February 01, 2006

Schopenhauer, Dobzhansky, Toffler and Sri Aurobindo

FROM MATTER TO SPIRIT By Anupama Bhattacharya
The world was a conception and a birth; Of Spirit in Matter into living forms, And Nature bore the Immortal in her womb; That she might climb through him to eternal life.-Sri Aurobindo
When 19th century German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer argued that the true nature of man is volition and his will to live, he hit the bull's eye of the evolutionary spirit. For, in a world where Darwinian evolution of natural selection is fast giving way to volitional evolution, choice is the only faculty that is likely to dictate our future."Evolution," wrote Theodosius Dobzhansky, Russian evolutionist, "need no longer be a destiny imposed from without: it may conceivably be controlled by man, in accordance with his wisdom and his values." And though the choices are many, from blowing ourselves out to letting entropy set in, it is conceivable that we may yet break free from the limitations that nurtured us.
"Man himself," wrote Sri Aurobindo, Indian sage and philosopher, "may well be a thinking and living laboratory in whom, and with whose conscious cooperation, nature wills to work out the superman… to manifest God."And when we do that, we will reach our childhood's end. "That which is above the mental being is the superman. It is to be the master of thy mind, thy life and thy body; it is to be a king over nature of whom thou art now the tool." The emphasis here is on the evolution of consciousness. "In the previous stages of the evolution Nature's first care and effort had to be directed towards a change in the physical organisation, for only so could there be a change of consciousness," wrote Sri Aurobindo. "This was a necessity imposed by the insufficiency of the force of consciousness already in formation to effect a change in the body. But in man a reversal is possible, indeed inevitable; for it is through consciousness, through its transmutation and no longer through a new bodily organism as a first instrumentation that the evolution can and must be effected," wrote Sri Aurobindo.
The vision here is not of a major evolutionary shift happening en masse. But a gradual, conscious process of reaching out and tapping the latent human potential. "There is not the least probability or possibility of the whole human race rising in a block to the supramental level, but only the capacity in the human mentality, when it has reached a certain level or a certain point of stress of the evolutionary impetus, to press towards a higher plane of consciousness," Sri Aurobindo wrote. He believed that this shift would necessarily result in a change in the mental and emotional constitution. There will be great changes in the physical constitution as well, but they will be the side-effects of mental evolution...
And that, at the end, seems to be the crux of the matter. To choose, to customise, to take the responsibility of creating the future we want to see. "We must begin with ourselves," writes Toffler in Creating a New Civilisation, "teaching ourselves not to close our minds prematurely to the novel, the surprising, the seemingly radical." For "like the generations of the revolutionary dead, we have a destiny to create".

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