Evolution - A Metaphysical Discussion
Chapter XIV of "Narad's Arrival at Madra", SAICE, 2006.

By R.Y. Deshpande

If material creation is a manifestation of the Divine, then there is a possibility of it being Divine in every mode of activity. Presently it is not, but it can. That is the compelling or true sense of evolution. From darkness to light, from falsehood to truth, from death to immortality is one lap of this evolutionary process, the upward climb; but it can become complete when the reversal also starts happening, that whatever has to happen here shall happen in light and truth and deathlessness, in the delight of authentic becoming and being. This is possible because what the spirit sees creates a truth, as Narad maintains; the prevalent falsehood and ignorance and error and pain might give an impression of the world being unreal, mithyÄ, an illusion, mÄyÄ, but it is not. There is a functional veil drawn over the spirit and it has to be removed, a protective golden cloud behind which shines the Sun of Truth, protective lest the solar intensity consume in its flames the entire existence itself. By spiritually preparing oneself, the cloud or the golden lid must be removed as the Upanishad says. To receive the light of the Sun of Truth and to live in it is the happy fulfilment, the glad aim of the evolutionary endeavour. The agency that can accomplish this with a masterful finality is the divine Supermind alone and it is that power which must enter into the terrestrial operation. Our present existence shall not only be a proper spiritual ÄdhÄr or support for its working; but shall be a field of dynamic play of the luminous Force or Shakti in her joy of endless creation. "The supramental change," declares Sri Aurobindo in his last message of 24 November 1950, "is a thing decreed and inevitable in the evolution of the earth-consciousness." The key for execution of the divine Decree is provided by yogic sadhana of the Yogi of the New Age himself. It alone can "rend the lid and tear the covering and shape the vessel and bring down into this world of obscurity and falsehood and suffering Truth and Light and Life divine and the immortal's Ananda." The urge towards the reign of Satyam and Ritam is the genuine sense of evolutionary transformation.

In this far-reaching conception embodied in Sri Aurobindo's yogic-spiritual philosophy what is envisaged is the working of transcendental powers in the earth-consciousness, the earth-existence, the earth-life, in the sky and the air and the fire and the water and in the earth-stuff itself, not only in its countless material forms but also in its precious soul and in its open and progressive and spacious spirit. Earth is the "significant centre" of the universe from the point of view of a divine manifestation, as if created to focus all effort on one point. So, not by abandoning it, which is harshly suicidal, but by living in its creative essence and psyche can the true meaning of life, of the becoming itself be realised. We must fully recognise that there is something wonderful here, very meaningful also, that

Earth has beatitudes warmer than heaven's that are bare and undying,
Marvels of Time on the crest of the moments to infinity flying.^2

But there is a genuine difficulty vis-a-vis man as the mental being. About his present occupation in the world and the urge that drives him in it and what is expected of it to come out, Sri Aurobindo writes:

"He seeks to know Matter in order to be master of the material environment, to know Life in order to be master of the vital existence, to know Mind in order to be master of the great obscure movement of mentality; he seeks to know himself in order to be master of himself, to know the world in order to be master of the world. This is the urge of Existence in him, the necessity of the Consciousness he is. To find the conditions under which this inner impulsion is satisfied is the problem man must strive always to resolve and to that he is compelled by the very nature of his own existence and by the Deity seated within him. Either man must fulfil himself by satisfying the Divine within him or he must produce out of himself a new and greater being who will be more capable of satisfying it. He must either himself become a divine humanity or give place to Superman."^3

Notwithstanding man's limitations, the appearance of the divine humanity, the divine multitude, divyam janam as the Veda says, is the entire thrust present in the evolutionary movement. Behind it is the Will of the Unmanifest to manifest himself in the fine multiplicity of existence, bahusyÄm prajÄyeyeti. There has to be the "universal incarnation". By whatever means it be, Superman has to arrive in this creation.

In the meanwhile, however, the human enigma with man's conscious life obeying the Inconscient's rule has to be faced. It is not that "God's in His heaven and all's right with the world!" True, as Robert Browning perceives, the hillside's dew-pearl'd and the lark's on the wing and the snail's on the thorn; but then in its naked actuality this world is a "haunt of Ignorance" and a "home of Pain". There is a deep-seated dualism that cannot be just wished away. There is always the troubling why and the wherefore of it.

Dualism exists everywhere, as much in the modes of life's passions and pursuits as in all the ways of thought's theses and antitheses. Thus, while there is archetypal perfection in the timeless domain, in the temporal realm we witness limitation and crudity and failing. What is ideal over there is not real here. We are ourselves a flawed substandard copy, quite removed from reality. The Platonic Idea belonging to the unchanging world shows itself only as a far reflection on the dark walls of the cave, walls which themselves bring distortions. The contrast between, let us call, the timeless divine insight and design and the time-governed human knowledge and work has dominated all medieaval thought, Christian, Jewish, and Islamic. The time-transcending divine knowledge which embraces the totality of all successive events in one single act, in the theological totum simul, altogether disappears in the fragmented analytical system. In it there is no ”in fact there cannot be” the all-embracing as well as organised kinetic vision of the three tomes of time, of the Past-Present-Future, of trikÄladrsti.

An inevitable consequence of the rational analytical system is, it has to lead to every kind of dualism; dualism of faith and reason, in faith itself the dualism of this transient and sorrowful world and the ever-abiding happy empyrean elsewhere, in reason between relational time and unmoving detached absolute time, in philosophy the dualism of static and unfolding reality, between the determinate and the indeterminate, and so on.

As regards science, the concept of time as formulated by Newton in the scholium of his majestic Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica (1687) dominated its thought for 218 years. His fixed absolute time is separated from concrete physical changes, changes or events by which we reckon or quantify time. "Absolute, true and mathematical time," writes Newton, "of itself, and by its own nature, flows uniformly on, without regard to anything external. Relative, apparent and common time, is some sensible measure of absolute time (duration), estimated by the motions of bodies, whether accurate or inequable, and is commonly employed in place of true time... ." Physicists including the mighty James Clerk Maxwell held this view of time till Einstein in his epoch-marking theory of relativity dismissed it in 1905. Earlier, in the philosophical domain, both Berkeley and Leibniz upheld the relational theory of space and time; time is "the order of succession of perceptions," and as such it is inseparable from concrete events. From this standpoint Newton's "flow of empty time" is without meaning. In it time itself with operative movement or drive or impulse, the Indian kÄla, as a determinative agency never comes into reckoning. Darwin's theory of the origin of species was strictly mechanistic and in this way fitted perfectly into the non-relativistic framework. But Newton's absolute time is abstract and non-functional, non-participative; that makes it redundant or otiose as far as the physical or any other world is concerned. In a certain sense, it is similar to Plato's world of Idea without the dynamism by which it can enter into the phenomenal configuration. The urge to become is absent in both. Even if they should be a substratum reality of things that are in time, the mechanism by which this can happen is not available. They are Satyam without Ritam, Being without the capacity of Becoming, the quiescent Brahman without activity, the Formless incapable of going into forms. If this were all, without doubt the world would become an illusion, a great frustration.

This easily takes us back to the "ancient dialogue" between Heraclitus and Parmenides. Parmenides came after Heraclitus, just before Socrates. Born of an illustrious family about 510 BCE he saw, in his "Way of Truth," One Being alone as the self-existent and lasting reality, in contrast to the changing physical world. While the former is incapable of development, the latter is a sense-perceived world and therefore illusory. This means, Heraclitus's "everything is in flux, nothing stands still" leads to an erroneous Becoming. The dialogue, though well separated in time, can be put in Plato's words: "Heraclitus says that everything moves on and that nothing is at rest; and, comparing existing things to the flow of a river, he says that you could not step into the same river twice." And then Plato hurries to tell Theodoros, "I almost forgot that there were others who asserted opinions the very opposite of these: "the all is alone, unmoved; to this all names apply," and the other emphatic statements in opposition to those referred to, which the school of Melissos and Parmenides make, to the effect that all things are one, and that the all stands itself in itself, not having space in which it is moved." The ancient dualism shows itself up again in the form of persistence and change, static existence and movement.

In this context we should be concerned with an important philosophical consequence of quantum aspect of the physical world. This essentially arises from indeterminacy of the microphysical processes formulated by Heisenberg in 1927, giving birth to new physics. The two different names of this principle "uncertainty principle" or "indeterminacy principleâ” suggest two radically different interpretations of it. The first interpretation, more conservative in its outlook and favoured more by traditionally oriented philosophers than by physicists, regards microphysical indeterminacy as a result of the interference of the process of observation with the process observed. The second interpretation, more favoured by physicists, regards it as a manifestation of objective indeterminacy in nature. The first interpretation leaves the Laplacean determinism intact; the second one suggests the objective status of chance in the sense of Boutroux and Pierce, that is, of the "open world" (H. Weyl's term), forever in growth and forever incomplete, in which the future remains genuinely ambiguous and, though influenced by the past, is not predetermined by it. While the first interpretation is more congruous with the philosophical tradition glorifying static and immutable Being, the second interpretation is viewed with sympathy by the process-oriented thinkers. Thus the discussion concerning the interpretation of this principle is merely the most recent phase of the ancient dialogue between Parmenides and Heraclitus. There is of course a difference between the two dialogues, one philosophy against philosophy and the other philosophy against science, science not much bothered by the anguish it can cause to philosophy. But then perhaps there is really no "objective indeterminacy in nature"; instead, what is probably happening is that the physicist in his loud triumph of professionalism is simply imposing objective indeterminacy on nature. While there is nothing uncertain about the uncertainty principle, the indeterminacy proposition starts becoming ominous. If in the open world the future remains genuinely ambiguous and is not predetermined by the past, is not influenced by it, then the question is: what is it that shapes the course of the unfolding events? What is it that gives push to things? Is there some kind of freewill in the physical nature, giving rise to this "open"-ness? And even if there is that freewill in it, by what process does it bring about whatever it wills? In that eventuality, inconscient and insensitive matter would no more remain dumb and stupid and brutish. Or, is it that at the microscopic level there is freedom which gets robbed off in the gross physical? If so, again, by what kind of mechanism? The original word for indeterminacy or uncertainty in German actually means fuzziness. Can fuzziness have motivation or urge or freewill? But then if it were there, it would be talking not only non-science but also non-philosophy. Nor in this situation would Fritjof Capra's Tao of Physics bear any meaning or sense. To speak of this fuzziness as freewill and connecting it with the dance of Shiva is either not to understand either, or it is simply a misplaced enthusiasm for mystical interpretation of the physical world. Whether it is physics or philosophy, perhaps we should go to the Upanishadic statement of Goethe wherein he asserts the primal reality as "ever changing and yet preserving itself, near and far and far and near, and so shaping and re-shaping itself." That primal reality indeed is the real source of authentic freewill and it is that which can provide the real push to things. Not in the lower nature but in the active functioning of the primal reality can the true meaning of time in manifestation be grasped. It will also remove from our mind the hundred dualisms that occupy it.

Yet, notwithstanding Kant, the dualism between rationalism and empiricism continues to haunt us. Its reflection in quantum physics is seen in the positions taken by Niels Bohr and Einstein. Einstein held that an idea or theory should be correct per se if it is founded on acceptable logical principles; it is the crudeness of our mental approach that demands proofs based on observation. The theory of relativity itself is a good example of this view, that its verification came much later than when it was given. Not only verification; it brought about a radical change in our social organisations when it found its use in the Second World War in the form of the atomic weapon. Such could indeed be the power of pure reason. Based on suchlike convictions he refused to accept the quantum mechanical formulation which was strongly advocated by Bohr. Its empirical basis was not sufficient for Einstein to subscribe to it. He always considered it to be a provisional way of looking at things. Today we might not be talking about this Bohr-Einstein debate at all, but then the problem fundamentally remains unsolved; but perhaps empiricism is a surer way for the organic mind to depend upon. Matter is the touchstone for Idea, if Idea has to have authentic contents and significance in the context of the physical world.

Kant saw that while the rationalist held the view that we could understand the world by careful use of reason, the empiricist argued that all of our knowledge must be firmly grounded in experience. The former "guarantees the indubitability of our knowledge but leaves serious questions about its practical content"; in the latter, "practical content is secured, but it turns out that we can be certain of very little." Both approaches have failed, Kant supposed, because both are premised on the same mistaken assumption.

Immanuel Kant was born in Konigsberg, studied at its university, and worked there as a tutor and professor for more than forty years, never travelling more than fifty miles from home. Although his outward life was one of legendary calm and regularity, Kant's intellectual work easily justified his own claim to have effected a Copernican revolution in philosophy. The upshot of his discovery is that, "the possibility of human knowledge presupposes the active participation of the human mind." Which means, "it is we who render all experience coherent as scientific knowledge. But regulative principles of this sort hold only for the world as we know it, and since metaphysical propositions seek a truth beyond all experience, they cannot be established within the bounds of reason."

While making a distinction between pure and empirical knowledge, in his introduction to the Critique of Pure Reason Kant writes: "There can be no doubt that all our knowledge begins with experience." In the order of time we have no knowledge antecedent to experience, and with experience all our knowledge begins. But though all our knowledge begins with experience, it does not follow that it all arises out of experience. Continuing further, he speaks of the idea of transcendental philosophy as follows:

"Experience is, beyond all doubt, the first product to which our understanding gives rise, in working up the raw material of sensible impressions. Experience is therefore our first instruction, and in its progress is so inexhaustible in new information, that there will never be any lack of new knowledge that can be thus ingathered. Nevertheless, it is by no means the sole field to which our understanding is confined. For it may well be that even our empirical knowledge is made up of what we receive through impressions and of what our own faculty of knowledge (sensible impressions serving merely as the occasion) supplies from itself. If our faculty of knowledge makes any such addition, it may be that we are not in a position to distinguish it from the raw material, until with long practice of attention we have become skilled in separating it. This, then, is a question which at least calls for closer examination, and does not allow of any off-hand answer: --whether there is any knowledge that is thus independent of experience and even of all impressions of the senses. Such knowledge is entitled a priori, and distinguished from the empirical, which has its sources a posteriori, that is, in experience. Experience tells us, indeed, what is, but not that it must necessarily be so, and not otherwise. It therefore gives us no true universality; and reason, which is so insistent upon this kind of knowledge, is therefore more stimulated by it than satisfied. Such universal modes of knowledge, which at the same time possess the character of inner necessity, must in themselves, independently of experience, be clear and certain. They are therefore entitled knowledge a priori; whereas, on the other hand, that which is borrowed solely from experience is, as we say, known only a posteriori, or empirically."

But then in the preface to the first edition of his Critique, Kant points out the limitations of pure reason: "Human reason has this peculiar fate that in one species of its knowledge it is burdened by questions which, as prescribed by the very nature of reason itself, it is not able to ignore, but which, as transcending all its powers, it is also not able to answer." If human reason is burdened with questions which it cannot answer, and if empirical knowledge is of a subordinate kind, then there has to be another faculty taking us beyond reason. Contrast this with Thomas Paine's infallible or unerring reason as the preventer of errors, "the most formidable weapon against errors." Indeed, notwithstanding the fact that we live in the Age of Reason, it seems that our true progress lies in our going beyond reason because reason is burdened with a thousand questions which it cannot answer. "Reason was the helper, Reason is the bar," says one of Sri Aurobindo's aphorisms.^5 In the same context we also have: "Evolution is not finished; reason is not the last word nor the reasoning animal the supreme figure of Nature. As man emerged out of the animal, so out of man the superman emerges." Man is a reasoning animal but it seems he is not really a reasonable animal and therefore must outgrow himself.

We have thus mechanistic linear theories of existence in which stand queuing up the events or processes; we have infructuose notions of time that is again unidirectional; we have question-burdened intelligence or wisdom accustomed to sequential mode of thinking; we have sense-perceived empiricism with all the shortcomings and grossness of the tools of our knowledge. Nowhere we see the hidden motivating agent. If it is Chaos and Necessity in science, it could be the Idea without the driving Daemon in philosophy, or at best a kind of resistless Becoming propelled by itself. The Kantian reason is a barren woman who cannot bear an issue. While in all these formulations the aspect of the Self stands out prominently in one way or the other, the conspicuous absence of Nature or Prakriti becomes discomforting. Not cerebral hypothesisation but an active driving force, a swift and many-mooded consciousness has to be present to give breathing life to all that is. If life is meaningless in the absence of thought, thought without life has no locomotive thrust. There is a necessity to postulate an in-built propelling agent to account for what gets unfolded in the sequence of things and events. We do see the glimpses of it in Bergson's Elan vital or Nietzsche's will-to-power or Samuel Alexander's nisus.

For Bergson "life is the absolute temporal movement informed by duration and retained in memory." But life has to also encounter practical situations. Which means, in life both continuity and discontinuity are simultaneously present. His Creative Evolution sets itself to look into these aspects. If the phenomenon of change leads to evolution, its causes must be explored. His argument consists of four main steps. First, he shows that there must be an original common impulse which explains the creation of all living species; this is his famous vital impulse (Elan vital). Second, the diversity resulting from evolution must be accounted for as well. If the original impulse is common to all life, then there must also be a principle of divergence and differentiation that explains evolution; this is Bergson's tendency theory. Third, the two main diverging tendencies that account for evolution can ultimately be identified as instinct on the one hand and intelligence on the other. Human knowledge results from the form and the structure of intelligence which consists precisely in an analytic, external, hence essentially practical and spatialised approach to the world. Unlike instinct, human intelligence is therefore unable to attain to the essence of life in its duration. The paradoxical situation of humanity must therefore be overcome. So, fourth, the effort of intuition what allows us to place ourselves back within the original creative impulse so as to overcome the numerous obstacles that stand in the way of true knowledge. The concept of vital impulse gives rise to the possibility of creativity entering into the otherwise mechanistic approach. Yet the vital impulse itself could become mechanistic, in which case the diversity one witnesses all around would remain unexplained. Bergson's "complexification" of life makes room for the appearance of different species. But it is intelligence that provides pragmatic orientation to achieve diversity. However, intelligence by itself cannot seize upon life; hence enters into the scheme intuition. Indeed, "intuition and intelligence each correspond to tendencies within the human psyche." In this way intuition gives unity to mental life. Bergson also recognises the fact that "while one can go from intuition to intelligence by way of diminution, the analytic nature of intelligence precludes the opposite process." Does this provide a connection between the life of the spirit and the life of the body? It does not, but it does make life advance. Bergson's creative evolution makes an opening for Darwinian staticism to step out. "The destiny of man will be realised because it is the nature of the Elan vital to triumph over matter and environment." If the role of the Elan vital is to bring about a change, then first we have to define the sense of change itself. While preparing notes on Bergson, Sri Aurobindo writes: "Change is possible only if there is a status from which to change; but status again exists only as a step that pauses, a step in the continuous passage of change or a step on which change pauses before it passes into another step in its creative passage. And behind this relation is a duality of eternal status and eternal motion." The two inseparable aspects we again see in this formulation are of Existence and Consciousness-Force in the world-creative activity. If an Urge has been planted for the creation to come out of utter Inconscience, then it is that Urge which is promoted by status and motion.

Nietzsche was another type of thinker. His thoughts as propagated by his "unscrupulous sister" after his death had a powerful hold on German soldiers when they read his books even in the trenches. And in the world of philosophy we ascribe to him notions which would have "profoundly disgusted the philosopher himself." Martin Heidegger speaks of Nietzsche as "the last metaphysician of the West." Walter Kaufmann takes him as a "Socratic questioner," or else a "Goethean man of controlled passion." For Sri Aurobindo he was more a seer than a thinker with a touch of intuition in his philosophy, yet perhaps paradoxically with something leading to Titanic egoism. According to Nietzsche, war is an aspect of life and man as a warrior, as a "lion-man," with the will-to-be, has to come in order to exceed himself, excel himself.

Nietzsche believed that he grasped the reality of the underlying chaos or void; that God was dead; that nihilism, the process by which "the highest values devalue themselves" was upon us. (The Will to Power) That became the basis of all his thought, taking him to dangerous extremes. But, then, what is this will-to-power for? It is the freedom for the maximisation of our faculties to acquire control over things and events and to create what Nietzsche called the Ubermensch or the "overman." But it will be a gross mistake to equate this German "Ubermensch" with the generally understood English "superman," particularly so when we are concerned with Sri Aurobindo's evolutionary being as the next radical step beyond the present man. The word Ubermensch was coined by Goethe. However, while freedom for the maximisation of our faculties is a very desirable thing, it should not become an unfettered or unregenerate will-to-be; it should not get so much aggrandised that there might arrive amongst us the monstrosity of a crude vital being. Berkowitz rightly as well as cautiously indicates that in Nietzsche's extreme advocacy of will-to-be "cultural control has gone, be that religion, law, custom or what we have."

This is a pretty hazardous situation and before accepting it the question of good and evil in the scheme of things must be weighed in terms of its deeper implications. Not that religion had always been a happy promoter of man's genuine good, nor were so the great traditions of philosophy, including the Kantian idea of wisdom as its noblest foundation; not much did these avail in the pragmatics of our common life. Even the degeneration of Wagner's later music is attributed to the disappearance of that will-to-be. A shift from materialism to vitalism has taken place, accompanied by perils on a collective scale.

"Nietzsche, the most vivid, concrete and suggestive of modern thinkers" was "an apostle who never entirely understood his own message," says Sri Aurobindo.^8 In fact, his was an imperfect awakening and not the necessary awakening to our real highest self and nature. Making the unguarded German philosopher's will-to-be as an unbridled driving force towards supermanhood, and not bringing into play the possibilities of opening to the higher and nobler creative spirit of man, can prove to be disastrous.

Nietzsche has a problem in the context of the Darwinian theory of biological evolution. While his "intuition" of the will-to-power says that the fittest must survive, the solution is not in the species but in the survival of the "sovereign individuals" who, "day after tomorrow," will be the "victorious supermen." For this to happen the religious sense of charity and virtue should go. In contrast to this, Sri Aurobindo sees a purpose behind the evolutionary process with the dynamism of growth in it.

From a psycho-spiritual point of view we have to understand that evolution is a double process. If on the one hand there is the urge to grow from below, a kind of compulsion pushing itself up, there is also the pressure from above, the higher stepping into the lower and lifting it up. If this is true then we also see the possibility, perhaps even the necessity, of a willed yogic action in this great transformative effort. Which means that the role of an Avatar, which no Nietzsche can visualise, also enters into the dynamics of operation. In Nietzsche is the march of the camel-man, the lion-man and the child-man. In the last metamorphosis the child-spirit "can create freely, and its creation is without any goal, a free expression of its will-to-be, its will to live and enjoy without any after-thought; it is a new beginning and a new movement; it is wheel that runs by itself. There remains for it only the free affirmation of itself; it does what it wills." Here is the arrival of the perfect individual, the Nietzschean superman. But such a being cannot be the grand finale of the evolutionary effort.

Nietzsche left the appearance of his superman wholly at the mercy of Chance. If this is acceptable, we might then as well say that there is a good likelihood even for the donkey of Sancho Panza to become one in the course of long time. And for the same reason and by the same process the superman could also just disappear. As Sancho's creature turns up suddenly from nowhere and goes into nowhere, our superman too would become a product of the dubious ways of destiny.

But more often than not it has been proved that the rationalist conclusions of science are only provisional and, even when accepted, are not always satisfying to our deeper sense of understanding. Collective life cannot and should not end in the death of the individual. Besides, we have to also know if there is any future for the physical body that houses us in it, body that has been always regarded more as an obstacle than an aid, something that is unworthy of nobler things cherished by us but not easily obtained because of its severe limitations. Add to this the likelihood of what caused evolution that itself is evolving further. Is not then man himself a transitional being for the secret Urge that is driving evolution onward? To questions of this kind we cannot get answers from science. Nor would the philosophical systems or propositions fill up the bill. Take an example, of Samuel Alexander's Space-Time. It looks so unconvincing that it should have been endowed with a nisus that makes matter, life, and mind emerge out of it; it is practically as good as saying that these have come into existence out of non-existence, ex nihilo.

Not much is gained in later formulations. To Alexis Carrel's "Man the Unknown," Teilhard de Chardin adds "Man to be" as the solution of everything that we can know. After a long and almost a linear anti-entropic process of chemico-biological evolution, there is the appearance of a complex mental activity on an unprecedented scale. This mental activity or awareness or consciousness in its turn gives to evolution a new process or mechanism for the evolution itself to forge ahead in its ever-growing unfoldment. According to Teilhard, what is going to happen in the future are not somatic but vast mental and social transformations leading to an intense noogenic activity. A critical point in this development having been reached, a stage where the biological is more or less exhausted, only a collective higher order must culminate into impersonalised organisation of superlife. Based so much on scientific researches is the thesis that it may look in its infallibility to be the last word to fix the possibilities for man.

Man was born, and he stood erect; soon he started acquiring power over his surroundings which itself, over a period of sixty million years, contributed to the development of his brain that made him a "thinking being in an unthinking world," as we have in Savitri. He began to "laugh and weep," though Plato never did in the whole of his 81-year life, nor perhaps Kant. Man became the Protagorean measure of all things. He climbed noble peaks in the domain of science and philosophy and mathematics, even as he soared with tireless wings in the sky of religion and art and poetry. Yet, despite all the achievements of quantum mechanics, there looms over his head the ambiguous cloud of Uncertainty in the helplessness of this multidimensional world. Henri Poincare states that for mathematics "there is no such thing as a solved problem, there are only problems more or less solved." However, knowing well that there is so much of à peu pres in the entire approach, one begins to wonder whether this bears any satisfying conviction.

It seems that in this epoch of spiritual malady, the Heideggerian angst has taken possession of the minds of men. Modern man is verily in a state of utter alienation. He has lost faith; he has lost belief in himself; he has even lent himself to the Marxian sun under which there can exist no God. But then this is essentially an evolutionary problem and unless, a la Sri Aurobindo, we take evolution as the evolution of consciousness there cannot be any solution to it. The glorious "divine humanism" held in front of us by him is a possibility that can materialise soon with the conscious participation of man himself. It is the great spiritual Ascent of Man which no Bronowski can visualise.

Sri Aurobindo's vision of the destiny of man is based on direct spiritual experience and has authenticity of one who has meticulously tested the thousand aspects and modes of nature in her evolutionary enterprise. In it is the indisputable basis of empiricism that goes far beyond even the hardest methodology of science. The conclusion is that man is after all a mediator divinity and the real evolution, rather the evolution in reality, is to start from this point onward. One could hence call it infinite progress. It is in this context that we should see the issues related to physical transformation and the work carried out by the Mother deep into the cellular regions. From man human to man divine there doesn't seem to be a direct leap or transition possible and there is the necessity for the "intermediate" man to arrive.

Sri Aurobindo's philosophy of integral non-dualism, as propounded by him in his magnum opus The Life Divine, is a landmark event regarding our view of reality. What we clearly see in it is that the a priori and unconditional application of the laws of formal logic, namely, Identity, Contradiction and Excluded Middle to propositions which express the nature of reality, is logically unwarranted and unjustified. When abstract or formal reason has to deny the reality of one or the other aspect of the Absolute in order to make it consistent with the laws of formal logic, laws which are empty of content and do not present a picture of reality, we have to go beyond reason or formal logic. There has to be the Logic of the Infinite. Sri Aurobindo's Logic of the Infinite is founded on integral knowledge. Indeed that knowledge, and not of formal logic, alone can be the true ground for the activity of dynamic consciousness itself. The system thus offered carries on it the stamp of the knowledge of a spiritual seer; it is advaita-vedanta with the infallibility of some higher truth of the Self expressing itself in revelatory words. Metaphysically speaking, we have in it three elements: Omnipresent Reality as the creator of all that is and that could be more, the Logic of the Infinite governing the process, and Integral Knowledge as the basis of its action. Behind all this is of course the creative Delight itself.

This theory is a multi-stranded theory with the urge to grow from below and with the constant pressure of the higher levels bringing their potentialities and powers into the lower. Evolution is not a monochord. There is a double process in it, with Avatarhood as one significant aspect. This evolution is finally to effect the establishment of a race whose governing consciousness-force shall be the creative truth operating in the freedom of progressive delight. There will be the race of gnostic beings.

To put in the words of K D Sethna (Amal Kiran): "What we call evolution is a process by which the multiplicity of the soul-truths inherent in the Spirit shape various series of formulations on earth for the gradual revelation of their own shades of divine diversity at play in the divine unity. This, again, means that each soul-truth gathers and assimilates through these formulations or rebirths a certain growing experience which helps it to express its diversity on evolutionary lines, and which it holds together in an evolving intermediate psychological form of itself between its pure spiritual status and its expression here." The upshot of the evolution is: diversity and unity in a divine way.

Sri Aurobindo's explanation of the evolutionary universe is as follows. He writes in a letter:

"I have put forward this cardinal fact of a spiritual evolution as the meaning of our existence here. It is a series of ascents from the physical being and consciousness to the vital, the being dominated by the life-self, thence to the mental being realised in the fully developed man and thence into the perfect consciousness which is beyond the mental, into the supramental Consciousness and the supramental being, the Truth-Consciousness which is the integral consciousness of the spiritual being. Mind cannot be our last conscious expression because mind is fundamentally an ignorance seeking for knowledge; it is only the supramental Truth-Consciousness that can bring us the true and whole Self-Knowledge and world-Knowledge; it is through that only that we can get to our true being and the fulfilment of our spiritual evolution."

Thus in spite of the long course of evolution of thought, we find that it is not possible for thought by itself to arrive at the Self-Knowledge and world-Knowledge Sri Aurobindo speaks of; it cannot, closes as it does on itself. Therefore, all metaphysical theories of evolution are bound to be bounded by the limitations of mental faculty and hence cannot be satisfying in the deeper sense of our longings and aspiration, cannot be acceptable to perceptions that are sensitive to the possibilities of the spirit expressing itself even here in the physical world of ours. Sri Aurobindo's The Life Divine opens with the following quotations from the Rig Veda:

"She follows to the goal of those that are passing on beyond, she is the first in the eternal succession of the dawns that are coming, Usha widens bringing out that which lives, awakening someone who was dead... . What is her scope when she harmonises with the dawns that shone out before and those that now must shine? She desires the ancient mornings and fulfils their light; projecting forwards her illumination she enters into communion with the rest that are to come."

"Threefold are those supreme births of this divine force that is in the world, they are true, they are desirable; he moves there wide-overt within the Infinite and shines pure, luminous and fulfilling.... That which is immortal in mortals and possessed of the truth, is a god and established inwardly as an energy working out in our divine powers.... Become high-uplifted, O Strength, pierce all veils, manifest in us the things of the Godhead."

This mystical knowledge of the divine Dawn who "desires the ancient mornings and fulfils their light," who is in communion with what is to come, is the truest basis of the unfolding evolution. It has to "manifest in us the things of the Godhead."


 

1 See also The Mother.
2 Collected Poems, p. 524.
3 The Life Divine, pp. 208-09.
4 An Internet write-up.
5 The Supramental Manifestation, p. 377.
6 The Hour of God, p. 98.
7 The Hour of God, p. 390.
8 Essays in Philosophy and Yoga, p. 151.
9 Letters on Yoga, p. 47.
10 Kutsa Angirasa, I.113. 8, 10.
11 Vamadeva: IV. 1. 7; IV. 2. 1; IV. 4. 5.