Sri Aurobindo's - 'The Life Divine' - The Human Aspiration - Chapter I (2000, Super School Auroville) - Session vi (14 July 2000)

Philosophical writing has a special characteristic. Just as there is a form of poetry—rhythmical words, style, a vision of Truth—all these create the forms of poetry. Similarly there is something like a philosophical statement. If I say you write a philosophical statement on a certain subject, how does it differ from a personal essay for example? A personal essay is a form of writing. Then there is the critical essay; another form of essay. Now if I ask you to write a philosophical essay—what is the characteristic of a philosophical essay? You take for example the first paragraph of 'The Life Divine'.

The first paragraph is a statement which consists of a philosophical argument, and I have said that there are many forms of philosophical arguments, and while discussing it I had said the first paragraph has two philosophical arguments. Now try to recollect.

If you remember, I told you that there are two important words in this paragraph. One is 'is'—there is one word which is simply 'is', another word which is important is 'seems', and another word which is equivalent almost to seems is 'promises'. So there are two words which are the key to the answer to my question. Whenever an argument deals with the nature of thought, (anything that is derived from the nature of thought, is called a philosophical argument—but it is a special type of philosophical argument), it is called either a logical argument or an epistemological argument. That is because logic is a part of epistemology. A logical argument or epistemological argument is the same thing, because it concerns the nature of thought. There is another argument: seems, promises, which is a historical argument. So there are already two forms of philosophical arguments. These can be logical arguments, or can be historical arguments.

I had then spoken of a third form of an argument, a dialectical argument. What is a dialectical argument? A dialectical argument is logical with a special characteristic. Here is a statement; "All planets move around the sun, therefore all that move around the sun are planets". This is not a correct argument, it cannot be vice versa. It is also a logical argument but it is a logical argument which is a fallacy in conversion. There is a special name for it. It is a conversion but a fallacious conversion. When you do vice versa you get a fallacy in conversion. Dialectical argument has a special nature: dialectical argument is one in which you first state one set of facts from which another set of facts is derived, or you state another set of facts which is opposite to the first set of facts, leading up to a necessity to find a conclusion which gives you a synthesis. That is a dialectical argument.

Now illustrate this argument from the second paragraph. There is a set of facts namely the ideals of God, Light, Freedom and Immortality. Now this is set against another set of facts. This first set of facts is contradicted, is in opposition to another set of facts which are the results of ordinary experience. You have got two sets of facts. Now how are you going to arrive at a synthesis? This is the basic structure of the second paragraph. How are you going to harmonise these two?

Answer: "By discussing and try to find a solution and if you cannot find a solution you make a synthesis of both arguments."

Quite right! Now tell me what is the solution which has been found by Sri Aurobindo? One solution says Sri Aurobindo is proposed by the material intellect, which assumes that these ideals are invalid. That is the solution. Material intellect trying to see these two opposite says that the opposite of this is invalid. That is a solution.

The argument that material intellect takes for granted is that our present state of consciousness is the highest possibility of consciousness. Therefore anything that proposes to go beyond those possibilities is impossible, therefore invalid. The solution is found by cutting out the second premise. It is not a real synthesis. But it is a kind of solution. This is valid, this is invalid. It is not a real synthesis. But in a process of argumentation you can say: now that it is the end of the argument. Unless you bring in another argument it is the end of the argument. Sri Aurobindo continues the argument and proposes a synthesis. What is Sri Aurobindo's argument? "But if we take a deliberate view…" underline the word deliberate, so Sri Aurobindo starts an argument by proposing the use of a deliberate view. That is a very important word. I have given a special name for that argument also. When you use the words "deliberate view"—I had underlined that word, deliberate, and said that it is a special kind of argument, a new argument that Sri Aurobindo puts forward now. I had said that it is a quintessential metaphysical argument. And I had explained why it is a quintessential metaphysical argument. "If you take a deliberate view of the workings of Nature". Only consider these words: "If you take a deliberate view". I told you that philosophy is a quest of knowledge, of totality and then I had come to the word at which I had stopped, do you remember that word? Meaning. Philosophy is basically a search for the meaning of facts; therefore any question that raises the question of meaning is a quintessential philosophical argument. It is a fundamental philosophical argument. When you ask the question: What is the real meaning of it?

Sri Aurobindo says, "Take a deliberate view". A deliberate view means what? To take a deliberate view is to ask the question of its meaning. So if you ask the question what is the meaning of this opposition—the argument now turns upon meaning. According to the material intellect the very fact is that there is opposition, which means one is right, the other is wrong. That is the material argument. So Sri Aurobindo says: No! You are not taking a deliberate view of things. Why opposition at all? Consider before you say that this is right and so therefore this is wrong, because you are not taking the quintessential metaphysical position. You should ask the question why there is opposition at all between the two. Sri Aurobindo says, if you examine this opposition between the realised facts and the unrealized ideals, you should ask the question why is there opposition between the actualized facts and the unrealized ideals. You take a meaningful position if you raise the question. Sri Aurobindo says your conclusion will then be: "… that direct opposition appears rather as part of Nature's profoundest method and the seal of her completest sanction." That is the real conclusion. If you ask what is the meaning of this opposition? If you examine this way then Sri Aurobindo says, you will find that this opposition is Nature's method. It is Nature's method of bringing them together, not a denial of one or the other. The ultimate aim of this opposition is to arrive at a synthesis. That is the aim you find, if you examine deeply.

Question: Could you explain what he means by "the seal of her completest sanction"?

Seal means an authority, something certified. Completest sanction means that this opposition has come about by the sanction of Nature. There is a method in Nature, Nature has deliberated, produced opposition, with her own sanction. That is to say Nature is not blind, it seems to be blind, but Nature is very intelligent. If you examine the movement of Nature you find that this opposition is created by Nature deliberately.

Yesterday we were discussing a political question of India with a few friends and the question was raised: at present in India there is a discussion on autonomy of states, there is a big controversy in the country on the issue of autonomy of states. A resolution has been passed by the assembly in Jammu Kashmir demanding autonomy of the state. Nature has allowed this, you might say because the resolution has been passed, so Nature has allowed it, but if you take a deliberate view you will ask the question: what is the meaning of this? Why has Nature allowed this resolution to be passed? We can say that if you examine why Nature has deliberately raised this question, we may conclude that it is so people become aware of a larger issue and try to arrive to a new Constitution of India. Nature wants a new Constitution of India. In order to create that condition this resolution has come up. Therefore everybody is now alert and thinking about it. Whatever Nature does you should always try to hear the message. That is ultimately what Sri Aurobindo wants to say: a deliberate view of things means you try to see what is the message? Whatever happens there is in it a message, it does not mean that that message is necessarily what he says, there is an inner message of everything.

In fact one of the important things in Sri Aurobindo's Yoga is to enable us to constantly try to understand the meaning of events. I am now sitting before you. There is a meaning: why am I sitting before you? There is a meaning in it. The extent to which I understand it I will be able to move forward and be benefited by everything that is happening. So every event has a meaning and we have to understand the inner rhythm of its movement and try to find out what it means. Sri Aurobindo says if you examine this you will find that this opposition has behind it a profound method of Nature and there is in it a sanction of Nature.

Now, what is that sanction of Nature? What is the method of Nature? That Sri Aurobindo explains in the third paragraph. The whole third paragraph is an elucidation of the last two lines of the second paragraph. It is a continuation of that elucidation. So now let us revise all that we have said so far.

There are two arguments in the first paragraph. Both are philosophical arguments, but I have given specific names to these arguments. What are these two arguments? Logical or epistemological and historical arguments. The second paragraph consists of two arguments, Dialectical and quintessential philosophical argument which is the search for meaning.

You know this equipment gives you a great command over the realm of philosophy. To know there are different kinds of arguments is a great step. There are logical arguments, historical arguments, dialectical arguments, quintessential philosophical arguments, there are some more also to which we will come later on. This itself is a very good step with which you can move towards a command of philosophy. When you want to write a philosophical essay considering what you have before you, what you want to say, you will know how to frame the argument, which way you will expound your argument. This is a very good model; Sri Aurobindo has given.

Let me present a deeper question. You will find in this exposition: argument, but argument is always to prove something. When you argue, you want to prove something, and this is called the basic proposition. In any philosophical writing you must say what you want to propose first of all. Philosophy is not only a statement of arguments. Philosophy is basically a statement of a proposition which has to be proved, either true or false, either probable or necessary. So apart from argument there must be a proposition. In any philosophical writing there must be a proposition.

The first paragraph gives you the basic proposition. What does it propose? What does Sri Aurobindo want to prove by arguments? I have already answered this question earlier but we can once again enter into it so that your mind becomes firm on this. If philosophy is a search for meaning, Sri Aurobindo makes a statement regarding meaning; he makes a proposition regarding meaning. In the first paragraph he says that human beings are in search of the meaning. When Sri Aurobindo says that there is a preoccupation of human thought, right from the beginning, this preoccupation is a search for meaning. If anybody asks the question: What is the proposition that Sri Aurobindo wants to propose? What is our answer? Sri Aurobindo says that right from the beginning humankind is in search of a meaning and it manifests itself in four things: "It manifests itself in the divination of Godhead...", secondly: Truth, thirdly: Immortality, fourth: Bliss. This is the proposal that Sri Aurobindo has made. Sri Aurobindo says that mankind has been searching for a meaning and that is the very title of the chapter. The title of the chapter is "The Human Aspiration". Human aspiration means mankind's search for meaning. I am aspiring for something; I am aspiring to find the meaning and that meaning manifests itself in the divination of Godhead, in the search after the Truth, search after Immortality, search after Bliss.

If anybody asks what the proposition is, philosophical argument comes afterwards, but first is the statement of what you want to say, what you wish to propose, what you want to prove. Mankind has been pursuing the ideals of God, Light, Freedom, Immortality and Bliss. It is the first statement that Sri Aurobindo wants to make. But in making the statement Sri Aurobindo uses argument at every step. That statement is complex because Sri Aurobindo makes a proposition and along with the proposition he argues at the same time. It is a very complex statement. When you analyze you find how many trends of thought are involved in the very first statement. It is very fortunate to come across such a statement in one sentence which gives you complete exercise of philosophy to your mind.

The proposition of The Life Divine, of the whole book or of this chapter at least, is that human beings are looking for meaning which manifests itself in the search for God, Truth, Light, Freedom, Immortality, Bliss. This is the proposition. And this proposition is made through two arguments, a logical argument and a historical argument. This is the first proposition.

The second proposition of Sri Aurobindo in the second paragraph is whether this aspiration is justified or not. Are human beings misled or is it good for them to aspire for it? If it is good what is the reason for it? Is it rational or is it madness? And should we continue or not? That is the second question. The second proposition of Sri Aurobindo is: is it justified to aspire for God, Light, Freedom, Immortality? And it is here that Sri Aurobindo gives us an argument in the form of a dialectical argument. Sri Aurobindo expounds this proposition by dialectical argument in which he sets one set of facts contrasted with another set of facts and shows the contradiction between the two. Having set forth this contradiction the human mind now moves forward and says: therefore what follows? If one is contradicted by another then on what ground, what kind of consequences will you arrive at? It is a continuation of the dialectical argument. Here, there are two arguments which are put before us by Sri Aurobindo. The argument from the point of view of the material intellect and another argument which is a quintessential philosophical argument.

If you take the argument of the material intellect, the conclusion is—Sri Aurobindo says: "to the material intellect which takes its present organization of consciousness to be the limit of its possibilities this contradiction is an argument against their validity." Their invalidity means, invalidity of what? Of the ideals! That is one solution. If there is a contradiction between this and that the conclusion is that this contradiction is resolved by saying the ideals are invalid, thesis, antithesis and synthesis. The synthesis is a denial of these ideals.

But, Sri Aurobindo says that this argument is not conclusive. There is a deeper quintessential philosophical argument in the light of which, you may arrive at a different conclusion. This contradiction can be met by another synthesis. "If we take a more deliberate view of the world's workings the direct opposition appears rather as part of Nature's profoundest method and the seal of her completest sanction." This is the conclusion we should arrive at. That this contradiction is actually an opposition which is intended by Nature, there is a sanction of Nature, there is a meaning in it.

What is the meaning? We come now to the next paragraph; the very meaning is said in the very first sentence. "For all problems of existence are essentially problems of harmony." That is the meaning. When you find such opposition in Nature's workings there is a meaning which tells you that there is to be a harmony. It is a problem; all problems of existence are problems of harmony. Therefore look for harmony, don't merely say that this is opposed to that therefore it is invalid. It is a kind of idle man's answer; one does not take the trouble. Sri Aurobindo says, be more intelligent, be more meaningful and enter into a meaningful enquiry, and if you enter into a meaningful enquiry you will find that there is secret harmony. Find that harmony.

"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 organized mind-supporting animal body."

In other words there is an opposition between Matter and Life and this opposition has been resolved by Nature by planting Life into Matter. Although Matter and Life are opposed to each other when Life is planting into Matter, Life is not denied, it is not rejected. Matter has absorbed the planting of Life into it. The two opposites have met together in a plant. Every plant is an example of a contradiction which has been resolved, of an opposition which has been resolved. Matter and Life have been opposite of each other and they have met together. Therefore Sri Aurobindo says, it is the first example of how Nature has harmonized or synthesized Matter and Life. Sri Aurobindo has explained how Matter and Life are opposed to each other. What is the character of Matter and what is the character of Life? Matter is inert and Life is active. The accordance of active Life with Matter which is inert, or even if there is activity in Matter the very nature of that activity is inert.

There is a second example of opposition that Sri Aurobindo gives. There is an opposition between Life and Mind. Why? Because Life in its present nature has something which is not present in the Mind or Mind has something which is not in Life. Which is that characteristic? Just as we found in Matter there is inertia, in Life there is activity, dynamism, therefore they were opposite, here what is the opposition? There is opposition between consciousness and unconsciousness or subconsciousness. Life is only unconscious or subconscious; in any case it is not self-conscious, whereas Mind is self-conscious. Not only conscious but also self-conscious. Therefore there is an opposition.

You find that wherever there is Mind there is Life. This is also a very important statement. In our present composition you cannot think if you are not breathing. Life manifests itself with breath. Breathing is the first sign of Life according to us at present. You try now; if you don't breathe, it will affect your thinking. The minimum condition of thinking is Life, is breathing. That is why those who want to make their mind very quiet do pranayama. They want to stop breathing, at least for a short time. It helps a great deal in quieting the mind. But normally, where there is no breathing, thinking does not occur. Therefore Sri Aurobindo says, there is an opposition between Life which is unconscious or subconscious and Mind which is conscious, but Nature has solved the problem of according them together in such a way that in that sub-conscious or in that unconscious movement of Life, conscious activity has been planted. The opposition between consciousness and the unconscious has been resolved by Nature by planting consciousness in a field where there is vibration but there is no consciousness or only sub-consciousness. This is the opposition and Nature has already resolved this problem. So these are two examples Sri Aurobindo gives. One is the example of accordance of active Life in Matter which is inert. That is the first opposition which nature has resolved—not fully—but has resolved physically and is still working to resolve better and better in the future. Then the second, is accordance of conscious Mind in a form of Life which is not self-conscious. That is another opposition which Nature has resolved. We now have two examples in which two oppositions have been resolved by Nature, at least in principle, if not fully.

There is now a third proposition. "…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." The third opposition is that the present Mind, is a Mind which labors to find out the Truth, which seeks to find out the Truth. This is the present condition of the Mind. In that consciousness, Nature wants to plant another kind of consciousness which does not seek the Truth but which is possessed of the Truth and Light automatically, possesses it within itself. So, if Nature has already resolved two oppositions it looks rational that this third will also be accomplished. Sri Aurobindo uses the word rational, isn't it? Logical and rational. This also gives an example of what is rational and what is logical.

The whole argument is described by Sri Aurobindo as logical and rational. Here now, is another form of argument—the earlier one's seen are the logical argument, historical argument, dialectical argument, quintessential metaphysical argument—now we have here, a whole paragraph which presents a logical and rational argument. What is the form of this argument? If you find in some cases a certain kind of a pattern, then you can also imagine, it will be rational to argue that here also there is the same kind of pattern. It is like Sherlock Holmes who finds a pattern in the way in which somebody has stealthily entered into the room. He has discovered that pattern, he can then say this is the pattern which has been followed. In the next step also the one who has entered into the room stealthily has followed a similar pattern. This kind of argument is a rational argument. You cannot say it is irrational, it is a rational argument. If one pattern has been followed up to a certain point and if you say therefore in the next step also the same pattern has been followed, it will be a rational argument. But it is as yet not a conclusive argument. Because it may be argued that: Alright as far these two patterns are concerned, I agree. This also may be, it is rational it is not irrational to suppose, but there may equally be another pattern. It is not conclusive, it is not inevitable. All rational arguments are not conclusive. They are rational; they only propose that what you are saying is not irrational. That is all. All rational arguments are not necessarily true. Therefore having shown this is rational, in the next paragraph Sri Aurobindo takes us to another realm of argument.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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