The Illusion Is a Product of Ignorance

While we may not be able to claim unreality for the fact of the manifested universe, there remains nevertheless an element of unreality that needs to be viewed and addressed. The attempt to separate the Brahman from the manifestation, by creating the concept of a Cosmic Illusion clearly has failed its test, as Sri Aurobindo has pointed out. This still leaves us, however, with the experience of an unreality that remains a true experience at certain stages of spiritual development.

Sri Aurobindo discusses the issue: “If the unreal is not a fact of being, it must be an act or a formation of consciousness, and is there not then a status or degree of consciousness in which its acts and formations are wholly or partly unreal? If tihs unreality cannot be attributed to an original cosmic Illusion, to Maya, there is still in the universe itself a power of illusion of Ignorance. It is in the power of the Mind to conceive things that are nto real, it is in its power even to create things that are not real or not wholly real; its very view of itself and universe is a construction that is not wholly real or wholly unreal. Where does this element of unreality begin and where does it stop, and what is its cause and what ensues on the removal of both the cause and the consequence?”

He continues by pointing out that if the Ignorance were total it might be a mechanism to convict the manifestation of total unreality, but in fact, Ignorance is a mixture of Truth and Falsehood, and has more the appearance of a transitional stage or phase rather than an ultimate and conclusive fact.

Sri Aurobindo concludes: “if some Ignorance is the cause of all things and all action here and not a condition and circumstance, then indeed the cessation of individual ignorance could only come by an escape of the individual from world-being, and a cessation of the cosmic ignorance would be the destruction of world-being. But if this world has at its root an evolutionary principle, if our ignorance is a half-knowledge evolving towards knowledge, another account and another issue and spiritual result of our existence in material Nature, a greater manifestation here becomes possible.”

reference: Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine, Book 2, Part I, Chapter 6, Reality and the Cosmic Illusion, pp. 478-479