Transitioning from Overmental to Supramental Consciousness

As the overmental consciousness becomes established in the nature, it has a natural uplifting and widening effect on Matter, Life and Mind. In turn, the development of higher potentialities and elimination of the extremes of the Inconscience more and more prepares for the next phase of the ascent up the stairway of consciousness. Because the overmental consciousness obtains its light as a reflection or diffused result of the original supramental light, there comes a time when the supramental force can work more powerfully and directly on the nature. Sri Aurobindo describes this process: “This would continue until the point was reached at which Overmind would begin itself to be transformed into Supermind; the supramental consciousness and force would take up the transformation directly into its own hands, reveal to the terrestrial mind, life, bodily being their own spiritual truth and divinity and, finally, pour into the whole nature the perfect knowledge, power, significance of the supramental existence. The soul would pass beyond the borders of the Ignorance and cross its original line of departure from the supreme Knowledge: it would inter into the integrality of the supramental gnosis; the descent of the gnostic Light would effectuate a complete transformation of the Ignorance.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine, Book 2, Part 2, Chapter 26, “The Ascent Towards Supermind”

The Necessity for a Supramental Descent and Transformation of Consciousness

The implication of the limitations of overmental consciousness described in the prior post is that it does not have the complete transformative power to definitively alter the basic separation and underlying darkness of the nescience and inconscience, the principle behind matter, life and mind in manifestation. An overmental creation is one of multiple different possibilities being worked out, but without the complete coordinating unifying vision in place. Each one of them can create its own separate “universe” of action, but none of them are impervious to alteration, change or a fall back into some darker for more divided functionality. Sri Aurobindo uses the example of a blazing sun illuminating a solar system but outside that system, the darkness of space rules and should the sun ever falter, the system itself would go dark. Similarly, an overmental action in the world could lead to individuals who act on a more illumined basis; or even social structures or societies built around such individuals, but these would not be able to transform all of the world or all individuals in the light of their action. There could even be alternative or “competing” visions being worked out without a unifying vision tying them together. Sri Aurobindo points out “The supreme power of the principle of unity taking all diversities into itself and controlling them as parts of the unity, which must be the law of the new evolutionary consciousness, would not as yet be there.” The solution to these limitations comes about by the eventual descent and transformation that can only be effected by the Supermind: “The liberation from this pull of the Inconscience and a secured basis for a continuous divine or gnostic evolution would only be achieved by a descent of the Supermind into the terrestrial formula, bringing into it the supreme law and light and dynamis of the Spirit and penetrating with it and transforming the inconscience of the material basis. A last transition from Overmind to Supermind and a descent of Supermind must therefore intervene at this stage of evolutionary Nature.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine, Book 2, Part 2, Chapter 26, “The Ascent Towards Supermind”

The Limitations of the Overmental Consciousness

As powerful and as wide as the overmental consciousness is, it’s action is not yet based in or centered in knowledge; it remains a power of action founded upon the original Ignorance of the Body-Life-Mind formulation. While it is the highest expression of that basis, it still has its own limitations, which only get resolved when the ascent to the supramental level actually takes place. Sri Aurobindo defines these limitations as follows: “It takes up all that is in the three steps below it and raises their characteristic workings to their highest and largest power, adding to them a universal wideness of consciousness and force, a harmonious concert of knowledge, a more manifold delight of being. But there are certain reasons arising from its own characteristic status and power that prevent it from being the final possibility of the spiritual evolution. It is a power, though the highest power, of the lower hemisphere; although its basis is a cosmic unity, its action is an action of division and interaction, an action taking its stand on the play of the multiplicity. Its play is, like that of all Mind, a play of possibilities; although it acts not in the Ignorance but with the knowledge of the truth of these possibilities, yet it works them out through their own independent evolution of their powers. It acts in each cosmic formula according to the fundamental meaning of that formula and is not a power for a dynamic transcendence. Here in earth-life it has to work upon a cosmic formula whose basis is the entire nescience which results from the separation of Mind, Life and Matter from their own source and supreme origin. Overmind can bridge that division up to the point at which separative Mind enters into Overmind and becomes a part of its action; it can unite individual mind with cosmic mind on its highest plane, equate individual self with cosmic self and give to the nature an action of universality; but it cannot lead Mind beyond itself, and in this world of original Inconscience it cannot dynamise the Transcendence: for it is the Supermind alone that is the supreme self-determining truth-action and the direct power of manifestation of that Transcendence. If then the action of evolutionary Nature ended here, the Overmind, having carried the consciousness to the point of a vast illumined universality and an organised play of this wide and potent spiritual awareness of utter existence, force-consciousness and delight, could only go farther by an opening of the gates of the Spirit into the upper hemisphere and a will to enable the soul to depart out of its cosmic formation into Transcendence.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine, Book 2, Part 2, Chapter 26, “The Ascent Towards Supermind”

The Manifold Experience of the Overmind Consciousness

The Overmind consciousness, based in cosmic awareness, has many different formulations by which it can be experienced by the developing consciousness of the seeker. In itself it holds multiple different possibilities ready for manifestation. Sri Aurobindo describes a number of different ways to experience the descent and action of the Overmind consciousness: “In place of an uncentered and unplaced diffusion there may be the sense of the universe in oneself or as oneself….”

The experience is not however an expansion of the ego-consciousness, but “the extension or the identification constituting a cosmic being, a universal individual.”

Another option that can occur: “In one state of the cosmic consciousness there is an individual included in the cosmos but identifying himself with all in it, with the things and beings, with the thought and sense, the joy and grief of others; in another state there is an inclusino of beings in oneself and a reality of their life as part of one’s own being.”

Sri Aurobindo points out that the response of the individual consciousness may be passive or dynamic to the “free play of universal Nature”. But it can also be that one gains the sense of a guidance or governance, “a complete supporting or overruling presence and direction of the cosmic Self or the Ishwara can come in and become normal…”

Another option is that “a special centre may be revealed or created overtopping and dominating the physical instrument, individual in fact of existence, but impersonal in feeling and recognised by a free cognition oas something instrumental to the action of a Transcendent and Universal Being.”

This is an important stage as the consciousness transitions from the Body, Life and Mind centered in the Ignorance and locked into its experience of separateness and fragmentation, to the full consciousness of the Supermind. The tendency of the Overmind is to discover a “true individual replacing the dead ego, a being who is in his essence one with the supreme Self, one with the universe in extension and yet a cosmic centre and circumference of the specialised action of the Infinite.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine, Book 2, Part 2, Chapter 26, “The Ascent Towards Supermind”

The Ascent to the Overmind Consciousness

As a series of steps or gradations, the ascent of consciousness beyond the mind takes us through the Higher Mind, to the Illumined Mind, and from thence to the Intuition and next to the Overmind. At each stage we see increasing power of consciousness with ever-increasing knowledge that comes through the reduction of the influence of the Subconscient and the Inconscient, and the upwelling and massing of ever more intense light. For the most part, the experience of the steps preceding the Overmind is based still in the individual’s own awareness. The Overmind however is directly tied to the breaking out of the consciousness from the individual to the cosmic level and the overpassing of the instrumentation of the ego. Sri Aurobindo discusses the Overmind and the principles of its action: “…we have seen that the Overmind, even when it is selective and not total in its action, is still a power of cosmic consciousness, a principle of global knowledge which carries in it a delegated light from the supramental Gnosis. It is, therefore, only by an opening into the cosmic consciousness that the overmind ascent and descent can be made wholly possible: a high and intense individual opening upwards is not sufficient,–to that vertical ascent towards summit Light there must be added a vast horizontal expansion of the consciousness into some totality of the Spirit. At the least, the inner being must already have replaced by its deeper and wider awareness the surface mind and its limited outlook and learned to live in a large universality; for otherwise the overmind view of things and the overmind dynamism will have no room to move in and effectuate its dynamic operations. When the Overmind descends, the predominance of the centralising ego-sense is entirely subordinated, lost in largeness of being and finally abolished; a wide cosmic perception and feeling of a boundless universal self and movement replaces it: many motions that were formerly egocentric may still continue, but they occur as currents or ripples in the cosmic wideness. Thought, for the most part, no longer seems to originate individually in the body or the person but manifests from above or comes in upon the cosmic mind-waves: all inner individual sight or intelligence of things is now a revelation or illumination of what is not in one’s separate self but in the universal knowledge; the feelings, emotions, sensations are similarly felt as waves from the same cosmic immensity breaking upon the subtle and the gross body and responded to in kind by the individual centre of the universality; for the body is only a small support or even less, a point of relation, for the action of a vast cosmic instrumentation.”

The individual becomes simply a “field of manifestation” of the cosmic consciousness.

Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine, Book 2, Part 2, Chapter 26, “The Ascent Towards Supermind”

The Fourfold Power of Intuition

Sri Aurobindo provides us with a clear insight into the nature and functioning of Intuition. “Intuition has a fourfold power. A power of revelatory truth-seeing, a power of inspiration or truth-hearing, a power of truth-touch or immediate seizing of significance, which is akin to the ordinary nature of its intervention in our mental intelligence, a power of true and automatic discrimination of the orderly and exact relation of truth to truth…” This action of intuition works to uplift or even replace the normal action of the logical mind of reason, and has corresponding actions to uplift and transform the heart, life energy, sense experience and physical consciousness. “It can thus change the whole consciousness into the stuff of Intuition; for it brings its own greater radiant movement into the will, into the feelings and emotions, the life-impulses, the action of sense and sensation, the very workings of the body-consciousness; it recasts them in the light and power of truth and illumines their knowledge adn their ignorance.” Where the Intuition becomes limited is in its ability to transfuse and uplift the vast realms of the Inconscience and the Subconscient. These realms require a still greater transformative light, directly active from the supramental realm, in order to be fully illumined. Nevertheless, the powers of the Intuition are broad and able to take up and take over virtually entirely the action of the logical mind, working from an entirely different basis than that limited and stumbling power that represents our normal mode of knowledge and action.
Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine, Book 2, Part 2, Chapter 26, “The Ascent Towards Supermind”

The Descent of Intuition Into the Human Consciousness

Intuition appears to us in its occasional action as something akin to a lightning-flash of insight. If it just occurs as an occasional insight, it is cut off from an all-encompassing sense of completeness and easily diluted or distorted by the working of the reason. While this may protect to some degree from the pseudo-intuitions that can masquerade as true insight, it is a weak illumination that does not have much transformative power, as it has been modified both by the action of the Illumined Mind, and then the Higher Mind before eventually manifesting in the human mentality.

In its native plane of action, far above the human mind, intuition is a massed light of consciousness, integrated and illuminating the entire field with its insight. Sri Aurobindo describes it thus: “…on that higher level to which it is native its light is unmixed and therefore entirely and purely veridical, and its rays are not separated but connected or massed together in a play of waves of what might almost be called in the Sanskrit poetic figure a sea or mass of “stable lightnings”. When this original or natiave Intuition begins to descend into us in answer to an ascension of our consciousness to its level or as a result of our finding of a clear way of communication with it, it may continue to come as a play of lightning-flashes, isolated or in constant action; but at this stage the judgment of reason becomes quite inapplicable, it can only act as an observer or registrar understanding or recording the more luminous intimations, judgments and discreiminations of the higher power. To complete or verify an isolated intuition or discriminate its nature, its application, its limitations, the receiving consciousness must rely on another completing intuition or be able to call down a massed intuition capable of putting all in place. For once the process of the change has begun, a complete transmutation of the stuff and activities of the mind into the substance, form and power of Intuition is imperative; until then, so long as the process of consciousness depends upon the lower intelligence serving or helping out or using the intuition, the result can only be a survival of the mixed Knowledge-Ignorance uplifted or relieved by a higher light and force action in its parts of Knowledge.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine, Book 2, Part 2, Chapter 26, “The Ascent Towards Supermind”