Mind and Supermind, Part 1

Having recognized the necessity of a “Mind behind the mind”, the questions then arise as to whether and to what extent we can experience, know and relate to that level of consciousness.  The Upanishads constantly tell us that our mind and senses cannot know or seize this next level of awareness; and yet they advise us to seek after and know Brahman.  Sri Aurobindo explains the apparent contradiction in these two positions:

“When we say, however, that “Mind of mind” is the nature or description of the Brahman-consciousness, we must not forget that the absolute Brahman in itself is held to be unknowable and therefore beyond description.  It is unknowable, not because it is a void and capable of no description except that of nothingness, nor because, although positive in existence, it has no content or quality, but because it is beyond all that that our present instruments of knowledge can conceive and because the methods of ideation and expression proper to our mentality do not apply to it.  It is the absolute of all things that we know and of each thing that we know and yet nothing nor any sum of things can exhaust or characterise its essential being.  For its manner of being is other than that which we call existence; its unity resists all analysis, its multiple infinities exceed every synthesis.  Therefore it is not in its absolute essentiality that it can be described as Mind of the mind, but in its fundamental nature in regard to our mental existence.  Brahman-consciousness is the eternal outlook of the Absolute upon the relative.”

“For neither Mind, Speech nor Sense can travel to the Brahman; therefore Brahman must be beyond all these things in its very nature, otherwise it would be attainable by them in their function. …   The reason of this entire inability is next given ‘because Brahman is other than the known and It is there over the unknown’, possessing it and, as it were, presiding over it.  The known is all that we grasp and possess by our present mentality; it is all that is not the supreme Brahman but only form and phenomenon of it to our sense and mental cognition.”

There is the Supreme Absolute, the unknowable Brahman.  There is also the unknown which may be beyond the capacities of Mind, Life and Body, yet within the theoretical capacities of a higher form or instrumentation of knowing.

“The means for the attainment of this highest knowledge is the constant preparation of the mind by the admission into it of a working higher than itself until the mind is capable of giving itself up to the supramental action which exceeds it and which will finally replace it.  In fact, Mind also has to follow the law of natural progression which has governed our evolution in this world from Matter into Life and Life into Mind.  For just as Life-consciousness is beyond the imprisoned mental material being and unattainable by it through its own instruments, just as mind-consciousness is beyond the first inconscient movements of life, so too this supramental consciousness is beyond the divided and dividing nature of Mind and unattainable by it through its own instruments.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Upanishads, Kena Upanishad and analysis, pg. 102, 136-141