About sriaurobindostudies

studying the integral yoga of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother since 1971, this blog is meant to systematically review the writings of Sri Aurobindo.

The Character of the Supermind and Its Process of Thinking

While humanity primarily bases itself in the mental level of thought, whether predominantly the habitual, the pragmatic or the ideative gradations that take their starting point in the physical, vital and mental levels of existence, and thus, are inherently fragmented, separated and divided, the supramental mode of knowledge begins at the standpoint of the unity and oneness of all existence and the infinity and universality of life.  This represents what has been called a “reversal of consciousness” or a shift in standpoint from the human to the divine.

Sri Aurobindo describes the character that results from this shift of awareness to a new standpoint:  “The supermind…lives not in the phenomenal but in the essential, in the self, and sees all as being of the self and its power and form and movement, and all the thought and the process of the thought in the supermind must also be of that character.  All its fundamental ideation is a rendering of the spiritual knowledge that acts by identity with all being and of the supramental vision.  It moves therefore primarily among the eternal, the essential and the universal truths of self and being and consciousness and infinite power and delight of being (not excluding all that seems to our present consciousness non-being), and all its particular thinking originates from and depends upon the power of these eternal verities; but in the second place it is at home too with infinite aspects and applications, sequences and harmonies of the truths of being of the
Eternal.  It lives therefore at its heights in all that which the action of the pure ideative mind is an effort to reach and discover, and even on its lower ranges these things are to its luminous receptivity present, near or easily grasped and available.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Part Four: The Yoga of Self-Perfection, Chapter 23, The Supramental Instruments — Thought-process , pg. 813

Issues and Limitations in the Harmonious Integration of the Three Gradations of Mentality

Each human individual has the three gradations of habitual, pragmatic and ideative mentality as a potential capacity, but these are developed to different degrees and have a rather imperfect harmony in their action within that individual.  We can easily recognize the essential characteristics of each one of these mental types.  It is also easy to acknowledge that they do not tend to be integrated and balanced within a single individual.  So the essentially habitual patterns of the physical mentality dealing with the facts of the world find it hard to adapt to changing situations or unfamiliar circumstances where the pragmatic vital intellect will make adjustments.  The purely intellectual and ideative mentality tends to be both somewhat impractical and divorced to a great degree from the physical realities of the world, and this has led to the image of the intellectual locked away in his ivory tower, unable to cope with the world and its facts in any specific and detailed manner.  Each of these capacities has its role to play, and its inevitable limitations.  It would be more ideal if an individual could overcome the predilections of his basic mental constitution to be able to integrate all three powers appropriately into a unified and consistent action, but this remains elusive because of the basic nature of the action of the mentality.

Sri Aurobindo observes:  “An accommodation of some kind is made, but the tyranny of the predominant tendency interferes with the wholeness and unity of the thinking being.  Mind fails to be assured master even of its own totality, because the secret of that totality lies beyond it in the free unity of the self, free and therefore capable of an infinite multiplicity and diversity, and in the supramental power that can alone bring out in a natural perfection the organic multiple movement of the self’s unity.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Part Four: The Yoga of Self-Perfection, Chapter 23, The Supramental Instruments — Thought-process , pp. 812-813

The Triple Action of the Normal Thought-Mind

Sri Aurobindo identifies three distinct levels or gradations of action of the normal thought-mind of the human individual.  These correspond roughly to the interaction between the mind and the physical, the pragmatic mind of development in the interaction between mind and life , and the mind acting on the purely mental level.

“First and lowest and most necessary to the mental being in the body is the habitual thought mind that founds its ideas upon the data given by the senses and by the surface experiences of the nervous and emotional being and on the customary notions formed by the education and the outward life and environment.  This habitual mind has two movements, one a kind of constant undercurrent of mechanically recurrent thought always repeating itself in the same round of physical, vital, emotional, practical and summarily intellectual notion and experience, the other more actively working upon all new experience that the mind is obliged to admit and reducing it to formulas of habitual thinking.  The mentality of the average man is limited by this habitual mind and moves very imperfectly outside its circle.”

A second grade of the thinking activity is the pragmatic idea mind that lifts itself above life and acts creatively as a mediator between the idea and the life-power, between truth of life and truth of the idea not yet manifested in life.  it draws material from life and builds out of it and upon it creative ideas that become dynamic for farther life development: on the other side it receives new thought and mental experience from the mental plane or more fundamentally from the idea power of the Infinite and immediately turns it into mental idea force and a power for actual being and living….The thought is only or mainly interesting to the soul on this mental level as a means for a large range of action and experience.”

A third gradation of thinking opens in us the pure ideative mind which lives disinterestedly in truth of the idea apart from any necessary dependence on its value for action and experience.  it views the data of the senses and the superficial inner experiences, but only to find the idea, the truth to which they bear witness and to reduce them into terms of knowledge.  It observes the creative power of mind in life in the same way and for the same purpose.  Its preoccupation is with knowledge, its whole object is to have the delight of ideation, the search for truth, the effort to know itself and the world and all that may life behind its own action and the world action.  This ideative mind is the highest reach of the intellect acting for itself, characteristically, in its own power and for its own purpose.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Part Four: The Yoga of Self-Perfection, Chapter 23, The Supramental Instruments — Thought-process , pp. 811-812

The Supermind and the Higher Functions of the Mind

At the highest reaches of the capacities of the human mind we find the power of the higher reason and the intellectual formulation of ideas.  These functions represent the most abstract aspects of the mentality, and operate more freely than those parts of the mentality which are bound to the physical world and the objects of the senses.  The first major influence of the supramental consciousness can most easily interface with these higher reaches of the mind, as they are not bound so tightly to the external and physical.

Sri Aurobindo observes:  “The mental activity that can be most readily organised is…that of pure ideative knowledge.  This is transformed on the higher level to the true jnana, supramental thought, supramental vision, the supramental knowledge by identity.”

This action transforms the mental consciousness:  “It differs from the action of the mind first in this respect that it works naturally with those operations that are to the mind the highest and the most difficult, acting in them or on them from above downward and not with the hampered straining upward of the mind or with its restriction to its own and the inferior levels.  The higher operations are not dependent on the lower assistance, but rather the lower operations depend on the higher not only for their guidance but for their existence.  The lower mental operations are therefore not only changed in character by the transformation, but are made entirely subordinate.  And the higher mental operations too change their character, because, supramentalised, they begin to derive their light directly from the highest, the self-knowledge or infinite knowledge.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Part Four: The Yoga of Self-Perfection, Chapter 23, The Supramental Instruments — Thought-process , pp. 810-811

The Transformation and Liberation of the Powers of Human Consciousness Through the Advent of the Supermind

Consciousness is an unbroken continuum from the lowest depths of material consciousness to the heights of the supermind.  This implies that the supermind can relate to and have its impact on each level of awareness in existence.  Human awareness is circumscribed by the fragmented nature of its action, and this limits both the upper ranges of consciousness and the larger action that is currently occult or subliminal and which therefore is treated as something abnormal when it breaks out and manifests in some form.  The supramental consciousness, by nature of its greater range and power, is able to both transform the mental awareness and liberate and integrate those powers now considered psychic or occult.

Sri Aurobindo explains:  “…when we rise from mind to supermind, the new power of consciousness does not reject, but uplifts, enlarges and transfigures the operations of our soul and mind and life.  it exalts and gives to them an ever greater reality of their power and performance.  it does not limit itself either to the transformation of the superficial powers and action of the mind and psychic parts and the life, but it manifests and transforms also those rarer powers and that larger force and knowledge proper to our subliminal self that appear now to us as things occult, curiously psychic, abnormal.  These things become in the supramental nature not at all abnormal but perfectly natural and normal, not separately psychic but spiritual, not occult and strange, but a direct, simple, inherent and spontaneous action.  The spirit is not limited like the waking material consciousness, and the supermind when it takes possession of the waking consciousness, dematerialises it, delivers it from its limits, converts the material and the psychic into the nature of the spiritual being.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Part Four: The Yoga of Self-Perfection, Chapter 23, The Supramental Instruments — Thought-process , pg. 810

Steps in the Conversion from Mind to Supermind

The transition from mental consciousness to supramental necessarily involves various stages and takes place over time.  The action is not a straight line of progress, but involves the inevitable obstacles to be overcome, relapses and inconsistent forward movement.  Sri Aurobindo outlines the major steps involved in the process:

“At first, at the beginning of the conversion into this greater status, the thought will continue to move for a shorter or a longer time to a greater or a less extent on the lines of the mind but with a greater light and increasing flights and spaces and movements of freedom and transcendence.  Afterwards the freedom and transcendence will begin to predominate; the inversion of the thought view and the conversion of the thought method will take place in different movements of the thought mind one after the other, subject to whatever difficulties and relapses, until it has gained on the whole and effected a complete transformation.”

The sequence of the development tends to focus first on the more highly receptive and evolved parts of the human consciousness:  “Ordinarily the supramental knowledge will be organised first and with the most ease in the processes of pure thought and knowledge, jnana, because here the human mind has already the upward tendency and is the most free.  Next and with less ease it will be organised in the processes of applied thought and knowledge because there the mind of man is at once most active and most bound and wedded to its inferior methods.  The last and most difficult conquest, because this is now to his mind a field of conjecture or a blank, will be the knowledge of the three times, trikaladrsti.   In all these there will be the same character of a spirit seeing and willing directly above and around and not only in the body it possesses and there will be the same action of the supramental knowledge by identity, the supramental vision, the supramental thought and supramental word, separately or in a united movement.”

 

Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Part Four: The Yoga of Self-Perfection, Chapter 22, The Supramental Thought and Knowledge, pg. 809

The Supramental Standpoint of Consciousness

The normal mental consciousness is circumscribed by the experience of time, space and circumstance.  The mind is locked into its present reality as perceived through the impressions of the senses, with very little leeway outside of this limited viewpoint.  The supramental consciousness, however, is not bound by what can be actually seen or experienced in the outer world of circumstance, and it is able to see things with the vision of the three times, past, present and future, all live and real to the vision.

Sri Aurobindo provides a more complete overview of the supramental standpoint: “The supramental being sees things from above in large spaces and at the highest from the spaces of the infinite.  His view is not limited to the standpoint of the present but can see in the continuities of time or from above time in the indivisibilities of the Spirit.  He sees truth in its proper order first in the essence, secondly in the potentialities that derive from it and only last in the actualities.  The essential truths are to his sight self-existent, self-seen, not dependent for their proof on this or that actuality; the potential truths are truths of the power of being in itself and in things, truths of the infinity of force and real apart from their past or present realisation in this or that actuality or the habitual surface forms that we take for the whole of Nature; the actualities are only a selection from the potential truths he sees, dependent on them, limited and mutable.  The tyranny of the present, of the actual, of the immediate range of facts, of the immediate urge and demand of action has no power over his thought and his will and he is therefore able to have a larger will-power founded on a larger knowledge.”

“His being is not shut into the succession of the moments, but has the full power of the past and ranges seeingly through the future:  not shut in the limiting ego and personal mind, but lives in the freedom of the universal, in God and in all beings and all things; not in the dull density of the physical mind, but in the light of the self and the infinity of the spirit.  He sees soul and mind only as a power and a movement and matter only as a resultant form of the spirit.  All his thought will be of a kind that proceeds from knowledge.  He perceives and enacts the things of the phenomenal life in the light of the reality of the spiritual being and the power of the dynamic spiritual essence.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Part Four: The Yoga of Self-Perfection, Chapter 22, The Supramental Thought and Knowledge, pp. 808-809