“Spirit is the crown of the universal existence; Matter is its basis; Mind is the link between the two.” wrote Sri Aurobindo. According to Vedanta philosophy, life emerges out of matter; mind emerges out of life; intellect emerges out of mind and spirit emerges out of intellect. Life is matter for the mind, but form for the physical material. Similarly, intellect is the matter for the spirit but form for the mind. There has been a steady ascent of the evolutionary process starting from the inorganic-to-organic-to-sentient-to-rational and finally to spiritual. “The highest term of evolution is the spirit in which knowledge, love and action, the threefold dharma of humanity find their fulfillment and end” says Sri Aurobindo. Evolution thus passes through distinct but finer and finer gradations i.e. from the crude to the complex, from less organized to more organized, from organized to organic i.e. from the inferior to the superior; from matter to spirit.
Mind constitutes the transition zone between the matter/body and the spirit. Evolution is the evolution of the mind from sensational to psychological, and then to its spiritual level. Our spiritual development depends on how we utilize our conscious level of mind which alone can lead us to the Transcendent. For man “all that exists tries to get beyond itself. Man cannot remain himself except by living in a relationship with the Transcendent”- Radhakrishnan. Man as an evolving soul not only knows Nature’s laws but can use her laws and powers to establish the best balance between him and Nature. He has the potential to grow into the Spirit, and take part consciously in the unfolding of Nature’s laws. Evolution is then the evolution from conditioned mind to unconditioned mind. In each case, our evolution is an evolution into greater and richer being. Nature has her own pace of evolution, but since we now have become conscious of our own role in this process, we can consciously take part in this evolution.
Evolution from matter to Spirit is a multi-stage process starting from material, vital, mental and finally to spiritual transformation. The primary means of making the life free is through conscient mind. Therefore, our conscious evolution is first the evolution of mind. It is when we open ourselves to the inner mind or to the Soul, and become able to establish the link with the spirit. Evolution then transcends bodily life, and includes evolution of mental life. The resulting experiences are uplifting and elevating physically and mentally. Sri Aurobindo writes: “There are indications that by a more direct pressure of a mental and psychical energy on the physical, the physical response can be made more variable; the physical can be made to depart from its fixed limits and it is conceivable that as knowledge and will entered into the region of higher and yet higher powers, the action of the physical energy might grow entirely responsive… making the boundaries of Nature’s energies perfectly flexible”.
The upward journey consists of two major stages: the first is related to psychological transformation. The next stage deals with spiritual transformation which involves complete mutation of our mental attributes i.e. thoughts, feelings, emotions, reactions etc. While one goes inwards and opens himself to the Spirit in the first case, one also opens upward to the Divine and brings down the Divine into one’s life in the second case. This direct spiritual knowledge is fundamentally wisdom of knowledge which is not limited by thoughts, formulated ideas, concept or any other notions. It is a matter of direct experience gained neither through words nor through names. It is a “direct seeing” or a “direct realization” or a “direct awareness” which is sometimes understood as the manifestation of the Divine or of the primordial energy OM in us.
Psychological/psychic transformation is understood as a transition zone between the mental world and the spirit. We recognize it first in the form of intuitive psychological experience which is often associated with psychological pleasantness or psychological solace. However, the experience is not permanent, and soon dies out. Besides, psychological transformation does not mean the transformation of the whole being. It may bring some widening of consciousness at the top but the parts below may remain as they were. So psychological pleasantness is not yet of spiritual dimension, but then we recognize a psychic center or an inner organ of the antahkarana within us that can transcend logical thinking. The shift from purely psychological experiences to spiritual orientation takes place when the ever changing mental attributes are transcended and spiritual orientation leads to spiritual transformation. Psychological experiences may still be limited to psychological solace but psychological transformation makes us aware of our antahkarana which includes elements of knowing the thing through intuition and perception. Psychological transformation may then lead to “feeling realization” which constitutes the core element of psychological transformation. Psychological transformation is more a feeling rather than a knowing, although it must ultimately be accepted also by the discriminating mind. It is the path of “opening from within” which is simpler to understand. Sri Aurobindo writes “The psychic being is that which opens the rest of the nature, to the true supramental light and finally to the supreme Ananda”. When the psychic being is thus fully open to the supreme Ananda, it is free of the mixture of vital motives and is ready to enter into the domain of the Divine.
Emotions and feelings do play a very important role in this transformation, but both of them should be raised above the level of elevated psychological experiences which are necessarily limited by our psychological structure consisting of ever changing mental attributes of our mind. But these experiences have no existential reality and can be transcended by psychological transformation of our mind. However, this psychological transformation does not grow out of the mind but arises from beyond the mind. There is a hiatus between the two; there is a source within us which guides our psychological transformation, and leads to spiritual transformation. There already is an inbuilt ingredient of spiritual transformation in the psychological transformation. It is through this psychological transformation of the mind that we can recognize the possibility of our spiritual transformation, but while psychological experiences are more feeling experiences, spiritual experiences represent knowing experiences. It is through this awareness that we can have this knowing experiences. Recognition of this transformative power behind the feeling realization or its awareness can bring about changes in us that go deeper than the content of the mind, deeper than our thought forms and abstract concepts. But unless we move from recognition to realization and then to transformation, we limit ourselves to philosophical understanding of psychological transformation which can be materialized only when we first transcend the psychological structure conditioned by our feelings, emotions, opinions, our actions and resulting reactions etc.
Intellect is essential for self-conquest, for survival, but it cannot cross the physiological barrier unless it undergoes psychological transformation the most important step of which is filling the gap between psychology and philosophy. It is psychology that helps us to go beyond the limitations of philosophy as well as that of the intellect. It is more rising from within; it is more diving deeper into within rather than rising from outside. Once the mind has undergone psychological transformation, it can freely take recourse to the Spirit for its inner power of knowledge which can lead to spiritual transformation. Then what remains is spirit only; as spirit emerges when matter dissolves. As we now know, matter at its atomic level is composed of vibratory energy with no solidity at all leaving nothing for the senses to see or touch. Matter and energy are the two sides of the same coin, but while matter represents the grossest level of existence, spirit represents the highest- the formless primordial energy OM. “Spirit is released from its imprisonment in matter. You realize your essential identity as formless, as an all-pervasive Presence, of Being prior to all forms, all identifications. You realize your true identity as consciousness itself, rather than what consciousness had identified with. That’s the presence of God. The ultimate truth of who you are is not "I am this or I am that, but “I Am”- E. Tolle. Transformation is therefore from matter to spirit, and takes place through psychological transformation of the mind followed by its spiritual transformation. Both of them refer to the higher dimensions of consciousness within us, but are of different depths. While we recognize this higher dimension of consciousness in the first case, we realize it in the second case, but realization is incomplete unless it leads to transformation. In the first case, we break through the rigid psychological structure of the mind, the inherited collective mind patterns which are impervious or resistant to change as they identify themselves with certain ideas or dogmas, but once this mental barrier is removed, realization just happens through awakening. We then begin to listen to what “lies behind the thinker” or open ourselves to the higher mind. The divine consummation of recognition and realization is necessary to affect our spiritual transformation. This can be complete only when we express it through our behavior and actions which are guided by Truth”. We then rise above the conditioned mind, but transformation is an evolutionary leap here. The leap is psychological in the first case, but spiritual in the second case when transformation means complete mutation of the entire psychological structure of man.
When the mind turns inwards, it brings about a qualitative change in our consciousness the first of which occurs through psychological transformation of mind which frees us from outside psychological authority; from physical, emotional and mental traps. The next qualitative change is spiritual transformation, but this transformation is possible only when we become able to transcend not only the physiological barrier but also the psycho-physiological barrier. “Spiritual transformation is to see clearly that what I perceive, experience, think or feel is ultimately not who I am, that I cannot find myself in all those things that continuously pass away - E. Tolle. It is the realization of Who I am in the background of my life all the time. Spirituality is not something that belongs to you, you become spiritual. It is dying to our own psyche, our hopes, memories and expectations. It is dying to all philosophies and even to religions as it is complete transformation or even mutation of our normal consciousness. In the words of J. Krishnamurti: “It is absolutely and urgently necessary to produce a radical revolution in the human consciousness, a complete mutation in the entire psychological structure of man”.
Matter and life-energy are the two necessary but inferior elements of our present existence. They are interdependent and work in tandem but their cooperation finds easier expression in maintaining the physical existence with little or no emphasis on self-improvement. Thus the physical may present serious obstacle in the path of our spiritual development. In fact, when the mind is bound with the physical body, it manifests its moods and emotions through the physical body. The mind acts on the body and the body reacts back; the health of the mind is dependent on the health of the body. There is, thus, a two-way relationship between them. Specific meditation techniques are now available which can be used to remove this disparity between them. However, the physical or the bodily life of man is only the base or the launching pad which we can use for our flights into higher realms of existence. Therefore, although the mind has to be supported by the gross body, it can emerge out of its physical base, and be made ready for spiritual transformation. Where the spirit leads, the body follows.
Matter is definitely the base of life, but not the ultimate source of life. The recent discoveries made in the field of quantum mechanics also vouchsafe that matter is not the final solid block or substance, and that it vibrates in many different degrees of energy the densest form of which is the matter. Obviously, Matter and Energy are the two building blocks of physical existence, but they are not in opposition. To an unwary mind, matter appears to be the basic principle of existence, and Energy as a phenomenon of Matter, but the reality is just the opposite i.e. all things are action of Energy. This was an experience which the quantum physicists could not assimilate, but today not only the quantum physicists but scientists in general have come to realize that “matter is the base, spirit is the crown and mind is the link between the two”. The transition from matter to spirit involves two stages of transformation. The first is psychological transformation which is not playing with mind and its attributes, but rather understanding and transcending the psychological structure of our mind. Therefore, psychological transformation is not the same as can be brought about by the techniques used by some spiritualist mediums to enter the trances. As mentioned by Jung even some well known Western psychiatrists have become the victim of negative psychic forces they were supposed to control and cure their patients. It is because psychological transformation is sometimes mistakenly confused with a sort of psychotherapic transformation where psychotherapy is limited to “integration” or “actualization” of the psyche. Of course, there is a psycho-physical relaxation which does bring a certain amount of inner peace or equipoise, but still attachments, expectations, fears and tensions are not completely dropped out as the mind-ego play is still there. It is limited to restoring the capacity of functioning of one’s mind and freeing him from mental diseases or tensions and making him mature emotionally and socially. Psych-therapic transformation understood from this point of view means making the mind aware of its higher levels of cognition mainly subconsciously as we still use the psychological forms of understanding, but then once the recognition comes through awareness, awareness becomes irreversible, and this is how psychological transformation grades into spiritual transformation.
Sri Aurobindo talks about supermind which is said to be able to modify and improve even our physical body. Currently, the mind has not yet been developed to that level, but according to him, supermind is achievable and can be brought down from above. Sri Aurobindo and the Mother have worked together for the materialization of supermind on earth as expressed below:
“Spiritual unfolding is the hidden truth behind our existence on earth. This unfolding is the evolution of consciousness which, at present, is limited by our mental consciousness. Therefore man, as he is, cannot be the last term of evolution; he is too imperfect an expression of the Spirit and so is the mind. Mind is only a middle term of consciousness; the mental being can only be a transitional being. If, then, man is incapable of exceeding mentality, he must be surpassed, and Supermind and superman must manifest and take lead of the creation.”