Chapter XXV: The Knot of Matter – Synopsis


The Knot of Matter

  • The sharp division between the Spirit and Matter created by our long habit of mind has no longer any fundamental reality. Matter is the culmination of the principle of Ignorance. This is the fundamental opposition Matter presents to Spirit. At the level of material workings, Consciousness has lost and forgotten itself in a form of its works. The brute and inconscient material Force eternally creates and destroys without knowing what it creates or why it creates at all or why it destroys what once it has created.
  • Behind this brutal appearance of Matter, it is the Consciousness which had lost itself returning again to itself. This process of emergence happens slowly, painfully as a Life, first insensitive, slowly acquiring the capacity to perceive and feel and fully self-aware in humans. It tries to go beyond this self-awareness to become divinely self-conscious, free, infinite and immortal. In this journey Ignorance and limitation are imposed on Life at every step by Matter.
  • The bondage of Matter to mechanic law results in a colossal Inertia which is the second fundamental opposition Matter offers to Spirit. Matter is under colossal inertia and it opposes to all that seeks to liberate from it. Matter though giant in its scale of operations, is rigidly chained by a fixed mechanic Law which is imposed on it.
  • When Life awakes in Matter it imposes its power on physical form and material force. When Mind awakes in Life it uses its knowledge to impose its own freer law and self-guiding action upon material things. Material Nature seems to yield to the working of Life and Mind upon it. Matter cooperates with them, reluctantly only after a struggle and only up to a certain point. Beyond this point it presents an obstinate inertia, obstruction and negation. Life is bound to narrowness and death. Mind is subject to deviation and error and grossness of the material life-instincts.
  • The third fundamental opposition Matter offers to Spirit is the principle of division and struggle. Though in reality Matter is indivisible, divisibility is its whole basis of action. Only two methods by which union is possible, either through the aggregation of units or an assimilation of one unit by another. Both these methods admit the principle of eternal division, admitting the constant possibility and the ultimate necessity of dissociation and dissolution. Both presuppose as the condition of world-existence a constant struggle of the divided units with each other.
  • The vital principle (Life) when manifesting its activities in Matter takes this as the basis only for all its activities. It has to accept the law of death, desire and limitation and undergo that constant struggle to devour, possess, dominate which we have seen as the first aspect of Life. When the mental principle manifests in Matter it has to work within the rigid mould and material of Matter. The Mind always seeks knowledge but is unable to secure its knowledge on firm basis.
  • The law of pain and suffering is imposed on the vital and mental existence by the ignorance, inertia and division of Matter because, the mental consciousness is not entirely ignorant, cannot remain satisfied in some shell of custom and remain unaware of its own ignorance; the vital sentience (sense perception) emerging in Matter in not entirely inert, not satisfied with its own half-conscious limited existence. They are aware of the infinite consciousness, infinite power and immortal existence in which they live as part of and yet separated from it.
  • Life becomes wholly self-conscious in man. The unavoidable struggle and effort of his vital existence, aspiration of his mental existence amidst the Ignorance, Inertia and Division of Matter reach their peak in man and he begins to feel the pain and discord of the world. Man may quiet himself by seeking to be satisfied with his limitations or confine his struggle only to the extent of gaining some mastery over this material world in which he lives. But here too, man only meets with his limitation. Whatever great results he can achieve remain inconclusive. He strives to go beyond.
  • The apparently finite being in man feels himself to be really an infinite. Or he merely feels the presence of an infinite, its impulse and stirring within him. He can never be satisfied till the Infinite is possessed by him and he is possessed by it. He is the first being on earth who becomes dimly aware of the Divine Presence in him and his Immortality and his need of immortality.
  • The principle of rigid division from which Matter has started affects the man throughout, in his physical, emotional and mental levels. Each individual is shut up in his own personal and egoistic consciousness of separate and limited mind, life and body. This separateness prevents what would be otherwise the natural law of our development. Each one feels his body different from the other body. It brings into our body the law of attraction and repulsion. The body is subject to the law of discord and pain. Each body feels itself exposed to the attack and forceful impacts of other such limited conscious-forces or of universal forces.
  • The law of division also operates in the emotional and sense-mind. It brings the same reactions as that of a body but with the higher values: grief and joy, love and hatred, oppression and depression. We experience these states either in terms of fulfilment or unfulfillment of our desires. Into the mind the law of division brings into the mind similar dualities. We do not arrive at the whole truth; it is pursued by error. We do not receive the true light; it is accompanied by darkness.
  • All this means the denial and negation of Sat-Chit-Ananda which we feel cannot be overcome by us. Therefore, we are driven to the conclusion that this existence is purposeless and useless; life must be abandoned in the end as a vain attempt, a colossal mistake, a delusion of the spirit living within the body. This forms the whole basis of the pessimist theory of the world. One tends to look with optimism only at the worlds and states beyond this earthly existence.
  • According to them, the principle of division is not proper to Matter but to Mind. Matter is only an illusion of Mind. Mind brings its own rule of division and ignorance into the Matter. Therefore, Mind can find itself only within this illusion. It can travel between the three terms of the divided existence it has created i.e., body(matter), life and mind. It cannot find there the unity of the Spirit or the truth of the spiritual existence.
  • It is true that the principle of division in Matter can be only a creation of the divided Mind. It is the Mind which had descended into Matter and had precipitated itself into the material existence. Because the material existence has no self-being. It is only a form created by an all-dividing Life-force which works out the conceptions of an all-dividing Mind. The dividing Mind works out being (substance, Sat) into the appearances of the Ignorance, inertia and division of Matter. By doing so, the Mind has lost and imprisoned itself in a dungeon of its own building.
  • If it is true that the dividing Mind is the first principle of creation then it would lead to the conclusion that Mind is the ultimate attainment possible in the creation. We find that our mental being struggles with Life and Matter without result. This goes on endlessly as a fruitless cycle. Mental being must be the last and highest word of cosmic existence. If we subscribe to this view, then Mind is the ultimate and the last principle on this earth; Man cannot go beyond his present stage.
  • Sri Aurobindo says, Mind is not the creator of this world. On the contrary, it is the immortal and infinite Spirit that has veiled itself in the dense robe of material substance. It works there by the supreme creative power of Supermind. It permits the divisions of Mind and the rule of the matter only as initial conditions for a certain evolutionary play of the One in the Many. If that is the case, then the emergence of consciousness out of the apparently Inconscient must have another and completer term. That is, from Matter to Life to Mind and finally to Supermind.
  • The emergence of a supramental being would liberate the mind from the knot of its divided existence. The individualisation of mind would be merely a useful subordinate action of the all-embracing Supermind. The supramental being would liberate the life also from the knot of its divided existence. The individualisation of life would be merely a useful subordinate action of the Conscious-Force. Life would no more be a divided existence separated from one another.
  • The supramental being would also liberate the bodily existence from the present law of death, division and mutual devouring (eating). It would use individualisation of body merely as a useful subordinate term of the one divine Conscious-Existence (Sat). Such a body would be made for the service for the joy of the Infinite in a finite individual.
  • The spirit also would be free though it would be a supreme occupant of a form. The Matter would be its changing robe yet the spirit would be consciously immortal in it. Man would be the inhabitant of this worldly existence through whom the transformation of the mental into the supramental would take place.
  • Our present view of Matter (based on our limited senses) and its laws represent the relation between sense and substance as the only relation possible. We cannot take a view that if other relations could be possible, they must be sought on higher planes than on the earthly existence. Such an approach would rule out the ultimate terrestrial possibility of divinisation of matter.
  • There are other states even of Matter itself. There is an ascending series of the divine gradations of substance. There is possibility that the material being will transfigure itself through acceptation of a higher law than its own. Sri Aurobindo concludes this chapter by saying that the laws that operate at the level of matter are not permanent. They are subject to change.