CHAPTER XIX – Life – Synopsis (Contd…)
- The soul as a nucleus draws to itself and groups around itself, the elements of its mental, vital and physical sheaths and their contents and increases these formations in life. When the soul leaves the body, it drops and disaggregates these formed elements. It draws back into itself its inner powers till in the next birth it repeats the original process.
- Life is essentially the same everywhere from atom to man. Life is a universal operation of Conscious-Force in three stages. In the lowest, the vibration is still in the sleep of Matter; it is entirely subconscious and wholly mechanical. In the middle stage the vibration becomes capable of a response which is still submental but on the verge of consciousness. The highest is that in which life develops conscious mentality.
- When we talk of Life, we usually mean the nerve-energy, the Prana or Life-force. But nerve-energy is only the form it takes in the animal being. The same Pranic energy is present in all forms down to the atom. Everywhere it is the same in essence and the same operation of Conscious-Force. This is the whole significance of omnipresent Life that has manifested and inhabits the material universe.
Death, Desire and Incapacity
In the beginning all was covered by Hunger that is Death; that made for itself Mind so that it might attain to possession of self.
HUNGER THAT IS DEATH
It is life that builds this formed existence. Out of Matter Life shapes innumerable forms, sustains them and dissolves them to make them anew. In each form that it creates Life infuses itself: universal Life individualises itself. And this life in each form identifies itself with the ego of the form and sets itself against other forms of Life and even against the universal Life of which it is a single current.
It is the nature of life to feed itself on other lives: the universal Life constantly invades the individual life-formations and seeks to absorb them; each individual life preys upon other lives and seeks to protect itself against the larger Life. Thus there is a constant war going on between the different placements of life and between universal Life and the individual life. Thus the rule of Life is characterised by mutual devouring; the eater eating is eaten.
Even with the individual, the life-force feeds on the material body even as it spends itself maintaining that physical organism. Everywhere Life is a Hunger, a hunger that is satisfied only when it swallows up what it attacks. This absorption means the dissolution of the form that has embodied the life-force which is taken up; that is death. Death is not the end of life but a reconstitution of life in another form. For Life is immortal.
In the beginning, however, this Life is not overtly conscious. It is driven by Nature and apparently devoid of consciousness. In the course of evolution, Life slowly puts out the rudiments of a mind. From its sub-mental stage it develops into semi-mental and gradually a mental stage. Life becomes conscious and in so doing it assumes control over itself. It is the development of mind, consciousness that makes it possible for Life to acquire mastery over its movements and its direction. Life comes to know itself with the emergence of the Mind.
This is the Power discovered by the mortal that has the multitude of its desires so that it may sustain all things; it takes the taste of all foods and builds a house for the being.
In the nature of things Life seeks to aggrandise itself by possessing everything that comes within its range. It goes on desiring to appropriate lesser forms of itself. It grows on what it eats and goes on to create fresh forms with which to people the universe. Thus Life is a Power that constantly longs to sustain itself on more and more forms of life; it is driven by desire and it is again by desire that it builds fresh forms to expand its empire. It tastes the savour of all existences in this material universe and organises homes for the evolving selves on earth. Each soul is provided by this Life-Force with a dwelling, a body, in which to house itself and seek experience for its growth. When that house becomes old, decrepit, the Life-Force dissolves it and provides the soul with another dwelling in which to pursue its career in the adventure of the Spirit.
(Source: Shri M.P.Pandit, Legends in The Life Divine, p. 57-59, Dipti Publications, Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Puducherry)
IN OUR last chapter we have considered Life from the point of view of the material existence and the appearance and working of the vital principle in Matter and we have reasoned from the data which this evolutionary terrestrial existence offers. But it is evident that wherever it may appear and however it may work, under whatsoever conditions, the general principle must be everywhere the same. Life is universal Force working so as to create, energise, maintain and modify, even to the extent of dissolving and reconstructing, substantial forms with mutual play and interchange of an overtly or secretly conscious energy as its fundamental character. In the material world we inhabit Mind is involved and subconscious in Life, just as Supermind is involved and subconscious in Mind, and this Life instinct with an involved subconscious Mind is again itself involved in Matter.
We have seen in the last chapter that Life is involved in Matter. From Matter it evolves upwards. Wherever Life may appear, however it may work, under whatsoever conditions, the general principle of Life always remains the same. Life in its outward workings may differ. But its essence is the same.
Life is a universal Force. It works to create, energise, maintain and modify substantial forms. It modifies forms to the extent of dissolving and reconstructing them. It does this work with mutual play and interchange of an apparently or secretly conscious energy as its fundamental character. In the animal world and in human beings the interchange is obvious; in the material world and the plant world the interchange is not obvious. Yet there is an interaction between various forms and with the environment.
In the material world we live, Mind is involved and subconscious in Life as Supermind is involved and subconscious in Mind. This Life instinct with an involved subconscious Mind is again itself involved in Matter.
Therefore Matter is here the basis and the apparent beginning; in the language of the Upanishads, Prithivi, the Earth-principle, is our foundation. The material universe starts from the formal atom surcharged with energy, instinct with the unformed stuff of a subconscious desire, will, intelligence. Out of this Matter apparent Life manifests and it delivers out of itself by means of the living body the Mind it contains imprisoned within it; Mind also has still to deliver out of itself the Supermind concealed in its workings. But we can conceive a world otherwise constituted in which Mind is not involved at the start but consciously uses its innate energy to create original forms of substance and is not, as here, only subconscious in the beginning. Still though the working of such a world would be quite different from ours, the intermediate vehicle of operation of that energy would always be Life. The thing itself would be the same, even if the process were entirely reversed.
The Upanishads say, Prithvi, the Earth-principle is our foundation. Matter is the basis and the apparent beginning (because the real beginning is from the Supermind). The material universe starts from the formal (meaning, that which constitutes a form) atom surcharged with energy. It has unformed (not sufficiently formed) stuff of a subconscious desire. Will and intelligence are present in it.
Apparent Life manifests out of this Matter. The Mind is contained and imprisoned in Life. Life delivers out of itself the Mind by means of the living body. The Supermind is concealed in the workings of the Mind. Mind has still to deliver out of itself the Supermind.
Presently we hold the view that Mind is involved subconsciously in the Matter from the start. On the contrary, we can think of a possibility of a world otherwise constituted with Mind not involved at the start; Mind could exist in a higher plane using its innate energy to create forms of substance. Still, the working of such a world would be different from ours. Yet the intermediate vehicle of operation of that energy would always be Life. Even if the process were entirely reversed (instead of Mind evolving from below, it could be descending from above) the thing itself would be the same.