Skip to main content
Sriramchandra.org | Imperience.org
   

 
 
 
Pujya Dr. K.C. Varadachari - Volume -4
 

DIVINE EVOLUTIONISM

  

No seer has a richer harvest of philosophic and religious literature to his credit than Sri Aurobindo whose seventy-first birthday falls on the 15th August, 1942. The author of this humble contribution, which is in lieu of altar flowers, has been influenced in manifold subtle ways by Sri Aurobindo’s teachings and feels happy on this great occasion of moment to world history. It is as it were the moment when the abashed Prakrti has withdrawn her dark inconscient hold on the purusa, the ignorant, so that he may perceive himself as the One in the many in relative manifestation born out of delight. Such an epoch is possible to human ignorance because of varied factors which reveal the constant descent and ascent of the Spirit Divine in many ways.[1]

 

There are three facts in reality which have to be accepted, whatever metaphysical or occult status we grant to them either substantially or functionally; these three are God, Nature and Man (or soul) that is related to both in two different ways. Some philosophers have affirmed that Nature is all and have reduced the soul to the level or figure of herself endowed with an epiphenomenal phosphorescence called consciousness and have denied God or else accepted God as merely Glorified Nature. Some others have maintained the opposite view that the soul endowed with consciousness, being capable of creative imagination and reproductive memory, does not require any nature apart from its own mental states for its existence. These have denied nature and affirmed themselves as the final or ultimate entities. A third class of thinkers have seen the fate of svabhava (nature) niyati, kala,[2] and others and having observed the ludicrousness of a soul that is ignorant (ajna) posing itself as the Grand Ultimate, however much it may be radically superior to the Inconscient, have affirmed a Deity that is Perfect Consciousness and Delight and Power over every other entity, soul or nature, and enjoying its varied delights in and through them. They have even tended to affirm a causal relationship or rather derivative relationship between the entities. This is the central theory of any evolutionary hypothesis, that the entities must have a unitary original substance from which all are pressed out or expressed, or on which all forms are impressed, or which is veiled or self-veiling in order to yield the other graded entities.

 

In ancient Indian Philosophic thought, there are said to be four theories of manifestation or mere exhibition, such as the secaka, jalaka, barhina and abhivyakta or unmesa. Creation is merely the exhibition of the veiled: it is a spreading out of the immanent, and what is in suksma or subtle contracted form is revealed as gross, sthula. This is the theory of creation which posits that the three entities are really shooting out or exhibition or manifestation of the One super-entity that enfolds them within itself in the subtle state which, for whatever reason of lila or delight of self-expression, manifests itself like the peacock its feathers, like the fisherman his net, like the cloud-burst. But, as will be seen, these theories do not exhibit the inner ascent of the Divine in and through the process. It is well-known that ancient Vedic thought not merely did affirm that the Lord became many, but also, that having created all the material universe, He entered into it as the many whilst remaining the One Supreme Being that He as Cause was. Thus when speaking of the totality of creation we should have to go far beyond the ordinary limits of a mere manifestative or exhibitionistic theory.

 

There is to be assumed at the very beginning a substantial descent of spirit, a possession or assumption of the nature of matter with all its grades of Inconscience, for indeed there cannot be assumed a positing or ‘anstoss’ of a not-self or non-consciousness standing over against the self or spirit. It is a veiled or self-veiled consciousness for the purpose of working out a creative end a secret and occult activity in and through the inconceivable opacity and resistance of the matter it has formed. Now it may be asked whether it is possible for a consciousness to veil itself in such a way as almost to abolish its very nature as consciousness. It may, therefore, be held that the consciousness will remain conscious, but what veils is a different entity, a maya or prakrti, upadhi or what not, which is different from the consciousness. Now we may say that if we merely accept the causal theory of derivation from consciousness of the matter then we will be faced with the problem of determining the ‘how’. We should not forget that Primal Consciousness should be perfect, self-delighting and self-perfect, which can be at once the change and changeless, becoming and being and all. The Supreme Consciousness can and does manifest itself as and in the matter wherein it plays its supreme role of a firm and foundational substance of life and mind and all else that follow on its wake, as the firm tenement of life that possesses mind and all the planes above and below. On this foundation of matter, there is the descent again from the Supreme and of the supreme spirit in renewed manifestation, gradually and successively, of the informing principles of organization of matter, rescuing it from the dull beat of repetition and round of existence to a sense of the awakening potencies of its own elemental nature. Life grows out of this homogeneous matter and diversifies its forms and thus reveals its manifoldness. But when life began, there also manifested the individuating function of diversity, which is sometimes referred to matter itself but which in reality must be considered to be the core of the spiritual multiplicity that has descended firstly as life, and grew into mind, and is now moving forward to the recognition of that unique unity that is concealed from itself in order to discover the delight of the many. For there is in truth a delight in manyness as there is in oneness, a delight in relative manifestation as there is in absolute existence, and if the self or spirit wished to participate in that isolation of itself from the rest and even as against the rest, whatever the consequences of the disrupted harmony, it has to veil itself or become ignorant or play the role of ignorance of the rest and the all else to which it is absolutely tied. For ignorance is this non-cognition of the relationship and unity, and reality of this unity. The soul or man is thus incarnate amidst matter already having registered his growth and therefore mastered the intricate mechanism of matter having lived and moved and had his being in it as a child of matter, playing the ignorant (ajna) for the purpose of some inward delight of his many-nature. The supreme Spirit in its manyness has descended into the womb of matter, vivified it and made life emerge out of it through His inner propulsion in order to extricate the potencies of his own Perfections in the conditions of relative and opaque existence. This is the secret of the inwardness of evolution. There is here seen no outward force, a carpenter or maker, a Twastr, who fashions the armaments or ornaments or animals or objects, but an innate undeniable propulsion which seems to organize life in patterns of unique complexity.[3]

 

It is a secret of spiritual evolution that the force or power that operates within matter and living forms and leads up to new and higher planes of ascent, identifies itself with the initial substance or foundation and rears itself as if it were that substance itself that has decreed its ascent and innate revelation. If man appears as a child of matter, and even  consciousness appears as an effect or resultant or emergence out of matter, itself a form of that Spirit, an earlier form, has so clearly wrought the instruments and organisms and senses out of it by closest association with it.

 

“For man is precisely that term and symbol of higher existence descended into the material world in which it is possible for the lower to transfigure itself and put on the nature of the higher and the higher to reveal itself in the forms of the lower” (Arya, I, p.39).

 

“For man, the head of terrestrial nature, the sole earthly frame in which her full evolution is possible is a triple birth. He has been given a living frame in which the body is the vessel and life the dynamic means of a divine manifestation. His activity is centred in a progressive mind which aims at perfecting itself as well as the house in which it dwells and the means of life which it uses and is capable of awaking by a progressive self-realization to its own nature as a form of the Spirit. He culminates in what he always really was, the illumined and beatific spirit which is intended at last to irradiate life and mind with its now concealed splendours” (ibid., p. 172).

 

Thus the evolutionary theory of the moderns is accepted in so far as the evolution is a gradual unfolding of greater and greater complexities in the inner structure of matter which lead to emergence of new characteristics of life and mind. Man has thus a triple birth, a birth in matter, a birth in life and a birth in mind. His body is thus an expression of his varied and continuous adaptations through many births and rebirths where in his adaptations have made him master of the principles of material and vegetative and mental life. But with mind there has happened a stupendous transformation. Man began to be aware of the intrinsic gulf that separates himself from the vast mass of matter and even other forms of life. Though Biology has striven to show that there is no break in evolution, yet it has been unable to show that there are no yawning gulfs or missing links. Nor has embryology been able to substantiate that man indeed recapitulates the life-history of the universe during his embryonic state. One other thing also has been observed that so far as the differentiations of the senses and mental functions are concerned there has been the maximum of material possibility achieved in man’s evolution.

 

A mechanical theory, a vitalistic theory and a mental theory of evolution are all that modern science has been able to arrive at, and the result is disappointing. The vitalistic theory surrenders something fundamental to the mechanical, and the mentalistic theory cannot explain the inward drive of the process of evolution. The spiritual theory of evolution makes a departure. It is concerned with the continuous richness of the spiritual nature in all planes, and according to or in tune with the laws of each plane there is registered the perfection of exhibition of the spiritual nature. The individual or cosmic evolution is determined by a consciousness or self-consciousness of the mastery of the lower. In cosmic evolution such as in matter or Inconscience or Ignorance, there is not the self-conscious effort to control and determine the environment. When mind came into existence there has also happened the need to adapt consciousness to ends that are desirable to it. It is here we have the great gulf. But here even, science has shown that there is no opposition between mind and matter, for mind governs and adapts and understands the laws of matter and vital life and utilizes them for its own conscious and planned purposes. But this is not much. Inventions reveal the creative possibilities of mind, but they do not reveal the possibility of a total transformation of the material and vital nature that man is, not to speak his own mental nature. There are two worlds or rather three worlds or levels, – the world of the body with its sympathetic nervous system which is not amenable to his will except under great tapas or yogic control, his vital plane which moves in unconscious ignorant ways of instinct, not again amenable to consciousness and intellectual government, and lastly, the ineffectual angel of mind that struggles with forces it does not understand except superficially. It may be asked whether man cannot evolve a new consciousness and whether he is not indeed aware of a type of consciousness within himself that is higher than what he has–an intuitional or overmind consciousness which can grasp the inner necessity of evolution. As yet such a consciousness has not become the chief power on own planet. It has not become general; only in particular minds or souls have it manifested with something of that force that transforms minds into superminds or gods.

 

We must ask ourselves here whether this upward process that has happened so far has not been the inward propelling force cosmically of the Spirit, and when mind came into the field, this Spirit as the indwelling  seer has informed and led man to his present mental plane which has in some measure organized itself on the foundations of the prior productions or emergences. The need for this interiorising of spirit in matter and life and finally as indwelling seer (antaryamin) in the mental creation in each individual shows that for the first time the antaryamin manifested his unique unitas multiplex nature in the texture of mind or the ego. But the vicissitudes of this mind with its superficiality and pseudo-simplicity has led up to this present state. The antaryamin thus far has been propelling, even in an unconscious manner, and guiding, even in a subliminal manner, the mind in its conduct and relation and commerce with the universe of other souls. It is here we find the maladjustments between mind and nature, mind and mind, and misery instead of delight has begun to play the major role. Man now faces a new environment of conflict and his former adaptations are capable of helping him in the new situations. Man must be surpassed if mankind itself has to realize the immense possibilities of the Spirit. The human individual has indeed striven in manifold ways to solve the riddle of the Sphinx. Theories of Illusion, Superterrestrialism, Materialism and partial perfectionism through occult practices, have all been tried to the limit in Buddhism, Jainism, Absolutism and Illusionism, and Carvakism. Mental theories suffer from one radical defect of being based on mere inference and partial understanding and partial emphasis. Even eclecticisms of the mind do not bear the stamp of truth and appear as jumbles; and the several eclecticisms, Greek or Hindu, are comparable to the varied shake-ups of the kaleidoscope, not fundamental integral expressions of Spiritual Reality. Sri Aurobindo’s great contribution consists in having realized at the very start that philosophies of mind suffer from a radical defect and can lead only to Agnosticism ultimately, however enlightened that may be.

 

So far we have seen evolution as being an inward propulsion leading to the manifestation of variegated forms of life and mind and already promising that culmination by means of an idealism which seeks an inward drive, it does not find, in the material and vital and the mental. Man caught up in the net of his own illusions has now to discover within himself and above himself a power and a consciousness exceeding immensely anything that he knows of. Baulked and thwarted, mind has come across the radical knot of its own existence and has become unhappy. Seeking to escape from itself, it has discovered that all ways of escape lead to prison-houses of illusion and nihilism. As Bergson pointed out, it is imperative, as it has been imperative, on the part of some rare souls to break through the shell of intellect and mere vitality and materiality into the free open spaces of the higher consciousness that is pure duration. Sri Aurobindo recognizes this possibility in the Divine descent as Avatar, just as I have pointed out the descent of God as antaryamin, the many of the One. The importance of the avatar to evolution does not consist in the mere statement of the fourth adhyaya of the Gita:

 

“Paritranaya sadhunam vinasaya ca duskrtam……”

 

but more the upliftment of humanity itself to the acceptance of the Higher and Highest consciousness which the Spirit Transcendent brings into play on the material or terrestrial plane. A close inspection of the avatar doctrine will reveal that each descent either direct, that is, ayonija, or through human wombs (yonija) registers a large upheaval of material and organic orders which resonate with the Descent and thus gather into themselves something of that germ or seed which would organize new life in them. But the acceptance of the law of the higher, and not merely the tolerance of the higher, is the key-note. For the avatar is not merely a catalytic agent nor a kathartic principle, but an evolutionary principle – a germ or seed thrown into the womb of mind to grow in it and manifest itself in it as a child of mind. Thus the avatar is not be considered as a miraculous intervention, as a mere messiah of hope or avenging angel but a creating God,a transforming Spirit; and so is it accepted in the figure of Trivikrama, He who made three strides and has become the Lord God of All.

 

The Lord, who is the avatar, is not therefore the warrior fighter for the God and destroyer of the Evil alone, but also the Teacher of mankind about the Higher Principle, the principle that He is indeed in all, as the person who propels the round of existence in all (bhramayan sarvabhutani) through His Infinite Power. Thus it is in and through this Divine Teacher that the human disciple can ever hope to break through the restricting forces of the earlier formations, suited admirably though they are to those limited purposes. It is the Teacher Divine who informs the individual that he is not a mere constellation of desires, nor a mere ego isolated and limited, but in verity the instrument of the Divine Antaryamin. To turn inward to this central principle within one self who is, be it known, also the central principle of all else, is the saving knowledge. To enter into this inner sanctum sanctorum of one’s being, the antaryamin, is to establish a continuity that has been sundered by the earlier diversifications for the realization of this unique diversity that resolves itself into or resonates with or mirrors the entire universe. It is therefore that evolution has to proceed on lines of higher consciousness that at once appears inward and interiorised self of oneself and all that one is and yet is transcendent to it in a continuity that goes far beyond all cosmic limits. It is this that is at once the strength and the soundness of the evolutionary ascent into Divine Nature.

 

Whatever might be the finality or goal visible to matter and mere life and there is certainly no possible way of speaking of any finality to material evolution or vitalistic evolution[4] – the human being is conscious of fourfold ends of dharma-artha-kama-moksa, which it is incapable of deciding or determining with any conclusiveness. Hastening confusedly to unknown ends modern man has come at last to a state of perilous apology for life, knowing not definitely as to what is dharma, what is real wealth, what is desirable and what is liberation. It would be beyond the scope of this essay to detail the intellectualistic, mystical, economic and politico-ethical attempts. Suffice it to say that no man seems to be certain about any one of his many pursuits. Under such circumstances, the necessity is for a clear and decisive ‘way of welfare’, the true path of ascent into a nature that shall satisfy the inward being.

 

This path is the path of transcendence and perfection through a growing into the Divine Nature by a personal and intimate relationship which is forged and fostered by total offering of the entire nature for the play of the higher forces. Man is now a square peg in a round hole. It is through the incidence of the Higher Power and Consciousness that he could adapt himself totally to the universe of the Divine. At the present state, man is not able to find any refuge in philosophy or incomplete religion of the mind but only in the transcendent descending force of the Divine.

 

In the earlier descents we have not any adverse force nor individuated protest from the lower. But in the mind and its body there have been set up autograms which refuse to yield up their structure and their function or modify their functions or obey the dictates of the mind and the higher consciousness. Man has made a prison-house, perfect, well-protected against new rays of light. It is for him to throw open his prison-house for he is also the prison-keeper. This is the next step in the spiritual ascent which has to be taken, for man has built up a notion of liberty which truly is the inward initiative in all evolutionary processes which cannot be smothered at all even through the threat of annihilation. It is the instinct for liberty–that mystico-fanatical zeal for freedom which is the sign of a living and growing consciousness which rebels against every encroachment by whomsoever. This inwardness of the instinct for freedom, expressed as moksa, vinasa, has to be turned into account by a free choice of the Higer Supramental Consciousness, whose knowledge is the Vidya that is necessary for any ascent. Then also is sambhuti possible, the fourth birth, which is the beginning of a birth that knows no lower descents, or degradation into the realm of matter, for it can live in these lower levels too with a freedom and omniscience and perfection without losing its poise and power and puissance. Beyond this fourth are other levels of Consciousness which the present man cannot appreciate.

 

Thus whilst we appreciate that the thirst for the supramental light and evolutionary propulsion reaching up to it are all that man can possess, we have to seek the germinating light and transcendent power from above, woo it through prayer and surrender, through consecrated act and integral offering of our entire body, vitality and mind, so that it may create a new being of us, and through us.

 

It would be clear that nothing less than the descent of the Divine into us in an integral manner can alter our mental, vital and physical nature without annihilating them. This is the purna yoga–a total union leading up to a total perfection and total delight of Being and Consciousness.

 

We can see here that Sri Aurobindo clearly points out that the explanation of evolution and its very nature must be sought in a Dynamic Perfect Consciousness which is propelling the lower types upwards from behind. This is in line with the most modern view of evolution maintained by Prof. MCDougall and Prof. Bergson. Secondly, the evolutionary hypothesis is not complete if it merely accepts a mere inner drive towards multiple forms that only register repetition and duplication but not progress. On the other hand, the theory of inheritance of acquired characters of Lamarck, which had fallen into disfavour at one time and has been returning to its own, does not go far except as showing that life has a wonderful capacity for adapting to changing environment and retaining this knowledge in an almost unconscious manner. It is when we come to mind and consciousness, we find that the ramifications, and demands on life are so great that adaptation seems to be running on no settled lines except in certain limited lower mental planes. But what with the diversities of mental capacities and inventive ability and memory and selectivity, evolution has passed far beyond the age of mere adaptation to environment. Mind began to adapt the environment to its needs. Limitations soon came up and destructive possibilities of mind began to loom large. Witness the calamitous results of a progressive, inventive and masterful science yoked to the aboriginal demands of space and food and leisure. Sri Aurobindo points out that it is imperative that this situation must be changed, and changed immediately, by a total acceptance of life and matter and mind: matter with its materialistic foundation, life with its dynamical activity, and mind with its intellectual discernment are all needed, but they have to operate in tune with the laws of Spirit, the Supramental Divine. This is a departure in the history of evolutionary hypothesis. It was, however, known early enough in Indian Yoga that the transformation of personality (kaya-siddhi), salvation or liberation (mukti) just like inspiration and vision are not mechanical effect of ritualistic practices or psycho-physical askesis but are due to the Grace of God or due to the actual descent of God Himself into this human vessel in some fullness or partialness.

 

The Pancaratra system has spoken of fivefold descents of the Supreme Transcendent into His creation and his creatures, registering the continuity of His indwellingness in all through His power, knowledge, lordship, strenth, luminosity and Consciousness. Evolution of the world is sustained as a continuous process by Him. Having created the world of matter, as the Cosmic Deity who is three-fold as Samkarsana, Aniruddha and Pradyumna, He entered into the creation instigating and impelling the material categories up to the level of the mind and ego and senses. Then He descended into the many selves as their indwelling Lord Ruler Antaryamin, and even into matter itself as the object of adoration and perfection of Deity as the Arca. When man had arrived at the level of mind and intellection and was craving for guidance, He descended into the terrestrial as the Avatar, showing the path and destroying false paths, rescuing and restoring the knowledge of the Divine who is the One Supreme Lord manifest at the five-fold–unitas quintuplex nature. Corresponding with this description of the Deity we should conceive of the five-fold births[5] or evolutionary steps till we reach in the integral understanding of the Acra in matter or visible form, the Antaryamin in all souls, the Avatar in higher or supramind, the Cosmic unity of matter and spirit in the Vyuha and finally the Great Transcendent, Para, beyond all our comprehension.

 

In pancaratra literature however except for the Avatars, and to some extent the Arca-images, the rest may have come into existence on this terrestrial scheme successively, as it has been said that they too have come into being for the good of creation. The Avatars and the Arca are considered to be descents full and complete of the Divine as much as the rest but having a personal relationship of teacher and adored objects of the devotees. For it is personal relationship that is the path and the way to transcendence: a surrender to the Avatar or Arca is the immediate cause of the flow in of the Prasada or Grace which is not merely of love but of supernal light and knowledge, reciprocating the individual’s willingness to follow Him alone. Periodic inundation or descent of the Higher or supramental consciousness or Spirit Force has been the one sign of a jump over to a new life, transformation or conversion. The constancy with which this inundation occurs till it becomes like the unceasing flow of oil (tailadhara) or like the Himalayan-soured Ganges (which in mystical or occult consciousness signifies the Supramental force that destroys all faults and sins and elevates and emancipates and transforms), will determine whether this human vessel will stand it or not. But stand it must and it will. The flood of supramental force will move slowly into the individual, thanks to the guiding hand and seer-wisdom of the Teacher, and transform and strengthen till it has made itself capable of withstanding the full flood of the Supramental Power even as the Ancient Siva has shown it to be possible. Siva is out Teacher, the standing Avatar of Master Supramental consciousness which he doles out to his devotees – the devotees of the Higher Heaven. The story of Bhagiratha-Sagara really reveals this great supramental descent into veriest matter which gave to it life and mind and has struggled to lead up to supramental regions but is awaiting the tapas and the Surrender of modern man to stand up to it.

 

Sri Aurobindo’s theory of descent and ascent as the cardinal principle of evolutionary existence which leads up to the Divine integration of all levels under and through the Supramental Consciousness far exceeds any explanation that has been given by modern evolutionists.

 

 

 

 



[1] I refer here to the fivehold descents of the Divine in Pancaratra literature.

[2] Svet Up. I.2.

[3] Bergson was right when he affirmed that in evolution he did not see goal but an inward propulsion from behind urging on the Úlan vital. The inwardness is the essential characteristic of organism, though this inwardness in instinct is conditioned by the environment to which it adjusts.

 

[4] Bergson and the emergent evolutionists have denied any goal to Duration and Process. Novelty seems to be their one fixed idea!

[5] Life Divine, Vol.ii, p.719: “May the people of the five births accept my sacrifice; those who are born of the light and worthy of worship.” Rg.V. X, 53.5.

 

Visvaksssena Sam: caturvidhasya Bhagavan mumuksunam hitaya vai

                                   Anyesamapi lokanam srstisthiyanta siddhaye

 

Jayakhya Sam: speaks of Purusa, Acyuta and Satya as the vyuhas of Para Visnu or Vasudeva instead of Pradyumna Aniruddha and Samkarsana.

 

Another aspect of these descents lies in the fullness of manifestation of the divine in each of the descendents. Cf. Santi sloka of Vaj. Samhita.