Wednesday, May 9, 2007

From darkness to light, from falsehood to truth, from death to immortality

Evolution - A Metaphysical Discussion Chapter XIV of "Narad's Arrival at Madra", SAICE, 2006.
By R.Y. Deshpande
If material creation is a manifestation of the Divine, then there is a possibility of it being Divine in every mode of activity. Presently it is not, but it can. That is the compelling or true sense of evolution. From darkness to light, from falsehood to truth, from death to immortality is one lap of this evolutionary process, the upward climb; but it can become complete when the reversal also starts happening, that whatever has to happen here shall happen in light and truth and deathlessness, in the delight of authentic becoming and being. This is possible because what the spirit sees creates a truth, as Narad maintains; the prevalent falsehood and ignorance and error and pain might give an impression of the world being unreal, mithyÄ, an illusion, mÄyÄ, but it is not.
There is a functional veil drawn over the spirit and it has to be removed, a protective golden cloud behind which shines the Sun of Truth, protective lest the solar intensity consume in its flames the entire existence itself. By spiritually preparing oneself, the cloud or the golden lid must be removed as the Upanishad says. To receive the light of the Sun of Truth and to live in it is the happy fulfilment, the glad aim of the evolutionary endeavour. The agency that can accomplish this with a masterful finality is the divine Supermind alone and it is that power which must enter into the terrestrial operation. Our present existence shall not only be a proper spiritual ÄdhÄr or support for its working; but shall be a field of dynamic play of the luminous Force or Shakti in her joy of endless creation.
"The supramental change," declares Sri Aurobindo in his last message of 24 November 1950, "is a thing decreed and inevitable in the evolution of the earth-consciousness." The key for execution of the divine Decree is provided by yogic sadhana of the Yogi of the New Age himself. It alone can "rend the lid and tear the covering and shape the vessel and bring down into this world of obscurity and falsehood and suffering Truth and Light and Life divine and the immortal's Ananda." The urge towards the reign of Satyam and Ritam is the genuine sense of evolutionary transformation.
In this far-reaching conception embodied in Sri Aurobindo's yogic-spiritual philosophy what is envisaged is the working of transcendental powers in the earth-consciousness, the earth-existence, the earth-life, in the sky and the air and the fire and the water and in the earth-stuff itself, not only in its countless material forms but also in its precious soul and in its open and progressive and spacious spirit. Earth is the "significant centre" of the universe from the point of view of a divine manifestation, as if created to focus all effort on one point. So, not by abandoning it, which is harshly suicidal, but by living in its creative essence and psyche can the true meaning of life, of the becoming itself be realised. We must fully recognise that there is something wonderful here, very meaningful also, that
Earth has beatitudes warmer than heaven's that are bare and undying,
Marvels of Time on the crest of the moments to infinity flying.^2
But there is a genuine difficulty vis-a-vis man as the mental being. About his present occupation in the world and the urge that drives him in it and what is expected of it to come out, Sri Aurobindo writes:
"He seeks to know Matter in order to be master of the material environment, to know Life in order to be master of the vital existence, to know Mind in order to be master of the great obscure movement of mentality; he seeks to know himself in order to be master of himself, to know the world in order to be master of the world. This is the urge of Existence in him, the necessity of the Consciousness he is. To find the conditions under which this inner impulsion is satisfied is the problem man must strive always to resolve and to that he is compelled by the very nature of his own existence and by the Deity seated within him. Either man must fulfil himself by satisfying the Divine within him or he must produce out of himself a new and greater being who will be more capable of satisfying it. He must either himself become a divine humanity or give place to Superman."^3
Notwithstanding man's limitations, the appearance of the divine humanity, the divine multitude, divyam janam as the Veda says, is the entire thrust present in the evolutionary movement. Behind it is the Will of the Unmanifest to manifest himself in the fine multiplicity of existence, bahusyÄm prajÄyeyeti. There has to be the "universal incarnation". By whatever means it be, Superman has to arrive in this creation.
In the meanwhile, however, the human enigma with man's conscious life obeying the Inconscient's rule has to be faced. It is not that "God's in His heaven and all's right with the world!" True, as Robert Browning perceives, the hillside's dew-pearl'd and the lark's on the wing and the snail's on the thorn; but then in its naked actuality this world is a "haunt of Ignorance" and a "home of Pain". There is a deep-seated dualism that cannot be just wished away. There is always the troubling why and the wherefore of it.
Dualism exists everywhere, as much in the modes of life's passions and pursuits as in all the ways of thought's theses and antitheses. Thus, while there is archetypal perfection in the timeless domain, in the temporal realm we witness limitation and crudity and failing. What is ideal over there is not real here. We are ourselves a flawed substandard copy, quite removed from reality. The Platonic Idea belonging to the unchanging world shows itself only as a far reflection on the dark walls of the cave, walls which themselves bring distortions. The contrast between, let us call, the timeless divine insight and design and the time-governed human knowledge and work has dominated all medieaval thought, Christian, Jewish, and Islamic. The time-transcending divine knowledge which embraces the totality of all successive events in one single act, in the theological totum simul, altogether disappears in the fragmented analytical system. In it there is no ”in fact there cannot be” the all-embracing as well as organised kinetic vision of the three tomes of time, of the Past-Present-Future, of trikÄladrsti.
An inevitable consequence of the rational analytical system is, it has to lead to every kind of dualism; dualism of faith and reason, in faith itself the dualism of this transient and sorrowful world and the ever-abiding happy empyrean elsewhere, in reason between relational time and unmoving detached absolute time, in philosophy the dualism of static and unfolding reality, between the determinate and the indeterminate, and so on.
As regards science, the concept of time as formulated by Newton in the scholium of his majestic Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica (1687) dominated its thought for 218 years. His fixed absolute time is separated from concrete physical changes, changes or events by which we reckon or quantify time. "Absolute, true and mathematical time," writes Newton, "of itself, and by its own nature, flows uniformly on, without regard to anything external. Relative, apparent and common time, is some sensible measure of absolute time (duration), estimated by the motions of bodies, whether accurate or inequable, and is commonly employed in place of true time... ." Physicists including the mighty James Clerk Maxwell held this view of time till Einstein in his epoch-marking theory of relativity dismissed it in 1905.
Earlier, in the philosophical domain, both Berkeley and Leibniz upheld the relational theory of space and time; time is "the order of succession of perceptions," and as such it is inseparable from concrete events. From this standpoint Newton's "flow of empty time" is without meaning. In it time itself with operative movement or drive or impulse, the Indian kÄla, as a determinative agency never comes into reckoning. Darwin's theory of the origin of species was strictly mechanistic and in this way fitted perfectly into the non-relativistic framework. But Newton's absolute time is abstract and non-functional, non-participative; that makes it redundant or otiose as far as the physical or any other world is concerned. In a certain sense, it is similar to Plato's world of Idea without the dynamism by which it can enter into the phenomenal configuration. The urge to become is absent in both. Even if they should be a substratum reality of things that are in time, the mechanism by which this can happen is not available. They are Satyam without Ritam, Being without the capacity of Becoming, the quiescent Brahman without activity, the Formless incapable of going into forms. If this were all, without doubt the world would become an illusion, a great frustration.
This easily takes us back to the "ancient dialogue" between Heraclitus and Parmenides. Parmenides came after Heraclitus, just before Socrates. Born of an illustrious family about 510 BCE he saw, in his "Way of Truth," One Being alone as the self-existent and lasting reality, in contrast to the changing physical world. While the former is incapable of development, the latter is a sense-perceived world and therefore illusory. This means, Heraclitus's "everything is in flux, nothing stands still" leads to an erroneous Becoming. The dialogue, though well separated in time, can be put in Plato's words: "Heraclitus says that everything moves on and that nothing is at rest; and, comparing existing things to the flow of a river, he says that you could not step into the same river twice." And then Plato hurries to tell Theodoros, "I almost forgot that there were others who asserted opinions the very opposite of these: "the all is alone, unmoved; to this all names apply," and the other emphatic statements in opposition to those referred to, which the school of Melissos and Parmenides make, to the effect that all things are one, and that the all stands itself in itself, not having space in which it is moved." The ancient dualism shows itself up again in the form of persistence and change, static existence and movement.
In this context we should be concerned with an important philosophical consequence of quantum aspect of the physical world. This essentially arises from indeterminacy of the microphysical processes formulated by Heisenberg in 1927, giving birth to new physics. The two different names of this principle "uncertainty principle" or "indeterminacy principleâ” suggest two radically different interpretations of it.
  • The first interpretation, more conservative in its outlook and favoured more by traditionally oriented philosophers than by physicists, regards microphysical indeterminacy as a result of the interference of the process of observation with the process observed.
  • The second interpretation, more favoured by physicists, regards it as a manifestation of objective indeterminacy in nature.
  • The first interpretation leaves the Laplacean determinism intact;
  • the second one suggests the objective status of chance in the sense of Boutroux and Pierce, that is, of the "open world" (H. Weyl's term), forever in growth and forever incomplete, in which the future remains genuinely ambiguous and, though influenced by the past, is not predetermined by it.
  • While the first interpretation is more congruous with the philosophical tradition glorifying static and immutable Being,
  • the second interpretation is viewed with sympathy by the process-oriented thinkers. Thus the discussion concerning the interpretation of this principle is merely the most recent phase of the ancient dialogue between Parmenides and Heraclitus.

There is of course a difference between the two dialogues, one philosophy against philosophy and the other philosophy against science, science not much bothered by the anguish it can cause to philosophy. But then perhaps there is really no "objective indeterminacy in nature"; instead, what is probably happening is that the physicist in his loud triumph of professionalism is simply imposing objective indeterminacy on nature. posted by Debashish on Fri 10 Nov 2006 09:39 AM PST Permanent Link

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