Man: the Mental Being in the Physical World

The characteristic of humanity is the development of the mental capacity; yet, with some reflection, we can easily understand that this is not a pure mental capability acting in its own native sphere with its own native power. Rather, the mental functions in humanity rely on the physical senses in order to perceive, obtain data, communicate with and act upon the world. We can conceive of a pure mental sphere that is not dependent on the physical senses for its cognitive or active functions. Everything that is perceived must be filtered and processed by the mind. This is a different order of response and reaction to what occurs at the plant or lower animal level where the vital being predominates and there is an immediacy and fluidity that takes place due to the lack of a transcription and filtering process in the mind in that sphere.

Sri Aurobindo observes: “In order to be characteristically human it has to be come first a sense of force, sense of desire, sense of will, sense of intelligent will-action or mentally conscious sense of force-action. His lower delight of being translates itself into a sense of mental or mentalised vital or physical pleasure and its perversion pain, or into a mental or mentalised feeling-sensation of liking and disliking or into an intelligence of delight and failure of delight,–all phenomena of the intelligent sense-mind.”

This same type of reliance and filtering process takes place with respect to the mind’s contact with the higher planes as with the lower. “So too that which is above him and that which is around him and in which he lives,–God, the universal being, the cosmic Forces,–are non-existent and unreal to him until his mind awakes to them and gets, not yet their true truth, but some idea, observation, inference, imagination of things supersensuous, some mental sense of the Infinite, some intelligent interpreting consciousness of the forces of the super-self above and around him.”

Until that occurs, he denies the existence of a larger unity, of a divine Force or of powers beyond his immediate comprehension and can make statements that infer that man has created God, due to his mental powers of imagination. Descarte stating “I think, therefore I am” represents this type of reliance on the mind as the center and point of reference for everything else that exists.

An independent observer would of course view the entire spectrum of consciousness as one continuum and recognize that each range is perceived by those senses and cognitive instruments capable of “seeing” them. Just as the electro-magnetic or light spectrum extends far beyond, both above and below, that which can be directly perceived by the human instrument. Consciousness, similarly, exceeds the limited ability of the mind to awaken to it under current evolutionary conditions. Just as mind awakened out of the material and vital spheres, so we can infer that the next stage of conscious evolution will occur to break mind out of its limits at the upper end and open to new levels of conscious awareness.

Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Part Two: The Yoga of Integral Knowledge, Chapter 23, The Conditions of Attainment to the Gnosis, pp. 468-469