The early Christian Fathers observed a series of increasing steps in how identification enters, causing a loss of awareness. These writings are collected in the Philokalia and of use to many Fourth Way practitioners.
From the Philokalia:
(i) Provocation: the initial incitement to evil. Man cannot prevent provocations from assailing him; what does lie in his power, however, is to maintain constant watchfulness and so to reject each provocation as soon as it emerges into his consciousness – that is to say, at its first appearance as a thought in his mind or intellect. If he does reject the provocation, the sequence is cut off and the process of temptation is terminated.
(ii) Momentary disturbance – of the intellect, occurring ‘without any movement or working of bodily passion’. This seems to be more than the ‘first appearance’ of a provocation described in stage (i) above; for, at a certain point of spiritual growth in this life, it is possible to be totally released from such ‘momentary disturbance, whereas no one can expect to be altogether free from demonic provocations.
(iii) Communion; coupling. Without as yet entirely assenting to the demonic provocation, a man may begin to ‘entertain’ it, to converse or parley with it, turning it over in his mind pleasurably, yet still hesitating whether or not to act upon it. At this stage, which is indicated by the terms ‘communion’ or ‘coupling’, the provocation is no longer ‘image-free’ but has become a thought; and a person is morally responsible for having allowed this to happen.
(iv) Assent. This signifies a step beyond mere ‘communion’ or ‘coupling’. No longer merely ‘playing’ with the evil suggestion, a person now resolves to act upon it. There is now no doubt as to his moral culpability: even if circumstances prevent him from sinning outwardly, he is judged by God according to the intention in his heart.
(v) Prepossession): ‘the involuntary presence of former sins in the memory’. This state of ’prepossession’ or prejudice results from repeated acts of sin which predispose a man to yield to particular temptations. In principle, he retains his free choice and can reject demonic provocations; but in practice the force of habit makes it more and more difficult for him to resist.
(vi) Passion (q.v.). If a man does not fight strenuously against a prepossession, it will develop into an evil passion.
~ Source: Appendix, Philokalia, Volume IV, translation by Palmer, Sherrard and Ware
Interpreted using Fourth Way terminology:
Provocation: A moment of stimulus demanding a response from the mechanical aspects of our being. An ‘I’ is triggered or an impression enters our awareness.
Momentary Disturbance: The ‘I’ or impression is registered by the lower centers. If awareness meets the incoming impression, or the steward is roused, presence can continue.
Communion or Coupling: The ‘I’ or impression is “entertained” by the lower centers, which consider it to be real. One’s identity joins the subject. There is a moment of choice, again, before this occurs, if the steward is present.
Assent: The lower centers actively engage in the subject of identification or imagination.