Evolving Powers of Consciousness Beyond the Physical Mind

There is a strange inconsistency in the way we normally view the development of new powers. Over the last few hundred years we have become used to the idea that science can develop new powers in the material world, providing us virtually endless progress in terms of our ability to master, control and utilize the forces of Nature through means of external instrumentalities. At the same time, we virtually deny the possibility that we could evolve ever-increasing powers of consciousness that exceed the formulation that we recognise as the basis in our physical mind.

Sri Aurobindo addresses this contradiction: “An evolution of innate and latent but as yet unevolved powers of consciousness is not considered admissible by the modern mind, because these exceed our present formulation of Nature and, to our ignorant preconceptions founded on a limited experience, they seem to belong to the supernatural, to the miraculous and occult; for they surpass the known action of material Energy which is now ordinarily accepted as the sole cause and mode of things and the sole instrumentation of the World-Force. A human working of marvels, by the conscious being discovering and developing an instrumentation of material forces overpassing anything that Nature has herself organised, is accepted as a natural fact and an almost unlimited prospect of our existence; an awakening, a discovery, an instrumentation of powers of consciousness and of spiritual, mental and life forces overpassing anything that Nature or man has yet organised is not admitted as possible.”

If we look back, however, over the history of human development, we can see a clear path of evolution whereby we have developed powers of Mind to now include analytical and scientific insight, philosophy, aesthetics, ethics and morality and any number of other conceptual frameworks of development. Clearly we are able to advance in our ability to recognise, understand and use powers of Mind that were not fully appreciated in the past. Had we looked forward from the rudimentary physical mind of the distant past, these type of developments too would have seemed impossible and illusory.

We can then search for, within our current capabilities as a species, any occasional or latent flashes of new powers of consciousness, and in finding them, we can begin to recognise the seeds of the next evolutionary stage that is being prepared for its eventual manifestation. “The rudiments of spiritual powers belonging to the gnostic Supernature are similarly there even in our ordinary composition, but only occasionally and sparsely active. It is not irrational to suppose that at this much higher stage of the evolution a similar but greater progression starting from these rudimentary beginnings might lead to another immense development and departure.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine, Book 2, Part 2, Chapter 28, “The Divine Life”