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Sri Aurobindo on Laws of Nature


Sri Aurobindo Archives

April 1980

Pg. 43-44

"We arrive at this formula of the conception of Law in Nature;

Law of Nature is a fixed process formed by the universal self-conscious will of Ishwara; it is in its nature a particular or a general movement of that force. So long as it is maintained, it is binding on things in nature, but not binding except by His own Will on Ishwara. Fundamental or ‘eternal' laws of Nature are those general processes or movements in Conscious Being in which the rhythm of the universe is framed and they would naturally endure unabrogated so long as that rhythm itself is sustained, as it is, in the Will and Being of God.

 The Vedantic conception of Causality is equally determined by this initial and fundamental idea of the relation between mechanical process of Nature and the living Will of God. Cause, to the Vedantin, is nimitta, determining means, special determining factor; it is the particular manipulation, impact or application of motive force which brings out of a preexistent arrangement or condition of things new or modified condition and arrangement, the difference effected constituting result. Oxygen and hydrogen as separately manifest gases, the atmosphere, the ether,--or to put it in the old concrete symbolical language of Indian philosophy, the combined presence of Agni, Vayu and Akasha, form in their arranged shapes and relations the preexistent condition; contact and mixture of the two forces with the new vibrations set up by the new relation, sparsa and sabda, are the nimitta, the determining means; the new apparent condition of things, the rupa, shape of water, is the result. Agni latent in the ether and atmosphere is the preexistent condition; friction of the two aranis and the resultant vibrations, sparsa and sabda, are the nimitta ; the sacrificial fire is the result. A seed planted in favourable ground is the preexistent condition, sun and rain; agni and jala, are the nimitta; the appearance of an oak tree is the result.

 In each case, what has really happened is that in a certain arrangement of the current workings and a certain relation of the worked out shapes of Force - in this case of the active Life-Energy in the material world-a new arrangement was always potential and latent, water involved in  hydrogen, fire involved in the tinder-wood, the oak tree involved in the seed and a particular process, that is to say a particular working (karma or apas) of the same Force, the same Life-Energy, has been used to evoke the new shape of things out of latency, out of avyakta, and bring it into manifestation, into vyakta. The previous existence of the oak tree in the seed is not admitted by us because it is not there in realized form and to our erroneous notions realized form is alone reality. But realized form is only the material appearance of a truer reality which  is not shaped in matter but only in consciousness: the oak tree is in the seed, not in form but in being; for the form is only a circumstance of being and it is contained and latent in the being out of which it is born and which it expresses to formal vision. This latency and this process of manifestation in varying time and place by varying nimitta is, says Vedanta, the whole sense of phenomenal existence.

Page 59-65

The world in which we live seems to our normal experience of it to be a material world; matter is its first term, matter is its last. Life-energy and mind-energy seem to exist as middle terms; but though their existence and activity cannot be denied or ignored, so omnipresent, insistent and victorious is the original element out of which they have emerged that we are led to view them as terms of matter only; originating out of matter, formulated in matter, resolved back into matter, what else can they be than modifications of the sole-existing material principle? The human mind seeks a unity always, and the one unity which seems reasonably established here, is this unity of matter. Therefore, in the fine and profound apologue of the Taittiriya Upanishad, we are told that when Bhrigu Varuni was bidden by his father Varuna to discover, entering  into tapas in his thought, what is Brahman, his first conclusion was naturally and inevitably this that matter is the sole Existence, Annam Brahma. "For verily out of Matter are these existences born, by Matter they live, into Matter they pass away and enter in." We arrive, then, by reason considering only the forms of things and the changes and developments and disintegrations of form, at the culmination of Materialistic Rationalism and a Monism of Matter. Annam brahma vyajanat.

            But here we cannot rest; driven by the Tapas, the self-force of the eternal Truth within to an ever-increasing self-knowledge and world-knowledge, we begin to analyse, to sound, to look at the insides of existence as well as its outsides. We then find that Matter seems to be only a term of something else, of Force, we say, or Energy which, the more we analyse it, assumes a more and more subtle immateriality and at last all material objects resolve themselves into constructions and forms of this subtle energy. Hoping to reconcile our old conceptions and our new results, we make, at first, a dualism of Force and Matter, but we know in our hearts that the two are one and we are driven at last to admit that ultimate unity. But what is this energy? It is, says the Vedanta, Prana, Matarishwan, Life-Force or Vital Energy, that which organises itself in man as nervous energy and creates and carries on the processes and activities of life in material form. We have, therefore, in the world we inhabit, a unity of Life-Energy in its actions as well as a unity of matter in its formal changes. For modern thinking the problem is complicated by the narrow restriction of the idea of life first, popularly, to the material then, more widely, to all forms of which organic growth and nervous response are the characteristic activities. Vedantic thought sees, on the contrary, that all energy apparent in matter is one Life-Energy; nervous force, electric force, even mental force so far as it works in matter are different forms of one working, which it calls Pranashakti, Energy of Life, formulated force of Existence throwing itself out in the currents and knotting itself into the vessels of its self-adaptive material working. Life, as we know it, is the characteristic fulfillment of this stream of being. According to the Vedantic idea the characteristic form of any energy is to be recognized by us not in its lowest, but in its highest expression. The higher form is not a new creation of something previously non-existent out of the lower form--for such a principle is essentially Nihilistic and leads inexorably to Nothingness as the starting-point of existence, and to the Vedantic idea nothing can be created which does not already exist, nothing can be evolved which is not already involved. Life-energy of man is involved in life-energy of plant, metal and sod; it is that which manifests itself by veiled and obscure workings in these more imperfect vessels. We see, then, by closer scrutiny, Matter as only a form of Life, organic or inorganic, perfected in nervous action or obscure in mechanical energies. Obsessed by this discovery, living in this medial term of our consciousness, seeing all things from our new standpoint we come to regard Mind also as a term or working of Life. Bhrigu Varuni, bidden by his father back to his austerities of thought, finds a second and, it would seem, a truer formula. He sees Life as the sole Existence, Pranam Brahma. "For from the Life, Verily, are all these existences born; being born they live by the Life, to the Life they pass away and enter in." Our physical body at death is resolved into various forms of energy; the mind which inhabits the nervous system dissolves also and is or seems to be no more, except in its posthumous effect on others, an organised active force in the material world. We arrive, then, by reason considering the energies of things in their forms and the movement (of) the forces that constitute their changes, activities, development and disintegration, at the culmination of vitalistic Rationalism and a Monism of the Life-Energy. Prano brahmeti vyajanat.

            Here too the mind of man, after finding this second goal of its journeyings, discovers that which it took for a final haven to be only a resting place. Life-Energy and Material Form or substance of Life-Energy constitute together the outward body of sensible things, the sthula sarira or gross body of Brahman. But, as we pursue, our analyzing and probing, we begin to suspect that Mind is an entity different from either Matter of Life-Energy. Matter and Life reveal themselves to the mind through its own results and outward working,--it knows itself also both independently of the workings and in their more subtle movements, by itself, in itself atmanyatmanam atmana. We perceive, besides, that man is essentially a mental and not a vital being; he lives for himself in the mind, is aware of his existence through the mind, knows and judges all things only as they form themselves to his mind. The speculation then inevitably arises whether as we found Life to be concealed in apparently inert matter and eventually knew Life to be the parent and constituent of material forms, we shall not, as the next step of knowledge, find Mind to be concealed in apparently unconscious forms of life-matter, the parent, constituent and motor impulse both of all life-energies and of all forms and forces in which Life here is either formulated or embodied. But there are difficulties in the way of this conception. First, mind knows itself by itself only in individual body which possesses it; it is unable, normally, to watch itself in other bodies or perceive there, directly, its own presence and workings, it only knows itself there by analogy, by deduction, by perceiving through the senses the outward or formal effects of its presence and workings. All that is outside the individual form it inhabits, my mind knows by the senses only, and its own workings seem to consist simply of the nervous reception of this sense knowledge, the nervous reaction to it, the formulation of this experience in mental values and the various arrangement and rearrangement of the values formulated. Secondly, these values do not appear to be fixed independently by mind, as they would be if mind were the creator of forces and objects; mind appears to us to be not their master but their servant, although sometimes a rebellious servant, not their creator, poitetes, but their translator and interpreter. Thirdly, mind seems unable to create life or to create or change material forms by its direct action. I cannot, by willing, add to my stature or change my features, much less alter forms external to my own. Just as it knows only by the senses, the jnanendriyas, so mind seems able to effect life and matter only through its bodily instruments of action,  -- the karmendriyas. The instances to the contrary are so exceptional, obscure and fragmentary that no conclusion can be formed upon such scattered and ill-understood data.

            Nevertheless Vedantic thought insists. Knowledge, taught by experience, distrusts all first appearances and looks always behind them for the true truth of things. What is exceptional we must examine, what is ill-combined we must arrange, what is obscure we must illuminate. For it is often only by pursuing and examining the obscure and exceptional action of a force itself and the rule of its obvious and ordinary action. It is not through the leap of the lightning, but through the study of the electric wire and the action of the wireless current that we get near to the true nature and the fixed laws of electricity. As life is obscure and imperfect in the plant and metal and its full character only eventually appears in man, so also mind is imperfect, if not obscure in man's present mental workings; its full character can emerge either  in a better evolved humanity or else in a more developed and, to present ideas, an abnormal and improbable working of its now hampered forces even in our present humanity. The ancient Vedantins therefore experimented as daringly and insatiably with mind as modern scientists with life-forces; they deployed in this research an imaginative audacity and a boundless credulity in the possibilities of mind as extreme as the imaginative audacity and the boundless credulity in the possibilities of force working in matter deployed by the modern in his more external experiments and researches; the had too the same insatiable appetite for verification and more verification, -- for without this harmony of boundless belief and inexorable scrutiny there can be no fruitful science; reason in man cannot accomplish knowledge without force of faith; faith cannot be secure in knowledge without force of reason.

            Thus experimenting, the Vedantin discovered above mind in life the principle of pure Mind. He found that mind exists in the cosmos pure and untrammeled, but manifests in material forms imprisoned and trammeled. Mind subject to life and matter, erring in the circle of life and matter, he perceived as mortal mind, martya or manus of the Veda, the human thinker; mind pure and fee he perceived as divine mind, deva or daivya ketu of the Veda, the divine seer and knower. He found, first, that mind really exists in man in its own self-sufficient consciousness, independently of the sense life turned upon the outer material world, even when it can only work or actually only works through the senses. Secondly, he found that mind in one form or body subconsciously and super-consciously knows and can watch mind and mind's working in other bodies directly or by means independent of sense-communication and the watching of speech and action, and can, more or less perfectly, bring this subconscious and superconscious knowledge into the field of our waking or life-consciousness. He found, thirdly, that mind can know external objects also without using the ordinary channel of the senses. He found, fourthly, that the values put by mind upon outer impacts and its reactions to them are determined not by the impacts themselves but by the general formulations and habitual responses of Mind itself in the universal Being and these fixed and formulated values and reactions can be varied by it, can be suspended, can be entirely reversed, can be infinitely combined at will in the individual vessel called the human being. Fifthly, mind can and does by will, ketu can by kratu, used actively or passively, consciously, subconsciously or superconsciously, without the aid of the karmendriyas modify even life-forms and action of life-forces and does it even now, swiftly or slowly, to a greater or less degree -- as is evident from the phenomena of heredity and hypnotism, -- can determine directly the action of energy in other bodies, animate or even inanimate, can modify existing forms of things and can even arrive, though with much greater difficulty, at the direct creation of forms by the mental will. All these powers, however, are powers of the pure or divine mind and can only be consciously exercised in our mortality, so long as they are abnormal to it, if and so far as the universal Being originates and sanctions their use in the individual; they can be possessed as normal faculties only by a humanity which has climbed out of its present struggling entanglement in mortal being and the subjection of the motion of mind to the motion of life and matter, by a humanity in other words which has divinised itself and reached the high and free terms of its evolution. If these ancient results are at all correct -and the whole trend of modern scientific experiment, as soon as it consents at all to dissect practically and analyse and manipulate experimentally mind as a separate force, then we can enter on a third stage of the march of knowledge. The intellectual difficulties in the way of our surpassing the vitalistic conception of world have disappeared. We begin to move, at first, towards a noumenistic monism of the universe. For if mind in man can determine, manipulate, modify and create not only the sensational values of forms and forces and impacts, but the forms and force and impacts themselves, it is because in the universe these values, these forms, these forces have, originally and secretly, been fixed, created and moved by universal mind and are really its evolutions and formations. All forms of life-energy in this world are formations of mental force in which the principle of mind broods self absorbed in work of life and concealed in form of life to emerge in man, the mental being. Just as life, working but form-absorbed and concealed in the clod and metal, has emerged in the plant and the animal to organise its full character and activity, so it is with mind. Mind is omnipresent; it does mechanically the works of intelligence in bodies not organised for its self-conscious workings; in the animal it is partly self-conscious but not yet perfectly able to stand apart form its works and contemplate them, for the animal has more of sanjna that of prajna, more of sensational perceptive consciousness that of contemplative conceptual consciousness. In man first it stands back, contemplates and becomes truly "prajna", knowledge working with its forms and forces placed before it as objects of its scrutiny. But this evolution is the result and sign of a previous involution. Mind in the universe precedes, contains and constitutes life-action and material formation. Bhrigu Varuni, once more bidden by his father back to his austerity of thought, perceives a third and profounder formula of things. He sees Mind as that sole Existence, Mano Brahma. "For from mind these existences are born, being born by mind they live, into mind they pass away and enter in." For as all forms that dissolve go back into the life-forces that constitute and build their shapes, so all forces that dissolve must go back into the sea of mental being by which and out of which they are formulated, impelled and conducted. We arrive, by reason investigating the essential causes, governance and constituting intelligence of all these energies and forms which determines and manifests in their functions, methods and purposes, at the culmination of pure Idealistic Rationalism and the Monism of mind. Mano Brahmeti vyajana.


132-the had too the same

132-the had too the same insatiable appetite -they had too the same insatiable appetite

139-mind pure and fee -mind pure and free

154-to a greater or less degree-to a greater or lesser degree 

183-profounder formula-profound formula

story | by Dr. Radut