As the human being becomes progressively aware of his limitations, a time comes when one can no longer passively go on bearing the pain and discord of the world. At first he makes adjustments and compromises, tries to “quiet himself by seeking to be satisfied with his limitations or by confining his struggle to such mastery as he can gain over this material world he inhabits, some mental and physical triumph over his progressive knowledge over his inconscient fixities, of his small, concentrated, conscious will and power over its inertly driven monstrous forces”.(Ibid) But he cannot remain contented for as a finite being, man cannot curtail the intrinsic impulse to reach to a finite greater than oneself or to an infinite beyond oneself. In fact, the striving for the infinite is so strong in the psyche of the human being that at some point in time the finite and the infinite have to be reconciled in the human consciousness. Sri Aurobindo describes the human being to be a “finite-seeming infinity”(Ibid) and the urge to seek the Infinite cannot be compromised. “He[man] is the first son of earth who has become vaguely aware of God within him, of his immortality or his need for immortality, and the knowledge is a whip that drives and a cross of crucifixion until he is able to turn it into a source of infinite light and joy and power”. (Ibid,pg.262)
The resistance of the law of division
When the finite aspires to grow to the Infinite, it actually moves to manifest and reveal the Divine Consciousness, Knowledge and Will which had been lost in the Inertia and Ignorance of Matter. Naturally, the manifestation of the Infinite in the matrix of the finite would be a progression from joy to infinite joy. This would well be the natural law of development. But Fate rules otherwise and brings up a great resistance. And the reason for this great resistance, the sine qua non is the law of the division of Matter.
The property of divisibility of Matter is all pervasive and acts at all levels of material life for in the earth-consciousness , Matter is the foundation and Life has to manifest in Matter and Mind has to manifest in Life that is supported by Matter. That is why divisibility of Matter leaves its impressions not only in physical life but also in vital and sensational life and mental life.
At the level of the physical consciousness, divisibility of Matter brings pain and discord, the law of attraction and repulsion, of defense and attack. “For each body being a limited conscious-force feels itself exposed to the attack, impact, forceful contact of other such limited conscious-force or of universal forces and, where it feels itself broken in upon or unable to harmonise the contacting and the recipient consciousness, it suffers and pain, is attracted or repelled, has to defend itself or to assail; it is constantly called upon to undergo what it is unwilling or unable to suffer”. (Ibid,pg.262)
In the vital and sensational consciousness, “the law of division brings the same reactions with the higher values of grief and joy, love and hatred, oppression and depression, all cast into terms of desire, and by desire into straining and effort, and by the straining into excess and defect of force, incapacity, the rhythm of attainment and disappointment, possession and recoil, a constant strife and trouble and unease”. (Ibid)
In the mental life, the law of division inhibits the passage from pettiness to nobility, from a narrow ideation to a greater truth, from a lower will to a higher transforming will and it brings “dualities of truth pursued by error, light by darkness, power by incapacity, pleasure of pursuit and attainment by pain of repulse and of dissatisfaction with what is attained”.(Ibid)
The net result of this phenomenon of divisibility is that the human being is robbed of the Bliss-principle or Ananda of Sachchidananda which is the value aspect of Reality. If there is no value of this material existence, the human drama is futile –“a colossal mistake, a delirium of the self-embodying spirit”.(Ibid,pg.263) This is the raison d’ etre of the pessimistic view of life which looks at existence as a phenomenon afflicted by division, limitation, ignorance and egoism and recommended an escape from material life into the heaven’s true quietude of the Spirit to experience the divine self-delight.
The origin of the principle of division
The school of thought that believes that Matter is an illusion also believes this illusion originates in the Mind which imposes its terms of division and ignorance on the sensory perception of Matter. There is a certain truth in this proposition though not the full truth.
If everything that evolves is preceded by a descent of the Superconscious in a graded way, then every plane of consciousness that is manifest must have been preceded by an anterior unmanifest plane. In that way, the principle of division in Matter has been created by a divided mind and the conceptions of an all- dividing Mind have been executed by an all-dividing Life-force that worked out the modalities of the division. In the process the dividing Mind imprisoned itself in the dungeon of Matter to exhibit the properties of ignorance, inertia and divisibility.
There are some philosophers who consider the Mind to be the first and primary principle of the world-phenomenon. If so, the ultimate goal would be to attain the Mind fully but such an attempt would be hampered because Mind would have to constantly struggle, albeit vainly, with Life and Matter, “overpowering them only to be overpowered by them, repeating eternally a fruitless cycle”.(Ibid,pg.264)
Sri Aurobindo presents a different world-view. He explains that it is the immortal and infinite Spirit who veils himself in Matter and under the influence of the Supermind which is the Supreme Creative Consciousness, permits the division of the Mind to be imposed on the material principle by the Life-force. The Supermind permits the divisibility of Matter and facilitates the reign of the material principle as initial conditions of the evolutionary saga where the One has to manifest the Many without abrogating the unity-principle. This whole phenomenon assumes an exceptional significance for the evolution is not supposed to end with the emergence of the mental being but has to progress further to manifest a higher Gnostic being –the Supramental being.
The significance of individualization
The principle of division facilitates the phenomenon of individualization of every plane of consciousness or else consciousness would have been present only in a diffused, universal poise. Sri Aurobindo has explained that both the poises are necessary: the universe is a diffusion of consciousness beyond the limitations of space and time while the individual is its concentration within the limits of Space and Time.
Sri Aurobindo explains that every individualization serves to be a subordinate action of the all-embracing Supermind allowing a transformation of the characteristics of each plane so as to be made progressively perfect as the evolution progresses in consciousness. In this way the characteristics of the mental plane have the potentiality to be elevated to be instruments of the Supermind. Similarly, the characteristics of the Life-plane can be elevated to reflect the actions of Chit-Shakti or Consciousness-Force that at the level of the Supermind aligns Knowledge and Will in terms of luminosity and joy.(Ibid)
In the same vein, the characteristics of the individual material existence can also undergo a change and get liberated from death, division and mutual devouring so as not to be chained by destiny but be instruments of the Free-Will of the Spirit in a movement of spontaneity and self-delight in a world where unity, love and beauty reign supreme. The evolutionary trajectory would not only facilitate the emergence of a divine mind and a divine life but also a divine body. The divine body would serve the great act of justifying the descent of Spirit into form.
It can be argued that the main difficulty in acknowledging such a proposition of a transformed material existence is the way we conceptualize Matter in the practical world through sensory perception which works out a particular relation between sense and substance.(Ibid,pg.265) Can the present equation between sense and substance be reflected in a relation of consciousness with consciousness in terms of divinity. A section of conventional spiritual seekers would argue that such a relation between the Divine as knower and Divine as object has to be sought in in unearthly terms for though the mind and life and soul can be liberated, the material principle would remain unconquered and unconquerable.
Sri Aurobindo differs. “There is, however, no reason why we should accept this limiting conclusion. There are, quite certainly, other states even of Matter itself; there is undoubtedly an ascending series of the divine gradations of substance; there is the possibility of the material being transfiguring itself through the acceptation of a higher law than its own which is yet its own because it is always there latent and potential in its own secrecies.” (Ibid)
Date of Update:
- By Dr. Soumitra Basu