The Spiritual Planes of Consciousness — ‘The Life Divine’ by R.Y. Deshpande

Supermind is a part of theTranscendent, Sat-Chit-Ananda-Vijñana, the House of the Spirit as Savitri would call it (Book Three Canto Three), or the Vedantic Brahman, or “Spirit in which all is involved and out of which all evolves downward to the other pole of Matter”.

We may for our understanding say that Sachchidānanda knows itself as Sachchidānanda by the faculty of its Supermind. This Omnipresent Reality is capable of projecting itself in newer manifestations through Supermind as the Creator:

‘The whole process of differentiation by the Real-Idea creative of the universe is a putting forward of principles, forces, forms which contain for the comprehending consciousness all the rest of existence within them and front the apprehending consciousness with all the rest of existence implicit behind them. …

‘Supermind is the Vast; it starts from unity, not division, it is primarily comprehensive, differentiation is only its secondary act. … creative Supermind in which all is one in being, consciousness, will and delight, yet with an infinite capacity of differentiation that deploys but does not destroy the unity … . Therefore, always, in all mutations and combinations a self-existent and inalienable harmony.’ [The Life Divine]

This harmony in all mutations and combinations is lacking in the cosmic manifestation whose highest faculty is the Overmind.

What is called absolute Transcendent is actually beyond Sachchidānanda, what is called Parātpara, which Sri Aurobindo names as the Unknowable or “the Absolute, the Perfect, the Alone” of Savitri. This Absolute called his “silent Force” and set her into action, of manifestation. She is the Vedic Aditi. Her first creation is Sachchidānanda. With the birth of Sachchidānanda, her first and only child, she becomes the Divine Mother.

Here is the Savitri-revelation:

The Absolute, the Perfect, the Alone

Has called out of the Silence his mute Force

Where she lay in the featureless and formless hush

Guarding from Time by her immobile sleep

The ineffable puissance of his solitude. ||15.7||

The Absolute, the Perfect, the Alone

Has entered with his silence into space:

He has fashioned these countless persons of one self;

He lives in all, who lived in his Vast alone;

Space is himself and Time is only he. ||15.8||

The Absolute, the Perfect, the Immune,

One who is in us as our secret self,

Our mask of imperfection has assumed,

He has made this tenement of flesh his own,

His image in the human measure cast

That to his divine measure we might rise;

Then in a figure of divinity

The Maker shall recast us and impose

A plan of godhead on the mortal’s mould

Lifting our finite minds to his infinite,

Touching the moment with eternity. ||15.9||

“He has made this tenement of flesh his own.” The wonder of this is disclosed in every detail in The Life Divine.

However, down below things are very different. This “tenement of flesh” is afflicted with problems, with conflicts and clashes. Where was harmony and order there has sprung up chaos and disorder. There is the riddle of this world.

Take an example. The fourfold organisation of a collective life has been established up there, by the Supermind. The Teacher of the Gita tells that this fourfold organisation or Chāturvarṇa is his creation. These four powers, powers of the Soul work there with perfect understanding and mutuality and harmony, the respective Truth-Forces functionally and mutually playing the roles, without conflicts, with different qualities, of necessities.

But things have to also be in the cosmic manifestation, down below, where Overmind is the best force and light. Fourfold organisation,id est, Chāturvarṇa, has to express itself here, has to function under this Power that at once connects and divides the supreme Knowledge and the cosmic Ignorance, Overmind a delegate of Supermind, its delegate to the Ignorance. In that sense the present Chāturvarṇa here,with its limitations, in the domain of Ignorance, is the creation of Overmind.

That would mean, while each aspect is with the corresponding truth-light and truth-force, there is a lack of mutuality and coordination among themselves, lack of harmony of affinity; these Four Powers work independent of each other. This lack will not happen in Supermind, cannot be present in it.

In the present cosmic functioning can that lack of mutuality be removed? Yogi Aswapatiwas seized with this issue. He saw that unless these four powers work here in that harmony higher powers of the Spirit cannot enter into cosmic field. Therefore he, in the Book of the Divine Mother of Savitri,is approaching and invoking the supreme Force of the Absolute to remove the obstacle that can clear the way for the harmonious action and dynamism. That obstacle is Death the Divider, and he must go.

Hiatus between Overmind and Supermind

There is a big hiatus between Overmind and Supermind. Let us pertinently see Sri Aurobindo’s comment. On one occasion the Mother saw Narad “standing between the Overmind and Supermind where they join as if that was his highest station”. This was in response to a query about the “heavenly sage” Narad. The Book of Fate in Savitri opens with the following:

In silent bounds bordering the mortal’s plane

Crossing a wide expanse of brilliant peace

Narad the heavenly sage from Paradise

Came chanting through the large and lustrous air. ||106.1||

Can one say anything more specifically about these “silent bounds” that are “bordering the mortal’s plane”, after which is the “wide expanse of brilliant peace”?

One thing is, however, pretty certain, that these bounds are not in the immortal realms, of the Transcendental, beginning with the Supermind. That is what is conveyed by Narad “standing between the Overmind and Supermind where they join.” One could even say that these are at the top of the Overmind, closest to Supermind.

A radiant world

In Savitri almost at the beginning, in the Yoga of the Individual, we have Aswapati seeing a radiant world:

As if a torch held by a power of God,

The radiant world of the everlasting Truth

Glimmered like a faint star bordering the night

Above the golden Overmind’s shimmering ridge. ||8.23||

What a torch this one! The radiant world of Truth is the world of Supermind up there, above the cosmic manifestation in the field of Ignorance down below, tuning into night.

In Alipore Jail where Sri Aurobindo was incarcerated for one year as an undertrial prisoner, Vivekananda visited him for a fortnight and pointed out at a star in the sky. Of it he tells:

‘My contact with him was in the jail when he was speaking with me for about 15 days, giving me the first insight into the Intuition plane (not the intuitive mind which is mental and not supramental) as the first opening to Supermind.’ [21 October 1934]

“First opening to Supermind”, beyond the intuition plane, in the jail, at the age of 36, — since then everything was guided and governed for him by it. He didn’t have to pass through various stages of spiritual mind and arrive at the Supermind.

It is with this Supermind that Aswapati of Savitri explored all those worlds of consciousness, including the “cosmic empire of the Overmind” even as he scanned immortal things, scanned with it the secrets of the Overmind:

The primal Energy took him in its arms;

His brain was wrapped in overwhelming Light,

An all-embracing knowledge seized his heart:

Thoughts rose in him no earthly mind can hold,

Mights played that never coursed through mortal nerves:

He scanned the secrets of the Overmind,

He bore the rapture of the Oversoul. ||78.41||

A borderer of the empire of the Sun,

Attuned to the supernal harmonies,

He linked creation to the Eternal’s sphere,

His finite parts approached their absolutes,

His actions framed the movements of the Gods,

His will took up the reins of cosmic Force. ||78.42||

His will| took up| the reins| of cos|+mic Force.|

Soon he is going to establish the empire of the soul and become the Lord of Life, he is going to be Aswapati, Ashwa, Horse, Life-energy in her luminous dynamism, it at his command, swaying the movements of Life in his will.

Lines of Descent

In his classic and intensely profound revelatory essay on “Lines of Descent” Nolini Kanta Gupta writes the following:

‘In its nature and law the Overmind is a delegate of the Supermind Consciousness, its delegate to the Ignorance. … Supermind transmits to Overmind all its realities, but leaves it to formulate them in a movement and according to an awareness of things which is still a vision of Truth and yet at the same time a first parent of the Ignorance. … It takes each Aspect or Power and gives to it an independent action in which it acquires a full separate importance and is able to work out, we might say, its own world of creation. … Overmind releases a million Godheads into action …’

One may, however, have to be a bit careful with Nolini’s “Lines of Descent” as it was written when the several distinctions and nuances of terminology did not get defined with the precision that came afterwards, particularly during Sri Aurobindo’s Letters-period of 1930s, and subsequently.

Let us recognise that, as an example, when Sri Aurobindo drafted his little masterpiece The Mother in the Autumn of 1927 and published in 1928 the term “Overmind” was not discovered, and he used only the phrase “intermediate plane”.

Similarly, Mind of Light as a direct power of Supermind but located below the Physical was made known to us only in 1949-50. “Lines of Descent” belongs to a very early period and it is said that it is based on a talk given by Sri Aurobindo, noted by him; we do not know whether it was shown to Sri Aurobindo.

From The Life Divine

But let us go to the original source itself. The following has been freely abstracted to one-third size, accepting unhappy jerkiness that arises in the development. Here are the spiritual planes of consciousness described inThe Life Divine, the chapter dealing with Supermind, Mind and the Overmind Maya:

Division of consciousness is the basis of the Ignorance, a division of individual consciousness from the cosmic and the transcendent of which yet it is an intimate part, in essence inseparable. This division in the Indivisible is essentially an exclusive concentration on one movement and status of the Conscious Being.

There arises due to this division a considerable gulf between Mind and the supramental Truth-Consciousness. There must be somewhere in the descending and ascending scale of Being an intermediate power and plane of consciousness, perhaps something more than that, something with an original creative force, through which the involutionary transition from Mind in the Knowledge to Mind in the Ignorance was effected and through which the evolutionary transition becomes intelligible and possible. There are intervening gradations superconscient to human mind, lines of contact which connect it with higher grades of consciousness of the self-manifesting Spirit. There are several directions in which human mind reaches beyond itself.

It is true that pure intuition is a rare occurrence in our mental activity. The fact of this intervention from above is enough to establish a connection between mind and what is above it; it opens a passage of communication and of entry into the superior spirit-ranges. Again, there is not an entire absence of penetration from above into our mental limits. The phenomena of genius are really the result of such a penetration.

Entering the mind it subdues and adapts itself to mind substance so that it is only a modified or diminished dynamis that reaches us, not all the original divine luminosity of what might be called the overhead consciousness beyond us. Still the phenomena of inspiration, of revelatory vision or of intuitive perception and intuitive discernment are there and their origin is unmistakable. Finally, there is the vast and multitudinous field of mystic and spiritual experience, and here the gates already lie wide open to the possibility of extending our consciousness beyond its present limits. We cannot neglect the possibilities which these domains of mankind’s endeavour bring near to us.

Two movements of consciousness

There are two successive movements of consciousness. There is first a movement inward by which we break the wall between our external and our now subliminal self.

We discover within this secret part of ourselves an inner being, a soul, an inner mind, an inner life, an inner subtle-physical entity which is much larger in its potentialities, plastic, powerful, capable of a manifold knowledge and dynamism; it is capable of a direct communication with the universal forces.

This widening can extend itself to a complete entry into the consciousness of cosmic Mind, into unity with the universal Life, even into a oneness with universal Matter.

Discovery of static and silent Self

But once this entry into the inner being is accomplished, the inner Self is found to be capable of an opening, an ascent upwards into things beyond our present mental level; that is the second spiritual possibility in us. The first result is a discovery of a vast static and silent Self. We can realise that this self is not only our own spiritual being but the true self of all others. We have risen beyond the mind of Ignorance into a spiritual state

Now we perceive a graduality of ascent, a communication with a more and more deep and immense light and power from above, a scale of intensities which can be regarded as so many stairs in the ascension of Mind or in a descent into Mind from That which is beyond it.

Higher Mind

We are aware of a sealike downpour of masses of a spontaneous knowledge which assumes the nature of Thought but has a different character from the process of thought to which we are accustomed; for there is nothing here of seeking, no trace of mental construction, no labour of speculation or difficult discovery.

It is an automatic and spontaneous knowledge from a Higher Mind that seems to be in possession of Truth and not in search of hidden and withheld realities.

One observes that this Thought is much more capable than the mind; it has a cosmic character.

Illumined Mind

Beyond this Truth-Thought we can distinguish a greater illumination instinct with an increased power and intensity and driving force, a luminosity of the nature of Truth-Sight with thought formulation as a minor and dependent activity.

The energy of the Illumined Mind beyond it is an outpouring of massive lightnings of flaming sun-stuff.


Still beyond can be met a yet greater power of the Truth-Force, an intimate and exact Truth-vision, Truth-thought, Truth-sense, Truth-feeling, Truth-action, to which we can give in a special sense the name of Intuition.

This new range imparts to our intuitions something of its own distinct character and is very clearly an intermediary of a greater Truth-Light with which our mind cannot directly communicate. At the source of this Intuition we discover a superconscient cosmic Mind in direct contact with the supramental Truth-Consciousness, an original intensity determinant of all movements below it and all mental energies.


It is Overmind that covers as with the wide wings of some creative Oversoul this whole lower hemisphere of Knowledge-Ignorance. It is the link with that greater Truth-Consciousness. Yet with its brilliant golden Lid it veils the face of the greater Truth from our sight, intervening with its flood of infinite possibilities as an obstacle and a passage in our seeking of the spiritual law of our existence, its highest aim, its secret Reality.

This is the Power that at once connects and divides the supreme Knowledge and the cosmic Ignorance.

In its nature and law the Overmind is a delegate of the Supermind Consciousness, its delegate to the Ignorance. Through it Supermind can act indirectly on an Ignorance whose darkness could not bear or receive the direct impact of a supreme Light.

Supermind transmits to Overmind all its realities, but leaves it to formulate them in a movement and according to an awareness of things which is still a vision of Truth and yet at the same time a first parent of the Ignorance.

A line divides Supermind and Overmind

A line divides Supermind and Overmind which permits a free transmission, allows the lower Power to derive from the higher Power all it holds or sees, but automatically compels a transitional change in the passage.

The integrality of the Supermind keeps always the essential truth of things; but in Overmind this integrality is no longer there. And yet the Overmind is well aware of the essential Truth of things; it embraces the totality.

It uses the individual self-determinations without being limited by them: but although it knows their oneness, can realise it in a spiritual cognition, yet its dynamic movement is not directly determined by it.

Overmind Energy proceeds through an illimitable capacity of separation and combination of the powers and aspects of the integral and indivisible all-comprehending Unity. It takes each Aspect or Power and gives to it an independent action in which it acquires a full separate importance and is able to work out, we might say, its own world of creation.

Purusha and Prakriti

Purusha and Prakriti, Conscious Soul and executive Force of Nature, are in the supramental harmony a two-aspected single truth, being and dynamis of the Reality; there can be no disequilibrium or predominance of one over the other.

In Overmind we have the origin of the cleavage, the trenchant distinction made by the philosophy of the Sankhyas in which they appear as two independent entities.

Now Prakriti able to dominate Purusha and cloud its freedom and power, reducing it to a witness and recipient of her forms and actions, Purusha able to return to its separate existence and abide in a free self-sovereignty by rejection of her original overclouding material principle. So with the other aspects.

At the same time in Overmind this separateness is still founded on the basis of an implicit underlying unity.

Overmind releases a million Godheads

If the Powers of the Reality are so many Godheads, we can say that the Overmind releases a million Godheads into action, each empowered to create its own world, each world capable of relation, communication and interplay with the others.

In the Supermind all is held together as a harmonised play of the one Existence; in the Overmind these could be a separate action. Overmind gives to the One Existence-Consciousness-Bliss the character of a teeming of infinite possibilities which can be developed into a multitude of worlds.

Overmind Consciousness is global

Overmind Consciousness is global in its cognition and can hold any number of seemingly fundamental differences together in a reconciling vision. What to the mental reason are irreconcilable differences present themselves to the Overmind intelligence as coexistent correlatives.

No fall from Truth

In this simultaneous development of multitudinous independent or combined Powers or Potentials there is yet—or there is as yet—no chaos, no conflict, no fall from Truth or Knowledge. The Overmind is a creator of truths, not of illusions or falsehoods: what is worked out in any given overmentalenergism or movement is the truth of the Aspect, Power, Idea, Force, Delight which is liberated into independent action, the brooding bliss of the Infinite, the truth of the consequences of its reality in that independence.

Overmind in its descent reaches a line which divides the cosmic Truth from the cosmic Ignorance; it is the line at which it becomes possible for Consciousness-Force, emphasising the separateness of each independent movement created by Overmind and hiding or darkening their unity, to divide Mind by an exclusive concentration from the overmental source.

There is limitation of knowledge, an organisation of partial truths, but not a denial or opposite of truth or knowledge. The complete separation can take place only when the stage of Inconscience has been reached.

Emergence of Forces of Darkness

The natural possibilities of a world in which an original Inconscience and a division of consciousness are the main principles, would be the emergence of Forces of Darkness. These Forces are impelled to maintain the Ignorance by which they live. It is an ignorant struggle to know originative of falsehood and error, an ignorant struggle to live engendering wrong and evil, an egoistic struggle to enjoy, parent of fragmentary joys and pains and sufferings.

Still, because the Non-Existence is a concealed Existence, the Inconscience a concealed Consciousness, the insensibility a masked and dormant Ananda, these secret realities must emerge; the hidden Overmind and Supermind too must in the end fulfil themselves in this apparently opposite organisation from a dark Infinite.

Overmind in the descent towards material creation has originated modifications of itself,—Intuition especially with its penetrative lightning flashes of truth lighting up local points and stretches of country in our consciousness. In fact flashes of enlightenment from these higher ranges already come to us, but this intervention is mostly fragmentary, casual or partial.

Stamp of inevitability

But Intuition, Overmind, even Supermind not only must be principles inherent and involved in the Inconscience from which we arise in the evolution and inevitably destined to evolve, but are secretly present, occult actively with flashes of intuitive emergence in the cosmic activity of Mind, Life and Matter.

At every step of the material energy we can see the stamp of inevitability given by a supramental creator, in all the development of life and mind the play of the lines of possibility and their combination which is the stamp of Overmind intervention. As Life and Mind have been released in Matter, so too must in their time these greater powers of the concealed Godhead emerge from the involution and their supreme Light descend into us from above.

Divine Life in the manifestation

A divine Life in the manifestation is then not only possible as the high result and ransom of our present life in the Ignorance but, if these things are, it is the inevitable outcome and consummation of Nature’s evolutionary endeavour.


About the Author: Born on 17 April 1931 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

2 Replies to “The Spiritual Planes of Consciousness — ‘The Life Divine’ by R.Y. Deshpande

  1. “What is called absolute Transcendent is actually beyond Sachchidānanda, what is called Parātpara, which Sri Aurobindo names as the Unknowable or “the Absolute, the Perfect, the Alone” of Savitri. This Absolute called his “silent Force” and set her into action, of manifestation. She is the Vedic Aditi. Her first creation is Sachchidānanda. With the birth of Sachchidānanda, her first and only child, she becomes the Divine Mother.”

    This is a marvelous “explanation” of the Mother’s origin in the Absolute.

    1. …and of the origin of the manifested world, which started with an involved Sachchidānanda emanated by the Divine Mother.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *