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