Sri Aurobindo's - 'The Life Divine' - The Human Aspiration - Chapter I

Track Running The Human Aspiration - Track 605

We shall read this next paragraph and see what is the argument' by which this rational argument is further supported so that our conclusion will be much more inevitable than so far.

The rational argument is based upon a set of facts. Sri Aurobindo now brings in another set of facts. All argumentation proceeds from a first proposition, followed by a set of facts, compared with another set of facts, deriving consequences out of them, then arriving at a final conclusion. If the argument is to proceed further still, you have to say that so far what you argued is rational, then you bring another set of facts and proceed further. This other set of facts concerns the phenomenon of evolution. You will see that the next paragraph starts with the fact of evolution. Sri Aurobindo says the set of facts on the basis of which we speak of evolution has to be examined. And if you examine them the conclusion that we are trying to arrive at will be further confirmed. Let us read now.

"We speak of the evolution of Life in Matter, the evolution of Mind in Matter; but evolution is a word which merely states the phenomenon without explaining it."

It is a very major argument in The Life Divine. First of all, Sri Aurobindo puts forward the phenomenon of evolution. This idea of evolution states that if you examine the history of the world, there is something like a common ancestry. If you go backwards, there is a pattern in the many forms we see in the world. You will find that Mind has evolved in Matter that Life has evolved in Matter. Matter is the base; it is the ancestor of all of us. The first ancestor is Matter, then Life has evolved in it. What is the difference between this statement and the previous statement that we have already seen? In the previous paragraph no idea of evolution is as yet introduced. Sri Aurobindo now speaks of the word evolution. In other words, it is an attempt to explain the pattern of the development of Mind and Life starting from the ancestry of Matter. Theory of evolution is presented to the world today as an explanation. Sri Aurobindo says it is a word but it is not an explanation. Sri Aurobindo challenges that idea that evolution is an explanation.

If you read the theory of evolution today, those who maintain that there is evolution, are presenting the idea of evolution as a theory of explanation of what is happening in the world. And Sri Aurobindo says that it is not an explanation, it is a word which states the phenomenon, but does not explain it. If you want to explain it, you have to ask a question, you have to ask a philosophical question – and I have told you what is a quintessential philosophical question. It is a search for meaning. What is the meaning of the evolution of Mind in Matter and of Life in Matter? Is there a purpose in this? Is there a necessary force so that this necessarily follows? If something comes out of something or something is found in something the questions are: How could it come out of this or how does it find its place in it? What is the necessity of it? The word explanation – when you say, you explain it, what does it means? You analyze, that is one aspect, but mere analysis is not explanation, it is only a statement of facts. When you analyze you state the facts in more detail.

You have to find the meaning; you have to find the necessity of it or at least the probability of it if not the necessity. How can Life be found in Matter? How can Life manifest itself in Matter? Why should it manifest at all? What is it in Matter which makes Life probable or necessary? Asking questions of this kind are questions relating to explanation. Merely stating that: Look Life has come in Matter, Mind has come in Matter, is only statement of facts. Where is the explanation? Why should it happen? What is the meaning in it? What is the necessity of it?

Sri Aurobindo says, nearly that Life has evolved in Matter or Mind has evolved in Matter, is merely a statement of facts, it is a statement of phenomenon, it does not explain. Explanation will come only if you say why it is so, what is he necessity of it, what is the probability of it. If a cloud gives rise to rain, then you ask the question: Explain the source of the rain. You can say that there is a cloud, there is a probability of rain coming out, and therefore it has come out. Why? Because rain is already contained in the cloud which is formed by pregnancy of water in it. Only then you have given an explanation of It.

There is what it is called a causal explanation and what is called teleological explanation. There are two difficult words I am giving you now. A causal connection is to show a necessary connection or at least a probable connection between the first term and the next term which comes after. A causal connection is a connection either of a probability or of necessity between the antecedent and the consequent, between that which is before and that which is after. Causality is when you can show a relationship of probability or of necessity between that which is before and that which is after. For instance, sun rises on the horizon and there is light everywhere. So antecedent is the rising of the sun, and spreading of light on the earth is a consequence. If somebody asks the question: Why is there light on the earth now? One says: Because the sun has just arisen. This is the connection, a causal connection, whenever the sun rises, necessarily it follows that there must be light. Why? Because the sun contains light, so it manifests the light. If the sun was not the heap of light, then light would not spread on the earth. That is a causal explanation.

If you plant a seed of mango then the mango tree comes out of it. When you see the mango tree coming out if you ask the question: Why is it so? What is the explanation of this mango tree coming out? You answer by saying that there was a planting of the seed of mango therefore this comes out. It is a very easy thing, we do it every time. When the grandfather sows the mango seed and knows it will now take twelve years before the mango tree comes out and by that time he may not be alive at all and you ask him the question: Why are you sowing the seed? He will say it is not for myself; my grandchildren will eat these mango. It is the purpose for which he is now sowing; he is doing an activity. For what he is doing that activity? There is a purpose behind it. That is a teleological explanation.

When you do an activity or something happens, and if you can find the purpose of it then you have given a teleological explanation. When Sri Aurobindo says that we use the word evolution and we have not yet explained it, there are both the meanings applied in it, both causal and theological. If you read the books on evolution you will find that they state the fact of evolution but they don't say why evolution must come about at all in the way in which it is coming out. What is the necessity? First Matter comes, then Life comes and Mind comes. What is the sequence? Why this kind of sequence? And what is purpose for which it is happening. Why? Neither of the two questions is answered by the statement of evolution. There Sri Aurobindo says that evolution is a word which merely states the phenomenon without explaining it.

Sri Aurobindo will now elucidate this statement, which we shall do tomorrow. He will now explain evolution. 

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