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The different levels of the human mind

By Helen & Peter Evans

In most of our teachings we speak of the spiritual part of the human as being "perfect, whole and complete". Yet we conduct classes and attend classes ourselves because we usually don't "feel" perfect, whole and complete. There is still a yearning, a sense of incompleteness within most of humankind. So, how do we resolve this apparent contradiction?

Below we explain the different levels of the human mind from an Eastern perspective.

And remind us how we need to take control of our physical mind to prevent it ruling the roost! 

Let's take the acorn as a metaphor for transformation. It comes from the oak tree, it has all the attributes of the oak in potential, but it sure looks different. If it were a human being it might not remember being part of the original whole tree. It has a hard shell, a boundary; and might feel it must maintain this boundary to survive. Our egos and small selves can be seen as this boundary, this shell. We just want to "be ourselves". There are plenty of psychological methods and books and workshops that merely make us better acorns.

Transcending the shell must feel like that little death we all heard about on the spiritual road. It means transforming from an acorn into a growing, becoming tree. We don't know anything else besides being an acorn. Our integrity, our very being, seems to be falling apart. We may have read a lot about trees, we may dream about trees, but actually becoming one means real change, real transformation.

A magazine article noted that many people talk about wanting to "go to heaven", but if you ask if someone wants to go to heaven right now, or offered them the opportunity for instant enlightenment, very few are ready to accept all the changes involved in that transformation.

Most people are at the stage of feeling the pressure to break the shell, to grow and transform into the tree, their whole, complete divinity, but it is not always easy. Spiritual growth is not merely adding on new knowledge. It's actually seeing the world from a new perspective. We often talk about re-building our old house. First we must tear down the existing one and then rebuild with the salvaged materials and more; not just add on rooms.

So, how do we participate in our own transformation? We can sit back and wait and natural evolution will do the job, but it may take 20,000 lifetimes. Or we can consciously work at accelerating the process. We can meditate, we can contemplate, we can try some exercises during our days.

Although many like to think of the spiritual path as something very occult and full of fantasy, it might be easier to think of ourselves as receiving stations for the Divine. The better equipped we are, the better we can receive the energies and wisdom. If you're going to build a radio or TV you must learn its parts and what they do. Eastern Wisdom has spent thousands of years investigating the nature of existence, Divine and Human and everything in between. Western psychology has just begun in the last 100 years or so. Therefore we'll use some of the Eastern terminologies and examples.

Different parts of the mind

First, we'll give an outline of different parts of the mind. (In this rough sketch we acknowledge our gratitude to Sri Aurobindo (and his many predecessors) for blazing the trail.)

The "One Mind" (some call it God) can manifest on many levels:

Unconscious: This is basically the consciousness of rocks, inanimate objects.

Subconscious: This is part of the mind that sees, hears and remembers every single thing we experienced. Sometimes we act from subconscious motivations and our ordinary surface mind is just not aware of "why" we do these things, but these motivations are all "beliefs" we accepted as our own sometime in our lives.

Ordinary Waking Consciousness: This is where we think we live most of our lives, although it comprises only a small portion of our consciousness; 10% or less. Yet most of us want to know God from this level. It's like plugging in the toaster and expecting to get your favourite TV show. This level of mind is just not equipped to "know" God. It can 'think' about God, it can 'wonder' about God, but we must expand or "change" our mind to really 'know' God. As Sri Aurobindo says, "this mind is so thick, so sticky, that it absorbs everything, discolours everything, pulls everything down into its obscure gravitation - we cannot for long contain joy or suffering, cannot bear much light; it is all too small, spasmodic, quickly extinguished. All in it are subject to a thousand conditions."

Different levels of the human mindThe Higher Mind: This level of consciousness is less opaque, more free. It is more 'detached' and less prone to judge what it sees from emotional or egoistic notions of "good vs bad" or "right vs wrong". It is less subject to the innumerable conditions of the lower levels, which create confusion and suffering. We begin to know things "as they are" rather than simply how they affect to us.

The Intuitive Mind: Here, we have glimpses of large "clumps of meaning" through flashes of intuitive knowing, clarity. This is the beginning of knowledge by "identity", rather than by intellectual "understanding". Further knowing is not a matter of lifting ourselves higher, but of clearing obstructions between us and what is already all there.

The Illumined Mind: This is a still higher state or condition of consciousness. The sticky fog of dualism which chokes ordinary waking consciousness is burned away by the steady illumination which characterizes this level. Everything is unified in a great, joyous harmony. Life is vaster, more true, more vivid. One is in the presence of Truth, but beyond any rational understanding of it. It simply is.

The Overmind: This is the peak of human consciousness. Cosmic consciousness but without the loss of the individual.

The Supermind: Simply... beyond mind.

Taking control of your physical mind

Ordinarily, when speaking of "changing our minds", we're really talking about exchanging one idea for another. This won't do much to change our lives, though. However, when we exchange a small or limiting belief for a larger, more liberating belief, then, changes automatically begin happening in our lives. When we recognize that what we believe defines our participation in the One Mind, then we begin to see ourselves moving, somewhere on the continuum of consciousness, between the unconscious and the supramental, and begin to choose to change "our minds" in ways that enable us to partake more fully in the "One Mind."

Now, on to the exercise, which is to notice just one part of the ordinary waking consciousness called the Physical Mind.

The Physical Mind's job is to make sure things are done. However, when we dwell only in this part of ourselves we can be overcome with doubt. Scheduling properly and doing the task to completion can be replaced by a habitual loop of doubt. To isolate and know this part of your mind, do this simple exercise: Pay full attention to setting your alarm clock, closing a door or turning off the stove. Now, if you give your physical mind free rein, it will probably continue to ask you over and over again if you did indeed do the task.

We give you an excerpt from The Mother's experiment with this part of the mind:

"....the truth is the physical mind is truly, completely stupid! I removed my control and left the control to the physical mind -- it is the physical mind which doubts. So I made the following experiment: I went into a room, then came out of the room and closed the door. I had decided to close the door; and when I came to another room, this mind, this material mind, the physical mind said, "Are you sure you have locked the door?" Now, I did not control, you know, I said, "Very well, I obey it!". I went back to see. I observed that the door was closed. I came back. As soon as I couldn't see the door any longer, it told me, "Have you verified properly?" So I went back again. And this went on til I decided: "Come now, that's enough isn't it? Closed or not, I am not going back any more to see". This could have gone on all day. It is made like that. It stops being like that ONLY WHEN A HIGHER MIND, THE RATIONAL MIND TELLS IT, "KEEP QUIET!". --end of excerpt

We bet all of you have had occasion to check and double check and triple check some detail. Please remember the physical mind has a purpose and it's only when it's not properly integrated or not properly controlled that we have constant doubts. It's like a pager that will keep on beeping until we shut it off.

So we ask you, do you know your physical mind?

© holisticshop 2002. All rights reserved

 

About the author / more information

Helen and Peter Evans, a husband and wife team from California, USA, are authors of the book "Freedom through Contemplation". They are also co-founders of One Center, a not-for-profit website dedicated to the development of human potential.

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