We find it impossible to account for the rise of the mental consciousness when we start from the position that the universe began as dead matter that somehow developed life and mind through random chemical interactions. This is the position taken by many Western scientists, and it leaves the question of “where did that original matter come from” fully unanswered, as well as how even Matter has internal organization and logic to it that simply could not arise through randomness, even if we can somehow account for the initial creation of the universe.
The Rishis of the Upanishads concluded that Matter, rather than being the original source of the entire created universe, was the result of a process of self-manifestation of a Consciousness, Brahman, that “involved” consciousness into Matter, so that eventually it could evolve and thereby have a play of diversity within the basis of its inherent oneness. One can use the image of the seed which is encoded with the information needed to create the plant or the tree on an involved basis. Sticking a rock into the ground will not produce a tree, but sticking the seed with that involved information into the ground can produce the tree.
The question that next arose for the Rishis is whether what we currently experience as Matter, Life and Mind represents the entire sequence, or whether there are further stages still developing that will evolve in the movement of Time. It became clear to them that, while mind is indeed a powerful tool in the world, it has its own limitations and is clearly not the “first mover” creator of the manifestation; and further that there are indications that we can receive that show us that higher states of awareness are not only possible, but exist in reality. This proved to them that there must be a level or world of consciousness that has the power of creation and expression that does not exist within the normal mental scope of action. They called this the Vijnana, translated as Knowledge, Gnosis, or in Sri Aurobindo’s terminology, ‘Supermind’, the “mind behind the mind.”
Verse 5 of the Kena Upanishad: “That which thinks not by the mind, that by which the mind is thought, know That to be the Brahman and not this which men follow after here.”
Sri Aurobindo explains: “In reality and when we study more deeply the phenomena of consciousness, the facts of mentality, the secret tendency, aspiration and necessity of man’s own nature, we see that he cannot be the highest term. He is the highest realised here and now; he is not the highest realisable. As there is something below him, so there is something, if even only a possibility, above. As physical Nature concealed a secret beyond herself which in him she has released into creation, so he too conceals a secret beyond himself which he in turn must deliver to the light. That is his destiny.”
“This must necessarily be so because Mind too is not the first principle of things and therefore cannot be their last possibility. As Matter contained Life in itself, contained it as its own secret necessity and had to be delivered of that birth, and as Life contained Mind in itself, contained it as its own secret necessity and had to be delivered of the birth it held, so Mind too contains in itself that which is beyond itself, contains it as its own secret necessity and presses to be delivered, it also, of this supreme birth.”
Sri Aurobindo, The Upanishads, Kena Upanishad and analysis, pg. 102, 129-135