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Conscious Force


May 30, 2000

In the order of Satchidananda, after Existence comes Consciousness, known as Chit. This is the seat of force known as chit-shakti from where Mother is born. Here we take up phenomenal existence. Our aim is to study what this is, whether this force is a power of consciousness or as the scientist claims this is a force, mechanical in nature.

   Suppose we take up this existence that is phenomenal for analysis and proceed to reach its very root, at its first step we find this force resolves into forms of various grades and types. These forms are gross, material, and subtle. The Force, desiring experience, presents to itself these forms. That seems to be the process of creation when the Absolute moved into creation. The ancients saw this truth as a figure, and called it a sea, at rest or in motion. While at rest, no forms are produced. While in motion, forms are created. They also called the initiating first movement the seed of a universe.

   Our intelligence easily perceives Matter. Matter is moulded, as it is, by contacts of Matter. Our mind is seated in the brain, which is a product of Matter. For the mind seated in the brain, it is easier to perceive a hill than the force of gravitation. Such a mind finds it easy to perceive Matter. The old Indian physicists had their views on this. Pure material extension in Space is the elementary state of material Force, they said. It has a peculiar property. It is typified by the vibration of sound. This is a state of ether. This, they said, is not enough to create forms. Creation of form requires obstruction, contraction, expansion, interplay of vibration, impinging of force upon force. To create forms there must be obstruction in the flow of Force. That creates fixed relations and mutual effects. Material Force modifies its first ethereal status.  Thus, it assumes a second status. The old language called it aerial. Its special property is contact between force and force. This contact is the basis of all material relations. Still they are varying forces, not real forms. A sustaining principle is needed. A third self-modification of the primitive Force takes place. It is the principle of light, electricity, fire and heat. For us, it is the characteristic manifestation. Forms of force have their own character and peculiar action. They still try to preserve them. Still, no stable form of Matter is created. There is a fourth state. It is characterized by diffusion. It is a first medium of permanent attraction and repulsion. It is picturesquely termed water or liquid state. The fifth is of cohesion. It is the solid state, the earth. These are the necessary elements.

   We are aware of several forms of Matter. All of them are built up by the combination of these five elements. This is true of all physical things, even to the most subtle. All our sensible experience depends upon them. The reception of the vibration comes from the sense of sound. The sense of touch comes from the contact of things. Things are in a world of vibration of Force. The sense of sight comes from the action of light. It must be in the forms hatched, outlined and sustained by the force of light and fire and heat. The fourth element is the sense of taste. The fifth is the sense of smell. All is essentially response to vibratory contacts between force and force. The pure Force modifies itself at several stages. The above is the ancient Indian response to bridging that Force and its final modifications. The ordinary human mind finds all these forms real to his senses. To the senses these forms are solid and durable. He wonders how all these can be only temporary phenomena. The pure energy is non-existent to his senses. It is intangible and incredible. They say it is the one permanent cosmic reality. The above explanation meets the requirements of the ordinary human mind.

  We have explained Force. Our title is Conscious Force. Consciousness remains to be explained. We see another phenomenon. Conscious sensations arise by contacts of vibration of Force. We do not know how. Let us see what the Sankhyas say. They were analytical thinkers. They posited two principles behind the five elements. Their names for them were Mahat (Force) and Ahankara (ego). They are non-material principles. Force is meant by Mahat. It is no mere Force, but a vast cosmic principle of Force. The other - ego - is a divisional principle of Ego. They also include another principle of intelligence. All the three become active in consciousness. It is not by Force they become active. They are active by a Conscious-Soul. The activities of Force are reflected in the Soul. This reflection gives the hue of consciousness to the activities.

   The Sankhya explanation is close to the materialistic ideas. Sankhya is an important school of Indian philosophy. It spoke of the mechanical unconscious Force in Nature. The Indian mind is reflective. It could go to these lengths and not beyond. That explanation may be defective, but its core was true. So, it was generally accepted. Our question is whether Nature is inert or conscious. In either case, it is a Force. Energy becoming forms and moving is the principle of things - formative movement of energies. When unshaped forces meet, forms are generated. Form is a form of Force. Forms coming into contact generate sensation. This is our experience in this world. Let us start from here.

   Modern science, through physical analysis of Matter, has come to the same general conclusion. They still have a few last doubts. Intuition and experience confirm this concord of Science and Philosophy. Pure reason finds satisfaction in it. Its own essential conceptions are thus satisfied. There is a view that the world is essentially an act of consciousness. Still, an act is implied. An act is the act of movement of Force, a play of Energy. Let us examine it with our own experience. There too, it proves to be the fundamental nature of the world. The old philosophies speak of Adya Shakti, the original power. Knowledge-force, desire-force, action-force are the three powers issuing out of it. It is an identical power. They also explain our states of rest. To them, they are a state or equilibrium of the play of the movement.

   We can admit the movement of Force. Let us say it is the whole nature of the Cosmos. Two questions arise. How did this movement start? We can say it is not only eternal but the essence of existence. In saying so, there is no further question. Already we have proved this to be wrong. We are aware of an existence. We said and proved it to be Absolute. It is, we said, not compelled by the movement. How then does it come here? What is the cause? By what possibility? By what mysterious impulsion?

   The ancient Indian mind most approved of one view. This view is that Force is inherent in Existence. Shiva and Kali, Brahman and Shakti are one and not two who are separable. Force inherent in Existence may be at rest or in motion. When it is at rest, it exists nonetheless. It is not abolished, diminished, not altered in any essential way. This is entirely rational. It is in accordance with the nature of things. We need not hesitate to accept this. The existence is one and infinite. It is impossible to assume that Force entered into that existence from outside. Surely, it contradicts reason. Nor can we say that Force was non-existent up to a certain time and then arose at that time. Let us consider it from the point of view of illusion. According to the illusionist, illusion is the power of self-illusion in Brahman. To them, illusion is potentially eternal and is in Brahman, an eternal Being. What then is the question? There is only one question. It is a question of its manifestation or non-manifestation. What does Sankhya say? It asserts the eternal co-existence of Prakriti and Purusha, Nature and Conscious-Soul. They are the alternative states of rest or equilibrium of Prakriti and movement or disturbance of equilibrium. 

   Force is inherent in existence. Force has the double movement of rest and movement. It is an alternate potentiality of self-concentration in Force and self-diffusion in Force. Since this is so, the question of the how of the movement does not arise. The questions of how the impulsion is initiated and what impels the movement, do not arise. This potentiality translates into a rhythm. It is an alternative rhythm of rest and movement. They would succeed each other in Time. Or it is an eternal self-concentration of Force in immutable existence. It may have a superficial play of movement. It is a movement of change and formation. It is like the rising and falling of waves on the surface of the ocean. We must remember we are using inadequate images. This is a superficial play. It may be coeval with the self-concentration and itself also eternal. Or, it may begin and end in Time. It may be resumed by a sort of constant rhythm. It is then not eternal in continuity, but eternal in recurrence.

   This explanation answers the question of how this movement is there. Now we have to explain the question why this movement is there. We say the play of the movement of Force translates itself. The question arises as to why it should translate itself into anything. This existence is concentrated in itself, it is infinite, free from all variation and formation. If so, why should it not remain concentrated? Suppose we assume Existence is non-conscious and consciousness is only a development of material energy. We only suppose wrongly the energy to be immaterial. In that case, the question does not arise. We can simply say it is a rhythm in nature of Force. Why then should it seek a reason? It is eternally self-existent in nature. It requires no cause, no motive, and no final purpose. Once we say it is self-existence or self-force of existence, it is meaningless to question why it exists or how it came into existence. Nor can we ask why it has an inherent nature of impulsion to movement. We cannot question that. However, we can proceed to learn its manner of self-manifestation. We can try to know its principles of movement or formation, its process of evolution. Both Existence and Force are, here, inert. The status is inert, the impulsion is inert. Both of them are unconscious and unintelligent. Then, if so, there cannot be any purpose or final goal in evolution. Nor can there be an original cause or intention.

   Let us accept the opposite supposition. Let us say Existence is conscious Being. Then questions arise. Of course, we can assume that conscious Being is subject to its own Force. The Force, in this case, may decide whether it should manifest or not. The Tantrics have a cosmic God. It is of that description. The Mayavadins too, subject their God to Shakti or Maya. To them, Purusha involved in Maya is subject to Shakti. We started with the idea that God is Absolute, not controlled by any force whatsoever. We conceive of God as supreme infinite Existence. What is Maya or Shakti? They are only formulations of the Brahman in the cosmos by the Brahman. Brahman is there prior to the creation of Maya or Shakti. When Maya finished her works, she goes back to Brahman, which is the transcendental status of Maya. Our God is a conscious existence and it is absolute. It depends on nothing, not on any of its formations. Nor is it determined by its works. We suppose such a God has an inherent freedom. It can decide for itself whether to manifest or not. A Brahman compelled by Prakriti is not Brahman. We would think that it would be an inert infinite. It may have in itself an active content more powerful than its continent. It may be a conscious holder of Force of whom the Force is the master. We may argue that Brahman is forced by its own nature. But this would not solve the problem. Thus, we would evade our first assumption. We would have gone back to an Existence which is nothing but Force. It may be Force at rest or Force in movement. We may call it absolute Force, but we cannot call it absolute Being.

   It is then necessary to inquire into the relation between Force and Consciousness. What do we mean by consciousness? Mental waking consciousness is what we call by that name. A human being possesses it during the major part of his life. He loses it when he is asleep, stunned or otherwise deprived of it. It is a physical, superficial method of sensation. The material universe does not possess this consciousness except occasionally. It is an exception, not the rule for material life. Man does not always possess it. Philosophy is a wider field. It inquires into the creation of the universe. The above conception of consciousness is shallow and vulgar. We shall not consider it here. Our ordinary thought relies on such ideas. Our own associations are based on it. When we sleep, we are not dead. Something is awake during our sleep. It is the same when we are stunned, drugged or in a swoon. These are, apparently, the unconscious states we know of. They are states of our physical being. The old thinkers have declared a basic truth of our being and existence. While we are awake, we are full of energy. But, they say, even when we are awake, the part in us that is active is only a tip of the iceberg. It is the superficial part of our being. It is, according to them, too small to comprehend our entire mentality. Behind it is our subliminal being or the subconscious being. This is a greater part of our being. There lie our heights and our profundities. No man has yet measured or fathomed them. This knowledge gives us a true starting point for the science of Force and its workings. We are circumscribed by the material world. We suffer from the illusion of the obvious. Knowledge of the subliminal relieves us of these limits.

   Materialism has its say. It insists that consciousness is a material phenomenon. Maybe it is a further extension of Matter. To them, consciousness is inseparable from the physical organs. They say consciousness does not utilize the physical organs but is a result of the workings of the physical organs. This is an orthodox belief. The tide of new knowledge is increasing. This will wash away the outmoded beliefs. As the knowledge increases, the orthodoxy finds it difficult to justify their explanations. Each time they strain themselves further to justify their previous explanation. We see what man accomplishes is far in excess of his capacities. Even the weight he can lift or move sometimes is greater than his own weight. Our organs, senses, nerves, and brain put together cannot build the cities we live in or unleash the power of the atom. Even for our ordinary thought and consciousness, these organs are only their instruments. These organs do not generate our thoughts. Consciousness uses the brain. The brain does not produce the consciousness, nor does it use it. The brain's upward strivings have produced consciousness. There are abnormal instances. They show our heart-like organs are dispensable. The heart can stop, but life does not stop. Breathing, too, is not necessary. The organized brain cells are not necessary to thought. An engine is constructed. Its motive power is steam or electricity. The construction of the engine does not explain the creation of steam. Nor does it cause it. Similarly our physical organs do not explain or create our thoughts or consciousness. The Force comes first, and the physical instrument arrives later.

   If we accept this position, very important questions will arise. We may ask whether there is no life in lifeless objects. We see mental consciousness behind inertia. Even in lifeless bodies we see mental consciousness. We may ask whether there is a mind in material objects. Is it a subconscious mind? Or is it universal too? Can we say such a mind is unable to act. Hidden in the depths, that mind is not able to communicate to its surface. Can we say it is unable to communicate as it has not yet developed the appropriate organs? Is matter empty of consciousness or is it a fact that consciousness sleeps there? From the point of view of evolution, it may be original sleep and not an intermediate sleep. We know of the example of human sleep. From here we see sleep does not suspend our consciousness. Consciousness gathers inwardly to the point it cannot physically respond to external things. All existence is unable to express the inner secret for want of external organs. The means to communicate with the external world is not there. There is a Conscious Soul, a Purusha in every object that sleeps. It wakes forever in everything.

   We may go farther. We speak of the subconscious mind. What do we mean by this phrase? Is it different from our outer neutrality? Does it act only below the surface? Is it unknown to the waking man? Is it the same as outer mentality with a vaster scope? There is the phenomenon of the subliminal self. It far exceeds the limits of such a definition. Its capacity is immensely superior. Our mentality is the waking self. The subliminal is quite different from the waking mentality. When we say there is a subconscient, naturally there must be a superconscient. Then, between them there must be a range of consciousness. Therefore, there must be an organisation of consciousness. Our mentality is the psychological stratum. This organisation rises above that. The subliminal rises above the mentality to the superconscient. Therefore, it may sink below mentality to the subconscious. We call some levels of consciousness vital and others physical. They are forms of consciousness that are sub-mental. Then in the plant and metal there may be a force. We can call it consciousness too. It is not human or animal mentality. Till now we reserved the term consciousness for the human mentality.

   This is probable. If we analyse, we will see it is certain. In ourselves, there is such a vital consciousness. It acts in the cells of the body. In the automatic vital functions, it acts. Only that helps the purposeful movements. Our mind is a stranger to attractions and repulsions. This automatic function takes care of it. This vital function is there in the animal. There it is even more important. In plants it is intuitively evident. Recently an Indian scientist employed scientific methods to bring to light the strange life of plants. The plant seeks and shrinks. It has pleasure and pain. It is asleep and is wakeful. These are all movements of consciousness. As far as we can see, these do not constitute mentality. There is then a sub-mental, a vital consciousness. It has precisely the same initial reactions as the mental. But it is different in the constitution of self-experience. Not only that. Above, there is a superconscient. It is superconscient in its constitution of its self-experience. It too differs from the mental being.

   This is a range which we call consciousness. Does this range stop with the plant? In the plant we recognize the existence of sub-animal life. If this is true, something else also must be true. There must be a force of life and consciousness in Matter. It must be originally alien to Matter. It must have entered into Matter and occupied it. Has it come from another world? From where else could it have come? The ancient thinkers believed in the existence of such other worlds. They may sustain life and consciousness in our world. They may even call it out by their pressure, but do not create it by their entry. Nothing can evolve out of Matter which is not therein already contained.

   We extended consciousness from the human being to the plant. Now why should we not extend it to the metal? Why should we stop here? Is it because metal is purely material? There is no reason for us to stop here. Recent research has developed fresh thought. It points to an obscure beginning of life. It is an inert, suppressed consciousness in the metal and earth. It is also there in ‘inanimate' forms. It may, at least, be the first stuff that changes into consciousness. That was what happened in man at first. In the plant we can dimly recognize consciousness. At least, it was, as Sri Aurobindo called, consciousness. We can conceive of it as vital consciousness. But the consciousness of Matter is of the inert form. It is difficult for us to imagine or understand it as consciousness. What we do not understand we think it is right to deny.  We have pursued consciousness from the human to the plant. Now, we wish to carry it to the metal. Suddenly we find this gap. We know life is of unity. Thought has a right to conceive of a unity. We see in all other phenomena there is unity. But here, in the metal only, the unity is denied. It is not completely denied, but it is concealed. Suppose we chose to believe in that unity, the argument changes. Then we could say, consciousness is there everywhere, even in the metal. Maybe it is not a conscient Purusha. Or, it may not be a superconscient Purusha. Yet, we can say, there is a form of conscious force of being. Its outer parts may participate in the life of the metal. Perhaps its participation is inert or overt.

   To the world, the word consciousness means the man's mentality, and that too, the mentality of the waking, surface consciousness. Now we talk of something buried in metal but awake. The word ‘consciousness' changes its meaning for our purposes. It is no longer mentality. Now we describe it as self-aware force of existence. In this definition, mentality is only a middle term. That mentality sinks into the vital and material terms. To us, they are subconscient. Also, mentality rises to the superconscient, the supramental. But, whether it is in mentality or the subconscient or superconscient, it is one and the same consciousness. Only that it organizes differently in different places. Again, the Indians conceived of Chit as this. Chit, to them, is energy, which creates the world. Now we arrive at the unity of energy. Science is materialistic. It asserts that Mind is not different from Matter. Mind, Science says, is development of energy from Matter. Indian thought puts it differently. It says Mind and Matter are different grades of the same energy. They are different organisations of one conscious Force. It is Existence.

   There is a question to be raised and answered at this point. We started inquiring into the relationship between Consciousness and Force. Now we have described consciousness as the self-aware force of existence found in animate as well as inanimate objects on earth. Can we call this consciousness Force? Let us first ask this question and answer it. The idea of consciousness implies some major traits. They are intelligence, purposefulness, self-knowledge. They must be present in one form or another, not necessarily discernible to our mentality. Even from this point of view, every aspect of our experience shows the presence of a universal conscious Force. Let us take the animal life. There we witness a perfect purposefulness. The knowledge animals possess is scientific and minute in the detail. It is obviously beyond animal mental capacities. Suppose man has to learn that, he may need a long period of culture preceded by education to acquire it. Even when he had thus acquired it, his use of it would be of much less rapidity. Maybe at no time he would be sure of it. This is a general fact. Here there is proof of a conscious Force. It is at work in the animal and the insect. We know the highest mentality manifested on earth in any single individual form. This Force is more intelligent than that. It is more purposeful, more aware of its intention, its ends, its means, its conditions than the highest intelligence we know of. These are the operations of inanimate Nature. The supreme hidden intelligence has a pervading characteristic. It is described as "hidden in the modes of its own workings." We find that characteristic here in the animals.

   A force that is conscious, intelligent, purposeful, selective, and adaptive is a force of efficiency. If that is so, man sees the operations of Nature wasteful or full of waste. That needs to be answered. Ours is a human mind. It is limited on all sides. It is of the intellect. It has its own rationality which is good enough for its ends. It also has the habit of imposing its own limitations and rationality on other situations. It imposes so on the operations of the World Force. We see only a part of Nature's purpose. What is not meaningful in that context is what we call waste. Yet there is one more fact. Our human actions are full of apparent waste. From our individual point of view, it appears so. Surely, what is waste to the individual is useful to the universal purpose. So also, what we consider waste in Nature serves the wider universal ends. Nature gets her intention done surely enough. We can say this is so in spite of that waste. Sri Aurobindo would prefer to say that Nature achieves because of what we consider waste!

   In the animal, in the plant, in inanimate things we see a guidance. It is apparently a guidance of blind tendency. It comes to the fixed target immediately or eventually. Up until now, the scientific method considered Matter as the beginning and end. So, it is understandable that life and consciousness are out of its purview. Sri Aurobindo would prefer to call it an honest scruple. Matter is unconscious. No form of intelligence is found in Matter. Nor is there a substance of consciousness in Matter. Scientists speak of human consciousness emerging out of unintelligent matter. This is now an outworn paradox. It is high time they dropped it. Sri Aurobindo says that man's consciousness is another form of animal consciousness. It is there in other involved forms below Mind. It emerges in Mind. It shall ascend into the superior forms beyond Mind. The Force that builds the world is a conscious Force. The Existence that manifests the conscious Force is a conscious Being. The conscious Being has spiritual potentialities. Its sole object is the emergence of those potentialities in form. Its attempt is their perfect emergence. Its aim is the perfection in Form. As this is the world of Form, rationality leads us to that view.

story | by Dr. Radut