The mental consciousness did not suddenly take over and transform life on earth overnight. It developed in stages and began to grapple with its own natural action in relation to the physical and vital conditions of the world within which it was manifesting. There is thus a mental action that is quite independent of the physical and vital limitations, what we may call the mental action in its own sphere, and then there are the innumerable interactions and integrations that have taken place to allow the mental power to exercise influence and a good deal of control over the physical and vital planes of our existence, while at the same time, undergoing the limitations that such interactions bring with them.
Similarly, as the next phase of the evolution of consciousness takes place, beyond the mental level, there are necessarily also going to be stages of ascent of consciousness beyond the mind, the action of the new consciousness in its own ways, the descent and integration of that consciousness into the world of mind, life and matter, and the changes wrought by that consciousness in its dealings with the world, similar to the type of massive changes we see from the advent of mind into the worlds of life and matter.
There is a saying “from the darkness to the light, from light to greater light”. The primary characteristics of the mental consciousness are a seeking for knowledge. Sri Aurobindo calls this the Ignorance seeking for the Light. The characteristic of the next evolutionary phase, the supramental, represents an awareness based first and foremost in Knowledge and evolving ever-greater knowledge as it integrates itself fully into the action of the world. The beings who will embody this Knowledge-Consciousness will necessarily have to act and respond differently than those who act and respond from the mental-vital consciousness that rules our world today. Sri Aurobindo outlines the steps or phases of that necessary transformation.
Sri Aurobindo writes in The Life Divine: “It must become the normal nature of a new type of being; as mind is established here on a basis of Ignorance seeking for Knowledge and growing into Knowledge, so supermind must be established here on a basis of Knowledge growing into its own greater Light. But this cannot be so long as the spiritual-mental being has not risen fully to supermind and brought down its powers into terrestrial existence. For the gulf between Mind and Supermind has to be bridged, the closed passages opened and roads of ascent and descent created where ther eis now a void and a silence…. There must first be the psychic change, the conversion of our whole present nature into a soul-instrumentation; on that or along with that there must be the spiritual change, the descent of a higher Light, Knowledge, Power, Force, Bliss, Purity into the whole being, even into the lowest recesses of the life and body, even into the darkness of our subconscience; last, there must supervene the supramental transmutation, — there must take place as the crowning movement the ascent into the supermind and the transforming descent of the supramental Consciousness into our entire being and nature.”