Sri Aurobindo frequently describes going inward to discover the deepest inner being, the psychic being, or soul, as one way to come into contact with the truth of one’s existence and unify one’s being with the Divine. This is a way to overcome the artificial wall of separation that we set up that treats the Divine as something “other” than who or what we are, essentially recognising the inherent oneness of the entire creation, rather than accepting the illusion of duality. The other major way to achieve this recognition of oneness is to shift the standpoint upwards to planes that are beyond the mental level. Either way, the individual is shifting a standpoint away from the external surface personality and the ego-consciousness, to a position that is one and unified with the divine manifestation.

There are a number of gradations of consciousness manifested above the mental level, including stages that Sri Aurobindo defines as ‘higher mind’, ‘illumined mind’, ‘intuition’, ‘overmind’, ‘supermind’ and ‘Sachchidananda’. The action of consciousness at each of these successively higher stages bring forth powers of knowledge, understanding and action that far exceed our current mental level of development.

Dr. Dalal writes: “From the viewpoint of Sri Aurobindo’s thought, the human being is inseparably one with the universal being. There are, he says, ‘two systems simultaneously active in the organisation of the being and its parts’ — a concentric system and a vertical system.”

“The concentric system is like a series of rings or sheaths, consisting of the outer being, the inner being and the inmost being. The outer being and the inner being behind it constitute our phenomenal or instrumental being and are said to belong to Nature or Prakriti. They have three corresponding parts — physical, vital, mental. The inmost being is the Purusha, the true being. In the Purusha, there is an inmost mental, an inmost vital and an inmost physical, and, at the very core, the psychic being or soul. The psychic being is usually referred to as the inmost being.”

“The vertical system is like a staircase, consisting of various levels, planes or gradations of consciousness ranging from the lowest — the Inconscient — to the highest, Sachchidananda.”

“Note: Ancient Indian wisdom divided the human being, the microcosm, as well as the world-being, the macrocosm, into a higher hemisphere, Parardha, and a lower hemisphere, Aparardha. The higher hemisphere is where the Spirit reigns perfectly and eternally; in the lower hemisphere, the Spirit is veiled by mind, life and body. Overmind is the intermediary plane dividing the two hemispheres.”

Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, Our Many Selves: Practical Yogic Psychology, Introduction, Sri Aurobindo on Our Many Selves, Planes and Parts of the Being, pp. xix-xxi

Author's Bio: 

Santosh has been studying Sri Aurobindo's writings since 1971 and has a daily blog at and podcast at 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.