Separating the Spiritual Consciousness from the Mental Substrate

it is the tendency of the mind, rooted in its own processes, to treat spiritual impulses, insight or inspiration as just another form or expression of mental consciousness. Sri Aurobindo points out that the first emergence of the animal mind was hard to distinguish from the impulsive or instinctive responses of Life and it was only at the point that the emergence of Mind was far enough advanced that it could be distinguished as a separate power of consciousness, that was other than, and not simply an extension of, the powers of the Life Consciousness. “In the animal mind is not quite distinct from its own life-matrix and life-matter; its movements are so involved in the life-movements that it cannot detach itself from them, cannot stand separate and observe them; but in man mind has become separate, he can become aware of his mental operatinos as distinct from his life-operations, his thought and will can disengage themselves from his sensations and impulses, desires and emotional reactions, can become detached from them, observe and control them, sanction or cancel their functioning: he does not as yet know the secrets of his being well enough to be aware of himself decisively and with certitude as a mental being in a life and body, but he has that impression and can take inwardly that position.”

Sri Aurobindo extrapolates from the relationship of Mind to Life and Body to illustrate the position of the soul as it emerges as a new power of consciousness manifesting in Mind, Life and Body. “So too at first soul in man does not appear as something quite distinct from mind and from mentalised life; its movements are involved in the mind-movements, its operations seem to be mental and emotional activities; the mental human being is not aware of a soul in him standing back from the mind and life and body, detaching itself, seeing and controlling and moulding their action and formation: but, as the inner evolution proceeds, this is precisely what can, must and does happen,–it is the long-delayed but inevitable next step in our evolutionary destiny. There can be a decisive emergence in which the being separates itself from thought and sees itself in an inner silence as the spirit in mind, or separates itself from the life-movements, desires, sensations, kinetic impulses and is aware of itself as the spirit supporting life, or separates itself from the body-sense and knows itself as a spirit ensouling Matter: this is the discovery of ourselves as the Purusha, a mental being or a life-soul or a subtle self supporting the body.”

This is seen as a sufficient and culminating step of awareness by many, but Sri Aurobindo does not stop there. We shall take up the next phase in this process in the next post.
Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine, Book 2, Part 2, Chapter 24, “The Evolution of the Spiritual Man”