We are looking into the following passage from Sri Aurobindo’s little book The Mother first published in 1928. The chapter dealing with the Four Aspects of the Mother, Chapter VI, was drafted in autumn of 1927 and was surely to have been finished before 29 October 1927, the date when Sri Aurobindo used the term “Overmind” for the first time ever. Here is the said text:
‘At the summit of this manifestation of which we are a part there are worlds of infinite existence, consciousness, force and bliss over which the Mother stands unveiled eternal Power. All beings there live and move in an ineffable completeness and unalterable oneness, because she carries them safe in her arms for ever.
‘Nearer to us are the worlds of the supramental creation in which the Mother is the supramental Mahashakti, a Power of divine omniscient Will and omnipotent Knowledge always apparent in its unfailing works and spontaneously perfect in every process. There all movements are the steps of the Truth; there all beings are souls and powers and bodies of the divine Light; there all experiences are seas and floods and waves of an intense and absolute Ananda.
‘But here where we dwell are the worlds of the Ignorance, worlds of mind and life and body separated in consciousness from her source, of which the earth is a significant centre and its evolution a crucial process. This too with all its obscurity and struggle and imperfection is upheld by the Universal Mother; this too is impelled and guided to its secret aim by the Mahashakti.
‘The Mother as the Mahashakti of this triple world of the Ignorance stands in an intermediate plane between the supramental Light, the Truth life, the Truth creation which has to be brought down here and this mounting and descending hierarchy of planes of consciousness that like a double ladder lapse into the nescience of Matter and climb back again through the flowering of life and soul and mind into the infinity of the Spirit.
‘Determining all that shall be done in the universe and in the terrestrial evolution by what she sees and feels and pours from her, she stands there above the Gods and all her Powers and Personalities are put in front of her for the action and she sends down emanations of them into these lower worlds to intervene, to govern, to battle and conquer, to lead and turn their cycles, to direct the total and individual lines of their forces.’
Here are the key-idea statements in the original text.
Far Beyond: At the summit of this manifestation, that is, in Sachchidānanda the Mother stands unveiled as the eternal Power. It means, yet beyond Sachchidānanda, in Parātpara, the Unknowable, she is a veiled Power, a Power that has not been summoned into Action, the Power of the Absolute present in It but not called out to bring a manifestation. This is the beginning of the creation, what Savitri would call as the first Nothingness with all locked potentialities and possibilities opening out.
Nearer: Nearer to us, in the Transcendent,in Sachchidānanda, in the first manifestation, she is the supramental Mahāshakti.
Cosmic manifestation: Here are the worlds of the Ignorance, of the cosmic manifestation, and the Mother as the Mahāshakti stands in an intermediate plane between the supramental Light and this hierarchy of planes of consciousness down below.
Intermediate plane: This intermediate plane must be between the supramental and the cosmic hierarchy; it is the Overmind plane. It is here that she is moved by the mysterious fiat of the Supreme; it is here she has consented to the great sacrifice.
Cloak of obscurity: Her sacrifice means she has put on the cloak of obscurity. With it she has entered into cosmic play, entered in the field of Ignorance which begins with the Overmind.
Her four Aspects: Having thus entered into cosmic play she in her four Aspects guides this Universe and deals with the terrestrial play. These four Aspects work under obscurity.
An exchange of notes: In an exchange of notes about certain chronological details the matter was discussed with Narendra G.
The text has this:
‘The Mother as the Mahashakti of this triple world of the Ignorance stands in an intermediate plane between the supramental Light, the Truth life, the Truth creation which has to be brought down here and this mounting and descending hierarchy of planes of consciousness … .’
The query is about the “intermediate plane” appearing right at the beginning of this passage. Sri Aurobindo has not defined where exactly can this plane be located; instead there isa general statement that it is between the supramental Light and the hierarchy of planes lapsing into nescience.
Arguably, it must be what he later called the Overmind. From the nature of the description it can of course be said that it belongs to the lower hemisphere.
When The Mother was published as a book in 1928 for the first time the term “Overmind” was not discovered and therefore we have here only the “intermediate plane”.
‘Do you have any idea when exactly this term “Overmind” was first used? I believe it must have been in the early 1930s. Can you please get exactly the context where it was first used? Of course, it was never there in his Arya writings.’
NG’s response: Overmind was first used here on 29 October 1927 (also in the next two dates, then in some Undated Notes):
‘A day of relaxation, dismissal of out-of-date elements and preparation for the descent of gnosis into the overmind system.
‘These four days are for the transition to gnosis. Afterwards the whole system will be perfected and applied before there is the ascent to the supermind plane.[Record of Yoga – II: 29 October 1927] (https://incarnateword.in/cwsa/11/29-october-1927#p1-p2)
Here is the Note on the Text for the Undated Notes:
‘Undated Notes, c. 1927-1928. These four passages of script all come from manuscripts datable to late 1927 or 1928. All contain references to “overmind”, a term that first occurs in the Record in the entry of 29 October 1927.
‘The torn-up sheet on which this passage was written was found by A. B. Purani together with those containing the Record of 24-31 October 1927. Its opening is similar to number 14 of the “Undated Script Jottings” (see below), which was found in a notebook used in 1928.
‘[2-3] These two passages occur in two different notebooks, both from the period 1927-28. Their terminology suggests that they may have been written after October 1927, although this would mean that they were jotted down after most of the contents of the subsequent pages of the notebooks were written.
‘ These two fragments were found on a scrap of a sheet detached from a letter-pad. The first occupies what was originally the top of the front of the sheet. It begins in the middle of a sentence. The preceding page or pages have been lost. The second fragment occupies what was the bottom of the reverse of the sheet. (The pad was stitched at the top.) Between the two fragments came whatever was written on the bottom three-quarters of the front page and the top three-quarters of the reverse.’
The Chapter VI of The Mother is dated around autumn of 1927 and this passage seems surely to have been finished before 29 October 1927. Here is the Note on the Text:
‘Chapter 6. Sri Aurobindo wrote this essay dealing with the four aspects of the Mother and related topics in the autumn of 1927 with the idea of publishing it in the booklet that eventually became The Mother. Referring to the essay in a letter to Punamchand Shah dated 3 October 1927, he wrote:
‘The ‘Four Aspects’ is half written and will be finished in a few days. It has been decided to publish these four writings with the February message in Calcutta.’
[The essay was published as the sixth chapter of The Mother in 1928.]
This “intermediate plane” is what to me seems undoubtedly to be what in Savitri is Book Three Canto Two, The Adoration of the Divine Mother, which is above Overmind and below Supermind.
I would also relate this “intermediate plane” to “the formation of twelve pearls” above the Mother’s head. Mother refers this to be the plane above the “god’s region”:
May 11, 1963
But where does the significance of figures come from?
The deeper significance of figures… There are countless traditions, countless scriptures… which I took great care not to follow. But the deeper significance of figures came to me in Tlemçen, when I was in the Overmind. I don’t remember the names Théon used to give to those various worlds, but it was a world that corresponded to the highest and most luminous regions of Sri Aurobindo’s Overmind. It was above, just above the gods’ region. And it was something in accord with the Overmind creation—the earth under the gods’ influence. That was where figures took on a living meaning for me—not a mental speculation: a living meaning. That was where Madame Théon recognized me, because of the formation of twelve pearls she saw above my head; and she told me, “You are that because you have this. Only that can have this!” (Mother laughs) It hadn’t even remotely occurred to me, thank God! https://incarnateword.in/agenda/4/may-11-1963#p93-p94
Also referred here:
July 10, 1965
But before you go to sleep, do this: you picture (picture it if you don’t see it), you picture a white light. It isn’t a crystalline light, mind you, it isn’t transparent: it’s white—absolutely white, a very bright white, a white light that looks solid. Picture it like that (and it is indeed like that, but you picture it): a white light. It is the light of the Creation, what is she called?… Maheshwari? (Laughing) The supreme Lady up there.
Maheshwari’s light. But it seems I always had it, because when Madame Théon saw me, it’s the first thing she told me; she didn’t speak of “Maheshwari,” but she said, “You have the white light” that automatically dissolves all ill will. And I did experience it: I saw beings crumble into dust. So you take that, picture that, and you build a cocoon around yourself—you know, just as insects build their own cocoons—you build a cocoon before falling asleep. I will do it here, but your “picturing” is to help it be better adapted, better adjusted. You build a cocoon, and when you are quite wrapped in that white cocoon, when the enemies cannot get through it, you let yourself go into sleep. Then all that comes from outside with a manifest ill will cannot get in. That’s certain. Naturally, there is what one carries in one’s subconscient… one must eliminate that by one’s own will, little by little.
But this Light is all-powerful, mon petit! (Speaking to Sujata:) You too can do the same thing if you have enemies at night.
(Sujata:) I have seen it, you know, that white light.
Yes, I have.
Well, that’s very good. You are a good clairvoyant, so of course you have seen it. But I myself saw it, you know, as if it were someone else’s light—it’s my nature. I was using it even before meeting Théon: I knew nothing, of course, nothing, but I used to see it. And it was Madame Théon who told me, “It is your light.” Madame Théon was the first to tell me what I was, what she saw: the crown of twelve pearls over the head. As for me, I had the experience of it, after which I could simply use it at will: I just had to summon it. And I would see it just as I see you, in a perfectly objective way.
Intermediate plane again: Sri Aurobindo had first introduced the term Overmind in Record of Yoga, but this was after the publication of The Mother.
That introduction was however in personal writings; it became ‘public’ only during the Letters-period, in the 1930s.
We have to be watchful about some of these aspects even as his own classifications and explorations continued to develop.
In that sense, with a degree of caution one can say that his Synthesis of Yoga, essentially belonging to the early Arya-period, too must be seen more in terms of the Letters which really update it. That historical perspective is necessary.
The most famous example of the latest categorisation is the Mind of Light, the physical’s mind receiving the supramental Light and Force, which never was there prior to the last eight articles of his published in the Bulletin, 1949-50, each on the occasion of the corresponding Darshan Day.
My hunch is that Mind of Light as a power of the Supermind was his own creation, seeing the absolute necessity for a fuller appearance of the supramental race. Ontologically a direct aspect of the Supermind in the Transcendent the Mind of Light is placed below the physical down in the hierarchy of cosmic manifestation. It is from there that the Supermind’s action in the material domain will take place,it bringing about a transformative change in the terrestrial life. It will be a necessary step towards divine life in a divine body. That is the well-defined yogic modus operandi and it is luminously at work.
It is a matter of immense pleasure to thank Vikas Bamba for his perceptive and insightful contributions while the present work was in progress. A better understanding of several details such as the Intermediate Plane, the role of Overmind in the cosmic functioning, and the nature of the Four Aspects of the Divine Mother in collective organisation has come in the process.
About the Author: Born on 17 April 1931 Dr. RY Deshpande is a professor, philosopher, author, poet and inmate of Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry. After graduating from Osmania University, Hyderabad, he joined the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, Mumbai as a research physicist in 1955 and worked in this organization till 1957. In 1957 he joined the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre, Mumbai where he worked till 1981 and headed several Atomic Energy and Space Projects in Advance Technology with Dr. Raja Ramanna. Having received his Ph.D. in nuclear physics in 1964, he worked at the Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory, Berkeley, California USA from 1964 to 1965. He has some fifty research papers published in national and international scientific journals. He was also an examiner for a number of Ph.D. theses in the field of Solid State Physics. In 1981 Deshpande joined Sri Aurobindo Ashram of Pondicherry. For thirty years, he taught physics and a few other subjects such as Astrophysics, Savitri, The Future Poetry, Science and Society at the Sri Aurobindo International Centre of Education. For eight years he was the associate Editor of Mother India, a Monthly Review of Culture, published by the Sri Aurobindo Ashram. During 2007-2008 Deshpande was the editor of a web-magazine titled Science-Culture-Integral Yoga founded in Los Angeles. His published works in prose and poetry include titles like Sri Aurobindo and the New Millennium, Vyasa’s Savitri, The Ancient Tale of Savitri, “Satyavan Must Die”, All Life is Yoga, Nagin-bhai Tells Me, The Rhododendron Valley, All is Dream-Blaze, Under the Raintree, Paging the Unknown, The Wager of Ambrosia, Savitri: Notes and Comments, Elements and Evolution, Sri Aurobindo’s Narad, The Birth of the Sun-God, Hymns to Becoming, These Mountains, The Secret Knowledge, Savitri Talks: The Symbol Dawn, Islam’s Contribution to Science, Big Science and India, Running Through Savitri, A Look at the Symbol Dawn: Observations-Comments-Discussions, Savitri: The Poetry of Immortality, and Sanatana Dharma: An Aurobindonian Perspective to name a few. He has also edited the following books: Nirodbaran: Poet and Sadhak, Amal Kiran: Poet and Critic and Perspectives of Savitri.