The Physical Mind Plane of Mental Evolution

Sri Aurobindo begins his description of the various planes and sub-planes of Mind in order to bring about an understanding of the evolutionary process that takes place in the systematic step-by-step development of the mental evolution. “In mind itself there are grades of the series and each grade again is a series in itself; there are successive elevations which we may conveniently call planes and sub-planes of the mental consciousness and the mental being.”

The evolutionary process essentially takes place as a development from plane to plane within the mental realm. The first of these, upon which we tend to base our primary action as “mental beings” in the physical world, Sri Aurobindo calls the “physical mind.”

“At present we still normally take our first secure stand on the lowest sub-plane of the intelligence, which we may call the physical-mental, because it depends for its evidence of fact and sense of reality on the physical brain, the physical sense-mind, the physical sense-organs; there we are the physical man who attaches most importance to objective things and to his outer life, has little intensity of the subjective or inner existence and subordinates whatever he has of it to the greater claims of exterior reality.”

The man rooted in the physical-mentality has, of course a vital-mentality and a mental-mentality as well, but these remain relatively circumscribed and subject to the foundational physical-mentality in their action. “For the physical mind takes its stand on matter and the material world, on the body and the bodily life, on sense-experience and on a normal practical mentality and its experience.” Anything that is not directly based on “material reality” is considered to be “subjective” and less “real” than the physical world. “It is inevitable that the human being should thus take his first stand on Matter and give the external fact and external existence its due importance; for this is Nature’s first provision for our existence, on which she insists greatly…”

There are of course serious limitations to this plane or initial standpoint that eventually must be overcome to achieve access to a new standpoint in higher planes of mentality in our evolutionary progression. “It is our first mental status, but the mental being cannot remain always at this lowest rung of the human evolutionary ladder.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine, Book 2, Part 2, Chapter 18, The Evolutionary Process — Ascent and Integration