The Intermediate Position Occupied by the Human Mind in Our Evolution

The characteristic status of the human being is one of predominant awareness centered in the mental consciousness.  The animal consciousness is primarily rooted in the physical mind of sensation and reaction, but the human being has the capacity, which is one of the distinguishing factors between the animal and the human, of separating from the immersion in the physical mind and observing it, distancing from it and to some degree acting upon it from another standpoint.

This other standpoint is based on the capacity of the mind to not only look down into the physical and vital consciousness but to also look up towards a higher light that is intuited if not perceived clearly and directly.  Sri Aurobindo describes this dual capacity:

“…we have attained to a certain mental elevation from which we can look down on the action of the life, sense and body, turn the higher mental light upon them, reflect, judge, use our will to modify the action of the inferior nature.  On the other hand, we look up too from that elevation more or less consciously to something above and receive from it either directly or through our subconscient or subliminal being some secret superconscient impulsion of our thought and will and other activities.  The process of this communication is veiled and obscure and men are not ordinarily aware of it except in certain highly developed natures;  but when we advance in self-knowledge, we find that all our thought and will originate from above though formed in the mind and there first overtly active.  If we release the knots of the physical mind which bind us to the brain instrument and identifies us with the bodily consciousness and can move in the pure mentality, this becomes constantly clear to the perception.”




Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Part Four: The Yoga of Self-Perfection, Chapter 21, The Gradations of the Supermind, pp. 787-788

Steps in the Process of Integrating the Powers of the Intuitive Mind in the Transformation of Consciousness

There can be no invariable, step-by-step development of the intuitive consciousness. Each individual’s preparation and readiness is somewhat different, and the action of the force, working from the higher levels of the knowledge-consciousness, adapts the action to meet the needs of the individual nature. There may be instances where one of the higher powers illumines the being for a specific time or purpose, and then withdraws to allow the assimilation and purification processes to develop and further prepare the ground for a more constant action. Even if there is a somewhat systematic development of the 4 primary powers of the intuitive mind, there will be the inevitable withdrawals, setbacks, dilutions, and confusions resulting from the interaction of these powers with the mental consciousness.

Sri Aurobindo describes this process: “A regular development would at first, allowing for some simultaneous manifestation of the four powers, yet create on a sufficiently extensive scale the lower suggestive and critical intuitive mind and then develop above it the inspired and the revelatory intuitive mentality. Next it would take up the two lower powers into the power and field of the inspiration and make all act as one harmony doing simultaneously the united–or, at a higher intensity, indistinguishably as one light the unified–action of the three. And last it would execute a similar movement of taking up into a fusion with the revelatory power of the intuitive gnosis.”

“As a matter of fact, in the human mind the clear process of the development is likely always to be more or less disturbed, confused and rendered irregular in its course, subjected to relapses, incomplete advances, returns upon things unaccomplished or imperfectly accomplished, owing to the constant mixture and intervention of the existing movements of the mental half-knowledge and the obstruction of the stuff of the mental ignorance.”

“In the end however a time can come when the process, so far as it is possible in the mind itself, is complete and a clear formation of a modified supramental light is possible composed of all these powers, the highest leading or absorbing into its own body the others. It is at this point, when the intuitive mind has been fully formed in the mental being and is strong enough to dominate if not yet wholly to occupy the various mental activities, that a farther step becomes possible, the lifting of the centre and level of action above the mind and the predominance of the supramental action.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Part Four: The Yoga of Self-Perfection, Chapter 21, The Gradations of the Supermind, pg. 787

Two Higher Powers of the Intuitive Mentality: Their Powers and Their Limitations

The two initial powers of the intuitive mentality are not, in and of themselves, sufficient or complete in terms of their ability to transform the consciousness and move it beyond its normal reliance on the mentality. At a more advanced stage in the process, two additional higher powers come into operation. One of these Sri Aurobindo characterizes as a power of revelation; the other he characterizes as inspiration. Each has its own unique action, and it is through the combined action of the 4 together that progress in the transformation takes place. Any one of them, even the more powerful higher forms of revelation and inspiration, are limited in their ability to fully take over the normal human process of knowledge and action.

“The revelation may indeed present the reality, the identities of the thing in itself and add something of great power to the experience of the conscious being, but it may lack the embodying word, the out-bringing idea, the connected pursuit of its relations and consequences and may remain a possession in the self but not a thing communicated to and through the members. There may be the presence of the truth but not its full manifestation.”

“The inspiration may give the word of the truth and the stir of its dynamis and movement, but this is not a complete thing and sure in its effect without the full revelation of all that it bears in itself and luminously indicates and the ordering of it in its relations. The inspired intuitive mind is a mind of lightnings lighting up many things that were dark, but the light needs to be canalised and fixed into a stream of steady lustres that will be a constant power for lucidly ordered knowledge.”

“The higher gnosis by itself in its two sole powers would be a mind of spiritual splendours living too much in its own separate domain, producing perhaps invisibly its effect on the outside world, but lacking the link of a more close and ordinary communication with its more normal movements that is provided by the lower ideative action. It is the united or else the fused and unified action of the four powers that makes the complete and fully armed and equipped intuitive gnosis.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Part Four: The Yoga of Self-Perfection, Chapter 21, The Gradations of the Supermind, pp. 786-787

The Need for the Coordinated Action of the Suggestive Intuition and the Intuitive Discrimination

When they begin their interaction with the human mentality, the first two active powers of the intuitive consciousness labour under certain limitations due to that interaction. The suggestive intuition can be seized upon by the mind, and all kinds of concepts, ideas, thoughts, opinions and definitions can be attached to it, until it is covered up and distorted beyond recognition. The intuitive discrimination, on the other hand, may be able to separate the intuitive from the mental substance, but it does not, on its own, have the power to bring forth new and unexpected insights or powers of understanding from the intuitive realm. Sri Aurobindo notes that it is only through the combined action of the two that serious progress and development can take place.

“If the intuitive discrimination works by itself, it creates a sort of critical illumination that acts on the ideas and perceptions of the intellect and turns them on themselves in such a way that the mind can separate their truth from their error. It creates in the end in place of the intellectual judgment a luminous intuitive judgment, a sort of critical gnosis: but it is likely to be deficient in fresh illuminative knowledge or to create only so much extension of truth as is the natural consequence of the separation of error.”

“On the other hand, if the suggestive intuition works by itself without this discrimination, there is indeed a constant accession of new truths and new lights, but they are easily surrounded and embarrassed by the mental accretions and their connections and relation or harmonious development out of each other are clouded and broken by the interference. A normalised power of active intuitive perception is created, but not any complete and coherent mind of intuitive gnosis.”

“The two together supply the deficiencies of each other’s single action and build up a mind of intuitive perception and discrimination which can do the work and more than the work of the stumbling mental intelligence and do it with the greater light, surety and power of a more direct and unfaltering ideation.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Part Four: The Yoga of Self-Perfection, Chapter 21, The Gradations of the Supermind, pp. 785-786

Two Initial Powers of the Intuitive Mind

There are a number of distinct powers of action that come with the full operation of the intuitive mind. Early in the process, the action tends to be dominated by two of them. The first of these is what Sri Aurobindo terms the “suggestive intuition” while the second is called “intuitive discrimination”. He explains the action of each of these two as follows:

“The suggestive intuition acting on the mental level suggests a direct and illumining inner idea of the truth, an idea that is its true image and index, not as yet the entirely present and whole sight, but rather of the nature of a bright memory of some truth, a recognition of a secret of the self’s knowledge. It is a representation, but a living representation, not an ideative symbol, a reflection, but a reflection that is lit up with something of the truth’s real substance.”

Whereas the symbolism used by the mind tends to be abstract and disassociated from specific real experience, the suggestive intuition is actually anchored in a real experience and carries some of the energy of that experience into the representation it provides.

“The intuitive discrimination is a secondary action setting this idea of the truth in its right place and its relation to other ideas. And so long as there is the habit of mental interference and accretion it works also to separate the mental from the higher seeing, to discrete the inferior mental stuff that embarrasses with its alloy the pure truth substance, and labours to unravel the mingled skein of ignorance and knowledge, falsehood and error.”

“As the intuition is of the nature of a memory, a luminous remembering of the self-existent truth, so the inspiration is of the nature of truth hearing: it is an immediate reception of the very voice of the truth, it readily brings the word that perfectly embodies it and it carries something more than the light of its idea; there is seized some stream of its inner reality and vivid arriving movement of its substance. The revelation is of the nature of direct sight…, and makes evident to a present vision the thing in itself of which the idea is the representation. It brings out the very spirit and being and reality of the truth and makes it part of the consciousness and the experience.”

When an individual experiences the action of these powers of the intuition, there is an inner certitude that arises based on the presence and power of the experience and energy that accompanies it. This is not a matter of philosophical symbolism, but of ideation, speech and hearing being seized by a force of knowing that goes beyond the normal mental framework within which the human being tends to operate.

Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Part Four: The Yoga of Self-Perfection, Chapter 21, The Gradations of the Supermind, pg. 785

The Characteristics of the Intuitive Knowledge

If we see the mental acquisition of knowledge as a seeking, as a development from ignorance and darkness that gropes for facts and tries to organize them and thereby to gain understanding, we may recognize the difference with regard to the intuitive knowledge. The mind starts from darkness, fragmentation and separation while the intuition starts from light, unity and wholeness. The intuition may trigger an insight based on some mental focus or sense impression, but by its nature, it is independent of these things and may arise spontaneously from its own native ranges.

Sri Aurobindo notes: “…there is always an element of self-existent truth and a sense of absoluteness of origination suggestive of its proceeding from the spirit’s knowledge by identity. It is the disclosing of a knowledge that is secret but already existent in the being: it is not an acquisition, but something that was always there and revealable. It sees the truth from within and illumines with that inner vision the outsides and it harmonises, too, readily–provided we keep intuitively awake–with whatever fresh truth has yet to arrive. These characteristics become more pronounced and intense in the higher, the proper supramental ranges: in the intuitive mind they may not be always recognisable in their purity and completeness because of the mixture of mental stuff and its accretion, but in the divine reason and greater supramental action they become free and absolute.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Part Four: The Yoga of Self-Perfection, Chapter 21, The Gradations of the Supermind, pp. 784-785

Mental Representations of the Higher Intuitive and Spiritual Faculties of Knowledge

The intuitions and inspirations that take place at the mental level are representations or imitations of the motions of the higher spiritual consciousness in its native plane. The mind’s action, raised up to its highest potentiality, is nevertheless hampered by the limitations of mental consciousness. Sri Aurobindo distinguishes between the mind’s action and that of the higher forms of conscious awareness.

Sri Aurobindo observes: “It would perhaps be accurate to say that these latter activities are mental representations of the higher movements, attempts of the ordinary mind to do the same things or the best possible imitations the intellect can offer of the functionings of the higher nature. The true intuitions differ fro these effective but insufficient counterfeits in their substance of light, their operation, their method of knowledge. The intellectual rapidities are depending on awakenings of the basic mental ignorance to mental figures and representations of truth that may be quite valid in their own field and for their own purpose but are not necessarily and by their very nature reliable. They are dependent for their emergence on the suggestions given by mental and sense data or on the accumulation of past mental knowledge. They search for the truth as a thing outside, an object to be found and looked at and stored as an acquisition and, when found, scrutinise its surfaces, suggestions or aspects. This scrutiny can never give a quite complete and adequate truth idea. However positive they may seem at the time, they may at any moment have to be passed over, rejected and found inconsistent with fresh knowledge.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Part Four: The Yoga of Self-Perfection, Chapter 21, The Gradations of the Supermind, pp. 783-784