Transition to a Mind of Light and Its Implications for Human Existence

The shift from the mental standpoint to the supramental standpoint, from a limited, fragmented and error-prone seeking for knowledge, to a consciousness that lives in the full illumination of Knowledge is not something that takes place instantaneously and completely like flipping on a light switch. There is in the evolutionary process on earth, a long series of stages of development, and the transition from mind to supermind also includes a series of stages that Sri Aurobindo has identified and defined. Even a relatively small shift, however, yields dramatic results in terms of benefit to the life of humanity and the balance of the world-environment. The shift to a “mind of Light” brings with it a new way of seeing that takes into account the wholistic balance between the individual and the world, sees the unity of all creation, and recognises the need to achieve harmony in relations between people, and the natural environment of which we are a part and on which we depend. While the mind of Light does not yet represent the complete knowledge and power of the supermind unveiled and active, it provides illumination sufficient for humanity to begin to solve many of the imminent crises that threaten our existence at this time.

Sri Aurobindo observes: “Still there is an increasing self-limitation which begins even with Overmind: Overmind is separated by only a luminous border on the full light and power of the supramental Truth and it still commands direct access to all that Supermind can give it. There is a further limitation or change of characteristic action at each step downwards from Overmind to Intuition, from Intuition to Illumined Mind, from Illumined Mind to what I have called the Higher Mind: the Mind of Light is a transitional passage by which we can pass from supermind and superhumanity to an illumined humanity. For the new humanity will be capable of at least a partly divinised way of seeing and living because it will live in the light and in knowledge and not in the obscuration of the Ignorance.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Mind of Light, Supermind and Mind of Light, pp. 94-95

The Essential Characteristics of the Mind of Light

The mind of Light represents a fundamental shift in the status and standpoint of consciousness in the individual. Mind operates in a fragmented, isolated manner and is locked into its limited framework. It is thus a power based in Ignorance. The mind of Light is a power of knowledge, based in the supramental consciousness and being, and thus, is not bound by the limitations that plague the mental function.

Sri Aurobindo makes several additional points worth noting here. First is that the consciousness is not a machinery of some inanimate Nature, but the active manifesting role of the divine Being. Second, the supermind does not need to display all its knowledge at every point at all times, but can modulate and withhold behind the scenes the knowledge that underlies the current action. One can consider this to be something akin to a “step down transformer” that takes the high voltage intensity of power being transmitted and siphons off part of it to distribute it where needed and in the amounts required, so that it can become useful for a specific purpose or need. The intervening gradations between Supermind and Mind represent stages of this “step-down” process to apply just the right amounts of knowledge and power to the specific need of the specific being, circumstance and event that is at play at that moment.

Sri Aurobindo writes: “The Truth-Consciousness is not only a power of knowledge; it is a being of consciousness and knowledge, a luminous many-sided dynamis and play of the omniscient Spirit; in it there can be a spiritual feeling, a spiritual sensation, a spiritual essentiality of substance that knows and reveals, that acts and manifests in an omniscience which is one with omnipotence. In Mind this Truth-Consciousness and these workings of the Truth-Consciousness can be there and even though it limits itself in Mind and has a subordinate or an indirect working, its action can be essentially the same. There can even be a hidden immediacy which hints at the presence of something absolute and is evidence of the same omnipotence and omniscience. In the Mind of Light when it becomes full-orbed this character of the Truth reveals itself though in a garb that is transparent even when it seems to cover: for this too is a truth-consciousness and a self-power of knowledge. This too proceeds from the Supermind and depends upon it even though it is limited and subordinate. What we have called specifically the Mind of Light is indeed the last of a series of descending planes of consciousness in which the Supermind veils itself by a self-chosen limitation or modification of its self-manifesting activities, but its essential character remains the same: there is in it an action of light, of truth, of knowledge in which inconscience, ignorance and error claim no place. It proceeds from knowledge to knowledge; we have not yet crossed over the borders of the truth-conscious into ignorance. The methods also are those of a self-luminous knowing and seeing and feeling and a self-fulfilling action within its own borders; there is no need to seek for something missing, no fumbling, no hesitation: all is still a gnostic action of a gnostic power and principle. There has been a descent from full Supermind into Mind, but this Mind though a self-limited is not yet an agnostic consciousness unsure of itself or unsure of its workings; there is still a comprehending or an apprehending consciousness which goes straight to its object and does not miss its mark or have to hunt for it in the dark or in insufficient light: it sees, knows, puts its hand immediately on things of self and things of Nature. We have passed into Mind but Mind has still not broken its inherent connection with the supramental principle.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Mind of Light, Supermind and Mind of Light, pp. 93-94

The Involution and Evolution of the Supramental Consciousness

As we delve deeper into the world of matter and life, it becomes obvious that there is an involved consciousness at work that creates forms and beings and activities far beyond what our best application of mental power can provide. Scientists and engineers now look closely at the forms of nature to design technology and products that can solve human needs or concerns. The involved consciousness is apparently far more capable than the mind as can be seen from examples of science studying and mimicking solutions already found by nature. Some examples include the development of adhesives that work in damp environments, courtesy of the adherence capability of mussels which can withstand pressure from ocean tides, or development of wing and rotor designs that take advantage of the aerodynamic qualities of birds, such as owls. Velcro was invented by someone studying the ability of burs of certain plants to adhere to clothing.

This involved consciousness is capable of holding back self-awareness and self-aware control of these forms at the material and vital levels, while slowly bringing forth more and more powers of consciousness as the mind develops. At some point as we become aware of the involved consciousness, and as we push the limits of our mental capabilities, we become receptive to the supramental truth-consciousness which creates all these forms in a symbiotic, and inter-dependent harmony while maintaining its awareness of the inherent oneness of the entire creation.

The intervening gradation between mind and supermind, which Sri Aurobindo terms the “mind of Light”, and which itself has various stages of evolutionary development, begins to shift the consciousness from one of ignorance seeking for and struggling to attain knowledge, to one that exists in a consciousness of truth and does not have to struggle for the understanding of the larger picture or the place of each element in the creation. Or as the ancient scripture holds “from darkness to light, from light to greater light.”

Sri Aurobindo notes: “The essential character of Supermind is a Truth-Consciousness which knows by its own inherent right of nature, by its own light; it has not to arrive at knowledge but possess it. It may indeed, especially in its evolutionary action, keep knowledge behind its apparent consciousness and bring it forward as if from behind the veil; but even then this veil is only an appearance and does not really exist: the knowledge was alwys there, the consciousness its possessor and present revealer. This too is only in the evolutionary play and on the supramental plane itself the consciousness lives always in an immediacy of knowledge and acts by a direct immediacy of knowledge. In Mind as we see it here the action is very different; it starts from an apparent absence of knowledge, a seeming ignorance or nescience, even, in material Nature, from an inconscience in which any kind of knowing does not seem at all to exist. It reaches knowledge or the action of knowledge by steps which are not at all immediate but rather knowledge at first seems utterly impossible and foreign to the very substance of this Matter. Yet, in the blindness of Matter itself there are signs of a concealed consciousness which in its hidden fundamental being sees and has the power to act according to its vision and even by an infallible immediacy which is inherent in its nature. This is the same Truth that is apparent in Supermind but is here involved and seems not to be. The Mind of Light is a subordinate action of Supermind, dependent upon it even when not apparently springing direct from it, in which the secret of this connection becomes evident and palpable.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Mind of Light, Supermind and Mind of Light, pg. 93

The First Signs of the Advent of a Mind of Light

Are we witnessing the first signs of the development of a mind of Light in the world today? If we look back at human civilisation over the last several thousand years, we can see several bright spots where individuals or relatively small groups of people broke out of the fixation on material acquisition and personal satisfaction of desire to try to achieve a new standpoint that would take into account the needs of a larger collectivity and a focus on achieving peaceful relations between people. These may be taken as first signs of an aspiration to something greater than what humanity had been able to achieve with its mental development focused on satisfaction of desire and working with physical matter.

More recently, in the latter half of the 20th century, we see a number of incidents and developments which speak to a much larger and broader perspective starting to manifest, with the concern for the environment, the focus on understanding and overcoming the colonial and genocidal history of the past, and the rise of concern for all human beings living together and sharing the resources of the earth’s bounty. Then we see humanity reaching out beyond the planet with a drive to explore outer space and visit the moon, and eventually other planets in the solar system; and the search for extra terrestrial beings through the SETI project. We see scientists systematically delving into the origins of Matter and finding energy, and now finding that energy embodies consciousness. Quantum entanglement and the origins of the universe are leading scientists beyond the limits of the mental framework that has held us in thrall for most of our presence on earth. We remain ignorant and continue to make errors along the way, but the direction of the striving for knowledge is clearly visible.

We see concurrently the breaking down of traditional models of belief and religion, with more people opting to forego formal adherence to a particular set of religious precepts in favor of an inner seeking for spiritual enlightenment, now no longer reserved for a small group of renunciates, monks or anchorites. This drive is a defining change in humanity’s relationship to seeking divine guidance and significance of their lives.

We see as a result of these multiple streams, people working to overcome the limits of human perception and the strict logic of the mental framework. We see people working on developing intuition, inspiration, creativity, global rather than linear thought process, wholistic rather than fragmentary viewpoints, and a drive to develop senses of clairvoyance, clairaudience, telepathy, and other ostensibly “occult” powers. There is an enormous focus on spiritual practice on a scale not seen before, and people are reporting opening of various chakra energies, pouring of a force from above into them, out of body experiences of various types, silence of the mind, and experiences that fall into the realm of spiritual development.

Sri Aurobindo observes: “In the birth of the mind of Light and its ascension into its own recognisable self and its true status and right province there must be, in the very nature of things as they are and very nature of the evolutionary process as it is at present, two stages. In the first, we can see the mind of Light gathering itself out of the Ignorance, assembling its constituent elements, building up its shapes and types, however imperfect at first, and pushing them towards perfection till it can cross the border of the Ignorance and appear in the Light, in its own Light. In the second stage we can see it developing itself in that greater natural light, taking its higher shapes and forms till it joins the supermind and lives as its subordinate portion or its delegate. In each of these stages it will define its own grades and manifest the order of its beings who will embody it and give to it a realised life.”

“Thus there will be built up, first, even in the Ignorance itself, the possibility of a human ascent towards a divine living; then there will be, by the illumination of this mind of Light in the greater realisation of what may be called a gnostic mentality, in a transformation of the human being, even before the supermind is reached, even in the earth-consciousness and in a humanity transformed, an illumined divine life.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Mind of Light, Mind of Light, pg. 91

The Role of the Mind of Light As a Gradation in the Evolutionary Development

Observation of the development of the capacities of mind through its first rudimentary expressions in various animal species, to the current ability in humanity for self-reflection, exercise of logical reasoning powers, as well as powers of differentiation, abstraction, imagination, extrapolation, and inference, among others, shows that the power of mind is not a fixed and immutable power, but one that evolves and grows over time.

It is therefore to be expected that as the evolutionary progression continues, new, as yet unknown or rarely seen powers of the mind must eventuate. These powers, as they develop more broadly, will represent a next stage or gradation in the development of mind. At some point, there will be a transition from the weak, ignorant seeking of our current error-prone mentality to a mind based in oneness and knowledge. That will be a sign of the supramental emergence in a much more complete sense in the evolutionary cycle.

Sri Aurobindo writes: “Mind founded in life developed intellect, developed its types of knowledge and ignorance, truth and error till it reached the spiritual perception and illumination and now can see as in a glass dimly the possibility of supermind and a truth-conscious existence. In this inevitable ascent the mind of Light is a gradation, an inevitable stage. As an evolving principle it will mark a stage in the human ascent and evolve a new type of human being; this development must carry in it an ascending gradation of its own powers and types of an ascending humanity which will embody more and more the turn towards spirituality, capacity for Light, a climb towards a divinised manhood and the divine life.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Mind of Light, Mind of Light, pp. 90-91

The Secret Significance and Process of Evolution

Western science has attempted to understand existence by analysis, first and foremost of the outer forms and forces we experience in the world around us. The mind’s analytical and organisational capabilities have been brought intensively to bear upon the forms of existence, the material basis, the vital life-forms and the developments of mental capacity. Charles Darwin conducted extensive research which he recounted in his seminal work in the field titled The Origin of Species. He worked to trace the evolutionary development of forms and organised the material in a way that we could see the successive development of increasingly complex forms capable of more and more intelligent action. He posited that the evolution took place through a process of “survival of the fittest” such that those individuals of a species who were best adapted tended to pass on their genes and thus, successively develop more adaptive individuals in future generations. Those beings who were better adapted to the world tended to survive while others died out.

What he was unable to do was to determine what actually determined and caused and acted as the significant rationale behind this outer process of evolution. Sri Aurobindo noted that the evolution of the outer forms was part of a deeper development of ever-increasing manifestation of consciousness. This consciousness, involved and embedded in Matter, successively begins to manifest overtly as forms are prepared that can utilise and hold this new power and action of consciousness. This represents the hidden significance of evolution and with this key, we can see the trend and understand even the future lines of development that must follow.

Sri Aurobindo observes: “For throughout the story of evolution there are two complementary aspects which constitute its action and are necessary to its totality; there is hidden in the involution of Nature the secret power and principle of being which lies concealed under the veil cast on it by material Nature and there is carried in that Nature itself the inevitable force of the principle compelling the process of emergence of its inherent powers and characters, the essential features which constitute its reality. As the evolutionary principle emerges, there are also two constant features of the process of the emergence: there are the gradations by which it climbs out of the involution and manifests more and more of its power, its possibilities, the force of the Godhead within it, and there is a constant manifestation of all types and forms of its being which are the visible, indicative and efficient embodiments of its essential nature. There appear in the evolutionary process organised forms and activities of Matter, the types of life and the living beings, the types of mind and the thinking beings, the luminosities and greatnesses of the spiritual principle and the spiritual beings whose nature, character, personality, mark the stages of the ascent towards the highest heights of the evolution and the ultimate largest manifestation of what is in itself and must become by the force of time and the all-revealing Spirit. This is the real sense and drive of what we see as evolution: the multiplication and variation of forms is only the means of its process. Each gradation contains the possibility and the certainty of the grades beyond it: the emergence of more and more developed forms and greater powers beyond them, and each emergence of consciousness and the conscious beings proper to it enables the rise to a greater consciousness beyond and the greater order of beings up to the ultimate godheads of which Nature is striving and is destined to show herself capable. Matter developed its organised forms until it became capable of embodying living organisms; then life rose from the subconscience of the plant into conscious animal formations and through them to the thinking life of man.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Mind of Light, Mind of Light, pg. 90

The Advent of the Supramental Consciousness in the Evolutionary Movement

Sri Aurobindo describes the manifestation of the supramental consciousness as a dramatic change from the past process of evolution witnessed on earth. The evolution of life from matter and mind from life proceeded through a very long and arduous process spanning millions of years. It was punctuated by struggle and error, due to the basis of these powers in the unconsciousness and ignorance of the material basis. Eventually mind begins to experience self-awareness and the potential arises for a more conscious, directed and focused process coming into play, which, in and of itself, should speed up the evolutionary development. On top of this, however, there is the supramental consciousness itself, which is based in the reality of the truth of existence, is fully aware of the oneness and is able to create the multiplicity without loss of this awareness. This permits a much speedier and more complete process to take place in the earth-evolution than was heretofore possible. We should see, not just the full manifestation of the supermind in a being able to hold and express its powers, but also, as we saw with the power of mind to make changes to matter and life, the ability to influence, guide and change the mental, vital and physical existence on the planet.

Sri Aurobindo observes: “The full emergence of supermind may be accomplished by a sovereign manifestation, a descent into earth-consciousness and a rapid assumption of its powers and disclosing of its forms and the creation of a supramental race and a supramental life: this must indeed be the full result of its actions in Nature. But this has not been the habit of evolutionary Nature in the past upon earth and it may well be that this supramental evolution also will fix its own periods, though it cannot be at all a similar development to that of which earth has hitherto been the witness. But once it has begun, all must unavoidably and perfectly manifest and all parts of Nature must tend towards a greatest possible luminousness and perfection. It is this certainty that authorises us to believe that mind and humanity also will tend towards a realisation that will be far beyond our present dreams of perfection. A mind of light will replace the present confusion and trouble of this earthly ignorance; it is likely that even those parts of humanity which cannot reach it will yet be aware of its possibility and consciously tend towards it; not only so, but the life of humanity will be enlightened, uplifted, governed, harmonised by the luminous principle and even the body become something much less powerless, obscure and animal in its propensities and capable instead of a new and harmonised perfection. It is this possibility that we have to look at and that would mean a new humanity uplifted into Light, capable of a spiritualised being and action, open to governance by some light of the Truth-consciousness, capable even on the mental level and in its own order of something that might be called the beginning of a divinised life.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Mind of Light, Supermind in Evolution, pg. 88

Unveiling the Secret Meaning of the Universal Evolutionary Movement

There is a very simple image that will help us understand the concept of self-revelation of an involved consciousness in Matter. We see an acorn. If we do not know what it is, we see it as a material object. However if it sprouts, we then see a green shoot coming up and rootlets below snaking out from the acorn. At this stage, we only know that it is some form of life that has manifested from a material shape. We still do not know that it will become a giant oak tree at this stage of observation. Along the way, it becomes a sapling, eventually a tree and finally a massive tree with extensive root and branch systems and numerous leaves and, eventually we recognise it as the oak tree.

This illustrates the principle of “gradual self-revelation” that Sri Aurobindo describes. In addition, as we begin to understand the mechanism involved, we see that the genetic code that will turn this material object into an oak tree is encoded and “involved” within the material capsule that holds it, only coming forth under the right conditions to reveal its status as an oak tree! The fact that this material object contains the detailed genetic code to create the complex being of the oak tree, including its ability to convert sunlight into sustaining energy through photosynthesis, implies an intelligence that directs, guides and implants the code into the material shell that we call an acorn.

Sri Aurobindo writes: “In this vision of things the universe will reveal itself in its unity and totality as a manifestation of a single Being, Nature as its power of manifestation, evolution as its process of gradual self-revelation here in Matter. We would see the divine series of the worlds as a ladder of ascent from Matter to supreme Spirit; there would reveal itself the possibility, the prospect of a supreme manifestation by the conscious and no longer a veiled and enigmatic descent of the Spirit and its powers in their fullness even into this lowest world of Matter. The riddle of the universe need be no longer a riddle; the dubious mystery of things would put off its enigma, its constant ambiguity, the tangled writings would become legible and intelligible. In this revelation, supermind would take its natural place and no longer be a matter of doubt or questioning to an intelligence bewildered by the complexity of the world; it would appear as the inevitable consequence of the nature of mind, life and Matter, the fulfillment of their meaning, their inherent principle and tendencies, the necessary perfection of their imperfection, the summit to which all are climbing, the consummation of divine existence, consciousness and bliss to which it is leading, the last result of the birth of things and supreme goal of this progressive manifestation which we see here in life.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Mind of Light, Supermind in Evolution, pp. 87-88

The Supramental Manifestation Explains the Evolution of Forms

The inevitability of the Supramental manifestation flows directly from a new understanding of the evolutionary principle. Since the time of Darwin, Western science has fixated on evolution as being one of “forms”, with the principle relying on “survival of the fittest” and changes of forms due to “natural selection” for those traits that best met the test of the time within which they existed and the changes in circumstances they had to meet. Darwinian evolution however does not answer the ultimate question of the significance and meaning of the entire field of existence and the reason why these forms exist, and how they exist. This has led to a debate with those who are “creationists” who say that God explains the creation of forms and therefore evolution is not the solution.

Sri Aurobindo’s view is that there is a truth that can reconcile both extremes, and that is the involution of the supramental consciousness into matter, and its eventual evolution through life and mind into the current stage, and then beyond into the full expression of the supramental consciousness in all levels of earthly existence.

Sri Aurobindo clarifies that even in the apparent inconscience of Matter there is an involved, detailed, extremely precise and powerful consciousness at work; that in Life that consciousness begins to express itself more actively, and in Mind, it eventually becomes a self-aware action. Nothing can evolve that has not previously been involved, just as a tree does not sprout up from a rock, but from a seed, within which its genetic code has been involved.

Quantum entanglement also provides support to the idea that consciousness precedes and controls matter. Scientists are finding that two “entangled” particles, will react precisely the same way, at the same time to an event initiated upon one of them, even if they have been propelled in different directions and are distant from one another at the time of the event, with reactions that are far faster than the speed of light. This instantaneous response overturns our traditional notions of time, matter and consciousness, and consequently the notion of the primacy of Matter.

Sri Aurobindo notes: “If we disregard our present ideas of evolution, all changes, — if we can regard consciousness and not life and form as the fundamental and essential evolutionary principle and its emergence and full development of its possibilities as the object of the evolutionary urge. The inconscience of Matter cannot be an insuperable obstacle; for in this inconscience can be detected an involved consciousness which has to evolve; life and mind are steps and instruments of that evolution; the purposeful drive and workings of the inconscient material Energy are precisely such as we can attribute to the presence of an involved consciousness, automatic, not using thought like the mind but guided by something like an inherent material instinct practically infallible in all its steps, not yet cognitive but miraculously creative. The entirely and inherently enlightened Truth-consciousness we attribute to supermind would be the same reality appearing at an ultimate stage of the evolution, finally evolved and no longer wholly involved as in Matter or partly and imperfectly evolved and therefore capable of imperfection and error as in life and mind, now possessed of its own natural fullness and perfection, luminously automatic, infallible. All the objections to a complete evolutionary possibility then fall away; it would, on the contrary, be the inevitable consequence contained not only in Nature as a whole but even in material Nature.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Mind of Light, Supermind in Evolution, pg. 87

The Supermind Holds the Meaning of the Evolution of Existence on Earth

The mind is unable to ascertain the reality of the supramental evolution, precisely because it is not an instrument of truth, but an instrument of doubt. Short of the actual evident manifestation of the supramental power in the life on earth in an overt and clearly obvious manner, we can find the direction, and thereby the intention, of the evolutionary process. In The Life Divine, Sri Aurobindo begins from “the human aspiration”, a force that pushes all human endeavour forward, a seeking for “God, Light, Freedom, Immortality”. We see everywhere a striving for perfection in all fields of human effort. We are characterized by our dissatisfaction with our present term of existence and the drive towards something better, something stronger, something more permanent, something beyond our current limitations.

We see in every being its significance revealed through the life force expression. The striving of the tree to express itself and grow from the tiny seed, to overcome all obstacles to reach the heights and thrive, is a symbol of the drive in humanity to self-exceed our limitations, overcome all obstacles, and achieve something “beyond”. This drive, this aspiration, shows the direction and intention of Nature in the manifestation. A principle of existence beyond the mind, not subject to the confusion and doubt of ignorance seeking blindly for knowledge, represents both the solution to the significance of the universal manifestation and the answer to the human aspiration.

Sri Aurobindo observes: “But if supermind exists, if it descends, if it becomes the ruling principle, all that seems impossible to mind becomes not only possible but inevitable. If we look closely, we shall see that there is a straining of mind and life on their heights towards their own perfection, towards some divine fulfillment, towards their own absolute. That and not only something beyond and elsewhere is the true sign, the meaning of this constant evolution and the labour of continual birth and rebirth and the spiral ascent of Nature. But it is only by the descent of supermind and the fulfillment of mind and life by their self-exceeding that this secret intention in things, this hidden meaning of Spirit and Nature can become utterly overt and in its totality realisable. This is the evolutionary aspect and significance of supermind, but in truth it is an eternal principle existing covertly even in the material universe, the secret supporter of all creation, it is that which makes the emergence of consciousness possible and certain in an apparently inconscient world and compels a climb in Nature towards a supreme spiritual Reality. It is, in fact, an already and always existent plane of being, the nexus of Spirit and Matter, holding in its truth and reality and making certain the whole meaning and aim of the universe.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Mind of Light, Supermind in Evolution, pp. 86-87