Any phenomenon arises from a complex interplay of forces which are ordinarily invisible and to which the surface appearances give no clue. However forces that are invisible to us are not invisible to "the spiritual vision of the Infinite". (Ibid) Sri Aurobindo describes the nature of such forces:
(a) Some of these forces are actualities which would be working to manifest new actualities;
(b) Some forces are possibilities that can become potentially dynamic;
(c) Some forces act from behind as imperatives which are programmed to be actualized through a host of possibilities. (Ibid pg.329-330)
Our reason being an instrument of Ignorance with restricted vision and no direct awareness of things is bound to be limited. We try to interpret through intellect but there are things that can only be perceived through supra-rational instruments like intuition that is born from direct awareness. "But what is not evident to our reason and senses, is self-evident to the Infinite Consciousness, and, if there is a Will of the Infinite, it must be a Will that acts in this full knowledge and is the perfect spontaneous result of a total self-evidence." (Ibid, pg.330) This means that to understand the functioning of the Divine Will, one has to take into cognizance the totality of experience that spans from the rational to the intuitive.
Towards the integrality of Vision
Thus Consciousness and Will must act together and in harmony to effectuate the manifestation of the Truth. If an Infinite Consciousness harmonized with an Infinite Will, we could conceive of a manifestation based on Truth where falsehood has no place. But this is easier said than done. We begin our quest with Reason and ethical codes of conduct and both have their in-built limitations. Reason is based on "constructed conclusions" based on "partial set of facts, motives, desiderata". (Ibid) Our ethical codes of conduct are based on "standards of finite existence". (Ibid, pg.331) Therefore, as we grow towards the Supreme, we have to surpass Reason which does not mean that we become really irrational but that we expand to embrace supra-rational methods of enquiry like Intuition. Likewise our standards of action develop sufficient "pliability and free adaptation" (Ibid) to align with the supra-ethical perspective of conduct.
Yet a word of caution is needed. Until we have developed the supra-rational method of enquiry, it would be naive to abandon reason and conventional standards of conduct as long as we sport an "undeveloped or half-organized intuition"; rather it would be "Imperative on us in a consideration of the Infinite and its being and action to enforce on our reason an utmost plasticity and open it to an awareness of the larger states and possibilities of that which we are striving to consider". (Ibid)
We have thus to shift from the fragmentary mind consciousness that treats the part as a whole to the "essential and total consciousness, vision and knowledge". (Ibid) Sri Aurobindo emphasizes the whole in terms of integrality where the whole, the part and the essence are equally important and have to be fulfilled in consonance with each other and not at the cost of one another:
(a) "To see the parts alone and the totality not at all or only as a sum of the parts is a knowledge, but also at the same time an ignorance"; (b) "to see the totality alone and ignore the parts is also a knowledge and at the same time an ignorance, for a part may be greater than the whole because it belongs to the transcendence; (c) "to see the essence alone because it takes us back straight towards the transcendence and negate the totality and the parts is a penultimate knowledge, but here too there is a capital ignorance." (Ibid) This is obvious as knowledge of the essence is ineffective unless there is the knowledge of how the essence would be worked out not only through the parts but also the whole that was not a mere summation but a surpassing of the parts to produce a new integer.
"A whole knowledge must be there and the reason must become plastic enough to look at all sides, all aspects and seek through them for that in which they are one". (Ibid, pg, 331-332) "The Infinite is at once an essentiality, a boundless totality and a multitude; all these have to be known in order to know truly the Infinite." (Ibid, pg,331) We have to ultimately shift from Reason to the integrality of vision.
The One in Infinite variability
The integrality of the Reality has to be understood in the context where the knowledge and action of the Infinite is "one in an unbound variability". (Ibid, pg.332) Thus we have seen that the Sat or existential aspect of the Brahman is equally represented in the three distinct and unique poises of Self (Atman), Purusha and Ishwara. To emphasize any one of the three at the expense of the others and following it with intense zeal would not be untrue but would not reflect the integrality of vision. Thus,
(a) If we emphasize the Self at the cost of others, we may experience the static aspect and miss the dynamic aspect of Absolute,
(b) If we emphasize the Ishwara aspect at the cost of others, we may seize the dynamic truth but not the eternal and infinite, not the purity of experience,
(c) If we concentrate on the Purusha aspect along with its executive Prakriti, we would arrive at a dichotomy between Soul and Nature, Spirit and Matter, sans their unity. (Ibid)
"We must not commit the mistake of emphasizing one side of the Truth and concluding from it or acting upon it to the exclusion of all other sides and aspects of the Infinite. The realization "I am That" is true, but we cannot safely proceed on it unless we realise also that all is That; our self-existence is a fact, but we must be aware of other selves, of the same Self in other beings and of That which exceeds both own-self and other-self". (Ibid)
Thus some aspirants spend a life-time in discovering the Self in oneself, others go a step ahead by discovering the same Self in others. Both would be short of the integral vision unless the Self of all is discovered "on which we have to found a unity of action and a total, infinitely plastic yet harmonious diversity of action; for that is the nature of the working of the Infinite". (Ibid, pg.332-333)
"The knowledge and action of the Infinite is one in an unbound variability: it would be from the point of view of the Infinite Truth equally an error to insist either on a sameness of action in all circumstances or on a diversity of action without any unifying truth and harmony behind the diversity". (Ibid, pg.332)
The paradox of the Indeterminable
This brings us to the fact that our conception of the Absolute and omnipresent Reality as indeterminable seems paradoxical and contradictory as we are forced to admit that a world of determinations emanates from the indeterminable and exist in it because they can emanate from nowhere else and exist in nowhere else! Sri Aurobindo explains that to understand this logic of the Infinite, our conception of indeterminability has to change. Indeterminability is to be measured in terms of illimitable freedom; it is free to allow the emanation of its potentialities as determinates which become manifest realities or free not to manifest them. In fact, nothing is created-it is only that dormant potentialities can manifest or remain unmanifest from the matrix of the Indeterminable. The infinite freedom of the indeterminable is the "indispensable condition of its free infinite self-determination". (Ibid, pg.333) To deny the freedom of self-determination to the Illimitable would itself be a limitation and a contradiction -- an attempt to limit by negation the Infinite and Illimitable. "Into the central fact of the two sides of the nature of the Absolute, the essential and the self-creative or dynamic, no real contradiction enters; it is only a pure infinite essence that can formulate itself in infinite ways". (Ibid, pg.334)
In a similar vein one could say that if the Infinite was held to be totally free from all qualities and attributes, it could also be conceived to be teeming with innumerable qualities and attributes. The freedom of the Infinite has to be understood in a positive sense -freedom does not denote that it is devoid of every attribute but rather provides the "indispensable condition" for "free and infinite self-expression in quality and feature".(Ibid)
The freedom to transcend or express qualities
To understand why the Infinite can be free from qualia and yet free also to express qualia, Sri Aurobindo explains the nature of what we label as "quality": "A quality is the character of a power of conscious being; or we may say that the consciousness of being expressing what is in it makes the power it brings out recognizable by a native stamp on it which we call quality or character". (Ibid)
This definition clarifies the mode of the Infinite to transcend or express qualia. If we consider Reality to be Consciousness or a Conscious Being, it has a power or energy that may or may not be expressed. If at all the energy is expressed, it would be discernible by its uniqueness in the zeitgeist which we would formulate as quality or character. In other words, a particular quality manifests when the creative Idea (Real-Idea) that gets involved at the root of the manifestation emerges from the involved consciousness on being empowered by the force of consciousness. (Ibid)
Yet the Infinite cannot be conceived as a summation of all qualities expressed in the Infinite or finite context; it transcends all qualities. The Absolute can be the source of all qualities and yet it cannot be characterized either by an exclusive quality or by a summation of qualities. Thus courage or healing power of a drug can be considered as qualities that have emerged from the Absolute though singly or together, they do not characterize the Absolute. As Sri Aurobindo quips, "it would be evidently absurd to say that the Absolute is courage or curing-power, or to say that courage and curing-power are the Absolute, but it would be equally absurd to deny the capacity of the Absolute to put forth courage or curing-power as self-expressions in its manifestation. When the logic of the finite fails us, we have to see with a direct and unbound vision what is behind in the logic of the Infinite. We can then realise that the Infinite is infinite in quality, feature, power, but that no sum of qualities, features, powers can describe the Infinite". (Ibid, pg.335)
Date of Update:
- By Dr. Soumitra Basu