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Evolution and The Destiny of Man in Sri Aurobindo

Ananda Reddy, Ph.D.

edited by Carla Geerdes

 

A. The Metaphysical Background: Concept of Satchidananda

Cosmic Energy

It is upheld even by Science that the cosmos is an infinite movement of energy, pouring itself out equally in the boundless universe as well as in a gene. This infinite energy is limited neither by Time and Space nor is it contained by any collectivity of egos or aeons of man’s endeavour to manifest it. The Gita calls this mighty energy, Samam Brahma, whose intensity and movement is equal in the formation of a star and the birth of a firefly. It is beautifully described by Sri Aurobindo as, ”The hand that sent Jupiter spinning through heaven, spends all its cunning to fashion a curl.”

Each object, whatever be its size or quantity, macrocosmic or microcosmic, contains the whole of Brahman, although to man’s mind Brahman seems divided and distributed either qualitatively or quantitatively or giving at best an equal part of himself to all objects and beings in the creation. In its widest comprehension, the mental consciousness concedes the Brahman is constituted of the Many: everything in the world and the universe beyond is equivalent to Brahman. Guided by either intuition or knowledge by identity, man can realise that the Many are Brahman, but Brahman is not limited in the Many. He does not divide himself into the Many but each of the Many is the whole of Brahman and yet remains unaffected by all this bringing out of the Many. ’Take out the Full from the Full and the Full remains’, said the Ancients with regard to Brahman. ”Brahman dwells in all, indivisible, yet as if divided and distributed” (1), says Sri Aurobindo. Brahman therefore is one and indivisible.

Typical of his mental viewing, man has conveniently put himself as the centre of this boundless and eternal movement and Energy. The false notion of the earth being the centre of the universe has been long back dispelled by Science but man is still a victim of this complacent thought that without him all else is a void. ”What is the harm in such an assumption?” one may ask. There was no harm either in the idea of the earth being the centre of the universe, but had not the scientist exploded this concept, science would not have developed as it has done till now. By expelling the ignorant idea of the Dark Ages, the scientist established the true relation of the earth to the sun which made all the present scientific progress possible. Similarly, the false pretention of man’s ego, that he is infinitely important to the All, prevents him from getting the right perspective and the full and true value of life. With this ’mental sufficiency’, man will never be able to find his true relation with the All. To recognise that he is only a part of the total invisible and infinite Energy and to submit to this total movement willingly and consciously is the beginning of true living. To realise that his true self is not different from the All is the culmination of a divine living.

What is the nature of this All with which we need to find our right equation? Vedanta asserts that as we are a part of this infinite and omnipotent Energy, so too this movement is a subordinate part of a great timeless, spaceless stability ”which is immutable, inexhaustible and unexpanded, not acting though containing all this action, not energy, but pure Existence.” (2)

A doubt arises here: Is the Pure Existence a greater Reality than the eternal movement of Energy or is it only a phenomenon created by our mental consciousness in order to deal with the day to day life. Some philosophers believe that the infinite Energy is the only Reality and is also only a creation of the human mind. What seems to be immobile is only a block of movement just as a fast spinning top seems to be immobile. Everything is a constant formulation of energy at work which appears to our eyes as still but in reality it is not so. Modern Science’s discoveries of the protons and the photons and their constant and incredibly rapid movement in every object, that is stationary or moving, is a concrete example in support of this theory.

One could argue: How can one see the movement without a constant reference to the stable? One sees an aeroplane flying across the sky only because of the constant backdrop of the sky - is it not? The believers in this theory answer that seeing from a certain angle the sky too is moving. The question can be carried ad infinitum and ultimately what one finds is that everything is moving in relation to one another and an eternal movement is the only constant: there is nothing else permanent and stable apart from this constant change.

Others believe that such a movement is only an aspect of the Pure Existence. The very concept of movement implies that there is something moving, either it be the galaxies or the protons. If this something is moving, it can also choose not to move: that something is the infinite Pure Existence. Sri Aurobindo puts the argument very succinctly: ”All end and beginning presuppose something beyond the end or beginning. An absolute end, an absolute beginning is not only a contradiction in terms, but a contradiction of the essence of things, a violence, a fiction. Infinity imposes itself upon the appearances of the finite by its ineffugable self-existence.” (3)

Granted that the infinite movement and energy is only an output of Existence, is it that the truth of this Existence is time and space? Do we not realise or experience all movements only in terms of Time and Space? First, how far is this statement true in itself: is all our experience of the movement related to Time and Space? With an act of deep meditation one could perhaps abolish Space, but it seems improbable that one can abolish Time. The very fact that one exists implies duration, Time. But how far is Time what one thinks it be, cut up into past, present and future? One cannot recapture time past and one cannot call forth time future. One cannot hold time present because there is nothing as time present, as it perishes before it is born. Time is therefore only a psychological duration which can be compressed or extended depending upon the psychological and spiritual condition of the viewer.

First Absolute: Tat

The First Absolute, the Tat, the Transcendent is timeless, spaceless, eternal and infinite, indivisible and stable, sthanu. It is inconceivable by mind and indefinable by human language, neither by its ultimate negation, neti, neti, nor by its absolute affirmation, iti, iti. It is beyond manifestation, beyond Existence and non-existence, beyond Being and Non-Being.

Second Absolute: Sat

Tat renders itself as Sat, the supreme self-contained Existence, Satchidanada, Ananda uniting Sat and Chit. This Sat once in manifestation, becomes Time and Space: Infinity spreads itself as Space and Eternity pours itself as Time. Tat is indescribable and unknowable by thought or experience, but, Sat though not within the reach of mind’s comprehension, is, however, possible to be seized directly by a supreme identity, says Sri Aurobindo.

Shakti or Tapas

Immediately at hand, man, with his sense instrumentality, identifies himself with the gigantic and ceaseless motion around him - the movement in Space and Time seems to be the sole Absolute. It seems as though ”Becoming is the only Being.”

However, to insist on the sole existence of the becoming is to stop short of integral experience. Often, in moments of quietude and an inner withdrawal, we feel the existence of something else behind the fleeting images of life:

 ”In moments when the inner lamps are lit

 And the life’s cherished guests are left outside,

 Our spirit sits alone and speaks to its gulfs.

 A wider consciousness opens then its doors;

 A ray of the timeless Glory stoops awhile

 To commune with our seized illumined clay

 And leaves its huge white stamp upon our lives.” (4)

Such moments only reveal, convincingly enough, ”that this becoming, change, succession are only a mode of our being and there is that in us which is not involved at all in the becoming.” (5) That which is being referred to is nothing else but what we have already reasoned out, the Pure Existence.

There are the two fundamental facts: a Pure Existence and World-existence; the denial of either of them would be as much unreal as the acceptance of either of them. What then is the true relation between the Existence, Sat, and the world-existence, the Force, the Shakti? ”World-existence is the ecstatic dance of Shiva,” says Sri Aurobindo, ”which multiplies the body of the God numberlessly to the view: it leaves that white existence precisely where and what it was, even is and ever will be; its sole absolute object is the joy of the dancing.” (6)

Chit or Consciousness

Joy, delight, Ananda, seems to be the link between Sat and Force, but, if the Force is simply Prakriti, only a movement and action, then such a relation cannot exist. The missing link seems to be that the Force, Prakriti is the aspect of chit-shakti, the Consciousness-Force of the Supreme. A deeper analysis, however, is called upon to establish this missing link.

We have seen that the immense Force which is at work everywhere is most easily intelligible only in the form of Matter. We may ask ourselves as to how this materialisation of the Force took place? The old Indian physicists stipulated that first Force exists in its most ethereal state as ether whose essential quality is vibration known to us by the phenomenon of sound. As there is the necessity of some kind of friction and interplay of vibrations in order to have any kind of formation, the Force then became air whose property is touch and contact. In the third stage, it modified itself as light, electricity and fire of which heat is the manifestation. Even this too is not sufficient for any stabilisation of forms. So, the Force underwent a fourth stage of transformation, the liquid state where there could be some permanent action of attraction and repulsion. Last stage, the fifth one, is the solid state where form could take full and firm existence. This gives a satisfactory explanation of the formation of matter from pure Force, but, where is here the place for any consciousness? How and when did this movement of Force begin?

Sri Aurobindo accepts here the Vendantic answer to these questions: ”Force is inherent in Existence. Force may be active or inactive, but it is inherent in Existence and the two are inseparable. This being the nature of Force, the question of how the Force, which is alien to eternal repose, came to take place is easily answered. For we can easily, then, conceive that this potentiality must translate itself either as an alternative rhythm of rest and movement succeeding each other in Time or else as an eternal self-concentration of force in immutable existence with a superficial play of movement, change and formation like the rising and falling of waves on the surface of the ocean.” (7)

Let us now take up the question of the why of the movement of Force. If we posit that the Existent itself is non-conscious and that the so called consciousness is only an apparent development of the Force when it is in movement, then this question of the why does not arise. But, we have assumed the Existent to be fully conscious and not subject to or controlled by the Force or Shakti. Had it been compelled by Force into manifestation then ”A Brahman compelled by Prakriti is not Brahman”, says Sri Aurobindo. For a true understanding of this question of the why, it is essential to examine deeply the nature of the consciousness itself.

Consciousness, as we normally understand, is an awareness of ourselves and our surroundings in general when we are in a wakeful state. However, modern science has amply proved that we are conscious even when we are not awake and in all apparent states of unconsciousness. Further, our ancient thinkers and modern psychologists confirm that the so-called consciousness of our waking state is only a part of our entire conscious being. ”Behind it, much vaster than it”, says Sri Aurobindo, ”there is a subliminal or subconscient mind which is the greater part of ourselves and contains heights and profundities which no man has yet measured or fathomed.” (8)

Materialists believe that whatever be the levels of consciousness, it is only a material phenomenon inseparable from physical organ. Sri Aurobindo observes and modern science has proved beyond doubt, that the organs are only instruments or rather modes of consciousness. It is not because we have eyes that we can see, it is because we have consciousness that we can see. An electric bulb may be there in perfect state, but, if there is no electricity it does not function, does not give light. It is only at the conscient level that the organs are used, but at the subliminal state, the sensorial organs are not necessary for communication. Phenomena like telepathy, hypnotism, faith-cures etc., show that consciousness can act directly without the use of organised instruments.

Consciousness is not limited to man the mental being. At the animal stage too it is active, though on the vital level or the level of life. Indian scientists have amply proved the workings of consciousness on the plant level too: its response to love, to music, to sunshine is but a silent expression of its deep awareness. By an extension of this argument we can know that consciousness is there in matter too, though somnolent and not active. Modern research has greatly exemplified that even the metal has an inert and suppressed consciousness.

From this picture of consciousness we understand that it is a vast universal and cosmic self-aware force active on different levels and that the mental is only the mid-term in its expression. ”This is, once more, the Indian conception of Chit which as energy, creates the worlds.” (9)

Consciousness always implies intelligence, self-knowledge and a purposefulness. This is obvious in the working of Nature in its insect and animal world as well as in the plant life. The perfection of organization of insects and execution is quite beyond the human capacity. The only objection to the vast working of Nature is its waste. Sri Aurobindo says that this is an objection based on man’s limited views applicable to his own ends. Nature plans in millennia and for it the only thing that counts is its end and towards that it moves in its own rhythm of rejection and acceptance. We cannot impose our judgement on Nature for we have no understanding of its vast workings. ”For the Force that builds the world is a conscious Force, the Existence which manifests itself in them is conscious Being and a perfect emergence of its potentialities in form is the sole object which we can rationally conceive for its manifestation of this world of forms.” (10)

Ananda or Bliss

Why should Brahman, who is perfect and not in need of anything, create through his force of consciousness these worlds of forms? ”It can be only for one reason, for delight”, answers Sri Aurobindo. The very nature of Existence is consciousness, and the very term of becoming of the consciousness is Bliss, Ananda. That which throws out itself in manifestation has a triune aspect - Existence, Consciousness-Force and Bliss Satchidanada. The eternal becoming of the Sat through its Chit-Shakti is sustained by illimitable Ananda. Self-delight is the beginning, the middle and the end of the eternal becoming. Just as behind all mutable objects there is the one immutable, just as behind all finite results there is the one infinite Force, so all things are variable self-expressions of one invariable and all embracing delight of self-existence. ”In everything that is, dwells the conscious force and it exists and is what it is by virtue of that conscious force; so also in everything that is, there is the delight of existence and it exists and is what it is by virtue of that delight,” (11) affirms Sri Aurobindo.

B. Concept of Involution and Evolution

We have till now seen how Sri Aurobindo weaves out his concept of the Absolute working on the principle of near to far, from the tangible to the intangible. Starting from the universe around us, Sri Aurobindo takes us step by step to the Divine Reality of Sat; then to Chit and then to Ananda convincing us that all creation and becoming is nothing but the self- manifestation of the Absolute. Now, what we need to know is the process by which the Absolute has turned itself into the phenomenon, because Satchidananda ”does not work directly or with a sovereign irresponsibility like a magician building up worlds and universes by the mere fiat of its word. We perceive a process, we are aware of a Law. ” (12)

Involution

What could be the reason that Satchidananda does not work directly? Sri Aurobindo answers that ”infinite consciousness in its infinite action can produce only infinite results.” Out of the infinite possibilities of putting forth the consciousness into force, one particular possibility has been selected and put forth. Out of the several truths one particular truth has to be selected, organised, harmonised at different levels and then marshalled and released into manifestation. This selective faculty of knowledge ”commissioned to shape finite appearances out of the infinite Reality” is the Gnosis or the Supermind. Every potential form of consciousness that is set forth from Satchidananda carries in it the Real Idea, the Supermind. This Power and Knowledge and Will of Satchidananda selects, organises and releases each soul and form on the pre-determined career to fulfil the destiny with which each is loaded in its central being.

Devolution

So, with this first act of bringing forth the Supermind, the supreme Reality plunges itself into trillions of forms so that it might find itself innumerably. This creation or self-becoming of the harmonious multiplicity, the One becoming the Many is the beginning of devolution or the descent. All that was involved, started, through the agency of Supermind, to devolve. From the angle of manifestation we could say that Supermind is the first step of devolution.

At this level, the One still retains the same immaculate oneness in and through the Many. Similarly, the Many continues to remain One in the uttermost degree. There is an absolute identity of the each with the All while the All is in each to the degree of absolute identity. The multiplicity partakes of the Reality and there is therefore no separation although a difference comes into the each: individuality is there but there is no division and egoism and discord. We call this in temporal terms the ’first’ step of the descent, but, actually it is a perpetual beginning which is not at any point of Time. ”For when was the beginning? At no moment in Time, for the beginning is at every moment; the beginning always was, always is and always shall be. The divine beginning is before Time, in Time and beyond Time for ever ... And where is the middle? There is no middle; for there is only the junction of the perpetual end and the eternal beginning; it is the sign of a creation which is new at every moment...And where is the end? There is no end. At no conceivable moment can there be a cessation. For all end of things is the beginning of new things which are still the same One in an ever-developing and ever recurring figure. Nothing can be destroyed, for all is He who is forever.” (13) And in another context Sri Aurobindo reiterated: ”The experiment of human life on an earth is not new for the first time enacted. It has been conducted a million times before and the long drama will again a million times be repeated.” (14)

The next step of devolution is the Overmind. In the multiplicity there comes a greater stress on differentiation, separation and isolation and each line of development tends to look towards its own realization stressing its own importance and value to the exclusion and even opposition of other lines of individuation. The One recedes to the background and the Many comes to the front. It could be said that it is the beginning of Avidya, Ignorance and the lower Maya. Division and opposition begin to raise their heads and the individual centres become more exclusively self-centred. The basic unity of the Many with the One is still there but the inherent identity is lost.

Division and separation, self-limitation and fragmentation which have their seeds in the Qvermind become almost complete in the next step of devolution - the Mind. There is here a complete egoism and solipsism. The identity and unity with the One become here an idealism or a thing of poetic imagination, a philosophic deduction and a logical supposition. Because of this narrowness, the Mind loses the Supermind’s capacity of global vision and integral outlook: it divides everything into bits and tries to comprehend each thing separately withdrawing its attention from other things. The Absolute, in its self-fragmentation towards multiplicity becomes obtuse and rigid and limited as opposed to its true nature of transparency and subtlety.

Of course, between the Overmind and the Mind there are several other layers of consciousness of which Sri Aurobindo identifies three main levels: the one nearest to the Overmind is the Intuitive Mind. This is a ”kind of truth-vision, truth-hearing, truth-memory, direct truth-discernment.” (15)  It is therefore a power of consciousness that is more intimate with the original knowledge by identity.

Next stage is that of the Illumined Mind, a Mind of spiritual light. Being closer to the Overmind than to Mind it does not work by thought but by vision. ”It can effect a more powerful and dynamic integration; it illumines the thought-mind with a direct inner vision and inspiration, brings a spiritual sight into the heart and a spiritual light and energy into its feeling and emotion, imparts to the life-force a spiritual urge, a truth inspiration that dynamises the action and exalts the life movements.” (16)

The one nearest to the Mind is the Higher Mind. Its special character is that ”its activity of consciousness is dominated by Thought; it is a luminous thought-mind, a mind of spirit- born conceptual knowledge.” (17)

In general, in these intermediary levels between the Overmind and Mind, ”the higher ranges are always more direct, intense, synthetic, dynamic than the lower ones where consciousness is slower, duller, more uncertain, more disintegrated. The lower the consciousness descends the more veiled it becomes, losing more and more the directness, the sureness, the intensity and force and the synthetic unity native to the highest ranges of our consciousness and being.” (18)

After the descent into the Mind, the original consciousness goes down into life where there is a greater thickening of obscurity and darkness and density. The control of the Mind is lost and there enters desire and hunger and killing.

Here again we could distinguish some sub-levels of the descent which become evident by ”their impact on our vital being”. As in every case of the descent, the lower becoming always tends towards greater turgidity and selfishness. The first level is where the vital and the Mind meet - the Heart centre. This is the centre of emotion, higher and subtle emotions such as love, seat of the soul, the psyche. The second centre is the Higher Vital centre which harbours all the dynamic nature of man - his ambition, spirit of adventure, spirit of enterprise, deep hunger and intense arrogance of the ego etc. The third centre is the Lower Vital consisting largely of satisfaction of the body and the small cravings and bickerings.

The next step of the lowering of consciousness is towards a total self-oblivion. It is the last step of devolution, it is the plunge of Light into its own shadow. This is Matter where Consciousness has almost wiped itself out and become totally dark, dense and hard. This is the stage of complete self-oblivion of the Consciousness. ”The nascence of Matter is a veiled, an involved or somnambulist consciousness which contains all the latent powers of the Spirit. In every particle, atom, molecule, cell of Matter there lives hidden and works unknown all the omniscience of the Eternal and all the omnipotence of the Infinite.” (19)

Involution

There are thus two involutions, one at the Summit, in the Satchidananda, where all is contained as potentials, where everything is. The second involution is at the Bottom, in Matter, where also all is involved: ”In the beginning”, says the Veda, ”darkness was hidden by darkness, all this was one Ocean of inconscience. Universal being was concealed by fragmentation” (x.129:1-5). As Sri Aurobindo puts it, ”Matter is original being, Brahman, made concrete in atomic division. Matter is original substance-force, Brahman-Shakti, made active in an obscure involution of the Spirit’s powers in a self-forgetful nascence.” (20)

This, then, is the positive side of the otherwise negativeness that followed the Descent - Brahman made concrete in atomic division. The Formless Satchidananda has become Form, the bodiless has entered a body, the Supreme indeterminate has become determinate, the infinite has been captured by the finite and eternity caught in the moment. Such a devolution is a must for any evolution, for ”otherwise there would be not an evolution but a successive creation of things new, not contained in their antecedents, not their inevitable consequence or processes in a sequence, but arbitrarily willed or miraculously conceived by an inexplicable Chance, a stumbling fortunate Force or an external Creator.” (21)

Evolution

”Evolution is an inverse action of the involution: What is an ultimate and last derivation in the involution is the first to appear in the evolution; what was original and primal in the involution is in the evolution the last and supreme emergence.”(22) This being the basic law that Evolution must follow, what would be the procedure of its ascent’? Firstly, ”An evolution of forms of Matter more and more subtly and intricately organised so as to admit the action of a growing, a more and more complex and subtle and capable organization of consciousness” which would form the indispensable physical foundation. Secondly, ”An upward evolutionary progress of the consciousness itself from grade to higher grade, an ascent, is the evident spiral line or emerging curve that, on this foundation, the evolution must describe.” Thirdly, ”A taking up of what has already been evolved into each higher grade as it is reached and a transformation more or less complete so as to admit of a total changed working of the whole being and nature, an integration, must be also part of the process, if the evolution is to be effective.” (23) A complexity of forms, an ascent and then an integration are the three principles of evolution. We shall now study the way evolution took place and see how far these principles and the law are applicable to it.

When consciousness reached the farthest point, a total Inconscient, then ”by the very force of its downward drive, it has swung round and begun to mount up again ... as it were, by the very pressure of its inner impetus. (24) And the first thing that emerged out of the inverse movement of Involution is Matter. It is already a step upwards because Matter is only unconscious and not Inconscient. As we have seen, Matter is a total scattering of consciousness in atoms. Therefore, consciousness, by a supportive identification with them has forgotten itself, lost itself. This is the stage of multiplicity, of complexity of forms.

In the next step, in an attempt to ascend, consciousness in Matter stirred Matter and created in it certain tension and saturation. ”This tension creates a fire, as it were, in the heart of Matter, a mighty combustion and whorl in the core of things, of which the blazing sun is an image and symbol.” (25) The constant stirring and churning and concussion and explosion give indications of a mighty upheaval and the birth of something already within Matter: Life. The birth of the principle of life is the first sprouting of consciousness in Matter. Consciousness which was in a state of stupor and sleep first opened its sleepy eyelids, as it were, with the coming of Life in Matter. The first manifestation of the new principle is the plant and vegetable world. In this birth a new element comes into play, new in the sense that it is not Matter, but something hidden in Matter, ”a strong up-surging of some flame of soul, a first evident vibration of the spirit.” It is because of this element in play in Life that the submerged consciousness strives to come still further up and expresses itself in a more agile and free form other than the static plant world: the animal world. Here the consciousness is more awake than in the plant and it can express itself more freely through a play of feelings and sensation through movement and a rudimentary mentality expressed through vitalised Matter.

Thus when Life attained a certain complexity, a certain maturity of form, a certain tension and orientation, the half veiled consciousness burst itself out as the Mind and man appeared on earth’s evolutionary scene. At this level consciousness became self-aware although not fully self-conscious which, Sri Aurobindo prophecies, will come with the advent of the next stage of evolution, a stage that will usher in after a certain uplifting of the mental consciousness, ”a certain widening and deepening and catharsis of the mental consciousness and then by the descent, gradual or sudden, of the level or levels that lie above it.” (26)

Process of Evolution

We have already discussed of a Primary Descent, the Devolution, then what is this descent that is spoken of here: ”...by a descent, gradual or sudden, of the level or levels that lie above it?” As Sri Aurobindo explains, in Evolution there are two processes which operate simultaneously: ”...an upward-tending force from below, an upward-drawing and downward-pressing force from above.” (27) The upward-tending force from below or the movement of ascension has itself two parallel lines of a simple process: sublimation and integration. Sublimation is, as the word itself connotes, a purification, a refinement, a rising into the higher levels of that which is impure and dense and base in consciousness. The dense Matter has refined itself into life, and the impure Life has purified itself into Mind and now the half-aware Mind is transforming itself into something higher than itself. In the process of Nature it is inevitable and indisputable that Mind has to transcend itself and that it will be so is in the very logic of Nature’s evolutionary course.

Sublimation alone would mean the elimination or absorption of all that is lower. But, it is attended by a parallel line of development: integration. By this process the higher embraces the lower and the lower continues to exist though changed to the extent of its receptivity to the higher principle. Hence, where Life appears, Matter is not withdrawn. On the contrary, all Matter becomes vibrant with a new urge, as it were. The inconstant atoms of Matter are alive with the secret vibration of life and the once mechanical and chemical reactions in Matter have now become organic and beating with a throb of purpose. Similarly, when Mind came out of Life, Matter got transformed - it has become more alive, responsive and almost communicative. Perhaps, when the next principle higher than Mind comes through, Matter shall lose its density and will become more vibrant.

Likewise, Life in its rudimentary stage was sensitive to the plant level and more organised in the animal around a desire-soul. But, when Mind came into Life, Life became imbued with a greater purification, with a greater intelligence looking toward idealism, ambition, adventure of consciousness.

Similarly, Mind which is at present divisive in its approach to things, ignorant and limited and short sighted, will have to bring out of itself the new principle hidden within it, the Supermind. With the coming of Supermind, Mind too, like the other principles, will undergo a transformation. It will become more luminous, wider in its understanding, bereft of its narrow limitation to a large extent.

This ascent or the pressure and drive from below is not sufficient by itself to bring down the higher level or status. The higher level itself has to consent to descend and this is the Second Descent, if we may call it. When the primal descent and dissolution took place, all the other levels except that of Matter, such as Life, Mind, Supermind, were left in their own regions biding time till the right moment of their descent. When division and complexity gripped Matter, there was in it a deep aspiration for the descent of the higher principle - Life. The aspiration is a kind of an ascent, a coming into contact of the lower with the higher. Once the higher has descended, an integration of the higher with the lower takes place. So, when Matter had multiplied itself into a trillion forms, then there was a kind of stirring and out of the tension Life appeared from above and took up Matter in its embrace. The churning and the tension is only a condition precedent and not the creator of Life. For, however much one may churn or shuffle or mix the elements, one cannot create life without the Life principle from above coming and implanting itself in Matter. There must be a conjunction of the Life principle embedded in Matter and the Life principle from above, for life to be born in Matter. The Life principle in Matter, the womb, must receive the seed, the Life principle from above, for the new birth. ”The appearance or manifestation of a new plane is certainly prepared, made ready to the last - but - one degree by the urge of the inner, the latent mode of consciousness that is to be; still the actualisation, the bursting forth happens only when the thing has to manifest itself descends, the actual form and pattern can be imprinted and established by that alone.” (28)

Similarly, by the same process of descent, when Life gets sufficiently organised and mature in order to become a vehicle of the psychic element of consciousness, then Mind descends and the Mind principle is born in Life and not by any extent of permutation and combination of life elements.

Likewise, Mind is being prepared through a secret evolutionary tension, turmoil, disintegration to call down the higher principle than itself. Man, though an established type on earth is, as Sri Aurobindo says, ”an abnormal who has not found his own normality, he may imagine he has, he may appear to be normal in his own kind, but that normality is only a sort of provisional order; therefore, though man is infinitely greater than the plant or animal, he is not perfect in his own nature like the plant and the animal.” (29) Being imperfect, man is only a transitory being and he has still ”to evolve out of himself the fully conscious being, a divine manhood or a spiritual and supramental supermanhood which shall be the next product of the evolution. The transition will mark the passage from the evolution in the Ignorance to a greater evolution in the Knowledge, founded and preceding in the Light of the Superconscient and no longer in the darkness of the Ignorance and Inconscience,” (30) states Sri Aurobindo.

”Creation, the universe in its activity, is thus not simply a meaningless play, a pointless fancy. It has a purpose, an end, a goal, a fulfilment and it follows naturally a definite pattern of process. The goal is the concretisation, the materialisation of the Spirit and the spiritual values. It means the establishment of divine names and forms in terrestrial individuals leading a divine life; individually and collectively here below.” (31)

C: The Destiny of the Individual

Outer Evolution

As seen already, Sri Aurobindo envisages for the terrestrial existence an evolution of consciousness in Matter with a growing perfection of form until the form can reveal the Spirit. In such a working out of Nature, there are two procedures: the physical evolution and the soul-evolution. Physical evolution has birth as its basis where as soul-evolution has rebirth as its mode. In the former the evolution of body is kept up through heredity; in the latter the growth of the soul from grade to ascending grade is kept through rebirth as its machinery. Both these steps are interdependent. If there had been only the first process, i.e., the physical evolution, then as the individual has a limited short span of life, what would be important is the one more lasting, the race or the collective soul. And this growth would be more or less on a horizontal level lacking completely any ascension of consciousness. Hence, rebirth, in the connotation of soul-evolution, is essential. On the contrary, if there had been only the second process, the soul-evolution, there would have been only a progression of consciousness in the individual but there would not have been any means of stabilising it by a passing on to the next generation and thereby eventually make Matter itself reveal the Spirit.

The scientific theory of evolution postulates only a form-evolution and physical life-evolution basing itself only on the visible and the outward phenomenon. It concerns itself about the how of life: how one form developed out of a preceding lesser evolved form, how there is the law of selection and survival of the fittest and the acquisition of characteristics meant for survival. But this view neglects totally the soul-evolution and sticks exclusively to the body-evolution.

It is true that till the coming of Man on earth’s scene, the evolutionary process has been more a subconscient process of Nature. But now, man is a self-conscious being, self-willed and with a conscious aspiration to surpass himself, for self-exceeding. All his history of arts and philosophy and cultural activities stand testimony to this fact. Hence, there is now a substitution of subconscious evolution with conscious and wilful evolution.

Inner Evolution

Again, up to the level of Man’s emergence in Nature, the physical organization and the perfection of form took precedence over the growth of consciousness. Actually, as we have already seen, it is the self-evolution of consciousness that is the purpose of evolution. But, because of the out-weighing and dense Inconscient, the consciousness had to recede and wait until the form became more supple, agile and amenable. Now, with the birth of Man, the balance has been righted and ”it is no longer the change of body that must precede the change of consciousness; the consciousness itself by its mutation will necessitate and operate whatever mutation is needed for the body.” (32)

It is true that till now there has not been much progress of the soul, or the growth of consciousness which could enforce the mutation necessary for the change and transformation of body. But in man, as the psychic growth has been much faster than at the animal stages, there is all the possibility that in the near future the soul entity will become master of the body-life-mind-complex of man. One of the main reasons for the slowness in soul-evolution has been man’s other-worldly tendency, ’turned at its extreme towards a spiritual negation and self-annihilation’ of the mental individual casting away the impure vital and neglecting the body. At the same time, fortunately for man, there has been an underlying ”aspiration to a spiritual mastery and mutation of Nature, to a spiritual perfection of the being, a divinisation of the mind, the heart and the very body: there has been even the dream or a psychic privation of a fulfilment exceeding the individual transformation, a new earth and heaven, a reign of the spiritually perfect, a Kingdom of God not only within us but outside, in a collective human life.” (33) However meagre might have been the success of the fulfilment of this aspiration, the emergence of the new spiritual being is unmistakable even as per Nature’s own unmistakable hints which it has been giving at every stage of higher evolution. In Matter there were signs of sensation which were indications of the coming of Life. Similarly, in Life there were indications of the thinking Mind.

Total Evolution

What are the indications of the next stage of man’s evolution? Nature has followed till now four main lines of development in her endeavour to open Man’s inner being to a higher Truth than his own: religion, occultism, spiritual thought and spiritual experience: the first three are approaches, the last is the decisive avenue of entry, says Sri Aurobindo. All these four lines of development have been more or less simultaneous, often times one working against another. However, the fund of spiritual experience that man has gathered in himself is an absolute indication of the inner driving of the Spirit within him towards the emergence of the next step of its manifestation. ”If a spiritual unfolding on earth is the hidden truth of our birth into Matter”, observes Sri Aurobindo, ”it is fundamentally an evolution of consciousness that has been taking place in Nature, then man as he is cannot be the last term of that evolution: he is too imperfect as expression of the Spirit, mind itself a too limited form and instrumentation; mind is only a middle term of consciousness, the mental being can only be a transitional being. If, then man is incapable of exceeding mentality, he must be surpassed and supermind and superman must manifest and take the lead of the creation. But if his mind is capable of opening to what exceeds it, then there is no reason why man himself should not arrive at supermind and supermanhood or at least lend his mentality, life and body to an evolution of that greater term of the Spirit manifesting in Nature.” (34)

Supermind does not mean the zenith of man’s achievements of greatness, intelligence, courage, knowledge, devotion or genius. All these put together in one man cannot still be the Superman just as the most intelligent and the most powerful and strong ape cannot be a man. Supermind is a greater consciousness than man’s, something beyond mental man in his limits. Man’s appearance in earth nature has been the first sign of the coming of divine light, the far off promise of a coming Godhead. The appearance of the Superman will be the fulfilment of that promise, for, the Superman will be the formed body of the radiant effulgence of Divine’s Power, Joy and Knowledge of which man has had only glimpses in his highest inspirations and in his deepest aspirations.

Therefore, man’s greatness is not in what he has come to be or achieved, but in what he can become and in what he can make or achieve, but in what he can become and in what he can make possible. Unlike the other creatures of evolution that precede him, man is given the privilege and the opportunity to be partly an artisan, to be the collaborator in the divine change and the divine plan of bringing down the higher creation. If man wants and aspires that into his body should descend the Superman and not that he should be rejected and surpassed by yet another species that would prepare itself for welcoming the Superman, then his conscious assent, his consecrated will and participation are needed. His aspiration is earth’s call to the Supramental creator.

”If earth calls and the Supreme answers, the hour can be even now for that immense and glorious transformation.” (35)

Reference Notes

    1. Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine, (New York: India Library Society, 1965), p.69.

    2. Ibid., p.70.

    3. Ibid., p.71.

    4. Sri Aurobindo, Savitri (Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram,1965), pp.47- 48.

    5. Sri Aurobindo, op. cit., p.74.

    6. Ibid.

    7. Ibid., p.79.

    8. Ibid., p.80.

    9. Ibid., p.83.

    10. Ibid., p.85.

    11. Ibid., p.87.

    12. Ibid., p.107.

    13. Sri Aurobindo, Vol. 17, pp.148-49.

    14. Ibid., p.149.

    15. Sri Aurobindo, Vol. 20, p.458.

    16. Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine (New York: India Library Society, 1965), p.840.

    17. Ibid., p.835.

    18. Nolini Kanta Gupta, Collected Works, Vol.3 (Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo International Centre of Education, 1971), p.36.

    19. Quoted by Satprem: Sri Aurobindo or the Adventure of Consciousness, (Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram, 1968)p.313.

    20. Sri Aurobindo, Vol. 17, p. 15

    21. Ibid., p.18,

    22. Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine (New York: India Library Society, 1965), p.769-60.

    23. Ibid., pp.626-27.

    24. Nolini Kanta Gupta, op. cit., p.38.

    25. Ibid.

    26. Ibid., p.42.

    27. Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine (New York: India Library Society, 1965), p.704.

    28. Nolini Kanta Gupta, op. cit., p.42.

    29. Satprem, op. cit., p.315.

    30. Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine (New York: India Library Society, 1965), p.735.

    31. Nolini Kanta Gupta, op. cit., p.43.

    32. Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine (New York: India Library Society, 1965), p.751.

    33. Ibid., p.753.

    34. Ibid., p.754.

    35. Sri Aurobindo, Vol. 17 p. 9.

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