For those attempting to free themselves from the limitations of the physical consciousness, a recognition of the intertwined action of the physical mind and the vital prana is essential. The physical mind does not so much control the action of prana, as be controlled by its driving influence. Of course, the physical mind does exercise some power over the vital prana and part of what we consider to be human development is based on this action. It is a very much circumscribed action, however, and subject to being perverted or hijacked for the desires of the vital being, even when it purports to be acting for higher motives.
Through the practice of Yoga it is possible to become conscious of this immixture as well as to recognise that there are higher levels of mind that are both more powerful and at the same time free from the taint of the vital desire force. The first of these levels is what may be called “pure mind”. Sri Aurobindo describes the situation: “But when we get clear above the physical mind, we can get too above the pranic force to the consciousness of a pure mental energy which is a higher formulation of the Shakti. There we are aware of a universal mind consciousness closely associated with this energy in, around and above us,–above, that is to say, the level of our ordinary mind status,– giving all the substance and shaping all the forms of our will and knowledge and of the psychic element in our impulses and emotions. This mind force can be made to act upon the pranic energy and can impose upon it the influence, colour, shape, character, direction of our ideas, our knowledge, our more enlightened volition and thus more effectively bring our life and vital being into harmony with our higher powers of being, ideals and spiritual aspirations.”
“But when we take our station above the physical mind, we are able then to separate clearly the two forms of energy, the two levels of our being, disentangle their action and act with a clearer and more potent self-knowledge and an enlightened and a purer will-power.”
This provides leverage on the change of consciousness that is taking place, but it does not provide the complete liberation, as this first mental level is still very much a limited force. “The mental energy we find to be itself derivative, a lower and limiting power of the conscious spirit which acts only by isolated and combined seeings, imperfect and incomplete half-lights which we take for full and adequate light, and with a disparity between the idea and knowledge and the effective will-power. And we aware soon of a far higher power of the Spirit and its Shakti concealed or above, super-conscient to mind or partially acting through the mind, of which all this is an inferior derivation.”
Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Part Four: The Yoga of Self-Perfection, Chapter 16, The Divine Shakti, pp. 728-729