Journey to Supermind more like hiking in a circle or climbing a mountain?

Hello Infiniteconversationists,

by thinking about Aurobindos yogapractice and philosophy I noticed that there are probably many ways we could come up with possible visual representations of what he was trying to do. One common way seems to be a ladder or a Mountain that we are climbing up to, but in the higher domains of that mountain there seems to be aspects of a return to source. I am not sure if at the illumined mind, to the supermind, if thats a new and different type being and awareness that hasnt been there before, or if its more a return to something that was there in the first place, or even a combination of both. It seems like that he constantly builds up to something greater to ascend to that would imply the picture of an above and below, but there are also always aspects of the immanent here and now that shine through.

One other picture would be that of a circle or even an arch where the return is more emphasized. And there are sure other ways to picture it. So what do you think is the best way to model and think about what Aurobindo is explaining and laying out in this book? Am I wrong in seeing aspects of it like more of a return to source?


Well, Mirra Alfassa often described the Supramental Consciousness as spherical, and Sri Aurobindo said he had discovered something in the Vedas (from more than 3000 years ago) that was lost in the “Axial Age.”

So, thats’ one way of being with it…

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I had an exchange with Ken Wilber on this topic. I wrote this:

"“All evolution is evolving back to the source” – Mooji

Ken, is this true, or partially true? In a way evolution seems to be also increasing in fullness, yes?

I am thinking of the Wilber-Coombs matrice, where the levels of the relative keep unfolding, AND, a person can evolve back to the nondual source, too (or recognize they never left it)."

And Ken replied with this:

"The way this is almost always meant, it is totally wrong—it’s actually completely backwards and leads to deeply regressive approaches.

In actuality, there is first involution—prior to any manifestation, prior to the Big Bang, prior to anything. Using the simple Christian version of the Great Chain (matter to body to mind to soul to spirit), spirit goes out of itself, then forgets itself to produce soul; then soul goes out of itself, then forgets itself to produce mind; then mind goes out of itself, forgets itself to produce body (meaning the living body, beneath mind but higher than insentient matter), then body goes out of itself, forgets itself to produce matter. At this point, manifestation blows into existence (the Big Bang). And at this point, there are no living bodies, no conceptual minds, no illumined souls, no awakened spirit anywhere in manifest existence—there is just insentient, nonliving matter (all the higher levels have been forgotten). This overall “downward movement” is involution—the in‑folding of the higher into the lower, with the concomitant forgetting (amnesis) of the higher. So when matter it appears, it has spirit, soul, mind, and body all tucked into it but only as mere potential (since it has all been forgotten and folded into the lower as potential ready to emerge). Once all the higher (starting with spirit) has been in‑folded into the lower, then the reverse process, evolution (the return to spirit) can occur. (Paradoxically, spirit remains as the Ground or Reality of each and every level, even though it is not realized or awakened. So we really have spirit-as-matter, spirit-as-body, spirit-as-mind, and spirit-as-soul, with Realization being spirit-as-spirit.)

Then the return to Spirit can begin. This is evolution. Plotinus called involution “Efflux” (outflow) and evolution “Reflux” (inflow, return). So living bodies evolve out of dead matter, then conceptual minds evolve out of living bodies (and note: about half way through the evolution upward of mind—around the magic-mythic stage—humans become aware that they are self-conscious, self‑reflexive beings—and that therefore they can and will die—and looking back on their earlier stages, they mistakenly think those were some sort of heavenly immortal Eden, and that they have fallen from that Eden. But this is a big mistake—prior to humans in the evolutionary sequence were not angels but apes. (They thought they were free from death in the Edenic state, but they were simply ignorant and unaware of it, like a dog or an ape. These theorists make the same mistake with today’s infants. This confusion is the typical retro‑Romantic fallacy, and it is deeply confused.) Then out of mind there evolves illumined souls, and out of souls, awakened Spirit. That is the full sequence of evolution.

The idea that evolution is evolving back to source is true only if this overall sequence of involution/evolution is fully taken into account. Usually this statement means that humans were once actually living in Eden—they were fully one with Spirit, even if they didn’t know it—and now they are “returning to source”—that is, returning to the Edenic state (which was actually the archaic stage in the evolutionary sequence, and not anything resembling heavenly Eden. Hence, UP from Eden). If this statement is meant to refer to involution first occurring—so that Eden is not truly a transpersonal heaven or superconsciousness but a prepersonal subconsciousness (lying next to apes, not angels), then that is fine. But almost nobody means it that way—they mean that we are in the process of “recapturing the Good” that we once had on earth but subsequently lost, and that is categorically wrong."


I think the conceptual visualization of the spiritual path unfolding in 3D space along vertical/horizontal axes (entailing ascent/descent, higher and lower, expansion and contraction, etc.) is misleading ultimately.

If the Divine, G-d, Brahman, Supermind, Sachchidananda, etc. is omnipresent, then it doesn’t matter what physical direction one goes in. There it is, and you are that.

However, as human beings, we do orient in 3D space, and there is also a way in which the ‘conscious force’ inhabits and moves through the 3-dimensional body, e.g, via the chakras, which leads to spatial representations of the ‘journey,’ such as the mountain, the ladder, etc.

Gebser is really useful in this regard for attempting to point beyond mental/spatial representations toward the 4th dimension of time. However, I think Supermind (‘supramentally conceived’) is even beyond 4D. It’s pretty much all-or-infinite-Ds, as far as I can tell.

Regarding the ‘sphere,’ there is quite an interesting history to this figure, which is elaborately explored by Peter Sloterdijk: Sloterdijk | Spheres - Infinite Conversations. Ultimately a sphere is still 3-dimensional, defined by an inside and outside, center and periphery, and static shape.

Aurobindo’s rational language does pretty strongly presuppose a 3D mental schema, but I think that’s just a transduction of an experience that is actually not limited to spatial metaphors.

Regarding Wilber’s account of involution/evolution—again, the same issue, but this time in 4D, since to say that involution is ‘prior’ to evolution suggests that it happens before in time. But ‘time’ is created by the very invo-evolutionary process, so neither is really prior to the other—neither temporally nor ontologically, I would add.

In Aurobindo, this is expressed as the mutually intertwining relationship between the Purusha (pure consciousness) and Prakriti (world-manifestation), which I think in the way he writes about it, is much more like a dance or play, than a simple circle or process of ascent and descent.

It’s not that any given spatial metaphor, such as a mountain or sphere, is false. These could be relatively true in pointing to a quality of experience, but we should be aware of the limitations of any mental representation. Still, language allows us (indeed, allows Supermind!) to be creative. A future poetry would give us new ways of conceiving and communicating the divine.


I feel Debashish’s presence in this affirmation, @madrush. Beautifully said.


@madrush “prior” might mean ontologically prior, not prior in time, so yes 4D and there is no way of knowing whether you, Wilber, or Aurobindo is saying it in a more or less 4D way. This logic of involution being neither ontologically, nor temporally prior basically means that involution means nothing, according to you, Marco.

Can there be being without becoming or becoming without being? I would say being becomes, and becoming is. Mentally, we can differentiate these…so they don’t ‘mean nothing.’ They’re different views of the same reality.

In Western philosophy, this is the difference between Parmenides (Being) and Heraclitus (Becoming). I am (interpreting Aurobindo to be) saying that each is a partial view of the whole. Involution (starting point: being) and evolution (starting point: becoming) are flip sides of the same coin.

I think Wilber would agree…and would also say that the only thing ontologically prior is Spirit itself, which is both being and becoming, involving and evolving—not other than matter, but involved in it from the ‘beginning,’ while matter is evolving itself (i.e., evolving Spirit) from the ‘beginning.’ (I am assuming that the Big Bang [of our present universe] is not the only starting point for manifestation, which is rather an “endless succession of [the] dawns,” which is how Aurobindo begins The Life Divine, with that invocation from the Rig Veda.)

At least, that would seem to me the most Integral view. You can ask him. Let us know what he says.


you haven’t addressed the issue, just backed up to Spirit, which is of course the most “ontologically prior”. I feel no need to ask Ken; the prior question and answer came from several months ago, unrelated to anything happening on Infinite Conversations. It seemed to fit here given Tony’s exploration.

The issue is ontological priority. Aurobindo spends many pages explaining why neither Purusha (which involves) nor Prakriti (which evolves) can be considered ‘prior’ to the other. This has huge downstream implications. You and Ken are free to believe what you want. But I think backing up (or is it moving forward?) to Spirit is the only way the issue gets resolved, at least philosophically. I could be wrong, but that’s my takeaway from Aurobindo so far.


I think we would all agree that Spirit is ultimately prior. Ken just isn’t addressing that in that specific quote. Yeah, it doesn’t make sense to me in the relative space for involution not to be ontologically prior to evolution, and so if that is indeed Aurobindo’s view, fine., and we have a difference between our view and Aurobindo’s.

In a very much aside:

I’m not saying that the Meru work is the answer to anything, but it is something to think about seriously. Nevertheless … this popped into my mailbox today, from my friends at Meru, of course …

We are suggesting and proposing that the 27 lines (and/or their unit normals) provide a minimal natural language for cosmology and physics, embryology, biology, and neurology; and also, that this was at least in part understood by those who made use of the Hebrew and Vedic alphabets. [emphasis added)]

Some of us here have taken a brief look at Meru, and though we don’t always like to engage the too-strange (unless it’s our friends’ Martel & Ford’s broadcasts), this is something at least worth thinking about in relation to our Aurobindo challenge.

We have more than enough to keep us occupied at the moment, but a small heads-up in regard to future avenues of exploration can’t be too far afield.

After all, at some point we have to weave all these InfConv threads together into some kind of (meaningful) tapestry.


Personally I can conceive of situations where involution and evolution might be simultaneous. They are only incompatible in a logic based mode of reasoning with an excluded middle, and as we know there are various other modes of reasoning that do not require such a polarized perspective. I know nothing of Wilber, however, I am just wishing to contribute to the discussion.

For reference, a link to @achronon’s Meru presentations:

And here is Aurobindo in his own words on evolution and involution:

One important distinction we have to make, I think, is between the scientific concepts of cosmic, biological, and cultural evolution and the more properly ‘spiritual’ concept that sees it as the process of phenomenal manifestation itself. This latter process, which Aurobindo calls Nature, is the part that I am suggesting is equiprimoridal with the involutionary ‘descent’ of Spirit into Matter.

I hope these thoughts are helpful to Tony’s original question! Is there a good metaphor or image that includes the various perspectives we’ve been exchanging thus far?


for me they are not incompatible, nor polarized; however, thanks for chiming in. My personal goal is that this be a site that honors equally the 1st person and 3rd person perspectives, a true integration of the “rocks of ages”, as Steven Jay Gould put it, I believe. I’ve been working in support of Venezuelan born Jeff Quintero for 5 years on this, and we will see if folks here are interested, perhaps there can be a Cosmos Cafe with his version of integral philosophy. We are close to having a presentation ready to go. I will send a note to Jeff.


the middle is excluded in this passage. yes, I can see how challenging it is to not exclude the middle in the typical way we tend to communicate!


Yes, agree with all of this! At the end of his life, R. Panikkar spoke most often in terms of rhythm and choreography—dynamic inter-relationship rather than any sort of stable hierarchy.

You wrote: “A future poetry would give us new ways of conceiving and communicating the divine.” I’d really like to hear more on this if you might expand a bit, here. Thanks!


thanks for the reply. The picture of a Sphere seems to be one that doesnt imply a further progression, like an arrow would for example, but a containment of the energy. Being spherical like a sphere or a half sphere its also closed up to an outside.

I’d have to look it up, Tony, but I think she meant it in the spirit of Nicholas of Cusa’s “God is a circle with center everywhere and circumference nowhere.”

Not sure how to translate that for a sphere, but I’ll look it up!


Ok, these are all from “Questions and Answers, 1956” (available for free online)

QUESTION: Mother, when one is identified with the Divine in the higher part of the being while neglecting the lower parts — neglecting life — doesn’t the Divine, in the part where one is identified with Him, advise one to attend to the lower parts?

ANSWER: And if before even beginning, one has decided that this must not happen, perhaps one makes it impossible for oneself to receive the advice of the Divine!

For, truly speaking, each one finds only what he wants to find of the Divine. Sri Aurobindo has said this by turning it the other way round; he has said — I am not quoting the exact words, only the idea: what you expect from the Divine is what you find in the Divine; what you want from the Divine is what you meet in the Divine. He will have for you the aspect you expect or desire.

And His manifestation is always adapted to each one’s re- ceptivity and capacity. They may have a real, essential contact, but this contact is limited by their own capacity for receiving and approach… It is only if you are able to go out of all limits that you can meet the total Divine as He totally is.

And this capacity for contact is perhaps what constitutes the true hierarchy of beings. For everyone carries within himself the Divine, and therefore everyone has the possibility of uniting with the Divine — that possibility is the same in all. But according to each one’s capacity — in fact, according to his position in the divine hierarchy — his approach will be more or less partial or total.

It could be said — although these words deform things a lot — that the quality of the approach is the same in every be- ing, but the quantity, the totality is very different… It is very difficult to explain in words, but if one may say so, the pointat which you are identified with the Divine is perfect in itself, that is to say, your identification is perfect in itself, at this point, but the number of points at which you are identified differs immensely.

And this is very marked in the difference between the paths followed to approach the Divine. Usually people set limits; they limit themselves by excluding everything that is not exactly the path they have chosen, for this is much easier and they go much faster — relatively. But if, instead of following one road, you go forward in a sort of movement which could be called spherical, where everything is included, which takes in all the possibilities of approach to the Divine, naturally the result is much more complete — and it is this that Sri Aurobindo calls the integral yoga — but the progress is much more difficult and much slower.

QUESTION: What does Sri Aurobindo mean by “oneness in dynamic force”?

ANSWER That’s what I was saying. There is a dynamic force which moves all things, and when you become conscious of it, you see that it is one single Force which moves all things; and as you become conscious, you can even follow its movement and see how it works through men and things.

From the minute you become conscious of the Unity — unity of Force, unity of Consciousness and unity of Will — well, you no longer have the perception which makes you quite sepa- rate from others, so that you do not know what goes on in them, they are strangers to you, you are shut up as it were in your own skin, and have no contact with others except quite externally and superficially. But this happens precisely because you have not realised in yourself the perception of this oneness of Consciousness, Force and Will — even of material vibrations.

It is the complexity which makes this perception difficult — for our faculties of perception are quite linear and very one- sided; so when we want to understand, we are immediately assailed by countless things which are almost inconsistent with each other and intermix in such an intricate way that one can no longer make out the lines and follow things — one suddenly enters a whirlwind.

But this is because… For instance, most men think one thought after another, even as they have to say one word af- ter another — they can’t say more than one word at the same time, you know, or else they stammer. Well, most people think like that, they think one thought after another, and so their whole consciousness has a linear movement. But one begins to perceive things only when one can see spherically, globally, think spherically, that is, have innumerable thoughts and perceptions simultaneously.

Naturally, up to now, if one wanted to describe things, one had to describe them one after another, for one can’t say ten words at once, one says one word after another; and that is why all one says is practically quite incapable of expressing the truth, quite incapable. For we have to say one thing after another — the minute we say them one after another, they are no longer true. They must all be said at the same time, just as they can all be seen at the same time, and each one in its place.

So, when one begins to see like this — to see, to discern, to feel, to think, to will like this — one draws near the Truth. But so long as one sees as one speaks, oh, what a lamentable poverty!


Up from Eden was released in German under the Titel “Halbzeit der Evolution” I read the book a few years ago and reviewed it on Amazon. The Involution, Evolution part was somehow an aspect that I havent really understood, but reading a few explanations and this segment here I think I got it now.

So one could say that Involution is the putting in or infoldment of the potentiality to grow into an acorn, while evolution would be the enfoldment of that potential into an oak. Stretching that principle into cosmic dimensions involution would be the putting in of the potential to evolve into the starting point of the cosmos. And underlying it there is also a process of cosmic forgetting and remembering. Viewing it that way, another way of putting it is maybe that the universe is becoming conscious of itself/remembering itself through humans. That would be a type of returning to a source.

In Ken Wilbers Involution/Evolution version everything is spirit and spirit is recognising finer degrations of itself in every further stage of human unfolding or evolution.

Thanks for that piece. I would really like to know if there is a difference between Ken Wilbers view on Involution/Evolution, exemplified in that segment, and Aurobindos version of Involution, or if there is no difference and he’s just adding in different words from eastern traditions still meaning the same overall process?