A Double Evolution

When we review the concept of evolution, we generally treat it as a single process, focused on the development of ever more complex forms. Sri Aurobindo points out that there is, rather, a double evolutionary process: the first being the evolution of the forms of Nature (mind, life and body) and the second, the inner spiritual evolution of consciousness. These two proceed with a different emphasis and speed depending on the stage of the universal development that is being viewed. Nature focuses first on the evolution of forms, in order to prepare the vessels capable of holding increasing powers of consciousness.

Sri Aurobindo describes this dual process: “But Nature’s major preoccupation must necessarily be still and for a long time the evolution of mind to its greatest possible range, height, subtlety; for noly so can be prepared the unveiling of an entirely intuitive intelligence, of Overmind, of Supermind, the difficult passage to a higher instrumentation of the Spirit.”

Sri Aurobindo points out that if the intention of Nature were simply to escape, or to leave this field for some other-worldly fulfillment, there would be no necessity for this dual evolution. The effort, focus and goal would be to achieve a revelation of the “essential spiritual Reality” realised either “here” or “elsewhere”.

It is within the framework of a transformation here that the double evolution takes on significance: “But if her intention is a comprehensive change of the being, this double evolution is intelligible and justifies itself; for it is for that purpose indispensable.”

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

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What Spirituality Is, and What It Is Not

Many people believe, as they enter the path of spiritual development, that the influences they experience of the psychic entity’s intuitions in the mind, or the enthusiasm of the emotional dedication or even the physical or vital experiences that come with the influx of a higher power or inspiration are spirituality; and as a result, they tend to get stuck there with a very partial and limited advance and progress toward a complete spiritualisation of the nature.

Sri Aurobindo, while not denying nor denigrating the value of these first inklings of spirituality in the body, life and mind, works to clear up any confusion and help us separate the wheat from the chaff so to speak.

“Very commonly indeed, a complex of half-effects of the psychic pressure on the mental and vital parts, a formation mixed with mental aspiration and vital desires, is mistaken for the soul, just as the separative ego is taken for the self, although the self in its true being is universal as well as individual in its essence,–or just as a mixture of mental aspiration and vital enthusiasm and ardour uplifted by some knid of strong or high belief or self-dedication or altruistic eagerness is mistaken for spirituality.”

“But the error so created comes very much in the way of a true understanding, and it must therefore be emphasised that spirituality is not a high intellectuality, not idealism, not an ethical turn of mind or moral purity and austerity, not religiosity or an ardent and exalted emotional fervour, not even a compound of all these excellent things; a mental belief, creed or faithy, an emotional aspiration, a regulation of conduct according to a religious or ethical formula are not spiritual achievement and experience. These things are of considerable value to mind and life; they are of value to the spiritual evolution itself as preparatory movements disciplining, purifying or giving a suitable form to the nature; but they still belong to the mental evolution,–the beginning of a spiritual realisation, experience, change is not yet there.”

“Spirituality is in its essence an awakening to the inner reality of our being, to a spirit, self, soul which is other than our mind, life and body, an inner aspiration to know, to feel, to be that, to enter into contact with the greater Reality beyond and pervading the universe which inhabits also our own being, to be in communion with It and union with It, and a turning, a conversion, a transformation of our whole being as a result of the aspiration, the contact, the union, a growth or waking into a new becoming or new being, a new self, a new nature.”

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