Thematic Index of the Collected Works of the Mother
© Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust

knowledge & cognition

2.2 -- cognition, how do we know about ourselves and the world? (5)
05, p. 081-82 Usually we try to know by explaining things. “If you read all the explanations given in all the sciences, all the branches of human knowledge, always one thing is explained by another, and if you want to explain this other you explain it by yet another…so you continue in this way and go around the universe in order to explain one thing…only people usually get tired after a time, they accept the last explanation and stick to it…” “The universe explains at every moment the universe” When you have the experience you see there is nothing at all to find. Things are so because they are so, because they had to be so, otherwise they would not be. “There's no doubt about it and that indeed is supreme wisdom.” (also under: 3.1.1)
05, p. 311 “To be able to understand, one must become. If you want to understand the why and how of the universe, you must identify yourself with the universe.” (also under: 2.2.1.a)
06, p. 450-51 Sri Aurobindo says that if you want to prepare for the descent of the supermind, first of all your mind of ignorance must be replaced by a mind of light which sees and knows. This is the first step. This statement comes at the end of a discussion of the problem of wanting to help others for one can soon discover if one steps back a little that one has no true knowledge or certitude of what the person needs or about what one should do. (also under: 2.5.1.c, 3.2.4.a)
08, p. 099-101 The mind can know nothing because it needs explanations. An explanation is valuable only to the extent it gives you a power to act on the thing explained. If explaining something gives you the power over something, to make it different from what it is, then it is worth the trouble. Otherwise it merely prevents you from springing up into the air towards a new height.
08, p. 163-65 Mother tells here about the power in books written by people of higher consciousness and that if one concentrates on a current problem and then randomly opens such a book, one is guided to knowledge about the state one is in or the answer to a question one has or the knowledge one needs at the time. The power behind the words in the book responds to the power of the concentration of the aspiration to know. Mother tells what kinds of books are best for this experiment that anyone can make.
2.2.1 -- different types of knowledge (31)
03, p. 092-93 “If you are in the true consciousness, the knowledge you have will also be of the truth. Then, too, you can know directly, by being one with what you know.” Science needs methods to come to its conclusions, but the Yogi's knowledge is direct.
03, p. 094 “The scientist who gets an inspiration revealing to him a new truth, receives it from the intuitive mind.”
03, p. 094-95 There is a plane where all the mental movements of the earth are registered and remain always in existence. To reach there you must be able to silence the mind completely. There are many stages in between the ordinary mind and the supermind and this region must not be mistaken for the supramental levels.
03, p. 161 “The climax of the ordinary consciousness is Science....What it calls Nature is for it the final reality, and its aim is to build up a theory to explain the workings of it....For the yogic consciousness, however, this world is not the final reality. Rising above the mind into the Overmind and then into the Supermind, it enters the divine world of first truths, and looking down from there sees what has happened to those truths here.”...“There are no fixed laws here...Laws are for the mind's convenience, but the process of the supramental manifestation is different, we may even say it is the reverse of the mind.”
03, p. 167 “Consciousness is the faculty of becoming aware of anything whatsoever through identification with it. But the divine consciousness is not only aware but knows and effects. For, mere awareness is not knowledge.” Mother tells the difference between ordinary identification which leads to ignorance (she gives the example of anger) and the knowledge that is obtained by stepping back. “But the divine consciousness identifies itself with its object and knows it thoroughly, because it always becomes one with the essential truth or law inherent in each fact. And it not only knows, but, by knowing, brings about what it wants.”
05, p. 056-57 An interesting short discussion and example of how something can begin with sense-feeling and lead to an experience whereby one knows. The questioner asked what is the exact way of feeling that we belong to the Divine and that the Divine is acting in us?
05, p. 189-90 The story of how Mother saw that India was free 27 years before it happened physically. (also under: 2.1.4)
06, p. 362-65 This is about knowledge by experience. The more your experience (of a particular state of consciousness) becomes absorbing for you, the more you feel the same state everywhere, in everyone, in the atmosphere. Examples of the experience of calm, of benevolence, of hatred, of peace or compassion illustrate this idea. But for you to say “All is Divine.” (or ‘the universe is perfect benevolence’—or anything else) it is only true when you are in the experience.
07, p. 112 Modern psychology has no knowledge. True psychology would be a psychology that has knowledge. Psychology is the science of the soul (from psyche and logos: soul and knowing or science): “True psychology is the knowledge of the soul, that is, the knowledge of the psychic being. And if one has the knowledge of the psychic being, one has at the same time the knowledge of the true movements of the being, the inner laws of the being. This is true psychology, but it is the etymological sense of the meaning of the word, not as it is used nowadays.” (also under: 1.1)
07, p. 280-81 “All men of some genius, that is, those who have an opening upon a world slightly higher than the ordinary mind, are called ‘inspired’. One who makes some discoveries is also inspired…When one is not altogether limited by the ordinary consciousness one receives inspirations from above; the source of his production is higher than the ordinary mental consciousness.”
07, p. 369 “True knowledge is beyond words, beyond systems, beyond languages; it is in a silent identity. It is in fact the only one which does not err.” This pronouncement follows a brief discussion of the fact that numbers are a language, a way of speaking, and that if one adopts the language it can be living, expressive, useful. Astrology is another field of useful information—a process or way of knowing. (also under: 2.2.1.a)
08, p. 188-89 Here Mother talks about knowledge through love which is knowledge, light, understanding and love. It is not intuition which comes from the intellect but a kind of direct knowledge almost by identity which comes from love. She also tells about the knowledge of the inner oracle that comes from contact with the psychic being and which is the basis of prophecies of the prophets.
08, p. 344-46 First there is an excellent passage from The Synthesis of Yoga in which Sri Aurobindo tells about the working of the Shakti to free the consciousness so it can “know inwardly and directly and not merely by external observation and contact the forces at play in the world.” Then Mother talks about how we receive our thoughts and about the origin of thoughts.
08, p. 358-59, 361-64 A discussion about the difference between “knowings” and “Knowledge”. Mother comments on Sri Aurobindo’s statement “When we have passed beyond knowings, then we shall have Knowledge. Reason was the helper; Reason is the bar.” On pages 361-64 Mother elaborates on this in answer to the question, “what is the first step to have knowledge?”
09, p. 285 “…this notation which is called in astrology a horoscope is not something absolute and …this destiny is not inevitable, for by taking up yoga and developing spiritually, one escapes from the absolute law of these horoscopes. This would be a kind of notation on the material plane of the relations between universal and individual life, and these relations can be altered by the introduction of a higher plane of consciousness into the material plane of consciousness.” (also under: 2.3.d)
10, p. 001-3 “There are two allied powers in man: knowledge and Wisdom. Knowledge is so much of the truth, seen in a distorted medium, as the mind arrives at by groping; Wisdom what the eye of divine vision sees in the spirit.” Mother comments.
10, p. 003-7 “Inspiration is a slender river of brightness leaping from a vast and eternal knowledge; it exceeds reason more perfectly than reason exceeds the knowledge of the senses.” Mother comments and tells how to develop it.
10, p. 014-16 A brief discussion of different types of knowledge and a warning that reason, which is the apex of human intelligence, should not be abandoned too soon but must remain the master until one is ready for anything resembling true Knowledge.
10, p. 017-20 Commenting on one of Sri Aurobindo’s aphorisms, Mother tells the need for the experience of the reversal of consciousness and how to prepare for it by looking deeply within oneself every day in order to perceive a reality that is different from the reality perceived in the ordinary external consciousness. (also under: 4.3.4)
10, p. 023-26 Mother tells why and how to search for the soul to unite with it and allow it to govern one’s life. She tells how the noise of the mind and the vital cover the soul’s quiet voice and how to learn to discern and discriminate. She tells that the main thing is to want to do it with persistence and perseverance. Only the degree of concentration can shorten the way. (also under: 3.3.4.a, 4.3.2)
10, p. 039 “Human reason is so limited…so arrogantly ignorant that it wants to discredit by a pejorative word [hallucinations] the very faculties which open the gates of a higher and more marvellous life to man.”
10, p. 123-25 These pages are about the mind’s way of knowing and the way of knowing by vision as told by Mother’s comments on the aphorism “A thought is an arrow shot at the truth; it can hit a point but not cover the whole target…”
10, p. 207-13 Aphorisms and comments about scientific knowledge versus knowledge of the soul and about scientific knowledge versus wisdom.
10, p. 235-39 Three aphorisms of Sri Aurobindo and an interesting discussion by Mother on opinions—what they are, where they come from, what their value is.
12, p. 088-92 Mother speaks here generally about the method of knowledge that is occultism. She tells the requirements for undertaking this science, its history, its aspects, gives a definition of occult science and tells why it must combine with spiritual knowledge. (also under: 2.1.4)
12, p. 265-66 Speaking in the context of correct refereeing and judging of sporting activities Mother discusses some of the features and limitations of sense based knowledge. “The sense organs are directly under the influence of the psychological state of the individual who uses them, and thus they are altered, falsified, distorted in one way or another by the perceiver’s feelings towards the thing perceived.”
14, p. 214-15 About opinion and truth and what to remember and do when you hear or express an opinion. More about opinion on p. 288.
15, p. 402 “There is an experience where you are altogether outside time… in front, behind, above, below, it is all the same…at the moment of identification there is no more past or present or future. And in truth this is the only way of knowing.”
16, p. 040-41 Mother gives an example of how the knowledge of the inner consciousness works better than mental knowledge to solve a material problem.
16, p. 199 “If you read metaphysics and ethics, you must do it just as mental gymnastics to give a little exercise to your brain, but never lose sight of the fact that this is not a source of knowledge and that it is not in this way that one can draw close to knowledge.”
16, p. 392 Mother tells the yogi’s attitude towards outward appearances: “The usefulness of seeing clearly instead of being blind. The usefulness of no longer being deceived by outward appearances. The usefulness of knowing the true purpose of life instead of living in ignorance and falsehood.”
2.2.1.a -- knowledge by identity (11)
03, p. 168 There are many ways of attaining identification with the divine consciousness. Aspiration and surrender are discussed. “The real bar to self-surrender is the individual's love of his own limitations. The fear for giving up your individuality is healthy in many respects, but misapplied with regard to the Divine. For, in the Divine you do not really lose your individuality: you only give up your egoism and become a true individual, the divine personality which is not temporary...”
05, p. 219-25 The next few pages give some processes (basically concentration) for learning how to know by identification, illustrated with examples ranging from solving problems, identifying with a character in a play or novel, to identifying with another to understand why he thinks as he does (as in an argument) and ultimately to finding the Divine Consciousness.
05, p. 311 “To be able to understand, one must become. If you want to understand the why and how of the universe, you must identify yourself with the universe.” (also under: 2.2)
06, p. 423-25 The first manifestation of knowledge by identity is an intuition—when one knows a thing without having reasoned, analysed, deduced, reflected or made any use at all of one’s brain. It is a light in the consciousness. Knowledge by identity is when one succeeds in becoming something for a time and therefore knowing all that is in it without needing to guess or construct. Mother then discusses how to enter into relation with another’s consciousness which is very useful for understanding another’s way of thinking and being. She recommends this method as an excellent way to prevent all quarrels.
07, p. 319-20 “One can only know what one is. So if you want to know the universe, you must become the universe.” This cannot be done physically but in the consciousness. “If you identify your consciousness with the universal consciousness then you know what is happening.” Mother elaborates. She also explains why a sincere method of scientific work and also the marvelous disciplines of the Buddha for getting rid of desires and illusions of the world are both excellent preparations for yoga and the ability to know by identification.
07, p. 369 “True knowledge is beyond words, beyond systems, beyond languages; it is in a silent identity. It is in fact the only one which does not err.” This pronouncement follows a brief discussion of the fact that numbers are a language, a way of speaking, and that if one adopts the language it can be living, expressive, useful. Astrology is another field of useful information—a process or way of knowing. (also under: 2.2.1)
09, p. 339 A paragraph from The Life Divine describes how the ability to know by identity is one of the signs of the decisive emergence [of the psychic]. Mother comments.
11, p. 244 A good, short description of the state of knowing by means of consciousness told by Mother from her own experience.
16, p. 044 Mother briefly tells the process of knowledge by identification for solving a practical material problem and how, because that is difficult to do, it is also possible to use intuition which is often more effective than reasoning.
16, p. 231-32 Mother briefly illustrates knowledge by identification with the example of how to listen to music so as to enter into all the feeling it expresses.
16, p. 386b Mother says that these three lines from Savitri (p. 28) give “an exact description” of knowledge by identity: “A knowledge which became what it perceived, Replaced the separated sense and heart And drew all Nature into its embrace.”
2.2.2 -- different levels of understanding (16)
05, p. 089-90 “Theories are only theories, that is, mental conceptions which are merely more or less imaged representations of the reality” eg the discussion of “determinism” and “freedom” on p. 86-89. “…to be able to begin to understand what the universe is, you must come out of your mental formulas….To tell the truth if you live only a moment, just a tiny moment, of this absolutely sincere aspiration or this sufficiently intense prayer, you will know more things than by meditating for hours.”
05, p. 194fn-195 We are compelled to say (and know) things one after another because we cannot say all the words at the same time. Our state of consciousness makes us say things that are stupid from the point of view of the absolute knowledge. Our stupidity becomes less stupid when we become aware that we are obliged to say or know things in succession that are a really single whole. One must try to bring the two modes of consciousness as near each other as one is able, to join the other Consciousness while doing things the material way.
05, p. 384 Science tells you that the wind blows because of heat and cold and high and low producing currents of air in the atmosphere. But it is not like that. These forces which bring about wind, rain, earthquakes, etc are manifestations—call them gestures if you like—of movements of certain beings so formidably huge that we hardly see the end of their foot and don’t realise their size.
07, p. 096-97 A discussion of the difference between learning things by rote and by understanding principles. In the former it is necessary to constantly use the information or it becomes effaced over time because brain cells deteriorate and are replaced. The latter is an experience of consciousness which can be recovered at any time by bringing it forward.
07, p. 170-74 This is an excellent discussion about the true role and place of reason, its utility and its limitations. Some people do not like reason because it contradicts their impulses but the reason can be developed and development of reason and organizing one’s movements in its limited light is an excellent preparation of the being for when it is time to go beyond reason at which time it must learn to remain quiet because reason knows nothing about suprarational matters; but being reasonable is an essential stage of the path and even a child of five can already make use of reason to control himself and thereby save much time on the way. (also under: 4.5.c)
07, p. 211-13 This is about the difference between mental understanding or mental constructions and experience itself. By mentally knowing a method to achieve something—the example given to illustrate this is the awakening of the Yogashakti—one risks making and living in one’s mental construction which is an illusion, a mere image of the experience. For truly spiritual experiences it is wiser to have them before knowing them.
07, p. 238-40 This is about the limitations of the mind for true understanding of the universe (the mind explains one thing by another which has to be explained by another still and you can go on like that forever without having explained anything at all). “You have to pierce a hole, rise in the air and see things in another way. Then like that one can begin to understand.” Then on page 240 Mother tells what it is in us that understands. It is the like that knows the like. You only become aware of things because they are part of your consciousness.
08, p. 101-02 One increases one’s understanding by increasing one’s consciousness, by going beyond the mind, by widening and deepening one’s consciousness and by changing knowledge into experience. Mother explains what she means by changing knowledge into experience.
08, p. 311-12 Mother tells here about the two different ways she receives the words that she speaks in all her classes: one, which she finds the most interesting, is to enter into an experience and to describe it; the other is to convey the subject or the question to the higher consciousness and the mind receives a reply which she speaks it out. (also under: 6.2)
08, p. 395 “Thought is not essential to existence nor its cause, but it is an instrument for becoming; I become what I see in myself. All that thought suggests to me I can do; all that thought reveals to me I can become. This should be man’s unshakable faith in himself, because God dwells in him.” This is part of a passage of Sri Aurobindo from Thoughts and Glimpses which Mother comments on. (also under: 4.3.2.a)
09, p. 177-78 “True understanding is a simultaneous understanding in which all the meanings are perceived, grasped, understood at the same time.” Mother illustrates with the phrase “eternal birth” which she used on the eve of Sri Aurobindo’s birthday—she talks about the physical understanding of the phrase, the mental, a psychic and a spiritual understanding.
10, p. 032-35 Mother comments on an aphorism about reason and experience. Anything can be proved by reasoning but one can have true knowledge of infinitely more with one experience of contact with the Divine. She then tells how to make yourself capable of having experience by sincerely practicing the little you know.
10, p. 182-86 Here are several aphorisms about trusting the experiences of your soul but not expecting everyone else to have the same experiences and understandings. Mother also comments on revelations.
11, p. 010-12 Mother explains how she knows the origin of an activity or the plane on which something is happening or the origin of an inspiration. She knows without thought through the quality of the vibrations she receives. She says this is also how she knows people now—even through a photograph. She gives examples and also demonstrates with Satprem with whom she is talking.
11, p. 244-50 Speaking of the process of transformation in her body Mother talks about the different ways of perceiving; e.g. physical sight and hearing serve to stabilise and give a continuity to things. When they are not there one becomes directly conscious of the thing. A new way of functioning and perceiving has happened to her. The principle of the new consciousness is that things are done just at the moment when needed with no planning. (also under: 4.7.3.d)
12, p. 187-88 Here Mother explains about thinking with words, thinking with ideas and thinking with experiences.
2.2.2.a -- different levels of understanding—experience (2)
05, p. 198 Good list of questions for getting students to ask, think about and to begin the process of self-observation. What effect do you exercise upon yourself? How do you feel? How do decisions take place in you? What makes you decide one thing rather than another? What is the relation on your decision to your action? To what extent do you have the freedom to choose between one thing and another? How far do you feel you are fee to do this or that or nothing? (also under: 2.3.f, 4.3.2.c)
16, p. 398 Knowledge by experience on the subject of rebirth: “There are beings whose inner consciousness is sufficiently developed for them to know for certain that this consciousness has manifested in bodies other than their present one and that it will survive the disappearance of this body. It is not a theory to be discussed—it is an indisputable experience for one who has had it.”
2.2.2.b -- different levels of understanding—higher and spiritual knowledge (3)
06, p. 025-26 “There is a reality which is beyond all our expressions, but which we can contact by practicing a discipline. We can identify ourselves with it. Once one is identified with it one knows what it is, but one cannot express it….” Some people describe it in philosophical terms or religious terms but whatever the name of it is not important. It is the experience that matters—and to live that reality.
07, p. 346-47 The possibility of understanding spiritual things depends on the degree of one’s development. If one is developed and conscious enough to be in direct contact with the spiritual Force which is acting behind the words, then the word is only an excuse for imparting knowledge. For example one can have a direct illumination from reading a word or sentence in a book. Otherwise one must study, read, reflect, understand, assimilate after which time the words begin to have an effect on the character and one makes some progress.
09, p. 357-61 Mother talks about intuition and how to develop it. She emphasizes the importance of developing the power of concentration and even goes so far as to say that the value of an individual is proportionate to the value of his attention. (also under: 4.5.c)
2.2.3 -- investigating inner realities (9)
07, p. 034-36 This is an excellent description of the correct attitude to take towards experiences (one can never have exactly the same experience twice because one is never the same person twice. Clinging to an experience prevents receptivity to having a new or deeper or clearer experience). Mother also explains how each experience of illumination is an ascent to a new level where you must then work horizontally to assimilate it, draw from it all its inner psychological consequences and utilize even in action what was received—this prepares you at each new horizontal stage to become ready for another step. (also under: 4.3.1)
07, p. 077-80 Mother tells here how to begin to have experiences of a higher reality. The first condition is faith that there is something other than the physical reality, then to try to find what it is and the best field of action is oneself. Self-observation and concentration are necessary. Mother describes how to begin this work of finding the real “I”, the eternal, giving, besides an outline of the first steps and states on the way, some exercises to practice and descriptions of the kinds of experiences that will come. An excellent summary of the path to the psychic.
07, p. 211-15 Pages 211-13 are a discussion of how to awaken one’s Yogashakti and how everyone must find his own method. By following methods one has read about one is in danger of making a mental construction and the experience one has will then only be an illusion, an image of the true experience. The only sure method is an unflagging aspiration for the Yogashakti to awaken, that it is the most important thing in one’s life—then the experience is bound to come. Pages 213-15 are about the value and limitations of reading about spiritual experiences. Reading can help during one’s first seekings and also help to crystallize experiences that have come. But—“From the point of view of orientation it can be helpful; but from the point of view of experience, it takes away from it its dynamic value, it has not the intensity of an experience which comes because the moral and spiritual conditions necessary for it to occur have been fulfilled.”
07, p. 230-31 This is about knowing things at a distance. For example when you think of someone your thought is instantly there but it is only in contact with the mental atmosphere of the place or person. To be conscious of the vital you must go there in the vital, and this is an exteriorization that leaves the body in a trance. But the mental exteriorization occurs constantly. (also under: 2.1.4)
07, p. 254-55 “One of the most indispensable things to do if one wants to succeed in having self-control and even a limited self-knowledge is to be able to localize one’s consciousness and move it about in the different parts of one’s being, in such a way as to be able to distinguish between one’s consciousness and one’s thought, feelings, impulses, become aware of what consciousness is in itself. And in this way one can learn how to shift it: one can put one’s consciousness in the body, put it in the vital, put it in the psychic (that’s the best place to put it in); one can put one’s consciousness in the mind, can raise it above the mind, and with one’s consciousness one can go into all the regions of the universe.” But first one must know what one’s consciousness is, that is, become conscious of one’s consciousness, localize. (also under: 1.2.1)
08, p. 276-78 Mother tells that it is possible to leave one’s physical body and go into the vital world, acting consciously there and then to leave one’s vital asleep and go out mentally, acting and living in the mental world. Whereas if one goes merely into samadhi one is not conscious of what happened in that state.
08, p. 278-79 Sri Aurobindo and the Mother tell about the need to “be greater than one’s experience” always remembering that even the greatest is only one experience in the chain of development. As a recommendation and an advice Mother explains what this means and how to avoid the risk of losing one’s balance when strong experiences come. “no ambition, no vanity, no pride. A sincere self-giving, a sincere humility and one is sheltered from all danger.”
08, p. 341-43, also 331-32 A discussion about how to deal with spiritual experiences; it is important to keep the mind quiet and let them develop on their own with any attempt at mental formulation of what is happening. The power to effect change is greatest before one can formulate it.
15, p. 338-39 Mother briefly answers the question “What are the invisible worlds?” She explains how, by inner development, one becomes able to move around in them and discover what they are like. (On pp. 341-43 she gives guidance on how to proceed with the required development) (also under: 3.1)


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