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2. Infinity as the Creator

According to current scientific thought, chance, necessity, and self-organizing systems acting independently, in combination or in synergy are the fundamental determinants of material existence, life and consciousness. Yet these God-like powers imply the existence of something else from which they have arisen and on the basis of which they act in the universe. Chance, necessity and self-organization are merely principles to explain the apparent order and variation in the world. They are principles of action or creation that may satisfactorily or unsatisfactorily explain the evolution of complexity in the universe, but they cannot explain the origin of the universe itself or of those many trillions of forms and forces of which it is constituted and populated. By all accounts, both material and spiritual, we are forced to posit an infinite existence or at least an infinite potential as the basis for all that exists. The true god of both science and religion is Infinity.

No matter how far we are able to trace back the origin of the present universe in time or how far we are able to project our imaginations into the future, we are unable to conceive of either a beginning or an end to temporal existence. Our universe may have been born, but if so, it was born of some prior condition, however unknowable or indescribable it may be by the methods of modern science. It may be that this is the first and only universe or, as some now suspect, one of perhaps millions of real or possible, successful or unviable universes that have been or will be born. Our universe may be presently confined and expanding within a limited sphere, but if it continues to expand indefinitely as recent evidence suggests, it is impossible to conceive of any spatial end or limit to its possible expansion. Even if it does reach a spatial limit or begin to contract, that in no way places a limit on the real or potential spatial expansion of other universes existing before, after or conterminous with our own. An Infinity of space and an Eternity of Time appear as the origin and foundation for all that has, does and will exist in future.

This infinite existence is not confined to mere spatial and temporal characteristics. For from it also have emerged the countless numbers and varieties of energy vibrations, particles, elements, molecules, stars, planets, forms, shapes, designs, and patterns that populate our universe. The numbers of each may be very large yet finite, but the potential number that might have existed, may exist now or may come in to existence can in no conceivable way be limited. So too, the number and variety of life forms with their infinite mutations cannot be subject to any limits. Nor the number and variety of elements of conscious human experiences – impulses, sensations, feeling, emotions, sentiments, attitudes, beliefs, values, thoughts, ideas. All these have arisen from something. We may not be able to say that it is or how they have arisen, but we are forced to conclude that it cannot be limited to any finite characteristics in space, time, number, property or quality. Science implicitly accepts this infinite foundation as the source and basis for all the materials out of which inconscient, inanimate chance, necessity and self-organizing complexity weave the warp and weft of universal existence.

What more can we say than this about the origin? Logic compels us to also conclude that all that has emerged or manifested as material existence, life form or conscious experience, all the energy, substance, forms, properties, qualities, designs and patterns must in some way pre-exist in potential in that origin, for if no such potential existed, they could not have emerged from it. They must be inherent characteristics or inherent potentialities of the Infinite. This Infinite must in some manner of speaking be or have the potential to create living conscious beings. How can something evolve out of something else unless it pre-exists at least as potential in that from which it has emerged?

If this line of thought is rational, then we are forced to reconsider not only the nature of the origin but also the nature of the instruments of chance and necessity through which it appears to effectuate an evolution of its involved potentialities. If life and consciousness are inherent characteristics or potentials of this infinite, then they may also be inherent characteristics of the forces or instruments through which this infinite manifests its potentialities. Such a line of reasoning ultimately runs up against the contradictory evidence of our senses and our science. To our experience, chance is only our way of describing the random acts of an inconscient material energy. Necessity is only our way of describing the fixity of inanimate automatic mechanism. We find not grounds for attributing life or consciousness to either, other than the fact that complex order, perfect precision, flawless design, mathematical architecture, intelligent adaptation, vibrant life and evolving consciousness apparently emerge by the actions of these instruments. The world is so precisely perfect in so many ways that it is easy to attribute, as countless civilizations and ages have done, intelligence and conscious intention to its creator.

The religious conception of an all-knowing, conscious divine will that creates and directs all things to fulfil its own intentions does not satisfy the modern scientific mind, for science does not find sufficient evidence in material nature to conclude that such a conscious will exists or intervenes in material or life processes. It observes complex works of nature that might well be the acts of a conscious will, but sees no glimpse of such a creator. On the contrary, it finds the universe populated by an infinite number and variety of apparently inconscient forces and forms contacting, interacting and evolving by their own motive force and according to their own inherent propensities without need of any intervention by a conscious being. Life emerges only millions of years after the first appearance of inconscient matter and conscious experience follows millions of years after that. Still we are left contemplating the mystery of how an inconscient, inanimate material force can ultimately give rise to living, conscious beings.

One way out is to assert, as science presently strives to do, that life and consciousness are merely complex expressions of material force and substance that have evolved through the inherent tendency of material systems to adapt and grow more complex. There is undoubtedly much in the behaviour of living beings that is so closely allied to physical processes and mechanisms that it is difficult to distinguish from action of physical energy. The response of Pavlov’s dog to the bell exemplifies the type of automatic and repeatable phenomenon widely observed in material nature, if only we ignore the fact that the dog’s response is learned and not innate. But an alternative hypothesis is possible that provides a more satisfying way out of this dilemma, which has not yet received sufficient consideration.

According to Sri Aurobindo, who presented this alternative hypothesis in its most complete and satisfying formulation in his magnum opus The Life Divine, the origin from which all matter, life and mind emerge is not an inconscient Infinite, but rather a Conscious Infinite. Life and mentality are higher order levels or planes of conscious existence that emerge out of material energy and substance because they are previously involved and inherent in all material energy and substance.

This alternative hypothesis fully explains the apparently inconscient, inanimate nature of material force as well as its capacity to give rise to the evolution of living beings and conscious experience. Rather than depicting life and mind as more evolved mechanisms or systems of material form and energy, it conceives matter as a less evolved form of conscious energy and substance in which life and mind are involved. Instead of reducing life and mind to complex mechanisms of matter, it elevates matter to the status of a simpler, less overt form of conscious existence which does not give full expression to its own inherent characteristics. The materialist hypothesis views matter as the first starting point for evolution of life and mind out of matter. The alternative hypothesis views matter as the final step of a complex creative process of involution of life and mind in matter. It is in this process of involution that it differs most strikingly from both the materialist hypothesis adopted by science and the hypotheses adopted by religions that affirm a conscious being as creator of the world.

It will be apparent from a review of the difficulties confronting the materialist hypothesis that no such problems arise when the origin is conceived of as a conscious infinite. The orderliness, extraordinary precision, architectural symmetry, beauty of design, purposeful interaction and interdependence of things and beings are easily explained when we concede the existence of a conscious creator. So also, the infinite variation, evolution and increasing complexity of things would be equally intelligible, since creativity is an inherent characteristic of conscious will and an infinite conscious should be capable of infinite creativity. The emergence of animate life and conscious mind would also be readily explained.

The real difficulty in accepting this alternative hypothesis lies not in explaining how life, consciousness, and complexity can arise out of an apparently inconscient energy but rather how an inconscient material energy and substance can arise out of a conscious infinite so very different from it in their apparent nature. The problem then would not be how to explain a conscious world built from inconscient materials, but how to explain finite, inconscient energy as the first expression and instrument of a conscious Infinite.It is this process which Sri Aurobindo describes as involution. He explains by it not only the origin and true nature of material energy but also the appearance of those ‘moral’ elements in earthly existence which are so inconsistent with our concept of divine will –wastefulness, ignorance, suffering, falsehood, and evil.

The scientist raised in the empirical tradition of Francis Bacon, the mathematical certainty of Descartes, and the experimental philosophy of Isaac Newton may hasten to dismiss such a hypothesis on the same grounds that science dismisses all metaphysical and religious views as essentially untestable, unmeasurable and therefore outside the realm of science. But these attributes apply with equal or greater validity to the hypotheses currently in vogue which assert that life arose spontaneously some time in the distant past on earth or in outer space by a fortuitous combination, assembly and activation of organic compounds; or to the current hypothesis in psychology which asserts that all mental activity and conscious experience are simply chemical and electrical activity in material substance; or to the recent quest for a grand unified theory in physics based on the concept of superstrings, which postulates the existence of a vibrating resonance 100 billion billion times smaller than a proton and which depends for its theoretical consistency on the existence of a material universe consisting of a minimum of 10 physical dimensions.

None of these propositions can be tested or proven valid. Superstring theory postulates a reality that is smaller than the necessary minimum size for physical measurement as defined by the Planck constant, and is, therefore, untestable. Even if we succeed in creating the most primitive form of viral organisms out of chemical compounds in a laboratory, we cannot thereby prove that the same process is sufficient for the creation of unicellular and higher forms of life or that all these higher forms have evolved spontaneously from that primitive species. Even if we succeed in fully mapping the neural centers in the brain that are associated with various mental faculties, we cannot prove that those centers are the source of those faculties, anymore than we can prove that the radio is the source of the soundwaves that it receives and broadcasts by discovering the function of each of its parts. All that we will have shown is that the different states of consciousness are correlated with different brain functions.

Despite these limitations, science does not hasten to dismiss these apparently untestable and unscientific hypotheses, because while the hypotheses themselves may ultimately be discarded, they stimulate fruitful exploration of uncharted territories in biology, psychology and physics. By the same token, Sri Aurobindo’s hypothesis of involution can not only explain countless experiences and experimental observations inconsistent with or unexplained by current theories, but also generate a vast range of fruitful inquiry and experimentation in the fields of matter, life and mental experience. Whether or not it can ever be tested is a subject we will examine later in this paper.

Scientists, when they study really fundamental problems, expects to find beautiful answers, answers worthy of descriptions such as elegance, simplicity, symmetry, logical completeness and inevitability. By all of these parameters, Sri Aurobindo’s hypothesis far excels current contenders for a final theory.

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