Ishwara and Shakti: God and the Creation

There is another spiritual experience of the divine Duality that reflects for the seeker a deeper sense of the Unity of God and the creation. Some traditions hold that God is separate and different from the creation, outside it, and thus, the creation and its creatures are different and inferior. These traditions do not take up the question of where the “material” for this creation comes from, and how it can indeed be something “other” than God, if God is at the same time “infinite”, “omniscient”, “omnipresent”, “omnipotent”, and “eternal”. With such definitions, there is clearly no room for something “else” to exist!

The concept of Ishwara and Shakti bridges this gap. First, by recognising the apparent duality which is part of the basis of manifestation, and second, by recognising the inherent unity of these two at an ultimate level.

Sri Aurobindo explains: “On one side, he is aware of an infinite and self-existent Godhead in being who contains all things in an ineffable potentiality of existence, a Self of all selves, a Soul of all souls, a spiritual Substance of all substances, an impersonal inexpressible Existence, but at the same time an illimitable Person who is here self-represented in numberless personality, a Master of Knowledge, a Master of Forces, a Lord of love and bliss and beauty, a single Origin of the worlds, a self-manifester and self-creator, a Cosmic Spirit, a universal Mind, a universal Life, the conscious and living Reality supporting the appearance which we sense as unconscious inanimate Matter.”

“On the other side, he becomes aware of the same Godhead in effectuating consciousness and power put forth as a self-aware Force that contains and carries all within her and is charged to manifest it in universal Time and Space. It is evident to him that here there is one supreme and infinite Being represented to us in two different sides of itself, obverse and reverse in relation to each other. All is either prepared or pre-existent in the Godhead in Being and issues from it and is upheld by its Will and Presence; all is brought out, carried in movement by the Godhead in power; all becomes and acts and develops by her and in her its individual or its cosmic purpose.”

“It is again a Duality necessary for the manifestation, creating and enabling that double current of energy which seems always necessary for the world-workings, two poles of the same Being, but here closer to each other and always very evidently carrying each the powers of the other in its essence and its dynamic nature. At the same time by the fact that the two great elements of the divine Mystery, the Personal and the Impersonal, are here fused together, the seeker of the integral Truth feels in the duality of Ishwara-Shakti his closeness to a more intimate and ultimate secret of the divine Transcendence and the Manifestation than that offered to him by any other experience.”

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. 115-116