A Perfected and Divinised Life Is the Goal of the Manifested Universe

Having traced the steps of the manifestation and systematic evolution of consciousness from the Inconscience, to the successive revelations of Matter, Life and Mind, Sri Aurobindo points out that this provides sufficient data points to recognize the pattern and thereby the significance of this evolutionary progression. “An involution of spirit in the Inconscience is the beginning; an evolution in the Ignorance with its play of the possibilities of a partial developing knowledge is the middle, and the cause of the anomalies of our present nature,–our imperfection is the sign of a transitional state, a growth not yet completed, an effort that is finding its way; a consummation in a deployment of the spirit’s self-knowledge and the self-power of its divine being and consciousness is the culmination: these are the three stages of this cycle of the spirit’s progressive self-expression in life.”

“The two stages that have already their play seem at first sight to deny the possibility of the later consummating stage of the cycle, but logically they imply its emergence; for if the inconscience has evolved consciousness, the partial consciousness already reached must surely evolve into complete consciousness. It is a perfected and divinised life for which the earth-nature is seeking, and this seeking is a sign of the Divine Will in Nature.”

There are other possible seekings and realisations possible but they do not fulfill the complete and integrated goal signaled by the complex world of manifestation and consciousness which we see around us. They are rather exclusive concentrations on one aspect or another without the complete harmonisation of the multiple different goals and signs we see. Sri Aurobindo points out that these other seekings cannot be the ultimate intention “for then an evolutionary progression would not have been undertaken,–such a progression here can only have for its aim a self-fulfillment here: a progressive manifestation of this kind can only have for its soul of significance the revelation of Being in a perfect Becoming.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine, Book 2, Part 2, Chapter 16, The Integral Knowledge and the Aim of Life; Four Theories of Existence

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Spiritual Evolution

Sri Aurobindo continues in his exposition of the meaning and purpose of terrestrial life within the larger framework of the universal creation and the supreme Being. While there are “worlds of a greater consciousness beyond the earth”, the powers that act there manifest and develop themselves here as well, albeit in sometimes limited forms, or in an evolving manner. In fact it is necessary for the individual to experience these higher planes and worlds of consciousness in order to properly understand and evaluate the meaning of earthly life within a more complete context. The underlying principle, however, comes back to the question of the intent of the manifestation. “An integration of this kind would not be possible if a spiritual evolution were not the sense of our birth and terrestrial existence; the evolution of mind, life and spirit in Matter is the sign that this integration, this completed manifestation of a secret self contained in it is its significance. A complete involution of all that the Spirit is and its evolutionary self-unfolding are the double term of our material existence.”

Other worlds of consciousness tend to be “typal” rather than “evolutionary” in that they manifest a specific principle of consciousness in its purity from its own native power of action. These typal worlds therefore are not subject to the kind of pressure of change that occurs in an evolutionary world where these principles have to not only find their own expression, but do so within the framework of expression of other principles. Thus, a world of pure mind would not have the limitations that are placed upon mind in our world where it is subject to the pressures of life and matter, and thus, dramatically and severely curtailed in its native power of action.

The process here is described thus by Sri Aurobindo: “But there is also a possibility of self-expression by self-finding, a deployment which takes the form and goes through the progression of a self-veiling and an adventure of self-recovery; that is the principle of becoming in this universe of which an involution of consciousness and concealment of the spirit in Matter is the first appearance.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine, Book 2, Part 2, Chapter 16, The Integral Knowledge and the Aim of Life; Four Theories of Existence

A Divine Plan In Terrestrial Existence

Sri Aurobindo is clear when he assigns a significance and meaning to the terrestrial creation, and refuses to accept it as some kind of mistake, illusion or lesser reality. He points out that while there are indeed various planes of existence, even various worlds of consciousness, and they all have a reality, they do not in and of themselves either invalidate the terrestrial life, nor provide a total solution to the riddle of existence.

“But worlds of a higher consciousness are not the only possible scene and habitation of the perfected soul; nor can we find in any unchanging typal world the final or total sense of the Spirit’s self-expression in the cosmos: the material world, this earth, this human life are a part of the Spirit’s self-expression and have their divine possibility; that possibility is evolutionary and it contains the possibilities of all the other worlds in it, unrealised but realisable. Earth-life is not a lapse into the mire of something undivine, vain and miserable, offered by some Power to itself as a spectacle or to the embodied soul as a thing to be suffered and then cast away from it: it is the scene of the evolutionary unfolding of the being which moves towards the revelation of a supreme spiritual light and power and joy and oneness, but includes in it also the manifold diversity of the self-achieving spirit. There is an all-seeing purpose in the terrestrial creation; a divine plan is working itself out through its contradictions and perplexities which are a sign of the many-sided achievement towards which are being led the soul’s growth and the endeavor of Nature.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine, Book 2, Part 2, Chapter 16, The Integral Knowledge and the Aim of Life; Four Theories of Existence

Awakening of the Soul to Universality and Transcendence

Sri Aurobindo next reviews the role of the individual in this great process of integration between the earthly life, the cosmic universality, and the transcendent Supreme. He emphasizes that the supreme Truth of being, the supracosmic Reality is not only beyond all manifestation, but is itself the cause and substance of all that is manifested. “Cosmic being is not a meaningless freak or phantasy or a chance error; there is a divine significance and truth in it: the manifold self-expression of the spirit is its high sense, the Divine itself is the key of its enigma.”

For the individual to achieve this integration it is essential that one becomes aware of and in contact with the Supreme; while it is also essential that one not, at the same time, lose one’s connection to and activity in the cosmic manifestation. “The individual separating himself from the All to reach the Highest, loses himself in the supreme heights; including in himself the cosmic consciousness, he recovers his wholeness of self and still keeps his supreme gain of transcendence; he fulfils it and himself in the cosmic completeness. A realised unity of the transcendent, the universal and the individual is an indispensable condition for the fullness of the self-expressing spirit: for the universe is the field of its totality of self-expression, while it is through the individual that its evolutionary self-unfolding here comes to its acme. But this supposes not only a real being of the individual, but the revelation of our secret eternal oneness with the Supreme and with all cosmic existence. In his self-integration the soul of the individual must awake to universality and to transcendence.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine, Book 2, Part 2, Chapter 16, The Integral Knowledge and the Aim of Life; Four Theories of Existence

Reconciling Life and Spirit

Sri Aurobindo provides the clue toward integrating life in the world with the call of the spirit. “A spiritual evolution, an unfolding here of the Being within from birth to birth, of which man becomes the central instrument and human life at its highest offers the critical turning-point, is the link needed for the reconciliation of life and spirit; for it allows us to take into account the total nature of man and to recognize the legitimate place of his triple attraction, to earth, to heaven and to the supreme Reality. But a complete solution of its oppositions can be arrived at only on this basis that the lower consciousness of mind, life and body cannot arrive at its full meaning until it is taken up, restated, transformed by the light and power and joy of the higher spiritual consciousness, while the higher too does not stand in its full right relation to the lower by mere rejection, but by this assumption and domination, this taking up of its unfulfilled values, this restatement and transformation,–a spiritualising and supramentalising of the mental, vital and physical nature.”

Accepting the material, physical life as the highest goal of terrestrial life is eventually empty and limiting. While it is an important aspect needed to provide a foundation for further evolutionary growth, it is in the end unsufficient to stand on its own. Similarly, the mental life adds new wideness and opportunity, but also does not encompass all ranges of existence and potential meaning. It is only when these two are joined with the spiritual evolution that we can integrate and thereby reconcile the view of existence that joins life and the spirit.

Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine, Book 2, Part 2, Chapter 16, The Integral Knowledge and the Aim of Life; Four Theories of Existence

Integration of the Spiritual Focus Into Life

The physical and mental realms of life are each limited and restricted as Sri Aurobindo has previously clarified. They actually find their fulfilment when they are complemented and supported by the higher and wider powers and energies native to the transcendent and universal planes of existence. These planes become accessible to the extent that the spiritual principle is brought to bear upon life.

“Universal as well as transcendent, it can take up mind and life into its light and give them the true and utmost realisation of all for which they are seeking: for it has a greater instrumentality of knowledge, a fountain of deeper power and will, an unlimited reach and intensity of love and joy and beauty. These are the things for which our mind, life and body are seeking, knowledge, power and joy, and to reject that by which all these arrive at their utmost plenitude is to shut them out from their own highest consummation.”

It is tempting when one once comes in contact with the spiritual realm, to want to abandon the mind, life and body in favor of pure spiritual realisations. Sri Aurobindo cautions against this approach as well: “An opposite exaggeration demanding only some colourless purity of spiritual existence nullifies the creative action of the spirit and excludes from us all that the Divine manifests in its being: it leaves room only for an evolution without sense or fulfilment,–for a cutting off of all that has been evolved is the sole culmination; it turns the process of our being into the meaningless curve of a plunge into Ignorance and return out of it, or erects a wheel of cosmic Becoming with only an escape-issue.”

The solution: “A large relation of unity, an integration, restores the balance, illumines the whole truth of being and links together the steps of Nature.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine, Book 2, Part 2, Chapter 16, The Integral Knowledge and the Aim of Life; Four Theories of Existence

Integration of the Various Views of Existence

Sri Aurobindo has taken the position that each of the major motive springs of thought and action has an underlying truth, and that the real significance of our human existence should not destroy one aspect in order to uplift another; rather, we should seek for a balance that respects each view and gives it a true place in the final integration of these apparently conflicting viewpoints.

He explains: “what is needed is to give its full legitimate value to each part of our composite being and many-sided aspiration and find out the key of their unity as well as their difference. The finding must be by a synthesis or an integration and, since development is clearly the law of the human soul, it is most likely to be discovered by an evolutionary synthesis.”

Sri Aurobindo points out that the ancient Indian system attempted just such a synthesis, although it had the seeds of its own destruction in the overweighted emphasis on renunciation as the final goal. The underlying principles however are worth reviewing: “It accepted four legitimate motives of human living,– man’s vital interests and needs, his desires, his ethical and religious aspiration, his ultimate spiritual aim and destiny,– in other words, the claims of his vital, physical and emotional being, the claims of his ethical and religious being governed by a knowledge of the law of God and Nature and man, and the claims of his spiritual longing for the Beyond for which he seeks satisfaction by an ultimate release from an ignorant mundane existence. It provided for a period of education and preparation based on this idea of life, a period of normal living to satisfy human desire and interests under the moderating rule of the ethical and religious part in us, a period of withdrawal and spiritual preparation, and a last period of renunciation of life and release into the spirit.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine, Book 2, Part 2, Chapter 16, The Integral Knowledge and the Aim of Life; Four Theories of Existence