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Namah Journal

Yogic insights into human psychology

Beyond humanity

Dr. Alok Pandey


Our experience, perception and response to life are limited by our state of consciousness. While we invest much time and energy in changing the world around us yoga reveals that the first step to change anything is to change ourselves within. While the change of consciousness has always been considered as the penultimate aim of yoga, the question remains as to how far this change can go. Can it, for example, go as far as creating a new humanity out of the old, a new species perhaps with new faculties and who knows eventually even the transmutation of the body into a new divine body? This article touches upon this aspect of yoga as part of the general spiritual evolution of man.

The persistent aspiration in man

Is humanity the last rung of creation? How do we know, if we can know at all, whether it shall be the verdict of the philosopher? Why does it matter if it shall be the verdict of the practical man? Ordinarily we may just brush aside the question. Most human beings even in their idealistic striving are concerned mainly with reaching out to the highest ideal that we can conceive. This ideal is generally in terms of moral and ethical considerations for action. For other things, such as knowledge, we regard reason as the best means to know things. A rational ethical human being is generally the highest that we can conceive of. But since there is in man a constant push and drive towards perfection, we try to perfect life through these means given to us by nature.

But as anyone with an awakened thought can see, these are such inadequate means that if we were to rely upon them alone then we have to give up on perfecting life beyond a certain point. That highest point will be determined by the limits of our senses and reason, but also by the limits of our moral and ethical considerations. We all however know that reason alone is insufficient to take us beyond a point in our search for knowledge. We also know how even an awakened sense of ethics cannot resolve certain dilemmas that we encounter in our daily life.

And yet despite these obvious limits, the dream of perfection never dies. It survives every defeat and failure. It returns even after civilisations have collapsed and a whole age of mankind has vanished from the face of the earth. Even when our outer life is burdened and busy with the tramp and noise of external things, this dream of a higher, a better, a greater life shimmers in some far background. In moments of crisis it bounces back with a cry or else in some lucid moments when a ray from the higher worlds stoops for a while and lights up our dark rooms we experience a sudden burst of sight and a revealing insight shows us what we had never ever imagined. But after the moment is gone, the crisis is over and the heavenly light retires, we return to our old ways and feel safe within our human boundaries and take comfort in numbers. Yet the aspiration, the longing returns and intensifies with every fall. It spreads through different layers and members of our complex being, preparing us in ways we cannot even conceive until one day the attractive cocoon of our human sheaths begin to stifle the winged angel within us.

It is this persistent aspiration in humanity that yoga takes hold of to go beyond humanity. Humanity, at least as we experience it, has according to yoga, not yet arrived at its complete possibilities. This is something that even common sense and the long history of earthly evolution would tend to agree. Even a little look into man’s nature would tell us that man is programmed for evolution, at least to a transcendence of what he believes himself to be. The difference however lies in the discovery made by yoga that this further evolution of man is not only likely but is very much possible and is at least partially in man’s hands.
Yoga uses this innate aspiration and urge in man to go beyond itself and, by pushing one aspect or element or power of nature to exceed beyond the limits of its normal possibilities, pierces a little hole in the magic fence of nature. Then, through this hole, the human consciousness escapes into other domains and dimensions of existence that await our discovery. By doing so, we discover a new Self which is very different from the self with which we are presently identified. Our present sense of self is a construct of our birth and environment, it is a temporary mechanism of nature which we have to discard or use as an instrument once we discover a greater Self within us. So too, our nature has latent possibilities which can be discovered or rather uncovered through yoga. We do use some of these latent possibilities though often quite unconsciously. Take for instance the role of thought-formations in health and healing. Through yoga we are able to naturally draw thought-power that is uplifting and full of positive hope and rejuvenating energy and healing vibrations.

A stage of transition from the mental to the spiritual

In other words, human evolution is not yet over. Yoga teaches us to evolve consciously rather than unconsciously through millennia and in a rather complicated way of learning through each and every kind of life experiences. However there is a stage that often intervenes between the actual taking up of conscious yoga and the urge to go beyond human aspirations, and which begins to start and stir within us. This preparatory or transitional stage can often be quite painful. It is sometimes marked with hypersensitivity; or else by a feeling of being disconnected with everything around; or feeling like a stranger amidst familiar people; or the wish to be alone when one spends time reflecting upon life quite spontaneously. Sometimes one just has an insatiable urge to know or a drive towards perfection. At other times there is an abundance of energy, of love or even mental intelligence, trying to burst forth.

People in this stage or phase undergo a lot of internal suffering which is not necessarily connected to any significant outer events. Outer crisis which nature uses to awaken us to the need of evolution begins to change into an inner crisis, what is sometimes called an existential crisis or a spiritual emergency. It is a stage when our ego-self, which was thick-skinned and therefore indifferent to everything except its own selfish interests, begins to develop a hypersensitivity to everything. It begins to become a sensitive instrument that responds to the slightest touch. Sometimes this hypersensitivity takes an unhealthy route of feeling the need to suffer and be a martyr at the altar of the world-forces. But this helps no one. It only develops in us a morbid cynicism which can lead us to the verge of despair. Life and everything around us may seem strange and meaningless, a vanity of vanities, an illusion that traps us inside desire’s many-hued bubble. We experience then the celebrated vairagya of the ascetic and start turning away from life as a thing that is meaningless and futile.

Though this state of vairagya or disenchantment and disillusionment with life may come due to recoil from difficulties or else owing to some temporary failures, it is only when it arises naturally, spontaneously as a result of our evolution that it has a true spiritual value. As long as we are satisfied with life as it is, as long as we are happy with ourselves, our outer achievements, our success stories, we are not yet ready for the true spiritual life. It is rather difficult for such people to take to an authentic spiritual life. They may believe in a Higher Power but only in a religious sense. The Higher Power or God is there only to satisfy their hungers, to assure them success, to satiate their endless desires and ambitions.

True spiritual life however begins only when, in spite of all that we can or have achieved, we are not fully satisfied with the human formula. We seek something else, a qualitative something that we cannot name and yet we feel it is there. It may come either negatively by developing disillusionment, having seen through the neat masks and façade of life, or else positively by searching for something still greater and higher, having sounded the last limit of possibilities that human life can offer. While both these states can be useful for our spiritual evolution, the latter is certainly superior and has a far greater power to propel us high beyond the last human limits. Those who turn away from ordinary life to the spiritual because of disillusionment may fall back again if the illusion once again powerfully imposes itself. But those who have seen through the play, even though playing the game of life well, have much less risk of a return to the ordinary ways of life.

Those who are ready for the spiritual awakening feel sometimes a sense of being a stranger amidst everything. On one side this feeling tends to create certain lack of adjustment with the world as it is today. These children think and feel very differently. The usual aims that lure the average human being are not for them. They may be pushed into it because of social pressures but they are never fully into it. They are always dreaming of an ideal world, a perfect state of things, not necessarily from a conventional moral point of view but from the view of a nobler and higher ideal. On the other hand, they tend to be comfortable alone. In fact one can almost say with certainty that if someone is happy being alone then one is marked for the spiritual life.

Three steps of humanity

In other words there is a higher evolution of humanity that awaits us. Out of the mental being we must emerge into spiritual beings. But not all are ready for this emergence which is inevitable sooner or later in everyone’s life though it may not be in one single lifetime. The whole idea of rebirth according to Indian spiritual thought is essentially an evolutionary perspective. We generally classify a species according to its common biological features but even here we tend to find varied differentiations, creating some kind of a sub-species which can be arranged in an evolutionary hierarchy, wherein something similar can be found in human beings.

Human beings too can be seen along a spectrum of evolutionary hierarchy which we discussed in our last article. We can look at it as three distinct steps of nature that take place within the human species. The first type of humanity is a largely vital physical humanity which takes an absorbing vital interest in life with its life centred around food, sex and other kinds of entertainment. Out of this there arises another layer of humanity which can be termed as humanity proper since it is largely centred round the mind and its pursuits. It lives primarily in thoughts and idealising emotions. This humanity masters the vital-physical man through reason. Unlike the spontaneous vital impulses that move the vital-physical man, a mentalised humanity spontaneously refers everything to reason and then acts. It looks for an ideal principle of action, a justification for what it must do. It subordinates and modifies the vital impulses with the help of reason.

But a rational mental being is not the highest possibility in man. A third humanity begins to arise when both vital impulses and mental and moral standards begin to be subordinated to something still higher, a deeper inner law or a higher intuition that indicates the thing to be done. This opening of the human mind to an intuitive intelligence marks the emergence of the spiritual type in man.

Pathways of evolution

The spiritual evolution of man can take several lines which are often categorised as the different paths of yoga. Man may like to evolve through knowledge with the awakening of certain faculties of inspiration, revelation, intuition, etc., leading to a shift in the ways of knowing and understanding from the present labouring mentality, to a more and more direct perception of truth. We can call this man Homo Intellectualis, who proceeds along lines of his mind, through his intellect by a progressive widening and heightening as well as sublimation of his intelligence.

On the other hand, the spiritual evolution may come about by a progressive deepening of his emotional being, his heart leading the emergence of the secret psychic being, the soul within him turning him into a bhakta, the devotee of the Lord for whom the Divine is more real and concrete than all the concreteness of the world. We may call him the Homo psychicus. Or else he may evolve along lines of will and works leading to the evolution of the karmayogi, Homo servitor or Homo dynamicus. There are several other lines along which Nature has attempted to evolve the spiritual man.

But between the mental man, as he stands today and the spiritual being he is destined to be, there are several preparatory moves that nature makes, as in the evolution of any other species. There is for instance the religious man who believes in God, not merely in a ritualistic sense or as part of his social conditioning but genuinely, as an intuition or a spontaneous faith whose source they may not know. Then there is the moral /ethical man who searches for or erects an absolute principle of action because he intuitively believes in some kind of a universal good.

There is also the deeply philosophical humanity which tries to live in an idealised mentality and searches some truth that it intuitively feels behind the phenomenon world. Even the scientist impelled to find the processes and the how of things sometimes reaches a point where he starts wondering about the why and what is the original cause of creation. Science itself has branched into two main streams. One is the natural sciences that start by searching for the forces behind matter, life and mind but focus mainly on what is seen and perceived materially and through instruments meant to pick up material objects and corresponding forces, energies and vibrations.

But there has also been a parallel science that has been practiced alongside the mainstream, science which focuses on hidden aspects and forces of life. At times the same scientist has forayed into both. This science, generally called the occult sciences or the alchemists and the druids, has generally ceased to exist in the West under the pressure of a more materialistic scientific thought. This practice was fairly common in ancient cultures but with the rising tide of materialistic thought it has gone into the background. This materialistic thought, supposedly based on reason and sense observation, denied the occult dimension which was based on its own observations (through another order of senses developed methodically by the occult scientist) and its own framework of understanding offered by the practitioners of the occult sciences.

Finally there is the man of sheer genius in whom and through whom Nature tries to rush forward, exceeding herself and in the process sometimes breaking the mould. Here we must however understand that a genius is an exaggeration of one dimension in which the person shoots beyond the average normal possibility. But this shooting beyond is not only in terms of the intellect. It can take place in the heart through emotions creating a man of exemplary love who can sacrifice and renounce everything for the sake of one’s beloved. This love is often celebrated in poetry and though the average person may not even believe in this possibility, yet this idealised love is dreamt of by men who have risen beyond a certain level because something in them intuitively knows it to be possible.

There is also the genius of action, the hero in the battlefield who rises beyond the sense of life and death and immortalises himself through a supreme sacrifice for his country or some noble and worthy cause. All these are ways through which nature tries to push man in various ways beyond his self. They may look like freaks but it is these freaks whose anomalous tendencies open the road towards the supernormal.

Beginnings of spiritual evolution

But true spiritual evolution actually begins when man enters the realm of spiritual experience. These are experiences of another domain, of the fourth dimension so to say, wherein our normal operations of the mind and heart, our ordinary human will, is taken up as a pedestal for our consciousness to enter into another state where the face of Truth begins to reveal itself in ways that we cannot even imagine right now. Such people known as mystics, yogis, messengers of God, saints, sages and seers are revered as exceptional human beings and often regarded as not human but superhuman representatives of God. True, they are manifestations of the Divine or the divinity hidden within us, but then the whole world is in a sense a concealed divinity, often distorted on the surfaces, yet a divinity no doubt. The Saint, the Yogi, the Seer, the Mystic, though rare and often seemingly freaks of creation are yet the infants of a New World that is yet to come. Or rather it has come and has started working actively to create right now a new sub-species of humanity. But this new sub-species is a forerunner of an entirely new species. The early ape-man was a half-way home of the mental man yet to come. The first awkward signs were visible in this creature which was neither an ape nor a human being proper. Yet it is through this rather weird creature that the evolutionary impulse climbed beyond the ape and through a long process of time evolved into the mentalised rational humanity of today. We can envisage something similar about the future of humanity.

In fact, the first humans were fast losing the vitality of the ape but what they were gaining was not yet visible on the surface, not even to them. They were wanderers and explorers who knew not who they were and why they were and where they had to go and what they were searching. They must have felt quite ill-equipped compared to the strong apes and the beasts of the wild and yet each challenge they faced brought out of them the hidden mental power. They had to conquer the earth not through the extreme vitality of the animal or its brute strength but through something else, something new, the growing light of a mental intelligence and its power of reason. Something similar to what we are witnessing today.

The mental man has entered a fast-forward curve through which he is exhausting his mental capacities and sounding its utmost possibilities. In the process he is discarding many things and changing others. New impulses and aspirations are seizing him already, the aspiration for a new kind of thought that unites Creator with the Creation, the aspiration to make earth a beautiful home, the urge to explore and understand other dimensions beyond the material universe, the hope of freedom from disease and the possibility of physical immortality. The collective imagination of the race is being seized by ideas of transmutation to a new species. Knowledge has burst beyond its seams and the neat material world with clear-cut laws is collapsing into an indeterminate chaos. On the other hand, irrational impulses seem to be seizing humanity, breaking down the fixed social order and the old formats of the mind-built world. The subjective side of existence is being given importance while certain practices such as meditation are entering the mainstream of science. All these are early signs but clear enough to indicate the direction of the future.

If we look at the history of spiritual evolution it took quite a similar route. The Vedic mystics, for example, had to clothe their experiences in symbolic language which was revealed only to the initiate. Spiritual practices, as different from spiritual philosophy, were a rather closely guarded secret. It was meant only for the initiate. Not all were considered ready for the spiritual life. There were ashrams and monasteries where the spiritual truths were taught. While the acceptance was much more in India, the guardian of spiritual aspiration in mankind, in other parts of the world it took the form of occultism. Spiritual practitioners were often misunderstood and persecuted right until our own ages. It is only now that we see a kind of generalisation of the spiritual impulse, a collective seeking, a greater acceptance of spirituality. Science itself is beginning to accept at least some aspects of it. Scientific knowledge is itself drawing towards the sense of the mystic and spiritual intuitions. All these are signs of a preparedness for the generalisation of the yoga in mankind. A greater collective spiritual evolution is clearly in the offing.

Evolution of the spiritual man

In other words what is happening is that the spiritual evolution of man through yoga is changing into the evolution of the spiritual man. The spiritual evolution up until now took the form of an individual journey, whereby each one had to follow a certain path of yoga and its fixed formal practices. It was like a narrow road opening us out of the mental rooms into the wide sky of freedom and infinity. But now all that has changed. Those paths of yoga were like early experiments, preparatory moves of nature in some individuals to see how far and wide can they stretch their consciousness. Now the yoga has been generalised in nature itself and hence sections of humanity are suddenly awakening to regions and domains of consciousness that were normally not accessible to us. They do not yet know how to make sense of their experiences and yet these experiences are multiplying.

A new thought is stirring the mind of man, a thought that is freed from the tyranny of material paradigms. A new feeling is stirring the human heart, a feeling that is stretching beyond the confines of family and clan and is reaching out to all creatures. It is not confined to humans alone but even to birds and animals, and earth and rivers and even to ghosts and aliens! A new will is stirring the human will, a will to dare the impossible, a faith in things that are not and yet can be and must be. It seems that within the human body a sub-species is arising with quite a qualitatively different content of consciousness. It rejects nothing but seeks to transmute everything into something that is more beautiful, perfect, divine.

These are the early forerunners. They may seem awkward and perhaps even strange when seen through the lens of humanity. Yet these seemingly ‘strange and maladroit’ human beings may be actually breaking through certain human limits and barriers that nature had built around us for staying within the limits of our humanity. It is precisely these barriers that yoga was meant to break and set man free from the limits in which nature had tied him down as a prisoner. There were moments of course when the prisoner would be temporarily out. Yet this escape from the prison was always conditional, a prisoner on parole as it were. But the new spirituality is bound to integrate these higher possibilities, these greater states of consciousness with life and its manifold activities. It will touch upon every aspect of life down to the smallest details until the highest and lowest become one.

What it means is that in the days to come there will be more and more children and sections of humanity that will breathe spirituality from its very birth. Their consciousness will be different and effortlessly they would have access to an inner intuition of truth just as animals have it with their instincts. They will follow an entirely new standard of life and action and will be endowed with a new and universal feeling, a larger sentiment, a wider thought, a clearer intuition of divinity in things, bypassing the religious sense which has already outlived its purpose. We can stop with these first hints and glimpses of possibilities and wait for the last Act in the great epic of creation, in the drama of the world to be enacted. The actors are being trained behind the scenes, the stage and the costumes are being prepared and the story line is ready. It is just a question of time when we will witness an unprecedented upsurge in the evolution of a being beyond man. He or she may and will look like man but will be very much changed in his or her operating systems and ways of being. It is this being who will bear the mantle of the future as today’s man will be left behind, either to collapse into its animal past or else to ride on the spiritual waves and evolve beyond man. It is this new humanity that is already being formed out of the old that shall find a way even to the transmutation of the body by the pressure of a new consciousness until eventually we shall be a new being in a new body, or shall we say a divine being leading a divine life in a divine body.

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

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