The Mind as we know gropes for Truth and approaches Reality through mental constructions and representations of it in word, idea or through sensory perception and at best can achieve impressionistic views, "bright or shadowy photographs or films of a distant Reality".(The Life Divine, p.286) "Supermind, on the contrary, is in actual and natural possession of the Truth and its formations are the forms of Reality, not constructions, representations or indicative figures". (Ibid) The gulf between the Supermind and Mind is so gigantic that it cannot be simplistically bridged.
The Mind-principle can be discerned in two poises. In its evolutionary poise from the matrix of Matter, it is restrained by being encased in the obscurity of life and body and therefore its potentialities are limited. In its involutionary poise that descends from the superconscious (prior to the manifestation), it has more revelatory powers and subtle properties but still it is the result of a movement that emerges from the unity principle to the world of multiplicity and therefore represents "a movement into the Ignorance" (Ibid, pg.287) and as such has in-built limitations.
How do we solve this puzzle of the unfathomable gap between the Indivisible and the divisible that is present both in the descending or involutionary movement and the ascending or evolutionary movement? There must be an intervening variable that helps in the involutionary process whereby the Indivisible becomes the divisible and equally helps the evolutionary process whereby the divisible climbs back to the indivisible -back to Godhead. "For the involutionary transition this intervention is a logical imperative, for the evolutionary it is a practical necessity". (Ibid)
This intervention must be executed through gradations of consciousness that exist between the Indivisible and the divisible and there must be logically two parallel sets of gradations. There must be one set of grades that exist in the involutionary descent from the Unmanifest to the manifest. There should be another set of grades that span from the manifest to end in the Unmanifest.
Actually, in the evolutionary process that we encounter on earth, we already visualize a graded hierarchy of steps though such gaps do not explain the huge hiatus between the Supreme Unitary Consciousness and the manifestation.
"For in the evolution there are indeed radical transitions, from indeterminate Energy to organized Matter, from inanimate Matter to Life, from a subconscious or submental to a perceptive and feeling and acting Life, from primitive animal mentality to conceptive reasoning Mind observing and governing Life and observing itself also, able to act as an independent entity and even to seek consciously for self-transcendence; but these leaps, even when considerable, are to some extent prepared by slow gradations which make them conceivable and feasible. There can be no such immense hiatus as seems to exist between supramental Truth-Consciousness and the Mind in the Ignorance." (Ibid)
We can comprehend the grades of evolution that range from the unicellular organism to the present human being not only through scientific work initiated by Darwin but by mystic experience of ancient India wherein the ten incarnations of Lord Vishnu were described in perfect consonance with modern scientific knowledge ranging from the fish, tortoise, boar, man-lion, dwarf and then shifting to bearers of eulogized human qualities, the warrior, the mental and ethical ideal, the embodiment of love and wisdom, the impersonal consciousness and finally the apocalyptic saviour who destroys one cycle to restart another new cycle of humanity.
All this is understood. What cannot be comprehended is the gradations between the supramental Truth-Consciousness and the Mind in Ignorance. This is because scientists tend to think that the mind is the summit of the evolution. Sri Aurobindo asserts that if such gradations exist, they must be superconscient to human mind. Normally, the human mind has no entry to such superconscient ranges. The human mind does not know that which is submental just as it does not know that which is supra-cognitive. The human mind cannot communicate sufficiently with the animal though one can infer a bit from behavioural studies. Equally the superconscious appears like "a closed book which may be filled only with empty pages". (Ibid.pg.288)
"At first sight, then, it would appear as if he (the contemporary human being) had no means of contact with these higher gradations of consciousness: if so, they cannot act as links or bridges and his evolution must cease with his accomplished mental range and cannot exceed it; Nature in drawing these limits has written finis to his upward endeavour." (Ibid)
There is a silver lining too. Sri Aurobindo describes that there are several directions in which the human mind can transcend its limitations to reach beyond itself; "these are precisely the necessary lines of contact or veiled or half-veiled passages which connect it with higher grades of consciousness of the self-manifesting Spirit". (Ibid) He lists the important phenomena:
(a) Supra-rational methods of acquisition of Knowledge: There are supra-rational methods of acquiring knowledge other than sensory perception and ratiocination. The foremost of these is intuition. "Intuition is in its very nature a projection of the characteristic action of these higher grades into the mind of Ignorance." (Ibid) It was an intuitive dream of a snake eating its own tail that led to the discovery of the benzene ring. It was an intuitive perception that led to ancient Ayurvedic seers discovering Rawalfia Serpentina as the only pharmacologically correct anti-schizophrenic drug thousands of years before chlorpromazine was discovered in 1950s. It was intuition that led Vedic seers to discover three types of fire: ordinary fire, electricity and solar fire thus distinguishing ordinary fire from electricity and nuclear fission. The phenomenon of intuitive perception is accompanied by the quality of intuitive discrimination so that intuition can not only reveal the ungraspable and unknown but also can do the discriminative action of reason, albeit at a higher scale.
Intuition at first comes in flashes and the problem is that we are not trained to receive intuition in its entirety or in its purity. When intuition leaps to the mind, it can get diluted by the workings of the ordinary mind, by rapid mental interventions or imitative movements or can get covered with erroneous or substituted suggestions. A sudden intuition warns of the possibility of a sore throat, the warning is ignored and one actually consumes a chilled drink and gets a sore throat! Such experiences are commonplace.
(b) There are other supra-rational faculties like inspiration and revelatory vision. Musicians, poets and artists can receive inspiration from high zones of consciousness. Great musicians receive inspirations from the zone of soundless music described as anahata vani in Sanskrit -it is soundless as there is no surface to strike at that boundless consciousness. Probably that is why the last words of Beethoven while he was passing away was "I shall hear in heaven" as he was in touch with that ethereal soundless music where his deafness did not matter. Knowledge was revealed to great beings like Moses and Mohammed and seers had revelatory visions that illumined their knowledge leading to mighty discoveries like that of the soul or Spirit or the Bliss of the Divine.
(c) There is another class of experiences based on ego-transcendence that leads to the poises of impersonality and universality. "Impersonality is the first character of cosmic self; universality, non-limitation by the single or limiting point of view, is the character of cosmic perception and knowledge: this tendency is therefore a widening, however rudimentary, of these restricted mind-areas towards cosmicity, towards a quality which is the very character of the higher mental planes, --towards that superconscient cosmic Mind which, we have suggested, must in the nature of things be the original mind-action of which ours is only a derivative and inferior process". (Ibid, pg.289)
(d) The phenomenon of genius also shows that there is a penetration of the superconscious into our mental limits though it may manifest in a specified area of functioning and can be accompanied by a certain degree of erraticism and fall short of the original luminosity of the superconscient sources of its origin. (Ibid) Yet the genius is comfortable and spontaneously able to function through the supra-rational faculties of inspiration, intuition and revelatory vision. This shows that the supra-rational faculties can be taken up for being developed in the ordinary human psyche. Geniuses show that there are exceptional abilities that await to be generalized in the future.
(e) There is the "vast multitudinous field of mystic and spiritual experience" (Ibid) which need to be appreciated in a non-judgmental way by the modern skeptic mind-set for "we cannot afford to neglect the possibilities which these domains of mankind's endeavour bring near to us, or the added knowledge of oneself and of the veiled Reality which is their gift to human mind, the greater light which arms them with the right to act upon us and is the innate power of their existence." (Ibid, pg.290)
Date of Update:
- By Dr. Soumitra Basu