Monday, November 19, 2007

The wide sweep of vision given by Sri Aurobindo for the future of man

Evolution—The Spiritual-Gnostic Possibilities
by RY Deshpande on Mon 19 Nov 2007 03:18 AM PST Permanent Link
After a passage of long time appears the phenomenon of living Matter, of Life living for itself with no significance in it, with the least notion of thinking mind stepping into it, of consciousness awaking in the Inconscient. If so, then, there is also a possibility of the hidden Spirit establishing himself as the self-knower and world-knower, Nature’s ruler and possessor. An alert observer could perhaps get a clue of this at an early stage itself. He might even discern the appearance of the spiritual man, the fully conscious being, man exceeding his first material self and discoverer of his true self and highest nature.

There are however questions related to the exact nature of the transition from mental to spiritual being and of the process and method of his appearance. When a spiritual being emerges in a Mind embodied in Life-in-Matter, then precisely because of that very circumstance he also gets limited by the conditions of its existence here. Whatever spiritual evolution has taken place in us so far it is as yet only a part of the mental evolution, a special operation of man’s mentality, an upward movement of the mental being. If this is all that is going to happen then the spiritual evolution cannot have an independent emergence, nor a supramental future: it cannot be called evolution of the spiritual man proper; there is at best an evolution of a finer element in a mental being. Howsoever developed it be, it is difficult for man’s mind to distinguish entirely the soul or self or any spiritual element in him. He essentially remains mental.

In man mind has become separate, he can become aware of his mental operations as distinct from his life-operations, his thought and will can disengage themselves from his sensations and impulses, desires and emotional reactions, can become detached from them, observe and control them, sanction or cancel their functioning; yet he cannot know well enough the secrets of his being. The movements of the soul in him are involved in the mind-movements; its operations are mental and emotional. But then there can be a decisive emergence in the mental being when it separates itself from thought and sees itself in an inner silence as the spirit in mind, or separates itself from the life-movements, desires, sensations, kinetic impulses, or separates itself from the body-sense. Indeed, this discovery can go farther, it can even put aside all relation to form or action of Nature. Not by mental perception and observation, but by an intrinsic consciousness and its direct sense of things and its intimate exact vision it is possible to look at Nature. In the silent being one becomes aware of the Self, of the spiritual consciousness itself. This is already a considerable evolution, a beginning of spiritual transformation.

But it is possible to go farther; the spiritual being, once inwardly liberated, can develop in mind the higher states of being that are its own natural atmosphere and bring down a supramental energy and action which are proper to the Truth-Consciousness. At first this truth of the spirit and of spirituality is not self-evident to the mind. There is vagueness, and confusion is inevitable as a temporary stage of the evolution, because ignorance is its starting-point. Spirituality is in its essence an awakening to the inner reality of our being, to a spirit, self, soul which is other than our mind, life and body; there is an inner aspiration to know, to feel, to be that; it is to enter into contact with the greater Reality beyond and pervading the universe which inhabits also our own being; to be in communion with It and union with It, and a turning, a conversion, a transformation of our whole being as a result of the aspiration, the contact, the union, a growth or waking into a new becoming or new being, a new self, a new nature—this is what spirituality means.

The task of the creative Consciousness-Force is to lead a double evolution: the evolution of our outward nature and the evolution of our inner being, our occult subliminal and spiritual nature. The evolution of mind to its greatest possible range, height, subtlety has to be the preoccupation for a long time. This is a preparation for the unveiling of an entirely intuitive intelligence, of Overmind, of Supermind, the difficult passage to a higher instrumentation of the Spirit. There are limitations and obstacles, of the mind, life and body, the heavy inertia and persistence of the body, the turbid passions of the life-part, the obscurity and doubting incertitudes, denials, and other-formulations of the mind. These can make the spiritual urge impatient, to the extent to reject the life, to mortify the body, to silence the mind and achieve its own separate salvation. If Nature refuses submission to the emerging spirit, then the soul must withdraw himself from her.

There are four main lines which Nature has followed in her attempt to open up the inner being,—religion, occultism, spiritual thought and an inner spiritual realisation and experience: the three first are approaches, the last is the decisive avenue of entry. All these four powers have sometimes worked by a simultaneous action. Each of these means or approaches corresponds to something in our total being and therefore to something necessary to the total aim of her evolution. There are four necessities of man's self-expansion. He must know himself and discover and utilise all his potentialities. This he can do only by knowing his inner mental, vital, physical and psychic being and its powers and movements and the universal laws and processes of the occult Mind and Life which stand behind the material front of the universe. He must know the hidden Power or Powers that control the world, get into some kind of accord with the master Beings of the universe. In the spiritual field all this religious, occult or philosophical knowledge and endeavour must, to bear fruition, end in an opening up of the spiritual consciousness, in experiences that found and continually heighten, expand and enrich that consciousness and in the building of a life and action that is in conformity with the truth of the spirit: this is the work of spiritual realisation and experience.

In evolution each new principle has to make its way out of an involution in Inconscience and Ignorance. It is a difficult task, of pulling itself out of the involution, out of the hold of the obscurity. The thing done has not only to be confirmed, secured against relapse and the downward gravitation, against failure and extinction, but also opened out into all the fields of its possibilities, its self-achievement, utmost height, subtlety, riches, wideness; it has to become dominant, all-embracing, comprehensive.

Evolutionary Nature in her first awakening must begin with a vague sense of the Infinite and the Invisible surrounding the physical being, a sense of the limitation and impotence of human mind and will and of something greater than himself concealed in the world. In the process would arrive the mystics with their endeavour on a power of suprarational knowledge, intuitive, inspired, revelatory and with the force of the inner being to enter into occult truth and experience.

An intellectual approach to the highest knowledge, the mind’s possession of it, is an indispensable aid to this early movement of Nature in the human being. Ordinarily, on our surface, man’s chief instrument of thought and action is the reason, the observing, understanding and arranging intellect. In any total advance or evolution of the Spirit, not only the intuition, insight, inner sense, the heart’s devotion, a deep and direct life-experience of the things of the Spirit have to be developed, but the intellect also must be enlightened and satisfied. Spiritual realisation and experience, an intuitive and direct knowledge, a growth of inner consciousness, a growth of the soul and of an intimate soul-perception, soul-vision and a soul-sense, are indeed the proper means of this evolution: but the support of the reflective and critical reason is also of great importance, in the whole movement indispensable. The means by which this need can be satisfied and with which our nature of mind has provided us is philosophy, and in this field it must be a spiritual philosophy. The method was at first an intuitive seeing and an intuitive expression, as in the fathomless thought and profound language of the Upanishads, but afterwards there was developed a critical method, a firm system of dialectics, a logical organisation. In the West where the syncretic tendency of the consciousness was replaced by the analytic and separative, the spiritual urge and the intellectual reason parted company almost at the outset; philosophy took from the first a turn towards a purely intellectual and ratiocinative explanation of things. But still this line of development too is necessary, because there must be a bridge between the spirit and the intellectual reason. For the transformation of the Ignorance into the integral Knowledge, the growth in us of a spiritual intelligence ready to receive a higher light and canalise it for all the parts of our nature is an intermediate necessity of great importance.

But it is only by an inner realisation of what these approaches are seeking after, by an overwhelming experience or by many experiences building up an inner change, by a transmutation of the consciousness, by a liberation of the spirit from its present veil of mind, life and body that there can emerge the spiritual being. That is the final line of the soul’s progress. It is only after spiritual experience through the heart and mind we see arise the saint, the prophet, the Rishi, the Yogi, the seer, the spiritual sage and the mystic, and it is the religions in which these types of spiritual manhood came into being that have endured, covered the globe and given mankind all its spiritual aspiration and culture.

The sage and seer live in the spiritual mind, their thought or their vision is governed and moulded by an inner or a greater divine light of knowledge; the devotee lives in the spiritual aspiration of the heart, its self-offering and its seeking; the saint is moved by the awakened psychic being in the inner heart grown powerful to govern the emotional and vital being; the others stand in the vital kinetic nature driven by a higher spiritual energy and turned by it towards an inspired action, a God-given work or mission, the service of some divine Power, idea or ideal. The last or highest emergence is the liberated man who has realised the Self and Spirit within him, entered into the cosmic consciousness, passed into union with the Eternal and, so far as he still accepts life and action, acts by the light and energy of the Power within him working through his human instruments of Nature.

This has been up till now the course of Nature’s evolution of the spiritual man in the human mental being. Be it, however, noted that spirituality cannot be called upon to deal with life by a non-spiritual method or attempt to cure its ills by the panaceas, the political, social or other mechanical remedies which the mind is constantly attempting and which have always failed and will continue to fail to solve anything. To discover the spiritual being in himself is the main business of the spiritual man and to help others towards the same evolution is his real service to the race; till that is done, an outward help can succour and alleviate, but nothing or very little more is possible.

But the spiritual evolution of Nature is still in process and incomplete,—one might almost say, still only beginning,—and its main preoccupation has been to affirm and develop a basis of spiritual consciousness and knowledge and to create more and more a foundation or formation for the vision of that which is eternal in the truth of the spirit. In the meanwhile, the individual must be preoccupied with his own problem of entirely changing his mind and life into conformity with the truth of the spirit which he is achieving or has achieved in his inner being and knowledge. Any premature attempt at a large-scale collective spiritual life is exposed to vitiation by some incompleteness of the spiritual knowledge on its dynamic side, by the imperfections of the individual seekers and by the invasion of the ordinary mind and vital and physical consciousness taking hold of the truth and mechanising, obscuring or corrupting it.

Spiritual truth is a truth of the spirit, not a truth of the intellect, not a mathematical theorem or a logical formula. It is a truth of the Infinite and it can assume an infinite variety of aspects and formations: in the spiritual evolution it is inevitable that there should be a many-sided passage and reaching to the one Truth, a many-sided seizing of it. The fundamental truth of spiritual experience is one, its consciousness is one. But also there are numberless possibilities of variation of experience and expression. In the evolution of the spiritual man there are many stages and in each stage a great variety of individual formations of the being, the consciousness, the life, the temperament, the ideas, the character. In the domain of pure spiritual self-realisation and self-expression there need not be a single white monotone, there can be a great diversity in unity; the supreme Self is one, but the souls of the Self are many and, as is the soul’s formation of nature, so will be its spiritual self-expression. Diversity in oneness is the law of the manifestation; the supramental unification and integration must harmonise these diversities, but to abolish them is not the intention of the Spirit in Nature.

But there is a farther intention,—not only a revelation of the Spirit, but a radical and integral transformation of Nature. There is a will in her to effectuate a true manifestation of the embodied life of the Spirit, to complete what she has begun by a passage from the Ignorance to the Knowledge, to throw off her mask and to reveal herself as the luminous Consciousness-Force carrying in her the eternal Existence and its universal Delight of being. Which means, much has still to be done, bhūri aspaşţa kartvam. What the evolutionary Power has done so far was to make a few individuals aware of their souls, conscious of their selves, aware of the eternal being that they are: a certain change of nature prepares, accompanies or follows upon this illumination, but it is not the complete and radical change. When this is done the spiritual man would have evolved, but not the supramental being who shall thenceforward be the leader of that Nature.

As the evolution proceeds, Nature begins slowly and tentatively to manifest our occult parts. The soul in us, the psychic principle, has already begun to take secret form; it puts forward and develops a soul-personality, a distinct psychic being to represent it. This psychic being remains still behind the veil in our subliminal part, like the true mental, the true vital or the true or subtle physical being within us: but, like them, it acts on the surface life by the influences and intimations it throws up upon that surface. On this ignorant surface we become dimly aware of something that can be called a soul as distinct from mind, life or body. A certain sensitive feeling for all that is true and good and beautiful, fine and pure and noble, a response to it, a demand for it, a pressure on mind and life to accept and formulate it in our thought, feelings, conduct, character is the most usually recognised though not the sole sign of this influence of the psyche.

The psychic being, the soul-personality in us, does not emerge full-grown and luminous; it evolves, passes through a slow development and formation. Its appearance is the sign of a soul-emergence in Nature, and if that emergence is as yet small and defective, the psychic personality also will be stunted or feeble. It is too separated from its inner reality, in imperfect communication with its own source in the depths of the being. But as the psychic personality grows stronger, it begins to increase its communion with the psychic entity behind it and improve its communications with the surface.

A first condition of the soul’s complete emergence is a direct contact in the surface being with the spiritual Reality. Because it comes from that, the psychic element in us turns always towards whatever in phenomenal Nature seems to belong to a higher Reality and can be accepted as its sign and character. But, for this change to arrive at its widest totality and profound completeness, the consciousness has to shift its centre and its static and dynamic position from the surface to the inner being; it is there that we must find the foundation for our thought, life and action. The outer nature has to undergo a change of poise, a quieting, a purification and fine mutation of its substance and energy by which the many obstacles in it rarefy, drop away or otherwise disappear.

Even before the outer nature has been effected or before it is sufficient, one can still break down the wall screening our inner being from our outer awareness by a strong force of call and aspiration, a vehement will or violent effort or an effective discipline or process; but this may be a premature movement and is not without its serious dangers. The perils were well-known to a past spiritual experience and have been met by imposing the necessity of initiation, of discipline, of methods of purification and testing by ordeal, of an entire submission to the directions of the path-finder or path-leader, one who has realised the Truth and himself possesses and is able to communicate the light, the experience, a guide who is strong to take by the hand and carry over difficult passages as well as to instruct and point out the way. But even so the dangers will be there and can only be surmounted if there is or there grows up a complete sincerity, a will for purity, a readiness for obedience to the Truth, for surrender to the Highest, a readiness to lose or to subject to a divine yoke the limiting and self-affirming ego.

A highest spiritual transformation must intervene on the psychic or psycho-spiritual change; the psychic movement inward to the inner being, the Self or Divinity within us, must be completed by an opening upward to a supreme spiritual status or a higher existence. This can be done by our opening into what is above us, by an ascent of consciousness into the ranges of overmind and supramental nature in which the sense of Self and Spirit is ever unveiled and permanent and in which the instrumentation of the Self and Spirit is not restricted or divided as in our mind-nature, life-nature, body-nature. The psychic change also makes this possible; it opens us to the cosmic consciousness, also to what is now superconscient to our normality. An early illumination from above can come as an outcome of aspiration or some inner readiness. But if it is brought about by a premature pressure from below, it can be attended with difficulties and dangers. The choice, however, does not always rest with our will, for the operations of the spiritual evolution in us are very various, and according to the line it has followed will be the turn taken at any critical phase by the action of the Consciousness-Force in its urge towards a higher self-manifestation and formation of our existence.

If the spirit could from the first dwell securely on the superior heights, a complete spiritual transformation might be rapid. When the psychic change is complete, this can happen by a painless process. Otherwise a premature pulling down of the higher Forces may be too strong for the flawed and impure material of Nature and its immediate fate may be that of the unbaked jar of the Veda which could not hold the divine Soma Wine; or the descending influence may withdraw or be spilt because the nature cannot contain or keep it. There might even be some undivine Force trying to seize it and use it for the purposes of the Adversary. If the work were done from above, from some spiritual height, there might be a sublimation or uplifting or the creation of a new Structure compelled by the sheer force of the influence from above: but this change might not be accepted as native to itself by the lower being; it would not be a total growth, an integral evolution. A light and power of the Overmind working in its own full right and in its own sphere is one thing, the same light working in the obscurity of the physical consciousness and under its conditions is something quite different and, owing to dilution and mixture, far inferior in its knowledge and force and results.

This is indeed the reason of the slow and difficult emergence of the Consciousness-Force in Nature: for Mind and Life have to descend into Matter and suit themselves to its conditions; changed and diminished by the obscurity and reluctant inertia of the substance and force in which they work, they are not able to make a complete transformation of their material into a fit instrument and a changed substance revelatory of their real and native power. The Life-consciousness is unable to effectuate the greatness and felicity of its mighty or beautiful impulses in the material existence; its impetus fails it, its force of effectuation is inferior to the truth of its conceptions, the form betrays the Life-intuition within it which it tries to render into terms of Life-being. The Mind is unable to achieve its high ideas in the medium of Life or Matter without deductions and compromises which deprive them of their divinity; its clarities of knowledge and will are not matched by its force to mould this inferior substance to obey and express it: on the contrary, its own powers get affected, its will is divided, its knowledge confused and clouded by the turbidities of life and the incomprehensiveness of Matter. Neither Life nor Mind succeeds in converting or perfecting the material existence. But the higher spiritual-mental powers also undergo the same disability when they descend into Life and Matter; they can do much more, achieve much luminous change, but the result is a diminished creation.

Only the Supermind can descend without losing its full power of action, its action always intrinsic and automatic, its will and knowledge identical and the result commensurate: its nature is a self-achieving Truth-Consciousness and, if it limits itself or limits its working, it is by choice and intention, not by compulsion; in the limits it chooses its action and the results of its action are harmonious and inevitable. As the psychic change has to call in the spiritual to complete it, so the first spiritual change has to call in the supramental transformation to complete it. The whole radical change in the evolution from a basis of Ignorance to a basis of Knowledge can only come by the intervention of the supramental Power and its direct action in earth-existence.

Even from this hurried paraphrasing of the wide sweep of vision given by Sri Aurobindo for the future of man we do get an idea of the progress that has been made in the long and slow course of evolution. But the path moves on and the worthwhile transitional state has to lead to the coming of the superman or the gnostic being. Man is a mental being incarnate in a living body. His original form first appears in the world of Mind; the mental Purusha prepares in that world his body to house Mind. Then, as the Upanishad says, “by breaking open a door in Matter” he enters into it: the Manomaya Purusha’s body takes the physical body. Prakriti in the terrestrial process ultimately gives a form prepared by this Purusha. Similarly too came about the Pranamaya Purusha’s appearance in the physical mould. But a radical transformation takes place in the Vijnanamaya Purusha’s preparing his body first in his world on the basis of the Truth-conscient Substance and then being born on earth. This does not happen easily. “I purify earth and heaven by the Truth,”—says boldly the Vedic Rishi. Even the great heavens have to be purified for this eventuality to materialise. The spiritual mind going all the way up to the overmental has to open itself to the supramental possibilities. Sri Aurobindo’s own work was to prepare for the Vijnanamaya Purusha his body in that world, the golden body of Agni as the Vedic Rishi would say. That he achieved.

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