The Spiritual Turn of the Thinking Mind

The soul influence on the individual may take place predominantly in any part of the being which is developed and receptive to that influence.  For many, it is the mind that takes on the receptivity and becomes the primary instrument of the soul’s action.  The mind naturally has the capacity of distancing itself to some degree from the physical and vital aspects of life, and with its powers of reasoning and abstract thought, imagination and creative exploration, it has the potential to open to new directions and influences.

There is an entire branch of Yoga, called Jnana Yoga, which focuses on the mental power as the leverage to attain realisation.  Using the powers of discriminating intellect, the Jnana Yogi turns his attention to “first causes” and universal existence, away from the day to day affairs that frequently preoccupy the mind entwined with the vital and physical needs.

There is another branch of Yoga, called Raja Yoga, which focuses on observation of the mind-stuff in its pure and essential state, bringing it to quiescence and observing from that status so that outer influences from the sense perceptions or thoughts and forces active in the outer being are left aside.  This leads to a state of indrawn concentration or trance, samadhi, where the Yogi becomes one in awareness of consciousness with the Universal and Transcendent Being and the Source of the creation.

The abstract powers of the mind may try to achieve new heights at the expense of the outward focus of attention and the outer life.  We see then a bifurcation where the life-energy and the body are either mostly abandoned or left to themselves, untransformed and unattended, while the mind seeks out new vistas of thought and inner experience.

Sri Aurobindo observes in The Life Divine:  “The soul may attempt to achieve this contact mainly through the thinking mind as intermediary and instrument; it puts a psychic impression on the intellect and the larger mind of insight and intuitional intelligence and turns them in that direction.  At its highest the thinking mind is drawn always towards the impersonal; in its search it becomes conscious of a spiritual essence, an impersonal Reality which expresses itself in all these outward signs and characters but is more than any formation or manifesting figure.  It feels something of which it becomes intimately and invisibly aware, — a supreme Truth, a supreme Beauty, a supreme Purity, a supreme Bliss; it bears the increasing touch, less and less impalpable and abstract, more and more spiritually real and concrete, the touch and pressure of an Eternity and Infinity which is all this that is and more.  There is a pressure from this Impersonality that seeks to mould the whole mind into a form of itself; at the same time the impersonal secret and law of things becomes more and more visible.  The mind develops into the mind of the sage, at first the high mental thinker, then the spiritual sage who has gone beyond the abstractions of thought to the beginnings of direct experience.  As a result the mind becomes pure, large, tranquil, impersonal; there is a similar tranquillising influence on the parts of life: but otherwise the result may remain incomplete; for the mental change leads more naturally towards an inner status and an outer quietude, but, poised in this purifying quietism, not drawn like the vital parts towards a discovery of new life-energies, does not press for a full dynamic effect on the nature.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Future Evolution of Man, Chapter Six, The Triple Transformation, pg. 67

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