Stages in the Evolution of Consciousness

In the world of Matter, we have fixed “laws of matter” which govern how matter responds to various stimuli, events, situations.  We identify these under names such as gravitation, electro-magnetic spectrum, atomic structure, etc.  These are not self-consciously chosen responses by material substance, but automatic, built-in responses of matter within the framework of its structure and function.

In the world of Life, we see a more or less automatic response occur as life first emerges, and later, as it evolves, we note “built in” reactions that, while more flexible in various ways than the response of matter to stimuli, are nevertheless governed by rules, which we call “instinct”.

As we move into the mental stage, we see quite a bit of instinct, but it begins to give way to potentially more flexible responsiveness still, although it is governed very much by what we call “habit” which is a carryover of the limitation that is based on “instinct” to a great degree.  The action of mind, as a transitional phase, is often confused between the driving forces of material nature, vital instinct, desire, and mental development, and the mind can skew the responses and actually cause greater problems than the vital instinct.

Once the individual is fully identified with the universal action, there is a new “automatic” level, but not fixed at the level of matter or vital energy, but determined by a luminous knowledge and unity of purpose with the universal working through the individual.  The confusion and chaotic process of the mental level with the conflicting drives that influence decisions there, is then replaced by a new conscious interaction and support for a clearer and more effective implementation.

Sri Aurobindo writes in The Life Divine:  “A first opening towards this participation in an action of Supernature is a condition of the turn towards the last, the supramental transformation: for this transformation is the completion of a passage from the obscure harmony of a blind automatism with which Nature sets out to the luminous authentic spontaneity, the infallible motion of the self-existent truth of the Spirit.  The evolution begins with the automatism of Matter and of a lower life in which all obeys implicitly the drive of Nature, fulfils mechanically its law of being and therefore succeeds in maintaining a harmony of its limited type of existence and action; it proceeds through the pregnant confusion of the mind and life of a humanity driven by this inferior Nature but struggling to escape from her limitations, to master and drive and use her; it emerges into a greater spontaneous harmony and automative self-fulfilling action founded on the spiritual Truth of things.  In this higher state the consciousness will see that Truth and follow the line of its energies with a full knowledge, with a strong participation and instrumental mastery, a complete delight in action and existence.  There will be a luminous and enjoyed perfection of unity with all instead of a blind and suffered subjection of the individual to the universal, and at every moment the action of the universal in the individual and the individual in the universal will be enlightened and governed by the rule of the transcendent Supernature.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Future Evolution of Man, Chapter Seven, The Ascent Towards Supermind, pp. 81-82

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