The force of inertia
Inertia or tamas is evident both in physical earth-nature and the body. It is because of inertia that physical nature is slow and takes a long time to progress. Sri Aurobindo explains that inertia rises up from the terrestrial inconscience to the level of material (physical) consciousness. It cannot abolish the effects of the higher non-material planes of consciousness but can resist them and dilute their actions. This leads to resistance to change being an important characteristic of Matter. This was also needed as material forms would not be durable and easily usurped by shearing forces. Life and Mind are by themselves supple and nebulous and need a matrix of stability to bear them. In the endeavour to maintain that stability, the resistance of Matter was needed as an attribute of the physical consciousness.
The force of inconscience
Matter carries the force of inertia derived from the Inconscience from where it emerges in the evolutionary journey of consciousness. What Sri Aurobindo means by the inertia of Matter is that Matter is bound by physical laws of the universe which is an imposition of nature. Indeed, what can happen if the electrons decide to stop rotating in their orbits? The physical world would collapse ! Matter is thus chained by fixed and mechanical laws, it has no option for transgression of rules if it has to exist. That is why the Inconscience from where Matter arises is not conscient. For to be conscient, one would have to be flexible and capable of transgression of limitations. In contrast to Matter, the Spirit is free and master of both itself and its circumstances. It can make and break its own rules and is not subject to nature.
The force of atomic disaggregation
The force of atomic disaggregation or division allows unique and distinct forms to be constructed from the matrix of Matter. If this property was not there, we would only have an unitary matrix of consciousness with no multiplicity and therefore no creation. Thus all forms have arisen from a matrix of indivisible oneness, yet they are all different leading to uniqueness and variability. However the very fact that forms arise from an undifferentiated matrix automatically implies that their deconstruction can also lead to a return to an undifferentiated matrix. Thus even though we are born to develop into distinct and unique individuals, death also returns us back to the formless zone. It is because death cuts short our life and potential that spiritual seekers in India regarded the body with skepticism.
The principle of discord
A discord arises when the inertia of Matter tries to resist the buoyant Life-Energy when Life manifests in Matter. A greater discord arises when the Mind-principle manifests because Mind has to quarrel both with the inertia of Matter and turbulence of Life-Energy. In human life, Mind tries to win the battle but at a heavy cost. For an intellectual or a religious pursuit, the emotions have to be tamed and the body’s demands have to be optimized. Fed up with the hypocrisy of the intellect, the youth in the 1960s’ rebelled in what was then called an existential crisis.
The spiritual ascetics, seeking for the Infinite, have however rebelled against Mind, Life and Matter from antiquity and sought the refuge of the Spirit or soul. “When man awakens to an existence beyond Mind, he carries yet farther this principle of discord. Mind, Body and Life are condemned as the trinity of the world, the flesh and the devil.* Mind too is banned as the source of all our malady; war is declared between the spirit and its instruments and the victory of the spiritual Inhabitant is sought for in an evasion from its narrow residence, a rejection of mind. Life and body and a withdrawal from its own infinitudes. The world is a discord and we shall best solve its perplexities by carrying the principle of discord itself to its extreme possibility, a cutting away and a final severance”. (Ibid, pg.248) Thus the solution was to avoid the consequences of discord in the safety of the isolated hermitage or mountain retreat, cut off from the challenges of existence and absorbed in the consciousness of the Spirit.
(*Sri Aurobindo gives an unique interpretation to the world , the flesh and the devil –mundus, caro, et diabolus, which in Christian theology are considered to be the enemies of the soul that threaten its perfection. They are considered to oppose the Trinity of Father, Son, Holy Ghost. Sri Aurobindo does not consider them as permanent enemies but as obstacles arising in the evolutionary trajectory that can be transformed)
Compromise and Beyond
If our aim is an integral existence, we cannot ignore the challenges of earth-existence and cannot afford to live an isolated life, absorbed in the Spirit. However, in practical terms it is difficult to solve the discord occurring at multiple levels of consciousness. Mind, Life and Matter have their own limitations and are in conflict with each other. Each one of them achieves a lop-sided development where some of their potentialities have progressed faster than others. Each plane is therefore imperfectly manifested and the discord becomes complex when such imperfect planes have to interact. Moreover, the individual soul cannot control the Mind, Body or Life and retires into itself. “The problem continues because the labour of the Divine in the universe continues, but without any satisfying solution of the problem or any victorious accomplishment of the labour”. (Ibid) In the meanwhile, we survive through compromises at different levels and Life refusing to be defeated by Matter compromises by using reproduction for its perpetuation and Death for its continuation.
Should we then consider the discord to be eternal and fundamental? Or can we conceive of an Integral Harmony beyond all discord. Sri Aurobindo explains that if the origin and culmination of everything is Sachchidananda –the Absolute Reality experienced as the triune of Existence-Consciousness-Bliss, then a perfect solution can actually be conceived : “we must seek that solution in a real victory of Life over Matter through the free and perfect use of body by Life, in a real victory of Mind over Life and Matter through a free and perfect use of life-force and form by Mind and in a real victory of Spirit over the triplicity through a free and perfect occupation of mind, life and body by conscious spirit; in the view we have worked out this last conquest can alone make the others really possible”. (Ibid, pg.249)
It is the victory of the Spirit over Mind, Life and Matter and not their abandonment (as in certain schools of ascetism) that can lead us to the Integral Harmony.
Date of Update:
- By Dr. Soumitra Basu