Three Conceptions of the Nature of Existence

While there are many ideas about the nature of existence, there are three that seem to capture the primary directions, albeit with variances based on viewpoints of different perspectives. These three include an essential non-theistic approach of some kind of mechanical universal Necessity; a theistic approach of an infinite Being, a Creator who has essentially created and developed the universal manifestation, and then there is the concept of an Existence which develops the relations of the universe, populates it with aspects of itself in the form of souls, and allows their free interaction within the framework of the basic principles of existence.

Sri Aurobindo describes the nature of the first conception: “The nature of this Necessity would be that of a fixed processus bound to certain initial and general determinations of which all the rest is the consequence.” “…against or behind that nothing or some absolute non-existence.” This conception obviously does not explain very much, but responds to our physical sense of the world around us without delving deeper beyond the surface appearance.

The concept of an external Creator is of course extremely widely disseminated, particularly in the West. Sri Aurobindo describes this concept in the bigger picture of reviewing the nature of existence: “Then, there is the idea of a free infinite Being, God or Absolute, who somehow or othe creates out of something or out of nothing, in reality or only in conception, or brings out of himself into manifestation a world of the necessity of his will or Maya or Karma in which all things, all creatures are bound as the victims of a necessity, not mechanical or external, but spiritual and internal, a force of Ignorance or a force of Karma or else some kind of arbitrary predestination.” While this conception moves beyond the limits of a purely external mechanical universe, it does not yet imply any operation of free will in the universe.

The third conception is described as follows: “And, finally, there is the idea of an absolute free Existence which supports, develops and informs a universe of relations, of that Power as the universal Spirit of our existence, of the world as the evolution of these relations, of beings in the universe as souls who work them out with some freedom of the spirit as the basis,–for that they inwardly are,–but with an observation of the law of the relations as their natural condition.”

It is in this third approach that we see the possibility of free will entering into the relations of the universe.

Sri Aurobindo,Rebirth and Karma, Section I, Chapter 9, Karma and Freedom, pg. 81,