Characteristics and Levels of the Supramental Knowledge

The Taittiriya Upanishad speaks of the “self of knowledge”, vijnanamaya, which exists beyond the mental level of consciousness.  This self of knowledge is the native plane of the supramental action and its essential characteristic is a knowledge by identity which Sri Aurobindo describes:  “Its movement is a total seeing and seizing; it is a comprehension and possession in the self of knowledge; and it holds the object of consciousness as part of the self or one with it, the unity being spontaneously and directly realised in the act of knowledge.”

The supermind, however is capable of other modes of action as well.  While keeping its inherent oneness and knowledge of the infinite and the cosmic unity, it has the power of objectifying and externalising objects, so that it can appreciate and work with the infinite variation of forms and thus, be the creative power behind the manifestation of the divine Spirit’s intention in the universal creation.  “Another supramental activity puts the knowledge by identity more into the background and stresses more the objectivity of the thing known.  Its characteristic movement, descending into the mind, becomes the source of the peculiar nature of our mental knowledge, intelligence…. In the mind the action of intelligence involves, at the outset, separation and otherness between the knower, knowledge and the known; but in the supermind its movement still takes place in the infinite identity or at least in the cosmic oneness.  Only, the self of knowledge indulges the delight of putting the object of consciousness away from the more immediate nearness of the original and eternal unity, but always in itself, and of knowing it again in another way so as to establish with it a variety of relations of interaction which are so many minor chords in the harmony of the play of the consciousness.”

“The supramental intelligence is of the nature of knowledge by truth-hearing and truth-remembering and, though capable of being sufficient to itself in a certain way, still feels itself more richly fulfilled by the thought and word that give it a body of expression.”

“Finally, a fourth action of the supramental consciousness completes the various possibilities of the supramental knowledge.  This still farther accentuates the objectivity of the thing known, puts it away from the station of experiencing consciousness and again brings it to nearness by a uniting contact effected either in a direct nearness, touch, union or less closely across the bridge or through the connecting stream of consciousness of which there has already been mention.  It is a contacting of existence, presences, things, forms, forces, activities, but a contacting of them in the stuff of the supramental being and energy, not in the divisions of matter and through the physical instruments, that creates the supramental sense….”

Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Part Four: The Yoga of Self-Perfection, Chapter 24, The Supramental Sense , pp. 831-833

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