Observing and Understanding the Tree of Life

Sri Aurobindo begins the discussion of the evolutionary process in the physical universe with a description of what we observe: “…one plasmic seed, one developing ground-plan, an opulent number of varieties whose logical process would be by an ascending order which passes up through fine but still very distinct gradations from the crude to the complex, from the less organised to the more organised, from the inferior to the superior type.”

This of course raises questions about the origin and development of this process, which Sri Aurobindo poetically calls the “tree of life”. There are arguments made for a strict physical evolution with step-wise and incremental development; while there are also arguments for some kind of external creative Being or Force which has developed all these myriad forms out of some complex plan, has then put them forth in some pre-determined order and discontinued any further physical world development that we can see, having apparently created sufficient diversity of forms to be satisfied…..

Science has adopted the physical evolutionary side of this argument, and bases its conclusions on an enormous amount of factual evidence, fossil records and dna tracking. There still remain gaps or what are called “missing links” but in general the progression holds together well and there is a logic and consistency to the pattern we see.

It may be that these “missing links” are simply “missing” although they may have existed at some point in time; or that they may still be located as research continues. Alternatively, there may be other factors involved to account for the development and evolution of consciousness which leads to a modification to the purely physical progression.

This approach clearly appears to have validity for the physical evolution, but it does not quite explain the development of humanity, and the development of consciousness or self-awareness. These issues speak to another process that “uses” but is not limited by the mechanism of the development in the physical plane. This may involve a type of advance that is not strictly a linear progression of physical forms, but rather, a development of a new type of physical form capable of manifesting consciousness of a higher order that is the actual driver of the process. The development of man and the higher mental and spiritual orders of the power of consciousness could be an indicator of this type of “leap” from one level to another with a corresponding advancement in the physical form.

Sri Aurobindo,

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