Thus we are all searching for a 'unity-principle' within our own paradigms of knowledge and our preferred fields of action. Even within each paradigm, it is so difficult to conceive or construct a 'unity-principle'. It must be appreciated how more difficult it is to construct a unity-principle that binds two apparently irreconcilable paradigms. 'Unity' itself is a word that evokes concepts like 'totality', 'holistic', 'integralist'. Yet the human mind understands unity in incomplete, partial and fragmentary terms. The intellectual concept of unity is Platonic and idealistic rather than realistic (even in countries where social equality is idolized and practiced, racial riots can arise and usurp all norms).
The romanticist's appeal for unity is more emotional than intellectual, more passionate and hence, like the turbulence of passions, can be unpredictably disruptive. The scientist works with the unity-principle at the level of atoms, molecules, and chromosomes but cannot extend that unity in interpersonal relations, in life (the scientist is also prone to divorce, feuds and rivalries). The religious preacher talks of unity from his pulpit but when he attends a world congress of religions, he usually speaks of 'tolerance'. 'Tolerance' is a concept that tolerates others without necessarily having a real experience of 'oneness'. The mystic may really have the experiential realization of a blank, featureless unity, an infinite oneness but he is more secure in his hermitage – placed in the cauldron of the society, he gets tagged as 'unrealistic'. Against such a background, the unity of matter and spirit can be another 'fad' in the realm of ideals, a gross oversimplification, and an unnecessary exercise.
Sri Aurobindo accepts the complexity of this situation and hence qualifies the concept of unity as a 'MULTITUDINOUS UNITY'. This is not a unity constructed in an eclectic fashion from a variegated diversity. Neither is this unity based on an elemental principle like the 'idea' of the thinker, the 'atom' of the physicist or 'chromosome' of the biologist, or the 'featureless' unity of the mystic or a 'zero' of the nihilist, rather it is a pluridimensional unity that holds all these elemental principles together without being limited by them. In that 'multiple unity', 'matter' and 'spirit' have their significant poises and one is not belittled by the other. This might be difficult to conceive as it is a product of circular or non–linear thinking. We will later discuss how the Aurobindonian thought-paradigm shifts from a linear to a non-linear poise. 'Because truth is not linear, but global, and not successive, but simultaneous, it can therefore not be expressed in words: it must be lived.' (The Mother's Agenda, April 1954)
The monism of science belongs to one paradigm while the monism of metaphysics belongs to another paradigm and it is futile to interchange one for the other. For the mystic, monism is classically an experiential realization of an all-pervading, featureless unity. For the scientist, monism is an experimental construct of a unity-principle implicit in the building blocks of matter. Sri Aurobindo did not favour to forcibly inter-relate science and metaphysics. In a conversation on 15/01/1939 , He expressed his views:
"Disciple: There are some scientists who are trying to prove the existence of spiritual and supra-physical truths by science.
Sri Aurobindo: That is a futile effort. You cannot found metaphysics on science. The whole basis of your thought will tumble every time science changes.
Disciple: Can it not be said that there is something in philosophy which corresponds to the truth of science?
Sri Aurobindo: No;
all you can say is that certain conclusions of metaphysics agree and
correspond to certain conclusions of science."
(Page 87, Evening Talks with Sri Aurobindo recorded by A. B. Purani)
Sri Aurobindo is interested to construct a unity- principle that does not reject the multiplicity -- something which He names as 'multitudinous unity'. This multitudinous unity needs to be related to a separate matrix of consciousness that surpasses the individual consciousness as well as the individual cognitive field. He names this third dimensional matrix as the COSMIC CONCIOUSNESS and elaborates it fully in the next chapter.
To realize the cosmic consciousness that surpasses the individual cognitive field, one has to exceed one's individuality. This can only be done by exceeding the ego which maintains the individuality.
Science and metaphysics meet at the cosmic consciousness. To realize the cosmic consciousness one has to take into cognizance the multiplicity which is the field of science, and simultaneously surpass one's ego through a spiritual-psychological discipline to experientially relate to it. Thus the cosmic consciousness is the plane where science and metaphysics meet with equal weightage without belittling each other.
Thus, one cannot experience this MULTITUDINOUS UNITY merely at the level of intellect or emotions. Just as in the physical science, the pursuit of a terrestrial omnipotence for humanity is making space and time contract to a vanishing point (mark the triumph of cyberspace!), so also, a realization of matter-spirit fusion necessitates that 'the machinery of ego itself becomes subtilised to the vanishing-point' (The Life Divine, pg.20). In other words, the 'ego' has to be replaced by a 'beyond-ego principle' which alone can experience 'unity embracing and possessing multiplicity and no longer, as now, multiplicity struggling towards some figure of unity' (The Life Divine, pg.20, 21). In subsequent chapters of The Life Divine, Sri Aurobindo will present a master-plan of how the ego has to be replaced by a integrative, holistic principle which alone can have the true experience of 'ultimate unity without denying the energy of the expressive multiplicity', and veridically declare in tune with the Upanishads: 'Matter also is Brahman'.
The whole concept of this 'spirit-matter' unity is necessary for a transformation of the present earthly life and an affirmation of a divine life upon earth:
THE AFFIRMATION of a divine life upon earth and an immortal sense in mortal existence can have no base unless we recognize not only eternal Spirit as the inhabitant of this bodily mansion, the wearer of this mutable robe, but accept Matter of which it is made, as a fit and noble material out of which He weaves constantly His garbs, builds recurrently the unending series of His mansions.
(The Life Divine pg.10)
(NB: Sri Aurobindo qualifies this statement with terms like 'recurrently' and 'unending' as he considers the present human being to be a transitional form to be transcended by future models enroute a supramental existence).
In Matter itself, Spirit will blossom. The Divine Life will manifest not in a faraway heaven but in earthly life:
A dumb Inconscient drew life's stumbling maze,
A night of all things, packed and infinite:
It made our consciousness a torch that plays
Between the Abyss and a supernal Light.
Our mind was framed a lens of segment sight
Piecing out inch by inch the world's huge mass,
And reason a small hard theodolite
Measuring unreally the measureless ways.
Yet is the dark Inconscient whence came all
The self-same Power that shines on high unwon:
Our Night shall be a sky purpureal,
Our torch transmute to a vast godhead's sun.
Rooted in mire heavenward man's nature grows, -
His soul the dim bud of God's flaming rose.
(Sri Aurobindo: Collected Poems, pg137)
- By Dr. Soumitra Basu