The Analogy of the Spider and the Transcendent and Immanent Eternal

Sri Aurobindo translates Shwetashwatara Upanishad, Chapter Six, Verses 10-11:  “Even as is the spider that out of himself fashioneth his own web, so is God One and nought else existeth, but by his own nature covereth Himself up in the threads He hath spun out of primal matter.  May the One God ordain unto us departure into His Eternal. (Or, As the spider fashioneth a web and its threads are from his own body, so of his own nature the One God than whom nought else existeth, wrapt Himself from sight in the web born of eternal Matter.  May He ordain to us departure into the Eternal.)  One God who alone is and He lurketh hidden in every creature, for He pervadeth and is the inmost Self of all beings, He presideth over all work and is the home of all things living.  He is the Mighty Witness who relateth thought with thought and again He is the Absolute in whom mood is not nor any attribute. (Or, One God alone is hidden in all creatures; for He pervadeth all things and is the inner self of all beings, master of their works and home of all that liveth, the great Witness, the Well of conscious life, Absolute, without qualities.”

The analogy of the spider helps us ground our view of the Eternal with an illustration that our mind’s can begin to grasp.  The spider creates its web outside of itself from what it contains within itself.  Once the web is created, it acts within that framework in the outer world.  The spider transcends the limitations of the web, and can create new webbing as needed for its purposes in the world.

Similarly, the Eternal creates the entire world of universal existence from itself, and then uses that manifested reality for its own purposes of self-fulfillment, while nevertheless transcending all the forms of the world and having the inherent power to create new worlds and forms out of itself at any time.  The Eternal resides within the web of existence in all beings and forms.

The experience of the Witness, the consciousness that is aware of its own existence, and is the observer of the play of Nature and the action of the three Gunas, qualities, or moods, of Nature which, in their interplay and constantly shifting balance create the forms, forces and actions in the world.

All that is done in the universe is done under the direction of the Eternal through the instrumentality of Nature and the action of the Gunas.  Therefore, there is also a path of works, which can lead to the experience of Oneness with the Eternal, to complement the paths of knowledge and devotion.

Beyond all works, lies the unconditioned, the Absolute, the Transcendent, which cannot be limited by the framework of the web of life and action, although it pervades, manifests and enlivens all that exists.

Sri Aurobindo, The Upanishads, Shwetashwatara Upanishad, pp.369-384

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