The following information has been developed in tandem with
Mother's Service Society, based on and an
extension of the teachings of the seer and sage
Sri Aurobindo and
As a result
of the development
of the universe, including life on earth, mankind has evolved to his
present status. Over time the individual human has developed a range of
qualities, capacities, and planes that in many ways parallels the
principles that occur in the unfolding of the universe and life on earth.
Matter of the universe has become the physical body in the individual;
Life in the universe has become the life force and vital consciousness in
the individual; Mind in the universe has primarily manifest as the mental
consciousness in the individual; and the Spirit in the universe is a
the spiritual plane of consciousness that the individual can rise to (above mind).
The physical, vital,
and mental planes all exist and are simultaneously active in each
person, though the extent of their relative development and the
preponderance of the influence they exercise on the personality differs
from person to person. Also, the physical, vital, and mental exist and
function interdependently among one another. (The fourth
plane, the spiritual occurs consciously in only a very few individuals,
or in every one, but mostly at a very limited level.)
at the four planes of individual consciousness, in an
ascending scale from the physical body, to the vital, to the mind to the
spirit -- i.e. from the bottom up -- we can summarize each of these planes in the individual as
Planes of the Human Individual
consciousness beyond mind that connects to the underlying
spiritual reality of the universe and the transcendent Divine.
sentiments, opinions, beliefs, values,
ideals, ideas, and concepts that guide our
conscious thinking, conceptualizing and decision-making processes.
semi-conscious sensations, urges, desires, feelings,
emotions, and attitudes.
The vital provides the energy for human action and expresses
itself through attraction, liking, desire and enthusiasm.
It (1) is where we experience
the vital sensation of the central nervous system, our primal
urges, desires, and fears; (2) where we experience our feelings,
emotions, and passions of life; and (3) is where the emotions
are processed into emotional thought, i.e. into the emotions'
perception of knowledge, and it is where our attitudes, our life
intelligence, and higher emotions reside.
subconscious awareness and impulses of the body expressed in
animal instincts, basic drives of human nature, and inherited
character traits. The primary drives of the physical are for
self-preservation and reproduction.
It is (1) that which gives us
our raw physical
existence, consisting of matter;
(2) it is where our movements
originate; (3) it is the seat of our physical urges and
sensations, and (4) it is where the
body learns how to act, i.e. where it
learns the primary skills needed for existence.
Four Planes Further Divided
We can break down the table
into sublevels of human consciousness.
Basically each plane can be divided into three or
more subplanes. E.g. the mental level can be divided into the physical
mental, the most
fundamental, which is involved in thought processing; the higher level of
vitalized mental, which contains our beliefs, values, and sentiments; and
the pure mental, a third level higher still, in which we can engage in
pure thought. In this way, we can see the subdivisions of our being from
physical to vital to mental to spiritual. (A fuller explanation of each
level and sublevel is given after the table.)
Mind and Pure Spirit
The Absolute, Brahman, the Divine
Knowledge by Identity (Truth
(object of knowledge
sought created within)
(of total object of knowledge, w/o
Light and Illumination
(descents of knowledge, w/o thought)
Silence of mind
(enabling better thought,
(The mind proper)
Ideas, Concepts, Rational
Thinking, Logical, Pure Thought, Conscious Self-conception
Vital in the Mental
(The vital part of the mental plane)
Life's Workings; Knowledge Imbued with Feeling, Emotion
opinions, sentiments, beliefs, values, and ideals)
(The physical part of the mental
Processing, Organizing, Storage of Sense Data
practical knowledge; used for decision making)
(The mental part of the vital plane)
Thought as Attitudes, Life Intelligence, Higher Emotions
(including conduct, social norms,
Emotions, Feelings, Passions,
Intense Human Relationships
(The physical part of the vital plane)
Sensation of the Nerves
(urge, desire, fear;
action, relationship, expansion,
adventure, acquisition, conquest, and enjoyment)
(The mental part of the physical
Body Knowledge of How to Act,
Primary Skills of Existence
vital part of the physical plane)
Physical Urges and Sensation
(pain, hunger, lust, craving, possessiveness,
territoriality, attraction/repulsion, etc.)
Physical Movement, Instinct for Survival
-Inconscient (i.e. unconscious)
In this table we see a
hierarchy of human functioning rising from the physical to the vital
to the mental to the spiritual plane. Also, within the four general
planes there are three subplanes, each higher than the previous
subplane, reflecting an evolution of higher consciousness within
At the very bottom of the
table within the first general plane of the Physical, we see its
first subplane, called the Pure Physical (or the physical proper). At that
plane we are speaking of the raw matter of the physical body. It is the
inconscient matter (passed on from our animal ancestry, itself from
primitive life forms, on back to water, light, gas, mineral, to the solid
matter of earth.) It is also in this plane that there is the origins
of movement of the body, and instinct for survival. This is the primal
qualities of the body; hence we call it the Pure Physical
level. At the next level up, the Vital Physical (the vital part of
the physical plane), we see the emergence of the physical urges and
sensations of the body, in the form of pain, hunger, craving,
possessiveness, attraction and repulsion. etc. An even higher level up, in
terms of more refined substance and higher consciousness is the Mental
Physical where the body "stores"
its instinctive knowledge of how to act, which are in essence the primary
skills of existing and surviving reside.
Beyond the physical/body
plane is the Vital plane. It is a substance of subtler substance
and higher consciousness than the raw material substance and aspects of
the physical plane. Its first subplane is the Physical Vital in the
form of sensations of the nerves as urge, desire, and fear. These reflect
for the individual in society as
action, relationship, adventure, conquest, etc. From this emerges
the Pure Vital subplane (i.e. the vital proper) where there is even
more subtle substance and consciousness than the previous plane's
sensation of nerves in the form of human emotions, feelings, passions,
including their expression of the emergence of intense human relationships
in the social sphere. A step up from this is Mental Vital, where
there is the development of emotional thought
in the form of our personal attitudes, our life intelligence, as well as
other higher emotions.
Beyond the vital plane
there is the Mental plane, which is unique for the most part to
humans. This plane begins with the Physical in the Mental subplane where
there is the most fundamental mental capacity in the form of the
processing of thoughts gathered through the inputs of the five senses.
This data is gathered, processed, organized, and stored for understanding
and comprehension which becomes practical knowledge used for decision
making. Beyond this is the subplane of the Vital in the Mental, in which
processed thoughts are developed into a knowledge of life's workings. Here
also our gathered knowledge is imbued with feelings and emotions, which
takes the form of our interests, opinions,
beliefs, values, and ideals. Beyond this is
the Pure Mental (the mind proper), where mind is engaged in
the development of pure
ideas and concepts,
pure logical and rational thinking, and the development of ideas into
newer insight. There is also here the ability to
one's or the world's
existence, i.e. what he wishes himself, it to
(At this plane, there is no longer
a dependency on the input of the senses.)
The mental plane
then evolves to the Spiritual plane, which begins with the
subplanes of the spiritual Mind, including the Higher, the
Illumined, and the Intuitive planes of the spiritual mind, and
beyond to the unitary consciousness of Supermind, and above that
still to pure spirit and Being of the Absolute. In Higher Mind
one reaches an inner silence from which thought and knowledge more
readily emerge on their own. Beyond that is Illumined Mind
where descents of light and knowledge come into the mind without
thought. Further still there is a descent of intuitions and
revelation of complete object of knowledge at the subplane of
Intuitive Mind, again without thought. Beyond that is
Supermind where the object of knowledge appears and is born
within, created inside one's self. It is the knowledge by identity,
the ultimate truth consciousness of Knowledge. Beyond that is
communion with the Being, the pure spirit of the Absolute,
It should be mentioned that this evolution did not take place in a perfect
sequence. E.g. there may be
the basic sense-input of functioning at the mental plane before attitudes
at the lower vital plane were more fully developed.
Detailed Account of
Three Planes of the Individual
(spiritual not included)
The table below shows the
three planes of an individual
-- mental, vital, and physical -- and the breakdown of each
these into three sub-aspects in terms of
function, expression, traits, and works.
For example, within the mental plane, we can see
three subdivisions; We have numbered these as 1-9 levels, with 1 at the
highest level of mind where we engage in pure thought; 2 at the level of
mental sentiments and values; and 3. at the mental level of thought
This is followed by a discussion of how humans
evolve up the scale from levels 9 to level 1. (Note:
The spiritual plane (above mind; i.e. spiritual mind) is omitted in this scheme, though more detailed information about
this plane can be viewed by clicking
PURE MENTAL (Pure Mental,
The pure mental, Conceptual Mind,
Mental mental, Thinking mind, Master of thought, speculative mind;
seat of pure, rational thinking)
This is where mind is engaged in
the development of
ideas and concepts,
pure logical and rational thinking, and the
development of ideas into newer insight. There is also here
the ability to self-conceive one's or the
existence, i.e. what he wishes himself, it to be.
(There is no connection
here to the senses of the body here as perceived in the sense mind
below. It is pure thought.)
Pure mind not related to emotion or body.
thinking, organization of ideas
Concepts, ideas, possibilities,
mental skills, movement toward pure understanding, accomplishment by
comprehension. One reflects on mystery of the universe, meaning of
one's place in creation.
thoughtful, insightful, analytical, mindful,
perceptive, discriminating, learned,
-- Decision making, planning, problem-solving,
writing related to pure thought
VITAL IN THE MENTAL (Emotionalized
vital part of the mental plane, emotional
mind, sense mind)
is where we gain a knowledge of life's workings; where the
practical organized knowledge and comprehension of facts of level
3 is imbued with the emotions and feelings that turn organized
comprehension into our mental interests,
sentiments, values, and ideals.
emotions, interests, opinions, beliefs, values, sentiments, idolization of ideas,
idealism, passion for a goal, patriotism.
inquisitive, resourceful, opportunity seeking, serious, idealistic, mental-based devotion,
focused, scrupulous (in details),
Values -- (among them are-) honesty,
integrity, open-mindedness, harmony, concern for
others, tolerant, perfecting, practicality, self-reliant,
individuality, truth seeking, freedom,
democracy, family-feeling, community-oriented,
work-oriented, perfection, etc.
high poetry, social sciences, inspiration of music.
PHYSICAL IN THE MENTAL (Basic
thought processing. The
physical part of the mental plane, the physical mind seated in the brain)
mental processing, organizing, systemizing of physical, natural,
practical facts of information from the senses into
thoughts of understanding,
comprehension, and knowledge, used for decision-making, action,
& coordinates facts of physical phenomena that the senses
gather, into systems &
decisions, to create thoughts.
-There is a mastery of physical and natural processes.
One has the knowledge of the practical.
-Is where systematic planning for organized action takes place.
Seeks material goals.
-It is the seat of action.
-There is a thirsting for information and
understanding. The mind wants to understand.
-One can accomplish because there is comprehension.
-Mind (levels 1,2,3) increasingly
governs and directs life and actions.
facts, mental possessiveness (right, claim), organizer of mankind
Learns, processes facts into knowledge, understands, comprehends,
processes, organizes, relates, connects, curiosity.
Engineering, medicine, technician,
physical sciences, scientist
MENTAL VITAL (Mentalized
mental part of the vital plane, Vital Mind, Master of life)
is where emotions (of the previous level,
level5) are processed into emotional
thought, the emotions' perception of knowledge. It is where our
life intelligence, and higher emotions lie. It is the
of our vital skills.
Knowledge of the vital.
Emotions' perception of knowledge. Direction and
organization of vital energies. Vital perception, vital skill,
five senses, speech, attitudes,
life intelligence, higher emotions. Processes emotions into
emotional thought. Charges decisions with emotion. Monitor of
attitudes and emotions. At the service of life goals (rather than
one's own ends).
Attitudes, social norms, conduct, and conscience.
Friendly (unfriendly), affectionate,
willful, determined, motivated, expansive,
(pessimistic), positive, self-reliant, self-directed, self-esteem
(high, low), negative attitudes (reluctance, contempt, distrustful,
paranoid, jealous, unsympathetic, rude, selfish, shameless,
stingy, stubborn, intolerant, vengeful, haughty, proud, naive,
toady, deceiving, dishonest, etc.)
Spirit in the vital
modest, sympathetic, forgiving, goodwill, goodness, gratitude.
-- public speaking, leadership.
leadership, novelist, businessperson, entrepreneur
PURE VITAL (Pure
pure vital, Vital vital,
is where our feelings, emotions,
passion, enthusiasm reside.
repulsion of feelings, emotions.
Feelings, emotions, passion. Pure energy. Fears, phobia, possession,
superstition. Emotions express in intense human relationships; in
Happy, joyful, sad, grumpy, depressed,
discouraged, gloomy, enthusiastic,
optimistic, pessimistic, lively, worries, phobic, superstitious, finds
attractive, finds repulsive,
vitally energetic, courageous, courage of
heroic warrior, emotional devotion, fearless, emotional
strength, emotional love, passionate,
emotional, tired, energyless.
vital poetry, music, painting
emotion. The physical part of the vital
is where we experience the vital sensation
of the nerves,
the central nervous system, where we experience urge, desire, and
Vital sensation, the nerves, the
central nervous system, vital enjoyment,
accomplishment by enjoyment
Vital desire, urge, nervous
sensations (e.g. desire, fear), strength of the
nerves, and social behavior,
physical devotion, emotional sense of duty. Seeks action,
relationship, expansion, adventure, acquisition, conquest, and
to act, expand, acquire, acquisitive, wants, needs, desirous (vital),
demands, possessive, devoted (physically).
MENTAL PHYSICAL (Mind
in the physical (body). The
mental part of the physical plane)
is the consciousness of the body, where the
body learns how
to act, where the body learns
and has acquired the primary skills needed for existence and
action from movement. It is the center of our physical skills.
Physical consciousness: The body's understanding of action. Body becoming
conscious. The knowledge of the
body (physical skills). Body's knowledge of how
to act, the skills needed for survival, ease, and action. (situated in brain). Organizes physical
movements. Generates skill out of movements. Learns primary skills
for existence. Physical ideas of skills of acting. Skills and
capacities seated here. Extracts essence of skill into capacity.
Physical skills of the brain, subconscious knowledge of the body (physiology),
voluntary & autonomic. Rustic folklore.
Instinctive, hunter/gatherer, survivor; has survival. practical,
physical skills, compelled to act, practical. Example
skills -- hunting, gathering, cleaning, cooking, grooming,
planting, harvesting, etc.
VITAL PHYSICAL (Vital/Emotion
in the Physical (Body).The
vital part of the physical plane)
is the seat of our physical urges and sensations. It is where
nervous sensation, pain, physical urge, hunger,
lust, craving, physical possessiveness, and territoriality are
Physical sensations and urges, emotions of the physical. Experiences
attraction and repulsion of physical sensations. Body being moved to act by
physical emotions. Energized by that which is painful or
Nervous sensation, comfort, pain, physical urge, hunger,
lust, craving, physical possessiveness, territoriality, war,
primitive physical energy, religious superstition.
determined by heredity, family.
hungry, attracted to, repulsed by,
acquisitive, possessive, territorial, primitive, craving,
dominating, aggressive, conquers, war-like,
attached, pained by, pleasured by, physical will, physical urge;
bullying, crude, fanatical, acts on religious superstition, etc.
Unskilled, energetic, physical worker.
PURE PHYSICAL (The
pure physical. The body, raw physical existence, matter)
is the pure physical, the body itself, our raw physical existence,
consisting of matter. It is also where our movements originate.
Body without feeling or awareness;
physical matter of the body. Physical movement. Instinct of the
bodily functions; animal instincts for survival. Physical act is completed only
when it reaches here. Sleep
energy less, alert, dull, lifeless, dim-witted,
stupid, sleepy, dynamic, undynamic, unchanging, clean, substance-abuse,
Complete material accomplishment. (If transformed, the
ultimate fulfillment of the being.)
(for a detailed list
of human traits, click here.)
Explanation of the
Evolution of Life in Terms of the Nine Levels
we explain how the nine levels of the three main planes -- three levels
each of the physical, vital, and mental planes -- emerged in the evolution
of life, beginning with subplane 9.
The evolution of life on earth begins in matter, from which first life and
later mind emerge as higher principles and powers of consciousness, though in fact both
exist in potential, involved, in material substance. The individual too progresses from
physical to vital to mental levels of consciousness, each successive phase more conscious
than the previous.
The evolution begins with progress in
the physical plane of consciousness from level 9 to level 7. Level 9 is
the [pure] physical [the
Physical Physical], the consciousness of the material body. In this plane, knowledge
expresses completely as unconscious instinct of the bodily functions and the animal
instincts for survival in an indifferent or hostile environment. The pressure of internal
biological needs (hunger, thirst, sleep) and external threats force the individual to
energize himself for self-preservation and self-defense. The impact of painful and
pleasurable sensations acts as a stimulus to awaken and stir the consciousness and press
it into action.
As the consciousness progresses under this pressure
and stimulus to level 8, the physical consciousness becomes energized by
that which is pleasurable and painful. It learns to avoid the unpleasant and actively seek
the comfortable and pleasant. Its actions become embued with the vital intensity of these
sensations. The vital principle gives rise to social impulses and relationships between
people, such as the institution of marriage which sublimates the physical sex impulse into
a social relationship. Human relationships at this level are primarily determined by the
bonds of heredity and family. [Level 8 is the Vital
In level 7, the mental principle
emerges in the physical consciousness. Experience gives rise to the acquisition of
knowledge in the body, which we call skills. The mind's capacity for organization leads to
the organization of physical activities, such as the shift from nomadic hunting to
sedentary agriculture. [Level 7 is the Mental Physical]
The movement from level 7 to level 6
is a major transition. The needs of the physical consciousness gradually become
subordinated to the needs and urges of the vital consciousness. The vital seeks not only
survival, self-preservation and comfort, but also action, relationship, expansion,
adventure, conquest and enjoyment. These needs express primarily in the field of social
life in the relationships between people -- the urge to dominate or submit, to belong to
and be accepted by others, to enjoy and control one's environment.
[Level 6 is the Physical Vital]
In level 9 the individual struggles for survival. In
level 8 he experiences attraction and repulsion. In level 7 he acquires practical
knowledge and skills to improve his chances for survival and ease the burden of existence.
The acquisition of this knowledge and the organization of life enables people to reduce
the expenditure of energy on mere survival. This excess pushes for fields of expression,
looks for something more. In level 6, the life consciousness becomes more alert and
dynamic and seeks a greater intensity of enjoyment. The skills of level 7 become energized
by the urge for acquisition and expansion. The individual becomes enterprising.
In level 5 the increasing vital
energy expresses as an emotional consciousness. The attractions and repulsion of feeling,
rather than the attractions and repulsion of physical sensation, become dominant. The
individual is powerful drawn to express and find satisfaction for these emotions in human
relationship and achievement. [Level 5 is the Pure
Vital, the Vital Vital]
The forging of intense emotional relationships is
always unstable and insecure as long as both parties are on an equal footing. The strong
emotional ego seeks greater intensity and security by attaining a higher level of control
and domination over others. The weaker ego seeks the security of obeying a strong leader.
In level 4 the mental element emerges strongly in the vital consciousness
and gives a higher direction and organization to the expression of the vital energies. The
entrepreneur and leader emerge. In this plane mind is fully at the service of life goals,
not free to seek after its own ends. [Level 4 is the
The transition from level 4 to level 3
is a movement from a consciousness in which feelings and emotions dominate to one in which
the mind increasingly governs and directs life and action. Level 3 is the plane of the
physical mind. Mind here is fully absorbed with the external world, with seeking after
material goals and understanding physical phenomena. The mental principle develops the
capacity for systematic planning leading to organized action.
The true seeking and accomplishment for Mind is
comprehension, not merely survival or conquest. Mind wants to understand. In level 3, the
quest for understanding focuses on the mastery of physical and natural processes. The
mind's excess energy expresses as a thirst for more and more information and
understanding. [Level 3 is the Physical Mental]
Mind's quest for comprehension is as insatiable as
the vital's thirst for enjoyment. As it masters the physical world, it turns increasingly
to the complex richness and subtlety of the human relationships and emotions, giving rise
to poetry, art and music in level 2, where the emotions lend to mind a
richness and intensity that thought alone lacks. [Level
3 is the Vital Mental]
At a higher level, the mental consciousness seeks for
a pure knowledge that is not diluted either by the practical utility of level 3 or the
emotional subjectivity of level 2. That quest for pure knowledge gives birth to the ideas
and concepts of level 1. Here mental man living in the material animal
body reflects self-consciously on the mystery of the universe and the meaning of his own
place in creation. [Level 3 is the Pure Mental, the
This movement from level 9 to 1
describes the emergence of an increasingly powerful, awakened and conscious energy in man
giving rise to an increasing capacity for self-preservation, enjoyment and comprehension.
However, the ascending movement is only one side of the process. At each stage of ascent,
there is also a corresponding descent of the newly emerging principle of consciousness to
change the character of life at the previous level. The skills of level 7 are expressed to
support the survival instinct of level 8. The emotional strength of level 4 is applied to
the activities of level 5 and 6. The knowledge of level 3 is used to aggrandize life and
master the physical environment.
The Spiritual Plane
There is also a plane above the
mental, vital/emotional and physical planes of a human being; the spiritual
From this plane we can conceive of the possibility of the emergence of a whole new
type of person, the evolutionary, spiritualized being.
Additional Details of 1-9 levels, please click
Horizontal Scale of Human Consciousness --
addition to the
above "vertical scale of human consciousness" that ranges from physical
matter to spirit, there is also another scale of
human consciousness that ranges from the surface of our
consciousness to the depths within. For
more on this, click
-To read a key Growth
Online article on the course of human evolution, including
the makeup of the individual, his current
status, and his evolutionary possibility, click
-- To see a table that shows
various factors that make up human consciousness, including an individual's (1) attitudes,
(2) attributes, (3) endowments, and (4) skills, please click here.
Measuring A Person for Each of the
Is it then possible to take any person and determine what their status is vis a
vis each of these levels? We believe there is. An individual can be rated across each of
the nine levels by determining their capacities at that level. For each of the levels we
have determined that two ratings should be created, and then the two combined. First, the
person would be measured in terms of their strength at each level. Second, at that level
of strength for the level, we would determine if that degree of strength was positive or
negative (i.e. "good" or "Bad"). Then the two figures at each level
would be combined to create a complete rating of that individual for each level.
For example, a person could be rated on a
scale of 1-10 for each level in terms of the propensity at that level, i.e. their strength
at that level. So at level 1 the individual could rate a 7, at level 2 a 6, and so forth
all the way up the scale. Then we would need to determine if that person's rating at that
level was good or bad, i.e. positive or negative. This is because at that level they can
express their propensity in a positive way or a negative way. For example, someone strong
at level 8 (say a 9 rating) can be moved to emotional action of the body in a good way or
a bad way; e.g. in a way that helps others or hurts others. So the 9 rating at level 8
could be listed in the following way: --9+++ (or perhaps better as 9 -1). In other
words, at the 9 rating, there are two negative indicators, as well as three positive
indicators (for a sum of one negative indicator). (It would probably require a rather
large questionnaire to accurately fix the person at each level, in terms of both strength
and positive and negative.
The next question then is what to do with
that number. Can we realistically use that number to understand that individual? Can we
use that number to help the person rise to the next level among the nine levels, or better
yet to rise to higher levels of accomplishment, success, and joy in life. Our conclusion
at this point is that the best way to make improvements in life is to follow the
process of growth approach to
the development of the individual, and then use the model above as a way to measure
the person. This change in the person through the process of development will be reflected
in updated changes in the ratings of each level for that person. The makeup of the
individual across the nine levels will update as the process of growth continues.
-For a related article on how human
consciousness and development ties in with social development, click here.
-To see a table that shows
various factors that make up human consciousness, including an individual's (1) attitudes,
(2) attributes, (3) endowments, and (4) skills, please click here.