The End of War and the Transformation of All Fields of Life

Under the influence of the gnostic consciousness, the entire framework of the mental organisation of life, which we accept as assumed and given, would necessarily be modified. The very basis of viewing and understanding things would have to shift from one of division and separation to one of unity and oneness. This will have profound effects all spheres of human endeavor.

Consider the paradigm shift that occurred when humanity went from a viewpoint of the world being flat to one in which the world was round. The first was extremely limited and kept human civilisations isolated from one another. Once we recognised the round world, it became possible psychologically for men to devise ways to travel and communicate with other civilisations and cultures, bringing humanity closer together and beginning the process of unifying all of humanity, a process which is still taking place and which has had profound implications in the centuries since that paradigm shift first occurred.

Sri Aurobindo outlines some of the changes that would have to occur as a result of a similar paradigm shift from mental to gnostic consciousness: “It is evident that in a life governed by the gnostic consciousness war with its spirit of antagonism and enmity, its brutality, destruction and ignorant violence, political strife with its perpetual conflict, frequent oppression, dishonesties, turpitudes, selfish interests, its ignorance, ineptitude and muddle could have no ground for existence.”

We are so ingrained in our mental way of seeing and thinking that we find it hard to even imagine a world that does not involve war and political strife. Sri Aurobindo makes it clear that in a social order founded on oneness and unity and a wider, embracing consciousness, the things we consider to be an unchanging fact of life would undergo radical transformation.

Similarly all other fields of human endeavor would be subject to similar changes. The arts and sciences would take on a truer meaning for the upliftment and development of consciousness rather than their primary function now of creating distraction and “entertainment”. The gnostic consciousness would similarly transform our relationship to the vital and physical levels of existence and bring new harmony, order and stability to those fields as well. Sri Aurobindo envisions a world uplifted by a new sense of the delight of existence, and a new inherent understanding of the inter-connectedness and essential unity of all things, leading us to act in ways that are in balance and which create and maintain a sense of harmony.

Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine, Book 2, Part 2, Chapter 28, “The Divine Life”, pp. 1065-1066


Gnostic Consciousness Resolves the Contradictions of Mental Consciousness

We face, in every sphere of human endeavor, a conflict of competing ideas or directions. If we look closely we can see an element of truth in each side, but can also recognise that as long as we are bound by the mind’s limitations and its desire to reduce everything to “either-or”, we cannot harmonise these oppositions.

The gnostic consciousness, acting from a wider, universal standpoint, is able to resolve these contradictions. “As the universalised spiritual individual sheds the limited personality, the ego, as he rises beyond mind to a completer knowledge in Supernature, the conflicting ideals of the mind must fall away from him, but what is true behind them will remain in the life of Supernature. The gnostic consciousness is a consciousness in which all contradictions are cancelled or fused into each other in a higher light of seeing and being, in a unified self-knowledge and world-knowledge. The gnostic being will not accept the mind’s ideals and standards; he will not be moved to live for himself, for his ego, or for humanity or for others or for the community or for the State; for he will be aware of something greater than these half-truths, of the Divine Reality, and it is for that he will live, for its will in himself and in all, in a spirit of large universality, in the light of the will of the Transcendence.”

We see here, then, a unifying, integrating level of consciousness which can find the resolution of all the conflicting principles that drive our lives in the world today. “…there can be no conflict between self-affirmation and altruism in the gnostic life, for the self of the gnostic being is one with the self of all,–no conflict between the ideal of individualism and the collective ideal, for both are terms of a greater Reality and only in so far as either expresses the Reality or their fulfilment serves the will of the Reality, can they have a value for his spirit.”

The gnostic being affirms, hidden within each of these contradictions, “…the affirmation of the Divine in himself and a sense of the Divine in others and the sense of oneness with humanity, with all other beings, with all the world because of the Divine in them….”

“… a lead towards a greater and better affirmation of the growing Reality in them will be part of his life-action.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine, Book 2, Part 2, Chapter 28, “The Divine Life”, pp. 1064-1065

Influence of the Supramental Principle on Earth

The supramental consciousness, as the next evolutionary stage, will eventually resolve the difficulties of the transitional period and establish itself on earth. The question then arises, what is the relationship between the gnostic beings and the existing organisation of beings rooted in body, life and mind. Sri Aurobindo reminds us that we are obviously dealing with speculation at this point.

Using the analogy of the preceding stage, the development of human, mental consciousness in a world of matter and life, we can extrapolate some sense of how this will likely develop. The first question is the survival of the gnostic beings and communities in a world that is opposed to them. The enhanced powers of consciousness and effective will exercised by the gnostic evolution will obviously be able to protect itself, similar to the manner in which humanity has been able to survive and protect itself when faced with the life-world creations.

The second question is whether and how the gnostic creation can positively influence the mental and vital creations so that the world can both survive the evolutionary crisis and develop an increasing harmony under the influence of the gnostic consciousness.

“It is conceivable that the gnostic life would be separate but it would surely admit within its borders as much of human life as was turned towards spirituality and in progress towards the heights; the rest might organise itself mainly on the mental principle and on the old foundations, but, helped and influenced by a recognisable greater knowledge, it would be likely to do so on lines of a completer harmonisation of which the human collectivity is not yet capable.”

The limitations of our current mental status tend to focus themselves on the tendency to see everything in “either/or” terms without understanding the transcending unity of these terms; and our failure to recognise the unity that encompasses all creation, so that we act “as if” we are separate and not part of a unified whole.

The gnostic consciousness would obviously guide the human understanding to overcome these limitations.

“Here also, however, the mind can only forecast probabilities and possibilities; the supramental principle in Supernature would itself determine according to the truth of things the balance of a new world-order.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine, Book 2, Part 2, Chapter 28, “The Divine Life”, pg. 1063-1064

Developing Gnostic Living Amidst a World of Opposition

Another, and serious, issue that arises is the relationship of the gnostic individuals and community to that wider world of humanity and life in general which remains based in the physical, vital and mental principles and thus, continues to operate on the basis of division, fragmentation and the principles of ego and desire.

How will emerging gnostic communities both relate to and survive such an encounter?

“A complete seclusion or separation of the life of a spiritual community from the life of the Ignorance would then seem to impose itself: for otherwise a compromise between the two lives would be necessary and with the compromise a danger of contamination or incompleteness of the greater existence; two different and incompatible principles of existence would be in contact and, even though the greater would influence the lesser, the smaller life would also have its effect on the greater, since such mutual impact is the law of all contiguity and interchange.”

Even further there is the very real danger of the active hostility and opposition coming from the forces that are entrenched in the status quo, and for which the gnostic life represents a challenge and a threat to be put down in order to preserve the vested interests of the powers that act in the world and operate to control the present social order.

In fact, the apparent adoption of the new principle may prove more harmful than outright rejection! We have witnessed in the past the transformation that religions have undergone when, from persecuted minority, they become the accepted religion of the State in power. The defining character of that religion is then quickly modified by the needs of power and the implementation and use of the levers of power now in the hands of the religious leadership.

Of course, if there is an evolutionary impetus, Nature will have to find a way. “But it is to be supposed that the new and completer light would bring also a new and completer power. It might not be necessary for it to be entirely separate; it might establish itself in so many islets and from there spread through the old life, throwing out upon it its own influences and filtrations, gaining upon it, bringing to it a help and illumination which a new aspiration in mankind might after a time begin to understand and welcome.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine, Book 2, Part 2, Chapter 28, “The Divine Life”, pg. 1062-1063

Challenges of a Transitional Phase for Transformation of Earthly Life

When we reflect on the difficulties involved with both the transformation of the individual to a spiritual, gnostic consciousness and the need for this individual change to proliferate and transform society, it becomes necessary to focus on what the transitional phase or steps might be and how this might be effected. It is not sufficient, obviously, for an individual here or there to undergo this transformation in isolation. And inasmuch as the individual must interact with the world at large, it is not even easily feasible to overcome the drag of the normal physical, vital and mental life independent of any corresponding change in the society at large.

This challenge has led, in the past, to the development of focused spiritual communities as protected, focused environments within which, in theory, the spiritual effort could take place among a number of individuals working together for the common ideal. Sri Aurobindo posits that such a protected situation may be required during this transitional phase to effectuate the complete transformation of human nature and human life he has envisaged.

“At a certain stage it might be necessary to follow the age-long device of the separate community, but with a double purpose, first to provide a secure atmosphere, a place and life apart, in which the consciousness of the individual might concentrate on its evolution in surroundings where all was turned and centred towards the one endeavor and, next, when things were ready, to formulate and develop the new life in those surroundings and in this prepared spiritual atmosphere.”

One enormous challenge, which has hindered spiritual communities in the past, is that such enclosed environments can tend to magnify the difficulties in a certain sense, as the individuals bring with them, not only their spiritual potentialities, but all of the difficulties and obstacles of the normal human nature to be dealt with and resolved, and this can create an enormous “concentration” of these obstacles within the community. Sri Aurobindo points out that it is just this issue that has eventually undermined past efforts to build spiritual community.

Past failure, however, does not imply future failure, particularly if the pressure of the evolutionary forces in the Earth-Nature has now prepared the field and the time is right for this transformation to move forward.

“…if Nature is ready and has taken her evolutionary decision or if the power of the Spirit descending from the higher planes is sufficiently strong, the difficulty would be overcome and a first evolutionary formation or formations would be possible.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine, Book 2, Part 2, Chapter 28, “The Divine Life”, pg. 1061-1062

Individual Spiritual Change and the Collectivity

As the evolutionary pressure begins to develop individuals who undergo the spiritual transformation we have been discussing, there is still the issue of how these individuals can impact the wider life of humanity. Isolated individuals surrounded by an untransformed mass of humanity and the ordinary human social order have really only a couple of viable choices. The first is to withdraw themselves and develop their own inner life. The second is to do the best they can to help and guide humanity in its slow effort of transformation.

As these individuals identify each other, it is possible that they will join together in some form of spiritual collectivity. In the past, this impulse has led to the monastic orders, although they were primarily focused on individual realisation and the abandonment of the world and its life to its own devices. Occasionally we have seen attempts to develop societies that tried to create conditions for a more general life based on spiritual principles, harmony and a higher standard. In each case, however, the spiritual impetus has been blunted and diverted by the weight and drag of the normal impulses, needs and desires of the physical, vital and mental forces acting in the individuals and their collectivity.

Sri Aurobindo recognises the need for the spiritual change to go beyond isolated individuals if it is going to meet the needs of the evolutionary crisis. He therefore sets forth various principles that would guide the development of spiritual collectivities:

“A common spiritual life meant to express the spiritual and not the mental, vital and physical being must found and maintain itself on greater values than the mental, vital, physical values of the ordinary human society; if it is not so founded, it will be merely the normal human society with a difference. An entirely new consciousness in many individuals transforming their whole being, transforming their mental, vital and physical nature-self is needed for the new life to appear; only such a transformation of the general mind, life, body nature can bring into being a new worthwhile collective existence. The evolutionary nisus must tend not merely to create a new type of mental beings but another order of beings who have raised their whole existence from our present mentalised animality to a greater spiritual level of the earth-nature.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine, Book 2, Part 2, Chapter 28, “The Divine Life”, pg. 1060-1061

Necessity of the Spiritual Transformation of Life

When we look at the immensity of the evolutionary crisis, and the failure of “tried and true” solutions that have been put forward through history, it is easy to become discouraged and pessimistic about the possibility of survival. The solution proposed, a radical transformation of human life and nature based on the emergence of the spiritual self, seems difficult, if not impossible to achieve.

Sri Aurobindo comments on this issue: “Even if it were so, it would still remain the sole possibility for the transmutation of life; for to hpe for a true change of human life without a change of human nature is an irrational and unspiritual proposition; it is to ask for something unnatural and unreal, an impossible miracle.”

The methodology of Nature, as we have seen earlier, is to effect its transformations through creation of an ultimate tension of opposites, out of which a new form or synthesis can then emerge. We have seen the emergence of the vital, and then the mental consciousness out of Matter. The methodology of Nature, and a review of this past evolutionary development, makes it clear that just such a transformation is both the necessity and the sense of the current extreme crisis.

“It is, besides, a step for which the whole of evolution has been a preparation and which is brought closer at each crisis of human destiny when the mental and vital evolution of the being touches a point where intellect and vital force reach some acme of tension and there is a need either for them to collapse, to sink back into a torpor of defeat or a repose of unprogressive quiescence or to rend their way through the veil against which they are straining.”

In order to achieve this transformation Sri Aurobindo describes the necessary steps: “What is necessary is that there should be a turn in humanity felt by some or many towards the vision of this change, a feeling of its imperative need, the sense of its possibility, the will to make it possible in themselves and to find the way.”

Sri Aurobindo also reminds us: “That trend is not absent and it must increase with the tension of the crisis in human world-destiny; the need of an escape or a solution, the feeling that there is no other solution than the spiritual cannot but grow and become more imperative under the urgency of critical circumstance. To that call in the being there must always be some answer in the Divine Reality and in Nature.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine, Book 2, Part 2, Chapter 28, “The Divine Life”, pg. 1059-1060