R.Y. Deshpande’s Review of K.D. Sethna’s book, ‘The Vision and Work of Sri Aurobindo’

Dear Friends,

We are happy to present before our readers a review of Amal Kiran alias K.D. Sethna’s book entitled The Vision and Work of Sri Aurobindo authored by Dr. R.Y. Deshpande. This review had originally appeared in the August-September 1993 issue of ‘Mother India’, the monthly review of culture, published by Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry. In this review, one would come across an extensive discussion about the Mind of Light and several comments of K.D. Sethna which he had made when the typescript of the review was being prepared. Sethna’s comments (in bold) made against the views expressed by Dr. R.Y. Deshpande are invaluable in grasping the sense of the phrase “Mind of Light” and were added as clarificatory footnotes when the review-article was published in ‘Mother India’.

With warm regards,

Anurag Banerjee


Overman Foundation.


The Vision and Work of Sri Aurobindo

To discover the full meaning of Christ’s question “What are you doing to excess?” in the Sermon on the Mount, the young CF Andrews wrote it out in Greek“Τικάνειςστην υπερβολή?”[Tikáneisstinypervolí?] and placed it on his study table. He would look at it every day to get a completer import of it and wonder whether “to excess” would also cover to love one’s enemy. As the good Christian in him would urge him to “fight the good fight,” he would also go to the extreme length of forbearance and love in the face of evil. For him, later on, “Gandhi, a Hindu, had pointed towards a Christian solution and made it appear practicable.”

But in the context of World War II, and many other contexts, his solution failed to seize the true Indian spirit. Not to understand that all destruction is not evil and not to recognise the hour of God when mighty changes and transforming actions are involved is a grave failure which in its wake leaves behind it a chaotic world. Not to see the War behind the War is not only to be myopic, as in the case of a Hindu `Christian’; but to seek help from one against whom the real War is being fought, as in the case of a misguided nationalist, is, to say the least, just fatal. Nazism stood for the destruction of all that is elevating and noble in us and its triumph would have been the loss for ever of the bright and desirable Lebensraum, living space, for the life of the Spirit.

But “Sri Aurobindo stood alone in his sunbright seeing of the war’s inner significance;” in it he “saw much more at stake than a political, social or cultural issue. He saw an issue beyond the human, the growth of God in man opposed from regions occult to our normal consciousness. And he saw that secret opposition as the most colossal in history and not confined to a brief outbreak.” He saw the Diabolic standing against the Divine.

It is in this context that we witness the forthright spiritual journalism of KD Sethna reporting to us the danger when “we have an incarnation of adverse forces, the dark deities, and they shape out a collectivity, a nation, a State with the purpose of goose-stepping on the world and smashing the entire fabric of civilisation.” There cannot be Christian solutions to the problem of the Divine versus the Anti-Divine; the Anti-Divine has to be broken and our recognising this is what we are “doing to excess”. Nor can there be Christian solutions to problems such as philanthropy; St Francis took Lady Poverty as his bride but “manifesting an infallible Benevolence” is another thing and, as Sethna would say, trying “to bring down some ray of truth which would really solve the terrible problem of life” is what is expected as a part of spiritual endeavour. If there is the Augustinian in Sethna lingering here and there, he soon leaves him behind to move in radiant ambience of his Master in matters mundane too.

In his The Vision and Work of Sri Aurobindo there are Christian or Western elements peeping out at times and there are what may look like hesitating hues in some regions; but a sharper turn and a more solid form are also acquired in the richness of the process.

The Publisher’s Note to the Second Edition tells us rightly that the book is always marked “by the clarity and penetrativeness and power of exposition set in a variety of keys and pointed in a multitude of directions.” Sethna rightly writes in his introduction that the topics covered in the book were “basically written with an eye to the wide world of inquiring minds and questing hearts,” holding the desirable ideal of “interplay of light and life” in their propositional developments.

The variety of topics in this ‘little’ book is indeed very remarkable and encompasses spiritual, yogic, philosophical, literary, social-political aspects with the stamp of an interpretative thinker, even at times of a manishi, something which comes only from concrete contact with a radiant Presence. Here we have a wide-ranging mind which traverses freely the metaphysical tracts with a luminous brevity, presents spiritual issues with a focused attentiveness shedding on them the light of an intimately grasped intuition, interprets world-events and social events on the firm basis of an occult truth seized by the alertness that springs up from the soul itself, discusses with friends and philosophers in the mode of informality matters pertaining to mysticism, dispels the doubts of a “perpetual doubter doubting for the doubt’s own sake” till the doubt itself is doubted, moves with lyrical ease and epic grandeur in poetry of the poet of integralism, with thoughts that wander through Eternity, and even makes speculations regarding each grey cell bursting to omniscient gold: the spectrum of the Vision and the Work extends far beyond the immediate visible in both the directions.

Sethna’s prose-style also assumes equally varied profundities depending upon the subject in hand; but in these profundities there is always the search for the Aurobindonian depth which is really the unifying element in the whole work. To explain Sri Aurobindo, to remove misunderstandings about him, to locate his place in the firmament of the spiritual stars, to tell that there is an integralism in his word-power, to suggest “Aurobindonian despair” as more apt-sounding, to describe the phases of the Mind of Light, to heighten the heart of matter’s mystery in the Yoga of Transformation — all varying subjects and they need corresponding keys in the development of the rich orchestrated theme. Let us see a few examples.

There is the Socratic tête-à-tête in epistolary writings while clearing misunderstandings about mysticism: “No, Prof K, mysticism does not take birth from cheap negatives and it is not a flight from life’s call. The basic call of life, of all evolutionary Nature, is the struggle for the Divine, the pursuit of a more-than-mortal Truth and Goodness and Beauty.” But he does not pause with it; he can be hard-hitting too when it comes to the question of defending Aurobindonians who are dubbed “frustrated fugitives from life’s demands”; thus he tells the Professor that the “don has left a big hole in his learning: no wonder he misunderstands so much. To talk about spirituality in general and the Aurobindonian brand in particular without getting intimate with the writings of Sri Aurobindo, our greatest modern Yogi, is rather rash.” And of course this is true also.

Similarly, he tells the Abbé Jules Monchan in about the absurdity of his remarks, following the lead of the prejudiced Indologists, that Sri Aurobindo lacked proper professional competence and had no adequate linguistic base in presenting the esoteric theory of the Veda; Sethna runs through Sri Aurobindo’s principal arguments and maintains that the “conclusions at which he has arrived about the matter and manner of the Veda are set forth after a scrupulous review of old and current theories and follow a clear chain of philosophical, historical and psychological arguments.” The Vedic Rishis themselves had recognised the difficulty in understanding the text and had posed the query: “One who knows not That, what shall he do with the Riks?”

Sethna’s hard-hitting answer is, “he will make the mess which Monchanin, following Renou’s lead, approves and encourages.”

Our author’s penchant for playing on words is well-known and in the present work we have some samples; here is one pertaining to a lion and a bull in the manner of Chesterton: “A bull is one who is never cowed, yet never bullies. In the same vein I may define a lion as one who leaps to lie on another. A lion is a beast of prey, seeking to be on the offensive. A bull is a beast of burden, brave but preferring to be on the defensive. A lion is always independent, a bull usually looks up to a master. To play Chesterton again, a lion in his might ever roars, `Let me prey!’ A bull with all his strength still bellows, `Let me pray!’ ” In that smartness of his there is the warmth also.

Coming to the significance of the English language in post-independent India, a question that continues to bother us even now, Sethna has, naturally enough, very definite views about it. It is often said that never on earth was a more momentous issue discussed than when Macaulay in 1835 fixed the English tongue as a medium of education for the Indians. Did he commit an egregious blunder in this? Even if this was a blunder then, can it be considered so today also?

The extreme nationalist spirit would surely like to drive this tongue out without offering a truly suitable alternative to replace it. But in a more statesmanlike manner Rajaji pleaded for the English language as being quite expressive of the Indian ethos; in fact he maintained it to be Goddess Saraswati’s gift to us which, being a gift, should not be squandered away. But perhaps vernaculars for the flowering of our innate genius, simplified Sanskrit as the integrating language, and English for science, technology, and international relationships should constitute the synthetic formula without introducing the pernicious high-low complex in the scheme of things.

This is necessary when we recognise the universalisation of man himself and should be viewed as more than a statesmanlike proposition. Indeed, Sethna would go one step farther and assert that in Sri Aurobindo’s Savitri “we have proof as ample as we could wish that, while our vernaculars more easily provide us with footholds for climbing beyond commonplaces into the revelatory intensities of literature, English alone enables at present the soul of India to attain the absolute peak of self-expression.” But what does that imply?

This conclusion is certainly a little extreme in assertion, particularly when he says “English alone” although it is toned down to some extent by the qualifying phrase “at present”. In the light of Sri Aurobindo we cannot categorically state that the best the vernaculars will offer us are only footholds leaving the absolute peaks of self-expression to the “tongue that was Shakespeare’s and is now Sri Aurobindo’s”.

If this argument is to be extended further it would make all non-English languages, including French and Sanskrit, vernaculars; nor the uniqueness or superiority of Savitri is there for the “present” only. Unquestionably English is the “most highly developed of modern languages” and truly enough the “transcendent speech”—to use a Savitri-phrase—has found in it a receptive mould to mould itself to receive her flaming transcendences; yet we cannot bind or tie her anywhere in any specific manner. What Sri Aurobindo has most wonderfully done is to give to the Word that was more than half-blind the seeing power: English has become the instrument of PashyantiVāk, has become devabhāshā, God’s Tongue. And yet that does not, cannot,complete Sri Aurobindo’s Vision and Work: he has opened out, he has established the possibility for the Transcendent Speech, ParāVāṇī, herself to enter into the material sheath of this world in her varying moods of delight in the manifestive play of the Spirit. In that way he has gifted to each language a method and means to discover its own soul—a multiplicity of the Joy of such a divinity. Greater in this greatness shall be the seer-poets of the future, singers of the hymns of this Goddess, and in it is greater greatness of the `English’-Savitri given to us by Sri Aurobindo.

Not that all this would come as something new to Sethna; but the problem may perhaps lie with the mode of presentation and discussion he has adopted in this work under consideration. More than half of the book consists of letters, reviews, comments, reminiscences, and stray thoughts giving it more the impression of a collected rather than a gathered or organic whole. The stringing together is around Sri Aurobindo no doubt, but the pieces do not quite form a single coherent or running from one end to the other a well-worked-out thesis on any specific aspect keeping his universality as the supporting factor.

Thus, while discussing in good detail the theories of Maya and Lila, Sethna has very beautifully put Sri Aurobindo’s position, according to whom “the Supreme is totally defined by neither of these conceptions. Each has certainly a validity in experience. The sense of World-Illusion comes by experience of the utter freedom of the Divine from the universe of forms, an entire independence that can be asserted by turning away from the phenomena of body, life and mind as if they were trifles and even phantoms adding nothing to the essential self-existence of the Spirit. The sense of World-Play comes by experience of a constant sustainment of phenomena by that self-existence as if they emerged from its conscious force and expressed, overtly or covertly, its boundless delight.” If these were the only World-views, Sri Aurobindo’s theory of Supramental Evolution and Transformation would be totally out of place.

But one proof among many that can be cited to disprove this is the incarnation of the Divine Soul from age to age. If we admit this occult fact then we cannot escape the inevitable conclusion that we are living in a mode of creation in which the Divine is as if working out a manifestation of its delightful multiplicity emerging from the Divine’s secretly withdrawn state of utter Inconscience. And in the process he evolutionarily involves himself in “carrying on the evolution”.

Indeed, there is the eternal Avatar and there is a series of Avatars in the issue of the transformation of the Inconscience into the Splendours of the Infinite. Going by the connotation given by the Gita to the term Avatar, we have the Divine or the Lord himself taking a human birth, mānushimtanum, to carry on the evolution in a more definitive way in its moments of extreme crisis, the moments of intense spiritual crisis poised for an unprecedented leap of consciousness. The Avatar of the Gita hints at the process too: “I loose forth myself’, srijāmyaham, in which that `myself’ is his Supreme Spirit, his Purushottamahood, and not anything from any other place.

But Sethna views it somewhat differently. Says he: “Avatarhood, essentially manifesting the supreme Godhead, takes place from various planes of being by an incarnation of the central Divine Personality poised on a plane. It can take place from the Mind plane to establish the rule of an ideal and Spirit-touched Dharma answering to the finest mental aspiration; or from the Overmind plane to bring a many-sided direct impulsion from a spiritual state that is vaster than the mental and beyond all merely ethico-religious rule. Again, it can take place straight from the supreme Truth-Consciousness, the Supermind, where the ultimate marvel of the Transcendent is organised for time-creation and the all-transformative archetype of earth-existence is dynamic.” We have no such hint in the Gita, nor in the parable of Vishṇu’s ten Avatars, nor in any other ancient Indian scripture; Sri Aurobindo also does not give it to us anywhere.

But if this is true then Sri Aurobindo as the Supreme’s incarnation would be from his plane of Supermind or Truth-Consciousness; in other words, the Supreme stationed on the supramental plane incarnated himself as Sri Aurobindo. That would be considerably short of the Mother’s statement that he “came on earth from the Supreme to announce the manifestation of a new race and the new world, the Supramental;” she also said that what Sri Aurobindo represents “is a decisive action direct from the Supreme.” Of course it is possible that the central Divine Personality poised on the Supramental plane can incarnate here in a human form and be an instrument for direct action from the Supreme, but certainly this is not what is meant by the Mother’s statement of Sri Aurobindo incarnating straight from the Supreme.

[K.D. Sethna’s note:  As far as I remember my article was shown to the Mother before the publication. In any case, I don’t think that the concepts here fall short of he Mother’s statements on Sri Aurobindo. Supermind is the all- creative and all-transformative form of the Supreme, the transcendent Divine. In connection with our created universe, all “decisive action direct from the Supreme” has taken place from the Supermind with the object of bringing about — in the Mother’s words — “a new race and the new world, the Supramental.” Therefore to say that Sri Aurobindo is the Avatar who has come from the Supermind is to say in other words what the Mother has declared abut him. It does not seem to me legitimate to disassociate in any valid sense the Supermind from the Supreme.” [Certainly it is wrong to disassociate the Supermind from the Supreme, yet there is a difference between the two, the Supreme being much more than the Supermind who is only its manifesting instrument. The difference is between the transcendental Manifestation, the Triple Glory, and the Non-Manifest, — the Absolute, the Perfect, the Alone of Savitri, — the Unknowable, or the ancient Parātpara, beyond the Beyond, — who with his Kriyā-Shakti, the Force of Action, she the supreme Executrix of his Will who becomes a Mother with the birth of Sachchidānanda, her first child. We may add that if Sachchidānanda knows himself that he is Sachchidānanda, it is with his inherent faculty of Supermind, inseparable from it. In that case this Avatar is not sent by it, it is not a direct action from the Supreme. That does not mean that the coming Avatar is not in possession of the Supermind. The Mother’s “direct from the Supreme, straight from the Supreme, he came from the Supreme” are luminously weighty revelations, with tons of gold in them, and must be seen with their fullest significance and implications.]

It is likely that Sethna did not go into these details because what he has presented here is only in the nature of a comment on the Mother’s message of 24 April 1957; maybe we could await a completer treatment from him on this subject of Avatarhood.

“The Mother saw the all-consummating Avatar in Sri Aurobindo” but that is one side of the Yoga of Supramental Realisation and Transformation. To accomplish this Yoga it is necessary that with him his dynamic Force should also incarnate simultaneously. With deep insight and a warm sense of intimacy Sethna, whom we should now endearingly call Amal, has very vividly given us his Mother whose one sun-splendid “aim was to carry the world with her and to prepare it for the full manifestation” of the Divine in the earth-consciousness. That is indeed her full Avatarhood in which Sri Aurobindo saw the “Shakti that would make his Yoga an organised starting-point of a new chapter of earth’s history.” There is Sri Aurobindo’s assurance to her that if the past attempts fell short of fruition “this time it will not be so.”

One of the greatest acts of her surrender to the Guru of the Supramental Yoga is the dissolution of an entire superhuman world she had created and which was on the verge of appearing on earth. Sri Aurobindo had indicated to her that it was a Creation from the Overmind which would delay the appearance of the Supramental by long millennia. significance

Their work continued. And to wipe off the original score and to pay the debt, to arrive at “it is finished”, a “dread mysterious sacrifice” had to be made; Sri Aurobindo put the “strategy” into action and “at the very time of his withdrawal the Supramental Power made its permanent base in the Mother’s body, beginning with the brain-mind. This is what is known as the “Mind of Light” — tells Amal. The grim occult battle continued and Amal recounts some of the victories won by the Mother subsequent to this, including the “consent of material Nature to the demand of transformation”. That is tremendous indeed, and now things can unroll with an assured confidence in the triumph of the ultimate objective. Having done the necessary Yoga the twin Avatars have left it to the Supermind to take charge of the terrestrial evolution, yet with their constant association and engagement in the subtle-physical intimately close to the earth. Man’s collaboration will further hasten the hour.

But apropos of the Mind of Light, there is in the Vision and Work a long article, — accompanied with a poem,  — spanning 32 pages in which Amal discusses the various issues involved, he bringing insights from several skies of consideration and contemplation. The article was first published in the December 1953 issue of Mother India and bears witness to the fact that it is one of the earliest and pretty authentic and authoritative discussions on this profound subject. What we also owe to Amal — and we should be sincerely grateful to him for that — is some of the seminal statements made by the Mother to him throwing occult light on the Mind of Light. Thus we have her capital pronouncement: “As soon as Sri Aurobindo withdrew from his body, what he has called the Mind of Light got realised in me,” which reveals to us a marvellously significant event that had ever taken place in the spiritual history of the earth; later she said this on a number of occasions also. For instance: “He had gathered in his body a great amount of supramental force and as soon as he left… You see, he was lying on his bed, I stood by his side, and in a way altogether concrete — concrete with such a strong sensation as to make one think that it could be seen — all this supramental force which was in him passed from his body into mine. And I felt the friction of the passage. It was extraordinary—extraordinary. It was an extraordinary experience. For a long time, a long time like that (Mother indicates the passing of the Force into her body). I was standing beside his bed, and that continued.” [Notes on the Way, Collected Works of the Mother, Vol. 11, p. 328.] And one wonders how much he had done, and is doing, for the Divinity’s growth in us! We do not know it.

The Mother’s definition of the Mind of Light is particularly revelatory in the context of the process of physical transformation. We have the following statement apropos of it: “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.” [Words of the Mother, Collected Works of the Mother, Volume 13, p. 62]  The phrase “physical mind” is not that of mind having a physical quality or grade; it is in fact the mind of the physical itself, the physical’s mind, the body-mind.

Sri Aurobindo himself did not expatiate on it so explicitly in his writings wherein the stress is on spiritual-ontological considerations and its role in the scheme of new things, particularly the Mind of Light as the leader of the Intermediate Race from which “would be recruited the  race of supramental beings”. Analogous to the Upanishadic description of the Prāṇamaya and Manomaya Purushas being the leaders, Nétās, of the respective races in the evolutionary stages of Life and Mind, we may visualise the physical’s Mind not in Ignorance but in Light as the next leader or Nétā of the new humanity or of the Intermediate Race. From Sri Aurobindo’s phrase “the pressure of supermind creating from above out of itself the mind of Light would compel this certainty of the eventual outcome,” we may say that the Mind of Light is the first entry of supermind in the earth-consciousness and that we may equate this with the Mother’s phrase “the physical mind receiving the supramental light” as her definition of the Mind of Light. It is this which she calls as the Surhomme or Overman Race,

It is in conformity with both the statements that we may read the first two lines of Amal’s poem Mind of Light:

The core of a deathless sun is now the brain

And each grey cell bursts to omniscient gold.

Based on her decisive experience the Mother told Amal, after reading the poem, that these lines were a “sheer revelation and caught exactly what had taken place” when the Mind of Light had been realised in her on 5 December 1950 at the moment of the passing away of Sri Aurobindo — his parting gift to her.

Associated with the Mind of Light there are several issues of what we may call spiritual philosophy or yogic knowledge expressed in terms cognisable to our alert mental and intuitional faculties. Is the Mind of Light a new creation, a new Star in the Aurobindonian sky? Is it a stage in the evolutionary process or is it a plane in the ladder of Consciousness connecting the Cosmic and the Transcendent? If it is a plane, where exactly is it located? If, in terms of chakras or centres of activity in the individual functioning, the Overmind is located above the head in our subtle body, where should we locate the Mind of Light working at the level of the physical mind? Can the Mind of Light be created in the body? Will the race governed by the Mind of Light remain there permanently or is it only a stop-gap arrangement to take “recruits” to the supramental race dispensing with it once the latter has firmed itself up in the evolutionary process?

Thus the Mind of Light poses innumerable questions to the questing mind as if it has created more problems than it originally came to solve. Amal in his long detailed discourse tackles them with a tremendous zest and force of intuition. He draws, naturally enough, substantially from Sri Aurobindo and the Mother’s writings to substantiate his understanding of them, making a lucid and coherent presentation. The account is masterly and, though one may not agree with some of the shades he provides at times in his too confident approach, the gain always remains ours. Let us briefly see a couple of them not in the spirit of cavil but because the matters are absolutely fundamental.

We may pick up first the Mother’s disclosure made to him about the realisation of the Mind of Light in her. She told him: “As soon as Sri Aurobindo withdrew from his body, what he has called the Mind of Light got realised in me.”

That is how the statement is given in the Mother’s Collected Works, with a symbol indicating that it was an oral communication which was “noted from memory” and “later approved by the Mother for publication.” But the same statement has a slightly different version in the first edition of The Vision and Work of Sri Aurobindo. In it we have “got realised here” instead of the approved “got realised in me.” In her article on the subject in the December 1987 issue of Mother India, Nilima Das also quotes the phrase as “got realised here”. Added to it is the Editor’s footnote clarifying the point thus: “The word `here’ was used because the Mother never liked personal references. Its proper meaning is `in me’ .” We believe that it is not just the question of “proper meaning” but “in me” is occultly the most correct phrase, particularly if we accept that the Mind of Light was the gift made to the Mother by Sri Aurobindo at the time of his withdrawal. Amal recognises the difference and has spoken of the event in the sense of “in me” at a few other places in the present edition.

We may add that the Mother spoke about this presence of Mind of Light in her on several occasions in the Agenda.

Let us look at the issue from another angle. If we are to see that the Mind of Light was “realised here” after the passing away of Sri Aurobindo, it would leave a doubt whether Sri Aurobindo himself had realised it, at all, in his physical consciousness. Certainly in that case the question of his giving the gift to the Mother would not arise and what had happened would simply be the natural outcome of the strategic sacrifice.

That would imply something of a more serious concern: it would mean that the achievement of the sacrifice was simply in terms of fixing the Mind of Light and not Supermind proper when the supreme Yogi, Sri Aurobindo, gathered the dark Inconscience in a “holocaust to kindle heaven upon earth.” Does the Mind of Light possess the power, the needed fire, to kindle heaven upon earth? If it does, then, strictly speaking, there is no necessity of the Intermediate Race appearing in evolution, a race whose Nétā, Leader, it is. This needs to be seen in more details.

Firstly, it must be clearly understood that it is this race from which recruits will be made to the supramental race upon earth which will be the true heaven aimed at by the Avatar of the Supermind. The race under the governance of the Mind of Light is a new Humanity and not a race of the gnostic beings governed by Supermind. That would render Sri Aurobindo’s strategic sacrifice fall considerably short of his purported yogic endeavour and we will have to say that his was only a partial achievement.

Do we subscribe to this? In a personal interview of Dilip Kumar Roy in 1943 with Sri Aurobindo, which was later on corrected by Sri Aurobindo himself, we have a very categorical statement from him, one among many of this context. When asked “Is your real work this invocation of the Supramental?” his answer was “Yes, I have come for that.” He even emphatically asserted “Leave the Supramental to me as my business.”

Did he then compromise on his business as a part of pragmatism to achieve what is in the accomplishment of things and circumstances feasible? Although the Mind of Light is the first entry of Supermind here it would be at one remove from the full splendour of the task he had set for himself. But certainly we do not get such an impression from the events that have happened since 5 December 1950.

Then, what is it that was realised when Sri Aurobindo withdrew from his body? Amal has posed this question to himself and he answers it as follows: “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.”

If so, the phrase “what was realised in descent into earth’s being” would go well with the Mother’s declaration having in it “realised here”. But we must stick to the approved phrasing as given in her Collected Works and examine the first query once more. However, before we proceed, we should recognise that “the Mind of Light at its supreme and in its absolute orb” cannot be equated in any way with the Supermind proper, as the one governs the Intermediate Race and the other the Gnostic or Supramental Race. The qualifying “intermediate” tells everything.

We can fairly confidently say that Sri Aurobindo had realised the Mind of Light in himself and what he was really attempting was something beyond. There is ample indication in some of his sonnets of the later period and in clear details in Savitri which is the poetic pronunciamento of his yoga-tapasyā.

Amal writes: “The Mother remarked in 1954 that even as far back as 1938 she used to see the Supermind appearing in Sri Aurobindo’s body but what could not be done at that time was to fix it in the most outer physical being. The first fixing took place in circumstances mind-bafflingly dramatic… . Sri Aurobindo… gathered as it were the whole force of mortal fate into his semi-divinised body and in the act of giving up this body exhausted that force in essence and principle and drew down to earth and fixed there the supramental Light.” This description is in accord with Amal’s own statement in The Passing of Sri Aurobindo which gives its inner significance and which was considered by the Mother, while approving it fully, to be “admirable” and later to be “excellent” and “the best thing Amal has written”.

Describing the essence of the sacrifice he writes: “Sri Aurobindo… battled for the Supermind’s descent till his last breath — calling the immortal Sun of the Spirit down, passionately packing his earthly envelope with the supramental light… .” It is to this “earthly envelope” that the Mother offered her prayer and expressed her gratitude on 9 December 1950. In it she saw the supreme “Thee” who “willed all, attempted all, prepared, achieved all for us.”

Yes, to the first query “What was realised when Sri Aurobindo withdrew from his body?” the answer is not the Mind of Light, which was already there, but the supramental Light in the depths of the inconscient matter to make it more and more awake to its reality. Making this matter awake is the real occult of the process.

Indeed, we should remember that when Sri Aurobindo wrote those articles on the Mind of Light for the Bulletin of Physical Education during 1949-50 he was already in possession of it; the stamp of authenticity is clear in them; otherwise they would have looked theoretical in nature, speculative, with no sure certainty of the realisation the Mother got at the time of his passing away.

In this connection we should also scrutinise the concept of the “phases of the Mind of Light” introduced by Amal. It is a very bold concept and may also be a good way of visualising matters too abstruse-occult for us. But that is bit puzzling also.

I shall, however, reproduce here what long ago I wrote by way of notes in pencil in my copy of The Supramental Manifestation (1952 edition) in the blank space at the end of the last chapter.

‘It looks as though the Mind of Light is Sri Aurobindo’s creation. He spoke of the vast tracks between Overmind and Supermind in the 1930s but they had remained until then unexplored. Never did he earlier mention at any time the Mind of Light, neither in letters nor in conversations. If it were a pre-established plane in the evolutionary ladder he would have certainly spoken about it. He saw the great difficulty in bringing down the Supermind directly in the earth-nature and therefore the focus of his sādhanā in the 1940s was essentially fixed in solving this problem. As a part of that modus operandi he brought down a power of Supermind close to the earth making it a station for the higher operation. The Mind of Light becomes the physical receiving the supramental. This is a new station, a stage, created by him for the higher transition or evolution. A possibility of a new humanity has been worked out. This power of the Mind of Light he made directly operative in himself. He established it in his own body-consciousness. At the time of his passing away he gave it as a parting gift to the Mother.  His supreme sacrifice is to fix the unfixed supramental Light permanently on the earth. Having fixed it he shifted his own station from the earthly physical to the subtle physical invoking the further descent. The Mother speaks of the enormous power he himself gained after the withdrawal from here. The supramental Descent of 1956 was a direct consequence of this action.’

[K.D. Sethna’s Note: “If Sri Aurobindo already had the Mind of Light, it was nothing new that he achieved by passing it on to the Mother. The Mind of Light getting achieved in the Mother was precisely the result of Sri Aurobindo’s sacrifice. He sacrificed his body in order to achieve the Mind of Light in a body continuing on earth.

Besides, it is extremely unlikely that he should possess the Mind of Light during his lifetime and the Mother remaining without it until the moment he gave up his body. One would expect that whatever he possessed would automatically pass into her to put into action for conducting the Ashram’s Yoga.]

(We could say that, occult-spiritually, this was not quite necessary, particularly when there was a division of work between him and the Mother for practical reasons. It is also important to recognise the difference between the explorative and executive aspects of their complementary sādhanās.)

Sometime back Amal happened to borrow my copy of this book and, quite understandably, went through my notings. He himself made the following remark in the margin against the two sentences “As a part of that modus operandi… the physical receiving the supramental”: “This is in line with my article but hardly in line with Sri Aurobindo’s articles,” which means that the Mind of Light will always remain elusive to our minds. Perhaps mind understands it to be so!

[K.D. Sethna’s note: The view Sri Aurobindo presents in his article “Supermind and Mind of Light” (pp. 131-34 of The Supramental Manifestation, 1952, Ed.) may be summed up as follows:

Ontologically the overhead planes short of the Supermind are the “lower hemisphere”, but practically they are the “higher hemisphere”, because they carry in general the light of Truth and may be termed a subordinate power of the supramental Gnosis. In this range, from Overmind downward, the Mind of Light stands where a step further down carries us into the beginning of Ignorance. The Mind of Light is below the Higher Mind and has a position on the threshold of ignorant mentality. Like all the other overhead planes inferior to the Supermind, it comes from the Supermind but is itself is not a part of it.

Obviously, the Mind of Light discussed by Sri Aurobindo is not identical with the power which the Mother has defined and which she declared to have been revelatorily characterised by the two opening lines of my poem on it though a few passages in Sri Aurobindo’s discussion seemed assimilable into my thesis based on the Mother.

In my article I tried to assimilate Sri Aurobindo’s articles into my thesis on the strength of certain passages. But now I see that those articles are along the line different from all the declarations of the Mother to me, which form the basis of my expositions.]

Therefore the best thing for us is to move on to a few other topics in the resourceful Vision and Work.

Amal’s exposition of Sri Aurobindo as the Poet of Integralism is, as are all his writings on poetry, exquisitely insightful with an epic span jubilantly measuring earth and heaven in one masterly sweep.

Considering integral style and integral word-power as the two chief components of integralism, with matching experience and vision, he brings out most lucidly the uniqueness that is Savitri’s in world literature. Such a luminous integralism is possible only if one has unhindered access to the sources of “overhead” inspiration whose triumphant glory is in utterance of the overmind which we hear in compositions of the Vedic Rishis. But it finds its expression in very rare instances elsewhere also.

Elaborating this point Amal says: “Perhaps it is the pressure of this voice that from far behind gives, in Homer, through his nearness to something elemental, a ring of greatness and an air of divinity to everything said by him and endows his power of straightforward yet splendid speech with a rush of oceanic sound.” Masterly is the sweep and swing of this sound.

But what we always have in Sri Aurobindo is a “lift towards the mantra, culminating now and again in that sovereign speech itself.” Amal quotes a few illustrative lines and passages from Savitri pointing at the source of their inspiration. He also makes us aware of the echoes of Homer, Virgil, Dante, Vyasa, Tennyson, Shelley which we can hear in our deep chambers of silence. In the spiritual epic that is also a world-epic, in the encyclopædic range of its subject-matter, everything is lifted to the sheer soul-vision giving it back to us with soul’s truth and soul’s beauty and soul’s delight, truth-beauty-delight in the power of the spirit, the Word.

But what exactly is it that which strikes us most prominently as the features and characteristics of Sri Aurobindo’s style in Savitri? “Felicity and novelty,” — tells Amal. And yet that cannot be the true integralism of Sri Aurobindo. “Behind the poet in him is the master of integral yoga” who brings to us poetry “embodying the vision-thrill of an overhead consciousness.”

Let us now briefly see one or two essays from the remaining lot where we have not the iambic exaltation climbing to the ethereality of the sky but a dactylic quantitativeness holding in its sound-body the power of thought. And the extraordinary thing is, the massiveness of the Adwaitic philosophy turns wholly towards essentiality of the One disregarding the notion that quintessentiality can become phenomenally tangible, concrete. This would be more surprising than an Adwaitin would recognise.

Sethna the philosopher discusses the problem of essentialism versus phenomenalism from the ontological and axiological view-point and compares answers of Shankara and Sri Aurobindo in their many-one dimension. For Shankara the distancing by the one from the many is ontologically inevitable; also, axiologically, the one can be our essence only if the many is excluded from it. While the fundamental Reality of the absolute Brahman as the basis of all existence is a common factor in the spiritual philosophy of both Shankara and Sri Aurobindo, Shankara’s one without the many, — which for him is only an appearance, —immediately becomes a stumbling block for Sri Aurobindo’s conception of transformation and divine life in an evolutionary manifestation, or what Sethna would like to call many-festation. No one will accept Sri Aurobindo if a satisfactory answer is not given by him should he not point out, in addition to the reality of the one, the reality of the many.

Sethna develops his arguments quite cogently and forcefully, with tightness of the philosophical phrasing, to show that ontologically Sri Aurobindo’s Brahman is at once Essential and Self-creative. In other words, the simultaneous reality of static and dynamic Brahman is posited, each inclusive of the other, and both based on a wider spiritual experience, the real foundation. Axiologically in Sri Aurobindo’s view “we who pass from phenomenal terms to the essence can never be said to find our absolute perfection and fulfilment unless we reach what gives us the final divine truth of all these terms as well as release from them, a supreme transfiguration rather than an entire annullation of them in the midst of their transcendence.” The essay is indeed very well written and must be studied carefully, particularly by the Adwaitins adhering to Shankara; they will see that here Shankara has outdone Shankara.

In the Harmony of Virtue Sri Aurobindo, while discussing fate and free-will, asks the question: “Are we free in ourselves?” Restated, “we seem to be free, to do that which we choose and not that which is chosen for us.” In Savitri we have the line “Man can accept his fate, he can refuse.” [p. 458.] Fate is a balance drawn in Destiny’s book and there is an option for man if to accept it or reject it, rejection which is also recorded in his credit ledger. Sethna in his article “Freewill in Sri Aurobindo’s Vision” takes up this crucial issue from the point of spiritual metaphysics and discusses tersely the several implications flowing from it. The entire crux of the matter lies in the strange paradox—true or great paradoxes are always strange—that to “realise that all is Brahman we have to reject something as not Brahman!” Occult-spiritually what is, in a way of speaking, inevitably present in the scheme of things and in us is “some profound urge” to surpass all that ensues from this non-Brahman. “In man, the mental being, the conscious self-evolver, the urge is an unavoidable open ingredient of his constitution and cannot help being insistent and deeply desirable. We may tend to justify the non-following of it by arguing from one half of God’s truth: the vision of Pantheos. But when both halves are taken together and we do not overlook God from above calling to God from below to rise and evolve in the milieu of God that is all, then the urge to choose good and to reject evil is found to be a decree the soul in us has passed from the supramental identity-in-difference it enjoys within the multiple yet single Divine.”

This persevering urge also means man’s collaboration in the work of transformation and in that respect his free-will has to be recognised. Indeed, choice has to be made at every point and in it lies the growth of the will itself till that will becomes free with the Divine’s freedom from all bonds. When his free-will becomes the truth-will then it can have its own independent assertion.

Sethna narrates elsewhere his obsession with the problem of free-will ever since he was a college student. Once when he was desperate with it he asked for an interview with the Mother. The interview ran as follows:

When I went, she asked: “Now what is the trouble?” I said: “Have I got free-will or have I not?” She began to speak. I at once interrupted: “Please don’t argue with me, Mother. I have argued enough with myself. Don’t say anything because I am sure to say something to contradict you. Just tell me whether or not my will is free, to however small an extent. Don’t say anything more than `Yes’ or `No’.” She said: “Yes.” I said: “That’s enough.” And I went away.

Now, in 1947, a much maturer Sethna gives us something superb. When the article was read out to Sri Aurobindo the Master said: “It is excellent. In fact, it could not be bettered.” What a compliment! And yet Sri Aurobindo himself has bettered it!

The heavenly sage who came from Paradise to Aswapati’s palace in Savitri lays bare the whole occult mystery of why our souls came here and why they suffer the yoke of Fate and Ignorance, why Satyavan must die, and how the hour is fixed and also the fatal stroke. When our heart’s will becomes one with the spirit’s will, as it happened in the case of Savitri, then it becomes invincible and death-conquering; the “Spirit’s interminable bliss” that the soul sensed even in a “negative infinity” is won again as if as a reward “for the adventure of Ignorance”. Fate gets fulfilled in that freewill, it becomes truth-will with its flowing dynamism. There are in the cosmic working forces and force with their pulls and pushes but a strong soul can have its own say, and it that which finally prevails in the case of an individual. The soul-will is the truth-will and our endeavour has to develop it. Man’s entire manliness is in that acquisition of conquering strength.

To conclude, let us skip the usual formalities of a review in pointing out the routine lapses and instead try to do something more violent than that: cut up Amal into four parts which, we are sure, he would endorse, of course out of his “freewill”. If we do so, we will find him with a Grecian mind, a Western heart, an Indian body, and an Aurobindonian soul. These are precisely the aspects reflected in the organic integralism of his Vision and Work of Sri Aurobindo.


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

25 Replies to “R.Y. Deshpande’s Review of K.D. Sethna’s book, ‘The Vision and Work of Sri Aurobindo’

  1. What follows is the text of an essay entitled ‘“The Mind of Light” in Sri Aurobindo’s Philosophy and Yoga: An Attempt at a Schematic Summary’ authored by K.D. Sethna. This article was published in the November-December 1965 issue of ‘Mother India’:

    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-mental 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 : 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 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 constitute 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 by an occult means of materialisation, as differentiated from Humanity supramentalised by a natural means of spiritualisation. The two would be complementary aspect of the complete manifestation of the Divine upon earth — the crowning vision o Sri Aurobindo’s philosophy and the all-consummating goal of his Yoga.

  2. Thanks Anurag for making this old issue alive in view of the importance of a particular theme we have been discussing here recently, id est, the Mind of Light. It has a research value for future studies and the points raised in it must be duly taken care of. By way of a clarification for the sake of getting a total picture I may add here a couple of points;

    1: The Review was first published in the Monthly “Mother India” in two instalments which can be accessed at

    2: Amal as the editor of the Journal had added his comments at the proof stage from the Press. These I came to know only when the issues were out.

    3: While including this Review, — “The Vision and Work of Sri Aurobindo”, — in my book “Sri Aurobindo and the New Millennium” published in December 1999, I added in square brackets my comments against Amal’s. These have now been checked and updated here for the sake of completeness.

    4: It may be good to check Kishor Gandhi’s essay entitled “The Mind of Light and the New Humanity” appearing in his “Social Philosophy of Sri Aurobindo and the New Age” published by the Ashram in 1991 as the Second Edition. Possibly this too could be reproduced on this forum also, which I leave for Anurag to decide.

  3. In the Mother’s use of “here” I remember Shri Ramakrishna’s occult-spiritual way of replacing “I” with “here”. Thanks for this luminous analysis to define the Mind of Light.

    1. This “I”-“here” could be always tricky. But the Mother has absolutely no qualms in using “I”, and that too emphatically. Let us take the two following of hers by way of illustration:

      “Prayers and Meditations” of September 25, 1914:
      The Lord hast willed, and Thou dost execute;
      A new Light shall break upon the earth.
      A new world shall be born.
      And the things that were promised shall be fulfilled.

      She rewrites it as follows in her own hand:
      29 February—29 March

      Lord, Thou hast willed, and I execute:
      A new light breaks upon the earth,
      A new world is born.
      The things that were promised are fulfilled.

      The earlier “Thou dost execute” has become “I execute”.

      That is absolutely mighty, the supreme Divine Shakti in full Divine Action, that which is her job and not his. That is also a testimony of the intense Yoga-Tapasyā that has gone into it. That gives her all the authority to say that.

      His is the Saṃkalpa, hers the Kārya. That is why Sri Aurobindo had to withdraw.

  4. Another wonderful and rich and important text by RY Deshpande and this is only a review of a book by KD Sethna, another distinguished writer. I had to read it twice to fully take it in and besides the revelations on the Mind of Light also other subjects captured my interest.

    ​It is obvious that there is a difference between criticism and pointing to the truth behind appearances. Like, “turning one’s other cheek” to the enemy while letting the enemy destroy it all. This is a profound understanding but it needs the capability to know what is behind the appearance. Once you are familiar with Sri Aurobindo’s writings it would be strange to keep turning one’s other cheek without asking what is behind a destructive situation. There are many of those destructive situations today, everywhere.

    ​Also the explanation of what is “the truth behind the appearance” of the English language in India. This part in the book and review is truly remarkable. The rooting of English language as the medium of education in India from 1835 onward. Even for a non-Indian, I thought this is a rude change for any country with its own rich language(s) but the deeper significance is pointed out, it coming from a Divine Idea, with the purpose of the universalisation of man himself. Deshpande explains this very well. English has become the most suitable instrument of God’s tongue as Sri Aurobindo’s writings, and “Savitri” in particular, show this. And as the English language has developed as the major language in the world for interaction its significance as the means for the universalisation of man himself is obvious.

    ​What is also a profound conclusion by Deshpande that – the Mind of Light was created by Sri Aurobindo, out of necessity, as the Supramental could not be brought down directly in the earth-nature. It contradicts Sethna’s writing, and this shows to me the importance of discussion with an openmind. Marvellous and instructive reading!

    1. Thanks, August. I must congratulate myself that you had to read the Review two times! A great compliment Indeed! I mean, there are so many significant and crucial issues that need our meditative deliberations. Therefor I must congratulate you more than two times for perceiving and focusing on them.

      Yes, English has become a “universal language” as you rightly say, and that certainly is with meaning and implication. Perhaps it was not for no reason that Sri Aurobindo was educated in England from a small age as seven. There was a “design” behind it, surely. And as Goutam Ghosal speaks of two greatest poets in the English language we now enter into a new era of intense creative enterprises and originalities. That at once, with least hesitation, dismisses the Islandish Kathleen Raine, a poetess and captious critic of yesteryears, who never considered Sri Aurobindo a poet to write in English, — because he was not born in England with English blood. But now the whole of glorious and rich Indian heritage and the running of new streams into it will truly make English universal. India’s role in promoting it so will perhaps be greater than say America’s. It is that which will facilitate the arrival of the Intermediate Race, the Mother’s surhomme. It will be suicidal if the present nationalist regimentation ignores English. The gift, more from Sri Aurobindo than from Sarawsati, must be preciously valued and fostered.

      And vis-à-vis the Mind of Light, I must say that it is only with it that we can possibly grasp the Mother’s Conversations in the Essential Agenda. We have to yet open ourselves to it, open more spiritually than from the point of view of intellectual understanding

  5. In the February 1952 issue of the ‘Mother India’, Soli Albless had written an article entitled ‘Sri Aurobindo’s Problem and Its Solution: The Supermind and Its Annexe, the Mind of Light.’ In this lengthy article, he has given a detailed discussion on the concept of Mind of Light. This article is reproduced beneath in multiple installments:

    ‘It is significant that when Sn Aurobindo wrote his major philosophical work, ‘The Life Divine’, he said nothing about the Mind of Light; not even when he later revised it in 1939. In fact, this term does not occur at all in any of his writings till 1950, when he suddenly introduced it in the articles he was then writing for the Mother’s Bulletin of Physical Education. To us it was a new concept, to him a solution for the work he was engaged in for forty years. One wonders what circumstances could have necessitated a change, or rather a modification, m the process he was following — such an implication is definitely there m his statements about the Mind of Light, especially in its being “a transitional passage” through which humanity can pass into a supramental mode of life. The introduction of this term also makes one ask what its relation could possibly be to the intractable Inconscient, the lowest region of human consciousness lying even below the subconscious level; and finally, what could be its spiritual and yogic significance for the disciples actually practising the Integral Yoga under the Mother, the joint harbinger of this new light and now its sole radiating centre.

    ‘Mr. K.D. Sethna has worked out m his masterly exposition many of the important implications of the Supermind’s descent into the earth-consciousness, and the relation of the Mind of Light to the Supermind as well as to the existing planes of the Mind. The present writer intends to dwell on another aspect of the subject — on the circumstances that led to the manifestation of this new light, and its pragmatic implications as a means for solving the dilemma Sri Aurobindo was confronted with, a dilemma which concerned existence itself. Therefore a few suggestive ideas are here put forward with the hope that they may prove useful in understanding the true import of the Mind of Light for evolving humanity. As this article is primarily written for the followers of Sri Aurobindo, it presupposes a certain amount of familiarity with his teaching; consequently, many of the statements are not worked out in detail, nor any attempt made to give a metaphysical justification for all the experience-concepts brought forward, except where it has been found strictly necessary. The reader may refer to the writings of Sri Aurobindo for a more detailed philosophical account.

    ‘What then is this new pragmatosis? That is the question to be answered. According to Sri Aurobindo’s spiritual experience, there is a fourfold principle of Divine Being creative of the Universe-Existence, Consciousness-Force, Bliss, Supermind. “The Divine descends from pure Existence through the play of Consciousness-Force and Bliss and the creative medium of Super-mind into cosmic being; we ascend from Matter through a developing life, soul and mind and the illuminating medium of Supermind towards the divine being. The knot of the two, the higher and the lower hemisphere, [Parārdha and Aparārdha] is where mind and supermind meet with a veil between them. The rending of the veil is the condition of the divine life in humanity…” The “rending of the veil”—this was one of the crucial points of Sri Aurobindo’s work, for it is by this rending that the descent of the higher light and power into the being as well as the ascent of the being into the higher hemisphere can become possible.

    ‘Through spiritual union with the Divine Power at its very source, Sri Aurobindo has been able to perceive the central movement of the creative process; he expresses it this way: “In a sense, the whole of creation may be said to be a movement between two involutions, Spirit in which all is involved and out of which all evolves downward to the other pole of Matter, Matter in which also all is involved and out of which all evolves upwards to the other pole of Spirit.”— “Spirit is the soul and reality of that which we sense as Matter; Matter is a form and body of that which we realise as Spirit. Certainly, there is a vast practical difference and on that difference the whole indivisible series and ever-ascending degrees of the world-existence are founded.” In the descending movement from Spirit to Matter different planes of existence are manifested in a graded series, each with its characteristic laws and practical necessities. The real creative Dynamis that manifests them from above is the Supermind; however, it does not act directly, but through a delegatory power, the Overmind. Below the Overmind are the other planes of the Mind series, the spiritual Mind planes; after them those of Mind, Life, and subtle Matter are ranged one after the other, and below them, we have the vast inchoate and obscure region of the Inconscient where all the principles of Being lie in an involved and dormant state. Out of this region dense or gross Matter first evolves, and from Matter the involved Life principle; similarly, the dormant Mind emerges out of Life held in Matter. Now the Supermind has to manifest itself out of Mind housed in a vital-physical human body. This evolution follows a certain process by which the involved principles emerge one after the other in an ascending series. All the principles have an urge in themselves to evolve, but this urge by itself is insufficient to effect an emergence; the help or intervention of a descending power is needed to release the latent principle, and that help comes from the particular principle’s own plane created by the descending movement of the Spirit. For example, Life evolved out of Matter when subjected to a pressure from its own plane; on emerging, it vitalised Matter and created a new level of organised existence, with plants and animals. In a like manner, Mind emerged when a nexus was formed between itself, lying in an involved state, and the impulsion that came from its own plane; it created on earth a race of mental-vital-physical beings. Sri Aurobindo’s reading of the universal process and the working of the Divine Will behind it is, that evolution now need not be an automatic process, because man, unlike the plants and animals before him, is a being sufficiently developed in consciousness to cooperate actively with this process and hasten his own evolution. That is why it is now possible for the next evolving principle, Supermind, to be manifested in man. But the descent from above has to be brought down to contact the Mind housed here in a vital and physical body; and that can only be done if someone attained union with the Divine Being at the spiritual summits by ascending in consciousness all the planes to reach the original creative Power, the Supermind, and then made it operative m himself right down to the very cells of his body; such a contact would forge the link necessary for the manifestation of this new principle in terrestrial life. It is this work Sri Aurobindo was occupied with for forty years. He very clearly saw that prophets and saints come and go but human life remains the same, humanity does not change; if it has to be changed, then something very radical must first be done to its very roots, which are buried m the obscure Inconscient. With an unerring insight into the riddle of this world, he understood that only the Power that has originally manifested the universe can now effectuate this great change. So, through a sadhana, whose intensity and concentrated power one can very well imagine, he rose to the Supermind, and then gradually started bringing it down into himself and the earth-consciousness, with which he was naturally connected by a network of forces. The Mother once remarked, “Even in 1938 I used to see the Supermind descending into Sri Aurobindo. What he could not do at that time was to fix it here.” He could not do it because the subconscient and inconscient regions repelled this great new light and power which they found utterly foreign to their own obscure and turbid nature. Then came the problem of clearing the lower regions. This was a definite change in the method he was following; previously he had been trying to bring down the Supermind straightaway into the earth-consciousness and grip it, but he now found that it would not stay in man’s higher parts without a sufficient basis m his lower nature. So he started delving into the abysses of Being as he had formerly ascended to its summits) and began to do the clearing work. His action upon the world and men through his spiritual force remained the same, for suitable conditions in the whole earth field had to be established before the Supermind could be brought down.

    ‘Now comes a sudden change in his working and the adoption of a method so revolutionary in its nature that it could only have been undertaken with the help of the Supermind itself. It is this new action and its accompanying manifestation, the Mind of Light, that remain to be seen, that is, as far as our limited human intelligence can see them. In the early days of his Yoga, Sri Aurobindo’s aspiration seems to have been to change the face of the globe by bringing down a powerful wide-sweeping and all-conquering descent of the Supermind in earth life; but he soon realised that one could not change the whole of humanity unless humanity itself wanted the change, and that the lower plane had to be first prepared, before the higher could be organised there. So he restricted the scope of his work, but the field of his activity remained what it was — it still covered all the planes of existence. This was necessary because no new principle can be manifested in the individual without a simultaneous action in the earth field and in the universal planes with which he is connected by a conflux of forces,-mental, vital, subtle-material energies. But this does not necessarily imply the taking in of the whole of humanity within the actual orbit of immediate supramentalisation. He writes about this in a letter: “What we propose just now is not to make the earth a Supramental world but to bring down the Supramental as a Power and established consciousness in the midst of the rest, to let it work there and fulfil itself as Mind descended into life and matter has worked as a Power there to fulfil itself m the midst of the rest. This will be enough to change the world and to change Nature by breaking down her present limits.”

  6. ‘Sri Aurobindo’s Problem and Its Solution: The Supermind and Its Annexe, the Mind of Light’ by Soli Albless, continued:

    ‘So we now see Sri Aurobindo working within this formula, daily delving into the subconscient with the light of the Overmind, or rather a partly supramentalised Overmind, drawing into himself the poisonous elements that rose from the lower regions, •making tracks there to blaze the trail of the Supermind. On 15th August, 1950, an old sadhak with a capacity for vision saw Sri Aurobindo drawing into himself dark fumes that were rising from the subconscious parts of the people as they were coming to him for “darshan” in a procession. He was gathering up the lower elements of earth-nature within this area of representative humanity and then drawing them into himself. This, of course, was the climax of the clearing process. We have again to switch back to the 1947-49 period to understand the problem.

    ‘The work of clearance was proceeding very slowly, perhaps too slowly for his liking; there was a tremendous resistance from the earth-consciousness, even a denial of the Divine Light he was offering it; and the Inconscient was swallowing the higher powers and energies he was bringing down and trying to stabilise on the earth. He must have perceived that the clearing of the Inconscient and anchoring the Supermind there would take years at the rate things were progressing; if he were to wait till suitable conditions were created for bringing the descent, he would have to wait for a very long time. One can judge his frame of mind some time before he left his body, from a remark he made regarding an astrological prediction; he was told that a swami had predicted that his work would reach a successful culmination when he reached the age of 93. Sri Aurobindo listened very gravely and said, “So long as that!” He found another fourteen years too long to wait.

    ‘Supposing he were to draw down the Supermind and fix it without worrying much about the existing conditions! This obvious possibility he was fully aware of, but he was equally aware of the consequences that would follow — consequences which are not very difficult to imagine. From the condition of the world and the prevalent forces and circumstances, the resistance the descending Divine light would have met with can very well be visualised; it would surely have broken this resistance, but the awakened dark forces, fighting for their very survival, would have played havoc before getting annihilated — chaotic conditions would have prevailed, and even our civilisation might have been destroyed before a new harmony could have been created. The 1949 New Year Message given by the Mother reads: “Lord, on the eve of the new year I asked Thee what I must say. Thou hast made me see two extreme and opposite possibilities and given me the command to keep silent.” The solution of precipitating the Supermind into the earth-consciousness and taking the consequences was, it seems now, the first possibility.

    ‘In spite of all these difficulties, the Supermind had to be brought down somehow, without considerably disturbing the existing balance of forces. To manifest it on earth was Sri Aurobindo’s life-mission — one might say, the very reason of his birth. But the new order must arise out of the old without demolishing it and for that a price must be paid. If the world was to be saved from paying the price for the new Light it was going to receive, then somebody else would have to. Sri Aurobindo chose the second possibility, and himself paid the price.

    ‘To use his own words from Savitri, the Game of games was now being fought to its breaking point; a new strategy was called for. Even if the Inconscient could not be entirely cleared here and now, and the opposing forces vanquished totally, could something really effective be still done? That was the problem. Here came the great mind of Sri Aurobindo, rather his supermind; he found the solution. The forces could be held at bay permanently, driven out from a larger and larger area and then finally conquered. This is how he must have worked it out within himself: “Not possible to wait till the right conditions are established — better to conquer with the Supermind a restricted area and work from there as a base. Yes, create a base of the Supermind itself. Bring down the light and power and substance from above, and make a stable formation here; work from this new base, and then gradually increase its radius, driving out the opposing forces from a larger and larger area; it will be easier to fight them once the Supermind is brought down and organised. The light and power will radiate and cover everything eventually. But the base must not be swallowed up by the Inconscient …. Yes. The whole formation can be sustained and held from above; the true origin of things is there, not below-the Supermind is the original creative Power. A new creation from above — that’s the solution; no need now to anchor the Supermind below. This will be a creation having its roots not in Ignorance, but in Light and Knowledge and Bliss above. Once the Supermind is down, it will do what has to be done. The important thing is to make a base in the material creation. But a material point of support must be there; if the supramental substance brought down from above is held here in a matrix of purely subtle Matter, it will be only a gain in the inner field. Some concrete Matter that can hold this substance must be there …. Use your own body. It is connected with universal Matter, and it can hold the supramental light — at least till you go out of it and make the necessary connections between the earth and the Supermind. Yes, get the Supermind down into the body; ram it well in — the very cells must hold it; let it go deep down into the being, into its lowest regions. Build the base around the body. The existing creation will be gripped from above. This projected formation of the Supermind will be like a field of light in material nature, penetrating Matter, but not embedded m the Inconscient. Keep the body there, and make the necessary tracks by joining the two ends for a regular transit between Spirit and Matter in outer life. The Mother will consolidate the Light and manifest it as usual. Without the encumbrance of the body, it will be easier to work too; it can be used for draining all the poisonous stuff from the inconscient regions before the withdrawal is effected …”
    ‘This is a very bare reconstruction of Sri Aurobindo’s problem, and the solution he found, according to our human way of seeing things — our mental way of understanding a problem which is cosmic in its nature and implications, but still a problem affecting the very roots of our existence, for we are part of this cosmos and the inhabitants of the area in which it is being worked out.

    ‘In this way the earth-consciousness was infiltrated by the descending light, a light one with force and divine substance. The formation was built round Sri Aurobindo himself. It cannot be pulled down by the Inconscient — it is held from above, and Sri Aurobindo’s body in the air space between the concrete slabs inside the Samadhi is the guarantee — the material symbol of the beginning of the new Creation. Sri Aurobindo’s own emblem expresses himself very well; there are two triangles, one with its base upon the earth pointing heavenwards, the other with it, base above m the higher divine hemisphere (Parardha) and is projected downwards, the two triangles enclosing a square where they meet — the sign of the Supermind. Inside the square is the lotus of New Creation. The Mind of Light, a formation of the Supermind, joined the two hemispheres in 1950, and became a “transitional passage” leading from the lower to the higher, from Mind housed in Matter to the Supermind.

    ‘When Sri Aurobindo accomplished this, he rescued human life from the absolute grip of its Inconscient basis. The new Light leans down from above and takes within itself our existence and loosens this grip. That is why many of the older disciples very concretely felt soon after December 1950, that the pull of the Inconscient was considerably reduced, for the difficulties of their lower nature, which they had been grappling with for years, began to give way swiftly. This implies that the more one opens oneself to the descending Power, the more one enters into the new creation. Man is now literally the denizen of two hemispheres; he can choose the life m Ignorance or enter into the life divine, or even in Ignorance begin to lead an illumined mode of life under the aegis of the descending Supermind.’

  7. ‘Sri Aurobindo’s Problem and Its Solution: The Supermind and Its Annexe, the Mind of Light’ by Soli Albless, concluding part:

    ‘The next important thing is to examine the Mother’s statement about the Mind of Light. If, as we have seen, Mind has to receive the Supermind, it must hold it in all its three layers or levels; the mind proper, that is, the thinking intelligence; the mental-vital-the vital part of the mind; and lastly, the mental-physical-the physical part of the mind. And if Matter has to contain the Supermind, as it has to, it must do so in its three layers also-the material body of cells, tissues, etc., the physical-vital, and the physical-mental or the physical mind. [The same is true for the three layers of the vital.] In a general classification, the mental-physical and the physical-mental can be taken together and designated as the physical mind. The Mother’s statement is now seen to supplement Sri Aurobindo’s exposition, as far as the pragmatic necessity of the Mind of Light is concerned: “As soon as Sri Aurobindo withdrew from his body, what he had called the Mind of Light got realised here. — The Supermind had descended long ago — very long ago — in the mind and even in the vital: it was working in the physical also but indirectly through those intermediaries. The question now 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 of direct action upon the most material. This physical mind receiving the supramental light Sri Aurobindo called the Mind of Light.”

    ‘Sri Aurobindo’s withdrawal from the body was indeed a severe trial for the physical mind, which takes its stand on material things and the data given by the senses, and is unable to go beyond it. Its natural conclusion would be that Sri Aurobindo had succumbed to a malady; it would be at the end of its tether if it were told that the physical ailment was the outer symptom of the result of his taking into himself the poisonous elements of the subconscient and inconscient pans of earth nature — and that the withdrawal itself was part of a spiritual action he was carrying on.

    ‘The very first statement the Mother made about his withdrawal gave a clue, and faith and intuition received an intellectual support: “His body is charged with such a concentration of supramental light that there is no sign of decomposition … ” As a matter of fact, it would have been highly surprising if the cells of his body had not been charged with this divine light he had rammed in them before leaving the body.

    ‘As far as the result goes, Sri Aurobindo did exactly what he said he would do; as far as the process goes, he again did what he said he would, but by a master strategy earned It to an unforeseen dénouement. He seems to have out-manouvred the forces who were opposing him and not giving up their closely guarded citadels for the base of Light he wanted to make below. He created a new base of operation right over their heads before their bewildered eyes. But a price had to be paid; he had to give up a body which was well on its way towards supramentalisation, and consequently towards immortalisation and instead had to use it to gain the Supermind for the earth. His words come home to us most poignantly now: “It is only divine Love which can bear the burden that I have to bear, that all have to bear who have sacrificed everything else to the one aim of uplifting earth out of its darkness towards the Divine.” And only divine Love could have given such a sacrifice.


    ‘This last move of Sri Aurobindo was no doubt a new development, but the intention to concentrate his work within a certain orbit for the time being and leave the question of eradicating the adverse forces for a later time was there even as early as 1936. He wrote in a letter : “About the contact with the world and the hostile forces, that is of course always one of the sadhak’s chief difficulties, but to transform the world and the hostile powers is too big a task and the personal transformation cannot wait for it. What has to be done is to come to live in the Power that these things, these disturbing elements cannot penetrate, or, if they penetrate, cannot disturb, and to be so purified and strengthened by it that there is in oneself no response to anything hostile. If there is a protecting envelopment, an inner purifying descent and, as a result, a settling of the higher consciousness in the inner being and finally, its substitution even in the most external outwardly active parts in place of the old ignorant consciousness, then the world and the hostile forces will no longer matter-for one’s own soul at least; for there is a larger work not personal in which of course they will have to be dealt with; but that need not be a main preoccupation at the present stage. ” [From Sri Aurobindo’s correspondence with Nirodbaran.]

    ‘Now one thing more remains to be clarified. It may appear at first sight that the Mind of Light is here made to signify a little more than is actually warranted by what we know about it. But if it is once admitted that it is a formation of the Supermind itself, of the Divine Truth-Consciousness, and the necessity for its manifestation examined from various angles, it is not very difficult to see that the Mind of Light considered as a developing cognitive principle of Truth is not really different from the field of Light formed in material creation. We speak of a formation of the Supermind from above, and call it the Mind of Light, because we are most of the time referring to it m the context of Mind and Supermind, we are considering it in the Mind series. The Supermind descending into the Mind, right down to the physical mind and assimilating it, is designated by us as the Mind of Light. But this descending Supermind does not stand only for Truth-Knowledge; it also contains within it Truth-Force and Truth-Substance. Therefore, it would be incorrect to understand it in terms of cognition only. In view of this, when describing the action of the descending Light upon the vital, the Life-principle, it is possible to speak of it as the Life- force of Light; similarly, in the context of Matter and its forms, we may very well speak of a Substance of Light. This must be borne in mind, otherwise a too rigid intellectual formulation with its analytical categories may narrow down the Truth that is expressing itself here, and one may lose sight of the many-sidedness and integrality of the supramental action. Mind, Life-force, Matter inter-penetrate one another in man — there is a constant interaction between them; secondly, the working of the Superrmind upon the being is not piecemeal, but detailed and integral at the same time. Being a projection of the Supermind, the Mind of Light holds Knowledge, Consciousness, Force, Ananda, and essential substance [This does not refer to subtle Matter of the subtle-physical plane, nor to what are known in traditional philosophy as subtle elements, but to spirit-substance — causal, not occult; to Essential substance residing unmanifest in the principle of Sat (Existence), but brought forth for manifestation by the Supermind] all together as modes of a single integral reality. In the supramental consciousness proper, these are distinguishable, but not seen as separate integers. In the terrestrial creation, as Mind represents the Supermind, so Life represents the Consciousness-Force aspect of the Divine, and Matter stands for Sat, the Existence aspect. Therefore, when we speak of a base of light-substance charged with supramental energies created from above, we are referring to the same reality, the same formation that is seen as the developing Mind of Light in the Mind series. The two are distinguishable in the pragmatics of the process that is being used, but they are one and the same reality functioning differently on different planes of the being. The descending Supermind takes up these planes and organises them to express its own Truth-forms. The one important thing to note is that a track of divine light has been made from the Supermind right down to our mental-vital-material creation, and that it envelops all layers of being. One has to understand its workings according to the context in which one examines it.

    ‘This in brief is the climax Sri Aurobindo’s work reached in 1950. The work is carried on by the Mother, who has always been as it were his outer self, the manifesting side of his being. For all practical purposes the spiritual relation between the two remains the same — Sri Aurobindo’s Presence and Power is always with her. She draws down the Supermind more and more in earth-existence, in man, in his mind, his life-being, his body, and creates a new world. Through her the arms of the Divine are stretching out to humanity — the Divine Grace leaning down to men. It is this truth that Sri Aurobindo expresses in ‘Savitri’:
    Love in her was wider than the universe,

    The whole world could take refuge in her single heart.

    He writes at another place: “The Mother comes in order to bring down the Supramental and it is the descent which makes her full manifestation here possible.”

    The work goes on — the field of golden light spreads itself gradually in the lower regions. Each big descent is fuller than the last as well as more penetrative and drives deeper into the roots of Ignorance and Inconscience. Perhaps the entire conquest of the Inconscient will be undertaken when the Supermind is sufficiently consolidated on the earth. Meanwhile, the Mother gathers together aspiring souls around her, and helps them towards realisation; and behind all moves unseen the bodiless Presence of one whom the world could not recognise, the Presence that fulfils mankind’s deepest urge and stands as the Sanction at the gates through which humanity will pass or, into the life divine.’

  8. Well done. Please also consider putting Kishor Gandhi’s “Mind of Light” either here or as an independent post.

  9. Here is an extraordinary article entitled ‘The Mind of Light and the New Humanity’ authored by Kishor Gandhi and published in his book, ‘The Social Philosophy of Sri Aurobindo and The New Age’.

    Kishor Gandhi played an incomparable role as editor of Sri Aurobindo’s ‘Letters on Yoga’. His original interpretation of the teaching of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother especially in social perspective made him a great instrument of Their work. As a teacher at Sri Aurobindo International Centre of Education (SAICE), he gained repute as a serious, sincere and thorough scholar in his approach to the subject of his choice. The Mother had put this devotee par excellence in charge of the New Age Association, besides appointing him as the sole arranger, dispenser and editor of Sri Aurobindo’s innumerable letters to his disciples.

    The Mind of Light and the New Humanity by Kishor Gandhi


    “… a new humanity uplifted into Light, capable of a spiritualised being and action, open to governance by some light of the Truth-Consciousness, capable even on the mental level and in its own order of something that might be called the beginning of a divinised life.”—Sri Aurobindo [The Supramental Manifestation upon Earth, Cent. Edition, Vol. 16, p. 66.]

    Sri Aurobindo’s concept of the Supermind is well known to those who are familiar with his writings, for a considerable part of them is devoted to a detailed exposition of the nature of the Supermind, its emergence in the terrestrial evolution as the next stage after mind, and the advent of a new race of gnostic beings embodying the supramental principle, as man has come in the evolution to embody the mental principle.

    In a few articles, however, which Sri Aurobindo wrote just before his passing away in 1950 [These articles were first published serially in the Bulletin of Physical Education Department, Feb. 1949 to Nov. 1950 and were subsequently brought out in book-form under the title ‘The Supramental Manifestation upon Earth’], he introduced what seemed to be quite a new concept in the theory of supramental evolution which he had been propounding all his lifetime. He enunciated a category of consciousness hitherto unknown in his writings, which he called the “Mind of Light”, and he wrote about the emergence of another new race—the new humanity—which would arrive prior to the advent of the gnostic race of the perfect supramental beings. Most persons thought that a new star had arisen in the Aurobindonian sky, though the promise it seemed to hold out was not quite precise to them. What he had written on the subject was rather scanty and the precise distinction between what he had said about the Supermind and this new Mind of Light was not quite easy to make out. Something new seemed to have been formulated but to most minds it remained quite nebulous.

    To a careful student of Sri Aurobindo’s works, however, the Mind of Light would not be altogether a new concept, though the term was, of course, quite new, and the related concept of a new humanity also would not be totally unfamiliar, though the formulation of it in these last writings was more definite and adequate than in his other works. It was not that a new star had arisen in the Aurobindonian sky but that a star which was not till then distinctly visible had now begun to shine with an intense radiance promising a not too distant new life to the long waiting humanity.

    This becomes evident if it is recollected that Sri Aurobindo’s idea of supramental evolution always envisaged two results of its action on humanity. The supramental principle manifesting upon earth would act principally for the transformation of the human life into the divine life, a transformation so radical and complete as to change the human being into an altogether new type of being, the gnostic being. Since, however, this change was extremely difficult, only a few individuals could accomplish it at first.

    But that would not mean that the action of the supramental power would be limited to these few individuals only. It would also have a secondary and subordinate action on the rest of humanity. Even those who were not capable of the complete supramental conversion would undergo a subsidiary change which, though not so radical as the complete conversion, would yet be far-reaching and profound. Thus the Supermind manifesting upon earth would not only transform a few men into gnostic beings but affect profoundly the rest of mankind also on its own level. It would not only create the race of gnostic supermen but change the present humanity too into a new human race.

    These two results of the supramental evolution have been repeatedly mentioned by Sri Aurobindo in his writings on the subject. A typical passage like this recurs often in his works.

    “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.”

    It is obvious that though the terms “Mind of Light” and “new humanity” are not mentioned in passages like these, the idea is definitely there, though not worked out in its full implications. It is only in his last writings that he developed it in some detail and gave it a fairly adequate exposition.

  10. The Mind of Light and the New Humanity by Kishor Gandhi


    Before proceeding to explain this concept of the new humanity it is necessary to make it clear that in Sri Aurobindo’s view the effects of the supramental evolution would not be limited only to the creation of the supramental race and the new humanity but would also extend to the entire earth-life — to animals, plants and eventually to matter itself. And this change would take place not only within the laws governing their present nature and evolution but more and more by a change of these laws themselves. This would be so because the Supermind entering in the evolution would radically alter the very law and method of the present evolutionary process. Instead of being an evolution starting from complete nescience and proceeding in ignorance, it would become more and more an evolution in knowledge progressing continuously from light to greater light. Under the direct governance of the Supermind “evolution would itself evolve” [The Supramental Manifestation upon Earth, Cent. Edition, Vol. 16, p. 53], with such far-reaching consequences for the entire earth-nature that any mention of them would seem preposterous, if not incredible, to the sage circumspect mind of the rational man. But all the previous evolutionary transitions would have similarly appeared incredible before they were accomplished; yet that has not prevented evolutionary Nature from accomplishing them. For the nisus, secret in evolution, is sure of its aim, knows its method, prepares its means and at the right critical moment takes the decisive saltus and effectuates the destined result in spite of all seeming impossibilities. Evolutionary Nature has more than once made what seemed the impossibles of today the commonplaces of tomorrow. There is, therefore, no valid reason to think that now she will forget her miraculous method and conform to the cautious conventions of man’s rational mind. On the contrary, there is every reason to hope that the miracle in her method is bound to increase immeasurably because till the mental stage of evolution she was working within the narrow limits of nescience and ignorance, but beyond it in the supramental stage she will act in the boundless vastness of Truth-Consciousness. Till reaching the mind she was crawling like a worm, but in the gnostic skies of the Supermind she will fly like an eagle. If even the crawling was a miracle, what a sheer marvel would the flight be!

    It is, however, not intended here to deal with those far remote consequences of the supramental manifestation on sub-human life and matter; our intention is to consider its consequences only for humanity. For this it is necessary to indicate precisely the nature of the Mind of Light, the process of its emergence in the present human mind and the character of the changes it will effectuate in human life and create what has been called the new humanity.

  11. The Mind of Light and the New Humanity by Kishor Gandhi


    As mentioned before, though the Supermind manifesting in the evolution would act principally for the creation of the gnostic superman, it would also have a secondary action which would affect the rest of the humanity. As Sri Aurobindo states:

    “… it would not only establish the Supermind and a supramental race of beings upon earth, it could bring about an uplifting and transforming change in mind itself and as an inevitable consequence in the consciousness of man, the mental being and would equally bring about a radical and transforming change in the principles and forms of his living, his ways of action and the whole build and tenor of his life… the truth-principle might so far replace the principle we see here of an original ignorance seeking for knowledge and arriving only at a partial knowledge that the human mind could become a power of light, of knowledge finding itself, not the denizen of a half way twilight or a servant and helper of the ignorance, a purveyor of mingled truth and error. Mind might even become in man, what it is in its fundamental origin, a subordinate, limited and special action of the Supermind, a sufficiently luminous receptacle of truth, and at least all falsity in its works might cease.” [Ibid., pp. 50-51]

    This is precisely the Mind of Light which the Supermind after its manifestation upon earth would generalise more and more in the human race, creating a new humanity which would be an intermediary race between the present ignorant man and the fully Truth-conscious supramental being. The basic difference between the nature of this Mind of Light and the present human mind and the change it would bring about in human life, as explained by Sri Aurobindo, would be:

    “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 mind liberated and capable of the free 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.” [Ibid., p. 48]

    The possibility of such a far-reaching change in human mentality, taking place naturally under the influence of the supermental Truth-Consciousness, might seem difficult to envisage when we consider its present character and the limitations which seem intrinsic to it. If we take this character of the present human mentality to be permanently fixed and irrevocable, there can be no possibility of its admitting so radical a change as will convert it into the Mind of Light. But, according to Sri Aurobindo, there is no inevitability in the existing limitations of mind. These limitations are not intrinsic to the mind principle in itself but only temporary shortcomings of the evolutionary mind arising out of the inconscience of material nature and striving to arrive at its original status in the higher nature. “Our notions about mind are rooted in an experience of human mentality in a world which starts from inconscience and proceeds through a first almost complete nescience and a slowly lessening ignorance towards a high degree but always incomplete scope and imperfect method of only partially equipped knowledge which does not serve fully the needs of a consciousness always pushing towards its own still immeasurably distant absolute. The visible imperfections and limitations of mind in the present stage of its evolution here we take as part of its very nature; but in fact the boundaries in which it is still penned are only temporary limits and measures of its still incomplete evolutionary advance; its defects of methods and means are faults of its immaturity and not proper to the constitution of its being; its achievement although extraordinary under the hampering conditions of the mental being weighed down by its instrumentation in an earthly body is far below and not beyond what will be possible to it in its illumined future.” [Ibid., p. 53]

    This becomes obvious when we realise that mind in its original nature is not tied down to ignorance, error and falsehood. “Mind is not in its very nature an inventor of errors, a father of lies bound down to a capacity of falsehood, wedded to its own mistakes and the leader of a stumbling life as it too largely is at present owing to our human short comings: it is in its origin a principle of light, an instrument put forth from the Supermind and, though set to work within limits and even set to create limits, yet the limits are luminous borders for a special working, voluntary and purposive bounds, a service of the finite ever extending itself under the eye of infinity.” [Ibid.]

    It is this true nature of mind, which is falsified and disfigured in the present human mind, that will be revealed when Supermind manifests and acts directly on it. By its action it will “make human mentality an adjunct and a minor instrumentation of the supramental knowledge. It will even be possible for the mind no longer limited by the intellect to become capable of a sort of mental gnosis, a luminous reproduction of the Truth in a diminished working extending the power of Light not only to its own but to lower levels of consciousness in their climb towards self-transcendence.” [Ibid., pp. 53-54]

  12. The Mind of Light and the New Humanity by Kishor Gandhi


    To understand the process of this evolutionary change in mind it is necessary to fix the location of the Mind of Light in the order of the planes which the Supermind has built up in the Evolutionary descent into inconscience prior to the evolutionary ascent out of that inconscience by a succession of stages. For, actually, the Mind of Light is a grade in this involutionary descent as well as a stage in the evolutionary ascent; in both cases its position is intermediary between the Supermind and the mind of ignorance.

    The location of the involutionary Mind of Light and its characteristic action have been explained by Sri Aurobindo thus:

    “What we have called specifically the Mind of Light is indeed the last of a series of descending planes of consciousness in which the Supermind veils itself by a self-chosen limitation or modification of its self-manifesting activities, but its essential character remains the same: there is in it an action of light, of truth, of knowledge in which inconscience, ignorance and error claim no place. It proceeds from knowledge to knowledge; we have not yet crossed over the borders of the truth-conscious into ignorance. The methods also are those of a self-luminous knowing and seeing and feeling and a self-fulfilling action within its own borders; there is no need to seek for something missing, no fumbling, no hesitation: all is still a gnostic action of a gnostic power and principle. There has been a descent from full Supermind into Mind, but this Mind though a self-limited is not yet an agnostic consciousness unsure of itself or unsure of its workings; there is still a comprehending or an apprehending consciousness which goes straight to its object and does not miss its mark or have to hunt for it in the dark or in insufficient light: it sees, knows, puts its hand immediately on things of self and things of Nature. We have passed into Mind but Mind has still not broken its inherent connection with the
    supramental principle.” [Ibid., p. 71]

    This descending order created by the Supermind by an increasing self-limitation of its powers begins with Overmind and proceeds downwards to the planes which have been named by Sri Aurobindo as Intuition, Illumined Mind and Higher Mind. The Mind of Light is the culminating plane in this order which still retains in a subsidiary form the essential gnostic character of the Supermind. But it is also a transitional passage from the Truth-Consciousness into the Ignorance because in the planes below it the link with the Supermind is phenomenally cut off and its gnostic character lost. As stated by Sri Aurobindo:

    “… 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. We are moving towards a transitional border beyond which lies the possibility of the Ignorance, but the Ignorance is not yet here. In the order of the involutionary 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 it.” [Ibid., p. 72]

    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, retains all its Gnostic powers though in a limited degree, that Sri Aurobindo calls the involutionary Mind of Light.

    Conversely, in the evolutionary ascent from the lower Inconscient upwards through Matter, Life, Mind and beyond Mind, “we reach a transition in which we see the light, are turned towards it, reflected in our consciousness and 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.” [Ibid., pp. 72-73] This transitional range of consciousness which carries the evolving human mind beyond the last border of Ignorance into the domain of Light is the evolutionary Mind of Light. In the earthly evolution the Mind of Light will emerge when the human mind will cross the border that divides cosmic Truth from the cosmic Ignorance and pass into the realm of supernal Light. For in the evolutionary ascent from mind to Supermind, the Mind of Light is an inevitable stage which when reached by man will change him into a new type of man. In Sri Aurobindo’s words: “As an evolving principle it will mark a stage in the human ascent and evolve a new type of human being.” [Ibid., p. 69]

    In fixing the precise location of the Mind of Light in the

    order of the planes and determining its specific characteris tics, it is thus necessary to consider both its involutionary and
    evolutionary status. As Sri Aurobindo observes:

    “It is in this 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 we have to look at the Mind of Light and see what is its nature and the powers which characterise it and which it uses for its self-manifestation and workings, its connection with Supermind and its consequences and possibilities for the life of a new humanity.” [Ibid., p. 74]

    Since, however, the sevenfold order of the planes, divided into two hemispheres recognised in the traditional Indian systems, includes only the planes of Sat, Chit and Ananda in the higher hemisphere with the Supermind as a link between them and the three planes of Mind, Life and Matter of the lower hemisphere, we cannot, strictly speaking, include the Mind of Light or the other overhead planes of the spiritual mind in the higher hemisphere. But for all practical purposes they belong to the higher hemisphere. As Sri Aurobindo remarks: “… 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.” [Ibid., p. 73]

    It needs to be borne in mind that it is not only the Mind of Light that has this double status in the involutionary and the evolutionary orders. All the grades of existence that emerge in the ascending evolutionary order have their corresponding grades in the descending involutionary order. For “only what is involved can evolve, otherwise there could be no emergence.” [Ibid., p. 43] This, however, does not mean that evolution is merely a reverse process of involution. Such an exact reversal would only be a repetition; but evolution is not repetition, it is a creative process. What emerges in it pre-exists but is new-created in the process of emergence.

  13. The Mind of Light and the New Humanity by Kishor Gandhi


    According to Sri Aurobindo, the Mind of Light will manifest in evolution not at once in its fullness but by two stages, each of which again will define its own grades. “In the birth of the mind of Light and its ascension into its own recognisable self and its true status and right province there must be, in the very nature of things as they are and the very nature of the evolutionary process as it is at present, two stages. In the first, we can see the mind of Light gathering itself out of the Ignorance, assembling its constituent elements, building up its shapes and types however imperfect at first and pushing them towards perfection till it can cross the border of the Ignorance and appear in the Light, in its own Light. In the second stage we can see it developing itself in that greater natural light taking its higher shapes and forms till it joins the Supermind and lives as its subordinate portion or its delegate. In each of these stages it will define its own grades and manifest the order of its beings who will embody it and give to it a realised life. Thus there will be built up, first, even in the Ignorance itself, the possibility of a human ascent towards a divine living; then there will be, by the illumination of this mind of Light in the greater realisation of what may be called a gnostic mentality, in a transformation of the human being, even before the Supermind is reached, even in the earth-consciousness and in a humanity transformed, an illumined divine life.” [Ibid., p. 69]

    Thus the Mind of Light emerging in evolution will build not only a single distinct stratum at its top but a series of them increasing in their luminous potencies as they rise towards their supreme height. The lowest of these will join with the human mind while the highest will rise into the Supermind itself. By this graded ascension, “The life of the mental being could be harmonised with the life of the Supermind which will then be the highest order above it and
    become even an extension and annexe of the truth-consciousness, a part and province of the divine life.” [Ibid., p. 49] These ascending grades will thus not allow any unbridgeable gulf to remain between the human mind and the Supermind; they will keep up the continuity of the evolutionary order by providing a series of intermediary links between the two which will enable the soul in the lower Ignorance to pass gradually into the highest Truth.

    Corresponding to the successive ascending grades of the Mind of Light there will also be a series of types of human beings embodying the increasingly luminous intensities of these grades. The new humanity would thus be composed not only of a single uniform type but of a hierarchy of types. As in humanity itself there is an ascending scale of types ranging from the lowest physical man with only rudiments of intelligence to the highest mental type stretching almost into the realms of the spirit, so also the new human race will be comprised of an ascending scale of types ranging from those who will embody some degree of the Mind of Light to those who will stand on the threshold of the Supermind and from there, by a supreme conversion, will be able to ascend into the plenary Supermind itself. The gnostic supramental itself will thus be created from the race of the new humanity, and the perfect Superman rising out of the present man will have first to become the new man in the intervening ranges of the Mind of Light. As stated by Sri Aurobindo:

    “At its highest it [the Mind of Light] 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 it or a projection from it, a stepping beyond humanity into the superhumanity of the supramental principle.” [Ibid., p. 67]

  14. The Mind of Light and The New Humanity


    The question that now remains to be considered is: What will be the nature of the change that the present humanity will undergo in becoming the new humanity? How will the life of the new man differ from that of the present man? This question has been answered by Sri Aurobindo only in the essential principle which has already been explained before. To write in more detail on this subject which stretches far into the yet undiscovered realm of future possibilities would be rather hazardous. What could more safely be done is to out a few implications on the basis of and in close conformity with the central principle laid down by Sri Aurobindo.

    From what has been said before about the Mind of Light it should be evident that it is not merely the present human mind freed of its obscurities and confusions and become capable of illumined ideas: it is a new evolutionary stage effectuating a radical mutation in the very basic nature of mind. As Supermind is not merely superior mind, so the Mind of Light is not merely mind of luminous intelligence. The term “mind” in this context is likely to be very misleading if the specific connotation which Sri Aurobindo has affixed to it in his psychological system is not clearly kept in view. The Mind of Light is not mind at all in the usual sense of the word. It is really a range of spiritual consciousness above the human mind, and the term “mind” could be applied to it only in the sense in which Sri Aurobindo applies it to all the overhead ranges of spiritual mind intervening between the human mind and the Supermind proper. All the highest spiritual realisations of the past belong to these overhead mental planes; so if the term “mind” as applied to them is taken in the usual sense, it would lead to serious confusion and misunderstanding.

    How extremely far-reaching would be the change that the present human mind would undergo when it would evolve into the Mind of Light could be surmised from a passage from Sri Aurobindo like this:

    “There would be a liberated mind escaping from ignorance into light, 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, a creator in the light, a discoverer in the depths, an illuminant in the darkness, helping perhaps to penetrate even the Inconscient with the rays of a secret Superconscience. There would be a new mental being not only capable of standing enlightened in the radiance of the Supermind but able to climb consciously towards it and into it, training life and body to reflect and hold something of the supramental light, power and bliss, 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 he a vessel of the divine Life,” [Ibid., p. 59]

    Obviously, this is not a change, however great, within the boundaries of the present human consciousness but a change far beyond them, a change in the very constitution of that consciousness, lifting it up definitively from the mental to the spiritual level and converting human life into an image of the divine life. In fact, it is only by such a radical and decisive change that man can realise his true evolutionary status and become the True Man. It is not mere cynicism to say that man, even after so many centuries of development and progress, has not yet succeeded in becoming his true self and reaching true manhood except in the case of a few individuals. He has come in the evolution to embody and manifest fully the principle of Mind; but since in the course of evolution he has arisen out of the preceding vegetable and animal stages, he has to carry a heavy load of his subhuman origins which not only dominates his body and vital nature but also influence strongly his mentality. As Sri Aurobindo explains:

    “His proneness to many kinds of inertia, his readiness to vegetate, his attachment to the soil and clinging to his roots, to safe anchorages of all kinds, and on the other hand his nomadic and predatory impulses, his blind servility to custom and the rule of the pack, his mob-movements and openness to subconscious suggestions from the group-soul, his subjection to the yoke of rage and fear, his need of punishment and reliance on punishment, his inability to think and act for himself, his incapacity for true freedom, his distrust of novelty, his slowness to seize intelligently and assimilate, his downward propensity and earthward gaze, his vital and physical subjection to his heredity, all these and more are his heritage from the subhuman origins of his life and body and physical mind.” [The Human Cycle, Cent. Edition., Volume 15, p. 67]

    But if man is still half-animal on the lower side of his nature due to the drag of his evolutionary past, he is also half-god on his highest mental side and is destined to be the whole god in his evolutionary future. All the difficulties that now beset his life are due to the fact that he has in him this double nature which pulls him in contrary directions. He has not yet succeeded in freeing himself from the lower pull so as to compel his whole nature to obey the higher call and reshape his whole life in the image of his highest mental ideals. “He has effected something, he has passed a certain stage of his journey. He has laid some yoke of the intellectual, ethical, aesthetic rule on his vital and physical parts and made it impossible for himself to be content with or really to be the mere human animal. But more he has not been able to do successfully. The transformation of his life into the image of the true, the good and the beautiful seems as far off as ever; if ever he comes near to some imperfect form of it, — and even then it is only done by a class or by a number of individuals with some reflex action on the life of the mass, — he slides back from it in a general decay of his life, or else stumbles on from it into some bewildering upheaval out of which he comes with new gains indeed but also with serious losses. He has never arrived at any great turning-point, any decisive crisis of transformation.” [Ibid., pp. 221-222]

    The root cause of man’s incapacity to transform his vital and physical life with the mental reason which is his highest faculty is that mental reason itself is an intermediary and instrumental power of existence. “The mind and the intellect are not the key-power of our existence. For they can only trace out a round of half-truths and uncertainties and revolve in that unsatisfying circle.” [Ibid., p. 230] “Mind is not the destined arch-angel of the transformation.” [Ibid., p. 221]

    It is only by rising above mind that man can lay hold of a power that can wholly transform his life, cure him of the persistent malady of his double nature and give him harmonious self-perfection. Then alone can he cease to be a caricature of his real self which he now is and become the True Man. For this it is necessary for him to take an evolutionary leap which will carry him beyond mind to a higher stage.

    The Mind of Light is precisely that higher stage of evolution which man must reach if he is to fulfil his evolutionary role and arrive at his full stature. Then alone can he realise his high aspirations which have till now escaped his grasp so much that they appear to him like illusory mirages or impossible dreams. But, as we have said before, it is only the Supermind manifesting and directly acting in the earthly evolution that can make the human mind evolve into the Mind of Light. For it will not only create the perfect Superman but also perfect each evolutionary grade in its own type and on its own level, which is impossible under the present reign of inconscience and ignorance. So when the Supermind manifests on earth “mind, life and body too can attain to the full power of the truth in them and their full possibility of perfection”. [The Supramental Manifestation upon Earth, Cent. Ed., Vol. 16, p. 58.] Man too will be able to perfect himself in his own type and all that has seemed illusory or impossible to him till now will not only become possible but even inevitable. In Sri Aurobindo’s words:

    “This possibility, if fulfilled, would mean that the human dream of perfection, perfection of itself, of its purified and enlightened nature, of all its ways of action and living, would be no longer a dream but a truth that could be made real and humanity lifted out of the hold on it of inconscience and ignorance… an immense change of human life, even if it did not extend to transformation would be inevitable.” [Ibid., pp. 48-49]

    It is evident that the new humanity, possessed of the Mind of Light, though it will not rise to perfect supermanhood in the Supermind and therefore will not be capable of the highest divine life, will yet be capable of a partially divinized way of living because the Mind of Light is a subordinate power of the Supermind itself and all the truths inherent in the Supermind will be at least partly manifested in it. “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 entirely or predominantly in the Ignorance.” [Ibid., p. 60]

    According to Sri Aurobindo, it is not merely a hope but an imperative certitude that the Supermind will manifest upon earth and as one of its inevitable results a new humanity will arise possessed not only of a new mind, the Mind of Light, but also of a new life and a new body. As he says:

    “.. once it [the supramental evolution] has begun, all must unavoidably and perfectly manifest and all parts of Nature must tend towards a greatest possible luminousness and perfection. It is this certainty that authorises us to believe that mind and humanity also will tend towards the realisation that will be far beyond our present dreams of perfection. A Mind of Light will replace the present confusion and trouble of this earthly ignorance… the life of humanity will be enlightened, uplifted, governed, harmonised by this luminous principle and even the body become something much less powerless, obscure and animal in its propensities and capable instead of a new and harmonised perfection.” [Ibid., pp. 65-66]

  15. The Mind of Light and The New Humanity (concluding part)


    Before we conclude, it needs to be added that Sri Aurobindo was not merely a philosopher satisfied only with propounding a new theory of evolution and holding out the promise of a glorious future state to man like a distant shining vision. He was no Bergson or Shaw inventing ingenious theories about man’s evolutionary future on the basis of hypothetical speculations. However interesting such speculative theorising may be to the idealistic strand in man’s mind, it is of no consequence in the actualities of his individual and collective existence. In fact, the modern man, after a century and a half of fascinating idealistic speculations, has now become distrustful of them because he has found them of no help in solving the concrete problems of life demanding urgent solution. What he needs most is not speculative visions of a bright future but a radical cure for the pressing ills of his life. Sri Aurobindo was always acutely conscious of this urgent need of humanity and he had set himself single-mindedly to the task of delivering it from its impasse. He was not merely building up philosophical visions about
    humanity’s future but concretely helping it in the midst of its crucial circumstances. All the actions of his life had only this purpose in view and his so-called “death” also had no other significance. The Supermind in which he saw the lasting solution of the seemingly irremediable agelong evils of humanity was not a metaphysical concept invented by his mind but a concrete fact of his spiritual realisation. When he discovered it in his spiritual exploration and was convinced that its descent on earth can alone bring a lasting deliverance to humanity and fulfil its ever-eluding dream of creating the kingdom of heaven on earth, he withdrew from all other preoccupations, however important, and applied himself exclusively to the sole task of bringing it down in the earth-consciousness. The Mother who had made the same discovery in her own experience came and joined him in his
    mission and from then onwards it became a joint labour. How unimaginably arduous this labour has been no human mind can understand, for it has been carried on in the occult and spiritual depths of the earth-consciousness into which no human gaze can probe. And how earnest he was to win this victory for the earth and how mindless of any price that might be demanded of him could be judged from the fact that he even gave his very body as a sacrifice for an early descent of the Supermind — that sole thing on which everything depended. But that is a matter into which it is not our intention to enter here. It only remains to be said that the Supermind for which he and the Mother laboured incessantly for over four decades is now no more a shining star in the distant heavens but a Sun descended directly into the subtle-physical layer of the earth. This event of supreme importance for earth and men occurred on 29 February 1956 though it was “not proclaimed by beat of drum.” Since then
    the golden flood has been let loose which has been secretly working at every instant from behind on the actual events of the world, producing inconceivably radical results but without making any noise. Before that event the fate of humanity was hanging in the balance but its occurrence has put the seal and the sanction of the Supreme on the inevitable outflowering of the divine life upon earth in course of time. No other power can stand in the way, for now His Will is the Law of the world.

  16. Dear friends,
    We find here a lot of very precious material for the conceptualisation of the way integral yoga evolved in matter since the withdrawal of Sri Aurobindo and Mother from Their most material envelope.
    This contribution of Amal Kiran on the particular topic of the Mind of Light was unknown to me. The important commentaries of Deshpande-Ji on it and personal additions of Anurag clarify also many points and placed them in perspective for the future evolution of the consciousness in the many-fested world.
    So I will do like August: Read this post again and again and everything I can find on the topic, aspiring to be granted in due time the real clarification of experience. Thanks to you all.

  17. 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 the November-December issue of ‘Mother India’, the monthly review published by Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry of which Amal Kiran was the editor. Afterwards, this article was included in Amal Kiran’s 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.’

  18. The following is from Amal’s last paragraph:

    “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 spiritualisation; the Supermind would be humanised by an occult means of materialisatipn developed by Humanity when it has supramentalised itself.”

    If we are to understand that the Supramental Race would be the Supermind humanised, rather than humanity supramentalised, then it largely knocks off the sense and significance of the evolutionary evolution. In this context let me quote in full the relevant passage from “The Vision and the Boon” Book Three Canto Four of “Savitri”:

    I saw the Omnipotent’s flaming pioneers
    Over the heavenly verge which turns towards life
    Come crowding down the amber stairs of birth;
    Forerunners of a divine multitude
    Out of the paths of the morning star they came
    Into the little room of mortal life. ||90.28||
    I saw them cross the twilight of an age,
    The sun-eyed children of a marvellous dawn,
    The great creators with wide brows of calm,
    The massive barrier-breakers of the world
    And wrestlers with destiny in her lists of will,
    The labourers in the quarries of the gods,
    The messengers of the Incommunicable,
    The architects of immortality. ||90.29||
    Into the fallen human sphere they came,
    Faces that wore the Immortal’s glory still,
    Voices that communed still with the thoughts of God,
    Bodies made beautiful by the Spirit’s light,
    Carrying the magic word, the mystic fire,
    Carrying the Dionysian cup of joy,
    Approaching eyes of a diviner man,
    Lips chanting an unknown anthem of the soul,
    Feet echoing in the corridors of Time. ||90.30||
    High priests of wisdom, sweetness, might and bliss,
    Discoverers of beauty’s sunlit ways
    And swimmers of Love’s laughing fiery floods
    And dancers within rapture’s golden doors,
    Their tread one day shall change the suffering earth
    And justify the light on Nature’s face. ||90.31||
    Although Fate lingers in the high Beyond
    And the work seems vain on which our heart’s force was spent,
    All shall be done for which our pain was borne. ||90.32||
    Even as of old man came behind the beast
    This high divine successor surely shall come
    Behind man’s inefficient mortal pace,
    Behind his vain labour, sweat and blood and tears:
    He shall know what mortal mind barely durst think,
    He shall do what the heart of the mortal could not dare. ||90.33||
    Inheritor of the toil of human time
    He shall take on him the burden of the gods;
    All heavenly light shall visit the earth’s thoughts,
    The might of heaven shall fortify earthly hearts;
    Earth’s deeds shall touch the superhuman’s height,
    Earth’s seeing widened into the infinite. ||90.34||
    Heavy unchanged weighs still the imperfect world;
    The splendid youth of Time has passed and failed;
    Heavy and long are the years our labour counts
    And still the seals are firm upon man’s soul
    And weary is the ancient Mother’s heart. ||90.35||

    We could say that the “flame-pioneers” are coming not to get “humanised”, but as “great creators and architects of immortality”. “Their tread one day shall change the suffering earth”.

    This is in the context of the question Yogi Aswapati puts to the Divine Mother who is standing in front of him on the threshold mind, she who has come to grant him a boon:

    How long shall our spirits battle with the Night
    And bear defeat and the brute yoke of Death,
    We who are vessels of a deathless Force
    And builders of the godhead of the race? ||90.5||

    The implication is of the evolutionary evolution and not involutionary evolution; it is humanity getting supramentalised, it laboured out by the flame-pioneers.

    If the supramental beings are going to get humanised a question would arise: Does the supramental being have a psychic being? Not up there. He does not come with a psychic being who is specific to the terrestrial process, here on earth. His role is to carry the evolution forward, upward, to the next stage, and next, and next.

    When ready, he is admitted into the Mother’s Supramental Boat. She has the most wonderful revelation that, it is the psychic being who will materialise. “it is the psychic being, the Divine’s representative in man, that will stay on and pass into the next species.” [13 April 1972] And earlier: ‘Then I said to myself (possibly it is always so, I do not know, but here I noticed it very clearly), I said to myself, “But it is the psychic being, it is that which will materialise itself and become the supramental being!” ‘ [1 July 1970]

    By the way, in the context of Mind of Light we must understand that the phrase “physical mind” is not conveying a grade of mind with its habits and propensities that essentially are mental. It should be understood as the mind of the very physical, the physical has a mind. To avoid any misunderstanding it is safer to say “physical’s mind”, in the living creature the very “body’s mind”.
    Mind of Light is the physical’s mind, the body’s mind, opening to the supramental light and force.

  19. I agree with RY Deshpande to his refutatio of Mr. Sethna’s argument, which seems to me to be an earlier work of the interpreter. In his later works, like Àspects of Sri Aurobindo , Sethna was excellent in his exegetical views. Mr. Sethna’s greatness lies in the literary interpretations, Inspiration and Effort, Classical n Romantic, Blake and Milton, his letters to Kathleen Raine and numerous other literary notes. But then his insight into Sri Aurobindo’s passing is surpassed by none and only equalled by Mr. Deshpande in his additional notes on the topic scattered here n there on blogs and social media .

  20. Dear RYD,
    Thrilled by your ways of fathoming the essential, I spent some time toying with those prophetic notions. As a result, I came out with a sketchy representation of the Becoming : impossible to reproduce it here, I am sending it by e-mail, expecting you to be more dexterous than my poor self. Luck.

    1. I am requesting Anurag to present in the comment section Prithwin’s diagram, or adapt it suitably. It is very illustrative, focusing the theme sharply and lucidly. Thanks Anurag.

  21. ↓ Supermind humanised
    by an occult means of materialisation

    Humanity supramentalised
    by a natural means of spiritualisation

    A sketchy figuration of an occult means of materialisation and a natural means of spiritualisation.

    The Mother:
    “it is the psychic being, the Divine’s representative in man, that will stay on and pass into the next species.” [13 April 1972]

    “But it is the psychic being, it is that which will materialise itself and become the supramental being!” ‘ [1 July 1970]

    1. This is the diagram made by Dr. Prithwindra Mukherjee which Deshpande-ji has referred to. I wish I could upload the actual sketch of the diagram but unfortunately photos cannot be uploaded in the comment box. Hence, I had no other alternative but to upload it in this form.

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