Evolving Towards a Consciousness of Unity - Sri Aurobindo's Teachings

Dante and Beatrice gaze upon the highest Heaven (The Empyrean);
from Gustave Doré's illustrations to the Divine Comedy, Paradiso Canto 31
[I wrote this article in July of 2011 and I almost forgot about it. Here it is, an offering for the New Year.]

In 1908-1909, while spending a year in jail for being a seditionist against British rule in India, Sri Aurobindo (1872-1950) came to the conclusion that the time had come for an entirely new stage of evolution to unfold on planet Earth. So far in our history, out of seemingly inert matter evolved life and out of matter-life evolved mind. The next logical question that arises is, ‘What is next for us? … What exactly are we to become or evolve into?’ The answer, according to Sri Aurobindo and the authors of the Rig Veda, is that we are to become conscious of the One Self that contains and pervades all-selves and all variations throughout all of time and space. Another way of putting this is that our limited mind and fragmented mental-egoic formations are evolutionarily bound to give way to a supramental, or higher-than-mental consciousness of eternity, immortality and unity. Like the seed of a flower is inherently designed to grow through various stages and to bloom, mankind is inherently designed in the course of evolution, to become Gnostic or knowledgeable of the whole living macrocosm of which each individual is a microcosm. As our consciousness evolves in that direction, life on Earth becomes correspondingly luminous, harmonious and divine.

In his magnum opus The Life Divine, which describes this evolutionary vision, Sri Aurobindo begins his description of the ‘Gnostic Being’ with a selection of verses from the Rig Veda that give readers an idea of the eternal Truth of Oneness that lies in wait to illuminate the shadowy mind of Man.

O Flame, O Wine, your force has become conscious;
 you have discovered the One Light for the many. 

Rig Veda I. 93. 4
O Truth-Conscious, be conscious of the Truth,
cleave out many streams of the Truth. 

Rig Veda V. 12. 2

A perfect path of the Truth has come into being for our
 journey to the other shore beyond the darkness. 

Rig Veda I. 46. 11

‘Mental nature and mental thought,’ Sri Aurobindo goes on to explain, ‘are based on a consciousness of the finite; supramental nature is in its very grain a consciousness and power of the Infinite. Supramental Nature sees everything from the standpoint of oneness and regards all things, even the greatest multiplicity and diversity, even what are to the mind the strongest contradictions, in the light of that oneness; its will, ideas, feelings, sense are made of the stuff of that oneness, its actions proceed on that basis. … the supramental, the life divine is a life of essential spontaneous and inherent unity.’

The eye-opening gist of this many-faceted Oneness as discussed by Sri Aurobindo and the Vedic rishis is that whatever we may think we are doing or accomplishing as individuals and whatever individual paths we may identify with, we are actually carrying out, in unison, one great evolutionary mission or journey. The Vedic rishis described this unified evolutionary progression as a ‘sacrifice’ (yajna) ‒ a ritual and cyclical journey which is upheld, powered by and compelled by the sacred solar fire and divine will (agni).

'By the Truth they hold the Truth that holds all,
in the power of the Sacrifice, in the supreme ether.'

Rig Veda V.15. 2

In 1914 Mirra Alfassa, later to be known as ‘the Mother’, joined Sri Aurobindo in Pondicherry, India where she worked continuously towards the establishment of a unified, supramental consciousness on Earth until her passing at age 95 in 1973. In 1958, after reading from The Life Divine, she told her students, ‘As soon as one is convinced that there is a living and real Truth seeking to express itself in an objective universe, the only thing that seems to have any importance or value is to come into contact with this Truth, to identify oneself with it as perfectly as possible, and to no longer be anything but a means of expressing it, making it more and more living and tangible so that it may be manifested more and more perfectly. All theories, all principles, all methods are more or less good according to their capacity to express that Truth; and as one goes forward on this path, if one goes beyond all the limits of Ignorance, one becomes aware that the totality of this manifestation, its wholeness, its integrality is necessary for the expression of that Truth, that nothing can be left out, and perhaps there is nothing more important or less important.’

The Mother was well aware that this Truth of Oneness was deeply encoded and embedded in the Vedic foundations of India, and hence, like Sri Aurobindo, she believed that India would necessarily be the ‘guru’ or teacher of the world once the nation recovered the true sense of its own ancient wisdom tradition. ‘There is only one country in the world,’ the Mother said in 1969, ‘that knows that there is only one Truth to which everything should be turned, and that is India. Other countries have forgotten this, but in India it is ingrained in the people, and one day it will come out. We must all recognize this and work for this. India is the cradle of the Truth and will lead the world to Truth. India will find its real place in the world when it realizes this.’

Harmonizing the Whole

‘The whole is brought with lightening speed toward the consciousness that will be this Consciousness of the point and the whole at the same time.’
 – The Mother, 19 November 1969

Practically speaking, if human beings across all borders do not learn to cooperate and care for the quality of life of all beings, Earth will continue to become an increasingly difficult place to live. So our survival necessitates that we at least acquire a certain tolerance of, and perhaps even an appreciation of the diversity of form and divergent paths that make up the whole. But, according to Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, such tolerance and appreciation is only one step in the right direction. Achieving a true harmony amongst the Many requires a greater gnosis or direct knowledge of the One Truth of our being.

‘The one thing that seems necessary,’ the Mother continued in her above discussion of The Life Divine, ‘is a harmonization of everything which puts each thing in its place, in its true relation with all the rest, so that the total Unity may manifest harmoniously. If one comes down from this level, according to me one no longer understands anything and all arguments are of equal worth in the narrowness and limitation which take away all their real value. Each thing in its place, in harmony with all the rest, and then one can begin to understand and live.’

 ‘All will be seen in its relation to the whole,’ wrote Sri Aurobindo of the gnostic point of view, ‘so that each step will be luminous and joyous and satisfying in itself because each is in unison with a luminous totality. This consciousness, this living in the spiritual totality and acting from it, a satisfied totality in essence of being and a satisfied totality in the dynamic movement of being, the sense of the relations of that totality accompanying each step, is indeed the very mark of a supramental consciousness and distinguishes it from the disintegrated, ignorantly successive steps of our consciousness in the Ignorance. The gnostic existence and delight of existence is a universal and total being and delight, and there will be the presence of that totality and universality in each separate movement: in each there will be, not a partial experience of self or a fractional bit of its joy, but the sense of the whole movement of an integral being and the presence of its entire and integral bliss of being, Ananda.’

It is clear in their many writings that both Sri Aurobindo and the Mother knew in their heart and soul that a ‘living and real [Supramental] Truth seeking to express itself in our world’ would, in due time, impose a ‘dominant principle of harmony … on the life of the Ignorance.’ But admittedly they did not fully foresee exactly how this Truth would proceed to effectively organize the dynamic relationships between all the parts of the whole in time and space in a way that could be directly witnessed and experienced by individuals.

This question of the Supramental organization and effective action in the world was taken up by Patrizia Norelli-Bachelet (also known as Thea) who moved to Pondicherry in 1971 at the age of 33, two years before the Mother passed away. Drawing on her own cosmological knowledge and on the sacred geometry of a Vedic temple that the Mother had envisioned as her final legacy, Ms. Norelli-Bachelet began to understand the harmonies of the whole, and how the individual would come to know and participate in that harmony. In 1975 she published The Gnostic Circle, wherein she laid out the circular, spherical and cyclical structure/nature of our unified field of time and space. The book is a manual, in a sense, to instruct individuals as to how they might learn to see and be witness to the control or force of an all-unifying, all-encompassing Supermind as it expresses itself in the course of our individual and collective evolution. ‘Our goal during this Age,’ she explains, ‘… is to enlighten the masses and render them capable of seeing the Reality. We are faced with the task of eliminating the Ignorance, and this can be done only by first seeing properly.’

The first and most fundamental lesson in learning to see and appreciate the ‘unity, harmony and structure of the One and the Many,’ according to Ms. Norelli-Bachelet, is to meditate on the Circle and Dot, also known as the sun symbol: . In the first pages of The Gnostic Circle she explains, ‘This symbol represents the unified multiplicity. By the living experience of the Circle we can come to know the play of the Multiple as the indispensable ingredient in the question of Unity. We can say the Circle represents unity for us, but only because it is at once the representation of multiplicity; without this, its aspect of unity would be impossible to realise.’

In her subsequent book entitled, The New Way – a study in the rise and establishment of a gnostic society, Ms. Norelli-Bachelet underscored the importance of understanding the relationship between the One and the Many: ‘The new synthetic vision … views everything always in terms of relationships between units: an individual is not just an isolated entity but an element in a complex whole and his existence is ever viewed in connection with the totality of the whole of which he is a part. There is always present in this manner of seeing the consciousness of the one and the many, the unity and the multiplicity. All things are looked upon on the basis of their connection to the whole and the vision flowers in terms of a constant awareness of interrelatedness. Hence its principle feature is Harmony.’

Happily the mind can digest the above symbol and description of unity consciousness without too much resistance. Our minds may even be inspired by the idea of experiencing a harmonious inter-connectedness, it sounds nice enough after all. But where Ms. Norelli-Bachelet’s teachings quickly jump ‘out of the box’ of our normal range of consciousness, normal thought processes and the standard modern-day fare of spiritual offerings and become somewhat challenging, is when she introduces the cyclical structure and geometry of time as an essential key to seeing, experiencing and knowing the One Truth that is the ‘architect’, so to speak, of our evolution towards gnosis. If not shrugged away or blown off by the puzzled mind, this key (when properly understood and applied) is intended to illuminate one’s entire understanding of reality, of evolution and of what needs to be included in the integral study of the One Self.

The Geometry of Time, she writes, ‘is a method by means of which it is possible to measure the movement of time over a given area of space; and because the area contained therein for the purpose is one that expresses a Gnostic relationship between these two dimensions ‒ due to the nature of the measure itself ‒ and accomplishes in the totality of its expanse a certain process of harmonisation, the initiate is able to read therein a number of related destiny patterns that are arranged in the higher dimensions of Time. … For a collectivity dedicated to assisting in the manifestation of the supreme reality, the recognition of the harmonic laws of its being in Time is all-important, for by this it understands that the collective soul uses this field for its progressive self-expression; it understands that the collectivity must in some way find its harmony with this power and bring that force into the core of its structure, must organize itself around this flow in as perfect a manner as possible.’

When considering how this can be true and if the laws of time really need to be incorporated into the study of our simultaneously spiritual and material reality, it is useful to remember the Mother’s discussion of The Life Divine above. She wrote, ‘one becomes aware that the totality of this manifestation, its wholeness, its integrality is necessary for the expression of [the living and real] Truth, that nothing can be left out.’ [emphasis added] If that is true, and we want to advance towards gnosis that is applicable and effective in our world, then an understanding of the force of Time should not continue to be left out of our idea of what constitutes knowledge of the One Self, One Truth.
Proof that the Vedic seers understood the unifying power of the 360° circle in terms of harmonizing the measurements of time and space abound in the Rig Veda as well as the Puranas and Upanishads. Sri Aurobindo clearly stated in The Secret of the Veda, that the Vedic Sacrifice (yajna), which was a central figure and foundation of Vedic civilization, is only properly understood in terms of the Earth’s year divided into twelve months. He writes of the twelve months and the ‘fixed seasons’ of the year as ‘the ordered gradations of the Truth’ by which the full unifying Truth ‒ the veritable Point and sustaining power of our existence and evolution ‒ is found or realized.

Are We There Yet?

The implications of Sri Aurobindo’s insights into Vedic wisdom are that our cyclical evolutionary journey and its stages can be plotted out and tracked. And this realization has been the basis of Patrizia Norelli-Bachelet’s supramental yoga and teachings for some 42 years. She has mapped out our collective evolutionary journey using the Vedic measure of the year and the Precession of the Equinoxes (the Great Year), and gives individuals the tools to map out their own evolutionary journey so that each person can know more accurately what stages they have been through, what stage they are presently traversing, and what stages are to come. This knowledge has an orienting effect, as one can begin to sense and see an organizing truth behind the circumstances of one’s life. But even more importantly, the knowledge gives individuals the real sensory experience that EVERYTHING is being organized by the same One Truth of existence, which is an essential cue for the divisive mental consciousness to begin giving way to an all-encompassing supramental consciousness. 

On any journey, children are likely to ask their parents over and over again the burning question, ‘Are we there yet?’ As children mature, they learn to pick up a road map and see exactly where they are and how far they have to go. The same goes for learning to read the map of our evolutionary journey. Until such temporal literacy develops we will be blindly (unconsciously) carried towards gnosis of the Truth ‘that holds all’ and organizes all individual paths and forms. We will know we have arrived at our destination when our individual and collective impulse to diverge, separate, differentiate, subjugate, out-perform, out-wit, abuse and dominate others has fully transformed into the impulse to converge upon, orbit around, celebrate, illuminate and focus upon THAT which we share in common. Our abundant energies will be used to uplift the whole rather than to isolate and protect our limited personal and national interests. It is clear from our Earthly woes that the majority of us on planet Earth are ‘not there yet’; but it is hopeful to think that we are evolutionarily programmed to, in the years, decades and centuries to come, progressively converge upon our shared Truth and celebrate our common journey in time and space.

‘… by the truth, in the revolution of the year, they broke Vala.’ 
  Rig Veda X.62.2


  1. Someone recently wrote to me that the closing quote of this article 'is not Rig Veda X.62.2' and this needed to be corrected. To clarify, this is Sri Aurobindo's translation of Rig Veda X.62.2 as found in 'The Secret of the Veda':

    '... it is when the nine-months' sacrifice is prolonged through the tenth, it is when the Navagwas become the ten Dashagwas by the seven-headed thought of Ayasya, the tenth Rishi, that the Sun is found and the luminous world of Swar in which we possess the truth or the one universal Deva, is disclosed and conquered. This conquest of Swar is the aim of the sacrifice and the great work accomplished by the Angirasa Rishis.

    'But what is meant by the figure of the months? for it now becomes clear that it is a figure, a parable; the year is symbolic, the months are symbolic. It is in the revolution of the year that the recovery of the lost Sun and the lost cows, is effected, for we have the explicit statement in X.62.2, ṛtenābhindan parivatsare valam, "by the truth, in the revolution of the year, they broke Vala", or as Sayana interprets it, "by sacrifice lasting for a year". This passage certainly goes far to support the Arctic theory, for it speaks of a yearly and not a daily return of the Sun. But we are not concerned with the external figure, nor does its validity in any way affect our own theory; for it may very well be that the striking Arctic experience of the long night, the annual sunrise and the continuous dawns was made by the Mystics the figure of the spiritual night and its difficult illumination. But that this idea of Time, of the months and years is used as a symbol seems to be clear from other passages of the Veda, notably from Gritsamada's hymn to Brihaspati, 11.24.'

  2. Forgive me Lori, I'm a worm :)
    I did't realise it was his interpretation of it, I'm sure he knew what he was talking about.
    I haven't read 'The Secret of the Veda' yet.

    My Rig Veda says this...

    2 The Fathers, who drave forth the wealth in cattle, have in the year's courses cleft Vala by Eternal Law: A lengthened life be yours, O ye Angirases. Welcome the son of Manu, ye who are most wise.

    Personally, I prefer this one, but I expect he knew that aswell.

    I just applied to join The Gnostic Circle Group on Google. I'll try not to spoil this one for you, presuming I'm allowed in, of course.
    Theosophy.net have kicked me out again after half a day. Some people have no sense of humour... lol.

    Bye :)

  3. I enjoyed the articles and some of the comments made in them made me realize that I apparently am stuck in the cycle of Karma for some of the statements made in the articles seem to be speaking to something beyond the cycle of Karma.

    Apparently my mind cannot envisage a supermentality beyond that which the divine has given man to live with. If man can breach this barrier then I have not even approached anything that would suggest such a possiblity. It makes me feel like a neophyte starting all over again.

  4. Hi William, I remember when I first read 'The Gnostic Circle', I felt in many ways, my real education, was just beginning. I had studied the teachings of Sri Aurobindo regarding the Supramental consciousness-force, but appreciating 'The Gnostic Circle' and the cosmological component of the Supramental Descent (which inspires most of my writing) required a certain re-arrangement of how the mind thinks things work, and a certain level of willingness to participate in a higher-level of organization than I was previously aware of. It was mind-bending and challenging ... But thrilling and wonderful at the same time. That was 12 years ago and still I feel like, and AM a neophyte when it comes to Supramental Gnosis and Unity Consciousness. Best of Light in your studies.

  5. I've just re-read this article. Its very good.
    Thank you.


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