Sri Aurobindo, having explored the various forms of ignorance that constitute the boundaries and limits of our knowledge and awareness, next takes up the question of how it is that the Ignorance can exist, starting from the premise that all Existence is One, and it is All-Knowing and All-Powerful. Clearly there is a paradox here that needs to be explored–how can Ignorance arise from All-Knowledge?
Sri Aurobindo describes the issues: “The Being, integrally one, cannot be ignorant of itself; and since all things are itself, conscious modifications, determinations of its being, it cannot either be ignorant of things, of their true nature, of their true action. But though we say that we are That, that the Jivatman or individual self is no other than the paramatman, no other than the Absolute, yet we are certainly ignorant both of ourselves and things, from which this contradiction results that what must be in its very grain incapable of ignorance is yet capable of it, and has plunged itself into it by some will of its being or some necessity or possibility of its nature.”
While some erect as a possible response that Brahman is the Absolute, and Maya is the divided consciousness, Sri Aurobindo makes it clear that this does not solve the riddle for us, inasmuch as Maya must be a power of Brahman. “This is an escape which is not open to us if we admit an integral Oneness: for then it is evident that, in making so radical a distinction and at the same time cancelling it by terming it illusory, we are using the magic or Maya of thought and word in order to conceal from ourselves the fact that we are dividing and denying the unity of the Brahman…”
In conclusion, Sri Aurobindo determines “Ignorance must be part of the movement of the One, a development of its consciousness knowingly adopted, to which it is not forcibly subjected but which it uses for its cosmic purpose.”
Which of course will be the subject of subsequent posts about this chapter…
Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine, Book 2, Part I, Chapter 12, The Origin of the Ignorance