The Worlds and Planes of Consciousness

We tend to take for granted the feelings, emotions, ideas, thoughts, creative impulses, imaginations, insights, inspirations and intuitions we experience. We do not generally try to find out the source of these things, or how they come to be known to or experienced by us. We treat our bodies as some kind of a “black box” that simply “does” these things.

If we look more deeply however, it becomes clear that inanimate Matter, and the mixing of a few chemical reactions, cannot explain any of these things. It also becomes clear that a 3 or 4 year old musical prodigy, such as Mozart, must have access to another well of knowing than simply the development of physical musical skills. There are other unexplained situations such as the frequently reported out of body experience. Where does our awareness “go” when it leaves the body? Near death experiences, with documented clinical death, and a subsequent return to life in the body also poses questions for researchers. What is the source of the experiences so often reported by those who have died and returned in this way? The creative process also has raised substantive questions about the source of creativity and our methods of reaching out and channeling that creativity into our waking life.

When we question scientists, creative artists, musicians, poets, inventors, sages, yogis, mystics and visionaries, we find that they all report, one way or another, the shifting of their awareness, the opening of their consciousness to sources of inspiration from elsewhere, from outside themselves. Sri Aurobindo reported, and made a powerful tool of his yogic practice, the observation of thoughts entering the mind from outside, which he then was able to reject and allow the mind to fall into a receptive silence.

Sri Aurobindo writes: “The physical is not the only world; there are others that we become aware of through dream records, through the subtle senses, through influences and contacts, through imagination, intuition and vision. There are worlds of a larger subtler life than ours, vital worlds; worlds in which Mind builds its own forms and figures, mental worlds; psychic worlds which are the soul’s home; others above with which we have little contact. In each of us there is a mental plane of consciousness, a psychic, a vital, a subtle physical as well as the gross physical and material plane. The same planes are repeated in the consciousness of general Nature. It is when we enter or contact these other planes that we come into connection with the worlds above the physical.”

Sri Aurobindo, Integral Yoga: Sri Aurobindo’s Teaching and Method of Practice, Planes of Consciousness and Parts of the Being, pp. 46-48


The Occult Action and Interaction of the Planes of Existence

From a superficial perspective it is virtually impossible to understand the development of consciousness from Matter to Life, and from Life to Mind, and beyond. We now recognize that our beliefs and actions are conditioned by factors unseen and essentially unknown to us. C. G. Jung described the “collective unconscious” where many factors, not obvious to our conscious minds, lead us to act and react to situations, people and circumstances, including desires, tendencies, and impulsions of various sorts.

Sri Aurobindo takes the study of the occult interactions to a much more detailed level. He notes that contrary to the Western approach to things, creation comes from the higher, subtler planes and influences and modifies those that are lower and denser. Nothing can be created in the material world that has not been initiated and inserted here by the higher planes and worlds. The material plane conditions the result through its native characteristics and limitations so there is a complex interaction between the higher force and the lower material upon which it is set to work. The result is something other than the purest form of either one.

Sri Aurobindo notes: “If we regard the gradation of worlds or planes as a whole, we see them as a great connected complex movement; the higher precipitate their influences on the lower, the lower react to the higher and develop or manifest in themselves within their own formula something that corresponds to the superior power and its action. The material world has evolved life in obedience to a pressure from the mental plane. It is now trying to evolve supermind in obedience to a pressure from the supramental plane. In more detail, particular forces, movements, powers, beings of a higher world can throw themselves on the lower to establish appropriate and corresponding forms which will connect them with the material domain and, as it were, reproduce or project their action here. And each thing created here has, supporting it, subtler envelopes or forms of itself which make it subsist and connect it with forces acting from above. Man, for instance, has, besides his gross physical body, subtler sheaths or bodies by which he lives behind the veil in direct connection with supraphysical planes of consciousness and can be influenced by their powers, movements and beings. What takes place in life has always behind it pre-existent movements and forms in the occult vital planes; what takes place in mind presupposes pre-existent movements and forms in the occult mental planes. That is an aspect of things which becomes more and more evident, insistent and important, the more we progress in a dynamic yoga.”

“But all this must not be taken in too rigid and mechanical a sense. It is an immense plastic movement full of the play of possibilities and must be seized by a flexible and subtle tact or sense in the seeing consciousness. It cannot be reduced to a too rigorous logical or mathematical formula.”

Sri Aurobindo, Integral Yoga: Sri Aurobindo’s Teaching and Method of Practice, Planes of Consciousness and Parts of the Being, pp. 46-48

Planes of Consciousness and Their Role in the Creation

We generally try to understand things from our own individual perspective, yet this perspective is severely limited and cannot fully comprehend or appreciate the larger forces at work or the complete significance of the creation. If we make the shift to the divine standpoint, however, we can begin to appreciate the organisation of the universal creation and the specific position and role of the individual beings and forms that make up that creation.

From the divine standpoint, consciousness is universal and consistent, transcending the actual manifestations we experience in the creation within which we exist. It takes on different forms, and carries out a variety of different actions, as part of its larger play of creation.

We can see that there are gradations of the manifested consciousness in forms that are, in and of themselves, “typal”; that is, they represent a very specific stage in the expression of consciousness and are themselves not subject to change and development. They exist, carry out their function and make up a matrix of existence without themselves growing beyond the limits self-imposed upon their type. There are also evolutionary beings, those that can exceed and grow beyond the initial limits placed upon them, and who thereby act as change actions in the expression of the universal creation. Human beings generally fall into the category of evolutionary beings and our characteristics of self-awareness and aspiration beyond our initial station represent the signs of this evolutionary urge.

When we start our review from the individual perspective, we fail to appreciate the subtle and significant variations in the expression of consciousness brought about by the different environments and conditions within which it is being put forth. The result of this is that we overlook the action of consciousness in other planes of existence if it does not meet our limited definition. Consciousness is not limited to the action of the mind. There is consciousness involved deeply in the material world, which can be seen when we observe the atomic structure, or the functioning of the suns, planets and other celestial bodies following principles of existence rooted in mathematical precision. There is consciousness involved in the vital plane of life, as can be noted through the symbiotic relationships that make all life part of a mutually-dependent web. We can look upon Matter, Life and Mind as planes of existence, each with its own characteristic framework and laws of action, as well as expression of consciousness conditioned by the characteristic operations of each plane. Further planes of consciousness, such as the Supramental, would similarly have their own method and ways of expression.

While Western science has held that life and consciousness derived somehow from inanimate Matter, it is clear that it is consciousness itself that is primary and that it creates the various planes, their conditions, the exact mode and form of the expression of consciousness required by that plane, and their interactions, rather than the other way round.

Sri Aurobindo observes: “The gradations of consciousness are universal states not dependent on the outlook of the subjective personality; rather the outlook of the subjective personality is determined by the grade of consciousness in which it is organised according to its typal nature or its evolutionary stage.”

“It will be evident that by consciousness is meant something which is essentially the same throughout but variable in status, condition and operation, in which in some grades or conditions the activities we call consciousness can exist either in a suppressed or an unorganised or a different organised state; while in other states some other activities may manifest which in us are suppressed, unorganised or latent or else are less perfectly manifested, less intensive, extended and powerful than in those higher grades above our highest mental limit.”

Sri Aurobindo, Integral Yoga: Sri Aurobindo’s Teaching and Method of Practice, Planes of Consciousness and Parts of the Being, pp. 46-48

The Creation of the Worlds and the Cycles of Evolution

Entropy is a scientific theory that holds that the universe tends towards increasing disorder and dissolution over time, eventually having ordered patterns break down into randomness or chaos, and dissolution. While it is set forth in Western science as the second law of thermodynamics in a very specific way, it has taken on a much broader meaning when it is applied to the creation of the universe and its eventual dissolution. It is one of the key concepts that has ruled Western scientific thinking for a considerable period of time. This theory of entropy relies on the idea that the universe is wholly material in nature, consisting of Matter and Energy. It does not address the centrality of consciousness as the creating, informing and containing reality of existence, with Matter and Energy as specific results of consciousness, not the cause. It also assumes that Matter and Energy are a closed system and that there is nothing outside that framework that can create or add to it. For example, if we have a vehicle with fuel in it and set it in motion, it will run until the fuel runs out and then stop. If we don’t consider things further, we see this as an example of entropy. But if someone comes along and adds more fuel to the vehicle, it can start up again and we recognise that it is not entropy but a cyclical result of adding or decreasing available energy based on an actor outside the limits of the vehicle and its existing energy reserves.

If we look closely at creation, it does not seem that entropy is necessarily the end result of creation. There is a cycle of creation and dissolution and new creation, and through a deeper understanding of this pattern, we can see that the creation actually exhibits more order and complexity over time as it systematically evolves greater powers of consciousness into manifestation.

The process of creation is cyclical in nature as a large number of different levels, each with their own needs and characteristic lines of action, need to be harmonized to move everything forward in a balanced manner. Thus, an increase of the power of life energy requires suitable modifications to the physical forms that need to hold and utilize that energy. An influx of new mental powers requires changes to both the material form and the life energy. Progress must necessarily move step by step, as ascent to the next plane or level will require a period of integration into the foundation or basis upon which the progress is being built.

What may appear to us to be entropy therefore may actually be a period of integration that focuses on upgrading the prior levels so that the next advance can take place without breaking the entire system. The question then is one of perspective and time-frame of the view we take of the movement of the universal energy.

The ancient sages referred to vast periods of time called “yugas” which represented various stages of development or breakdown, and which cycled from dissolution to new creation and back again. Entropy in this case was seen as part of a cyclical process which eventually led to a new and increasing level of consciousness, organization and complexity, and not as an “end result”.

Sri Aurobindo writes: “The cycles of evolution tend always upward, but they are cycles and do not ascend in a straight line. The process therefore gives the impression of a series of ascents and descents, but what is essential in the gains of the evolution is kept or, even if eclipsed for a time, re-emerges in new forms suitable to the new ages. The creation has descended all the degrees of being from the Supermind to Matter and in each degree it has created a world, reign, plane or order proper to that degree. In the creating of the material world there was a plunge of this descending Consciousness into an apparent Inconscience and an emergence of it out of that Inconscience, degree by degree, until it recovers its highest spiritual and supramental summits and manifests their powers here in Matter. But even in the Inconscience there is a secret consciousness which works, one may say, by an involved and hidden Intuition proper to itself.”

Sri Aurobindo, Integral Yoga: Sri Aurobindo’s Teaching and Method of Practice, Planes of Consciousness and Parts of the Being, pp. 43-46

Evolution of Consciousness

In order to evolve, a power or principle must be first involved. When we say that life evolved out of inanimate Matter, we have to reflect, “how is this possible?” When we examine Matter at the sub-atomic level, we see an incredible power of consciousness at work with very precise and mathematical relationships, balances of positive and negative charges, and cycles of rotation and interaction. Similarly, when we examine the development of Life, we find that every life-form has genetic coding of DNA that builds the precise form and activity of life that has been previously encoded. We see that consciousness has been involved in Matter and Life and thus, can evolve systematically from these planes to manifest in the universal creation. With the advent of Mind, we see yet a further extension of consciousness evolving and developing. Mind, however, while it is clearly a powerful action of consciousness compared to what we see in the responsiveness and reactions of Matter and Life, also is obviously limited and hampered by the frame within which it works, the limits of methodology of its action and its reliance on the physical and vital instruments for perception and action. It is clear therefore that Mind is a transitional phase and that further evolutionary development to address these limitations, must be eventually forthcoming.

We notice that the universal creation continues to develop and produce new powers of knowledge and action. It is thus expected that as the next phase of the evolution occurs, it will not simply involve the abandonment of life and the world of manifestation, but will also include an integration of these new powers into the world.

Sri Aurobindo observes: “The process of evolution has been the development from and in inconscient Matter of a subconscient and then a conscious Life, of conscious mind first in animal life and then fully in conscious and thinking man, the highest present achievement of evolutionary Nature. The achievement of mental being is at present her highest and tends to be regarded as her final work; but it is possible to conceive a still further step of the evolution: Nature may have in view beyond the imperfect mind of man a consciousness that passes out of the mind’s ignorance and possess truth as its inherent right and nature. There is a Truth-Consciousness as it is called in the Veda, a Supermind, as I have termed it, possessing Knowledge, not having to seek after it and constantly miss it. In one of the Upanishads a being of knowledge is stated to be the next step above the mental being; into that the soul has to rise and through it to attain the perfect bliss of spiritual existence. If that could be achieved as the next evolutionary step of Nature here, then she would be fulfilled and we could conceive of the perfection of life even here, its attainment of a full spiritual living even in this body or it may be in a perfected body. We could even speak of a divine life on earth; our human dream of perfectibility would be accomplished and at the same time the aspiration to a heaven on earth common to several religions and spiritual seers and thinkers.”

“The ascent of the human soul to the supreme Spirit is that soul’s highest aim and necessity, for that is the supreme reality; but there can be too the descent of the Spirit and its powers into the world and that would justify the existence of the material world also, give a meaning, a divine purpose to the creation and solve its riddle. East and West could be reconciled in the pursuit of the highest and largest ideal, Spirit embrace Matter and Matter find its own true reality and the hidden Reality in all things in the Spirit.”

Sri Aurobindo, Integral Yoga: Sri Aurobindo’s Teaching and Method of Practice, Planes of Consciousness and Parts of the Being, pp. 43-46

Evolution: East and West

There is a long tradition in the West that does not accept evolution in any form as an acceptable explanation for life on earth. This view is set forth in the creation story in Genesis where God created each form and being of its own kind and created human beings to act as stewards of the natural world. When the individual dies, he eventually goes to heaven, or hell, based on his deeds and in some cases, through a redemptive process, is reunited with his family in heaven.

This view was contradicted by the study of archaeology, paleontology, anthropology and natural science, and more recently by the study of genetics. Charles Darwin’s The Origin of Species framed this debate, but focused primarily on evolution of forms without assigning a deeper significance to the evolutionary process. The increasing levels of consciousness and the development of powers of life, powers of perception, powers of mind, were seen as the consequence of the evolution of forms. Some went so far as to claim that the mixing together of the chemical soup of inanimate Matter somehow led to the development of Einstein, Beethoven and others and their achievements, through some kind of random process of chemistry creating awareness and conscious self-reflective ability and mental powers!

In the East, the primary emphasis on the concept of evolution has addressed the growth and development of the soul, its increasing maturity and development across multiple lifetimes of rebirths, with increasing powers of consciousness connected to this process.

Sri Aurobindo has looked at both of these views and applied insight to the cause of the mechanisms that each of these views sets forth. The Upanishads refer to the tree of the universe with its roots above, and its limbs and leaves and flowers below. Sri Aurobindo applies this logic to show that there is an inner cause and significance to both the evolution of forms and the rebirth of souls, and that is the power of Consciousness that is systematically revealing itself more and more and thereby creating forms that are capable of expressing manifestly what is otherwise involved in the subconscious or inanimate forms of Matter. The consciousness that creates atoms, galaxies, universes, and that systematically develops a complex and interactive coexistent and codependent nature in the world, is the secret cause of evolution. As Western science moves from its initial fixation on Matter as being the reality of the universe and now recognizes Energy as the cause of Matter, it is swiftly moving to an understanding that Consciousness is the cause of Energy and Matter.

Sri Aurobindo’s view not only addresses the material and vital processes outlined by Darwin and his successors, but also the question of rebirth as noted by the sages of the East. Both are part of a process created by, conditioned by, and caused by Consciousness evolving through Time in a systematic procession from Matter to Life, from Life to Mind and from Mind to ranges of consciousness above the mind, including the Supramental range.

Sri Aurobindo writes: “The Science of the West has discovered evolution as the secret of life and its process in this material world; but it has laid more stress on the growth of form and species than on the growth of consciousness: even, consciousness has been regarded as an incident and not the whole secret of the meaning of the evolution. An evolution has been admitted by certain minds in the East, certain philosophies and Scriptures, but there its sense has been the growth of the soul through developing or successive forms and many lives of the individual to its own highest reality. For if there is a conscious being in the form, that being can hardly be a temporary phenomenon of consciousness; it must be a soul fulfilling itself and this fulfilment can only take place if there is a return of the soul to earth in many successive lives, in many successive bodies.”

Sri Aurobindo, Integral Yoga: Sri Aurobindo’s Teaching and Method of Practice, Planes of Consciousness and Parts of the Being, pp. 43-46

The Fundamental Nature of Existence Is Consciousness

As we reflect on our own existence, and our relationship to the world around us, we begin by referencing everything to our own desires, needs, wants and feelings. We look at the world as external to us, inanimate matter somehow sustaining plant and animal life. The sun appears to revolve around the earth giving us periods of light and periods of darkness, periods of warmth and periods of cold. The elements go through changes and we experience rain, snow and ice, dryness, heat, and cold, depending on our location and the season. We treat our own awareness of this as a fact, without much reflection about where this awareness comes from, and we assume that the world and the animate beings that populate it are there for our use and pleasure.

As we mature in our view, and acquire facts about our existence that contradict, or add nuance to this initial view, we begin to question how this all came about, what is its nature and what is its purpose. This leads to various ways of seeing and experiencing the world, including those directions we call religion, science, philosophy, mysticism and spirituality. Our first attempts in this direction have us exploring the idea that Matter is the foundation and the basis of our existence. Eventually, we are able to discover that Matter is actually a form of Energy. From that point, further exploration makes it clear that Energy is in reality a form of Consciousness. Western scientists have started reaching the point where they recognize that Consciousness is the fundamental nature of all reality, and that it forms, constitutes and contains Matter, Life and Mind.

Sri Aurobindo observes: “Consciousness is a fundamental thing, the fundamental thing in existence — it is the energy, the motion, the movement of consciousness that creates the universe and all that is in it — not only the macrocosm but the microcosm is nothing but consciousness arranging itself. For instance, when consciousness in its movement or rather a certain stress of movement forgets itself in the action it becomes an apparently ‘unconscious’ energy; when it forgets itself in the form it becomes the electron, the atom, the material object. In reality it is still consciousness that works in the energy and determines the form and the evolution of form. When it wants to liberate itself, slowly, evolutionarily, out of Matter, but still in the form, it emerges as life, as animal, as man and it can go on evolving itself still farther out of its involution and become something more than mere man.”

“Consciousness is a reality inherent in existence. It is there even when it is not active on the surface, but silent and immobile; it is there even when it is invisible on the surface, not reacting on outward things or sensible to them, but withdrawn and either active or inactive within; it is there even when it seems to us to be quite absent and the being to our view unconscious and inanimate.”

“Consciousness is not only power of awareness of self and things, it is or has also a dynamic and creative energy. It can determine its own reactions or abstain from reactions; it can not only answer to forces, but create or put out from itself forces. Consciousness is Chit but also Chit Shakti.”

“Consciousness is usually identified with mind, but mental consciousness is only the human range which no more exhausts all the possible ranges of consciousness than human sight exhausts all the gradations of colour or human hearing all the gradations of sound — for there is much above or below that is to man invisible and inaudible. So there are ranges of consciousness above and below the human range, with which the normal human has no contact and they seem to it unconscious, — supramental or overmental and submental ranges.”

Sri Aurobindo, Integral Yoga: Sri Aurobindo’s Teaching and Method of Practice, Planes of Consciousness and Parts of the Being, pp. 43-46

Three Differences Between Integral Yoga and Traditional Spiritual Paths

People frequently wonder how the integral yoga may differ from the traditional paths of yogic practice. The aim of the integral yoga is to transform consciousness here on earth; it is not fixated solely on individual liberation, although individual realisation is a necessary step on the path, but rather, it looks towards the entire collective consciousness of life on earth as the field of change. This involves fixing the next phase of the evolution of consciousness into the earth-plane, a phase Sri Aurobindo terms “supramental”, as it is beyond the mental level. In order to undertake this Sri Aurobindo has integrated the essential steps and powers of the traditional yogas and applied them with flexibility to unravel the many knots in the consciousness that limit and hold us back, and to spur the connection to the higher consciousness and its integration into life here. Where issues arise that were not addresed in those prior yogic activities, new methods have been developed. Because this yoga addresses all the parts and planes of the being, it cannot rely on any one fixed path based on just one principle, but must eventually take up every aspect of being and apply the appropriate focus, energy and actions needed to resolve whatever needs to be adjusted, adapted or dispensed with from each level.

Sri Aurobindo writes: “It is new as compared with the old yogas: 1. Because it aims not at a departure out of world and life into Heaven or Nirvana, but at a change of life and existence, not as something subordinate or incidental, but as a distinct and central object. If there is a descent in other yogas, yet it is only an incident on the way or resulting from the ascent — the ascent is the real thing. Here the ascent is the first step, but it is a means for the descent. It is the descent of the new consciousness attained by the ascent that is the stamp and seal of the sadhana. Even the Tantra and Vaishnavism end in the release from life; here the object is the divine fulfilment of life.”

“2. Because the object sought after is not an individual achievement of divine realisation for the sake of the individual, but something to be gained for the earth-consciousness here, a cosmic, not solely a supra-cosmic achievement. The thing to be gained also is the bringing in of a Power of Consciousness (the supramental) not yet organised or active directly in earth-nature, even in the spiritual life, but yet to be organised and made directly active.”

“3. Because a method has been preconized for achieving this purpose which is as total and integral as the aim set before it, viz., the total and integral change of the consciousness and nature, taking up old methods but only as a part action and present aid to others that are distinctive. I have not found this method (as a whole) or anything like it professed or realised in the old yogas. If I had, I should have wasted my time in hewing out a road and in thirty years of search and inner creation when I could have hastened home safely to my goal in an easy canter over paths already blazed out, laid down, perfectly mapped, macadamised, made secure and public. Our yoga is not a retreading of old walks, but a spiritual adventure.”

Sri Aurobindo, Integral Yoga: Sri Aurobindo’s Teaching and Method of Practice, The Integral Yoga and Other Systems of Yoga and Philosophy, pp. 35-42

The Aim of the Integral Yoga

The aim of spiritual seeking and yoga, historically, has been the liberation of the individual seeker and achievement of enlightenment. In many cases, this has involved making a choice between living “in the world” or abandoning the worldly life. Some traditions, such as the Buddhist Mahayana tradition, developed the concept of the Bodhisattva, who at the very threshold of enlightment and liberation turns back to help all other beings achieve this liberation before passing beyond.

Sri Aurobindo shifts the focus from individual liberation to achieve a transformation of life on earth through the evolution of consciousness to the next phase, the supramental consciousness. Individual realisation is a precursor, so there are many shared steps along the path, but the aim and goal differs in that where traditional spiritual paths focus on the dissolution of the outer life or the achievement of an other-worldly result, such as attaining heaven after death, the integral yoga looks to use the foundation of realisation as a basis for the descent of that next plane of consciousness into the earthly life, thus creating a divine life on earth.

Sri Aurobindo notes: “I meant by it the descent of the supramental consciousness upon earth; all truths below the supramental (even that of the highest spiritual on the mental plane, which is the highest that has yet manifested) are either partial or relative or otherwise deficient and unable to transform the earthly life; they can only at most modify and influence it. The supermind is the vast Truth-Consciousness of which the ancient seers spoke; there have been glimpses of it till now, sometimes an indirect influence or pressure, but it has not been brought down into the consciousness of the earth and fixed there. To so bring it down is the aim of our yoga.”

“But it is better not to enter into sterile intellectual discussions. The intellectual mind cannot even realise what the supermind is; what use, then, can there be in allowing it to discuss what it does not know? It is not by reasoning but by constant experience, growth of consciousness and widening into the Light that one can reach those higher levels of consciousness above the intellect from which one can begin to look up to the Divine Gnosis. Those levels are not yet the supermind, but they can receive something of its knowledge.”

“The Vedic Rishis never attained to the supermind for the earth or perhaps did not even make the attempt. They tried to rise individually to the supramental plane, but they did not bring it down and make it a permanent part of the earth-consciousness. Even there are verses of the Upanishad in which it is hinted that it is impossible to pass through the gates of the Sun (the symbol of the supermind) and yet retain an earthly body. It was because of this failure that the spiritual effort of India culminated in Mayavada. Our yoga is a double movement of ascent and descent; one rises to higher and higher levels of consciousness, but at the same time one brings down their power not only into mind and life, but in the end even into the body. And the highest of these levels, the one at which it aims is the supermind. Only when that can be brought down is a divine transformation possible in the earth-consciousness.”

Sri Aurobindo, Integral Yoga: Sri Aurobindo’s Teaching and Method of Practice, The Integral Yoga and Other Systems of Yoga and Philosophy, pp. 35-42

The Three Transformations of Consciousness in the Integral Yoga

In The Life Divine, Sri Aurobindo provides a detailed explanation of what he describes as the “triple transformation”. The first two, the psychic and spiritual transformations, are well-known steps in the spiritual journey and thus, for a good portion of the way, the traditional paths of yoga may provide a solid foundation. The third transformation involves the descent of the supramental consciousness into the earth-consciousness and the subsequent changes that this effects in the mind, life and physical form of the earth-nature. The traditional paths of yoga had not concerned themselves overmuch with the transformation of life on earth, either seeking a dissolution and merging of the consciousness in the Absolute, or attaining some world or plane of heaven beyond.

Sri Aurobindo observes: “There are a thousand ways of approaching and realising the Divine and each way has its own experiences which have their own truth and stand really on a basis one in essence but complex in aspects, common to all but not expressed in the same way by all. There is not much use in discussing these variations; the important thing is to follow one’s own way well and thoroughly. In this yoga, one can realise the psychic being as a portion of the Divine seated in the heart with the Divine supporting it there — this psychic being takes charge of the sadhana and turns the whole being to the Truth, the Divine, with results in the mind, the vital and the physical consciousness which I need not go into here — that is the first transformation. We realise next the one Self, Brahman, Divine, first above the body, life, mind and not only within the heart supporting them — above and free and unattached as the static Self in all and dynamic too as the active Divine Being and Power, Ishwara-Shakti, containing the world and pervading it as well as transcending it, manifesting all cosmic aspects. But what is most important for us is that it manifests as a transcending Light, Knowledge, Power, Purity, Peace, Ananda of which we become aware and which descends into the being and progressively replaces the ordinary consciousness itself by its own movements — that is the second transformation. We realise also the consciousness itself as moving upward, ascending through many planes, physical, vital, mental, overmental to the supramental and Ananda planes. This is nothing new; it is stated in the Taittiriya Upanishad that there are five Purushas, the physical, the vital, the mental, the Truth Purusha (supramental) and the Bliss Purusha; it says that one has to draw the physical self into the vital self, the vital into the mental, the mental into the Truth self, the Truth self into the Bliss self and so attain perfection. But in this yoga we become aware not only of this taking up but of a pouring down of the power of the higher Self, so that there comes in the possibility of a descent of the supramental Self and Nature to dominate and change our present nature and turn it from nature of Ignorance into nature of Truth-Knowledge (and through the supramental into nature of Ananda) — this is the third or supramental transformation. it does not always go in this order, for with many the spiritual descent begins first in an imperfect way before the psychic is in front and in charge, but the psychic development has to be attained before a perfect and unhampered spiritual descent can take place, and the last or supramental change is impossible so long as the two first have not become full and complete. That’s the whole matter put as briefly as possible.”

Sri Aurobindo, Integral Yoga: Sri Aurobindo’s Teaching and Method of Practice, The Integral Yoga and Other Systems of Yoga and Philosophy, pp. 35-42