According to Sri Aurobindo, before the evolution, there was an involution. The Absolute Reality decided to limit itself and descended into ignorance, aiming to find itself again through the evolution in a multitude of forms. To be lost and find oneself over, and over and over again -- this is the joy of existence for Sri Aurobindo, which he terms "Delight". It is the Divine making love to itself in infinite forms. He writes:
What, you ask, was the beginning of it all?
And it is this Existence that multiplied itself.
For sheer delight of being
And plunged into numberless trillions of forms
So that it might
For Aurobindo, the transcendent Divine has limited himself in this manifestation. There is a transcendent Divine which is free of all these limitations, but there is another aspect of the Divine which limits itself and loses itself in the ignorance of the manifestation. The goal of evolution (for Aurobindo) is for the Divine to realize himself again out of all of these limitations and in this multitude of forms.
Each of us is a limited physical instrument -- matter being inherently limited and divided -- but we also embody (in the Aurobindoan understanding) a direct spark or articulation of the Divine, which is what he calls the "psychic being". This is an evolutionary aspect of our being, which has the potential to realize the transcendent Divine (the transpersonal Self, if you will) and bring it down here, into the material world, to transform it (the goal of the integral yoga). The key to this yoga is to bring that inner evolutionary being, the soul or psychic being, to the fore of one's being and bring all other parts of oneself in line with it (what Aurobindo calls "psychicisation"). We are a bunch of fragmented bits and parts at war with one another -- psychicisation tries to integrate our many fragmented parts and personalities into a harmonious whole.
The short version is that there's no "logical" answer to all these questions. We are the One and the Many, at the same time, and this is something that can only be grasped through spiritual experience, and not described by the intellect.
As far as whether our evil is also the Divine goes, according to Aurobindo, yes, everything, including the worst aspects of human behavior like World War II, are Divine. However, remember that the transcendent Divine has limited himself in the manifested world. Because the Divine Good is limited, so its apparent opposite, or evil, comes into existence. For Aurobindo, although evil is a phenomenological reality, it is a distortion of the Divine Will, created by the self-limitation of the Divine. In other words, evil is falsehood, it's a distortion, and the task of an integral transformation would be to transmute both our limited good and our evil to a higher, transcendent Good, which is the Divine.
Even postmodernism is now pointing this out with its deconstruction of our labels. Evil exists because human good is so limited. Insanity exists because human sanity is so limited. Disability exists because human ability is so limited. And so on. All these things are *relative* to the Absolute, the Divine.
This is why self-righteousness is the worst enemy on the spiritual path. We may demonize others as more evil than ourselves, but it's very hypocritical because we are all flawed in numerous ways. This is the situation which I believe Christianity describes (a bit too violently, according to Aurobindo) as original sin: the best of us constantly fall short of our ideals, and the worst of us are constantly engaging in self-destructive behaviors. As Aurobindo puts it:
"This is how God in His love teaches the child soul and the weakling, taking them step by step and withholding the vision of His ultimate and yet unattainable mountain-tops.
And have we not all some weakness? Are we not all in His sight but as little children?"
Personally I think postmodernists are saying what the mystics have been saying for thousands of years: the human mind is inherently perspectival and can never grasp the whole of reality. So the question is, how to arrive at a transcendent, aperspectival perception of Truth?
Mystics would say, by transcending the limited ego-mind which creates divisions and dualities, learning to develop a diviner vision of Reality, in other words seeing everything as the transcendent Divine sees it, free of distortions. The postmodernists stop at a sort of relativistic nihilism. But there is an opportunity to go beyond the human mind altogether, according to the mystics, and overcome its limitations.
In my understanding, the whole thing is like a great cosmic game, and each of has to conquer and master ourselves in order for the Divine to manifest in its full purity down here in the material world. For me, it's all connected, and just as all of our egoisms add up to create the misery of the human condition, all legitimate self-sacrifice creates reverberations that spread and harmonise all these apparent dualities and divisions, and pave the way for a more "divine life on earth".
Ok, enough for now. ;-) A summary of Aurobindo's philosophy on my blog: http://naqsh.org/ned/?page_id=170
I understand this to be the basic Vedantist and, more broadly, Hindu perspective, but what I've struggled to understand is why a perfect divinity would be happier or more fulfilled playing hide-and-seek with Itself than it would be NOT doing this. And what I'm also unsure of is whether people like Aurobindo believe(d) that this perspective is literally true or whether it's some kind of metaphor, and if it is a metaphor, what is it a metaphor for? ...
Thank you for this very concise explanation of Aurobindo's and, I presume, your understanding of evil. I need to reflect more on this.
July 31 Quote of the Day from Science, Culture and Integral Yoga™ by ronjon
All ocean lived within a wandering drop,
A time-made body housed the Illimitable,
To live this Mystery out our souls came here.
~ Sri Aurobindo