The Descent of All-Consciousness Into Ignorance

Sri Aurobindo next takes up the question of where and how the status of All-Consciousness takes on the appearance of Ignorance. In the higher planes of Sat, Chit and Ananda, the question of Ignorance does not arrive. The plane of Supermind, which is the lynch-pin between the higher planes and the levels of Mind, Life and Matter, also maintains full awareness and connection at all times. Since the lower planes are characterised by the action of Ignorance, this power must arise through some veiling effect occuring in the transition from the supramental ranges of consciousness to the mental level. The Isha Upanishad refers to this when it states “The face of Truth is covered by a brilliant golden lid.” When the mental being turns his attention toward the higher planes, he is blinded by brilliance.

Sri Aurobindo discusses these issues in more detail: “In is on the plane of mind that this putting back of the real self-consciousness becomes possible. For mind is that power of the conscious being which differentiates and runs along the lines of differentiation with the sense of diversity prominent and chacteristic and the sense of unity behind it only, not, characteristic, not the very stuff of its workings. If by any chance this supporting sense of unity could be drawn back,–it is possessed by mind not in its own separate right, but because it has the Supermind behind it, because it reflects the light of the Supermind of which it is a derivative and secondary power,–if a veil could fall between mind and Supermind shutting off the light of the Truth or letting it come through only in rays diffused, scattered, reflected but with distortion and division, then the phenomenon of the Ignorance would intervene. Such a veil exists, says the Upanishad, constituted by the action of Mind itself: it is in Overmind a golden lid which hides the face of the supramental Truth but reflects its image; in Mind it becomes a more opaque and smoky-luminous coverture. That action is the absorbed looking downward of Mind on the diversity which is its characteristic movement and away from the supreme unity which that diversity expresses, until it forgets altogether to remember and support itself by the unity.”

The mind identifies itself with the formative Energy that focuses itself on the details of manifestation and further, as it loses its immediate sense of unity with the wider consciousness from which it derives, “it becomes so far identified with that Energy as to lose hold even on itself, to become totally oblivious in a trance of work which it still supports in its somnabulist action, but of which it is no longer aware. This is the last stage of the descent of consciousness, an abysmal sleep, a fathomless trance of consciousness which is the profound basis of the action of material Nature.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine, Book 2, Part I, Chapter 13, Exclusive concentration of Consciousness-Force and the Ignorance