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Evolution Next — IX

The next great leap

Dr. Alok Pandey


Mankind seems to be trapped in a never-ending series of problems where each solution brings fresh problems in its wake. Despite all our advancements and achievements, we stand on the threshold of self-destruction. A closer look however reveals that this very threat, this crisis may well help us force open a hitherto unseen inner door and we may emerge suddenly in a new dimension of consciousness. At its bottom this crisis seems to be an evolutionary crisis where we have to either take courage and faith to cross the inner chasm towards the New or else fall back on our old ways but only for the worse. The first signs however indicate a new emergence and although the battle between the new and the old is far from over, at least a few human beings the world over are taking the first infant steps towards a new humanity of tomorrow.

Evolution is not a linear movement in time but a complex many-sided movement where order and chaos run into each other, both preparing the field for the next leap. At first there is a systematic development of the same type and the difference is mostly in the scale and pitch, of degree and quantity of the same process. At times during this process, Nature experiments with anomalies, introducing the touch of chaos and randomness, as if she were attempting at something foreseen through experiments with designs. This is very much as a scientist would do in a laboratory. Then, after playing this way for a long time, she suddenly gets into her own ‘Aha’ moment, wraps up the knowledge of all her experiments and creates something fresh and new. She departs from the expected. The playing with quantity is over; it is time to express a new quality.

This qualitative leap is of course not in an entire vacuum. If one were to look closely, one would see that the new possibility that emerges with a new species was hidden somewhere and what we thought as anomalous was simply an attempt to uncover that, albeit prematurely. One can see this process in the evolution of humans as well as dolphins. Nature created a number of sub-species so as to say that would eventually be cast aside and the final product remain in land and in the sea respectively. But each sub-species would develop an odd feature that would eventually be modified and adjusted in the new species that will eventually evolve. We can see this in every leap but so well marked in the leap from the ape to man as well as in the leap from four-footed land mammals to the sea-loving dolphins.

Another interesting thing is that when a radical departure takes place, the previous species loses something in order to gain the new quality. Very often it is the strength of the previous species that is lost in order to gain the new quality. To put it a bit poetically but also figuratively, in a way, the fish loses its ability to breathe in the water for it to crawl into the mud of earth. This infant step which seems almost a regression, when we compare the best water fishes with the mud-fish and the tadpole, is actually not a regression but a preparation for Nature to start a whole new adventure of evolution. It is almost like the predator holding its breath in an outer stillness, even moving a few steps backward before it would advance through rapid decisive steps towards its prey.

Holding back

This holding back for a moment is like a preparation, a gathering of its energies and focusing on the next step. The reptile must lose its thousand legs that crawl swiftly on ground to be able to fly into the air, as an aircraft draws back its wheels to fly swiftly. And yet again, Nature clips the magnificent wings of the bird and brings it back to ground so that it can develop its intense vitality and run and leap across trees and forests as naturally as if in its home. But Nature does not stop here. It launches into its extreme experiment with man. The vitality of the animal, its strong sinews and muscles, its ability to leap across trees and swim in the rivers with natural ease is lost with the birth of man. Man must learn all this anew with the help of another faculty called the mind. Yet this mind will recollect, perhaps secretly remember the lost evolutionary footsteps and devise ways and means to dive deep into the ocean and fly far in Space beyond what any fish or bird could even imagine. Evolution seen this way is not merely a survival game but more importantly a game of new expressions. Survival is merely a challenge to help this leap. It is only the outer façade that hides Nature’s real intent just as a crisis hides behind its unpleasant mask the possibility of an evolutionary growth.

Following this natural law of evolution, we may well conclude that man may be on the threshold of a new evolutionary leap. As a species, man is certainly going through a crisis of sorts. The crisis is not just environmental (and what else is environmental but largely his own creation) but even more so a mental crisis. He has exhausted or is on the verge of exhausting the possibilities of his mental intelligence. Beyond a point his mind seems to be moving in endless circles without finding the way to go beyond the neat atomic world and the imaginative limits of Space. His mind falls either blind or silent when it faces the two negations. On one side, the negation of the objective world around him, which stops short at matter without letting it go past its quantum structures. On the other hand, his subjective world wherein he is trapped in the sense of a transient ephemeral self. He feels intuitively the sense of greatness, even of immortality and invincibility but is violently thrown back to his bodily self as if this were all. If this is all, then surely there is little hope and even if there is a further evolution it will be just another animal or insect that has simply overgrown in size and capacity. But if the intuition of the wise is true, then man is destined to cross the limits of his objective world and the subjective prison to discover a greater self and a greater world. Perhaps this is what is metaphorically meant by the ‘promised land’ and the kingdom of heaven which man must discover, neither by transporting himself to some post-mortem state nor by struggle and fight for some earthly strip but by a space hidden between the folds of his obscure matter. Just as man was hidden within the folds of the animal body and the animal inside the skin of an insect; just as a caterpillar is the precursor of a butterfly and the seed holds within itself the giant oak tree, so too our body cells hold within them, hidden, though sometimes hinted, almighty powers. Once these powers emerge and become natural to earth and embodied life here, then we shall discover the kingdom of heaven and the Promised Land, in our very body itself. It is in the body itself, in the very cellular fabric of earthly life, in the dumb atomic mass, that we must discover the ‘new possibility’ just as the animal discovered it with the clipping of the bird’s wings and the reptile by losing its legs.

The evolution of man

Something akin may well happen to man, is perhaps already happening. Man may well lose the extreme use of his mental faculties with a rise of irrational (both infra-rational as well as supra-rational) manifestations. The human measures may begin to fail leading to a massive social and political, as well as religious and moral crisis with its impact upon his very bodily and material existence. Much that we cherish about our humanity and pride over our human-ness may well be lost as if a regressive phase were closing upon earth and man with all kinds of ominous foreboding and predictions of doom. Yet, if evolution is not a freak accident, if there is indeed a purpose mingling with the steps of Time, if chance and chaos are merely strategic movements of Nature to discover a new equilibrium and explore a new possibility then we are clearly close to a breakthrough. A breakthrough in the most ancient laboratory called earth, a breakthrough within man himself! It means we are close to emerging into a new species whose stirrings we can feel in our seeking and our hope of a New World, whose slow churning we can feel in our sense of dissatisfaction with the world as it is. This New World sometimes visits us in dream-passages or else makes a sudden unexpected entry in the corridors of Time through new discoveries in various fields that radically alter our self-regard and our world-view.

This New World cries in our hearts as some kind of labour pain for a New Birth. This New World declares itself boldly in the rebel tired of old tables and in the mystic plunging into new depths, soaring to new heights to find new ground and new force to build our life anew. This New World is everywhere, sometimes asserting itself while at other times slipping slowly through the gaps in the old world. Some see it, some don’t; some feel it and some don’t. That is the only difference.

(To be continued)

Dr. Alok Pandey, an editor of NAMAH and member of SAIIIHR, is a doctor practising at the Sri Aurobindo Ashram.

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Mental crisis


New world