In Chapter V of the Life Divine, Sri Aurobindo uses the term ‘INTEGRAL MANIFESTATION’ in a technical sense. In this postscript write-up, we shall try to understand its significance.
We have already examined how Reality is conceived to be ONE, whether manifest or unmanifest, and in the various forms and processes of manifestation. Reality is perceived as a BEING or NON-BEING while whatever has manifested within the limits of space and time have been termed as BECOMING.
Some view ‘Being’ to be ‘Real’ and ‘Becoming’ to be illusory, ephemeral, existing only in subjective perception. Sri Aurobindo views both ‘Being’ and ‘Becoming’ to co-exist simultaneously:
‘Being and Becoming are the single One. The One does not become the Many, but the One is for ever the Many even as the Many are for ever the One…
This One can be all because it is no-one in particular, it can be all pervading and eternal in its essence because it is not bound by Space or by Time. It is One but it is also multitudinous, its multitudes are the self-expression, not the denial, the abundance, not the division or fragmentation of its oneness. Each being of its multitudes seems to be a portion of the One…’
(Sri Aurobindo, Essays Divine & Human, Pg. 205)
This means that in each form of manifestation, the Infinite is present as a finite phenomenon of itself.
If this is true, then what we call as the manifestation is not a haphazard phenomenon. If all that is manifested is simultaneously another poise of that which exceeds the manifestation, then obviously, such a manifestation must follow its own law, rhythm and harmony. Indeed the manifested worlds have their own laws and processes, which are so exact and precise that the human being has been able to systematize their knowledge in logical codes. The world of Matter has given rise to the physical sciences, the world of Life has given rise to the biological sciences, the world of Mind has given rise to the psychosocial and philosophical disciplines. Likewise, Reality, which is experientially perceived as an ‘ONENESS’ in essence that pervades all manifested forms must have its own laws and processes. This ‘ONENESS’ is perceived and conceptualized in mystical disciplines in terms of ‘Consciousness’.
Actually, it is Consciousness that is the great underlying fact of existence, which formulates different planes at different levels of a graded universe. Consciousness is essentially the same throughout but variable in status, condition and operation. When mystics use the term ‘consciousness’, they refer to the essence of the ‘Being’ but Sri Aurobindo explains that the same is also the essence of ‘Becoming’. Only, when the same consciousness that is self-absorbed in the Being becomes the basis of all that is self-expressed in the Becoming, it has to have certain unique characteristics. These are
a) The ‘manifestation’ of different planes of existence follows an ‘evolutionary’ spiral in the matrix of consciousness itself. The evolutionary nisus starts from the ‘Inconscience’ and progresses towards the ‘Super-conscience’. Evolution however cannot proceed from nothing. It is possible only because in the Inconscience is hid the potentiality of the Superconscience just as in the seed is hid the potentiality of the tree.
b) The manifestation of different and diverse planes and poises of consciousness shows that consciousness is pluridimensional in nature. ‘Brahman expresses Itself in many successive forms of consciousness, successive in their relation even if co-existence in being or coeval in Time, …’ (Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine, Pg. 43). Consciousness is not only manifested in different planes (Matter, Life, Mind) but also in different poises: Individual, Universal, and Transcendent.
c) The different planes, forms and poises of Consciousness are not discreet and scattered but all can be represented in each and the ONE OMNIPRESENT Reality can be represented in all. Besides, any higher plane of consciousness does not reject the preceding planes but incorporates, upgrades and transmutes them. Thus Life does not reject Matter but the quality of Matter inherent in living systems is vastly different from that in inorganic matter. Likewise, Mind does not reject ‘Life involved in Matter’ but uplifts it so that the life of the highly mentalised human being is qualitatively superior to the life of an animal with a rudimentary mind. Again, the essence of the OMNIPRESENT Reality, which is present in EACH plane and form of consciousness also progressively, unfolds its potentialities as the evolutionary nisus traverses the hierarchies of consciousness. That is why the SAME ESSENCE of Reality is termed differently at different planes of consciousness – in Matter it is the True Physical Being (Annomay Purusha) while at the plane of Life, it is the True Vital Being (Pranomay Purusha) and at the plane of Mind it is the True Mental Being (Manomay Purusha). It is the SAME BEING IN DIFFERENT poises – the ‘sameness’ or ‘oneness’ is indisputable but the capacity of unfolding of potentialities gives a meaning to the ‘difference’ too.
d) The consequence of ‘Oneness’ expressed uniquely in different planes of the manifestation permits the ‘lowest’ to be ‘transmuted’ in terms of the highest and the highest to be ‘manifested’ in terms of the lowest. In other words, if the ‘individual’ can ‘universalize’ oneself and climb to the ‘transcendence’, the ‘Transcendence’ can also manifest in the ‘universal’ and the ‘individual’. ‘For the World-Transcendent embraces the universe, is one with it and does not exclude it, even as the universe embraces the individual, is one with him and does not exclude him. The individual is a center of the whole universal consciousness; the universe is a form and definition which is occupied by the entire immanence of the Formless and Indefinable’. (Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine, Pg. 44) Thus the manifestation is in its nature ‘INTEGRALIST’.
When Sri Aurobindo uses the term ‘integral manifestation’, He acknowledges the complexity of the manifestation; accepts it as an expression of the Omnipresent Reality and not an illusion; describes the ‘pluridimensional’ nature of the manifestation; traces the evolutionary curve in the matrix of consciousness that formulates the grades of the manifestation; and forwards the capacity of ‘transformation’ of the lowest integers in manifestation in terms of the highest and pari-passu, the blossoming of the ‘highest’ in conditions of the lowest. In other words, the ‘superconscient’ can manifest in earthly life; the Transcendent can be expressed in terms of the Universal and Individual. Inspite of the complexity of what has been described, the entire manifestation culminates in an integral movement where the Infinite can be expressed in terms of the Finite and the Finite can be transformed in terms of the Infinite. In this scheme of things, the manifestation itself is integrally dynamic. That is why Sri Aurobindo describes the manifestation as an ‘integral manifestation’.
In the integral manifestation, the Absolute, the One, the Transcendent becomes the Many and each individual formation representing the Many can also transfigure itself through an evolution in consciousness, in terms of the Transcendent:
He describes the individual destiny in poetic terms :
‘The Absolute, the Perfect, the Alone>
Has called out of the Silence his mute Force
Where she lay in the featureless and formless hush
Guarding from Time by her immobile sleep
The ineffable puissance of his solitude.
The Absolute, the Perfect, the Alone
Has entered with his silence into space:
He has fashioned these countless persons of one self;
He has built a million figures of his power;
He lives in all, who lived in his Vast alone;
Space is himself and Time is only he.
The Absolute, the Perfect, the Immune,
One who is in us as our secret self,
Our mask of imperfection has assumed,
He has made this tenement of flesh his own,
His image in the human measure cast
That to his divine measure we might rise;
Then in a figure of divinity
The Maker shall recast us and impose
A plan of godhead on the mortal’s mould
Lifting our finite minds to his infinite,
Touching the moment with eternity.
This transfiguration is earth’s due to heaven:
A mutual debt binds man to the Supreme:
His nature we must put on as he put ours;
We are sons of God and must be even as he:
His human portion, we must grow divine.
Our life is a paradox with God for key.’
Date of Update:
(Sri Aurobindo, Savitri, Pg. 67))
- By Dr. Soumitra Basu