What is evolution?

    Evolution is nothing but coming of something that is already there in the potential form into the state of being. This whole universe before coming into the manifestation that it is today had the potential of this happening. Evolution is a process that is made possible by the availability of many relevant conditions, including the element of duration of Time. We associate evolution with life; but this is a mistaken idea. If we go back in Time, we would realize that everything that we see today has evolved over a period of time. However, it required certain favorable conditions to make this happen. This applies to life also. But, then, we cannot confine this concept to the form of life that we know; its scope is much wider. There are things that we know and there also things that we do not know yet; evolution apply to them as well. Evolution is a mechanism of transformation of entities from one state to another. It is the beauty of Nature. It is as fundamental a concept as the dimensions of Space and Time, which are now known to exist. We may justifiably say that our universe exists in the form that we see it today only because there is this process of evolution operating there.

Sri Aurobindo says:  “We are living in modern times and we have to inquire of the problem, albeit ancient one, in the terms of our times. Let us see the slot that Nature – and her device called evolution – accords to man – and his mind with all its brilliant conclusions – in the universal scheme of things.

  “The progressive self-manifestation of Nature in man, termed in modern language his evolution, must necessarily depend upon three successive elements, that which is already evolved, that which is persistently in the stage of conscious evolution and that which is to be evolved and may perhaps be already displayed, if not constantly, then occasionally or with some regularity of recurrence, in primary formations or others more developed and, it may well be, even in some, however rare, that are near to the highest possible realization of our present humanity.

  “That which Nature has evolved for us and has firmly founded is the bodily life. She has effected a certain combination and harmony of the two inferior but most fundamentally necessary elements of our action and progress upon earth, – Matter, which is our foundation and the first condition of all our energies and realizations, and the Life-Energy which is our means of existence in a material body. . . She has successfully achieved a certain stability of her constant material movement which is at once sufficiently steady and durable and sufficiently pliable and mutable…

  “If the bodily life is what Nature has firmly evolved for us as her base and first instrument, it is our mental life that she is evolving as her immediate next aim and superior instrument. This in her ordinary exaltations is the lofty preoccupying thought in her; this… is her constant pursuit wherever she can get free from the trammels of her first vital and physical realizations. … Mind in man is first enmeshed in the life of the body, where in plant it is entirely involved and in animals always imprisoned. … The true human existence, therefore, only begins when the intellectual mentality emerges out of the material and we begin more and more to live in the mind independent of the nervous and physical obsession and in the measure of that liberty are able to accept rightly and rightly to use the life of the body….

  And when the preliminary conditions are satisfied, when the great endeavor has found its base, what will be the nature of that farther possibility which the activities of the intellectual life must serve?

  “The assertion of a higher than the mental life is the whole foundation of Indian philosophy and its acquisition and organization is the veritable object served by the methods of Yoga. Mind is not the last term of evolution, not an ultimate aim, but, like body, an instrument. It is even so termed in the language of Yoga, the inner instrument (antahkarana). And Indian tradition asserts that this which is to be manifested is not a new term in human experience, but has been developed before and has even governed humanity in certain periods of its development. In any case, in order to be known it must at one time have been partly developed.

  “But what then constitutes this higher or highest existence to which our evolution is tending? In order to answer the question we have to deal with a class of supreme experiences, a class of unusual conceptions which it is difficult to represent accurately in any other language than the ancient Sanskrit tongue in which alone they have been to some extent systematized. The only approximate terms in.English language have other associations and their use may lead to many and even serious inaccuracies.

  “The terminology of Yoga recognizes besides the status of our physical and vital being, termed the gross body and doubly composed of the food-sheath and the vital vehicle, besides the status of our mental being, termed the subtle body and singly composed of the mind-sheath or mental vehicle (manah-kosa), a third, supreme and divine status of supramental being, termed the causal body and composed of a fourth and a fifth vehicle (vijnankosa and anandkosa) which are described as those of knowledge and bliss.

 “But this knowledge is not a systematized result of mental questionings and reasoning, not a temporary arrangement of conclusions and opinions in the terms of the highest probability, but rather a pure self-existent and self-luminous Truth. And this bliss is not a supreme pleasure of the heart and sensations with the experience of pain and sorrow as its background, but a delight also self-existent and independent of objects and particular experiences, a self-delight which is the very nature, the very stuff, as it were, of a transcendent and infinite existence.

  “Do such psychological conceptions correspond to anything real and possible?

  “All Yoga asserts them as its ultimate experience and supreme aim. They form the governing principles of our highest possible state of consciousness, our widest possible range of experience. There is, we say, a harmony of supreme faculties, corresponding roughly to the psychological faculties of revelation, inspiration and intuition, yet acting not in the intuitive reason or the divine mind, but on a still higher plane, which see Truth directly face to face, or rather live in the truth of things both universal and transcendent and are its formulation and luminous activity.

  “And these faculties are the light of a conscious existence superseding the egoistic and itself both cosmic and transcendent, the nature of which is Bliss. These are obviously divine and, as man is at present apparently constituted,, superhuman states of consciousness and activity.

  A trinity of transcendent existence (sat), self-awareness (chit) and self-delight (anand) is, indeed, the metaphysical description of the supreme Atman, the self-formulation, to our awakened knowledge, of the Unknowable whether conceived as a pure Impersonality or as a cosmic Personality manifesting the universe. But in Yoga they are regarded also in their psychological aspects as states of subjective existence to which our waking consciousness is now alien, but which dwell in us in a super conscious plane and to which, therefore, we may always ascend.

  “So dazzling is even a glimpse of this supreme existence and so absorbing its attraction that, once seen, we feel readily justified in neglecting all else for its pursuit.”

  Sri Aurobindo says:   “This terrestrial evolutionary working of Nature from Matter to Mind and beyond (it) has a double process: there is an outward visible process of physical evolution with birth as it’s machinery, -for each evolved form body housing its own evolved power of consciousness is maintained and kept in continuity by heredity; there is, at the same time, an invisible process of soul evolution with rebirth into ascending grades of form and consciousness as its machinery.

  “The first by itself would mean only a cosmic evolution; for the individual would be a quickly perishing instrument, and the race, a more abiding collective formulation, would be the real step in the progressive manifestation of the cosmic Inhabitant, the universal Spirit: rebirth is an indispensable condition for any long duration and evolution of the individual being in the earth-existence. Each grade of cosmic manifestation, each type of form that can house the indwelling Spirit, is turned by rebirth into a means for the individual soul, the psychic entity, to manifest more and more of its concealed consciousness; each life becomes a step in a victory over Matter by a greater progression of consciousness in it which shall make eventually Matter itself a means for the full manifestation of the Spirit.”

  He says:   “If you take terrestrial history, all the forms of life have appeared one after another in a general plan, a general programme, with the addition, always, of a new perfection and a greater consciousness. Take just animal forms – for that is easier to understand, they are the last before man – each animal that appeared had an additional perfection in its general nature – I don’t mean in all the details – a greater perfection than the preceding  ones, and the crowning point of the ascending march was the human form which, for the moment, from the point of view of consciousness, is the form most capable of manifesting consciousness; that is, the human form at its height, at the height of its possibilities, is capable of more consciousness than all preceding animal forms.

  “This is one of Nature’s ways of evolution.  Sri Aurobindo told us last week that this Nature was following an ascending progression in order to manifest more and more the divine consciousness contained in all forms. So, with each new form that it produces, Nature makes a form capable of expressing more completely the spirit which this form contains. But if it were like this, a form comes, develops, reaches its highest point and is followed by another form; the others do not disappear, but the individual does not progress.

  “The individual dog or monkey, for instance, belongs to a species which has its own peculiar characteristic; when the monkey or the man arrives at the height of its possibilities, that is, when a human individual becomes the best type of humanity, it will be finished; the individual will not be able to progress any farther. He belongs to the human species; he will continue to belong to it. So, from the point of view of terrestrial history there is a progress, for each species represents a progress compared with the preceding species; but from the point of view of the individual, there is no progress; he is born, he follows his development, dies and disappears. Therefore, to ensure the progress of the individual, it was necessary to find another means; this one was not adequate.

  “But within the individual, contained in each form, there is an organization of consciousness which is closer to and more directly under the influence of the inner divine Presence, and the form which is under this influence – this kind of inner concentration of energy – has a life independent of the physical form – this is what we generally call the “soul” or the “psychic being” – and since it is organized around the divine centre it partakes of the divine nature which is immortal, eternal.

  “The outer body falls away, and this remains throughout every experience that it has in each life, and there is a progress from life to life, and it is the progress of the same individual. And this movement complements the  other, in the sense that instead of a species which progresses relative to other species, it is an individual who passes through all the stages of progress of these species and can continue to progress even when the species have reached the limit of their possibilities and… stay there or disappear – it depends on the case – but they cannot go any farther, whereas the individual, having a life independent of the purely material form, can pass from one form to another and continue his progress indefinitely. That  makes a double movement which completes itself. And that is why each individual has the possibility of reaching the utmost realization, independent of the form to which he momentarily belongs.”

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