Multiple Statuses of Consciousness

While our normal human reference builds an opposition between the status of pure Existence, unmoving and silent; and that of the dynamic action of life in the world, we have seen that the Infinite Consciousness of the One Existent has no problem in reconciling and harmonising these apparent contradictions and even experience both standpoints simultaneously.

The one standpoint is obviously the basis of the experience that leads to the “refusal of the ascetic” while the other is that which founds “the materialist denial”. Sri Aurobindo reminds us however that “it is now evident that to the Infinite Consciousness both the static and the dynamic are possible; these are two of its statuses and both can be present simultaneously in the universal awareness, the one witnessing the other and supporting it or not looking at it and yet automatically supporting it; or the silence and status may be there penetrating the activity or throwing it up like an ocean immobile below throwing up a mobility of waves on its surface.”

He goes on to point out “There is a state of being experienced in Yoga in which we become a double consciousness, one on the surface, small, active, ignorant, swayed by thoughts and feelings, grief and joy and all kinds of reactions, the other within calm, vast, equal, observing the surface being with an immovable detachment or indulgence or, it may be, acting upon its agitation to quiet, enlarge, transform it.”

Clearly the key to our evolutionary development of consciousness lies in the exploration and development within ourselves of these multiple statuses of consciousness, and the experience of the Purusha, the Witness Consciousness, simultaneously with that Prakriti, the active nature, is in fact one of the keys to this spiritual unfoldment.

The Upanishads have a beautiful image that illustrate this. “Two birds, beautiful of wing sit on a common tree. One eats the sweet fruit thereof, while the other watches.”

reference: Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine, Book 2, Part I, Chapter 2, Brahman, Purusha, Ishwara–Maya, Prakriti, Shakti, pg. 345

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The Self-Absorption of The One Existent

Another power or state of possibility of the Infinite Consciousness is defined by Sri Aurobindo as “its power of self-absorption, of plunging into itself, int a state in which self-awareness exists but not as knowledge and not as all-knowledge; the all would then be involved in pure self-awareness, and knowledge and the inner consciousness itself would be lost in pure being.”

This state of absorption is essentially only aware of the pure essence of Existence without specific detailed content; and this is essentially one state of consciousness to which the ascetic mystics seeking a transcendental state of pure awareness without form aspire. The trance of absorption has different levels of purity and intensity and is known as Samadhi, and it can be a complete absorption, known as Nirvikalpa Samadhi which the yogis enter.

This status of consciousness can either be luminous self-aware Existence, what we may call the “superconscient” status; or it may become self-absorbed in a way that is virtually inconscient, which we find in the material world, which clearly does not exhibit “self-awareness” but which nevertheless manifests an order and consciousness at a very high degree of complexity.

In the development of a yogic practice, seekers experience in some cases a bifurcation of the consciousness with one level of awareness rooted in the “Nirguna Brahman” (the pure existence without form) and another in the “Saguna Brahman” (the pure existence with form).

It is possible for the One Existent to simultaneously have the experience of totally separated pure Consciousness of Existence; while also manifesting the fragmented self-awareness found in sentient forms, as well as dual states that can maintain both in one.

In order for Maya to be operative and create a world that manifests the consciousness of the Infinite, while concurrently maintaining a separation of pure undifferentiated formless Existence, all of these various standpoints and powers must be operative.

reference: Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine, Book 2, Part I, Chapter 2, Brahman, Purusha, Ishwara–Maya, Prakriti, Shakti, pg. 344