Man is a Transitional BeingMany questions arise.
It may be contended that the only statement of which we are certain is that there are events, but there is no warrant to admit that events have any internal or causal connections among themselves or any plan or design behind them. There is, in other words, no teleology. It is, therefore, argued that every event is a 'chance event', and that the quest of man to seek any meaning or purpose or any teleological or evolutionary goal may have some emotional significance but none in terms of objective truth.
But if we examine this view, we find that it leaves us with some dissatisfying paradoxes. If everything were a chance, we may ask, how did the sense of meaning and design arise at all? It may, of course, be answered that that also was a matter of chance. But that precisely is the paradox, namely chance generating the sense of meaning and design. Again, if chance rules the world, then it is only a chance, and not a certainty, that the chance theory may be valid. In other words, the chance theory has no obligatory force. On the other hand, if there is a secret consciousness in or behind the apparently inconscient Energy in Matter, then the chance theory cannot hold its ground. In the same way, the materialistic position, too, cannot maintain its validity.
At the other extreme, it may be contended that if there is an ultimate Reality, which is infinite, perfect and absolute, then such a Reality cannot have any purpose in manifestation. It may, however, be conceded, as in the Indian theory of Lila, that the only purpose that the Absolute can have in manifestation would be the delight of manifestation itself. But it may be asked if the delight of manifestation or the delight of a game would not carry within itself an object to be accomplished in a part movement of the universal totality. Indeed, it may be conceded that a drama without denouement may be an artistic possibility, existing only for the pleasure of watching the characters and the pleasure in problems posed
without a solution or with a forever suspended, dubious balance of solution; the drama of the earth's evolution might conceivably be of that character, but an intended or inherently predetermined denouement is also and more convincingly possible.
In that case, it may be said that Delight or Ananda is the secret principle of all being and support of all activity of being; but Ananda does not exclude a delight in the working out of a Truth inherent in being, immanent in the Force or Will of being, upheld in the hidden self-awareness of its consciousness-Force. There can then be no objection to the admission of a teleological factor, if the purpose is not a purpose in the human sense,—the sense of the need to acquire what one does not possess,— but in the sense of the intention to manifest fully all the possibilities inherent in the total movement.
It may be admitted that science affirms today an evolutionary terrestrial existence and that there are in recent trends of thinking bold and plausible speculations on evolution and the evolutionary future of man, particularly among philosophers. But it may be argued that the scientific theory of evolution can be challenged on the ground that it is insufficiently founded and that it is superfluous as an explanation of the process of terrestrial Nature.
If the facts with which science deals are reliable, the generalizations it hazards are short-lived; it holds them for some decades or some centuries, then passes to another generalization, another theory of things. No firm mataphysical building, it may be concluded, can be erected upon these shifting quicksands.
But the theory of spiritual evolution is not identical with the scientific theory of form-evolution and physical life-evolution. According to the theory of spiritual evolution, there are three stages in the process of becoming.
An involution of the spirit in the inconscience is the beginning. An evolution in the ignorance with its play of possibilities of a partial developing knowledge is the middle. A
consummation in a deployment of the spirit's self-knowledge and the self-power of its divine being and consciousness is the culmination.
It is admitted that the two stages that have already occurred seem at first sight to deny the possibility of the later consummating stage of the cycle, but it is stressed that logically they imply its emergence. For, it is argued, if the inconscience has evolved consciousness, the partial consciousness already reached must surely evolve into complete consciousness.
It is contended that it is a supramentalized, perfected and divinized life for which the earth-nature is secretly seeking, and that a progressive manifestation of this kind can only have for its secret of significance the revelation of Being in a perfect Becoming.
Let us elucidate this view in fuller terms. An involution of the spiritual reality in the apparent inconscience of matter is the starting point of the evolution. Existence appears out of the Inconscient in a first evolutionary form as substance of Matter created by an inconscient energy.
Consciousness, involved and non-apparent in Matter, first emerges in the disguise of vital vibrations, animate but subconscient; then in imperfect formulations of a conscient life, it strives towards self-finding through successive forms of that material substance, forms more and more adapted to its own complete expression. Consciousness in life, throwing off the primal insensibility of a material inanimation and nescience, labours to find itself more and more entirely in the Ignorance (a middle term between inconscience and plenary consciousness) which is its first inevitable formulation.
But it achieves at first only a primary mental perception and a vital awareness of self and things, a life perception which in its first forms depends on an internal sensation responsive to the contacts of the other life and of Matter. Consciousness labours to manifest, as best it can through the inadequacy of sensation, its own inherent delight of being; but it can only formulate a
partial pain and pleasure.
But when we come to Man, we find that the energizing consciousness appears as Mind more clearly aware of itself and things. This is still a, partial and limited, not an integral power of itself; but a first conceptive potentiality and promise of integral emergence is visible. That integral emergence is the goal of evolving Nature.
The appearance of Man in the evolutionary movement is, according to this view, highly significant. It is true that Man's first and primary business is to affirm himself in the universe. But his chief business is to evolve and finally to exceed himself. He has to enlarge his partial being into a complete being, his partial consciousness into an integral consciousness.
He has to achieve mastery of his environment, but also world union and world harmony. He has to realize his individuality, but also to enlarge into a cosmic self and a universal and process of a transformation, a chastening and correction of all that is obscure, erroneous and ignorant in his mentality, an ultimate arrival at a free and wide harmony and luminousness of knowledge and will and feeling and action and character.
This can only be accomplished by his growing into a larger being and a larger consciousness: self-evolution from what he partially and temporarily is in his actual and apparent nature to what he completely is in his secret self and spirit. This hope is the justification of his work and struggle upon the earth amidst the phenomena of the cosmos.
It has been affirmed that, in fact, life, mind and supermind are present in the atom, are at work there, but invisible, occult and latent in a subconscious or apparently unconscious action of energy. The electron and the atom are in this view eternal somnambulists. In the plant the outer form consciousness is still in a state of sleep, always on the point of waking, but never waking. Animal being is mentally aware of existence, its own and others, it has even a practical intelligence, founded on memory, association, stimulating need, observation, a power of device. It is not all a half-conscious instinct; the animal prepares human intelligence.
But when we come to man, we see the whole thing becoming conscious. Man not only turns his gaze downward and around him, but also upward towards what is about him and inward towards what is occult within him. To climb to higher altitudes, to get a greater scope, to transform his lower nature, this is always a natural impulse of man as soon as he has made his place for himself in the physical and vital world of the earth and has a little leisure to consider his further possibilities. He is capable, unlike other terrestrial creatures, of becoming aware of what is deeper than mind, of the soul within him, and of what is above the mind, of supermind, of spirit, capable of opening to it, admitting it, rising towards it, taking hold of it.
It is in his human nature, in all human nature, to exceed itself by conscious evolution, to climb beyond what he is. And where is the limit of effectuation in the evolutionary being's self-becoming by self-exceeding?
A spiritual evolution, it is affirmed, an evolution of consciousness in Matter, in a constant developing self-formulation till the form, even the physical body, can reveal the highest supramental knowledge and power and harmony is the key-note, the central significant motive of terrestrial existence.
The theory of spiritual evolution may accept the scientific account of physical evolution as a support or an element, but the support is not indispensable. What is common between the theory of spiritual evolution and scientific theory is the account of certain outward aspects of evolution, namely, that there is in the scale of terrestrial existence a development of forms, of bodies, a progressively complex and competent organization of Matter, of Life in Matter of consciousness in living Matter; in this scale the better organized the form, the more it is capable of housing a better organized, a more complex and capable, a more developed or evolved Life and conciousness.
In regard to these common aspects, there does not seem to be a basis for dispute, once the evolutionary hypothesis is put forward and the facts supporting it are marshalled. The dispute
arises in regard to those aspects which are not indispensable for the theory of spiritual evolution, namely, the precise machinery by which the evolutionary process is effected or the exact genealogy or chronological succession of types of being, the development of one form of life out of a precedent less evolved form, natural selection, the struggle for life and the survival of acquired characteristics. These may or may not be accepted.
What is of primary consequence is the fact of a successive creation with a developing plan in it. Another conclusion is that there is a graduated necessary succession in the evolution; first the evolution of Matter, next the evolution of Life in Matter, then the evolution of Mind in living Matter, and in this last stage an animal evolution followed by a human evolution. In particular, the essential point in the theory of spiritual evolution is the fact of the evolution of consciousness, a progression of spiritual manifestation in material existence.
But even if all this is accepted, it may still be doubted that Man would evolve so unimaginably as to develop into a superman or supramental species. It may be argued that Man is a type among many types so constructed, and like others, so he, too, has his own native law, limits, special kind of existence, within whose limits he can extend and develop, but which he cannot transcend. To exceed himself, to grow into the superman, to put on the nature and capacities proper to the supermind, would be, it may be concluded, a contradiction of his self-law, impracticable and impossible.
In reply, it has been conceded that each type or pattern of consciousness and being in the body, once established, has to be faithful to the law of being of that type, to its design and rule of nature. But it has been pointed out that it may very well be that part of the law of the human type is its impulse towards self-exceeding, that the means for a conscious transition has been provided along with the spiritual powers of man, and that the possession of such a capacity may be a part of the plan on which the creative Energy has built him.
It has further been pointed out that there has been a
tremendous human progress since man's appearance or even in his recent ascertainable history. It may, however, be argued that this process has not carried the human race beyond itself, into a self-exceeding. In reply, it has been contended that that was not to be expected until a critical stage was reached and that it is only now that stage is being reached.
The action of evolutionary nature in a type of being and consciousness is first to develop the type to its utmost capacity by a subtilization and increasing complexity till it is ready for her bursting the shell, the ripened decisive emergence, reversal turning over of consciousness on itself.
It has been pointed out that in the evolutionary process, at each stage of higher ascent from a lower stage, the higher does not abandon the lower, but its first occupation is to take up and assimilate the lower by intenser cultivation, sharpening, subtilizing and sublimation.
As man ascends from the animal, he looks downward from his plane of will and intelligence and enlarges, subtilizes and elevates his use of those elements which are central to the animal—sensation, sense-emotion, vital desire and pleasure. He does not abandon the animal reactions and enjoyments, but more lucidly, finely and sensitively mentalizes them.
But as he develops further, he puts his lower being to a severer test, begins to demand from it on pain of rejection something like a transformation that is the mind's way of preparing for a spiritual life still beyond it. As there are several lower and higher elements in man, the process of assimilation and sublimation becomes long and complex, and there appears to be not a straight line of progression, but development in a cycle.
In reality, when the process is examined more closely, it turns out to be a process of spiral progression, in which a cycle of development ends at a higher point than the point which was earlier reached before entering into a period of a downward curve.
Looked at from this point of view, it may be conceded that what man has until now principally done is to act within the circle of nature, on a spiral of nature-movement, sometimes descending, sometimes ascending. But what he has achieved —and this is important from the point of view a preparation for a future secure ascent—is that he has sharpened, subtilized and made an increasingly complex and plastic use of his capacities. In that sense, it can be said that however great the ancients, however supreme some of their achievements and creations, however impressive their powers of spirituality, of intellect or of character, there has been in later developments an increasing subtlety, complexity and manifold development of knowledge and possibility in man's achievements, in his politics, society, life, science, metaphysics, knowledge of all kinds, art and literature.
Even in his spiritual endeavour, it has been urged, there has been this increasing subtlety, plasticity, sounding of depths and extension of seeking, even though the heights reached were less surprisingly lofty and less massive in power than those reached by the ancients. It is not surprising that there have been falls from a high type of culture, a sharp temporary descent into a certain obscurantism, cessations of the spiritual urge, plunges into a barbaric natural materialism.
Considering the total spiral of progress, these may be viewed as temporary phenomena, at worst a downward curve, preparing for a higher curve. It is thus true that this progress has not carried the race beyond itself, into a self-exceeding or a transformation of the mental being; but this was not to be expected. All that has developed so far can be regarded, it has been concluded, as a process of developing the human type to its utmost capacity, and it is only now that we are ready to feel that it has ripened to a point of a decisive emergence or mutation. And the present crisis of mankind is an indicator of the coming movement of that mutation.
It has been observed that the appearance of human mind and body on the earth marks a crucial step, a decisive change in the course and process of evolution. Up to the advent of man, evolution had been effected, not by the self-aware aspiration,
intention, will or seeking of the living being, but subconsciously or subliminally or by the automatic operation of Nature.
But in man the necessary change has been made. In him, the self-aware participating individual will has emerged, and the being has become awake and aware of himself. Man has seen that there can be a higher status of consciousness than his own; the aspiration to exceed himself is delivered and articulate within him. He becomes conscious of a soul, he comes to discover the self and spirit. Until his emergence, evolution was subconscious; with him a conscious evolution becomes conceivable and practicable.
It has been further pointed out that if we observe closely the operations of Nature, we find that in the previous stages of the evolution, nature's first care and effort had to be directed towards a change in the physical organization. That change was a pre-requisite of a change of consciousness.
But in man a reversal is possible, indeed inevitable. It is through his consciousness, through its transmutation, and no longer through a new bodily organism as a first instrumentation, that the evolution can be effected. It may even be surmised that in the inner reality of things, a change of consciousness was always the major fact, that evolution has always had a spiritual significance and the physical change was only instrumental.
This relation was concealed by the first abnormal balance of the two factors, the body of the external inconscience outweighing and obscuring in importance the spiritual element, the conscious being. But once the balance has been righted, it is no longer the change of body that must precede the change of consciousness; the consciousness itself by its mutation will necessitate and operate whatever mutation is needed for the body.
It may, however, be still argued that if an evolutionary culmination in the production of the spiritual and supramental being is intended and man is to be its medium, it will only be a few especially evolved human beings who will form the new type and move towards the new life; that once done the rest of
humanity will sink back and remain quiescent in its normal status.
In reply to this argument, it has been conceded that there is not the least probability or possibility of the whole human race rising en masse to the supramental level. What is suggested, it has been admitted, is nothing so revolutionary and astonishing, but only the capacity in the human mentality, when it has reached a certain level or a certain point of stress of the evolutionary impetus, to press towards a higher plane of consciousness and its embodiment in the being. It has further been explained that the being will necessarily undergo by this embodiment a change of the normal constitution of its nature, a change certainly of its mental and emotional and sensational constitution and also to a great extent of the body consciousness and the physical conditioning of our life and energies; but the change of consciousness will be the chief factor, the initial movement; the physical modification will be a subordinate factor, a consequence. As to whether humanity will sink back after the mutation of the human species, it has been suggested that the urge of man towards self-exceeding is not likely ever to die out totally in the race, and that the human mental status will always be there, not only as a degree in the scale, but also as an open step towards the spiritual and supramental status.
Man as he is, it has been affirmed, cannot be the last term of an evolution, if a spiritual unfolding on the earth is the hidden truth of the emergence of consciousness that has been taking place in Nature. He is, it is stressed, too imperfect an expression of the Spirit, Mind itself a too limited form and instrumentation.
Man, the mental being, can only be a transitional being. If man is incapable of exceeding his mentality, it has been suggested, he must be surpassed, and Supermind and superman must manifest and take the lead of the creation. But if his mind is capable of opening to what exceeds it, then there is no reason why man himself should not arrive at Supermind and supermanhood or at least lend his mentality, life and body to an evolution of that greater term of the Spirit manifesting in Nature.