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Evolution Next — 2

Dr. Alok Pandey


Evolution has its own hazards. When the moment of the great leap appears, Nature undoes the past limits temporarily to help the species to escape from its confines. But this may also mean that the safety lines are no longer there and there is a risk for retrogression. It is a difficult and narrow passage through which Nature must negotiate. Human beings may have attempted this leap a number of times before and documented its dangers as a lesson for the future. This part explores the main danger, especially the confusion that may arise between outer technological evolution and inner spiritual and psychological evolution.

Thus far the urge for a conscious growth and betterment of our human lot has been both a boon and a bane for humanity. It is a boon since unlike the animal we are given conscious means and processes to explore and improve ourselves and the world around us. It is a bane since we often mistake this evolutionary angst as an expansion of the scale and pitch of our present existence and not a radical change in who we are. It is a change in quantity that we seek and not a change in quality. Or perhaps we mistake the former for the latter. We believe in our ignorance that more money, more comfort, more information, more degrees, more outer influence mean automatically a better quality of life. However humanity is beginning to realise that this may not be so. Often such an increase of outer means at our disposal is at the expense of our natural inner capacities. Technological advantage is often at the cost of a biological amputation of some function. Therefore we end up with more diseases, more restrictions of living, more dependence on outer means for our happiness. That which is our natural state as a child is lost somewhere down the lane of schools and jobs, career and ambition, entangled and enmeshed in gadgets that surround our life. Our very freedom becomes a slavery to the means we have used; our advantage turns to disadvantage, our independence a crippling manoeuvre; our mastery an even worse slavery!

It is important therefore that before we embark on the great voyage of a conscious evolution, we first make it clear to ourselves as to which way we must proceed. We have both experiences before us, — the journey of Alexander to conquer the world with the sword, wielding outer authority and external power, or the journey of Buddha who actually conquers the world with the power of the Word and the inner Poise of self-mastery. This is not to say that technology is bad and one must shun science in order to tread the evolutionary path. In fact it is best to have a balance between the inner and the outer, between scientific knowledge and spiritual wisdom, between external control and inner power. What we have to avoid is extremes, an extreme focus on the outer leads to an impoverishment of inner life and that is disastrous to our human existence itself. Equally an excess in inner pursuit leads to an exclusivity that impoverishes the race since such a person is more often than not lost to the general collective effort of humanity to evolve.

Secondly, and this is an important thing to note, the two approaches, — scientific and spiritual meet at some point. However if we, in our haste, believe that we can arrive at the highest truths of existence from this end, pursuing the methods of science then it will inevitably lead us to a fatal cul de sac of our own making. This is so because science in its present conception of life, assumes everything, from dust to man as the product of an unconscious, mechanical energy which it can somehow understand and manipulate to its advantage by knowing the laws and processes. It leads us to a point where not only the divine existence but many beautiful things that belong to a whole subjective side of our experience such as Beauty, Love, Peace, Bliss, etc. are reduced to quantum packets that one day we can learn to manipulate until we are capable of even capturing and placing the very highest Divine Consciousness and Power, Shakti, at the disposal of our mechanical science, making it available for a price to all who can afford. This is carrying the mechanistic view to its extreme whose dangerous results have been repeatedly revealed in various Indian myths wherein the Asura does tapasyā to get the Divine Powers and uses it for ignorant and egoistic purposes. His tapasyā does bring fruits and he does acquire a lot of powers. However his achievements and acquisitions become the very cause of his downfall since the One Conscious Power and all that lies beyond in the realm of the Undivided Consciousness always eludes him. The magic of the Infinite keeps defying the logic of the finite, even though the finite be an aggrandised Asura, a finite raised to an nth degree.

The way of the gods

On the other hand, there is the way of the gods, the way that starts from the other end, first discovering the essential oneness, the Consciousness or rather the Conscious-Force that stands unveiled at the apex of creation. Then it extends this vision onto different aspects of existence. Behind unconscious matter and the blind mechanical forces of Nature, behind the river and the sea, the mountain and the tree, behind the tempest and the storm one sees the workings of a Conscious-Force or half-conscious forces. Instead of seeing the highest as simply an extension of the lowest, only differing in quantity, one sees the lowest as a shadow of the highest, changing in quality as it comes down from level to level and grade to grade. This too is science but another kind of science. This too works if we discover ways and means to enter into contact and communication with these forces or the One Force that works behind creation.

While the former approach to conscious evolution takes us beyond the human scale quantitatively, aggrandising the present animal humanity, the latter brings down a higher quality of forces and consciousness into our present living, changing it thereby into a greater and higher, a more conscious life. These are the two lines of human evolution always open before us but mankind seems to have generally preferred the former asuric type except for some isolated individuals or scattered groups who withdrew into the solitude of a forest life untouched by the diluting and corrupting influences that the life of mega-cities, driven by the strong gusts of desire and centred around the satisfactions of the human ego, breathes. Perhaps we have now reached that crucial point wherein the two must meet and mingle and mankind must choose in a definitive way one or the other course of its evolution. The results of an asuric evolution have been there for all to see. Indian myths have preserved the memory of these past attempts vividly wherein civilisation after civilisation, even strong and mighty ones as revealed in the times of the Rāmāyana and the Mahābhārata, have vanished without a trace collapsing under their own weight or through the recoil of almighty Nature which does not allow any partisan development of a group at the gross expense of others. The myths of Atlantis and Troy sinking into the sea or burnt to ashes are similar indications that come from the other side of the globe as historical legends. On the other hand the daivic efforts, the godlike way to evolve, have always survived and even continued through all the destruction almost as a lineage or an imprint in the racial memory inspiring similar efforts later on. The Gita and its truths survive an entire gory war that destroys a whole breed of mighty warriors. The legend and myth of Rama continues to touch the human heart while men doubt the story itself and the existence of a golden city called Lanka and its legendary king. The Vedas and the Upaniṣads survive along with the names of the ṛṣis whereas the kings and monarchs, the kingdoms and their edicts and the currencies of gold and silver are hard to find. The Bible and Christ survive the crucifixion. The Roman Empire collapses while Christ and his gospel lives on baptising millions of humanity across the globe and creating an empire far greater than the kings and the priests who ordered his execution. The dharma of Buddha survives and spreads defying its crushing by military rule and political force.

The choice

Yet humanity has to once again choose to see if it has learned its lessons or not. Depending upon the choice we make, the path of our next evolutionary curve will open, — a tremendous scientific and technological development along with an impoverished heart and a cunning animal mind made worse by its brilliance, or else, a tremendous inner development extending itself naturally into scientific and other fields for the betterment of mankind and earth, an enrichment of the race by spirituality and science working hand in hand, technology coming to assist the evolutionary impulse and not becoming a bane in unchaste minds and crude hearts. On the one hand is a large- scale destruction, our one-sided growth becoming a block to our total progress. On the other hand is a leap into the future wherein all the elements necessary for our total development evolve together and take us to the promised land through the present narrow gorge.

The moment is near and we have to choose, individually and collectively.

(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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Technological evolution