The Knowledge Transformation Can Occur Here

“There is no conclusive validity in the reasoning that because this is a world of Ignorance, such a transformation can only be achieved by a passage to a heaven beyond or cannot be achieved at all and the demand of the psychic entity is itself ignorant and must be replaced by a merger of the soul in the Absolute. This conclusion could only be solely valid if Ignorance were the whole meaning, substance and power of the world-manifestation or if there were no element in World-Nature itself through which there could be an exceeding of the ignorant mentalitythat still burdens our present sttus of being. But the Ignorance is only a portion of this World-Nature; it is not the whole of it, not the original power or creator: it is in its higher origin a self-limiting Knowledge and even in its lower origin, its emergence out of the sheer material Inconscience, it is a suppressed Consciousness labouring to find, to recover itself, to manifest Knowledge, which is its true character, as the foundation of existence.”

Sri Aurobindo has pointed out that we can experience higher gradations of Mind which have their foundation in Knowledge rather than Ignorance, even if we cannot as of yet make our standpoint in those gradations. We experience intuitions, flashes of illumination, inspiration, which represent the first signs and workings, the dawning of Knowledge as it seeks to emergence from our basis in the Ignorance occasioned by the attempt to evolve Mind out of the material Inconscience.

Just as we have successively seen Life manifest in Matter, and Mind arise and manifest through Life and Matter, so it “seems inevitable that these higher powers of Existence should manifest here in Mind as Mind itself has manifested in Life and Matter.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine, Book 2, Part 2, Chapter 23, “Man and the Evolution”


Transitioning to a Supramental Instrumentation of Nature

We can see from the outward evolution of forms and development of consciousness in manifestation that the possibility of man actively participating in the process of development on a conscious level, and thereby enhancing and speeding up the changes compared to the former process followed by Nature, is an actuality. But perhaps more important than this outer aspect is the entire “inner” aspect of consciousness that relates to the development of the Psychic Being, the process of rebirth as the mechanism of continuity of development of the Soul, and the relationship of this development to the higher gradations of consciousness beyond the level of Mind.

Sri Aurobindo discusses the progression of the Soul’s development, hidden but nevertheless present, and the transition to the more conscious evolutionary process, with an eye on the changes this transition actually can bring about: “In this progression the psychic entity is still veiled, even in man the conscious mental being, by its instruments, by mind and life and body; it is unable to manifest fully, held back from coming to the front where it can stand out as the master of its nature, obliged to submit to a certain determination by the instruments, to a domination of Purusha by Prakriti. But in man the psychic part of the personality is able to develop with a much greater rapidity than in the inferior creation, and a time can arrive when the soul-entity is close to the point at which it will emerge from behind the veil into the open and become the master of its instrumentation in Nature. But this will mean that the secret indwelling spirit, the Daemon, the Godhead within is on the point of emergence; and, when it emerges, it can hardly be doubted that its demand will be, as indeed it already is in the Mind itself when it undergoes the inner psychic influence, for a diviner, a more spiritual existence. In the nature of the earth-life where the Mind is an instrument of the Ignorance, this can only be effected by a change of consciousness, a transition from a foundation in Ignorance to a foundation in Knowledge, from the mental to a supramental consciousness, a supramental instrumentation of Nature.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine, Book 2, Part 2, Chapter 23, “Man and the Evolution”

Man Can Aid the Evolution of the Bodily Forms Needed to Hold the Spiritual Consciousness

As long as the evolution that takes place in the material world remains unconscious, based in the Inconscient, the effort of material Nature is to systematically manifest those forms needed to hold and support the current and the immediate next gradations of consciousness. While this process is supported and in fact based in the pressure of the spiritual evolution, this pressure remains for the most part secret, unseen and subliminal. We therefore view an evolution of outer forms for which we have no real reference nor can see any real significance.

Once the evolution reaches the stage of human consciousness, however, we begin to see what Sri Aurobindo terms a “reversal” where the process begins to become conscious and thereby can be aided by the action of the human consciousness turning itself back upon and working upon the material forms and the life energy.

We can see the efforts being made by the application of human intelligence on changing the nature of Matter and through selective breeding and cross-breeding, changing the capacity both of Matter and of Life to meet the perceived needs of the human development. This conscious effort represents the first time that a species in this evolutionary cycle has been able to add its own conscious awareness and focus to the process that otherwise takes place slowly through the working of Nature.

Just as man is already impacting the development of material forms and life forces, it is also possible for man to aid in the development of spiritual consciousness. “The urge to it is already there and partly effective, though still incompletely understood and accepted by the surface mentality; but one day it may understand, go deeper within itself and discover the means, the secret energy, the intended operation of the Consciousness-Force within which is the hidden reality of what we call Nature.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine, Book 2, Part 2, Chapter 23, “Man and the Evolution”

Conscious Evolution Becomes Possible With Human Consciousness

What we see of the evolutionary process in Matter, as well as the plant and animal kingdoms appears to be totally driven by a secret Intelligence operating without the conscious participation in the development of the forms that are being developed and evolved. The development happens to these forms, rather than their consciously choosing and developing on their own a new line of development. This all begins to change with the appearance of humanity and our ability to consciously reflect on the development of life, to educate ourselves, to express ourselves in new ways, and to develop new powers and types of intelligent action through our own conscious participation in the process.

“It must be observed that the appearance of human mind and body on the earth marks a crucial step, a decisive change in the course and process of the evolution; it is not merely a continuation of the old lines. Up till this advent of a developed thinking mind in Matter evolution had been effected, not by the self-aware aspiration, intention, will or seeking of the living being, but subconsciously or subliminally by the automatic operation of Nature.”

“But in man the necessary change has been made,–the being has become awake and aware of himself; there has been made manifest in Mind its will to develop, to grow in knowledge, to deepen the inner and widen the outer existence, to increase the capacities of the nature. Man has seen that there can be a higher status of consciousness than his own; the evolutionary oestrus is there in his parts of mind and life, the aspiration to exceed himself is delivered and articulate within him: he has become conscious of a soul, discovered the Self and Spirit. In him, then, the substitution of a conscious for a subconscious evolution has become conceivable and practicable, and it may well be concluded that the aspiration, the urge, the persistent endeavor in him is a sure sign of Nature’s will for a higher way to fulfilment, the emergence of a greater status.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine, Book 2, Part 2, Chapter 23, “Man and the Evolution”

Spiritual Capacity Does Not Imply All Humans Will Change

Sometimes when we reflect abstractly about the evolution of a spiritual consciousness in humanity, we tend to overlay this change in our minds over all humanity. This is however, as Sri Aurobindo points out, neither reasonable nor likely. We can see various individuals with developed capacities in various directions. We see musical prodigies such as Ravi Shankar, Mozart, Bach or Beethoven and we immediately recognize that these are the outflowering of a special focus, talent or capacity which, although “possible” for humans to achieve, are not broadly implemented through all humans. Similarly, the spiritual changes of consciousness as they evolve will clearly become a possibility and an opportunity for humanity, and this possibility will show up as a special focus or capacity within a subset of all humans. Most people will continue to live within the boundaries and framework of the normal mental / emotional capacities that we have come to associate with “human” endeavor in its most general sense.

“It must be conceded at once that there is not the least probability or possibility of the whole human race rising in a block to the supramental level; what is suggested is nothing so revolutionary and astonishing, but only the capacity in the human mentality, when it has reached a certain level or a certain point of stress of the evolutionary impetus, to press towards a higher plane of consciousness and its embodiment in the being.”

“This transmutation of the consciousness will always remain possible to the human being when the flame of the soul, the psychic kindling, becomes potent in heart and mind and the nature is ready. The spiritual aspiration is innate in man; for he is, unlike the animal, aware of imperfection and limitation and feels that there is something to be attained beyond what he now is: this urge towards self-exceeding is not likely ever to die out totally in the race. The human mental status will be always there, but it will be there not only as a degree in the scale of rebirth, but as an open step towards the spiritual and supramental status.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine, Book 2, Part 2, Chapter 23, “Man and the Evolution”

Human Progress Towards A Spiritual Being

Sri Aurobindo discusses the static “typal” action of life in relation to a possible “progressive” action in the human being. “it may be conceded that each type or pattern of consciousness and being in the body, once established, has to be faithful to the law of being of that type, to its own design and rule of nature. But it may also very well be that part of the law of the human type is its impulse towards self-exceeding, that the means for a conscious transition has been provided for among the spiritual powers of man; the possession of such a capacity may be a part of the plan on which the creative Energy has built him.”

While it is clear that up until now man has developed within the framework and capacities of his nature, we can see a line of progress whereby the powers of mentality, emotion, and action have been systematically developed, enhanced and subtilised. While this progress has not taken place in a straight line, and there have been obvious periods of retrogression and stagnation, yet, looking over the whole of human history and development, we can nevertheless see a pattern of development.

“This progress has not indeed carried the race beyond itself, into a self-exceeding, a transformation of the mental being. But that was not to be expected; for the action of evolutionary Nature in a type of being and consciousness is first to develop the type to its utmost capacity by just such a subtilisation and increasing complexity till it is ready for her bursting of the shell, the ripened decisive emergence, reversal, turning over of consciousness on itself that constitutes a new stage in the evolution.”

“If it is to be supposed that her next step is the spiritual and supramental being, the stress of spirituality in the race may be taken as a sign that that is Nature’s intention, the sign too of the capacity of man to operate in himself or aid her to operate the transition. If the appearance in animal being of a type similar in some respects to the ape-kind but already from the beginning endowed with the elements of humanity was the method of the human evolution, the appearance in the human being of a spiritual type resembling the mental-animal humanity but already with the stamp of the spiritual aspiration on it would be the obvious method of Nature for the evolutionary production of the spiritual and supramental being.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine, Book 2, Part 2, Chapter 23, “Man and the Evolution”

Creationist Theory of Human Manifestation Evaluated

Having reviewed the evolutionary viewpoint in the prior posts, it is now Sri Aurobindo’s turn to review the “creationist” viewpoint which essentially holds that the developments in the material world that bring about the existence of the human consciousness are not based on an evolutionary process but are created directly by some superior Being or Intelligence working upon Matter.

“On the side of consciousness the new manifestation, the human, could be accounted for by an upsurge of concealed Consciousness from the involution in universal Nature. But in that case it must have had some material form already existent for its vehicle of emergence, the vehicle being adapted by the force fo the emergence itself to the needs of a new inner creation; or else a rapid divergence from previous physical types or patterns may have brought a new being into existence. But whichever the hypothesis accepted, this means an evolutionary process,–there is only a difference in method and machinery of the divergence or transition.”

Another option is a Descent of consciousness from a higher plane, such as a Mind-plane entering into the terrestrial world. This consciousness would have to be able to directly work on the substance of Matter to be able to fashion the instrument capable of holding and expressing this consciousness on an essentially “instantaneous” basis, which does not comport with what we can see of the process of manifestation of things in the material world. What we see is that new developments tend to base themselves upon already established characteristics and forms that exist in Nature and through a process of extension, these new operations become established. Thus, we would expect to see some prior development of a foundational being ready to hold the increased force of consciousness, or at least capable of being modified to do so.

There may be a combined action with a descent from above acting upon a material form that is developing from below which could develop in a way capable of holding this increased force.

Any way we look at it, we see some kind of evolutionary process at work, “the higher plane only intervening to assist the appearance and enlargement of its own principle in terrestrial Nature.”

Wherever we look in the manifested world, we see detailed, complex and organised process down to the smallest atomic and genetic levels. We see systematic development. There is no evidence that an independent Intelligence or Creator, having gone to so much effort to develop this process, would simply exercise “magic” outside the system so created, in order to do something that does not “fit into” that process.

Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine, Book 2, Part 2, Chapter 23, “Man and the Evolution”

The Evolutionary Option for the Emergence of Human Consciousness

Having outlined the two major options that can account for the appearance of human consciousness, Sri Aurobindo now explores each of the two to determine how well they each fit with the facts as we can apprehend them. First he takes up what we will call the “evolutionary option” which is essentially based in the concept that human consciousness came about as a progression built upon the basis of animal consciousness. “The necessary condition for the change from the normal animal to the human character of existence would be a development of the physical organisation which would capacitate a rapid progression, a reversal or turnover of the consciousness, a reaching to a new height and a looking down from it at the lower stages, a heightening and widening of capacity which would enable the being to take up the old animal faculties with a larger and more plastic, a human intelligence, and at the same time or later to develop greater and subtler powers proper to the new type of being, powers of reason, reflection, complex observation, organised inventin, thought and discovery.”

Sri Aurobindo points out that the basic aspects of animal consciousness already contain some of the primary capacities needed as the basis for the proposed developments. “…the working of these faculties is more mechanical, less deliberate, marked with the character of an automatism of Nature-Energy driving an operation of primitive consciousness and not, as in man, of a conscious Energy observing and to a great extent directing and governing and deliberately changing or modifying its own operations. Other animal habits of consciousness are not fundamentally different from man’s; all he had to do was to develop and enlarge them on a higher mental level and wherever possible, to mentalise, refine, subtilise,–in brief, to bring to them the enlightenment of his new understanding and intellectual capacity and a power of reasoned control denied to the animal.”

The turning back and working upon the preceding gradation of manifestation is an established principle of Nature, which we see as Life-Energy turns back and works upon Matter; and as the Mental Consciousness as expressed in the animal works upon Life-Energy and Matter. So it is consistent with Nature’s methodology for the human consciousness to turn back and work upon the preceding levels, as we see actually does occur.
Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine, Book 2, Part 2, Chapter 23, “Man and the Evolution”

The Appearance of Man in the Evolutionary Process: Part 1 The Options

Sri Aurobindo has systematically developed the concept of a spiritual evolution that is systematically developing forms appropriate to hold the increased complexity and power of consciousness of the series of gradations that have manifested in Matter. It is within this framework that we can now take up the appearance of Man in this manifestation. In the West we basically have two diametrically opposed viewpoints that tend to hold sway: “creationism” and “evolution”. In the first one, an external personified all-powerful, all-knowing God simply creates Man by fiat, provides him a field of action and that is it. Fully formed, fully functioning as a human being, this creation takes charge of the world and orders it to his own satisfaction. The second one basically holds that there has been a systematic physical evolution of forms, and with this evolution of forms we find that Mankind evolved from within the framework of the previous existing creations, and in particular, from the higher primates, which seem to share some 98% of the DNA structure with humans.

We find that Sri Aurobindo’s viewpoint does not exactly correspond with either of these, but actually takes on certain characteristics found in one or the other, while going beyond both. “There are here two possibilities; either there was the sudden appearance of a human body and consciousness in the earth-nature, an abrupt creation or independent automatic manifestation of reasoning mentality in the material world intervening upon a previous similar manifestation of subconscious life-forms and of living conscious bodies in Matter, or else there was an evolution of humanity out of animal being, slow perhaps in its preparation and in its stages of development, but with strong leaps of change at the decisive points of the transition.”

This extensive topic shall require several posts which will follow in the next few days’ time.

Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine, Book 2, Part 2, Chapter 23, “Man and the Evolution”

Upanishadic Support for Evolution of Forms to House Consciousness

Sri Aurobindo’s viewpoint that the evolution of forms develops to support a spiritual evolution of consciousness, and that this development takes place from less complex platforms for expression of consciousness to more complex forms, is taken up and expressed by Rishis of the Upanishads. “An Upanishad declares that the Self or Spirit after deciding on life-creation first formed animal kinds like the cow and horse, but the gods,–who are in the thought of the Upanishads powers of Consciousness and powers of Nature,–found them to be insufficient vehicles, and the Spirit finally created the form of man which the gods saw to be excellently made and sufficient and they entered into it for their cosmic functions. This is a clear parable of the creation of more and more developed forms till one was found that was capable of housing a developed consciousness.”

The puranas, mythological tales that include concepts about the Creation, also hold that “the tamasic animal creation was the first in time.” These indolent, inconscient forms are unable to maintain or sustain the level of consciousness that comes with the higher mind or spiritual force expressing itself consciously. “…the more developed human consciousness, in which there is a greater force of kinetic Mind-energy and light of perception, is a later creation.”

Tantric scripture also sets up a sequence from the less complex to the more complex forms to correspond to the increasing development and manifestation of consciousness: “The Tantra speaks of a soul fallen from its status passing through many lacs of births in plant and animal forms before it can reach the human level and be ready for salvation. Here, again, there is implied the conception of vegetable and animal life-forms as the lower steps of a ladder, humanity as the last or culminating development of the conscious being, the form which the soul has to inhabit in order to be capable of the spiritual motive and a spiritual issue out of mentality, life and physicality.”

“This is indeed the normal conception, and it recommends itself so strongly both to reason and intuition that it hardly needs debate,-the conclusion is almost inescapable.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine, Book 2, Part 2, Chapter 23, “Man and the Evolution”