The Complex Nature of the Mental Action of the Human Being

The mental activity of man is generally identified with the action of thought and the realms of logic, science, philosophy, ethics and art.  This view, however, unduly restricts our understanding of the range and nature of the mental action, which develops from the first stirrings of mind as it emerges from the purely vital reactions of the life-force, and which then moves into a space of analysis, insight and planned action upon the material life we lead, and eventually can inhabit a stratosphere where the mind is grappling with purely conceptual notions.  Even here, we can see that there are realms beyond those of mental conceptualisation where the mind can taken on the powers of an intelligent will, and beyond that, there is the higher range of conscious existence, or as Sri Aurobindo terms it, consciousness-will, chit-shakti.  

Sri Aurobindo notes:  “…our mental existence is a very complex matter and is made up of many elements.  First, we have its lower and fundamental stratum, which is in the scale of evolution nearest to the vital.  And we have in that stratum two sides, the mental life of the senses, sensations and emotions in which the subjective purpose of Nature predominates although with the objective as its occasion, and the active or dynamic life of the mental being concerned with the organs of action and the field of conduct in which her objective purpose predominates although with the subjective as its occasion.  We have next in the scale, more sublimated, on one side the moral being and its ethical life, on the other the aesthetic; each of them attempts to possess and dominate the fundamental mind stratum and turn its experiences and activities to its own benefit, one for the culture and worship of Right, the other for the culture and worship of Beauty.  And we have, above all these, taking advantage of them, helping, forming, trying often to govern them entirely, the intellectual being.  Man’s highest accomplished range is the life of the reason or ordered and harmonised intelligence with its dynamic power of intelligent will, the buddhi, which is or should be the driver of man’s chariot.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Human Cycle: The Psychology of Social Development, Chapter 9, Civilisation and Culture, pg. 84