A Collective Soul-Power of the Truth-Consciousness

Sri Aurobindo describes the development of the collective life of the gnostic evolution. “It would have the same integration of life and action in unison, the same realised and conscious unity of being, the same spontaneity, intimate oneness-feeling, one and mutual truth-vision and truth-sense of self and each other, the same truth-action in the relation of each with each and all with all; this collectivity would be and act not as a mechanical but a spiritual integer.”

In the mental consciousness we tend to emphasise the differences which fragment or divide one from another; but in the gnostic consciousness there would be an inherent sense of the Oneness which underlies all. “In the gnostic consciousness difference would not lead to discord but to a spontaneous natural adaptation, a sense of complementary plenitude, a rich many-sided execution of the thing to be collectively known, done, worked out in life. For the difficulty is mind and life is created by ego, by separation of integers into component parts which figure as contraries, opposites, disparates: all in which they separate from each other is easily felt, affirmed and stressed; that in which they meet, whatever holds their divergences together, is largely missed or found with difficulty; everything has to be done by an overcoming or an adjustment of difference, by a constructed unity.”

“In the collective gnostic life the integrating truth-sense, the concording unity of gno, the gnostic nature would carry all divergences in itself as its own opulence and turn a multitudinous thought, action, feeling into the unity of a luminous life-whole. This would be the evident principle, the inevitable result of the very character of the Truth-Consciousness and its dynamic realisation of the spiritual unity of all being. This realisation, the key to the perfection of life, difficult to arrive at on the mental plane, difficult even when realised to dynamise or organise, would be naturally dynamic, spontaneously self-organised in all gnostic creation and gnostic life.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine, Book 2, Part 2, Chapter 27, “The Gnostic Being”


Gnostic Evolution Supports Diversity with Harmony

When we consider the manifestation of a Truth-Consciousness we tend to believe that it will eliminate all variations in expression since it would obviously act from a single highest source of consciousness. Sri Aurobindo makes it quite clear that not only does the supramental consciousness support evolving gradations of expression, but it also understands the basis upon which the manifestation in the Ignorance takes place and can harmonise and relate to those limited forms of manifestation as well, leading to incredible diversity harmonised by the all-embracing consciousness of the Oneness of all these forms.

“A great harmonised variation would thus be an element in the beauty and completeness of the evolution of the gnostic consciousness and existence. Even in dealing with the mind of ignorance around it, as in dealing with the still lower degrees of the gnostic evolution, the supramental life would use this innate power and movement of its Truth of being: it would relate in the light of that integral Reality its own truth of being with the truth of being that is behind the Ignorance; it would found all relations upon the common spiritual unity, accept and harmonise the manifested difference. The gnostic Light would ensure the right relation and action or reaction of each upon each in every circumstance; the gnostic power or influence would affirm always a symphonic effectuatino, secure the right relations of the more developed and the less developed life and impose by its influence a greater harmony on the lower existence.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine, Book 2, Part 2, Chapter 27, “The Gnostic Being”

Gnostic Life on Earth

Our habitual human consciousness creates a separation or wall between what we “know” and what we “are” or what we “do”. We therefore can conceive of knowledge as something separate from the power of action and manifestation. Sri Aurobindo describes the gnostic consciousness as a unified field of knowledge and will, existence and delight. Additionally, the human awareness is generally circumscribed by the awareness of the individual, fragmented and separated being, while the gnostic consciousness is simultaneously aware of the transcendent, the universal and cosmic and the individual existence as One Being.

“All supramental gnosis is a twofold Truth-Consciousness, a consciousness of inherent self-knowledge and, by identify of self and world, of intimate world-knowledge…”

“But this is not a purely ideative knowledge, it is not consciousness observing, forming ideas, trying to carry them out; it is an essential light of consciousness, the self-light of all the realities of being and becmoing, the self-truth of being determining, formulating and effectuating itself. To be, not to know, is the object of the manifestation; knowledge is only the instrumentation of an operative consciousness of being. This would be the gnostic life on earth, a manifestation or play of truth-conscious being, being grown aware of itself in all things, no longer lost to consciousness of itself, no longer plunged into a self-oblivion or a half-oblivion of its real existence brought about by absorption in form and action, but using form and action with a delivered spiritual power for its free and perfect self-expression, no longer seeking for its own lost or forgotten or veiled and hidden significance or significances, no longer bound, but delivered from inconscience and ignorance, aware of its own truth and powers, determining freely in a movement always concurrent and in tune in every detail with its supreme and universal Reality its manifestation, the play of its substance, the play of its consciousness, the play of its force of existence, the play of its delight of existence.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine, Book 2, Part 2, Chapter 27, “The Gnostic Being”

Comprehensive Unity of Knowledge & Action of the Supramental Gnostic Being

Each level of consciousness has its own characteristic forms of knowing and of acting. When we enter into the gnostic levels of consciousness, the knowledge by identity which characterises the gnostic being’s mode of knowing will be active, although the manifestation will rely on one or another form of action dependent on the character of the specific plane or level being expressed. Thus, Sri Aurobindo describes the action at different levels: “A higher-mental being would act through the truth of thought, the truth of the idea and accomplish that in the life-action…” “…in the illumined gnostic being truth-vision and in the intuitive gnostic being a direct truth-contact and perceptive truth-sense would be the mainspring of action. In the Overmind a comprehensive immediate grasp of the truth of things and the principle of being of each thing and all its dynamic consequences would originate and gather up a great wideness of gnostic vision and thought and create a foundation of knowledge and action…”

“But in the supramental gnosis all this luminous immediate grasp of the truth of things, truth-sense, truth-vision, truth-thought would get back into its source of identity-consciousness and subsist as a single body of its knowledge. The identity-consciousness would lead and contain everything; it would mainfest as an awareness in the very grain of the being’s substance putting forth its inherent self-fulfilling force and determining itself dynamically in form of consciousness and form of action.”

“In the intermediate stages or degrees of the gnosis there might be the manifestation of various and separate expressions of the aspects of the divine Being and Nature, a soul and life of love, a soul and life of divine light and knowledge, a soul and life of divine power and sovereign action and creation, and innumerable other forms of divine life; on the supramental height all would be taken up into a manifold unity, a supreme integration of being and life. A fulfilment of the being in a luminous and blissful integration of its states and powers and their satisfied dynamic action would be the sense of the gnostic existence.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine, Book 2, Part 2, Chapter 27, “The Gnostic Being”

The Freedom of the Gnostic Being

Human nature, based in the Ignorance, has to address numerous conflicting impulses, each attempting to carry itself out in action despite opposition from some other part of the being. In order to try to rein in these impulses, moral standards, ethical rules, legal frameworks are set up. These systems of laws and social expectations are then used to more or less harmonise the individual’s action with the larger society’s needs. The call of the ego for freedom is illusory in that freedom is not to be found in setting one’s individuality in opposition to everyone or everything else.

The gnostic being, acting from the knowledge and will of Divine Knowledge and Force, would automatically harmonise its action with the higher intention, and thus, there is no question of opposition, conflict or need for a moral, ethical or mental law or framework. “The freedom from law, including the moral law, so frequently affirmed of the spiritual being, is founded on this unity of its will with the will of the Eternal. All the mental standards would disappear because all necessity for them would cease; the higher authentic law of identity with the Divine Self and identity with all beings would have replaced them.”

The result of this unification of the will in action of the gnostic being with the Divine Truth would be, as Sri Aurobindo describes: “There would be in the action a pervasive feeling of a self-existent universal love, sympathy, oneness, but the feeling would penetrate, colour and move in the act, not soley dominate or determine it: it would not stand for itself in opposition to the larger truth of things or dictate a personally impelled departure from the divinely willed true movement.”

“…the imposition of an external standarisation of mechanised law would be entirely superfluous where there is this inherence of truth and its spontaneous working in act of nature. A harmonic action, a working out of the divine motive, an execution of the imperative truth of things would be the law and natural dynamics of the whole existence.”

Spiritual freedom does not mean a prerogative or license for the expression or enjoyment on the part of the individual ego. It does not arrogate to itself the right to trample down all limits for the aggrandisement of the personality. Rather it is a higher law, not a lower law, and thus, the transcendence of ethical, moral or social standards of law is based on alignment and adherence to the higher law of Oneness and universal harmony in the expression of the Divine Intention.

Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine, Book 2, Part 2, Chapter 27, “The Gnostic Being”

Individual Action Harmonised with Divine Will

One of the challenges faced by the individual who is based in the mental consciousness is the question of how to align the personal or individual action with the Will of the Divine. As long as there is a consciousness of separation or limitation, the opposition of these two principles is possible. Sri Aurobindo explains the problem: “In mental nature there can be an opposition or disparity between self-effort and obedience to the Higher Will, for there the self or apparent person sees itself as different from the supreme Being, Will or Person…”

Sri Aurobindo contrasts this with the situation of the gnostic being: “…for since in his action of life the gnostic individual would at once express himself, his truth of being, and work out the Divine Will, since he would know the Divine as his true self and the source and constituent of his spiritual individuality, these two springs of his conduct would not only be simultaneous in a single action, but they would be one and the same motor-force. This motive power would act in each circumstance according to the truth of the circumstance, with each being according to its need, nature, relation, in each event according to the demand of the Divine Will upon that event: for all here is the result of a complexus and a close nexus of many forces of one Force, and the gnostic consciousness and Truth-Will would see the truth of these forces, of each and of all together, and put forth the necessary impact or intervention on the complex of forces to carry out what was willed to be done through itself, that and no more. In consequence of the Identity present everywhere, ruling everything and harmonising all diversities, there would be no play of a separative ego bent on its own separate self-affirmation; the will of the self of the gnostic being would be one with the will of the Ishwara, it would not be a separative or contrary self-will. It would have the joy of action and result but would be free from all ego-claim, attachment to action or demand of result; it would do what it saw had to be done and was moved to do.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine, Book 2, Part 2, Chapter 27, “The Gnostic Being”

A Truth-Consciousness of the Infinite and Universal

It is difficult, if not impossible, for the fragmented, separated and limited human consciousness to conceive of and understand what it means to embody and act from a Truth-Consciousness that is one with the Eternal and Infinite, that expresses itself in the universal, and that carries itself out in detail in the individual as part of its overall manifestation. The variance between the one and the other is like night and day. The Vedic and Upanishadic rishis in fact point out that the consciousness of the awakened seer is like day to our night, and night to our day.

Sri Aurobindo describes it thus: “A supramental consciousness must be fundamentally a Truth-Consciousness, a direct and inherent awareness of teh truth of being and the truth of things; it is a power of the Infinite knowing and working out its finites, a power of the Universal knowing and working out its oneness and detail, its cosmicity and its individualities; self-possessed of Truth, it would not have to seek for the Truth or suffer from the liability to miss it as does the mind of the Ignorance.

The gnostic individual, embodying the supramental Truth-Consciousness of the Infinite and Universal would live a life of spiritual freedom, not bound by any imposed outer constructs of action. While we associate the lack of an imposed outer order with chaos, conflict, division and separation, the gnostic being, due to his inherent Oneness with the Universal and his embodiment of the Infinite consciousness, would not in fact descend into the normal human fragmented way of seeing and acting. “There could be no strife of the members; for not only the knowledge and will consciousness but the heart consciousness and life consciousness and body consciousness, what ar in us the emotional, vital or physical parts of nature, would be included in this integrated harmony of wholeness and oneness.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine, Book 2, Part 2, Chapter 27, “The Gnostic Being”

Harmonising the Principles of Freedom and Order

The mental consciousness finds a conflict, a variance between “freedom” and “order”. In an attempt to exert its freedom, the mind and will of man will deny the right of law, principle or standard to restrict its action; or in the attempt to bring about some harmony of the individual within the framework of society, a series of rules and standards will be developed that restrict the individual’s freedom.

The gnostic being, however, incorporates both principles together on the basis of knowledge. “In him Knowledge and Will become one and cannot be in conflict; Truth of spirit and life become one and cannot be at variance: in the self-effectuation of his being there can be no strife or disparity or divergence between the spirit and the members.”

“this is so because both [freedom and order] are inseparable aspects of the inner spiritual truth and therefore their determinations are one; they are inherent in each other, for they arise from an identity and therefore in action coincide in their natural identity. The gnostic being does not in any way or degree feel his liberty infringed by the imperative order of his thoughts or actions, because that order is intrinsic and spontaneous; he feels both his liberty and the order of his liberty to be one truth of his being.”

The gnostic being, not subject to the limitations of the mental consciousness, which after all has its foundation in the Ignorance, does not need to cast around through trial and error nor subject itself to a divergence between his knowledge and his action. “His liberty of action is not a license to act upon wrong will or the impulsions of the Ignorance….”

The gnostic being incorporates the Oneness of the individual with the universal development and thus can harmonise the principle of freedom, which is a force for systematic unfolding and development, with the equally essential principle of order, which is a force for stablising and solidifying the development.

Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine, Book 2, Part 2, Chapter 27, “The Gnostic Being”

From Automatic Action of Nature to Free Self-Expression of Spirit

If we look at the evolving universe and the manifestation of consciousness within it, we see the expression of consciousness take on different forms. In the depths of material existence, in the very processes of Matter and Energy, we see an intensely controlled, automatic process of action that nevertheless exhibits a precise and highly organised Intelligence. The construction of the atoms and of Matter, the processes of Energy all show us a pattern that is detailed and which is carried out systematically.

With the advent of mental consciousness, we see modifications of the “rules” that govern material nature through increasing adaptation; but nevertheless still based on the development of what we may now see as standards of conduct, rules of action, ethics, morality, law, process of relation.

Eventually, with the manifestation of the gnostic being, with its inherent self-knowledge and universal knowledge, we see the liberation from the mental rule structure to allow the being to freely express the greater rules of spiritual Oneness in manifestation.

Sri Aurobindo describes this process of development: “In the passage to the spiritual life the supreme ideal held up is, …, not law, but liberty in the Spirit; the Spirit breaks through all formulas to find its self and, if it has still to be concerned with expression, it must arrive at the liberty of a free and true instead of an artificial expression, a true and spontaneous spiritual order. “Abandon all dharmas, all standards and rules of being and action, and take refuge in Me alone”, is the summit rule of the highest existence held up by the Divine Being to the seeker.”

The development of this free self-expression of the spirit is and can be progressive as the evolving individual takes on more and more the consciousness of the gnostic being. “But the supramental gnostic being stands in a consciousness in which knowledge is self-existent and manifests itself according to the order self-determined by the Will of the Infinite in the Supernature. This self-determination according to a self-existent knowledge replaces the automatism of Nature and the standards of Mind by the spontaneity of a Truth self-aware and self-active in the very grain of the existence.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine, Book 2, Part 2, Chapter 27, “The Gnostic Being”

Harmonising the Individual, the Cosmic and the Transcendent

The mind always tries to divide and create opposition, so that it places the individual in conflict with the universal, and both of them opposed to the transcendent. Thus, we tend to either act so that we focus on one or another of these to the exclusion of the other two principles. Sri Aurobindo, however, does not see it this way. He points out that all three are aspects of One Reality and thus, they may represent a different focus, but not an opposed principle. In his view, the individual is part and parcel of the universal; and in all cases, they also have a transcendent aspect which contains and exceeds the individual and universal forms.

“In the consciousness of the Infinite individuality does not brak up nor circumscribe cosmicity, cosmicity does not contradict transcendence. The gnostic being living in the consciousness of the Infinite will create his own self-manifestation as an individual, but he will do so as a centre of a larger universality and yet at the same time a centre of the transcendence. A universal individual, all his action would be in harmony with the cosmic action, but, owing to his transcendence, it would not be limited by a temporary inferior formulation or at the mercy of any or every cosmic force.”

This standpoint naturally results in the individual highest self being at one with the being of the Ishwara (the Lord of Creation), and his self-expression would take on the character of being a manifestation of the Will of the self-expression of that universal and transcendent Being who is the evolving universe. “The individual nature would be nothing separate, it would be a current of the Supernature. All antinomy of the Purusha and the Prakriti, that curious division and unbalance of the Soul and Nature which afflicts the Ignorance, would be entirely removed; for the nature would be the outflowing of the self-force of the Person and the Person would be the outflowing of the supreme Nature, the supramental power of being of the Ishwara. It is this supreme truth of his being, an infinitely harmonic principle, that would create the order of his spiritual freedom, an authentic, automatic and plastic order.”

We shall take up the form and action of this harmonising principle in manifestation in the next post.

Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine, Book 2, Part 2, Chapter 27, “The Gnostic Being”