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Theories of Evolution and Sri aurobindo's concept of complete person

Theories of Evolution and Sri aurobindo's concept of complete person

We are in search of an adequate concept of complete person.

The search that has been presented to us so far cannot be considered to be as complete as it might seem, considering that important evolutionary theories also need to be presented and considered.

The process of evolution was detected in ancient times. Both in India and in Greece, there were important ideas of evolution. In modern times, the theory of evolution is mainly the work of Linnaeus (1707-78), Buffon (1707), Erasmus Darwin (1731-1802), Lamarck (1744-1829), Charles Darwin (1809-82) and his followers.

On the Origin of Species written by Charles Darwin (1859) gave details and demonstrations of his scientific theory of evolution, according to which, life on the earth evolved by a gradual and yet continuous process from the earliest forms of living organisms to the latest product, man. Natural selection, variation and heredity are said to be the factors through the operation of which new species arise out of existing ones. When new characters are produced by the variability of organisms, natural selection decided their survival or death. If the characters do not adapt to their environment, they are eliminated in the competition. If, on the other hand, they equip themselves better for the struggle, they tend to survive. The offsprings of the successful tend to resemble the parents in exhibiting the favoured variation to a greater degree than the parents, and a new type becomes established by a continuous piling up of small useful accretions through many generations.

The two original components of Darwin’s theory were (i) that evolution is gradual, and (ii) that the nature of the change is dictated by natural, not divine, selection. Both of these are closely interlinked, and both are at the heart of controversy today, as they were in Darwin’s time.

Theories of Evolution and Sri aurobindo's concept of complete person

Theories of Evolution and Sri aurobindo's concept of complete person

Many naturalists accepted Darwin’s gradualism because it accorded well with what they saw in living species. But critics could not accept that all the world’s marvellous species and their extraordinary structures such as those of the eye, could have arisen only by chance. Some biologists accepted that minor changes might be the result of natural selection, but held that beyond extremes within a range of variation, a new species could not arise by natural selection alone. The only way in which the boundaries of species might be breached, they contended, would be through a sudden jump.

Palaeontologists who dug up and classified the remains of extinct species raised another major objection to gradualism. They argued that if Darwin were right, they should be able to find a series of specimens that could be laid out in a gradual continuum from one major type of animal to another. If, for example, reptiles evolved into mammals, there should be fossils representing every gradation between these two groups. Instead, the palaeontologists found more gaps than continua. Darwin conceded this, but he thought that further researches would reveal the intermediate links. As it turned out, only a few links have been found, and this issue is a part of today’s controversy.

But there is still a deeper question. Why do variations occur? Whether they are small or great, gradual or abrupt, we cannot trace them to the influence of the environment. For types without variations seem to be just as well adapted as those with them. Darwin’s view of chance variations is virtually a confession of his inability to explain the source of variations.

Modifications and variations do not come singly but in complexes, involving many minor and consequential modifications and variations. Each single small variation is not independently selected. In other words, the organisms seem to `vary’ as a whole.

Bergson pointed out that the molluscs in the order of evolution proceed by steady steps to develop an eye, which resembles very much the eye developed by the independent line of vertebrates. How does it happen, he asked, that similar effects appear in different lines of evolution brought about by different means? How could the same small variations occur in two independent lines of evolution if they were purely accidental? According to Bergson, the two series must have been governed by a common vital impulse to this useful end. There is something more in evolution than merely mechanical urge. He is inclined to attribute a `rudiment of choice’ to the species which, travelling by different paths, reach the same goal. Given a new situation, the `urge’ (élan vital), common to all members, leads them to meet it by a new method.

Theories of Evolution and Sri aurobindo's concept of complete person

Theories of Evolution and Sri aurobindo's concept of complete person

According to Bergson, it is the inner urge, or life force, or an upward drive that incites the whole species in a definite direction. The striving of the organism is the creative effort to which evolution is due.

The biological theory of evolution assumes that life always came from life. Herbert Spencer questioned this assumption and attempted to give a philosophical account of the rise of the living from the non-living, the mental from the non-mental. According to him, the differences between these are due to the degree of the complexity of the organisation. But still the question why life should evolve out of Matter or in Matter is not explained. Why should life occur at all? The theory of the survival of the fittest does not carry us far. Life has little survival value as compared with matter from which it is supposed to have sprung. A rock survives for hundreds of millions of years, while even the oldest tree is only a few thousand years old. If survival was the aim of nature, life would never have appeared.

Other significant philosophical theories have also come to be formulated. According to Samuel Alexander, the whole process of the universe is a historic growth from space-time. The original matrix is space-time. Time is the mind of space. In course of time, space-time breaks up into finites of ever-increasing complexity. At certain points in the history of things, finites assume new empirical qualities which are distinctive levels of experience – primary qualities, matter; and secondary qualities, life and mind. As explained in his book Space, Time and Deity, the cosmic process has now reached the human level, and man is looking forward to the next higher quality of deity. According to him, men of religious genius are preparing mankind for this next stage of development. The divine quality or deity is a stage in time beyond the human. The whole world is now engaged in the production of deity. As time is the very substance of reality, no being can exhaust the future. Even God is a creature of time.

Lloyd Morgan, who comes very close to Alexander in his account of emergent evolution, acknowledges God as the nisus through whose Activity emergents emerge, and the whole course of emergent evolution is directed. According to him, God is not the emergent deity, but an Activity within which qualities emerge. God is the breath from the whole movement, the deep root which feeds the whole tree. The course of history is the gradual coming of God to Himself. Lloyd Morgan contends that emergent evolution is not predictable. But it is not strictly undetermined like Bergson’s creative evolution, not only unpredictable for human minds, but in principle for all minds. Lloyd Morgan infers the coming of divinity from the purposeful direction of the universe, and he is inclined to make his God completely immanent. He maintains that the whole course of events subsumed under evolution is the expression of God’s purpose.

Theories of Evolution and Sri aurobindo's concept of complete person

Theories of Evolution and Sri aurobindo's concept of complete person

Lloyd Morgan is basically an adherent of Spinoza, and although he speaks of `emergence’ in the evolutionary process, one suspects that changes occur according to rule, and there is no spontaneity.

According to Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (1881-1955), the evolutionary process cannot be described or evaluated in terms of its origin. What comes later is more than what was there earlier. There is, according to him, a developing process marked by increasing complexity. It is true that the powers and properties of matter, life, mind, history and values are not entirely different. They interpenetrate and produce an increasing complexity and concentration. In man evolution becomes conscious of itself. Tracing the story of evolution, he examines the phenomena, big and small, from subatomic particles and cells to stellar galaxies, biospheric and noo-spheric. There are, according to him, two complementary tendencies in the evolutionary process, differentiation and integration. In his paleontological studies, he found that evolution tends towards unification.

According to him, all energy is essentially psychic. In his book The Phenomenon of Man, he conceives for man a superhuman future and presents a transcendental vision of omega-workings. Evolution is pushing man towards a higher goal, an omega point, which can be described as collective divinity. A cosmic divine manifestation is in the making.

Whitehead, who recalls the Platonic view of the cosmic process, maintains that nothing can emerge in the evolutionary process of the universe if its constituents were not already in existence. The qualities which are said to emerge historically in the philosophy of Alexander are ingredients into events from the beginning, according to Whitehead. The ingredience of eternal objects into events is the explanation of the historical becoming. He admits that at every step there is the emergence of what is genuinely new. Every event, according to him, is a miracle, but it embodies an idea from beyond the developing series of events in the universe. Whitehead suggests an eternal order and a creative reality. The cosmic series has a nisus towards the eternal order which is beyond itself, though it is increasingly realised in the cosmic.

Theories of Evolution and Sri aurobindo's concept of complete person

Theories of Evolution and Sri aurobindo's concept of complete person

`Ingressive evolution’ is a phrase that aptly describes Whitehead’s theory. There is, according to Whitehead, a progressive ingression and incorporation into the cosmic series of the eternal order which God embraces in himself. The `primordial’ nature of God is the conceptual consciousness of the possibilities capable of harmonious concurrent realisation. These possibilities are called by Whitehead `eternal objects’. They are eternal forms or ideas, to use the Platonic expression, but unlike Platonic ideas, they are not substances, but possibilities, conceptually realised in God. They are not imaginary or abstract. Some of them are apprehended as possibilities logically prior to their manifestation in existence, and others as symbols of values that we pursue. The relation of form to the temporal world is that of potentialities to actualities. In the view of Whitehead, the temporal actualities realise the possibilities surveyed in God’s nature. The order and purpose we see in the world is the result of actuality fulfilling the highest possibilities it sees before itself, which is the vision of God as relevant for it.

According to Sri Aurobindo, the urge to exceed oneself is inherent in the human being. This urge of self-exceeding manifests in the divination of the Godhead, the impulse towards perfection, the search after pure Truth and unmixed Bliss, the sense of a secret immortality. He points out that this aspiration can be discerned in the texts of the ancient dawns of human civilisation, and we find that even when it is banished during the periods of scepticism, it returns and seizes humankind. Referring to the contemporary humanity, he points out that even though satiated, it is not satisfied by victorious analysis of the externalities of Nature and that it is preparing to return to its primeval longings. He concludes: “The earliest formula of Wisdom promises to be its last, -- God, light, freedom and immortality.”[1]

Sri Aurobindo admits that these persistent ideals of the race contradict its normal experience, but he points out that they are affirmed by verifiable and repeatable experiences which are attainable at higher and deeper levels of consciousness. Sri Aurobindo states:

“To know, possess and be the divine being in an animal and egoistic consciousness, to convert our twilit or obscure physical mentality into the plenary supramental illumination, to build peace and a self-existent bliss where there is only a stress of transitory satisfactions besieged by physical pain and emotional suffering, to establish an infinite freedom in a world which presents itself as a group of mechanical necessities, to discover and realise the immortal life in a body subjected to death and constant mutation, -- this is offered to us as the manifestation of God in Matter and the goal of Nature in her terrestrial evolution. To the ordinary material intellect which takes its present organisation of consciousness for the limit of its possibilities, the direct contradiction of the unrealised ideals with the realised fact is a final argument against their validity. But if we take a more deliberate view of the world’s workings, that direct opposition appears rather as a part of Nature’s profoundest method and the seal of her completest sanction.”[2]


[1] Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine, American Edition, p.3

[2] Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine, American Edition, p.4

Theories of Evolution and Sri aurobindo's concept of complete person

Theories of Evolution and Sri aurobindo's concept of complete person

According to Sri Aurobindo (1872-1950), evolution presupposes an involutionary process. If Life evolves in Matter, and Mind in Life, it must be because Life is involved in Matter and Mind in Life. The material Inconscience is the involved Super-conscience. Evolution is fundamentally a spiritual phenomenon. It is a phenomenon of an evolutionary self-building of Spirit on a base of Matter, which is itself a formation of spiritual reality. There is first an involutionary foundation in which all that is to evolve is present, although not yet manifested or not yet organised. An original Inconscience without any previous deployment from consciousness cannot evolve consciousness. In the evolutionary process, there is a development of a triple character. An evolution of forms of Matter, more and more subtly and intricately organised so as to admit the action of a growing, a more and more complex and subtle and capable organisation of consciousness is the indispensable physical foundation. An upward evolutionary progress of the consciousness itself from grade to higher grade, an ascent, is the evident spiral line or emerging curve that, on this foundation, the evolution must describe. A taking up of what has already been evolved into each higher grade as it is reached and a transformation more or less complete so as to admit of a total changed working of the whole being and nature, an integration, must be also part of the process, if the evolution is to be effective.

Man is a transitional being, and the spiritual man is the sign of the new evolution. The intention of Nature in the evolution of the spiritual man is not merely to awaken him to the supreme Reality and release him from herself. There is a further intention – not only a revelation of the Spirit but a radical and integral transformation of Nature. The spiritual man has evolved, but not the supramental being who shall thenceforward be the leader of that nature. There is thus something that is not yet accomplished, and there becomes clear to view the much that has still to be done; `there is a height still to be reached, a wideness still to be covered by the eye of vision, the wing of the will, the self-affirmation of the Spirit in the material universe.’

Theories of Evolution and Sri aurobindo's concept of complete person

Theories of Evolution and Sri aurobindo's concept of complete person

A distinctive feature of Sri Aurobindo’s philosophy of evolution is that it is not speculative; its premises and conclusions are tested on the anvil of experimentation. `The animal is a living laboratory in which Nature has, it is said, worked out man. Man himself may well be a thinking and living laboratory in whom and with whose conscious cooperation she wills to work out the superman, the god. Or shall we not say, rather, to manifest God?’[1] Indeed, Sri Aurobindo made an experiment upon his entire integral being, using it as an evolutional laboratory, so as to evolve and manifest higher and higher grades of consciousness reaching up to the supermind and to supramentalise the human body to the furthest extent possible. Even when he left his body, he assigned the task to his collaborator, whom he called The Mother (1878-1973), to continue the task of the supramentalisation and integral transformation.

Sri Aurobindo discovered in the ancient systems of Yoga some of the basic clues for the experiment. He did not, however, find in any one of them the secret that would enable him to eventually bring about the mutation of the human species. He and The Mother, therefore, experimented, day after day, for years and decades, and they developed a synthesis of Yoga and laboured to perfect it.


The practical necessity of this experiment was not merely to advance knowledge; nor was this experiment directed towards seeking any personal gain, gratification or glory. But Sri Aurobindo and The Mother saw that the contemporary human crisis cannot truly be met without the evolutionary saltation or mutation. There are, according to them, only two alternatives before mankind today; either a revolutionary and evolutionary ascent towards the supramental manifestation on the earth or abyss.

An account of the momentous experiments undertaken by Sri Aurobindo and The Mother cannot truly be given; they can only be glimpsed from the records they have left. Sri Aurobindo’s The Life Divine, The Synthesis of Yoga, Letters on Yoga, The Mother, The Surpamental Manifestation upon Earth, and The Mother’s own account of the supramental action on the earth, recorded by Satprem (born 1924) and published in 13 volumes as l’Agenda de Mére, give us some indications of both the secret and the fulfilment of their momentous experiments.


[1] Sri Aurobindo: The Life Divine, Centenary Edition, Vol. 18, pp.3-4

Theories of Evolution and Sri aurobindo's concept of complete person

Theories of Evolution and Sri aurobindo's concept of complete person

The concept of complete person that emerges from this vast and unprecedented experiment is that of a being whose self-exceeding has reached a point where the limitations of egoistic consciousness have been broken and who has become capable of universality and transcendence as also of that mutuality of relationships correspond to a state of consciousness that is described as follows in the Isopanishad:

यस्तु सर्वाणि भूतानि आत्मन्येवानुपश्यति।
सर्वभूतेषु चात्मानं ततो न विजुगुप्सते।।6।।
यस्मिन् सर्वाणि भूतानि आत्मैवाभूद विजानतः।
तत्र को मोहः कः शोक एकत्वमनपश्यतः।।7।।

But he who sees everywhere the Self in all existences and all existences in the Self, shrinks not thereafter from aught.

He in whom it is the Self-Being that has become all existences that are Becomings, for he has the perfect knowledge, how shall he be deluded, whence shall he have grief who sees everywhere oneness?[1]

According to Sri Aurobindo, this state of consciousness for the individual is prepared by a long and conscious development of fourfold personality of knowledge, power, harmony and skill. The individual moving towards the growth of complete person will not only continue to transcend the limitations of inertia, obscurity, of tamas, but also the limitations of rajasic feverish and egoistic and blind impulse of egoistic assertion and dynamism, and even the limitations of light and balance or equilibrium that are limited to the narrow grooves of mental consciousness that manifests in rationality, ethical character and aesthetic sensitivity and creativity. In the course of the development towards ever-progressive completeness, the individual will break the limitations of what Indian psychology terms the rajasic and sattvic nature; there will be the growth and development of what can be called super-nature or of what Bhagavadgita terms as parā prakriti. Powers of knowledge, heroism, harmony and skills will manifest the super-nature that is marked by calm strength, luminous love and will that is guided by illumination and enthused by the motive of service to be rendered to all and to uplift all by developing and utilising skills that can remove progressively the causes of suffering and ignorance.


[1] Ishopanishad, 6,7.

Theories of Evolution and Sri aurobindo's concept of complete person

Theories of Evolution and Sri aurobindo's concept of complete person

The fourfold personality will mark not any static poise of stagnation but a continuous dynamic poise of equilibrium expressing internal integrality of all the parts and planes of being. Such an integral personality may properly be called a member of a growing nucleus of a new humanity or even of super-humanity. The complete person is an evolutionary being, but a stage will be reached where the evolutionary process crosses the limitations of Ignorance which is a constant movement from error to knowledge and will dwell more and more in a new consciousness that will be liberated from ignorance so as to permit movement from knowledge to knowledge. Such a being that lives in knowledge and manifests dynamics of knowledge integrally may properly be described as superman. But Sri Aurobindo’s concept of superman is totally different from the superman conceived by Nietzsche. Nietzcheian superman manifests an enlarged personality, a magnified and exaggerated ego, an increased power of mind, an increased power of vital force, a force that aims at domination over humanity, and enlarges but does not transform the forces of human Ignorance. The superman conceived by Sri Aurobindo will be a self-realised being which serves humanity to find its own self-exceeding and self-fulfilment by the revelation of the divinity that is striving for birth within it. While describing supermanhood, Sri Aurobindo states:

“Unity is the secret, a complex, understanding and embracing unity. When the full heart of Love is tranquillised by knowledge into a calm ecstasy and vibrates with strength, when the strong hands of Power labour for the world in a radiant fullness of joy and light, when the luminous brain of knowledge accepts and transforms the heart’s obscure inspirations and lends itself to the workings of the high-seated Will, when all these gods are founded together on a soul of sacrifice that lives in unity with all the world and accepts all things to transmute them, then is the condition of man’s integral self-transcendence. This and not a haughty, strong and brilliant egoistic self-culture enthroning itself upon an enslaved humanity is the divine way of supermanhood.”[1]

It is significant that the aim of education for the complete person is rising at frontiers of the highest endeavours of the contemporary world and is being pressed forward in the field of education. It is significant that there is undeniable pressure to explore human personality at different levels of consciousness – subconscious, conscious and superconscious. It is significant that the theme of value-oriented education is being explored more and more intensively and imperatively so as to develop education that is devoted not only to the domain of moral values but also to the integration of rational, scientific, ethical and aesthetic values. Above all, it is salutary for humanity that educationists are now obliged to define and devise ways and methods of integral education that admits the sovereignty of spiritual education as distinguished dearly from religious education.

It is in this context that the exercise that we have undertaken now will be considered to be directly relevant to the highest purposes of education for today and tomorrow.

[1] Sri Aurobindo, Essays In Philosophy And Yoga, The complete works of Sri Aurobindo, Vol. 13, p. 157

Theories of Evolution and Sri aurobindo's concept of complete person

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