We can see the progression from Matter to Life, and from Life to Mind in the expansion and development of consciousness in the world. While scientists have tended to focus on the evolution of forms, they have also noted the increased action of consciousness as those forms developed. They have been generally at a loss to describe how a change in form can result in an increased level of awareness or an increased power of cognition, reasoning or other signs we attribute to mental development. Sri Aurobindo has helped to clarify this issue by his analysis that the forms develop due to the pressure of the involved consciousness, and its corresponding external pressure from its native plane of existence, to manifest.
What this does is open up the discussion about whether we have reached the “end” of the evolutionary process, or whether we are in a stage of transition. There are signs both in terms of the limitations of our mental powers and processes, and the occasional manifestation of powers not native to the mental level, per se, but clearly an extension or expansion of power, that as Sri Aurobindo describes it, “man is a transitional being”.
If we recognize this transitional stage, we can begin to look for and understand the signs of the next stages of the evolution of consciousness, those beyond the mind, which Sri Aurobindo terms “supramental”, and the intermediate steps between our current level of mentality and those ranges of supramental consciousness.
Sri Aurobindo observes: “These gradations may be summarily described as a series of sublimations of the consciousness through Higher Mind, Illumined Mind, and Intuition, into Overmind and beyond it; there is a succession of self-transmutations at the summit of which lies the Supermind or Divine Gnosis.”
Robert McDermott comments: “These gradations, furthermore, include the three levels of the lower trilogy or levels of evolution up to the present stage, mind: the mental level evolved from the vital, and the vital from the material. One of the characteristics of the entire evolutionary process is that ‘at each crossover, there is not only a rise in consciousness but also a reversal of consciousness, that is to say, the level attained turns back upon the preceding levels, influencing and molding them as far as possible in its own mode and law of existence.’ Thus, the mental has transformed the material and the vital, and the supramental, through the mediation of Overmind, is beginning to transform the mental. The gradations between mental and supramental are in the process of transformation just as the material and vital stages have been taken up by consciousness into its own evolution. Evolution, then, consists in two processes, both controlled by consciousness: the outward, physical or cosmic evolution from matter to mind, and the higher, more essential and spiritual evolution from mind to Supermind.”
Sri Aurobindo, The Mind of Light, Introduction by Robert McDermott, pp. 10-11