Involution and Evolution Provide the Key to the Manifestation of Consciousness in the Universe

Sri Aurobindo describes a concept developed in the Upanishads: “The Upanishad in a telling figure applies the image of the spider which brings its web out of itself and creates the structure in which it takes its station. That is applied in the ancient Scripture not to the evolution of things out of Matter, but to an original bringing of temporal becoming out of the eternal infinity; Matter itself and this material universe are only such a web or indeed no more than a part of it brought out from the spiritual being of the Infinite.”

The idea here is that the manifestation is something that takes place out of the substance of the original Consciousness. All of the forms that eventually manifest are contained inherent within the universal Being and Consciousness. Sri Aurobindo explains in more detail: “A Force inherent in the Infinite brings out of it eternally the structure of its action in a universe of which the last descending scale is based upon an involution of all the powers of the spirit into an inconscient absorption in her self-oblivious passion of form and structural working.” This is analogous to the tree packing and involving into the seed all the Force and capacity to later create a new formation of that tree.

As with the seed, with all the latent power of the tree contained within it, Matter holds latent within it the involved Force of all the levels of the manifestation, to systematically develop and evolve as the conditions for that development are presented through the process of Time. Sri Aurobindo explains it: “Thence comes an ascent and progressive liberation of power after power till the spirit self-disclosed and set free by knowledge and mastery of its works repossesses the eternal fullness of its being which envelops then and carries in its grasp the manifold and unified splendours of its nature.”

Through this process, first of involution of consciousness, and later of evolution of those powers of consciousness through Time, we see the life-process of the universal Being. “Our world-action figures an evolution, an outrolling of a manifold Power gathered and coiled up in the crude intricacy of Matter. The upward progress of the successive births of things is a rise into waking and larger and larger light of a consciousness shut into the first hermetic cell of sleep of the eternal Energy.”

Sri Aurobindo,