The Illuminated or Intuitive Mind As a Bridge to the Gnostic Consciousness

Sri Aurobindo makes the case that the two choices for the Reasoning Intelligence, the Buddhi, that are normally available, either an imperfect action limited by the inherent limitations of the mentality, or an abandonment of the active will and nature in order to shift the focus of the consciousness toward a one-pointed spiritual realisation, are neither the only options available for the seeker, nor the ideal option for those practicing the integral Yoga. He proposes a systematic effort that results eventually in the shifting of the standpoint of the consciousness from the mental basis to the gnostic, or supramental basis. This is not something to be achieved suddenly as the gap between the two is wide; rather, there must be a transitional phase whereby the mentality is prepared for the higher light and force of the gnostic consciousness to take charge and illumine the mind.

The gnostic consciousness is a “truth-consciousness”: “That possesses the divine unity and yet or rather therefore can govern the multiplicity and diversity: whatever selection, self-limitation, combination it makes is not imposed on it by Ignorance, but is self-developed by a power of self-possessing divine Knowledge. When the gnosis is gained, it can then be turned on the whole nature to divinise the human being. It is impossible to rise into it at once; if that could be done, it would mean a sudden and violent overshooting, a breaking or slipping through the gates of the Sun…, without near possiblity of return. We have to form as a link or bridge an intuitive or illuminated mind, which is not the direct gnosis, but in which a first derivative body of the gnosis can form. This illumined mind will first be a mixed power which we shall have to purify of all its mental dependence and mental forms so as to convert all willing and thinking into thought-sight and truth-seeing will by an illumined discrimination, intuition, inspiration, revelation. That will be the final purification of the intelligence and the preparation for the Siddhi of the gnosis.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Part Four: The Yoga of Self-Perfection, Chapter 7, Purification–Intelligence and Will, pp. 645-646

Two Major Inherent Limitations of the Reasoning Intelligence

While the pure action of the Buddhi is clearly much more powerful and capable of receiving and responding to a greater Truth, it is still bound by the limitations of the mentality. It is a mental power and inherently incapable of grasping and holding the completeness and complexity of existence within its compass. Realisations gained on the mental level do not necessarily translate into the entire being and life, and in fact, they are always hampered by the fragmentation inherent in the mental being.

Sri Aurobindo notes: “…to get to the Truth itself we have to go beyond the mental Buddhi. Again, the nature of the mind prevents it from making an effective unification of the truths it seizes. it can only put them side by side and see oppositions or effect some kind of partial, executive and practical combination. But it finds finally that the aspects of the Truth are infinite and that none of its intellectual forms are quite valid, because the spirit is infinite and in the spirit all is true, but nothing in the mind can give the whole truth of the spirit.”

These limitations tend to make the Buddhi quite incapable of effective implementation of the truths it perceives because it cannot integrate them into a unified whole and cannot express them in a complete and unified manner when it comes time to act upon them. Everything is therefore somewhat fragmented and partial when it is expressed through the mentality. “It acts in a helpless limitation of Ignorance, though it may hold a Truth far greater than its action.”

Faced with these limitations, the being may simply turn away from the difficulties and complexities of carrying out the higher truth in life and focus its efforts on overpassing the mental limitations through a one-pointed focus on what is Beyond. “This it may do by seizing on some aspect, some principle, some symbol or suggestion of reality and pushing that to its absolute, all-absorbing, all-excluding term of realisation or by seizing on and realising some idea of indeterminate Being or Non-Being from which all thought and life fall away into cessation. The Buddhi casts itself into a luminous sleep and the soul passes away into some ineffable height of spiritual being.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Part Four: The Yoga of Self-Perfection, Chapter 7, Purification–Intelligence and Will, pg. 645

The Third Stage of Development of the Reasoning Intelligence: Its Action and Its Limitations

The highest and purest form of action of the Buddhi, the reasoning intelligence, comes when it separates itself from the lower actions of the sense-mind, the interface with the sense-mind or even the pragmatic reasoning intelligence that can be seen in earlier stages of its development. The reasoning mind is capable of abstract conceptualisation. It can focus on principles of knowledge and understanding that are not tied to personal gain, desire, or specific results or benefits to be obtained in the world of life and action. In its focus on the abstract knowledge, it is possible for it to lose its grounding in the world of life and action, and this can be chalked up as one of the limitations of the mentality at its highest level: it is only at a still higher level, beyond the farthest reaches of the mind, that this higher form of integration of knowledge and will can actually take place.

Sri Aurobindo observes: “The third and noblest stage of the intellectual will and reason is an intelligence which seeks for some universal reality or from a still higher self-existent Truth for its own sake and tries to live in that Truth. This is primarily a mind of knowledge and only secondarily a mind of Will.”

When it tries to act, it is forced to rely on the pragmatic intelligence, and this brings about a mixed and diluted action, and thus, a flawed implementation of the Truth as seen by this higher stage of Reason. “The disparity, even when it is not an opposition, between knowledge and will is one of the principal defects of the human Buddhi.”

As long as the individual remains embodied, of course, there cannot be any absolute purity or separate function of the Buddhi. There are always limitations, admixtures and imperfect data that distort the functioning of the reason. “Purified as much as may be from that habit of mental degradation, the human Buddhi is still a power that searches for the Truth, but is never in full or direct possession of it; it can only reflect truth of the spirit and try to make it its own by giving it a limited mental value and a distinct mental body.”

It also is limited by the partiality caused by the fragmented view and understanding of the human mentality and this limitation of viewpoint also tends to create fixed opinion rather than a wider, all-encompassing vision of the truth of things in their totality. This leads to preconception and bias in terms of how the truth of life is to be understood. “Release it as much as possible from this habit of limiting opinion, still it is subject to another affliction, the demand of the pragmatic mind for immediate effectuation, which gives it no time to proceed to large truth, but fixes it by the power of effective realisation in whatever it has already judged, known and lived. Freed from all these chains, the Buddhi can become a pure and flexible reflector of Truth, adding light to light, proceeding from realisation to realisation. It is then limited only by its own inherent limitations.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Part Four: The Yoga of Self-Perfection, Chapter 7, Purification–Intelligence and Will, pp. 644-645

The First Stage of the Functioning of the Reasoning Intelligence and Will

Sri Aurobindo identifies three distinct stages of the functioning of the Buddhi. The first stage is the one that interfaces closely with the sense-mind, organizes the information so obtained and creates opinions and lines of understanding by which to respond to the impressions so received. This stage is therefore intimately connected to the operation of the sense-mind, relies on the impressions that the sense-mind collects and presents, and is subject to the errors inherent in the incomplete or inaccurate reception of data from the senses, which lead to misinterpretation and misapplication by the reasoning intelligence.

Sri Aurobindo notes: “It is not capable of itself forming pure thought and will, but it takes the workings of the higher reason and turns them into coin of opinion and customary standard of thought or canon of action. When we perform a sort of practical analysis of the thinking mind, cut away this element and hold back the higher reason free, observing and silent, we find that this current understanding begins to run about in a futile circle, repeating all its formed opinions and responses to the impressions of things, but incapable of any strong adaptation and initiation.”

In order to shift the functioning of the Buddhi to its further stages it is important to free it from the habitual round of this level of operations. Sri Aurobindo observes: “As it feels more and more the refusal of sanction from the higher reason, it begins to fail, to lose confidence in itself and its forms and habits, to distrust the intellectual action and to fall into weakness and silence. The stilling of this current, running, circling, repeating thought-mind is the principal part of that silencing of the thought which is one of the most effective disciplines of Yoga.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Part Four: The Yoga of Self-Perfection, Chapter 7, Purification–Intelligence and Will, pp. 642-643

The Purification of the Buddhi

The action of the intelligent Reason and Will is hampered by the distortions caused by the desire-soul of the lower nature. The reasoning process is biased and tainted by the vital impulse and the action is distorted by the habitual pattern of behavior that constitutes the nature of the vital.

Sri Aurobindo observes: “The intelligence coloured by desire is an impure intelligence and it distorts Truth; the will coloured by desire is an impure will and it puts a stamp of distortion, pain and imperfection upon the soul’s activity.” and further: “All subjection of the Buddhi to the sensations and impulses is an impurity.”

The yogic process of detachment from involvement in the action of the outer Nature aids the seeker in overcoming the impulse of desire from its distorting influence. “The thought and will have to stand back detached from desire, troubling emotion, distracting or mastering impulse and to act in their own right until they can discover a greater guide, a Will, Tapas or divine Shakti which will take the place of desire and mental will and impulse, an Ananda or pure delight of the spirit and an illumined spiritual knowledge which will express themselves in the action of that Shakti. This complete detachment, impossible without an entire self-government, equality, calm sama, samata, santi, is the surest step towards the purification of the Buddhi. A calm, equal and detached mind can alone reflect the peace or base the action of the the liberated spirit.”

People generally associate detachment with abandonment of the life in the world, and hold that action in society and in worldly activity is not possible without the force of desire. Sri Aurobindo points us toward a fully active life that founds itself on the divine standpoint of an instrument of the spirit carrying out the divine intention in the manifestation, without personal desire or attachment mixing in or confusing the pure and powerful action of the Divine in Nature.

Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Part Four: The Yoga of Self-Perfection, Chapter 7, Purification–Intelligence and Will, pg. 642

Two Movements For Perfecting the Action of the Reasoning Intelligence and Will

Within the framework of the normal mental processes, the action of the Buddhi, the reasoning intelligence and will, is always limited and imperfect. The perfection can only come about through a self-exceeding beyond this normal framework, and this occurs through a dual process which encompasses both a “negative side” and a “positive side”. On the “negative side”, it is a process of detachment and rejection of the impulses, demands, cravings and desires of the lower nature which color, limit and influence the action of the higher reason and will. On the “positive side”, there must be an expansion and heightening of the power of consciousness, through a process of systematic identification with the higher force that can work through the reasoning instrument and act from a standpoint of its native light and power.

Sri Aurobindo notes: “We find that it progresses towards a greater completeness in proportion as we arrive at two kinds of perfection; first, a greater and greater detachment from the control of the lower suggestions; secondly, an increasing discover of a self-existent Being, Light, Power and Ananda which surpasses and transforms the normal humanity.”

Each aspect of the mind is transformed through this process: “The ethical mind becomes perfect in proportion as it detaches itself from desire, sense suggestion, impulse, customary dictated action and discovers a self of Right, Love, Strength and Purity in which it can live accomplished and make it the foundation of all its actions. The aesthetic mind is perfected in proportion as it detaches itself from all its cruder pleasures and from outward conventional canons of the aesthetic reason and discovers a self-existent self and spirit of pure and infinite Beauty and Delight which gives its own light and joy to the material of the aesthesis. The mind of knowledge is perfected when ti gets away from impression and dogma and opinion and discovers a light of self-knowledge and intuition which illumines all the workings of the sense and reason, all self-experience and world-experience. The will is perfected when it gets away from and behind its impulses and its customary ruts of effectuation and discovers an inner power of the Spirit which is the source of an intuitive and luminous action and an original harmonious creation.”

In summary, “The movement of perfection is away from all domination by the lower nature and towards a pure and powerful reflection of the being, power, knowledge and delight of the Spirit and Self in the Buddhi.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Part Four: The Yoga of Self-Perfection, Chapter 7, Purification–Intelligence and Will, pp. 641-642

The Final Result of the Evolution of the Conscious Being in Nature

The development of the reflective power of Reason and instrumental power of the enlightened Will, is a great step forward in evolution embodied within the segment of humanity that has cultured these powers and focused on their implementation. The self-aware consciousness has the ability to distance itself, to a greater or lesser degree, from the habitual reactions and responses of the animal mentality that pervades most of our mental activity. Yet this action of consciousness, operative as the Buddhi, is clearly not the final stage or possibility for the development and action of consciousness, as it remains imperfect, limited and weakened in its action through the admixture of the physical and vital levels of consciousness, and through its own reliance on the mental principle, which is a principle of fragmentation and division in principle. What becomes obvious, however, is that this stage of development is a transitional stage and that further levels of consciousness are both necessary and possible of achievement.

Sri Aurobindo elaborates about the Buddhi: “Still it is a movement by which we come to the knowledge that there is a power within us greater than the animal life, a truth greater than the first truths or appearances perceived by the sense-mind, and can try to get at that truth and to labour towards a greater and more successful power of action and control, a more effective government both of our own nature and the nature of things around us, a higher knowledge, a higher power, a higher and larger enjoyment, a more exalted range of being. What then is the final object of this trend? Evidently, it must be for the Purusha to get to the highest and fullest truth of itself and of things, greatest truth of soul or self and greatest truth of Nature, and to an action and a status of being which shall be the result of or identical with that Truth, the power of this greatest knowledge and the enjoyment of that greatest being and consciousness to which it opens. This must be the final result of the evolution of the conscious being in Nature.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Part Four: The Yoga of Self-Perfection, Chapter 7, Purification–Intelligence and Will, pp. 638-639