A Psychological Approach to Sri Aurobindo's
The Life Divine
XV Part 5
Time and Space – Further elaborations
The Creation may be perceived as a ‘Real-Idea’ that arises in the Supermind- a totipotent Idea full of Force so that it is executed into action and aligned perfectly, but it needs a field--a matrix to manifest. That field is provided by time and space.
We have examined that it is the same pure Conscious-Force that gets constituted into Space and Time. One could therefore emphatically say that Space and Time are ‘THE FUNDAMENTAL DUAL DIMENSIONS OF THE BRAHMAN’(Sri Aurobindo in Evening Talks with Sri Aurobindo, Rec. by A.B.Purani, 3rd ED, 1982, Pondicherry; Sri Aurobindo Ashram, pg.83).
What is Space? What is Time?
This has to be answered at four different levels of consciousness:
i.At the level of sensory perception
ii.Beyond our individual perception
iii.At the level of the Supermind
iv.In the Transcendence
Space and Time at the level of sensory perception
At the ordinary level as perceived by our senses and understood by our analytical mind,
(a) Space is measured by matter, by divisibility of substance, and
(a) Time is measured by mobility, by succession of past, present and future where Mind places itself at a certain point and looks before and after.
Space and Time beyond our individual perception
When we extend our consciousness beyond the limits of the individual to the universal or cosmic consciousness, our perception of space and time begins to change. Space is occupied not only by Matter but also by non-material substance. ‘Perhaps it is not space that is limited but our capacity to measure space that is limited. Besides, how can you say that space is limited to Matter? There is a non-material space beyond this material universe. A being can leave behind our material space’ (Ibid, pg. 82-83)
If we look at ourselves, we can discover that our non-material aspects also occupy ‘space’. When one is angry, his anger occupies a space. ‘You will find that thought, feeling etc. take place in a certain space which, of course, is not physical space. It is something like the ether which pervades everything.’ (Ibid, pg80-81) Sri Aurobindo points out that when one goes deep in meditation, one can experience an INNER SPACE, - cidakasa, ‘which extends to infinity, and our material space is only a result of it’ (Ibid pg. 85)
It would be oversimplified to relegate Time and Space in terms of the analytical mind. Time cannot be reduced in physical terms- it is supraphysical. One can go back in space, one can ‘destroy’ a certain space by a nuclear bomb, one can ‘recreate ’ or ‘realign’ or ‘reallocate’ a space by reproduction and replication ( as the newly reproduced or replicated forms also occupy space!) One cannot perform similar physical feats with Time. As Sri Aurobindo points out ‘ time is not a physical entity, it is Supraphysical. It is made of subtle elements and so you can go back only in the subtle way.’ (Ibid, pg.79) In fact, when asked to comment on Einstein’s concept of ‘space time continuum’, Sri Aurobindo commented ‘Time cannot be relegated to the position of a mere dimension of space, it is independent in its nature; Time and Space may be called the fundamental dual dimensions of the Brahman’ (Ibid, pg. 83)
It is interesting to note that the brain can actually perceive certain events even before they have occurred. Consciousness researchers are trying to understand the neurophysiology of this process and what they have surmised is yet an assumption. As they cannot yet understand the neurodynamics of this process, they are focusing on ‘who’ perceives the process in the brain. That also is difficult to surmise unless we accept that there is a BEING behind who is and also applies the Conscious-Force that gets formulated into Time and Space.
Sri Aurobindo makes a very important observation:
‘Different potentialities are embodied, placed, related in this field of Time and Space, each with its powers and possibilities fronting other powers and possibilities, and as a result the successions of Time become in their appearance to the mind a working out of things by shock and struggle and not a spontaneous succession. In reality there is a spontaneous working out of things from within and the external shock and struggle are only the superficial aspect of this elaboration.’ (The Life Divine, pg. 146)
Why does He say so? There are two important observations that substantiate the above statement:
(a) Spatial Reality is not a homogenous entity. Space is needed for forms to manifest in the creation. As there are a variety of forms in the manifestation, there must be too a variegated array of spaces. We have physical spaces occupied by physical forms and we have too non-physical spaces occupied by nonphysical formations like emotions, ideas, and the self ’or‘pure consciousness. Moreover, SPACE in a global sense expands and contracts to maintain a vibrant, pulsating universe. This ‘variable’ status of ‘SPACE’ results in its complex interaction with ‘TIME’.
A simple illustration will show how complex is the relation between spatial and temporal realities. A child occupies a certain physical space. When he grows up to be a young man, his physical space enlarges. When he gets old and shrinks, his physical space diminishes. This expansion and contraction of physical space is something we observe in the background of a linear time perspective. However the emotions, ideas, memory of this person also occupy non-physical spaces. That non-physical space may not necessarily correlate with a linear temporal perspective. Suppose the person is a genius with a calendar memory- he can correctly say the date and time without consulting a calendar spanning a period of 20 years forwards and backwards- how can one relate the mental space of such a person with our usual notion of linear time!
(b) Temporal Reality is also not a simple linear function. After all, the truths of the world are not arranged in a sequential, successive manner but are actually simultaneously manifest in different points of space necessitating a circular sweep of temporal reality. The linear sequence of past, present and future is too artificial for they are actually present simultaneously. At any point in time, our acts are fashioned by
(i) The subconscious, which holds not only the individual memory but also the collective memory of the race, and
(ii) The superconscious, which exerts a pull on us to progress in consciousness and often prepares in advance that for which we aspire.
Such a circular notion of Time, simultaneously holding the past, present, and future must have a complex interaction with Space which has both physical and non-physical dimensions.
The difficulty of the complex interaction between Time and Space could be overcome if either one of them sufficed to maintain creation. But both are required- neither can act in isolation. ‘And first, if there were not his factor of the successions of Time, there would be no change or progression; a perfect harmony would be perpetually manifest, coeval with other harmonies in a sort of eternal moment, not successive to them in the movement from past to future. We have instead the constant succession of a developing harmony in which one strain rises out of another that preceded it and conceals in itself that which it has replaced. Or, if the self-manifestation were to exist without the factor of divisible Space, there would be no mutable relation of forms or intershock of forces; all would exist and not be worked out,- a spaceless self-consciousness purely subjective would contain all things in an infinite subjective grasp as in the mind of a cosmic poet or dreamer, but would not distribute itself through all in an indefinite objective self-extension. Or again, if Time alone were real, its successions would be a pure development in which one strain would rise out of another in a subjective free spontaneity as in a series of musical sounds or a succession of poetical images. We have instead a harmony worked out by Time in terms of forms and forces that stand related to one another in an all-containing spatial extension; an incessant succession of powers and figures of things and happenings in our vision of existence.’ (The Life Divine, pg 145-146)
Space and time at the level Of Supermind—the zone of reconciliation
We have said that Space and Time are the fundamental dual divisions of the Brahman but they are constituted by the same Conscious-Force. Actually, their reconciliation can only occur in the Supermind from where they originate. There we have to appreciate their origin and hence their zone of reconciliation at two tiers:
(a) At the level of the ‘comprehending’ Supermind, the ‘idea’ of Space and Time is present just as a creative essence but they are not yet explicitly formulated;
(b) At the level of the ‘apprehending’ Supermind, the idea that ‘space’ and ‘time’ have to be formulated as two distinct dimensions of the same Conscious-Force so that creation can have a field to manifest becomes explicit. In fact, each created form gets a support at this level – the decree to manifest.
Below the level of the Supermind but above the level of the ordinary sensory perception, there is then born the ‘subtle form’, which supports the manifestation of the ‘gross form’ in creation.
At the level of the ordinary mind, space and time become delinked from each other. Unless one reconstructs their relation at the level of the Supermind, they cannot be reconciled and integrated.
‘That which is an apparent discord to the mind because it considers each thing separately in itself, is an element of the general ever-present and ever-developing harmony to the supermind because it views all things in a multiple unity. Besides, the mind sees only a given time and space and views many possibilities pell-mell as all more or less realizable in that time and space; the divine Supermind sees the whole extension of Time and Space and can embrace all the mind’s possibilities and very many more not visible to the mind, but without any error, groping or confusion; for it perceives each potentiality in its proper force, essential necessity, right relation to the others and the time, place and circumstance both of its gradual and its ultimate realisation. To see things steadily and see them whole is not possible to the mind; but it is the very nature of the transcendent Supermind.
‘The supermind in its conscious vision not only contains all the forms of itself which its conscious force creates, but it pervades them as an indwelling Presence and a self-revealing Light. It is present, even though concealed, in every form and force of the universe; it is that Ibvariations it compels; it gathers, disperses, modifies the energy which it uses; and all this is done in accord with the first laws that its self-knowledge has fixed in the very birth of the form, at the very starting-point of the force. It is seated within everything as the Lord in the heart of all existences,- he who turns them as on an engine by the power of his Maya; it is within them and embraces them as the divine Seer who variously disposed and ordained objects, each rightly according to the thing that it is, from years sempiternal.’ (Ibid, pg146-147).
Space and Time in Transcendence
'Beyond the Supermind is the Transcendent Sachchidananda, where there is no division, which is beyond all cognition, which is spaceless and timeless. The mind cannot conceive this transcendental reality- simply became it is an ‘indivisible’ reality whereas the mental reality can only conceive through division .In the Supermind, the Infinite is present with an extension into time and space. Beyond the supermind, the same Infinite is present in a condensed or self-gathered poise – caitanya ghana' (Evening Talks, pg 72)
Sri Aurobindo cites the celebrated verse from Mandukya Upanishad at the beginning of this chapter which describes the ultimate origin of the creative essence of Time and Space:
One seated in the sleep of Superconscience, a massed Intelligence, blissful and the enjoyer of Bliss...This is the omnipotent, this is the omniscient, this is the inner control, this is the source of all. (Ibid, pg 143)
Date of Update:
- By Dr. Soumitra Basu