Edward Berge Says: July 31st, 2006 at 12:26 pm From “Mystical Consciousness is a Process Perspective” by Ernest L. Simmons, Whitehead on Consciousness
What Aurobindo had realized in the Nirvana experience was the cessation of the ego-consciousness in the all-pervading peace of the silent Brahman. The sudden disappearance of the ego is what gives the sense of the unreality of the external world, but for Aurobindo this experience lasted only a short while, being replaced by more integral experiences of an “immense Divine Reality” behind, above, and within everything that had at first appeared to be illusory (OH 102). Through these experiences the “That” was realized as pure, transcendent, unqualified Consciousness, such that Aurobindo could conclude that, “Consciousness is a fundamental thing, the fundamental thing in existence — it is the energy, the motion, the movement of consciousness that creates the universe and all that is in it — not only the macrocosm but the microcosm is nothing but consciousness arranging itself” (LY 236).
Consciousness is then the fundamental reality in the universe of which all existence is a manifestation yet which itself is beyond any final qualification. “Consciousness” for Whitehead has a more restricted use applying to the subjective form of particular types of intellectual feelings; thus something much broader in Whitehead’s conceptuality must be found. Is there anything in Whitehead’s system which would compare to this experience of the qualityless reality? The answer is yes. It is creativity experienced as universal subjectivity. The closest parallel to the experience of the silent Brahman as pure consciousness is the experience of creativity as the pure subjectivity of the universe. Consciousness is absolutely fundamental for Aurobindo, and creativity is for Whitehead, so it is the purpose of this subsection to compare the experience of these two fundamental realities.