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.
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In his book ‘Twelve Years with Sri Aurobindo’, Nirodbaran recalls:
“When the Bulletin of Sri Aurobindo International Centre of Education was launched, the Mother wanted to initiate it with an article from Sri Aurobindo. Some days passed. She asked him if he had started writing it. He answered with a smile, ‘No.’ After a few days, she reminded him of the urgency. Then he began dictating on the value of sports and physical gymnastics… As he was dictating, I marvelled at so much knowledge of Ancient Greece and Ancient India stored up somewhere in his superconscious memory and now pouring down at his command in a smooth flow. No notes were consulted, no books were needed, yet after a lapse of so many decades everything was fresh, spontaneous and recalled in vivid detail!” (pp. 247-248).
The first issue of the ‘Bulletin of Physical Education’ (later renamed as ‘Bulletin of Sri Aurobindo International Centre of Education’) was published on 21 February 1949. From February 1949 to November 1950, a total number of eight articles dictated by Sri Aurobindo appeared in the ‘Bulletin’. These articles were later published under the title, ‘The Supramental Manifestation upon Earth’ in 1952. The sixth article of this series, entitled ‘Supermind in the Evolution’, begins with the following lines:
‘A new humanity would then be a race of mental beings on the earth and in the earthly body but delivered from its present conditions in the reign of the cosmic Ignorance so far as to be possessed of a perfected mind, a mind of light, which could even be a subordinate action of the Supermind or Truth-consciousness, and in any case capable of the full possibilities of mind acting as a recipient of that truth and at least a secondary action of it in thought and life. It could even be a part of what could be described as a divine life upon earth and at least the beginnings of an evolution in the Knowledge and no longer predominantly in the Ignorance.”
‘In the seventh article, entitled The Mind of Light which was published in the ‘Bulletin’ in its August 1950 issue, Sri Aurobindo discusses the central theme of the series: “A new humanity means for us the appearance, the development of a type or race of mental beings whose principle of mentality would be no longer a mind in the Ignorance seeking for knowledge but, even in its knowledge bound to the Ignorance, a seeker after Light but not an inhabitant of the Light, not yet a perfected instrument, truth-conscious and delivered out of the Ignorance. Instead, it would be possessed already of what could be called a mind of Light, a mind capable of living in the truth, capable of being truth-conscious and manifesting in its life a direct in place of an indirect knowledge.
‘Its mentality would be an instrument of the Light and no longer of the Ignorance. At its highest it would be capable of passing into the Supermind and from the new race would be recruited the race of supramental beings who would appear as the leaders of the evolution in earth-nature. Even, the highest manifestations of a mind of Light would be an instrumentality of the Supermind, a part of or a projection from it, a stepping beyond humanity into the superhumanity of the supramental principle. Above all, its possession would enable the human being to rise beyond into those highest powers of the mind in its self-exceedings which intervene between our mentality and Supermind and can be regarded as steps leading towards the greater and more luminous principle [i.e. Supermind].’
The highest “powers of the mind” in the last sentence are the same as the aforementioned “powers of the nature still belonging to the mental region which are yet potentialities of a growing gnosis lifted beyond our human mentality”. “In this inevitable ascent the mind of Light is a gradation, an inevitable stage”, writes Sri Aurobindo. “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.”
He goes on to say that the embodiment of the Mind of Light will proceed in two stages. “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.”
‘“Supermind and Mind of Light” is the title of the last article and was published in the Bulletin of November 1950. The complete definition of the Mind of Light is available in this article. “The Mind of Light is a subordinate action of Supermind, dependent upon it even when not apparently springing directly from it… 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 in 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-consciousness into ignorance.’
When Sri Aurobindo left His physical body on 5 December 1950, the Mother received the Mind of Light from Sri Aurobindo into the cells of Her body. She told K.D. Sethna afterwards: “As soon as Sri Aurobindo withdrew from his body, what he has called the Mind of Light got realised in me. The Supermind had descended long ago – very long ago – into the mind and even into the vital [of Sri Aurobindo and herself]; it was working in the physical also but indirectly through those intermediaries. The question was about the direct action of the Supermind in the physical. Sri Aurobindo said it could be possible only if the physical mind received the supramental light: the physical mind was the instrument for direct action upon the most material. This physical mind receiving the supramental light Sri Aurobindo called the Mind of Light.” (K.D. Sethna, ‘The Vision and Work of Sri Aurobindo, p. 105)
Unfortunately, with the exception of K.D. Sethna alias Amal Kiran, Dr. R.Y. Deshpande and Georges Van Vrekhem, very few Aurobindonian scholars have realized the significance of the Mind of Light. It’s time we discuss the concept of the Mind of Light in detail and bring to notice its importance.
In his article entitled ‘The Supermind’s Descent and “The Mind of Light” published in his book, ‘The Vision and Work of Sri Aurobindo’, K.D. Sethna writes:
‘Whoever has studied the full circumstances, both inner and outer, of the momentous event that was the passing of Sri Aurobindo from the material scene knows this event to have been, for all its so-called “clinical picture”, no inevitable hour of mortality. It reveals itself as an extreme measure freely adopted, for reasons of his own, in significant yet never dominant mortal detail by one who, after having ascended in consciousness to a new and hitherto unmanifested power of the Divine Reality, sought to effect a descent of it for earth’s complete perfection, including a transformation of the very body of man. The spiritual perfectionist found at a critical turn of his battle with entrenched powers of darkness in earth’s being that to take his own semi-transformed body through the process of a death at once normal and supernormal was a paradoxical short-cut towards the revolutionary evolution of humanity into divinity that was his aim. Whoever has studied the full circumstances knows too that as a result of this grand and dreadful strategic sacrifice the new power which Sri Aurobindo had variously termed Supermind, Gnosis, Truth-Consciousness came down at last into earth’s being and established there a first centre of action. This wonderful descent charged most conspicuously for a while the Master’s own body, rendering it strangely luminous to the eyes of many as well as keeping it absolutely incorrupt for over a hundred hours in even the tropical climate. Also, the descended marvel settled permanently in his spiritual co-worker, the Mother, for transformative earth-use and was responsible for the phenomenon that the Aurobindonian work, instead of dwindling after the Master’s self-withdrawal, leaped gloriously forward under her leadership.
‘But what exactly was the centre of action established, by which the Supermind has been ever since in operation no longer from merely high above or deep within but even from the level of the embodied nature, in a gradually increasing degree marking manifestation after greater manifestation of the Divine in the stuff of the human? To put the query in other words: what exactly got realised and was set working when the Supermind descended into the body? The answer – at once a definition of the result achieved and a disclosure of the logic of the event – is to be found in a succinct pronouncement made by the Mother to the present writer. She said:
‘“As soon as Sri Aurobindo withdrew from his body, what he has called the Mind of Light got realised in me.”
‘“The Supermind had descended long ago – very long ago – into the mind and even into the vital: it was working in the physical also but indirectly through those intermediaries. The question was about the direct action of the Supermind in the physical. Sri Aurobindo said it could be possible only if the physical mind received the supramental light: the physical mind was the instrument for direct action upon the most material. This physical mind receiving the supramental light Sri Aurobindo called the Mind of Light.”
‘Face to face with such a clear-cut statement our sole task is to use as exegesis on its conjunction of physical mind, Supermind and Mind of Light Sri Aurobindo’s own treatment of the last. His phrase, “Mind of Light”, except for an occurrence in Book IV, Canto I, of Savitri in connection with Savitri’s early development—
A mind of light, a life of rhythmic force,
A body instinct with hidden divinity
Prepared an image of the coming god—
is used with a specific connotation for the first time in the concluding essays in the series originally published in the Mother’s ‘Bulletin of Physical Education’ and later collected in book-form under the title, ‘The Supramental Manifestation Upon Earth’. The connotation is indeed specific but packed with subtleties, all of which are not expounded in full in the essays before us, and it displays a sort of spectrum-band of more than one shade. Sri Aurobindo intended to write further on the theme and in the existing essays he discusses the Mind of Light with reference less to the initiation of this novel state in the course of his Integral Yoga than to the general life afterwards of a humanity to which such a state might spread and even become, instead of our present mentality, native. So we must examine the phrase carefully with an eye to both the implicit and the explicit and combine with the clues derived from these last writings those available from his major philosophical work, The Life Divine, to which The Supramental Manifestation Upon Earth is, in many senses, a sequel. Then we shall be best able to correlate his declarations with the Mother’s pronouncement and by their help fill out the significance it reveals of the supramental descent into the body, which started on December 5, 1950.’
K.D. Sethna continues in his article ‘The Supermind’s Descent and “The Mind of Light” published in his book, ‘The Vision and Work of Sri Aurobindo’:
‘Preliminary to our exposition of the Mind of Light as treated by Sri Aurobindo we must seize the meaning of the words, “physical mind”, employed by the Mother. Elucidation of them will also elucidate those two other terms of hers: “the mind” and “the vital”. Evidently these terms denote parts of our nature that are to be distinguished from the physical mind and the physical vital. After the physical mind, the physical vital is what has to receive the supramental light and be its second centre of operation if the most material, the physical proper, is to be supramentalised and a complete divinisation of earth-nature accomplished. It should be obvious that, strictly speaking, the physical vital is the vitality, the life-force, that has assumed the aspect of nervous energy in us, sustaining and activating the material form into which it is intimately infused, and carrying on not only the organic process but the complex play of bodily desire. Similarly, the physical mind, strictly speaking, is mind assuming the aspect of brain-activity in us by which we get the experience of physical things, are engrossed in that experience and respond in various ways of thought, feeling, volition to sense-contacts.
‘But this matter-obsessed brain-mind does not exhaust our mentality, for the latter is not concerned only with physical things. Even science which is ostensibly thus concerned goes beyond them, for it has its abstract theorist of unvisualisable concepts. Also, there are the pure mathematician, the idealistic dreamer and planner, the artist, the philosopher, the ethico-religious disciplinarian and the spiritual aspirant. And behind the multifold mentality that is man’s in his normally conscious state are reaches and recesses which he is not ordinarily aware of and among which the most immediately potent and productive are the subliminal. All those parts that are not preoccupied with or mainly governed by physical things are linked with the subliminal and in many respects are, as it were, its projections. Yet, inasmuch as they function within man’s conscious state, they form one team with the part which is matter-obsessed. And, like that part, they work in close connection with the brain and are not ordinarily known to be independent of it. A pragmatic continuity they have with the brain-mind, are often hampered by it and in a general manner conditioned by its matter-obsession. In this respect also they stand with the brain-mind over against the subliminal. If we call the subliminal the inner mind and take it to pass beyond the physical formula, the rest is the outer or surface mind and the physical formula covers the whole of it in one way or another. Broadly speaking, what is not subliminal is the physical mind.
‘Likewise the physical vital, broadly speaking, is all that functioning of the life-force which is not subliminal vitality: the outward-thrown energy of the mighty creators, destroyers, achievers no less than the body-confined organic process and desire-play is then the physical vital. The physical vital and the physical mind are not only life-force and mind which have arisen in the physical proper and, while giving it a rudimentary mechanical sensitiveness and perceptiveness, have themselves taken up the role as of physical functions in the shape of nervous energy and brain-activity: they are also the entire mass of established human workings of vitality and mentality, whatever is not usually independent of the nervous and the cerebral but is pragmatically continuous with them even in its keenest and finest manifestations.
‘This description equates the mind and the vital mentioned by the Mother with the subliminal or inner mentality and vitality, mind and life-force in their own right apart from matter though thrusting their powers into matter, joining up with and developing the mental and the vital evolving from the “inconscience” of matter in which they lie “involved”. The involved vital and mental that have evolved are mind and life-force physical in the strict sense, while in the broad sense the vital and mental “evolutes” of earth, in addition to being these, are constituted by their development under the pressure of mind and life-force from above matter and by their juncture with the powers thrust from the subliminal into terrestrial evolution.
‘Physical mind, in the broad sense, is just what Sri Aurobindo means whenever he speaks of the Mind in us that has to change under the influence of Supermind. Although he often brings out the narrow sense when demarcating the many layers or folds of our mentality, the broad sense is obvious as soon as he talks of the subliminal in contrast to the Mind of our ordinary possession. The latter he generally names the waking or surface consciousness, but he sometimes names it the “corporeal mentality” and even the designation, “physical mind”, is not always absent. Thus, while discussing Mind and Supermind in Chapter XVIII of The Life Divine, he writes: “To us mind seems to be determined by the body, because it is preoccupied with that and devoted to the physical workings which it uses for its conscious superficial action in this gross material world. Employing constantly that operation of the brain and nerves which it has developed in the course of its own development in the body, it is too absorbed in observing what this physical machinery gives to it to get back from it to its own pure workings; those are to it mostly subconscious…. This corporeal mentality is merely our surface of mind, merely the front which it presents to physical experience.” Here, “subconscious” which Sri Aurobindo usually demarcates from “subliminal” is used loosely as a synonym for the latter: in fact, in the same context occurs the phrase, “subconscious or subliminal to us”. Clearly, the corporeal mentality is all that we normally know as Mind in ourselves, including “most of the larger, deeper and more forceful dynamic action of our surface mind” as well as “the pure thinker in us”, the immediate origin of both of which Sri Aurobindo in this context traces to the subliminal. In Chapter XI of Part II of The Life Divine he says: “The subliminal self… has the same capacities as our waking being, a subtle sense and perception, a comprehensive extended memory and an intensive selecting intelligence, will, self-consciousness; but even though the same in kind, they are wider, more developed, more sovereign. And it has other capacities which exceed those of our mortal mind because of a power of direct awareness of the being, whether acting in itself or turned upon its object, which arrives more swiftly at knowledge, more swiftly at effectivity of will, more deeply at understanding and satisfaction of impulse. Our surface mind is hardly a true mentality, so involved, bound, hampered, conditioned is it by the body and bodily life and the limitations of the nerve-system and the physical organs. But the subliminal self has a true mentality superior to these limitations; it exceeds the physical mind and physical organs although it is aware of them and their works and is, indeed, in a large degree their cause or creator.” The waking human mental in its totality, the whole of embodied Mind whether in its strictly physical or in its subtler and higher yet generally brain-dependent or at least brain- influenced workings is here what Sri Aurobindo terms surface mind or physical mind.
‘The embodied human mental, to which the epithet “physical” is broadly appropriate, is, in ‘The Supramental Manifestation Upon Earth’, the Mind spoken of as being converted into the Mind of Light and utilised for supramentalisation of bodily vitality and bodily matter. Take the following passage: “In place of the human mind as it now is, a mind limited, imperfect, open at every moment to all kinds of deviation from the truth or missing of the truth, all kinds of error and openness even to the persuasions of a complete falsehood and perversion of the nature, a mind blinded and pulled down towards inconscience and ignorance, hardly arriving at knowledge, an intellect prone to interpret the higher knowledge in abstractions and indirect figures seizing and holding even the messages of the higher intuition with an uncertain and disputed grasp, there could emerge a true mind6 liberated and capable of the tree and utmost perfection of itself and its instruments, a life governed by the free and illumined mind, a body responsive to the light and able to carry out all that the free mind and will could demand of it.”
‘Again, what else than the physical mind in the broad sense is described when Sri Aurobindo, apropos of the Supermind whose “consciousness lives always in an immediacy of knowledge and acts by a direct immediacy of knowledge”, writes7: “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.”
‘Finally, the totality of the human mental, with its higher no less than its lower powers gripped within the evolutionary bodily formula and physicalised into gross ignorance and incompetence, is strikingly summed up thus8: “It is a power for creation, but either tentative and uncertain and succeeding by good chance or the favour of circumstance or else, if assured by some force of practical ability or genius, subject to flaw or pent within inescapable limits. Its highest knowledge is often abstract, lacking in a concrete grasp; it has to use expedients and unsure means of arrival, to rely upon reasoning, argumentation and debate, inferences, divinations, set methods of inductive or deductive logic, succeeding only if it is given correct and complete data and even then liable to reach on the same data different results and varying consequences; it has to use means and accept results of a method which is hazardous even when making a claim to certitude and of which there would be no need if it had a direct or a supra-intellectual knowledge. It is not necessary to push the description further; all this is the very nature of our terrestrial ignorance and its shadow hangs on even to the thought and vision of the sage and the seer and can be escaped only if the principle of a truth-conscious supramental knowledge descends and takes up the governance of the earth-nature.”
K.D. Sethna continues:
‘Having fixed the province of the physical mind which the supramental re-creates into the Mind of Light, we should do well as the next step to mark systematically though briefly the main contrast between it and Supermind, basing ourselves on the citations we have already made from Sri Aurobindo as well as on others in The Life Divine. This will pointedly serve to suggest what the re-creation would be like.
‘Mind in its established human workings is a profound ignorance trying to acquire knowledge and the very knowledge it acquires is of appearances, of nature’s surface activity, objective or subjective, rather than of nature’s depth and of the under-lying ultimate reality. Further, both in its practical knowledge and in the theoretical constructs it makes to correlate observations it grasps not the substance of things but only an image or eidolon of them: it stands outside what it seeks to know, and knows nothing from the inside by a sense of oneness with it. Again, its mode of operation is analysis and synthesis. It divides, distinguishes, differentiates — it breaks up everything into parts and strains at a whole by merely aggregating them on a basis of similarity or affinity. It never arrives at a final totality or unity or infinity or essentiality, except as an abstract conception to which nothing in its contact with things concretely answers: whatever concrete sense it has through image or eidolon is of sections, fragments, finites, particulars. On its dynamic side also it is circumscribed and indirect: it can will within just a narrow range and to carry out its volition it has to employ instruments, external or internal, instead of being effective by its own strength. Even between its thought and its volition, however close they may seem, there is always a state of strain, as if the thought were not intrinsically effective and the volition not intrinsically conceptive. Though capable of striking originality in some respects, it falls lamentably short of consummately organising the world or fulfilling the self according even to its own restricted sense of the good, the beautiful, the true.
‘Unavoidably, when our highest power is like this, impulse and emotion tend ever to tear individual as well as collective life with discords and imbalances, and whatever little harmony and happiness is the human lot proves precarious and superficial. If bodily mind and bodily life-force are so imperfect, bodily matter is bound to be still more limited, gross and insecure despite the show of strength, beauty and stability put up by it at times. There is no doubt that unless mind — not only in its inner or subliminal recesses where, though ignorant, it is a freer and less dense agent, but also in the physical formula of it which is the principal power in us — can be radically converted, earth-existence is doomed to imperfection; for this power alone can be the first decisive fulcrum to move the rest of our members.
‘Can the human mental shed its ignorance radically or is ignorance in one degree or another the very grain of its composition? According to Sri Aurobindo, our mind is what it is, not because it is intrinsically a mode of ignorance but because it is cut off from Supermind, the Truth-Consciousness, the divine Gnosis, of which it is an obscured derivate and whose covered-up parenthood is still hinted in our insatiable dreams and aspirations, our pursuit of ideals and values, our ventures after Soul and Spirit. The Supermind is eternally aware of essentiality, infinity, unity, totality, and its knowledge of particulars, finites, fragments, sections proceeds on the basis of that awareness and is indeed a diverse freely demarcated play of it. We may guess that such awareness implies an inside knowledge of everything, a knowledge by oneness with the known. Yes, the Supermind does not know by mere image or eidolon: it knows by identity and all that it knows is truth and every truth known by it is a truth of itself formulated and held within its own substance and consciousness. Idea and reality are not separate for it: they are a single consciousness and a single substance: knowledge here consists of “Real-Idea”.
‘And, we should add, the Supermind’s will, unlike the mind’s, is automatically self-effectuating: what is seen by the Supermind as a truth to be actualised is instantly made actual because the vision of the thing to be done and the will to do it are not rent asunder and do not have to be brought into a sort of fallible liaison as is the case with mind: they are a single movement of sovereign creativity and indeed it is on account of their being such that all supramental knowledge is not separated into idea and reality, the conceived and the existent.
‘Further, the supramental will’s automatic self-effectuation ensures perfect bliss: frustration and unfulfilment have no place. Nor is the will of one being ever against the will of another, for the Supermind’s eternal awareness of essentiality, infinity, unity, totality implies that there is no discord or strife. A spontaneous universal happy harmony which nothing can mar and which we with our mind as at present can never reproduce is the constant life on the plane of the Truth-Consciousness. Form, too, is flawless there, an artistry practised by eternal bliss with infinite consciousness in absolute substance.
‘If our mind were not cut off from Supermind, if it could connect with the supramental power, it would initiate in the most genuine sense a divine existence on earth and not be in its cognition the groper and stumbler or, at best, the totterer that it is. The Truth-Consciousnesss would be at work in mental terms. The mind would be no movement of darkness or of twilight but of Light. Then, even within all limits and measures, withholdings and gradualities, it would be unmixed with falsehood. However restrained in intensity and immensity its Light, it would still proceed from truth to truth – from small to less small truth instead of large to less large error or, at most, to truth mingled with error and thus superficialised and devitalised.’
K.D. Sethna further adds:
‘Here it is necessary to conceive clearly what Sri Aurobindo means in his last writings by mind’s being not cut off from Supermind and becoming by connection with it the Mind of Light. For, being not cut off can be one of two things: either to be actual part of the supramental or to be like the graded ladder of world-being which Sri Aurobindo declares to be intervening between Supermind and mind as it functions in us. The rungs of this ladder he has designated in The Life Divine as those of Spiritual Mind, employing the epithet “spiritual” in a particular sense in distinction from “supramental”. Downward from Supermind these gradations he labels as Overmind, Intuition, Illumined Mind, Higher Mind, – a series running from greater to less knowledge until it lapses into the labouriously learning ignorance distinguishing the mental grade on which human beings live at present. Most in Overmind but definitely in even Higher Mind the consciousness is linked with the supramental Gnosis, “devolved from it” and “dependent upon it”. That linking secures on each rung of Spiritual Mind’s ladder a play of Light.
‘To regard the Mind of Light as being created by a linking up of the human mental with the Supermind in the manner of Spiritual Mind’s ladder is a misconception. But it may arise from certain passages in Sri Aurobindo if they are read in isolation instead of in continuity with all the rest on the subject. And associated with it there can be another misconception even more off the mark, which we should first dispose of. This misconception makes the Mind of Light the last rung of Spiritual Mind’s ladder, an already existent plane on its own, in which that ladder continues at the end where Higher Mind is stationed, instead of breaking at this end and leaving the human mental a level of ignorance.
‘But the Mind of Light does seem a plane that is the lowest part of the luminous ladder above the human mental if we shut ourselves up in the following passage: “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… we have not yet crossed over the borders of the truth-conscious into ignorance…. We have passed into Mind but Mind has still not broken its inherent connection with the Supramental principle…. In the order of the evolutionary descent we stand in the Mind of Light on that border and a step downward can carry us beyond it into the beginnings of an ignorance which still bears on its face something of the luminosity that it is leaving behind.
‘On the other hand, in the ascending order of the evolution we reach a transition in which we see the light, are turned towards it, reflect it in our consciousness and one further step carries us into the domain of the Light. The Truth becomes visible and audible to us and we are in immediate communication with its messages and illuminations and can grow into it and be made one with its substance. Thus there is a succession of ranges of consciousness which we can speak of as Mind but which belongs practically to the higher hemisphere although in their ontological station they are within the domain of the lower hemisphere.”
‘What is forgotten, vis-à-vis this passage, is that Sri Aurobindo writes, a little later, of the manifestation of life and mind in the earth’s history and of the Mind of Light as another development “in the series of the order of existence and as the last word of the lower hemisphere of being, the first word of the higher hemisphere”—that is, something which is not exclusively in either hemisphere already but forms between the two in the course of time a link of transition by which the human passes towards and fuses with the superhuman, a state in which the lower itself finds a culmination in Light and becomes a plane of knowledge like those of the higher hemisphere, a plane which preludes the realisation of the whole higher hemisphere in the human. It is when we look at this link after it has been formed, this state after it has got realised, that it stands as “the last of a series of descending planes of consciousness in which the Supermind veils itself by a self-chosen limitation or modification”.¹³ It does not stand already existent but takes shape as a result of the Supermind’s action upon the human mental: it is a conversion of ignorance into Light, making, as Sri Aurobindo says, “human mentality an adjunct and a minor instrumentation of the supramental knowledge.”
‘Sri Aurobindo also speaks of “the pressure of the supermind creating from above out of itself the mind of Light” at a certain stage of earth’s development and, although he frequently refers to the replacing of the human mental ignorance by the Mind of Light, he nowhere alludes to the Mind of Light descending, as he does to Spiritual Mind descending or Supermind descending – an omission impossible if the Mind of Light were a pre-existent plane above the human mental instead of the “physical mind receiving the supramental light”. Besides, if this Mind were a plane belonging to Spiritual Mind’s ladder, Sri Aurobindo would certainly mention it in The Life Divine where he gives a detailed description of the various rungs. Of course, there are many things not mentioned in that book, but what is not mentioned is what was too high or too complex to be touched upon at the time the book was published. Surely, if Sri Aurobindo could mention high and complex things like Overmind and even Supermind, what sense could there be in refraining from mention of a plane which, according to the interpreters whom we are correcting, is below even Higher Mind?
‘However, we must admit that two definite suggestions could be received from the quoted passage. The first is: the Mind of Light, when it does take shape, is a creation of Supermind on the same principle as are the grades of Spiritual Mind, so that it seems to be not Supermind itself in the physical mentality but a newly arrived member of the family of Spiritual Mind. The second is: the Mind of Light gets its membership in this family pretty low in the scale, for it appears to be a state inferior to Higher Mind though still a state of knowledge and not of ignorance. At the moment we are concerned directly with the first and general suggestion. By tackling it correctly we shall also know how to catch hold of the second and particular suggestion by the right end. It may be said to get confirmed when Sri Aurobindo uses analogous language about the family in question and about the Mind of Light. About the family he writes : “We may say that there is a higher hemisphere of our being in which Mind luminous and aware of its workings still lives in the Light and can be seen as a subordinate power of the Supermind; it is still an agent of the Truth-Consciousness, a gnostic power that has not descended into the mental ignorance; it is capable of a mental gnosis that preserves its connection with the superior light and acts by its power. This is the character of Overmind in its own plane and of all the powers that are dependent on the Overmind: the Supermind works there but at one remove as if in something that it has put forth from itself but which is no longer entirely itself but is still a delegate of the Truth and invested with its authority.” The Mind of Light is similarly spoken of as “a subordinate action of Supermind, dependent upon it even when not apparently springing direct from it…. This too proceeds from the Supermind and depends upon it even though it is limited and subordinate.”
‘Hence, even if the Mind of Light is not a pre-existent plane but stands as a luminous kingdom by a conversion of the physical mentality, it still gives the impression of being “spiritual” and not “supramental”. The distinction is highly significant, for it is as between two typal orders, each with its own principle of world-organisation and is not meant to point only to different degrees of the Light of Gnosis. The very top of Spiritual Mind’s ladder, Overmind, directly neighbours Supermind and receives the latter’s action immediately and not distantly as do Intuition, Illumined Mind, Higher Mind and yet it is not merely a self-chosen limitation or modification of Supermind in the sense of restrained deployment of the Truth-Consciousness: it is a limitation or modification in the sense that, though there is no lapsing of the Truth-Consciousness, there is a change of characteristic poise in the deployment of knowledge. That is what is implied in Sri Aurobindo’s saying at the same time that it is invested with Supermind’s authority and that Supermind works in it at one remove as if in something not entirely itself. We shall soon see what is the change of characteristic poise. Here it is enough to note that it is there. So, the question whether the Mind of Light stands with Spiritual Mind or with Supermind is important and to dispel the misconception that Sri Aurobindo anywhere intends it to be classed with the former is as necessary as to dispel the misconception that it is a pre-existent plane.
‘The clue to right understanding lies in remembering just this latter misconception and realising that even the fitting on, as it were, of the Mind of Light to the ladder of Spiritual Mind is by conversion of the stuff of ignorance: the Mind of Light is not a level of knowledge naturally existing as a diminution of Higher Mind; it is a manifestation from above in the human mentality, a manifestation in which, to quote Sri Aurobindo’s words, “in-conscience, ignorance and error can claim no place”. Can a state of this kind where a radical conversion has occurred be one of Spiritual Mind? Of course, Spiritual Mind can be a state of knowledge from the beginning, but here is a case of ignorance radically ceasing for the first time – an entirely different case. And what we have to decide is whether Spiritual Mind at even its highest can bring about such a state. For, if it can, it can itself be a state in which a condition of ignorance has radically ceased by its action.
‘In The Life Divine Sri Aurobindo has made it abundantly plain that the Overmind itself, the highest spiritual mental, cannot effect a radical ceasing of ignorance in the human mental. The reason for the Overmind’s insufficiency is the peculiar posture of relation in it between the One and the Many. All the levels of world-being are a play of the Many and the One: the nature of each level is defined by the terms characteristic to it of this play. In the Supermind the One and the Many are balanced and integrated and, while the One does not annul or engulf the Many, the Many always cast back to the One and there is no such stress on them as might bring about the possibility of their running away from it and causing a genuine fissure between it and them as well as among themselves – the fissure which is the ignorance, the lack of Light, on our human mental plane. On the other hand, in the Overmind, though there is no ignorance yet and Light prevails, the ominous stress occurs: the Many are allowed to run to the utmost distance, so to speak, from the One without breaking their connection: the connection never fails but it is subdued, thrown into the background, functions only as an overall and general instead of immediate and prominent principle. No discord and still an infinity of divergences and counter-actions: extreme opposites and yet a holding of them together as finally fitting complementaries. The Self of selves is not abrogated, but a dangerous game of innumerably multiplied mutual exclusion is carried on. It is this that, as the Light grows less intense and immense in the downward gradation of Spiritual Mind, culminates in the fall from Higher Mind into the sharp division felt between self and self, object and object, individual and universe, on the plane of our mentality. Given the Overmind, there is an inevitability of ignorance happening at some point in the series of worlds issuing from it below.
‘The presence of this inevitability proves that the Overmind has not the sovereign Truth which can transform all human parts and activities completely into divine ones: the Overmind does not hold the impeccable and all-harmonising Archetype of the evolutionary mind, life-force and matter that are our cosmos. The Supermind is the supreme Creator, and everything, including our cosmos of ignorance, is actualised by it freely, through Overmind and other planes, for the purpose of gradual self-discovery by the Divine under conditions commencing with the very opposite of all that is deific – blind brute matter in which neither life-force nor mind seems to exist, much less what is beyond mind, but which yet holds them involved for evolutionary emergence by their own nisus from below and by a pressure from above of planes where their principles stand in typal manifestation, uninvolved. Yes, Supermind is the supreme Creator, and in its own plane it keeps the divine original of everything: ignorance does not come out of it anywhere in the world-series as an inevitability but as a mode of its infinite freedom founded in the perfection its plane manifests through the balance and integration of the One and the Many: its plane alone is free enough and perfect enough to fulfill evolutionary mind, life-force and matter by converting the progressive Lightward straining of darkness and dusk into a process of ever-unfolding Light.
‘Hence only the Supermind can create the radical change marked by the Mind of Light in the stuff of ignorance resulting from a breaking of the luminous ladder. No grade of Spiritual Mind can repair that break. So, the Mind of Light, however restrained its movement from truth to truth, no matter if seeming to be connected at many removes with Supermind, is really an expression of the supramental power operating in persona propria and not, as in Spiritual Mind, with a change of characteristic poise in the deployment of knowledge. It is itself Supermind creative in the field of terrestrial evolution and operating in human mind-terms.
K.D. Sethna continues his analysis of the Mind of Light:
‘All this we must keep in focus if we are to arrive at a proper comparison between the Mind of Light and the grades of Spiritual Mind, unembodied or in embodiment. Without it we shall stop short with regarding the Mind of Light as just an added last rung to the luminous ladder and as inferior even to Higher Mind. The paradox would persist: how can a creation by Supermind of itself in the embodied mentality be inferior to a plane which, for all its lack of ignorance, is still pretty far from Supermind? Now we are led to see that the Mind of Light, holding as it does a principle superior to all Spiritual Mind, may have – nay, must have – several forms in the field of terrestrial evolution where it manifests. If at any stage it looks inferior to Higher Mind, it is something that can develop beyond it. Within its very initial form it contains, hidden like a miniature sun, the whole Supermind which escapes all Spiritual Mind and which the vastness of Overmind itself cannot comprise. What appears inferior in Light to even Higher Mind is the first peep of an effulgence before which the Overmind lustres pale.
‘By this fact it differs also from and in a certain sense surpasses all states of the human mental into which Spiritual Mind has descended. Evidently when the grades of Spiritual Mind descend into the human mental they introduce qualities which in themselves exceed the actual quality the Mind of Light manifests in its initial form. But while these grades in their undescended poise are free from ignorance they do not completely keep their freedom when under their own power they get embodied in the human mental. If they cannot create in the human mental a continuation downward of the luminous ladder, much less can they thoroughly assimilate it so as to acquire entire embodiment of their typical glories. It is because not even Overmind can affect radically the stuff of ignorance that no continuation can be brought about by it; and if Overmind is impotent in the task of continuation how can it be potent in a much greater task – namely, entire assimilation of this stuff? An entire assimilation would imply the absence of ignorance in the human mental as on the plane of Overmind, an absence far intenser and immenser than when the human mental might be rendered a diminished continuation of Higher Mind! The inevitability of ance concretising at some point in the series of planes issuing downward from Overmind incapacitates the latter for not only repairing the break in the luminous ladder but also, a fortiori, totally assimilating the human mental and converting it into a mode of its own intensity and immensity. The change effected can be very extraordinary but it is never dynamically absolute: the stuff of ignorance hampers and dilutes to a larger or smaller degree the descended Light of even the top of Spiritual Mind.
‘In contrast, the initial form of the Mind of Light, for all its apparent inferiority to Higher Mind, has still not an iota of ignorance. The Light is less intense and immense in actual outburst, but it is perfectly clear. The mass-ideation of Higher Mind, the far-ranging colourful vision-glow of Illumined Mind, the piercing intimate ubiquitous lightning-seizures of Intuition, the resplendent multitudinous catholicity and globality of Overmind may import into the human mental on their descent into it a certain richness as well as swiftness which the initially realised Mind of Light does not exhibit; yet, while the richness and swiftness will not always work in utter purity everywhere since they are still working on an unabolished though subdued ground of ignorance, the Mind of Light from the very start is utterly pure in whatever restrained quality of knowledge it exhibits.
‘But here the query which must have occurred to the reader at several points in our discussion arises inevitably: How is it that Supermind which is the acme of richness and swiftness of Light creates, on its descent, a state which has in any respect a quality of knowledge more restrained than that of embodied Spiritual Mind? We should expect this state to be not only devoid of ignorance in a radical way: we should expect it also to be superior in every respect to what Spiritual Mind could do by embodiment. Why, then, inferiority on any score at all? Inferiority on any score can come only if somehow, previous to the creation of the Mind of Light, Spiritual Mind has not descended into the human mental and got established there to the extent possible to it under its own power. But can such an “anomaly” ever happen? Unless Higher Mind, Illumined Mind, Intuition, Overmind have been realised in descent and have functioned on the level of the physical mentality, can the Mind of Light which is a result of Supermind’s descent be created in the body?
‘The answer is at once Yes and No. For, we have to draw a line between the Mind of Light forming at a highly advanced stage in the course of the Aurobindonian Yoga and the same essential power manifesting afterwards in humanity in general as an effect of this formation or in those who have not gone far in that Yoga. The one presupposes in the individual a whole history of spiritual realisations and it climaxes a long series of descents and it preludes the descent of the Supermind into bodily life-force and bodily matter. The other is a condition of various sorts. Broadly, it is that produced in people not yet ready for embodying the supramental Gnosis but sufficiently responsive to change radically from mere mind under the sovereign pressure of a Supermind descended on a large scale through the Aurobindonian Yoga into the occult atmosphere, so to speak, of earth’s being. In the long run it could be in mankind a condition even from birth as mere mind is today and that would be most in line with what is generally meant by evolutionary achievement. In many cases the condition will be of those who, though responsive to the supramental Gnosis, have not had any substantial commerce with Spiritual Mind’s gradation and into whom therefore there cannot have been a previous descent of Higher Mind, Illumined Mind, Intuition or Overmind. But this condition will be precisely what facilitates substantial commerce by rendering it natural. And, through that commerce, one who lives in this Mind of Light will be by right effort able to climb towards and into Supermind as well as call it down. But neither the substantial commerce with Spiritual Mind nor the dealings with the supramental Gnosis will everywhere be present. While in a number of human beings they will both be present, in others Spiritual Mind alone will be more or less freely contacted and in still others no free contact with even Spiritual Mind and so none with Supermind either will be there. From the first group recruits will be drawn for the expansion of the gnostic race whose nucleus we may expect to take shape out of those who are living in the Aurobindonian Yoga. The remaining two groups will be stages between this race and whatever of the human species with mind, as we ordinarily observe it, may persist for a shorter or longer time.
‘The Mind of Light, realised through Sri Aurobindo’s sacrifice and set operating for gradual formation of the nucleus of the gnostic race, is the real subject of our essay. But mostly we have discussed what will manifest in the future in the world outside this nucleus or else in those who have not progressed much in the Aurobindonian Yoga – a wonderful gift to humanity from Sri Aurobindo by means of the realisation his sacrifice won for earth. And we must continue the discussion if we are to turn his writings to account in understanding that realisation.’
K.D. Sethna further adds:
‘We have already studied the initial form of the Mind of Light and the difference between it and the fullest creations possible of Spiritual Mind before Supermind has descended. The difference provides the clue to the forms the Mind of Light assumes in its farther development. We are here talking of forms developed by supramental descent. But we can also speak of the progression of the Mind of Light by ascent, what we have already mentioned as its climbing towards and into Supermind. Once shaped, the Mind of Light can first reflect accurately in its purified and exalted condition something of the overhead planes and then rise to the plateaus and peaks of Higher Mind, Illumined Mind, Intuition, Overmind, Supermind. However, this rising will not be the same experience as that of the ordinary mentality making an ascent. For now they will be attained by something that is itself Supermind in mental terms and the experience of them will all be a progressive movement from the lowest to the highest note of Supermind’s own gamut, as it were, rather than a conversion from the ordinary mental to the spiritual mental by a change of characteristic poise and again, by another such change, to the supramental. This new kind of ascent will be an accompaniment and a help to the greater descent, a descent not only into the physical mind but also into the physical vitality and the physical proper. As Sri Aurobindo puts it, “there would be a new mental being”, “a liberated mind… aware of its affiliation to Supermind, a natural agent of Supermind and capable of bringing down the supramental influence into the lower reaches of being,… aspiring to release the secret divinity into self-finding and self-fulfilment and self-poise, aspiring towards the ascension to the divine consciousness, able to receive and bear the descent of the divine light and power, fitting itself to be a vessel of the divine Life.”
‘It is the descent with which we are concerned in this essay and the further forms of the Mind of Light resulting from the descent have to be envisaged. Its initial form which seems a continuation, below Higher Mind, of the luminous ladder is the precursor of one in which the human mental acts as if it has been completely assimilated, step after step, by the Light of descended Spiritual Mind. The word “completely” is of capital importance. For, as we have noted, when Spiritual Mind descends under its own power assimilation does occur but is never complete. The presence of the Mind of Light in one indicates that the stuff of ignorance, in which no change can be dynamically absolute before Supermind has come on the scene, is not resistant in one any longer: the Supermind has come and ignorance has radically ceased. But now not only has a continuation of the luminous ladder been brought about; a possibility has also been introduced of the total assimilation by Spiritual Mind of the human mental. The thorough descent and embodiment, therefore, of all the grades of Spiritual Mind can happen now after Supermind has started taking a direct hand instead of playing on the human mental indirectly through those grades. Once the Mind of Light begins its reign Higher Mind, Illumined Mind, Intuition, Overmind can found themselves securely and authentically on its supramental basis and reach their own perfection as embodied powers. When they do this, the Mind of Light assumes its second form. Repeating the name Sri Aurobindo gives to Spiritual Mind in its own undescended hierarchy as well as to the Mind of Light ascended there, we should call the Mind of Light in its second form in the body mental Gnosis as distinguished from the Gnosis proper which is Supermind.
‘Beyond mental Gnosis the Mind of Light manifests, in complete assimilation of the human mental, the Gnosis proper and assumes its third and sovereign form. But what the two kinds of Gnosis are in the hierarchy above the human mental is not what they are here. There they are separate though connected levels, each a cosmos with its own type and function: here the one is merely the other partially unfolded. For, the Mind of Light is not anywhere anything else than the Supermind in progressive manifestation in embodied nature. As we have observed, its very inception signalises that the Supermind is acting directly and is in immediate presence on the level of the physical mentality. But in its initial and middle forms the directness and the immediacy are, in different measures, restrained: the third form employs them freely. The supreme divinity which releases a little of its magnificence under the form of an apparent continuation at the lower end of Spiritual Mind’s gradation and then “an ampler ether, a diviner air” in the form of wholly descended mental Gnosis, is utterly laid open – a towering apocalypse in the terms of the human mental – by the third form the Mind of Light takes.
“In the terms of the human mental” – the phrase is important for grasping what, in Sri Aurobindo’s eyes, the Mind of Light ultimately manifests. The Mind of Light is not only Supermind descended into and divinising the physical mentality: it is also the manifestation of that which is the counterpart in Supermind of this mentality’s terms. The counterpart, whose apocalypse is the third form of the Mind of Light, must be a power which is not all “supra” but is in some sense “mental”: otherwise no mind, whether of Light or of twilight, can result and Spiritual Mind also will lack foundation in the Supreme. We shall understand what that power is if we remember that, according to The Life Divine, the Supermind has a triple status or a three-stranded unity. The first strand is closest to the unitarian Consciousness in which the One contains the Many indiscernibly in an unmanifest potentiality beyond space and time. The Supermind brings the Many forth into manifestation, sets them in an archetypal space and time which are extensions of Consciousness. But in its first strand it is a multitudinous yet equable self-distribution, a vast Identity infinitely repeated. Though the multiple is indeed present the single stands out: here All are not lost in the One, but All are indefeasibly the One. This is a Consciousness constituting, pervading and comprehending everything. The second strand is a Consciousness that apprehends no less than comprehends. In its own vast unity of multiplicity it creates distinguishable centres and from these centres views everything else, yet everything is known by each centre to be essentially itself: the multiple stands out as an infinite repetition of Identity. All are not indefeasibly the One, they are distinct, but still they are in the One. The third strand is a further development of the apprehending Consciousness. Each centre knows itself as other than the rest, and on the basis of an innumerable otherness the Many weave themselves into the One: difference has been added to distinction, and the multiple stands out not as an infinite repetition but as an infinite variation or diversity of the One. All are not in the One so much as the One is in All, concentrating itself in each and following the movement of that particular in pragmatic separation from, and independence of, the remaining particulars and from the totality containing that particular and these. However, the knowledge is never overclouded that what is concentrated in each separately and independently for pragmatic purposes is the Identical and through that knowledge there is an act of union simultaneously with the fact of division and difference.
‘Clearly, in the apprehending Consciousness of the Supermind we have, remotely, the beginning of a movement like that of the human mental. And in the further development of it that is the third strand this movement is in full form and could be the high-uplifted parent of our fallen mentality with a recognisable family-likeness, except for the saving grace of a simultaneous reverse side to it which balances the characteristic mind-turn of standing back in divided different centres and apprehending from them. The further development kins the apprehending movement more closely to Spiritual Mind where there is also a species of reverse side. On all the planes of Spiritual Mind the One is not lost in the Many and there is thus no play of darkness as in the human mental: in that respect no less than in respect of increase in the projecting and confronting Consciousness, the dissimilarity between Supermind and Spiritual Mind is of no more than degree. Overmind exhibits this dissimilarity attenuated to the utmost and is thereby entitled to be regarded in general as a delegated Supermind and in particular as the delegate of the Supermind’s third strand.
‘But we have already seen how the Overmind’s stress on the Many renders ignorance ultimately inevitable and the radical conversion of ignorance to Light a feat beyond this delegated Supermind. In view of that stress we have to consider the dissimilarity between the supramental and its delegate as of kind in a certain undeniable sense, and not just of degree. It obliges us to pass beyond merely terming the Supermind’s third strand a sort of Spiritual Mind which overtops the hitherto-mentioned top of the luminous ladder. The right name for it, as much “supra” as “mental”‘, and hitting off precisely the nature of what in the Supermind creates the Mind of Light and is fully active in this Mind’s third form, is found in The Life Divine. There Sri Aurobindo writes that the last of the three strands of Supermind may be called “Divine Mind”. For, this Mind carries in itself a perfect corrective to the extreme developed in it of the apprehending Consciousness and is by virtue of that corrective saved from becoming not only like the human mental but also like the spiritual mental whose gradation prepares in luminousness our obscurity. Here are absent both the twilight of our mind of ignorance fumbling towards knowledge and the Light of Spiritual Mind lessening gradually towards ignorance. Here is Mind with a secure and undiminishable radiance. Mind not simply unsundered from the supramental or a subordinate action of it but itself an inherent mode of it by which measuring and delimiting are freely done and relations freely fixed – operations necessary for creating any cosmos – without the least ignorant obscuration or even the smallest possibility of being the parent of ignorance. Here is the original face of the Truth reproduced on earth by the Mind of Light at its highest and in its full orb.
‘Thus the designation coined by Sri Aurobindo is seen to cover several phases of one and the same supramental reality in process of embodiment. We may sum up in words culled from his own last writings. When “untransformed mind or human mind burdened with its hampering disabilities” recovers, as a result of Supermind’s “descent into the human world”, its true character which is that of “a principle of Light and a power of Light or a force for Knowledge specialised in its action for a subordinate purpose”, namely “the work of differentiation… in the Supermind itself” and “in all its creation” – when mind is made to outgrow its defects and discover that some of the “characteristics which we conceive to be the very signs of its nature… belong to Supermind also and the difference is in the way and scope of their action, not in the stuff or in their principle”, then it will manifest, roughly, a threefold progression. “At its highest it might pass out of its limitations into the supramental truth and become part and function of the supramental knowledge or at the least serve for a minor work of differentiation in the consensus of that knowledge: in the lower degree below Supermind it might be a mental gnosis, a spiritual or spiritualised perception, feeling, activity, sense which could do the works of knowledge and not of ignorance. Even at a still lower level it could be an increasingly luminous passage leading from light to light, from truth to truth and no longer a circling in the mazes of half-truth and half-nescience.”
‘We may figure in greater detail the phases of the Mind of Light in terms of moon-phases. But these terms must be differentiated from those that would characterise a vision by us of the partial levels of Spiritual Mind rising into the roundness of the Divine Mind. In such a vision we might say there would be growth of Light from silver to more ample silver until we passed the Overmind, an argent disc almost whole and striking one as actually whole unless one has a sharp sense of the plenary. The full moon itself would be Divine Mind, but it would be a mass of perfection white only at first sight when the dissimilarity of merely degree and not of kind between the spiritual mental and the supramental is glimpsed. As soon as the latter is discerned, the silver is felt to become gold, the full moon shows itself as a sun white-seeming in its immediate front before the aureate depths are found shining out.
‘The phases of the Mind of Light would be of a moon golden from the very start or, rather, of a sun behaving like a moon because Divine Mind is viewed not in its original inherence in Supermind as the third strand of the latter’s triple status but in its manifestation in an evolving scheme on earth, in which there is a stage-by-stage expression of the supramental epiphany. The phases of this sun-moon stand for successive states of Supermind’s embodiment. Nowhere is any dissimilarity of kind, everywhere is dissimilarity of nothing more than degree. Even when the grades of Spiritual Mind are symbolised, it is neither in their own statuses above mind nor in their descents into mind under their own power which never radically alters the ignorance of the human mental. They are symbolised in their descended condition as brought about by a direct action of Supermind. And when the Supermind acts directly, the preliminary to their descended condition as brought about by it is the Mind of Light in its initial form. Thus, in terms of phases of a sun-moon, the human mind re-created as a somewhat diminished continuation of Higher Mind will be the crescent, a thin bright curve with upward-pointing arms within which the rest of the sun-moon’s rondure is faintly visible, a rim of Light which is not really severed from the solar-lunar globe but only put forth for a certain purpose and play as the apparent edge of a secret splendour. Higher Mind – as the entire establishment, on the physical mentality’s level, of further reaches of this splendour – will be a brighter disclosure en route to a semi-circular revelation, the half sun-moon which will be Illumined Mind in a state in which the human mental has been utterly assimilated by it. Beyond this, where the gibbous or three-quarter stage is reached, will be the phase of Intuition wholly established in incarnate mind. Much past the gibbous and close to the complete circle, leaving just a crescent-thread unencompassed by its glow, will be Overmind similarly established. The sun-moon in its rounded plenitude will be Divine Mind descended in full into the physical mentality.
‘Looking at these phases we have now to ask: What phase was realised when Sri Aurobindo withdrew from his body? It cannot be any except the last. The first phase of the sun-moon development we have figured can apply only to a case in which none of the grades of Spiritual Mind have come down and yet an initial supramental state has been created in consequence sooner or later of Sri Aurobindo’s holocaust to kindle heaven upon earth. All the other phases, short of the last, apply to various cases in which one or more of the grades have already come down and the grace of the holocaust catches them to convert what was a considerable enlightenment of ignorance into limited disclosures of Supermind in which, though ignorance could never be, knowledge does not integrally out-flower. But when all the grades have already come down and, though in the absence of Supermind’s descent no Mind of Light as such has been created, the human mental has been packed with more and more Light until the utmost that Overmind descended under its own power can do has been effulgently consummated, then the next step which is the coming down of Supermind can only be the precipitation of the integral knowledge in the shape of Supermind’s third strand into that utmost: in other words, Divine Mind makes its appearance, secures embodiment, perfects the descent of Overmind, acts for a time partly through an Overmind which is no longer its delegate at a remove but rather its own direct though apparently modified projection and partly through an open dynamic of itself, and then the whole action becomes openly supramental. Logically, too, nothing less than Supermind’s third strand would manifest when Supermind for the first time got embodied and established a centre in the human mental; for, nothing supramental can come down for the first time unless Overmind has effected a descent and after Overmind’s descent what else save Divine Mind can manifest? Anything lower in supramental quality would lack the element of richness and swiftness that Overmind’s descent, no matter if incomplete, imports on a huge scale into the human mental: something richer and swifter could be the sole sequel to that importation.
‘Yes, the Mind of Light at its supreme and in its absolute orb, is what was realised in descent into earth’s being in December, 1950. This does not mean that merely the third strand of the Supermind descended into the physical mentality. Supermind is one whole, taking three simultaneous poises, and the descent which gave birth to the Mind of Light in its full orb brought the progressively unfolding action of the whole. What that Mind did was just to throw into frontal relief the third strand while not excluding either the second of which the third is an extreme extension or the first whose modification is the second. This frontal relief is natural in all supramental embodiment – not only bodily mind but also bodily life and bodily matter must show it, the latter pair even more since they represent further stages of the differentiation, the fragmentation beginning with mind. Supermind’s third strand we have called the divine counterpart or archetype of our mentality, but really it archetypes vitality and matter as well. We give prominence to the mind-aspect because the work of conscious demarcation and differentiation to which we refer is most like the activity in us of mind. Actually, the process of delimitation within the gnostic Vast is, in Sri Aurobindo’s words, “a process by which the ever dividing and reuniting consciousness of Mind, the ever divergent and convergent action of Life and the infinitely divided and self-aggregating substance of Matter come, all by one principle and original act, into phenomenal being.” According to him, when Supermind cosmicises its own Truth and fixes many centres or standpoints by deploying the measuring and defining power that archetypes mind, then archetypal life and matter immediately follow; for life is simply the determination of force and action, of relation and interaction of energy from many fixed centres of consciousness, while matter is nothing else than the substance that provides for the determination of form at each centre, form without which the cosmic interaction would not be possible.
‘Yes, the third strand would be in frontal relief everywhere – yet, as we have said, with the two others precluded in no way. In fact, we may surmise that their dynamism would be more and more drawn upon as the descent passes from bodily mind to bodily vitality and bodily matter, for it will meet with increasing atomisation and separative concentration. The third strand, in which the One is in All, may be considered sufficient in general to transform mind which is the least obscure of the lower trinity and therefore needs the least divine puissance for its fulfilment. Life-force, with its larger obscurity, requires a more effective Truth-energy to divinise it: the second strand of the Supermind, in which All are in the One, is perhaps its principal transformer. Where obscurity has touched the nadir, the zenith must be called for: against the infinitesimally fragmented and unconscious nature of matter the first strand, in which All are the One and a vast Identity equably constitutes and pervades and comprehends everything and no multiplicity stands out at all, is likely to be the main Godhead that delivers.
‘On the other hand, since mind is the least obscure member of the lower trinity and has a quicker and larger turn towards essentiality, infinity, unity, totality than its associates, the second and first strands of the Supermind will always be more easily and perceptibly expressed in it. Though the third strand will be in frontal relief, the second and the first will constantly keep projecting their colour, so to speak, and we shall have the most vivid evidence possible of the fact that Supermind is one whole and, whatever the manner in which it acts, it acts with all of itself.
‘Thus the realisation in December, 1950, was an invasion of a part of the physical being by Supermind in its entirety – and, through that part’s organic relation with the rest, the spearhead of an invasion of the entire physical being. It started the bodily nucleus of the supramental race and also laid the foundation of all that future play of the Mind of Light in a race not yet supramental, whose broad picture Sri Aurobindo’s last writings provide. The marvellous kingdom on earth of the Gnosis proper has begun. The integral epiphany prophesied in Savitri Book XI Canto 1 is on way to fulfilment:
The mind of earth shall be a home of light,
The life of earth a tree growing towards heaven,
The body of earth a tabernacle of God.
And K.D. Sethna concludes:
‘With the direct action initiated in our midst of embodied Supermind, we may well inquire by what extraordinary signs its operative presence is accompanied. Among those that can be objectively gauged we may mention at least four. First, the most general, a many-sidedness of spiritual action: one single outflow of Yogic energy produces a far-flung network of vibrant victorious consequences. An inter-connectedness, subtle yet keenly living, is to a considerable extent rendered evident between persons or fields or events very much remote and detached even though within more or less the same province. Often it becomes necessary to lay a creative stress on just one spot, so to speak, in order to touch through it various other spots not only in the individual but also in the group and put them all in a unison of progress. Something of the essential integrality of the Supermind’s manifold comprehensiveness is seen in this achievement of maximum diverse result with a minimum expense of force, at times no more than a casual word, gesture or look. It is as though some intrinsic automatism or spontaneity of Truth-development in disparate centres were appreciably awakened.
‘A second supramental sign is an almost incredibly swift, a well-nigh irresistible influence on not only mental movements and vital turns but certain bodily processes. Many things accounted impossible by medical science get accomplished. And these “miracles” differ from the results of occult-spiritual practice such as many Yogis are capable of. In that practice a force from beyond the physical plane is brought to bear upon bodily ailments like, to a considerable extent, a foreign agency subduing defects and lapses felt to be natural to the body. The occult-spiritual “miracles” are, in the last resort, superimposed. The astonishing effects of the supramental Will are at the same time from above the stuff of body and from entirely within it. The irreducible minimum of imperfection, which even the Overmind admits in matter, as to a less degree also in life-force and mind, because the Overmind is not the ultimate Creator and Archetype, is not there for this Will: hence the miraculous operation has no foreignness about it. Everything corporeal may not be miraculously reached by the Supermind radically converting the physical mentality, but the genuine Omnipotence is at last at work here from even the earth-level, however self-restrained in several ways this Omnipotence may be in order to conform to its own laws of a manifestation that blends the evolutionary with the revolutionary. And inasmuch as this Omnipotence, being of the ultimate archetypal creativity, is one substance with matter so that matter may be looked upon as itself omnipotent in its hidden nature and destined to reveal its consubstantiality with Supermind, the supramental Will’s miracles in the body are as if with roots there and seem to grow out of matter itself on contact between the supramental and the material. There is no superimposition anywhere, no forcible subduing of the body’s so-called natural defects and lapses: rather, whatever defects and lapses are common to the body are here like temporary provisional states in the history of an unfolding intrinsic perfection: a concealed perfection and not any irreducible minimum of the imperfect is active as the body’s natural quality, and so a response is felt in the body like the secret co-operation, from one end, of the same Will that is openly exercising its omnipotence from the other. This kind of work in the body, from beyond and yet from completely inside, is exclusive to Supermind, for Supermind alone can solve radically the riddle of obscurity set by the Sphinx of matter.
‘A third sign of Supermind’s working from a physical centre is a unifying sweep through which persons touched by or attracted towards spirituality and Yoga are rapidly and triumphantly caught up into them. Obstructions of long standing in the outer self, obstructions that were adamantine as if they had been part and parcel of our embodied make-up, get broken at a stroke. Though some momentum from the past may keep a ghost of the old unregenerate nature going for a while, nothing appears to have the strength to stand against the invasion of the finite and the divided by the Infinite and the divinely One. The vast inalienable unity-in-multiplicity of the Truth-Consciousness seems to send forth a fiat which is automatically self-fulfilling. And, not seldom, on the individual who is gathered into the divine harmony this fiat works as if some supreme decree or decision were flamingly fixed in a Spirit-space above the brain: a Will not his own though mysteriously reflected in his volition is almost palpably master of his destiny and gives him peace and illumination and happy certainty of spiritual realisation, even in spite of himself! The imperious Grace from “overhead” is typically the Supermind’s largesse. The converse of this integrating of sincere yet in some respects hopelessly weak souls into the scheme of the new Truth-world in the making is, of course, the throwing out with a vehement definitiveness of those who, though carrying on some sort of Yoga, lack central sincerity. The hour of final choice strikes with a two-way effect, for the Truth-Consciousness entering earth’s being and setting each one’s human self into connection with the Truth-counterpart of it beyond does not as a rule tarry or compromise long in its dealings with practitioners of Yoga.
‘A fourth sign of the supramental descent into the physical mind is the repeated flow of mercy and power in extremities. People in their last gasp of inner struggle and on the black verge of total failure, people in a practically irredeemable situation of soul and about to sink into helpless despair, people overwhelmed by even material misfortunes that look mountainous are suddenly aided, uplifted and carried over to safety and at times to the very opposite of their state. The only condition laid down for this salvation is that a modicum somewhere of tenacity and faith should aspire, however blindly, to the Divine. This salvation is illustrative of the Supermind’s power to deliver the Light or Truth from the deepest darkness or falsehood, its capacity to turn the very Inconscient on which our universe is to all appearances based into a mould for the Superconscient which is the real secret support of the universal evolution, its omnipotent ability to manifest “one entire and perfect chrysolite” out of a maximum wreck of glittering dreams. Perhaps such power is, from a general point of view, the most important sign of the supramental Presence: a civilisation in crisis needs it acutely. And in recognition indeed of its importance now and in the future and as also a reminder that the apparently extreme tragedy of Sri Aurobindo’s passing from the material scene is in fact the most glorious triumph of his life-mission to bring the Supermind here bodily amongst us, the Mother gave on the first of January this year her message to the world which is as much Sri Aurobindo’s message: “Lord, Thou hast told us: Do not give way, hold tight. It is when everything seems lost that all is saved.”
What follows is a poem entitled ‘The Mind of Light’ written by K.D. Sethna on 4 April 1954. This poem begins with the following note: ‘When the Mother read this poem she said: “The first two lines are sheer revelation. They catch exactly what took place. The rest is an imaginative reconstruction of the event.”’
The core of a deathless sun is now the brain
And each grey cell bursts to omniscient gold.
Thought leaps—and an inmost light speaks out from things;
Will, a new miracled Matter’s dense white flame,
Swerves with one touch the sweep of the brute world.
Eyes focus now the Perfect everywhere.
In a body changing to chiselled translucency,
Through nerve on fire-cleansed nerve a wine of the Vast
Thrills from heaven-piercing head to earth-blessing feet.
The whole sky weighs down with love of the abyss.
Deeper than death the all-penetrant rays take root
To make the Eternal’s sun a rose of the dust.
About K.D. Sethna’s poem on the Mind of Light, the Mother had remarked that ‘the expression here was revelatory, an absolutely inspired and accurate transcription of what had happened, whereas the rest of the poem was an imaginative reconstruction by me of the phenomenon envisaged. Thus the physical mind concerned was only the mind in its brain- functioning, the cells concerned were solely the brain-cells and not those of the whole body though these must have been partially affected. We are face to face with an understanding of “the physical mind” dissimilar to the one prompted by “the body mind”. Not to appreciate the dissimilarity would confuse the sense of “the Mind of Light” and the place of this Mind’s realisation in the progressive stages of the Integral Yoga, the Yoga of Supramental Descent and Transformation.’ [K.D. Sethna, ‘The Development Of Sri Aurobindo’s Spiritual System And The Mothers Contribution To It’, p. 63]
Let’s see how Sri Aurobindo has defined the Mind of Light in the last of his articles for the ‘Bulletin’. The quotations are from Sri Aurobindo’s book, ‘Essays in Philosophy and Yoga’.
• “The Mind of Light is a subordinate action of Supermind, dependent upon it even when not apparently springing directly from it…” (p. 588)
• “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 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-consciousness into ignorance.” (p. 589)
• “There is a further limitation or change of characteristic action [of the supramental consciousness] 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.” (p. 590)
Georges Van Vrekhem, in his book entitled ‘Overman: The Intermediary Between the Human and the Supramental Being’ notes:
‘It should be noted that Sri Aurobindo locates the Mind of Light in the descending order of the spiritual levels as “the last of a series of descending planes of consciousness” where the border of the truth-consciousness into the ignorance is not yet crossed. In the inverse order the Mind of Light will be (or is already) the first acquisition by some advanced human beings of the Truth-Consciousness or Supermind in its most “diluted” aspect…
‘Sri Aurobindo is locating “the new humanity” in the descending order. From this passage one might conclude that the character, intensity or degree of the Mind of Light may vary to some degree and that it belongs, generally speaking, to the levels of either Higher or Illumined Mind. We already know that these two levels are the highest attained by mankind until the present in its thinkers, poets, sages, mystics, seers and saints. Now the acquisition of the Mind of Light (1) would no longer be a personal feat but an evolutionary step forward of humankind in many individuals, preparing the advent of the supramental species; (2) it would cause and even require bodily changes necessary to allow for “a partly divinised way of seeing and living”.’
Let me first say that the “Intermediate Plane” mentioned by Sri Aurobindo in his “The Mother” and the “Mind of Light” spoken of in his last set of eight articles in the “Bulletin” are not the same. This “Intermediate Plane” was designated later by him as the Overmind above which in the higher hemisphere is the Supermind. It is with the multiplicity, with each as the truth but without the knowledge of the overall and intrinsic unity, begins the Overmind. It is the Infinite becoming the Innumerable.
In contrast to that the “Mind of Light” is an aspect of the Supermind itself, a plane in the hierarchy of planes located below the physical. The “Mind of Light” is the physical’s mind receiving the supramental Light and Force which is a different thing than the Overmind. This is what Sri Aurobindo has by his yoga-tapasyā consolidated as the evolutionary gain leading to the entry of supermind itself into the process. It may be said that it is by his yoga-tapasyā that he created this new plane, as a practical necessity in the unfoldment of the process. A race governed by the “Mind of Light” is what he calls as the Intermediate Race. The Mother calls it the “Surhomme” Race, translated by Georges as the Overman Race.
It must also be understood that Sri Aurobindo did not compromise on his Avataric “a divine life in a divine body” or the supramental race, not at all. A practical way was found and the programme continues to be realised. Sufficient merit has been put into it and the work goes on by them both, the Mother and Sri Aurobindo.
We may appositely make a reference to a letter of Sri Aurobindo as follows:
“… in the Inconscient itself and behind the perversions of the Ignorance Divine Consciousness lies concealed and works and must more and more appear, throwing off in the end its disguises. That is why it is said that the world is called to express the Divine.
Your statement about the supramental evolution is correct except that it does not follow that humanity as a whole will become supramental. What is more likely to happen is that the supramental principle will be established in the evolution by the descent just as the mental principle was established by the appearance of thinking Mind and Man in earthly life. There will be a race of supramental beings on the earth just as now there is a race of mental beings. Man himself will find a greater possibility of rising to the planes intermediary between his mind and supermind and making their powers effective in his life, which will mean a great change in humanity on earth, but it is not likely that the mental stage will disappear from the ascending ladder and, if so, the continued existence of a mental race will be necessary so as to form a stage between the vital and the supramental in the evolutionary movement of the spirit.”
“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 possesses 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 always there, the consciousness its possessor and present revealer…. 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 Supramental Manifestation, SABCL, Vol. 16, pp. 70-71
The Mother explains:
“In the supramental vision one has a direct and total and immediate knowledge of things, in the sense that one sees everything at the same time, complete in itself, total. The truth of a thing in all its aspects at the same time and… simultaneous, complete. And as soon as one wants to explain that or to describe it, one is obliged to come down, so to say, to a plane which he calls here “the Mind of Light”, where things have to be said or even thought or expressed one after another, in a certain order and a certain relation with one another; the simultaneity disappears, for in the present state of our mode of expression, to say everything at the same time, all at once, is impossible, and we are compelled to veil one part of what we see or know in order to bring it out one thing after another; and this is what he calls the “veil”, which is transparent, for one sees everything, knows everything at the same time; one has the total knowledge of a thing, but one cannot express it fully all at once. There are no words or any possibility of expression, so long as we are what we are. We must necessarily make use of an inferior process to express ourselves, and yet, at the same time we have the full knowledge; it is only the necessity of transmitting his knowledge in words which compels us to veil, so to say, a part of what we know and to let it come out only successively. But it is a transparent veil, for we know the thing—we know it, see it, understand it in its totality—but we cannot express it all at the same time. We have to say it, one thing after another, successively. It is the veil of the expression adapted to our needs both of utterance and understanding. The knowledge is there, it is there in reality—not that one is searching for it and expressing it as one goes on finding it—it is there in its totality but the[p.194] expression demands that one says it one thing after another; and so this naturally diminishes the omnipotence of which he speaks, for omnipotence is the total vision of the thing expressed in its totality. Omniscience is there in principle, it is there, perceptible, but the total power of this omniscience cannot act since it needs to come down one plane to be able to express itself.”
A further elucidation:
“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[p.588] 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 theMind 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.”
Let me draw the attention to Kishor Gandhi’s book “Social Philosophy of Sri Aurobindo” which carries several details about the Mind of Light and related things, particularly the chapter “The Mind of Light and the New Humanity” in the section “Towards the New Age”.
Maybe Anurag would like to publish here relevant extracts from this work.
Let me quote here the following from Kishor Gandhis book: [p. 336]
“It is this Mind, which the Supermind creates out of itself in its involutionary descent for a subordinate and limited action of its perfect Truth-Consciousness and which, because it has not lost its connection with its source [which it will never — RYD] retains all its gnostic powers through a limited degree, that Sri Aurobindo calls the involutionary Mind of Light.”
It must be pointed out that the original text in the “Bulletin” has “evolutionary descent” and not “involutionary descent”, descent for the purposes of evolution. “involutionary descent” or plunge will ultimately create Inconscience.
Is the Mind of Light a new typal plane in the hierarchy of planes of consciousness like, say, the Overmind? It seems so. It is that which will give rise to an enduring new race, the Intermediate race, surhomme or overman race. The Mind of Light will be its leader, Netā, paving the way for the gnostic race proper. This is Sri Aurobindo’s yogic creation, that it did not exist any time earlier, prior to 1940s.
Maybe Anurag can post extracts from my book “Sri Aurobindo and the New Millennium”; the relevant chapter is “Mind of Light — A Brief Note”.
Here is a quick summary of the chapter that appears in “Sri Aurobindo and the New Millennium” published in December 1999 to mark the beginning of a new millennium:
Apropos of the Mind of Light
Can we say that the Mother’s work of physical transformation is a triumph? There are people who express doubts about it. In the strictest literal sense the answer would then simply be ‘No.’ At the best, as if to accommodate or condescend the believers of the Avataric success, their line of thinking would be to concede a highly qualified ‘Yes.’
But then the very act of positing such a question is to be understood as an aspect of the physical mind itself. There is needed another vision and another observant intuition born of a wide luminous knowledge that comes only by identification with the spirit of things. It should be first recognised that what the Mother accomplished is something not only marvellous; it is also unique in the earth’s evolutionary history in conformity with the objectives of the Yoga of the Supramental Descent and Transformation.
Although this world arose out of Inconscience, they found that there is sufficient truth in it to become overtly and manifestly truth-conscient in its lustrous dynamism. The Mother’s intense sadhana proceeded in the depths of Matter invoking in it the Will of the Lord himself.
One of the first victories after the descent and manifestation of Supermind in the subtle-physical in 1956 was, within two years in 1958, in her getting a positive consent from the material Nature to collaborate in the task of transformation. Then, she had the experience of the superman consciousness, la conscience du surhomme, in 1969 when her body felt “a golden light, transparent and benevolent”, giving to her a certain assurance, a kind of infallibility in achieving its wondrous goal. The physical mind, or more precisely the mind of the body, receiving and manifesting the supramental Influence was the next definitive stage reached in late 1971.
Immediately following that great event the Mother for the first time saw in 1972 her supramental body, pretty-looking and harmonious in form; the body was ready, ready with an extra-luminous density for use in the divine assignment. She could step into it and occupy it to continue her work, the work which she could now do with another degree of freedom, freedom that comes with supermind in the physical.
While this yogic-occult endeavour was moving apace, the Mother also spoke several times about the physical mind’s opening to the supramental Light and Force. The physical mind, the mind of the physical, receiving the supramental light is her definition, — and also Sri Aurobindo’s as can be surmised from his writings, — of the Mind of Light. Only when this Mind of Light is realised can the divinely dynamic Truth-Consciousness be securely fixed in the world of material inconscience.
In her message of 29 February 1972 we have a very clear statement about it:
“It is only when the Supramental manifests in the body-mind that its presence can be permanent.”
The merit of this triumph is that, she has fixed the instrument to receive and manifest the Supermind: the Mind of Light has become an inalienable part of the earth-consciousness. It is the very spirit of breathing dynamism in the inertial milieu, the conscient truth-force itself. In the wake of this Mind of Light now operative in the terrestrial process, progress is being made constantly without any pause, without any hesitant movement.
Sri Aurobindo introduced the term ‘Mind of Light’ with a specific suggestion in his very last prose writings published in the Bulletin of Physical Education during 1949-50. To this term he gave a special technical connotation indicative of the fact that the envisioned manifestation of a fuller divine life could come within the realisable range of the evolutionary ascent. The role of the Mind of Light as an active principle is seen to be that of the leader of a type of new mental beings, of the presiding power over an intermediate race, the race governed, in the Mother’s phrase, by la conscience du surhomme, the superman consciousness. This new race, the new humanity, will be “not only capable of standing enlightened in the radiance of the Supermind but able to climb consciously towards it and into it.” This surhomme is the first definite and assured entry of the Supermind itself in the earth-consciousness, the beginning of the process of supramentalisation.
What will be the actual effectivity of the Mind of Light in bringing out the physical transformation in Nature? Will it be the slow evolutionary way or will it hasten it forcing issues in the dynamism of its own truth? But it appears that it will not be in the old manner, though the natural sequence has to be always followed, there can be another kind of mechanism by which the decisive change might take place. There can be the unexpected precipitation of the subtly dense supramentalised body when the gathering in as well as the gathering up of the Mind of Light has advanced to a stage to make the process unfailingly sustainable. This is quite understandable if we recognise that the supramental body is not just an inert mass sitting over there, there in the subtle physical, passive and without a will of its own. Indeed, there is always the pressure from above to bring about the divinely willed change. If both these processes can take place through the agency of some luminous occult working then the feasibility of the revolutionary evolution there as a bright and comprehendible possibility is still. We are perhaps pretty suggestively assured that this is actually what is being pursued.
Sri Aurobindo had repeatedly said that bringing down the supramental Force and Light “is not an easy matter”. Various powers of the Supermind may even come down, but these would not be sufficient for the most decisive transformation of ignorance and the obscurity prevailing here. For the full supramentalisation of the earth-nature Supermind proper has to descend. “The mere descent of the suns into the centres, even of all the seven suns into all the seven centres is only the seed: it is not the thing itself done and finished. One may feel the descent of the suns… and yet in the end one may fail, if there is a flaw in the nature or a failure to pass through all the ordeals and satisfy all the hard conditions of the perfect spiritual success… Till then there may be descents of the supramental influence, light, power, Ananda, but the supramental Truth cannot be possessed, organised, put in possession of the whole nature.” [Letters on Yoga, SABCL, Vol. 22, p. 112]
That was the work Sri Aurobindo was occupied with, — to put supramental Truth in the possession of the whole Nature.
In the context of the siddhi of the Mind of Light we may also appropriately look for autobiographical suggestions made by him in his epic Savitri. Aswapati the Yogi who has taken the burden of the world-transformation upon himself meets the omnipotent Goddess who reigns over the entire universe with her power and in whose excellence blaze the cosmic suns, the sun of beauty, of love, joy, knowledge, truth, light, force. He surrenders to her, the manifesting Wisdom-and-Might of the Absolute. His main thrust is to discover that by which the desired cosmic change can be effected. Consciousness, idea, sight, life, feeling, all reach their absolutes and he hears a voice of a luminous silence. The primal Energy takes him in its arms, his brain is wrapped in overwhelming Light, all-embracing knowledge seizes his heart.
With this incomparable siddhi “His will took up the reins of cosmic Force.” [Savitri, The Kingdom of Greater Knowledge, last line] He becomes Aswapati, the Lord of Life. This Lordship comes only when his brain is invaded by the overwhelming Light, the physical mind receiving the supramental. Aswapati, “with each grey cell bursting to omniscient gold”, establishes in him the Mind of Light. Having done that he invokes the Divine Mother to incarnate herself here and “with one gesture change all future time.” The Mind of Light is the precondition for her birth here. This is fulfilled.
Let me quote here what Georges van Vrekhem had written to me in another context. This is important to recognise. The following is the text of his letter:
27 June 1999
Greetings. I have gone through the four chapters you had sent to me last week. These have been very well done and make a commendable reading. There aren’t just informative details but these are also celebrative in several places. That should make the biography valuable indeed. My only negative comment is this: most of the sources you are quoting are secondary and there is a tendency of the authors colouring the originals in their own manner. Each one thinks that he understands the Mother the best and that she has told him everything without realising the context in which he might have been answered. These statements of the Mother are no doubt significant, as they always are, yet great caution is also required in this regard. I would essentially go by what we have in the SABCL and CWM volumes and consider other statements only as supportive or clarificatory in nature. This should be particularly true in the presentation where crucial steps in the Yogic pursuit are concerned. That again means that much of the biography will remain unknown to us. Didn’t Sri Aurobindo say that it is not on the surface to see?
Dr. Deshpande further states in his article on the ‘Mind of Light’ :
‘Sri Aurobindo introduced the term ‘Mind of Light’ with a specific proposition in his very last prose writings when he was, at the request of the Mother, contributing a series of articles to the Bulletin of Physical Education during 1949-50. To this term he gave a special technical connotation involving a whole world of luminous yogic and psychological sense. It is indicative of the fact that his own sādhanā had progressed to a stage from where the envisioned manifestation of a fuller divine life could come within the realisable range of the evolutionary ascent. The role of the Mind of Light as an active principle is seen to be that of the leader of a type of new mental beings, of the presiding power over an intermediate race, the race governed, in the Mother’s phrase, by la conscience du surhomme, the ‘superman’ consciousness. This new race, the new humanity, will be “not only capable of standing enlightened in the radiance of the Supermind but able to climb consciously towards it and into it.” [The Supramental Manifestation, SABCL. Vol 16, p. 59] This surhomme is not simply ‘aboveman’ or ‘overman’; it is already governed not by Overmind but by the delegate power of the Supermind itself. Indeed, the appearance of the Mind of Light is the first definite and assured entry of the Supermind itself in the earth-consciousness, the poised confident beginning of the process of supramentalisation. It is that which will carry out the preparatory work and bring mortality’s travail closer to its end. It will be the initiation of the termination of the death-processed evolution.
‘But the occult alchemy in the terrestrial circumstance can be performed only with the positive consent of the material Nature. It is under these conditions that initially the Mind of Light will gather the necessary shaping constituents or ingredients and develop them sufficiently till it can, without the encumbrances of the Ignorance, step again into its own infallible native Light. Having done that it will develop further in that greater Light to join the Supermind. It is at this point that the possibility of the arrival of the supramental race, the race of the gnostic beings, — Sri Aurobindo’s supermen higher than the beings of the intermediate race, — can truly be visualised.
‘This was precisely the work the Mother, taking a very revolutionary step in the direction, had triumphantly pursued and greatly accomplished. She is there now in her supramental body waiting for the Mind of Light to do its work in the sequel of which will follow the luminous unfoldment giving to the earth her promised Divine Glory of the Physical. It having done the groundwork in the physical’s mind, supramental materialisation can then occur. Superman, the Being of Knowledge, Vijñānamaya Purusha, shall then be, if we are to use the Upanishadic term, Netā or the Leader of the terrestrial evolution.
‘What will be the actual effectivity of the Mind of Light in bringing out the physical transformation in Nature? Will it be the long-drawn process stretching over millennia, the things and events simply allowed to roll out in their own manner with the push given by its presence now or will it be something radically different? Will it be still in the evolutionary way or will it hasten it forcing issues in the dynamism of its own truth?
‘But it appears that it will not be necessarily in the old manner, in fact it cannot be so and, though the natural sequence has to be always followed, there can be another kind of mechanism by which the decisive change might take place. There can be the unexpected precipitation of the subtly dense supramentalised body when the gathering in as well as the gathering up of the Mind of Light has advanced to a stage to make the process unfailingly sustainable. This is quite understandable if we recognise that the supramental body is not just an inert mass sitting over there, there in the subtle physical, passive and without a will of its own, without its flame-puissance. Indeed, there is always the pressure from above to bring about the divinely willed change. If both these processes can take place through the agency of some luminous occult working then the feasibility of the revolutionary evolution there as a bright and comprehendible possibility is still there. We are perhaps pretty suggestively assured that this is actually what is being pursued.
‘When such a radical change is to be brought about on a full collective level, and that is important, the difficulties too begin to assume almost a sort of frightening proportion. The entire past of the evolutionary process with its deep saṃskāras or karmic habits seems to suddenly turn into a monstrous shape blocking the progress. In fact it can even become hostile as an antagonist power opposing all that which will threaten its existence. This is exactly what Sri Aurobindo and the Mother were concerned with, grappling it unfrightened but in full awareness of the inclement might of the dangerous disputant. The first problem in the realisation of their yogic objective exactly lay in making the physical’s mind or the body-mind receive permanently the supramental Light and Force in it. When this was realised in the Mother in 1950, as she herself narrated later, a decisive victory for the collective work was won and the evolutionary march at once soared into the flight of a high-flying eagle in the luminous sky. New Time had begun with it.
‘But a question is at times asked whether Sri Aurobindo had realised the Mind of Light in himself, realised at all. This may appear somewhat odd with its oddity implying that he was only theorising about the Mind of Light when he wrote those articles for the Bulletin of Physical Education during 1949-50. It is however hard to believe that the convincing Agenda he had put forward in his absolutely the last sequence of prose-writings could have originated without any experiential basis for it: that would have reduced him to a mere armchair philosopher and denied the status of a Yogi par excellence which indeed he was. Nor would it have concerned us in any deeper sense.
‘His was a world-redeemer’s heavy task [Savitri, ||109.1||]and tirelessly he had carried out the God’s Labour and “willed all, attempted all, prepared, achieved all” [CWM, Vol. 13, p. 7] for this woe-begone mortality. His dynamism was committed to the action of the Spirit in the very inertia and opacity, in the obscurity of the material life. His action was all along to bring out by Tapas, by yogic effort of concentration, that which is concealed in it.
‘He had repeatedly said that bringing down the supramental Force and Light “is not an easy matter”. Various powers of the Supermind might even come down, but these would not be sufficient for the most decisive transformation of ignorance and murkiness prevailing here. For the full supramentalisation of the earth-nature Supermind proper has to descend. “The one and only aim we have before us is to bring down the supramental consciousness and the supramental Truth into the world; the Truth and nothing but the Truth is our aim, and if we cannot embody this Truth, a hundred incarnations do not matter. But to bring down the true supramental and nothing but the true supramental, to escape from all mental mixture is not an easy matter. The mere descent of the suns into the centres, even of all the seven suns into all the seven centres is only the seed; it is not the thing itself done and finished. One may feel the descent of suns, one may have the attempt, the beginning of an incarnation, and yet in the end one may fail if there is a flaw in the nature or a failure to pass through all the ordeals and satisfy all the hard conditions of the perfect spiritual success. Not only the whole mental, vital and physical nature of the ignorant human being has to be overcome and transformed, but also the three states of mental consciousness which intervene between the human and the supramental and like all mind are capable of admitting great and capital errors. Till then there may be descents of supramental influence, light, power, Ananda, but the supramental Truth cannot be possessed, organised, put in possession of the whole nature. One must not think before that that one possesses the supermind; for that is a delusion which would prevent the fulfilment.” [CWSA, Vol 29, Letters on Yoga II]
‘That was the travail, that was the work Sri Aurobindo was occupied with, — to put supramental Truth in the possession of the whole Nature. He himself had said that, as far as he was concerned, there was no need of the Supermind for him: the concern, the toil and the ordeal, all that labour was essentially to organise Nature to receive the supramental Truth. It is in this context we could recognise the implication of the Mother’s statement that she used to see the Supermind descending in his outer physical as early as in 1938, but what could not be done at that time was to fix it there.
‘About the obstinacy of the physical and the struggle to be waged on that plane there are hints dropped by Sri Aurobindo in some of his letters also. Thus he wrote in August 1936: “We have not sought perfection for our own separate sake, but as a part of a general change… . That could not have been done without our accepting and facing the difficulties of the realisation and transformation and overcoming them for ourselves. It has been done to a sufficient degree on the other planes — but not yet on the most material part of the physical plane.” [On Himself, SABCL, Vol 26, p. 476] A little earlier than this he also wrote of being “very near” to taking “complete possession of the supramental”. [ On Himself, SABCL, Vol. 26,p. 163]
Dr. Deshpande concludes:
‘It is therefore perfectly right for us to assert that all this could not have happened without his being aware, through direct and definite experience if not realisation of the physical’s mind, “the body-mind”, receiving the supramental light. Written during the same period is a letter with a very pointed reference to what he then called the “body-mind” and its conversion: “… there is too an obscure mind of the body, of the very cells, molecules, corpuscles. Haeckel, the German materialist, spoke somewhere of the will in the atom, and recent Science, dealing with the incalculable individual variation in the activity of the electrons, comes near to perceiving that this is not a figure but the shadow thrown by a secret reality. This body-mind is a very tangible truth; owing to its obscurity and mechanical clinging to past movements and facile oblivion and rejection of the new, we find in it one of the chief obstacles to permeation by the supermind force and the transformation of the functioning of the body. On the other hand, once effectively converted, it will be one of the most precious instruments for the stabilisation of the supramental light and force in material Nature.” [Letters on Yoga SABCL, Vol. 22, p. 340] The focus of Sri Aurobindo’s sādhanāin getting its siddhi during this period was therefore on converting this body-mind, and he was “very near” in getting its siddhi. Yet it appears that its age-old toughness was unyielding.
‘In the context of the siddhi of the Mind of Light we may also appropriately look for autobiographical suggestions made by him in his epic Savitri which is indeed a profound and luminous record of his spiritual experiences and achievements. Aswapati the Yogi who has taken the burden of the world-transformation upon himself is exploring world after world with the single intention of finding that Power which would descend and accomplish this miracle. He has left behind the imposing hierarchy of the mental Planes and in the World-Soul felt the intimacy of God everywhere. There he meets the omnipotent Goddess who reigns over the entire universe with her power and in whose excellence blaze the cosmic suns, the sun of beauty, of love, joy, knowledge, truth, light, force, — all in their multifold splendour. He surrenders to her, to the Gnostic Sophia, the manifesting Wisdom-and-Might of the Absolute. Half-parting the luminous veil she admits him to the Kingdom of the Greater Knowledge. Across that veil Aswapati saw the Spirit’s realms, saw
The greatness and wonder of its boundless works,
The power and passion leaping from its calm,
The rapture of its movement and its rest,
And its fire-sweet miracle of transcendent life, …||78.12||
Out of the neutral silence of his soul
He passed to its fields of puissance and of calm
And saw the Powers that stand above the world,
Traversed the realms of the supreme Idea
And sought the summit of created things
And the almighty source of cosmic change. ||78.15||
‘His main thrust is to discover that by which the desired universal-terrestrial change can be effected. Aswapati is at the very source and fount from which flow every effectuality with the assurance of realising whatever he would will. Not only that; he has become a portion of that Majesty who harmonises all life. As he proceeds further in his search he meets the World-Spirit and the World-Force, Jagat-Ātma and Jagat-Shakti, and experiences that his body, delivered to the soul, is a “conscious edge of the Transcendent’s might”. Consciousness, idea, sight, life, feeling all reach their absolutes and he hears a voice of a luminous silence:
He communed with the Incommunicable;
Beings of a wider consciousness were his friends,
Forms of a larger subtler make drew near;
The Gods conversed with him behind Life’s veil. ||78.39||
Neighbour his being grew to Nature’s crests. ||78.40||
The primal Energy took him in its arms;
His brain was wrapped in overwhelming Light,
An all-embracing knowledge seized his heart:
Thoughts rose in him no earthly mind can hold,
Mights played that never coursed through mortal nerves:
He scanned the secrets of the Overmind,
He bore the rapture of the Oversoul. ||78.41||
‘With this incomparable siddhi “His will took up the reins of cosmic Force.” He has become Aswapati, the Lord of Life. This Lordship comes only when his brain is invaded by the vast overwhelming Light, the mind of the physical receiving the supramental greatness. Aswapati, “with each grey cell bursting to omniscient gold”, establishes in him the Mind of Light. Having done that he invokes the Divine Mother to incarnate herself here and “with one gesture change all future time.” The Mind of Light is therefore the precondition for her birth here. This is fulfilled.
‘When was this prerequisite met with? At what point of time in Sri Aurobindo’s yogic life? We may do a bit of archival exploration while going through his relevant Savitri-drafts looking for possible clues in case these are available at all. And the findings are interesting indeed. Fortunately for us the drafts at places do bear the dates of composition and these are revealingly useful.
The “Mind of Light”-line — “His brain was wrapped in overwhelming Light” — in this form belongs to a revised version in Sri Aurobindo’s own hand and the date at the end of the Canto put by him is 6 September 1942. The first occurrence of this line pertains to a manuscript of the period prior to 1936 and it runs as follows: “His brain was swathed in overwhelming light.” At this stage of Savitri-drafting Aswapati’s cosmic ascent on the world-stair occupied only one page which now stands expanded into several Cantos, hundreds of lines. The revision of “swathed” and “light” to “wrapped” and “Light” should be considered of capital importance. It suggests the definite entry of the Mind of Light in him by 1942. The sādhanā of the next eight years was chiefly concerned with the collective action of this achievement. We may that the first decisive statement of his is in the sonnet The Golden Light written of 8 August 1938. Here is the proclamation:
Thy golden Light came down into my brain
And the grey rooms of mind sun-touched became
A bright reply to Wisdom’s occult plane,
A calm illumination and a flame.
Thy golden Light came down into my throat,
And all my speech is now a tune divine,
A paean song of Thee my single note;
My words are drunk with the Immortal’s wine.
Thy golden Light came down into my heart
Smiting my life with Thy eternity;
Now has it grown a temple where Thou art
And all its passions point towards only Thee.
Thy golden Light came down into my feet;
My earth is now Thy playfield and Thy seat.
This is the beginning of the physical receiving the supramental. What was happening, however, at that time, it was coming and going, — as the Mother told later, in 1954. Unequivocally in a letter Sri Aurobindo tells that the “golden Light is the light of the Divine Truth on the higher planes above the ordinary mind—a light supramental in origin.” It is a light descending from above.
‘Indeed, it is because Sri Aurobindo had realised the Mind of Light in him that he could gift it to the Mother at the time of his passing away on 5 December 1950. The subsequent saga dealing with the Mother’s sādhanā unfolds its manifesting aspect, it by now having become a part of the earthly evolution rushing brightly towards the Supramental Descent and Transformation.’
4 April 2023
Here is an interesting remark of K.D. Sethna about the Mind of Light:
‘The Mind of Light in an increased aspect which has to do with the mental substance belonging to Matter itself – an aspect involving an extension of the Supermind’s establishment in the cerebral mentality which the Mother had realised in the immediate wake of Sri Aurobindo’s departure – is the goal she posited for herself in the period… when she wanted her “physical mind” to be “developed under the Supramental Influence”.’ [K.D. Sethna, ‘The Development Of Sri Aurobindo’s Spiritual System And The Mothers Contribution To It’, p. 67]
A seeker had asked K.D. Sethna in a letter dated 5 September 1979 : ‘The Mother’s statement about the Supramental Consciousness or Power flowing into her from Sri Aurobindo’s body at the time of his leaving the body. Is the Supramental like a watery fluid that it can flow from one body to another? Then why did it not do so earlier? Why did it not flow from the Mother into any other sadhak later?’ He was of course referring to the Mind of Light.
Sethna’s reply was pretty enlightening. He wrote back on 12 September 1979:
‘The Supramental Consciousness can flow from one bodily being to another not before it has been brought down into the embodied system – and even then it can flow in its own proper form not before one is ready for it. That is what happened between Sri Aurobindo and the Mother at the time of the former’s “departure”. In an indirect way, the Supra- mental Consciousness has flowed from both our Gurus to their disciples throughout the years I have been in the Ashram. In the Master-disciple relationship, the flow of the Master’s spiritual consciousness to the disciple is the most potent factor in the sadhana. Even when the Master is no longer embodied, the call to the Master-consciousness to flow into one remains the central mode of the Yogic life. Surely one has to practise aspiration and rejection but the crowning process for advancement is surrender, the laying open of oneself to the Divine Presence and offering oneself to its Peace, Light, Knowledge, Power, Ananda as much as possible so that they may flow into one. The doubt over the Mother’s “flow”-image is misconceived.
‘Besides, Matter is not the only concrete reality that can do concrete things like flowing. Supraphysical realities are the source and cause of Matter’s concreteness which is actually a diminished version of theirs. Sri Aurobindo has written of psychological movements coming literally in streams or waves: e.g. someone’s anger.’ [K.D. Sethna, ‘The Development Of Sri Aurobindo’s Spiritual System And The Mothers Contribution To It’, pp. 72-73]
Here is the text of an article entitled ‘The Mind of Light in Sri Aurobindo’s Philosophy and Yoga: An Attempt at a Schematic Summary’ penned by K.D. Sethna. This article was published in his book ‘Aspects of Sri Aurobindo’, pp. 141-143:
1)”The Mind of Light” is a coinage of Sri Aurobindo’s, applicable not to all the levels of mental being where Light (Divine Knowledge) has open play in various degrees, but only to the human mental level — which we may designate broadly as the physical-mental — when its ignorance essentially ceases and it becomes a plane in which, even within all measures and limits, withholdings and gradualities, there is no obscurity at all: everything is a self-chosen process of Light.
2)Ignorance of the human physical-mertal cannot essentially cease by the descent of the “overhead” grades of Spiritual Mind, which are — from below upwards — Higher Mind, Illumined Mind, Intuition, Overmind. For, the descent of these grades, even of Overmind, can never be complete when made under their own power. The physical-mental always dilutes their Light. It dilutes it because of two factors. First, this Light is not absolutely sovereign, and ignorance itself has resulted inevitably by the lessening or, rather, by a crucial poise-change of Supermind’s Light which harmonises or fuses unity and multiplicity. In the grades of Spiritual Mind, multiplicity is in the forefront and unity, although not concealed as in the lower planes, is only in the background. These grades, therefore, are impotent to. remove ignorance radically. On their own levels there is no ignorance as such, but under their own power they are bound to fail to reproduce completely in the physical-mental their own state of Light. What their descent can do is to prepare the descent of Supermind. The second factor making for dilution of the Spiritual Light is that the physical-mental partakes of the evolution from the Inconscient where everything arises out of a total submergence of Himself by the Divine for the stupendous experiment of self-manifestation from His own opposite, as it were. Nothing except the full Dynamic Divine which is Supermind has the competence to deal successfully with the clinging original darkness due to that submergence.
3)After Overmind has done its utmost by descent under its own power, Supermind descends. By its descent it brings about in essence the end of ignorance in the physical-mental, and the state it creates by that radical change is the Mind of Light. The Mind of Light is Supermind openly itself in human Mind-terms.
4)The first form the Mind of Light takes seems an added last rung of the luminous ladder of Spiritual Mind. It appears to stand below Higher Mind in quality of Light. But it is superior to all degrees of Spiritual Mind, even Overmind, if its quality of Light is compared to the quality the grades of Spiritual Mind have achieved in the physical-mental in their descended forms. It is in terms of descent and embodiment that a proper comparison can be made between the state that is this Mind and the grades of Spiritual Mind. In such terms this Mind outshines them all from the very beginning, for it is the Supermind’s own manifestation.
5)That manifestation develops a second and greater form, which is a completely descended Spiritual Mind — an entire embodiment by Spiritual Mind of itself, which under its own power it could not achieve. The full conversion of the physical-mental into the Light of Higher Mind, Illumined Mind, Intuition, Overmind, which these grades could not formerly bring about, is done now by them on the basis of Supermind’s establishment in the physical-mental. This conversion constitutes a mental Gnosis like what Spiritual Mind is in its overhead status, but with two differences. It is a mental Gnosis embodied. And it is a mental Gnosis which Supermind has assumed or put forth without a crucial poise-change as in Spiritual Mind.
6)The third form of the Mind of Light goes farther than such mental Gnosis. It embodies the Supramental Gnosis free from any frontal appearance of Spiritual Mind. Not, however, all of the Supramental Gnosis, for the Mind of Light expresses that in the Supermind which is the divine counterpart of all Mind — “Divine Mind”, as Sri Aurobindo calls it. It is specifically the third strand of the Supermind’s three-stranded unity. In this strand the projecting, confronting, apprehending power which the second strand brings forth is developed to its extreme, restraining still more, without yet relegating to the background, the constituting, pervading, comprehending power which is the first strand and from which the second is a development.
7)Yes, the third form of the Mind of Light establishes in the body the third strand of the Supermind and prepares the establishment of the whole Supramental Gnosis, with itself in prominence as its Inherent power of making pragmatic divisions and fixing pragmatic relations between seemingly independent centres. But we must not forget that all the forms assumed by the Mind of Light are a manifestation of the Supermind’s third strand. What the third form does is merely to release to the utmost the supramental magnificence which was released a little by the first and more by the second. All are degrees of one and the same apocalypse of something in the supreme Truth.
8)The Mind of Light in its plenary form, leading on to the fullness of what we may call the Life-force of Light and the Body of Light, would constitute the Intermediate Race between the Human and the Supramental Races. The Supramental Race would be a directly manifested line of Divine Beings who have never gone through the process of earthly evolution: they would be the Supermind humanised, as differentiated from Humanity supramentalised. Humanity would be supramentalised by a natural means of spirituali-sation; the Supermind would be humanised by an occult means of materialisatipn developed by Humanity when it has supramentalised itself. The two achievements would be complementary aspects of the complete manifestation of the Divine upon earth — the crowning vision of Sri Aurobindo’s philosophy and the all-consummating goal of his Yoga.’
Sri Aurobindo writes in His ‘Letters on Yoga’ that the mind proper is ‘divided into three parts—the thinking Mind, dynamic Mind, externalising Mind—the former concerned with ideas and knowledge in their own right, the second with the putting out of mental forms for realisation of the idea, the third with the expression of them in life (not only by speech, but by any form it can give)” (p.326). About the activities of the ‘true physical mind’, Sri Aurobindo writes : ‘The true physical mind is the receiving and externalising intelligence which has two functions – first, to work upon external things and give them a mental order with a way of practically dealing with them and, secondly, to be the channel of materialising and putting into effect whatever the thinking and dynamic mind sends down to it for the purpose’ (p.328).
K.D. Sethna explains: ‘Thus the mixture of the physical mental and the mental physical has a halo as it were of higher things than its actual constituents. And this subtly rich mixture, which is the full sense of the “brain-mind”, is what, on receiving the supramental light, gets converted into the Mind of Light. The conversion of the “body-mind” by means of the supramental light cannot be quite the same phenomenon. Inasmuch as mentality is still present we should adopt the same nomenclature but a new shade of it has to be clearly set forth, a corporeal shade standing off from the cerebral.’ [K.D. Sethna, ‘The Development Of Sri Aurobindo’s Spiritual System And The Mothers Contribution To It’, p. 65]
In the November 1975 issue of ‘Mother India’, K.D. Sethna has referred to a pointer by Lt. Colonel G.L. Bhattacharya who had made a prolonged search for the missing papers on Sri Aurobindo’s action in 1902-1910 against the British rule in Bengal. Having read all the relevant writings of Sri Aurobindo, Lt. Colonel Bhattacharya has reported Sri Aurobindo’s first use of the terms ‘Overmind’ and ‘Supermind’. What follows is the text as it had appeared in the November 1975 issue of ‘Mother India’:
‘It was in Sri Aurobindo’s Baroda period that he coined “Supermind” while translating the Gita, chapter 2, verse 49, as follows:
“For far lower in action than the Yoga of the Supermind; in the Supermind seek thy refuge, for this is a mean and pitiful thing that a man should work for success and renown. The man whose Supermind is in Yoga casteth from him even in this world both righteousness and sin.”
‘Sri Aurobindo coined “Overmind” in translating the Gita at two places. First, there is Chapter 2, verse 63.
“And when memory faileth, the Overmind is destroyed and by the ruin of the Overmind the soul goeth to its perdition.”
‘Then there is Chapter 3, verse 42:
“High, say the wise, reign the senses but the heart is higher than they, and the Overmind is higher than the heart; he who is higher than the Overmind, that is He.”
K.D. Sethna remarks:
‘Evidently, what Sri Aurobindo means in all the instances here is the higher intelligence or superior mind, the Buddhi, in man: what he later called “the intelligent will”. But the shadow cast before by coming events is striking.
‘We may further observe two points. First, both the key-terms “Overmind” and “Supermind” were coined by Sri Aurobindo in connection with a discourse of Sri Krishna: the Gita. Secondly, these terms, in their true senses, are apt also in reference to Sri Krishna in Sri Aurobindo’s letter of 29.10.1935 about November 24, 1926 which is called the Victory Day:
“24th was the descent of Krishna into the physical.
“Krishna is not the Supramental Light. The descent of Krishna would mean the descent of the Overmind Godhead preparing, though not itself actually, the descent of Supermind and Ananda. Krishna is Anandamaya; he supports the evolution through the Overmind leading it towards the Ananda.”
The full quotation pertaining to Chapter 2 Verse 63 in CWSA, Vol. 5, p. 84 is as follows:
“But when a man thinketh much and often of the things of sense, fondness for them groweth upon him, and from fondness desire & passion are born; and passion’s child is wrath; but out of wrath cometh delusion & disturbance of the brain and from delusion cometh confusion of the recording mind and when memory falleth and faileth, the overmind is destroyed, and by the ruin of the overmind the soul goeth to its perdition. When one moveth over the fields of the passions with his senses in the grip of the Self, delivered from[p.83] likings and dislikings, and when the Spirit itself answers to the helm, a pure serenity becometh his. In that bright gladness of the soul there cometh to him a waning away of all grief; for when a man’s heart is like a calm and pure sky, the Thought findeth very quickly its firm foundation. Who hath not Yoga, hath not understanding, who hath not Yoga, hath not infinite and inward contemplation, who thinketh not infinitely and inwardly, hath not peace of soul, and how shall he be happy, whose soul is not at peace? For the mind that followeth the control and working of the senses when they range abroad, hurleth along with it the Thought in the Spirit as the wind hurleth along a ship upon the waters. Therefore it is, O strong-armed, that his reason is firmly based only whose senses are reined in on all sides from the things of their desire.”
And Chapter 3 Verse 42:
“It is craving, it is wrath, the child of Rajoguna, Mode of Passion. Know him for the Fiend, the Enemy of man’s soul here upon[p.87] earth, a great devourer, a mighty sinner. As a fire engirt with smoke, as a mirror covered with dust, as the unborn child with the caul, so is the universe by him enveloped. By him knowledge is besieged and girt round, O son of Coonty, by this eternal enemy of the wise, this insatiable fire of desire and passion. The senses, the soul and the overmind, these are the places of his session, with these he cloudeth over knowledge and bewildereth the embodied spirit. Therefore in the beginning constrain the senses, O lion of the Bharats, and slay that accursed with the sword of Knowledge and Discernment. High, say the wise, reign the senses, but the heart is higher than they & the overmind is higher than the heart, he who is higher than the overmind, that is He. Thus when thou hast understood Him who is higher than the overmind, slay thy enemy, O strong-armed, even that terrible and invincible one, whose shape is passion. [p.88]”
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This is from the Baroda writing.
In “The Essays on the Gita” he gives these as follows:
2:63: Anger leads to bewilderment, from bewilderment comes loss of memory; and by that the intelligence is destroyed; from the destruction of intelligence he perishes.
“That is because the mind naturally lends itself to the senses; it observes the objects of sense with an inner interest, (B.G.2.62 | B.G.2.63) settles upon them and makes them the object of absorbing thought for the intelligence and of strong interest for the will. By that attachment comes, by attachment desire, by desire distress, passion and anger when the desire is not satisfied or is thwarted or opposed, and by passion the soul is obscured, the intelligence and will forget to see and be seated in the calm observing soul; there is a fall from the memory of one’s true self, and by that lapse the intelligent will is also obscured, destroyed even. For, for the time being, it no longer exists to our memory of ourselves, it disappears in a cloud of passion; we become passion, wrath, grief and cease to be self and intelligence and (B.G.2.61) will. This then must be prevented [p.100] and all the senses brought utterly under control; for only by an absolute control of the senses can the wise and calm intelligence be firmly established in its proper seat.”
3:42: Supreme, they say, (beyond their objects) are the senses, supreme over the senses the mind, supreme over the mind the intelligent will: that which is supreme over the intelligent will, is he (the Purusha).
“Supreme, they say,” beyond their objects “are the senses, supreme over the senses the mind, supreme over the mind the intelligent will: that which is supreme over the intelligent will, is he,”—is the conscious self, the Purusha.
It is clear that the term “Overmind” acquired in the later formulation a different connotation altogether, with a globality in the universal play. In it there is absolutely no sense of the “ruin of the overmind”.
The point is, one has to be very alert, very cautious, even as the evolution of Sri Aurobindo’s own various classifications and categorisations of yogic and spiritual terminologies developed or emerged over a period of time. I consider that as far as the sense and the import are concerned it is best to go by what he has given during the “Letters”-period, 1930-38, and afterwards; these only should be taken as the final for any understanding or interpretation.