The Universal Inhabitant: He Who Is Awake in the Sleeper

In Sri Aurobindo’s view, the consciousness of life, mind, supermind are all involved in Matter, essentially “asleep” but “present”. One can see this when one explores Western physics and in particular quantum physics to understand that Matter, which we treat as inanimate, dense “stuff” without consciousness is actually an incredibly organised, and powerful action of Energy and (as modern physics now begins to admit) of Consciousness. This involved Consciousness informs the action of the material forms, provides it with cohesion and coherence and, while outwardly seemingly unaware of its own action, it carries out precisely the hidden Intention. “The electron and atom are in this view eternal somnambulists; each material object contains an outer or form consciousness involved, absorbed in the form, asleep, seeming to be an unconsciousness driven by an unknown and unfelt inner Existence,–he who is awake in the sleeper, the universal Inhabitant of the Upanishads,–an outer absorbed form-consciousness which, unlike that of the human somnambulist, has never been awake and is not always or ever on the point of waking.”

As higher forms of Matter evolve under the pressure of this Consciousness, they become capable of more responsiveness and thereby begin to manifest the higher Energy that was secretly involved but incapable of expression in the lower forms. So when Matter evolves what we know as plant-life, we see that the material forms have now taken on the capability of responding to the energy of life. The “outer form-consciousness is still in the state of sleep, but a sleep full of nervous dreams, always on the point of waking, but never waking. Life has appeared; in other words, force of concealed conscious being has been so much intensified, has raised itself to such a height of power as to develop or become capable of a new principle of action, that which we see as vitality, life-force.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine, Book 2, Part 2, Chapter 18, The Evolutionary Process — Ascent and Integration