"In Wonders We Sail, Questing for the Answers in Veil"

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Consciousness : Devolution, Involution and Evolution Explained by Sri Aurobindo

"In the beginning, it is said, was the Eternal, the Infinite, the One. In the middle, it is said, is the finite, the transient, the Many. In the end, it is said, shall be the One, the Infinite, the Eternal. For when was the beginning? At no moment in Time, for the beginning is at every moment; the beginning always was, always is and always shall be. The divine beginning is before Time, in Time and beyond Time for ever. The Eternal, Infinite and One is an endless beginning. And where is the middle? There is no middle; for there is only the junction of the perpetual end and the eternal beginning; it is the sign of a creation which is new at every moment. The creation was for ever, is for ever, shall be for ever. The Eternal, Infinite and One is the magical middle-term of his own existence; it is he that is the beginningless and endless creation. And when is the end? There is no end. At no conceivable moment can there be a cessation. For all end of things is the beginning of new things which are still the same One in an ever developing and ever recurring figure. Nothing can be destroyed, for all is He who is forever. The Eternal, Infinite and One is the unimaginable end that is never closing upon new interminable vistas of his glory."

"The experience of human life on an earth is not now for the first time enacted. It has been conducted a million times before and the long drama will again a million times be repeated. In all that we do now, our dreams, our discoveries, our swift or difficult attainments, we profit subconsciously by the experience of innumerable precursors and our labour will be fecund in planets unknown to us and in worlds yet uncreated. The plan, the peripetia, the denouement differ continually, yet are always governed by the conventions of an eternal Art. God, Man, Nature are the three perpetual symbols. The idea of eternal recurrence affects with a shudder of alarm the mind entrenched in the minute, the hour, the years, the centuries, all the finite's unreal defences. But the strong soul conscious of its own immortal stuff and the inexhaustible ocean of its ever-flowing energies is seized by it with the thrill of an inconceivable rapture. It hears behind the thought the childlike laughter and ecstasy of the Infinite."

-Sri Aurobindo

Devolution : 

This (as above explained by Sri Aurobindo) ceaseless movement from Being to Becoming is what Sri Aurobindo called devolution. The transition is gradual; the supreme Consciousness does not all at once become Matter. Matter is the final precipitate, the end product of an increasing fragmentation or "materialization" of consciousness, which is worked out slowly, one level at a time. At the "top" of this devolutive course - though it is not a top but a supreme Point that is everywhere at once - stands the supramental Consciousness-Force, which encompasses in a single Glance all the infinite possibilities of the Becoming, as the solar Fire contains all its rays within its center: "They unyoked the horses of the Sun," says the Rig Veda, "the ten thousand stood together, there was that One, tad ekam." (V.62.1) Then comes the Overmind: the "great clevage" of consciousness begins; the rays of the Sun branch off; the single Consciousness-Force is henceforth scattered into trillions of forces, each seeking its own absolute realization. Once begun, the Play will not stop until all the possibilities have been exhausted, including those that seem to be the very contradiction of the eternal Player. Force is cast in an ever more passionate movement, as if it wanted to burst forth to its utmost frontiers, to meet itself always farther in order to replace the One by an impossible sum. Then consciousness scatters. It breaks up into smaller and smaller fragments, becoming increasingly heavy and obscure, forming layers or worlds inhabited by their own beings and forces, each with its particular life; all the traditions have described them; we too, can see them in our sleep, or with our eyes open once our vision has become unsealed. From the gods to the symbolic gnomes, consciousness shrinks, crumbles, and falls to dust – overmind, intuitive mind, illumined mind, higher mind, then vital, and subtle physical. It becomes more and more ensnared and mired in its force, scattered into microscopic instincts or survival-oriented tropisms, until its final dispersion in Matter, in which everything becomes fragmented. 

"In the beginning,darkness was hidden by darkness, all this was one ocean of inconscience. Universal being was concealed by fragmentation." Rig Veda (X.129.1-5) 

The devolution is complete; it is the plunge of Light into its own shadow. i.e.Matter.

Now we are before two poles. At the top, a supreme Negative (or Positive, depending upon one's personal bias), where Force seems annihilated in a luminous Nothingness, a gulf of peace without a ripple, where everything is self-contained, and there is no need for even the slightest movement in order to be – it is. At the other pole, a supreme Positive (or Negative, if we prefer), where Consciousness seems to be engulfed in an obscure Nothingness, an abyss of blind Force forever engrossed in its own dark whirl – an inexorable and ceaseless becoming. This is the first duality from which all others follow: the One and the Innumerable, the Infinite and the Finite, Consciousness and Force, Spirit and Matter, the Formless and a frenzy of forms – He and She. Our whole existence is caught between these two poles, some of us wishing to see only the Transcendent, which is then called the supreme Positive, and dismissing Matter as a kind of temporary falsehood while the rest of us swear by Matter alone, likewise calling it the supreme Positive, and rejecting the Spirit as a definitive and negative falsehood, since according to human logic, plus cannot be also minus, or vice versa. But all this is still an illusion. Consciousness does not contradict Force, nor Matter the Spirit, nor the Infinite the Finite, no more than high contradicts low:

"In the world as we see it, for our mental consciousness however high we carry it, we find that to every positive there is a negative. But the negative is not a zero – indeed whatever appears to us a zero is packed with force, teeming with power of existence.... Neither does the existence of the negative make its corresponding positive nonexistent or an unreality; it only makes the positive and the negative exist not only side by side, but in relation to each other and by each other; they complete and would to the all-view, which a limited mind cannot reach, explain one another. Each by itself is not really known; we only begin to know it in its deeper truth when we can read into it the suggestions of its apparent opposite."

Involution :

In the heights, She is as if asleep within Him; in the depths, He is as if asleep within Her. Force dissolved in Consciousness and Consciousness dissolved in Force, the Infinite contained in the Finite as the tree and all its branches are contained in the seed. This is what Sri Aurobindo calls "involution":

"The nescience of Matter is a veiled, an involved or somnambulist consciousness which contains all the latent powers of the Spirit. In every particle, atom, molecule, cell of Matter there lives hidden and works unknown all the omniscience of the Eternal and all the omnipotence of the Infinite." 

The involution above is followed by a new involution below, whereby everything is contained latently within the Night, the way everything was contained latently within the Light above. Agni is there "like a warm gold dust"; 

"Agni has entered earth and heaven as if they were one,"  Rig Veda (III.7.4)

"In a sense, the whole of creation may be said to be a movement between two involutions, Spirit in which all is involved and out of which all evolves downward (or devolves) to the other pole of Matter, Matter in which also all is involved and out of which all evolves upwards to the other pole of Spirit."

Evolution :

Without this involution no evolution would be possible, for how could something come out of nothing? For an evolution to take place, something must indeed be growing or evolving from within! Nothing can evolve out of Matter which is not therein already contained.It is Agni that impels and goads in the depths of this awakening stupor, behind the evolutionary explosion of forms. It is Force in quest of Consciousness, She seeking Him, seeking forms more suitable for manifesting Him. It is She emerging from her unconscious Night and groping in her millions of works and millions of species to rediscover the beauty of the one lost Form, and to rediscover innumerably the Joy that was one – a million-bodied beatitude-instead of a blank ecstasy. If we possess that "ear of ears" the Veda spoke of, perhaps we will hear everywhere the Night crying out to the Light, the walled-in Consciousness crying out to Joy, the deep spiritual cry in all that is.This is what impels us deep within; there is a Fire within, a flame in Matter, a flame of Life, a flame in our Mind and in our soul. This is the Fire we must seize: it is the leader of the journey and the key, the secret evolutionary impetus, the soul and flame of the world. If this world were made only of lifeless and inert stone, it would never have become anything but lifeless and inert stone; if the soul were not already in Matter, it could never have emerged in man:

"But what after all, behind appearances, is this seeming mystery? We can see that it is the Consciousness which had lost itself returning again to itself, emerging out of its giant self-forgetfulness, slowly, painfully, as a Life that is would-be sentient, half-sentient, dimly sentient, wholly sentient and finally struggles to be more than sentient, to be again divinely self-conscious, free, infinite, immortal."

Until the day She comes to the human being, Her conscious instrument in whom, by whom and through whom She will be able to recover Him,

"Our humanity is the conscious meeting-place of the finite and the infinite and to grow more and more towards the Infinite even in this physical birth is our privilege."

A special phenomenon occurs when Agni reaches the human stage of its journey. During the preceding stages of evolution, the evolutionary flame seems to have subsided of its own accord once the new emergence was assured. The explosion of vegetal life seems to have subsided once the animal became firmly established in Life. The teeming of animal life seems similarly to have subsided once humankind became definitively settled in evolution. It does not seem that Nature has created any new animal or plant species since the human species has occupied the crest of evolution. The various species have become stationary; they have attained a degree of perfection, each in its own order, and they remain there. With man, however, the evolutionary urge has not abated, even though he is firmly established in evolution. He is not fulfilled, not satisfied as other species are; he does not know the peace and joy that come with equilibrium.

"Man is an abnormal who has not found his own normality – he may imagine he has, he may appear to be normal in his own kind, but that normality is only a sort of provisional order; therefore, though man is infinitely greater than the plant or animal; he is not perfect in his own nature like the plant and the animal."

This imperfection should not at all be deplored, Sri Aurobindo says; it is, on the contrary, a privilege and a promise.31 If we were perfect and harmonious within our own kind, without sin or flaw, we would already be a stationary species, like the amphibians or the mollusks. But in us, who reproduce the great cosmic Play, the force has not completely found its consciousness, or our nature its own spirit. Was Plato ever satisfied or Michelangelo ever at peace? "One night I took Beauty upon my knees, and I found her bitter!" exclaimed Rimbaud. This is a sign that the peak of mental intelligence or aesthetic refinement is not the end of the journey, not total plenitude, not the great Equilibrium of She and He together again. The spirit within, the little flame at the center that slowly awakens and grows, has first touched minute fragments, molecules, genes, protoplasms; it has settled psychologically around a separate and fragmentary ego; it does not see very well, groping in the darkness; it, too, is doubly "involved," and it perceives things only through a narrow mental shutter between an abysmal subconscient and a vast superconscient. It is this childish fragmentation – for it really belongs to our human childhood – that is the cause of all our errors and sufferings; all our woes proceed from this narrowness of vision, which is a false vision of ourselves and of the world. For in truth, the world and each cell of our body is Sat-chit-ananda, Existence-Consciousness-Bliss; we are light and joy.

"Our sense by its incapacity has invented darkness. In truth there is nothing but Light, only it is a power of light either above or below our poor human vision's limited range."

All is joy: "For who could live or breathe if there were not this delight of existence as the ether in which we dwell?" says the Upanishad. It is our faulty vision that hides from us the happiness absolute in the heart of things; it is our pallid sense, still immature, that does not yet know how to contain all that great vastness. As Sri Aurobindo points out, man is not the last term of evolution, but a transitional being.

"We speak of the evolution of Life in Matter, the evolution of Mind in Matter; but evolution is a word which merely states the phenomenon without explaining it. For there seems to be no reason why Life should evolve out of material elements or Mind out of living form, unless we accept... that Life is already involved in Matter and Mind in Life because in essence Matter is a form of veiled Life, Life a form of veiled Consciousness. And then there seems to be little objection to a farther step in the series and the admission that mental consciousness may itself be only a form and a veil of higher states which are beyond Mind. In that case, the unconquerable impulse of man towards God, Light, Bliss, Freedom, Immortality presents itself in its right place in the chain as simply the imperative impulse by which Nature is seeking to evolve beyond Mind, and appears to be as natural, true and just as the impulse towards Life which she has planted in forms of Matter or the impulse towards Mind which she has planted in certain forms of life.... 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?"

If evolution succeeds in making this difficult transition, the great Equilibrium will be attained; we will enter "the vast home" (Rig Veda V.68.5); Force will have recovered all its Consciousness instead of wandering aimlessly, and Consciousness will have recovered all its Force instead of understanding and loving powerlessly.

The rishis, too, knew that the journey was not over. They said that Agni "conceals his two extremities," that Agni is "without head and without feet." (Rig Veda IV.1.7,11) We are a tiny flame lost between the superconscious Agni of heaven and the subconscious Agni of the earth, and we suffer, tossing and turning upon our bed of misery, some of us seeking their heaven, others their earth, yet without ever joining the two. Another race is to be born among us, a whole Being, if only we consent to it: "Weave an inviolate work, become the human being, create the divine race.... Seers of Truth are you, sharpen the shining spears with which you cut the way to that which is Immortal; knowers of the secret planes, form them, the steps by which the gods attained to immortality." (X.53) Then we will regain our solar totality, our two concealed extremities, our two Mothers in one: "O Flame, O Agni, thou goest to the ocean of Heaven, towards the gods; thou makest to meet together the godheads of the planes, the waters that are in the realm of light above the sun and the waters that abide below." (III.22.3) Then we will know the joy of both worlds and of all the worlds, Ananda, of the earth and heaven as if they were one: "O Flame, thou foundest the mortal in a supreme immortality... for the seer who has thirst for the dual birth, thou createst divine bliss and human joy." (I.31.7) For joy is the ultimate goal of our evolution. People speak of "love," but is there a word more falsified by our sentimentalities, our political factions, or our churches? Whereas no one can falsify that joy, for it is a child laughing in the sun; it loves, seeking to sweep up everything in its dance. Joy, yes, if we have the courage to want it.

The laurel and not the cross should be the aim of the conquering human soul – but men are still in love with grief.... Therefore Christ still hangs on the cross in Jerusalem.

The joy of being, of being fully, in all that is, has been, and will be – here, there, and everywhere – as if honey could taste itself and all its drops together and all its drops could taste each other and each the whole honeycomb.Then evolution will emerge from the Night to enter the Solar cycle. We will live under the Auspices of the One. The crucified god in us will descend from his cross and man will at last be Himself – normal. For to be normal is to be divine.

"There are only two spontaneous harmonic movements, that of the life, inconscient or largely subconscient, the harmony that we find in the animal creation and in the lower Nature, and that of the spirit. The human condition is a stage of transition, effort and imperfection between the one and the other, between the natural and the ideal or spiritual life."


From The Book Sri Aurobindo or The Adventure of Cosnciousness
by Satprem


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