Ascending the Ladder of Consciousness Beyond the Mind: Overmind, Part 1 The Nature of the Overmental Consciousness

Sri Aurobindo has mapped the ranges of consciousness above the mind and identified various stages or levels of consciousness between the mental and the supramental ranges.  Beyond Higher Mind, and beyond Intuitive Mind, he identifies Overmind.  This level is no longer rooted in the ego-awareness of the individual, but partakes of the cosmic consciousness and has predominant characteristics of wideness and expansive vision.

Sri Aurobindo writes in The Life Divine:  “But we have seen that the Overmind, even when it is selective and not total in its action, is still a power of cosmic consciousness, a principle of global knowledge which carries in it a delegated light from the supramental Gnosis.  It is, therefore, only by an opening into the cosmic consciousness that the overmind ascent and descent can be made wholly possible:  a high and intense individual opening upwards is not sufficient, — to that vertical ascent towards summit Light there must be added a vast horizontal expansion of the consciousness into some totality of the Spirit…. When the overmind descends, the predominance of the centralising ego-sense is entirely subordinated, lost in largeness of being and finally abolished; a wide cosmic perception and feeling of a boundless universal self and movement replaces it: many motions that were formally ego-centric may still continue, but they occur as currents or ripples in the cosmic wideness.  Thought, for the most part, no longer seems to originate individually in the body or the person but manifests from above or comes in upon the cosmic mind-waves: all inner individual sight or intelligence of things is now a revelation or illumination of what is seen or comprehended, but the source of the revelation is not in one’s separate self but in the universal knowledge; the feelings, emotions, sensations are similarly felt as waves from the same cosmic immensity breaking upon the subtle and the gross body and responded to in kind by the individual centre of the universality; for the body is only a small support or even less, a point of relation, for the action of a vast cosmic instrumentation.  In this boundless largeness, not only the separate ego but all sense of individuality, even of a subordinated or instrumental instrumentality, may entirely disappear; the cosmic existence, the cosmic consciousness, the cosmic delight, the play of cosmic forces are alone left: if the delight or the centre of Force is felt in what as the personal mind, life or body, it is not with a sense of personality but as a field of manifestation, and this sense of the delight or of the action of Force is not confined to the person or the body but can be felt at all points in an unlimited consciousness of unity which pervades everywhere.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Future Evolution of Man, Chapter Seven, The Ascent Towards Supermind, pp. 90-91

Ascending the Ladder of Consciousness Beyond the Mind, Intuitive Mind, Part 4: Four Powers of Intuition

The Rig Veda has been treated by traditional commentators as a manual of ritual or as a combination of high philosophy with practically childish desire for divine intervention through ritual worship in providing the practitioner with desirable results in the world, wealth, children and sovereignty in one’s life.

Sri Aurobindo was able to recognise the dual sense of the terms, hiding the inner, psychological meaning behind this outer veil of material symbols.  When he applied his methodology of translation of the terms into their inner psychological sense, the entire Rig Veda was revealed to be a handbook of inner experience of consciousness.

The movement of the higher powers of consciousness and their manifestation in the individual is clearly identified and with this advent there come various powers of knowledge, clairvoyance, clairaudience, and other senses of perception representing the higher forms of what we know of in the vital-mental realm as our senses.  These powers provide us a form of divine vision, divine hearing, divine pressure of substance, and the power of recognising the truth or rightness of what one is experiencing.  These powers are described as the flowing of the divine streams or waters from the higher realms of divine consciousness into the human life, and it is the effort of the seeker to align himself in such a way that this flow can occur and act within his being.  One of the hymns even refers to the paths of these rivers being either “dug or self-born” channels, indicating that the seeker can help to open the way, or alternatively it may come naturally in the natural flow of this higher consciousness, breaking through the barriers of the mind and its limitations.  Sri Aurobindo explores these issues at great length in The Secret of the Veda.  

Sri Aurobindo observes in The Life Divine:  “Intuition has a fourfold power.  A power of revelatory truth-seeing, a power of inspiration or truth-hearing, a power of truth-touch or immediate seizing of significance, which is akin to the ordinary nature of its intervention in our mental intelligence, a power of true and automatic discrimination of the orderly and exact relation of truth to truth, — these are the fourfold potencies of Intuition.  Intuition can therefore perform all the action of reason, — including the function of logical intelligence, which is to work out the right relation of things and the right relation of idea, — but by its own superior process and with steps that do not fail or falter.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Future Evolution of Man, Chapter Seven, The Ascent Towards Supermind, pg. 90

Ascending the Ladder of Consciousness Beyond the Mind: Intuitive Mind, Part 3, the Nature of the Intuitive Mind

It is basically impossible for the logical intellect, with its fixed limits and methods of function, to truly understand the action and power of the intuitive mind, which necessarily works in a different manner and without the limits of the sequential thought-mind.  Creative people, who have moved human civilisation forward, frequently describe their creative process as one in which they suddenly experience flashes of insight, or they may see and experience something that goes beyond their ability to plod through to a result by a thought-process.  When we examine numerous such instances, we can come to the conclusion that the experience of intuition is an important part of the human experience and it presages a next stage in the evolution of consciousness, active until now only in limited operations and yet inspiring people in new and unplanned directions.

The famous inventor Nicola Tesla described his own experience in understanding the energy of the universal creation and how his core insights came to him.  Others have provided somewhat similar descriptions.

Sri Aurobindo writes in The Life Divine:  “Intuition is always an edge or ray or outleap of a superior light; it is in us a projecting blade, edge or point of a far-off supermind light entering into and modified by some intermediate truth-mind substance above us and, so modified, again entering into and very much blinded by our ordinary or ignorant mind-substance; but on that higher level to which it is native its light is unmixed and therefore entirely and purely veridical, and its rays are not separated but connected or massed together in a play of waves of what might almost be called int he Sanskrit poetic figure a sea or mass of ‘stable lightnings’.  When this original or native Intuition begins to descend into us in answer to an ascension of our consciousness ot its level or as a result of our finding of a clear way of communication with it, it may continue to come as a play of lightning-flashes, isolated or in constant action; but at this stage the judgment of reason becomes quite inapplicable, it can only act as an observer or registrar understanding or recording the more luminous intimations, judgments and discriminations of the higher power.  To complete or verify an isolated intuition or discriminate its nature, its application, its limitations, the receiving consciousness must rely on another completing intuition or be able to call down a massed intuition capable of putting all in place.  For once the process of the change has begun, a complete transmutation of the stuff and activities of the mind into the substance, form and power of intuition is imperative; until then, so long as the process of consciousness depends upon the lower intelligence serving or helping out or using the intuition, the result can only be a survival of the mixed Knowledge-Ignorance uplifted or relieved by a higher light and force acting in its parts of Knowledge.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Future Evolution of Man, Chapter Seven, The Ascent Towards Supermind, pp. 89-90

Ascending the Ladder of Consciousness Beyond the Mind: Intuitive Mind, Part 2

We identify many things as “intuition” which are not actually the full and unimpeded action of the intuitive mind.  First, we have vital instincts which respond to vibrations perceived, subliminally, by our vital being, and we thus get a feeling or “intuition” of something going on, which we then translate as the action of intuition.  Sometimes it is a feeling of discomfort in a particular situation or surroundings; sometimes it is a sense of what can or should be done next; sometimes a predatory reaction taking advantage of a perceived weakness in someone or in a situation that can be exploited.  None of these qualify as the action of the intuitive mind; rather, they are vital responses that enter us below the threshold of perception and then, once perceived, they masquerade as intuitive sense.

Second, even when the action of the intuitive mind is evident, we tend to filter the true intuition through the mind.  We create rationales and justifications, we organize and codify and press the flash of insight into the framework of the logical intellect.  This resembles more or less the action of a “step-down transformer” which reduces the power and effectiveness of the intuition commensurate to the accretion of mental fibers enclosing and binding it.

Sri Aurobindo observes in The Life Divine:  “In the human mind the intuition is even such a truth-remembrance or truth-conveyance, or such a revealing flash or blaze breaking into a great mass of ignorance or through a veil of nescience: but we hae seen that it is subject there to an invading mixture or a mental coating or an interception and substitution; there is too a manifold possibility of misinterpretation which comes in the way of the purity and fullness of its action.  Moreover, there are seeming intuitions on all levels of the being which are communications rather than intuitions, and these have a very various provenance, value and character.  The infrarational ‘mystic’, so styled, — for to be a true mystic it is not sufficient to reject reason and rely on sources of thought or action of which one has no understanding, — is often inspired by such communications on the vital level from a dark and dangerous source.  In these circumstances we are driven to rely mainly on the reason and are disposed even to control the suggestions of the intuition — or the pseudo-intuition, which is the more frequent phenomenon, — by the observing and discriminating intelligence; for we feel in our intellectual part that we cannot be sure otherwise what is the true thing and what the mixed or adulterated article or false substitute.  But this largely discounts for us the utility of the intuition: for the reason is not in this field a reliable arbiter, since its methods are different, tentative, uncertain, an intellectual seeking; even though it itself really relies on a camouflaged intuition for its conclusions, — for without that help it could not choose its course or arrive at any assured finding, — it hides this dependence from itself under the process of a reasoned conclusion or a verified conjecture.  An intuition passed in judicial review by the reason ceases to be an intuition and can only have the authority of the reason for which there is no inner source of direct certitude.  But even if the mind became predominantly an intuitive mind reliant upon its portion of the higher faculty, the co-ordination of its cognitions and its separated activities, — for in mind these would always be apt to appear as a series of imperfectly connected flashes, — would remain difficult so long as this new mentality has not a conscious liaison with its suprarational source or a self-uplifting access to a higher plane of consciousness in which an intuitive action is pure and native.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Future Evolution of Man, Chapter Seven, The Ascent Towards Supermind, pp. 88-89

Ascending the Ladder of Consciousness Beyond the Mind: Intuitive Mind, Part 1

Many different experiences of awareness are generally called “intuition”.  Sri Aurobindo has clarified what he calls the “intuitive mind” to avoid the confusion engendered by the loose use of the term intuition.  For many people, intuition is really a form of what we may call “gut instinct”, which is itself, a subliminal perception that distills itself as a sense or feeling that prods one into action.  People talk about an intuition of discomfort when they are in an environment that raises their sense of concern or fear.

Sri Aurobindo’s definition is that of a higher awareness that yields a clarity and a spontaneous knowledge and certainty that does not require the slow, step-by-step process of the logical intellect.  He clarifies further that it is this action of the intuition that guides the logical intellect in its steps and conclusions to begin with, although the intellect will inevitably truncate and distort the intuitive wisdom.

Sri Aurobindo notes in The Life Divine:  “But these two stages of the ascent enjoy their authority and can get their own united completeness only by a reference to a third level; for it is from the higher summits where dwells the intuitional being that they derive the knowledge which they turn into thought or sight and bring down to us for the mind’s transmutation.  Intuition is a power of consciousness nearer and more intimate to the original knowledge by identity; for it is always something that leaps out direct from a concealed identity…. This close perception is more than sight, more than conception: it is the result of a penetrating and revealing touch which carries in it sight and conception as part of itself or as its natural consequence.  A concealed or slumbering identity, not yet recovering itself, still remembers or conveys by the intuition its own contents and the intimacy of its self-feeling and self-vision of things, its light of truth, its overwhelming and automatic certitude.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Future Evolution of Man, Chapter Seven, The Ascent Towards Supermind, pg. 88

Ascending the Ladder of Consciousness Beyond the Mind: Illumined Mind

Sri Aurobindo has identified various stages in the progression beyond the mental consciousness to the full emergence of the supramental consciousness.  The terms he has created for these start with Higher Mind, then move to Illumined Mind, Intuitive Mind and Overmind.  Each stage is characterized by a significant alteration in the methods of perception, knowing and expressing force of action, or will.  The Illumined Mind goes beyond the Higher Mind in that it is not any longer a mind-based framework, but acts more from seeing and knowing rather than logically building any linear and fragmented knowledge-form.

Sri Aurobindo observes in The Life Divine:  “This greater Force is that of the Illumined Mind, a Mind no longer of higher Thought, but of spiritual light.  Here the clarity of the spiritual intelligence, its tranquil daylight, gives place or subordinates itself to an intense lustre, a splendour and illumination of the spirit: a play of lightnings of spiritual truth and power breaks from above into the consciousness and adds to the calm and wide enlightenment and the vast descent of peace which characterise or accompany the action of the larger conceptual-spiritual principle, a fiery ardour of realisation and a rapturous ecstasy of knowledge.  A downpour of inwardly visible Light very usually envelops this action; for it must be noted that, contrary to our ordinary conceptions, light is not primarily a material creation and the sense or vision of light accompanying the inner illumination is not merely a subjective visual image or a symbolic phenomenon: light is primarily a spiritual manifestation of the Divine Reality illuminative and creative; material light is a subsequent representation or conversion of it into Matter for the purposes of the material Energy.  There is also in this descent the arrival of a greater dynamic, a golden drive, a luminous ‘enthousiasmos’ of inner force and power which replaces the comparatively slow and deliberate process of the Higher Mind by a swift, sometimes a vehement, almost a violent impetus of rapid transformation.”

“The Illumined Mind does not work primarily by thought, but by vision; thought is here only a subordinate movement expressive of sight.  The human mind, which relies mainly on thought, conceives that to be the highest or the main process of knowledge, but in the spiritual order thought is a secondary and not indispensable process.”

“A consciousness that proceeds by sight, the consciousness of the seer, is a greater power for knowledge than the consciousness of the thinker.  The perceptual power of the inner sight is greater and more direct than the perceptual power of thought: it is a spiritual sense that seizes something of the substance of Truth and not only her figure; but it outlines the figure also and at the same time catches the significance of the figure, and it can embody her with a finer and bolder revealing outline and a larger comprehension and power of totality than thought-conception can manage.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Future Evolution of Man, Chapter Seven, The Ascent Towards Supermind, pp. 87-88

Ascending the Ladder of Consciousness Beyond the Mind: Higher Mind, Part 2

There are many people who believe that if they “reprogram” their minds, to think certain thoughts, that those thoughts will change their lives, whether in making them more socially accepted, or bringing them wealth, or keeping them healthy in their body.  There are endless number of courses one can take to learn how to do this.  Unfortunately, as long as we remain within the frame of the mental process, the focus, amplitude and force of these thoughts remain relatively weak and ineffective.

As the Higher Mind emerges and the individual’s standpoint has shifted to one that operates at a higher frequency and amplitude than the pure mental intelligence, one finds that not only is the understanding more comprehensive, but the power of effectuation also increases dramatically.  Part of this is due to a more precise application of the force based on this broader base of insight into the inter-connections of all the elements one is dealing with, and part of this is due to a greater ability to focus, concentrate and channel the force native to that higher level onto the operations of body, life and mind.

In The Life Divine, Sri Aurobindo writes:  “This is the Higher Mind in its aspect of cognition; but there is also the aspect of will, of dynamic effectuation of the Truth: here we find that this greater more brilliant Mind works always on the rest of the being, the mental will, the heart and its feelings, the life, the body, through the power of thought, through the idea-force.  It seeks to purify through knowledge, to deliver through knowledge, to create by the innate power of knowledge.  The idea is to put into the heart or the life as a force to be accepted and worked out; the heart and life become conscious of the idea and respond to its dynamisms and their substance begins to modify itself in that sense, so that the feelings and actions become the vibrations of this higher wisdom, are informed with it, filled with the emotion and the sense of it: the will and the life impulses are similarly charged with its power and its urge of self-effectuation; even in the body the idea works so that, for example, the potent thought and will of health replaces its faith in illness and its consent to illness, or the idea of strength calls in the substance, power, motion, vibration of strength; the idea generates the force and form proper to the idea and imposes it on our substance of Mind, Life or Matter.  It is in this way that the first working proceeds; it charges the whole being with a new and superior consciousness, lays a foundation of change, prepares it for a superior truth of existence.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Future Evolution of Man, Chapter Seven, The Ascent Towards Supermind, pg. 86

Ascending the Ladder of Consciousness Beyond the Mind: Higher Mind, Part 1

The evolving consciousness does not simply shift from the mental to the supramental consciousness; rather, it follows a path upwards and manifests new characteristics of both knowledge and will, understanding and action, at each progressive rung of the ladder of consciousness.  Sri Aurobindo identifies at least 4 stages or steps in the ascent from the mental to the supramental consciousness.  The first of these he calls “higher mind”.

A primary characteristic of the mental consciousness is its fragmentation and its linear sequencing of thought.  This is a serious limitation that the first advance beyond the mind begins to resolve.  The view becomes more comprehensive and inclusive, walls of thought are removed and inter-relationships are apparent.

Sri Aurobindo notes in The Life Divine:  “Our first decisive step out of our human intelligence, our normal mentality, is an ascent into a higher Mind, a mind no longer of mingled light and obscurity or half-light, but a large clarity of the spirit.  Its basic substance is a unitarian sense of being with a powerful multiple dynamisation capable of the formation of a multitude of aspects of knowledge, ways of action, forms and significances of becoming, of all of which there is a spontaneous inherent knowledge…. It is a luminous thought-mind, a mind of Spirit-born conceptual knowledge.  An all-awareness emerging from the original identity, carrying the truths the identity held in itself, conceiving swiftly, victoriously, multitudinously, formulating and by self-power of the Idea effectually realising its conceptions, is the character of this greater mind of knowledge.”

“But here in this greater Thought there is no need of a seeking and self-critical ratiocination, no logical motion step by step towards a conclusion, no mechanism of express or implied deductions and inferences, no building or deliberate concatenation of idea with idea in order to arrive at an ordered sum or outcome of knowledge….”

“This higher consciousness is a Knowledge formulating itself on a basis of self-existent all-awareness and manifesting some part of its integrality, a harmony of its significances put into thought-form.  It can freely express itself in single ideas, but its most characteristic movement is a mass ideation, a system or totality of truth-seeing at a single view; the relations of idea with idea, of truth with truth are not established by logic but pre-exist and emerge already self-seen in the integral whole.  There is an initiation into forms of an ever-present but till now inactive knowledge, not a system of conclusions from premises or data; this thought is a self-revelation of eternal Wisdom, not an acquired knowledge.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Future Evolution of Man, Chapter Seven, The Ascent Towards Supermind, pp. 85-86

Steps in the Progression of the Evolution of Consciousness

When we reflect on the long ages of geological time and the development of life on earth, we can appreciate the unimaginably long process, spanning hundreds of thousands or even millions of years, in the development of one stage of consciousness from the prior basis.  Life did not suddenly arise on earth in all its forms, but went through a process of increasing complexity and awareness.  This occurred on the basis of Matter, which itself required many millennia to be prepared to harbor and hold the life-energy.  The evolution of the mental consciousness also required many millennia to move from the rudiments we find in the lower animal kingdom to the more evolved forms we find eventually reaching a current peak in certain parts of homo sapiens, the current iteration of the human being.

So we can expect that the process of Nature in bringing forth a new and more concentrated and complex form of consciousness, the supramental consciousness, would require long ages to prepare the basis of Matter, Life and Mind, and then begin to influence and finally fully emerge in its own right as a new active consciousness in the world.

The difference here is that where Matter and various forms of Life were acted upon without conscious participation, the developed human individual, self-aware and aware of the process to be undertaken, is able to actively take steps to prepare the being, and to call in the action of the higher consciousness, and this process, called Yoga, can lead to the compression of the time required for this step to occur.

Sri Aurobindo observes in The Life Divine:  “The spiritual evolution obeys the logic of a successive unfolding; it can take a new decisive main step only when the previous main step has been sufficiently conquered: even if certain minor stages can be swallowed up or leaped over by a rapid and brusque ascension, the consciousness has to turn back to assure itself that the ground passed over is securely annexed to the new condition.  It is true that the conquest of the Spirit supposes the execution in one life or a few lives of a process that in the ordinary course of Nature would involve a slow and uncertain procedure of centuries or even of millenniums: but this is a question of the speed with which the steps are traversed; a greater or concentrated speed does not eliminate the steps themselves or the necessity of their successive surmounting.  The increased rapidity is possible only because the conscious participation of the inner being is there and the power of the Supernature is already at work in the half-transformed lower nature, so that the steps which would otherwise have had to be taken tentatively in the night of Inconscience or Ignorance can now be taken in an increasing light and power of Knowledge.”


Sri Aurobindo, The Future Evolution of Man, Chapter Seven, The Ascent Towards Supermind, pp. 84-85

Criteria for the Supramental Transformation in the Individual

Sri Aurobindo extrapolates on the meaning of the psychic and spiritual transformations as he reviews the preconditions for the supramental transformation.  There must be, not just an opening to the influence of the soul, but the emergence of the soul as the core and active driver of the being and its responses in life.  Additionally, there must be not just a connection to the cosmic consciousness, but a constant contact and a shifting of the standpoint to keep this universal existence at the forefront of perceptions and actions.  The energy centers of the body, the chakras, must be opened and fully functional allowing the proper and balanced action of the being on all levels from the phyiscal to the vital and emotional, to the mental and knowledge centers.

All of these things, as difficult and as distant as they may appear, become pre-conditions for the full emergence and action of the supramental force in human life.  The Knowledge-Will of the Supreme must find a wide, supportive and ready instrument when it chooses to manifest.  Anything less than this will compromise its action, and  limit the completeness of its transformation of human life.  Realistically, there is a lot of preparation needed to effect the radical shift of consciousness of the next evolutionary stage.  While Nature is preparing these changes and beginning to create the necessary readiness throughout the entire creation, the conscious individual may be able to help speed up this process through conscious participation.  Nevertheless, either way it is not an “overnight” event but a somewhat long and arduous journey for humanity, not the work of a single lifetime, but one which may take generations to fully be realised.

Sri Aurobindo writes in The Life Divine:  “A unification of the entire being by a breaking down of the wall between the inner and outer nature, — a shifting of the position and centration of the consciousness from the outer to the inner self, a firm foundation on this new basis, a habitual action from this inner self and its will and vision and an opening up of the individual into the cosmic consciousness, — is another necessary condition for the supramental change.  It would be chimerical to hope that the supreme Truth-consciousness can establish itself in the narrow formulation of our surface mind and heart and life, however turned towards spirituality.  All the inner centres must have burst open and released into action their capacities; the psychic entity must be unveiled and in control.  If this first change establishing the being in the inner and larger, a Yogic in place of an ordinary consciousness has not been done, the greater transmutation is impossible.  Moreover the individual must have sufficiently universalised himself, he must have recast his individual mind in the boundlessness of a cosmic mentality, enlarged and vivified his individual life into the immediate sense and direct experience of the dynamic motion of the universal life, opened up the communications of his body with the forces of universal Nature, before he can be capable of a change which transcends the present cosmic formulation and lifts him beyond the lower hemisphere of universality into a consciousness belong to its spiritual upper hemisphere.  Besides he must have already become aware of what is now to him superconscient; he must be already a being conscious of the higher spiritual Light, Power, Knowledge, Ananda, penetrated by its descending influences, new-made by a spiritual change.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Future Evolution of Man, Chapter Seven, The Ascent Towards Supermind, pp. 83-84