The Ascent To the Supramental Level Is Required to Unify the Trinity of Consciousness

Even the highest, most refined and spiritualised levels of the mind are unable to fully comprehend and then integrate the divine consciousness that both exists as the aspects of the Transcendent, the Universal and the Individual, and unifies and harmonizes them into one embracing awareness. The mind is still a power of division and fragmentation and lives within its set limits. The integral spiritual realisation requires, therefore that the levels of mind are exceeded, and a new status of consciousness achieved which, as opposed to mind, has the power of unifying, integrating and expanding to hold that larger awareness.

Sri Aurobindo describes the transitional process: “Out of the individual we wake into a vaster freer cosmic consciousness; but out of the universal too with its complex of forms and powers we must emerge by a still greater self-exceeding into a consciousness without limits that is founded on the Absolute.”

This process is not one of abandonment of the lower levels of consciousness, however. “And yet in this ascension we do not really abolish but take up and transfigure what we seem to leave; for there is a height where the three live eternally in each other, on that height they are blissfully joined in a nodus of their harmonised oneness. But that summit is above the highest and largest spiritualised mentality, even if some reflection of it can be experienced there; mind, to attain to it, to live there, must exceed itself and be transformed into a supramental gnostic light, power and substance. In this lower diminished consciousness a harmony can indeed be attempted, but it must always remain imperfect; a co-ordination is possible, not a simultaneous fused fulfilment. An ascent out of mind is, for any greater realisation, imperative. Or else, there must be, with the ascent or consequent to it, a dynamic descent of the self-existent Truth that exists always uplifted in its own light above Mind, eternal, prior to the manifestation of Life and Matter.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Part One: The Yoga of Divine Works, Chapter 11, The Master of the Work, pp. 247-248

Individual Salvation Is Not Sufficient For the Integral Seeker

The individual liberation or salvation sought as the goal of the yoga of knowledge, the yoga of works and the yoga of love, in their respective forms, does not represent the end goal envisioned by the seeker of the integral Yoga. The seeker of the integral Yoga looks for the reconciliation and ultimate meaning of the manifestation of the Divine, searches for the status that embraces the Transcendence, the Universal or Cosmic and the Individual, as well as the Impersonal and the Personal forms of the Divine. The integral seeker does not treat the world as an illusion, but as a purposeful expression and manifestation of the Divine, with an intention behind the manifestation that he is here to both understand and participate in.

Sri Aurobindo goes into depth on this question: “An individual salvation is not enough for him; for he finds himself opening to a cosmic consciousness which far exceeds by its breadth and vastness the narrower intensity of a limited individual fulfilment, and its call is imperative; driven by that immense compulsion, he must break through all separative boundaries, spread himself in world-Nature, contain the universe. Above too, there is urgent upon him a dynamic realisation pressing from the Supreme upon this world of beings, and only some encompassing and exceeding of the cosmic consciousness can release into manifestation here that yet unlavished splendour. But the cosmic consciousness too is not sufficient; for it is not all the Divine Reality, not integral. There is a divine secret behind personality that he must discover; there, waiting in it to be delivered here into Time, stands the mystery of the embodiment of the Transcendence.”

“But, again, a mere escape into some absolute Transcendence leaves personality unfulfilled and the universal action inconclusive and cannot satisfy the integral seeker. He feels that the Truth that is for ever is a Power that creates as well as a stable Existence; it is not a Power solely of illusory or ignorant manifestation. The eternal Truth can manifest its truths in Time; it can create in Knowledge and not only in Inconscience and Ignorance. A divine Descent no less than an ascent to the Divine is possible; there is a prospect of the bringing down of a future perfection and a present deliverance. As his knowledge widens, it becomes for him more and more evident that it was this for which the Master of Works cast down the soul within him here as a spark of his fire into the darkness, that it might grow there into a centre of the Light that is for ever.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Part One: The Yoga of Divine Works, Chapter 11, The Master of the Work, pp. 246-247

The Spiritualised Mind Separates the Realisations of Knowledge, Works and Love

While we are still living primarily on the mental level, the various aspects of the Divine experience appear to be separate and distinct, and we see therefore that exclusive focus on one aspect brings about the apparent separateness of the paths of Knowledge, Love and Works. The characteristic action of the mind is to analyze and separate, so that when the mind approaches the spiritual evolution it does so with its normal function. This fragmentation then treats the various realisations as separated from one another, when in reality they are all simply ways of approaching the Oneness of the spiritual Truth.

Sri Aurobindo discusses this issue: “Each by itself then appears sufficient to satisfy the yearning of the seeker. Alone with the personal Divine in the inner heart’s illumined secret chamber, he can build his being into the Beloved’s image and ascend out of fallen Nature to dwell with him in some heaven of the Spirit. Absolved in the cosmic wideness, released from ego, his personality reduced to a point of working of the universal Force, himself calm, liberated, deathless in universality, motionless in the Witness Self even while outspread without limit in unending Space and Time, he can enjoy in the world the freedom of the Timeless. One-pointed towards some ineffable Transcendence, casting away his personality, shedding from him the labour and trouble of the universal Dynamis, he can escape into an inexpressible Nirvana, annul all things in an intolerant exaltation of flight into the Incommunicable.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Part One: The Yoga of Divine Works, Chapter 11, The Master of the Work, pg. 246

The Individual Relation With the Divine

For many, if not most, seekers, the relation with the Guide or Teacher represents the touch of the Divine Presence in their lives. This personal relationship may actually take many forms, but it acts as an immediate entry-way for the Divine to aid the seeker in his evolutionary path. The relationship is intense and focused on the personal development. Sri Aurobindo describes this further: “At first this Godhead close to our being or immanent within us can be felt fully only in the scope of our personal nature and experience, a Leader and Master, a Guide and Teacher, a Friend and Lover, or else a Spirit, Power or Presence, constituting and uplifting our upward and enlarging movement by the force of his intimate reality inhabiting the heart or presiding over our nature from above even our highest intelligence. it is our personal evolution that is his preoccupation, a personal relation that is our joy and fulfilment, the building of our nature into his divine image that is our self-finding and perfection.”

In some cases this relationship is not recognised explicitly by the seeker from the outset as representing the Divine Presence. In the Bhagavad Gita there is a moving passage in the 11th Chapter, when Arjuna is granted the vision of the Divine by Sri Krishna, wherein Arjuna is overwhelmed by the vision and recognises that his friend and relative, advisor and guide, Sri Krishna is at one and the same time both the person with whom he has had friendly and informal relations and the immanent Divine in all his power and majesty. Arjuna begs forgiveness for his failure to recognize this previously and for his informality in the past. This illustrates the manner in which the Divine Presence can inter-relate closely with the seeker along the way as the personal growth is taking place and being gently guided and formed. The result and goal here, for most, is the personal spiritual evolution and development and flowering of that personal relationship.

Sri Aurobindo observes that this is however not the goal of the integral Yoga for the seeker: “…however intense and beautiful, a personal isolated achievement cannot be his whole aim or his entire existence. A time must come when the personal opens out to the universal; our very individuality, spiritual, mental, vital, physical even, becomes universalised; it is seen as a power of his universal force and cosmic spirit, or else it contains the universe in that ineffable wideness which comes to the individual consciousness when it breaks its bonds and flows upward towards the Transcendent and on every side into the Infinite.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Part One: The Yoga of Divine Works, Chapter 11, The Master of the Work, pp. 245-246

The Individual Aspect of the Divine

The transcendent and universal aspects of the Divine are not all, for there is also an individual aspect of the Divine. It is this aspect that provides the link between the individual human being and the Divine, as it manifests within each individual as his higher Self. Sri Aurobindo observes: “For there is yet a third intensely close and personal aspect of the Master of Works which is a key to his sublimest hidden mystery and ecstasy; for he detaches from the secret of the hidden Transcendence and the ambiguous display of the cosmic Movement an individual Power of the Divine that can mediate between the two and bridge our passage from the one to the other.”

We see this individual aspect in each form and being. Therefore, the Divine can take the form of “…Master, Friend, Lover, Teacher, our Father and our Mother, our Playmate in the great world-game who has disguised himself throughout as friend and enemy, helper and opponent and, in all relations and in all workings that affect us, has led our steps towards our perfection and our release.”

“It is through this more personal manifestation that we are admitted to some possibility of the complete transcendental experience; for in him we meet the One not merely in a liberated calm and peace, not merely with a passive or active submission in our works or through the mystery of union with a universal Knowledge and Power filling and guiding us, but with an ecstasy of divine Love and divine Delight that shoots up beyond silent Witness and active World-Power to some positive divination of a greater beatific secret. For it is not so much knowledge leading to some ineffable Absolute, not so much works lifting us beyond world-process to the originating supreme Knower and Master, but rather this thing most intimate to us, yet a present most obscure, which keeps for us wrapt in its passionate veil the deep and rapturous secret of the transcendent Godhead and some absolute positiveness of its perfect Being, its all-concentrating Bliss, its mystic Ananda.”

The individual manifestation is not purely an illusion to be dispensed with in order to achieve some transcendent union with the Divine, but an essential aspect of the Divine purpose in the universal creation.

Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Part One: The Yoga of Divine Works, Chapter 11, The Master of the Work, pp. 244-245

Two Aspects of the Cosmic Self: Transcendent and Universal

The human mind likes to create irreconcilable oppositions, which leads to disputes among those who adhere to one side or the other of the question. The divine Reality, however, contains and embraces what appear to be contradictory aspects. There is thus both an impersonal aspect and a personal aspect of the Divine. Sri Aurobindo describes this view of things: “The Divine appears to us here in one view as an equal, inactive and impersonal Witness-Spirit, an immobile consenting Purusha not bound by quality or Space or Time, whose support or sanction is given impartially to the play of all action and energies which the transcendent Will has once permitted and authorised to fulfil themselves in the cosmos. This Witness Spirit, this immobile Self in things, seems to will nothing and determine nothing; yet we become aware that his very passivity, his silent presence compels all things to travel even in their ignorance towards a divine goal and attracts through division towards a yet unrealised oneness. Yet no supreme infallible Divine Will seems to be there, only a widely deployed Cosmic Energy of a mechanical executive Process, Prakriti. This is one side of the cosmic Self; the other presents itself as a universal Divine, one in being, multiple in personality and power, who conveys to us, when we enter into the consciousness of his universal forces, a sense of infinite quality and will and act and a world-wide knowledge and a one yet innumerable delight; for through him we become one with all existences not only in their essence but in their play of action, see ourself in all and all in ourself, perceive all knowledge and thought and feeling as motions of the one Mind and Heart, all energy and action as kinetics of the one Will in power, all Matter and form as particles of the one Body, all personalities as projections of the one Person, all egos as deformations of the one and sole real ‘I’ in existence. In him we no longer stand separate, but lose our active ego in the universal movement, even as by the Witness who is without qualities and for ever unattached and unentangled, we lose our static ego in the universal peace.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Part One: The Yoga of Divine Works, Chapter 11, The Master of the Work, pg. 243

The Levels of Consciousness and the Ascent of the Soul

It is highly useful for the seeker to have at least a general idea of the various levels of consciousness and their relation to one another, so as to be able to recognise the path and the steps to be taken to bring about the integration of consciousness sought in the integral Yoga.

Sri Aurobindo generally describes this as an upper hemisphere consisting of Sat-Chit-Ananda, Existence, Consciousness-Force and Bliss, which the human mind cannot conceive of in any real way because it is so far outside our frame of reference and experience, and a lower hemisphere consisting of Body-Life-Mind, the levels with which we are intimately familiar and by which we are generally circumscribed by their ignorance and limitations. Between the two hemispheres lies an integrating consciousness, which Sri Aurobindo has called the Supermind. There are of course intermediate stages between the Mental and the Supramental level, and our highest flights of non-linear experience, which we call intuition, revelation, illumination, or inspiration are the first strivings of the being to escape the limits of the mental consciousness and begin to relate to and experience these intermediate levels of ascent toward the true supramental consciousness.

The supramental consciousness itself acts as the power that relates the pure Sat-Chit-Ananda of the higher hemisphere. It acts as something of a “step-down transformer” to distribute this pure higher consciousness into the limited and limiting forms of mind-life-body and set up an interaction between these limited forms that can progressively manifest the intention of the Divine. There is thus a descent of consciousness moderated and mediated by the Supermind. This supramental consciousness also acts as the bridge for the ascent of consciousness as it evolves out of the limiting forms of mind-life-body to rejoin the pure Divine Consciousness in a comprehensive way.

Sri Aurobindo explains: Proceeding from the level of absolute divine Existence …”there is a sort of golden corona of Light, Power, Bliss and Truth–a divine Truth-Consciousness as the ancient mystics called it, a Supermind, a Gnosis, with which this world of a lesser consciousness proceeding by Ignorance is in secret relation and which alone maintains it and prevents it from falling into a disintegrated chaos. The powers we are now satisfied to call gnosis, intuition or illumination are only fainter lights of which that is the full and flaming source, and between the highest human intelligence and it there lie many levels of ascending consciousness, highest mental or overmental, which we would have to conquer before we arrived there or could bring down its greatness and glory here. Yet, however difficult, that ascent, that victory is the destiny of the human spirit and that luminous descent or bringing down of the divine Truth is the inevitable term of the troubled evolution of the earth-nature; that intended consummation is its raison d’etre, our culminating state and the explanation of our terrestrial existence.”

He concludes: “it is only by the ascent and victory of the Soul here in the body that the disguises can fall away and the dynamis of the supreme Truth replace this tangled weft of half-truth that becomes creative error, this emergent Knowledge that is converted by its plunge into the inconscience of Matter and its slow partial return towards itself into an effective Ignorance.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Part One: The Yoga of Divine Works, Chapter 11, The Master of the Work, pp. 242-243

The Divine Force in Manifestation and the Transcendent Divine

Yoga can be understand, in one sense, as applied psychology. The responses of the mind, vital and physical parts of the being, and the attempt to both detach from them and eventually modify them, are one of the key features of the yogic process. Thus, when Sri Aurobindo describes the differences that occur when the Divine Force is active, versus the normal action of the lower nature, this is a description of an actual psychological activity not just an abstract philosophical statement.

Sri Aurobindo’s description of the divine force is vivid and detailed: He describes “…a Force greater than body, mind and life which takes hold of our limited instruments and drive all their motions. There is no longer the sense of ourselves moving, thinking or feeling but of that moving, feeling and thinking in us. This force that we feel is the universal Force of the Divine, which, veiled or unveiled, acting directly or permitting the use of its powers by beings in the cosmos, is the one Energy that alone exists and alone makes universal or individual action possible. For this force is the Divine itself in the body of its power; all is that power of act, power of thought and knowledge, power of mastery and enjoyment, power of love. Conscious always and in everything, in ourselves and in others, of the Master of Works possessing, inhabiting, enjoying through this Force that is himself, becoming through it all existences and happenings, we shall have arrived at the divine union through works and achieved by that fulfilment in works all that others have gained through absolute devotion or through pure knowledge.”

At the same time, Sri Aurobindo makes clear that this experience, this identification with the divine Force in the manifestation is not the entirety of the divine consciousness. There is also the transcendent aspect of the Divine, which is not limited nor bound by all the vast universal manifestation, but both encompasses it and surpasses it. This is Sri Aurobindo’s response to the more narrow “pantheism” that equates the world with God–while that defines the world, it does not define the Divine which transcends all that is. “The world is an emanation; it depends on something that manifests in it but is not limited by it: the Divine is not here alone; there is a Beyond, an eternal Transcendence. The individual being also in its spiritual part is not a formation in the cosmic existence–our ego, our mind, our life, our body are that; but the immutable spirit, the imperishable soul in us has come out of the Transcendence.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Part One: The Yoga of Divine Works, Chapter 11, The Master of the Work, pp. 241-242

Illumined Action and Transformed Action

When we reflect on the stages of spiritual development, we can recognise that for the most part the spiritual paths have emphasised liberation from the life of desire and the ego. This has mainly been interpreted to reflect an abandonment of the life of the world and development of detachment and concentration on the spiritual Oneness. The integral Yoga also seeks the perfection of action, and in this realm there are several stages possible. As we gain something of detachment, we are able to observe the “machinery” of Nature acting within us, we see the play of the three Gunas, and recognise that we are moved and directed by that machinery. At this stage, action in the world may go on, but it is not binding on the soul’s consciousness. Sri Aurobindo describes a further stage that represents not just an illumined understanding of the action of the Divine Shakti through the human instrument, but a poise of consciousness that represents a unity and Oneness with the Divine Master of existence, such that the work being carried out is not simply done with an awareness of the mechanics of the outer nature, but carried out as a conscious portion of the Divine with full knowledge and unified consciousness of the larger purpose and intent of the Divine action.

Sri Aurobindo describes these two modes of action: “But still this action may be of two very different kinds, one only illumined, the other transformed and uplifted into a greater supernature. For we may keep on in the way of action upheld and followed by our nature when by her and her illusion of egoism we were ‘turned as if mounted on a machine,’ but now with a perfect understanding of the mechanism and its utilisation for his world purposes by the Master of works whom we feel behind it. This is indeed as far as even many great Yogis have reached on the levels of spiritualised mind; but it need not be so always, for there is a greater supramental possibility. It is possible to rise beyond spiritualised mind and to act spontaneously in the living presence of the original divine Truth-Force of the Supreme Mother. Our motion one with her motion and merged in it, our will one with her will, our energy absolved in her energy, we shall feel her working through us as the Divine manifest in a supreme Wisdom-Power, and we shall be aware of the transformed mind, life and body only as the channels of a supreme Light and Force beyond them, infallible in its steps because transcendent and total in its knowledge. Of this Light and Force we shall not only be the recipients, channels, instruments, but become a part of it in a supreme uplifted abiding experience.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Part One: The Yoga of Divine Works, Chapter 11, The Master of the Work, pp. 240-241

Liberation and Perfection Are the Dual Aims of the Integral Yoga

The process of the surrender and elimination of the ego-consciousness leads to a status of liberation from the lower nature, through identification of the consciousness with the Divine. This still leaves the lower nature of mind-life-body unreformed and imperfect in its action. Yogic disciplines have generally taken the approach that the goal is liberation alone, and thus, the transformation of the lower nature never entered into the equation. Sri Aurobindo makes it clear that the goal of the integral Yoga also requires the uplifting of the action in the world, and the perfection of the action of the lower instruments through opening to the Divine Shakti in Her complete power of knowledge, will, and effective implementation. “It is only when we open to the Divine Shakti in the truth of her force which transcends this lower Prakriti that we can be perfect instruments of her power and knowledge.”

“Not only liberation but perfection must be the aim of the Karmayoga. The Divine works through our nature and according to our nature; if our nature is imperfect, the work also will be imperfect, mixed, inadequate….If ours were not an integral Yoga, if we sought only the liberation of the self within us or the motionless existence of Purusha separated from Prakriti, this dynamic imperfection might not matter….But in an integral realisation this can only be a step on the way, not our last resting place. For we aim at the divine realisation not only in the immobility of the Spirit, but also in the movement of Nature. And this cannot be altogether until we can feel the presence and power of the Divine in every step, motion, figure of our activities, in every turn of our will, in every thought, feeling and impulse….Ours is a greater demand, that our nature shall be a power of the Divine in the Truth of the Divine, in the Light, in the force of the eternal self-conscient Will, in the wideness of the sempiternal Knowledge.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Part One: The Yoga of Divine Works, Chapter 11, The Master of the Work, pp. 239-240