(b) The Divine Maya explains how the Infinite willfully and meaningfully consented to manifest as the Finite so that each ‘finite’ can grow to its maximum potential through a process of evolution. A unity reconstructed after a conscious growth of finite forms is a rich, variegated ‘multiple’ unity different from the blank, featureless unity experienced by ‘effacing’ or ‘rejecting’ the world of forms. Such an enriched unity gives a meaning to existence. If the ‘Infinite’ is a Reality, the world of the Finite is equally another poise of Reality
We have just considered that the Infinite ‘willfully and meaningfully’ consents to manifest as the Finite. Sri Aurobindo places a special emphasis on this phenomenon.
This is because the ‘IDEA’ that permitted the Infinite to manifest the Finite must be simultaneously
(a) meaningful, because it has created the worlds of forms that follow universal laws, and
(b) willful because it has the power to ‘manifest’ what it ‘conceives’.
This is why Sri Aurobindo raises a very pertinent question in chapter XIII of The Life Divine:
WHERE IS THE ORIGIN OF THE IDEA THAT MANIFESTS THE FINITE FROM THE INFINITE?
Characteristics of the Idea
Naturally, such an Idea must be simultaneously
(a) supremely creative, and
(b) supremely powerful as it has to be effectuated in Reality.
It cannot be an arbitrary idea without any relation to any real Truth of existence.
Sri Aurobindo describes that such an idea must be (Ibid, pg 130-131);
(a) OMNISCIENT- so that the Infinite Consciousness expresses through this Idea an infinite faculty of knowledge. This is necessary or else the world of finites would not be governed by universal laws but would be chaotic and reflect ignorance. It is because of this omniscience, an unity-principle can again be reconstructed from the world of finites;
(b) OMNIPOTENT- as the Idea must carry the potency, the energy, the will to get effectuated in reality -- the Idea cannot remain stationary but must move out to act.
Where can such an Idea originate?
Can such an omniscient, omnipotent Idea originate in the Universal Mind?
If the Universal Mind or the Cosmic thought-field is an amplification of the individual mind, then it is difficult to conceive how it can hold in its bosom the seed of the creative Idea that builds the worlds.
In fact, the universal mind is a repertoire of infinite ideas -- ideas that are complementary to each other as well as ideas that are contradictory to each other. Each idea exists there in its own right without belittling other ideas and without getting belittled by other ideas. True, it is the reservoir of archetypal ideas but such archetypes are not necessarily correlated with each other. Invasions of ideas from the universal mind surface in individuals through universal rhythms of art, music, symbolisms as well as in fantasies, dreams and aspirations. They colour our myths, legends, and fairy-tales as well as influence our visions, rituals and behaviors. But in the end they represent a pot-pourie of chaos.
Sri Aurobindo conceptualizes that the manifestation of diverse ideas that constitute the universal mind have been triggered off by a supremely creative, omniscient and omnipotent Idea which must have originated at a higher plane of consciousness than the universal mind.
In fact, Sri Aurobindo considers that the Mind is not the originator of ideas (This is true for the individual as well as the universal Mind). It just reflects ideas;
But Mind is not a faculty of knowledge nor an instrument of omniscience; it is a faculty for the seeking of knowledge, for expressing as much as it can gain of it in certain forms of a relative thought and for using it towards certain capacities of action. Even when it finds, it does not possess; it only keeps a certain fund of current coin of Truth – not Truth itself- in the bank of Memory to draw upon according to its needs. For Mind is that which does not know, which tries to know and which never knows except as in a glass darkly. It is the power which interprets truth of universal existence for the practical uses of a certain order of things; it is not the power which knows and guides that existence and therefore it cannot be the power which created or manifested it. (The Life Divine. Pg128 )
‘An infinite Mind constituted in the terms of mentality as we know it could only create an infinite chaos, a vast clash of chance, accident, vicissitude wandering towards an indeterminate end after which it would be always tentatively groping and aspiring…
Mind, as we know it, is a reflective mirror which receives presentations or images of a pre-existent Truth or Fact, either external to or at least vaster than itself. It represents to itself from moment to moment the phenomenon that is or has been. It possesses also the faculty of constructing in itself possible images other than those of the actual fact presented to it; that is to say, it represents to itself not only phenomenon that has been but also phenomenon that may be: it cannot, be it noted, represent to itself phenomenon that assuredly will be, except when it is an assured repetition of what is or has been. It has, finally, the faculty of forecasting new modifications which it seeks to construct out of the meeting of what has been and what may be, out of the fulfilled possibility and the unfulfilled, something that it sometimes succeeds in constructing more or less exactly, sometimes fails to realise, but usually finds cast into other forms than it forecasted and turned to other ends than it desired or intended.
‘An infinite Mind of this character might possibly construct an accidental cosmos of conflicting possibilities and it might shape it into something shifting, something always transient, something ever uncertain in its drift, neither real nor unreal, possessed of no definite end or aim but only an endless succession of momentary aims leading,- since there is no superior directing power of knowledge, - eventually nowhither. (The Life Divine pg. 129)
Is the world of finites an illusion?
If we consider the universal mind to be the sole ‘creator’ of the world of forms, we are presented with ideas that appear in front of us as waves that rise up to fall. Just as waves or clouds have a temporary presence before getting dissolved, so also would be ‘ideas’ as well as a ‘cosmos’ built up by such ideas. Like waves passing by in a river or clouds floating in the sky, we would have drifting ‘ideas’ that neither have a substrate to hold them nor have a superior directing power to guide them. Imagine what would be the nature of a cosmos or a world of finite forms built up by such transient ideas:
‘Nihilism or Illusionism or some kindred philosophy is the only logical conclusion of such a pure noumenalism. The cosmos so constructed would be a presentation or reflection of something not itself, but always and to the end a false presentation, a distorted reflection; all cosmic existence would be a Mind struggling to work out fully its imaginations, but not succeeding, because they have no imperative basis of self-truth; overpowered and carried forward by the stream of its own past energies, it would be borne onward indeterminately for ever without issue unless or until it can either slay itself or fall into an eternal stillness. That traced to its roots is Nihilism and Illusionism and it is the only wisdom if we suppose that our human mentality or anything at all like it represents the highest cosmic force and the original conception at work in the universe’ (Ibid pg., 129- 130). (The Life Divine,pg.126)
The Rig Vedic seers also knew that the manifestation of the finite from the Infinite was not an illusory phenomenon but the result of a mighty visionary Idea (The Masters of Maya shaped all by His Maya; the Fathers who have divine vision set Him within as a child that is to be born); an Idea that was supremely creative and inherently carried the executive force of self-manifestation ( By the Names of the Lord and hers they shaped and measured the force of the Mother of Light; wearing might after might of that Force as a robe the lords of Maya shaped out Form in this Being). (Rig Veda verses quoted at the beginning of Chapter XIII, Ibid, pg 122)
The Nature of the Supreme Creative Idea:
The supremely creative, omniscient and omnipotent Idea that carries the essence of building the worlds is not an arbitrary idea but a totipotent Idea that not only conceptualizes the manifestation but simultaneously makes the conception a Reality-- it is an Idea that manifests Reality. Sri Aurobindo terms it as a REAL-IDEA ‘a power of Conscious Force expressive of real being, born out of real being and partaking of its nature and neither a child of the Void nor a weaver of fictions. It is conscious Reality throwing itself into mutable forms if its own imperishable and immutable substance. The world is therefore not a figment of conception in the universal Mind, but a conscious birth of that which is beyond Mind into forms of itself’.(The Life Divine, pg.127)
The seed of the Real-Idea:
There is a plane of the universal mind where all infinite ideas originate but have not yet developed into fully unique potentialities- as such there is a harmony there. This is a global cognitive field that Sri Aurobindo named as the Overmind. But the origin of the Real-Idea is still farther up – is a plane of Consciousness that Sri Aurobindo named as the Supermind. It is an organizer of ‘Integral Cognition’ and Sri Aurobindo will develop it in detail in subsequent chapters of The Life Divine. It manifests a cognitive field that far surpasses our rational intellect. What we call Reason ‘is only a messenger, a representative or a shadow of a greater consciousness beyond itself which does not need to reason because it is all and knows all that it is’(The Life Divine, pg. 131)
This supramental Truth-Consciousness that characterizes Integral Cognition gives rise to the LAW or Divine Maya that makes it possible for the Infinite to manifest the finite and also allows the finite to yearn and grow towards the Infinite ‘This Knowledge determines its own law sovereignly because it knows what has been, is and will be and it knows because it is eternally, and infinitely cognises itself’ (Ibid, pg. 131)
The world of forms therefore is as real as the formless Infinite. ‘A Truth of conscious being supports these forms and expresses itself in them, and the knowledge corresponding to the truth thus expresses reigns as a supramental Truth-Consciousness organizing real ideas in a perfect harmony before they are cast into the mental-vital-material mould. Mind, Life and Body are an inferior consciousness and a partial expression, which strives to arrive in the mould of a various evolution at that superior expression of itself already existent to the Beyond-Mind. That which is in the Beyond-Mind is the ideal, which in its own conditions it is labouring to realise (Ibid pg127-128)… But such a Mind would be something quite different from the definition of mind, as we know it: it would be something beyond mentality; it would be the supramental Truth… An infinite, omniscient, omnipotent Mind would not be mind at all, but supramental knowledge. (Ibid pg 128-129)
There is a consciousness mind cannot touch,
Its speech cannot utter nor its thought reveal.
It has no home on earth, no centre in man,
Yet is the source of all things thought and done,
The fount of the creation and its works,
It is the origin of all truth here,
The sun-orb of mind’s fragmentary rays,
Infinity’s heaven that spills the rain of God,
The Immense that calls to man to expand the Spirit,
The wide Aim that justifies his narrow attempts,
A channel for the little he tastes of bliss.
( Sri Aurobindo, Savitri, pg 705)
Date of Update:
- By Dr. Soumitra Basu