The Mind Can Control the Body’s Responses

Once we adopt the standpoint that does not accept that the body is the origin and perpetual limitation to the manifestation of consciousness, we begin to see opportunities for the spiritual being, initially through its delegated first instrument, the mind, to begin to take charge of the physical body. Sri Aurobindo explains: “that by which the mind can transmit its ideas and commands to the body, can train it to be an instrument for new action, can even so impress it with its habitual demands or orders that the physical instinct carries them out automatically even when the mind is no longer consciously willing them, those also more unusual but well attested by which to an extraordinary and hardly limitable extent the mind can learn to determine the reactions of the body even to the overriding of its normal law or conditions of action, — these and other otherwise unaccountable aspects of the relation between these two elements of our being become easily understandable: for it is the secret consciousness in the living matter that receives from its greater companion; it is this in the body that in its own involved and occult fashion perceives or feels the demand on it and obeys the emerged or evolved consciousness which presides over the body.”

We can see numerous examples of the normal process of the body’s fixed rules being overturned by mental operation of will, or emotional influx. Cases such as those where a mother will, under the extreme circumstance of trying to save her child, lift an automobile beyond the normal limits of her strength; or those where yogis are able to gain control over the breath, heart and pulse to such an extent as to seem practically in a state of suspended animation; of cases of ecstatic devotion where hooks are inserted into the flesh, or where individuals walk on beds of nails or hot coals, without experiencing pain or serious injury; and the more infrequent but nevertheless documented cases of powers such as levitation of the body, all represent, to one degree or another, the body responding to a higher force of Energy to do things that in its normal status it cannot achieve.

reference: Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine, Book 2, Part I, Chapter 1, Indeterminates, Cosmic Determinations and the Indeterminable

Mind and Body Struggle for Supremacy in the Manifestation

A subject of never-ending study and debate is the question of the primacy of the mind or the body in terms of our psychological actions. Psychologists have taken positions on both sides of this question, and everywhere in between. There are those who believe that the body is first, primary and the underlying cause and foundation of the emotions, the mind and our creative expressions. They try to explain everything by combinations of amino acids and the physical and physiological organisation of the body that means that mind is a function of the brain.

Others take the position that the body is more or less illusory, and despite a habitual pattern of thought, which leads to habitual bodily responses, it is actually the mind that creates the form and thus, the body can be changed or adjusted by changing the mental framework.

Still others, as we see in the Bhagavad Gita and the Upanishads, who busied themselves with this question, see a spiritual being evolving through time utilizing both the mind and the body as instruments of its expression and evolution.

Because of where we start in the physical body and its imperatives, we tend to look at things as based on the physical, and thus, we start with an immediate bias in our viewpoint toward the physical foundation, and then we struggle with the issue of how consciousness can arise and exceed the limits of the physical. This same issue was taken up in the Taittiriya Upanishad when the student was asked to meditate on the cause and basis of the world. His first response was the physical basis. When asked to continue his meditation, he successively saw that it was the vital life force, then the mind, then the knowledge consciousness and eventually the consciousness of bliss at the level of Sat-Chit-Ananda. This reorients the viewpoint toward the primacy of the spiritual being and has enormous consequences for how we understand psychology, the meaning of our lives, and the mode of our action.

reference: Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine, Book 2, Part I, Chapter 1, Indeterminates, Cosmic Determinations and the Indeterminable

Forms Are Capable of Expressing Involved Consciousness

One issue that is inexplicable for most explanations of existence is the manifestation of consciousness in material forms. If we start from the original existent Sat-Chit-Ananda, we find that existence (Sat) implies forms and since Existence and Consciousness-Force (Chit) are co-existent, this implies that energy and consciousness are also implicit in forms as well. The Real-Idea resides inside the forms that have been consolidated through the action of Energy carrying out the will of Consciousness. Sri Aurobindo describes this when he states: “…design, quantity and number are powers of existence-substance, quality and property are powers of the consciousness and its force that reside in the existence; they can be made manifest and operative by a rhythm and process of substance. The growth of the tree out of the seed would be accounted for, like all other similar phenomena, by the indwelling presence of what we have called the Real-Idea; the Infinite’s self-perception of the significant form, the living body of its power of existence that has to emerge from its own self-compression in energy-substance, would be carried internally in the form of the seed, carried in the occult consciousness involved in that form, and would naturally evolve out of it.”

Based on this principle, we find that the infinitesimal building blocks of forms, whether we call it the seed, or go even further into the atomic world to call them chromosomes or genes, or even chemical elements and compounds, all carry the essence of that Real-Idea for whichever form they are intended to manifest and the development of the physical form also then implies the involved consciousness can manifest with it the psychological and energetic characteristics that are intended in that Real-Idea.

Matter is not purely unconscious or inanimate, but contains within it, the essence of consciousness and the impulsion of its intended manifestation. The hidden or occult consciousness creates forms that can support the manifestation of that consciousness over time, and as higher energies of consciousness have to manifest, they create ever more complex forms capable of holding and manifesting that consciousness.

reference: Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine, Book 2, Part I, Chapter 1, Indeterminates, Cosmic Determinations and the Indeterminable

Resolving the Apparent Opposition between Chance and Necessity

If, instead of demanding an “either/or” solution to the process of creation, we accept that both “chance” and “necessity” represent essential aspects of the creative process, we find that suddenly the “inexplicable” starts to make sense.

We see on the one side the fantastic variety and uniqueness of forms that appear to occur purely by chance and do not seem to follow any fixed design as to the specifics of any of these forms; and on the other side, we can drill down and find exact mathematical precision and an “architecture” to the structure of the universe that clearly represents some organised and systematic approach to building up the creation.

Sri Aurobindo discusses the question as follows: “The principle of free variation of possibilities natural to an infinite Consciousness would be the explanation of the aspect of inconscient Chance of which we are aware in the workings of Nature,–inconscient only in appearance and so appearing because of the complete involution in Matter, because of the veil with which the secret consciousness has disguised its presence.”

He goes on to describe the opposite principle: “The principle of truths, real powers of the Infinite imperatively fulfilling themselves would be the explanation of the opposite aspect of a mechanical Necessity which we see in Nature,–mechanical in appearance only and so appearing because of the same veil of Inconscience.”

“All the unexplained processes of Nature would find their meaning and their place if this hypothesis proved to be tenable.” We would then have a universe that develops according to certain basic principles or “laws of Nature” if you will, but that on the surface allows for a virtually infinite variation of form and appearance. And in fact, that is essentially what we see when we look with unbiased eyes at the world around us.

reference: Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine, Book 2, Part I, Chapter 1, Indeterminates, Cosmic Determinations and the Indeterminable

The Mechanism of the Involution and Evolution of Consciousness

To overcome the difficulty of justifying a world of suffering created by an all-powerful, all-knowing Divine Creator, we can look at the creation from the viewpoint of the Creator being immanent within it, “himself in some sort both the player and the play, an Infinite casting infinite possibilities into the set form of an evolutionary cosmic order.”

Sri Aurobindo continues to expand on this concept: “On that hypothesis, there must be behind the action of the material Energy a secret involved Consciousness, cosmic, infinite, building up through the action of that frontal Energy its means of an evolutionary manifestation, a creation out of itself in the boundless finite of the material universe.” The fact that this material universe appears inconscient is due to the necessity of fully involving the consciousness in order that it may then manifest systematically out. One can visualise this concept somewhat graphically by understanding that the seed of the tree appears to be purely material, but within that seed is packed all the information, all the consciousness that later evolves out in the form of the tree as it germinates, grows and expresses its true nature. While the tree is hidden in the seed, we do not see that potentiality. But under the right conditions of germination, we recognize that even the apparently purely material formation of the physical seed contained within it latent powers of consciousness and expression that were able to manifest at the right time and create the intended form.

Sri Aurobindo explains “If there is such a creation by the Infinite out of itself, it must be the manifestation, in a material disguise, of truths or powers of its own being: the forms or vehicles of these truths or powers would be the basic general or fundamental determinates we see in Nature; the particular determinates, which otherwise are unaccountable variations that have emerged from the vague general stuff in which they originate, would be the appropriate forms or vehicles of the possibilities that the truths or powers residing in these fundamentals bore within them.”

reference: Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine, Book 2, Part I, Chapter 1, Indeterminates, Cosmic Determinations and the Indeterminable

Why Does God Create a World Filled With Suffering?

There are of course issues involved with the idea of an extra-cosmic Divinity such as we have discussed in the prior post. The fact that we cannot recognize, experience or see such a creator deity is not the essential difficulty here, as all of these things could be relatively easily explained away by our limitations of perception or our standpoint. Under the same basic heading would come the idea of a divine Creator who is not entirely separate and beyond the creation, but immanent within it. The issues involved here are basically the same.

The real problem with the concept, from the human standpoint, is that it becomes hard to understand why certain things happen or are necessary. Why do we need to have ignorance, suffering and struggle at all, if there is an omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent creator Deity who could in theory create any world he wants!

Why would such a God want to make a world where all the creations survive by devouring and competing with one another, with pain, illness, incapacity and death? How can we claim that the creation of this omnipotent Creator is “good” when there is so much that is clearly amiss?

There must be another explanation that allows us out of the paradox of the omniscient, omnipotent and omnipresent Creator purposely creating a world of pain and suffering!

reference: Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine, Book 2, Part I, Chapter 1, Indeterminates, Cosmic Determinations and the Indeterminable

Consciousness Organises the Universe in its Manifestation

If we find that we cannot reconcile “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”, we need to explore other explanations for how the universe has come to exist, to manifest innumerable forms according to fixed laws of action, and to develop consciousness out of an apparently inconscient starting point.

At this point, Consciousness becomes the central point that provides the organising principle for everything we see. The Inconscience we see in the world of matter and energy actually is acting under the will of an organising consciousness, which has involved itself deeply into the material form and therefore can systematically manifest through sequential evolution of ever higher grades of conscious awareness.

From this standpoint we can still take several different lines of approach. One of these sees the entire creation as the manifestation of the Will of an extra-cosmic divinity. “All these things we see around us are then the thoughts of an extracosmic Divinity, a Being with an omnipotent and omniscient Mind and Will, who is responsible for the mathematical law of the physical universe, for its artistry of beauty, for its strange play of samenesses and variations, of concordances and discords, of combining and intermingling opposites, for the drama of consciousness struggling to exist and seeking to affirm itself in an inconscient universal order.”

reference: Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine, Book 2, Part I, Chapter 1, Indeterminates, Cosmic Determinations and the Indeterminable