The Importance of Existence & Influence of Other Worlds On Earthly Life

“The existence and influence of other worlds are a fact of primary importance for the possibilities and for the scope of our evolution in terrestrial Nature. For if the physical universe were the only field of manifestation of the infinite Reality and at the same time the field of its whole manifestation, we should have to suppose that, since all the principles of its being from Matter to Spirit are entirely involved in the apparently inconscient Force which is the basis of the first workings of this universe, they are being evolved by it here completely and here solely, without any other aid or pressure except that of the secret Superconscience within it. There would then be a system of things in which the principle of Matter must always remain the first principle, the essential and original determining condition of manifested existence. Spirit might indeed in the end arrive to a limited extent at its natural domination; it might make its basis of physical matter a more elastic instrument not altogether prohibitive of the action of its own highest law and nature or opposed to that action, as it now is in its inelastic resistance. But Spirit would always be dependent upon Matter for its field and its manifestation; it could have no other field: it could not get outside it to another kind of manifestation; and within it also it could not very well liberate any other principle of its being into sovereignty over the material foundation; Matter would remain the one persistent determinant of its manifestation. Life could not become dominant and determinative, Mind could not become the master and creator; their boundaries of capacity would be fixed by the capacities of Matter, which they might enlarge or modify but would not be able to transform radically or liberate. There would be no place for any free and full manifestation of any power of the being, all would be limited for ever by the conditions of an obscuring material formation. Spirit, Mind, Life would have no native field or complete scope of their own characteristic power and principle. It is not easy to believe in the inevitability of this self-limitation if Spirit is the creator and these principles have an independent existence and are not products, results or phenomena of the energy of Matter.”

Here Sri Aurobindo has succinctly made the case for the independent existence of worlds of Spirit, Mind and Life independent of the limitations imposed by the worlds of Matter. There is essentially no explanation of how the higher powers can evolve in Matter if they do not have their own independent existence and principles, and therefore, their own worlds within which they can express their native powers.

Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine, Book 2, Part 2, Chapter 21, The Order of the Worlds


Understanding Other Worldly Existence and Experience

Recognizing the existence of worlds organised around the Life-principle or the Mind-principle and not subjected to the limitations of the Material world, we can see that the interaction between these worlds and the material world within which we habitually act is subject to a certain amount of interpretation which we bring to the experience from our normal viewpoint. Sri Aurobindo describes this process of translation as follows: “If we look from this point of view at man’s traditional accounts of other-worldly existence, we shall find that mostly they point to worlds of a larger Life liberated from the restrictions and imperfections or incompleteness of Life in earth-nature. These accounts are evidently built largely by imagination, but there is an element also of intuition and divination, a feeling of what Life can be and surely is in some domain of its manifested or its realisable nature; there is also an element of true subliminal contact and experience. But the mind of man translates what he sees or receives or contacts from other-nature into figures proper to his own consciousness; they are his translations of supraphysical realities into his own significant forms and images and through these forms and images he enters into communication with the realities and can make them to a certain degree present and effective.”

Examining subtle life-states which are commonly described by humans, we can see a number of phenomena which can be reviewed and understood from this perspective. One such experience is the after-death experience. People who have died and been brought back to life frequently describe an experience that has the characteristics of a subtle vital world which nevertheless has many familiar forms and figures. Sri Aurobindo discusses this issue: “The experience of an after-death continuance of a modified earth-life may be explained as due to this kind of translation; but it is also explainable partly as the creation of a subjective post-mortal state in which he still lives in figures of habitual experience before he enters into other-worldly realities, partly as a passage through Life-worlds where the type of things expresses itself in formations originative of those to which he was attached in his earthly body or akin to them and therefore exercises a natural attraction on the vital being after its exit from the body.” We see then that the consciousness may be translating an experience into more or less familiar terms; or it may actually be passing through states or worlds that are connected to the vital experience which it had on earth in life. This illustrates one way or the other the inter-relation and influence of the Vital worlds on the earthly life and consciousness.

Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine, Book 2, Part 2, Chapter 21, The Order of the Worlds

Fulfilled Self-Expression in the Worlds of Larger Mind

Sri Aurobindo draws a corollary between the action of the vital life-forces in their own native life-worlds and the action of the mental forces in their own native mind-worlds. “In the same way as the powers of Life are self-founded, perfect and full in a greater Life beyond us, so too the powers of Mind, its ideas and principles that influence our earth-being, are found to have in the greater Mind-world their own field of fullness of self-nature, while here in human existence they throw out only partial formations which have much difficulty in establishing themselves because of their meeting and mixture with other powers and principles; this meeting, this mixutre curbs their completeness, alloys their purity, disputes and defeats their influence.”

While the earth-plane is an “evolutionary” world, that is, we see progressive unfolding and development, Sri Aurobindo points out that “These other worlds, then, are not evolutionary, but typal…” It is the “typal” nature of these worlds that provides a framework for the pure action of these levels of consciousness-force, and which thereby both provides a foundation for what can be “involved” into the material world, and a support for the manifestation of these forces as they evolve and develop in the physical world.

Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine, Book 2, Part 2, Chapter 21, The Order of the Worlds

Fulfilled Self-Expression in the Worlds of Larger Life

When the powers of the life-world enter into our material universe, they become mixed, come into conflict with other forces that are at work, are diluted as they try to act in matter, are controlled to some degree by the working of the mental forces which modify and guide them. In all of this mixed action, they are therefore limited and unsatisfied in their expression.

Sri Aurobindo points out that such need not be the case in the native life-worlds from whence they arise, where they may find their true fulfillment and power of expression. “These worlds of a larger Life would then hold in themselves both the more luminous and the darker formations of our world’s life in a medium in which they could arrive freely at their independent expression, their own type’s full freedom and natural completeness and harmony for good or for evil,–if indeed that distinction applies in these ranges,–a completeness and independence impossible here in our existence where all is mingled in the complex interaction necessary to the field of a many-sided evolution leading towards a final integration.”

This implies that impulses or life-forces which seem to us in our earthly realm to be out of bounds may actually be perfectly natural and at home in their native world. “Those life impulses which are to earth-nature inordinate and out of measure and appear here as perverse and abnormal, find in their own province of being an independent fulfilment and an unrestricted play of their type and principle. What is to us divine or titanic, Rakshasic, demoniac and therefore supernatural, is, each in its own domain, normal to itself and gives to the beings that embody these things the feeling of self-nature and the harmony of their own principle.”

“When these powers are seen in their isolated working, building their own life-edifices, as they do in those secret worlds where they dominate, we perceive more clearly their origin and reason of existence and the reason also for the hold they have on human life and the attachment of man to his own imperfections, to his life-drama of victory and failure, happiness and suffering, laughter and tears, sin and virtue. Here on earth these things exist in an unsatisfied and therefore unsatisfactory and obscure state of struggle and mixture, but there reveal their secret and their motive of being because they are there established in their native power and full form of nature in their own world and their own exclusive atmosphere.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine, Book 2, Part 2, Chapter 21, The Order of the Worlds

Good and Evil Formations in the Larger Life-Worlds

The question of the primacy of the Mind or Life Worlds over the Material World comes into question when certain types of experiences occur. Sri Aurobindo outlines several such factual issues in order to determine whether they decide the question one way or the other. “One such indication is that in the vision of after-death experience there is a persistent tradition of residence in conditions which seem to be a supraphysical prolongation of earth-conditions, earth-nature, earth-experience.” The argument goes that if we find as we move into other worlds or planes that the earth-experience essentially continues, that would suggest that it was primary or precedent to these other worlds. “Another is that, in the Life-worlds especially, we find formulations which seem to resemble the inferior movements of earth-existence; here are already embodied the principles of darkness, falsehood, incapacity and evil which we have supposed to be conseequent upon the evolution out of the material Inconscience. It seems even to be the fact that the vital worlds are the natural home of the Powers that most disturb human life; this is indeed logical, for it is through our vital being that they sway us and they must therefore be powers of a larger and more powerful life-existence.” Sri Aurobindo points out that “If we find them (darkness, suffering and evil) existing in these worlds of other mind and other life, even though not pervading it but only occupying their separate province, we must either conclude that they have come into existence by a projection out of the inferior evolution, upward from below, by something in the subliminal parts of Nature bursting there into a larger formation of the evil created here, or that they were already created as part of a parallel gradation to the involutionary descent, a gradation forming a stair for evolutionary ascension towards Spirit just as the involutionary was a stair of the descent of the Spirit. In the latter hypothesis the ascending gradation might have a double purpose. For it would contain pre-formations of the good and evil that must evolve in the earth as part of the struggle necessary for the evolutionary growth of the Soul in Nature; these would be formations existing for themselves, for their own independent satisfaction, formations that would present the full type of these things, each in its separate nature, and at the same time they would exercise on evolutionary beings their characteristic influence.”

In this case, the larger worlds of Mind and Life would have their own manifestations that we would consider here to be falsehood or evil, and these would exert pressure upon the manifestations that evolve out of the Material Inconscience and create their corrollary effects upon life in the material world.

Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine, Book 2, Part 2, Chapter 21, The Order of the Worlds

Man Does Not Create God

There is an ongoing debate, mostly supported by the physical mind’s desire to base everything on the foundation of the material world, as well as by those who try to reduce everything to a function of mind (“I think, therefore I am” as Rene Descarte so succintly phrased it), about whether God is simply a creation of man. Sri Aurobindo makes it clear that the lesser cannot create the greater, that nothing can manifest that is not already involved in the substance out of which it appears, and that therefore, it is certain that Consciousness, or God if you will, exists independent of, and precedent to, man and the material world he inhabits.

“We do not create God as a myth of our consciousness, but are instruments for a progressive manifestation of the Divine in the material being. We do not create the gods, his powers, but rather such divinity as we manifest is the partial reflection and the shaping here of eternal godheads. We do not create the higher planes, but are intermediaries by which they reveal their light, power, beauty in whatever form and scope can be given to them by Nature-force on the material plane.”

The manifestation of the higher powers we see developed or developing here is based on pressure being exercised by the native powers of the higher planes working to evolve those powers out of the material basis. “It is the pressure of the Life-world which enables life to evolve and develop here in the forms we already know; it is that increasing pressure which drives it to aspire in us to a greater revelation of itself and will one day deliver the mortal from his subjection to the narrow limitations of his present incompetent and restricting physicality. It is the pressure of the Mind-world which evolves and evelops mind here and helps us to find a leverage for our mental self-uplifting and expansion, so that we may hope to enlarge continually our self of intelligence and even to break the prison-walls of our matter-bound physical mentality. it is the pressure of the supramental and spiritual worlds which is preparing to develop here the manifest power of the Spirit and by it open our being on the physical plane into the freedom and infinity of the superconscient Divine; that contact, that pressure can alone liberate from the apparent Inconscience, which was our starting-point, the all-conscient Godhead concealed in us.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine, Book 2, Part 2, Chapter 21, The Order of the Worlds

Worlds of Mind and Life Are Independent of the Physical World

Contrary to the sense provided by the physical mind, which seeks to base everything that exists upon its narrow foundation of Matter, the worlds of Spirit, Mind and Life are not simply evolutionary developments starting from Matter and Inconscience, but are created from a higher plane and manifest powers and capacities of consciousness far exceeding those that are at play in the Material World. Sri Aurobindo describes it thus: “…there stands the fact that we find these higher worlds in our vision and experience of them to be in no way based upon the material universe, in no way its results, but rather greater terms of being, larger and freer ranges of consciousness, and all the action of the material plane looks more like the result and not the origin of these greater terms, derivatory from them, even partly dependent on them in its evolutionary endeavor. Immense ranges of powers, influences, phenomena descend covertly upon us from the Overmind and the higher mental and vital ranges, but of these only a part, a selection, as it were, or restricted number can stage and realise themselves in the order of the physical world; the rest await their time and proper circumstance for revelation in physical term and form, for their part in the terrestrial evolution which is at the same time an evolution of all the powers of the Spirit.”

It is axiomatic that something cannot evolve that was not previously involved, and thus, if we see a power of Mind or Life developing in the material world, we must look for how the involved capability got there and where it came from. It is useful to remember that the history of humanity frequently starts from the viewpoint that the physical world, the human awareness are at the center of creation, only to later determine as we expand our vision and insight, that the universal manifestation is far larger, more complex and more powerful than our physical consciousness; and that there are forces and powers that predominate and take a far more central role…the earth rotates around the sun rather than vice versa…

Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine, Book 2, Part 2, Chapter 21, The Order of the Worlds

The Reality of the Supraphysical Planes and Worlds

To the physical mind bound to the world of matter, the existence and reality of the planes of life and mind is either something illusory, or at the very least, if it is afforded a sense of reality, it is a development from the foundation and basis of the material consciousness. Sri Aurobindo explains: “It is possible to suppose that these higher planes and worlds have been created subsequently to the manifestation of the material cosmos, to aid the evolution or in some sense as a result of it. This is a notion which the physical mind, starting in all its ideas from the material universe as the one thing which it knows, has analysed and can deal with in a beginning of mastery, might easily tend to accept, if obliged to admit a supraphysical existence; it could then keep the material, the Inconscience, as the starting-point and support of all being, as it is undoubtedly the starting point for us of the evolutionary movement of which the material world is the scene. Our mind could still keep matter and material force as the first existence,–so accepted and cherished by it because it is the first thing that it knows, the one thing that is always securely present and knowable,–and maintain the spiritual and supraphysical in a dependence upon the assured foundation of Matter.”

This explanation, however comforting to the physical mind, does not explain how the powers of Life and Mind came about from a purely physical basis. We may find that we can experience the existence and reality of these planes and worlds as our capacity to expand our perception develops, but this does not imply that these worlds were created out of matter; rather, that they can be only experienced as we achieve a certain widening and enhancing of the power of consciousness active within us. In the end, we are forced to accept “Consciousness as the real creative Power or agent and all things as formations of consciousness.” This implies that the worlds of Mind and Life have the same essential and fundamental reality as the world of Matter.
Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine, Book 2, Part 2, Chapter 21, The Order of the Worlds

Powers of the Mind

When we take up the question of whether the entire world within which we live and act is purely an illusion or a formation created by the mind of man, it becomes essential to review and understand the powers of the mind and its limitations as well. Sri Aurobindo dismisses the possibility of the mind being the ultimate creative power, able to create worlds and beings and universes out of itself with no underlying substance or pre-existing reality upon which to work. In fact, he points out that this is beyond the mind’s powers, although those powers are more extensive than we usually imagine. “Mind is indeed a potent agency, more potent than we readily imagine; it can make formations which effectuate themselves in our own or others’ consciousness and lives and even have an effect on inconscient Matter; but an entirely original creation in the void is beyond its possibilities.”

The function of this power develops in potency as the mind develops and begins to contact other and higher planes or worlds of existence and thereby gain access to the powers and actions native to those planes. “In his increasing inner experience he opens up new planes of being in himself; as the secret centres of his consciousness dissolve their knots, he becomes able through them to conceive of those larger realms, to receive direct influences from them, to enter into them, to image them in his terrestrial mind and inner sense. He does create images, symbol-forms, reflective shapes of them with which his mind can deal; in this sense only he creates the Divine Image that he worships, creates the forms of the gods, creates new planes and worlds within him, and through these images the real worlds and powers that overtop our existence are able to take possession of the consciousness in the physical world, to pour into it their potencies, to transform it with the light of their higher being. But all this is not the creation of the higher worlds of being; it is a revelation of them to the consciousness of the soul on the material plane as it develops out of the Nescience. It is a creation of their forms here by a reception of their powers; there is an enlargement of our subjective life on this plane by the discovery of its true relation with higher planes of its own being from which it was separated by the veil of the material Nescience.”
Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine, Book 2, Part 2, Chapter 21, The Order of the Worlds

Sri Aurobindo Studies Continuation

we have been out of station for about 3 weeks with no access to the internet. We will be taking up the continuation of our systematic study of the Life Divine now that we are back. We should have the next post within 24 hours. We had hoped to have ongoing connections during this interim period but it was not to be.

To remind everyone where we are , we are in The Life Divine, Book II, Chapter 21, The Order of the Worlds

Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine, Book 2, Part 2, Chapter 21, The Order of the Worlds