When we reflect on the evolution of consciousness, it becomes obvious to us that nothing can evolve out of Matter that is not already involved in some way. We plant an acorn, and an oak tree grows. Someone unfamiliar with the science would treat this as a magical event. We put one form of matter, the acorn, into another form of matter, the soil, and a living being in the form of a tree results. With our relatively recent understanding of the mechanics of DNA and RNA, etc. we are able to appreciate that the oak tree’s form and function was actually encoded in the acorn; that is, it was a form of Matter that contained the blueprint and activation capacities for the development of Life out of Matter. If we follow this line of understanding, we also see that just as Life was ‘involved’ in Matter and thus, able to ‘evolve’ under the right circumstances, so also Mind is ‘involved’ in Life and Matter and thus, is able to manifest under its correct circumstances. All of this represents what we now can see as the normal process of Nature in its universal manifestation.

There is, however, a qualitative change that occurs with the evolution of the human mind. Not only is there a mechanical action of mental power and rudimentary ability to manipulate outer circumstances, material substance and impact life-forms, but there is now a reflective, self-aware entity that develops, at a certain point in its own evolution, an aspiration for knowledge, light, growth and increasing power of achievement in the world. This self-aware, self-reflective power makes it now possible for the human being to actively participate in and speed up the evolutionary process. It is this power of directing a focus and speeding up the process that provides the leverage to leave behind the slow, plodding evolutionary cycle that has, up until now, taken place in increments of hundreds of thousands and even millions of years.

Sri Aurobindo observes: “Here everything is shut up from the first in the violently working inconscient sleep of material force; therefore the whole aim of any material becoming must be the waking of consciousness out of the inconscient; the whole consummation of a material becoming just be the removal of the veil of Matter and the luminous revelation of the entirely self-conscient Being to its own imprisoned soul in the becoming.”

“… the appearance of human mind and body on the earth marks a crucial step, a decisive change in the course and process of the evolution; it is not merely a continuation of the old lines. Up till this advent of a developed thinking mind in Matter evolution had been effected, not by the self-aware aspiration, intention, will or seeking of the living being, but subconsciously or subliminally by the automatic operation of Nature. This was so because the evolution began from the Inconscience and the secret Consciousness had not yet emerged sufficiently from it to operate through the self-aware participating individual will of its living creature. But in man the necessary change has been made, — the being has become awake and aware of himself; there has been made manifest in Mind its will to develop, to grow in knowledge, to deepen the inner and widen the outer existence, to increase the capacities of the nature…. In him, then, the substitution of a conscious for a subconscious evolution has become conceivable and practicable, and it may well be concluded that the aspiration, the urge, the persistent endeavour in him is a sure sign of Nature’s will for a higher way to fulfilment, the emergence of a greater status.”

Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, Growing Within: The Psychology of Inner Development, Chapter I Emergence from Unconsciousness, pg. 2

Author's Bio: 

Santosh has been studying Sri Aurobindo's writings since 1971 and has a daily blog at http://sriaurobindostudies.wordpress.com and podcast at https://anchor.fm/santosh-krinsky He is author of 17 books and is editor-in-chief at Lotus Press. He is president of Institute for Wholistic Education, a non-profit focused on integrating spirituality into daily life.