When we study the functioning of the mind, we see that the essential nature is one that can receive sense perceptions, analyze, organize and then subject the objects so developed to a process of reasoning using systematic application of rules of logic. We can also see a process of recall of memory and a process of projection, extrapolation or imagination that moves the understanding from the current status and tries to appreciate probable lines of development based on our past experience and the direction, momentum and amplitude of the development we can observe. The mind is generally limited by its framework of the language, whether verbal or symbolic, that it applies in this thought process.

When the mind is receptive, when it falls quiet or reflective, it is possible for it to receive intimations from a higher order of consciousness, which it then tries to codify, organize and explain using the powers native to the mind. This then is the ‘higher mind’ that Sri Aurobindo has described.

At a yet higher stage of development, the actual process of the mind gives way to an entirely new order of working, a new way of seeing and understanding, and it shifts from the use of reason and logic and step-wise development to one that is based, to some degree, on the spiritual power of consciousness. This is the first transitional phase from the purely mental to a spiritual consciousness, and Sri Aurobindo terms this the “illumined mind”.

Sri Aurobindo observes: “… a Mind no longer of higher Thought, but of spiritual light. Here the clarity of the spiritual intelligence, its tranquil daylight, gives place or subordinates itself to an intense lustre, a splendour and illumination of the Spirit: a play of lightnings of spiritual truth and power breaks from above into the consciousness and adds to the calm and wide enlightenment and the vast descent of peace which characterise or accompany the action of the larger conceptual-spiritual principle, a fiery ardour of realisation and a rapturous ecstasy of knowledge.”

Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, Our Many Selves: Practical Yogic Psychology, Introduction, Sri Aurobindo on Our Many Selves, Planes and Parts of the Being, pg. xxviii

Author's Bio: 

Santosh has been studying Sri Aurobindo's writings since 1971 and has a daily blog at http://sriaurobindostudies.wordpress.com and podcast at https://anchor.fm/santosh-krinsky He is author of 17 books and is editor-in-chief at Lotus Press. He is president of Institute for Wholistic Education, a non-profit focused on integrating spirituality into daily life.