Brahmasrii Dr K C Varadachari
THE SENSUOUS AND THE SUPER-SENSUOUS
From very ancient times we have had the second struggle, the struggle between the veridicality of the super-sensuous and that of the sensuous, between the human consciousness of practicality or the pragmatic test of truth for man and that which is transcendent to his purposes and consciousness as well. All philosophy is an attempt to have a view of Reality as a Whole, either as one undistinguished bare identity or a differentiated unity varying from organic integrality to a mere confluence or mechanism or clock to which Leibnitz compared it, and a bare plurality without any rational mode or permanent possibility of unity other than aggregation. A world Philosophy is the
aim of the human mind in its highest flights of intuitive awareness. That this may be beyond the modern capacities of man can be admitted. But that philosophy should never go beyond these capacities, else it should cease to be a philosophy, cannot be as easily admitted or accepted. The greatest Seers of the East have gone beyond the humanistic self-imposed limitations when they affirmed the truths of mysticism and religion as transcending the regions of pure intellection of the human mind.
IS HUMANISM A SUFFICIENT PHILOSOPHY?
Humanism, however practically useful and intelligible, is not capable of being a real world philosophy. Or if the word ‘world’ refers to the current evolutionary conception of man alone, the reality which transcends man and his faculties would forever be refused the name of philosophy. In fact, that this is not so strange a conclusion can be sent from the enormous seriousness with which the pragmatic materialistic and mentalistic speculations about Reality have a larger hearing than the call to understand this world in terms of spiritual conceptions beyond the range and ability of
the human consciousness as it is. The trend that registered itself as important in recent times was the linguistic analysis of sentences which condemned outright all metaphysical statements as meaningless because they were not current in daily speech and verifiable in the sensory or emotive way. This has found favour also among some Indian thinkers who have held that philosophy must be expressed in the language of the people, loka, the only world of discourse that merchants and common people know and live in. Perhaps the technical jargon of philosophy as of other sciences is sheer nonsense, more so for a philosophy going beyond the sensory and emotional intellectual universe which uses the way of knowing by difference rather than by transcendence and spiritual oneness. This criticism is unassailable but false.
There are more things in nature than philosophy dreams of. Reality is more than human thought. One of the most adventurous things or enterprises for man himself is to attempt to go beyond himself. Religion and mysticism show the way towards transcendence of the human even as society shows the way to transcendence of the personal and the private and
particular. That modern theories of knowledge have recognized the social theory of knowledge as well as the personal theory of knowledge shows that Reality has more dimensions even within the humanistic views than it recognizes. Similarly in regard to the reduction of religion to the service of humanity there can be quite a distortion of the very basis of religion which is the attainment and experience of the Divine or Godhead who is recognized as transcendent to the human and his values. Modern philosophies so intricately and inextricably wedded to socialistic human patterns of behaviour or humanistic goals could hardly make themselves sensible to religious consciousness and much less to spiritual consciousness. It is the lesser way of knowledge dictating the boundaries and verities of the higher than the human.
Though a World Philosophy as the consensus of human philosophies may turn out to be humanistic in general it would yet reveal its imperfect apprehension of Reality. Humanism urges its own transcendence when it confronts the experiences known as the mystical and spiritual. That is why we cannot accept humanism as a sufficient philosophy.
OTHER INTELLECTUALISTIC PHILOSOPHIES
Mechanistic and humanistic philosophies having been found inadequate it behoves us to consider whether we would accept other equally intellectualistic and philosophies taking their stand on vitalism or life principle or on mentalism or mind principle as more ultimate. A recent book of distinctive merit, Professor Errol Harris’s Foundations of the Metaphysics of Science, has projected a comprehensive account of the whole field of science as a serious rival to philosophy. He has been able to discover that the mystic truth, ‘As in the macrocosm so in the microcosm’, is verified in each of the sciences. He has also been able to show that the higher laws or laws of superconsciousness, more fully understood and interpreted, would very much help towards understanding of the microcosm and even sub-atomic structures. A mind is at work at every level and is the principle or energy that organizes even as it provides the constant and continuous reorganization of units of existence or being. This is perhaps the most important work which would illustrate the approach taken up by Sri Aurobindo in his attempt at enunciation
of a world philosophy or rather a philosophy that will be all-embracing and adequate to explain experiences of all levels of being in a unitary conception.
The question that might arise at this point would be whether we are not assuming that the most important philosophical category is not Monism (Advaita), for that is indeed what all thought is impelled to arrive at. The scholastics always felt that a Philosophy must arrive at a One or Oneness which allows or permits or suffers a manyness within it. All problems of philosophy centered upon the need for a oneness of the many or a manyness in the One. It has been easy to dismiss either oneness or manyness but not both: but this too was attempted by the transcendentalist nihilist who abolished both, and claimed to have reached the summit of philosophy by going beyond it. It appears that the real problem of Philosophy was almost by-passed when the monistic and pluralistic mathematical modes of looking at Reality were seriously accepted as philosophical explanations. Thus the Advaita-Dvaita dialogue in Philosophy was extraneous to the real concern of the human individual, which is Reality.
SRI AUROBINDO AND THE REAL
It is one of the merits of the Aurobindonian approach to have realized the entire unsatisfactoriness of explanations based on this neat patterning and classification of philosophy in terms of Advaita-Dvaita and the in-betweens of varying degrees of Advaita and Dvaita or oneness and plurality or multiplicity. The true world philosophy should not get bogged up by this simplicity of mathematical oneness and manyness, but go beyond towards the apprehension of the dynamics of the process of creativity and perfectibility of the categories of being and non-being, mortality and immortality, darkness and light, so to speak. The real is the relative according to some, whereas the real is the rational according to others, to still others the real is the absolute to which all tends. To Sri Aurobindo the Real is that which infiltrates and perfects the relative and grants to each status of the relative the perfection of itself. The creative evolution of Bergson provided the ascent of spirit to a more-than-human status, the emergent evolutionists revealed how in the process of evolution new characters or emergents arise revealing
creative novelty. But in the Aurobindonian evolutionary explanation the significance of the descent of the Perfect into the multiplicity of statuses and individuals is to uplift them to the perfection of the perfect in them and for them and by them. Perhaps it expresses the process called the ‘transformation’ of the imperfect into the perfect or the divinizing of the undivine in the multiplicity itself. Thus the meaning of existence or being for each individual which is explained as the liberation of the individual from his individuality or individualness in other systems, is exceeded by explaining that true liberation lies in the realization or the fulfilment of the Perfect in the individual and through him alone. The abolition of the individuals or multiplicity is avoided by showing that there is nothing wrong in aiming at being individuals but only in attempting to avoid the incarnation of the Perfect in him or the perfectibility of the individual or the multiplicity. Thus in a sense Sri Aurobindo goes beyond the walls of reason based on intellect and explores the infinite possibility of the Infinite as it realizes itself in and through the individuals or multiplicity. In a sense it is not enough that the individuals lives and moves and has his being
in God, it is necessary for the Godhead to live and move and have His being in the multiplicity.
The philosophy of intellect or divisive or dialectical reason is superseded and made to function if at all in terms of the higher supermind. The life of man is lifted up to become the life in the Divine. The spiritual incorporates the mental and the vital and physical in an integrative way. The Integral Philosophy becomes more truly synthetical than the usual synthetical philosophies that juxtapose the multiplicity.
THE INTEGRAL PHILOSOPHY
The Integral Philosophy is more truly capable of being a World Philosophy than the humanistic and dialectical materialist philosophies which claim to be truly representative of the pluralistic individualistic aspirations of the many-phased Reality, Democratic imperfectionism would be overcome only when there is a spiritual One operating in and though each of the manynesses so as to realize its own perfection and fullness in each of them. But such a Spiritual One is transcendentally perfect as well, even in the most imperfect gross many. This is mystery of the Spirit that
cannot be equated with any entity or reality already known to philosophy, eastern or western; perhaps it is nearest to the description given in the Veda as Purna, Brahman, Para that is described by the Agama as sustaining and supporting all its other statuses, and enjoying itself in and through the all without diminution.
Compared with the synthetic philosophies of the modern thinkers and with the synoptic thinkers of the past like Plato, Aristotle, Kant and Hegel, Sri Aurobindo provides a clear and dynamic account of Reality, more integral and holistic than any. Nor have modern thinkers been anywhere near providing an organon of philosophy which could cope with the magnitude of scientific and spiritual knowledge available, Partial in their approach, fragmentary and dialectical in their method, profoundly prejudiced in their mental structure and elevation in favour of humanistic traditions both existential and axiological, modern thinkers have been frittering away their philosophical heritage. With rare exceptions like Whitehead and Errol Harris, we have men who are hardly aware of the existence of the problems of philosophy as such. Whilst in the climate of India men yet are trying to knead all new knowledge
into the ancient vessels of dialectical and superdialectial Vedantas, Sri Aurobindo sees clearly the goals (purusarthas), the means of approach and attainment (sadhana or yoga) and the possibilities opened up to man’s evolutionary ascent into Divine Nature. It must be a matter of satisfaction at all philosophers that a new dimension to philosophy has at last been opened up by Sri Aurobindo in his classic works.
THE CONCEPT OF PROGRESS
There seems to be no single concept of progress today in the speculations about the advance of either knowledge or technical skills. Spectacular and stupendous though in one sense the advances in the knowledge about matter, energy, motion and force, cells and organisms, and evolutionary processes, yet it is doubted whether the advance in our knowledge about the world around us constitutes the meaning of progress. Indeed the advances in our knowledge in this held have produced fear of science or scientific progress itself though the more optimistic among us have been advancing the thesis that there can be a peaceful use of this knowledge through science. The atomic age has been both a threat and a challenge and man is now girding up his loins so to speak to meet the threat and accept the challenge. Humanistic values have been resurrected in this context and man is
admonished to restrain or rein the scientific mind. Others have counselled the socialistic theory of social values as against the mere or non-humanistic use of science. A few have however stated that we must emphasize the 'atmanistic’ or spiritual values to counter the materialistic values of both science and socialistic humanisms.
The conflict then envisaged is the formulation of the principle that there is an inverse relation between the materialistic humanistic science and spiritual inner development of man. Humanistic evolutionism is opposed to the spiritual evolution of man. The outward opulence of man reveals the inner impoverishment of man. This inverse proportion is clearly to be perceived in the march of civilization in the historical process. Progress in the one direction reveals regress in the other direction. The optimism of integral evolution is unjustified idealism or utopian dream. The deep pessimism that history is alleged to teach has been attempted to be overcome by some historians like Professor Toynbee (albeit unsuccessfully) in his study of history. The philosophical application or justification of this law of inverse progress has been developed in
the contradiction or conflict between the spiritual and the material views of life. The concept of maya or the illusoriness of the world was developed to counteract and in fact aid the development of renunciation towards the world and at one stage the ideal of monastic renunciation was basic to spiritual enlightenment. The quest for perfection was sought outside the world and its transitoriness and its goods. Jnana or knowledge was defined in a sense as the knowledge of the ways and means and goals which are other worldly. Spiritual Progress is the process of gradual total renunciation of the world--its things, its demands for desires, and even the claims of worldly duties to society and family, and all that are other than the Spirit or Self. Progress spiritual is thus the path of self-perfection. Progress material is on the other hand the path of perfection of the material comforts and securities.
This has been the general conception throughout the conflict of religions and for the first time if must be said that the world was made to confront the definite affirmation that real perfection and evolution lies not in abandoning life and its sensate values but in fulfilling them without sacrificing the spiritual. Indeed the
spiritual must be utilised to attain the wealth and prosperity of the worldly life. Man's life should be made tolerable. Dialectical materialism has posed this problem in all its logical and materialistic implications. Melioristic humanism has not been able to formulate the general theory of progress. The revolutionary egalitarianism has shown that mankind is tired of utopian heavens after death and had demanded the practice of spiritual virtues and active work for making utopianism possible on earth. This spiritualization of materialistic welfarism has been shown to be the real meaning of progress by modern mystics. The mystic hopes of a spiritual world on earth or the bringing down of the Kingdom of Heaven on Earth is sought to be realized by revolutionary materialism or economism or historicism. Progress thus is sought to be explained not either in terms of welfare economics or other worldly or unearthly realization of the self but the realization of self in terms of the earth and in it.
The socialistic conception of progress lies in bringing into real being the spiritual and mystical values of equality, liberty and fraternity—which all religions, at least of the higher levels subscribe to and insist on
following in their little domains far from the cities. The bringing of the values of the forest into the cities in a sense is the beginning of a revolutionary process, progress in this sense consists in the quantum of achievement of the goals envisioned above to which we have been adding a few more which are but amplifications of the threefold goals of mystic life in heaven. The historical process now underway is really the spectacle of this movement in which the 'ingression of the mystic unearthly ballet of categories' is forcibly, psychologically, being conditioned at the political level.
If we could but look back in history to the decried democracy of ancient times we could surely see that the mystic beliefs of a few advanced souls has become the materialistic beliefs of the common man—the ignorant voter of a democracy all over the world. Though men have not been educated to think as well as they should they have been entrusted with the vote that means that one is made of his individual choice of the triple goals of a mystical earthism. Would it be progress if these ideals of humanity were realized? Obviously the social utopian would think so, and modern man turned social mystic would embrace this
ideal and seek to promote if despite all the obstacles to their earthly realization. The amount of sacrifice and suffering that go into this process is great and martyrs have not been wanting who have laid down their lives for it. The abolition of human slavery, the establishment of the reign of reason through legislative and judicial processes all over the world during the past three centuries despite dictators in a pronounced affirmation of the mystic truth that God or Spirit is not alien to the world but immanent as the force that uplifts the world towards the realization of the Divine purpose on the earth.
These could be certainly instances of the growing rationality of humanity, at least they mark the departure of humanity from the mere brute way of life, of nature red in teeth and claw. Humanity's conscience seems at last to have taken a role in human affairs. The progress of science, means of communication, organization of mass-media of education have all rendered possible the criticism of man by man, of rational man of the irrational man, and have shamed man into forming an ethical and judicial sense of justice which is indivisible all over the earth. This surely is an
awakening on a scale never before known to mankind except in idealized and poetical versions of the glories of the little past.
The values of the spirit are for the first time common property of the human conscience. For the first time rationality, expressed through mutual discussion and for mutual welfare or in one word cooperation, has come to be the manner of our way of life. The argumentum baculum, argumentum vericundiam, argumentum misericordium, all seem to have receded and the argumentum of justice, social and ethical and spiritual, seems to have become the primary concern. No one begs for rights, he claims and asserts and obeys that law of individual expression. The claim to protest against injustice is as terrible a right as the right to freedom to live according to one's nature (rationality).
This progress cannot be denied. As literacy increases and man begins to realize that he is to be rational, and the right to rationality is a basic undeniable right, be would exercise if to be entitled to be called human. This is the role of humanistic idealism in social
dynamics, of growth of man and humanity. The other rights are yoked to the development of the conscience of this right to rationality or the obligation to live rationally.
There was a brief spell of historical adventure which demanded of man a condition of higher than rationality, a step that was ahead of human evolution. Spiritual intuitional life or the mystic life was considered to be the real goal of man's life. Undeniably spiritual religions sought to promote this faculty or power of the mild or over-mind in men and with some success. We could perhaps point out that in the conception of reason there have operated two movements. Reason discerns the permanent behind all change according to one school and correlative propositions are deduced from this concept that the permanent must be unchanging, and therefore involve no process or progress and therefore perfect or vice versa. The change, etc., become accordingly illusion or illusory irrational phenomena. As distinct from this view was developed the logic of change which reveals that change is the only permanent and all permanents are illusory. The Parmenidean versus the Heraclitean--the No change as
against All change--has been one of the basic paradoxes of reason. We have the static logic as against the dynamic logic and both are real and neither ideal or illusory. Thus to see change in the permanent is as rational a business of thought as to see permanence in change, Hegelian dialectic sought to correct the basic logic of static being by his dialectical logic of dynamic synthesis. The intuitive logic of the progress would be to see not only the permanent in change or change in the permanent or both together but to see the infinite in the finite as well and the finite in the Infinite. This perception would correct the conception of revelation of the finite in the infinite (if one were capable of perceiving the infinite) and the revelation of the Infinite in the finite (which is what aesthetic philosophies try to do, and mysticism counsels one to attain). Further the whole process of Being or Reality is to reveal being in becoming and becoming in Being, by two processes of descent and ascent, the pravrtti and nivrtti, involvement and dissolvement. However in a dynamic sense of progress it would be the process of the becoming of the infinite in the finite and the ascent would be the becoming of the
finite as the infinite-the former would be the discarding or veiling of the infinite, the latter would be the revealing of the Infinite and both seem to be the expressions of the ecstasy of the infinite or his lila. This is the last version of Sri Aurobindo.
Progress is the gradual revealing or integration of the Infinite on the stem of the finite and this being the mode of Being at present it is progress that is now taking place on earth, though perhaps the reverse process is happening elsewhere for it is necessary to hold that both the processes are eternal. This of course goes against the very conception of an indivisible reality. This latter dogma is not however justified because the mystics have realized the fact that any abstract notion however non self contradictory need not be true absolutely. Only one fourth of Reality has projected the downward movement or descent and similarly only one fourth is in the travail of ascent says the Veda.
There is really no standard of the measurement of our progress or regress except the quantum of integration that has taken place between the unity
principle and the diversity principle in terms of the organic in biology, in terms of social organizations, in terms of politics, in terms of spiritual awareness of the Oneness in all and in terms of spiritual living.
Progress towards the divine living is of course a great ideal where the oneness-consciousness would dominate the diversifying consciousness. However as we know modern scientific theories of evolution look upon diversification or heterogeneity as the hallmark of evolutionary ascent, though latest writers are emphatic that this heterogeneity is integrative and integrating in the highest as in the lowest. The elan is thus an organic force or life itself which must be sought to explain the meaning of progress. But then the mystery of life is something not cleared up by science or even religions.
A transcendent mysticism rejects life itself and even prophetic awakening only calls one to greater life that is perhaps a denial of the life as we know it, and it is by no means despite modern Christian thinkers life-affirming. It may euphemistically be called greater life for it is life after this single death. Indian thought realized that life is different at different levels of
consciousness existence. Thus the life of the earth is much grosser and heavily clouded and restricted than the life of atmosphere and so on. Similarly the life of mere food is poorer than the life of creatures. So too the life of mind, and then of super mind and life of the Infinite as such.
The levels of organization would obviously be different at those levels and in any case it is useless to imagine them to be similar or identical. For it is likely that they may be inversions of each other. The mystic axiom, as in the microcosm so in the macrocosm and vice versa, would not be exactly true though inversely true. However progress cannot be expected to be defined in the same way at the different levels. The organism itself represents these multi-formal or polyphasic synthesis for there are along with the anabolic processes katabolic processes which are both restrained and regulated by the general hormic nature of the organism. Similarly the progress achieved in terms of growth of the individual's psychic being or organic being or social pattern is regulated by the above two processes or rather these are restrained and regulated by a universal hormic Reality. This synthetic
conception of Progress would help to give a deeper inner hormism of the basic Reality of the eternal Spirit playing in terms of the forces of space and time on the one hand and on the other preparing for an order or kingdom that truly mirrors the eternal in the multi-temporal grades of organic life and growth.
A further concept could indeed be offered to clarify the basic growth of the organic psychical being out of the gross physico-chemical, and this foundational pattern seems to be extended beyond the bio-chemical complex of the organism and spiritual progress seems to be realized only when one is aware of this formation and functional effectiveness of the organic that has become super- conscious or supramental and subtle or astral which begins to organize the biochemical and physico-chemical forces and particles. Indian thought when illuminated with the concept of real progress or the organic nature of the material world as well as the individual growth and evolution leading up to the integral influx of the highest spiritual Being or Reality, reveals this omni pervasiveness of the Spirit in all levels and organisms represented in reality. Social systems which were based on the organic lost their inner pulse
of growth by denying the twin processes irradiating to and from the central living being known as Sac-cid-ananda.
No concept of progress would be complete without mentioning the extraordinary speculations of the Russian schools of Berdyeav and Ouspensky-Gurdieff. The meaning of history is rendered significant by the unique and single advent of Christ Jesus in order to lift the temporal to the status of the eternal. Similarly Ouspensky had affirmed that when progress returns on itself on its tendency towards recurrence, the influx or shock from above or higher levels brings about the upliftment of evolution to higher levels. Toynbee almost utilizing this concept affirms that the pattern of continuity of past civilizations in history reveals that there has been a shock and a continuance of the meanings and civilization and culture of one into another elsewhere on earth. Indian thinkers had envisaged the concept of avatar or divine descent as occurring at critical points of history in order to open up higher lines of evolution when the previous almost seemed to have come to a stop or perfection. The law of growth into higher patterns seems to be inevitable. It
is on this assurance that Sri Aurobindo also asserts the inevitability of the next step in evolution. Dr Radhakrishnan has admitted that higher evolution of man has to be 'willed' by humanity or man and though he does not deny the 'descent' he does not assert its necessity. In any case we are today seized with this concept of progress or evolution beyond man and his brute existence and the theories about it need not be considered to be other than the demands of the soul of man for a higher and finer and healthier humanity if not always happier.
Om Tat Sat