Certainly, if that body, life and consciousness were limited to the possibilities of the gross body which are all that our physical senses and physical mentality accept, there would be a very narrow term for this evolution, and the human being could not hope to accomplish anything essentially greater than his present achievement. But this body, as ancient occult science discovered, is not the whole even of our physical being; this gross density is not all of our substance. The oldest Vedantic knowledge tells us of five degrees of our being, the material, the vital, the mental, the ideal, the spiritual or beatific and to each of these grades of our soul there corresponds a grade of our substance, a sheath as it was called in the ancient figurative language.
It is the common perception that ‘body’ means our gross physical body. Our physical senses and physical mentality will accept only our gross physical body. But, in truth, our body, life and consciousness are not limited to the possibilities of the gross body alone. The evolution is not restricted to the narrow term of our gross body alone. If our gross body alone is the determining factor, then we cannot accomplish anything greater than our present achievement.
Ancient occult science discovered that our gross body does not constitute the whole of even our physical being. This gross density of our body is not at all our substance. The oldest Vedantic knowledge (Taittiriya Upanishad) speaks of five degrees of our being: the material(annamaya), the vital(pranamaya), the mental(manomaya), the ideal(vijnanamaya), the spiritual or beatific (anandamaya). To each of these grades of our souls (Purushas) there is a corresponding grade of substance, a sheath (Kosha).
A later psychology found that these five sheaths of our substance were the material of three bodies, gross physical, subtle and causal, in all of which the soul actually and simultaneously dwells, although here and now we are superficially conscious only of the material vehicle. But it is possible to become conscious in our other bodies as well and it is in fact the opening up of the veil between them and consequently between our physical, psychical and ideal personalities which is the cause of those “psychic” and “occult” phenomena that are now beginning to be increasingly though yet too little and too clumsily examined, even while they are far too much exploited.
It was found by a later psychology that these five sheaths of our substance were the material of three bodies, gross physical (sthoola), subtle (sukshma) and causal (karana).
(The gross body is the physical body; the subtle body contains the life, the emotional, the mental and the ranges beyond what we call by name ‘occult’. Subtler than these is the ideal or the causal body that is proper to the supramental being – Shri M.P.Pandit – Talks on the Life Divine, p.166)
Though we are superficially conscious of only our material body, the soul actually and simultaneously dwells in all the bodies.
It is possible for us to become conscious in our other bodies (subtle & causal) as well. The opening up of the veil between them (subtle and causal) and between our physical, psychical and ideal personalities is the cause of the “psychic” and “occult” phenomena. These phenomena are now being increasingly examined though in an imperfect manner. Yet they are far too much exploited.
The old Hathayogins and Tantriks of India had long ago reduced this matter of the higher human life and body to a science. They had discovered six nervous centres of life in the dense body corresponding to six centres of life and mind faculty in the subtle, and they had found out subtle physical exercises by which these centres, now closed, could be opened up, the higher psychical life proper to our subtle existence entered into by man, and even the physical and vital obstructions to the experience of the ideal and spiritual being could be destroyed. It is significant that one prominent result claimed by the Hathayogins for their practices and verified in many respects was a control of the physical life-force which liberated them from some of the ordinary habits or so-called laws thought by physical science to be inseparable from life in the body.
This matter of the higher human life and body was considered as a science by the old Hathayogins and Tantriks of India. They had discovered six nervous centres (Chakras – Muladhara, Svadhisthana, Manipura,Anahata, Visuddhi and Ajna) of life in the gross body corresponding to six centres of life and mind faculty in the subtle body. They had devised subtle physical exercises (Asanas, Pranayama, Kriya) by which these centres, which are normally closed, can be opened up.
By these exercises man can enter into the higher psychical life proper to our subtle existence; even the physical and vital obstructions to the experience of the ideal and spiritual being can be destroyed. A Hathayogin can exercise control of the physical life-force (Prana) by which he is liberated from the ordinary habits or the so-called laws of the physical science which are considered inseparable from the life in the body.
(This opening of the outer to the inner realms is possible because there are certain centres, what we call centres of consciousness which when activated open and let a free interchange take place between the subtler levels of our being and the outer. There are the lotuses or the chakras; it is not that there are some wheels there or lotuses; the configuration of the subtle nerve channels is such that they appear like wheels, as if they are closed petals of a lotus. These centres are not even in the physical body, they are in the subtle physical body, but with corresponding spots of direct action in the physical body. Because, there is this possibility of interchange between the inner levels and the outer, because there is a continuation interpenetration at the different levels of the being as we evolve, we find it possible to impose the law of the condition of a higher level on the lower level; that is how the whole evolution proceeds – Shri M.P.Pandit: Talks on The Life Divine, p. 166)
Behind all these terms of ancient psycho-physical science lies the one great fact and law of our being that whatever be its temporary poise of form, consciousness, power in this material evolution, there must be behind it and there is a greater, a truer existence of which this is only the external result and physically sensible aspect. Our substance does not end with the physical body; that is only the earthly pedestal, the terrestrial base, the material starting-point.
Our physical being is only a temporary poise of form, consciousness and power in this evolution of Matter. It is a great fact and law of our being that a greater, a truer existence exists behind our superficial bodily existence. This is what our ancient psycho-physical science tries to prove through their terminology. Our outer body is only the external result and physically sensible aspect. Our material body is only the earthly pedestal, the terrestrial base, the material starting point. Our substance does not end with the body but extends far beyond it.
As there are behind our waking mentality vaster ranges of consciousness subconscient and superconscient to it of which we become sometimes abnormally aware, so there are behind our gross physical being other and subtler grades of substance with a finer law and a greater power which support the denser body and which can by our entering into the ranges of consciousness belonging to them be made to impose that law and power on our dense matter and substitute their purer, higher, intenser conditions of being for the grossness and limitation of our present physical life and impulses and habits.
Behind our waking mentality vaster ranges of consciousness exist. They are subconscient and superconscient to us. Sometimes we become abnormally aware of them. Likewise, other and subtler grades of substance exist behind our gross physical being with a finer law and a greater power. They support our denser body.
We can enter into the ranges of consciousness belonging to them. By doing so, we can make them impose their law and power on our dense body. We can make them substitute their purer, higher, intenser conditions of being for the grossness and limitation of our physical life, impulses and habits.
If that be so, then the evolution of a nobler physical existence not limited by the ordinary conditions of animal birth and life and death, of difficult alimentation and facility of disorder and disease and subjection to poor and unsatisfied vital cravings ceases to have the appearance of a dream and chimera and becomes a possibility founded upon a rational and philosophic truth which is in accordance with all the rest that we have hitherto known, experienced or been able to think out about the overt and secret truth of our existence.
What will be the ultimate result of operation of law and power of highest planes of consciousness on our physical being?
Man will evolve into a nobler physical existence. It will not be limited by the ordinary conditions of animal birth and life and death. The body will not have the necessity of struggle to nourish itself. There will be no more disorder and diseas e. The body will no more be subject to poor and unsatisfied vital desires. All these possibilities will become realities and no more be a wild and unrealistic dream.
These possibilities will be founded upon a rational and philosophic truth. It will be in line with all the rest that we have known until now, experienced or able to think about the outward and secret truth of our existence.
So it should rationally be; for the uninterrupted series of the principles of our being and their close mutual connection is too evident for it to be possible that one of them should be condemned and cut off while the others are capable of a divine liberation. The ascent of man from the physical to the supramental must open out the possibility of a corresponding ascent in the grades of substance to that ideal or causal body which is proper to our supramental being, and the conquest of the lower principles by supermind and its liberation of them into a divine life and a divine mentality must also render possible a conquest of our physical limitations by the power and principle of supramental substance.
The uninterrupted series of the principles our being and their mutual connection is too evident. Our physical body is closely connected to various ranges of our subtler states of consciousness. Therefore, it would not be possible that our physical body should be condemned and cut off while higher ranges of our being are capable of divine realisation. Our physical body does not exist in isolation separated from its subtler sheaths.
Man will ascend form the physical to the supramental. This will open out the possibility of a corresponding ascent in the grades of substance to that ideal or causal body. The ideal or causal body is a body corresponding to the Supramental plane. There will be conquest of the lower principles by supermind and they will be liberated into a divine life and a divine mentality. This must also make possible a conquest of our physical limitations by the power and principle of supramental substance.
And this means the evolution not only of an untrammelled consciousness, a mind and sense not shut up in the walls of the physical ego or limited to the poor basis of knowledge given by the physical organs of sense, but a life-power liberated more and more from its mortal limitations, a physical life fit for a divine inhabitant and,—in the sense not of attachment or of restriction to our present corporeal frame but an exceeding of the law of the physical body,—the conquest of death, an earthly immortality. For from the divine Bliss, the original Delight of existence, the Lord of Immortality comes pouring the wine of that Bliss, the mystic Soma, into these jars of mentalised living matter; eternal and beautiful, he enters into these sheaths of substance for the integral transformation of the being and nature.
This means evolution of unhindered consciousness; the mind and sense will no more be bound by the walls of physical ego or limited by the poor basis of knowledge given by our physical sense organs. Not only that, our life-power will be liberated more and more from its mortal (bodily) limitations. The physical life will be fit for a divine inhabitant.
There will be conquest of death, an earthly immortality. The Lord of Immortality comes pouring the original Delight of existence into the jars of mentalised living matter (Man). He enters into these sheaths of substance for the integral transformation of the being and nature.
(Sri Aurobindo points out, however, that conquest of death, attainment of immortality, need not mean attachment to the particular physical body in which one exists, but it means a freedom to change the frame without losing continuity. Such a person does not die; he can cast aside a body and enter into another at will. There is no gap, there is no break; the immortality is always in consciousness not in the physical body. There is conquest of death in the sense that such a body, which has been transformed by the imposition of higher law, does not die, but it can at its will disintegrate. This conception has been there for long in the Indian tradition, they call it, death-at-will* – Shri M.P.Pandit: Talks on The Life Divine, p. 167)