(Principal Miller 'Endowment Lectures 1954-55)
For more than a quarter of a century these lectures have been delivered by very erudite and eminent scholars on the several phases of this most intriguing problem posed by the donor of this Endowment. The most arresting words (some one said 'catchwords') of the modern world are Evolution and Progress, and everything is being considered under this speculum so to speak. Nothing is capable of being considered scientific or modem enough unless it is approached from these two standpoints. The Principal Miller Endowment in conformity with this climate of the times has charged the lecturers with the task of elucidating, if not discovering, the 'inner meaning of human history as disclosing one increasing purpose'-(may be more than one but the monism is assumed). It shows that to the mind of the donor there is one increasing purpose in human history, and it is something that has to be discovered since it is not quite patent to the surface consciousness. It may not be entirely elusive to the human mind but it is something that we have to discover as more and more clearly coming to the surface or increasing in its intensity and extensity of action and influence. In any case it is clear that we have to discover this purpose in human affairs and history stretching for thousands of years and that this prime purpose is being more and more realised.
There have been many thinkers who have held that these assumptions are not only not self evident but positively untrue and unwarranted. Progress has not been proved. Evolution has not occurred. Adaptations and modifications have neither been steady nor continuous. There have been periods of change, and every forward movement has been succeeded by a rearward and backward movement. Progress and regress have alternated. Biological speculations and theories are not quite satisfactory as they prove nothing about man. Nothing has basically changed in man. Again and again he has slipped back into his primitive nature, at the earliest opportunity. There is no doubt that something in him lifts him up to the levels of culture and civilized existence that cultivate peace and harmony and co-operation. The thousands of years of civilized life, that have elapsed between the savage and the saint, have not really made saintliness the common heritage of man in his dealings with all beings. Every great effort has only made the failure greater still. . Despite the veneer of civilization which covers rather thinly his animality and sensuality, the psychological development of man has hardly undergone change. He might have and indeed has changed the technique of survival but not the means or the ends for which he seeks to live. He is yet a biological being conditioned by his fighting and pugnacious instincts to which all his life is dedicated and attuned. Force is the arbiter of his fate. Clever weapons alone have been substituted for the teeth and claw of the brute and the javelins and arrows of the primitive savage. Therefore all these trappings of civilization are illusory covers, and man's progress is illusory.
This is not to deny that efforts have not been made by exceptional souls like Visvamitra, Buddha and Mahavira and the great Upanihsadic seers to seek an alteration of the attitudes of man to Nature and higher realities within him. Such modifications in attitudes have certainly influenced some individuals for all time, but not all people for all time, but only for sometime. Revolutions in history have not been infrequent. Indian History does record both political and social as well as religious revolutions, which were in fact with bitterness and sorrow attended. We may not today appreciate the genuine fears and equally intense and genuine hopes that engineered them. But even such revolutions after the fitful fever of struggle and victory had been won, settled back to the original condition which they had so much fought against making mankind fit for the new vision. Sometimes the results hoped for turned Paradoxical. Out of good come the evil and out of evil come the good.
There seems to be no intelligible result predictable. All seem to be irrational. Ideals and actualities belong to two orders of being. An irreconcilable dualism seems to be opposing any marriage; at least a permanent one is impossible. Divorce seems to be inevitable. All modern dialectical thought, in the fields of economics, and politics, seems to be in this predicament, neither ready for a divorce nor for a co-operative understanding that rises above the struggle of these contradictories. War settles nothing, indeed it probably raises more formidable problems. Mankind at least has come to learn something of this. This too is indeed a progress in our thought, but hardly have we formulated this, we are almost made to forget this and return to our o1d patterns of behaviour. We have come to believe that the generality of man–the common man–is incurably a paradox. The exceptional beings of the world are either messengers from a higher sphere or Heaven or unrealistic idealists. But to them every one turns in distress; they seem to give authentic advice and efficient guidance. The splendid uniformity of that advice is that man cannot progress on the route of matter and the world of time and space. He really belongs in his depths to a higher world and into that world must man awake. This world is riddled with illusion and sorrow. Transcendence over Time and space, and causality is necessary and possible.
This transcendental view of Reality has been one of the most important forces in History. It is that which has been kept bright and shining by scores of saints who have kept on a relay race as it were, as witnesses to a great possibility. They have undoubtedly shown that there is One transcendental Reality which man has to achieve if he were to escape from the material snares and illusions of pleasure and achievement and conquest. All that man makes he mars with imperfection and unreality and transcience. It may not be that they give us a sense of progress to the perfection here on this place of transitory things, but they assuredly give us a presence of the eternal light which ought to be known. Only the knowledge of the transcendent Being, Timeless Reality, can save us from world-weariness and sorrow and the cycle of illusory experience. It is that which has to he known and entered into, for that alone can rescue us from toil and tears, struggle and sorrow, frustration and failure. There can be no reality in the ways of the world, which is bondage to time and space and environment.
A radical dualism cannot but be the result of this transcendental view. The world in which we find ourselves with all its sensate values is a world of illusion; to pursue ends suitable to life in it would result in the annihilation of all that we know and experience as spiritual and of ourselves. It could only lead us into more and more ignorance and darkness. The world of Reality is not amenable to the senses or the mind which partake of the material world. By pure intellect we might realise that world which confers perfection and changeless Being. 'Reality and Perfection are one and the same thing', said Spinoza. Imperfection and unreality are synonymous terms. The world of Perfection and Reality is what a man should strive to know. That is true living not the life lived in this world of sensate values. Man's journey in this world would be meaningless and a cyclical merry go-round; his journey should be directed to going out of this world to the Eternal and the Immortal. This is the characteristic of otherworldliness or this-world negation which is a dominant note of all transcendentalism. A flight away to that, a withdrawal from this, are both entailed by this conception.
Accordingly in this first lecture my problem is whether progress is Real at all ? Once we are enabled to answer this question we might be in a position to answer the second question as to its meaning for us. The two problems however are closely linked up. We cannot divorce the meaning from reality for they are about one and the same thing, even like the word and the meaning (vak and artha about which the eternal poet Kalidasa speaks).
Is Progress a fact that we observe in the world's History ? If progress means that we have moved from a particular point in the scale to another point far above the scale then we have to fix the standard or the scale itself. Things do move constantly, imperceptibly. Nothing remains stationary. We have been moving and changing, adapting ourselves to the environment. Are we better off than when humanity started on its unknown career? Materially, physically, economically and hedonistically one could see that man has been struggling to improve his lot. Surely men have changed much, pretty much from their early beginnings. Our clothing, our dwellings and our foods also have become refined and many industries have developed all over the world. Discoveries of science have been steady, and our knowledge of the external world has extended to envelop the whole globe. During the past two hundred years there has been quite a quickening of the pace. No longer is the world divided into two hemispheres of known and unknown continents, dark and illumined places, but men move from one to the other. The human being has certainly increased his knowledge of the world, through scientific discoveries of inestimable value for his survival and comfort. It is not merely good to survive but to live well and comfortably. Plan after plan has been framed to make man safe from penury and disease and poverty. Surely we have progressed. We have recognized that we can improve our lot and the lot of all of us, through co-operation and planning for the future. We cannot perhaps have been so very sanguine of this possibility but for the advantages of co-operation and exchange in the fields of knowledge as we have had in the fields of commerce between different peoples. The latter was vitiated at the beginning by cupidity which led to mistrust and later to struggle and selfishness and separatism. But we seem to have discovered that trust and standards of conduct are not really alien to ordinary life but necessary and inevitable to good life or a life of happiness and freedom from fear. We have advanced much. Space-and-Time-saving devices have come in hundreds and thousands of ways. Health seems to be better now than in those days when one was precariously at the mercy of every epidemic, and they were by no means infrequent. The West has every reason to be proud of its achievements. It has sought the path of conquest of the world to human needs, to harness earth's forces to his better and richer life. Undoubtedly qualities of courage, persistence and perseverance and rationality have been actively co-operating to make the modern world. Even in the field of Politics and Social life, there have been continuous attempts to replace the competitive with the co-operative attitude. More and more, superstition has been replaced by science and statistics. Surely there has been wonderful progress, spectacular and splendid. No one in the presence of this tremendous surge of human intelligence, creative and matter of fact, can deny that we ought to be convinced of the fact of progress. This is the picture of the modern world. It is real indeed and cannot be dismissed.
But what do we feel or rather those who have been watching this great procession of scientific progress feel about all this ? In India surely there was at the dawn of her history a wonderful set of people, seers by spiritual eminence and sight, who have been indeed fathers of all seers in other parts of the World perhaps, who saw clearly world's progress in this manner in a different light. The age of perfect Knowledge and light was becoming less perfect–gradually the imperfection would be swallowing up three fourths of the light. The world was under eclipse–the age of satya has regressed to the age of treta (three-fourths dharma) and that to dvapara (two-fourths or half dharma) and is ending with a quarter (kali) of dharma. The age of the enlightened knowers of Brahman (the Vedic seers) who practised dharma integrally and fully in all the four planes of life, of wealth, or happiness, of dharma (sacrifices and duties) and moksa (liberation), rich in every sense was followed by the age of sacrifice of moksa as the ultimate end here and the dharma ruled the fields of government and commerce and labour, individual and social welfare. And so on we have regressed to a government of desire and hedonistic enterprise, greatest happiness being the one aim whether it was individual or social. Liberty one wanted, not to follow the law or the Right but to pursue ends of pleasure and carnal satisfaction. It has become a right–the fundamental right to err being included under the right to righteousness. And thus today we witness the entire dharma-fabric, so sedulously taught and practised earlier, under the disintegrating influence of a new interpretation. Even so, the religious movements during this vast period have proved not at all the preservers of the Vedic tradition but its most tireless critics who had brought with them the norms of a different age. No one who really studies the Vedic and the Buddhistic and the Jaina works can really resist the conclusion that there has happened a shift in standards. The old norms have been thrown away and new norms have been accepted. What is this but the adaptation of man to new demands of life ? Why have the old failed, which claimed to be eternal and immutable truths of a Divine life, and about which we even today cannot but feel thrilled as we listen and ponder over them in the silence of our hearts ? 'The old order changeth yielding place to new'–but it does not follow,–and it was definitely assumed not to follow, that it was better or truer. We might only say with patience at the degeneracy, that such a truth is incompatible with the changing 'time'–a phenomenon to which no body has been able to give an adequate answer other than that it is the law of all things on earth and subject to Time and its triple states of birth, growth, decadence and death finally. Indian History shows how the independent people of this country have been enslaved consecutively or overrun by different races from outside in all kinds of ways. The pessimism that overcomes minds contemplating these events that have come to pass despite heroic efforts to bring back the power and the plenitude and the wisdom of the ancients is something profoundly actual. It would not do to dismiss all this as the play of a terrible and tragic illusion of time. Time seemed almost to follow the law of regression in this. Sanatana values have tended to wither and undergo changes and adaptations to the new conditions. Spiritual values and standards are no longer the norms of life. Sacrifices to the Gods, and the practice of sainthood are not really commendable things. Economic welfare is the one thing to which all have to be subordinated. In an earlier age reason was subordinate to revelation, which was claimed to be the 'all-sublator', but today the tables are turned; reason, economic reason, sublates all spiritual reveations. This is the zeit-geist in reverse.
As the West advances with science and envelops the Eastern mind, the Eastern spirituality withers and whines so to speak before this onslaught. In some sequestered place there may yet go on–as it will–the path of silent spirituality, lighting its inner fires, keeping and tending the flame of eternal Knowledge, steady and unruffled by the passage of time and the ages that succeed each other swallowing up the past ruthlessly. Progress in one part is simultaneously present with the regression in another part. The dualism in reverse-process is clear. They have always been in active existence, in man and in society and everywhere. The human being is bi-partite, a soul and a body he has, a soul that belongs to the transcendental spirit universal but enclosed in the temporal changing material, and a body essentially a temporal event and congeries of elements, but ensouled by the transcendental Spirit. The progress of one towards its destiny seems to be a regress for the other. Does what protects and feeds the Soul also feed the body ? Or is it otherwise? A great saint (Sathakopa) was asked what was that by which he lived and where did he reside ? He answered that he was eating the Spirit and there he always abided. It was not different from the statement of another great lover of God (Spinoza, in the West) who said that he lived and moved and had his being in God alone. The transcendental is not an inaccessible Being but a truly accessible thing to the soul though it must be said that it is verily distant to the body and by which the body lives. Could the body be made to live by the soul or not? Again it is a fact, without this spiritual soul, the body becomes a corpse;–death results not merely because the body is not able to get the food it wants from the world of matter but when the soul departs from the body. This view raises far reaching problems for science and religion. The picture of the modem man who affirms that the body must be maintained by means of food and comfort and clothing and dwelling and work and not otherwise really is in contrast with the view that the body can and does live by the Self and soul alone. Is it a matter of loss of faith or is it a feature again of the deterioration in historical life ?
Progress is not universal. Nor is there an increasing purpose seen on the face of this process. Nature moves by frenzies and oscillations. There is the ever recurrent process or cycle of the same trends–individuals may arise for some time to pass away leaving behind unfulfilled the ideals of an eternal progress or even the convertibility of man to anything higher. The standards or norms of human life seem to reverse themselves by a process of self-regulation, and man is in a terrific world of contradiction and confusion. History, universal History, presents no single tendency or unilinear progress in a particular direction.
It has been therefore concluded that perfection is not possible in the space-time-material world which is infected by the dialectic. The so-called dialectical form of evolution seething with inner contradiction proposed by philosophers, promises but cannot achieve the realisation that belongs to another plane of being.
The idealists have come to the conclusion that progress is illusory. The question that yet agitates them is of what is it the illusory form ? There must be the substance of reality of which it is an illusion. No adequate answer could probably be given by saying that it is the temporal version of the Eternal that is being presented and as such it is the Eternal that is thus 'objectified', that is to say presented in the spatio-temporal-causal nexus as the History of the Spirit. Viewed in this light, it almost seems that there is an inevitable dynamism in the Spirit itself which makes it objectify itself–and thus the illusion gets the sanction of an appearance. But the main problem would yet remain. How could we know that the appearance is the appearance of the Absolute, unless we could perceive both1 the poises of the Absolute as Subjective and as Objective – an impossible situation for the human being ? This double poise of the Eternal is inescapable whether we think of them as the two modes or attributes of the Eternal (Spinoza) or as two statuses (Hegel), or paramarthika and vyavaharika (Sankara). It is the 'normativeness' of the Absolute that determines the illusoriness of the temporal presentation or representation. It is a valuational term.
1. The criticism against representationalist theory of Truth would be valid here. But if there is, as it is affirmed there is, the experience of these as successive, then there is a possibility of valuation..
Progress axiologically considered (and it cannot be otherwise) demands the definition of the standard of reference. When it has been stated that men have lost faith in Human Progress, thanks to the occurrence of Two Major World Wars within a generation, is it not because they have failed to come upto the standard of human conduct assumed earlier by the people to which all hoped to conform more and more? Peace and plenty for all–and freedom for all, these had been the norms of the earlier generation; liberty, equality, fraternity had been held to be the ideals of man and they tended to go ill together. The set-back to human progress due to this rude shock to the human conscience and the general theory of Spengler who spoke about the inevitability of the decline of civilization combined to enhance the illusoriness of Progress. But we know that there should be Progress towards perfection. We do see that mankind has been learning and growing from the experiences that had been challenging its survival. Human creativity has never been wanting. Evolution has been a fact demonstrated by the scientists. Continuity of evolution has been acclaimed as one of the major discoveries. Man himself owes his being to the hoary past. His biological and even psychological nature has traces of that ascent. It is in Art truly that man has the power to create the Eternal in the canvass of the temporal. Creative art struggles to portray the sense of the Eternal in material media, marble and stone, painting and music or poetry. It may not attain perfect Idea or the Eternal Form, which is incommunicable fully, but it does suggest it, and there are degrees of suggestive perfection. The human mind does attempt different ways of representing in the context of the temporal and perishing material the universal Truth. To say however, as some thinkers do, that it is the Eternal that is conveyed in the temporal would be but right; it at least shows that there is some possibility of representation of the Eternal in the temporal; the temporal is not absolutely opposed to the Eternal. A flight away from the temporal is not the only way towards the perfection; evolution itself shows how the eternal is sought to be held and made fugitive in the temporal but in the process also to become the mirror of the Eternal. This creative evolution (no doubt different from Bergson's) shows the infinite possibility of the temporal. We may not agree with the view that the temporal is the Eternal in process and the Eternal is the temporal in static perfection. Some have tried to show that quality is the summation or concentration of quantity and the reverse process would restore quantity from quality. Thus the temporal is said to be the quantification of quality and the Eternal is the intensive summation of the temporal (quantity). This undoubtedly is an analogy.
We have Yet to explain the process which seems to be real and seems to reveal revolutionary character. It is certainly characterised by the Preservation of the past in terms of biological memory.
Sri Aurobindo challenges the view that nothing changes or progresses in Nature. There can be an illusion of permanence in Nature. As very pertinently pointed out by Sri Aurobindo, Nature (in her temporal processes) “has still more subtle and disguised movements in her dealings with men by which she leads them to change without their knowing that they have changed. It is because she has employed chiefly this method in the vast masses of the East that the conservative habit of mind is so much stronger there than in the West. It is able to nourish the illusion that it has not changed, that it is immovable faithful to the ideas of the remote forefathers to their religion, their tradition, their institutions, their social ideals, that it has preserved either divine or animal immobility both in thought and in the routine of life, and has been free from the human laws of mutation by which man and his social organisation must either progress or degenerate but can in no case maintain themselves unchanged against the attack of them.... It is only when we look close that we see the magnitude of the illusion. Buddha has gone out of India indeed, but Buddhism remains; it has stamped its impress on the spirit of the national religion leaving the forms to be determined by the tantricism with which it had made alliance and same sort of fusion in its middle growth. What it destroyed no man has been able to restore; what it left no man has been able to destroy. As a matter of fact the double cycle which India has described from the early Vedic times to India of Buddha and the philosophers, and again from Buddha to the time of European Iruption was in its own way as vast a change, religious, social, cultural, and even political and administrative as the double cycle of Europe” (italics mine: Ideals and Progress: p. 47-8). It is this conservation of net gains which has been the hallmark of Evolutionary Progress. There is thus a law of conservation of statuses, even as there are laws of conservation of matter, energy and ideas. The principle that a certain advance is always maintained and sustained in progress is the crux of the situation. Considered in this light our progress would be a spiral movement always ascending though there may appear to be recurrence of the same events. It is also to be remembered that the processes that happen in one place or country may be repeated in another at a later date, so much so, as Professor Hayek said, one may be enabled to go through the same experiences more or less in one's lifetime. This however does not mean that there is absolute recurrence but only appearance of recurrence–something very similar to the experience of octaves or harmonics in Music. We might even in this spiral adventure perceive ourselves as moving forward or retrograde and yet since the mechanical conception of the movement would be with us we might delude ourselves into thinking that all movement is cyclical rather than spiral ascent.
These conceptions about progress would show that progress is a continuous process though it might appear to be temporary and transient. But we should not forget to note that all progress like life might appear to be under a sentence of death or reversal. Historical progress seems to be discontinuous, happening by spurts of splendid activity followed up by quite a period of stagnation. Differences in geography and culture do not reveal a different conclusion. The whole creation reveals the law of birth, growth, maturation, stagnation, decadence and final annihilation, and this series is implicit in the repetition seen in the lives of generations of different cultures, both Eastern and Western. Whatever is preserved is the 'form',–the individuals (or groups) come and pass. Birth-cycle or samsara reveals that nothing else abides. An illusion of progress always sustains us: we hope to be better than the past; we hope to improve on it; we feel that we have lot more of wisdom than the past only to be reminded painfully that our wisdom has less chance of helping us to survive than it did our ancestors. Wisdom lies in tradition which shows that one should discover as they did a different attitude of being than what we are in. We ought to discover that in order to survive. It is in the discovery of values and in the consistent pursuit of such values that help the enlargement of man's consciousness and welfare that we can perceive the norm by which to judge the process.
The study of human culture in a sense is the study of the growth of these values. The earliest preoccupation of man has been to discover these values. Ages of culture have been those when these values or rather the pursuit of these values had been cultivated by the large mass of the people; and ages of barbarism have been precisely those when these values had no longer been held worth pursuing.
What is that which makes the values of one age less valuable or even valueless in another ? Are there eternal values, values which could be distinguished as more essential than other values ? Do values change in their definition or alter in any way according to different situations and modify themselves to suit different individuals ? Though these questions may look ethical in their scope yet we should recognize that they are not simply ethical. Every normative system recognizes that adaptation or conformation to the norm means better life and yet we might make this even a question of 'survival-value'. Ethical progress is ultimately one of the tests of culture. There was a time when ethics and economics were not considered apart, and we may well ask whether the separation of these two at the present time is not a sign of regression, though positivistically speaking it may be claimed to be an advance in so far as economics is removed from its dependence on ethics and is restored to autonomy. The problems we have proposed would be intractable unless we broadly recognize certain types of values to be dependent on particular conditions, and certain others to be independent, in the sense that they would have to be pursued under all conditions. Modern ethics unfortunately has rejected the latter as too formal and abstract for conduct-valuation or choice, and as having hardly 'survival-value'. But perhaps there is much more truth in these 'allegedly formal' norms than we know. Indian thought has held artha and kama to be relative concepts, and further that they are instrumental values rather than values in themselves. That is to say artha or wealth is a means to an end, even as kama is, though kama appears to be more an end than a means. But kama is dependent upon wants or lacks, and looks forward to goods or things of satisfaction of certain biological and physical needs. Properly speaking we can see that as our cultural life has progressed we have been enabled to distinguish more and more between ultimate values or ends and those that are but instrumental, if at all, to those ends. The essential nature of things has to be distinguished from the unessential. That does not mean that the unessential are not capable of being in a very important sense instrumentally useful or valuable. But there is a sense in which such instrumental values tend to occupy much more of man's attention and as such are obstructive to the attainment of the intrinsic. Thus the scientific discoveries and inventions have this characteristic of being obstructive to human progress in so far as they tend to be used against the higher values of survival and enhancement of knowledge. The instrumental values tend to become ends in themselves, thanks to human cupidity, as the history of hedonism has clearly shown. This preoccupation with means rather than ends is the cause of much purblindness. This is equally true of the history of logic and aesthetics and politics.
The ultimate ends however are not arrived at by the inductive process. On the other hand they are perceived through inspiration and intuition. They are so self-evident to the inner consciousness of man that they derive their strength from this inner will – so interpreted as Good Will. These ends have the imperative character and demand to be realised by the soul. These are the ends which man finds have been fixed for him, and the race as well, to realise, and unless he moves towards them, there is no real progress at all. These can be realised and 'ought to be realised.' If they cannot be realised either because they are not capable of being ends on the plane of human life or because they are receding tantalising ideals, they could well be called illusions. Though it is claimed that the pursuit of ideals is much more exhilarating than the attaining of them, yet it would certainly be conceded that an end that cannot be attained will leave the individual without any meaning in his pursuit. But this precisely is the predicament of a man who is afraid of completing his job as no work would remain to be done. In such a case the only interesting job is to undo by night what one does by day like Penelope in the Greek Myth. Whatever may be the truth of this hypothesis it does not make progress a reality, and the problem is bye-passed. Life is certainly not a process of winding and unwinding, weaving and unweaving, life and death, light and night, though these do occur. Values of life are not seen in the perspective of human evolution. Men do seek the Eternal, for the Eternal is seen to have value, indeed the only valuable thing, more valuable than life itself.
The Eternal is the ultimate value and it is what one chooses whenever crises develop in human life. Life in fact is a series of crises of physical, moral and spiritual nature which demand the choice of that which grants to man the sense of reality and freedom. It is true that these crises are not as common to communities as a whole as they are to individuals. No doubt we are confronted with this peculiar crises of communities and races today, thanks to the physical nearness achieved by Science. The choice of certain ends in preference to certain others does not depend on the socalled psychological conditions of strength, intensity, attractiveness or pleasure-end but on certain spiritual laws. It is the choice of the ethical and the spiritual values as against the economic and hedonistic that ultimately is made by men. The reason is not far to seek; deep down in the conscience of mankind there is a core of discrimination which asserts itself in crises which are really points of intersection between two scales of values. The fact of choice in the life of a nation or community or individual is an inestimable index of the progress made towards the ultimate end. It is that which grants the immeasurable sense of eternal existence or perfection. The glimpse of this eternal existence is verily the beginning of an Ideal which is real and it is that which renders progress to it possible, for it is something implicit already in the vision of it. The emotional quality as well as the direction so definitely developed show that the end is already immanent in the process of attaining it. This is very much like the creative artist whose vision of the Form is being steadily realised in the execution of it in the context of the material. The whole thing becomes a single transcending act of creation and representation. The division of ends and means ceases, for the end is dynamically sustaining the attainment by becoming more and more realised. It is in this sense perhaps we could speak of the Timelessness of the Eternal. The ancient thinkers spoke of the unity of upaya and upeya, in Brahman, even as they spoke of the upadana (material) and nimitta (efficient) karanas to be Brahman.
In the History of Mankind then there has always been the effort to fix the hierarchy of values, since this evolution of life seems to demand the double satisfaction of the soul or the spiritual being through the Eternal Values and of the body which is a spatio-temporal form constantly undergoing the processes of growth and decay. In India the values have been arranged in a fourfold order of dharma, artha and kama and moksa. Artha and kama are mainly for the preservation and perpetuation of the body and its series, whereas dharma or duty is that which regulates them so that they may be amenable and instrumental to the spiritual value of moksa (transcendence over body-values). Body itself is a means to the realisation of duty and freedom - Sariramadyam khalu dharmasadhanam - and it has been considered primarily to be of instrumental value.
As we have progressed it has become more and more clear that there is a more fundamental need in man, much more than wealth and welfare and pleasure or even the lawful use of these, for it seems to be that which makes all these less worthy in comparison and in a very important sense it is that which makes attainment of these even possible. That is freedom. Without freedom these other goods of the world seem to be unattainable. Life itself becomes meaningful as an opportunity for freedom, and valueless when it is not to be had. Bondage had never inspired anybody. Regimented pleasures or pleasures that have been prescribed have always been unhappy in their consequences. The business of law is to grant freedom from interference in things that concern one's personality and its development. But once law becomes unmitigably oppressive, that is to say incapable of securing this personal freedom, then it is something that has to be shaken off. Then disobedience becomes a right. Revolt or resistance in the non-violent sense becomes duty.
The business of man is to realise his spiritual nature which is based on the twin principles of freedom and truth. The search for food and property, for partner and pleasure, for law and duty, are really attempts to free oneself from the precariousness of life dependent on such things and conditions and persons. The search for society also is included in the collective security that one is seeking in the world. All these grant freedom from fear; and yet the very transiency of these objects and goods and persons creates greater fears. We have undoubtedly built up, even like the organism, institutions which would be more stable and permanent than individuals for the sake of the security of individuals, but all of them are to be tested by this norm of freedom of the individual. The growth of these institutions, even like the organisms, is regulated indeed by the one principle of increasing freedom for its members and not merely for the purpose of security of itself. There have been thinkers who have pleaded for the preservation of the organism, and were willing to pay more attention to it than to the functional freedom which the organism has come into being to serve. Thus the periodic relapses into the lower sets of values are rendered possible by threats to the organism or the institutional structures.
Progress is to be measured in a social or individual context by both the quality and quantity of freedom. The scale of values then should be considered not as two different and irreconcilable sets but indeed as one continuous set because of the increasing freedom that is granted and supported by the organism or the institutions. When such freedom is either not availed of or rendered impossible, the body or the institution disintegrates. Civilizations are such institutions, and when the spiritual quality of freedom is no longer effective within it, it becomes a victim to the disintegrative process. When its real dharma of freedom decays then it perishes. It is freedom that builds and organizes life and form in the temporal world in the image of the Eternal. Man is born in such a context of bodies and social institutions. To recognize the law of freedom in the institutions is one of the basic needs of education. The Hegelian writers were right in so far as they pointed out that institutions are objective freedom. But it is necessary that each individual should experience that freedom in. performing duty as he finds when he pursues wealth or pleasure. This particular experience of course is of a different quality. Cultured progress is measured by the quantity of freedom that one has. Today we speak of more freedoms than we ever did before. This certainly does not mean that all these freedoms are of equal value or worth or that they are ultimate. The process through which these freedoms have been recognized is a long and weary one, but each one of them was recognized objectively as well as subjectively only after a long struggle with the forces of reaction.
The fourfold ends of man (caturvidha-purusartha) taught by the Ancient Indian thinkers provides an integral approach to the problem of life provided we know how to integrate them rather than divide them into two competing sets of value.
Today this integral view is being more and more entertained. The bifurcation of existence had led mankind no where. It only led to renunciation of the lower set of values (of artha and kama) as mundane and inferior and as belonging to the sphere of ignorance. They have been said to be the source of all misery. Kamini and Kancana have been the two fundamental abominations of the spiritual man. Great thinkers and seers like Gautama Buddha, Mahavira and Sankara, and. the Seers of the Upanishads (even like Socrates, Plato, Spinoza and Kant) had counselled the renunciation of the sensate values of life (not indeed either artha or kama objects as such) – for that is the precise condition of spiritual awareness. It is this that leads to spiritual intuition and experience of the Transcendent. Not until one gives up fear of insecurity and renounces security in order to prove it, does one ever become of the spiritual, which is always and eternally available to him. Sanyasa is the characteristic of mumuksutva (seeking real freedom) and means the renunciation of all types of security, physical, social, vital and mental to the Divine which alone is the abode of freedom and real security. The frames and institutions and logic made by men have to be renounced as limitations on the human spiritual freedom. That is why in the fundamental discussion on Sannyasa, the concept of nyasa or surrender or total unreserved offering of oneself to the Highest Reality conceived as God or the Transcendent Personality is important. Vairagya is concomitant of viveka; discrimination and detachment go together. A higher level of understanding arises out of a devotion to the highest values. By living in this highest, one develops the integral view which does not divide Reality, though for arriving at the higher poise of life and understanding the withdrawal of oneself from the lower sets of values is necessary. When the return does happen in so far as the lower values are seen to be non-antagonistic to the higher, the lower would have themselves undergone fundamental changes both in direction and in quality. They would have undergone transformation. This spiritualisation of all values, is the basic conception of the supramental evolution. It is also at the back of the conception of the sacramental universe.
But we are witnessing a going back in the world in which religion seems to have been the cause of great conflicts. Science has spirited away superstition; it has striven to give answers to problems from the experimental and rational standpoint. Things which cannot be proved by experimentation are not accepted by science. This attitude has paid high dividends. The remarkable developments in almost every field it had touched have registered a glorious chapter of progress. The success of the inductive and experimental methods shows that truth must be of this rational perceptual order alone. This conclusion of course is by no means certain. Today the only prophets we heed are the miracle-working scientists. Religion has not been equally successful, for its appeal is to the suprasensible reality. Secularism or the attempt to abolish all theoretical unverifiable explanations coupled with the deification of activity connected with the world-values has begun to dominate. It is the note of modern progress: whatever increases comfort, saves human effort, and secures worldly goods for all is typically the goal of humanism. It does not deny the higher values, but it does hold that the higher values can come in only after the satisfaction in full of the lower has taken place. Secularism and Science help the humanistic criterion of good life that man is the measure of all things. But the appeal of humanism is essentially shortsighted; and though the secular view of life may be scientific, it is not truly scientific in as much as it restricts the growing freedom of the individual, and the search for truth which is its real urge. All-sided truth or integral truth ought to be the real goal of science, and this is being more and more realised by scientists themselves, who are appalled by the lack of real humanism in scientific men, a lack of care for the values of life, truth, goodness and transcendence.
Even scientific men are appalled by the moral nihilism which has led to the disintegration of the humanistic ideal itself. Earlier ages would have prevented the making of the A-bombs, and the makers of such bombs would have been imprisoned or put out of action. But the secularistic tendency, by a paradox as it were, has led to political, economic and ethical nihilism, and it "has set up a chain-reaction in the human mind: by a succession of bombardments our last inhibitions" have been removed. We are not amazed at the extent of the modern barbarism. It is seen clearly that "moral nihilism is the counterpart of the atomic bomb." Moral sensitiveness has gone. This surely is a degenerate state of affairs. But even as this current of the tide has been flowing counter currents have been set up. We are standing up to the ideal of real progress in terms of moral rearmament and growth of the ethical and spiritual personality. Disintegration it was prophesied would overcome integration but we are confronting the disintegration in its acutest form. It is because this has progressed to alarming proportions, the entire conscience of mankind is stirred to meet this threat. Progress indeed is being achieved slowly through the attempts at integration of values in the real manner. It is the clamour of values in helter-skelter that has led up to the modern pandemonium of '-isms' in this world: the organisation of them in a hierarchy is the necessity. A new spirituality or movement of spirit is imminent and it will help enlightenment and progress of the new age.
The tendency of progress today is not unilinear but multilinear lacking integration of the several lines that have so far developed to extremes so as to present a most conflicting and confusing array of developments. The organic fusion of these under the guiding spirituality or psychic integral being is the necessity. Our history has presented to our minds three fundamental mystical values of liberty, equality and fraternity, for being integrated in our social and spiritual life as well. Unless this integration has taken place within the individual, it may well be difficult to realise it in the social context. The history of Indian Religious thought reveals several attempts to apply the spiritual concept of 'Equality' radically to the social set-up. The several Vaisnava and Saiva Agama seers tried to make all social organizations expressions of the Spiritual transcendental Reality. Equality in the eyes of God was first (in the Vedic period itself) shown to result in the equality of all in the eyes of the Law (Rtam or karma). It was shown that not merely seers should see all equally (samadarsana) but that any true religious practice must mean the practice of samadarsana. For man must do such as God would approve. That is the reason why caste was never considered to permit inequality in respect of the fundamental spiritual quality. The splendid experience open to the seer of the Eternal was sought to be the yoga so to speak for the ordinary man. That of course entailed the conflict with the social established orders based on adhikaras (fitnesses) of all kinds. Surely this adoption of the spiritual standard for ordinary life may be considered to be an advance or progress; but the same has been considered to be a misapplication of truths of one sphere to another and lower sphere and consequent distortion of the law of equality. This is a distortion and degeneracy according to the purists and fundamentalists. The standards of reference have shifted–a different standard has been devised. The invasions of Islamic and Christian rulers and the consequent enforcement of their standards of spiritual values, (which did not so much as emphasise the adhikaribheda–differences of fitnesses for the Experience of the Transcendental) led to the greater progress of the already adopted agamaic version of secular equality because of the possible spiritual equality. The spiritual has been incorporated in the secular, however precariously and even wrongly; the secular has adopted the spiritual and is, whether the secularists and materialists like it or not, on the way to be spiritualised. The grounds of progress have undoubtedly been laid–our modern legislations are well based on the secular possibility of Spirituality and the spiritual possibilities of the secular life. It is perhaps too soon to say one way or the other whether this attempt is going to be successful or otherwise. There is undoubtedly hope for the success of this experiment. Progress to the complete realisation or perfection of the spiritual consciousness in the temporal scheme in the lives of all human beings may take long, may be attended by many vicissitudes and reverse movements and spirals of ascent, but will be achieved. The very influx of great seers of the Eternal who promise us the Eternal experience here and now, perfection in the yonder transcendent, and show us also that the Transcendent is eternally near in the heart of every one, which could be realised through tapas, brahmacarya, and satya and other practices, shows that the temporal world of change and movement can yet behold in their personalities the junction of the Eternal and the Temporal in perfection. Their appearance is not an illusion but a great and fundamental reality. They indeed show us the human possibility to be a reality and not an illusion. But the generality of mankind and humanity itself is in the context of evolution and growth and integration of values, striving to attain the Spiritual in the context of the material space-time conditions. Man may refuse to be a bridge to the higher species, for he may discover in his heart the Divine Transcendent. Nor may he like to be the step for the future race of man or superman and suffer for the sake of those men who may profit by his suffering, and reap what he sows. But we are both the posterity to the past and paternity to the future. We are not exhausted by either, for there is also the individual uniqueness which prepares for the revelation of Truth within and gives us the sense of Reality here and now. Individual Realisation is neither arrested by the progress of the human race to the higher level nor refuted. There is an inevitable complexity of both being realised and enhanced and integrated. This is the continuing delight of real evolution. Man is both the step and the status necessary for the fuller experience here and now of the Eternal but he serves the Eternal and the Temporal by progressing towards their unity in creative Existence, either as an ascent into the Eternal or as the search for the integration of the Eternal in the temporal. This is achieved in the historical process of human personalities firstly, and then in the communities through the peculiar and purposeful creative universal activities of those personalities. The process of the temporal is not capable of repudiating the 'ingression' of the eternal values, though it is only through personalities that it is made to admit it. Evolution is the process of this activity; it has been going on; and the human being whether he is willing or not is participating in the great evolutionary progress which is inevitably underway.
The Eternal Truth is One and It manifests itself in manifold ways: but not in the manner interpreted by the mind but in an integral manner for it is indivisible. That it acts in different ways at different levels must also be conceded, but the different levels are not to be considered as divided but united in division and diversity. The meaning of this divided unity and united division or diversity would be a formulation in actual progress of the Spirit that has been and will be at the back of the temporal process.
The temporal process is neither a challenge nor a meaningless thing to Spirit. Nor is Spirit the mere transcendent spectator, somehow supporting this illusion of movement and recurrence and samsara. It is not merely a contrast and a contradiction to the Spirit, revelling in the negation of the Eternal and the Immortal and the Changeless. The call to the Vision of the Eternal means nothing more and nothing less than what it is. It alone can grant meaning to the process and the process would reveal the purpose and the progress that is being made in the History of mankind. A study of universal History, though it may be depressing may yet reveal that an eternal purpose urges man to move more and more to the sense of the Eternal and the Immortal and grant an abiding hope about the future of man and the world in which he dwells.
"The true law of our development and the entire object of our social existence can only become clear to us when we have discovered not only, like modern science, what man has been in his past physical and vital evolution, but his future mental and spiritual destiny and his place in the cycles of Nature" said Sri Aurobindo. The meaning of our progress would thus become more and more clear as mankind advances, though this advance may be in terms of the cyclic process of Nature itself. It is not a fundamental bondage to Nature that has to be broken as an opportunity for the higher evolution. A mechanical conception of reality has always infected not merely scientific and materialistic thinkers but also the spiritual. Just as our metaphors and similes have this sensory nature, and the higher spiritual processes are expressed and explained in terms of similes of the mechanical and materialistic order, so also our interpretations of progress and purpose are considered to be intelligible only when they are done in terms of the lower planes of experience. The view that the higher levels of experiences should be explained in terms of lower forms of reaction, that higher mental faculties have to be explained in terms of neurology and reflexes belongs to this scientifico-materialist explanation of consciousness or planes of consciousness. It is only now that it is being recognized that the true meaning of the lower forms of matter and even life are to be seen only when interpreted in terms of consciousness and mental processes. This surely is not a version of animism or reversion to it. We have however to see clearly that when we think of human progress as a whole, that the entire world in which we are is a 'mentalised' world, interpreted in terms of 'Mental' processes which are incorrigibly human.
The organic events in a sense then are different from the mechanical, and the mental events are different from the merely organic. The events assume complexities. Yet they are all governed by laws of each level of experience. The environment assumes more and more complexities as the evolution of the organic and mental categories or planes of being emerge. The activities of the organic order are purposive or hormistic. Such hormism is directed towards the preservation of the organism, and in certain others in the preservation of the type of organism itself through 'social' or collective or gregarious preservation and perpetuation. We may see also that the growth of organisms from the single cell displays a collective hormism so to speak, analogically repeated at the level of the collective hormism of the race and community and tribe. This collective preservation is, of course, more than the preservative instinct of a single organism; and it is not merely a sum or aggregate of such instincts but a definite configuration or pattern of behaviour as a unity of units.
When Field Marshall Smuts explained the evolutionary process as not merely conditioned by the instincts or drives self-preservation and perpetuation through the struggle that leads to fitness to survive, but also by an evolution of 'organic wholes' (organisms) which become units of larger and larger wholes in increasing measure, he was of course making it very clear that there is an hormism in Nature which organizes a hierarchy of wholes. This by itself may not mean very much, for it is only to keep the collective unity much more permanent, as the individual units are bound to pass out of it sooner or later. The feature of our organism is that the katabolic and anabolic processes are not successive but constantly and simultaneously going on. The life-processes go on at the same time as the death-processes, which shows that the hormic tendency however unclear to itself has discovered a unification of birth and death within the organism for maintaining it.1 Taken at surface it would be meaningless. But when we see this integration or union of mutual adjustment of processes to be the cause of preserving the whole organism, it becomes a meaningful disunity.
1.Even death is only an instrument for reunification, regrouping, recreating for a new life.
The death of certain organisms of a particular kind goes along with the production of organisms of the same kind for keeping the race-type or species-type going. (There are of course extraordinary cases when whole species have been wiped out). In the same way the human race has been perpetuated. The institutions in a sense have been hormically determined units for the preservation and continuation of particular unities. Indeed it has become clear that what at the beginning appeared to subserve a single end has been later on seen to subserve multiple ends as well. This is one of the important developments in our cultural life down the ages. Social traditions which form the hard core of our unity in society have been in fact the running thread of unity of all the members of a society, and this despite the several attempts to brush them aside. At the human level the meaning of evolution is certainly different. There have been many superstitions about our life and our activities. The cyclical theory of the inevitability of better times because we are going through bad times––that every night must be succeeded by the day,–has certainly suffered severe shocks in modern times, so much so the better time seems to be more and more thrust away to the post-death period. So also the nineteenth century optimism about the inevitability of progress and its interminable ascent received the greatest of shocks when some men had shown that they could put the clock back ironically or cynically in the name of progress, human progress of course.
The whole conception of the inevitability of progress came under the most fierce fire and all those who claimed inevitability for any theory whether materialistic or idealistic were shown to be crypto-mechanists. But the whole question of progress was raised to the ethical level–'Evolution happened in the animal, but it has to be willed in the human'! said Dr. Radhakrishnan.. This willing of progress is not inevitable but based on choice and also on the manner of progress that we can will. This responsibility certainly is humanity's. It is being exercised undoubtedly too by the advanced minds, souls so intensely aware of the destination of man, as to keep the transcendent purpose of existence before mankind in every age. The fact that man had a rich past (which Modern Archeaology is discovering) had led certain persons to wonder whether we have progressed at all. But the human personality has been adjusting to certain fundamental dimensions and direction of its nature through the ages, and a little care and close inspection might well lay bare the directions of its progress and the advantages that it has gained over his hoary past. The march of humanity has been slow, but thanks to the inspiring geniuses of former ages, the flame of hope of a great future, not merely yonder and beyond the terrestrial scheme but even in the temporal, has been lighting the path.
The ideal has been therefore fixed, as the eternal goal of all mankind. One may deny that we are being urged forward to this predetermined goal. But the fact is there whether mankind has fixed it or a divinely inspired spirit has opened up that horizon for it. . To that attainment mankind is heading, struggling through a myriad hurdles. but yet steadily jumping over them and ascending. The goal has of course all the indefiniteness for the seeker. It is not because it is something that is of a higher plane of experience. The very insularity of the individual, his preoccupation with his own daily practical needs, makes it impossible for him to catch a clear idea of that. Yet even as it was remarked, if one but does his duty and goes on doing it, one would have travelled towards one's goal without knowing it. We are urged to move forward because we cannot stagnate; caught up in the cosmic movement, he who merely stands, is really moving, and this certainly is inevitable to the process of Nature within which man finds himself.
From the primitive men, of whom we do have standing traces in all continents, who have just refused to move forward but who by an irony of fate are forced to move forward thanks to their being discovered and pooled into general humanity, to the modern man who is cocksure about his own superiority over the former (but who alas discovers that his many psychological distempers are due to his close psychic affinities with the primitive), we have undoubtedly traversed a long distance. Our idea of man is certainly much more accurate and thanks to our openness of mind, is likely to regain and reinterpret the past knowledge for the purposes of integration of all our knowledge, East or West, physical or psychical. No longer are we prepared to create oppositions between Eastern and Western Philosophies, or cultures or religions, or even secularism and spirituality or the sciences. This surely is progress in attitudes.
Dropping the extraordinary interpretations of a cyclical repetitive mechanism of the process, we could see that mankind has been steadily moving towards a harmonious synthesis through assimilation by conquest or interpenetration, and has almost arrived at an 'organic conception of the world'. We are not of course thinking of interpretations based on idealism or realism. The theory of correspondences between planes of existence is now more and more coming to be accepted. This linking of planes and philosophies through correspondential identity though poetical at first, has been seriously studied in different fields by those who have had the vision of the 'one Universe'.
All this vast knowledge of the several planes of life and being has been necessary for understanding the play of purpose and progress in this process of Time. More and more it must be clear that there is a Divine Purpose that is the meaning of the process of time, to achieve which the human being has been in travail. The future of that purpose is certainly in the hands of human beings, who have been equipped for the perception of that Divine End both as immediate and as remote but not impossible of attainment by the entire race. This vast world would be seen to be one of interconnected and interwoven nature building up in such a way as to lay bare the truth that all things in this world are both ends and means to the Highest Perfection, God. That is why the usual charge that men are being made means to the making of Gods or supermen in any theory of evolution loses much of its point. Everything in its plane of being is an end in itself but in respect of other planes especially of the higher planes it is a means. It would be wrong to make anything merely a means or rather only a means or only an end. By way of analogy from the metaphysical field, the Samkhya darsana considers that all evolutes are both prakrtis and vikrtis, causes as well as effects; the last of the categories become pure effects, whereas the first remains only the cause being not an effect of anything else. It is when we perceive the interrelatedness of categories that it becomes a meaningful process of causes and effects. Ethically considered we can see that the higher are more ends than means to the lower, lower ones are more means than ends. The individuals in this world are to be treated as ends surely in so far as their existence and moral goodness and growth are considered, but they are also means to the good of the State. When individuals are to be treated merely as ends, individualism results, setting up a conflict with the society; if they are treated as mere means only to the welfare of the State, it leads to totalitarianisms. It is only now after the terrible conflicts between the two great Wars we are realising the dual role of each individual as well as the State, and are trying to reconcile them. It is in this context also we should see that the human individual homo sapiens in evolution whilst being an end to moral existence is a means to universal Divine Nature, for it is he who is the subject of divine evolution. He is a means to the birth of the greater type of men of infinite compassion. The Superman is the 'natural' goal of man, and. it should not be thought that is the annihilation of man.
It is the individual who is sought to be transformed and there is no possibility of his being annihilated. It is also clear that just as individuals cannot be abolished but only eclipsed for a time, so also nations too cannot be abolished. The smaller nations, having their own unique cultural patterns and linguistic unities have also refused to be cavaliarly treated by imperialisms. They refuse to be means to the imperialistic ends. For imperialism is certainly not the end of the progress of Humanity. That should have become quite clear from the long history of humanity both in the East and in latest demonstrations of the West. The experiments in Imperialism have been as thorough as possible. They had served their purpose however negative the results might have been. Today humanity is yet presented the choice of living together through the knowledge of a deeper unity of End that is transcendent to the present but which will become immanent in the future.
The unity to which the world is moving is not particularly capable of being interpreted in terms of the logic of the pluralist or the finite mind. It is necessary to arrive at a unity that clearly exhibits not merely the oneness of the many or the manyness of the One but also the 'ingression' of the values of the many in their higher form as well as the enriched values of the One in terms of the many, That is what we actually find even in the lower rungs of the evolutionary ladder. This enrichment in meaning and action of the higher in terms of the lower is a continuous process. The meaning of the unity of all life so fundamentally assumed by the ethical religions of Buddha and Mahavira is not only a case of sympathy but also of the realisation of the realm of ends. And the progress that each living cell or animal or insect or man demands from its own nature is to become more and more than what it is, for there is an aspiration to grow vaster and vaster. Not merely is it a question of imitation on the human level but to realise the infinite in the finite. The meaning of its life is not then in itself and being for itself but for the Infinite that it more or less consciously feels within. The progress thus becomes seized with a frenzy so to speak of becoming more and more what it feels. This is the search for the Immortal, the Infinite. The history of philosophical or mystical or religious search would never have been anything but true because of this search for the Infinite which one feels one cannot but know. The progress of mankind would never have been dreamt of even in the little measures of a materialistic hedonism, temporary ameliorations and alleviations of human suffering and pain, but for the more and more clear indications of the unity that one is recognizing with the entire universe.
Many formulations of the nature of the world we live in have again and again, almost with regularity been advanced both in the East and the West, and we may not think of more than six or seven such views. In between these theories of reality and theories of knowledge we have many intermediate eclectisms. This shows that the Infinite is never going to be comprehended through compromises and adjustments and combinations. It has to be known directly and by a method which transcends the human logical method. The Revelatory and intuitive character of the higher knowledge has been acknowledged but we have been striving to render it intelligible to the rational mind. All philosophy has been at pains to do this bringing down or rather 'stepping down' the unintelligible to the level of the intelligible. This is surely progress of a kind, for in the process we are undoubtedly raising and lifting the rational to the higher levels. The symbolic movement of thought and the apprehensions of analogical and the correspondential knowledge, have undoubtedly facilitated the growth of our knowledge which is wider than and overflowing the rational intellect with its neat set of formulas of intelligibility.
But the problems of mysticism are greater than those of philosophy which does duty to the transformation of the intellect. Its aim is not precisely Vision as such, though it is the fundamental necessity of that consciousness which seeks the Infinite to be comprehended or touched. This Vision is what ' Yoga had taught to be the goal of existence of all living beings; it is that which the Upanishad says one must have when one is living here: If not, there is great fear–ihacet avedin mahato vinasthih–(Kena Up). The process of evolution is facilitated by the Yoga or union with the Infinite which could be known dimly at first but more and more clearly as one grows into that Infinite Nature, though perhaps by definition full and complete comprehension is impossible. But the identity that one achieves in increasing measure makes for the perfect attunement and union with that Infinite. That is why perfection of union is the first step on the progressive march towards ultimate perfection. The most important feature of the mystic concept of the Perfect (purna) lies in the fact that the interpenetrative fusion and correspondence (which is sought to be explained in terms of the principle of musical harmonies by certain modern mystic writers like Ouspensky) is seen in the experience when one moves towards the integral perception of the Unity of all in the Divine Oneness. The glory of this development is not on the plane of imperfections and the grades of imperfections, or degrees of unreality and degrees of imperfection but on the scale of degrees of Perfection in the sense of microcosmic and macrocosmic manifestations. That is, the human individual who attains to the transcendental awareness of Reality begins more and more to live in that and less and less in this private and lower levels of Nature. This becomes a spontaneous event and not an effortful one, though perhaps the first attempt to transcend the human and the temporal is attended by all those psychological states of being wrenched away from the known levels. The transitions from the lower to higher planes always have been attended with great pressure from within, known as aspiration and continuous meditation or contemplation or preparation of the body, vitality and mind, described as yama and niyama and the other stages of yoga. Yoga does at the human level what evolutionary nisus had done at the lower levels. The incidence or incarnation of the higher level or the breaking in of the highest Truth-consciousness or God is a perpetual miracle, not necessarily to be expected only at certain historical periods. The 'inbreaking of the highest consciousness' or the Godhead into the scheme of the world was claimed by the Russian theologian Nico1as Berdyeav to have a single possibility alone in Jesus, the Christ, (for the truly single or the significant alone is universal) and that it must always be a catastrophic one for the life of the world of terrestrial values and the inbreaking consciousness too. But a more realistic and at the same time the acceptable historical fact is that this inbreaking of the major type is usually a descent of the Highest for the purposes of the restoration of the progress that has been arrested half-way, and this is a continuous process in so far as the souls which have acted as prophets of mankind have this same characteristic of keeping the ascent of mankind going. The incarnational theory is in fact the fundamental truth behind occasionalism of the Melebranche–school of thinkers. Even as the extraordinary occasion of world disorder and chaos of moral purposes needs the restoration of the equilibrium of the moral world, the spiritual nisus in the world needs the dual forces of the immanent ascending character and the descending uplifting nature.
The organic evolution seems to be the fulfilment of this spiritual action on the temporal. It is a very long story. The fact that the organism is a psycho-physical unity arrived at by the so-called struggle between matter and spirit should show that the spiritual triumph at the lowest level is to be presumed to have meaning for the rest of the vast process. Call it hormism or holism or Divine Evolutionism, the same progress, with different paces, has been kept up. The body is not a meaningless thing, but the realisation of the unity that actualises the two truths or infinite truths (modes) of the One Transcendent-immanent Reality -or Omnipervasive Reality.
The body has not only realised the unity in dynamic double action but exists for the purposes of the Divine Manifestation and Experience. That certainly is not exhausted by human evolution alone. It is as Sri Ramanuja pointed out that man exists for God and that includes God's Lila as well. Man is a means to God but surely not the only means. Man's imperfection urges him on to become a perfect instrument of God through surrender to the ideal of being a perfect instrument, willing and free. The freedom that he seeks is really the freedom of transcendence of limitations; as to what these limitations are is a matter of great dispute. That he manages to transcend most of the conditions of material and physical and spatio-temporal nature and has a sense of freedom in the modern world, has not exhausted his possibility of fuller freedom. Ultimately the higher freedom from even the so-called necessities of life seems to have been sought individually by some of the yogins of old. But it did not entail a search or desire for a life divested of the organic form of life. That shows how experimenting on the ultimate foundations of life the Rishi (of the Taittiriya, Varuna) gradually unfolded that not food, not breath, not mind, not anything else but the Self of Delight is that by which everything in fact lives. This transcendence over the ordinary and well-known needs of the organic life is one of the amazing discoveries of the Vedic seer. So also in the wonderful episode of Maitreyi-Yajnavalkya, Yajnavalkya shows that everything is dear not for itself but for the Self incarnate in it (or capable of so incarnating-vasyam). The denial of organic life as such is not entailed by this transcendental awareness of realisation. On the other hand the progress of mankind would reach its ultimate culmination when the realisation of the Self would be sufficient for organic being itself. Not even Time or Fate (the superior law of the transcendent Nature) called 'daiva,' are limiting conditions, except to the ignorant nature, for the transcendent life of the Jivanmukta stands above these conditions un-affected by them. This realisation was in fact achieved subjectively in particular individuals. But the evolutionary possibility of making these limitations themselves conditions of a perfect manifestation or meaningful, rather than meaningless impositions, has not been worked out either in the individuals or in communities. The fullest possibility of organic evolution has not been worked out. The organic has not yet been shown to have exhausted itself nor its possibility of being the abode and instrument and manifestation of the Transcendent perfection.
The Buddha-ideal, so similar to the Jivan-mukta, and the Jina-ideal2 have once for all laid down the promise of a living here with transcended awareness and perfection. It was also shown by similar thinkers. The Vedic Rsis Rbhus are said to have attained the status of godhead (devatva). The story of Trisanku shows how physical immortality and ascent into higher levels was held up as an ideal but incapable of being achieved by mere sacrifices. The goal was visualised and never abandoned. The achievement of transcendent awareness and perfection, though denied to ordinary mortals, was shown to be the fact about the descents of the Supreme Consciousness into the temporal field of human history or creation itself.
The descent of the Divine produces serenity and freedom, and it is a transforming serenity. It transforms the mental and the organic; it purifies and illumines it. It makes the organic radiant–suddha-sattva, and brahma-bhuta. The dross is removed leaving pure matter divinised. The entire body responds to the divine touch; it is said to get a universal resonance: it is no longer an instrument of a private or fugitive ego but the radiant organ of a divinised universal consciousness or transcendent power and personality. The experience of the Transcendent as Transcendent may mean the withdrawal to the state of the non-organic and a-temporal state, but the experience by itself is not such as to exclude the organic life itself, though the organism itself would not necessarily mean the human type. It would perhaps change and modify itself to suit the superior and transcendental functions that it might be called upon to perform.
2. The Buddha and Jina became ideals for the individuals and the race.
The Divine is not the Yonder Self alone but also the inward secret Self of all, seated in the hearts of all creatures, moving and sustaining and transforming them without remainder. This experience set in motion during the past millenium by such giant Vedantic teachers like Ramanuja and Sankara in two different ways was largely anticipated by the Upanisadic seers and Alvars, Nayanmars, Siddhayogis and Bhagavatas. The indwelling experience of the Transcendent firstly in oneself showed the remarkable incarnation within of the Divine. It was a precursor to the great transformation in evolution itself of a higher type of men. It was itself a miracle of Grace, and it resulted in that splendid transcendent state of 'tanmayatva' (Godfilledness). It was indeed the supreme manner by which Tradition that had lost itself in the morass of ritual and objectification and interpretations of scholastic scholars could be restored and given an authentic verification in and through the divinised personalities. It was indeed this recovery of inner tradition, which did not contradict the ancient authentic Veda, that was to show the way for the great movements of living spiritually that flowed from these two great men at the beginning of this milleniuin.
This may appear to be a resiling from the height of abstract thought to the emotional and sentimental life of devotion and duty, which have been said to be fit for the lower rungs of humanity alone. This was shown to be altogether a wrong notion. The three levels of consciousness in man are integral and form one unity. In the individual as well as in humanity as a whole this oneness exists and moves men. Events show this to be the case. The heart governs sometimes wiser than the head. Even the history of the past hundred years has its own points to offer. The purely socio-political and intellectual approach of the Ram Mohan Roy School gradually demanded the devotional element–the appeal to the heart–the religious. The study of the texts of the Upanisads (said to appeal to the head alone!) gradually led to the deeper instruction of awakening the heart and the control of the senses and the motor organs also: the Gita provided inspirations for a further development. All this is clear to those who have studied the lives of Sri Ramakrishna and Sri Ramana; Balgangadhar Tilak and Mahatma Gandhi.
Thus Men-like-Gods or God-men have been one of the earliest dreams of mankind. To become immortal and infinite and utterly blissful has been the ideal, for they seemed to be the meaning of one's existence, the content of one's perfection. Whether this immortality could ever be physical and temporal endlessness or death-lessness had been discussed by many and rejected on grounds of impossibility, or incompatibility with the otherness of the Spirit or because it meant an attachment to perishable nature. Some great souls rejected this physical transformation because it savoured of illusory attachment or it prevented the Transcendent from disposing them as He in His infinite mercy might. The soul being the instrument of God and His body cannot set limits to God. Extreme non-attachment was the test of supreme surrender to the Transcendent's Will. Even so was vairagya or renunciation of the world and all its promises of pleasure. It was a result of the knowledge of the Divine as the One goal of one's being, and as the Self of all things. But this was a transitory phase of the integral movement or adjustment to the Divine Purpose, whatever that might be seen to be. Sri Aurobindo shows that this goal is destined by the very nature of the Divine. It is true that the Nature of the Divine is not to be construed in the same sense as we construe ours. His nature is Saccidananda which is expressed and maintained through Freedom and determined, paradoxically by that freedom. Sri Aurobindo sees in this creative history of evolution, the integral purpose being maintained through the play of Oneness that is eternal and the manyness which is also eternal–and its culmination or finale must be inevitably the working out of the Eternal in the Temporal forms, though the interpretation of the external-temporal forms would very much be different from our own. The expression 'inevitable' in respect of the destiny is again not to be construed as something mechanically determined or dialectricallv logically determined but by the self-determination in freedom of that eternal Oneness in eternal manyness. There is nothing repugnent in Nature nor in the individual manynesses to the Divine Spiritual Nature. We could proceed with either of the alternatives proposed: that matter and souls are different from Spirit but that they are dependent on Spirit for being what they are: this view may be designated dualism or theory of difference; or that matter and souls are but self-formations of the Divine in temporal series, projections so to speak of the Supreme Spirit which had framed the several planes of existence, extending from its own Supreme transcendence (Timeless Being) down to the unconscious matter-spirit wrapped in its self-concentration and manyness. This continuous formation of the several planes of knowledge where oneness dominates over multiplicity and the planes of Ignorance (where multiplicity dominates over oneness) are all of One Spirit- Brahman. This is the significant meaning of the Upanisadic Mantra – sarvam khalv idam Brahma. These two dismiss the illusory view or rather render it as an axiological valuation but not a meta-physical one. Evolution is the process by which the integration of all the planes is achieved in the Organism–which is the pattern of the Unity-dominated multiplicity. The transition from stage to stage of the evolutionary ascent involves the descent of a higher level into the lower. This may be analogous to the mutation theory,3 or Bergsonian impulse4 to break through to the freedom of the higher planes which of course immediately makes one aware of the laws and determinations of that plane. The development of the organism has arrived at a point in human evolution that it has already been possible for the advance guards of Humanity to probe and break through the barriers that divide the human and the divine. Moksa would mean the attainment of the higher level and would yet not be the ultimate. The gradual process of evolution would demand not merely a breaking the barriers that divide the human and the divine worlds, but a bringing down or rather opening a pathway for the Divine world to break through with its light into the human for the large mass of mankind in trevail. This process is not all onesided, that is, from the human side alone, which does not know the Yonder world and its status and conditions and laws. The inevitability of 'progress' is not because there is an inner law of the human level which must record advance in human terms of perfection, but because the Divine order is included in the order of Nature and is organic to the human. Human beings seen, to be aware of the choice that would determine a better future for mankind–Paradise or death–even as Earl Russell only last month declared. If mankind could choose, if its leaders could weigh and decide, if it is left to them alone to have the final word, then this critical choice would have to be made, and mankind is free enough to make it. The future then would be unpredictable and not inevitable. The human being is aware that it is not left alone to decide to move forward to secure 'peace', the will of mankind as a whole has to decide so. We are in the world seized with haunting fears and it looks as though the powers that be today are also aware of the fate of mankind if it should choose to put the clock back by a billion years either by preparing a hell on earth or complete devastation which would make all life impossible and by a process of cosmic nivrtti–return to the original causal condition, and achieve an ironic nisprapancikarana (dissolution of the world-process) or pralaya.
3. Unconscious adaptative variation not based on any ideal is rnutation really.
4. Bergson denied an objective presupposed ideal but not an immanent urge.
It is not because the contemplation of such a fate is painful that we have to conjure up a vision of an utopia in the future or the Beyond; it is not because we are distressed over the tragedy of human good being caused by some of the diabolic forces that mankind yet harbours and worships and rationalises, that we think about an inevitable progress which would by a miracle of divine intervention save mankind and progress; but because the human world is not separate from the higher world to which it is indeed subordinate in the plane of values and in the pursuit of which human life itself is worth sacrificing. It is this spirit of worship and sacrifice of the human life and its life-values for the eternal values that marks the inevitability of the decision in human affairs. These qualities come to the fore only when the critical situation develops in human affairs. Both the forces of evil and that of Good emerge under such conditions and the human mind is faced with the decision to choose the Divine. For it is the sense of freedom that is the truth of real force, spontaneity or play (lila interpreted as avalila) that is incipient in the choice of the higher world for action.
The concept of sin has been one of the most important factors which had given rise to the theory of regression or fall. This world was considered to be the field of sin or results of sin, a sort of purgatory or a valley of shadow of death. Progress in human affairs is said to be rendered impossible because human nature is prone to sin against nature and God and men. What precisely this is due to has not been explained except as a disobedience to the Divine Order, or due to the positive egoism that erects itself against God's commands or the divine order and seeks to rule by itself and for itself. Ego thus is said to be the real difficulty whether it is conceived as the sum of the resistant forces and formations (skandhas) or as a private soul habituated to the lower values of life which it seeks to hold on to and 'enjoy' with tenacity.
The wqrld-catastrophes are said to be due to this perverse action of a single or a collective ego and the sins produce the reactive results which break up the unity and put the evolutionary ascent back. The freedom to sin is undoubtedly emphasized by some thinkers as the very content of freedom, but it must he clear that such freedom as license, only helps the soul to discover for itself the tragedy of its private seekings or selfish aspirations. Nor is the collective sin less dangerous for the collective or the group (as in our own day the Nordic sin) can exhibit recessive characteristics which smite at the evolutionary ascent of man. But the transformation of man arises only through the actual (only in advanced souls in conceptual imagination) awareness of this regression. Nations decay because they lose sight of the goal of mankind. Civilizations too get destroyed because they lose sight of their destiny and can no longer move forward or get arrested. But these facts do not at all go to show that real progress is not taking place, in the sense of the integration of this human world with the world of Divine values. This is the meaning of the process. To be blind to the constant brooding presence of the Eternal always reproduces some of those peculiar ameliorative humanisms which emphasise the value of man as if he were an end in himself. But that is just half-way house to the atheism which denies God or the transcendent world or planes of consciousness. Humanistic progress is a short-sighted vision of the progress that has been going on but its value lies in its showing up the great responsibility of human beings to reflect the divine possibility in their own ordinary lives. This of course does not remove the other responsibility nor could it arrest the incentive to move higher to the levels of consciousness which would give us the Vision of Harmony of the diverse planes of being so far removed from the human consciousness.
It is becoming increasingly clear that man requires for his perception of the world as a unity in and amidst all differences a new consciousness-vijnana-super-mentality. This is possible and this does not lie out of the line of Evolution. Nor does it deny the constant realisation of the Transcendental as the immediate possibility of any individual or even group, for it is because of this constant impact and ingress of the transcendental inspiration and vision and power (for as Sri Aurobindo affirmed this Transcendental is Saccidananda-Reality-Conscious-Power-Delight) that the progress is rendered possible and inevitable in the spiritual sense of raising the human beings to the status of being fully and truly organic with the Divine.
Therefore to deny progress or speak of it as alien to the perfection of the Transcendental Experience would be just to miss the alchemical miracle of transformation that is constantly at work in the free process of Evolution. The only sin of man is his being more open to the lower levels and its pressure of the Ignorance and the Unconscious. It is against this that he has to insulate himself from being influenced, and it is to the higher that he has to adapt himself by being open to it and to it alone. It is necessary in this process that one should seek this emergence of the Transcendent from within, that is to say as an inner revelation at the heart so that it may be more and more realised as an organic self-development of the Divine. This inner praxis is the Yoga of union with the Divine.
In no other country has this Yoga been developed all-sidedly as in India. It is the supreme merit of these Yogins in India that though there are several schools of Yoga, each claiming to achieve the highest state, they have all realised that the goal is transcendence of the human state of ignorance. The liberation from ignorance is more primary than the liberation from the cycle of transmigration and rebirths, for it has been discovered that ignorance and egoism, its nucleus, are the real causes of disintegration of the Organic harmony.
One more level of progress in the conception of Yoga which we can clearly visualise is that the individual Yoga has to be also followed up by the social or collective Yoga of a people. For the universal is the truth behind the individual and the collective consciousness and one is organic to the other. The Cosmic Yoga of the Divine is thus a. double process of the individual transformation and collective transformation. The great developments in the world today show that the collective Yoga is as much important and the surrender of the collective egoism or selfishness for the purposes of the Divine Descent is the necessity. The modern racial movements and conflicts are indeed the disharmonious projections which emphasise the need for racial and national Yoga. The integration of the several parts of one's being is rendered possible by the Yoga of unification of states of consciousness (Mandukya Upanisad) and the modes of consciousness or personality (Bhagavad Gita). This has to be carried to the levels of the collective or social and racial units as well which also suffer from the division of their unity and suffer from the extraordinary disruptions which give rise to untold suffering to the individuals comprising the groups. The modern world suffers from too many of these disruptions within its individual and collective units.
But already the extraordinary activities of religious leaders and mystics, seized with the will to save mankind by the divine values of integration, show that progress has been made. The claims of peace in the world are indeed the claims for harmonious coexistence at the beginning in the hope that organic integration could be achieved and the distrust and fear that characterise human and national relationships could be abolished. This hope is un-doubtedly too sanguine but then all hopes are so. It is not possible to achieve the integration of all levels of consciousness by merely coexisting : it is necessary to be inspired by a larger awareness of life, and the values of life are certainly not exhausted by peaceful coexistence or mere peace. The premature counsels of peace at any cost almost try to make peace a fundamental value, something very much like and on a par with the values of Truth, Beauty and Knowledge or Delight. Peace is necessary for the rational understanding of the harmony that is behind reality and is dynamically sustaining it. Peace, like Silence in Yoga, is a necessary step but peace at any price is neither welcome nor valuable.5 Progress and peace are not linked up except in the sense that they are not contradictory; progress may happen in peace as well as in conflict. It is therefore necessary clearly to understand the kind of peace that we need and the kind of conflict that cannot but be forced on any one. We have to see that the meaning of progress is an ascent to a higher and fundamentally different kind of consciousness than what today mankind has: it is not possible to have it till we quench the fires of psychological conflict and greed and selfishness and envy: this quenching is the silence and the peace that one must develop within. We cannot make it the end, for it is fundamentally a means to an end much richer than any that we know of, for it is the starting point of real creation universal, and true Lila.
Peace however in the Divine Sense is a genuine principle of harmony. The ancient thinkers felt that Santi is not to be merely a suspension of activities like sleep of death, but the creative harmony of blessedness. It is that which is the quality of integral living, the turya (fourth state). In that experience of turya, everything has the sanction of the Infinite, everything that is and will be has 'sufficient reason' as Leibniz put It. The very process of Time6 (kala) is seen to
5. A human peace is an impossible ideal. The best will of the human world abstracted from the Divine World or God can never confer Peace, an integral indivisible Peace. The only Peace to be sought is the Divine Peace which includes and supports the human and other worlds.
6. Time–kala=from kala–'divisibility' or 'partitioned' bit.
be most luminous with infinite meaning and not as field of chance. It is impossible to consider that blind chance decides the occurrence of events or the 'compossibles' and that out of thousand and one ways of meeting a particular situation only one materialises under the impulsion of chance, and that this arbitrary choice of fate is constantly repeating itself every moment of life. The whole of history may be seen to be a refutation of the 'Ifs' of history. There is behind all the possibilities of the universe the freedom of the Universal Intelligence or God or Spirit (or all these), for we perceive the meaningfulness of all events after the events have occurred.
To see this needs human effort of the will to change the manner of looking at Time itself or the process itself. We have to see time itself through the speculum of Eternity. This undoubtedly has been explained as the 'principle of Grace.' This inner revolution from within through the influx of the transcendent Grace, by itself produces the real feeling of immortality, Jivanmukti, freedom from the bonds of ignorance, and perfection here and now, as something immediate; it has been the aim of all spiritual leaders of mankind to produce this inner revolution. It is something quite different from the regressive revolution engineered by or rather planned by politico-socialist thinkers of all times. Though there is always a danger of spiritual truths being used as catchwords bv the socialists and meliorists, yet under the guidance of spiritual leaders these have less opportunity for being so misused.
Non-violent satyagraha under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi has this inner revolutionary quality. But no sooner than that presence and personality had been withdrawn the socio-political scene seems to have changed somewhat. It is for this purpose that the permanent inner revolution which cannot lose its power and force or resile to the lower level of spiritual life, must be achieved. It cannot be achieved unless a higher supramental consciousness which cannot return to the lower levels of our fragmentating practical mind is made the permanent feature of human life itself. This is not merely an ideal; it is that alone which can make perfection immediate. This is the progress that mankind has been trying to make. The time is more opportune for this attainment by mankind now than at any other time. It is not merely an optimism of the intellect. Nor is it merely an imaginative speculation. It is the inevitable realisation demanded by the very nature of Freedom that mankind has been attaining both in evolution and in cultures and civilisations.. This is the cosmic purpose which is more and more becoming clear to mankind to pursue and realise. It is true that we do not know and cannot perhaps even dream of knowing the ultimate pattern of the Lila of the Divine but it may not be said that that we hardly know anything about it. It is also true as already pointed out that we have enlarged our ideas and patterns of thinking not merely in the fields of economics and enjoyment but also thanks to the complexity of forces of all kinds that impinge on them, in the fields of cosmic welfare and peace and psychology. Regressive manifestations, reprehensible though they have been and producing a sense of melancholy and pessimism, have helped mankind to see clearly the dangers to progress. Spiritual values are more and more recognized as necessary for practical life. Secularism (this-worldliness) and Spiritualism (other-worldliness) have met only to realise that they are not except to a dichotomising intellect opposites, but complementary and interpenetrative to the sacramental conception of reality. This is the universal intuition of the world's leading spiritual men, in all ages, and it burns brightest today than ever.
asato ma sat gamaya tamaso ma jyotir gamaya
mrtyro ma amrtam gamaya
would not have been spoken by the Vedic Seer if progress to that transcendental state was not possible to mankind. It is not a false hope but the most tested revelation of all times.