The Evolution of Consciousness
All life here is a stage or a circumstance in an unfolding progressive
evolution of a Spirit that has involved itself in Matter and is labouring
to manifest itself in that reluctant substance. This is the whole secret
of earthly existence.
But the key of that secret is not to be found in life itself or in the
body; its hieroglyph is not in embryo or organism,for these are
only a physical means or base: the one significant mystery of this universe
is the appearance and growth of consciousness in the vast mute unintelligence
of Matter. The escape of Consciousness out of an apparent initial Inconscience,but
it was there all the time masked and latent, for the inconscience of Matter
is itself only a hooded consciousnessits struggle to find itself,
its reaching out to its own inherent completeness, perfection, joy, light,
strength, mastery, harmony, freedom, this is the prolonged miracle and
yet the natural and all-explaining phenomenon of which we are at once
the observers and a part, instrument and vehicle.
A Consciousness, a Being, a Power, a Joy was here from the beginning darkly
imprisoned in this apparent denial of itself, this original night, this
obscurity and nescience of material Nature. That which is and was for
ever, free, perfect, eternal and infinite, That which all is, That which
we call God, Brahman, Spirit, has here shut itself up in its own self-created
opposite. The Omniscient has plunged itself into Nescience, the All-Conscious
into Inconscience, the All-Wise into perpetual Ignorance. The Omnipotent
has formulated itself in a vast cosmic self-driven Inertia that by disintegration
creates; the Infinite is self-expressed here in a boundless fragmentation;
the All-Blissful has put on a huge insensibility out of which it struggles
by pain and hunger and desire and sorrow. Elsewhere the Divine is; here
in physical life, in this obscure material world, it would seem almost
as if the Divine is not but is only becoming, theos ouk estin alla gignetai.
This gradual becoming of the Divine out of its own phenomenal opposites
is the meaning and purpose of the terrestrial evolution.
Evolution in its essence is not the development of a more and more organised
body or a more and more efficient lifethese are only its machinery
and outward circumstance. Evolution is the strife of a Consciousness somnambulised
in Matter to wake and be free and find and possess itself and all its
possibilities to the very utmost and widest, to the very last and highest.
Evolution is the emancipation of a self-revealing Soul secret in Form
and Force, the slow becoming of a Godhead, the growth of a Spirit.
In this evolution mental man is not the goal and end, the completing value,
the highest last significance; he is too small and imperfect to be the
crown of all this travail of Nature. Man is not final, but a middle term
only, a transitional being, an instrumental intermediate creature.
This character of evolution and this mediary position of man are not at
first apparent; for to the outward eye it would seem as if evolution,
the physical evolution at least were finished long ago leaving man behind
as its poor best result and no new beings or superior creations were to
be expected any longer. But this appears to us only so long as we look
at forms and outsides only and not at the inner significances of the whole
process. Matter, body, life even are the first terms necessary for the
work that had to be done. New living forms may no longer be appearing
freely, but this is because it is not, or at least it is not primarily,
new living forms that the Force of evolution is now busied with evolving,
but new powers of consciousness. When Nature, the Divine Power, had formed
a body erect and empowered to think, to devise, to inquire into itself
and things and work consciously both on things and self, she had what
she wanted for her secret aim; relegating all else to the sphere of secondary
movements, she turned toward that long-hidden aim her main highest forces.
For all till then was a long strenuously slow preparation; but throughout
it the development of consciousness in which the appearance of man was
the crucial turning point had been kept wrapped within her as her ultimate
business and true purpose.
This slow preparation of Nature covered immense aeons of time and infinities
of space in which they appeared to be her only business; the real business
strikes on our view at least when we look with the outward eye of reason
as if it came only as a fortuitous accident, in or near the end, for a
span of time and in a speck and hardly noticeable corner of one of the
smallest provinces of a possibly minor universe among these many boundless
finites, these countless universes. If it were so, we could still reply
that time and space matter not to the Infinite and Eternal; it is not
a waste of labour for Thatas it would be for our brief death-driven
existencesto work for trillions of years in order to flower only
for a moment. But that paradox too is only an appearancefor the
history of this single earth is not all the story of evolutionother
earths there are even now elsewhere, and even here many earth-cycles came
before us, and many are those that will come hereafter.
Nature laboured for innumerable millions of years to create a material
universe of flaming suns and systems; for a lesser but still interminable
series of millions she stooped to make this earth a habitable planet.
For all that incalculable time she was or seemed busy only with the evolution
of Matter; life and mind were kept secret in an apparent non-existence.
But the time came when life could manifest, a vibration in the metal,
a growing and seeking, a drawing in and a feeling outward in the plant,
an instinctive force and sense, a nexus of joy and pain and hunger and
emotion and fear and struggle in the animal,a first organised consciousness,
the beginning of the long-planned miracle.
Thence forward she was busy no more exclusively with matter for its own
sake, but most with palpitant plasmic matter useful for the expression
of life; the evolution of life was now her one intent purpose. And slowly
too mind manifested in life, an intensely feeling, a crude thinking and
planning vital mind in the animal, but in man the full organisation and
apparatus, the developing if yet imperfect mental being, the Manu, the
thinking, devising, aspiring, already self-conscient creature. And from
that time onward the growth of mind rather than any radical change of
life became her shining preoccupation, her wonderful wager. Body appeared
to evolve no more; life itself evolved little or only so much in its cycles
as would serve to express Mind heightening and widening itself in the
living body; an unseen internal evolution was now Nature's great passion
And if Mind were all that consciousness could achieve, if Mind were the
secret Godhead, if there were nothing higher, larger, [no] more miraculous
ranges, man could be left to fulfil mind and complete his own being and
there would or need be nothing here beyond him, carrying consciousness
to its summits, extending it to its unwalled vastnesses, plunging with
it into depths unfathomable; he would by perfecting himself consummate
Nature. Evolution would end in a Man-God, crown of the earthly cycles.
But Mind is not all; for beyond mind is a greater consciousness; there
is a supermind and spirit. As Nature laboured in the animal, the vital
being, till she could manifest out of him man, the Manu, the thinker,
so she is labouring in man, the mental being till she can manifest out
of him a spiritual and supramental godhead, the truth conscious Seer,
the knower by identity, the embodied Transcendental and Universal in the
From the clod and metal to the plant, from the plant to the animal, from
the animal to man, so much has she completed of her journey; a huge stretch
or a stupendous leap still remains before her. As from matter to life,
from life to mind, so now she must pass from mind to supermind, from man
to superman; this is the gulf that she has to bridge, the supreme miracle
that she has to perform before she can rest from her struggle and discontent
and stand in the radiance of that supreme consciousness, glorified, transmuted,
satisfied with her labour.
The subhuman was once here supreme in her, the human replacing it walks
now in the front of Time, but still, aim and goal of the future there
waits the supramental, the superman, an unborn glory yet unachieved before
Note on this text : This
essay was written in the same notebook as the two pieces "Man
and the Supermind" and "The Involved
and Evolving Godhead", id est around 1930. It was first published
in the Bulletin in November 1976 as the first of two separate pieces under
the title "Evolution", but is untitled in manuscript.
in "The Hour of God", (booklet edition pages 100-105)
NOT in SABCL, volume 17 BUT in the new edition
of Sri Aurobindo's Major Works, volume 10 "Essays
Divine and Human"
published by Sri
Aurobindo Ashram - Pondicherry
diffusion by SABDA