The Divine In the Manifested Universe

Those who have sought the Eternal as an indefinable Absolute, aloof and separate from existence, experience one aspect, one pole of existence. While it may be overwhelming and definitive when the seeker has such an experience, it is also quite certain that for the normal human experience, the outer world of forms, beings, forces and events has also an overwhelming sense of being real. With the human tendency to create duality and opposition, we then tend to accept the one pole (whichever one we are experiencing) as the ultimate reality, and the other one as some kind of an illusion.

In The Life Divine Sri Aurobindo devotes chapters 2 and 3 to an exploration of these different extremes, what he calls the “materialist denial” and the “refusal of the ascetic”. In the 4th chapter he integrates them in the concept of “reality omnipresent”.

The traditional Yoga of knowledge has treated the world as somehow unreal, or at least less real than the Absolute Unmanifest. The world is called “maya” in the sense of being an illusion, and the seeker is encouraged not to be misled by or attached to the outer world and its happenings. There is of course a tremendous power and benefit of taking this approach, as it allows the seeker to break free of the absolute domination of the outer world and its life, and thus, to experience the liberation. Yet, there remains the patent reality of the outer world, which seems to be the complete reality when the seeker is immersed within it.

Sri Aurobindo discusses this: “At times these two states of his spirit seem to exist for him alternately according to his state of consciousness; at others they are there as two parts of his being, disparate and to be reconciled, two halves, an upper and a lower or an inner and an outer half of his existence.”

With regard to the outer world, “It is tempting to regard it as only a contradiction of the Divine, an incomprehensible mystery-play, masque or travesty of the Infinite–and so it irresistibly seems to his experience at times, on one side the luminous verity of Brahman, on the other a dark illusion or Maya. But something in him will not allow him to cut existence thus permanently in two and, looking more closely, he discovers that in this half-light or darkness too is the Eternal–it is the Brahman who is here with this face of Maya.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Part One: The Yoga of Divine Works, Chapter 4, The Sacrifice, The Triune Path and the Lord of the Sacrifice, pp. 111-112

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