The Egoistic Phase of Growth of Knowledge

Sri Aurobindo builds upon the three categories of knowledge to know show how they systematically build upon and feed into the next higher forms of knowledge from the first stirrings of intelligence, through an ever-increasing awareness and complexity to eventual realisation and integration of man, Nature and God into one embracing and complete whole. This approach actually helps explain the different drives and focus of mankind and its evolutionary struggles, and gives us a framework whereby we can actually begin to understand both the reality of and the necessity for egoistic self-aggrandising focus at certain phases of our growth, followed by more inclusive phases that begin to recognise the reality and importance of the cosmic manifestation. “In this egoistic phase of his evolution the world and others are less important to him than he is to himself, and therefore in earlier formations, on the lower levels of religious development, God or the gods are treated as if they existed for man, as supreme instruments for the satisfaction of his desires, his helpers in his task of getting the world in which he lives to satisfy his needs and wants and ambitions. This primary egoistic development with all its sins and violences and crudities is by no means to be regarded, in its proper place, as an evil or an error of Nature; it is necessary for man’s first work, the finding of his own individuality and its perfect disengagement from the lower subconscient in which the individual is overpowered by the mass-consciousness of the world and entirely subject to the mechanical workings of Nature. Man the individual has to affirm, to distinguish his personality against Nature, to be powerfully himself, to evolve all his human capacities of force and knowledge and enjoyment so that he may turn them upon her and upon the world with more and more mastery and force; his self-discriminating egoism is given him as a means for this primary purpose. Until he has thus developed his individuality, his personality, his separate capacity, he cannot be fit for the greater work before him or successfully turn his faculties to higher, larger and more divine ends. He has to affirm himself in the Ignorance before he can perfect himself in the Knowledge.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine, Book 2, Part 2, Chapter 17, The Progress to Knowledge–God, Man and Nature”

Possessing God in man and God in the Universe

Sri Aurobindo clarifies that obviously the Supreme is self-existent and self-sufficient; in other words, God does not depend on either man or the universe for His existence. But this does not undermine the value of the 3 terms in their integrality. It is true that both man and the cosmic manifestation depend on God for their existence. “But still they are a manifestation of the power of God and even in His eternal existence their spiritual reality must in some way be present or implied, since otherwise there would be no possibility of their manifestation or, manifested, they would have no significance. What appears here as man is an individual being of the Divine; the Divine extended in multiplicity is the Self of all individual existences.”

As man grows in awareness, he finds that he can approach the knowledge of God either through his individual being, or through the universal creation. “it is through the knowledge of self and the world that man arrives at the knowledge of God and he cannot attain to it otherwise. it is not by rejecting God’s manifestation, but by rejecting his own ignorance of it and the results of his ignorance, that he can best lift up and offer the whole of his being and consciousness and energy and joy of being into the Divine Existence.”

By approaching God through the integrality of self and cosmos, the seeker goes beyond the limitations of either one of these terms on its own, and he is able to fulfill their ultimate meaning in exceeding them. “he possesses the Divine in his being, even as he is enveloped, penetrated, pervaded, possessed by the Divine Being, Consciousness, Light, Power, Delight, Knowledge; he possesses God in himself and God in the universe. The All-Knowledge justifies to him its creation of himself and justifies by him perfected its creation of the world it has made.”

Obviously the perfection of this integral knowledge comes with the full outflowering of the supramental consciousness that integrates God, man and Nature into one complete Existence. Along the way, “the true knowledge can be made subjectively real by a spiritual reflection or reception in mind-life-body Nature.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine, Book 2, Part 2, Chapter 17, The Progress to Knowledge–God, Man and Nature”