Sri Aurobindo's criticism of Materialism: Evolution and Consciousness
It is true that, as Sri Aurobindo points out, the materialist has an easier field; it is possible for him to deny consciousness to arrive at a more readily convincing simplicity of statement of the monism of Matter. The premise of materialism is that the physical senses are our sole means of Knowledge and that Reason, therefore, cannot escape beyond the domain of physical existence even in its most extended and vigorous flights. Indeed, this premise is both arbitrary and it assumes its own conclusion as its underlying basis. Sri Aurobindo points out that the world of Matter is affirmed by the experience of the physical senses which, because they are themselves unable to perceive anything immaterial or not organized as gross Matter, would persuade us that the supra-sensible is unreal. Sri Aurobindo points out, however, that even in the world of Matter there are existences of which the physical senses are incapable of taking cognizance. He further points out that not only are there physical realities which are supra-sensible, but if evidence and experience are at all a test of truth, there are also senses which are supra-physical and can not only take cognizance of the realities of the material world without the
aid of the corporeal sense-organs, but can bring us into contact with other realities, supra-physical and belonging to another world. Sri Aurobindo concludes:
"The increasing evidences, of which only the most obvious and outward are established under the name of telepathy with its cognate phenomena, cannot long be resisted except by minds shut up in the brilliant shell of the past, by intellects limited in spite of their acuteness through the limitation of their field of experience and inquiry, or by those who confuse enlightenment and reason with the faithful repetition of the formulas left to us from a bygone century, and the jealous conservation of dead or dying intellectual dogmas.
"It is true that the glimpse of supraphysical realities acquired by methodical research has been imperfect and is yet ill-affirmed; for the methods used are still crude and defective. But these rediscovered subtle senses have at least been found to be true witnesses to physical facts beyond the range of the corporeal organs. There is no justification, then, for scouting them as false witnesses when they testify to supraphysical facts beyond the domain of the material organization of consciousness. Like all evidence, like the evidence of the physical senses themselves, their testimony has to be controlled, scrutinized and arranged by the reason, rightly translated and rightly related, and their field, laws and processes determined. But the truth of great ranges of experience whose objects exist in a more subtle substance and are perceived by more subtle instruments than those of gross physical Matter, claims in the end the same validity as the truth of the material universe."17
The scientific theory of evolution, which is still
dominated by the materialistic interpretation, has come to be examined by several eminent philosophers. An important question that has been asked is: "Why do variations occur?" It has been contended that whether these variations are small or great, gradual or abrupt, it is not always easy to trace them to the influence of the environment. For types without variations seem to be just as well adapted as those with them. It is even argued that Darwin's view of chance variations is virtually a confession of his inability to explain the source of variations.
It is true that there is in the world unaccountable freak and fantasy in the cosmic phenomenon we call Nature. But on the other hand, we can also observe inevitable order. Sri Aurobindo points out that, in view of this paradox of inevitable order and freak and fantasy, it may be argued that the world can be explained as a self-organizing dynamic Chance that is at work. It may be contended that an inconscient and inconsequent Force acts at random and creates this or that by a general chance; a persistent repetition of the same rhythm of action appears as repetitive rhythm. And yet this explanation seems unconvincing, when we find that there is too much of an iron insistence on order, on a law basing the possibilities. The theory of self-organizing dynamic chance may therefore come to be replaced by the theory of a mechanical necessity in things, its workings recognizable by us as so many mechanical laws of Nature. But the theory of Mechanical Necessity does not elucidate the free play of the endless unaccountable variations which are visible in the evolution. Moreover, as Sri Aurobindo points out, the emergence of consciousness out of the Inconscient is a stumbling block in the way of this theory; for it is a phenomenon which can have no place in an all-
pervading truth of inconscient Mechanical Necessity. For it may be asked as to what this Mind is, this Consciousness which differs so radically from the Energy that produced it that for its action it has to impose its idea and need of order on the world she has made and in which it is obliged to live. As Sri Aurobindo points out:
"There would then be the double contradiction of consciousness emerging from a fundamental Inconscience and of a Mind of order and reason manifesting as the brilliant final consequence of a world created by inconscient Chance."18
Sri Aurobindo concedes that these things may be possible, but they need a better explanation than of any yet given before we can accord to their acceptance. And this opens the way for other explanations.
The theory of evolution which Sri Aurobindo and the Mother have put forward aims at explaining the world- process as a movement of Conscious-Force that we see being revealed more and more visibly in the evolutionary movement that is emerging in cosmic Inconscience. In his magnum opus. The Life Divine, Sri Aurobindo has expounded this theory elaborately and points out that the evolutionary process cannot be explained unless Inconscience is conceived and realized as involved Superconscience, which, in turn, points to the higher and highest operations of the Supermind. The argument that he puts forward is stated as follows:
"We speak of the evolution of Life in Matter, the evolution of Mind in Matter; but evolution is a word which merely states the phenomenon without explaining it. For
there seems to be no reason why Life should evolve out of material elements or Mind out of living form, unless we accept the Vedantic solution that Life is already involved in Matter and Mind in Life because in essence Matter is a form of veiled Life, Life a form of veiled Consciousness. And then there seems to be little objection to a farther step in the series and the admission that mental consciousness may itself be only a form and a veil of higher states which are beyond Mind. .. .As the impulse towards Mind ranges from the more sensitive reactions of Life in the metal and the plant up to its full organization in man, so in man himself there is the same ascending series, the preparation, if nothing more, of a higher and divine life. The animal is a living laboratory in which Nature has, it is said, worked out man. Man himself may well be a thinking and living laboratory in whom and with whose conscious co-operation she wills to work out the superman, the god. .. .If it be true that Spirit is involved in Matter and apparent Nature is secret God, then the manifestation of the divine in himself and the realization of God within and without are the highest and most legitimate aim possible to man upon earth."19
Sri Aurobindo points out that although Spirit and Matter appear to be entirely opposed to each other, and although this direct contradiction between the two could be put forward as the final argument against the possibility of the manifestation of the Spirit in Matter, Sri Aurobindo points out that the entire evolutionary process, when examined from the point of view of what appears to be Nature's profoundest methods, that possibility will be found to be the only logical completion of the evolutionary movement of Nature. Sri Aurobindo states the argument as follows:
"The greater the apparent disorder of the materials
offered or the apparent disparateness, even to irreconcilable opposition, of the elements that have to be utilized, the stronger is the spur, and it drives towards a more subtle and puissant order than can normally be the result of a less difficult endeavour. 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. The accordance of conscious mind and conscious will with a form and a life in themselves not overtly self- conscious and capable at best of a mechanical or sub- conscious will is another problem of opposites in which she has produced astonishing results and aims always at higher marvels; for there her ultimate miracle would be an animal consciousness no longer seeking but possessed of Truth and Light, with the practical omnipotence which would result from the possession of a direct and perfected knowledge. Not only, then, is the upward impulse of man towards the accordance of yet higher opposites rational in itself, but it is the only logical completion of a rule and an effort that seem to be a fundamental method of Nature and the very sense of her universal strivings."20
According to the modem science, the entire evolutionary process has behind it a movement of Force which expresses itself as struggle for existence, but if that Force has a method, which can be detected to be operating in the manner in which Sri Aurobindo suggests, then that Force must have some secret consciousness. And, in that connection, it becomes
necessary to arrive at a more precise meaning of the term "consciousness". According to Sri Aurobindo, if we examine the totality of phenomena of consciousness, it becomes clear that our first obvious idea of a mental waking consciousness such as is possessed by the human being during the major part of his bodily existence cannot be accepted as the fundamental nature of consciousness. Sri Aurobindo points out that there is something in us which is conscious when we sleep, when we are stunned or drugged or in a swoon, which are all apparently unconscious states of our physical being. He also points out that even in our waking state what we call our consciousness is only a small selection from our entire conscious being. Sri Aurobindo refers to phenomena of a vaster system of psychology, based upon verifiable data of yoga, — the true science of consciousness and Conscious Force, — which demonstrate that (i) behind the surface consciousness in which we are awake in our waking state, there is a subliminal consciousness, (ii) there is, below our waking state, the subconscient mind which has at its depth totally unconscious rock from which the strivings of the subconscious mind seem to emerge, (iii) above our surface consciousness, there are greater and higher heights of consciousness which are yet to be measured or climbed by the latest trends of quest and research. Sri Aurobindo further points out that it is becoming always clearer that not only does the capacity of our total consciousness far exceed that of our organs, the senses, the nerves, the brain, but that even for our ordinary thought and consciousness these organs are only their habitual instruments and not their generators. These are even abnormal instances which go to prove that the heart-beats are not absolutely essential to life, any more than is breathing, nor the organized brain-cells to thought.
"Our physical organism no more causes or explains thought and consciousness than the construction of an engine causes or explains the motive-power of steam or electricity. The force is anterior, not the physical instrument."²¹
In the light of the expanding knowledge of consciousness, Sri Aurobindo asks the question;
"Is the material state an emptiness of consciousness, or is it not rather only a sleep of consciousness ? even though from the point of view of evolution an original and not an intermediate sleep?"²²
Sri Aurobindo points out that sleep in the human example teaches us that it is not a suspension of consciousness, but it is gathering inward away from conscious physical response to the impacts of external things. If so, Sri Aurobindo points out, this material world is all existence that has not yet developed means of outward communication with the physical world. The subconscious mind is, again, not entirely different from the outer mentality, but only a grade of consciousness acting below the surface, unknown to the waking man, which has a deeper plunge and a larger scope. Referring to the phenomena of the subliminal consciousness, Sri Aurobindo points out, that they far exceed the limits of what we mean by surface mentality or sleep or subconscious mentality. The subliminal consciousness includes an action not only immensely superior in capacity, but quite different in kind from what we know as mentality in our waking self. Similarly, the phenomena which are superconscient rise high above that psychological stratum to which we give the name of mentality. All these phenomena, including what can be called the phenomena of vital and physical consciousness, suggest that in the plant and even in the metal, there is a force
to which we can give the name of consciousness, which is not human or even animal.
Sri Aurobindo refers to those phenomena of vital consciousness which are operations or acts in the cells of the body; these operations are automatic vital functions which indicate purposefulness and obey attractions and repulsions to which our mind is a stranger. These operations can be found to be even more important in animals, even in plants; these movements are manifest as a seekings and shrinkings, their pleasure and pain, their sleep and their wakefulness and all that strange life whose truth has been brought out by a modern Indian scientist by rigidly scientific methods. Sri Aurobindo also refers to the development of research that seems to point to a sort of obscure beginnings of life and perhaps a sort of inert or suppressed consciousness in the metal and in the earth and in other 'inanimate' forms, or at least the first stuff of what becomes consciousness in us. According to Sri Aurobindo, there is an underlying unity, an unbroken unity that enables us to arrive at the existence of consciousness in all forms of the Force which is at work in the world.
Sri Aurobindo concludes: "Necessarily, in such a view, the word consciousness changes its meaning. It is no longer synonymous with mentality but indicates a self-aware force of existence of which mentality is a middle term; below mentality it sinks into vital and material movements which are for us subconscient; above, it rises into the supramental which is for us the superconscient. But in all it is one and the same thing organizing itself differently."²³
Indeed, consciousness implies some kind of intelligence,
purposefulness, self-knowledge. It is true that these operations of consciousness take forms in our mentality of which we are habitually aware in human consciousness. But, as Sri Aurobindo points out, there are, in the animal, operations of a perfect purposefulness and an exact, indeed a scientifically minute knowledge which are quite beyond the capacities of the animal mentality; even man himself can only acquire that kind of knowledge by long culture and education and even then can use it with a much less sure rapidity. We find that even in the insect the conscious Force is at work which manifests greater intelligence, greater purposefulness, greater awareness of its intention, its ends, its means, its conditions than the highest mentality yet manifested in any individual form on earth. Even in the operations of inanimate Nature, we find, Sri Aurobindo observes, the same pervading characteristic of a supreme hidden intelligence, "hidden in the modes of its own workings." In the light of these operations, it can be said that the emergence of consciousness out of the original inconscience is no more a paradox. And it can be rationally argued that man's consciousness is there in other evolved forms below mind, that it emerges in Mind, and shall ascend into yet superior forms beyond Mind. Moreover, this rational argument can be supported by a vast fund of yogic knowledge that can be verified by following a scientific rigour through the methods which have been developed and tested. Thus Reason and yogic experience support each other. And it is on the same grounds that Sri Aurobindo concludes that "the Force that builds the world is a conscious Force, the Existence which manifests itself in them is conscious Being and a perfect emergence of its potentialities in form is the sole object which we can rationally conceive for its manifestation of this world of forms."24
The supreme conscious being and its infinite awareness is free, in the sense that it is not subject to any being and power other than itself, since the ultimate reality is One without the second. It is also free in the sense that it is not obliged to manifest or to remain unmanifest, and that if it freely determines to manifest itself, it is not obliged to manifest all the possibilities or only some of them. It is also free in the sense that every possibility has equal divine value as any other possibility. Moreover, the conscious Force has a power of Tapas or concentration, and it is capable of maintaining simultaneously all the possible poises of concentration. A power of self-limitation is also a capacity of its omnipotence. The power of concentration may be essential; it may be even a sole indwelling or an entire absorption in the essence of its own being, a luminous or else a self-oblivious self-immersion. Or it may be an integral or else a total-multiple or a part-multiple concentration. Or it may be a single separative regard on one field of its being or movement, a single-pointed concentration in one centre or an absorption in one objective form of its self-existence. As Sri Aurobindo points out:
"The first, the essential, is at one end the superconscient Silence and at the other end the Inconscience; the second, the integral, is the total consciousness of Sachchidananda, the supramental concentration; the third, the multiple, is the method of totalizing or global overmental awareness; the fourth, the separative, is the characteristic nature of the Ignorance. The supreme integrality of the Absolute holds all these states or powers of its consciousness together as a single indivisible being looking at all itself in manifestation with a simultaneous self-vision."25
It is on account of these powers of the nature of
consciousness and because of the operation of exclusive concentration of consciousness that there can come about the process of involution of the supramental consciousness in the Inconscience and of the evolution of that supramental consciousness out of the Inconscience.
According to Sri Aurobindo, evolution has two aspects: there is an outward visible process of physical evolution with birth as its machinery, — for each evolved form of body housing its own evolved power of consciousness is maintained and kept in continuity by heredity; there is, at the same time, an invisible process of soul evolution with rebirth into ascending grades of form and consciousness as its machinery. As a result, there is a cosmic evolution and there is the process of individual evolution. As a result of cosmic evolution, there arise ascending grades of cosmic manifestation, and each type of form that can house the indwelling Spirit is turned by rebirth into a means for the individual soul or the psychic entity to manifest more and more of its concealed consciousness.26 In this double process of evolution, a stage is reached where the sense of good and evil begin to arise and it is the evolutionary psychic entity or the psychic being, which insists on the distinction, though in a larger sense than the mere moral reference. The psychic being has a spontaneous turn always towards Truth, Good and Beauty, and therefore it perceives their opposites very clearly; but being aware of its intentions and the role it has to play in. the evolutionary process, if utilizes these opposites as a necessary part of experience. The very principle of the delight of life, which is inherent in the psychic being, gathers out of all contacts and happenings their secret divine sense
and essence, their divine use and purpose, so that by experience our mind and life may grow out of the Inconscience towards a supreme consciousness, out of the divisions of the Ignorance towards integralising consciousness and knowledge.
The role of the individual in the evolutionary process is, according to Sri Aurobindo, of fundamental importance. In the evolution, the individual, as distinguished from the ego, is capable of universal consciousness, and therefore, can summarise within his own consciousness the evolutionary experiences of cosmic evolution and lead it to a higher grade of evolution in individual formations, even when the cosmic evolution or terrestrial evolution is still confined to a lower grade of consciousness. On account of the fact that the supermind is involved in the Inconscience, there is in the evolutionary movement, the propelling force towards the supermind, and because the individual has within him the psychic being, which is the divine spark growing towards fullness of light, it has within it the secret propelling force of leading evolution upwards. The entire evolutionary movement is fundamentally a spiritual phenomenon. Sri Aurobindo's theory of evolution can, therefore, be regarded as a spiritual theory of evolution.
According to the spiritual theory of evolution, the upward progress of consciousness emerging from Matter is aided by the typal worlds of subtle Matter, of Life, Mind and still higher worlds between mind and supermind, as also by the supramental integral consciousness, which remains undiminished, even while involutionary process takes place in a
part movement of conscious force. The typal worlds are also called the involutionary worlds, since they came to be built up in the course of the involutionary process. In contrast to the scientific theory of evolution, according to which the development of material forms and their growing complexity are primary conditions that occasion the manifestation of different degrees of what is called consciousness, the spiritual theory of evolution perceives the pressure of underlying consciousness as the primary condition, which occasions the development of material forms and their growing complexity. Evolution is thus a phenomenon of a gradual and graded self-building of Spirit on a base of Matter, which is itself a formation of spiritual reality.27
The evolutionary process manifests a triple character. There is, first, an evolution of forms of Matter more and more subtly and intricately organized so as to admit the action of a growing, a more and more complex and subtle and capable organization of consciousness. Evolution thus establishes an indispensable physical foundation. Next, there is an upward and evolutionary progress of the consciousness itself from grade to higher grade, an ascent. As a result, there is a spiral line or emerging curve that is described on the material foundation. There is, next, a third movement in which there is a taking up of what has already been evolved into each higher grade, and this results into a transformation more or less complete, so as to admit of a total changed working of the whole being and ,nature, integration. Multiplication of forms and their growing complexity is the first step; ascent to a higher level of consciousness manifesting through a more developed form or a more
organized or more capable form is a second step; an integration of the lower into a higher grade is the third step. These three characteristics of evolution can be seen by what has evolved so far.28
Existence appears out of the inconscience in a first evolution as substance of Matter. As the material forms multiply and become more and more organized and complex, consciousness that is involved and non-apparent in Matter begins to emerge; there is the ascent of consciousness and it manifests in the disguise of vital vibrations, animate but subconscient; all organisms pulsate in the substance of matter; but the life-force which operates in the organism, in an attempt to integrate the materiality of the material forms, effects changes in matter itself, — in the sense that the constituents of matter alter their rigid positions to some degree, and thus the living matter betray some kind of transformation of the original materiality of matter. With the multiplication of life forms and their complexity, consciousness attempts at further ascents, and there emerge imperfect formulations of a conscient life; thereafter consciousness strives towards self-finding through successive forms of the material substance, forms more and more adapted to its own complete expression. Consciousness and 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 matter. Consciousness labours to manifest, as best as 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. His first and primary business is to affirm himself in the universe. Therefore, man's development is centered on developing his own physical powers and to secure a safe and congenial physical environment; and even when his vital and mental activities begin to grow, these activities aim constantly at securing for themselves a sound civilizational framework where physical life is sought to be established on some permanent basis. But although this is the first phase of the development of man, he tends to evolve more and more the powers of the mind, and he develops various forms of culture, which manifest the triangular powers of the Mind, namely the powers of the rationalistic mind, ethical mind and aesthetic mind. But this is not all. He also tries to control and integrate these powers of the mind; in doing so, man, the mental being, begins to exceed himself, and bring out in different degrees higher powers of consciousness, the powers of inspiration, revelation and 'intuition. It is these powers, which impel man to develop different varieties of religion; man even seeks to control and integrate the physical life, vital life and mental life under the guidance of various
religious forms, which also shape more and more organized and complex formulations. Religion tends to be the governor of life, and it may be said that a large part of human history has been the history of religions, which, in turn, is marked by conflict of religions with the normal powers of the mind, vital demands and necessities of physical life. Even now, human history stands today at a point where under the pressure of the need of integration and harmony, man appears to be preparing himself to exceed himself. It appears that man's chief business is to enlarge his partial being into a complete being, his partial consciousness into an integral spiritual and supramental consciousness. At the same time, he is obliged to achieve mastery over his environment, but also world-union and world-harmony. He has to realize his individuality but also to enlarge himself into a cosmic self and undergo a process of a transformation, a chastening and correction of all that is obscure, erroneous and ignorant in his mentality, so as to arrive at a free and wide harmony and luminosity of knowledge and will and feeling and action and character.29
The evolutionary law of ascent and integration can be seen more clearly when we compare the higher animal with man. As Sri Aurobindo points out, the higher animal is not the somnambulist, but it has only a limited waking mind, capable of just what is necessary for its vital existence; but when we come to man, we find that the conscious mentality enlarges its wakefulness and though not at all first fully self- conscious, it can open more and more to his inner and integral being. There is, first, an ascent from the animal mentality to human mentality resulting in heightening of the
force of conscious existence to a new power and a new range of subtle activities; whereas in the higher animal, mind is limited to the vital existence, the human mentality rises up to reflecting and thinking mind; there is developed a higher power of conservation and invention; there is consciousness of process and result; there is also a force of imagination and aesthetic creation, a higher more plastic sensibility; and, finally, there develops the coordinating and interpreting reason, the values no longer of a reflex or reactive but of a mastery, understanding, self-detaching intelligence. There is also a widening of the range of the consciousness. Man is able to take in more of the world and of himself as well as to give to this knowledge higher and completer figures of conscious experience. We also find in man the operation of the law of integration, and we find that the human mind takes up the lower grades and gives to their action and reaction intelligent values. He takes up the mental life of the animal, as well as the material and bodily. It is true that he loses something in the process, but he gives to what he retains a higher value.
In the course of the process of integralization of the lower into the higher, man manifests twin power of the being's consciousness-force, — the power of will, and the power of knowledge. As a result, man is able to lay on all that is integrated from below a condition for his continued acceptance the consent of the lower to admit the higher values. This is the real origin, aim and meaning of ethics and of spiritual discipline and askesis. There is, therefore, in man an effort to work on the vital and physical and lower mental life so that that life may be transformed into modes of the higher mental and eventually the supramental harmony. The aim is not to mutilate and destroy the instruments of the vital
and physical and lower mental life but to tame them, to purify them and eventually to transform them. Man does not abandon the animal reactions and enjoyments, but mentalises them more lucidly, finely and sensitively. As he develops farther, he puts his lower being to severer tests, begins to demand from it on pain of rejection something like a transformation.
A special characteristic of human mentality is not only to gaze downward and around himself, but also to gaze upward towards what is above him; and he also looks inward towards what is occult within him. Both these movements mark out man decisively from the animal. The animal lives as if satisfied with what Nature has done for it; but it is man who first makes this upward gaze consciously his own business. In the Indian terms of the play of Purusha and Prakriti, it can be said that man is no longer, like the animal, an undeveloped conscious being or Purusha entirely driven by Prakriti, a slave of the executive Force, played with by the mechanical energies of Nature. Man begins to become a developing conscious soul or Purusha and manifest more and more the inherent powers of the Purusha, namely, the powers of witnessing, of giving or withdrawing his consent to the movements of Prakriti, and eventually of exercising mastery over the movements of Prakriti. This is the reason why there is in man the distinctive feature of self-exceeding. In the words of Sri Aurobindo:
"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 place for himself in the physical and vital world of earth and has a little leisure to consider his farther possibilities.... It is in his human nature,
in all human nature, to exceed itself by conscious evolution, to climb beyond what he is. Not individual only, but in time the race also, in a general rule of being and living if not in all its members, can have the hope, if it develops a sufficient will, to rise beyond the imperfections of our present very undivine nature and to ascend at least to a superior humanity, to rise nearer, even if it cannot absolutely reach, to a divine manhood or supermanhood. At any rate, it is the compulsion of evolutionary Nature in him to strive to develop upward, to erect the ideal, to make the endeavour."30
There is, in the evolutionary process an upward urge, and that urge can be discerned in Man as a conscious uplifting Will, which gradually becomes imperatively decisive. The upward urge at the lower levels of evolution seems to be working almost invisibly or very tardily, but still methodically and regulated by the evolutionary law of ascent and integration. But as that urge becomes more and more manifest as conscious will at the human level, there appears to be the emergence of a new phase of evolution; the human will manifests along with it a larger field of cognition, affection and conation, as also a play in which alternatives are so presented that actualization of some of them and rejection of the others appears to be dependent on the choice made by the conscious will. The choice of the conscious will begins to play a more and more dominant role in the upward level of evolution.
There is also a further complication at the human level of evolution; the upward conscious will is found to be located in a complex network of operations; this complex network
is found to be coordinated by an instrument which can be discerned as that of a limited sense in the individual, a sense which has been called ego-sense which, being exclusively concentrated upon its own task of individuation in a limited individual field, comes to arrogate to itself mistakenly the role of the fabricator of the threads which it coordinates. The limitation of its own consciousness and the mistaken view of itself as a fabricator instead of being only a small coordinator causes in the human consciousness the phenomena of dualities, — good and evil, joy and suffering, life and death.³¹
The task of conscious will and choice among alternative possibilities is its most important element; this task becomes increasingly difficult, since alternatives are not only neutral but they also become suffused with values, — positive and negative, and there are critical moments when the rightness of the choice demands a very vast knowledge of the secrets of the operations of the universe and of the individual and of their interrelationship. For the sake of the evolutionary process itself, man is obliged to pause, gain the right knowledge and make the will capable of following the guidance of the right knowledge. A time comes when the conscious will of man is required to make extraordinary efforts as a result of which disciplines of normative pursuits come to be built up which, in their turn, provide lessons and results which have varying degrees of utility. At the highest of these efforts, Man comes to build up disciplines which demand the breaking up of the ordinary limitations of the present organization of consciousness; for it is seen more and more imperatively that the conscious will in Man requires, in the ultimate analysis, effective and even all- seeing knowledge with the help of which alone can dualities
be removed. But the states of consciousness of all-seeing knowledge have to be possessed in actual vision and in constant and substantial experience. It will be found that for the individual to arrive at such states of consciousness will be one of the most important and indispensable steps of his progress towards self-perfection.
It is in this context that spiritual pursuits of various kinds have come to be designed; a number of yogic methods have been devised, tested and perfected, and the paths of higher evolution have been determined. In this light, the methodized spiritual effort which has come to be known as yoga has evolved by the very pressure of evolution. And in building up the yogic methods, the laws of evolution have come to be utilized, even though not consciously. But, as Sri Aurobindo points out, nature's laws of evolution are, in fact, laws of Nature's yoga, and when Nature reaches the point of. the development of conscious will, Nature becomes conscious of its own yogic process through the human instruments which build up yogic processes and methods. Unconscious yoga of Nature begins to grow into a conscious yoga of Nature. Sri Aurobindo goes farther and points out that if the conscious will of man is to be fulfilled in its upward urge in its fullness, specialized systems of yoga will be found to be insufficient, and even the systems of synthesis of yoga of the past are insufficient. A new synthesis of yoga is indispensable. To study evolution integrally and to apply the methods of evolution integrally and consciously, even to enlarge new methods of evolution and even to conceive and work for a development of a new evolutionary process, — all this is necessary and inevitable.³²
According to Sri Aurobindo, there is an inherent urge in
the human consciousness to seek constantly to minimize the causes of error, pain and suffering. That is the basic urge of the dreams of science of regulating birth and indefinite prolonging of life, if not of effecting the entire conquest of death. But Sri Aurobindo argues that if we could grasp the essential nature and the essential cause of error, suffering and death, we might hope to arrive at a mastery over them which should not be relative but entire. In the words of Sri Aurobindo:
"We might hope even to eliminate them altogether and justify the dominant instinct of our nature by the conquest of that absolute good, bliss, knowledge and immortality which our intuitions perceive as a true and ultimate condition of the human being."³³
There is, according to Sri Aurobindo, available to all of us the Vedantic conception and experience of Brahman as one universal and essential fact and of the nature of Brahman as Sachchidananda. If, as he points out, this view is led to its highest conclusions we can discover not only the methods which have been so far discovered but even new methods which seem necessary so that Sachchidananda can fully manifest in the physical world.
Since Sachchidananda is the foundation, the essence of all life is a movement of a universal and immortal existence, the essence of all sensation and emotion is the play of an universal and self-existent delight in being, the essence of all thought and perception is the radiation of a universal and all- pervading truth, the essence of all activity is the progression of a universal and self-effecting good. Sri Aurobindo explains in the following statement, in very compact and brief terms, the vast knowledge of the world and the way by
which the new synthesis of yoga can determine its objective:
"...the play and movement embodies itself in a multiplicity of forms, a variation of tendencies, an interplay of energies. Multiplicity permits of the interference of a determinative and temporarily deformative factor, the individual ego; and the nature of the ego is a self-limitation of consciousness by a willed ignorance of the rest of its play and its exclusive absorption in one form, one combination of tendencies, one field of the movement of energies. Ego is the factor which determines the reactions of error, sorrow, pain, evil, death; for it gives these values to movements which would otherwise be represented in their right relation to the one Existence, Bliss, Truth and Good. By recovering the right relation we may eliminate the ego-determined reactions, reducing them eventually to their true values; and this recovery can be effected by the right participation of the individual in the consciousness of the totality and in the consciousness of the transcendent which the totality represents. ...
"... We have the dissolution of this egoistic construction by the self-opening of the individual to the universe and to God as the means of that supreme fulfillment to which egoistic life is only a prelude even as animal life was only a prelude to the human. We have the realization of the All in the individual by the transformation of the limited ego into a conscious centre of the divine unity and freedom as the term at which the fulfilment arrives. And we have the outflowing of the infinite and absolute Existence, Truth, Good and Delight of being on the Many in the world as the divine result towards which the cycles of our evolution move. This is the supreme birth which maternal Nature holds in herself; of this she strives to be delivered."34
According to the spiritual theory of evolution, the evolutionary process aims at evolution of consciousness in Matter in constant developing self-formations till the form can reveal the indwelling Spirit. The revelation of the Spirit is the key-note, the central significant motive of terrestrial existence. There is, first, involution of the Spirit, the Divine Reality, in a dense material Inconscient; but gradually consciousness begins to emerge and develops slowly till in more organized forms of living Matter, it reaches its climax of intelligence and exceeds itself in Man. The mental man is greatly hampered and burdened by the control of the original Inconscience, but the upward evolutionary force aims at evolving out of the mental man the fully conscious being, a divine manhood or a spiritual and supramental supermanhood which shall be the next product of evolutionary process. The transition from the mental man to supramental supermanhood will mark the passage from the evolution in the Ignorance to a greater evolution in knowledge founded and proceeding in the light of the Superconscience and no longer in the darkness of the Ignorance and Inconscience.35