The Mother Divine
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by Swami Krishnananda

Part 1

As is the growth of a little baby into the maturity of education and culture, so is the process adopted in the scheme of evolution towards the rise of religious consciousness. There is in the individual as well as in nature an incipiency of life seen outwardly in nature as inanimate existence and, in the human individual particularly, a state of life which is almost an absence of the motivating principals of life.

In the earliest condition of the development of a human individual, the state of awareness may be said to be practically absent, though it is present as a potential for further development. If the procedure adopted by nature in the process of evolution is true, the higher forms of life are latently present even in the lowest form of natural existence, inanimate life.

Matter effloresces; it is said, into the vegetable consciousness through further subdivisions of the growth of life. It is not that a stone suddenly becomes a tree. There are other antecedent conditions to be followed, many in number. We cannot count them with our computing mind. With all these antecedents which are far beyond the comprehension of ordinary thinking, there seems to be a tendency from the lowest form of natural existence to the visible forms of life we see in the vegetable kingdom. There is life in plants and trees, but not thought, not even the instinct that we see in animals. Instinct grows later on. Instinct develops into consciousness and self-consciousness in the human individual, and this self-consciousness of the human individual also is a pointer to a further possibility of development.

We are usually told by teachers that religion begins when intellect stops or reason is hushed. This is to say that the religious consciousness is to a large extent superhuman. The religious consciousness is not merely human consciousness. It is not intellection, it is not induction, and it is not deduction. It is not the known forms of ratiocination. There is a potential above these available forms of human knowledge.

As the individual grows from an unlettered baby, almost equivalent to a plant or tree or vegetable for all practical purposes, it moves through these varied processes of evolution nature adopts objectively in this world. The vegetable forms of consciousness gradually develop into instincts which are blindly operative, knowing what they require but not knowing why it is that they require it. Instinct is not rational in this sense. The possession of the faculty which we call reason can distinguish between the pros and cons of a condition. It can infer circumstances from present situations prevailing. It can infer the present from the past, and the future from the present. Instinct has no such availability. It is just living in the present.

Nature, including all human individuals with all its contents of life, is supposed to be moving gradually from the lower forms of life to higher forms. The lowest form is a total abolition of self-consciousness as in a stone, a rock. The creeping sense of a dream type of consciousness arises gradually through the plant and the animal. They are conscious, but not self-conscious. “I know.” This awareness is supposed to be consciousness. But ‘I know that I know’ is an adaptation of the consciousness to a little higher degree, and it becomes therein what we call self-consciousness. Even if you are aware, you must be aware also that you are aware. The human individual has this prerogative of being self-conscious.

But unfortunately, for all human nature, this self-consciousness, which is a blessing, granted far above the animal and the plant kingdom, is associated with what we call egoism. Self-consciousness goes with egoism. The knowledge that I know, the consciousness of one’s knowledge of a particular object – I know that I know – is not merely an abstract awareness of the object, but it is an affirmation of that knowledge in an individualistic capacity, tied so concretely to the individual that it becomes almost an affirmation of the body itself. The so-called ego of the human individual is not merely an affirmation of consciousness; it is finally and further on tantamount to an affirmation of the physical existence of the individual.

The pure abstract consciousness which asserts itself to the exclusion of other similar types of knowledge is bad enough. It is bad because it excludes the existence and value of other similar types of self-awareness, but it becomes worse still when the self-awareness gets tethered to what we call body consciousness. The ego, the reason and the body get clubbed together in human awareness. Hence is the difficulty in extricating the aspiration for religion and spirituality from this muddle of involvement of consciousness in the ego and the body.

It is a hard task because our awareness that we are the body – our body-consciousness, so-called – is so very intense that we cannot believe that we are anything more than the body. Every inch, every cell of our body is alive with the capacity to affirm that it is all-in-all. The I, which is originally a conscious affirmation, becomes a physical affirmation, a purely materialistic assertion of the existence of the body as the be-all and end-all of all things, so that the comforts of the body and the pleasures of everything related to the body become the meaning of all possible life in the world. We seek nothing but this support of physicality. Religion is far from this.

The consciousness of a religious attitude is superior to the available consciousness in natural evolution. The naturalistic form of evolution ends with human nature. We do not see any species in this world above humanity. It is the finality that nature has reached today, at least as far as we can understand in this world. The inanimate existence has become the plant, and the plant has become the animal, and the animal has become the human. It has not gone further.

Nature seems to have attempted the manufacture of superhuman individuals also in history, to whom we make reference oftentimes as saints, sages, incarnations, avataras, etc. The avatara purushas, the incarnations, the Godmen, the saints and the sages we adore are not mere human beings. They are superhuman in their comprehension. Where lies the super-humanity of these individuals, or rather, what is the inner constituent of this superhuman knowledge which a superhuman individual is supposed to possess? We generally hear it said again and again that they have an intuition, while ordinary human beings have only reason, intellection, understanding, which is based on logic.
In order to understand any particular given situation, we have to argue through logic. Such and such a circumstance is prevailing at present, and we compare that circumstance with other similar circumstances that have occurred earlier, and we infer the possible consequences that may follow from the present condition by observation of similar circumstances arisen earlier and consequences that followed therefrom. This is not the way of the avatara, incarnation, or the sage.

Our perceptions are mediate, where a spiritual perception is supposed to be immediate. It is non-mediate. A mediacy is necessary for us to be aware of the existence of anything. To know something, we require a mechanism of knowledge. We require eyes to see, a mind to think, and an arguing intellect to judge the consequence of perception. So there is a handicap in our attempt to know anything, namely, that we have to depend on certain apparatuses and the healthy condition of these instruments. The extent of the health of these instruments will also decide the extent of the veracity of the knowledge that we gain through perception, whether through the sense organs or through mentation.
We cannot say, therefore, under the existing conditions of human knowledge, that our knowledge is infallible. It is mediate. The conditions that are to prevail in order that we may know a particular object, the nature of the instruments we employ, decide the nature of the objects we gain. But immediate knowledge is a direct grasp of the object as such. This direct grasp in a super-mediate comprehension is supposed to be intuition. Religious awareness is an intuitive perception. It is not a knowledge that is obtained through the medium of the sense organs or the mental capacities. What is the meaning of this direct grasp? In what way is it direct as contrasted from the indirect grasp through the sense organs? The directness of perception in religious awareness consists in a sort of identity that is established, an en rapport that is established between the knower and the known.

Knowledge is always an inward process. It does not come to us from outside. It is an illumination that is taking place spontaneously from inside under given conditions. This inwardness of the potential of knowledge in us directly enters into the potential of the object of knowledge. It grasps that object by communing itself with the object and making its characters harmonised with its own characteristics.
The Yoga Sutras give us an analogy describing this condition of direct perception of an object. In ordinary perception knowledge moves in the direction of an externally placed object. But here in the intuitive grasp, it is difficult to know whether the knowledge moves from the knowing subject to the object outside, or if it moves from the object to the subject. The analogy, the comparison, is the water in two tanks on a similar level. Both the tanks are on an equal level, and both the tanks are filled with water to the brim. There is a connecting passage from one tank to the other. Water flows from one tank to the other tank, from this tank to that tank, and from that tank to this tank, so that when the water moves through that little conduit passage, one cannot know which water flows and in what direction, whether A moves towards B or B moves towards A. In an intuitive grasp of the object, so-called, the objects behold the subject in as intense a capacity as the subject beholds the objects. The object is not a passive existence subjecting itself to the activity of a knowing subject.

In our knowing processes, we appear to be active in the form of the perceptional operation, and the object seems to be passively lying there, ready to be grasped by us through our perception and knowledge, as if it has no independent existence at all. Every object is also a subject from its own point of view. When I look at you and know that you are there, it may appear that I am a subject of knowledge and you are the object cognised, perceived by me; but as you are also looking at me and seeing me, therefore, from your point of view you are the subject of perception and I am the object. It is, therefore, a question of standpoint and emphasis laid on the knowledge aspect of the cognition of an object.
Every little thing in the world is a subject from its own point of view because it has a desire to survive, a desire to know, a desire to perpetuate itself and to live as long as possible, and to expand its dimension. These characteristics present in any particular thing are also seen to be equally present in all things. Nobody wishes to die, for instance. The survival instinct is equally present in all living beings, and survival is not merely desire to live for a few days. It is a longing which persists endlessly.

On the other hand, there is another instinct prevalent in everyone, namely, the expansion of the dimension of oneself. We wish to annex our kingdom as much as possible. Politically, of course, it is direct grabbing of land and property of somebody, but in other forms of the manifestation of this instinct it is a psychological expansion of one’s dimension by the affirmation of the ego, dominating over others, exercising authority, or ruling the kingdom, for instance. That is a psychological expansion of one’s little otherwise-physical dimension. There is a desire to survive at the cost of others’ survival. This instinct is also present in everyone at the same time. We find that we would like others to go to dogs, and not our own selves. Therefore, the survival instinct also goes together with the ego instinct.

The religious consciousness is quite distinguished from all these instincts and forms of knowledge. It has a universality behind it, and not just the particularity to which all individual knowledge is tied. The way in which we perceive an object depends upon the conditions of the body, the sense organs, our instincts or predilections, the religious faith to which we belong, the language we speak, and our cultural background. Even our physiological condition, such as the health of our liver for instance, may affect our thinking and feeling. But this is a purely particularised form of knowledge, not valid for other persons. Everyone may not know a thing in the same way as one knows. The universality behind it is limited to pure formal individual perception. Religious perception is universally valid. It is like seeing a thing in daylight, not like dream perceptions valid only to individuals. Your dreams are your dreams; they need not necessarily be objects of another person’s dream. But the perception in broad daylight, in the midday sun, for instance, is a common perception. This kind of perception may be considered as an example of universal perception. Extending this analogy, we may say that there is a common perception available at the back of our rationality – the perception of the Atman, the pure Self – beholding all things in terms of the pure Self existing in objects. This also may be said to be the reach of religious awareness. The Self beholding things or the attempt of the Self to behold things only from its point of view – that is, the point of view of the pure Self or the Spirit in man independent of the encrustations which have grown subsequently due to association with the body and the mind – may be said to be the beginning of spirituality or religion. It is the language that is spoken by the universal in the individual, not the language of the tongue of man but an instinctive capacity to communicate by the self in respect of another self. It is a far more developed instinct than the usual encrusted instinct which is inferior to the reasoning capacity. Here is an instinct which is superior to the reason, which collects information not by sifting information through logical analysis but by coming in union with that which is to be known in a fraternity of existence. The medium that we usually adopt in the perception of an object melts down into the substance out of which the visayi and the visayaare made.