Active and Passive States of Existence

Sri Aurobindo takes up the question of consciousness-force in relation to the Active and Passive Statuses of the Brahman, given that these two experiences are so divergent, and there does not appear to be the action of concentration of conscious force in the passive mode of existence.

He explains: “In ourselves we habitually associate our Tapas, our conscious force, with active consciousness, with energy in play and in internal or external act and motion. That which is passive in us produces no action or only an involuntary or mechanical action, and we do not associate it with our will or conscious force; still, since there too there is the possibility of action or the emergence of an automatic activity, it must have at least a passively responsive or automatic conscious force in it…”

We may of course also not recognize the action of this concentrated force in the extreme states of passivity, and this may be due to an inadequate or incomplete understanding. Sri Aurobindo points this out when he indicates: “In Nature also we know that things stable, inert or passive are yet maintained in their energy by a secret and unceasing motion, an energy in action upholding the apparent immobility. Here, too, then, all is due to the presence of Shakti, to the action of its power in concentration, its Tapas.” Western science of course now validates this experience when it points out that all matter, no matter how inert it seems, is actually an intense energy, and therefore, matter can be converted to energy…a fact which led to atomic power and atomic bombs as mankind became conscious of the enormous energy and power locked away in the inert status of material forms.

While this understanding broadens our horizons dramatically, it does not yet fully address the ultimate dual status of Brahman, active and quiescent, which becomes a cardinal spiritual experience as the seeker progresses in the spiritual path. The force withheld, the force withdrawn from action, may be another instance of tremendous power acting in such a way as to create the appearance of absolute immobility.

Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine, Book 2, Part I, Chapter 12, The Origin of the Ignorance