|The Noetic Universe||Highest Noetic Plane (Divine-Archangelic)|
|Higher Noetic Plane (Arch-Archangelic / Archai)|
|Higher Middle Noetic Plane (Archangelic)|
|Middle Noetic Plane (Angelic)|
|Mental Plane (Abstract Mind)|
The lowest of the Noetic planes is the Mental Plane. a zone of existence constitutes the transition between the Orectic and the pure spiritual regions above; or in Kabbalistic symbolism the universe of Asiyah and the universe of Yetzirah. The Theosophists locate the Mental or Manasic (to use their Sanskrit term) plane above the Astral/Emotional/Kamic plane, and consider it an elevated spiritual region. But I would see the Mental Plane (at least in-asmuch as Adyar-Theosophical writers like C. W. Leadbeater describe it) as a sort of confusion of Subtle Physical (the mental body described in the Adyar Theosophical teaching has structures like chakras and so on) the astral, and perhaps the astral-mental. In this plane, raw emotion is transcended, but thought-forms - free-floating impressions or ideas - remain, so there is not the clarity found in the true spiritual planes above it.
With the Mental Plane - the Manas or Devachan of Theosophy, and the Mental Thinking Mind of Aurobindo - we are in the highest or sub-Spiritual planes of existence. And here we have a great deal of agreement among the various Western occult metaphysical systems, who all refer to a specific number of "planes" of reality; usually referred to as the physical, etheric, astral, and mental planes. If we agree with the Theosophical cosmology, which sees the physical and the etheric as the two subdivisions of the physical plane, we can then speak of the "three worlds" - the physical, astral, and mental - that determine mundane consciousness.
The Pure Mental is the plane of Pure Reasoning and conceptual idea-forms, the Mental Plane of Theosophy [see A. E. Powell, The Mental Body, for a summary of the Adyar-Theosophical conception of this], the region of the Ajna or Brow chakra. This, at least in its more subtle octaves, would also seem to be the region corresponding to the Rupa (Pure Form) and Arupa (Formless) lokas of Buddhist cosmology, the regions of pure Meditation-consciousness.
The Mental Plane can perhaps be divided into two (or more) sub-Planes, representing grades of pure Intellect, from the finest to the coarsest (although even the coarsest is still pretty elevated compared to the functioning of the limited physical mind). These planes can be compared to the Theosophical two-fold division of Causal and Mental planes, or Upper and Lower Devachan, that figure prominently in the writings of Leadbeater, Steiner, Bailey, and others. For want of a better terminology, we can call these three divisions the Pure Mental, and the Lower or Emotional Mental planes
The Pure Mental is the level of pure philosophical or intellectual reason, unhindered by the distractions and limitations of the lower planes. This is the level of pure imagination, in which the pure inspiration of the Gnostic-Mental level is given form. Hence in Hassidism Binah (Understanding) is, "the intellectually cognising subject...the expansion and elucidation of Hokhmah". [Zalman, Tanya, p.76].
This is the highest region to which the inspired or genius-level (as opposed to the ordinary level) human consciousness normally attains; although even then only in flashes of intuition. An example of this is the way the Einstein figurered out relativity purely by an act of intuitive imagination.
Western reductionist psychology claims that it is the brain (or at most, if you are a dualist, the individual mind) that creates thoughts, but according to the occult perspective thoughts exist objectively from us, and it is only when they interact with our individual consciousness that we experience them; i.e., that we "think". This is shown by the fact that often an idea or invention has been discovered independently more or less simultanoeusly - e.g. the Theory of Natural Selection, by Darwin and Wallace. This is because the idea exists "in the air" at a certain time, and is then "picked up" by individual minds or brains.
In the Emanationist spectrum, every plane and stratum of being merges with the next. So mind, moving progressively downwards, becomes emotion. And between the two we have a trannsitional level, with is here termed the Emotional-Mental level. In Rabbi Shneur Zalman's Hassidic psychology, Daat (Knowledge) is the transitional stage between Intellect and Emotion. It is both the offspring of Hokmah and Binah, and the essence and source of the Emotional faculties. [Tanya, p.78]. Similarily, Sri Aurobindo's "Vital Mind" is a "mediator between vital emotion, desire, impulsion, etc and the mental proper." [Letters Vol 1, p.326]
The Lower Mental can be just as expansive as the Pure Mental, but it is tied up with the desires and ambitions of the Psychic or Astral being below it, and hence less receptive to other truths and other points of view.
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