Editor’s Note: The following excerpts – presented in 2 parts are selected from the author’s longer article titled – ‘Theories of Evolution and Sri Aurobindo’s Concept of Complete Person’ reveal Sri Aurobindo’s futuristic vision of Sri Aurobindo for humanity and the evolution of man. A distinctive feature of Sri Aurobindo’s philosophy of evolution, according to the author, is that it is not speculative but is tested on the anvil of experimentation. His capacity to see the future of human’s evolution and his experiments with the transcendence make Sri Aurobindo a Rishi.
We have made a few formatting revisions for the purpose of this digital presentation. Full article may be read HERE.
Sri Aurobindo’s understanding of evolution
According to Sri Aurobindo, the urge to exceed oneself is inherent in the human being.
This urge of self-exceeding manifests in the divination of the Godhead, the impulse towards perfection, the search after pure Truth and unmixed Bliss, the sense of a secret immortality.
He points out that this aspiration can be discerned in the texts of the ancient dawns of human civilisation, and we find that even when it is banished during the periods of scepticism, it returns and seizes humankind. Referring to the contemporary humanity, he points out that even though satiated, it is not satisfied by victorious analysis of the externalities of Nature and that it is preparing to return to its primeval longings. He concludes:
“The earliest formula of Wisdom promises to be its last,—God, light, freedom and immortality.”CWSA, Vol. 21, p.4
Sri Aurobindo admits that these persistent ideals of the race contradict its normal experience, but he points out that they are affirmed by verifiable and repeatable experiences which are attainable at higher and deeper levels of consciousness. He states:
“To know, possess and be the divine being in an animal and egoistic consciousness, to convert our twilit or obscure physical mentality into the plenary supramental illumination, to build peace and a self-existent bliss where there is only a stress of transitory satisfactions besieged by physical pain and emotional suffering, to establish an infinite freedom in a world which presents itself as a group of mechanical necessities, to discover and realise the immortal life in a body subjected to death and constant mutation,—this is offered to us as the manifestation of God in Matter and the goal of Nature in her terrestrial evolution.CWSA, Vol. 21, p.4
To the ordinary material intellect which takes its present organisation of consciousness for the limit of its possibilities, the direct contradiction of the unrealised ideals with the realised fact is a final argument against their validity. But if we take a more deliberate view of the world’s workings, that direct opposition appears rather as a part of Nature’s profoundest method and the seal of her completest sanction.”
According to Sri Aurobindo, evolution presupposes an involutionary process.
If Life evolves in Matter, and Mind in Life, it must be because Life is involved in Matter and Mind in Life. The material Inconscience is the involved Super-conscience. Evolution is fundamentally a spiritual phenomenon. It is a phenomenon of an evolutionary self-building of Spirit on a base of Matter, which is itself a formation of spiritual reality.
There is first an involutionary foundation in which all that is to evolve is present, although not yet manifested or not yet organised. An original Inconscience without any previous deployment from consciousness cannot evolve consciousness. In the evolutionary process, there is a development of a triple character. An evolution of forms of Matter, more and more subtly and intricately organised so as to admit the action of a growing, a more and more complex and subtle and capable organisation of consciousness is the indispensable physical foundation.
An upward evolutionary progress of the consciousness itself from grade to higher grade, an ascent, is the evident spiral line or emerging curve that, on this foundation, the evolution must describe. A taking up of what has already been evolved into each higher grade as it is reached and a transformation more or less complete so as to admit of a total changed working of the whole being and nature, an integration, must be also part of the process, if the evolution is to be effective.
Man is a transitional being, and the spiritual man is the sign of the new evolution.
The intention of Nature in the evolution of the spiritual man is not merely to awaken him to the supreme Reality and release him from herself. There is a further intention—not only a revelation of the Spirit but a radical and integral transformation of Nature.
The spiritual man has evolved, but not the supramental being who shall thenceforward be the leader of that nature. There is thus something that is not yet accomplished, and there becomes clear to view the much that has still to be done; ‘there is a height still to be reached, a wideness still to be covered by the eye of vision, the wing of the will, the self-affirmation of the Spirit in the material universe.’
Not a speculation but the knowledge from experimentation
A distinctive feature of Sri Aurobindo’s philosophy of evolution is that it is not speculative. Its premises and conclusions are tested on the anvil of experimentation.
“The animal is a living laboratory in which Nature has, it is said, worked out man. Man himself may well be a thinking and living laboratory in whom and with whose conscious cooperation she wills to work out the superman, the god. Or shall we not say, rather, to manifest God?”CWSA, Vol. 21, p.6
Indeed, Sri Aurobindo made an experiment upon his entire integral being, using it as an evolutional laboratory, so as to evolve and manifest higher and higher grades of consciousness reaching up to the supermind and to supramentalise the human body to the furthest extent possible. Even when he left his body, he assigned the task to the Mother to continue the task of the supramentalisation and integral transformation.
Sri Aurobindo discovered in the ancient systems of Yoga some of the basic clues for the experiment.
He did not, however, find in any one of them the secret that would enable him to eventually bring about the mutation of the human species. He and the Mother, therefore, experimented, day after day, for years and decades, and they developed a synthesis of Yoga and laboured to perfect it.
The practical necessity of this experiment was not merely to advance knowledge; nor was this experiment directed towards seeking any personal gain, gratification or glory. But Sri Aurobindo and the Mother saw that the contemporary human crisis cannot truly be met without the evolutionary saltation or mutation. There are, according to them, only two alternatives before mankind today; either a revolutionary and evolutionary ascent towards the supramental manifestation on the earth or abyss.
An account of the momentous experiments undertaken by Sri Aurobindo and The Mother cannot truly be given.
They can only be glimpsed from the records they have left. Sri Aurobindo’s The Life Divine, The Synthesis of Yoga, Letters on Yoga, The Mother, The Surpamental Manifestation upon Earth, and The Mother’s own account of the supramental action on the earth, recorded by Satprem and published in 13 volumes as l’Agenda de Mére, give us some indications of both the secret and the fulfilment of their momentous experiments.
The concept of complete person that emerges from this vast and unprecedented experiment is that of a being whose self-exceeding has reached a point where the limitations of egoistic consciousness have been broken and who has become capable of universality and transcendence as also of that mutuality of relationships correspond to a state of consciousness that is described as follows in the Isopanishad:
यस्तु सर्वाणि भूतानि आत्मन्येवानुपश्यति।
सर्वभूतेषु चात्मानं ततो न विजुगुप्सते।।6।।
यस्मिन् सर्वाणि भूतानि आत्मैवाभूद विजानतः।
तत्र को मोहः कः शोक एकत्वमनपश्यतः।।7।।
But he who sees everywhere the Self in all existences and all existences in the Self, shrinks not thereafter from aught.
He in whom it is the Self-Being that has become all existences that are Becomings, for he has the perfect knowledge, how shall he be deluded, whence shall he have grief who sees everywhere oneness?CWSA Vol. 17, p. 7
CONTINUED IN PART 2
~ Design: Raamkumar