Editor’s note: This article was first published in Śraddha, a quarterly publication of Sri Aurobindo Bhavan, Kolkata (August 2020, Vol. 12, No. 1, pp. 129-133). We have made a few minor formatting revisions for the purpose of this digital presentation.
It is beyond doubt and debate that humanity is passing through a crisis that is challenging the very existence of nations and civilisation. With nuclear-powered nations employing missiles, with radical religious groups dreaming to take human evolution back to the days of monarchy and religious supremacy, with well-established institutions crumbling down into meaningless existence and individuals caught in the confusion of old values and new paradigms of thought and conviction, humanity is undergoing a crisis of evolution in which is hidden the choice of perdition or further evolution.
Be it political or economic, religious or moral, art or science, there is a tension that threatens to snap the continuous travail of human life. A new Power, a higher consciousness seems to be demanding its legitimate space in the earth’s evolutionary consciousness.
Both on the individual and on the level of collective consciousness, the malady is deep and rampant. Thanks to technology and science, we have become richer in material possessions, our mind and life have attained greater complexity and diversity. We have come to believe in the relativity of Truth. All truths are only relative, they are an individual’s point of view; there is nothing definitive or final about reality. It is all a subjective way of looking at things and hence there is no one Eternal truth but only approaches to a truth that is ever receding from the scope of our realisation.
We are not sure of knowledge, we are never comfortable and at peace in love. Unrest, uncertainty dog our days and nights. In this pursuit of the temporary and the temporal, we have lost the central truth, the central fount of our existence. We have lost our way in the jungle of desires; we are cut off from our soul.
“Cut away from the soul, from the central fount of its being, the human consciousness has been, as it were, desiccated and pulverised; it has been thrown wholly upon its multifarious external movements and bears the appearance of a thirsty shifting expanse of desert sands”.~ Nolini Kanta Gupta, Collected Works, Vol. 1, p. 134
We need an urgent solution to this human crisis that threatens human extinction. Intellectuals, social and political reformers and religious leaders have tried innumerable formulae and panaceas to save humanity, but nothing seems to be strong enough, wide enough to help humanity out of this universal crisis.
Herein comes Sri Aurobindo who shows humanity the way out and the way forward!
The Way Out
Sri Aurobindo is not perturbed by this crisis on the individual, collective and universal levels. He sees in this apparent dead-end of human progress “an evolutionary crisis in which is concealed a choice of its destiny.” (CWSA, Vol. 22, p. 1090) His optimistic view of the crisis is in itself a great solace and a hope to the shattered and bewildered human heart. His deeper understanding of the human predicament brings to our mind “the peace of understanding”, as it were.
He tells us that all the divisive forces and war-zones and violence on all the levels – from the individual to the national – are more a recrudescence of primitive habits and patterns of thinking and feeling which are surfacing now, only to be liquidated, eradicated. In the present stage of evolution all these divisive forces denote atavistic forces which need to be exposed to the new consciousness of the Supermind.
In order to understand this concept of the cleansing of the atavistic subconscient tendencies of human nature, we may need to go back into the evolutionary stages of human cycle. Nolini Kanta Gupta, an Aurobindonian scholar-yogi classifies these stages as following:
The first was the period of emergence of self-consciousness and the trials and experiments it went through to establish and confirm itself. The ancient civilisations represented this character of the human spirit. The subject freeing itself more and more from its environmental tegument, still living and moving within it and dynamically reacting upon it – this was the character we speak of.
Next came the period when the free and dynamic subject feeling itself no more tied down to its natural objective sphere sought lines of development and adventure on its own account. This was the age of speculation and of scholasticism in philosophy and intellectual inquiry and of alchemy in natural science – a period roughly equated with the Middle Ages.
The Scientific Age coming last seeks to re-establish a junction and coordination between the free and dynamic self-consciousness and the mode and pattern of its objective field, involving a greater enrichment on one side – the subjective consciousness – and on the other, the objective environment, a corresponding change and effective reorganisation.~ Nolini Kanta Gupta, Collected Works, Vol. 3, pp. 138-139
Now, in the present stage of evolution a new rhythm has to be followed. It has to be transcended into super-consciousness for the self-consciousness of the mind, at which stage we are not at present, has obviously come to a dead-end.
Ascending into the super-consciousness does not mean that we reject the lower levels of consciousness. On the contrary, there will be the process of integration in this upward movement of sublimation. It is such a double movement of sublimation and integration that will bring in greater harmony, peace, oneness into the present human consciousness. It is the ascent beyond the rational and scientific mind that can assure and fulfil “the need of a humanity which is missioned to evolve beyond itself or, at any rate, if it is to live, must evolve far beyond anything that it at present is.” (CWSA, Vol. 22, p. 1093)
The sensitive and advanced minds and souls of humanity already feel this higher pull and they in their manner are seeking unity, harmony and mutuality in their daily life, in their economic and social life and in their spiritual aspirations. Unfortunately, these attempts are at present misinterpreted as uniformity and turned into political and religious autocracy. Sri Aurobindo clarifies:
But this obscure collective being is not the soul or self of the community; it is a life-force that rises from the subconscient and, if denied the light of guidance by the reason, can be driven only by dark massive forces which are powerful but dangerous for the race because they are alien to the conscious evolution of which man is the trustee and bearer. It is not in this direction that evolutionary Nature has pointed mankind; this is a reversion towards something that she had left behind her.~ CWSA, Vol. 22, pp. 1093-1094
Another solution that has been attempted by social scientists is that of “unified organisation of the economic life of the race” (Sri Aurobindo, CWSA, Vol. 22, p. 1094). This solution too is not an ideal one for humanity because such a forced economic uniformity might bring about “either the efficient stability of a termite civilisation or a drying up of the springs of life and a swift or slow decadence.” (ibid.)
The difficulties or disorders engendered by the growth of the individual mind and life cannot be healthily removed by the suppression of the individual. The true cure can only be achieved by his progression to a greater consciousness in which he is fulfilled and perfected.
Nor will the alternative solution of “an enlightened reason and will of the normal man consenting to a new socialised life in which he will subordinate his ego for the sake of the right arrangement of the life of the community” (Sri Aurobindo, CWSA, Vol. 22, p. 1094).
This solution is sought about by some social thinkers who feel that by technology, the spread of information through Google and other agencies, a radical change of human consciousness can be brought about. Human intelligence may become more efficient in solving material problems. But any such outer enlightenment of reason alone may not take the humans beyond the divisive and the destructive ego-mania.
Man’s true way out is to discover his soul and its self-force and instrumentation and replace by it both the mechanisation of mind and the ignorance and disorder of life-nature.~ Sri Aurobindo, CWSA, Vol. 22, p. 1095
Another attempt that is being made vigorously and even violently, is “a return to the religious idea and a society governed or sanctioned by religion”. (ibid.) Such a religious radicalisation also leads the society to fanatic suicidal tendencies and is detrimental to the advancement of humanity towards its spiritual goal:
It is only the full emergence of the soul, the full descent of the native light and power of the Spirit and the consequent replacement or transformation and uplifting of our insufficient mental and vital nature by a spiritual and supramental supernature that can effect this evolutionary miracle.~ Sri Aurobindo, CWSA, Vol. 22, p. 1096
The Way Forward
Sri Aurobindo has shown the way to humanity for such a turn to the spiritual and “the Supramental nature”. He advises:
What is necessary is that there should be a turn in humanity felt by some or many towards the vision of this change, a feeling of its imperative need, the sense of its possibility, the will to make it possible in themselves and to find the way. That trend is not absent and it must increase with the tension of the crisis in human world-destiny; the need of an escape or a solution, the feeling that there is no other solution than the spiritual cannot but grow and become more imperative under the urgency of critical circumstance. To that call in the being there must always be some answer in the Divine Reality and in Nature.~ CWSA, Vol. 22. p. 1097
Some may think that what Sri Aurobindo proposes is too remote, too impracticable and too idealistic. The state of consciousness in which humankind is wallowing cannot even imagine of such a transcendence of human nature, such an integral spiritual transformation. But Sri Aurobindo insists:
Even if it were so, it would still remain the sole possibility for the transmutation of life; for to hope for a true change of human life without a change of human nature is an irrational and unspiritual proposition; it is to ask for something unnatural and unreal, an impossible miracle.~ CWSA, Vol. 22, p. 1096
Sri Aurobindo, the Reconciler of Light and Life
Humanity has tried perhaps all possibilities to come out of its growing crisis, but nothing has worked till now. Hence, as emphasised by Sri Aurobindo, nothing short of a total spiritual revolution can save humankind from its suicidal crisis. It is true, this complete transformation may take a long time, but such a move can start first with a few individuals who would pioneer a general change of consciousness that would conceive of taking up the whole life into a spiritual principle, into accepting that “all life is yoga”.
These individuals could, in the beginning, gather and live in separate communities which focus on the one ideal of an integral spiritual life. In such a concentrated collectivity the difficulties of transformation would also be enhanced threatening the evolutionary nisus. But Sri Aurobindo believes that after the initial problems of transition, the attempt of the concentric spiritual movements will widen and impact the general human consciousness across the globe.
This assurance from Sri Aurobindo is based on his vision and realisation of the Power of the descending consciousness of Supermind, of which he himself and the Mother have been the harbingers.
This vision of the next future, this work of bringing down the Supramental Consciousness and attempting to divinise the human instead of humanising the Divine, these start-ups of creating such nodal centres which are preoccupied with the ideal of the life divine, is what I call the timeless relevance of Sri Aurobindo. As time advances so will the relevance of Sri Aurobindo increase, intensify, and become the inevitable guiding spirit and force of humanity.
~ Design: Biswajita Mohapatra