Comparison of Mental Thinking to Supramental Thought

The sages who have experienced the opening of the spiritual consciousness or the shift to one of the higher gradations of consciousness have frequently indicated that there is a vast difference between mental thinking and spiritual thought, vision, experience.  Some of have described this as the difference between “day” and “night” and some have described a “reversal of consciousness” whereby the spiritual experience is diametrically opposite to that of the normal mental view of things.  The mental consciousness is based in the experience of the ego, and thus rooted in a separative, fragmented and divided consciousness that sees itself as separate and other than the rest of creation.  The spiritual consciousness is based in the experience of the Oneness of all existence, and thus, starts from a totally different standpoint and basis from that of the mental thought process.

Sri Aurobindo has taken up this question at some length:  “The range of knowledge covered by the supramental thought, experience and vision will be commensurate with all that is open to the human consciousness, not only on the earthly but on all planes.  it will however act increasingly in an inverse sense to that of the mental thinking and experience.”

“The centre of mental thinking is the ego, the person of the individual thinker.  The supramental man, on the contrary, will think more with the universal mind or even may rise above it, and his individuality will rather be a vessel of radiation and communication, to which the universal thought and knowledge of the Spirit will converge, than a centre.  The mental man thinks and acts in a radius determined by the smallness or largeness of his mentality and of its experience.  The range of the supramental man will be all the earth and all that lies behind it on other planes of existence.  And finally the mental man thinks and sees on the level of the present life, though it may be with an upward aspiration, and his view is obstructed on every side.  His main basis of knowledge and action is the present with a glimpse into the past and ill-grasped influence from its pressure and a blind look towards the future.  He bases himself on the actualities of the earthly existence first on the facts of the outward world,– to which he is ordinarily in the habit of relating nine-tenths if not the whole of his inner thinking and experience,– then on the changing actualities of the more superficial part of his inner being…. The essence of things he tends to see, if at all, only as a result of his actualities, in a relation to and dependence on them, and therefore he seems them constantly in a false light or in a limited measure.  In all these respects the supramental man must proceed from the opposite principle of truth vision.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Part Four: The Yoga of Self-Perfection, Chapter 22, The Supramental Thought and Knowledge, pp. 807-808

Supramental Speech

Sages and mystics have long understood and commented on the power of the “word”.  The New Testament of the Christian Bible begins with the ultimate statement of this creative power:  “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”  Yogis describe the power of the Mantra, the word that is evocative, transformative and has the power to affect mind, life and matter through its action.  One of the aspects of the supramental transformation is the advent of what Sri Aurobindo calls the “supramental word” which utilizes the forms of language in the thought and in the expression, but embodies through that form, the higher truth of the supramental realisation.

For most people, speech originates at the mental level and it is derivative and representational rather than a creative power.  For the spiritual seeker, however, speech is the sound-body that carries the power of creation of forms, and thus, the mantra, for example is the sound that vibrates in the ether and manifests all the forms of the universe.

Sri Aurobindo observes: “There is also a speech, a supramental word, in which the higher knowledge, vision or thought can clothe itself within us for expression…. The supramental word manifests inwardly with a light, a power, a rhythm of thought and a rhythm of inner sound that make it the natural and living body of the supramental thought and vision and it pours into the language, even though the same as that of mental speech, another than the limited intellectual, emotional or sensational significance.  It is formed and heard in the intuitive mind or supermind and need not at first except in certain highly gifted souls come out easily into speech and writing, but that too can be freely done when the physical consciousness and its organs have been made ready, and this is a part of the needed fullness and power of the integral perfection.”

The supramental word may take various forms depending on the stage of its integration into the consciousness:  “At first this may come down as a word, a message or an inspiration that descends to us from above or it may even seem a voice of the Self or of the Ishwara….  Afterwards it loses that separate character and becomes the normal form of the thought when it expresses itself in the form of an inward speech.  The thought may express itself without the aid of any suggestive or developing word and only… in a luminous substance of supramental perception.  it may aid itself when it is not so explicit by a suggestive inward speech that attends it to bring out its whole significance.  Or the thought may come not as silent perception but as speech self-born out of the truth and complete in its own right and carrying in itself its own vision and knowledge.  Then it is the word revelatory, inspired or intuitive or of a yet greater kind capable of bearing the infinite intention or suggestion of the higher supermind and spirit.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Part Four: The Yoga of Self-Perfection, Chapter 22, The Supramental Thought and Knowledge, pp. 806-807

Three Gradations of Supramental Thought and Three Levels of Consciousness

Sri Aurobindo describes three elements or gradations of thought that develop at the mental level, at the level of the intuitive mind and at the supramental level.  While the basic characteristic may be represented, the actual working is modified to the specific level of consciousness within which it manifests.   Sri Aurobindo emphasizes the importance of this recognition so that the seeker does not confuse the higher development at one level as a realisation of a different order taking place at the next stage of conscious evolutionary development.

“The supramental thought, as has already been indicated, has three elevations of its intensity, one of direct thought vision, another of interpretative vision pointing to and preparing the greater revelatory idea-sight, a third of representative vision recalling as it were to the spirit’s knowledge the truth that is called out more directly by the higher powers.”

“In the mind these things take the form of the three ordinary powers of the intuitive mentality,–the suggestive and discriminating intuition, the inspiration and the thought that is of the nature of revelation.  Above they correspond to three elevations of the supramental being and consciousness and, as we ascend, the lower first calls down into itself and is then taken up into the higher, so that on each level all the three elevations are reproduced, but always there predominates in the thought essence the character that belongs to that level’s proper form of consciousness and spiritual substance.”

“It is necessary to bear this in mind; for otherwise the mentality, looking up to the ranges of the supermind as they reveal themselves, may think it has got the vision of the highest heights when it is only the highest range of the lower ascent that is being presented to its experience.  At each height … the powers of the supermind increase in intensity, range and completeness.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Part Four: The Yoga of Self-Perfection, Chapter 22, The Supramental Thought and Knowledge, pp. 805-806

Comparing Intellectual Thought and Supramental Thought

The mental thought process tends to move away from the specific data of the senses towards abstractions that have, over time, less and less contact with the reality from which the process started.  Sri Aurobindo describes the supramental thought as a process that becomes more and more immediate and real the further it progresses.  This represents a major difference between mental and supramental consciousness in action.

The mind “…has to resort to a sue of the mind’s power of image if it wishes to make itself more concretely felt and seen by the soul sense and soul vision.  The supramental thought, on the contrary, presents always the idea as a luminous substance of being, luminous stuff of consciousness taking significative thought form and it therefore creates no such sense of a gulf between the idea and the real as we are liable to feel in the mind, but is itself a reality, it is real-idea and the body of a reality.  It has as a result, associated with it when it acts according to its own nature, a phenomenon of spiritual light other than the intellectual clarity, a great realising force and a luminous ecstasy.  It is an intensely sensible vibration of being, consciousness and Ananda.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Part Four: The Yoga of Self-Perfection, Chapter 22, The Supramental Thought and Knowledge, pg. 805

The Nature and Role of the Supramental Thought

The mental consciousness develops thought as a form of representational knowledge.  It formulates concepts into word-forms to act as a marker and organizer for what the consciousness experiences from the impressions of the senses and as a result of the application of the higher intellectual reason on the data presented.  The mental thought acts as a limitation to the higher knowledge as it is based on fragmentation and separation and does not integrate the entire unity of existence into its framework of knowledge.  it thus becomes necessary to silence the thought-mind in order to move the standpoint to a higher level.  This does not mean, however, that there is no role or process of thought that has any validity at the higher ranges of consciousness.

Sri Aurobindo describes the nature and role of thought at the supramental level:  “The supramental thought is a form of the knowledge by identity and a development, in the idea, of the truth presented to the supramental vision.  The identity and the vision give the truth in its essence, its body and its parts in a single view: the thought translates this direct consciousness and immediate power of the truth into idea-knowledge and will.  It adds or need add otherwise nothing new, but reproduces, articulates, moves round the body of the knowledge.  Where, however, the identity and the vision are still incomplete, the supramental thought has a larger office and reveals, interprets or recalls as it were to the soul’s memory what they are not yet ready to give.  And where these greater states and powers are still veiled, the thought comes in front and prepares and to a certain extent effects a partial rending or helps actively in the removal of the veil. Therefore in the development out of the mental ignorance into the supramental knowledge this illumined thought comes to us often, though not always first, to open the way to the vision or else to give first supports to the growing consciousness of identity and its greater knowledge.  This thought is also an effective means of communication and expression and helps to an impression or fixation of the truth whether on one’s own lower mind and being or on that of others.  The supramental thought differs from the intellectual not only because it is the direct truth idea and not a representation of truth to the ignorance,–it is the truth consciousness of the spirit always presenting to itself its own right forms, the satyam and rtam of the Veda,– but because of its strong reality, body of light and substance.”


Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Part Four: The Yoga of Self-Perfection, Chapter 22, The Supramental Thought and Knowledge, pp. 804-805

The Effect of Supramental Powers on the Mental Consciousness

The seeker does not make a sudden leap, generally, from the mental consciousness to the supramental.  There are long periods of transition, during which the supramental exerts influence on the mental consciousness, until there is sufficient capacity to shift the standpoint more generally to a higher platform, intermediate to the process.  Sri Aurobindo describes the influence of the supramental powers on the mental consciousness as follows:

“A mental intuitive vision or a spiritualised mental sight, a psychic vision, an emotional vision of the heart, a vision in the sense mind are parts of the Yogic experience.  If these seeings are purely mental, then they may but need not be true, for the mind is capable of both truth and error, both of a true and of a false representation.  But as the mind becomes intuitivised and supramentalised, these powers are purified and corrected by the more luminous action of the supermind and become themselves forms of a supramental and a true seeing.  The supramental vision, it may be noted, brings with it a supplementary and completing experience that might be called a spiritual hearing and touch of the truth,– of its essence and through that of its significance,– that is to say, there is a seizing of its movement, vibration, rhythm and a seizing of its close presence and contact and substance.  All these powers prepare us to become one with that which has thus grown near to us through knowledge.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Part Four: The Yoga of Self-Perfection, Chapter 22, The Supramental Thought and Knowledge, pg. 804

The Action of the Spiritual Sight

Physical eyesight provides data to the brain, at which point the mental consciousness applies its powers to fill in and complete the picture that is being observed.  It has been often noted by psychologists that human beings “see” things even when the physical data of the senses is incomplete or inadequate, through a process of “filling in” detail from memory or experience.  Of course, sometimes the “filled in” data is incorrect if it is filtered through particular types of bias, but the mechanism nevertheless involves an interaction between the physical eyesight and the mental awareness in order to “see” something in the physical world.

Sri Aurobindo contrasts this process with that of the spiritual sight, which relies neither on the physical senses nor the mental awareness in order to provide its vision to the seer.  The spiritual sight is based on the oneness inherent in the supramental consciousness, and thus, functions through the “knowledge by identity” which is the characteristic of this level of consciousness.   “The seer does not need the aid of thought in its process as a means of knowledge, but only as a means of representation and expression,–thought is to him a lesser power and used for a secondary purpose.”

“This experience and knowledge by spiritual vision is the second in directness and greatness of the supramental powers.  It is something much more near, profound and comprehensive than mental vision, because it derives direct from the knowledge by identity, and it has this virtue that we can proceed at once from the vision to the identity, as from the identity to the vision.  Thus when the spiritual vision has seen God, Self or Brahman, the soul can next enter into and become one with the Self, God or Brahman.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Part Four: The Yoga of Self-Perfection, Chapter 22, The Supramental Thought and Knowledge, pp. 803-804