotional inputs. In this manner the consciousness conditions itself to survive and to exist in this material plane.
Until the age of eight, the information received by the consciousness is purely intuitive. Non-linear information, non-sequential information, is received – the idea of the left and right hemispheres of the brain. A child grows in our society conditioned to believe that happiness is perpetually postponed for tomorrow.
When we begin our school education, a change happens in the pattern of consciousness and we begin a sequential learning process, a linear learning process. The moment the sequential and linear learning process begins, our personality changes. We become fixed in certain ideas, that A comes before B, C follows B, and in this way an understanding is developed. That understanding is a very set understanding, and this is where the personality undergoes a major transformation in life.
You can give consciousness any shape you want. The family contributes to giving shape to that consciousness. The culture in which we live, the social environment, the religious environment, the educational environment, all contribute to the formation of human consciousness.
Development of consciousness in all levels – intuitive, spiritual, cultural, social, personal, psychic – happens before the age of eight, before the child actually joins the first class of primary school. The day we join the first class of primary school this development stops and linear development begins.
The education received by consciousness until the age of eight is a system of impressions which superimpose themselves on consciousness. They are concepts of imprints left on the mind by experience. Many traditions and philosophies have greatly emphasized the need for greater awareness during our stages of spiritual development before the age of eight, because in your future life, when you grow up, when you are thirty or forty or sixty, you become that person. You express those qualities and habits which you imbibed before the age of eight. What you are today is what you were made before the age of eight. What you were made after the age of eight is seen in the degrees and diplomas you have in your homes, in your bags and in your workplaces. That is your qualification to survive in the world, which you received after the age of eight. But the nature, the mind and the responses of the mind, the ability to manage situations in life and to deal with people, all these abilities you gained in your childhood, in that subtle education which was imbibed by the consciousness. And it is this consciousness which has to be nurtured more and more.