Distinguishing Cause and Effect in the Evolution of Consciousness

Possibly because we start from an external view of things, we tend to fixate on the external forms, rather than the inner causes. As humanity continues to refine its vision and increase its capacities for observation, including through the development of scientific instruments which can “see” things we cannot see with our normal sight, it is important for us to apply this new information to understand the deeper causes of things. Sri Aurobindo uses the example of electricity in the form of lightning to illustrate this point. Our normal surface viewpoint might attribute the lightning to the action of water or clouds; whereas a deeper examination shows us that the water is actually a carrier of the electrical energy that exists independently of the water or clouds. Sri Aurobindo explains that the deeper view reverses the cause/effect relationship from what our surface awareness tells us. “that which seems to be a result is,–in its reality, though not in its form,–the origin; the effect is in the essence pre-existent to the apparent cause, the principle of the emergent activity precedent to its present field of action. So it is throughout evolutionary Nature; Matter could not have become animate if the principle of Life had not been there constituting Matter and emerging as a phenomenon of Life-in-Matter; Life-in-Matter could not have begun to feel, perceive, think, reason, if the principle of Mind had not been there behind life and substance, constituting it as its field of operation and emergent in the phenomenon of a thinking life and body: so too spirituality emerging in Mind is the sign of a power which itself has founded and constituted life, mind and body and is now emerging as a spiritual being in a living and thinking body.”

“Spirit is a final evolutionary emergence because it is the original involutionary element and factor. Evolution is an inverse action of the involution: what is an ultimate and last derivation in the involution is the first to appear in the evolution; what was original and primal in the involution is in the evolution the last and supreme emergence.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine, Book 2, Part 2, Chapter 24, “The Evolution of the Spiritual Man”