February 21, 2006

Exclusive concentration

By Matthijs Cornelissen A talk given at the Cultural Integration Fellowship
When one starts with inanimate matter, and one tries to explain consciousness, one doesn’t get there. One gets stranded in what Chalmers called the "hard problem":
  • how can consciousness arise out of an inanimate chemical process? There is a kind of unbridgeable gap. In the Indian tradition there is a similar problem.
  • If you start with an absolute consciousness as the source of everything – the kind of absolute perfection the word purna addresses – how do you get to the nitty-gritty of ordinary life?
  • When you start with the Divine consciousness, how do you get to our level of stupidity?
  • From where can it have come?
  • This has been the central question of Indian philosophy. How did we become so ignorant?

It is similar to the Christian question where evil and the ego come from when God is good. Sri Aurobindo has an extremely neat explanation for it. He calls it a process of involution through exclusive concentration. He compares it to a boy who is reading a book. The boy is fully engrossed in reading and forgets everything else – who he is, his duties, what happens around him, everything. When one is fully engrossed – like we are now engrossed in this question of what is exclusive concentration – one forgets for the moment about Israel, the war, the traffic, one’s family; all that disappears.

Sri Aurobindo takes this exclusive concentration, which is clearly a capacity of consciousness, as the fundamental process responsible for the involution of the original, divine consciousness into its apparent opposite, matter. So what happens when one starts with the ultimate divine consciousness that comprehends everything? At first, there are no limitations – only pure vastness, infinity, light. Then it separates into a multitude of separate centres of consciousness, but each centre is still infinite and containing everything. Then these units start concentrating more. They start excluding other things. And they become more and more focused until in the end they are so focused that they become, for example, electrons which know only one thing, how to turn around a proton. It is an absolute, almost point-like concentration of the formative ability of consciousness. The only thing that still betrays the presence of consciousness at that level is the habit of form – the habit of turning around the nearest proton. Consciousness is here completely limited to one single, fully fixed expression, obeying the most basic laws of physics.

In between the top layer of free, omnipresent, omniscient, omnipotent consciousness, and the fully determined, purely physical level, all the other, typal planes of consciousness are formed. The mental consciousness is still somewhat free; it can float, it can see things from above. The vital consciousness is further involved. It cannot see things any more from above; it is bound to one point from where it interacts with others. On the lowest level there is the physical consciousness. Here consciousness is completely contained inside itself. There are physical interactions, of course, but only when different entities bump into each other. The consciousness cannot move out of its groove, cannot vary, cannot "play". So here is the end of the process of involution, here consciousness has hidden itself completely and has turned into its apparent opposite, matter. [Cf. Aletheia - TNM]

1 comment:

  1. [Self and personality - Indian Psychology Institute › texts › matthijs › mc-sel...
    In this period, he revised his major works The Life Divine and The Synthesis of Yoga, and wrote an .... come into being through a process of “exclusive concentration” taking place within the original consciousness of ...]