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Rise of the Machines

Dr. Alok Pandey


A race seems to be on between man and the machines or the technology invented by man. What came to assist now seems to rule. This article explores the different aspects of the technological development vis à vis man’s evolution.

“At present mankind is undergoing an evolutionary crisis in which is concealed a choice of its destiny; for a stage has been reached in which the human mind has achieved in certain directions an enormous development, while in others it stands arrested and bewildered and can no longer find its way. A structure of the external life has been raised up by man’s ever-active mind and life-will, a structure of an unmanageable hugeness and complexity, for the service of his mental, vital, physical claims and urges, a complex political, social, administrative, economic, cultural machinery, an organised collective means for his intellectual, sensational, aesthetic and material satisfaction. Man has created a system of civilisation which has become too big for his limited mental capacity and understanding and his still more limited spiritual and moral capacity to utilise and manage, a too dangerous servant of his blundering ego and its appetites. For no greater seeing mind, no intuitive soul of knowledge has yet come to his surface of consciousness which could make this basic fullness of life a condition for the free growth of something that exceeded it. This new fullness of the means of life might be, by its power for a release from the incessant unsatisfied stress of his economic and physical needs, an opportunity for the full pursuit of other and greater aims surpassing the material existence, for the discovery of a higher truth and good and beauty, for the discovery of a greater and diviner spirit which would intervene and use life for a higher perfection of the being: but it is being used instead for the multiplication of new wants and an aggressive expansion of the collective ego. At the same time Science has put at his disposal many potencies of the universal Force and has made the life of humanity materially one; but what uses this universal Force is a little human individual or communal ego with nothing universal in its light of knowledge or its movements, no inner sense or power which would create in this physical drawing together of the human world a true life unity, a mental unity or a spiritual oneness. All that is there is a chaos of clashing mental ideas, urges of individual and collective physical want and need, vital claims and desires, impulses of an ignorant life-push, hungers and calls for life satisfaction of individuals, classes, nations, a rich fungus of political and social and economic nostrums and notions, a hustling medley of slogans and panaceas for which men are ready to oppress and be oppressed, to kill and be killed, to impose them somehow or other by the immense and too formidable means placed at his disposal, in the belief that this is his way out to something ideal. The evolution of human mind and life must necessarily lead towards an increasing universality; but on a basis of ego and segmenting and dividing mind this opening to the universal can only create a vast pullulation of unaccorded ideas and impulses, a surge of enormous powers and desires, a chaotic mass of unassimilated and intermixed mental, vital and physical material of a larger existence which, because it is not taken up by a creative harmonising light of the spirit, must welter in a universalised confusion and discord out of which it is impossible to build a greater harmonic life. Man has harmonised life in the past by organised ideation and limitation; he has created societies based on fixed ideas or fixed customs, a fixed cultural system or an organic life-system, each with its own order; the throwing of all these into the meltingpot of a more and more intermingling life and a pouring in of ever new ideas and motives and facts and possibilities call for a new, a greater consciousness to meet and master the increasing potentialities of existence and harmonise them. Reason and Science can only help by standardising, by fixing everything into an artificially arranged and mechanised unity of material life. A greater whole-being, whole-knowledge, whole-power is needed to weld all into a greater unity of whole-life (1).”

Fact and fiction

A new toy has come for the infant soul to play. It is called, ‘Artificial Intelligence.’

It has been said that whatever a man imagines or conceives, whatever thoughts and feelings arise in him, whatever will and impulsion seize and push him to act are realities of another dimension. If we take the top-down view of existence then this is indeed how all creation proceeds whether it be a poem born out of a creative surge from some unseen depths of the poet or the birth of a cosmos emerging from the unknown depths of Space and Time. Science fiction is no mere fiction but something that has not yet become a physical fact, — and which may never become so because there are many a slip between the cup and the lip. Nor is it a mere prophesy but a thing unseen yet felt through some inner sense within. Imagination is no mere non-existent fiction of the mind but an image thrown by some hidden truth crying for expression. Whether it will end up expressing itself physically, fully or partially is not certain. In fact, often it does end up finding some route of expression though somewhat distorted in the process and hence often a caricature of what was imagined. Yet for the mind, the sharp distinction that we draw between the actual and the virtual is often not true. The ghost or the fairy on the cinema-screen haunts or helps us much after the film is over. The apparent knowledge that it was all a movie doesn’t change things much. The senses fed by an imagination react much the same way as if the reel is real. The mind continues to play out the scene as a worn out gramophone record until it ceases because the grooves stop responding or the track is changed. 

Thus, we see today some of the Science fictions returning upon mankind as if the characters had stepped out of the pages and given a concrete shape. Who knows if the concrete material objects, the grandiose display of stars and galaxies drifting in ethereal Space over the ocean of Time, the immense varieties of living creatures and man himself are not realities of another plane imagined by some cosmic Being in his vast trance that assume figure and form perhaps, or are often distorted in the process by the agencies of Nature that build forms, yet are nevertheless tangible to the material senses?

Nor do they cease when the physical form is destroyed but only return to their ideative world, where they exist in their original plenitude, to return again and again until the outer expression perfectly matches the inner original. Spiritual experience does affirm the existence of such typal worlds that press for manifestation. Therefore, to truly understand even the most concrete physical objects, we need to go back if we can to these typal worlds from where they originate. Or else, until we can develop the ways and means to enter these typal worlds and know how they influence our objective and subjective worlds, we have to rely upon the testimony of those who laboured and had the experience of these other realities behind the phenomenal physical realities.

The inventions of Science

The inventions of Science have also to be seen in this light thrown upon our minds by the mystic and the yogis. They are in the position of the scientist who has explored other domains than the purely outer and physical and brings them to us, making them accessible for practical purposes of understanding and improving our life. To believe or disbelieve them is our choice for both reflect some kind of blindness on our part. If blind belief creates a dogmatic religion shut in creeds and cults and ritual practices, a blind non-belief, an a priori rejection so to say, creates a dogmatic science limiting its scope of exploration and discovery. The ancient systems of yoga however gave the possibility of consciously entering these worlds and experiencing for oneself.

Naturally, like any other high end, extremely specialised science or work, which involves a certain risk, not all are equipped or ready to explore it all by themselves. Most would need a teacher, rather a Guru, an adept or a Master. Such Adepts, who were once not so difficult to find, have now become rare and they do not readily accept disciples given the sincerity and dedication needed for the pursuit. Besides, given that much of this ancient knowledge is lost, there is scope of deception and charlatanism. Therefore, and again as in Science, we can make indirect observations and begin to observe and understand the cause and effect between these worlds and the phenomenal manifestations. Later, we can even gain an intuitive knowledge of these worlds and their energies and forces, discover their laws and confirm it in our life through actual application, even develop inner senses that can perceive these now occult realities and intervene in favour of or against them. A regular study of dreams is also of great help in this direction.

What is however important to understand is that human beings can become conscious, half-conscious or even unconscious instruments of these forces from the typal worlds. Though we human beings believe that we are the creators and inventors, from the spiritual point of view, human beings themselves are instruments of forces often beyond their reckoning. We can equally say that the Science and technology of an epoch of Time is an extension of the collective consciousness of that Age or group. We may say that technology has nothing to do with our inner consciousness. It is so because we do not know that there are different domains of knowledge, destructive as well as creative, disruptive or unifying, helpful or harmful, holistic and harmonising or divisive and disturbing, helping us progress and evolve or hindering and obstructing our progress. In a more general sense, we may say that machines and their modern version, computer softwares, can assist human advance or paradoxically weaken and even checkmate his evolution by isolating him in a technological bubble of comfort, depriving him of the challenges that pushes his body and mind to exceed their limits and evolve. 

When we look at much of the technology, that has been developing since over a century, we find that it has been largely at the service of the vital-physical animal, to provide him more comfort and feeding space, or even arming him with weapons of mass destruction. It is true that it has wired the world as never before but it has also created a machinery for extremely rapid transfer of lies and propaganda. Cinema almost destroyed the charm of theatre, motor cars the joy of physical exercise, photography robbed the power of colours brought out through a painting which could reveal the spirit behind the outer form. Strong effective medicine and surgery has come at an expense of our natural health. And now comes the Artificial Intelligence that will do the world of human intelligence much harm, which would eventually make man lose his intelligence and with it much of our discernment and ability to think and grow and progress replacing the thinker with the admirable swift data processor. As long as a machine is there to assist certain tasks that man cannot do, tasks that are essential for living a reasonably happy and healthy life to fulfil the greater goals of existence; as long as the machine is there to augment certain natural capacities in areas where we may fail; as long as the technology and the equipment it provides is there to enhance the beauty of life, it is helpful and inspired as it were by benevolent forces helpful to man in his upward evolution.

But when that which came to assist becomes the master, that which is meant to augment nature becomes the means of diminishing our natural capacities, that which had come to help build a better world and create new means for a happier healthier expression begins to destroy and becomes a cause of rapid disintegration of man’s natural health and well-being, his emotional and psychological health, his social sense and ethical values, then there is something seriously wrong with our science and technology or shall we say the direction in which man is taking it. For even if we disregard the influence of other worlds in inspiring certain inventions, even if we assume that science and technology are simply neutral in their approach and methods, yet in their application and direction man must assume responsibility.

And this responsibility is with man and not with the legal systems and government regulations. One may make any number of laws and rules and regulations to control human behaviour but as long as man does not change within nothing real and lasting will change. No technology or scientific discoveries can change man, no machinery can save us until we take charge of a vast submerged aspect of our complex psychological existence and make the right choices, choices that truly help us evolve and not keep us tied to an ever expanding circle of ignorance. 

The prison of freedom

We need to realise that no machine can make us free. Freedom lies in exploring our inner spaces without which our life will become more and more dependent upon machines, controlled by the State, regulated by the law. It is the reverse movement wherein instead of becoming the master of nature we become its slave. No doubt there is always some good that can come out of everything. But this too depends upon the ‘user’ which is where the story of man upon earth comes full circle and returns to the main question that Man must evolve. He has concealed within him the Superman. It is this inner technology that was once the focus of the ancient Ṛṣis of India, to focus their mind on the pathways that would help man evolve towards a better, truer, happier and more beautiful being. They were fully aware of the possibilities of science and technology but were also conscious that it is not machines that can save us. Rather they are more likely to delay and distract, if not out-rightly deny this higher evolutionary possibility, by diverting his energies into pathways of self-destruction. Hence they kept the focus right, inner first and the outer only as a subordinate extension. Whenever the balance has been reversed, as we see in the Age of the Mahābhārata and more recently the two great Wars, whenever technology gained an upper hand over man, the world hurtled towards catastrophe.

Of course, like all deceptive things, it comes first as a life-giver and life-enhancer. Just as modern allopathy with its impressive pharmacopeia and a marvellous surgery entered the scene with the promise of curing all ills. But despite its best efforts, it has only multiplied diseases, diminished our natural resistance and enslaved us to endless use of machinery and equipment to prolong life and cut a hole into our pockets. Whatever its merits, and there always is a silver lining, it has neither removed our fears and anxieties nor decreased our troubles. It has rather increased our preoccupation with diseases and filled our mind with formation of illnesses rather than the hope of health.

This is true of most other inventions. Means of communication, for example, are so helpful and yet though it has brought people together outwardly it has isolated them inwardly. Technology has given man so much exposure of the outer world but by drawing our gaze excessively outward it has cut us off from the inner world where the seed of oneness lies buried unnoticed and unattended. It has generated means for increasing wealth but made us poorer in the heart, meaner below the skin enhancing our greed, increasing our hungers and appetites to gigantic proportions. 

The way forward

One thing is however certain and that is this that the turn towards outer development has led to interesting discoveries in material science and the power to manipulate matter and its forces as perhaps never before. And herein lies the danger, for when immense material forces are placed in the hands of an inwardly under developed, still largely brutish and animal-like or worse still, the Rākṣasic and Asuric humanity, the balance is precarious. But while one cannot reverse the technological advancement, one can surely increase the pace of our inner evolution to once again reset the balance in favour of our survival and harmonious progress. It is this that is now the need of the hour, not a multiplication of equipment with the help of AI (Artificial Intelligence), an upgrading of our inner life through a spiritual evolution and the development of SI and DI (Spiritual Intelligence and Divine Intelligence) and the building up of an intuitive humanity with an inward turn to replace the old rational animal that it is presently in its larger parts. The Mother cautions us:

“After all, the whole problem is to know whether humanity has reached the state of pure gold or whether it still needs to be tested in the crucible.

“One thing is evident, humanity has not become pure gold; that is visible and certain.

“But something has happened in the world’s history which allows us to hope that a selected few in humanity, a small number of beings, perhaps, are ready to be transformed into pure gold and that they will be able to manifest strength without violence, heroism without destruction and courage without catastrophe.

“But in the very next paragraph Sri Aurobindo gives the answer: “If man could once consent to be spiritualised.” If only the individual could consent to be spiritualised... could consent.1

Something in him asks for it, aspires, and all the rest refuses, wants to continue to be what it is: the mixed ore which needs to be cast into the furnace.

“At the moment we are at a decisive turning-point in the history of the earth, once again. From every side I am asked, “What is going to happen?” Everywhere there is anguish, expectation, fear. ‘What is going to happen?...’ There is only one reply: ‘If only man could consent to be spiritualised.’

“And perhaps it would be enough if some individuals became pure gold, for this would be enough to change the course of events.... We are faced with this necessity in a very urgent way. This courage, this heroism which the Divine wants of us, why not use it to fight against one’s own difficulties, one’s own imperfections, one’s own obscurities? Why not heroically face the furnace of inner purification so that it does not become necessary to pass once more through one of those terrible, gigantic destructions which plunge an entire civilisation into darkness? This is the problem before us. It is for each one to solve it in his own way. This evening I am answering the questions I have been asked, and my reply is that of Sri Aurobindo: If man could once consent to be spiritualised....

“And I add: Time presses... from the human point of view (2).”


1. Sri Aurobindo. The Complete Works of Sri Aurobindo, Volume 21 & 22. Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust; 2005, pp. 1090-91.

2. The Mother. The Collected Works of the Mother, Volume 9. 3rd ed. Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust; 2003, pp. 74-75.

1“All would change if man could once consent to be spiritualised; but his nature, mental and vital and physical, is rebellious to the higher law. He loves his imperfection.”

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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Artificial Intelligence






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Sri Aurobindo