"In Wonders We Sail, Questing for the Answers in Veil"

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Consciousness : The Evolution Of An Individual Consciousness (From The Swirling Atom To The Self-Conscious Being)




As individualized souls,spirit progressively unfolds its power of knowing through the successive stages of evolution:as unconscious response in minerals,as feeling in plant life,as instinctive sentiment knowledge in animals,as intellect,reason and undeveloped introspective intuition in humans and as pure intuition in the super-humans.

-Paramahansa Yogananda

We have an idea of what consciousness is and to sense that it is everywhere in the universe, at every level, with corresponding centers in ourselves, but we have not yet found "our" consciousness – perhaps because consciousness is not something to be found ready-made, but something to kindle like a fire. At certain privileged moments in our existence, we have felt something like a warmth in our being, a kind of inner impetus or vivid energy that no words can describe, no reason can explain, because it arises from nowhere, without cause, naked like a need or a flame. Our childhood often bears witness to this pure enthusiasm, this inexplicable nostalgia; but soon we grow out of adolescence. The mind seizes upon this force as it does with everything else and covers it with pretentious, idealistic words; it channels it into a physical undertaking, a job, or a church. Or else the vital captures it and daubs it with more or less lofty sentiments – unless it uses it for some personal adventure, or for domination, conquest or possession. In some cases, this force gets bogged down even lower. And sometimes everything is swallowed up, such that only a diminutive shadow remains beneath an onerous burden. But the seeker who has silenced his mind and no longer falls prey to ideas, who has quieted his vital being and is no longer overcome and scattered at every instant by the great confusion of feelings and desires, discovers in the newly acquired clarity of his nature something like a new youth, a new and unrestrained impetus. As his concentration grows stronger through his "active meditations," through his aspiration and need, he will feel this impetus begin to acquire a life of its own within him: "It widens, bringing out that which lives," says the Rig Veda (I.113-8), "awakening someone who was dead." He will feel it assume an increasingly distinct consistency, an ever denser strength and, above all, anindependence, as if there were both a force and a being within his own being. He will notice, first in his passive meditations (when he is quiet, at home, his eyes closed), that this force in him has mass, varying intensity, and movement, that it moves up and down inside him as if it were fluid – much like the shifting of a living substance. These movements inside him can even be powerful enough to bend his body as the force descends, or to straighten it and draw it backward as it rises. In our active meditations, in daily external life, this force inside is more diluted and feels like a tiny muffled vibration in the background, as we have said earlier; further, we feel it not only as an impersonal force but as a presence, a being in our depths, as if we had a support, something giving us solidity and strength, almost like an armor, as well as a serene outlook on the world. With this imperceptible vibration inside, we are invulnerable, and we are no longer alone. It is there in all circumstances, all the time. It is warm, intimate, strong. Strangely enough, once we have found it, we find the same thing everywhere, in all beings and in all things; we can communicate directly, as if everything were the same, without separation. We have touched something within us that is not the mere puppet of universal forces, not the narrow and dry "I think, therefore I am," but the fundamental reality of our being, our true self, true center, warmth and being, consciousness and force.

As this inner urge or force takes on a distinct individuality, as it grows as indeed a child grows, the seeker will become aware that it does not move at random, as he had thought at first, but converges at certain points of his being, depending upon his current activity, and is in fact behind each of the centers of consciousness: behind the mental centers when we think, assert a will or express something; behind the vital centers when we feel, suffer or desire; or farther down or farther up. That force actually becomes aware of things; all the centers, including the mind, are only its openings on the different levels of universal reality, its instruments of transcription and expression. It is the traveller of the worlds, the explorer of the planes of consciousness; it connects our various modes of being together, from waking to sleep to death, when the small outer mind is no longer there to inform or guide us; it pervades the entire range of universal existence and communicates everywhere.


In other words, we have discovered consciousness. We have isolated what in ordinary man is constantly mixed with other things, dispersed, entangled in his endless mental or sensory activities. Instead of being forever positioned somewhere between the abdomen and the forehead, we are now able to shift our consciousness to deeper or higher regions, inaccessible to the mind and our sense organs; for consciousness is not a way of thinking or feeling (or at least not just that), but a power to come in contact with the multitude of gradations of existence, either visible or invisible. The more our consciousness develops, the greater its range of action and the number of gradations it can reach. We will also find that this consciousness is independent of the thoughts, feelings, and desires of our small frontal being; it is independent of the mind, of the vital being, and even of the physical body; in certain particular conditions, which we will discuss later, it can even go outside the body to have its own experiences. Our body, our thoughts, our desires are only a thin layer of our total existence.


Consciousness Force


When we discover consciousness, we find it is a force. Remarkably, we even start noticing it as a current or inner force before realizing it is a consciousness. Consciousness is force, consciousness-force, as Sri Aurobindo calls it, for the two terms are truly inseparable and interchangeable. The ancient wisdom of India knew this well, and never spoke of consciousness, Chit, without adjoining to it the termAgni, heat, flame, energy: Chit-Agni (sometimes also called Tapas, a synonym of Agni: Chit-Tapas).The Sanskrit word for spiritual or yogic discipline is tapasya, that which produces heat or energy, or, more correctly,consciousness-heat or consciousness-energy. Agni, or Chit-Agni, is the same everywhere. We speak of descending or ascending Force, of inner force, of mental, vital, or material force, but there are not a hundred different kinds of forces; there is only one Force in the world, a single current that circulates through us as it circulates through all things, and takes on one attribute or another, depending upon the particular level of its action. Our electric current can light up a tabernacle or a bar, a schoolroom or a restaurant; it is still the same current, though it illuminates different objects. So too, this Force, this Warmth, Agni, is till the same whether it animates or illuminates our inner recesses, our mental factory, our vital theater, or our material lair; depending on the level, it takes on a more or less intense light, heavier or lighter vibrations: superconscious, mental, vital, physical, but it does link everything together, animates everything. It is the fundamental substance of the universe:Consciousness-Force, Chit-Agni.

While consciousness is a force, the reverse is also true: force is consciousness; all the forces are conscious. Universal Force is universal Consciousness. This is what the seeker discovers. After coming in contact with the current of consciousness-force in himself, he can attune himself to any plane of universal reality, at any point, and perceive or understand the consciousness there, and even act upon it, since the same current of consciousness is everywhere with only different modes of vibration, whether in a plant or in the thoughts of a human mind, whether in the luminous superconscient or the instincts of an animal, whether in metal or in our deepest meditations. If a piece of wood were not conscious, no yogi could displace it through concentration, because there would be no possibility of contact with it. If a single point of the universe were totally unconscious, the whole universe would be totally unconscious, because there cannot be two things. With Einstein we have learned – a great discovery indeed – that Matter and Energy are interchangeable: E=mc2 ; Matter is condensed Energy. We must now discover experientially that this Energy, or Force, is Consciousness, that Matter too is a form of consciousness, just as the Mind is a form of consciousness, and the Vital and Superconscient are other forms of consciousness. Once we find this Secret – consciousness in force – we will have the true, and direct, mastery of material energy. But we are merely rediscovering very ancient truths; four thousand years ago the Upanishads knew that Matter is condensed Energy, or rather condensed Consciousness-Energy: "By energism of Consciousness Brahman is massed; from that Matter is born and from Matter Life and Mind and the worlds." (Mundaka Upanishad I.1.8)



The Awakening Of The Individual Consciousness Force


All here is Consciousness, because all is Being or Spirit. All is Chit, because all is Sat – Sat-Chit –at every level of Its own manifestation. The history of our earthly evolution is nothing but a slow conversion of Force into Consciousness or, more exactly, a slow remembering of Itself by the Consciousness buried in its own Force. During the primary stages of evolution, the consciousness of the atom, for example, is absorbed in its whirling, as the consciousness of a potter is absorbed in the pot he is making, oblivious to everything else, as the plant is absorbed in its photosynthesis, as our own consciousness can be absorbed in a book or a desire, oblivious to all the other levels of its own reality. All evolutionary progress is ultimately measured by the capacity to extricate and free the element of consciousness from its element of force – this is what is meant by "individualization of consciousness." At the spiritual or yogic stage of evolution, consciousness is completely freed, released from its mental, vital, and physical turmoil; it is its own master and can move through the entire range of vibrations of consciousness, from the atom to the Spirit; the Force has totally become Consciousness, totally remembered Itself. Finally, to remember oneself is to remember everything, because it is the Spirit in us remembering the Spirit in everything.

Simultaneously, as the Force regains its Consciousness, it regains the mastery of its force and of all forces; because to be conscious is to have power. Neither the whirling atom nor the man treading the biological rut and laboring in his mental factory has any control over the mental, vital, or atomic forces: they merely go round and round. At the conscious stage, by contrast, we are free and in control of our actions, verifying tangibly that consciousness is a force, a substance, which can be handled as one handles hydroxides or electric fields: If one becomes aware of the inner consciousness, wrote Sri Aurobindo, one can do all sorts of things with it, send it out as a stream of force, erect a circle or wall of consciousness around oneself, direct an idea so that it shall enter somebody's head in America, etc. etc. He further explains: The Invisible Force producing tangible results both inward and outward is the whole meaning of the Yogic consciousness.... If we had not had thousands of experiences showing that the Power within could alter the mind, develop its powers, add new ones, bring in new ranges of knowledge, master the vital movements, change the character, influence men and things, control the conditions and functionings of the body, work as a concrete dynamic Force on other forces, modify events... we would not speak of it as we do. Moreover, it is not only in its results but in its movements that the Force is tangible and concrete. When I speak of feeling Force or Power, I do not mean simply having a vague sense of it, but feeling it concretely and consequently being able to direct it, manipulate it, watch its movements, be conscious of its mass and intensity and in the same way as of other opposing forces. Later we will see that Consciousness can act upon Matter and transform it. This ultimate conversion of Matter into Consciousness, and perhaps one day even of Consciousness into Matter, is the aim of the supramental yoga, which we will discuss later. There are many degrees of development of the consciousness-force, from the seeker or aspirant just awakening to his inner need, to the yogi; even among yogis there are many degrees – that is where the true hierarchy begins.

There remains a final equivalence. Not only is consciousness force, not only is consciousness being, but consciousness is also joy, Ananda – Consciousness-Joy, Chit-Ananda. To be conscious is joy. When consciousness is released from the thousands of mental, vital or physical vibrations in which it was buried, we awaken to joy. The whole being is in effect filled with a mass of vibrant, crystalline, motionless, aimless force ("like a well-shaped pillar," as the Rig Veda says, V.45) – pure consciousness, pure force, pure joy, for it is all the same thing – a concrete joy, a vast and peaceful substance of joy, which seems to have neither beginning nor end nor reason, and seems to be everywhere, in all things and beings, as their secret foundation and secret need to grow. No one wants to give up life because this joy is there – everywhere. It needs nothing to exist; it is, irrefutably, like a bedrock throughout time and space, like a smile behind everything. There lies the entire Riddle of the universe. That's all there is. An imperceptible smile – a mere nothing that is everything. All is Joy because all is the Spirit which is Joy, Sat-Chit-Ananda. Existence-Consciousness-Joy – the eternal trinity that is the universe, and which we are, the secret we must discover and live through the long evolutionary journey. "From Delight all these beings are born, by Delight they exist and grow, to Delight they return." (Taittiriya Upanishad, III.6)

-Courtesy: Satprem
'Sri Aurobindo or The Adventure of Consciousness.'

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