Taking the Vedic suggestion as a template, Sri Aurobindo constructs a scaffolding that not only houses the gradations of cosmic existence but also serves as a framework to accommodate the movement of evolution and the movement of involution which precedes the evolution; it also explains the movement from unity to multiplicity and vice versa and poises the creative consciousness of the Supermind in its proper place. In doing so he does not strictly adhere to the seven principles but elaborates a eighth as he himself acknowledges that the Vedic seers themselves were not rigid in fixing numbers for they had spoken not only of seven Rays but also of eight, nine, ten or twelve. In a letter on the significance of symbols he had commented, “Sat, Chit, Ananda, Supermind, Mind, Life, Matter are the seven [seas of consciousness mentioned in the Veda]. But in this Yoga one sees many levels of consciousness...” (CWSA 30,pg.148-149)
The two aspects of Consciousness
The basic and fundamental Reality of the cosmos is the experientially perceived triune oneness of Sachchidananda ---it is a complex of Existence (Sat), Chit (Consciousness) and Bliss (Ananda). These are not additive principles but different poises of the same Reality.
Sri Aurobindo further qualifies the “consciousness” component, describing that it has two aspects:
1. Illuminating – the state and power of self-awareness, and
2. Effective – the state and power of self-force. (The Life Divine, pg.276)
In Sachchidananda, these two aspects of Reality or Being are dormant. This is natural as the Reality at this stage is unmanifest, absorbed in itself.
To shift from unmanifest to manifest Reality there must interfere a creative consciousness which is an intermediate principle .In fact, it is the fourth principle of the Higher Reality after the three principles of Sat, Chit and Ananda. Sri Aurobindo describes this creative consciousness as the Supermind or Real-Idea. It is a consciousness whose task is to program the qualities of Sachchidananda so that they can be aroused from dormancy and start to be active to release potentialities that would build the cosmos.
The first important thing that happens is that in the Supermind, the “illuminating” and “effective” aspects of Consciousness that were present in Sachchidananda in a dormant state become translated as:
1. A divine Knowledge that automatically is self-aware of the plan of the cosmos, and
2. A substantial Will which is in perfect unison with the divine Knowledge and automatically and spontaneously works out the divine plan with perfect clarity and harmony. (Ibid, pg.276-277)
Sri Aurobindo elaborated that in the Supermind, “there is no division between Knowledge and Will, each acting on each other or rather fixed together in oneness and therefore infallible”. (CWSA 30, pg.409)
Unity and Multiplicity
The Supermind runs a sort of program (like a software program) so that the oneness of the Supreme Reality can be translated into the multiplicity. This is a great contribution of Sri Aurobindo as prior to him nobody could explain how the unity became the multiplicity and the traditional explanation was that it was by Maya. Swami Vivekananda however was bold enough to point out that Maya was a descriptive and not an explanatory term. (Vivekananda, Swami: Complete Works, Mayavati Memorial Edition, Advaita Ashram, Kolkata, 10th ed, 1989, Vol. II, pg. 97)
The process of translating the unity to the multiplicity is complex and undergoes two phases:
“a double faculty of comprehensive and apprehensive knowledge; proceeding from the essential oneness to the resultant multiplicity, it comprehends all things in itself as itself the One in its manifold aspects and it apprehends separately all things in itself as objects of its will and knowledge.” (The Life Divine, pg.277)
Thus there are two operative principles of the Supermind:
(a) The Comprehending principle – This enables the creative idea destined to produce a variegated multiplicity to be held as an in-built program even in an indivisible and unitary consciousness.
(b) The Apprehending principle – This enables the pre-programmed vision of creation to move from a consciousness that is indivisible and unitary towards a divisible and multiple manifestation.
In the spiritual parlance of India, the unity of consciousness is Knowledge and the multiplicity that has lost contact with the unity is the basis of Ignorance. As the Supermind upholds both the unity and the multiplicity, “It is the secret Wisdom which upholds both our Knowledge and our Ignorance”. (Ibid)
Higher and subordinate Powers
The Higher principles in the domain of Knowledge that is based on oneness are represented by their subordinate principles in the domain of Ignorance where the link with oneness is lost in the play of the multiplicity.
(a) The Sat or Existential aspect of Sachchidananda becomes Matter.
(b) The Chit or Chit-Shakti or Consciousness-Force aspect of Sachchidananda becomes Life-Energy.
(c) The Supermind or creative consciousness or the Real-Idea becomes Mind
(d) The Ananda or Bliss aspect of Sachchidananda becomes the Psyche or true psychic entity (soul-entity) at the nodus of mind, life and body and is veiled by the desire-soul in front. The nature of the psychic entity is pure Bliss, it is not tainted by the Inconscience. (Ibid,pg.277-278)
Matter, Life and Mind appear successively as the evolution proceeds from the Inconscience where the Superconscient had descended through a process of involution. However the psychic entity is an exception for it does not carry the impurity of the Inconscience. It is not an evolutionary product but the result of the direct descent of the Ananda-principle in the human consciousness (Of course, a personality builds up around the psychic entity and this personality evolves, but that is another thing). Because of its intrinsic purity, it is held back in the inner or subliminal recesses and can only be accessed “through the development of the individual consciousness towards universality and transcendence”. (Ibid, pg.278)
Thus the existence we perceive at the level of the manifestation is “a sort of refraction of the divine existence, in inverted order of ascent and descent”. (Ibid) Sri Aurobindo himself presents this range in a tabulated form:
Table 1 :The range of the manifestation: Principles and Subordinates
The link between upper and lower hemispheres
The gradation of the Being provides a framework for the two-way communication between the upper and lower hemispheres:
When the Unmanifest unitary Reality of Sachchidananda existing in infinity and eternity has to manifest in space and time, it has to do so through the creative medium of the Supermind.
When the manifest beings aspire to resurrect the unitary consciousness in the matrix of the manifestation and without rejecting the manifestation, they have to progress through the illuminating medium of the Supermind to the divine being. (Table 2) Thus the Supermind functions in different denouements.
Table 2 : The denouements of the Supermind
Sri Aurobindo explains:
“The knot of the two, the higher and lower hemispheres, 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; for by that rending, by the illumining descent of the higher into the nature of the lower being and the forceful ascent of the lower being into the nature of the higher, mind can recover its divine light in the all-comprehending Supermind, the soul realise its divine self in the all-possessing all-blissful Ananda, life repossess its divine power in the play of the omnipotent Conscious-Force and Matter open to its divine liberty as a form of the divine Existence”. (Ibid, pg.278-279)
Sri Aurobindo adds that if the aim of human life is not just an escape from the cycle of birth and death into some blank or luminous Void, then the human being has to develop his potentials to an infinite extent so as to be able to mediate between the upper and lower hemispheres for some other goal .The activation of the Supermind principle and rending of the veil between mind and Supermind would lead to that high goal that would not reject the world, instead, “such a luminous and puissant transfiguration and emergence of the Divine in the creature must be that high-uplifted goal and that supreme significance”. (Ibid, pg.279) The human being would be able to live a “Life Divine”.
Date of Update:
- By Dr. Soumitra Basu