The Corporeal Mentality
The corporeal mentality or the physical instrumental mind is the instrument with which science assesses consciousness. The neuro-endocrine-physiological matrix is considered to be the origin of the uniqueness of individuality. This is how bio-scientists evaluate individual responses. It has of course pragmatic and phenomenal value as unique parameters are needed to act upon individuals at different levels (For example, the pharmacological actions of therapeutic drugs have to be calibrated to do justice to individual differences). The mind is totally preoccupied with the body and cannot visualize what is behind. This excessive preoccupation with the body prevents the mind to go beyond ‘the brain and nerves which it has developed in the course of its own development in the body, it is too absorbed in observing what this physical machinery gives to it..’ (The Life Divine, pg 182). However, the physical machinery not only contributes to consciousness, it can also derive something from consciousness per se. Sri Aurobindo describes that this fact is difficult to understand at the external level for what consciousness contributes remains usually subconscious. ‘This corporeal mentality is merely our surface of mind, merely the front which it presents to physical experience. Behind, even in our terrestrial being, there is this other, subconscious or subliminal to us, which knows itself as more than the body and is capable of a less materialised action’ (Ibid).
The Life Mentality
Behind the surface mind is a greater dynamic substrate that sort of energizes the physical being and allows the ‘will-power’ to break the inertia of matter. It is a ‘subconscious dynamic mind’, a ‘life mentality’. Sri Aurobindo describes that though it may be free from the error of body, it is not free ‘from the whole error of mind’. Psychodynamic researchers in psychology access this life mentality to understand the subconscious roots of our superficially conscious responses. Mystics and yogis go further; they conceive of a ‘life mind or life being’ that is detached from the body and assumes body after body in the evolutionary saga. This life mentality does not end with the body for what we know as the body ‘is only the physical impress of mind on matter’.
Sri Aurobindo lists three limitations of the life mentality:
Firstly, the individualised soul at the level of the life mentality regards everything from its own standpoint’ (Ibid), its own unique poise and can see as much truth as comes from outside or rises from a particular space-time matrix;
Secondly, though everything is the Brahman, the individualised soul at the level of the life mentality is not conscious of other selves except by outer indications, ‘indications of communicated thoughts, speech, action, result of actions, or subtler indications – not felt directly by the physical being – of vital impact and relation’(Ibid); and
Thirdly, the individual soul at the level of the life mentality is ignorant of its own depths and ranges as it is absorbed and limited by ‘the illusion of life’ through ‘a movement in Time and succession of lives in which it has used its variously embodied energies’(Ibid, pg 182-183). In other words, it might have a revelation of successive lives during rebirth or have a glimpse of past lives but such revelations do not point to the fundamental truth of how the mind can come in contact with the supreme creative Supermind.
Pure Mind (Mental being)
The pure mind belongs to the pure thinker who ‘sees the world not in terms of life and body but of mind’(Ibid, pg 183). It is often mistaken for the pure Spirit. It is however the projection of the undying Spirit in the evolution, the ‘Manomaya Purusha, and not the pure Spirit itself. Nevertheless, this higher mind ‘is able to perceive and deal with other souls as other forms of its pure self; it is capable of sensing them by pure mental impact and communication and no longer only by vital or nervous impact and physical indications; it conceives too a mental figure of unity, and in its activity and its will it can create and possess more directly – not only indirectly as in the ordinary physical life – and in other minds and lives as well as its own’(Ibid).
Yet, this pure mind has also its limitations. It is not free from the original error of the mind for two reasons:
Firstly, it is still realized as the individual Self which may not be necessarily identified with the ‘Universal’ self or ‘Transcendental Self’. It ‘is still its separate mental self which it makes the judge, witness and centre of the universe and through it alone strives to arrive at its own higher self and reality; all others are “others” grouped to it around itself’(Ibid);
Secondly, it can choose to be ‘free’ and ‘liberated’ into the Absolute while being oblivious of rest of the world . In other words, it can choose to be free and get identified with the Unitary Consciousness while denying or ignoring the world of multiplicity. Indeed, ‘it has to draw back from life and mind in order to disappear into the real unity. For there is still the veil created by Avidya between the mental and supramental action; an image of the Truth gets through, not the Truth itself’ (Ibid, pg 183). The Truth acknowledges simultaneously and integrally the Unity and the multiplicity, not one at the cost of the other.
For Truth is wider, greater than her forms.
Sri Aurobindo, Savitri, pg 276
Date of Update:
- By Dr. Soumitra Basu