Sri Aurobindo's Light
Sri Aurobindo's Light

Man and the Evolution

            A SPIRITUAL evolution, an evolution of consciousness in Matter in a constantly developing self-formation till the form can reveal the indwelling spirit, is then the keynote, the central significant motive of the terrestrial existence.  This significance is concealed at the outset by the involution of the Spirit, the Divine Reality, in a dense material Inconscience; a veil of the Inconscience, a veil of insensibility of Matter hides the universal Consciousness-Force which works within it, so that the Energy, which is the first form the Force of creation assumes in the physical universe, appears to be itself inconscient and yet does the works of a vast occult Intelligence. The obscure mysteriouscreatrix ends indeed by delivering the secret consciousnessout of its thick and tenebrous prison; but she delivers it slowly,little by little, in minute infinitesimal drops, in thin jets, in smallvibrant concretions of energy and substance, of life, of mind,as if that were all she could get out through the crass obstacle,the dull reluctant medium of an inconscient stuff of existence.At first she houses herself in forms of Matter which appearto be altogether unconscious, then struggles towards mentalityin the guise of living Matter and attains to it imperfectly inthe conscious animal. This consciousness is at first rudimentary,mostly a half subconscious or just conscious instinct; it developsslowly till in more organised forms of living Matter it reachesits climax of intelligence and exceeds itself in Man, the thinkinganimal who develops into the reasoning mental being butcarries along with him even at his highest elevation the mouldof original animality, the dead weight of subconscience of body,the downward pull of gravitation towards the original Inertiaand Nescience, the control of an inconscient material Natureover his conscious evolution, its power for limitation, its lawof difficult development, its immense force for retardation andfrustration. This control by the original Inconscience over the consciousness emerging from it takes the general shape of a mentality struggling towards knowledge but itself, in what seems to be its fundamental nature, an Ignorance. Thus hampered and burdened, mental man has still to evolve out of himself the fully conscious being, a divine manhood or a spiritual and supramental superman hood which shall be the next product of the evolution. That transition will mark the passage from the evolutionin the Ignorance to a greater evolution in the Knowledge,founded and proceeding in the light of the Superconscient and no longer in the darkness of the Ignorance and Inconscience.This terrestrial evolutionary working ofNature fromMatterto Mind and beyond it has a double process: there is an outwardvisible process of physical evolution with birth as its machinery,—for each evolved form of body housing its own evolvedpower of consciousness is maintained and kept in continuityby heredity; there is, at the same time, an invisible process ofsoul evolution with rebirth into ascending grades of form andconsciousness as its machinery. The first by itself would mean only a cosmic evolution; for the individual would be a quickly perishing instrument, and the race, a more abiding collective formulation, would be the real step in the progressive manifestation of the cosmic Inhabitant, the universal Spirit: rebirth is an indispensable condition for any long duration and evolution of the individual being in the earth-existence. Each grade of cosmic manifestation, each type of form that can house the indwelling spirit, is turned by rebirth into a means for the individual soul,the psychic entity, to manifest more and more of its concealed consciousness; each life becomes a step in a victory over Matter by a greater progression of consciousness in it which shall make eventually Matter itself a means for the full manifestation of the Spirit.But this account of the process and meaning of the terrestrial creation is at every point exposed to challenge in the mind of man himself, because the evolution is still half-way on its journey, is still in the Ignorance, is still seeking in the mind of a half-evolved humanity for its own purpose and significance. It is possible to challenge the theory of evolution on the ground that it is insufficiently founded and that it is superfluous as an explanation of the process of terrestrial existence. It is open to doubt, even if evolution is granted, whether man has the capacity to develop into a higher evolutionary being. It is open also to doubt whether the evolution is likely to go any further than it has gone already or whether a supplemental evolution, the appearance of a consummated Truth-Consciousness, a being of Knowledge, is at all probable in the fundamental Ignorance of the earthly Nature. Another construction neither teleological nor evolution can be put on the workings of the Spirit in the manifestation here, and it may be as well before proceeding further to formulate succinctly the line of thinking which makes such a construction possible. 


Eternal in a Time Eternity, admitting that there are the seven

grades of Consciousness and that the material Inconscience has

been laid down as a basis for the reascent of the Spirit, admitting

that rebirth is a fact, a part of the terrestrial order, still a

spiritual evolution of the individual being is not an inevitable

consequence of any of these admissions or even of all of them

together. It is possible to take another view of the spiritual significance

and the inner process of terrestrial existence. If each

thing created is a form of the manifest Divine Existence, each is

divine in itself by the spiritual presence within it, whatever its

appearance, its figure or character in Nature. In each form of

manifestation the Divine takes the delight of existence and there

is no need of change or progress within it. Whatever ordered

display or hierarchy of actualised possibilities is necessitated by

the nature of the Infinite Being, is sufficiently provided for by the

numberless variation, the teeming multitude of forms, types of

consciousness, natures that we see everywhere around us. There

is no teleological purpose in creation and there cannot be, for

all is there in the Infinite: the Divine has nothing that he needs

to gain or that he has not; if there is creation and manifestation,

it is for the delight of creation, of manifestation, not for any

purpose. There is then no reason for an evolutionary movement

with a culmination to be reached or an aim to be worked out

and effectuated or a drive towards ultimate perfection.

In fact we see that the principles of creation are permanent

and unchanging: each type of being remains itself and does not

try nor has any need to become other than itself; granting that

some types of existence disappear and others come into being,

it is because the Consciousness-Force in the universe withdraws

its life-delight from those that perish and turns to create others

for its pleasure. But each type of life, while it lasts, has its own

pattern and remains faithful with whatever minor variations to

that pattern: it is bound to its own consciousness and cannot

get away from it into other-consciousness; limited by its own

nature, it cannot transgress these boundaries and pass into othernature.

If the Consciousness-Force of the Infinite has manifested

Life after manifesting Matter and Mind after manifesting Life,

it does not follow that it will proceed to manifest Supermind as

the next terrestrial creation. For Mind and Supermind belong to

quite different hemispheres, Mind to the lower status of the Ignorance,

Supermind to the higher status of the Divine Knowledge.

This world is a world of the Ignorance and intended to be that

only; there need be no intention to bring down the powers of the

higher hemisphere into the lower half of existence or to manifest

their concealed presence there; for, if they are at all existent

here, it is in an occult incommunicable immanence and only to

maintain the creation, not to perfect it. Man is the summit of

this ignorant creation; he has reached the utmost consciousness

and knowledge of which it is capable: if he tries to go farther, he

will only revolve in larger cycles of his own mentality. For that

is the curve of his existence here, a finite circling which carries

the mind in its revolutions and returns always to the point from

which it started; mind cannot go outside its own cycle,—all idea

of a straight line of movement or of progress reaching infinitely

upward or sidewise into the Infinite is a delusion. If the soul of

man is to go beyond humanity, to reach either a supramental

or a still higher status, it must pass out of this cosmic existence,

either to a plane or world of bliss and knowledge or into the

unmanifest Eternal and Infinite.



It is true that Science now affirms an evolutionary terrestrial


existence: but if the facts with which Science deals are reliable,


the generalisations it hazards are short-lived; it holds them for


some decades or some centuries, then passes to another generalisation,


another theory of things. This happens even in physical


Science where the facts are solidly ascertainable and verifiable by


experiment: in psychology,—which is relevant here, for the evolution


of consciousness comes into the picture,—its instability is


still greater; it passes there from one theory to another before the


first is well-founded; indeed, several conflicting theories hold the field together.No firm metaphysical building can be erected upon


these shifting quicksands. Heredity upon which Science builds


its concept of life evolution, is certainly a power, a machinery


for keeping type or species in unchanged being: the demonstration


that it is also an instrument for persistent and progressive


variation is very questionable; its tendency is conservative rather


than evolutionary,—it seems to accept with difficulty the new


character that the Life-Force attempts to force upon it. All the


facts show that a type can vary within its own specification of


nature, but there is nothing to show that it can go beyond it. It


has not yet been really established that ape-kind developed into


man; for it would rather seem that a type resembling the ape,


but always characteristic of itself and not of apehood, developed


within its own tendencies of nature and became what we know


as man, the present human being. It is not even established that


inferior races of man developed out of themselves the superior


races; those of an inferior organisation and capacity perished,


but it has not been shown that they left behind the human races


of today as their descendants: but still such a developmentwithin


the type is imaginable. The progress of Nature from Matter to


Life, from Life to Mind, may be conceded: but there is no proof


yet that Matter developed into Life or Life-energy into Mindenergy;


all that can be conceded is that Life has manifested in


Matter, Mind in living Matter. For there is no sufficient proof


that any vegetable species developed into an animal existence


or that any organisation of inanimate matter developed into a


living organism. Even if it be discovered hereafter that under


certain chemical or other conditions life makes its appearance,


all that will be established by this coincidence is that in certain


physical circumstances life manifests, not that certain chemical


conditions are constituents of life, are its elements or are the


evolutionary cause of a transformation of inanimate into animate


matter. Here as elsewhere each grade of being exists in


itself and by itself, is manifested according to its own character


by its own proper energy, and the gradations above or below it


are not origins and resultant sequences but only degrees in the


continuous scale of earth-nature. and types of being come into existence, it can be answered


that, fundamentally, they were manifested in Matter by the


Consciousness-Force in it, by the power of the Real-Idea building


its own significant forms and types for the indwelling Spirit’s


cosmic existence: the practical or physical method might vary


considerably in different grades or stages, although a basic similarity


of line may be visible; the creative Power might use not


one but many processes or set many forces to act together. In


Matter the process is a creation of infinitesimals charged with


an immense energy, their association by design and number,


the manifestation of larger infinitesimals on that primary basis,


the grouping and association of these together to found the


appearance of sensible objects, earth, water, minerals, metals,


thewholematerial kingdom. In life also the Consciousness-Force


begins with infinitesimal forms of vegetable life and infinitesimal


animalcules; it creates an original plasm andmultiplies it, creates


the living cell as a unit, creates other kinds of minute biological


apparatus like the seed or the gene, uses always the same


method of grouping and association so as to build by a various


operation various living organisms. A constant creation of types


is visible, but that is no indubitable proof of evolution. The


types are sometimes distant from each other, sometimes closely


similar, sometimes identical in basis but different in detail; all


are patterns, and such a variation in patterns with an identical


rudimentary basis for all is the sign of a conscious Force playing


with its own Idea and developing by it all kinds of possibilities


of creation. Animal species in coming into birth may begin with


a like rudimentary embryonic or fundamental pattern for all, it


may follow out up to a stage certain similarities of development


on some or all of its lines; there may too be species that are


twy-natured, amphibious, intermediate between one type and


another: but all this need not mean that the types developed


one from another in an evolutionary series. Other forces than


hereditary variation have been at work in bringing about the


appearance of new characteristics; there are physical forces such


as food, light-rays and others that we are only beginning to know, there are surely others which we do not yet know; there


are at work invisible life forces and obscure psychological forces.


For these subtler powers have to be admitted even in the physical


evolutionary theory to account for natural selection; if the


occult or subconscious energy in some types answers to the


need of the environment, in others remains unresponsive and


unable to survive, this is clearly the sign of a varying life-energy


and psychology, of a consciousness and a force other than the


physical at workmaking for variation in Nature. The problem of


the method of operation is still too full of obscure and unknown


factors for any at present possible structure of theory to be




Man is a type among many types so constructed, one pattern


among the multitude of patterns in the manifestation in Matter.


He is the most complex that has been created, the richest in


content of consciousness and the curious ingeniousness of his


building; he is the head of the earthly creation, but he does not


exceed it. Even as others, so he too has his own native law,


limits, special kind of existence, svabh¯ava, svadharma; within


those limits he can extend and develop, but he cannot go outside


them. If there is a perfection to which he has to arrive, it


must be a perfection in his own kind, within his own law of


being,—the full play of it, but by observation of its mode and


measure, not by transcendence. To exceed himself, to grow into


the superman, to put on the nature and capacities of a god would


be a contradiction of his self-law, impracticable and impossible.


Each form and way of being has its own appropriate way of


the delight of being; to seek through the mind the mastery and


use and enjoyment of the environment of which he is capable


is rightly man the mental being’s objective: but to look beyond,


to run after an ulterior object or aim of existence, to aspire to


surpass the mental stature is to bring in a teleological element


into existence which is not visible in the cosmic structure. If


a supramental being is to appear in the terrestrial creation, it


must be a new and independent manifestation; just as life and


mind have manifested in Matter, so supermind must manifest


there and the secret Conscious-Energy must create the necessary patterns for this new grade of its potencies. But there is no sign


of any such intention in the operations of Nature.


But if a superior creation is intended, then, certainly, it is


not out of man that the new grade, type or pattern can develop;


for in that case there would be some race or kind or make of


human beings that has already the material of the superman in


it, just as the peculiar animal being that developed into humanity


had the essential elements of human nature already potential or


present in it: there is no such race, kind or type, at most there are


only spiritualised mental beings who are seeking to escape out


of the terrestrial creation. If by any occult law of Nature such


a human development of the supramental being is intended, it


could only be by a few in humanity detaching themselves from


the race so as to become a first foundation for this new pattern


of being. There is no reason to suppose that the whole race could


develop this perfection; it cannot be a possibility generalised in


the human creature.


If indeed man has evolved in Nature out of the animal,


yet now we see that no other animal type shows any signs of an


evolution beyond itself; if then there was this evolutionary stress


in the animal kingdom, it must have sunk back into quiescence


as soon as the object was fulfilled by man’s appearance: so too


if there is any such stress for a new step in evolution, for selfexceeding,


it is likely to subside into quiescence as soon as its


object is fulfilled by the supramental being’s appearance. But


there is no such stress in reality: the idea of human progress


itself is very probably an illusion, for there is no sign that man,


once emerged from the animal stage, has radically progressed


during his race history; at most he has advanced in knowledge


of the physical world, in Science, in the handling of his surroundings,


in his purely external and utilitarian use of the secret


laws of Nature. But otherwise he is what he always was in the


early beginnings of civilisation: he continues to manifest the


same capacities, the same qualities and defects, the same efforts,


blunders, achievements, frustrations. If progress there has been,


it is in a circle, at most perhaps in a widening circle. Man today


is not wiser than the ancient seers and sages and thinkers, not more spiritual than the great seekers of old, the first mighty


mystics, not superior in arts and crafts to the ancient artists and


craftsmen; the old races that have disappeared showed as potent


an intrinsic originality, invention, capacity of dealing with life


and, if modern man in this respect has gone a little farther, not


by any essential progress but in degree, scope, abundance, it is


because he has inherited the achievements of his forerunners.


Nothing warrants the idea that he will ever hew his way out


of the half-knowledge half-ignorance which is the stamp of his


kind, or, even if he develops a higher knowledge, that he can


break out of the utmost boundary of the mental circle.


It is tempting and not illogical to regard rebirth as the potential


means of a spiritual evolution, the factor that makes it


possible, but still it is not certain, granting rebirth to be a fact,


that this is its significance. All the ancient theories about reincarnation


supposed it to be a constant transmigration of the soul


from animal to human, but also from human to animal bodies:


the Indian idea added the explanation of Karma, of a return for


good or evil done, of a result of past will and effort; but there


was no suggestion of a progressive evolution from type to higher


type, still less of birth into a kind of being that has never yet


existed but has still to evolve in the future. If evolution there is,


then man is the last stage, because through him there can be the


rejection of terrestrial or embodied life and an escape into some


heaven or Nirvana. That was the end envisaged by the ancient


theories and, since this is fundamentally and unchangeably a


world of Ignorance,—even if all cosmic existence is not in its


nature a state of Ignorance,—that escape is likely to be the true


end of the cycle.


This is a line of reasoning that has a considerable cogency


and importance, and it was necessary to state it, even if too


briefly for its importance, in order to meet it. For although some


of its propositions are valid, its view of things is not complete


and its cogency is not conclusive. And first we may without


much difficulty get rid of the objection to the teleological element


which the idea of a predetermined evolution from inconscience


to superconscience, the development of a rising order of beings with a culminating transition from the life of the Ignorance to a


life in the Knowledge, brings into the structure of the terrestrial


existence. The objection to a teleological cosmos can be based on


two very different grounds,—a scientific reasoning proceeding


on the assumption that all is the work of an inconscient Energy


which acts automatically by mechanical processes and can have


no element of purpose in it, and a metaphysical reasoning which


proceeds on the perception that the Infinite and Universal has


everything in it already, that it cannot have something unaccomplished


to accomplish, something to add to itself, to work out,


to realise, and there can therefore be in it no element of progress,


no original or emergent purpose.


The scientific or materialist objection cannot maintain its


validity if there is a secret Consciousness in or behind the apparently


inconscient Energy inMatter. Even in the Inconscient there


seems to be at least an urge of inherent necessity producing the


evolution of forms and in the forms a developing Consciousness,


and it may well be held that this urge is the evolutionary will of a


secret Conscious Being and its push of progressive manifestation


the evidence of an innate intention in the evolution. This is a


teleological element and it is not irrational to admit it: for the


conscious or even the inconscient nisus arises from a truth of


conscious being that has become dynamic and set out to fulfil


itself in an automatic process of material Nature; the teleology,


the element of purpose in the nisus is the translation of selfoperative


Truth of Being into terms of self-effective Will-Power


of that Being, and, if consciousness is there, such a Will-Power


must also be there and the translation is normal and inevitable.


Truth of being inevitably fulfilling itself would be the fundamental


fact of the evolution, but Will and its purpose must be there


as part of the instrumentation, as an element in the operative




Themetaphysical objection ismore serious; for it seems selfevident


that the Absolute can have no purpose in manifestation


except the delight of manifestation itself: an evolutionary movement


in Matter as part of the manifestation must fall within


this universal statement; it can be there only for the delight of the unfolding, the progressive execution, the objectless seried


self-revelation. A universal totality may also be considered as


something complete in itself; as a totality, it has nothing to gain


or to add to its fullness of being. But here the material world


is not an integral totality, it is part of a whole, a grade in a


gradation; it may admit in it, therefore, not only the presence of


undeveloped immaterial principles or powers belonging to the


whole that are involved within its matter, but also a descent into


it of the same powers from the higher gradations of the system


to deliver their kindred movements here from the strictness of a


material limitation. Amanifestation of the greater powers of Existence


till the whole being itself is manifest in thematerial world


in the terms of a higher, a spiritual creation, may be considered


as the teleology of the evolution. This teleology does not bring


in any factor that does not belong to the totality; it proposes


only the realisation of the totality in the part. There can be no


objection to the admission of a teleological factor in a part movement


of the universal totality, if the purpose,—not a purpose


in the human sense, but the urge of an intrinsic Truth necessity


conscious in the will of the indwelling Spirit,—is the perfect


manifestation there of all the possibilities inherent in the total


movement. All exists here, no doubt, for the delight of existence,


all is a game or Lila; but a game too carries within itself an object


to be accomplished and without the fulfilment of that object


would have no completeness of significance. A drama without


denouement may be an artistic possibility—existing only for the


pleasure of watching the characters and the pleasure in problems


posed without a solution or with a forever suspended dubious


balance of solution; the drama of the earth evolution might


conceivably be of that character, but an intended or inherently


predetermined denouement is also and more convincingly possible.


Ananda is the secret principle of all being and the support


of all activity of being; but Ananda does not exclude a delight


in the working out of a Truth inherent in being, immanent in


the Force or Will of being, upheld in the hidden self-awareness


of its Consciousness-Force which is the dynamic and executive


agent of all its activities and the knower of their significance. A theory of spiritual evolution is not identical with a scientific


theory of form-evolution and physical life-evolution; it must


stand on its own inherent justification: it may accept the scientific


account of physical evolution as a support or an element, but the


support is not indispensable. The scientific theory is concerned


only with the outward and visible machinery and process, with


the detail of Nature’s execution, with the physical development


of things in Matter and the law of development of life and mind


in Matter; its account of the process may have to be considerably


changed or may be dropped altogether in the light of


new discovery, but that will not affect the self-evident fact of a


spiritual evolution, an evolution of Consciousness, a progression


of the soul’s manifestation in material existence. In its outward


aspects this is what the theory of evolution comes to,—there


is in the scale of terrestrial existence a development of forms,


of bodies, a progressively complex and competent organisation


of matter, of life in matter, of consciousness in living matter; in


this scale, the better organised the form, the more it is capable


of housing a better organised, a more complex and capable,


a more developed or evolved life and consciousness. Once the


evolutionary hypothesis is put forward and the facts supporting


it are marshalled, this aspect of the terrestrial existence becomes


so striking as to appear indisputable. The precise machinery


by which this is done or the exact genealogy or chronological


succession of types of being is a secondary, though in itself an


interesting and important question; the development of one form


of life out of a precedent less evolved form, natural selection,


the struggle for life, the survival of acquired characteristics may


or may not be accepted, but the fact of a successive creation


with a developing plan in it is the one conclusion which is of


primary consequence. Another self-evident conclusion is that


there is a graduated necessary succession in the evolution, first


the evolution of Matter, next the evolution of Life in Matter,


then the evolution of Mind in living Matter, and in this


last stage an animal evolution followed by a human evolution.


The first three terms of the succession are too evident to be


disputable. It may be debated whether there was a succession of man to animal or a simultaneous initial development, man


outstripping the animal in mind evolution; a theory has even


been put forward that man was not the last, but the first and


eldest of the animal species. This priority of man is an ancient


conception, but it was not universal; it is born of the sense of


the clear supremacy of man among earthly creatures, the dignity


of this supremacy seeming to demand a priority of birth: but


in evolutionary fact the superior is not prior but posterior in


appearance, the less developed precedes the more developed and


prepares it.


Continued ..

~ The Life Divine , Page - 856 - 869


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