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Evolution Next — V

Dr. Alok Pandey


We can regard evolution as a mechanical, inconscient process or a conscious unfolding. If it be the former then there it is like a blind and random process at a mega scale where no one really has any particular role in it. But if it is a conscious process with a direction and a plan, then we can not only observe it but also consciously participate in it. There are several levels at which Nature unfolds itself creating several levels of self-awareness. What is seen as unconscious at one level may well be seen as conscious at another. What appears as lifeless and inert at one level of vision and understanding may appear teeming with life and even idea at another, life pushing matter to organise itself in certain ways.

Whether we call the evolutionary Force labouring in creation as Grace or an unknown factor ‘x’ may not much matter as long as we feel that there is a Conscious Force, a benevolent Power that is working behind the scenes to help us through this complex evolutionary maze in which we find ourselves ‘caught’. We are again faced with a crucial choice to walk in the evolutionary trail. We can, like Darwin, Dawkins and others, regard evolution as a freak event happening at irregular intervals, pushed and precipitated by unconscious forces of Nature which is itself a mechanical thing. Or else we can regard evolution as a conscious process initiated and guided by a conscious Intelligence that operates within and behind the boundaries of Nature. Logically one can argue from either side, though if one looks deep enough and without an a priori bias, the indications are more that it is a conscious process taking place in unconscious beings, beings who are not conscious of anything beyond the external events and changing circumstances and landscapes of their life. Preoccupied with the small and the insignificant, engaged overwhelmingly with the outer and the immediate field of our little journey from birth to death and its hopeless struggle for survival, we fail to notice the larger picture. For at the end if it is all about survival of an individual then it is an absurdity since even if we were to outsmart every other species and individuals, death and destruction will still visit us and checkmate our strategies. We are always faced with this enigma of something that is or seems far more powerful than our individual existence and which at the same time we want to tame and master. And when we have, with great effort and perseverance, mastered one movement or force of Nature, more spring up to overwhelm us with its ambiguous face. Each time we win a race with Nature, each time we jump over a fence she has built around us, the bar gets raised and as we wonder if there is ever an end to our search and our finding, the beyond now within our reach opens doors to a yet greater beyond.

Clearly we have missed her intent because we believe it is not an intentional game played by a conscious force but an unintelligent, mechanical energy, robot-like, that is confronting us. Therefore we believe that we too can conquer this energy by mechanical means and robot-like techniques and processes. We succeed and we fail at the same time as each new success reveals us the next step before which we lie crestfallen. But if we take the other view that Nature is a conscious Force, a mother in disguise who is playing the role of teacher, to raise our potential to the nth degree possible, then the scenario changes. Evolution becomes a discovery of our highest and deepest possibilities and through this game of hide and seek, this cat and mouse-like chase, Nature unveils and gifts us, as a teacher to its student who has passed successfully an exam, her own greater and greater powers, rewards of greater knowledge, possibilities of sporting with danger and unforeseen delights. We then begin to participate in the game as conscious players who are aware of the goal and laws and rules of the game. We may still win and lose, rise and fall, rejoice and weep, succeed and fail, escape or be hurt momentarily but we never lose sight of the play. The next moment we are up again and get back to the game of games that she, the creative and many-sided mother, has devised for our joy. The perspective changes and with it our choices. Our conscious participation makes it easier for us to collaborate in her greater plan. We graduate from her school of ordinary life faster and start playing with her higher energies. We climb the green delight of her hills and she unveils before our eyes the white purity of the snow peaks and the sheer delight of that featureless Oneness which yet sustains the million energies that feed the world.

Levels of play

When we have thus discerned the real sense of the play, we discover that the play takes place at many levels much like the modern computer games. Each level mastered upgrades the play by one notch for us, automatically as it were. Each failure keeps the play tied down to the same level, repeating itself any number of times with slight variations but with the same basic design and plot. The world scenes are like images on the computer or television screens where our choices act like switches to tune in to different types of games presenting itself through situations and circumstances of life through which we must navigate with hurdles set across the path and also brownie points that catapult us further. But regardless of failure and success, regardless of our momentary pleasure or pain, we keep growing as we play the game. Each practice helps us make one step further even when we are playing at the same level. We grow through the experience of playing itself and success and failure are simply tags attached by Nature to keep us engaged in the game. These are not part of her main play but side-processes to keep us drawn towards the stakes and take interest in them.

The real thing is growth through the play and the experience of navigating through difficulties that are in fact evolutionary challenges. In our infant stage we need these things or else we may not play at all and lose the possible blossoming of the evolutionary seed in us. After a while we want to play for the sake of playing better, even when no reward is attached to it. The delight of playing well, the delight of mastery, the delight of conquering some aspect or movement of Nature is reward enough. None else is needed though it also comes since Nature plays with fairness and if one has negotiated one level and seen through the mask of circumstances these are taken away and the secrets and powers of nature hiding behind the challenging situations are revealed and given to the player like points he has earned. Of course it is up to each player how he uses these points which again implies choices, though choices of a higher kind. We can cash the points earned for smaller rewards and get back to the same previous level at which we played the game, or else we can use it to jump across a level and go fast forward. It is these choices we pass through the various and manifold situations and circumstances of our life that the evolutionary path opens before us and we are allocated different levels of our play, based on the capacity we have displayed and the choices we have made.

We may pause and ask at this level, what is the proof that Nature is playing such a game? Well, the proofs are quite a few but one that stares at our eyes is simply this, that man, a product of nature, has created such a game. In fact he has loved playing such games, beginning with’ Snakes and Ladders’ and ‘I spy’ right up to our modern computer games. Just as technology is an extension of man and what we are within we tend to unconsciously reproduce outside so here too, these games that man has played and loved since antiquity are a sign that the script of these games is hidden within us and some intuition has grasped it well even as the experience of countless mystics has testified to it. But naturally if we start with the opposite premise that Nature is unconscious and mechanical, then we would not see even if something is there in front of us. We may even say that our very act of seeing Nature as unconscious is a reflection of the degree of unconsciousness that we ourselves harbour within us. As we grow more conscious, we begin to feel and see and interact with nature as a conscious force, at first and then as a conscious being with which we can communicate and relate to if we learn her secret sign language. The final proof can only come by our own growth in consciousness and inner knowledge, an exploration into our secret corners and recesses like a scientist to discover or discard this hypothesis. There is no other perfect way but to try it out ourselves and perhaps there will be more surprises in store for us than we can imagine. This is one of the differences between a scientist and a yogi. The scientist limits himself in fixed paradigms and ends up proving these since he is not willing to look further beyond the walls of mud built by matter. But the yogi is willing to take the other route and explore into unseen and unknown hazardous territories of our inner subjective and inwardly objective dimensions of existence and study and master them even as a material scientist masters forces of material nature. When this inner mastery impacts and influences the ‘defined’ course of things according to our known physical laws and upsets them, we call it a miracle and start building a superstition around it. But in fact there is no miracle but simply an indication, the evolution of a new possibility whose process we may not know but can learn and master if we put our energies in that direction and make that choice. The road to evolution will open when man admits this higher and greater possibility and works towards unveiling them in the laboratory of his inner being first, and then applying them to the outer world at large. But if we deny even before exploring then surely we will not be able to see what the mind not only does not know but refuses even to acknowledge as a possibility. This too is a choice that binds us to the most material and elementary level of the grand game of life!

(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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