Progress of the Occult Self-Unfolding Spirit

Sri Aurobindo, having identified the limitations for growth and development of the Mental Being in a physical body, explores next what can be done to achieve transformational evolutionary growth beyond those limitations. “it is evident that if we can live thus deeper within and put out steadily the inner forces into the outer instrumentation or raise ourselves to dwell on higher and wider levels and bring their powers to bear on physical existence, not merely receive influences descending from them, which is all we can now do, there could begin a heightening of our force of conscious being so as to create a new principle of consciousness, a new range of activities, new values for all things, a widening of our consciousness and life, a taking up and transformation of the lower grades of our existence,–in brief, the whole evolutionary process by which the Spirit in Nature creates a higher type of being.”

This presents us with a process for self-exceeding of the Mental Being and the development of the Spiritual Being in life: “Each step could mean a pace, however distant from the goal, or a close approach leading to a larger and more divine being, a larger and more divine force and consciousness, knowledge and will, sense of existence and delight in existence; there could be an initial unfolding towards the divine life. All religion, all occult knowledge, all supernormal )as opposed to abnormal) psychological experience, all Yoga, all psychic experience and discipline are signposts and directions pointing us upon that road of progress of the occult self-unfolding spirit.”

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

The Spiritual Change of Consciousness

Sri Aurobindo distinguishes the next evolutionary phase from the preceding ones by pointing out that while the evolution of Mind and Life out of Matter, and even the development of the higher planes of Mind within humanity, took place within the framework of our surface being and its capabilities, the spiritual evolution, the next stage of development, if you will, must now move beyond an expansion of the capabilities of the mental being, and move toward a unification of our surface being with our inner being, and our inner being with the higher spiritual planes of consciousness. “but this evolution differs from the past process of the evolutionary Energy in two respects: it is conducted by a conscious effort of the human mind, and it is not confined to a conscious progression of the surface nature, but is accompanied by an attempt to break the walls of the Ignorance and extend ourselves inward into the secret principle of our present being and outward into cosmic being as well as upward towards a higher principle. Up till now what Nature had achieved was an enlarging of the bounds of our surface Knowledge-Ignorance; what it attempted in the spiritual endeavor is to abolish the Ignorance, to go inwards and discover the soul and to become united in consciousness with God and with all existence. This is the final aim of the mental stage of evolutionary Nature in man; it is the initial step towards a radical transmutation of the Ignorance into the Knowledge. The spiritual change begins by an influence of the inner being and the higher spiritual mind, an action felt and accepted on the surface; but this by itself can lead only to an illumined mental idealism or to the growth of a religious mind, a religious temperament and some devotion in the heart and piety in the conduct; it is a first approach of mind to spirit, but it cannot make a radical change: more has to be done, we have to live deeper within, we have to exceed our present consciousness and surpass our present status of Nature.”

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

Transformation of Life Through the Spiritual Change of Consciousness

Sri Aurobindo indicates that the expansion, development and extension of the 3 current foundational principles of manifestation, Matter, Life and Mind, have their limits; and it is within these limits that the evolutionary development we have been reviewing needs to take place. To go beyond this, to a basis that exceeds the peak of mental man’s capabilities, another principle of manifestation must come forth as the earlier ones came forth on the preceding basis. Sri Aurobindo describes this as the spiritual transformation. “…for so long as we live in the surface being or found ourselves wholly on Matter, it is impossible to go higher and vain to expect that there can be any new transition of a radical character in our evolutionary being. The vital man, the mental man have had an immense effect upon the earth-life, they have carried humanity forward from the mere human animal to what it is now. But it is only within the bounds of the already established evolutionary formula of the human being that they can act; they can enlarge the human circle but not change or transform the principle of consciousness or its characteristic operation. Any attempt to heighen inordinately the mental or exaggerate inordinately the vital man,–a Nietzschean supermanhood, for example,–can only colossalise the human creature, it cannot transform or divinise him. A different possibility opens if we can live within in the inner being and make it the direct ruler of life or station ourselves on the spiritual and intuitive planes of being and from there and by their power transmute our nature.”

More on this subject in the next post!
Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine, Book 2, Part 2, Chapter 18, The Evolutionary Process — Ascent and Integration

The Evolution of the Spiritual Man

The current established basis of the evolutionary action in humanity takes us to the development of the highly developed mentality as discussed in the prior post. Sri Aurobindo points out that in order to go beyond this stage we need to see the development of the next evolutionary principle and its emergence. “For the mental man has not been Nature’s last effort or highest reach,–though he has been, in general, more fully evolved in his own nature than those who have achieved themselves below or aspired above him; she has pointed man to a yet higher and more difficult level, inspired him with the ideal of a spiritual living, begun the evolution in him of a spiritual being. The spiritual man is her supreme supernormal effort of human creation; for, having evolved the mental creator, thinker, sage, prophet of an ideal, the self-controlled, self-disciplined, harmonised mental being, she has tried to go higher and deeper within and call out into the front the soul and inner mind and heart, call down from above the forces of the spiritual mind and higher mind and overmind and create under their light and by their influence the spiritual sage, seer, prophet, God-lover, Yogin, gnostic, Sufi, mystic.”

This is possible because “In ourselves, behind our surface natural being, there is a soul, an inner mind, an inner life-part which can open to these heights as well as to the occult spirit within us, and this double opening is the secret of a new evolution; by that breaking of lids and walls and boundaries the consciousness rises to a greater ascent and a larger integration which, as the evolution of mind has mentalised, so will by this new evolution spiritualise all the powers of our nature.”

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

The Thinking Mind of Pure Intelligence

The development of the powers of the mental plane can continue within humanity, and Sri Aurobindo next clarifies the type of the pure thinking man, “the mental man, the man of a self-dominating and self-formative mind and will conscious of an ideal and turned towards its realisation, the high intellect, the thinker, the sage, less kinetic and immediately effective than the vital man, who is the man of action and outer swift life-fulfilment, but as powerful and eventually even more powerful to open new vistas to the race, is the normal summit of Nature’s evolutionary formation on the human plane.”

The pure mentality has access to an inner or subliminal mind “which senses directly all the things of the mind-plane, is open to the action of a world of mental forces, and can feel the ideative and other imponderable influences which act upon the material world and the life-plane but which at present we can only infer and cannot directly experience: these intangibles and imponderables are to the mental man real and patent and he regards them as truths demanding to be realised in our or the earth’s nature.”

The developed mental man, then can actually live in a world of ideation and mental forces. “to live in mind and the things of the mind, to be an intelligence rather than a life and a body, is our highest position, short of spirituality, in the degrees of Nature.”

It is interesting to note that while many who do not have this kind of mental development fully at work will try to discount the “reality” of this world of ideas and forces of will, there is a direct corrollary in the “invisible” action of mind and the “invisible” action of electricity on the material plane, or the transmission of emotions and feelings on the vital plane, both of which have now been documented and proven beyond doubt, and put into action in the world. Quantum physics is now recognizing the role of consciousness as the formative power of energy and matter, and the ability of consciousness to control and influence events and material substance. We thus see an approach from the side of science, to the type of recognition that Sri Aurobindo here explains.
Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine, Book 2, Part 2, Chapter 18, The Evolutionary Process — Ascent and Integration

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