Philosophers, scientists and theologians through the ages, all over the world, from various backgrounds and traditions, have all attempted to find the “First Cause”, that which becomes the cause of Existence. Some have posited that before existence there was non-existence, a void. But we are left then with a paradox which has no solution, namely, how could existence arise out of non-existence. Sri Aurobindo points out, in this regard, that even if something approaching absolute non-existence were somehow possible, we would be left with a world of random chance, or chaos, without purpose and meaning behind it, as certainly one cannot attribute significance and meaning to the “non-existence” spawning “existence”. And obviously, such an extreme state becomes impossible to “know”, as there is nothing there to be known.
Sri Aurobindo follows another tack however when he points out that the “Unknowable” from our standpoint is not necessarily unable to be known, but rather, is simply something that falls outside the limits of our mental framework and perceptive capacity; so that upon moving our standpoint to a new framework, or acquiring new powers of knowledge through an evolution of consciousness, for instance, we could gain knowledge of what is currently only able to be expressed as the “unknown” or the “unknowable”.
He explains: “The Unknowable,–not absolutely unknowable, but beyond mental knowledge,–can only be a higher degree in the intensity of being of that Something, a degree beyond the loftiest summit attainable by mental beings, and, if it were known as it must be known to itself, that discovery would not destroy entirely what is given us by our supreme possible knowledge but rather carry it to a higher fulfillment and larger truth of what it has already gained by self-vision and self-experience. It is then this Something, an Absolute which can be so known that all truths can stand in it and by it and find there their reconciliation, that we must discover as our starting-point and keep as our constant base of thinking and seeing and by it find a solution of the problem; for it is That alone that can carry in it a key to the paradoxes of the universe.”
Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine, Book 2, Part I, Chapter 12, The Origin of the Ignorance, pp. 569-570