The Triple Action of the Normal Thought-Mind

Sri Aurobindo identifies three distinct levels or gradations of action of the normal thought-mind of the human individual.  These correspond roughly to the interaction between the mind and the physical, the pragmatic mind of development in the interaction between mind and life , and the mind acting on the purely mental level.

“First and lowest and most necessary to the mental being in the body is the habitual thought mind that founds its ideas upon the data given by the senses and by the surface experiences of the nervous and emotional being and on the customary notions formed by the education and the outward life and environment.  This habitual mind has two movements, one a kind of constant undercurrent of mechanically recurrent thought always repeating itself in the same round of physical, vital, emotional, practical and summarily intellectual notion and experience, the other more actively working upon all new experience that the mind is obliged to admit and reducing it to formulas of habitual thinking.  The mentality of the average man is limited by this habitual mind and moves very imperfectly outside its circle.”

A second grade of the thinking activity is the pragmatic idea mind that lifts itself above life and acts creatively as a mediator between the idea and the life-power, between truth of life and truth of the idea not yet manifested in life.  it draws material from life and builds out of it and upon it creative ideas that become dynamic for farther life development: on the other side it receives new thought and mental experience from the mental plane or more fundamentally from the idea power of the Infinite and immediately turns it into mental idea force and a power for actual being and living….The thought is only or mainly interesting to the soul on this mental level as a means for a large range of action and experience.”

A third gradation of thinking opens in us the pure ideative mind which lives disinterestedly in truth of the idea apart from any necessary dependence on its value for action and experience.  it views the data of the senses and the superficial inner experiences, but only to find the idea, the truth to which they bear witness and to reduce them into terms of knowledge.  It observes the creative power of mind in life in the same way and for the same purpose.  Its preoccupation is with knowledge, its whole object is to have the delight of ideation, the search for truth, the effort to know itself and the world and all that may life behind its own action and the world action.  This ideative mind is the highest reach of the intellect acting for itself, characteristically, in its own power and for its own purpose.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Part Four: The Yoga of Self-Perfection, Chapter 23, The Supramental Instruments — Thought-process , pp. 811-812

The Supermind and the Higher Functions of the Mind

At the highest reaches of the capacities of the human mind we find the power of the higher reason and the intellectual formulation of ideas.  These functions represent the most abstract aspects of the mentality, and operate more freely than those parts of the mentality which are bound to the physical world and the objects of the senses.  The first major influence of the supramental consciousness can most easily interface with these higher reaches of the mind, as they are not bound so tightly to the external and physical.

Sri Aurobindo observes:  “The mental activity that can be most readily organised is…that of pure ideative knowledge.  This is transformed on the higher level to the true jnana, supramental thought, supramental vision, the supramental knowledge by identity.”

This action transforms the mental consciousness:  “It differs from the action of the mind first in this respect that it works naturally with those operations that are to the mind the highest and the most difficult, acting in them or on them from above downward and not with the hampered straining upward of the mind or with its restriction to its own and the inferior levels.  The higher operations are not dependent on the lower assistance, but rather the lower operations depend on the higher not only for their guidance but for their existence.  The lower mental operations are therefore not only changed in character by the transformation, but are made entirely subordinate.  And the higher mental operations too change their character, because, supramentalised, they begin to derive their light directly from the highest, the self-knowledge or infinite knowledge.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Part Four: The Yoga of Self-Perfection, Chapter 23, The Supramental Instruments — Thought-process , pp. 810-811

The Transformation and Liberation of the Powers of Human Consciousness Through the Advent of the Supermind

Consciousness is an unbroken continuum from the lowest depths of material consciousness to the heights of the supermind.  This implies that the supermind can relate to and have its impact on each level of awareness in existence.  Human awareness is circumscribed by the fragmented nature of its action, and this limits both the upper ranges of consciousness and the larger action that is currently occult or subliminal and which therefore is treated as something abnormal when it breaks out and manifests in some form.  The supramental consciousness, by nature of its greater range and power, is able to both transform the mental awareness and liberate and integrate those powers now considered psychic or occult.

Sri Aurobindo explains:  “…when we rise from mind to supermind, the new power of consciousness does not reject, but uplifts, enlarges and transfigures the operations of our soul and mind and life.  it exalts and gives to them an ever greater reality of their power and performance.  it does not limit itself either to the transformation of the superficial powers and action of the mind and psychic parts and the life, but it manifests and transforms also those rarer powers and that larger force and knowledge proper to our subliminal self that appear now to us as things occult, curiously psychic, abnormal.  These things become in the supramental nature not at all abnormal but perfectly natural and normal, not separately psychic but spiritual, not occult and strange, but a direct, simple, inherent and spontaneous action.  The spirit is not limited like the waking material consciousness, and the supermind when it takes possession of the waking consciousness, dematerialises it, delivers it from its limits, converts the material and the psychic into the nature of the spiritual being.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Part Four: The Yoga of Self-Perfection, Chapter 23, The Supramental Instruments — Thought-process , pg. 810

Steps in the Conversion from Mind to Supermind

The transition from mental consciousness to supramental necessarily involves various stages and takes place over time.  The action is not a straight line of progress, but involves the inevitable obstacles to be overcome, relapses and inconsistent forward movement.  Sri Aurobindo outlines the major steps involved in the process:

“At first, at the beginning of the conversion into this greater status, the thought will continue to move for a shorter or a longer time to a greater or a less extent on the lines of the mind but with a greater light and increasing flights and spaces and movements of freedom and transcendence.  Afterwards the freedom and transcendence will begin to predominate; the inversion of the thought view and the conversion of the thought method will take place in different movements of the thought mind one after the other, subject to whatever difficulties and relapses, until it has gained on the whole and effected a complete transformation.”

The sequence of the development tends to focus first on the more highly receptive and evolved parts of the human consciousness:  “Ordinarily the supramental knowledge will be organised first and with the most ease in the processes of pure thought and knowledge, jnana, because here the human mind has already the upward tendency and is the most free.  Next and with less ease it will be organised in the processes of applied thought and knowledge because there the mind of man is at once most active and most bound and wedded to its inferior methods.  The last and most difficult conquest, because this is now to his mind a field of conjecture or a blank, will be the knowledge of the three times, trikaladrsti.   In all these there will be the same character of a spirit seeing and willing directly above and around and not only in the body it possesses and there will be the same action of the supramental knowledge by identity, the supramental vision, the supramental thought and supramental word, separately or in a united movement.”


Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Part Four: The Yoga of Self-Perfection, Chapter 22, The Supramental Thought and Knowledge, pg. 809

The Supramental Standpoint of Consciousness

The normal mental consciousness is circumscribed by the experience of time, space and circumstance.  The mind is locked into its present reality as perceived through the impressions of the senses, with very little leeway outside of this limited viewpoint.  The supramental consciousness, however, is not bound by what can be actually seen or experienced in the outer world of circumstance, and it is able to see things with the vision of the three times, past, present and future, all live and real to the vision.

Sri Aurobindo provides a more complete overview of the supramental standpoint: “The supramental being sees things from above in large spaces and at the highest from the spaces of the infinite.  His view is not limited to the standpoint of the present but can see in the continuities of time or from above time in the indivisibilities of the Spirit.  He sees truth in its proper order first in the essence, secondly in the potentialities that derive from it and only last in the actualities.  The essential truths are to his sight self-existent, self-seen, not dependent for their proof on this or that actuality; the potential truths are truths of the power of being in itself and in things, truths of the infinity of force and real apart from their past or present realisation in this or that actuality or the habitual surface forms that we take for the whole of Nature; the actualities are only a selection from the potential truths he sees, dependent on them, limited and mutable.  The tyranny of the present, of the actual, of the immediate range of facts, of the immediate urge and demand of action has no power over his thought and his will and he is therefore able to have a larger will-power founded on a larger knowledge.”

“His being is not shut into the succession of the moments, but has the full power of the past and ranges seeingly through the future:  not shut in the limiting ego and personal mind, but lives in the freedom of the universal, in God and in all beings and all things; not in the dull density of the physical mind, but in the light of the self and the infinity of the spirit.  He sees soul and mind only as a power and a movement and matter only as a resultant form of the spirit.  All his thought will be of a kind that proceeds from knowledge.  He perceives and enacts the things of the phenomenal life in the light of the reality of the spiritual being and the power of the dynamic spiritual essence.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Part Four: The Yoga of Self-Perfection, Chapter 22, The Supramental Thought and Knowledge, pp. 808-809

Comparison of Mental Thinking to Supramental Thought

The sages who have experienced the opening of the spiritual consciousness or the shift to one of the higher gradations of consciousness have frequently indicated that there is a vast difference between mental thinking and spiritual thought, vision, experience.  Some of have described this as the difference between “day” and “night” and some have described a “reversal of consciousness” whereby the spiritual experience is diametrically opposite to that of the normal mental view of things.  The mental consciousness is based in the experience of the ego, and thus rooted in a separative, fragmented and divided consciousness that sees itself as separate and other than the rest of creation.  The spiritual consciousness is based in the experience of the Oneness of all existence, and thus, starts from a totally different standpoint and basis from that of the mental thought process.

Sri Aurobindo has taken up this question at some length:  “The range of knowledge covered by the supramental thought, experience and vision will be commensurate with all that is open to the human consciousness, not only on the earthly but on all planes.  it will however act increasingly in an inverse sense to that of the mental thinking and experience.”

“The centre of mental thinking is the ego, the person of the individual thinker.  The supramental man, on the contrary, will think more with the universal mind or even may rise above it, and his individuality will rather be a vessel of radiation and communication, to which the universal thought and knowledge of the Spirit will converge, than a centre.  The mental man thinks and acts in a radius determined by the smallness or largeness of his mentality and of its experience.  The range of the supramental man will be all the earth and all that lies behind it on other planes of existence.  And finally the mental man thinks and sees on the level of the present life, though it may be with an upward aspiration, and his view is obstructed on every side.  His main basis of knowledge and action is the present with a glimpse into the past and ill-grasped influence from its pressure and a blind look towards the future.  He bases himself on the actualities of the earthly existence first on the facts of the outward world,– to which he is ordinarily in the habit of relating nine-tenths if not the whole of his inner thinking and experience,– then on the changing actualities of the more superficial part of his inner being…. The essence of things he tends to see, if at all, only as a result of his actualities, in a relation to and dependence on them, and therefore he seems them constantly in a false light or in a limited measure.  In all these respects the supramental man must proceed from the opposite principle of truth vision.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Part Four: The Yoga of Self-Perfection, Chapter 22, The Supramental Thought and Knowledge, pp. 807-808

Supramental Speech

Sages and mystics have long understood and commented on the power of the “word”.  The New Testament of the Christian Bible begins with the ultimate statement of this creative power:  “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”  Yogis describe the power of the Mantra, the word that is evocative, transformative and has the power to affect mind, life and matter through its action.  One of the aspects of the supramental transformation is the advent of what Sri Aurobindo calls the “supramental word” which utilizes the forms of language in the thought and in the expression, but embodies through that form, the higher truth of the supramental realisation.

For most people, speech originates at the mental level and it is derivative and representational rather than a creative power.  For the spiritual seeker, however, speech is the sound-body that carries the power of creation of forms, and thus, the mantra, for example is the sound that vibrates in the ether and manifests all the forms of the universe.

Sri Aurobindo observes: “There is also a speech, a supramental word, in which the higher knowledge, vision or thought can clothe itself within us for expression…. The supramental word manifests inwardly with a light, a power, a rhythm of thought and a rhythm of inner sound that make it the natural and living body of the supramental thought and vision and it pours into the language, even though the same as that of mental speech, another than the limited intellectual, emotional or sensational significance.  It is formed and heard in the intuitive mind or supermind and need not at first except in certain highly gifted souls come out easily into speech and writing, but that too can be freely done when the physical consciousness and its organs have been made ready, and this is a part of the needed fullness and power of the integral perfection.”

The supramental word may take various forms depending on the stage of its integration into the consciousness:  “At first this may come down as a word, a message or an inspiration that descends to us from above or it may even seem a voice of the Self or of the Ishwara….  Afterwards it loses that separate character and becomes the normal form of the thought when it expresses itself in the form of an inward speech.  The thought may express itself without the aid of any suggestive or developing word and only… in a luminous substance of supramental perception.  it may aid itself when it is not so explicit by a suggestive inward speech that attends it to bring out its whole significance.  Or the thought may come not as silent perception but as speech self-born out of the truth and complete in its own right and carrying in itself its own vision and knowledge.  Then it is the word revelatory, inspired or intuitive or of a yet greater kind capable of bearing the infinite intention or suggestion of the higher supermind and spirit.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Part Four: The Yoga of Self-Perfection, Chapter 22, The Supramental Thought and Knowledge, pp. 806-807