February 02, 2006

Evolution of consciousness

The Secret Diary of Charles Darwin Palani, Sivasiva Himalayan Academy May 1991
Evolution has never posed a grave philosophical problem for Hindus. While others agonize over whether God created life in the Garden of Eden or whether it emerged fortuitously from a slurry of Primal Soup, Hindus smile wryly and remain mute.
They feel both sides have it wrong - the apes-are-our-ancestors evolutionists by taking the Divine out of the loop and the well-maybe-they-are-your-ancestors creationists by insisting on a simplistic interpretation of God's participation in this savagely mysterious process.Though our readers are among the best informed in the Hindu world, I venture that if someone asked you "What do Hindus believe about the theory of evolution?" you would stammer affably and change the subject. I can say this with confidence, since there is precious little known and less written about the subject. Here is the bottom line.
Evolution in classical Indian thought (and this includes Buddhism) is diametrically opposed to Darwin's theory of evolution (TOE). While Darwin spoke of the ascent of man from lesser life forms, our rishis spoke of the descent of God. I call this the theory of descent and decline (TODD). Our scriptures declare that the Divine descends into the world, and first becomes man, purusha. Humankind is the highest biological form not because he slowly crept up the ladder to that jealous place, but because God willed to become him first. The urge to manifest gradually moves down and down through the tattvas and the lower forms of life. Then, that same One moves up and up through the process of transmigration, finally transcending the need for a physical birth on this plane.
If one wastes human years in instinctive gratification, some scriptures state, one may migrate in the next life to the body of an animal. Thus the soul can inhabit bodies in a non-evolutionary sequence, depending on karmas, on how we live and think, on what experiences we need to progress. Though it seems a regression, such going back is part of a greater moving forward. Darwin does not conceive of the soul or its elevation to higher, spiritual planes of being.
In modern times, Sri Aurobindo and Dr. S. Radhakrishnan crafted theories of spiritual-physical evolution. While differing radically from the classical TODD stated above, both men spiritualize Darwin's concepts. Behind the physical evolution that biologists study, they saw a movement of spirit. The universe is a progressive becoming. For both, the world process is viewed as essentially an evolution of consciousness, not of matter and force.
Aurobindo said, "The dead mechanism of stones, the unconscious life of plants, the conscious life of animals and the self-conscious life of men are all parts of the Absolute and its expression at different stages. The same Absolute reveals itself in all these. The Ultimate Reality sleeps in the stone, breathes in the plants, feels in the animals and awakes to self-consciousness in man. It progressively manifests itself in and through these particulars."
Is Aurobindo's modern theory right, or is the ancient Hindu view? Is the world not evolving at all, but devolving? Seeking answers to these queries, I stumbled upon Charles Darwin's lost chronicles and discovered, to my utter astonishment, validation of the Indian TODD theory and a verdict against the TOE. Here then, is an excerpt from the authentically spurious and chimerical diary of the father of the theory of evolution.
Charles wrote: "It is a muggy April first day in 1835. This morning the HMS Beagle's prow turned out of Calcutta on a heading for London. I am sore beset this day. All we thought true on the Galapagos Islands has been shattered here in India, like a delicate porcelain doll on a dull stone.

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