The Life Divine by Sri Aurobindo, authorized U.S. edition

Life Divine – U.S. Edition
by Sri Aurobindo – Ghose, Sri Aurobindo

The Life Divine explores for the Modern mind the great streams of Indian metaphysical thought, reconciling the truths behind each and from this synthesis extends in terms of consciousness the concept of evolution. The unfolding of Earth’s and man’s spiritual destiny is illuminated, pointing the way to a Divine Life on Earth.

Image may contain: 1 person, text that says 'THE Life Divine The Life Divine explores for the modern mind the great streams of Indian metaphysica thought, reconciling the truths behind each and from this synthesis extends in terms of consciousness the concept of evolution. The unfolding of Earth's and man's spiritual destiny is illuminated pointing the way to Divine life on Earth. Sri Aurobindo The Life Divine LOTUS PRESS SriAurobindo ITEM 990277 990282 ISBN: 978-0-9415-2461-2978-0-9415-246-9'


In the first chapter of The Life Divine, Sri Aurobindo sets forth the basic aspiration of mankind, the seeking for “God, Light, Freedom, Immortality.”

The path to achievement of these aspirations is through a systematic evolution of consciousness, and a reversal of the viewpoint, based in the Ignorance, that sees the world as fragmented and separate to achieve a consciousness of unity, harmony and Oneness.

In the final chapter, Sri Aurobindo sets forth his conclusion that a divine life on earth is possible, and that it can and will come about through the continuation of the evolutionary process that has led, successively, to the evolution of Matter, Life and Mind.

The process of Nature is to create the ultimate tension of contradiction to force the next stage of progress to manifest. We are faced today with an evolutionary crisis that cannot be solved by application of mental, vital or physical solutions. The complexity of the systems, and the order of magnitude of the inter-relationships take the issues far beyond the faculties of mind, even at their highest.

When we add to this the complexity of opposing viewpoints, the diversity of opinions and dogmas that abound, we have a formula for gridlock. We see that taking place all over the world today. Real problems cannot be addressed, much less solved, while we remain locked into the fragmented and limited consciousness of mind, driven by conflicting desires and demands of the vital and physical aspects of our lives.

Thus, it is time for the development and expression of the next evolutionary level, the supramental level. It is only the supramental manifestation on earth that can solve our present crisis.

The Richness of the Evolution in the Knowledge

Most of us are wedded to the sense that enjoyment of life and richness of experience are inseparably linked to the play of the dualities. We believe and find our satisfaction in the mixture of darkness and light, joy and pain, beauty and ugliness, and the challenges attendant on meeting and overcoming the difficulties that arise. We frequently express the sentiment that life in “heaven” may be “dull” because it does not have any of these challenges or the play of the dualities. This viewpoint however is based solely on an extrapolation of our mental and vital experience of the ego, and does not necessarily stand up when we approach life from the position of the gnostic being, expressing Oneness that nevertheless has an infinite Multiplicity that it manifests.

Sri Aurobindo describes a different experience: “The evolution in the Knowledge would be a more beautiful and glorious manifestation with more vistas ever unfolding themselves and more intensive in all ways than any evolution could be in the Ignorance. The delight of the Spirit is ever new, the forms of beauty it takes innumerable, its godhead ever young and the taste of delight, rasa, of the Infinite eternal and inexhaustible. The gnostic manifestation of life would be more full and fruitful and its interest more vivid than the creative interest of the Ignorance; it would be a greater and happier constant miracle.”

“Our evolution in the Ignorance with its chequered joy and pain of self-discovery and world-discovery, its half-fulfilments, its constant finding and missing, is only our first state. It must lead inevitably towards an evolution in the Knowledge, a self-finding and self-unfolding of the Spirit, a self-revelation of the Divinity in things in that true power of itself in Nature which is to us still a Supernature.”

And that represents the manifestation of the ultimate destiny, the creation of a divine life on earth. The dream of a “kingdom of heaven on earth” is only possible through the evolution of consciousness beyond the level of the mind. Sri Aurobindo has provided us the solution to the riddle of our lives. He has gone beyond the contradictions and the dualities to a place where they are united as aspects of One Reality, unified, harmonious, complete.

Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine, Book 2, Part 2, Chapter 28, “The Divine Life”, pp. 1068-1070

The One True Supermanhood

“A life of gnostic beings carrying the evolution to a higher supramental status might fitly be characterised as a divine life; for it would be a life in the Divine, a lofe of the beginnings of a spiritual divine light and power and joy manifested in material nature.” Sri Aurobindo describes for us the vision of the development of the “superman”, which does not at all reflect the images of the past attempts to envision the advent of such a being or race. Humanity has tended to describe or manifest what essentially amounts to an enormous aggrandisement of the ego, whether based in the mental, the vital or the physical, whenever it has attempted to create a status of being that exceeds the human limits.

Sri Aurobindo specifically warns against this type of approach: “But this must not be confused with past and present ideas of supermanhood; for supermanhood in the mental idea consists of an overtopping of the normal human level, not in kind but in degree of the same kind, by an enlarged personality, a magnified and exaggerated ego, an increased power of mind, an increased power of vital force, a refined or dense and massigve exaggeration of the forces of the human Ignorance; it carries also, commonly implied in it, the idea of a forceful domination over humanity by the superman. That would meana supermanhood of the Nietzschean type; it might be at its worst the reign of the “blonde beast” or the dark beast or of any and every beast, a return to barbaric strength and ruthlessness and force: but this would be no evolution, it would be a reversion to an old strenuous barbarism.”

Sri Aurobindo points out that these, and other similar aggrandisements of the ego are not the solution. Written decades before the rise of the Third Reich, we find here a warning that was unfortunately not heeded.

Sri Aurobindo’s vision is quite different: “But what has to emerge is something much more difficult and much more simple; it is a self-realised being, a building of the spiritual self, an intensity and urge of the soul and the deliverance and sovereignty of its light and power and beauty,–not an egoistic supermanhood seizing on a mental and vital domination over humanity, but the sovereignty of the Spirit over its instruments, its possession of itself and its possession of life in the power of the spirit, a new consciousness in which humanity itself shall find its own self-exceeding and self-fulfilment by the revelation of the divinity that is striving for birth within it. This is the sole true supermanhood and the one real possibility of a step forward in evolutionary Nature.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine, Book 2, Part 2, Chapter 28, “The Divine Life”, pp. 1067-1068

Gnostic Consciousness Transcends Rigid Mental Rules for Living

As long as we remain fixed in the mental framework, we tend to create judgments and rules for everything we do that are founded on the limited and fragmented understanding that the mental power possesses. The advent of a new wider, more expansive, more unifying and comprehensive consciousness obviously will overturn or at least dramatically alter these rules in virtually every sphere of living.

An example used by Sri Aurobindo relates to the principle and practice of spirituality itself. We have ingrained in us the idea that to focus on spiritual realisation it is necessary to avoid, limit or abandon the things of the world and the life of the world, and that “ascetic bareness” is the rule to be followed. Sri Aurobindo points out that while there may be times and stages where such a discipline may help the individual overcome the overpowering forces of desire and ego, this cannot be the ultimate solution.

“The one rule of the gnostic life would be the self-expression of the Spirit, the will of the Divine Being; that will, that self-expression could manifest through extreme simplicity or through extreme complexity and opulence or in their natural balance,–for beauty and plenitude, a hidden sweetness and laughter in things, a sunshine and gladness of life are also powers and expressions of the Spirit. In all directions the Spirit within determining the law of the nature would determine the frame of the life and its detail and circumstance. In all there would be the same plastic principle; a rigid standarisation, however necessary for the mind’s arrangement of things, could not be the law of the spiritual life. A great diversity and liberty of self-expression baed on an underlying unity might well become manifest; but everywhere there would be harmony and truth of order.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine, Book 2, Part 2, Chapter 28, “The Divine Life”, pp. 1066-1067

The End of War and the Transformation of All Fields of Life

Under the influence of the gnostic consciousness, the entire framework of the mental organisation of life, which we accept as assumed and given, would necessarily be modified. The very basis of viewing and understanding things would have to shift from one of division and separation to one of unity and oneness. This will have profound effects all spheres of human endeavor.

Consider the paradigm shift that occurred when humanity went from a viewpoint of the world being flat to one in which the world was round. The first was extremely limited and kept human civilisations isolated from one another. Once we recognised the round world, it became possible psychologically for men to devise ways to travel and communicate with other civilisations and cultures, bringing humanity closer together and beginning the process of unifying all of humanity, a process which is still taking place and which has had profound implications in the centuries since that paradigm shift first occurred.

Sri Aurobindo outlines some of the changes that would have to occur as a result of a similar paradigm shift from mental to gnostic consciousness: “It is evident that in a life governed by the gnostic consciousness war with its spirit of antagonism and enmity, its brutality, destruction and ignorant violence, political strife with its perpetual conflict, frequent oppression, dishonesties, turpitudes, selfish interests, its ignorance, ineptitude and muddle could have no ground for existence.”

We are so ingrained in our mental way of seeing and thinking that we find it hard to even imagine a world that does not involve war and political strife. Sri Aurobindo makes it clear that in a social order founded on oneness and unity and a wider, embracing consciousness, the things we consider to be an unchanging fact of life would undergo radical transformation.

Similarly all other fields of human endeavor would be subject to similar changes. The arts and sciences would take on a truer meaning for the upliftment and development of consciousness rather than their primary function now of creating distraction and “entertainment”. The gnostic consciousness would similarly transform our relationship to the vital and physical levels of existence and bring new harmony, order and stability to those fields as well. Sri Aurobindo envisions a world uplifted by a new sense of the delight of existence, and a new inherent understanding of the inter-connectedness and essential unity of all things, leading us to act in ways that are in balance and which create and maintain a sense of harmony.

Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine, Book 2, Part 2, Chapter 28, “The Divine Life”, pp. 1065-1066

Gnostic Consciousness Resolves the Contradictions of Mental Consciousness

We face, in every sphere of human endeavor, a conflict of competing ideas or directions. If we look closely we can see an element of truth in each side, but can also recognise that as long as we are bound by the mind’s limitations and its desire to reduce everything to “either-or”, we cannot harmonise these oppositions.

The gnostic consciousness, acting from a wider, universal standpoint, is able to resolve these contradictions. “As the universalised spiritual individual sheds the limited personality, the ego, as he rises beyond mind to a completer knowledge in Supernature, the conflicting ideals of the mind must fall away from him, but what is true behind them will remain in the life of Supernature. The gnostic consciousness is a consciousness in which all contradictions are cancelled or fused into each other in a higher light of seeing and being, in a unified self-knowledge and world-knowledge. The gnostic being will not accept the mind’s ideals and standards; he will not be moved to live for himself, for his ego, or for humanity or for others or for the community or for the State; for he will be aware of something greater than these half-truths, of the Divine Reality, and it is for that he will live, for its will in himself and in all, in a spirit of large universality, in the light of the will of the Transcendence.”

We see here, then, a unifying, integrating level of consciousness which can find the resolution of all the conflicting principles that drive our lives in the world today. “…there can be no conflict between self-affirmation and altruism in the gnostic life, for the self of the gnostic being is one with the self of all,–no conflict between the ideal of individualism and the collective ideal, for both are terms of a greater Reality and only in so far as either expresses the Reality or their fulfilment serves the will of the Reality, can they have a value for his spirit.”

The gnostic being affirms, hidden within each of these contradictions, “…the affirmation of the Divine in himself and a sense of the Divine in others and the sense of oneness with humanity, with all other beings, with all the world because of the Divine in them….”

“… a lead towards a greater and better affirmation of the growing Reality in them will be part of his life-action.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine, Book 2, Part 2, Chapter 28, “The Divine Life”, pp. 1064-1065

Influence of the Supramental Principle on Earth

The supramental consciousness, as the next evolutionary stage, will eventually resolve the difficulties of the transitional period and establish itself on earth. The question then arises, what is the relationship between the gnostic beings and the existing organisation of beings rooted in body, life and mind. Sri Aurobindo reminds us that we are obviously dealing with speculation at this point.

Using the analogy of the preceding stage, the development of human, mental consciousness in a world of matter and life, we can extrapolate some sense of how this will likely develop. The first question is the survival of the gnostic beings and communities in a world that is opposed to them. The enhanced powers of consciousness and effective will exercised by the gnostic evolution will obviously be able to protect itself, similar to the manner in which humanity has been able to survive and protect itself when faced with the life-world creations.

The second question is whether and how the gnostic creation can positively influence the mental and vital creations so that the world can both survive the evolutionary crisis and develop an increasing harmony under the influence of the gnostic consciousness.

“It is conceivable that the gnostic life would be separate but it would surely admit within its borders as much of human life as was turned towards spirituality and in progress towards the heights; the rest might organise itself mainly on the mental principle and on the old foundations, but, helped and influenced by a recognisable greater knowledge, it would be likely to do so on lines of a completer harmonisation of which the human collectivity is not yet capable.”

The limitations of our current mental status tend to focus themselves on the tendency to see everything in “either/or” terms without understanding the transcending unity of these terms; and our failure to recognise the unity that encompasses all creation, so that we act “as if” we are separate and not part of a unified whole.

The gnostic consciousness would obviously guide the human understanding to overcome these limitations.

“Here also, however, the mind can only forecast probabilities and possibilities; the supramental principle in Supernature would itself determine according to the truth of things the balance of a new world-order.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine, Book 2, Part 2, Chapter 28, “The Divine Life”, pg. 1063-1064

Developing Gnostic Living Amidst a World of Opposition

Another, and serious, issue that arises is the relationship of the gnostic individuals and community to that wider world of humanity and life in general which remains based in the physical, vital and mental principles and thus, continues to operate on the basis of division, fragmentation and the principles of ego and desire.

How will emerging gnostic communities both relate to and survive such an encounter?

“A complete seclusion or separation of the life of a spiritual community from the life of the Ignorance would then seem to impose itself: for otherwise a compromise between the two lives would be necessary and with the compromise a danger of contamination or incompleteness of the greater existence; two different and incompatible principles of existence would be in contact and, even though the greater would influence the lesser, the smaller life would also have its effect on the greater, since such mutual impact is the law of all contiguity and interchange.”

Even further there is the very real danger of the active hostility and opposition coming from the forces that are entrenched in the status quo, and for which the gnostic life represents a challenge and a threat to be put down in order to preserve the vested interests of the powers that act in the world and operate to control the present social order.

In fact, the apparent adoption of the new principle may prove more harmful than outright rejection! We have witnessed in the past the transformation that religions have undergone when, from persecuted minority, they become the accepted religion of the State in power. The defining character of that religion is then quickly modified by the needs of power and the implementation and use of the levers of power now in the hands of the religious leadership.

Of course, if there is an evolutionary impetus, Nature will have to find a way. “But it is to be supposed that the new and completer light would bring also a new and completer power. It might not be necessary for it to be entirely separate; it might establish itself in so many islets and from there spread through the old life, throwing out upon it its own influences and filtrations, gaining upon it, bringing to it a help and illumination which a new aspiration in mankind might after a time begin to understand and welcome.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine, Book 2, Part 2, Chapter 28, “The Divine Life”, pg. 1062-1063

Challenges of a Transitional Phase for Transformation of Earthly Life

When we reflect on the difficulties involved with both the transformation of the individual to a spiritual, gnostic consciousness and the need for this individual change to proliferate and transform society, it becomes necessary to focus on what the transitional phase or steps might be and how this might be effected. It is not sufficient, obviously, for an individual here or there to undergo this transformation in isolation. And inasmuch as the individual must interact with the world at large, it is not even easily feasible to overcome the drag of the normal physical, vital and mental life independent of any corresponding change in the society at large.

This challenge has led, in the past, to the development of focused spiritual communities as protected, focused environments within which, in theory, the spiritual effort could take place among a number of individuals working together for the common ideal. Sri Aurobindo posits that such a protected situation may be required during this transitional phase to effectuate the complete transformation of human nature and human life he has envisaged.

“At a certain stage it might be necessary to follow the age-long device of the separate community, but with a double purpose, first to provide a secure atmosphere, a place and life apart, in which the consciousness of the individual might concentrate on its evolution in surroundings where all was turned and centred towards the one endeavor and, next, when things were ready, to formulate and develop the new life in those surroundings and in this prepared spiritual atmosphere.”

One enormous challenge, which has hindered spiritual communities in the past, is that such enclosed environments can tend to magnify the difficulties in a certain sense, as the individuals bring with them, not only their spiritual potentialities, but all of the difficulties and obstacles of the normal human nature to be dealt with and resolved, and this can create an enormous “concentration” of these obstacles within the community. Sri Aurobindo points out that it is just this issue that has eventually undermined past efforts to build spiritual community.

Past failure, however, does not imply future failure, particularly if the pressure of the evolutionary forces in the Earth-Nature has now prepared the field and the time is right for this transformation to move forward.

“…if Nature is ready and has taken her evolutionary decision or if the power of the Spirit descending from the higher planes is sufficiently strong, the difficulty would be overcome and a first evolutionary formation or formations would be possible.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine, Book 2, Part 2, Chapter 28, “The Divine Life”, pg. 1061-1062