Who, or what, beheld such a state? In order for anything to be known to exist, there needs be an observer. A universe without conscious beings is never known to exist, never experienced.
Consciousness is necessary.
There is no ground to stand on if one asserts that "nothing exists" or "existence isn't real". Sure, it might all be an illusion, a lie, and not at all what we think it is, but something is certainly existent--at least, my conscious experience is evidence of existence, as your experience is to you.
Without being conscious of yourself, how would you exist? There's no easy way to explain it without referencing the same conscious mind in a loop to nowhere. Consciousness is an essential fact, a necessity, in order for any experience to occur.
This implies a consciousness has existed, exists, and will exist. If we exist now and can perceive our little pocket of cosmos, it stands to reason that we are not the only conscious minds in the entirety of the cosmos (which is well beyond our ability to study at the moment).
Does this also imply a consciousness at the "beginning" of the universe? More precisely, does this imply an omni-present consciousness? Is there something observing the entirety of the universe and all its goings-on?
Furthermore, it seems reasonable that consciousness is part of the cosmos, interwoven in the fabric of reality, for the simple fact that we exist as conscious beings; we evolved from within this cosmos; and our consciousness creates culture with all its trappings.
Degrees of Consciousness
Though no concrete evidence is available to prove the existence of other conscious minds, it seems illogical to assume we are special in the sense of being the only sentient creatures in the universe. If life arose on this planet in billions of different forms, one must conclude that life is possible elsewhere--at the very least on planets similar in composition to earth.
Might this also imply consciousness greater than our own? There is great debate over whether animals are "conscious" as we know it or whether they are more like animated, biological machines. Anyone who has owned a pet understands that every creature is aware of themselves and their environment to varying degrees; some pets are quite capable of developing peculiar "personality" quirks and other hallmarks that we associate with conscious human beings.
Supposing we accept that other forms of life on earth are capable of consciousness, then we have plenty of examples of varying degrees of consciousness distributed in hundreds (maybe thousands) of species. Is it not plausible, given the possibility of progressive consciousness on earth, that we will find beings with minds greater than ours? We can perceive the vast differences between a cat and a human, for example, and understand that they aren't aware of the same things as us; likewise, other beings among the stars may have varying degrees of consciousness.
The Roots of Consciousness
Consciousness seems tied to the very fabric of reality. Our existence, and the existence of other degrees of consciousness around us, prove that the universe does give rise to conscious beings; there is no way to suggest otherwise without calling one's own existence into question.
This suggest consciousness grows out of the cosmos naturally and progressively (and inevitably). It also suggests varying degrees of consciousness that may or may not be tied to biological form and function (i.e. better hardware enables expanded conscious experience).
If consciousness can be considered a function of the universe (without out there is no explainable way to know a universe exists), then the universe itself can be considered conscious.
When the potter shapes clay into a bowl, the bowl doesn't cease to be clay, nor does the clay lose its 'clayness'. The bowl becomes clay in a new function. Likewise, the universe gives rise by necessity to conscious minds, but it does not cease to be a universe.
It is necessary to exist in order to know existence--that should be pretty obvious--but it also necessary to be aware of existence, otherwise anything existent has no function. If our sun burned on a planet without life, full of naught but rocks and water, then how would the existence of our sun every be expressed or reflected?
This puts the process of evolution in the role of bringing change and diversity--more possibilities for sentient life to arise.
We may find the universe teeming with life and, at that moment, we will realize our individual experience is smaller than we thought--smaller than we feel when gazing at the infinite curtain of lights overhead.