Objections against Spiritual Theory of Evolution: Answers
Against this spiritual theory of evolution, many objections can be raised.
Metaphysical objection against Evolutionary Teleology
It may be contended that if there is an ultimate Reality, which is infinite, perfect and absolute, then such a Reality, conceived in the metaphysical theory of the Absolute, cannot have any purpose in manifestation. Even if it is conceded that the Absolute is not only quiescent but also dynamic and therefore capable of manifestation, which could have some kind of purpose, it can have no purpose in manifestation except the delight of manifestation itself. It may further be argued that if an evolutionary movement is a part of manifestation, it can be there only for the delight of the unfolding, the progressive execution, and the objectless serried self-revelation. A universal totality may also, it may be urged, be considered as something complete in itself, and as a totality, it can have nothing to gain or to add to its fullness of being. In reply, Sri Aurobindo points out that the material world here is not an integral totality; it is only a part of a whole, a grade in a graduation; it can, therefore, admit in it, not only the presence of undeveloped immaterial principles or powers belonging to the whole that are involved
within its Matter, but also a descent into it of the same powers from the higher gradations of the system to deliver there kindred movements here from the strictness of a material limitation. This would imply the teleology of the evolution that would consist of a manifestation of the greater powers of Existence till the whole being itself is manifest in the material world in the terms of a higher and a spiritual creation. This teleology does not, Sri Aurobindo points out, bring in any factor that does not belong to the totality; it proposes only the realization of the totality in the part. Teleology as a factor in a part movement of the universal totality can, therefore, be admitted if the purpose is not a purpose in the human sense, but the urge of an intrinsic Truth-necessity conscious in the will of the indwelling spirit. In that sense, the teleological factor is related to the perfect manifestation in the part of the totality of all the possibilities inherent in the total movement. According to Sri Aurobindo, all existence is for the delight of existence, all is a game or Lila, as conceived in the Indian theory of Lila; but the delight of manifestation or the delight of a game can 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.36
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 metaphysical building can, it may be concluded, be erected upon these shifting quick- sands.
In reply, it may be urged that 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.
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, and that in this scale the better organized the form, the more is it capable of housing a better organized, a more complex and a more developed or evolved Life and consciousness. 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.37
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, 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, Sri Aurobindo concedes 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 he points 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, and this progress suggests
fresh steps of progression until the highest consummation is reached. It may, however, be argued that the progress that has been registered so far has not carried the human race beyond itself, into a self-exceeding. In reply, Sri Aurobindo contends that that was not to be expected until a critical stage was reached and that it is only now that 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 bursting the shell, the ripened decisive emergence and reversal turning over of consciousness on itself.
According to the Spiritual theory of evolution, there are gradations of stages, and 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, some-times ascending. But what he has achieved — and this is important from the point of view of 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 earned 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.
According to the Spiritual theory of evolution, 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 this 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.38
It may, however, be still argued that if an evolutionary culmination in the production of the spiritual and supramental being is intended, and if 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, the Spiritual theory concedes that there is not the least probability or possibility of the whole human race rising en masse to the supramental level. What is suggested 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 is 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.
"If a spiritual unfolding on earth is the hidden truth of our birth into Matter, if it is fundamentally an evolution of consciousness that has been taking place in Nature, then man as he is cannot be the last term of that evolution: he is too imperfect an expression of the Spirit, Mind itself a too limited form and instrumentation; Mind is only a middle term of consciousness, the mental being can only be a transitional being. If, then, man is incapable of exceeding
mentality, 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."39
As pointed out earlier, the spiritual theory of evolution is not merely a philosophical theory and a mere matter of philosophical and rigorous speculation of thought. The uniqueness of this theory is that Sri Aurobindo and the Mother had developed this theory on the basis of a long and difficult process of experimentation. During the course of this experimentation, they have found it necessary to develop, not only new objects and new methods of yoga,, even while incorporating in a suitable manner the objects and methods of yogic systems of the past. As a result, a new synthesis of yoga, involving a long programme of experiments by evolving supramental action in the body itself has been undertaken. This has been a breathtaking endeavour, the glimpses of which one can witness through two volumes of Sri Aurobindo entitled 'Record of Yoga’ and thirteen volumes of the Mother's own account of development reaching up to its climactic point. A study of these volumes and other volumes such as Sri Aurobindo's 'The Life Divine’, 'The Synthesis of Yoga’, 'Letters on Yoga’, "The Supramental Manifestation Upon Earth’, 'Savitri’ — an epic written in the English language, as also 'The Mother's Conversations’, 'Questions and Answers’, and several others show that no change has been more radical than the evolution attempted by means of this new synthesis of yoga. Everything in the world follows its fixed habits
which is to it a law and resists a radical change. The revolution attempted in this new synthesis of yoga or integral yoga requires that every vital fibre has to be persuaded to accept an entire renunciation of all that hitherto represented to its own existence. In the words of Sri Aurobindo:
"Mind has to cease to be mind and become brilliant with something beyond it. Life has to change into a thing vast and calm and intense and powerful that can no longer recognize its old blind eager narrow self or petty impulse and desire. Even the body has to submit to a mutation and be no longer the clamorous animal or the impeding clod it now is, but become instead a conscious servant and radiant instrument and living form of the spirit."40