An Experiment in Evolution
A distinctive feature of Sri Aurobindo's philosophy of evolution is that it is not speculative; its premises and conclusions are tested on the anvil of experimentation. The animal is a living laboratory in which Nature has, it is said, worked out man. Man himself may well be a thinking and living laboratory in whom and with whose conscious cooperation she wills to work out the superman, the god. Or shall we not say, rather, to manifest God?' Indeed, Sri Aurobindo made an experiment upon his entire integral being, using it as an evolutionary laboratory, so as to evolve and manifest higher and higher grades of consciousness reaching up to the supermind and to supramentalize the human body to the furthest extent possible. Even when he left his body, he assigned the task to his collaborator, whom he called The Mother (1878-1973), to continue the task of the supramentalization and integral transformation.
Sri Aurobindo discovered in the ancient systems of Yoga some of the basic clues for the experiment. He did not, however, find in any one of them the secret that would enable him to eventually bring about the mutation of the human species. He and The Mother, therefore, experimented, day after day, for years and decades, and they developed a synthesis of Yoga and laboured to perfect it.
The practical necessity of this experiment was not merely to advance knowledge; nor was this experiment directed towards seeking any personal gain, gratification or glory. But Sri Aurobindo and The Mother saw that the contemporary human crisis cannot truly be met without the evolutionary saltation or mutation. There are, according to them, only two alternatives before mankind today: either a revolutionary and evolutionary ascent towards the supramental manifestation on the earth or abyss.
An account of the momentous experiments undertaken by Sri Aurobindo and The Mother cannot truly be given; they can only be glimpsed from the records they have left. Sri Aurobindo's The Life Divine, The Synthesis of Yoga, Letters on Yoga, The Mother, The Supramental Manifestation upon Earth, and The Mother's own account of the supramental action on the earth, recorded by Satprem (born 1924) and published in 13 volumes as L'Agenda de Mére, give us some indications of both the secret and the fulfilment of their momentous experiments.
Indeed, if the human body were a functioning of Matter, and if Matter were merely chemical and nothing more, then it is obvious that any divinization or divine transformation of the body or of anything else would be nothing but an illusion, an imagination, a senseless and impossible chimera. But even if we suppose a soul or a conscious will at work in the body, it could not arrive at a divine transformation if there were no radical change in the bodily instrument itself and in the organization of its material workings. As Sri Aurobindo points out, 'A radical transformation of the functioning and, it may well be, of the structure and certainly of the two mechanical and material impulses and driving forces of the bodily system would be imperative ... A total transformation of the body would demand a sufficient change of the most material part of the organism, its constitution, its processes and its set-up of nature’.
Sri Aurobindo conceives of the possibility where all the physical life and its necessary activities could be maintained and operated by higher agencies and grades of consciousness in a freer and ampler way and by a less burdensome and restricting method. The evolutionary urge, he maintains, would proceed to a change of the organs themselves in their material working and use and diminish greatly the need of their use and even of their existence.
According to Sri Aurobindo, this might well be part of a
supreme total transformation of the body, though this too might not be final. He admits that to envisage such changes is to look for ahead and minds attached to the present form of things may be unable to give credence to their possibility.
A radical transformation of the functioning and, it may well be, of the structure and certainly of the too mechanical and material impulse and driving forces of the bodily system would be imperative. What agency could be found which we could make the means of this all-important liberation and change? Something there is in us or something has to be developed, perhaps a central and still occult part of our being containing forces whose powers in our actual and present make-up are only a fraction of what could be, but if they became complete and dominant would be truly able to bring about with the help of the light and force of the soul and the supramental truth-consciousness the necessary physical transformation and its consequences. This might be found in the system of Chakras revealed by Tantric knowledge and accepted in the systems of Yoga, conscious centres and sources of all the dynamic powers of our being organising their action through the plexuses and arranged in an ascending series from the lowest physical to the highest mind centre and spiritual centre called the thousand-petalled lotus where ascending Nature, the Serpent Power of the Tantrics, meets the Brahman and is liberated into the Divine Being. These centres are closed or half closed within us and have to be opened before their full potentiality can be manifested in our physical nature: but once they are opened and completely active, no limit can easily be set to the development of their potencies and the total transformation to be possible.
At the same time, Sri Aurobindo acknowledges that all does not have to be fundamentally changed; on the contrary, all that is still needed in the totality has to be preserved, but all has to be perfected. ‘The human body has', says Sri Aurobindo, 'in it parts and instruments that have been sufficiently evolved to serve the divine life; these have to survive in their form, though they must be still farther perfected, their limitation of range and use removed, their liability to defect and malady and impairment eliminated, their capacities to cognition and
dynamic action carried beyond the present limits.' On the other hand, new powers have also to be acquired by the body which our present humanity could not hope to realize, could not even dream of or could only imagine. In Sri Aurobindo's own words:
‘The body itself might acquire new means and ranges of communication with other bodies, new processes of acquiring knowledge, a new aesthesis, new potencies of manipulation of itself and objects. It might not be impossible for it to possess or disclose means native to its own constitution, substance or natural instrumentation for making the far near and annulling distance, cognising what is now beyond the body's cognizance, acting where action is now out of its reach or its domain, developing subtleties and plasticities which could not be permitted under present conditions to the needed fixity of a material frame. These and other numerous potentialities might appear and the body become an instrument immeasurably superior to what we can now imagine as possible. There could be an evolution from a first apprehending truth-consciousness to the utmost heights of the ascending ranges of supermind and it may pass the borders of the supermind proper itself where it begins to shadow out, develop, delineate expressive forms of life touched by a supreme pure existence, consciousness and bliss which constitute the worlds of a highest truth of existence, dynamism of Tapas, glory and sweetness of bliss, the absolute essense and pitch of the all-creating Ananda. The transformation of the physical being might follow this incessant line of progression and the divine body reflect or reproduce here in a divine life on the earth something of this highest greatness and glory of the self-manifesting Spirit.'