Uncompromising Change of Consciousness is Required

The supramental transformation represents a radical change in consciousness, moving us out of the sphere of the Ignorance as embodied in Matter, Life and Mind, and into the sphere of the Knowledge, which has its source in the original Existence-Consciousness-Delight of Existence. There must be a reversal of viewpoint, a change of core perception that represents a 180 degree difference from the normal mental view.

For ages humans have awakened to the “sun rising in the east, and setting in the west”. This perception was the basis of the philosophical viewpoint that placed the earth at the center of the universe and had the sun rotating around it. At a certain point in our mental development we recognised that in fact, the sun is not rotating around the earth, but rather, it is the opposite that is truly taking place.

We can get a far glimpse of the kind of qualitative change that needs to occur in consciousness with this understanding, in order to recognise that the supramental consciousness, based in Oneness, Harmony and Unity must become the foundation of our experience.

For this to occur, it is not sufficient to have small, incremental modifications to the mental viewpoint. This approach cannot possibly usher in the kind of total reversal of consciousness required.

Sri Aurobindo points out “But the supreme Grace will act only in the conditions of the Light and the Truth; it will not act in conditions laid upon it by the Falsehood and the Ignorance. For if it were to yield to the demands of the Falsehood, it would defeat its own purpose.”

Sri Aurobindo,

Powers Needed for Achievement of Yogic Goal

The first chapter of The Mother is clearly intended for someone who aspires to practice and succeed in the practice of the integral yoga and the supramental transformation. It sets forth the expectations, not for “a little progress” but for realisation.

Tibetan Yoga has a famous practitioner by the name of Milarepa, who determined that he would do “whatever it takes” to achieve realisation in one lifetime. Some individuals feel that call and have that determination. This first chapter is for such individuals. But even those who do not feel that specific call, but who still want to understand the principles and start on the way, would do well to understand and take heed of Sri Aurobindo’s guidelines here:

“There are two powers that alone can effect in their conjunction the great and difficult thing which is the aim of our endeavour, a fixed and unfailing aspiration that calls from below and a supreme Grace from above that answers.”

It seems simple. But working this out in detail is where the difficulty lies. The principle of an aspiration from below is essentially the pressure of the seed pushing to break out and spring to life in harmony with the warmth and radiation of the sun that creates the conditions of the seed’s germination.

It is useful to understand that nothing can manifest from Matter that is not already involved in Matter. The involution takes place from the highest planes of Existence-Consciousness-Bliss and the native power of those planes responds as the evolutionary process gets underway.

It is the conjunction of the evolutionary developing consciousness, and its “aspiration”, together with a corresponding response from the native planes of the supramental consciousness, that can carry out the development that is the next stage of the evolution of consciousness.

Sri Aurobindo,

Introduction to The Mother

Sri Aurobindo’s book The Mother is a highly concentrated and powerful guide to spirituality and yoga. Consisting of just six chapters, it provides inspiration and direction of the highest order and for many it acts as a lifelong companion on the journey. The sixth chapter, which describes the Four Powers of the Mother is frequently called the Matri Upanishad and can rightfully take its place with those more ancient inspired texts.

In Indian philosophy, the Mother represents shakti , the power and energy of creation.

All page number citations in the following review are based on the U.S. edition of The Mother published by Lotus Press, EAN: 978-0-9415-2479-7

Sri Aurobindo, The Mother


In the first chapter of The Life Divine, Sri Aurobindo sets forth the basic aspiration of mankind, the seeking for “God, Light, Freedom, Immortality.”

The path to achievement of these aspirations is through a systematic evolution of consciousness, and a reversal of the viewpoint, based in the Ignorance, that sees the world as fragmented and separate to achieve a consciousness of unity, harmony and Oneness.

In the final chapter, Sri Aurobindo sets forth his conclusion that a divine life on earth is possible, and that it can and will come about through the continuation of the evolutionary process that has led, successively, to the evolution of Matter, Life and Mind.

The process of Nature is to create the ultimate tension of contradiction to force the next stage of progress to manifest. We are faced today with an evolutionary crisis that cannot be solved by application of mental, vital or physical solutions. The complexity of the systems, and the order of magnitude of the inter-relationships take the issues far beyond the faculties of mind, even at their highest.

When we add to this the complexity of opposing viewpoints, the diversity of opinions and dogmas that abound, we have a formula for gridlock. We see that taking place all over the world today. Real problems cannot be addressed, much less solved, while we remain locked into the fragmented and limited consciousness of mind, driven by conflicting desires and demands of the vital and physical aspects of our lives.

Thus, it is time for the development and expression of the next evolutionary level, the supramental level. It is only the supramental manifestation on earth that can solve our present crisis.

The Richness of the Evolution in the Knowledge

Most of us are wedded to the sense that enjoyment of life and richness of experience are inseparably linked to the play of the dualities. We believe and find our satisfaction in the mixture of darkness and light, joy and pain, beauty and ugliness, and the challenges attendant on meeting and overcoming the difficulties that arise. We frequently express the sentiment that life in “heaven” may be “dull” because it does not have any of these challenges or the play of the dualities. This viewpoint however is based solely on an extrapolation of our mental and vital experience of the ego, and does not necessarily stand up when we approach life from the position of the gnostic being, expressing Oneness that nevertheless has an infinite Multiplicity that it manifests.

Sri Aurobindo describes a different experience: “The evolution in the Knowledge would be a more beautiful and glorious manifestation with more vistas ever unfolding themselves and more intensive in all ways than any evolution could be in the Ignorance. The delight of the Spirit is ever new, the forms of beauty it takes innumerable, its godhead ever young and the taste of delight, rasa, of the Infinite eternal and inexhaustible. The gnostic manifestation of life would be more full and fruitful and its interest more vivid than the creative interest of the Ignorance; it would be a greater and happier constant miracle.”

“Our evolution in the Ignorance with its chequered joy and pain of self-discovery and world-discovery, its half-fulfilments, its constant finding and missing, is only our first state. It must lead inevitably towards an evolution in the Knowledge, a self-finding and self-unfolding of the Spirit, a self-revelation of the Divinity in things in that true power of itself in Nature which is to us still a Supernature.”

And that represents the manifestation of the ultimate destiny, the creation of a divine life on earth. The dream of a “kingdom of heaven on earth” is only possible through the evolution of consciousness beyond the level of the mind. Sri Aurobindo has provided us the solution to the riddle of our lives. He has gone beyond the contradictions and the dualities to a place where they are united as aspects of One Reality, unified, harmonious, complete.

Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine, Book 2, Part 2, Chapter 28, “The Divine Life”, pp. 1068-1070

The One True Supermanhood

“A life of gnostic beings carrying the evolution to a higher supramental status might fitly be characterised as a divine life; for it would be a life in the Divine, a lofe of the beginnings of a spiritual divine light and power and joy manifested in material nature.” Sri Aurobindo describes for us the vision of the development of the “superman”, which does not at all reflect the images of the past attempts to envision the advent of such a being or race. Humanity has tended to describe or manifest what essentially amounts to an enormous aggrandisement of the ego, whether based in the mental, the vital or the physical, whenever it has attempted to create a status of being that exceeds the human limits.

Sri Aurobindo specifically warns against this type of approach: “But this must not be confused with past and present ideas of supermanhood; for supermanhood in the mental idea consists of an overtopping of the normal human level, not in kind but in degree of the same kind, by an enlarged personality, a magnified and exaggerated ego, an increased power of mind, an increased power of vital force, a refined or dense and massigve exaggeration of the forces of the human Ignorance; it carries also, commonly implied in it, the idea of a forceful domination over humanity by the superman. That would meana supermanhood of the Nietzschean type; it might be at its worst the reign of the “blonde beast” or the dark beast or of any and every beast, a return to barbaric strength and ruthlessness and force: but this would be no evolution, it would be a reversion to an old strenuous barbarism.”

Sri Aurobindo points out that these, and other similar aggrandisements of the ego are not the solution. Written decades before the rise of the Third Reich, we find here a warning that was unfortunately not heeded.

Sri Aurobindo’s vision is quite different: “But what has to emerge is something much more difficult and much more simple; it is a self-realised being, a building of the spiritual self, an intensity and urge of the soul and the deliverance and sovereignty of its light and power and beauty,–not an egoistic supermanhood seizing on a mental and vital domination over humanity, but the sovereignty of the Spirit over its instruments, its possession of itself and its possession of life in the power of the spirit, a new consciousness in which humanity itself shall find its own self-exceeding and self-fulfilment by the revelation of the divinity that is striving for birth within it. This is the sole true supermanhood and the one real possibility of a step forward in evolutionary Nature.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine, Book 2, Part 2, Chapter 28, “The Divine Life”, pp. 1067-1068

Gnostic Consciousness Transcends Rigid Mental Rules for Living

As long as we remain fixed in the mental framework, we tend to create judgments and rules for everything we do that are founded on the limited and fragmented understanding that the mental power possesses. The advent of a new wider, more expansive, more unifying and comprehensive consciousness obviously will overturn or at least dramatically alter these rules in virtually every sphere of living.

An example used by Sri Aurobindo relates to the principle and practice of spirituality itself. We have ingrained in us the idea that to focus on spiritual realisation it is necessary to avoid, limit or abandon the things of the world and the life of the world, and that “ascetic bareness” is the rule to be followed. Sri Aurobindo points out that while there may be times and stages where such a discipline may help the individual overcome the overpowering forces of desire and ego, this cannot be the ultimate solution.

“The one rule of the gnostic life would be the self-expression of the Spirit, the will of the Divine Being; that will, that self-expression could manifest through extreme simplicity or through extreme complexity and opulence or in their natural balance,–for beauty and plenitude, a hidden sweetness and laughter in things, a sunshine and gladness of life are also powers and expressions of the Spirit. In all directions the Spirit within determining the law of the nature would determine the frame of the life and its detail and circumstance. In all there would be the same plastic principle; a rigid standarisation, however necessary for the mind’s arrangement of things, could not be the law of the spiritual life. A great diversity and liberty of self-expression baed on an underlying unity might well become manifest; but everywhere there would be harmony and truth of order.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine, Book 2, Part 2, Chapter 28, “The Divine Life”, pp. 1066-1067

The End of War and the Transformation of All Fields of Life

Under the influence of the gnostic consciousness, the entire framework of the mental organisation of life, which we accept as assumed and given, would necessarily be modified. The very basis of viewing and understanding things would have to shift from one of division and separation to one of unity and oneness. This will have profound effects all spheres of human endeavor.

Consider the paradigm shift that occurred when humanity went from a viewpoint of the world being flat to one in which the world was round. The first was extremely limited and kept human civilisations isolated from one another. Once we recognised the round world, it became possible psychologically for men to devise ways to travel and communicate with other civilisations and cultures, bringing humanity closer together and beginning the process of unifying all of humanity, a process which is still taking place and which has had profound implications in the centuries since that paradigm shift first occurred.

Sri Aurobindo outlines some of the changes that would have to occur as a result of a similar paradigm shift from mental to gnostic consciousness: “It is evident that in a life governed by the gnostic consciousness war with its spirit of antagonism and enmity, its brutality, destruction and ignorant violence, political strife with its perpetual conflict, frequent oppression, dishonesties, turpitudes, selfish interests, its ignorance, ineptitude and muddle could have no ground for existence.”

We are so ingrained in our mental way of seeing and thinking that we find it hard to even imagine a world that does not involve war and political strife. Sri Aurobindo makes it clear that in a social order founded on oneness and unity and a wider, embracing consciousness, the things we consider to be an unchanging fact of life would undergo radical transformation.

Similarly all other fields of human endeavor would be subject to similar changes. The arts and sciences would take on a truer meaning for the upliftment and development of consciousness rather than their primary function now of creating distraction and “entertainment”. The gnostic consciousness would similarly transform our relationship to the vital and physical levels of existence and bring new harmony, order and stability to those fields as well. Sri Aurobindo envisions a world uplifted by a new sense of the delight of existence, and a new inherent understanding of the inter-connectedness and essential unity of all things, leading us to act in ways that are in balance and which create and maintain a sense of harmony.

Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine, Book 2, Part 2, Chapter 28, “The Divine Life”, pp. 1065-1066

Gnostic Consciousness Resolves the Contradictions of Mental Consciousness

We face, in every sphere of human endeavor, a conflict of competing ideas or directions. If we look closely we can see an element of truth in each side, but can also recognise that as long as we are bound by the mind’s limitations and its desire to reduce everything to “either-or”, we cannot harmonise these oppositions.

The gnostic consciousness, acting from a wider, universal standpoint, is able to resolve these contradictions. “As the universalised spiritual individual sheds the limited personality, the ego, as he rises beyond mind to a completer knowledge in Supernature, the conflicting ideals of the mind must fall away from him, but what is true behind them will remain in the life of Supernature. The gnostic consciousness is a consciousness in which all contradictions are cancelled or fused into each other in a higher light of seeing and being, in a unified self-knowledge and world-knowledge. The gnostic being will not accept the mind’s ideals and standards; he will not be moved to live for himself, for his ego, or for humanity or for others or for the community or for the State; for he will be aware of something greater than these half-truths, of the Divine Reality, and it is for that he will live, for its will in himself and in all, in a spirit of large universality, in the light of the will of the Transcendence.”

We see here, then, a unifying, integrating level of consciousness which can find the resolution of all the conflicting principles that drive our lives in the world today. “…there can be no conflict between self-affirmation and altruism in the gnostic life, for the self of the gnostic being is one with the self of all,–no conflict between the ideal of individualism and the collective ideal, for both are terms of a greater Reality and only in so far as either expresses the Reality or their fulfilment serves the will of the Reality, can they have a value for his spirit.”

The gnostic being affirms, hidden within each of these contradictions, “…the affirmation of the Divine in himself and a sense of the Divine in others and the sense of oneness with humanity, with all other beings, with all the world because of the Divine in them….”

“… a lead towards a greater and better affirmation of the growing Reality in them will be part of his life-action.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine, Book 2, Part 2, Chapter 28, “The Divine Life”, pp. 1064-1065

Influence of the Supramental Principle on Earth

The supramental consciousness, as the next evolutionary stage, will eventually resolve the difficulties of the transitional period and establish itself on earth. The question then arises, what is the relationship between the gnostic beings and the existing organisation of beings rooted in body, life and mind. Sri Aurobindo reminds us that we are obviously dealing with speculation at this point.

Using the analogy of the preceding stage, the development of human, mental consciousness in a world of matter and life, we can extrapolate some sense of how this will likely develop. The first question is the survival of the gnostic beings and communities in a world that is opposed to them. The enhanced powers of consciousness and effective will exercised by the gnostic evolution will obviously be able to protect itself, similar to the manner in which humanity has been able to survive and protect itself when faced with the life-world creations.

The second question is whether and how the gnostic creation can positively influence the mental and vital creations so that the world can both survive the evolutionary crisis and develop an increasing harmony under the influence of the gnostic consciousness.

“It is conceivable that the gnostic life would be separate but it would surely admit within its borders as much of human life as was turned towards spirituality and in progress towards the heights; the rest might organise itself mainly on the mental principle and on the old foundations, but, helped and influenced by a recognisable greater knowledge, it would be likely to do so on lines of a completer harmonisation of which the human collectivity is not yet capable.”

The limitations of our current mental status tend to focus themselves on the tendency to see everything in “either/or” terms without understanding the transcending unity of these terms; and our failure to recognise the unity that encompasses all creation, so that we act “as if” we are separate and not part of a unified whole.

The gnostic consciousness would obviously guide the human understanding to overcome these limitations.

“Here also, however, the mind can only forecast probabilities and possibilities; the supramental principle in Supernature would itself determine according to the truth of things the balance of a new world-order.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine, Book 2, Part 2, Chapter 28, “The Divine Life”, pg. 1063-1064