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Sri Aurobindo's Cosmology - The Seven Planes

Aurobindo's writing style, like that of other esotericists like Blavatsky and Steiner, is heavy and repetitious. This is unfortunate, as the poor style veils a cosmology of great comprehensiveness and profundity.

Of great relevance book is his detailed map of states of consciousness.   Influenced by such diverse sources as the Theosophical idea of seven planes of consciousness and existence, the "Hindu" (Vaishvanite) Puranas with their poorly defined idea of seven Lokas or "Worlds", and the early Taittiriya Upanishad (700 B.C.E.), which refers to an ascending series of five "selves" (atma) - Food (anna), Life (prana), Mind (manas), Consciousness (Vijnana), and Bliss (Ananda); Aurobindo postulated seven planes of being.  But these are not equivalent to the Theosophical ones.  The higher four are totally transcendent planes of infinite Consciousness and Bliss.  The lower three - the physical, vital, and mental - are the planes of finite existence.  Beyond all the planes was the Supreme or Absolute.

The Supreme
Para Prakriti
Para Maya
Sat Infinite Existence
Chit-Tapas Infinite Consciousness and Will
Ananda Infinite Bliss
Supermind Infinite Truth-Consciousness
"Lower Hemisphere"
(both spiritual and mundane levels)
Illumined Mind 
Higher Mind 
Thinking Mind
Matter Physical

The four higher planes are eternally pre-existent, and constitute the modes or qualities of the Absolute (in Indian philosophy, the Absolute is described as being Sat-Chit-Ananda or Sachchidananda, of the nature of pure Being, Consciousness, and Bliss.

The Supermind is Sachchidananda in manifestation; the transitional stage between the unchanging planes of Sat, Chit-Tapas and Ananda and the finite lower ones.  Aurobindo considers it pivotal for the Divine transformation of the world.  "It alone contains the self-determining Truth of the Divine Consciousness (that) is necessary for a Truth-creation." [Letters on Yoga, vol 1, p.239]

Between the Supermind and the lower three planes is a transitional level, the Overmind, a level of global or cosmic consciousness.  Beneath the Overmind one passes from Truth (albeit a multiform, rather than as in the Supermind a Unitary, Truth) into falsehood and ignorance.  These are the lower planes of Mind, Life, and Matter.  It is also in these lower planes that their dwells the Divine Soul, or "Psychic Being".

The terminology in all this is a little confusing, for Aurobindo and Mirra use the term Life or "Vital" to designate what Western occultists and Theosophists call the Astral plane.  "Vital" in this context therefore has nothing to do with the life-principle (the Etheric plane of Steiner and the Prana of the Hindus).  Similarily, "Psychic" is used to refer to the Spiritual or Higher Self, the Divine Soul, rather than the Astral realms, as is the case with the common understanding of the word (e.g. "psychic experiences").  This curious terminology derives originally from Max Theon, Mirra's teacher in occultism

Web links Links Web links

web page Parts & Planes of the Being - at the Integral Psychology web site

web page Theory of Creation - Involution and Evolution - an excellent, comprehensive, and detailed summary, from Growth Online

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page by M.Alan Kazlev
page uploaded 21 June 1998, last modified 7 July 2004