Facing the Contradictions of Unity and Difference

Sri Aurobindo refuses to accept the facile solution to the problem of the origin of the Ignorance which posits a Supreme that is All-Knowing and then either a separate Soul, or else, a separate Creation within which the illusory soul takes shape. “It is not open to us to get rid of the whole difficulty by saying that the Jivatman and the Supreme are not One, but eternally different, the one subject to ignorance, the other absolute in being and consciousness and therefore in knowledge; for this contradicts the supreme experience and the whole experience which is that of unity in being, whatever difference there may be in the action of Nature.”

The next standpoint requiring review is the concept of “unity in difference”. In this case, there is a pervading and all-embracing unity that both transcends and informs the differences in all the forms that arise in Nature. Sri Aurobindo points out that “we thereby only state the fact, leaving the difficulty raised by the fact unsolved, how that which belongs in the essence of its being to the unity of the Absolute and should therefore be one with it and with all in consciousness, comes to be divided in its dynamic form of self and its activity and subject to Ignorance. It is also to be noted that the statement would not be wholly true, since it is possible for the Jivatman to enter into unity with the active nature of the One and not only into a static essential oneness.”

The next option in trying to resolve this contradiction is to take the viewpoint that “beyond or above existence and its problems there is the Unknowable which is beyond or above our experience, and that the action of Maya has already begun in the Unknowable before the world began and therefore is itself unknowable and inexplicable in its cause and its origin. This would be a sort of idealistic as opposed to a materialistic Agnosticism.” Once again, we fail to find a solution and must explore further options to find one that actually answers the paradox effectively and fully…

Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine, Book 2, Part I, Chapter 12, The Origin of the Ignorance, pp. 567-568

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