The ordinary human mind interfaces with the phenomenal world through abstractions; with the aid of the senses, it builds a representation of the world in the human memory which it manipulates with the reasoning process, rejecting and accepting ideas based on the ego’s subjective inclinations. The nature of the thought process changes as the mind becomes electrified with progress in Yoga. The practice of mental silence heightens the vibratory pitch of the brain and the awakening of the Kundalini kindles subtle centers in the brain. The mind expands into the cosmic planes of the Mind and acquires new powers of consciousness. In such a mind, the memory of the past is purged, the reasoning process is replaced by spontaneous intuition, and the abstractions within are substituted by a more intimate knowledge acquired by direct contact of subject consciousness with object consciousness.
To put it differently, one can say that the mind alters in the following ways through Yoga.
- Instead of functioning indirectly through abstractions, it begins gliding in direct touch with reality.
- Instead of holding past knowledge in memory, it exhibits an effortless acquisition of spontaneous knowledge of the past, present and future – all of which is already present in the Universal Consciousness.
- Instead of being ensnared in partial truths, it radiates a plenary, all-sided and inner knowledge of reality.
- Instead of stumbling through the reasoning process, it displays irresistible intuition.
- Instead of relying on the input of the five senses, it is aided by direct inner contact with object consciousness.
Sri Aurobindo identified various stages in this mental transformation which he denoted as the Higher Mind, the Illumined Mind, the Intuitive Mind, the Overmind and the Supermind. The Higher Mind works from a broad holistic perspective seeing the inner relation between ideas. The Illumined Mind flows visually with (subtle) images rather than step-by-step using dry logic. The Intuitive Mind acquires knowledge by direct contact of the subject consciousness with the object consciousness without the intermediary input of the senses. The Overmind is the state attained by Enlightened Masters where one is able to see all sides of the Truth and smoothly reconcile contraries. Beyond that is the Supermind which is the rarely attained summit of the Superconscient.
The rational mind works in an exclusionary fashion
An inconclusive play is Reason’s toil.
Each strong idea can use her as its tool;
Accepting every brief she pleads her case.
Open to every thought, she cannot know.
The eternal Advocate seated as judge
Armours in logic’s invulnerable mail
A thousand combatants for Truth’s veiled throne
And sets on a high horse-back of argument
To tilt for ever with a wordy lance
In a mock tournament where none can win.
Sri Aurobindo, Savitri – I: The Kingdoms and Godheads of the Little Mind
Sri Aurobindo: The capital period of my intellectual development was when I could see clearly that what the intellect said may be correct and not correct, that what the intellect justifies is true and its opposite also is true. I never admitted a truth in the mind without simultaneously keeping it open to the contrary of it. Mind means infinite possibility. Reason or intelligence chooses one to the exclusion of all the other possibilities. But it is reason which gives value to one and selects it. It is like a law in science; you accept it because it explains most of the phenomena. In the mind we accept one and suppress the other possibilities and so we see the reasons for the view we hold and other reasons are suppressed. Or the intellect goes in a futile round and justifies the choice, which has already been made by some other part of the being.
Intellect is merely selective. I felt it very clearly for a long time. And the first result was that the prestige of the intellect was gone. As you go higher up, a wider movement develops which reconciles all contraries. Then you see the Forces that are behind mental ideas. Of course, it is no use telling this to the ordinary man as he would be in a most hopeless confusion if he saw everything as mere possibilities. For instance, you would be absolutely confounded if I placed before you all the possibilities.
[A.B. Purani. Evening Talks with Sri Aurobindo, p 79]
Mental constructions are purged
All here was known by a spiritual sense:
Thought was not there but a knowledge near and one
Seized on all things by a moved identity,
A sympathy of self with other selves,
The touch of consciousness on consciousness
And being’s look on being with inmost gaze
And heart laid bare to heart without walls of speech
And the unanimity of seeing minds
Sri Aurobindo, Savitri – I: The World-Soul
The ordinary human mind indulges in constructions, holding many bits and pieces of imagination and partial conclusions within. These get purged when the mind begins to brim with silence.This is an excerpt from a conversation between Sri Aurobindo and a disciple where this aspect is detailed.
Disciple : When the Mind is transformed by the action of the Higher Power what are the changes that take place in the Mind?
Sri Aurobindo : Which part of the mind ? The thinking mind ?
Disciple : Yes.
Sri Aurobindo : The reasonings and the fanciful constructions of the mind cease: there remains only a play of intuitions.
Disciple : Does not reason remain, at all ?
Sri Aurobindo : When the whole mind is intuitionised, it knows directly and therefore needs no reasoning. I see you before me; so, why should I argue whether you exist or not ?
Disciple : Reason may not be required for acquiring the Truth, but, for practical application of the Truth reasoning may be necessary.
Sri Aurobindo: Do you think that Truth is not practical? The Truth is not something abstract. As long as the mind reasons there is the possibility of error.
Disciple : As regards mental constructions, – are they always incorrect ? May not they be inspired by the Truth ?
Sri Aurobindo : Mind may build on its intuitions, but there is every likelihood of its committing mistakes or errors. Mental transformation is a gradual process. First, the reasoning and constructions are silenced. Then the mind becomes intuitionised. Then one feels that there is something above which is much more than intuition. Intuition goes downwards and the higher Truth takes the place of intuition. At present, you find it difficult to understand how all reasoning and constructions of the mind can cease. That can be understood when you know what is intuition.
Disciple : I understand that reasoning and constructions are obstacles to the coming of the Truth.
Sri Aurobindo : Yes, if you go on eternally with them the Truth will not come.
Disciple : Then one must correct these things before the higher Truth can come down.
Sri Aurobindo : You cannot do that ; it is only the Truth which can change the nature and activities of the mind. You can only quiet them so that the Truth may come down and take up the Transformation.
Disciple : If the mind is silenced, will the Truth come down ?
Sri Aurobindo : If you do nothing else but merely silence the mind you will have a silent mind and nothing else.
Disciple : When a developed mind opens to the Truth and an underdeveloped mind opens to it which will be the richer of the two ?
Sri Aurobindo : First you have to see whether the under-developed mind can open itself to the higher Truth ; generally it cannot. Then, it may have a narrow opening and the result will be limited. The higher Truth may afterwards develop the mind but if the mind is already developed, there is already a rich material upon which the Truth can work. But the too much developed mind is also an obstacle. It has its fixed habits, its fixed grooves to which it sticks tenaciously. With the coming down of the Truth the mind may suddenly develop new powers – painting or poetry etc.
[A.B. Purani. Evening Talks with Sri Aurobindo, p 122]
The need for mental abstractions vanishes
There was no gulf between the thought and fact,
Ever they replied like bird to calling bird;
The will obeyed the thought, the act the will.
Sri Aurobindo, Savitri – I: The House of the Spirit and the New Creation
Sri Aurobindo : Beauty is not an abstraction. It is a power of the Supreme on the plane above mind. On the plane of mind you have abstractions. It is the mind’s way of representing realities of planes higher than the mind. Behind these abstractions there is a Reality. On the plane above the mind there are no abstractions, there are realities and powers. For instance, you form an abstract idea in the mind about the Supermind. When you get to the Supermind you find it is not an abstraction at all. It is more intensely concrete than Matter, something quite overwhelming in its concrete-ness. That is why I called it the Real-Idea and not an “abstract idea”. In that sense there is nothing more concrete than God. Even if we were on the pure mental plane we would find mind much more concrete and real. But as we are on the physical plane we always think the mind more abstract. Before the Supermind Matter dwindles into a shadow !
Disciple : What is that concreteness like ?
Sri Aurobindo : The sense of solidity, mass. That is perhaps what the Veda meant when it said, “Agni is wider of light, and concrete of body“. You can say that the Supermind is harder than the diamond and yet more fluid than the gas.
[A.B. Purani. Evening Talks with Sri Aurobindo, p 291]
The mind experiences a downpour of light and knowledge
Oft inspiration with her lightning feet,
A sudden messenger from the all-seeing tops,
Traversed the soundless corridors of his mind
Bringing her rhythmic sense of hidden things.
A music spoke transcending mortal speech.
We are aware of a sealike downpour of masses of a spontaneous knowledge which assumes the nature of Thought but has a different character from the process of thought to which we are accustomed; for there is nothing here of seeking, no trace of mental construction, no labour of speculation or difficult discovery; it is an automatic and spontaneous knowledge from a Higher Mind that seems to be in possession of Truth and not in search of hidden and withheld realities. One observes that this Thought is much more capable than the mind of including at once a mass of knowledge in a single view; it has a cosmic character, not the stamp of an individual thinking.
Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine – I: Supermind, Mind and the Overmind Maya
The mind acquires the ability to reconcile contradictions
There was no quarrel more of truth with truth;
The endless chapter of their differences
Retold in light by an omniscient Scribe
Travelled through difference towards unity,
Mind’s winding search lost every tinge of doubt
Led to its end by an all-seeing speech
That garbed the initial and original thought
With the finality of an ultimate phrase:
United were Time’s creative mood and tense
To the style and syntax of Identity.
(The Overmind as mentioned before is the state reached by those who have attained Enlightenment).
What to the mental reason are irreconcilable differences present themselves to the Overmind intelligence as coexistent correlatives; what to the mental reason are contraries are to the Overmind intelligence complementaries. Overmind consciousness perceives that each view is true of the action of the principle it erects; it can see that there is a material world-formula, a vital world-formula, a mental world-formula, a spiritual worldformula, and each can predominate in a world of its own and at the same time all can combine in one world as its constituent powers.
The Overmind is a creator of truths, not of illusions or falsehoods: what is worked out in any given overmental energism or movement is the truth of the Aspect, Power, Idea, Force, Delight which is liberated into independent action, the truth of the consequences of its reality in that independence.
To the Overmind, for example, all religions would be true as developments of the one eternal religion, all philosophies would be valid each in its own field as a statement of its own universe-view from its own angle, all political theories with their practice would be the legitimate working out of an Idea Force with its right to application and practical development in the play of the energies of Nature.
Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine – I: Supermind, Mind and the Overmind Maya
- Four Powers of Intuition
- How to develop Intuition
- Epistemology of Perception
- All thoughts come from outside