How to Know and Understand the Evolution of Consciousness

Using the framework of our mental intelligence, we try to observe, categorize, segment and then draw conclusions and make abstract judgments based on the evidence we see from the past.  Such a process may be useful as regards the past, although it may miss the inner meaning or significance if it is not easily identified from the surface facts, but it clearly is not useful with regard to the future, particularly if an inner meaning has been overlooked.  The method of knowing in this case is based on the defined, linear mental analysis.

There are however other forms of knowing, including knowledge by identity, where one actually experiences the reality directly, not through intellectual abstraction.  Sri Aurobindo acknowledges the limitations of the intellectual Reason, and relies heavily for his observations about the future evolution of consciousness on his spiritual experience and realizations.  This process actually is the basis, one way or another, with the great leaps forward by religious founders and great scientific discovers, who had to follow their experience even when it appeared to contradict well-known beliefs held widely during their time.  Copernicus and Galileo, for instance, were considered heretics for what today represents a true understanding of the relation between the sun, the moon, the planets and the earth!

Sri Aurobindo notes:  “This account of the process and meaning of the terrestrial creation is at every point exposed to challenge in the mind of man himself, because the evolution is still halfway on its journey, is still in the Ignorance, is still seeking in the mind of a half-evolved humanity for its own purpose and significance.  It is possible to challenge the theory of evolution on the ground that it is insufficiently founded and that it is superfluous as an explanation of the process of terrestrial existence.  It is open to doubt, even if evolution is granted, whether man has the capacity to develop into a higher evolutionary being.  It is also open to doubt whether the evolution is likely to go any farther than it has gone already or whether a supramental evolution, the appearance of a consummated Truth-Consciousness, a being of Knowledge, is at all probable in the fundamental Ignorance of the earthly Nature.”

Robert McDermott responds:  “In contrast to this lack of certitude on the level of philosophical inquiry, Sri Aurobindo’s own spiritual experience and vision confidently proclaim the inevitability of man’s spiritual evolution.  Indeed, since his entire philosophy issues from a yogic experience, which is both personal and transcendent, his account of spiritual evolution is but a pointer to the experiences that are the source and ultimately the corroboration of that theory.  Thus, Sri Aurobindo’s philosophy of Integral Yoga is a vision of personal and cosmic evolution as well as a method for its realization.  Whereas his theory of evolution and integralism begs comparison with many Western philosophies, the essential function of Yoga in this theory is distinctively Indian.  This blending of vision and practice, or speculation and discipline, characterizes Sri Aurobindo’s penchant for Westsern-Indian syntheses.  Further, the method of Yoga operative in this synthesis is itself a synthesis of several schools of Indian Yoga.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Mind of Light, Introduction by Robert McDermott, pp. 11-12

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