Integral Yoga Literature - By Sri Aurobindo

Selections from the Sri Aurobindo Birth Centenary Library

from Volume 18 and 19, The Life Divine


The contents of this document are copyright 1972, Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust, Pondicherry, India. You may make a digital copy or printout of this text for your personal, non-commercial use under the condition that you copy this document without modifications and in its entirety, including this copyright notice.

Book Two, Chapter Twenty-Six, "The Ascent towards Supermind" (Part 1 of 5)

Masters of the Truth-Light who make the Truth grow by the Truth.

Rig Veda. I. 23. 5.

Three powers of Speech that carry the Light in their front ... a triple house of peace, a triple way of the Light.

Rig Veda. VII. 101. 1, 2.

Four other worlds of beauty he creates as his form when he has grown by the Truths.

Rig Veda. IX. 70. 1.

He is born a seer with the mind of discernment; an offspring of the Truth, a birth set within in the secrecy, half arisen into manifestation.

Rig Veda. IX. 68. 5.

Possessed of a vast inspired wisdom, creators of the Light, conscious all-knowers, growing in the Truth.

Rig Veda. X. 66. 1.

Beholding the higher Light beyond the darkness we came to the divine Sun in the Godhead, to the highest Light of all.

Rig Veda. I. 50. 10.

THE psychic transformation and the first stages of the spiritual transformation are well within our conception; their perfection would be the perfection, wholeness, consummated unity of a knowledge and experience which is already part of things realised, though only by a small number of human beings. But the supramental change in its process carries us into less explored regions; it initiates a vision of heights of consciousness which have indeed been glimpsed and visited, but have yet to be discovered and mapped in their completeness. The highest of these peaks or elevated plateaus of consciousness, the supramental, lies far beyond the possibility of any satisfying mental scheme or map of it or any grasp of mental seeing and description. It would be difficult for the normal unillumined or untransformed mental conception to express or enter into something that is based on so different a consciousness with a radically different awareness of things; even if they were seen or conceived by some enlightenment or opening of vision, another language than the poor abstract counters used by our mind would be needed to translate them into terms by which their reality could become at all seizable by us. As the summits of human mind are beyond animal perception, so the movements of Supermind are beyond the ordinary human mental conception: it is only when we have already had experience of a higher intermediate consciousness that any terms attempting to describe supramental being could convey a true meaning to our intelligence; for then, having experienced something akin to what is described, we could translate an inadequate language into a figure of what we knew. If the mind cannot enter into the nature of Supermind, it can look towards it through these high and luminous approaches and catch some reflected impression of the Truth, the Right, the Vast which is the native kingdom of the free Spirit.

But even what can be said about the intermediate consciousness must perforce be inadequate; only certain abstract generalisations can be hazarded which may serve for an initial light of guidance. The one enabling circumstance here is that, however different in constitution and principle, the higher consciousness is still, in its evolutionary form, in what we can first achieve of it here, a supreme development of elements which are already present in ours in however rudimentary and diminished a figure and power of themselves. It is also a helpful fact that the logic of the process of evolutionary Nature continues, greatly modified in some of the rules of its working but essentially the same, in the ascension of the highest heights as in the lower beginnings; thus we can discover and follow to a certain extent the lines of her supreme procedure. For we have seen something of the nature and law of the transition from intellectual to spiritual mind; from that achieved starting-point we can begin to trace the passage to a higher dynamic degree of the new consciousness and the farther transition from spiritual mind towards Supermind. The indications must necessarily be very imperfect, for it is only some initial representations of an abstract and general character that can be arrived at by the method of metaphysical inquiry: the true knowledge and description must be left to the language of the mystic and the figures, at once more vivid and more recondite, of a direct and concrete experience.

The transition to Supermind through Overmind is a passage from Nature as we know it into Supernature. It is by that very fact impossible for any effort of the mere Mind to achieve; our unaided personal aspiration and endeavour cannot reach it: our effort belongs to the inferior power of Nature; a power of the Ignorance cannot achieve by its own strength or characteristic or available methods what is beyond its own domain of Nature. All the previous ascensions have been effectuated by a secret Consciousness-Force operating first in Inconscience and then in the Ignorance: it has worked by an emergence of its involved powers to the surface, powers concealed behind the veil and superior to the past formulations of Nature, but even so there is needed a pressure of the same superior powers already formulated in their full natural force on their own planes; these superior planes create their own foundation in our subliminal parts and from there are able to influence the evolutionary process on the surface. Overmind and Supermind are also involved and occult in earth-Nature, but they have no formations on the accessible levels of our subliminal inner consciousness; there is as yet no overmind being or organised overmind nature, no supramental being or organised supermind nature acting either on our surface or in our normal subliminal parts: for these greater powers of consciousness are superconscient to the level of our ignorance. In order that the involved principles of Overmind and Supermind should emerge from their veiled secrecy, the being and powers of the Superconscience must descend into us and uplift us and formulate themselves in our being and powers; this descent is a sine qua non of the transition and transformation.

It is conceivable indeed that, without the descent, by a secret pressure from above, by a long evolution, our terrestrial Nature might succeed in entering into a close contact with the higher now superconscient planes and a formation of subliminal Overmind might take place behind the veil; as a result a slow emergence of the consciousness proper to these higher planes might awake on our surface. It is conceivable that in this way there might appear a race of mental beings thinking and acting not by the intellect or reasoning and reflecting intelligence, or not mainly by it, but by an intuitive mentality which would be the first step of an ascending change; this might be followed by an over-mentalisation which would carry us to the borders beyond which lies the Supermind or divine Gnosis. But this process would inevitably be a long and toilsome endeavour of Nature. There is a possibility too that what would be achieved might only be an imperfect superior mentalisation; the new higher elements might strongly dominate the consciousness, but they would be still subjected to a modification of their action by the principle of an inferior mentality: there would be a greater expanded and illuminating knowledge, a cognition of a higher order; but it would still undergo a mixture subjecting it to the law of the Ignorance, as Mind undergoes limitation by the law of Life and Matter. For a real transformation there must be a direct and unveiled intervention from above; there would be necessary too a total submission and surrender of the lower consciousness, a cessation of its insistence, a will in it for its separate law of action to be completely annulled by transformation and lose all rights over our being. If these two conditions can be achieved even now by a conscious call and will in the spirit and a participation of our whole manifested and inner being in its change and elevation, the evolution, the transformation can take place by a comparatively swift conscious change; the supramental Consciousness-Force from above and the evolving Consciousness-Force from behind the veil acting on the awakened awareness and will of the mental human being would accomplish by their united power the momentous transition. There would be no farther need of a slow evolution counting many millenniums for each step, the halting and difficult evolution operated by Nature in the past in the unconscious creatures of the Ignorance.

It is a first condition of this change that the mental Man we now are should become inwardly aware and in possession of his own deeper law of being and its processes; he must become the psychic and inner mental being master of his energies, no longer a slave of the movements of the lower Prakriti, in control of it, seated securely in a free harmony with a higher law of Nature. An increasing control of the individual over his own action of nature, a more and more conscious participation in the action of universal Nature, is a marked character, it is indeed a logical consequence, of the evolutionary principle and process. All action, all mental, vital, physical activities in the world are the operation of a universal Energy, a Consciousness-Force which is the power of the Cosmic Spirit working out the cosmic and individual truth of things. But since this creative Consciousness assumes in Matter a mask of inconscience and puts on the surface appearance of a blind universal Force executing a plan or organisation of things without seeming to know what it is doing, the first result is kin to this appearance; it is the phenomenon of an inconscient physical individualisation, a creation not of beings but of objects. These are formed existences with their own qualities, properties, power of being, character of being; but Nature's plan in them and organisation of them have to be worked out mechanically without any beginning of participation, initiation or conscious awareness in the individual object which emerges as the first dumb result and inanimate field of her action and creation. In animal life the Force begins to become slowly conscious on the surface and puts forth the form, no longer of an object, but of an individual being; but this imperfectly conscious individual, although it participates, senses, feels, yet only works out what the Force does in it without any clear intelligence or observation of what is being done; it seems to have no other choice or will than that which is imposed on it by its formed nature. In human mind there is the first appearance of an observing intelligence that regards what is being done and of a will and choice that have become conscious; but the consciousness is still limited and superficial: the knowledge also is limited and imperfect, it is a partial intelligence, a half understanding, groping and empirical in great part or, if rational, then rational by constructions, theories, formulas. There is not as yet a luminous seeing which knows things by a direct grasp and arranges them with a spontaneous precision according to the seeing, according to the scheme of their inherent truth; although there is a certain element of instinct and intuition and insight which has some beginning of this power, the normal character of human intelligence is an inquiring reason or reflective thought which observes, supposes, infers, concludes, arrives by labour at a constructed truth, a constructed scheme of knowledge, a deliberately arranged action of its own making. Or rather this is what it strives to be and partly is; for its knowledge and will are constantly invaded, darkened or frustrated by forces of the being which are half-blind instruments of the mechanism of Nature.

This is evidently not the utmost of which consciousness is capable, not its last evolution and highest summit. A greater and more intimate intuition must be possible which would enter into the heart of things, be in luminous identity with the movements of Nature, assure to the being a clear control of his life or at least a harmony with his universe. It is only a free and entire intuitive consciousness which would be able to see and to grasp things by direct contact and penetrating vision or a spontaneous truth-sense born of an underlying unity or identity and arrange an action of Nature according to the truth of Nature. This would be a real participation by the individual in the working of the universal Consciousness-Force; the individual Purusha would become the master of his own executive energy and at the same time a conscious partner, agent, instrument of the Cosmic Spirit in the working of the universal Energy: the universal Energy would work through him, but he also would work through her and the harmony of the intuitive truth would make this double working a single action. A growing conscious participation of this higher and more intimate kind must be one accompaniment of the transition from our present state of being to a state of Supernature.

A harmonious other-world in which an intuitive mental intelligence of this kind and its control would be the rule, is conceivable; but in our plane of being, owing to the original intention and past history of the evolutionary plan, such a rule and control could with difficulty be stabilised and it is not likely that it could be complete, final and definitive. For an intuitive mentality intervening in a mixed mental, vital, physical consciousness would normally be forced to undergo a mixture with the inferior stuff of consciousness already evolved; in order to act on it, it would have to enter into it and, entering in it, would get entangled in it, penetrated by it, affected by the separative and partial character of our mind's action and the limitation and restricted force of the Ignorance. The action of intuitive intelligence is keen and luminous enough to penetrate and modify, but not large and whole enough to swallow up into itself and abolish the mass of the Ignorance and Inconscience; it could not effect an entire transformation of the whole consciousness into its own stuff and power. Still, even in our present state, a participation of a kind is there and our normal intelligence is sufficiently awake for the universal Conscious-Force to work through it and allow the intelligence and will to exercise a certain amount of direction of inner and outer circumstance, fumbling enough and at every moment dogged by error, capable only of a limited effect and power, not commensurate with the larger totality of her vast operations. In the evolution towards Supernature, this initial power of conscious participation in the universal working would enlarge in the individual into a more and more intimate and extended vision of her workings in himself, a sensitive perception of the course she was taking, a growing understanding or intuitive idea of the methods that had to be followed for a more rapid and more conscious self-evolution. As his inner psychic or occult inner mental being came more to the front, there would be a strengthened power of choice, of sanction, a beginning of authentic free will which would grow more and more effective. But this free will would be mostly in relation to his own workings of Nature; it would mean only a freer, fuller and more immediately perceptive control of the motions of his own being: even there it could not be at first completely free, so long as it was imprisoned in the limits created by its own formations or combated by imperfection due to a mixture of the old and the new consciousness. Still there would be an increasing mastery and knowledge and an opening to a higher being and a higher nature.

Our notion of free will is apt to be tainted with the excessive individualism of the human ego and to assume the figure of an independent will acting on its own isolated account, in a complete liberty without any determination other than its own choice and single unrelated movement. This idea ignores the fact that our natural being is a part of cosmic Nature and our spiritual being exists only by the supreme Transcendence. Our total being can rise out of subjection to fact of present Nature only by an identification with a greater Truth and a greater Nature. The will of the individual, even when completely free, could not act in an isolated independence, because the individual being and nature are included in the universal Being and Nature and dependent on the all-overruling Transcendence. There could indeed be in the ascent a dual line. On one line the being could feel and behave as an independent self-existence uniting itself with its own impersonal Reality; it could, so self-conceived, act with a great force, but either this action would be still within an enlarged frame of its past and present self-formation of power of Nature or else it would be the cosmic or supreme Force that acted in it and there would be no personal initiation of action, no sense therefore of individual free will but only of an impersonal cosmic or supreme Will or Energy at its work. On the other line the being would feel itself a spiritual instrument and so act as a power of the Supreme Being, limited in its workings only by the potencies of the Supernature, which are without bounds or any restriction except its own Truth and self-law, and by the Will in her. But in either case there would be, as the condition of a freedom from the control of a mechanical action of Nature-forces, a submission to a greater conscious Power or an acquiescent unity of the individual being with its intention and movement in his own and in the world's existence.

For the action of a new power of being in a higher range of consciousness might, even in its control on outer Nature, be extraordinarily effective, but only because of its light of vision and a consequent harmony or identification with the cosmic and transcendent Will; for it is when it becomes an instrumentation of a higher instead of a lower Power that the will of the being becomes free from a mechanical determinism by action and process of cosmic Mind-Energy, Life-Energy, Matter-Energy and an ignorant subjection to the drive of this inferior Nature. A power of initiation, even of an individual overseeing of world-forces could be there; but it would be an instrumental initiation, a delegated overseeing: the choice of the individual would receive the sanction of the Infinite because it was itself an expression of some truth of the Infinite. Thus the individuality would become more and more powerful and effective in proportion as it realised itself as a centre and formation of the universal and transcendent Being and Nature. For as the progression of the change proceeded, the energy of the liberated individual would be no longer the limited energy of mind, life and body, with which it started; the being would emerge into and put on, -- even as there would emerge in him and descend into him, assuming him into it, -- a greater light of Consciousness and a greater action of Force: his natural existence would be the instrumentation of a superior Power, an overmental and supramental Consciousness-Force, the power of the original Divine Shakti. All the processes of the evolution would be felt as the action of a supreme and universal Consciousness, a supreme and universal Force working in whatever way it chose, on whatever level, within whatever self-determined limits, a conscious working of the transcendent and cosmic Being, the action of the omnipotent and omniscient World-Mother raising the being into herself, into her Supernature. In place of the Nature of Ignorance with the individual as its closed field and unconscious or half-conscious instrument, there would be a Supernature of the divine Gnosis and the individual soul would be its conscious, open and free field and instrument, a participant in its action, aware of its purpose and process, aware too of its own greater Self, the universal, the transcendent Reality, and of its own Person as illimitably one with that and yet an individual being of Its being, an instrument and a spiritual centre.

A first opening towards this participation in an action of Supernature is a condition of the turn towards the last, the supramental transformation: for this transformation is the completion of a passage from the obscure harmony of a blind automatism with which Nature sets out to the luminous authentic spontaneity, the infallible motion of the self-existent truth of the Spirit. The evolution begins with the automatism of Matter and of a lower life in which all obeys implicitly the drive of Nature, fulfils mechanically its law of being and therefore succeeds in maintaining a harmony of its limited type of existence and action; it proceeds through the pregnant confusion of the mind and life of a humanity driven by this inferior Nature but struggling to escape from her limitations, to master and drive and use her; it emerges into a greater spontaneous harmony and automatic self-fulfilling action founded on the spiritual Truth of things. In this higher state the consciousness will see that Truth and follow the line of its energies with a full knowledge, with a strong participation and instrumental mastery, a complete delight in action and existence. There will be a luminous and enjoyed perfection of unity with all instead of a blind and suffered subjection of the individual to the universal, and at every moment the action of the universal in the individual and the individual in the universal will be enlightened and governed by the rule of the transcendent Supernature.

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Last modified on Nov. 9, 1995