To ascend is to transition from one toposophic level to another while retaining continuity of identity. Contrary to some interpretations, the identity of an ascended entity manifests very differently from that of their lower self, i.e. the interests, values and general personality of a higher being are no more likely to reflect those of their lower self than the concerns of a baseline adult reflect eir concerns as a newborn. However contrasted with transcension the entity in question is a continuation and not a wholly new being. This can be a confusing and unclear distinction from a modosophont perspective. For an external observer ascension events happen very quickly, usually in a matter of minutes or hours and, in very rare cases, days (longer cases are often due to the ascending individual making physical alterations to their form, a task much slower than augmenting their mind). However, based on both toposophic theory and accounts from ascended individuals the process takes much longer, subjectively speaking. Whether or not it feels longer is apparently a matter of mindtype, but during an ascension an individual will experience vastly more change in a matter of minutes than they have their entire life (even if they are a multi-millennial heteromorph). Beyond this simply being due to a coalescing of higher toposophic cognitive modules into an optimised (and possibly idiosyncratic) system there is also a period of reevaluation where every aspect of one's former life is scrutinised again through a higher lens. All these reasons combine to make it difficult for modosophonts to tell if an ascended individual came through the process intact (defined by a high degree of continuity) as they aren't necessarily going to present themselves in the same manner. Even among those who do continue to present themselves in a way recognizably connected to their previous self, the half life of transapients maintaining their old social relationships through avatars is usually measured in mere decades (with some variation by empire and ascension method). Given the trillions of ascended individuals currently known in the major empires exceptions to this trend and edge cases are not too difficult to find. History is littered with ascended individuals who appear to pursue similar goals to their modosophont selves (the most famous extreme case is GAIA). However most schools of toposophy acknowledge that whether or not these behaviours represent a true consistency in interests (as opposed to a minor side hobby) is unclear in many cases.
Despite all the times it has occurred throughout Terragen history ascension is still a difficult and dangerous process. The process of exponential self-augmentation is inherently unpredictable from the perspective of lower level beings. More often than not sophonts attempting to ascend find themselves at local optima for their toposophic level, unable to progress further without shedding some key part of their psychology or mental capabilities. Worst still what may seem like innocuous or even positive psychological, toposophic and augmentic traits may interact in unpredictable ways during the ascension process. These interactions can lead to the sophont falling into "toposophic sinks", self-reinforcing states that leave them unable to properly interact in the real world, or seek a remedy for their own condition (if they are even capable of recognising there is a problem anymore). Hyperautism and hedonistic solipsism are examples of common sinks. The worst forms of failure lead to blights or perversities, either at the current toposophic level or higher.
Consequently those looking to ascend should seek out mentorship from a higher toposophic being, or godtech devices designed for aiding ascension (such as Ascension Mazes). The ascendee can then be guided over a long period to the right state of mind to achieve a healthy ascension. This not only requires the incremental integration of augmentation but also acquiring desirable psychological traits and eliminating risky ones. For many this process requires giving up too much of what they are and is seen as no better than a transcension. For others mentorship is a double edged sword that may result in ascending into an individual primarily according to the desires of the mentor (cases of newly ascended entities voluntarily merging with their mentors or other higher entities fuel these fears). Aside from mentorship the safest known strategy for ascension is for multiple beings to form a hive mind and ascend together, each unit monitoring the others and intervening to prevent sinks, perversities or other failures. Whilst this is a greater guarantee of success it is often unclear if the higher toposophic being so created truly counts as an ascended, or a transcended. Some toposophologists argue there is no real difference and that worries over continuity are limited modosophont thinking.