Evolution and Creation: Is this Really the Best God Can Do?
Now, when I completed the first draft of my book perhaps a decade ago, I was absolutely convinced of this view. Perhaps "convinced" is the wrong word, any more than one is convinced that the sun rises in the east. Rather, science tells us that there was a time that the cosmos did not exist. Then, suddenly it did. Not gradually. Suddenly. It did not exist. Then it did.
Same with Life (I capitalize it when I am speaking of "Life as such"). The last time I checked with Petey, this was a supposedly dead -- or, to be precise, non-living -- universe until March 4, 3.85 billion years ago, when Life suddenly appeared, or moved from the implicate to the explicate order. Which is another way of saying that the universe revealed itself to be a living one after all.
In other words, from our vantage point, 10 billion years may seem like a long time, but from the Creator's point of view, we know that one day is an eternity and all of eternity is but a single day. If you cease anthropomorphizing the situation, then perhaps the emergence of Life was an overnight sensation.
Same with the emergence of humanness. No one knows with certainty when human beings arrived on the scene, but let's say that genetically complete humans appeared approximately 200,000 years ago, give or take. As I explained in the Coonifesto, our genetic endowment doesn't explain much in light of the fact that "humanness" doesn't appear until much later, only around 40,000 years ago. And I would go even further, and say that real humanness didn't emerge until the axial age, with the simultaneous downloading of all the great revelations. In the absence of these revelations, man isn't really man at all, just a cosmic freak, an animal-human hybrid like Bill Maher, Deepak Chopra, or Keith Olbermann.
Of course, you can argue against these facts in the name of "faith," but I do not believe that is the purpose of faith -- i.e., to help us disbelieve what is before our eyes. Rather, it is to help us understand that which is not before our eyes. And in the entire scenario I have just laid out, there is much that is not before our eyes, and which cannot be understood or illuminated in the absence of faith.
To take just the most obvious examples, how could a perfectly ordered universe suddenly appear out of nowhere? Why is it ordered at all? And why is it so ordered that it allows not just for the emergence of living things -- as we know, if you mess with just one of the knobs on the Creator's cosmic console, and change one of the mathematical parameters that undergird the physical cosmos, biological life would be impossible -- but also for the emergence of minds capable of understanding the truth of the cosmos and of their own origins? To express it as succinctly as possible, what kind of cosmos permits Truth, Love, and Beauty? To say that science cannot answer that question is a banality of the first rank.
Only after the first draft of my book was written, did I really immerse myself in the works of the traditionalists, e.g., Schuon, Guenon, Cutsinger, Nasr, and others. While I had encountered them before, I basically rejected them on a priori grounds, since I thought it absurd to suggest that the cosmos was not evolving.
However, in the mean time, a lot of spiritual growth had taken place, so, for the first time, I was actually able to penetrate and understand where the traditionalists were coming from. Or, perhaps I should say that they were finally able to penetrate my density. So for the past four or five years, as you may have noticed, I have been very much under their influence. Frankly, I can never repay Schuon for what he has given me. It's as if he put the finishing touch on my ability to think about spiritual things -- i.e., to engage in intellection and think vertically.
Nevertheless. I still feel as if Aurobindo and Schuon are talking about apples and oranges. Schuon has an absolutely vertical and static orientation -- like the Catholic church on stilts -- whereas Aurobindo is quite the opposite, and not only values the evolving world, but sees it as the very stage upon which the cosmic-spiritual adventure takes place. The world is here for a reason, and it's not just to wait for our death. But Schuon comes very close to saying that -- as do some Orthodox thinkers, for that matter.
The whole point about Aurobindo's philosophy is that the world is not only worthy of our being here, but that we are required to do the urgent spiritual work of uniting the above and below, in order to create the "life divine" on earth. This is obviously not in some pie-in-the-sky, youdopian leftist sense, but more in the Christian sense of bringing God's light into the world ("Thy will be done"), or in the Jewish sense of Tikkun, or helping to complete God's creation. Frankly, I see Aurobindo's philosophy as being quite compatible with Christian theology, but also with Americanism, which is optimistic and progressive, values the individual, and sees itself as engaging in a spiritual mission. Americans are idealists, in ways that the sophisticates of the international left simply cannot grasp because of their lazy cynicism.
(By the way, for anycoon who is put off by Aurobindo's metaphysics, please be patient, as I will eventually explain how all this comports with Judeo-Christian metaphysics.)
Schuon would say that the world is inevitably winding down through time, as it falls increasingly far from its timeless source. But I say, so long as single infant can grow up and know the Godhead, it is winding up. Schuon would say that human beings are well into the "beginning of the end," i.e., the "Kali yuga." Aurobindo might say that we are only just now approaching the end of the beginning, as mankind learns to colonize and expand its own psychic space, which converges upon the Divine mind. For example, in his own case, he wrote (in 1914, by which time he had realized all that could be realized from the standpoint of traditional yoga) that "what I thought were results are nothing more than a preparation. I feel as though I have done nothing yet, as though I have not lived the spiritual life, only entered the path that leads to it."
Aurobindo begins with the principle -- as indeed you must -- that all is one, and that that One is God, or Brahman. In other words, Reality is not a "sum" but a unity; all multiplicity, all differences and variations, exist within that prior oneness: "From that all variations begin, in that all variations consist, to that all variations return." God is the "Alpha and Omega," the "One besides whom there is nothing else existent." Only it is ultimately Real. To the extent that we really exist, it is only because we partake of that Being.
As such, it is an artificial distinction to radically separate being from becoming, as I believe Schuon does. For if God is one, then becoming partakes of being as well. True, there is a "dark and silent" aspect of God, that is, the Godhead that may only be unKnown in the luminous darkness of mystical union. But there is another side -- literally -- to the story, and that is the "active" aspect of God, part of which is this Creation. As Aurobindo writes, "The fundamental truth of Being must necessarily be the fundamental truth of Becoming. All is a manifestation of That."
This is simply another way of saying that the "becoming" represented by cosmic evolution is nothing but a necessary consequence of God's Being, as it is deployed in time, so to speak. Again, Schuon would say that the world of "becoming" is only becoming less and less as time goes by. Could this possibly be true? We really only have three choices: either it is becoming less, becoming more, or staying the same. The latter cannot be the case, since only God by definition "stays the same," being that he is eternal. But his eternity participates in time -- indeed, time is simply the moving image of eternity, or God in Motion, so to speak. And I just cannot accept the idea that time represents God's "deterioration." Rather, the specific reason why time is anti-entropic is because its substance is God. It's the reason why dust comes to life and monkeys compose symphonies.
Now, there are evolutionary worlds and non-evolutionary worlds, and it is critical to maintain their distinction. For example, the world of revelation is a non-evolutionary world. It is intended to help us understand the timeless truths of our evolutionary world, but that can hardly mean that the world itself is not evolving. Rather, that's the whole point. Precisely because the phenomenal world is changing, we need a way to understand its deeper truth, whether it is scientific truth or moral and theological truth. Again, the whole point, say, of Genesis, is not that it describes things that happened long ago and once and for all, but that it describes what happens every time, over and over. Likewise, creation didn't just happen 13.7 billion years ago or 6,000 years ago, but continuously.
Let us think of the Creation as a "bridge" between becoming and divine Being. Naturally, the bridge must be built in time. Furthermore, it goes without saying that this bridge could never be built "from the bottom up," like a Tower of Babel. Rather, the only reason it can be built at all is again because God is the material, the ladder, the rungs, and the destination. Looked at in this way, ours is not a "God of the gaps." Rather, precisely the opposite: God is a God of the gaplessness, specifically, the lack of any real gap between matter and life, life and mind, mind and spirit, and spirit and God. In the absence of God, this is indeed a gap-filled universe, with no way to account for the ontological discontinuities. In other words, the only way you can get from matter to life or ape to man is because of the very gaplessness of God.
You might say that evolution "presses upward," but that it could never arrive anywhere in the absence of God "pressing downward," so to speak. A quintessential example of this is Christ, or even the Christ principle, if you prefer. No matter how hard man "pushed against the sky," he could not have produced a messiah on his own. Rather, the ascending pressure must be met by a descending response, which creates a kind of "whirlpool" where spiritual activity takes place. This is why, in your own life, as you press upward, God pushes downward.
Looked at in this way, there are "avatars" at every stage of evolution. For example, that first living being was an "avatar of matter," a divine descent. Life is already Divinity. It is sacred. And it is One.
To be continued....