Sources of Error in the Awakening of the Nescience to Consciousness

Sri Aurobindo next concerns himself with the process of awakening of consciousness out of the Nescience, and the reasons why the awareness that results is obviously subject to error and limitation.

Nescience is not actually an “absence” of consciousness. “The surface nescience full of incomprehension and inapprehension can change into knowledge because consciousness is there involved in it; if it were intrinsically an entire absence of consciousness, the change would be impossible: but still it works as an inconscience trying to be conscious; it is at first a nescience compelled by need and outer impact to feeling and response and then an ignorance labouring to know.” In this evolution of consciousness, then, there is a process and mechanism of how the involved consciousness can manifest through the nescience.

Sri Aurobindo likens this to a process of a creating a spark by rubbing two sticks together. The impact of contact with outer forms and forces creates the spark; the inner awareness awakening and responding is the manifestation of the flame that results.

The problem here of course is that the very substance of the nescience, the materiality of matter, the mechanical formations and the life-instinctive reactions tends to modify, muffle and obstruct the inner consciousness from having its full, free and complete play; and this causes errors and mistakes to creep into the response that occurs.

Even so, the process begins to extract the deeper consciousness and give it a field of development, first through the action of instinct, then through the life-response, and eventually through the subtler powers of emotion and mental reaction over time. Because each response to a new situation, an unknown, is based on what has already become a mode of response, there is always the opportunity for error and misperception to occur at each stage. “All that is unknown is met on the basis of what is known; but as this knowledge is imperfect, as it receives imperfectly and responds imperfectly to the contacts of things, there can be a misprision of the new contact as well as a misprision or deformation of the intuitive response, a double source of error.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine, Book 2, Part I, Chapter 14, The Origin and Remedy of Falsehood, Error, Wrong and Evil

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