The Life Divine—Chapters 1-7 (New Delhi, at Shubhra Ketu Foundation) - Session 2: 22 April 2008

There is a constant argument from the realists that ideals cannot be realised. That since the ideal contradicts the actual or real, ideal cannot become real. The real is always something that is actually realised, the ideal is always something that is still concealed for realisation and therefore the realist has always an edge to show here it is here already, what we say is here already. What you say is not there and cannot be because there is no ground here for it. Sri Aurobindo says: the contradiction between the actual and the ideal and actual being real, ideal cannot be real. This is the argument which is often presented in all the debates. It’s a long-standing debate in the world history. There was for example a great debate both in England and France, at the time of monarchy. Monarchy was something that was actual, and in the condition of monarchy there was a tremendous movement of tyranny. As a result of tyranny there was a revolt and the idealists began to put forward the ideal of liberty. And the idealists were told that monarchy is something already there, and it cannot be taken away, it cannot be uprooted and therefore liberty is impossible. You can’t have liberty; it’s a dream which you can never realise. And yet, ultimately monarchy was attacked, in England, Charles I, the monarch was beheaded, in France Louis XVI was beheaded, and liberty was allowed to grow. You can multiply the examples of this kind of opposition, which have been marked in the history of the world. Even so this ideal of God, Light, Freedom, Immortality, they are exactly the opposites of our material existence. Material existence is already there, is actual, real. And these ideals are unrealised and therefore the argument is they are unrealisable. Because they are unrealised therefore, they are unrealisable. Why? Because they contradict the real, real is real and that which contradicts the real is unreal and therefore they cannot be realised. This is the form of the argument metaphysically; it is a logical argument of this type. Whatever contradicts the real is unreal. Real is already here that which is contradictory cannot be. And therefore, the argument is that human aspiration, whatever it may be, cannot be realised. The entire argument of the whole book, not only of this chapter but the whole book is that human aspiration is realisable. Not only realisable but it is inevitably realisable. It must be realised and actually the opposition which is there is itself the proof; this is the important argument; is itself the proof that this is going to happen. Now this form of argument is to be seen in its logical complexity. It is almost saying, because it is impossible, it is possible. The argument is because it is impossible, it is possible. Not only that because it is impossible, it must happen, not only possible, it must actualise itself.

Now Sri Aurobindo deals with this argument by a statement that you must ask the question: why should there be a contradiction between the real and the ideal? That is to say the argument is turned upside down. Why is it that there must be such a thing at all, such a contradiction? To merely say that because ideal is opposed to the actual and actual is real, therefore the ideal is unreal – this argument does not go into the depths of the question. And Sri Aurobindo says you don’t go to the depth of the question because you are not sufficiently philosophical. You are not sufficiently metaphysical. Why? Because metaphysical reasoning must ask this basic question: why is this contradiction at all there, what is the reason behind this contradiction? What is the rationality of this contradiction? Why should there be such a contradiction at all?

So Sri Aurobindo says that if you ask this question, that is to say if you ask a real metaphysical question then you are led to a deeper inquiry and a deeper answer. So Sri Aurobindo now expounds that argument. Why is it that such a contradiction should at all exist? Why should man at all aspire? If the ideal is unrealisable, why should a human being, why should he be in such a condition that he aspires, the very thing that is impossible, why does he demand? What is in him that demands it? Why should it be so? So Sri Aurobindo says that, and this is an important point of the philosophical argumentation, you must know the facts squarely. What are the facts that you have to see squarely?

Sri Aurobindo gives now a general proposition that this movement of actual and ideal and the opposition between the two is the very method of Nature. If you examine the facts of life, facts of existence, these facts reveal a method of Nature. Nature itself is so constituted; why is it so constituted we shall come to later on; but the fact is that wherever you look around there is a constant battle of the actual and the ideal. And this battle itself is the major factor of the method of Nature. Nature itself is a movement of a battle, battle between the actual and the ideal and therefore, if you examine, you will find that there is a law of the method of Nature, namely to harmonise. This word harmonising is the law of Nature. Wherever there is a beginning, there has got to be an outcome out of it, which seems to oppose it and then there is a movement of harmonisation.

Now this argument was caught by many philosophers in the West, particularly it was defined very starkly by Hegel, who pointed out that the whole movement of the universe is dialectical; it moves from thesis to antithesis and antithesis to synthesis and he turned this actually into a metaphysical argumentation. And he pointed out by numerous examples that the whole history is a history of thesis, antithesis, synthesis; synthesis again producing an antithesis, producing further synthesis and so on.

In fact it is this idea of history, which was taken up by Marx and even today Marxism is quite an alive philosophy. And according to Marxists this antithesis and overcoming of antithesis by synthesis is a necessity of the present movement. Capital and labour, capitalism produces the problem of the conflict between capital and labour. There has to be a synthesis but synthesis can come about only first of all when labour is transposed into a position of power and capital becomes subordinate. Until you bring about this position, you cannot arrive at equality and ultimate harmony. And that is why they speak of historical necessity. The conflict between capital and labour is a historical necessity and you can’t escape it. You can’t escape because what is to come out has got to be a synthesis.

Now this movement of Nature, which moves from one stage to the other, which is its opposite, this movement of Nature is considered to be over pervasive. But these metaphysicians do not ask the question, why should it be so? Why is the method of Nature of this kind? What is the reason behind it? And this question is answered much later in the book, not immediately. This question is still kept into a state of exposition, not yet an answer. Sri Aurobindo gives some examples to show that the method of Nature is really of this kind and Sri Aurobindo gives three examples, not merely from the ordinary examples of history of humankind but from the history of the world itself, the entire world.

The nature of Matter, Life and mind, these are the three steps of Nature’s movement. There is first manifestation of Matter then there is a manifestation of Life, and then there is the manifestation of the Mind. Now if you look at the nature of Matter and Life, you will find that Matter and Life are exactly opposite of each other. The nature of Mind and Life are exactly opposite of each other. There must be a fundamental reason behind it. Method of Nature being of this kind, there must be a reason behind it.

In this paragraph which you read yesterday and left unexplained, that paragraph only states the contradiction between Matter and Life, Life and Mind, and Sri Aurobindo points out that this contradiction is sought to be harmonised, although the two are contradictory of each other. Matter and Life are opposed to each other and yet life is injected successfully into matter, to such an extent that no living organism on the earth can be without a material body. All organisms are required to be in the physical body. Now what is the opposition between Matter and Life and what is the opposition between Life and Mind? I would like to go back to the text, where Sri Aurobindo says how Matter and Life are opposed to each other.

If you open this page:

The accordance of active Life with a material of form in which the condition of activity itself seems to be inertia, is one problem of opposites that Nature has solved and seeks always to solve better with greater complexities; for its perfect solution would be the material immortality of a fully organised mind-supporting animal body.

Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine - I: The Human Aspiration

Now this sentence is somewhat difficult to understand because Sri Aurobindo says nobody denies the fact that Life is active, if it was said that Matter is inactive, it is very easy to understand. But Sri Aurobindo says that the very principle of activity in Matter itself is a law of inertia that is somewhat difficult to understand because when it is said by Newton that the Law of Matter is the Law of Inertia. It doesn’t mean that Matter does not move. It means that first of all Matter requires to be moved and secondly once it is put into motion, it can’t be stopped, it is inert in that sense, therefore that it can’t be stopped is because of inertia. So the very activity which is there in Matter, that activity itself is the activity of inertia.

So Life on the other hand is quite different, it does not require to be moved from outside. Life has inherent motion, it does not require to be moved from outside. And it can start moving by itself and it can stop moving by itself. Now these two things are opposite of each other, not that Matter has no activity in it but the nature of that activity is that of inertia. It requires to be moved and once it is moved it can’t be stopped. In the case of Life, it does not require to be moved from outside and it can move and stop according to its own rhythm, whatever it wants. These two are opposites of each other and therefore the accordance of Life in Matter is a kind of opposites, the nature of Matter is of inertia, the nature of Life is inner motion, inner capacity of motion, opposite to inertia. How is it that these two principles which are opposite of each other, have come to be combined together. Now you might say that this is a thing which cannot be explained but it is a fact. The fact is that matter and life are combined together. So Sri Aurobindo says that it shows that in the very method of nature there is a law of contradictions which cease to be contradictory by the very fact of their coming together.

Now let me go back to an Indian theory of nature’s movement. The most important theory in India in regard to the movement of Matter is the Sankhyan theory, the theory of Sankhya, according to which Prakriti, the principle of activity, is to begin with inactive, it is avayakta as it is said, it is inactive. And according to this theory this inactivity can’t be disturbed, except by the presence of another principle which is quite different from Prakriti, nature. Now this is a fact of a contradiction which has been stated in Sankhya but it has never been explained. Why is it that Prakriti cannot move by itself, although Prakriti is a principle of activity but according to Sankhya, Prakriti cannot move by itself unless there is a presence of Purusha, unless the Purusha looks at Prakriti, Prakriti cannot move forward, it cannot unfold, cannot become vyakta. Now this is a mystery, why should it be so? It only states the mystery, does not explain it. Why should it be so? Similarly in the history of evolution also this fact is stated that in matter, life has appeared, although life is quite opposite of matter but since it has appeared people have compromised and say it has happened. But why should it happen, metaphysically nobody answers the question. Scientists agree that matter and life are opposite of each other, yet life has appeared in matter. But a farther question, why should it happen? What is the miracle about it?

Similarly if you look at mind and life there again there is an opposition. Now that opposition Sri Aurobindo describes here and says: “The accordance of conscious mind and conscious will with a form and a life in themselves not overtly self-conscious and capable at best of a mechanical or subconscious will is another problem of opposites in which she has produced astonishing results and aims always at higher marvels;…”

This is another opposite, mind by its very nature is conscious, even the rudimentary mind is conscious and life as it is, is unconscious drive, now that drive which is unconscious, in that drive mind has been injected as it were. That the two things are combined together is admitted by scientists, but this question is not raised but why should it be so?

Now Sri Aurobindo says that if this has happened, then this argument that because the ideal of God, Light, Freedom, Immortality is contradictory of material existence and therefore it cannot be, is contradicted by these facts. The evolution has shown, movement of energy has shown that opposites have been combined and they are put into some kind of a harmony. Similarly therefore the argument's answer is that the actual and the ideal, the opposition to accord, harmony, between the two is the very method of nature, therefore this argument that it cannot be is contradicted by the facts of the universe.

Now this paragraph is particularly difficult because these propositions are put in a more complex form, what I have just now stated is simpler but the statement which is given here is much more complex. So now let us read, if you really want to understand the whole argument fully, you must read in fullness.

Now Sri Aurobindo says:

The accordance of active Life with a material of form in which the condition of activity itself seems to be inertia, is one problem of opposites that Nature has solved and seeks always to solve better with greater complexities; for its perfect solution would be the material immortality of a fully organised mind-supporting animal body.

Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine - I: The Human Aspiration

Now this is the complexity:

The accordance of active Life with a material of form in which the condition of activity itself seems to be inertia, is one problem of opposites that Nature has solved and seeks always to solve better with greater complexities; for its perfect solution would be the material immortality of a fully organised mind-supporting animal body.

Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine - I: The Human Aspiration

That is to say this movement of life in matter is still continuing, it is not yet over. It is still moving forward and if you look into the depth of this movement, you’ll find an intention behind it that even now when matter and life are accorded with each other, this accord is not complete. Why? Because of the law of death, matter has imposed upon life a law that life is allowed to manifest but not fully. After a certain time it remains then the law of matter ultimately wins over. So the law of life which is not of death, law of life is simply to move on and on and on without any restriction. The law of matter is inertia, therefore it stops it. Therefore there is a battle between matter and life and this battle is not over yet.

Sri Aurobindo says that actually the opposition also will ultimately be resolved. There is a constant striving; the striving between matter and life is constant, even today. All life strives to continue to live on. Although death overcomes ultimately, you can see the life gasp for breath up to the very last moment and there is constant striving for life to continue. This battle is a very grim battle, for a metaphysician who sees only it is kind of a battle but one who is actually living and is at the point of death, it’s a real grim battle and that grim battle is because there is a move, there is a push in all life form to survive. So Sri Aurobindo says the solution is not yet, you can’t say life and matter have been harmonised fully. A person who sees it is only a kind of a battle but one who is actually living and on the point of death, it’s a real grim battle and that grim battle is because there is a move, there is a push in all life forms to survive. So Sri Aurobindo says the solution is not yet, you can’t say life and matter have been harmonised fully. True harmony can come about only when matter and life do not have to quarrel at all, that life can live in matter as long as it wants to live and matter cannot impose its law of death on matter. Now similarly the question of life and mind.

The accordance of conscious mind and conscious will with a form and a life in themselves not overtly self-conscious and capable at best of a mechanical or subconscious will is another problem of opposites in which she has produced astonishing results and aims always at higher marvels; for there her ultimate miracle would be an animal consciousness no longer seeking but possessed of Truth and Light, with the practical omnipotence which would result from the possession of a direct and perfected knowledge.

Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine - I: The Human Aspiration

So here also mind and life are reconciled to some extent but not yet fully because Sri Aurobindo says:

The accordance of conscious mind and conscious will with a form and a life in themselves not overtly self-conscious and capable at best of a mechanical or subconscious will is another problem of opposites in which she has produced astonishing results and aims always at higher marvels; for there her ultimate miracle would be an animal consciousness no longer seeking but possessed of Truth and Light, with the practical omnipotence which would result from the possession of a direct and perfected knowledge.

Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine - I: The Human Aspiration

Now this sentence is somewhat difficult but let me analyse this sentence.

The basic contradiction between life and mind is that of unconscious movement and conscious movement. All life movement is largely unconscious or semiconscious movement. All mind movement is a conscious movement, although a slower movement. Life movement has a dynamism which is much faster. In the mind movement there is a movement but the speed of mind movement is slower, this is the opposition. The more the consciousness comes about, the speed of movement becomes lesser, the lesser is the consciousness the faster is the movement. So there is an opposition between the speed of life and speed of mind movement and the presence of unconsciousness and the presence of consciousness. There is still this kind of disharmony even in the present condition of consciousness. There is deeper truth behind this relationship between consciousness and force. There is an internal relationship between knowledge and will, this knowledge and will, will is a force of movement, knowledge is a force of consciousness which takes cognisance of the movement. Normally will and knowledge are unaccorded, that was the famous dilemma or dichotomy which was shown by Duryodhana, when he says: “dharmam janami na cha me pravrittih, adharmam me janami na cha me nivrittih”. I know what is dharma but I have no will towards it, I have knowledge of what is adharma but I can’t be detached from it. So this is the contradiction between knowledge and will. Because of this dichotomy the speed of knowledge and will are not in accord with each other. I may know a lot and yet it may not manifest in Will, it is only when the two are combined together that you will have a complete control over the movement of Will and you can continue with the will whatever you want to manifest, whatever you know can be put into will. When this harmony comes about then there will be omnipotence. At present all our incapacities are on account of the fact that the knowledge and will are not in harmony, therefore there are incapacities. All incapacities are because knowledge and will are not in perfect tuning with each other.

In the Veda there was therefore there was a tremendous statement – the nature of Agni which is said is kavi kratu, this is a description of kavi, of agni described in the very first hymn, “Agni hotar kavi kratu, satasya chitrashravas tamah”. Agni is described as kavi kratu. Agni is considered to be omnipotent, with Agni everything is possible. This is the Vedic secret that if you find anywhere, any problem of doing anything, you must invite Agni. Why is it that Agni is capable of doing it because in Agni knowledge and will are completely harmonised. It is kavi kratu, it is a will which is kavi, illumined by knowledge. It is kavi kratu. Only when knowledge and will are combined together that there is a complete omnipotence. All human incapacities are because knowledge and will are in disharmony with each other. I know something, I cannot put that knowledge into my action, in my will, or my will is unbridled, my knowledge is thrown out, my will says: I don’t want this guidance from you. This is the constant conflict. Our men of will are very averse to taking advice and people who advise they are very incompetent to direct will, they are impotent. Those advisors are always impotent, they cannot really affect their Will into those who are in power. This has been a constant conflict in the world. In fact you might say the whole world history can be described as a constant conflict between knowledge and will. This conflict is still present although mind and will, knowledge and will are put together, Life and mind are put together but still not fully put together, this movement is not yet complete and there is still an opposition between the two. The ideal would be achieved only when the will and knowledge are so combined together that there will be omniscience and omnipotence. Omniscience and omnipotence are completely combined together then will be the perfection that is being aimed at.

Therefore Sri Aurobindo says that now if this is the movement, this is the way in which, the method in which nature has evolved, life injected into matter, mind injected into life; although opposite of each other and yet not fully injected as yet. Therefore it means that the nature has not yet completed its task, nature is still in the process of completing. If this has happened so far and if there is still a striving, it is not as if striving has stopped, not that because will and knowledge have collided with each other the battle is over, the battle is on. All people who have got knowledge are still striving to affect their knowledge into those people who are holding power. And those who are holding power are gradually beginning to open up themselves to receiving guidance. This has happened, this is the story of the history of the world. Why is it that the man of power today, have agreed to meet in the assembly of the United Nations? They are all men of power, the power of way of knowledge has succeeded to that extent that these men of power must sit together and they must take decisions in consultation with each other. This itself is a tremendous win on the side of knowledge. Knowledge has won to the extent that men of power are asked to take advice, counsel with each other, to be very, very restrained, what is dharma they are obliged to listen to dharma. The power of Duryodhan has been diminished by the very fact that such institutions have come into existence. The battle is still on, it’s not that today men of power immediately accept whatever is being told to them by people who have knowledge. Battle is on but this battle can be completed, and this is the very message of Nature that ultimately the one thing that seems to be impossible is being realised and the full realisation will be – a conscious will and a conscious knowledge, both combined together in perfect harmony. Therefore the last sentence Sri Aurobindo says:

Not only, then, is the upward impulse of man towards the accordance of yet higher opposites rational in itself, but it is the only logical completion of a rule and an effort that seem to be a fundamental method of Nature and the very sense of her universal strivings.

Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine - I: The Human Aspiration

Therefore the argument which was put in the second paragraph that because the ideal is opposed to the actual, therefore the ideal is unreal and cannot be realised, by this argument Sri Aurobindo says that that argument that that ideal is realisable is perfectly rational and:

Not only, then, is the upward impulse of man towards the accordance of yet higher opposites rational in itself, but it is the only logical completion of a rule and an effort that seem to be a fundamental method of Nature and the very sense of her universal strivings.

Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine - I: The Human Aspiration

As I said earlier there is still one more question which is still not answered. Why is this the method of Nature? This is the method of Nature; therefore you come to this conclusion, so far so good, as yet why should such be the method of Nature? That question is not yet answered. That is a very, very difficult question and the whole book is actually you might say is an answer to that question, why should such be the method of Nature, why should there be dialectical movement at all. Why are these constant opposites in this world, – that they get harmonised is a fact therefore you might say the method of Nature. But why should there be such a method, there lies a very great secret of its existence. But I will not tell you now because that is what is required, but leave this question in mind; it is still a farther, more detailed metaphysical question, why should such be the method? Gradually the whole book is an attempt to answer this question, why such a thing? But in the meantime there is an exposition of that particular answer, but gradually. In the next paragraph we get a farther step in the reasoning.

Now if you read the next paragraph, it is an exposition of a massive fact, which has been indicated already in the previous paragraph. But now this massive fact, which has been emphasised very much in modern times in the name of evolution, this massive fact of evolution that fact is now brought into the picture. You remember what philosophy is? Philosophy is the seeking of essential significance of physical and psychological facts. All metaphysics is an argument which takes you from one fact to the other and draws a conclusion by an argument. Now this argument however must relate itself to facts, physical facts and psychological facts. The facts should be made to speak as it were. If you analyse a fact, if you relate facts with facts then you should be able to derive significance of these facts, essential significance. Now this effort is metaphysics, is philosophy.

This chapter begins with a statement of a fact, namely the fact of the history of mankind, and points out that one simple fact which is very pervasive is the aspiration of man and that aspiration can be characterised very clearly as an aspiration for God, Light, Freedom, Immortality. That is one massive fact which was taken into account. Now comes a more massive fact, a large massive fact, a most comprehensive fact and that is evolution. Human aspiration is only part of the evolutionary movement but now we come to the most pervasive fact and that is of evolution. So now Sri Aurobindo takes into account that large massive fact into the question and tries to derive out of that fact a message, the metaphysical significance of it. So let us read this now, it is concerned with evolution. I’ll first read a few lines without interruption and then we shall come back again to the beginning of the paragraph.

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. For there seems to be no reason why Life should evolve out of material elements or Mind out of living form, unless we accept the Vedantic solution that Life is already involved in Matter and Mind in Life because in essence Matter is a form of veiled Life, Life a form of veiled Consciousness. And then there seems to be little objection to a farther step in the series and the admission that mental consciousness may itself be only a form and a veil of higher states which are beyond Mind.

Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine - I: The Human Aspiration

These five-six lines contain a fact and an argument. We had seen in the beginning a historical argument, then we saw earlier also ontological argument, then we saw the dialectical argument, now in this paragraph we see another argument which is called a causal argument. These are all arguments of metaphysical thought. These are all admissible arguments in metaphysics. Each one has its own validity, its own capacity of coming to a conclusion, as I said ontological argument is considered to be the most decisive argument, you can’t escape. Ontological argument gives you an inescapable conclusion, you cannot deny it. Once the argument is put forward the conclusion is inescapable. Historical argument gives you a great probability of its conclusion. So you can only stop by saying, it seems to be promising that this will happen, so historical argument is not as decisive as an ontological argument can be. The dialectical reasoning is supposed to be not absolutely decisive nor historically so much inconclusive. In fact those who hold dialectical theory believe that it is a completely deterministic theory and the conclusion is absolutely inevitable, that is the belief of many people who believe in dialectical argument. Therefore those like Marxists for example, who believe in dialectical arguments are called historically determinists. The conclusion is determined, inescapable; this is bound to happen you can’t escape it. Revolution is inescapable according to Marxists, it was bound to happen. Why? Because of the dialectical movement, the dialectical movement is so powerful, so very pervasive, so inescapable that whenever you can show a dialectical movement the conclusion is inescapable. But actually speaking this inescapability of dialectical argument is not by itself so conclusive. In fact, some of the people who have argued against Marx and Hegel have argued there is no determinism in history. This is the argument against all dialectical thinkers; there is no determinism at all. According to them the Russian Revolution depended only upon the arrival of Lenin. At the time when revolution started, Lenin was not in Russia, he was in a foreign country. And there was a question of his visa; it only depended upon one very small event, whether he will be able to pass through or not, a very small event. It happened just like that, it may have happened, it may not have happened, it just happened. There was no determinism about it, it happened by chance. He came into Russia and then he could be the real motivation of a farther movement of revolution which ultimately succeeded. So according to many historians there is no determinism in history at all. There is no dialectical movement at all. Now these historians also are not so right to say that everything happens in the world by chance is a denial of all philosophy, not only of any history but all philosophy itself, because basically philosophy is a theory of explanation. If there were no explanation at all in the world then philosophy has no standing ground. All philosophy is an attempt to explain. All philosophy is seeking of meaning, if there is no meaning at all then there is no explanation and therefore philosophy has no background. Now what is the fundamental basis of this seeking of meaning? It is that which is one of the central principles of Vedanta, it is the statement that nothing can come out of nothing; that the effect must be present in the cause. This is what is called in Sankhya satkaryavada. Sat, karya means the effect, effect is sat is present already in the cause, therefore it is called satkaryavada. The effect is already present in the cause. You can have a mango tree only from the mango seed. You sow the seed of rice and expect a mango tree to come out of it, is not possible, is not logical, is not expendable. So according to this theory if any effect comes about it can’t be an arbitrary effect. It can’t just happen. According to Vedanta this whole world is an effect. If it is an effect there must be a cause behind it and that effect must be present in the cause. That cause must be capable of giving birth. In fact this whole theory of cause and effect relationship is one of the very important theories in philosophy. There is a lot of debate on this theory.

The fact of which Sri Aurobindo speaks here is that of evolution, a fact which has been stated in modern times with great force. It is not that today it is universally accepted, the idea of evolution is presented by science but there are many who oppose this theory of evolution. Therefore Sri Aurobindo says: ‘we speak of evolution today’, and those who speak of evolution on the side of science, yet they avoid explaining evolution. Science is actually a study to explain things, why should an apple thrown upwards into the sky, should fall on the ground? This is the question and there are many questions in science, and science tries to answer in terms of causes behind events. Answer given by Newton was that because of the law of gravitation this is what ought to happen and happens, it’s a universal law applicable to all, nobody can escape it. This is what is known as explanation in science to give a cause to explain an effect. Now while speaking of this theory of evolution which was expounded basically by Darwin in modern times, he tried to explain evolution and his explanation of evolution was that there is a natural selection. Now this word natural selection is simply an admission of a chance event, it just happens, naturally selected. Anything that is moving evolves, that evolution takes place because of a natural selection, but then any particular thing which has been selected naturally, happens to evolve by the law of heredity. A certain organism during its development goes on developing, developing, and it acquires certain characteristics by development. These developed characteristics are transmitted to its offspring by the law of heredity. As a result of which the new offspring has a benefit of without effort to have acquired those characteristics and these benefits are transmitted to the offspring. Then there are further developments, these developments take place because of a battle between the organism and the environment. The environment gives a challenge to the organism and this challenge is met by some kind of a development of further characteristics, which are put forth by the organism, new characteristics are developed by this kind of a movement, which is called the movement of struggle. Every organism strives to exist, therefore it’s called the struggle for existence. There is a natural law of struggle for existence. As a result of which characteristics develop, capacities develop, these capacities are transmitted by the law of heredity and therefore the new form that is in the off-spring is the more advanced form and it is as a result of this advanced form a certain critical point is reached. At a critical stage a new species is developed and the whole world history can be explained in terms of natural selection, struggle for existence, transmission of acquired characteristics by heredity and the evolution of new species. And then gradually when life begins to move forward and Darwin tried to show by a number of examples of different species and tried to show that there is a graduated development of species. New characteristics develop slowly but remarkably and there are major changes which occur in gradual time. And we have today arrived as a result of that evolution – from microscopic organisms, amoeba for example, up to a human creature that we see today, moving forward with mental consciousness. This is what has happened.

Now Sri Aurobindo says that this whole series of development is only a statement of what has happened, it is a statement of history but it does not explain why evolution should take place in the form in which it has taken place. Why life has evolved out of matter, and why mind should evolve out of life. This is the question that the evolutionary theory does not explain. That’s why Sri Aurobindo says, we speak of evolution of life in matter and of mind in life but we do not explain why life should emerge in matter, and why mind should emerge in life. And this can be explained only if, and this is Sri Aurobindo’s answer, only if we have the Vedantic solution. This brings out the theory of Vedanta, into high prominence. The whole Life Divine is actually Vedanta and Sri Aurobindo finds Vedantic philosophy to be the most satisfying philosophy among all the systems of Indian philosophy or Western philosophy. And one of the reasons why Vedantic philosophy is accepted by Sri Aurobindo is because it is on the basis of Vedanta that evolution can best be explained.

Now you must understand that Vedanta is a monistic philosophy. According to Vedanta ultimate Reality is One, and this Reality however has a potentiality of formations and all that is here in this world is an effect produced from a cause, if many have come out they have come out of the One, One is the cause of the many, multiplicity, the variety, all that is involved is present in the One. Because the ultimate Reality is Supermind, super consciousness, therefore super consciousness can emerge from mind, because of that reason mind can emerge from life, because of that reason life can emerge out of matter. And even matter itself is nothing but a condensation of consciousness. Matter as we understand it, is not merely matter, matter itself is a condensed consciousness. What Sri Aurobindo calls it is involved consciousness because consciousness is involved in matter, therefore in the evolution consciousness can gradually evolve. And life is a station in that evolution; mind is a further station of evolution. And then the climax could be reached when the consciousness fully emerges in all its full splendour. This in brief is what Sri Aurobindo calls the spiritual theory of evolution as distinguished from the scientific theory. Scientific theory simply states a fact, without explaining. The Vedantic philosophical theory and spiritual theory explains why it should happen, why evolution should happen as it has happened. And as I said the crux of the matter is in the law of causation, because the effect is concealed in the cause therefore the effect can come out of it and come out of it inevitably, not optionally, but inevitably. Because the effect is present in the cause it can come out effectively in the form in which it is manifested. Now this theory has been explained in detail in due course of time. In fact the whole book is a great exposition of this theory of evolution. Here it is stated only very briefly, as I said this first chapter is a summary of the whole book. And this theory of evolution which plays a very great role in the yoga of Sri Aurobindo, that whole theory requires a tremendous elucidation. In fact we have, if you open this book further into the third volume, second part of the second volume, there is one full chapter which is called Man and Evolution. In that chapter Sri Aurobindo has expounded the scientific theory of evolution, the philosophic theory of evolution, and the spiritual theory of evolution, because even the philosophic theory of evolution which has developed in modern times, is also very interesting. There has been the philosophic theory of Bergson, theory of evolution as expounded by Alexander, theory of Smutts, theory of Spencer, the theory of Whitehead, theory of Tielhard De Chardin; all these are philosophical theories of evolution. They all take for granted that there is evolution, but they all try to explain why evolution should be what it is. Among all these theories of evolution Sri Aurobindo presents Vedanta also as a theory of evolution. You must remember that the word evolution has been used in Indian philosophy with regard to Sankhya. Sankhya theory has been considered as a theory of evolution, the avyakta Prakriti evolves into the ultimate manifestation of the whole world as it is seen. And Sankhya theory is very famous for its theory of cause and effect, according to which effect is present in the cause. So the world can be explained in the terms of what is in seed form in the avyakta, and it can become manifest in the world. Now in India this theory was greatly challenged by nyaya, nyaya is opposed to the theory of causation, it is called asatkaryavada. The theory of causation in nyaya, nyaya accepts causation, it accepts that there is causation, there is a relation between cause and effect, but that relationship is not that which is contained as that which is effected. The effect is not contained in the cause according to nyaya, cause has to be present, something is to be added to it, when you add to it something then effect happens to come out, almost like a miracle. It’s almost admitting that there is something like, something coming out of nothing. You put all the threads together, putting of the threads together produces cloth but cloth and the putting of the threads together is not identical, there is difference between the two. Effect is not present in the cause according to Nyaya. According to Sankhya effect is present in the cause. Now Vedanta admits Sankhyan theory of evolution. In fact all the Vedantic theories (there are many Vedantic theories) but all of them admit as far as the development of the world is concerned, the theory of Sankhya, that effect is present in the cause. Without the cause containing the effect it cannot be produced.

Now Sri Aurobindo says that this theory is the only way by which you can explain, if you want an explanation at all. It is the only theory by which you can explain the development of Life in Matter, and of Mind in Life. Now we shall debate this statement at length in due course of time. In modern times the theory of evolution, even those who accept the theory of evolution, they do not accept the theory of causation. Therefore this idea that the effect must be contained in the cause even many scientists don’t accept. In fact modern science is a very curious development. When science began its own march in the 15th-16th centuries, it started with the idea that you have got to explain everything in terms of causality. This was a revolt against religion. Science began as a revolt against religion because religion tried to explain the world coming out of nothing. Christian religion, which was very powerful in the West, maintained that God created the world out of nothing. And if the question was asked: How could God create a world out of nothing? The answer was: it is so revealed. You cannot question it because it is in the scripture, you cannot question it. Therefore when scientific thought began in the West, it said we cannot accept merely because it is given in the scripture that the world can come out of nothing and they said actually nothing can come out of nothing, you must always give as a cause for anything that happens you must give a cause and therefore the beginnings of science, were rooted in the theory of causation.

In fact when Bacon, he was the first important philosopher of science, he said what is science? His answer was science is a process of induction, and what is induction? Induction is a process of reasoning in which you arrive at a conclusion which is universal but you derive this conclusion which is universal from the observation of particulars. You take a few examples and when you observe those few examples, you arrive at a universal conclusion. It’s a leap as it were, from observation of particulars you make a leap into the universal, on two conditions. You can make a leap from particular to universal provided that you fulfil two conditions, provided you show the operation of the law of causation, and the law of uniformity of Nature. Nature is always uniform and in Nature there is no miracle, everything happens because of the cause and the cause and effect are causally connected. Causally means necessarily connected there is a necessary connection. Oxygen and Hydrogen if you combine there is no escape from the production of water, necessarily it will follow. This necessary connection was emphasised by the theories of science at that time to begin with, there is a causal connection such that given the cause, effect must be produced. Only then can you derive from the particular examples and conclude it is an operation which can operate all over the world because of the uniformity of Nature. What operates here in this particular part of Nature will operate all over the world, because of the uniformity of Nature and because of the universal law of operation of the causation law; you can lead from particular to the universal. So at that time science insisted upon the operation of the law of causation.

Today the latest theories of science maintain that there is no such thing as causation, it’s quite a different scenario today. They even come to the statement that this whole explanation itself is beside the point. The attempt to explain is not necessary; you simply have to describe what is there, describe this is what is happening, not because of the law of causation, it just happening, things are happening in the world. And if you ask the question why is it happening? Your question itself is invalid. Our knowledge consists of stating what is, describe it and that is the end of it, don’t try to explain it. As a result of which modern science is a study not of explanations, it’s a study of descriptions. Science is an enquiry into descriptions. According to this latest theory philosophy is unnecessary, is absolutely something that can be dispensed with. Not only that but philosophy, – what is philosophy? Explanation, what is explanation, what is the meaning of explanation the word itself is questioned, what is explanation? Modern scientists who go to the extreme say I don’t understand the word explanation because it means that there must be a reason. But there are no reasons in the world at all. There is simply a movement and there are only things happening. This is the latest mood of science. In that latest mood of science what Sri Aurobindo says here, may seem to be completely relevant. He says modern science only describes that Life has evolved in Matter and Mind has evolved in Life. That is enough to explain why Life must evolve in Matter, why Mind must evolve in Life, to ask a question, explaining is irrelevant because you simply describe. In other words according to modern science, knowledge consists of taking cognisance of what is happening, do not ask the question why it is happening, how it has happened, it has happened, that is knowledge. Knowledge is only knowledge of what is happening, that is all. Fortunately, all scientists don’t agree with this view. There are many philosophers of science who don’t agree with this view and today there is a big debate in the field of science, whether science is to be only descriptive or has to be explanatory. Sri Aurobindo has discussed this question in detail in the first chapter of the second volume. If you open this chapter, I will like to read it to you because it’s very important. The Life Divine is a great book also because of the reason that it takes into account the latest theories of knowledge, which at the time when The Life Divine was being written were not yet expounded but he had foreseen those theories already and he has given a full account of them and has dealt with them, so that even today the arguments of this book are as modern, ultra modern as they ought to be for a contemporary mind. So if from the beginning of the chapter you take the fifth paragraph, I will read out to you very quickly because Sri Aurobindo has expounded the latest position in regard to the present day scientific account of the world.

Actually to our Science this infinite or indeterminate Existence reveals itself as an Energy, known not by itself but by its works, which throws up in its motion waves of energism and in them a multitude of infinitesimals; these, grouping themselves to form larger infinitesimals, become a basis for all the creations of the Energy, even those farthest away from the material basis, for the emergence of a world of organised Matter, for the emergence of Life, for the emergence of Consciousness, for all the still unexplained activities of evolutionary Nature. On the original process are erected a multitude of processes which we can observe, follow, can take advantage of many of them, utilise; but they are none of them, fundamentally, explicable. We know now that different groupings and a varying number of electric infinitesimals can produce or serve as the constituent occasion—miscalled the cause, for here there seems to be only a necessary antecedent condition—for the appearance of larger atomic infinitesimals of different natures, qualities, powers; but we fail to discover how these different dispositions can come to constitute these different atoms,—how the differentiae in the constituent occasion or cause necessitate the differentiae in the constituted outcome or result. We know also that certain combinations of certain invisible atomic infinitesimals produce or occasion new and visible determinations quite different in nature, quality and power from the constituent infinitesimals; but we fail to discover, for instance, how a fixed formula for the combination of oxygen and hydrogen comes to determine the appearance of water which is evidently something more than a combination of gases, a new creation, a new form of substance, a material manifestation of a quite new character. We see that a seed develops into a tree, we follow the line of the process of production and we utilise it; but we do not discover how a tree can grow out of a seed, how the life and form of the tree come to be implied in the substance or energy of the seed or, if that be rather the fact, how the seed can develop into a tree. We know that genes and chromosomes are the cause of hereditary transmissions, not only of physical but of psychological variations; but we do not discover how psychological characteristics can be contained and transmitted in this inconscient material vehicle. We do not see or know, but it is expounded to us as a cogent account of Nature-process, that a play of electrons, of atoms and their resultant molecules, of cells, glands, chemical secretions and physiological processes manages by their activity on the nerves and brain of a Shakespeare or a Plato to produce or could be perhaps the dynamic occasion for the production of a Hamlet or a Symposium or a Republic; but we fail to discover or appreciate how such material movements could have composed or necessitated the composition of these highest points of thought and literature: the divergence here of the determinants and the determination becomes so wide that we are no longer able to follow the process, much less understand or utilise. These formulae of Science may be pragmatically correct and infallible, they may govern the practical how of Nature’s processes, but they do not disclose the intrinsic how or why; rather they have the air of the formulae of a cosmic Magician, precise, irresistible, automatically successful each in its field, but their rationale is fundamentally unintelligible.

There is more to perplex us; for we see the original indeterminate Energy throwing out general determinates of itself,—we might equally in their relation to the variety of their products call them generic indeterminates,—with their appropriate states of substance and determined forms of that substance: the latter are numerous, sometimes innumerable variations on the substance-energy which is their base: but none of these variations seems to be predetermined by anything in the nature of the general indeterminate. An electric Energy produces positive, negative, neutral forms of itself, forms that are at once waves and particles; a gaseous state of energy-substance produces a considerable number of different gases; a solid state of energy substance from which results the earth principle develops into different forms of earth and rock of many kinds and numerous minerals and metals; a life principle produces its vegetable kingdom teeming with a countless foison of quite different plants, trees, flowers; a principle of animal life produces an enormous variety of genus, species, individual variations: so it proceeds into human life and mind and its mind-types towards the still unwritten end or perhaps the yet occult sequel of that unfinished evolutionary chapter. Throughout there is the constant rule of a general sameness in the original determinate and, subject to this substantial sameness of basic substance and nature, a profuse variation in the generic and individual determinates; an identical law obtains of sameness or similarity in the genus or species with numerous variations often meticulously minute in the individual. But we do not find anything in any general or generic determinate necessitating the variant determinations that result from it. A necessity of immutable sameness at the base, of free and unaccountable variations on the surface seems to be the law; but who or what necessitates or determines? What is the rationale of the determination, what is its original truth or its significance? What compels or impels this exuberant play of varying possibilities which seem to have no aim or meaning unless it be the beauty or delight of creation? A Mind, a seeking and curious inventive Thought, a hidden determining Will might be there, but there is no trace of it in the first and fundamental appearance of material Nature.

Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine - I: Indeterminates, Cosmic Determinations and the Indeterminable

This is the description of the whole scientific account today of the whole world. And this question as to why, how intrinsic how, intrinsic why, this question today, is said to be irrelevant. Science consists now only of describing that this is what has happened and this is happening and that is the end of it. Science means an enquiry into what is happening and nothing more than that. The question is whether we should remain stuck to this conclusion. Can science do anything more than this? Is it simply a description? Now some scientists take the view that that is the correct thing to do. World is what it is, things are happening and something will go on happening. You just allow it to happen. This world is a world of Chance. By chance something has happened and by chance certain things are happening like a magician, as Sri Aurobindo says. Like a magician many things are being manifested unaccountably and even to ask what is the account of it, itself is irrelevant because things will happen by chance. Sri Aurobindo develops the theory of Chance to its utmost extreme. In fact, this theory of Chance is extremely important today. If everything is by chance then the whole Indian science of Yoga is a futility because Yoga implies that there is a method by which the present state of consciousness can be changed into another state of consciousness; and that that new consciousness will be full of meaning and full of ultimate satisfaction and that by your conscious will, you will be able to produce what is willed. This is the fundamental point of Yoga – that what is at present given to you can be transmuted by a conscious application of methods; that by process of concentration you can transmute your human mind into a higher consciousness; that the mind can be, which is constantly a movement of ripples and vibrations can be silenced. If everything is by chance, it may happen or may not happen— what is this an application of any method?

The whole theory of Yoga is a theory according to which by conscious application, meaningful application, of cause and effect, you can produce a result and a time can come when you can will and produce effects. In India of course, Yoga is not a great mystery because in India Yoga has been profusely practiced as distinguished from what is happening in the West. There also Yoga has been practiced but not so profusely as in India. Therefore in India it is quite acceptable because we have experienced yogis applying certain mantras and producing certain effects. Putting a certain will and producing a result. In fact right from the Vedic times sacrifice was consciously devised—Yagya, as a method that if you want a certain result you do such and such a yagya and such and such a result can be produced. And although it became a ritualistic movement in due course of time, originally it was not ritualistic, it was a conscious application. It was discovered that this world can be consciously combined and you can produce results which are willed. So the world is not a world of chance. But modern science has come to a point where unable to explain things, it has taken recourse to the theory of Chance.

What is this theory of Chance? To what extent it can lead? In the next paragraph Sri Aurobindo has described the Theory of Chance although in brief, but in detail and it is very important to study this so that we can come to a final point in regard to that idea and that line of thought. So we go back to that paragraph.

A first possible explanation points to a self-organising dynamic Chance that is at work,—a paradox necessitated by the appearance of inevitable order on one side, of unaccountable freak and fantasy on the other side of the cosmic phenomenon we call Nature. An inconscient and inconsequent Force, we may say, that acts at random and creates this or that by a general chance without any determining principle,—determinations coming in only as the result of a persistent repetition of the same rhythm of action and succeeding because only this repetitive rhythm could succeed in keeping things in being,—this is the energy of Nature.

Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine - I: Indeterminates, Cosmic Determinations and the Indeterminable

Sri Aurobindo argues:

But this implies that somewhere in the origin of things there is a boundless Possibility or a womb of innumerable possibilities that are manifested out of it by the original Energy,—an incalculable Inconscient which we find some embarrassment in calling either an Existence or a Non-Existence; for without some such origin and basis the appearance and the action of the Energy is unintelligible. Yet an opposite aspect of the nature of the cosmic phenomenon as we see it appears to forbid the theory of a random action generating a persistent order. There is too much of an iron insistence on order, on a law basing the possibilities. One would be justified rather in supposing that there is an inherent imperative Truth of things unseen by us, but a Truth capable of manifold manifestation, throwing out a multitude of possibilities and variants of itself which the creative Energy by its action turns into so many realised actualities. This brings us to a second explanation—a mechanical necessity in things, its workings recognisable by us as so many mechanical laws of Nature;—the necessity, we might say, of some such secret inherent Truth of things as we have supposed, governing automatically the processes we observe in action in the universe. But a theory of mechanical Necessity by itself does not elucidate the free play of the endless unaccountable variations which are visible in the evolution: there must be behind the Necessity or in it a law of unity associated with a coexistent but dependent law of multiplicity, both insisting on manifestation; but the unity of what, the multiplicity of what? Mechanical Necessity can give no answer. Again the emergence of consciousness out of the Inconscient is a stumbling-block in the way of this theory; for it is a phenomenon which can have no place in an all-pervading truth of inconscient mechanical Necessity. If there is a necessity which compels the emergence, it can be only this, that there is already a consciousness concealed in the Inconscient, waiting for evolution and when all is ready breaking out from its prison of apparent Nescience. We may indeed get rid of the difficulty of the imperative order of things by supposing that it does not exist, that determinism in Nature is imposed on it by our thought which needs such an imperative order to enable it to deal with its surroundings, but in reality there is no such thing; there is only a Force experimenting in a random action of infinitesimals which build up in their general results different determinations by a repetitive persistence operative in the sum of their action; thus we go back from Necessity to Chance as the basis of our existence. But what then is this Mind, this Consciousness which differs so radically from the Energy that produced it that for its action it has to impose its idea and need of order on the world she has made and in which it is obliged to live? There would then be the double contradiction of consciousness emerging from a fundamental Inconscience and of a Mind of order and reason manifesting as the brilliant final consequence of a world created by inconscient Chance. These things may be possible, but they need a better explanation than any yet given before we can accord to them our acceptance.

Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine - I: Indeterminates, Cosmic Determinations and the Indeterminable

So you might say the Chance theory may be a right theory, asatkaryavada may be a right theory—it is quite possible, this world is just a chance happening in which you do not need to explain or ask why has it happened, why should it happen? Therefore, the question why matter should give rise to life, why life should give rise to mind—this question is not necessary to ask at all. It has happened and therefore you cannot even conclude that therefore mind should produce supermind. The whole theory of evolution if you express it in the form of a Chance theory, there is no basis for saying that the human aspiration which aspires for supramental manifestation, there is no ground for it—it is all chance manifestation. Man is aspiring also by chance; he may not aspire by chance. There is no such justification to the asking why it should happen or what is the significance of it; all that is beside the point. Now, Sri Aurobindo grants that this is a way in which the world may be of that kind of order. Logically, there is no answer to this theory. In a sense you might say, it is an irrefutable theory, the world may be of this kind, logically it is very important that Sri Aurobindo grants as he says, these things may be possible, are possible. He says that this may be so; chance may be the only way in which you can say the world is chance, it is happening. But there is one rider to it that philosophically, this theory if it is true, it is true only by chance. This theory itself would be true only by chance and not because it must be true, you can’t say it must be true, because if everything is a chance then even if this theory is right it is only by chance it is true. Therefore, it is not binding. Besides, there may be another possibility. The Chance theory itself may give rise to a possibility that chance itself may not be by chance, chance. There could be a possibility in which you can explain everything in terms of significance; and supposing you do that, then philosophically, at least, it will be more acceptable, philosophically, because philosophy is an attempt to understand meaningfully; by definition philosophy is to find significance. So as far as philosophy is concerned that theory will be more acceptable because it explains the meaning and significance. But it may be argued that philosophically that theory may be more acceptable but in reality it may not be so. Philosophically it may be so, but in reality it may not be so. Therefore, Sri Aurobindo says that mere philosophical explanation is not sufficient. You must have a deeper answer. If you can practically show it, not only philosophically, if you can practically show it then it becomes doubly acceptable, philosophically as well as practically, and that is the claim of Yoga that yogically by conscious application you can produce conscious results and as you will them. That is why, what is philosophically true is also yogically possible and therefore there is a double affirmation of it. It is on that basis that this paragraph in the first chapter, where Sri Aurobindo says that we speak of evolution but we do not explain why that becomes justifiable. So we now repeat the first chapter.

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. For there seems to be no reason why Life should evolve out of material elements or Mind out of living form, unless we accept the Vedantic solution that Life is already involved in Matter and Mind in Life because in essence Matter is a form of veiled Life, Life a form of veiled Consciousness.

Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine - I: The Human Aspiration

This is the Vedantic solution of the problem, both philosophically justifiable and yogically justifiable. Now we go further.

In that case, the unconquerable impulse of man towards God, Light, Bliss, Freedom, Immortality presents itself in its right place in the chain as simply the imperative impulse by which Nature is seeking to evolve beyond Mind, and appears to be as natural, true and just as the impulse towards Life which she has planted in certain forms of Matter or the impulse towards Mind which she has planted in certain forms of Life.

Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine - I: The Human Aspiration

Now comes a statement in the form of an argument and is called analogical argument, upamana, which is another method of argument in philosophy. Not only anumana which is by inference but upamana, it is by analogy. Analogical argument is to show two states and compare the two states and then say in this one which is comparable to the other one such and such things are similar. In this one, one more element is also possible therefore in this one also that is quite possible. It’s like an argument that Earth and Mars seem to be very similar to each other. On Earth there is life and therefore on Mars also there could be life. It’s an analogical argument. Because the conditions of Mars and Earth are very similar to each other, therefore it follows that if on Earth there is life, on Mars also there could be life. It’s an analogical argument, again it is to be said that analogical arguments are not conclusive. But they have a great power of providing an impetus for exploration. It is something which you cannot just reject, it may be it may not be. It is very, very likely to happen and most likely to happen, and you are most likely to discover it. This is the power of analogical argument. In fact, in Indian philosophy analogical arguments have been very, very decisive. In Shankara’s philosophy for example the rope-snake analogy is regarded as a very powerful argument to show a relationship between the world and reality. So now here comes the analogical argument. If you examine the evolution that has taken place so far from Matter to Life, from Life to Mind and now we are staying at the level where the Mind is, what are the conditions present now which were present when Mind came out of Life? If the same conditions obtain when Mind has come out then to show if Life produced Mind, Mind may produce Supermind; if the conditions are very similar. So there Sri Aurobindo wants to argue that as in the case of Life-Mind, so now is the condition between Mind and Supermind.

As there, so here, the impulse exists more or less obscurely in her different vessels with an ever-ascending series in the power of its will-to-be; as there, so here, it is gradually evolving and bound fully to evolve the necessary organs and faculties. As the impulse towards Mind ranges from the more sensitive reactions of Life in the metal and the plant up to its full organisation in man, so in man himself there is the same ascending series, the preparation, if nothing more, of a higher and divine life. 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 co-operation she wills to work out the superman, the god. Or shall we not say, rather, to manifest God? For if evolution is the progressive manifestation by Nature of that which slept or worked in her, involved, it is also the overt realisation of that which she secretly is. We cannot, then, bid her pause at a given stage of her evolution, nor have we the right to condemn with the religionist as perverse and presumptuous or with the rationalist as a disease or hallucination any intention she may evince or effort she may make to go beyond. If it be true that Spirit is involved in Matter and apparent Nature is secret God, then the manifestation of the divine in himself and the realisation of God within and without are the highest and most legitimate aim possible to man upon earth.

Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine - I: The Human Aspiration

Can we rationally argue that the manifestation of Supermind is inevitable? This is the basic thesis of the whole book – can we rationally argue that? Spiritually, it can be argued that here we can produce Supermind by Yogic effort but can we rationally prove it particularly, when as yet Supermind has not been yogically manifested, although the argument is that yogically you can manifest it, grant it even. But in The Life Divine which is a philosophical book a rational argument has to be given. Therefore, Sri Aurobindo says can we rationally argue, can we rationally prove that manifestation of Supermind is inevitable. And Sri Aurobindo says that if you consider evolutionary manifestation so far, then it can rationally be argued that it is bound to manifest the next step of evolution on the ground of analogical reasoning. That is analogical reasoning shows – this is the only basis – analogical reasoning, the conditions which were obtained when life manifested Mind are conditions similar to what is obtained now and therefore Supermind seems to be inevitable in the same procession. How are the two to be compared? Analogical reasoning shows, this is the only basis, analogical reasoning, the conditions which were obtained when Life manifested Mind are conditions similar to what is obtained now and therefore Supermind seems to be inevitable in the same procession. Now how are the two to be compared?

Sri Aurobindo says you compare the present condition of Mind and how Life manifested Mind in gradual terms. When Life first manifested there was no Mind in it, but then what happened gradually Life began to evolve more and more complex forms because of a certain impulse in it. That impulse was not visible in the beginning but gradually became more and more visible as we saw the law of struggle manifesting more and more powerfully. Every organism began to struggle and to acquire capacities and succeeded in transmitting the acquired characteristics to the next of kin. This is what has happened. And this happening had a series—that is to say—less formed organizations, and more evolved organized formations. Less organized manifesting less organization of consciousness. More organized creating more manifestation of consciousness. There was a gradual increase of more and more organized forms of consciousness, until this evolutionary form was capable of creating an organ called the Brain. As a result of the great development, the brain came to be manufactured, a physical brain. And that brain began to give electric charges as it were and these electric charges came to manifest what we call human consciousness, human thought, human vibrations of emotions. Now if there is this analogy then gradually different levels of gradations and these gradations are marked by more and more organized material functioning, material organs but more complex organs, if these more complex organs give rise to more complex manifestations of consciousness. This is what has happened. Now see in human beings, in human beings also there have been gradations—the primitive man, the physical man, the vital man, the mental man—there have been gradations. At one time it was believed that the brain is not evolving, the brain is the same in primitive man and the modern man. Latest scientific discoveries now show that even the brain is evolving—this is the latest. The brain is not the same; our brain structure has undergone a change. So you can see that as the consciousness begins to develop more and more even the physical organs also begin to change. Therefore Sri Aurobindo says that if animal was a living laboratory, in which man was evolved, man also analogically may be regarded as a thinking and living laboratory in whom a fully conscious being can be evolved. We normally evolve from childhood to adulthood in consciousness, and there also our physical organs develop more and more. And we find in the series of development on account of the physical growth the development of consciousness. Similarly, there may be a law developing now in the human being, capable of developing such an instrument, such a consciousness that you might say that, a child of today is right from the beginning more evolved than what we were, when we were children, much more conscious, much more reflective, much more intelligent and it is quite possible that in due course of time a body can be produced which right from the beginning is fully conscious. It may look miraculous today. But if this evolutionary process is correct then an animal child does not have right from the beginning that kind of capacity which a human child possesses, right from the beginning. How has it happened? An animal child does not have the question of what, why, how, but a human child right from childhood begins to ask the question what, why and how. Similarly, a point may be reached where a child may be right from the beginning fully conscious. And this is possible because consciousness is only a kind of unfolding. A certain unfoldment of a consciousness takes place and the vision changes.

In fact all yogic levels of consciousness imply certain sudden changes. I see a situation in a certain state of consciousness and the things seem to me to be banal, meaningless and suddenly I get an experience, something triggers off in my consciousness and suddenly I realize—the whole situation changes. An individual whom I felt had no sense, suddenly puts me a question which was full of sense. I was not aware that this individual is capable of that sense but suddenly puts a question to me which manifests a higher sense of consciousness. I feel surprised and I see, ‘My Lord! the child was all the time examining me more pitilessly than I was thinking.’ The child knew me much better, and my whole world changed as it were immediately. This is what happens in all miracles of consciousness. A slight change in consciousness and the whole world-view changes, you might even say that everything remains the same and yet everything is different. If this is the case then it is quite possible that what might seem to be a miraculous development of humanity, that miraculous development is only a logical completion of a rule which we see constantly happening in the world movement. Consciousness is capable of visualizing depths and widenesses and the heights, and these depths, and widenesses and heights at one level, change radically just on a little higher level, it is just like climbing a hill, in which from a certain point of view, when you are on a certain angle you can only see a small portion of the surrounding and you just change a little curve and a vast vision begins to unfold itself and your whole total view of things changes.

The thesis of the whole book is that Supramental consciousness is by its very nature all comprehensive, its mahat, right from the beginning, it is all comprehensive. In the human mind we take a long time to add piecemeal, one point of view, second point of view, third point of view, add together and become larger, little more larger and larger, this is only because of our limitation of consciousness. But this consciousness can develop so radically that right from the beginning the comprehensive consciousness is automatic. Sri Aurobindo’s thesis is that it is that consciousness, which will be the basis of divine life on the earth. This divine life on the earth is logically, rationally, possible, inevitable and we can read logically from what has happened on the earth so far and we can conclude that such a thing is possible and inevitable. Therefore Sri Aurobindo says that there are only two great oppositions to this theory. One is the religionist and another is a rationalist. These two theories will oppose this argument. A religionist says God has made man as he is, and he is here only for a certain purpose, according to Christianity to realize that he is a sinner and to seek forgiveness for the sins that he has committed and to get the grace of God on the basis of this confession and to be lifted up into heaven. This is all that man is here for, on this earth. Therefore to imagine or to say that man himself here becomes divine on the earth and will manifest a tremendously divine consciousness is impossible because religion does not allow this at all, man is not here for that purpose at all. Therefore Sri Aurobindo says that religionists may call your theory of evolution as perverse, it is against the Will of God, therefore it is perverse. A rationalist might say that we are only bound to this physical brain and the brain cannot be changed. It is what will remain ever and as long as brain remains brain, you are bound to remain limited human being on the earth incapable of manifesting any higher consciousness. Therefore rationalists will say that all you imagine for supramental consciousness is a hallucination, it can never happen. So Sri Aurobindo says that both these theories of Religionist and the Rationalist can be met logically if we follow this chain of argument which is presented in this chapter. First that human aspiration is what it is; that this aspiration is contradicted by what is actually available. But what is contradicted at a present level has behind it a method and if we examine the method of Nature we find that this opposition is a normal method concealing a pattern then it would follow that, that which seems impossible is the only thing that is inevitable—this is the argument. And finally if you take the whole argument on the basis of evolution, then if evolution is a fact and things which were impossible have come about – out of Matter, Life has come and from Life Mind has come. Therefore if Mind can be capable of producing Supermind, there should be nothing wrong about it, nothing impossible about it – it is perfectly logical.

There is a very interesting scenario Sri Aurobindo has given. Supposing there was a man, when there was only earth and nothing else. And if you were to tell this man that on this earth there will be a growing organism, he will say: it is impossible. This Matter and here something crawling by itself—it is an impossibility. But then if you show him that ‘look, it has happened!’ Ah! Something has happened. But then, if you say that one day many animals will be crawling upon this earth, huge animals, elephants, dinosaurs, tremendous animals will be moving around earth—how impossible. Such a little thing, just a microbe has just begun to crawl and may be by something it has happened. To say that the animals are now moving about—it is impossible. But now when they begin to move out and then witness that man—My Lord! Something has happened, I do feel something, but now you say that these animals will begin to think and produce aeroplanes, and people will travel in the aeroplane, it is impossible—how can it be possible at all? So Sri Aurobindo says that we are like that animal today, who is planted on the earth when nothing has happened yet. And today we are told that a Superman can come on this earth, Divine can move on this earth with full consciousness, comprehensive consciousness. Today we would still like to say—no, no, this is impossible—that cannot happen, human beings coming and gradually growing to some extent that is of course seen and can happen but to say that, that grand thing will happen, that’s impossible. I will read out to you that very interesting passage from the Life Divine. This is the chapter called The Evolution of the Spiritual Man. Chapter number 24.

In the earliest stages of evolutionary Nature we are met by the dumb secrecy of her inconscience; there is no revelation of any significance or purpose in her works, no hint of any other principles of being than that first formulation which is her immediate preoccupation and seems to be for ever her only business: for in her primal works Matter alone appears, the sole dumb and stark cosmic reality. A Witness of creation, if there had been one conscious but uninstructed, would only have seen appearing out of a vast abyss of an apparent non-existence an Energy busy with the creation of Matter, a material world and material objects, organising the infinity of the Inconscient into the scheme of a boundless universe or a system of countless universes that stretched around him into Space without any certain end or limit, a tireless creation of nebulae and star-clusters and suns and planets, existing only for itself, without a sense in it, empty of cause or purpose. It might have seemed to him a stupendous machinery without a use, a mighty meaningless movement, an aeonic spectacle without a witness, a cosmic edifice without an inhabitant; for he would have seen no sign of an indwelling Spirit, no being for whose delight it was made. A creation of this kind could only be the outcome of an inconscient Energy or an illusion-cinema, a shadow play or puppet play of forms reflected on a superconscient indifferent Absolute. He would have seen no evidence of a soul and no hint of mind or life in this immeasurable and interminable display of Matter. It would not have seemed to him possible or imaginable that there could at all be in this desert universe for ever inanimate and insensible an outbreak of teeming life, a first vibration of something occult and incalculable, alive and conscious, a secret spiritual entity feeling its way towards the surface.

But after some aeons, looking out once more on that vain panorama, he might have detected in one small corner at least of the universe this phenomenon, a corner where Matter had been prepared, its operations sufficiently fixed, organised, made stable, adapted as a scene of a new development,—the phenomenon of a living matter, a life in things that had emerged and become visible: but still the Witness would have understood nothing, for evolutionary Nature still veils her secret. He would have seen a Nature concerned only with establishing this out burst of life, this new creation, but life living for itself with no significance in it,—a wanton and abundant creatrix busy scattering the seed of her new power and establishing a multitude of its forms in a beautiful and luxurious profusion or, later, multiplying endlessly genus and species for the pure pleasure of creation: a small touch of lively colour and movement would have been flung into the immense cosmic desert and nothing more. The Witness could not have imagined that a thinking mind would appear in this minute island of life, that a consciousness could awake in the Inconscient, a new and greater subtler vibration come to the surface and betray more clearly the existence of the submerged Spirit. It would have seemed to him at first that Life had somehow become aware of itself and that was all; for this scanty new-born mind seemed to be only a servant of life, a contrivance to help life to live, a machinery for its maintenance, for attack and defence, for certain needs and vital satisfactions, for the liberation of life-instinct and life-impulse. It could not have seemed possible to him that in this little life, so inconspicuous amid the immensities, in one sole species out of this petty multitude, a mental being would emerge, a mind serving life still but also making life and matter its servants, using them for the fulfilment of its own ideas, will, wishes,—a mental being who would create all manner of utensils, tools, instruments out of Matter for all kinds of utilities, erect out of it cities, houses, temples, theatres, laboratories, factories, chisel from it statues and carve cave-cathedrals, invent architecture, sculpture, painting, poetry and a hundred crafts and arts, discover the mathematics and physics of the universe and the hidden secret of its structure, live for the sake of mind and its interests, for thought and knowledge, develop into the thinker, the philosopher and scientist and, as a supreme defiance to the reign of Matter, awake in himself to the hidden Godhead, become the hunter after the invisible, the mystic and the spiritual seeker.

But if after several ages or cycles the Witness had looked again and seen this miracle in full process, even then perhaps, obscured by his original experience of the sole reality of Matter in the universe, he would still not have understood; it would still seem impossible to him that the hidden Spirit could wholly emerge, complete in its consciousness, and dwell upon the earth as the self-knower and world-knower, Nature’s ruler and possessor. “Impossible!” he might say, “all that has happened is nothing much, a little bubbling of sensitive grey stuff of brain, a queer freak in a bit of inanimate Matter moving about on a small dot in the Universe.” On the contrary, a new Witness intervening at the end of the story, informed of the past developments but unobsessed by the deception of the beginning, might cry out, “Ah, then, this was the intended miracle, the last of many,—the Spirit that was submerged in the Inconscience has broken out from it and now inhabits, unveiled, the form of things which, veiled, it had created as its dwelling-place and the scene of its emergence.” But in fact a more conscious Witness might have discovered the clue at an early period of the unfolding, even in each step of its process; for at each stage Nature’s mute secrecy, though still there, diminishes; a hint is given of the next step, a more overtly significant preparation is visible. Already, in what seems to be inconscient in Life, the signs of sensation coming towards the surface are visible; in moving and breathing life the emergence of sensitive mind is apparent and the preparation of thinking mind is not entirely hidden, while in thinking mind, when it develops, there appear at an early stage the rudimentary strivings and afterwards the more developed seekings of a spiritual consciousness. As plant life contains in itself the obscure possibility of the conscious animal, as the animal mind is astir with the movements of feeling and perception and the rudiments of conception that are the first ground for man the thinker, so man the mental being is sublimated by the endeavour of the evolutionary Energy to develop out of him the spiritual man, the fully conscious being, man exceeding his first material self and discoverer of his true self and highest nature.

Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine - II: The Evolution of the Spiritual Man

If this is the way in which you look at the world today, with this kind of sense of the inhabitant on this earth then the whole world seems to be quite an intelligible operation for the manifestation of the Supermind on earth.