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Sachchidananda represents the first stage of manifestation of the Absolute, but Sachchidananda itself remains changeless. Out of that, the world of change comes. How does Sachchidananda manifest? It manifests as Spirit, which has 12 aspects. Though we can know it as pure Existence or conscious Soul, we can also know it as any of these 12 aspects. The Spirit can be described in terms of its twelve aspects that manifest in creation – Infinity, Eternity, Silence, Peace, Unity, Truth, Goodness, Knowledge, Will, Beauty, Love and Joy. Everything we experience in the world that has any of these aspects has them because they come from Sachchidananda.

Twelve Aspects of Spirit

  • Silence
  • Knowledge
  • Peace
  • Will
  • Infinity
  • Power
  • Eternity
  • Beauty
  • Truth
  • Love
  • Goodness
  • Joy 

Existence, Consciousness and Bliss extend themselves as a fourth creative principle, Supermind or Truth Consciousness. Supermind is the objective status of Sachchidananda. It is the Nature, the creative power, of Sachchidananda. Mother is the force that creates the universe. Her power is the power of the Supermind. Calling that which is beyond Mother, you call that which is changeless. When you call Mother, you call the creative force of the universe.  


Thus, the superconscient has four aspects or attributes – Existence, Consciousness, Bliss and Supermind. These four attributes are reflected in the world below as four counterparts of worldly existence. Existence which is Sat expresses as Matter, material substance. Consciousness expresses as Life, as active energy. Ananda is reflected in the world as the psychic, the evolving spirit in life. Supermind is reflected down below as Mind.

The process of creation by which the divine manifests as the universe and all that is in it is the same process by which human beings create as well. We are all using this process all the time. About 30 years ago, a young man in the USA wrote a thesis for his MBA in which he described a new business concept, the overnight parcel delivery business. It was a novel idea at that time. It used to take about five days for a parcel to move from one end of the USA to the other. So he wrote a paper describing how to create a new industry that would deliver parcels overnight to any place in the country. He got only a B grade on his paper. The professor said it was a very good idea but it was not practical. The student’s name was Fred Smith. Fred Smith went on to create a company based on this concept called Federal Express, which is now worth more than $25 billion or Rs.100,000 crores. He not only created a business worth that much, he created an entirely new industry which started in the USA and then spread around the world. It was only in about 1980 that courier businesses started in India. Within ten years it had covered the whole world.

How did Fred Smith create what may be today a Rs.300,000 crores global industry? Where did it come from? It looks like it came out of nothing. It started with an idea in his mind. Who created that idea? Smith chose one possibility out of the infinite possibilities and made it happen. How? He used the process of creation, the same process of creation which the Divine uses to create the universe. We are all using this same process of creation all the time. Every businessman who has created a business, every artist who has written a story or a song, everyone who has conceived of a plan and implemented it, is using the same process. It is a process of self-conception.

If we really understand this process, we will see it is something we already know. The difference between us and Parabrahman is that we do it without really knowing how we do it. Because we do not really understand the process, sometimes we succeed and sometimes we fail. If we fully understand the process, we can never fail.

According to Sri Aurobindo, Spirit manifests the world out of its own Being and that world is its Becoming in time. But if the world is a manifestation of Being, which is Truth, then the world must be real. How then can we explain the unreal character of the world described by Shankara who says that the world is an illusion created by Maya? Sri Aurobindo says that it is true the world was created by Maya, but the Maya which has created this world is not a power of illusion as described by Shankara. Maya is the real creative power of the Divine, the power to measure out finite forms from the formless infinite. There is a lower power of maya which like our minds can imagine and create unreal things. Shankara mistook that lower maya to be the creator of the world.

As human beings we know that there is much in the world that is not truly as it appears to our experience. Yogis also have told us that our view of the world is not the reality. We need to understand this apparent contradiction that the world which is a real manifestation of Truth can appear to us to be other than that truth. We all have dreams, which we act in and which are real to our dream experience, but when we wake up, we find they are not fully real in the physical world. We cannot say that the dreams did not happen or were not real, but they are not real in the physical world. Our consciousness has the capacity to experience multiple planes of reality, each of which is ‘true’ from its own perspective. We know that when we stand on the ground, we are standing vertically. But science tells us we are not standing vertically, the earth we are standing on is a ball and we may be standing upside down. We have the experience that we are standing vertically, but that experience is not the whole reality. We know that if you take a glass of water and put a pencil in it, the pencil looks bent and broken. But we pull it out and the pencil is whole. It is possible for us to experience something in our consciousness which from another perspective is different from this. We see a film or read a story where we feel happy when the hero is about to succeed. We know it is only a story, but it is real to our consciousness. Our consciousness is capable of experiencing something which to another consciousness is not true or looks illusory.

The Illusionists made the mistake of saying that because the world is not really the way we experience it, perhaps it does not really exist at all. Sri Aurobindo says the way we see it now is not its true appearance, but that does not mean it is not real. When He talks about Maya as the creative force, He is talking about a force of the Supramental consciousness that makes us experience things which are real in different ways than they would be experienced by that supramental consciousness. Without this power of Maya to represent the One Reality as finite forms, there could be no creation.

For the materialist who believes only in what his senses tell him is real, the idea of an infinite spirit as creator of the world seems unreal, inexplicable and non-existent. But for those who have personally experienced the Spirit, the material world seems equally unreal, inexplicable and non-existent. In fact, Sri Aurobindo says that the real enigma is not that an Infinite divine being could exist beyond the material world. The real mystery that we need to unravel is how an infinite divine being, which is everywhere and everything, imperishable, omniscient, omnipotent, one and undivided, could create a world of finite, mortal, temporary forms that live separate and divided existences in Ignorance. It is not so difficult to explain the existence of an all-knowing and all-powerful God as to explain how an infinite all-knowing God could create a world of ignorance, suffering and evil. If you were everywhere and everything all the time, how would you create anything different from yourself? If you were Sachchidananda, which is all-knowing, omniscient and omnipotent, how would you create a world of Ignorance and impotence? There is nothing but Sachchidananda. A world of separate forms has to be created, but there is only One. The divine performs this miracle by the process of creation.

Why, we may ask, does the divine create a world of Ignorance? Sachchidananda manifests itself as finite forms so that it can give creative expression to the infinite potentials of being which are latent in its unmanifest status. It involves and hides itself within its creation so that it can enjoy the play, the drama, of its own being and the process of rediscovering its true nature. How can the Spirit hide from itself or discover itself when all is One? Maya creates the illusion of separateness when actually there is only the reality of Oneness. The process of creation that Sri Aurobindo describes is the process of explaining how Maya creates the illusion of separation among things that remain real and one. For the Divine, which is omniscient, to create forms that are ignorant is a very great accomplishment. The creation of Ignorance out of Knowledge is essential for the One to manifest itself as the Many.

To understand this process, think about the puppeteer who stands behind the stage and manipulates the puppets. He looks down on the puppets and speaks from the point of view of each of the characters. The viewpoint of the characters is limited, but the puppeteer sees everything. We are like the puppets, God is the puppeteer. We are the eyes and voice of the puppeteer. The eyes that look out through our eyes are his eyes. The voice that speaks through us is his voice. The puppeteer knows us but we have forgotten him.

Sri Aurobindo illustrates this process by comparing the process by which the Divine has created the world with the process by which a great writer creates a literary work. He uses the example of Shakespeare to illustrate what Sachchidananda is doing in creating the world. Shakespeare created 37 plays with hundreds of characters and thousands of actions. Where did all these life-like stories, characters and actions come from? We say it emerged from the poet’s creative imagination. Every creative artist knows that for every character they put in writing, they consider many others that they see in imagination but never put into a story. Each of the characters is depicted expressing certain words and actions, which represent a selection of countless possibilities which the author considers in the formulation of his story. Where do all those infinite possibilities come from? Is there any limit? If we look back to that source of the creative inspiration from which all these characters, word and events pour forth, can we say that there is any limit to its creative potential? Because the plane of creative imagination from which Shakespeare created is not subject to any limits, there can be no limit to the number of characters he could have created.

Sri Aurobindo says that this infinite plane of possibility is like Sachchidananda, like the unmanifest. It is an infinite vacuum containing all possibilities in potential, out of which the artist chooses to create and manifest certain things. In the spiritual tradition, that plane is referred to as the causal plane. It is not a plane of form, but all forms are there in potential. Shakespeare could pull any number of forms out of that plane into his own mind. He could modify their appearance, dress, words and actions in any manner he chose and he could watch the story play over and over again in his mind. This plane in which the infinite possibilities assume a form in his mind is the subtle plane. The forms exist in his mental imagination, but they do not yet have any material reality in the physical plane. Note that in the subtle plane, as in the causal, the past, present and future of the characters and events depicted all exist simultaneous with one another, rather than in succession.

Once the play has been formed in the subtle plane, Shakespeare writes down his story, thereby fixing the details of each character and action a specific set of limitations. This is what happens when any possibility is given material expression. Then Shakespeare gives the play to be performed in the theatre. The actors learn their parts and act out the story as he has written it. Perhaps, very dramatic points arise during the performance in which an actor becomes so identified with the character and so carried away by the emotional intensity of the situation depicted that he starts acting on his own according to his own inspiration, forgetting the words written for his part by the playwright. Shakespeare throws down the script and asks him, “What are doing? That speech is not in the script!” To which the actor replies, “What do you know? You are only the writer!” The part becomes real to the actor. Shakespeare has created the story so realistically that the actor begins to feel that his character is real and that it is part of himself, that he really feels that way. When we watch the play, even though we know it is a play, we feel so inspired or electrified by it that our emotions are moved. By this process, vague formless potentials from the causal plane have acquired subtle form and been projected into the physical plane, acquiring a reality to the actors as well as the audience. Like the actor who forgets that he is only playing a part in a play and that the character he is depicting is not his real or whole self, we too identify with our surface personalities and forget that in our inmost self we are the Divine and the thoughts, feelings and actions we express in life are not our real or whole self. The same process is at work.

The process that Shakespeare uses to create this effect is the same process that Sachchidananda uses, or rather that Supermind uses to create the world. The only difference is that what Shakespeare creates can become real to our minds and emotions, but it cannot fully materialize as a reality in life. His characters and their actions do not actually exist, except within the play. Whereas, when Supermind creates, it manifests unseen potentials pre-existent in the Unmanifest and is able to project them as real forms, real beings, and real events in the mental, vital and physical planes. This is the same process that Fred Smith used to create Federal Express. He did not actually create people or airplanes or parcels, but he was able to combine these things to create a successful business organization and a new public service. In all three cases, the essential stages of the process are the same.

What are those essential stages? It begins with an infinite possibility. For Supermind it is the Unmanifest. For Shakespeare it was the creative plane, out of which the creative force conceives of an idea it wants to manifest. For Fred Smith it was the untapped commercial potential in society which he saw and shaped into a new business. The formulation of a form or intention in the Supermind is called a Real-Idea. The formulation of a story and character are called the creative ideas of the writer. Shakespeare creates words and characters and actions in a story form. Fred Smith did the same thing with his courier service, creating an organization to give expression to his business vision. When Shakespeare put his stories on paper, they became fixed. He started with something unfixed in his imagination, but ended with something fixed. Matter gives durability to forms in life. Fred Smith formulated an idea and transformed it into a real business. Shakespeare felt an inspiration and converted it into a play. Supermind gives form to a Real-Idea and creates something in the universe, a form, a person, an institution. Shakespeare creates with words; his characters are made of words. The Supermind creates the universe out of Sachchidananda as its raw material. There is no limit to the creative possibilities of the Supermind. Its material is Existence-Consciousness-Force-Delight. It is creating infinite forms of conscious existence. It is seeking an experience of Delight in different ways.

We follow the same process whenever we formulate a new intention, aspire for a new or greater goal. That aspiration generates a force that acts in our lives to create the conditions and circumstances necessary for its fulfillment. Of course, like the artist, not all of our conceptions acquire the full force of inspiration needed to manifest themselves. But the process is the same. Every individual possesses a power to manifest his aspiration. In the case of devotees, the force he possesses is the Mother’s Force, which carries the creative power of the Supermind.

Sri Aurobindo says that Ignorance is a greater power than Knowledge. He means that ignorance is a creative power. The potter who can make a pot out of clay has a creative power. He does not change the nature of the clay. He gives it a form. When the Omnipresent Reality creates forms out of itself which are ignorant or forgetful of their true nature, it requires a very great creative power. How else than by some miraculous or mystical process could the omniscient create forms of itself which are ignorant of their origin and true nature? It is the power of Ignorance or rather the capacity to create Ignorance that has made the world possible. Without that, the Divine could not have manifested in the world. The goal of the Divine is to manifest the Divine Consciousness in individual forms. But the reality is, there is only One. How can you have individual forms each taking initiative to discover the world, if all of them know everything to begin with? What we call Ignorance is the Divine’s capacity for self-limitation. 

book | by Dr. Radut