The Collective Consciousness of Nature

Sri Aurobindo explores not only the individual manifestation of conscious-force, but also the collective organised consciousness of cosmic Nature. “The secret cosmic consciousness remains secret and subliminal to the surface individual; it organises itself on the surface by the creation of separate objects and beings. But while it organises the separate object and the body and mind of the individual being, it creates also collective powers of consciousness which are large subjective formations of cosmic Nature; but it does not provide for them an organised mind and body, it bases them on the group of individuals, develops for them a group-mind, a changing yet continuous group-body.”

This collective consciousness takes on the character and force of the group of individuals in the society, culture or collectivity involved, but evolves more slowly than any single individual in the group. It is more subject to the conservatism of existing formations and changes over time as the consciousness of more individuals begins to create a new direction or texture to the consciousness of the group-mind. Additionally, because it is less directly conscious than any specific individual, it is more prone to being moved by emotion, incited to action based on some of the lowest proclivities and impulses available to all in the group, and able to be directed by a powerful organising individual or principle of action invoking the rule of the mob, the mass, the collective ego. This force has been harnessed by militarised states and charismatic leaders in the past, and easily overpowers individuals with the force of its uprising. Sri Aurobindo notes however, “But this is an efficiency of the outer life, and that life is not the highest or last term of our being. There is a mind in us, there is a soul and spirit, and our life has no true value if it has not in it a growing consciousness, a developing mind, and if life and mind are not an expression, an instrument, a means of liberation and fulfilment for the soul, the indwelling Spirit.”

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