Evolution - A Metaphysical Discussion Chapter XIV of "Narad's Arrival at Madra", SAICE, 2006.
By R.Y. Deshpande
By R.Y. Deshpande
Bergson's "complexification" of life makes room for the appearance of different species. But it is intelligence that provides pragmatic orientation to achieve diversity. However, intelligence by itself cannot seize upon life; hence enters into the scheme intuition. Indeed, "intuition and intelligence each correspond to tendencies within the human psyche." In this way intuition gives unity to mental life. Bergson also recognises the fact that "while one can go from intuition to intelligence by way of diminution, the analytic nature of intelligence precludes the opposite process." Does this provide a connection between the life of the spirit and the life of the body? It does not, but it does make life advance. Bergson's creative evolution makes an opening for Darwinian staticism to step out. "The destiny of man will be realised because it is the nature of the Elan vital to triumph over matter and environment." If the role of the Elan vital is to bring about a change, then first we have to define the sense of change itself. While preparing notes on Bergson, Sri Aurobindo writes:"Change is possible only if there is a status from which to change; but status again exists only as a step that pauses, a step in the continuous passage of change or a step on which change pauses before it passes into another step in its creative passage. And behind this relation is a duality of eternal status and eternal motion." The two inseparable aspects we again see in this formulation are of Existence and Consciousness-Force in the world-creative activity. If an Urge has been planted for the creation to come out of utter Inconscience, then it is that Urge which is promoted by status and motion.
Nietzsche was another type of thinker. His thoughts as propagated by his "unscrupulous sister" after his death had a powerful hold on German soldiers when they read his books even in the trenches. And in the world of philosophy we ascribe to him notions which would have "profoundly disgusted the philosopher himself." Martin Heidegger speaks of Nietzsche as "the last metaphysician of the West." Walter Kaufmann takes him as a "Socratic questioner," or else a "Goethean man of controlled passion." For Sri Aurobindo he was more a seer than a thinker with a touch of intuition in his philosophy, yet perhaps paradoxically with something leading to Titanic egoism. According to Nietzsche, war is an aspect of life and man as a warrior, as a "lion-man," with the will-to-be, has to come in order to exceed himself, excel himself.Nietzsche believed that he grasped the reality of the underlying chaos or void; that God was dead; that nihilism, the process by which "the highest values devalue themselves" was upon us. (The Will to Power) That became the basis of all his thought, taking him to dangerous extremes. But, then, what is this will-to-power for? It is the freedom for the maximisation of our faculties to acquire control over things and events and to create what Nietzsche called the Ubermensch or the "overman." But it will be a gross mistake to equate this German "Ubermensch" with the generally understood English "superman," particularly so when we are concerned with Sri Aurobindo's evolutionary being as the next radical step beyond the present man. The word Ubermensch was coined by Goethe. However, while freedom for the maximisation of our faculties is a very desirable thing, it should not become an unfettered or unregenerate will-to-be; it should not get so much aggrandised that there might arrive amongst us the monstrosity of a crude vital being. Berkowitz rightly as well as cautiously indicates that in Nietzsche's extreme advocacy of will-to-be "cultural control has gone, be that religion, law, custom or what we have."This is a pretty hazardous situation and before accepting it the question of good and evil in the scheme of things must be weighed in terms of its deeper implications. Not that religion had always been a happy promoter of man's genuine good, nor were so the great traditions of philosophy, including the Kantian idea of wisdom as its noblest foundation; not much did these avail in the pragmatics of our common life. Even the degeneration of Wagner's later music is attributed to the disappearance of that will-to-be. A shift from materialism to vitalism has taken place, accompanied by perils on a collective scale."Nietzsche, the most vivid, concrete and suggestive of modern thinkers" was "an apostle who never entirely understood his own message," says Sri Aurobindo.^8 In fact, his was an imperfect awakening and not the necessary awakening to our real highest self and nature. Making the unguarded German philosopher's will-to-be as an unbridled driving force towards supermanhood, and not bringing into play the possibilities of opening to the higher and nobler creative spirit of man, can prove to be disastrous.Nietzsche has a problem in the context of the Darwinian theory of biological evolution. While his "intuition" of the will-to-power says that the fittest must survive, the solution is not in the species but in the survival of the "sovereign individuals" who, "day after tomorrow," will be the "victorious supermen." For this to happen the religious sense of charity and virtue should go. In contrast to this, Sri Aurobindo sees a purpose behind the evolutionary process with the dynamism of growth in it. From a psycho-spiritual point of view we have to understand that evolution is a double process. If on the one hand there is the urge to grow from below, a kind of compulsion pushing itself up, there is also the pressure from above, the higher stepping into the lower and lifting it up. If this is true then we also see the possibility, perhaps even the necessity, of a willed yogic action in this great transformative effort. Which means that the role of an Avatar, which no Nietzsche can visualise, also enters into the dynamics of operation. In Nietzsche is the march of the camel-man, the lion-man and the child-man. In the last metamorphosis the child-spirit "can create freely, and its creation is without any goal, a free expression of its will-to-be, its will to live and enjoy without any after-thought; it is a new beginning and a new movement; it is wheel that runs by itself. There remains for it only the free affirmation of itself; it does what it wills." Here is the arrival of the perfect individual, the Nietzschean superman. But such a being cannot be the grand finale of the evolutionary effort.Nietzsche left the appearance of his superman wholly at the mercy of Chance. If this is acceptable, we might then as well say that there is a good likelihood even for the donkey of Sancho Panza to become one in the course of long time. And for the same reason and by the same process the superman could also just disappear. As Sancho's creature turns up suddenly from nowhere and goes into nowhere, our superman too would become a product of the dubious ways of destiny. But more often than not it has been proved that the rationalist conclusions of science are only provisional and, even when accepted, are not always satisfying to our deeper sense of understanding. Collective life cannot and should not end in the death of the individual. Besides, we have to also know if there is any future for the physical body that houses us in it, body that has been always regarded more as an obstacle than an aid, something that is unworthy of nobler things cherished by us but not easily obtained because of its severe limitations. Add to this the likelihood of what caused evolution that itself is evolving further. Is not then man himself a transitional being for the secret Urge that is driving evolution onward? To questions of this kind we cannot get answers from science. Nor would the philosophical systems or propositions fill up the bill. Take an example, of Samuel Alexander's Space-Time. It looks so unconvincing that it should have been endowed with a nisus that makes matter, life, and mind emerge out of it; it is practically as good as saying that these have come into existence out of non-existence, ex nihilo.Not much is gained in later formulations. To Alexis Carrel's "Man the Unknown," Teilhard de Chardin adds "Man to be" as the solution of everything that we can know. After a long and almost a linear anti-entropic process of chemico-biological evolution, there is the appearance of a complex mental activity on an unprecedented scale. This mental activity or awareness or consciousness in its turn gives to evolution a new process or mechanism for the evolution itself to forge ahead in its ever-growing unfoldment. According to Teilhard, what is going to happen in the future are not somatic but vast mental and social transformations leading to an intense noogenic activity. A critical point in this development having been reached, a stage where the biological is more or less exhausted, only a collective higher order must culminate into impersonalised organisation of superlife. Based so much on scientific researches is the thesis that it may look in its infallibility to be the last word to fix the possibilities for man. posted by Debashish on Fri 10 Nov 2006 09:39 AM PST Permanent Link