January 23, 2006

What is the destiny of man?

Organiser Home > 2005 Issues > March 13, 05 Think it Over Human destiny: Two views, two ways By M.S.N. Menon
Let us see what two great mystics—a Hindu and a Christian—had to say on this. To Tailhard de Chardin, the French scientist and mystic, human evolution is a collective process of ascent, which culminates in oneness with God (a heresy in Semitic faiths). To Aurobindo, the destiny of man is to realise super-consciousness here on earth—to become a superman. There is no heaven in his scheme.
Logic is with the Indian. If mind can emerge from matter, and consciousness from mind, there is no reason why one cannot become super-conscious, he says. To Aurobindo, this is not a hypothetical question. It is the way, he says, how God realises Himself through man.It is Aurobindo's fundamental postulate that only that which is involved can evolve. This is supported by science. Aurobindo says: “If it be true that the Absolute is involved in matter, then that Absolute must ultimately manifest itself through evolution as consciousness.” (The Life Divine, p. 6)Evolution is, thus, a process with a purpose, says Aurobindo. The cosmos cannot be drifting about without a goal. If there is a goal, it must be to reveal the Absolute.So, at the heart of Aurobindo's theory, there are two postulates:
  • 1) that evolution presupposes involution and
  • 2) what is involved must of necessity evolve.

We find similar ideas in St. Augustine, the most important Christian neo-Platonist (neo-Platonism is nothing but Vedanta) as also in the Gita. St. Augustine says: “For, Thou made us for Thyself, and our heart is restless until it reposes in Thee.” Krishna says in the Gita: “At the end of the night of time, all things return to my nature, and when the new day of time begins, I bring them into light. Thus, through my nature, I bring forth all creation and this rolls around in the circle of time.”

But does this evolution repeat itself? Hinduism postulates a cyclic theory. Any linear theory in a world of infinite space and time seems to be meaningless.Tailhard de Chardin sees evolution as a “progressive deepening of the within (not without) of things,” an increasing interiorisation. Life is the inwardness of matter, mind is the inwardness of life, and spirit (consciousness) is the inwardness of mind. Evolution must produce deeper and deeper inwardness in matter until inwardness becomes completely subconscious.
Both Chardin and Aurobindo agree on the unity of spirit and matter. Chardin says: “Matter and spirit—they are not two things; rather they are two states, two faces of the same cosmic states.” Aurobindo says: “In fact, life, mind, supermind are present in the atom.”The scientist is interested in the without. The philosopher is interested in the within. While the West is more interested in the without, the East is more interested in the within. This preference has guided their respective civilisations.
Chardin blames the Western philosophers for ignoring the within. The within is synonymous with consciousness. It exists as instinct in animals. Chardin has distinguished the within and without in terms of energy. Thus, mechanical energy serves the without and psychic energy, the within. Ethics, he says, is based on psychic energy. Western scientists have followed the without in their explanation of the evolution. But evolution, says Chardin, is essentially psychic, a process of the within. The nervous system is what leads to the high complexity of the organism. And higher the complexity, the greater the consciousness.There are small and major differences between the two mystics.
With Aurobindo, evolution presupposes involution. To Chardin, evolution coincides with involution. But Chardin admits: “Nothing could ever burst forth as final... which has not already existed in an obscure and primordial way.”This was known to the Hindus even before the Buddha, for Kapila, the author of Sankhya, says: “The effect is in the essence, pre-existent to the apparent cause.”Chardin thinks that life and consciousness are seeds in all cosmic matter. But, for him, the collective is more important. “It is mankind that seeks itself and grows,” he says. But to Aurobindo, it is the individual who seeks his salvation through his efforts (karma).Both Aurobindo and Chardin agree that evolution of man is the final aim of human history. But to Aurobindo, the Absolute (God) realises itself in and through man. To Chardin, it is man who finds fulfilment in God.These are two different ways. But they have a common goal.
The Hindu does not see man and God as separate. The Semitic faiths do. And there is the final difference: to the Hindu, man is sacred (the highest creation according to the Gita), because the spirit is involved in him, while to the Semitic faiths, man is a sinner, a creature of evil.It follows that the way the two men see the world and how the world sees them must necessarily differ.To conclude, we ask the question: which is the better way? The answer must be obvious. We would all like to believe that we are part of the sacred mystery of God and not sinners, separated from God. Which is why Chardin, a Christian, is ready to admit the errors of Western thought.
Arnold Toynbee, the great historian of civilisations, observed in 1952: “... as religion captures the place of technology, it is possible that India, the conquered, will conquer the conquerors.”Are we ready, then, to lead the world? No, we need new men for that—men of the stature of the rishis of old, who give us the Vedas and Upanishads. Let us not despair. They will come.

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