Addressing the Existential Crisis of Our Time Through the Evolution of Consciousness

Albert Einstein stated “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.”  We have an existential crisis in our world that is being recognized more and more, which includes the climate crisis and its impacts, the pollution crisis and its results, the resource depletion that is fueling wars and mass migrations across the planet, the enormous inequality of access to the planet’s resources, and the species die off that is killing off large numbers of plants, insects and animals across the planet, with a magnitude that represents a sixth mass extinction event, as indicators of the imbalances that human society has created with our mental ideas trying to fulfill our desires and our physical needs without a full understanding of and appreciation for the interrelations of all life on the planet.

Sri Aurobindo shows us that our mental development is not the final term of the evolution of consciousness that successively moves us from the inanimate forms of Matter, to the multitude of life-forms and the eventual development of the mental consciousness in the higher animals and mankind.  Nothing can evolve that has not been previously involved as a tree grows from a seed, but not from a rock.  The next phase of evolution takes us beyond the frame of mental consciousness.

Sri Aurobindo observed:  “To hope for a true change of human life without a change of human nature is an irrational and unspiritual proposition.” We have tried to apply logical, rational solutions to the problems.  After thousands of years, we can now recognize the failure of these ideas.  We have reached a stage of gridlock in our political process as opposing ideas are treated as irreconcilable.  We change economic systems, we change governments, but the limitations of humanity intervene and in the end, we are met with another failure.  What is needed is a change of consciousness, a change of human nature, if you will, that allows us to approach the crisis of our age from a new light and a new direction.  The drives that motivate us need to be seen, understood and brought into harmonious balance.  We seek for external solutions that always fail.  The true solution is to look within and “know thyself” as the sages have proclaimed.

A true change of consciousness allows us to solve the problems caused by the conflicting elements and drives in our current mental development.  Conscious awareness of Oneness of all creation is needed to solve the disharmony and conflict we are facing today.  We are not separate from Nature, and it takes a unified awareness to both recognize this and act from that view.  A subjective experience of intuition, inspiration, spiritual experience of oneness and an understanding of the limitations of the mental, vital and physical drives that control us today is the direction needed to solve the existential crisis.

Sri Aurobindo describes the progression beyond the mental level to what he terms the “supramental” consciousness.  This consciousness is able to do what the linear structure of the mind cannot, which is integrate all the infinite variances of forms and processes within an overarching awareness of the Oneness that ties all these various beings, forms and actions together in one integrated whole.  He also outlines a process for the conscious participation of individuals in the evolutionary progression of Nature, in what he calls the “integral yoga”.

The book titled The Future Evolution of Man is a focused, step-by-step review of Sri Aurobindo’s writings on this subject with extracts from The Life Divine, The Synthesis of Yoga and The Human Cycle.  Compiled by P.B. Saint-Hilaire (Pavitra), this text acts as a guidebook to the evolutionary process and its potential for solving our existential crisis in the world today.

Sri Aurobindo, The Future Evolution of Man, Introduction

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