Implications of an Evolutionary View of Nature and Life

A static view of life leads us to conclude that what we see as the reality of our lives defines who and what we are.  In such a view we need to adhere to the role that Nature has granted to us within our scope of life.  If we fall away or fail to achieve the possibilities offered us by Nature, we convict ourselves of failure.  Adherence to the guidelines we have extracted from our life experience and reflection will allow us to achieve success in life or hereafter.  Those who believe that life is here as a field of growth and experience tend to look at some ideal construct as the aim of life and they tend to measure themselves and others on the yardstick of that ideal.  In either case, there are limitations to the viewpoint which put people into two opposing camps, conservatives who do not recognize the need or benefits associated with change or progress, and progressives who are dissatisfied with the present status and who want to push for change.

Sri Aurobindo applies an integral logic to these two opposites by introducing an evolutionary perspective.  In this perspective, the present represents the current state of human evolution but not its end point; and the future potential represents a further stage in the evolutionary progression.  In neither case, does the idea of sin or failure adhere.  They are steps along the way, each one having its own rationale and rightness in its proper place, but not an end unto themselves.

“Both what is and what may be are expressions of the same constant facts of existence and forces or powers of our Nature from which we cannot and are not meant to escape, since all life is Nature fulfilling itself and not Nature destroying or denying itself; but we may raise and we are intended to raise, change and widen the forms, arrangements and values of these constant facts and forces of our nature and existence, and in the course of our progress the change and perfectioning may amount to what seems a radical transformation, although nothing essential is altered.  Our actualities are the form and value or power of expression to which our nature and life have attained, their norm or law is the fixed arrangement and process proper to that stage of evolution.  Our potentialities point us to a new form, value, power of expression with their new and appropriate arrangement and process which is their proper law and norm.  Standing thus between the actual and the possible, our intellect tends to mistake present law and form for the eternal law of our nature and existence and regard any change as a deviation and fall or else, on the contrary, to mistake some future and potential law and form for our ideal rule of life and all actual deviation from that as an error or sin of our nature.  In reality, only that is eternal which is constant through all changes and our ideal can be no more than a progressive expression of it.  Only the utmost limit of height, wideness and fullness of self-expression possible to man, if any such limit there be, could be regarded, did we know of it, — and as yet we do not know our utmost possibilities, — as the eternal ideal.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Ideal of Human Unity, Part Two, Chapter 17, Nature’s Law in our Progress — Unity in Diversity, Law and Liberty, pg. 149