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Some reflections on the chapters on “Divine Maya’ and “Supermind” in Book I of The Life Divine

June 20, 2018


I have a little time now to write something, as promised, directly related to the chapters on “Divine Maya” and “Supermind.”

I think some of you are familiar with Owen Barfield’s “Saving the Appearances”?

In the first chapter, he asks us to consider a rainbow.  We frequently hear that the “rainbow” isn’t “real” (by “real,” meaning, it exists completely independent of any kind of mind or consciousness), that a rainbow is “really” nothing but the outcome of the interaction of sun, water vapor and human perception.


He goes on to say, now let’s consider a tree. As experienced, is it really any different from the rainbow?  All that we directly know of a tree – the brownish or grayish color, the solidity, the movement of leaves, etc – is similarly, the outcome of light and perception.  Without those two, there is nothing left of the “tree experience.”

“But you can’t be saying that the tree wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for your mind?”

No, this is where you have to be VERY VERY careful, or you’ll fall into solipsism (remember the professor who announced, at a talk, that he was a solipsist?  A woman in the audience shouted out, “Thank God!  I thought I was the only one!!”)


If you don’t go even one tiny step beyond what Barfield is saying, he is VERY careful to say, “I’m not making any statement about what is “really” there – only about what we know about what is “there.”


Alan Wallace has a wonderful passage in which he says, (paraphrasing), consider the typical description of the beginning of the universe, explosions of stars, all kinds of reds and oranges and yellows, but then consider again – without some sort of perceiving activity, there is no red, nothing remotely like what we may think of when we see or hear an “explosion”, no orange, no yellow, no sounds – a Whitehead says, without experiencing, there is nothing, nothing, bare nothingness.


As Rupert Spira says, all we know, we know through experience.
What Sri Aurobindo refers to as the “lower maya,” – “Avidya” in traditional Sanskrit – is simply this tendency of our mind to take the experienced tree, or cup, or stone, or planet as something that exists entirely apart from any mind or consciousness whatsoever, There can never be, by definition, any empirical evidence of such a thing, because as soon as you present evidence for it, you are implicitly bringing some kind of awareness to the evidence (this is a tricky one to talk about – Paul Brunton spends several chapters in “The Hidden Teaching Beyond Yoga” making this point).


The “Higher Maya” is the creative power of what I’ll call for now, AWARENESS,”  a power (Chit-Shakti or Consciousness-Force – for Geoffrey, that’s a “conscious” force or intentional, intelligent force, rather dramatically different from what physicists mean by the word) that creates “real” forms, not merely illusory ones.  In this view, the Divine is just as much present in the rich diversity of the universe as in the utter Silence of the transcendent.


Finally, Sri Aurobindo says, “mind” – if we mean by that, essentially, a primarily differentiating power of Awareness, does not have the capacity to “hold together” the Infintie and the infinitely diverse manifestation. For that, a greater power of knowing, intelligence, willing, etc is needed – that superior knowing, intelligent, willing – is the Supramental.


People get confused by the word “supramental” (not a word I’m crazy about!:>) thinking, unwittingly that it’s some kidn of “Supermind” – that is, a mind raised to an almost unthinkable (pun intended) intensity. But it’s not “mind” at all. Neither is it the Absolute, as Wilber frequently asserts. It is “between” (if that makes any sense at all; it really doesn’t but we must use words, so) the “lower” world of mind, life and matter, and the “upper” world of Existence, Consciousness and Bliss.”

At some point on this infinite conversations forum, I’m going to make more of an effort to put this in middle school language, but obviously I haven’t succeeded yet. You’ll have to buy our e-course to see that (oops, sorry, commercial break:>))

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