Gnostic Transformation of World-Action

The individual at the stage of human evolution is formed by, and struggles with, the nature of Life and Matter, and the limitations of Mind. In some cases, to free himself from subjection to the world, he undertakes the spiritual process of “liberation” and abandons the world entirely. The manifestation of the gnostic consciousness takes up and transforms not only the inner life of the individual, but also the relationship of the individual to the environment and the world around him.

Sri Aurobindo describes this process: “There must come upon us in the change at once a reversal and rejection of our present way of existence and a fulfilment of its inner trend and tendency. For we stand now between these two terms, an outer world of Life and Matter that has made us and a remaking of the world by ourselves in the sense of the evolving Spirit.”

“…if we shape ourselves at all, it is in most men less by the conscious pressure of a free soul or intelligence from within than by a response to our environment and the world-Nature acting upon us: but what we move towards in the development of our conscious being is an inner existence creating by its knowledge and power its own outer form of living and self-expressive environment of living. In the gnostic nature this movement will have consummated itself; the nature of living will be an accomplished inner existence whose light and power will take perfect body in the outer life. The gnostic being will take up the world of Life and Matter, but he will turn and adapt it to his own truth and purpose of existence; he will mould life itself into his own spiritual image, and this he will be able to do because he has the secret of a spiritual creation and is in communion and oneness with the Creator within him. This will be first effective in the shaping of his own inner and outer individual existence, but the same power and principle will operate in any common gnostic life; the relations of gnostic being with gnostic being will be the expression of their one gnostic self and super-nature shaping into a significant power and form of itself the whole common existence.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine, Book 2, Part 2, Chapter 27, “The Gnostic Being”

The Finite Experiences the Infinite

We live in a complex world where every action we take has many causes and consequences, both overt and subtle. From the purely mental, human perspective we do not generally see or understand the universal forces acting upon us, nor the impact our actions have on the universal manifestation. We see, live and act from a fragmented viewpoint.

Sri Aurobindo describes the status of the gnostic being based in the supramental consciousness: “The gnostic being has the will of action but also the knowledge of what is to be willed and the power to effectuate its knowledge; it will not be led from ignorance to do what is not to be done.” “All will be seen in its relation to the whole, so that each step will be luminous and joyous and satisfying in itself because each is in unison with a luminous totality. This consciousness, this living in the spiritual totality and acting from it, a satisfied totality in essence of being and a satisfied totality in the dynamic movement of being, the sense of the relations of that totality accompanying each step, is indeed the very mark of a supramental consciousness and distinguishes it from the disintegrated, ignorantly successive steps of our consciousness in the Ignorance.”

The action of the gnostic being “will be the self-light of all the reality of being and becoming pouring itself out continually and filling every particular act and activity with the pure and whole delight of its self-existence. For an infinite consciousness with its knowledge by identity there is in each differentiation the joy and experience of the Identical, in each finite is felt the Infinite.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine, Book 2, Part 2, Chapter 27, “The Gnostic Being”

Universal Delight of Existence

The Taittiriya Upanishad describes the ascending gradations of bliss, the delight of existence, by starting with one measure of human bliss, and with each higher gradation of conscious awareness, the measure of bliss increases “a hundred and a hundredfold”. Each higher gradation represents also a widening of consciousness to embrace the universal creation. At the top end “is one bliss of the Eternal Spirit”. The Upanishad goes on to explain “The Spirit who is here in a man and the Spirit who is there in the Sun, it is one Spirit and there is no other.”

In our normal human experience, we experience delight of existence in a very fragmentary way, directly tied to our own fulfillment of desire and satisfaction. As we grow and widen in consciousness, we begin, through an increasing universal sympathy, or compassion, to experience the larger delight associated with the universal creation, although still in a limited way based on aggregation of parts rather than an established unity of consciousness.

The supramental consciousness resolves the fragmentation of consciousness and therefore brings with it the capacity to experience the universal bliss of existence, as well as the transcendent bliss of the Eternal.

Sri Aurobindo explains: “One in self with all, the supramental being will seek the delight of self-manifestation of the Spirit in himself but equally the delight of the Divine in all: he will have the cosmic joy and will be a power for bringing the bliss of the Spirit, the joy of being to others; for their joy will be part of his own joy of existence. To be occupied with the good of all beings, to make the joy and grief of others one’s own has been described as a sign of the liberated and fulfilled spiritual man. The supramental being will have no need, for that, of an altruistic self-effacement, since this occupation will be intimate to his self-fulfilment, the fulfilment of the One in all, and there will be no contradiction or strife between his own good and the good of others: nor will he have any need to acquire a universal sympathy by subjecting himself to the joys and griefs of creatures in the Ignorance; his cosmic sympathy will be part of his inborn truth of being and not dependent on a personal participation in the lesser joy and suffering; it will transcend what it embraces and in that transcendence will be its power. His feeling of universality, his action of universalilty will be always a spontaneous state and natural movement, an automatic expression of the Truth, an act of the joy of the Spirit’s self-existence.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine, Book 2, Part 2, Chapter 27, “The Gnostic Being”

Resolving the Conflict Between Individual and Cosmic Existence

Sri Aurobindo points out that one of the major issues the individual faces is what his role in the larger universal manifestation is, and how to act in the light of the larger world-forces and movements, which we do not understand fully due to our fragmented, limited view and understanding. This leads to a psychological conflict where the individual tries to overcome opposing forces to affirm himself and his existence in the world; including various methods of self-aggrandisement at the expense of others. Disharmony, pain and suffering tend to result from this action, for oneself and for others. At some point we come to the conclusion that the only solution is to “cut the knot” and escape from the entire round of life into some ineffable transcendent awareness.

Sri Aurobindo guides us to a different solution to this conflict: “But for the supramental being living in a cosmic consciousness the difficulty would not exist, since he has no ego; his cosmic individuality would know the cosmic forces and their movement and their significance as part of himself, and the Truth-Consciousness in him would see the right relation at each step and find the dynamic right expression of that relation.”

“For in fact both individual and universe are simultaneous and interrelated exprssions of the same transcendent Being; even though in the Ignorance and under its law there is mal-adjustment and conflict, yet there must be a right relation, an equation to which all arrives but which is missed by our blindness of ego, our attempt to affirm the ego and not the Self one in all. The supramental consciousness has that truth of relation in itself as its natural right and privilege, since it is the Supermind that determines the cosmic relations and the relations of the individual with the universe, determines them freely and sovereignly as a power of the Transcendence.”

the result: “A large universality of self-expression, a large harmonic universality of world-being would be the very sign of the supramental Person in his gnostic nature.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine, Book 2, Part 2, Chapter 27, “The Gnostic Being”

Supramental Fulfilment of the Individual

The supramental consciousness resolves the dichotomy between the individual and the universal, while concurrently transcending both of them. At the same time, it represents the unification of knowledge, will and action so that there is no loss or dilution of knowledge as it turns into will or action.

“A complete self-knowledge in all things and at all moments is the gift of the supramental gnosis and with it a complete self-mastery, not merely in the sense of control of Nature but in the sense of a power of perfect self-expression in Nature. Whatever knowledge of self there would be, would be perfectly embodied in the will of the self, the will perfectly embodied in the action of the self; the result would be the self’s complete dynamic self-formulation in its own nature.”

While in the lower terms below the gradation of Supermind, diversity is achieved by restriction or limitation of knowledge, will or action, in the supramental gnosis such a limitation is not required; diversity is achieved through conscious holding back of knowledge or action, not through lack of capacity. “But in the supramental being this need of limitation for perfection would disappear; the diversity would not be secured by limitation but by a diversity in the power and hue of the Supernature: the same whole of being and the same whole of nature would express themselves in an infinitely diverse fashion; for each being would be a new totality, harmony, self-equation of the One Being. What would be expressed in front or held behind at any moment would depend not on capacity or incapacity, but on the dynamic self-choice of the Spirit, its delight of self-expression, on the truth of the Divine’s will and joy of itself in the individual and, subordinately, on the truth of the thing that had to be done through the individual in the harmony of the totality. For the complete individual is the cosmic individual, since only when we have taken the universe into ourselves,–and transcended it,–can our individuality be complete.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine, Book 2, Part 2, Chapter 27, “The Gnostic Being”

The Characteristics of the Gnostic Being

Sri Aurobindo describes the gnostic individual and the essential characteristics of consciousness at work in that individual: “The gnostic individual would be the consummation of the spiritual man; his whole way of being, thinking, living, acting would be governed by the power of a vast universal spirituality.”

“All his existence would be fused into oneness with the transcendent and universal Self and Spirit; all his action would originate from and obey the supreme Self and Spirit’s divine governance of Nature. All life would have to him the sense of the Conscious Being, the Purusha within, finding its self-expression in Nature; his life and all its thoughts, feelings, acts would be filled for him with that significance and built upon that foundation of its reality. He would feel the presence of the Divine in every centre of his consciousness, in every vibration of his life-force, in every cell of his body.”

“In this consciousness he would live and act in an entire transcendent freedom, a complete joy of the Spirit, an entire identity with the cosmic Self and a spontaneous sympathy with all in the universe. All beings would be to him his own selves, all ways and powers of consciousness would be felt as the ways and powers of his own universality.”

“His own life and the world-life would be to him like a perfect work of art; it would be as if the creation of a cosmic and spontaneous genius infallible in its working out of a multitudinous order. The gnostic individual would be in the world and of the world, but would also exceed it in his consciousness and live in his Self of transcendence above it; he would be universal but free in the universe, individual but not limited by a separative individuality. The true Person is not an isolated entity, his individuality is universal, for he individualises the universe: it is at the same time divinely emergent in a spiritual air of transcendental infinity, like a high cloud-surpassing summit; for he individualises the divine Transcendence.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine, Book 2, Part 2, Chapter 27, “The Gnostic Being”

Diversity in the Gnostic Race of Beings

As we have recognised the human race of beings as similar enough, whatever the diversity of individual beings from one another, to be considered a “race”, we can similarly recognise the possibility of a new race of beings, founded not, as in humanity, on the powers of the mental evolution primarily, but rather, on the gnostic consciousness of the Supermind. There have been attempts in the past by philosophers to develop the concept of a “super race” of beings that would somehow exercise power over humanity through some vital will or domination, some kind of “master race” that would treat the rest of humanity as slaves or cattle. This is, however, not what is being foreseen here. A new race, founded in the gnosis, must necessarily take into account the unity, the oneness of all the manifested universe, the evolutionary purpose and the ascending gradations of consciousness and their essential significance. Greater powers of intuition, insight, and harmony do not imply some aggrandised will to power.

In fact, as Sri Aurobindo has pointed out, even the supramental race of beings would consist of diversity, due to the many different aspects, powers and combinations that are all held together in the oneness of the supramental realm. “A supramental or gnostic race of beings would not be a race made according to a single type, moulded in a single fixed pattern; for the law of the Supermind is unity fulfilled in diversity, and therefore there would be an infinite diversity in the manifestation of the gnostic consciousness although that consciousness would still be one in its basis, in its constitution, in its all-revealing and all-uniting order.”

“But in the supramental race itself, in the variation of its degrees, the individuals would not be cast according to a single type of individuality; each would be different from the other, a unique formation of the Being, although one with all the rest in foundation of self and sense of oneness and in the principle of his being.”

This ultimate diversity ensures that the approaches taken in the past by the mental attempts to unify through uniformity or through forcing everyone to believe in and act in specific ways, dominated by a single control, would not wind up being the operative model in a supramental manifestation.

Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine, Book 2, Part 2, Chapter 27, “The Gnostic Being”