We start in our human way of mental understanding simply accepting what we believe to be the entirety of our existence as we experience it. We see the outer world, we see the interaction and relations between the various beings and vital forces at work in the world, and we experience the mental consciousness collecting the perceptions, and, using the characteristic action of the mind, analyzing and breaking down what we see into component parts, classifying and organizing them and acting on them as if they are separate and distinct elements, although they are simply fragments of reality when looked at in this manner.

So how do we get here? Sri Aurobindo describes an involution of consciousness from the unity of the Supreme into the inconscience of Matter, and the subsequent evolution of what is involved into manifestation in the world through time. This implies that there must be transitional stages of involution whereby the unity of the supramental consciousness is able to create these different names, forms and circumstances that, in our mental view, are each separate and distinct elements..

Sri Aurobindo observes: “By the supermind is meant the full Truth-Consciousness of the Divine Nature in which there can be no place for the principle of division and ignorance; it is always a full light and knowledge superior to all mental substance or mental movement. Between the supermind and the human mind are a number of ranges, planes or layers of consciousness — one can regard it in various ways — in which the element or substance of mind and consequently its movements also become more and more illumined and powerful and wide. The overmind is the highest of these ranges; it is full of lights and powers; but from the point of view of what is above it, it is the line of the soul’s turning away from the complete and indivisible knowledge and its descent towards the Ignorance. For although it draws from the Truth, it is here that begins the separation of aspects of the Truth, the forces and their working out as if they were independent truths and this is a process that ends, as one descends to ordinary Mind, Life and Matter, in a complete division, fragmentation, separation from the indivisible Truth above. There is no longer the essential, total, perfectly harmonising and unifying knowledge, or rather knowledge for ever harmonious because for ever one, which is the character of supermind. In the supermind, mental divisions and oppositions cease, the problems created by our dividing and fragmenting mind disappear and Truth is seen as a luminous whole. In the overmind there is not yet the actual fall into Ignorance, but the first step is taken which will make the fall inevitable.” 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 work since 1971 and writes a daily blog at http://sriaurobindostudies.wordpress.com He is author of 16 books on the subject 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.