Chapter XXVI: The Ascending Series of Substance – Synopsis


The Ascending Series of Substance

  • In our ordinary consciousness we call something as Matter by its aspects of solidity, tangibility, increasing resistance, firm response to the touch of Sense. In order that our consciousness perceives the substance in durable and firmly seizable images, the substance passes into material status.
  • In the scale of substance from Matter to Spirit, as Matter assumes more and more subtler states, there is a progressive diminution in its capacities of concentration, resistance and grossness and a progressive increase of the opposite characteristics with less and less bondage to form, more flexibility of substance and force, mutual fusion of forms and interchange. We draw near to the highest divine poise of infinity, unity and indivisibility of Spirit. Between these two poles of Matter and Spirit there is the possibility of an infinite gradation.
  • Presently our body, mind and life have to work within the limitations of Matter. But these limitations and deficiencies are not the only possible features of the cosmic Nature. There are superior states than our mental state and higher worlds than this physical world. We can progress and liberate our mental, vital and bodily substance from their present imperfections. Then, the laws of these higher worlds can be imposed on this sensible form and instrument of our being.
  • Even within this formula of physical universe there is an ascending series in the scale of Matter (Earth, Water, Fire, Air and Space or Ether). We cannot presume that some ethereal substance of Matter is the eternal beginning of the universe. Because, Matter is the last result of creation process originated by pure Substance and pure Force. There must be and there are grades between inconscient Matter and the pure substance.
  • One important aspect of the formulation in these gradations of substance is that they correspond to the ascending series of Matter, Life, Mind, Supermind and the higher triplicity of Sat-chit-ananda. The substance makes itself successively a characteristic vehicle of each these principles in their ascending series.
  • In this physical world everything is founded upon the formula of material substance- five senses for sense, nervous system and organs for life and instrumentation of brain for mind. In their essential nature there is no necessity for the mind, sense, life to be limited by material nature. Physical sense organs, nervous system and vital organs, brain are not creators of sense-perceptions, life’s actions and thought respectively. But they are the creation, the instruments and here a necessary convenience of the cosmic sense, cosmic Life force and cosmic Mind.
  • The necessity of senses, vital organs and brain are felt more because of the purpose they serve; their necessity is not absolute. The divine cosmic will in the material universe intends to put forward a physical relation between sense and its object to create physical images of Conscious-Being (Sat)to serve as the initial, dominating and determining fact of the world in which we live. It is not a fundamental law of being. But it is a constructive principle necessary for the intention of the Spirit to evolve in this world of Matter.
  • The first grade of substance is Matter. The next grade of substance is Life-Force. Here the initial, dominating, determining fact is life and conscious desire. All the forms, bodies and all movements of that world must be dominated and determined by this initial fact of Conscious-Life.
  • The next higher gradation to the gradation of Life is gradation of Mind. Here the dominating and determining factor is Mind. The Mind imposes shapes directly on the substance. The substance must be subtle and flexible enough to assume the shapes formed by Mind, to obey its operations. Here the relations of sense and substance are determined by the relation of Mind with the subtler substance upon which it works.
  • At a yet higher level, Supermind or at the intermediate level the principles touched by the Supermind or at a still higher level pure Being, a pure Conscious Power, a pure Bliss (Sat-chit-ananda) replace Mind as the dominant principle. We enter into the worlds of illuminated divine existence and foundation of Immortality as described by the old Vedic seers.
  • All cosmic existence is a complex harmony of many planes with a many runged ladder on which Being, consciousness, force, substance descend and ascend. On each step the being has a vaster self-extension; the consciousness has a wider sense of its own range and largeness and joy; force has a greater intensity and a more rapid and blissful capacity; the primal reality of substance becomes more subtle, plastic, buoyant and flexible, more powerful and less bounded to form.
  • Each plane of consciousness, each world of existence, each grade of substance, each degree of cosmic force is not cut off from that which precedes and that which follows it. Therefore, the ascending series of substance very much affect the possibilities of our material world. The manifestation of the Spirit is a complex weft. In the design and pattern of one principle all the others are contained as the elements of the spiritual whole.
  • Our material world is the result of all the other worlds. The other principles (Life, Mind-including all ranges of Mind, Supermind and Sachchidananda) have all descended into Matter to create the physical universe. Every particle of Matter contains all the other worlds implicit in itself. In every moment of the existence and activity of Matter the secret action of all other worlds is involved.
  • This material world is not something that begins and ends with gases and chemical compounds and physical forces and movements with suns and earths and stars. It is a place that evolves life, mind and must eventually evolve supermind and the higher degrees of the spiritual existence. There is an unceasing pressure of the supra-material planes on the material plane which causes the evolution. It compels the matter to deliver out of itself the principles and powers of the higher planes. If there is no pressure from the higher planes, the principles and powers might have slept imprisoned in the rigidity of Matter.
  • The mere evolution of these higher principles from Matter is not enough. Because, the matter allows these higher principles to emerge from itself only imperfectly and partially. The perfection of the higher realms must descent into the lower to remove these imperfections. As life evolves, as mind evolves, as supermind evolves they become more active and eager to realise their potentialities. What is needed is a fit receptacle, medium, instrument which is available in the body, life and consciousness of man.
  • Our body, life and consciousness are not limited to the possibilities of the gross body alone. If our gross body alone is the determining factor, then we cannot accomplish anything greater than our present achievement. 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).
  • These five sheaths of our substance are the material of three bodies, gross physical (sthoola), subtle (sukshma) and causal (karana). The opening up of the veil between our physical, psychical and ideal personalities is the cause of the “psychic” and “occult” phenomena. Hathayogins and Tantriks of India had discovered six nervous centres (Chakras) 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 and man can enter into the higher psychical life proper to our subtle existence.
  • There are other and subtler grades of substance that exist behind our gross physical being with a finer law and a greater power. We can enter into the ranges of consciousness belonging to them. We can make them substitute their purer, higher, intenser conditions of being for the grossness and limitation of our physical life, impulses and habits. Then, Man will evolve into a nobler physical existence not be limited by the ordinary conditions of animal birth and life and death.
  • 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. Man will ascend form the physical to the supramental. There will be conquest of the lower principles by supermind and they will be liberated into a divine life and a divine mentality.
  • 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 and our life-power will be liberated more and more from its mortal limitations leading to the conquest of death.