The Gnostic Approach to Unity in Society Is Based on Diversity in Oneness

Humanity has long sought an answer to achieving a harmonious social order.  Generally this involves either conquering or assimilating diverse peoples so as to create, in the end, a homogeneous society with a fixed set of organized standards for everyone to follow.  The mental approach is to believe that if we all look the same, wear the same clothes, eat the same food, and think the same thoughts, we will have harmony.   In the end, these attempts have failed, both because they are not aligned with the diversity of Nature, and because they breed stagnation through an emphasis on uniformity.

From a supramental perspective, however, the limitations of the mind’s process disappear.  Just as we see virtually infinite diversity of forms in the natural order, each fitting into a complex biosphere and ecosphere, each having its role and its own forms of growth and fulfillment, so in human society we could see and encourage the diversity of people and find their oneness, not in uniformity of thought or action, but in mutual good will and understanding and support for their various forms of life and expression.

Sri Aurobindo writes in The Life Divine:  “A similar inevitability of the union of freedom and order would be the law of the collective life; it would be a freedom of the diverse play of the Infinite in divine souls, an order of the conscious unity of souls which is the law of the supramental Infinite.  Our mental rendering of oneness brings into it the rule of sameness; a complete oneness brought about by the mental reason drives towards a thoroughgoing standardisation as its one effective means, — only minor shades of differentiation would be allowed to operate: but the greatest richness of diversity in the self-expression of oneness would be the law of the gnostic life.  In the gnostic consciousness difference would not lead to discord but to a spontaneous natural adaptation, a sense of complementary plenitude, a rich many-sided execution of the thing to be collectively known, done, worked out in life.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Future Evolution of Man, Chapter Eight, The Gnostic Being, pp. 117-118


Reconciling Freedom and Order in the Gnostic Being

Many people treat the concepts of “freedom” and “order” as being in conflict with one another.  In the United States, one frequently hears the refrain “It’s a free country, I can do what I like” to justify acting upon whatever impulse or idea of the moment comes to the forefront for an individual, without regard for any rule, law or restraint.  Freedom quickly turns into license with the sense of a total lack of any responsibility to anyone or anything, and order justifies itself as a needed restraint upon freedom, eventually turning into a strict, stifling regimen of control.

If we go back to first principles however, we can see that freedom is the impulse towards progress and development, while order is the impulse to secure a solid foundation.  In the mind and the vital life, it becomes difficult, if not impossible to identify the correct balance and harmony between these two essential principles.  There is a balance possible, however, where freedom and order are no longer in conflict, but become mutually supportive aspects of existence.  At such a point of harmony, we recognize both the need for development and the need for a solid foundation to avoid the chaos that can come with unrestricted license, unbound by any guiding lessons garnered from past experience.  At this level, freedom bases itself on order, and order embraces freedom.

Sri Aurobindo notes in The Life Divine:  “The two principles of freedom and order, which in mind and life are constantly representing themselves as contraries or incompatibles, though they have not need to be that if freedom is guarded by knowledge and order based upon truth of being, are in the supermind consciousness native to each other and even fundamentally one.  This is so because both are inseparable aspects of the inner spiritual truth and therefore their determinations are one; they are inherent in each other, for they arise from an identity and therefore in action coincide in a natural identity.  The gnostic being does not in any way or degree feel his liberty infringed by the imperative order of his thought or actions, because that order is intrinsic and spontaneous; he feels both his liberty and the order of his liberty to be one truth of his being.  His liberty of knowledge is not a freedom to follow falsehood or error, for he does not need like the mind to pass through the possibility of error in order to know, — on the contrary, any such deviation would be a departure from his plenitude of gnostic self, it would be a diminution of his self-truth and alien and injurious to his being; for his freedom is a freedom of light, not of darkness.  His liberty of action is not a license to act upon wrong will or the impulsions of the Ignorance, for tht too would be alien to his being, a restriction and diminution of it, not a liberation.  A drive for fulfilment of falsehood or wrong will would be felt by him, not as a movement towards freedom, but as a violence done to the liberty of the Spirit, an invasion and imposition, an inroad upon his Supernature, a tyranny of some alien Nature.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Future Evolution of Man, Chapter Eight, The Gnostic Being, pp. 116-117

The Varying Responses of the Egoistic Individual and the Gnostic Being to the Issues of Freedom and Order

We can see around us in our lives, in the society and the world at large, the consequences of the egoistic standpoint leading to actions that assume individual total freedom without an appreciation of the interconnected relationship of each to all, and the consequent responsibility that is the flip-side of freedom.  Each asserts himself without regard for consequences and this leads to conflict, hostility, disharmony, and destruction of the balance of the eco-sphere within which we all live.  Clearly, the evidence shows us that this standpoint is a falsehood and cannot be the solution to human interaction and life.

At the same time, there are those who have an insight into the working of Nature, whether from a scientific, an observational or from a religious or philosophical view.  While we see interactions of conflict in Nature, which is to be expected in the world of separateness and fragmentation, we also can see that everything is connected and responds and reacts to other beings and external world-forces.  There is an underlying harmony that speaks to a larger unity.

The mental framework, based in separateness and fragmentation, cannot resolve the balance between freedom and order, between the independence of the individual and the interconnected relationship of each to all.  A new consciousness of unity and harmony is needed to bridge the gaps, and this is the development of the supramental, gnostic consciousness which Sri Aurobindo has identifed and described.

Sri Aurobindo observes in The Life Divine:  “A separate self-existent being could be at odds with other separate beings, at variance with the universal All in which they co-exist, in a state of contradiction with any supreme Truth that was willing its self-expression in the universe; this is what happens to the individual in the Ignorance, because he takes his stand on the consciousness of a separate individuality.  There can be a similar conflict, discord, disparity between the truths, the energies, qualities, powers, modes of being that act as separate forces in the individual and in the universe.  A world full of conflict, a conflict in ourselves, a conflict of the individual with the world around him are normal and inevitable features of the separative consciousness of the Ignorance and our ill-harmonised existence.  But this cannot happen in the gnostic consciousness because there each finds his complete self and all find their own truth and the harmony of their different motions in that which exceeds them and of which they are the expression.  In the gnostic life, therefore, there is an entire accord between the free self-expression of the being and his automatic obedience to the inherent law of the supreme and universal Truth of things.  These are to him interconnected sides of the one Truth; it is his own supreme truth of being which works itself out in the whole united truth of himself and things in one Supernature.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Future Evolution of Man, Chapter Eight, The Gnostic Being, pg. 116

The Human Cycle: The Psychology of Social Development by Sri Aurobindo. U.S. edition published by Lotus Press

The Human Cycle: Psychology of Social Development
by Sri Aurobindo – Ghose, Sri Aurobindo

Sri Aurobindo explores the cycles of human development with an eye toward showing the underlying trend and impulsion in that development. He shows how humanity moves successively through various stages whereby different powers are developed and highlighted towards an ultimate integration and fulfillment of human destiny in an outflowing of our hidden spiritual nature in the diversity and vibrancy of our physical, vital and mental life.

Image may contain: 1 person, text that says 'The Human Cycle Psychology of Social Development Sri Aurobindo The Human Cycle: The sychology Social Development Sri Aurobindo shows how humanity moves successively through various stages whereby different powers are developed and highlighted towards an ultimate integration and fulfillment of human destiny in an outflowing of our hidden spiritual nature in the diversity and vibrancy of our physical, vital and mental life. Sri Aurobindo Item #: 990049 ISBN: 978-0-9149-5544-3 LOTUS'

Beyond the Need for a Moral and Ethical Standard of Living

We set rules for conduct and ethical behavior in relation to others in society to overcome the deficiencies caused by our focus on the fulfillment of desires centered around the aggrandisement of the ego at the expense of others or the greater needs of harmony in society.  We find it impossible to believe that people can live without such a framework to restrain their otherwise negative impacts.  When someone imagines such a scenario, as did Nietzsche, he posits some ego-superiority that gains the moral right to do whatever he pleases regardless of consequences to others.  Dostoevsky took up this theme in Crime and Punishment, where the protagonist Raskolnikov holds that the “superior” individual goes beyond morality and even murder can be condoned.

Sri Aurobindo indicates that there is a hidden truth to the idea of acting without the need of moral and ethical laws, but it is not based on the assertion of the ego of some kind of personal superiority, but on the evolution of the gnostic consciousness which partakes of the knowledge, wisdom and love that manifests the universal creation.  When one is aligned with the higher truth, the action automatically aligns itself to that greater harmony.  The fulfillment of the desires of the ego are then no longer involved in the choices and actions undertaken.  Until such time as the new level of consciousness has fully emerged the standards set up in man’s mental framework remain and provide a necessary restraint.

Sri Aurobindo observes in The Life Divine:  “… the law, the standard has to be imposed on us now because there is in our natural being an opposite force of separateness, a possibility of antagonism, a force of discord, ill-will, strife.  All ethics is a construction of good in a Nature which has been smitten with evil by the powers of darkness born of the Ignorance, even as it is expressed in the ancient legend of the Vedanta.  But where all is self-determined by truth of consciousness and truth of being, there can be no standard , no struggle to observe it, no virtue or merit, no sin or demerit of the nature.  The power of love, of truth, of right will be there, not as a law mentally constructed but as the very substance and constitution of the nature and, by the integration of the being, necessarily also the very stuff and constituting nature of the action.  To grow into this nature of our being, a nature of spiritual truth and oneness, is the liberation attained by an evolution of the spiritual being: the gnostic evolution gives us the complete dynamism of that return to ourselves.  Once that is done, the need of standards of virtue, dharmas, disappears; there is the law and self-order of the liberty of the spirit, there can be no imposed or constructed law of conduct, dharma.  All becomes a self-flow of spiritual self-nature, Swadharma of Swabhava.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Future Evolution of Man, Chapter Eight, The Gnostic Being, pp. 115-116

The Nature of the Gnostic Person

When we define our lives and our personality to one another, or to ourselves, we generally are describing our thoughts and aspirations, our feelings, and our family,and job circumstances.  This is what Sri Aurobindo calls our “surface personality”, a construct built up around the ego that we identify as ourselves.

The true gnostic Person however is not bound by the ego-personality.  The gnostic Person is aligned with the universal and transcendent aspects of the omnipresent reality, and thus, cannot be limited or defined by a particular ego-identification.

Sri Aurobindo writes in The Life Divine:  “The ordinary restricted personality can be grasped by the description of the characters stamped on its life and thought and action, its very definite surface building and expression of self…. But such a description would be pitifully inadequate to express the Person when its Power of Self within manifests more amply and puts forward its hidden daemonic force int he surface composition and the life.  We feel ourselves in presence of a light of consciousness, a potency, a sea of energy, can distinguish and describe its free waves of action and quality, but not fix itself; and yet there is an impression of personality, the presence of a powerful being, a strong, high or beautiful recognisable Someone, a Person, not a limited creature of Nature but a Self or Soul, a Purusha.  The gnostic Individual would be such an inner Person unveiled, occupying both the depths, — no longer self-hidden, — and the surface in a unified self-awareness; he would not be a surface personality partly expressive of a larger secret being, he would be not the wave but the ocean: he would be the Purusha, the inner conscious Existence self-revealed, and would have no need of a carved expressive mask or persona.”

“This, then, would be the nature of the gnostic Person, an infinite and universal being revealing, — or, to our mental ignorance, suggesting, — its eternal self through the significant form and expressive power of an individual and temporal self-manifestation.  But the individual nature-manifestation, whether strong and distinct in outline or multitudinous and protean but still harmonic, would be there as an index of the being, not as the whole being: that would be felt behind, recognisable but indefinable, infinite.  The consciousness also of the gnostic Person would be an infinite consciousness throwing up forms of self-expression, but aware always of its unbound infinity and universality and conveying the power and sense of its infinity and universality even in the finiteness of the expression, — by which, moreover, it would not be bound in the next movement of farther self-revelation.  But this would still not be an unregulated un-recognisable flux but a process of self-revelation making visible the inherent truth of its powers of existence according to the harmonic law natural to all manifestation of the Infinite.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Future Evolution of Man, Chapter Eight, The Gnostic Being, pp. 114-115

The Dissolution of the Ego and the Action of the Individual Absent the Ego, Part 2

In the early years of the 20th century, physicists had a problem.  They determined at some point that the same “event” (in their sense of the term) had properties of a wave and properties of a particle, depending on the state of observation.  The fact of observation collapsed the wave into a fixed point in time and space.  Similarly, until observation, an atomic particle maintained infinite possibilities for its location, but once observed its position became “fixed”.  The development of the entire field of quantum mechanics arose from the dual-state nature of physical reality.  This created considerable consternation for physical scientists who expected to be able to apply the mind’s “either/or” paradigm to something as simple as material substance!

A somewhat analogous situation takes place with the question of Impersonal and Personal in the universal manifestation.  In principle, and in an undefined state, the universe can be seen as Impersonal.  However, as specific forms, beings and functions take place, they take on a Personal note to that form or being and thus, the indefinite “collapses” upon observation into the definite.

In both quantum mechanics and in the omnipresent Reality itself, both aspects co-exist at all times in both a potential form and in an actual formation.

The ego, as a formation of the lower being, simply appropriates separateness and fragmented existence to a form or being that is in actuality an expression of the larger universal creation, and thus, it has been considered to be an “illusion”.  Without the aggrandising function of the ego, the quantum process, if you will, of the personality of the manifested being still takes place, co-existent with the impersonal out of which it arises and by which it is constituted, and into which it sinks again upon dissolution.  The problem lies not in the universe, but in our ability to comprehend it with our mental apparatus.

Sri Aurobindo notes in The Life Divine:  “This reality is not the ego but the being, who is impersonal and universal in his stuff of nature, but forms out of it an expressive personality which is his form of self in the changes of Nature.”

“The Divine, the Eternal, expresses himself as existence, consciousness, bliss, wisdom, knowledge, love, beauty, and we can think of him as these impersonal and universal powers of himself, regard them as the nature of the Divine and Eternal; we can say that God is Love, God is Wisdom, God is Truth or Righteousness: but he is not himself an impersonal state or abstract of states or qualities; he is the Being, at once absolute, universal and individual.  If we look at it from this basis, there is, very clearly, no opposition, no incompatibility, no impossibility of a co-existence or one-existence of the Impersonal and the Person; they are each other, live in one another, melt into each other, and yet in a way can appear as if different ends, sides,obverse and reverse of the same Reality.  The gnostic being is of the nature of the Divine and therefore repeats in himself this natural mystery of existence.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Future Evolution of Man, Chapter Eight, The Gnostic Being, pp. 113-114

The Dissolution of the Ego and the Action of the Individual Absent the Ego, Part 1

In one form or another, most of humanity believes that the ego-personality that we experience is a necessity for action in the world, and that the dissolution of the ego, whether through a spiritual experience of transcendence, a universalisation of the consciousness or an escape to a heavenly reward after departure from the world, is and must be associated with discontinuance of the action in the world.  The ego, and the motive force of desire, are seen as the lynch-pins of activity and without them, activity must fail.

The mental consciousness, with its “either/or” framework cannot readily conceive of a status that both affirms the impersonality of the universal and transcendent consciousness while simultaneously acknowledging a role for personal individuality and a personal action devoid of ego and desire.  Sri Aurobindo, looking at this from an integral perspective, finds that the apparent conflict and impossibility are related to the limitations of the mind and not to the actual state of affairs.  There are both an Impersonal and a Personal aspect. The Divine utilizes the Personal aspect as a means of creating unique perspective and interaction of forces and events to carry the intention of the manifestation forward in a complex, multifarious manner.

The review of the role of Personality, in the absence of the ego, is one that requires a multi-faceted review which will span a number of articles, this being the first.

Sri Aurobindo observes in The Life Divine:  “Ordinarily, in the common notion, the separative ego is our self and, if the ego has to disappear in a transcendental or universal Consciousness, personal life and action must cease; for, the individual disappearaing, there can only be an impersonal consciousness, a cosmic self: but if the individual is altogether extinguished, no further question of personality or responsibility or ethical perfection can arise.  According to another line of ideas the spiritual person remains, but liberated, purified, perfected in nature in a celestial existence.  But here we are still on earth, and yet it is supposed that the ego personality is extinguished and replaced by a universalised spiritual individual who is a centre and power of the transcendent Being.  It might be deducted that this gnostic or supramental individual is a self without personality, an impersonal Purusha.  There could be many gnostic individuals but there would be no personality, all would be the same in being and nature.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Future Evolution of Man, Chapter Eight, The Gnostic Being, pp. 112-113

The Bliss of the Eternal Permeates the Entire Universe

The consciousness with which we normally identify is that of body-life-mind and it is characterized by a sense of fragmentation and separation, by a sense of limitation and weakness compared to the greater universal forces that create the universe, and by the experience that comes with separation and limitation of weakness, pain, and suffering.  We automatically accept the notion that one cannot have pleasure without pain, or joy with suffering.  Yet the Taittiriya Upanishad sets forth the idea that at the heart of all existence is an ineffable bliss, the bliss of the Eternal which cannot be attained by the mind or speech, but the experience of which comes to the knowers of Veda who have gone beyond the grasping of desire and who thereby experience the wonder and unity of the entire creation.  As the individual opens to the larger universe, as wider and more flexible levels of consciousness manifest, the experience of this pervasive, permeating and underlying bliss becomes more complete and transformative at all levels, including the physical, the vital and the mental levels of awareness.

Sri Aurobindo writes in The Life Divine:  “Peace and ecstasy cease to be different and become one.  The supermind, reconciling and fusing all differences as well as all contradictions, brings out this unity; a wide calm and a deep delight of all-existence are among its first steps of self-realisation, but this calm and this delight rise together, as one state, into an increasing intensity and culminate in the eternal ecstasy, the bliss that is the Infinite.  In the gnostic consciousness at any stage there would be always in some degree this fundamental and spiritual conscious delight of existence in the whole depth of the being; but also all the movements of Nature would be pervaded by it, and all the actions and reactions of the life and the body: none could escape the law of the Ananda.  Even before the gnostic change there can be a beginning of this fundamental ecstasy of being translated into a manifold beauty and delight.  In the mind, it translates into a calm of intense delight of spiritual perception and vision and knowledge, in the heart into a wide or deep or passionate delight of universal union and love and sympathy and the joy of beings and the joy of things.  In the will and vital parts it is felt as the energy of delight of a divine life-power in action or a beatitude of the senses perceiving and meeting the One everywhere, perceiving as their normal aesthesis of things a universal beauty and a secret harmony of creation of which our mind can catch only imperfect glimpses or a rare supernomal sense.  In the body it reveals itself as ecstasy pouring into it from the heights of the spirit and the peace and bliss of a pure and spiritualised physical existence.  A universal beauty and glory of being begins to manifest; all objects reveal hidden lines, vibrations, powers, harmonic significances concealed from the normal mind and the physical sense.  In the universal phenomenon is revealed the eternal Ananda.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Future Evolution of Man, Chapter Eight, The Gnostic Being, pp. 111-112

The Aspiration for the Delight of Existence

Every part of our being desires happiness in its own way.  The body seeks comfort and a feeling of pain-free ease.  The vital force seeks delight and feelings of ecstasy.  The mind seeks for the deep satisfaction of fulfillment.  Each of these represent the deep-seated aspiration for the bliss of existence.

There are many who preach a gospel of suffering, who believe that the world is a place intended for trial and suffering and we have to bear this suffering in order to prepare ourselves for a greater existence hereafter.

The Taittiriya Upanishad holds however the primary status of Ananda, the bliss of existence:  “When he hath gotten him this delight, then it is that this creature becometh a thing of bliss; for who could labour to draw in the breath or who could have strength to breathe it out, if there were not that Bliss in the heaven of his heart, the ether within his being?”

What each of the parts of our being seek for, and what the Upanishad refers to, is the ineffable Bliss of the Eternal, from which all this creation has manifested and into which the consciousness returns as it evolves and grows.

Sri Aurobindo notes in The Life Divine:  “An aspiration, a demand for the supreme and total delight of existence is there secretly in the whole make of our being, but it is disguised by the separation of our parts of nature and their differing urge and obscured by their inability to conceive or seize anything more than a superficial pleasure.  In the body-consciousness this demand takes shape as a need of bodily happiness, in our life parts as a yearning for life happiness, a keen vibrant response to joy and rapture of many kinds and to all surprise of satisfaction; in the mind it shapes into a ready reception of all forms of mental delight; on the higher level it becomes apparent in the spiritual mind’s call for peace and divine ecstasy.  This trend is founded in the truth of the being; for Ananda is the very essence of the Brahman, it is the supreme nature of the omnipresent Reality.  The supermind itself in the descending degrees of the manifestation emerges from the Ananda and in the evolutionary ascent merges into the Ananda.  It is not, indeed, merged in the sense of being extinguished or abolished but is there inherent in it, indistinguishable from the self of awareness and the self-effectuating force of the Bliss of Being.  In the involutionary descent as in the evolutionary return supermind is supported by the original Delight of Existence and carries that in it in all its activities as their sustaining essence; for Consciousness, we may say, is its parent power in the Spirit, but Ananda is the spiritual matrix from which it manifests and the maintaining source into which it carries back the soul in its return to the status of the Spirit.  A supramental manifestation in its ascent would have as a next sequence and culmination of self-result a manifestation of the Bliss of the Brahman: the evolution of the being of gnosis would be followed by an evolution of the being of bliss; an embodiment of gnostic existence would have as its consequence an embodiment of the beatific existence…. In the liberation of the soul from the Ignorance the first foundation is peace, calm, the silence and quietude of the Eternal and Infinite; but a consummate power and greater formation of the spiritual ascension takes up this peace of liberation into the bliss of a perfect experience and realisation of the eternal beatitude, the bliss of the Eternal and Infinite.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Future Evolution of Man, Chapter Eight, The Gnostic Being, pp. 110-111