The Levels of the Mental Consciousness

We may look upon consciousness as a continuum, starting from the all-conscious, Sat-Chit-Ananda which is the divine knowledge and will in its highest form of existence. In order to create a manifested universe with various planes of consciousness and existence, this ultimate status undergoes a process of “involution” whereby the broader knowledge and power are veiled and reduced in their immediate capacity and action, analogous to a “step-down transformer” taking raw electrical power generation and converting it into a form that can be transmitted through wires into homes to operate the electrical devices. The supramental consciousness is the lynch-pin that carries out this “step-down” transformation of consciousness. It remains fully aware and connected to the higher status of conscious awareness, while at the same time, it is able to develop differentiation of forms and functions consistent with the needs of the manifestation of the Divine through Time, Space and Circumstance. Once fully involved in the apparent inconscience of Matter, the consciousness works in an “automatic” fashion of incredible complexity and interactivity, but without obvious self-awareness. From this status of involution, it begins to evolve out and manifest the vital intelligence, the animal mind, the higher mind and then succeeding levels of intuitive mind and eventually rejoining the awareness of the supramental consciousness.

Sri Aurobindo describes the levels of mental consciousness that intervene between the supramental and the material planes: “The mind, when we trace the descent of the self towards matter, we see as a derivation which travels away from the fullness of self, the fullness of its light and being and which lives in a division and diversion, not in the body of the sun, but first in its nearer and then in its far-off rays. There is a highest intuitive mind which receives more nearly the supramental truth, but even this is a formation which conceals the direct and greater real knowledge. There is an intellectual mind which is a luminous half-opaque lid which intercepts and reflects in a radiantly distorting and suppressively modifying atmosphere the truth known to the supermind. There is a still lower mind built on the foundation of the senses between which and the sun of knowledge there is a thick cloud, an emotional and a sensational mist and vapour with here and there lightnings and illuminations. There is a vital mind which is shut away even from the light of intellectual truth, and lower still in submental life and matter the spirit involves itself entirely as if in a sleep and a night, a sleep plunged in a dim and yet poignant nervous dream, the night of a mechanical somnambulist energy. It is a re-evolution of the spirit out of this lowest state in which we find ourselves at a height above the lower creation, having taken it up all in us and reaching so far in our ascent only the light of the well-developed mental reason. The full powers of self-knowledge and the illumined will of the spirit are still beyond us above the mind and reason in supramental Nature.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Part Four: The Yoga of Self-Perfection, Chapter 19, The Nature of the Supermind, pp. 763-764