Featured Article: Telos – A Consciousness Based Perspective

Feature Articles / January 2011

Manoj Pavitran in collaboration with Arul Dev


Telos is a model of consciousness and its evolutionary journey, based on the pioneering work of Sri Aurobindo1, a philosopher yogi and well known spiritual master of India who articulated an integral perspective nearly a century ago. Telos has in focus the evolutionary transformation of the individual who is the agent of change in groups in the context of a global evolutionary transformation, a core theme in Sri Aurobindo’s work. Its experiential and experimental base is in the explorations of integral yoga, a transformational practice developed by Sri Aurobindo. This essay is a brief description of the Telos model, its basic framework and some practical applications in the context of growing global crises where leadership requires a new vision, methodology and dynamic power of effectuation.


Telos is a Greek word meaning ‘study of purpose’ and it is the evolutionary purpose seen from a spiritual perspective we have in focus. According to Sri Aurobindo, “At present mankind is undergoing an evolutionary crisis in which is concealed a choice of its destiny; for a stage has been reached in which the human mind has achieved in certain directions an enormous development while in others it stands arrested and bewildered and can no longer find its way.”2 Now nearly a century down the line we are right in the middle of a great transformational chaos that demands deeper investigation.

Probably it is the right time to redefine the very idea of development, growth or progress itself as our current conceptions are proving to be hopelessly inadequate in dealing with emerging complexities. This is a central knot where we need a new vision to unlock the doors to a greater possibility.

Redefining Growth

There are two types of growth that we can observe—scaling and evolving; Telos is about evolving.

In the context of global market and its economic engine, the paradigm of growth or development is largely centered on the idea of getting bigger—bigger GDP, bigger market share, bigger turn over, bigger profits, more products and services, more users, etc. In short the formula of development is ‘the bigger, the better’. This may be called scaling up, horizontal growth, a growth that is relatively easy to measure and quantify. It is a well known domain and there are hundreds of strategies and methods to do it. After the explosion of information technology and globalisation, the time taken for scaling up an organisation for global operations is taking less and less time. However, eventually everyone ends up in the global market where competition is ferocious and survival of the fittest is the order of the day. To make things worse the consumerist culture is eating up the natural resources of the planet at a rate that is unsustainable and it is in the process polluting and destroying the natural environment upon which life on earth depends. Our current conception of growth as an infinite economic and material growth is practically cancerous in its nature and destroys the host organism; it is somewhat like expecting the body to grow infinitely. It is altogether an irrational conception and must be replaced with a more rational conception in which we can pursue infinite growth within finite limits of the physical world.

The human body probably is the best symbol we have to understand the scenario. The body does grow physically, but only up to a certain size and then the body stops growing; but only the physical growth reaches its limit—the growth of vitality and mentality, the dynamic power of action and the increasing and vaster comprehension of knowledge, continues to grow. However in most people, just like the body reaches a limit to its growth, so their vitality and mental capacity comes to a halt with age. It not only comes to a limit, but also starts withering away as the decay sets in. There is a cycle of birth, growth, maturity, decay and death for all life forms. But within this brief cycle some individuals break out of the limitations and become larger than life heroes of humanity, fueling the myths and legends. They shine forth as leaders and the leaders come in all hues. There are individuals in all fields who stand out with their extraordinary capacities as shining examples of what is possible within the limits of a human body. The vitality and mentality they seem to possess and something beyond the vitality and mentality, that unknown something we can only term as soul or the spirit, stands out as exceptional and undeniable. The body seems to be only a container of something that is capable of a splendid range of possibilities that often touches upon the mythical and the sacred.

Within the finite limits of the human body there is something that is capable of reaching splendor peaks of excellence and shows the possibility of infinite development. It is in this domain that the instinctive urge in humanity for infinite growth finds its full expression without becoming a cancerous growth upon the planet. What appears as exceptional individuals, a product of chance, is actually our evolutionary potential available to all, but remaining dormant. It is a possibility that can be awakened and brought to dynamic flowering through systematic processes. This is the domain of evolving consciousness, that intangible content in the human vessel, capable of infinite growth and its related powers.

Examples of evolving

  • Increasing freedom and delight of individuals.
  • Increasing sense of individuality and group identity.
  • Increasing wisdom, strength, harmony and perfection.
  • Increasing quality of activities—projects, products or services.
  • Increasing sense of clear purpose, vision and inspiration.
  • Increasing ability to learn and adapt in a rapidly changing world.
  • Increasing long-term loyalty and trust from the constituent individuals in a group.
  • Increasing presence of truth, goodness and beauty in all levels of expression.
  • Increasing creativity, self-confidence, enthusiasm and effectiveness as an individual or group.

Essentially evolving is the growth of quality, the intangible essence, the consciousness of the people, the interior subjective aspect. To navigate in this domain we need terrain maps of consciousness. Here come the needs for models like Telos that are ways to comprehend and manage consciousness and thus the resultant actions emerging from it.

The Telos Model

The yogic traditions of India have explored the domain of consciousness and its evolutionary growth for thousands of years. Sri Aurobindo has drawn upon this huge reservoir of ancient wisdom, synthesised it for the modern context and built further on it through his own explorations of consciousness3. The Telos model is based on this extensive mapping of consciousness done by Sri Aurobindo and the synthesis he has arrived at with the methodology he developed for the conscious, voluntary and rapid evolutionary transformation of consciousness to access and use the ranges that are currently remaining dormant in humanity. It is at once a map of the terrain of consciousness and a framework for transformational practice that envisages collective transformation through the transformation of the constituent individuals, the leading pioneers in particular.

The Telos model uses the human body as a symbolic reference to map consciousness. The body is a product of millions of years of evolution and contains in it all the steps of the evolutionary ladder it has crossed so far, as well as the steps it is yet to climb. The model is essentially composed of three parts:

  1. Psychic—the veiled delegate of satchidānanda4, the higher Nature, involved in the lower Nature impelling evolution from below.
  2. Instrumental Nature—physical, vital and mental layers of the lower Nature through which the psychic being acts.
  3. Spiritual—the higher Nature, the satchidānanda above, with its greater and infinite possibilities above descending into the instrumental mould of the lower Nature and transforming it in the process.

In our evolutionary journey towards higher ranges of our being the psychic being comes forward, transforms and governs the instrumental Nature. Further in touch with the consciousness above, it brings into the lower Nature the greater powers of the Self. As a result the lower Nature undergoes spiritual and supramental transformation expressing in it the greater powers and possibilities of the higher Nature and its greater freedom and delight of existence.

Sri Aurobindo confirms what the ancient seers have discovered, “Delight is existence, Delight is the secret of creation, Delight is the root of birth, Delight is the cause of remaining in existence, Delight is the end of birth and that into which creation ceases.” “From Ananda,” says the Upanishad, “all existences are born, by Ananda they remain in being and increase, to Ananda they depart.” 4


At the heart of Sri Aurobindo’s conception of evolution is the veiled godhead, the delegate of supreme satchidānandainvolved here in matter and emerging in evolution through life and mind towards its greater ranges of delight of being. This may be imagined as a ray of light involved in the creation and sustenance of material form liberating itself from the grip of matter and discovering its fullness as the sun. Sri Aurobindo calls this presence the psychic being, it is our psychological centre, the soul factor; it is the leading power of our evolutionary journey. However, it is veiled by triple layers of body, life and mind—the three instrumental layers of our being, the layers that have already been established by evolution, each having its own unique states of consciousness and corresponding attributes. The impulses to evolve reveal themselves within human being as aspiration towards greater Wisdom, Strength, Harmony and Perfection—the four great powers that carry us forward, liberating greater ranges of delight of being in each conquest.

The psychic being is experienced as seated deep within the heart region. In most outstanding individuals or groups, it is this invisible factor that provides the unique individuation and identity. It is this that provides a deep sense of purpose in life when an individual or group comes in touch with its veiled movements. Spontaneous and natural affinity toward all that is true, good and beautiful are indications of its presence. It is the inner compass orienting people and groups toward their destiny. Often leaders of groups are embodiments of this soul factor, personifying in them what in a group otherwise would remain subconscious and dormant. All great leaders have this capacity to touch the soul factor in group existence. This they do by coming in touch with their own inmost truth and aspiration, which is one with the collective existence they lead. Leadership by inspiration is natural when the soul factor emerges. Thus the primary condition for great leadership is to come in touch with one’s own psychic being and let it govern one’s actions. When the psychic being comes forward and flowers in an individual there comes a deep sense of purpose, vision, certitude, trust, gratitude and surrender to something beyond, sense of Grace, unconditional love and eventually the presence of the sacred. It is not the turbulent emotions and passions of the surface nature, but calm and clear light of one’s inmost self, pure and untouched by the instrumental turbulence.

To arrive at a greater clarity of this inner guide and its dynamic power of self-governance, individuals and groups must prepare their instrumental Nature—make it open and receptive so that the inner light shines through. It is this inner light and power that emerges as impulse towards Wisdom, Strength, Harmony and Perfection and has a spontaneous and natural affinity towards all that is true, good, and beautiful. When attuned to this inmost aspiration, it comes forward with greater clarity and dynamic power. It carries the individuals and groups toward flowering of their greater destiny as it is secretly in touch with their higher Nature and its splendors.

Recognition of the psychic being, the soul factor, the highest and most noble aspiration, at the centre as the main governing power and reference is the beginning of individuation and its dynamic flowering. It is the central magnet that holds together everything into a dynamic and harmonious whole in the individual as well as collective life. There is a great need in humanity to express outwardly what already is there within, to give a symbolic material expression as a reminder to the noblest aspirations rising from within. That which is intangible can only be expressed in the outer world as symbols. When symbols are living they acquire a dynamic power of orientation and transformation. However, they are only external symbols of what is within. The most important step is to come in touch with this inner guide.


  1. Auroville, an international city and community in the making in South India, based on the vision and work of Sri Aurobindo, has at its centre of the master plan, Matrimandir, a physical embodiment of the soul of the city, its highest ideals. An expression of sacred architecture, a symbolic built space that embodies and expresses the spirit of Auroville, acting as a central reference.
    Besides Matrimandir, Auroville also has its Charter, a verbal articulation of its highest ideals. These are further elaborated in A Dream, a central document, an inspiring vision, which gives a vivid image of the goal to be achieved. Further, all of these receive its greatest inspiring and spiritual power by the fact that it has come from the founder of Auroville—The Mother, the spiritual collaborator of Sri Aurobindo who embodied and demonstrated through her life the dynamic and evolutionary spirituality of Sri Aurobindo. So here is an example of leaders who lived the inspiring ideals, translated the ideals into written documents, and further gave a physical expression to this soul factor as Matrimandir at the very centre of the city planned for 50,000 people. Here is a developed expression of the recognition of the psychic being and its presence in a collective life.
  2. A less intentional example may be statue of liberty in the US touching the soul factor of a nation, representing its highest and most noble aspiration, outwardly expressed in a material sculptural form. It is a symbolic reference for the evolving consciousness of the nation and touches upon the intangible depth of the nation’s collective self awareness.
  3. In the contemporary world, the increasing attempts to formulate vision, mission and purpose of individual or group existence are clumsy reflections of this inmost guide within. They are the reflections in terms of mind’s understanding of the deeper impelling power that inspires guides and holds together individuals and groups in their dynamic flowering.

The Three Instrumental Layers

  1. Physical—the material and physical envelope
  2. Vital—the dynamic vitality and its active energy
  3. Mental—the meaning maker

The triple layers of our instrumental nature are the product of our evolution over millions of years starting from the primary material elements to the flowering of mind in a living body. According to Sri Aurobindo, evolution follows a process of ascend and integration; when a new step is acquired the previous one is not discarded but integrated into the new poise and transformed in the process of integration. Thus we have many layers beneath the self aware mind and these layers influence everything we do.

The Physical

Matter is the first born in the ascending series of evolutionary birth and growth. Our material physical body is composed of material elements and it carries with it the consciousness of matter from which it has been woven. However, since we are mental beings our view of the body is from the perspective of the mind. Mental consciousness has no direct access to the consciousness in the body. The body does on its own its innumerable mechanical, thermodynamic and electromagnetic operations without any need to consult the surface mind where we think and imagine and construct meanings. Owing to its source in matter the body consciousness is characterised by its instinct for self-preservation, persistence and stability. It is also unconscious—from surface mind’s perspective—inert, passive, repetitive, habitual and mechanical in its active nature. All this it has inherited from the world of matter, the soil from which it has come. Physical consciousness learns only through repetitions; but once it learns it will not forget easily.



Learning swimming, driving or typing—First, the mind understands a concept and directs the body movements. Then, through repeating the physical movements the physical consciousness in the body learns. Once the body learns, the presence of the mind is not required. With experience the body does the actions easily without requiring any conscious participation of the mind. It become a habit and, therefore, effortless.

However, an already existing habit resists change and when a new habit is to be introduced the existing habits become an obstacle. The only way to deal with it is to repeat again and again the new movement or pattern till it is established. It is this habitual resistance to change that is our biggest obstacle to change. The older a habit, the more difficult it is to change, so with aging physical consciousness also gets increasingly stiff and resistant to change.

When physical consciousness is not well developed people resist change unconsciously. They prefer the routines that they are familiar and comfortable with. Even if there is no open resistance, to establish a new pattern of work-flow or behaviour it is necessary to repeat a task again and again till it gets ingrained in the physical consciousness and become a habit.  Work-flows when established over long period of time become deeply ingrained habits. Over the years they become work culture. Establishing a new habit takes time, but once a good habit is established it become a great asset. The older a habit the more difficult it is to introduce new habits or work-flows; the older an organisation or person, the older are the habits and thus it is more difficult to introduce sweeping changes. Conservative behaviour in general springs from the physical consciousness and its conservative inertia, unwillingness to change and the need for stability.

Physical consciousness can be trained to become more conscious, supple and receptive to change. Sports and physical exercises thus acquire a great importance for the purposes of developing physical consciousness. A strong, flexible, healthy and robust body that is capable of holding higher intensities of energy influx into it without cracking is an essential condition for evolutionary transformation of the individual to access higher ranges of consciousness and its dynamic action through the body.

In the body physical consciousness has its seat at the bottom of the spine and it extends all the way down from there becoming increasingly unconscious and mechanical.

Main attributes:

Self-preservation, Persistence, Stability, Routine, Passivity, Repetition, Inertia

The Vital

The word vital is used here in the sense of prāna, the life-force. It is the source of vitality, dynamic movements and power. Desire and movements of attraction and repulsion are common to all three levels of the vital. In the Telos model, the vital has been subdivided into three, based on Sri Aurobindo’s classification:

  • Lower vital
  • Central Vital and
  • Higher vital

Lower Vital

Lower vital consciousness is just above physical consciousness. It is closer to our animal past and it is driven primarily by smaller movements of life-desire and life-reactions. It is tied to the senses and thus to sensory enjoyment, pleasure and physical comfort. It seeks to play with sensations but it has a sense of smallness and with it comes fear, pettiness, small likings, dislikings, small ambitions, little wishes of all kinds. It is impulsive and fickle and likes change for the sake of change. Food desire, sexual desire, lust and greed are rooted in the lower vital. Since it is close to physical consciousness, it mechanises desire movements. It gets entrenched in habitual physical movements, causing addictions and cravings. Its seat is in the region of the abdomen. It is the state of consciousness that everyone encounters almost daily.




  1. Consumerism thrives on stimulating the lower vital, the consumer in us, the enjoyer of the objects of desire.
  2. Marketing advertisements largely target the lower vital as it is the easiest part to stimulate and animate in people.
  3. The shopping malls and casinos of the world are the worlds of desire and temptation; everyone is prone to succumb.
  4. Pay scales and perks, material comforts and pleasures and tempting discounts are some of the means by which the world thrives on animating the lower vital.
  5. When an individual relates to a group or to one another from the lower vital, the bond will be of short term engagement as the members are likely to move on to whomever fulfils the lower vital desires. Groups held together by the lower vital force are of temporary affiliations that wither away once the objects of desire are withdrawn.
  6. Individuals who move from one organisation to another without loyalty or commitment, in search of better financial and material rewards, are largely driven by the lower vital impulsions.

The chief difficulties with the lower vital is that, on the one hand, it colours and distorts reason above and, on the other hand, it is not easy to change its intrusions as the lower vital is very close to the physical through its nervous currents. Nevertheless, change we must if our power of reason is to be rescued so that reason can be put into serving greater goals. The lower vital can also be a good alley when it comes to mobilizing the lazy physical consciousness from its torpor in habits.

Refinement of sensations through the power of aesthesis supported by reason and equanimity is a common route followed in making lower vital a channel for enjoyment of the senses without the stain of desire and resultant addictions. It is still a delight that is not self existent, but a delight that comes into existence only in relation with external objects of sensations that are enjoyable. To entirely overcome the addiction to the senses as a means for enjoyment one must move inward and establish in the calm self existent delight of the psychic being within and use senses only as a means of receiving impressions of the delight of being flowing in from all sides.

Main attributes:

Desire, Sensual Pleasure, Physical comforts, Sensory enjoyment, Fear

Central Vital

Central vital consciousness is dynamic, sensational and passionate. It deals with life-forces, the passions and larger desire-movements. It throws itself out in the wider movements of life, responsive to the greater objects of Nature. It is concerned with creation, with power and force and conquest, with giving and self-giving and gathering from the world for further action and expenditure of power. It is the main seat of our vitality and power of self assertion. Unlike lower vital, which is unwilling to take up painful and difficult tasks, the central vital thrives on challenges and difficulties. It is not worried about sensory enjoyment and pleasure. Its joy is in conquest and mastery no matter how difficult the effort required is. It takes great risks and thrives on adventure and strength. Presence of great vitality is an essential condition for anyone who wants to  lead a large group of people, especially in the domains of politics and industry. Its language of leadership is power, hierarchy and clear line of command.

It covers the region of the solar plexus in the body.




  1. Mastery over money power and political power requires a large and dynamic vitality well developed. Without developing this range of consciousness no one can succeed in the field of politics and industry where masses are to be mobilised and the collective vital is to be channeled.
  2. It creates status based on social hierarchy, a social structure based on power. Pyramidal organisational models of military, industry and government extensively rely on the central vital consciousness. Higher up in the pyramid the stronger the central vital you need.
  3. Individuals with strong central vital excel in war and conquest.
  4. Competition is natural to central vital.
  5. A weak central vital makes people incapable of self assertion.

Central vital, when it is not guided by reason or not refined by emotional depth, tends to be a cruel monarch. Opening to finer emotions refines the otherwise crude movements of the central vital. The presence of reason can save it from excess of violence. It is a great instrumental power and therefore must be used as such. Its true mastery and use emerge only when the psychic emerges as the master of the house and directs reason, emotion and passions through its rhythms of harmony, establishing a greater level of freedom and mastery in the user of this power.

Main attributes:

Passion, Power, Expansion, Achievement, Challenge seeking and Heroism.

Higher Vital

It stresses emotion rather than sensation and desire, but it is not free from demand and the desire of possession. The demand of emotional being is for love and the joy of relation with our fellow beings. Its seat is the heart region, the frontal region; the psychic being is experienced as seated deep behind it. Due to its proximity of location in the same region, often the higher vital consciousness is mistaken for that of the psychic being or the soul.

Emotions are the waves of reaction and response which rise up from basic consciousness and their action, too, is largely regulated by habit and an emotive memory. They are not imperative, not laws of necessity. The waves upon the waters of emotions are to be guided and illumined by reason on the basis of equanimity.




  1. Family groupings are the home terrains of the higher vital; here bonds are deep and long lasting. Here the values of the higher vital overrides everything else.
  2. Emotional ups and downs in people and groups are largely the contribution of higher vital.
  3. Sensitivity of emotions makes one vulnerable and an over sensitive higher nature makes individuals shut up their emotional expressions into protective cocoons.
  4. What is emerging in the corporate world as Corporate Social Responsibility and Human Resource Development programs are, when they are not merely marketing campaigns, the beginning of higher vital development in contexts that are otherwise dominated by the central vital and mental consciousness. Organisations with a heart are not a very common occurrence, especially when they are large.
  5. Charity activities, when they are not stained by lesser motives, are largely animated by the higher vital consciousness.

When the higher vital is not developed, individuals and groups tend to be emotionally insensitive and incapable of enjoying the finer joys and deeper bonds the emotions bring. Emotional development and maturity is a complex and delicate psychological process and this cannot be achieved by any mechanical means. It is a doorway to love and love opens the doors only when it is honoured and received or given whole heartedly. Unconditional service and self giving are some means by which higher vital enlarge and embrace a wider existence and its greater delight of being.

Main attributes:

Love, Joy of relationships, Empathy, Emotional sensitivity, Emotional care and bonding.


Here is where we truly become human with the characteristic power of mind emerging and establishing itself. It is in mind we become self aware and learn to master all movements of physical and vital consciousness with the power of reason. The mind has been divided into two distinct layers:

  1. Externalising Mind and
  2. Thinking and Dynamic Mind.

There are some other finer layers not mentioned in the Telos model for the sake of simplicity of understanding. More details and groupings can be defined on the basis of the primary Telos model.

Externalizing Mind

Externalising mind is tied to external things, sensory data in particular. It depends on the sense-mind, sees only objects, external actions, draws its ideas from the data given by external things, infers from them only and knows no other Truth until it is enlightened from above. It reasons, but on the basis of external data mostly—on things as they appear to the outer mind and senses or the habitual ideas to which it is accustomed or to a purely external knowledge. Physical Science is a vast extension of this mentality. It corrects the errors of the sense and pushes beyond the first limitations of the sense-mind by discovering means of bringing facts and objects not sizable by our corporeal organs into the field of objectivity. Its test of the real is possibility of verification by positive reason and objective evidence. It creates a habit of believing entirely only in the physical and of doubting or challenging all that does not come into accord with one’s own experience or one’s own scope of understanding or square with one’s own standard or sum of established knowledge.

It is the receiving and externalising intelligence which has two functions—first, to work upon external things and give them a mental order with a way of practically dealing with them and, secondly, to be the channel of materialising and putting into effect whatever the thinking and dynamic mind sends down to it for the purpose.

In the body its region is corresponding to the neck and the mouth.




  1. Business process designs and their application come straight from the externalising mind and its practical ability to organise and improve outer life.
  2. Experimental material sciences rely on the power of the externalising mind and its search for proof and evidence.
  3. Research methodologies in general come from the externalising mind.
  4. Research and development activities require a considerable development of the externalising mind.

Modern education largely focuses on developing the externalising mind and its practical intelligence.

Main attributes:

External knowledge, External data, Sense bound, Communication, Practicality

Thinking and Dynamic Mind

It is in the thinking and dynamic mind that the action of pure reason liberates itself from its bondage to the external sensory world and turns back upon itself and uses its power of dealing with abstractions and things in themselves—ideas, concepts, the essential nature of things. It lives in the world of ideas. It is philosophic and metaphysical in its nature. It is concerned with the putting out of mental forces for realisation of the idea.

To live in mind and the things of the mind, to be an intelligence rather than a life and a body, is our highest position, short of spirituality, in the degrees of Nature. Its seat is in the forehead region.




  1. Philosophies governing worldviews and moulding human actions are the most common occurrences of the thinking and dynamic mind.
  2. Theoretical physics and mathematics rightly fall into this domain of consciousness.

Thinking and dynamic mind is our highest faculty of consciousness available to humanity, today. However, this is a faculty that is still undergoing evolution and is yet to establish itself as the governing principle in collective life of humanity, which is still under the control of the vital forces in human nature. Only a small percentage of humanity is capable of living mainly in the light of reason. Harnessing the power of thought and mastery over its operations on a larger collective scale is now happening rapidly with the explosion of information technologies.

Main attributes:

Pure Reason, Philosophy, Conceptual Knowledge, Vision, Idea Force, Will.


Here we are touching upon our higher Nature and its possibilities yet to be realised in human beings or only found developed to certain extent in exceptional individuals. According to Sri Aurobindo our global crisis is a result of evolutionary pressure pushing us towards the realisation of these higher ranges among wider populations and thus to equip humanity with greater consciousness to comprehend and manage the emerging complexity.

In the Telos model, by the word spiritual we are covering the higher ranges of mind called spiritual mind in general—the higher mind, illumined mind, the intuition proper and overmind—and still higher ranges beyond mind, the supramental and satchidānanda (all these terms are based on Sri Aurobindo’s vision). This simplification is adopted because the Telos model is conceived as a doorway to begin the exploration of consciousness. Only in advanced stages further detailing is required of the higher ranges.

The spiritual mind is a mind, which in its fullness is aware of the Self, reflecting the higher Nature, seeing and understanding the nature of the Self and its relations with the manifestation, living in that or in contact with it, calm, wide and awake to higher knowledge, not perturbed by the play of  forces. When it gets its full liberated movement, its central station is very usually felt above the head, though its influence can extend downward through all of our being and outward through space. It is by rising above the head one enters first into the silence of the self or spiritual being. Initial stages of entry into the spiritual ranges of mind can give the experience of universe as an unreal dream. But it is only an early stage in the wide range of consciousness above the normal mind.

When the ordinary mind opens within to inner mind and psychic and above to higher mind and higher consciousness generally, then it begins to be spiritualised. It is also true that for the rash and unwary to enter into it may bring confusion and misleading inspirations and false voices. It is advisable to have some sure guidance from those who know and have spiritual and psychic experience.

The first stage in the transition from lower ranges of the mind to the higher ranges is enabled by establishing silence in the mind and allowing thought only as a subordinate power that acts more and more like a means of expression than a means of exploration. The thinker surrenders the power of thought to forces descending from above and lets thoughts get moulded by the higher power, using the mind only as a form giver and expressive channel. When the mind is prepared sufficiently and becomes calm and quiet, liberated from the influences from the lower ranges of the being, it develops the capacity to reflect in its operations the higher rhythms unfolding as thought and revealing knowledge. Further, this develops into in-streaming of thoughts and inspirations that carry greater powers of revelation and knowledge and that have a revelatory quality. With it also comes an increasing dynamic power of Will in the idea and its self-creating effective power of manifestation in the world. Thought streams eventually widen into lightning visions of intuition and illumination and a downpour of Light and Power from above into the receptive mould of mind. It further descends into the vital and physical ranges of the being below, bringing greater dynamism and effective transformation.

Lower ranges of mind Corresponding powers in higher ranges of mind
Observation Vision—free from sense mind
Imagination Inspiration
Reasoning Spontaneous discernment of relations
Conclusions from reasoning Intuitions—containing spontaneous discernment
Judgment Thought vision
Memory Beyond present life and time, past and future

As this development continues with psychic being below and spiritual being above in dynamic union, the consciousness breaks out of the individual limits and expands to universalise itself in a wide embrace in which the self become the ground of all. One enters the universal mind, the universal vital and even the universal physical expanding, enlarging and embracing the whole towards greater integral perfection.

On this ground of cosmic consciousness of overmental ranges, the supramental ranges of consciousness and consequent transformation lay in its hands. What starts out as descending rays of light from above, bringing spiritual transformations, eventually leads to the descent of the full glory of the supramental sun into lower ranges of the mind, vital and even physical consciousness and compels their transformation. With it comes the triple time vision and integral movement of Knowledge, Will and Love and Knowledge by Identity.

Establishment of supramental consciousness upon earth had been Sri Aurobindo’s main work in the context of the evolutionary journey of humanity; it is an area of work that is hardly known to the world.

Main attributes

Intuition, Illumination, Transcendence, Oneness, Impersonality, Knowledge by identity.


Applications of the Telos Model

A fundamental proposition of the Telos approach is that what we do or the patterns of our every day life behaviour is a direct result of our current state of consciousness. It is only by changing this underlying consciousness that we can successfully change the patterns in which we are embedded.

Since Telos is based on universal human nature it is universally applicable to comprehend and guide all our actions, whether it is individual or collective actions. It is meant as an aid for the explorer to understand what they are doing and how they are doing from the perspective of evolving consciousness. The model can help in understanding various strands and subtle shades of consciousness present in our actions. Such a detailed understanding becomes the ground for greater mastery and opening to higher ranges that are available for anyone to tap into.

Some examples are given below:

How do you buy and drink tea?

Our actions are influenced by various states of consciousness springing from different parts of our being. Any single action can undergo evolutionary change as consciousness evolves. Each layer of instrumental being brings with it its unique behavioural patterns as illustrated below.

  1. Physical—Tea is a habit, could be an addiction; you are not much conscious of quality. You just need some tea that’s all. You cannot distinguish flavours of different types of tea. You may buy a brand as a habit or buy any brand that is available.
  2. Lower vital—You enjoy thoroughly the aroma and taste of the tea. You know many flavours and have clear preference. You like beautiful packaging and get tempted by ‘buy one get one free’ offers. You enjoy discounts.
  3. Central Vital—Tea is your social status. You prefer famous brands and expensive tea in elite settings, You like to show off with important people. Or tea is a way you assert yourself or fight against big enemies—for example, ‘Reject multinational brands’ that make it into public campaigns.
  4. Higher Vital—Tea is about relationships, love and care, “Do come for a cuppa”; it is a way of coming together and sharing.
  5. Externalising MindTea is scientific. You believe in research findings about tea. You know which tea gives the best health results, what the chemical elements in tea leaves are and how it changes depending on the processing. Taste doesn’t bother you much; what matters is whether it is scientifically validated.
  6. Thinking and Dynamic Mind—Tea is philosophy; it is a way of living, a symbolic means to express your philosophy, your values. An example is the role of tea in Zen.
  7. Psychic and Spiritual—Tea is a living symbol, like in a Japanese Tea Ceremony conducted by a great master; it is a conscious presence by which you access knowledge beyond the mind, or know yourself.

Our actions are results of many states of consciousness coming together. The more evolved different states are, the more integral and all encompassing the action can become. A single action can be a synthesised movement of a wide range of consciousness, bringing with it greater fullness of the joy of being.

Products, Services and Marketing

The quality of products, services and marketing also vary according to the state of consciousness of an organisation and its leaders. This may be illustrated by using examples from the clothing industry, let us say the T-shirt.

  1. Physical: The product is well known, well established. It is a matter of routine, repeating the production and distribution through the existing channels. Stick to the designs that are in good steady demand. Don’t innovate. It keeps you going; it is safe. Don’t bother about quality, as long as it sells.
  2. Lower vital: It is not enough to just sell T-shirts; they should be sensual, sexy, tasteful and/or comfortable. Bring a wide range; stimulate desire through sensual marketing. Attract buyers by offering free gifts, festive offers, attractive packaging, etc.
  3. Central vital: It is no more just a T-shirt. It is a status symbol. It is a brand. There is myth created around it, famous models wearing it, marketed with glamour and glitter. The most important asset is the brand name and identity positioned as elite, not accessible to the common masses. Aggressive marketing campaigns capture larger markets. The company shifts production to countries where labour is cheap, mass produce, and mass market globally. Expand and conquer. Enjoy the power of doing it.
  4. Higher vital: Here are the T-shirts standing for a social cause; profit from the sales go to some charity activity or for saving pandas, or it is specially hand painted or embroidered by woman or children from the weaker sections of the society. By buying it you are participating in helping the world, building a better world. Buyer and seller get emotional satisfaction of doing something good for the world. The emotionally moving story behind the T-shirt is more important than the T-shirt itself.
  5. Externalising mind: Here is the rational T-shirt. It may be natural dye and organic cotton, save the world scientifically by better production processes, appeal to reason. Or bring in R&D to invent new yarns that won’t wrinkle and retain heat in winter and retain coolness in summer. Or market it through fair trade networks. It has to be rational, well thought out, well documented, well organised, process driven. It uses a rational approach based on research data, thorough market research and use of data in every choice made, from design, to pricing and marketing.
  6. Thinking and Dynamic mind: This T-shirt is a symbol, a philosophy, a reflection of one’s ideals. It is a means to transmit a vision—a means to educate, convey an idea.
  7. Psychic and Spiritual: Here the T-shirt becomes a living symbol, embodying presence of something beyond.

Designing Training Programs

When designing training programs for people, a deep understanding of human nature and the way different layers of consciousness interact will be of great value. Based on the Telos model, any program can be analysed and redesigned for its integrality.

  1. Physical—does the program have built in repetitions to get it imprinted in physical consciousness? Poor understanding of physical consciousness and its need for repetition is one of the main causes of failure in training programs. Programs may create great enthusiasm, but it will fade when it is not imprinted in the physical through many repetitions till a new habit is formed.
  2. Lower vital—is it enjoyable as a sensory experience? Is it fun?
  3. Central vital—does it tap into power and passion of the people?
  4. Higher vital – does the program tap into emotions of the higher vital?
  5. Externalising Mind—Is practical applicability and correlations in the real world experience built into the program? Is the knowledge put into experiential context?
  6. Thinking and Dynamic Mind—is there a philosophical foundation to the program, or theoretical foundation and framework? What are the false ideas to be rejected and the new ones to be established?
  7. Psychic and Spiritual—what is the inspiring and visionary elements of the program; does it align with the aspiration of the target group? Are you tapping into the inmost aspiration of the people so that they are aligned with a common inspiring vision and motivating noble emotions?

These questions give a brief overview by which we can look at training programs to see whether they touch upon the whole being so that there is a higher chance for its success.

The above examples are given only to briefly indicate the wide range of possibilities that can be seen through the Telos perspective and its comprehensive nature as a way of understanding and transforming our everyday life actions.

States and Stages of Consciousness

What the Telos model maps is not linear developmental stages of consciousness. It is quite possible to develop in mental ranges of consciousness without developing the physical consciousness or the vital dynamism. This leads to disharmonious growth. For an integral perfection the whole instrumental Nature is to be perfected and higher dynamism brought into it. In the Telos model states of consciousness are seen more like musical notes where all are equally important and present all the time. Each state has its developmental stages depending on its interaction with other states of consciousness. It is a complex symphony of movements. The human body can be seen as a flute through which the cosmic melodies can emerge when the instrument is perfected and surrendered for the use of our Greater Self. Each note has to be perfected in relation with all other notes so that it can be part of a larger integral whole and the flowering symphony of life upon earth.

Mapping Consciousness

At present the Telos team is working on developing an online tool for mapping various states of consciousness of individuals. The idea is to give a snapshot of where one is in terms of one’s consciousness. This can be a starting point in selecting the right methodologies for developing different states of consciousness, depending on individual requirements.

Concluding Remarks

The Telos model is in its early stages of development and it is a work in progress. However, its foundations are firmly rooted in the large body of work of Sri Aurobindo’s and the integral yoga community worldwide. The Telos model hopes to bring Sri Aurobindo’s vision and approach closer to our every day life contexts.

For more details visit: www.telos.org.in


1. Sri Aurobindo, 1872 – 1950, collected works of Sri Aurobindo can be found here – (http://www.sriaurobindoashram.org/ashram/sriauro/writings.php)

2. Sri Aurobido, The Life Divine, Page: 1053

3. Sri Aurobindo’s synthesis of the wisdom traditions can be found in his two major works, ‘The Synthesis of Yoga’ and the ‘The Life Divine’.

4. Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine, Page 101, Chapter “Delight of Existence: The Solution”

About the Author


Manoj Pavitran is an explorer of integral yoga of Sri Aurobindo since 1989 and member of Auroville (www.auroville.org) since 1995—an international city in the making in South India. Auroville has around 2200 people from 43 nationalities engaged in developing a new form of society based on the teachings of Sri Aurobindo and The Mother.

His involvements in Auroville are the following:

  • Leads vision and development of software tools for the Auroville community’s intranet portal which he considers as a crucial organ in developing collective self awareness. (1999 onwards, www.auroville.org.in)
  • Vision leader in Upasana Design Studio of Auroville where Integral Design is put into practical applications – (1997 to 2009, www.upasana.in)
  • Co founded Telos along with Arul Dev of People First (www.peoplefirst.co.in) – a model of evolving consciousness and its practical applications in real life based on the vision of Sri Aurobindo. (2010).

One thought on “Featured Article: Telos – A Consciousness Based Perspective

  1. deborah jane watson

    I thoroughly enjoyed reading your article ‘A consciousness based perspective’, it made perfect sense to me and is closley related to the work( life & passion) that I am involved with, which is a person-centred training and personal development (development of self) program.
    I find ancient greek of great interest (looking to the greats for inspiration I suppose) and I came across your site after searching the word ‘Telos’ – ancient greece which I discovered when looking for the ancient greek meaning of ‘inner self’.

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