A seeker treading the path of spiritual growth and enlightenment is confronted with a confusing mix of experiences and insights, as well as obstacles and setbacks of various kinds. A working knowledge of the various “moving parts” involved in the consciousness of the human being is valuable to help the seeker address the issues that arise. Sri Aurobindo has identified the major elements of human awareness as well as the stages that develop during the growth and evolution of consciousness. He also provides a basic guideline or roadmap for addressing the issues that arise and understanding the process that is taking place.

It should be noted that while he finds the necessary steps to have one basic path, he does not specify a specific sole method to tread that path. Every individual must adopt those ideas, practices, and directions that suits both the current need and the circumstances in which the seeker is involved. This may involve practices developed or adopted in any religion or spiritual tradition, or none at all! The main thing is the progress to create the right aspiration and inner environment for progress and then getting in touch with, receiving and then transforming all aspects of life under the impulsion of the higher levels of awareness.

Sri Aurobindo observes: “There are in fact two systems simultaneously active in the organisation of the being and its parts: one is concentric, a series of rings or sheaths with the psychic at the centre; another is vertical, an ascension and descent, like a flight of steps, a series of superimposed planes with the supermind-overmind as the crucial nodus of the transition beyond the human into the Divine. For this transition, if it is to be at the same time a transformation, there is only one way, one path. First there must be a conversion inwards, a going within to find the inmost psychic being and bring it out to the front, disclosing at the same time the inner mind, inner vital, inner physical parts of the nature. Next, there must be an ascension, a series of conversions upwards and a turning down to convert the lower parts. When one has made the inward conversion, one psychicises the whole lower nature so as to make it ready for the divine change. Going upwards, one passes beyond the human mind and at each stage of the ascent, there is a conversion into a new consciousness and an infusion of this new consciousness into the whole of the nature. Thus rising beyond intellect through illuminated higher mind to the intuitive consciousness, we begin to look at everything not from the intellect range or through intellect as an instrument, but from a greater intuitive height and through an intuitivised will, feeling, emotion, sensation and physical contact. So, proceeding from Intuition to a greater overmind height, there is a new conversion and we look at and experience everything from the overmind consciousness and through a mind, heart, vital and body surcharged with the overmind thought, sight, will, feeling, sensation, play of force and contact. But the last conversion is the supramental, for once there — once the nature is supramentalised, we are beyond the Ignorance and conversion of consciousness is no longer needed, though a farther divine progression, even an infinite development is still possible.” Sri Aurobindo, Integral Yoga: Sri Aurobindo’s Teaching and Method of Practice, Planes of Consciousness and Parts of the Being, pp. 62-65

Author's Bio: 

Santosh has been studying Sri Aurobindo's writings since 1971 and writes a daily blog on the subject at http://sriaurobindostudies.wordpress.com He is author of 16 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.