Evolution of Mental Capacities Beyond the Vital-Mind

Sri Aurobindo next describes the development of what we might consider to be the true mind of thought, the “signature” state of the evolution of the Mind-Plane in Life and Matter. We move to a more rarified sphere where the primary focus of the Mind is on its own native activities, not fixated, as we have seen with the physical mind and the vital mind, on the world of Matter and Life.

“Above this level of vital mentality and yet more inly extended, is a mind-plane of pure thought and intelligence to which the things of the mental world are the most important realities; those who are under its influence, the philosopher, thinker, scientist, intellectual creator, the man of the idea, the man of the written or spoken word, the idealist and dreamer are the present mental being at his highest attained summit. This mental man has his life-part, his life of passions and desires and ambitions and life-hopes of all kinds and his lower sensational and physical existence, and this lower part can often equibalance or weigh down his nobler mental element so that, although it is the highest portion of him, it does not become dominant and formative in his whole nature: but this is not typical of him in his greatest development, for there the vital and physical are controlled and subjected by the thinking will and intelligence. The mental man cannot transform his nature, but he can control and harmonise it and lay on it the law of a mental ideal, impose a balance or a sublimating and refining influence, and give a high consistency to the multipersonal confusion and conflict or the summary patchwork of our divided and half-constructed being. He can be the observer and governor of his own mind and life, can consciously develop them and become to that extent a self-creator.”

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

Evolutionary Stage of the Vital Life-Mind

As we have noted, Sri Aurobindo distinguishes several distinct levels of development of “Mind” starting with the Physical Mind, which was the subject of the previous post. The “Life-Mind”, also called the “Vital Mind” is the next phase, which roughly correlates to the infusion of the principle of life into the world of matter, and the mental plane’s corresponding energies and focus to accomodate this next evolutionary stage. The life-soul which embodies the mentality of the vital plane “concretely senses and contacts the things of the life-world, and tries to realise them here; it attaches immense importance to the satisfaction and fulfilment of the life-being, the life-force, the vital nature: it looks on physical existence as a field for the life-impulses’ self-fulfilment, for the play of ambition, power, strong character, love, passion, adventure, for the individual, the collective, the general human seeking and hazard and venture, for all kinds of life-experiment and new life-experience, and but for this saving element, this greater power, interest, significance, the physical existence would have for it no value. This life-mentality is supported by our secret subliminal vital being and is in veiled contact with a life-world to which it can easily open and so fee the unseen dynamic forces and realities behind the material universe. There is an inner life-mind which does not need for its perceptions the evidence of the physical senses, is not limited by them; for on this level our inner life and the inner life of the world become real to us independent of the body and of the symbols of the physical world which alone we call natural phenomena, as if Nature had no greater phenomena and no greater realities than those of gross Matter. The vital man, moulded consciously or unconsciously by these influences, is the man of desire and sensation, the man of force and action, the man of passion and emotion, the kinetic individual: he may and does lay great stress on the material existence, but he gives it, even when most preoccupied with its present actualities, a push for life-experience, for force of realisation, for life-extension, for life-power, for life-affirmation and life-expansion which is Nature’s first impetus towards enlargement of the being; at a highest intensity of this life-impetus, he becomes the breaker of bonds, the seeker of new horizons, the disturber of the past and present in the interest of the future.”

This vital mind opens up new opportunities and developments in the evolutionary progression of consciousness out of inconscient Matter and towards the higher expressions of Mind, Supermind and beyond.

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