Sri Aurobindo speaks about a ‘kind of Knowledge which is one with Identity’. This is not a fiction if we consider that even in our ordinary lives, we can ‘know’ movements like ‘anger’ or ‘love’ by identifying with these states. Of course one has to cultivate a poise of detachment in one part of the mind so that one can stand back and identify with one’s own external movements. The yogi develops this technology of ‘identity’ with the deeper and higher levels of Consciousness. In the process of developing and probing the inner ranges of consciousness, the individual can ‘identify’ with the Universal and Transcendental Consciousness. Why? This is because of the Indian spiritual realization that the microcosm is represented in the macrocosm and the macrocosm is represented in the microcosm. In other words it is the same Consciousness that is represented in different poises—individual, universal (cosmic), and transcendent. Therefore if one comes into contact with the essence of one’s own individual consciousness, one can, with the correctly cultivated technique, come into contact with the essence of the universal as well as the transcendental consciousness.
The discovery by the Indian spiritual tradition that the microcosm is represented in the macrocosm and vice versa has enormous consequences in the field of Knowledge:
a) It gives credibility to the process of acquiring knowledge by ‘identity’.
b) It justifies the ascending movement from the ‘finite’ to the ‘infinite’. This makes it worthwhile for the human being to aspire and yearn for the Godhead.
c) It justifies the descending movement of The Godhead to the human aspirant. This is the genesis of ‘Grace’.
d) It generates the ‘Consciousness’ paradigm that links the microcosm and macrocosm.
e) It justifies Sri Aurobindo’s concept of ‘transformation’ of ‘consciousness’. As the Higher Reality (the macrocosm) is represented in the lower earthly Reality (the microcosm), it is possible to transmute the lower Reality in terms of the Higher Reality. In other words, ‘Spirituality’ can manifest in ‘material’ life and “Matter” can reveal the “Spirit’s” face. That is the aim of The Life Divine.
The Consciousness Approach
What is the utility of a Consciousness approach to knowledge? The materialistic knowledge deals with the outer life. It might seem spectacular at one moment and obsolete the next (remember the economists who made losses in the share market the year after they received the Noble prize—so much for their wisdom!). The ascetic who rejects the world can not transform the suffering, ignorance and falsehood in creation—he has his own isolated salvation! Sri Aurobindo is interested in a Consciousness paradigm which will result ‘in revolution of our internal being and through the internal, of our external life’ (The Life Divine, pg17). He adds that there is also a very high process of knowledge through which the Unknowable “does reveal itself” (Ibid) in terms of phenomenal existence. He is speaking of the Supreme Creative Consciousness that can be understood through a different type of cognitive experience. In subsequent chapters of The Life Divine, He will elaborate this new cognitive phenomenon as Integral cognition or Supramental cognition. It is surprising that He still describes such a process of knowledge as “higher but not highest” (Ibid). There are two reasons for this comment:
a) Once the Integral cognitive field (Supramental cognition) manifests and gets stabilized, newer processes of Knowledge will be triggered off.
b) The Integral or Supramental cognition can not have any value unless it moves out from the mere status of Knowledge and dynamises itself at the levels of ordinary Mental cognitive field and also radically transmutes the infra-cognitive matrices of Life and Matter.
In God concealed the world began to be,
Tardily it travels towards manifest God:
Our imperfection towards perfection toils,
The body is a chrysalis of a soul:
The infinite holds the finite in its arms,
Time travels towards revealed eternity.
A miracle structure of the eternal Mage,
Matter its mystery hides from its own eyes,
A scripture written out in cryptic signs,
An occult document of the All-Wonderful’s art.
All here bears witness to his secret might,
In all we feel his presence and his power.
A blaze of his sovereign glory is the sun,
A glory is the gold and glimmering moon,
A glory is his dream of purple sky.
A march of his greatness are the wheeling stars.
His laughter of beauty breaks out in green trees,
His moments of beauty triumph in a flower;
The blue sea’s chant, the rivulet’s wandering voice
Are murmurs falling from the Eternal’s harp.
This world is God fulfilled in outwardness.
(Sri Aurobindo, Savitri, pg 623-624)