The Will of the Supermind and the Will of the Mental and Vital Consciousness

In the fragmented human mental and vital consciousness, the acquisition of knowledge is separated from the implementation of the active will. Will suffers from similar defects of limitation, deformation and incompleteness. The vital will takes the form of desire, the attempt to obtain something “outside” and “other” in order to meet some perceived internal need of the being. The mental will suffers from incapacity and misdirection of its efforts as it also references its actions to the perceived needs of the individual.

The supramental will has a different character. For the supramental consciousness, knowledge and will are unified so that knowledge is effectuated in the manifestation and unfolding of the action of the universal creation. There is no limitation either for knowledge, or will nor any bifurcation between the two, as Sri Aurobindo describes:

“The supermind is again, because it acts and creates as well as knows, not only a direct truth-consciousness, but an illumined, direct and spontaneous truth-will. There is not and cannot be in the will of the self-knowing spirit any contradiction, division or difference between its will and its knowledge. The spiritual will is the Tapas or enlightened force of the conscious being of the spirit effecting infallibly what is there within it, and it is this infallible operation of things acting according to their own nature, of energy producing result and event according to the force within it, of action bearing the fruit and event involved in its own character and intention which we call variously in its different aspects law of Nature, Karma, Necessity and Fate.”

The Rig Veda takes up the question as well in Mandala X, Sukta 129: “The seers of Truth discovered the building of being in non-being by will in the heart and by the thought; their ray was extended horizontally; but what was there below, what was there above? There were Casters of the seed, there were Greatnesses; there was self-law below, there was Will above.” (cited by Sri Aurobindo in The Life Divine, page 240)

The horizontal extension represents the mental consciousness of man. Involved in Matter there is what we may call “self-law”, an automatic pattern built into the very basis of the material universe to carry out the divine intention in creation. Above the mind there is a level of consciousness that creates and “casts the seed” into the manifestation. The human level, sandwiched between these two is always circumscribed, limited by its roots in the material world, and blocked from the higher light while it remains fixated on the mental process.

“The will of the mind and life is a stumbling about in search of right force, right Tapas which can wholly be attained in its true and complete light and direction only by oneness with the spiritual and supramental being.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Part Four: The Yoga of Self-Perfection, Chapter 19, The Nature of the Supermind, pp. 761-762

The Supermind as an Instrument of Knowledge

The mental consciousness functions within a range that is bounded on the lower end by the darkness of the material consciousness and on the upper end by the apparent darkness of the higher levels of awareness. This is analogous to the range of perception of the senses within the much larger electro-magnetic vibratory spectrum. Science has established that there are, for instance, ranges of sound vibration or light vibration that occur below our range of hearing or sight, and similarly, there are vibrations that occur above our range. In some cases, other beings experience a different segment of the range and thus, may hear or see things that are unheard or unseen by the human being. In a very similar way, there are forms and levels of conscious awareness that fall below the mind’s perception, and there will be forms and levels above the mind’s perception.

Sri Aurobindo notes: “Man lives in a mental consciousness between a vast subconscient which is to his seeing a dark inconscience and a vaster superconscient which he is apt to take for another but a luminous inconscience, because his idea of consciousness is confined to his own middle term of mental sensation and intelligence. it is in that luminous superconscience that there lie the ranges of the supermind and the spirit.”

The Supermind acts from a different basis than the mental consciousness. It does not aggregate and infer; rather it sees and knows from an intimate oneness and unity. “The supermind sees directly the spirit and essence, the face and body, the result and action, the principles and dependences of the truth as one indivisible whole and therefore can work out the circumstantial results in the power of the essential knowledge, the variations of the spirit in the light of its identities, its apparent divisions in the truth of its oneness. The supermind is a knower and creator of its own truth, the mind of man only a knower and creator in the half light and half darkness of a mingled truth and error, and creator too of a thing which it derives altered, translated, lessened from something greater than and beyond it.”

The action of the supermind is inferred in the Isha Upanishad: “It is He that has gone abroad–That which is bright, bodiless, without scar of imperfection, without sinews, pure, unpierced by evil. The Seer, the Thinker, the One who becomes everywhere, the Self-existent has ordered objects perfectly according to their nature from years sempiternal.” (Sri Aurobindo, The Upanishads, Isha Upanishad, v. 8, pg. 21)

Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Part Four: The Yoga of Self-Perfection, Chapter 19, The Nature of the Supermind, pg. 761

The Mind’s Processes and Limitations

The human being relies heavily on the powers of the mind to both try to understand and master his existence in the world. The mental process, in accumulating information and sorting it, then tries to organize it and build logical inferences upon what it has collected and organized. There are some serious limitations at each step of the way, as Sri Aurobindo describes:

“It makes discovery after discovery, gets idea after idea, adds experience to experience and experiment to experiment,–but losing and rejecting and forgetting and having to recover much as it proceeds,–and it tries to establish a relation between all that it knows by setting up logical and other sequences, a series of principles and their dependences, generalisations and their application, and makes out of its devices a structure in which mentally it can live, move and act and enjoy and labour. This mental knowledge is always limited in extent: not only so, but in addition the mind even sets up other willed barriers, admitting by the mental device of opinion certain parts and sides of truth and excluding all the rest, because if it gave free admission and play to all ideas, if it suffered truth’s infinities, it would lose itself in an unreconciled variety, an undetermined immensity and would be unable to act and proceed to practical consequences and an effective creation. And even when it is widest and most complete, mental knowing is still an indirect knowledge, a knowledge not of the thing in itself but of its figures, a system of representations, a scheme of indices,–except indeed when in certain movements it goes beyond itself, beyond the mental idea to spiritual identity, but it finds it extremely difficult to go here beyond a few isolated and intense spiritual realisations or to draw or work out or organize the right practical consequences of these rare identities of knowledge.”

As long as the human being relies on the mind of acquiring and holding knowledge, there will be limits and the knowledge will be partial and subject to being both transitory and incomplete.

Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Part Four: The Yoga of Self-Perfection, Chapter 19, The Nature of the Supermind, pp. 760-761

The Practical Distinction Between Mind and Supermind

If we examine the mind’s process of knowing, we see that the individual first acquires perceptions through the operation of the sense organs. These perceptions are then received by the mind and, to the extent the mind has been organized through training or experience, they are filtered, classified and brought together to create patterns which then become the basis upon which the mind undertakes to build up its “knowledge” through inference, logic, analysis and synthesis. This entire process is necessarily partial and fragmented, based on ignorance, and subject to error at each step along the way. Even the greatest “knowing” of the mental consciousness is limited by the reliance on the senses and the fragmentation of the acquired knowledge into separated compartments with little, if any, ability to see the comprehensive and unified whole of which each of these elements is a part.

The supermind cures these defects, as Sri Aurobindo clarifies: “The third characteristic of the supermind arising from this difference, which brings us to the practical distinction between the two kinds of knowledge, is that it is directly truth-conscious, a divine power of immediate, inherent and spontaneous knowledge, an Idea holding luminously all realities and not depending on indications and logical or other steps from the known to the unknown like the mind which is a power of the Ignorance. The supermind contains all its knowledge in itself, is in its highest divine wisdom in eternal possession of all truth and even in its lower, limited or individualised forms has only to bring the latent truth out of itself….”

It is of course true that the mind itself is a derivative power that comes originally from the supermind, but it has been involved into the material framework and is subject to obscurity, darkness and ignorance when functioning on its own, and it is only when the individual can evolve beyond the mind that the supermind can be seen to act with its own native light and power. “All that is mental is but a partial, a modified, a suppressed or half suppressed figure of the supramental truth, a deformation or a derived and imperfect figure of its greater knowledge. The mind begins with ignorance and proceeds towards knowledge. As an actual fact, in the material universe, it appears out of an initial and universal inconscience which is really an involution of the all-conscient spirit in its own absorbed self-oblivious force of action; and it appears therefore as a part of an evolutionary process, first a vital feeling towards overt sensation, then an emergence of a vital mind capable of sensation and, evolving out of it, a mind of emotion and desire, a conscious will, a growing intelligence. And each stage is an emergence of a greater suppressed power of the secret supermind and spirit.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Part Four: The Yoga of Self-Perfection, Chapter 19, The Nature of the Supermind, pp. 759-760

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The Limitations of the Mental Consciousness Are Resolved by the Supramental Consciousness

The mental consciousness starts from perceived parts and, when it tries to build up a complete picture, it does so through aggregation of those parts. This is a weakness in the capacity of the mental awareness to grasp the transcendental and universal aspects of reality. It treats its own individual standpoint as something separate and divided from everything else, and thereby sets up an opposition and battle for the individual to survive and thrive as against the rest of the universe! Indeed, the mental consciousness also has no sense of the unity of the flow of Time and thus, tries to segment the unfolding manifestation according to the artificial divisions of time that have been devised for the practical operation of the social order based on the human mental capacities of organization.

Sri Aurobindo elaborates: “Mind cannot arrive at identity with the Absolute even when by a stretch of the intellect it conceives the idea, but can only disappear into it in a swoon or extinction; it can only have a kind of sense or an intimation of certain absolutes which it puts by the mental idea into a relative figure. It cannot grasp the universal, but only arrives at some idea of it through an extension of the individual or a combination of apparently separate things and so sees it either as a vague infinite or indeterminate or a half determined largeness or else only in an external scheme or constructed figure. The indivisible being and action of the universal, which is its real truth, escapes the apprehension of the mind, because the mind thinks it out analytically by taking its own divisions for units and synthetically by combinations of these units, but cannot seize on and think entirely in the terms, through it may get at the idea and certain secondary results, of the essential oneness. It cannot, either, know truly and thoroughly even the individual and apparently separate thing, because it proceeds in the same way, by an analysis of parts and constituents and properties and a combination by which it erects a scheme of it which is only its external figure.”

As a result, the mind is fixed on the outer forms and not the inner sense which means the essential unity of all existence always escapes the mental awareness.

“And all this which is impossible for the mind to do, but possible only to strive towards and figure, is inherent and natural to the supramental knowledge.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Part Four: The Yoga of Self-Perfection, Chapter 19, The Nature of the Supermind, pp. 758-759

The Comprehensive and Integral Knowledge of the Supramental Consciousness

We recognize the fragmented and divided form of knowledge of the mental consciousness, and can recognize that any knowledge acquired by the mind is extremely limited and partial. The character of the supermind implies that it starts from a knowledge by identity with the unified field of awareness, and that this encompasses the transcendent, universal and individual aspects of awareness. The transcendent level means that the supramental awareness is one with the Absolute and is aware beyond the range of the manifested universe. The universal level means that the entire manifestation is within the knowledge and understanding of the supramental consciousness. The individual means that when active in the individual forms or beings, there is a recognition of the oneness and unity and inseparable nature of each existence from each other, as part of one unified whole. The supermind acts as a bridge between the ultimate formless Absolute and the diversity of forms in the manifested world, by holding the unity together in the parts, and by maintaining awareness of that unity at each stage of manifestation.

Sri Aurobindo extrapolates on this comprehensive and integral knowledge of the supermind: “It has in the first place a transcendental vision and sees the universe not only in the universal terms, but in its right relation to the supreme and eternal reality from which it proceeds and of which it is an expression. It knows the spirit and truth and whole sense of the universal expression because it knows all the essentiality and all the infinite reality and all the consequent constant potentiality of that which in part it expresses. It knows rightly the relative because it knows the Absolute and all its absolutes to which the relatives refer back and of which they are the partial or modified or suppressed figures. it is in the second place universal and sees all that is individual in the terms of the universal as well as in its own individual terms and holds all these individual figures in their right and complete relation to the universe. It is in the third place, separately with regard to individual things, total in its view because it knows each in its inmost essence of which all else is the resultant, in its totality which is its complete figure and in its parts and their connections and dependences,–as well as in its connections with and its dependences upon other things and its nexus with the total implications and the explicits of the universe.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Part Four: The Yoga of Self-Perfection, Chapter 19, The Nature of the Supermind, pg. 758