The Ultimate Reality is difficult to conceive but it has been experientially perceived in seer-vision as Sachchidananda - a triune of Existence-Consciousness-Bliss. Sri Aurobindo modified the Consciousness aspect describing it as Consciousness-Force or Chit-Shakti because Consciousness by itself has no potency unless it has an in-built energy. Sri Aurobindo describes that it is this Consciousness-Force or Chit-Shakti which builds the multiverses that includes the planes of consciousness.
In practical terms here, we are faced with a curious dilemma. In this world of variegated multiplicity, the Knowledge of its unitary origin is not only not easily found but has to be constructed, albeit falteringly and hesitantly from a great Inconscient matrix - a total Nescience. A strange fact that every yearning for Truth and every aspiration for perfection has to start from its denial. Life has to assert itself from a foundation of general death and climb along a hierarchy of evolutionary growth through increasingly complex aggregates, starting from the unicellular organism to the highly complex human structure. Likewise, "Consciousness also establishes and maintains a growing but precarious light in the darkness of an original Nescience and a universal Ignorance". (L.D, pg.310) Consciousness and Knowledge are slowly released from the Inconscience -initially through infinitesimal points followed by release of little quanta that gradually associate and intermingle in a "tardy and difficult evolution ".(Ibid)
Indeterminate determination in a cosmic paradox
The fact that our spectrum of knowledge ends up in a assorted mosaic of partial truths is the reason that we can have knowledge of phenomena but not of the "reality of things or foundations of existence". (Ibid) All the knowledge of phenomena become somewhat dwarfed when we are faced with the Infinite or a blank foundation of things that is not only indeterminate but indeterminable! A classic example is that subatomic particles like leptons and quarks cannot be broken into more basic units or building blocks because they lapse into formlessness. Then all the superstructure we built assuming a basic unit of building block at the foundation becomes infructuous. Where do these subatomic particles lapse but into an undefined indeterminate Infinite! Ulrich Mohroff explains that as it is no longer possible to model physical reality on a stable foundation, the pertinent query now was to decide how does the Infinite or Brahman manifest the world or manifest itself as the world. Thus even what we consider as determinate integers such as protons and atoms cannot be interpreted in a strictly objective sense but abstractly, "in terms of correlations between measurement outcomes"(Mohroff Ulrich in Chap.2. Spiritual Physics, in Essays on Sri Aurobindo, Edited by Aparajita Mukhopadhyay, Jadavpur University, Kolkata,2015, pg.73-74). The universe that exists in the bosom of the Infinite and interpreted whether in its structural reality or when viewed in terms of Energy, "appears as an indeterminate determination, a "boundless Infinite", -- paradoxical but necessary expressions which would seem to indicate that we are face to face with a suprarational mystery as the base of things; in that universe arise -from where?" (L.D,pg.310-311)There are determinates comprising the universe; "general" determinates that form the stuff of physics, chemistry and biology, "particular" determinates that form the stuff of social sciences, behavioural sciences and aesthetics, but are these determinates warranted by any necessity or are they "self-imposed" on the Infinite! This is a great riddle that needs to be worked through in terms of an increasing unravelling of the mysteries of consciousness.
Sri Aurobindo also comments that the word Energy used to interpret the myriad functionings of Nature conveys little value as it does not explain how and why a conscious Force plans and arranges them not haphazardly but in consonance with a "inherent Truth" in them. How do electrons "know" that they have to rotate in their orbit or what is the Conscious-Force that does not allow them to stop rotating? Or what is the motivation of the bee to spend its energy to build a bee-hive?
"It has been possible indeed for human Science to detect the process or many processes of material things, but this knowledge does not throw any light on the major question; we do not know even the rationale of the original cosmic processes, for the results do not present themselves as their necessary but only their pragmatic and actual consequence. In the end we do not know how these determinates came into or out of the original Indeterminate or Indeterminable on which they stand forth as on a blank or flat background in the riddle of their ordered occurrence. At the origin of things we are faced with an Infinite containing a mass of unexplained finites, an Indivisible full of endless divisions, an Immutable teeming with mutations and differentiae. A cosmic paradox is the beginning of all things, a paradox without a key to its significance." (L.D, pg.311)
Is the Infinite a necessary conception?
Is it necessary to postulate an Infinite -an original indeterminate beyond Space and Time that supports all phenomenal determinates? In that case, determinates like our formed universe could be stand-alone phenomena in an abyss of Nothingness or a mystic zero of Non-Existence. Yet the enigma would remain the same for the fundamental reality would be left unknown.
Is there a limit to Space and Time? Science has been unable to affix any such limit. When asked to comment on Einstein's contention that space is "boundless but not infinite", Sri Aurobindo quipped: "How do you know? 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 live beyond our material space". (Evening Talks, pg.101) In the end, describing the universe in terms of Space and Time or Space-Time has little value as these are Indeterminates which have no clue of the determinations that occur in their matrix. The most that could be said space is an extension of being and time an extension of energy (Ibid, pg.102). Sri Aurobindo did not approve the clumping of space and time in a fourth dimension. He commented that the time-space continuum was only a phrase: "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).
Thus, "Infinite existence, infinite non-being or boundless finite, all are to us original indeterminates or indeterminables; we can assign to them no distinct characters or features, nothing which would predetermine their determinations." (L.D, pg.312)
A cosmic Magician
Science reveals how the Infinite and indeterminate Existence throws up in its motion "waves of energism". (Ibid) Vortices of Energy gather infinitesimals in an ever-expanding hierarchy to produce worlds of Matter, Life, Consciousness with unique characteristics. The puzzle is that we know the antecedents of the groupings of infinitesimals behind particular organizations of substance but we do not know who decides the nature of the groupings to produce unique determinations -"we fail to discover, for instance, how a fixed formula for the combination of oxygen and hydrogen comes to determine the appearance of water which is evidently something more than a combination of gases, a new creation, a new form of substance, a material manifestation of a quite new character."(L.D, pg.312-313) We do not actually know how a seed can be programmed to grow into a tree though we visualize it to happen. And in our folly we think that any combination of genes and chromosomes can roll out a genius -something that we could one day replicate in the laboratory! Scientists could produce a Plato or a Shakespeare and explain the production of a Hamlet or a Symposium or a Republic by manipulating physiological and genetic determinants! As Sri Aurobindo quipped:
One dreamed and saw a gland write Hamlet, drink
At the Mermaid, capture immortality;
A committee of hormones on the Agean's brink
Composed the Iliad and the Odyssey.
(CWSA 02, pg.614)
The formulae of Science may be pragmatically correct and phenomenally sustainable but at the end they masquerade with the air of a cosmic Magician for they cannot reveal the how or why of phenomena.
The mystery of variability
The other great mystery is the stupendous variability that blossoms from an original indeterminate matrix of Energy. The general determinants that emerge from the primary indeterminate matrix are themselves sort of generic indeterminates with numerous variations of the substance-energy. (L.D,pg.313)
An example (Ibid. pg.314):
Like Electric energy, a gaseous state of energy-substance produces different gases; a solid state of energy-substance produces a diverse array of soils, rocks and minerals, a life-principle develops a variegated vegetable kingdom, a principle of animal life is replete with a plethora of genus and species; while human life and mind have still not revealed all that it can reveal now and in future as evolution progresses through consciousness. (Ibid)
What is surprising that the general determinants or the generic indeterminates that issue from the original indeterminate matrix offer no clue to the ensuing variability. "A necessity of immutable sameness at the base, of free and unaccountable variations on the surface seems to be the law; but who or what determines?" (Ibid)
Is the determinant an "inventive Thought" or a "hidden determining Will" ? Or a "self-organizing dynamic Chance"? Or an automatic mechanical necessity?
If we consider "Chance" as a determinant, we have to presume that Chance can only manifest if there is the provision of "boundless Possibility or a womb of innumerable possibilities" (Ibid, pg.315) in the origin of things. If that is so, there is the equal possibility that a random action may not determine a persistent order! "One would be justified rather in supposing that there is an inherent imperative Truth of things unseen by us, but a Truth capable of manifold manifestation, throwing out a multitude of possibilities and variants of itself which the creative Energy by its action turns into so many realised actualities". (Ibid)
The theory of "mechanical necessity" cannot explain the free play of variability for a law of unity cannot suffice unless co-existent with a dependent law of multiplicity to weave out a manifestation of multiplicity from a matrix of oneness.
The greatest stumbling block is that no science or theory, no brilliant intellect can explain how Consciousness manifests from Inconscience, how qualia manifests from non-qualia, how a world of colours and beauty emerge from the inert material of physics and chemistry. David Chalmers called it to be the hard problem of consciousness. There is in fact a double contradiction for not only Consciousness emerges from Inconscience but a rational being emerges from an inert matrix created by inconscient Chance! (Ibid, pg.316)
Creator: Extra-cosmic or Immanent
If not chance or mechanical necessity, who could create consciousness out of apparent Inconscience? A Mind and Will might be operating behind the veil using material form of substance and inconscient Energy as "plastic creative basis" , much like a master-artisan. This Mind and Will could belong to an Extra-cosmic Divinity. (Ibid). As our physical senses can only be operative in the limits of the cosmos, a direct evidence of a supra-cosmic Creator would not be discernible. Or it may be that the Creator is not 100% supra-cosmic but immanent in creation. This immanence also would not be discernible unless consciousness evolves to a point where the "indwelling Presence" could be felt. (Ibid, pg.317) Yet the concept of an omnipotent and omniscient creator cannot explain the law of unnecessary ignorance, strife, suffering and the final culmination in death. (Ibid) Why was an unhappy universe created at all in the first place; indeed, what was the compulsion? Sri Aurobindo explains: "All theistic explanations of existence starting from an extra-cosmic Deity stumble over this difficulty and can only evade it; it would disappear only if the Creator were, even though exceeding the creation, yet immanent in it, himself in some sort both the player and the play, an Infinite casting infinite possibilities into the form of an evolutionary cosmic order". (Ibid)
Date of Update:
- By Dr. Soumitra Basu