classes ::: George_Van_Vrekhem, Integral_Yoga, chapter,
children :::
branches :::
see also :::

Instances, Classes, See Also, Object in Names
Definitions, . Quotes . - . Chapters .


object:1.09 - Sri Aurobindo and the Big Bang
book classPreparing for the Miraculous
author class:George Van Vrekhem
subject class:Integral Yoga
class:chapter

Whatever India has to offer should be stated to the
West in language that the West can understand.
Sri Aurobindo 1
R
ationality is a specific function of the human being,
so often called the mental being by Sri Aurobindo.
There is no doubt that his view was the most encompass
ing ever, which is the reason why words like integral
and synthetic are keywords in it. His affirmation was a
1
Sri Aurobindo: Essays Divine and Human, p. 65.192
e l e v e n tal k s
catholic affirmation, his faith a faith which the highest
Reason, the widest and most patient reflection do not deny,
but rather affirm. 2 It may therefore be said that Sri Au
robindos teaching is the most rational, for it expounds an
integration or synthesis of all material and spiritual knowl
edge from the past and the present, and an open attitude
to embrace and find a place for everything. Because all is
That. In the practice of the Yoga one has to be one-pointed
in ones heart, but in ones mind, as a human incarnation
in the present time, one has to be open and wide-ranging,
therein following the example of Sri Aurobindo and the
Mother.
We have to find a truth that can entirely reconcile Spir
it and Matter and can give to both their due portion in Life
and their due justification in Thought, amercing neither of
its rights, denying in neither the sovereign truth from which
even its errors, even the exclusiveness of its exaggerations
draw so constant a strength. For wherever there is an ex
treme statement [like the tenets of materialistic science] that
makes such a powerful appeal to the human mind, we may
be sure that we are standing in the presence of no mere er
ror, superstition or hallucination, but of some sovereign fact
disguised which demands our fealty and will avenge itself
if denied or excluded. ... It is therefore through the utmost
unification of Spirit and Matter that we shall best arrive at
their reconciling truth and so at some strongest foundation
for a reconciling practice in the inner life of the individual
and his outer existence. 3
True to this attitude, Sri Aurobindo followed with
constant interest the goings-on in the world, including the
main discoveries in science, where the revolutionary new
2 Sri Aurobindo: The Life Divine, p. 37.
3 Id., p. 29.sri aurobindo and the big bang
193
theories of relativity and quantum mechanics were the or
der of the day. Many statements in his writings show how
much he appreciated the efforts of the scientists to under
stand Nature and to advance a step further towards the
Truth. Yet he was also in possession of a spiritual insight
and knowledge which made the limitations of positivist
science a science of process, not of essentials or Reality
crystal clear.
About the theory of evolution, for instance, he wrote:
A theory of spiritual evolution is not identical with a scien
tific theory of form-evolution and physical life-evolution; it
must stand on its own inherent justification: it may accept
the scientific account of physical evolution as a support or
element, but the support is not indispensable. The scientific
theory is concerned only with the outward and visible ma
chinery and process, with the detail of Natures execution,
with the physical development of things in Matter and the
law of development of Life and Mind in Matter; its account
of the process may have to be considerably changed or
may be dropped altogether in the light of new discovery,
but that will not affect the self-evident fact of a spiritual
evolution, an evolution of Consciousness, a progression of
the souls manifestation in material existence. 4
What was to Sri Aurobindo self-evident fact of spiritual
knowledge, here brought to bear on the biological theory
of evolution, may be equally well applied to other branch
es of science. Indeed, Sri Aurobindos writings are strewn
with direct or indirect reflections on science and spiritual
ity, and with comparisons between them. As these remarks
are often made in passing, they may escape the attention of
the reader. In this talk we will consider one such passage in
Savitri, a few lines which contain a wealth of meaning.
4
Id., p. 868.194
e l e v e n tal k s
The Big Bang
Two months before he descended into death, Sri Au
robindo seemed in a hurry to finish his real work, this
to the astonishment of Nirodbaran, his amanuensis, who
writes in his memoirs that he had never seen Sri Auro
bindo hurry for anything. By his real work Sri Auro
bindo meant Savitri, the epic which he had been rewriting
and expanding for decades. If anything, Sri Aurobindos
concern shows the importance attached by him to this ma
jor opus of his later years. In it he laid down the essence
not only of his own knowledge and experience but also of
the experience of the Mother, as she has said herself. We
can find her supreme praise for Savitri in a conversation
which Mona Sarkar, then a young sadhak, has published
under the title Sweet Mother Harmonies of Light. There is
no doubt that Sri Aurobindo, who had written The Poetry
of the Future, conceived Savitri as his poetry of the future, a
poetry of Truth in the age-old tradition of the truth-seers,
the rishis, who formulated the mantric lines of the Veda and
the Upanishads. Putting it all together, one might call Savitri
Sri Aurobindos testament.
As the Mother said in the aforementioned conversa
tion, Sri Aurobindo shows us in Savitri the main structure
and the sense of the divine manifestation which we call the
universe, mantrically formulated from the largest spiritual
knowledge and perception ever possessed by an incarnat
ed being. We find in the epic a description of the universe
and its origin, the gradations or worlds of involution and
evolution, the beings of those worlds, the evolution of life
on Earth, the past, present and future of the human be
ing in its changing environments, life and death, the as
pects and relation of Spirit and Matter, the meaning of it all
and the ways of the Divine with it. And much more. Many
statements refer directly to science in a positive or negativesri aurobindo and the big bang
195
way. As Sri Aurobindo wrote for the future, this cannot but
have been intentionally. It is the aim of this talk to examine
one such statement:
A Mysterys process is the universe.
At first was laid a strange and anomalous base,
A void, a cipher of some secret Whole,
Where zero held infinity in its sum
And All and Nothing were a single term,
An eternal negative, a matrix Nought:
Into its forms the Child is ever born
Who lives for ever in the vasts of God.
A slow reversals movement then took place:
A gas belched out from some invisible Fire,
Of its dense rings were formed these million stars ... 5
In these lines Sri Aurobindo describes the origin of the
universe, with in the last two his evocation of what is now
commonly called the Big Bang. It should be kept in mind
that this was written before 1950.
All peoples known in history and most probably all
others also have wondered about how the world in which
they lived originated. There were the seasons which regu
lated their lives, the unknown beyond the horizon which
encircled their lives, the immense cupola of the sky along
which the sun and moon travelled and where the stars
shone bright at night, and the miracles of birth, life and
death. Each people has its own story about the beginnings,
told from generation to generation, with gods, giants and
primeval beings doing amazing deeds. However, there are
no known stories in which the cosmos began at one time,
at one point humanity, yes, successive humanities, yes,
but never the existence of the world. The inexplicable was
mostly explained by imagining cycles of immense duration,
5
Sri Aurobindo: Savitri, pp. 100-01.196
e l e v e n tal k s
improving or worsening the lot of the creatures of the gods,
and sometimes of the gods themselves. With one excep
tion: the Hebrews. Their holy book told about an absolute
beginning, when Yahweh created heaven and earth, and
everything in it. According to Genesis, the book in which
this is narrated, the world had a beginning.
Physics and cosmology, successful in working out sev
eral theories of cosmological mechanics, preferred at first
not to trouble itself with an explanation of how the cosmic
clockwork had been wound up. They supposed, for simplic
itys sake, that the universe had existed from infinity and
would continue existing in infinity, eternal and unchanging.
Yet this opportunistic viewpoint began to be questioned in
the 1920s. Because of the advances in nuclear physics, the
composition and the life histories of the various types of
stars began to be known. Edwin Hubbles astonishing dis
coveries seemed to show that the universe was expanding.
All this lead to a model of the universe which is still pre
sented in the text books and by the media as the standard
model (but which is in fact severely questioned).
We can say that the Big Bang theory is currently re
garded as a well-established theory, the standard-model
acceptable to most physicists, and that the questions that
remain do not cast serious suspicions on it. Thus wrote
Kitty Ferguson in The Fire in the Equations, published in
1994. 6 Lee Smolin, however, opines: We, who are used to
the idea now, can only speculate about how hard it was to
accept the notion that the universe might have had a be
ginning. 7 Indeed, in 1933 the universe was still assumed
to be eternal and unchanging, and when Albert Einstein,
then already a celebrity, endorsed the first propositions of
6 Kitty Ferguson: The Fire in the Equations, p. 126.
7 Lee Smolin: The Trouble with Physics, p. 151.sri aurobindo and the big bang
197
something like a Big Bang model, he was vehemently at
tacked and even ridiculed. (In the history of science, there
has never been a new proposition which was not attacked
and covered with ridicule.)
Around 1950, in the years Sri Aurobindo wrote the lines
quoted from Savitri, the controversy raged between Hoyle,
Bondi and Golds Steady State model of the universe and
the theory of the explosion, the Big Bang at the beginning
of time. In 1953 the majority of astronomers had not yet
accepted the Big Bang model of the universe, and clung to
their conservative view of an eternal universe. Throughout
the 1950s the scientific community remained divided. In
1959 the Science News-Letter conducted a survey and asked
thirty-three prominent astronomers to declare their posi
tion on the controversy. The results showed that eleven
experts backed the Big Bang, eight stood by the Steady
State model, and the remaining fourteen were either un
decided or thought that both models were wrong. It was
only in the 1960s that the Big Bang model became prepon
derant. 8 The 1964 discovery of the cosmic background ra
diation by Arno Penzias and Robert Wilson, and later the
mapping of the entire sky by the COBE satellite, were sup
posed to confirm the theory. Still, in a 1980 poll, 69% of the
astronomers supported the Big Bang, only 2% stuck with
the Steady State theory, and 29% were unsure. 9
This means that Sri Aurobindo wrote what he had seen
as the truth at a time that science was still far from having
converted to the Big Bang, namely that a gas exploded
from an invisible fire, and that of its dense rings were
formed these million stars in other words, that the mate
rial universe had begun with an explosion.
8 Simon Singh: Big Bang, pp. 365 ff.
9 Id., p. 438 (emphasis added).198
e l e v e n tal k s
According to the current Big Bang theory, the universe
originated from something smaller than an atom, even
smaller than the nucleus of an atom, labelled a singu
larity. Reducing, in accordance with the laws of physics
and cosmology known at present, the expanding universe
backwards to its ever smaller past, the theorists have end
ed with something that was an unknowable, something of
which only one instance existed. The astronomically big
had, oh wonder, originated from the indefinably small. All
had originated from nothing.
This is an example of how science, epitome of the ra
tional and opponent of the mystical, accepts the undefin
able, even as a basis of its theoretical constructs. (Another
example was Newtons gravity, exerting a magical action at
a distance.) All the same, it must be said that serious science
has never been comfortable with the explanation. Extrapo
lating backwards, from the known to the unknown (from
the perceived universe to an inexplicable event 13.7 billion
years ago), is a risky and scientifically unjustifiable way of
proceeding. This is why string theory and M-theory, much
flaunted but as yet little proven, propose several solutions
to the problem, accept a universe or universes before and
after the Big Bang, and even fantasize about a multiverse
with an infinite number of dimensions which would ex
plain all things imaginable.
Sri Aurobindo gives the solution of the mysterious and
momentous happening at the origin of the universe: a gas
belched out from some invisible fire. This places the singu
larity squarely in dimensions which must remain forever
foreign to materialistic science, but without which Reality,
including material reality, will never be explainable. For
the invisible fire in question is not what is commonly
understood as fire, it is Agni, the mystic fire of the Vedas
which is hymned as the upbuilder of the worlds, the secretsri aurobindo and the big bang
199
Immortal in men and things. It is the central Fire of Hera
clitus, Pythagoras and the Stoics, the heart of Zeus. In the
Pythagorean cosmology the centre of the world is occupied
by a fire (different from the Sun) around which orbit all the
heavenly bodies (including the Sun), and that fire is connect
ed with the godhead, Hestia, responsible for the movement
of the world and for its organization. Here the fire occupies
a central position and an organizing function ... (Andr
Pichot) 10 Sri Aurobindo, rediscoverer of the secret of the
Veda, wrote: It is a fact that Agni is the basis of forms, as the
Sankhya pointed out long ago, i.e. the fiery principle in the
three powers radiant, electric and gaseous (the Vedic trinity
of Agni) is the agent in producing liquid and solid forms of
what is called Matter. 11
The quantum vacuum
Yet all this is a comment on the last two lines of our
quotation. The previous lines are as revealing:
A Mysterys process is the universe.
At first was laid a strange and anomalous base,
A void, a cipher of some secret Whole,
Where zero held infinity in its sum
And All and Nothing were a single term,
An eternal negative, a matrix Nought ...
What Sri Aurobindo mentions here is a strange and
anomalous base for the event that is to take place: the sud
den appearance of a material universe. At the time he wrote
this it was thought that nothing could precede the primal
explosion. Russell Stannard, for instance, tries to explain:
The Big Bang did not take place at some well-defined point
within an already existing space like a terrorist bomb
10 Andr Pichot: Histoire de la notion de vie, p. 119.
11 Sri Aurobindo: Letters on Yoga, p. 215.200
e l e v e n tal k s
going off under a car in a particular street in a particular
town. Before the Big Bang there was no space. It was the
expansion of space itself, from nothing, that was responsi
ble for the phenomenon of the expansion of the universe.
12
Here Sri Aurobindo names the indescribable making the
appearance of matter possible, and in which we can discern
two matters of special interest.
The first one is that a void had to be created. Meta
physically, the Divine has always been seen as a plenum,
an absolute fullness in which there can be no gaps or holes.
The Divine is the Infinite that is a Point of absolute den
sity, and a Point that is the Infinite of absolute density. In
his non-material manifestation there are no gaps, for a gap
or vacuity would mean a flaw in the divine fullness and
perfection. Contrary to modern science, which has found
that matter is for the most part empty space, in the wisdom
traditions the Divine has always been conceived as a total
density. Consequently, Arthur Lovejoy writes in his classic
work on The Great Chain of Being: The perfection of the Ab
solute Being must be an intrinsic attribute, a property in
herent in the Idea of it; and since the being and attribute of
all other things are derivative from this perfection because
they are logically implicit in it, there is no room for any con
tingency anywhere in the universe. 13
According to Sri Aurobindo a void had to be created
in the fullness to make place for a material universe. How
ever, this void is not an emptiness or nothing, it is a cipher
of some secret Whole, / Where zero held infinity in its sum
/ And All and Nothing were a single term. It may here be
recalled that, in another, complementary approach to the
creation of matter, Sri Aurobindo and the Mother said that
12 Russell Stannard: Science and Wonders, p. 144.
13 Arthur Lovejoy: The Great Chain of Being, p. 54.sri aurobindo and the big bang
201
matter is the first produce of the Inconscient, the dark Zero
that is the contrary into which the Divine has plunged. At
the very beginning of Savitri we read:
A fathomless zero occupied the world.
A power of fallen boundless self awake
Between the first and the last Nothingness ...
Here is that zero again that held infinity in its sum,
and which Sri Aurobindo would confirm by asserting that
The Inconscient too is infinite. 14
The other matter of special interest is the resemblance
of the lines of our quotation with elements of the quan
tum theory known as the quantum vacuum. (It should
be stated here explicitly that this comparison is not meant
as a scientific explanation intending to show that science
proves spirituality. All is That, science too. But spirituality
is holistic, based on experience. Science is an activity of the
mind, restricting itself to matter as perceived by the sens
es. Spirituality can know now; to really know, science will
have to break through the boundaries of materialism it has
imposed on itself, and take up the exploration of the realms
of life and mind before it can found a durable knowledge.)
Decades before Sri Aurobindo wrote the quoted pas
sage in Savitri, he had already noted, interpreting the old
scriptures: As in the immobile ether arises, first sign of
the creative impulse of Nature, vibration, Shabda, and this
vibration is a line of etheric movement, is ether contacting
ether in its own field of mobile self-force and that primal stir
is sufficient to initiate all forms and forces, even such is the
original movement of the Infinite. But the vibration is not
the stir of any material force or substance and this contact is
not material contact. This is a vibration of consciousness in
spiritual essence; this is the contact of consciousness with
14 Sri Aurobindo: Savitri, p. 318.202
e l e v e n tal k s
itself in spiritual substance. 15 The language is quite differ
ent from the modern scientific terminology. (To Sri Auro
bindo ether was space and may become so again in phys
ics.) But the point is that what at the time was a novel theory
in physics is stated as fact in a magnum opus by Sri Auro
bindo, intended to contain his spiritual legacy. Moreover,
terms like anomalous base and the etheric movement of
vibration bring to mind the quantum theory according to
which virtual particles arise continuously out of the void
and may be at the origin of the universe.
For one of the more bizarre consequences of quantum
uncertainty is that matter can appear out of nowhere ...
Quantum mechanics permits energy to appear spontane
ously from nothing as long as it disappears again rapidly ...
In fact, the fluctuating quantum energy of the vacuum caus
es the temporary creation of all manner of virtual particles
... The apparently inert vacuum is actually a sea of restless
activity, full of ghostly particles which appear, interact and
vanish. 16 (Paul Davies) What we normally regard as emp
ty space is actually an ocean of seething activity. In this
remarkable scenario, the entire cosmos simply comes out of
nowhere, completely in accordance with the laws of quan
tum physics, and creates along the way all the matter and
energy needed to build the universe we now see. 17 But then
the question arises: what produced the quantum forces that
made the virtual particles, and consequently the universe,
possible? Davies out of nowhere looks much like out of
nothing. And as Sri Aurobindo wrote: A Nothing which
is full of all potentialities is the most complete opposition of
terms and things possible. 18
15 Sri Aurobindo: Essays Divine and Human, p. 198.
16 Paul Davies and John Gribbin: The Matter Myth, p. 138.
17 Paul Davies: God and the New Physics, p. 216.
18 Sri Aurobindo: The Life Divine, p. 105.sri aurobindo and the big bang
203
Is the Big Bang generally accepted?
From the popular literature and the media one would
gather that the Big Bang, the explosive event at the origin of
the universe, is now the consensus in science. In the general
mind the mysterious explosion of a nothing that became
everything has lost most of its shocking mystery, as scien
tists assert that they know all about it up to a fraction of
time so small that it requires a long chain of zeros to write
it out. Yet the scientist Hubert Reeves warned recently:
That the observations support the idea of the Big Bang
only means that it is a highly credible theory, not that it is
an absolute and definitive truth. And in a serious popular
science magazine like the French Sciences et Avenir one finds
headlines like Did the Big Bang really happen? or The
mystery of the origins of the universe is far from solved.
What is more, there are still several models of the uni
verse. As we have seen, there is the dominant Big Bang
model and the Steady State model, even at present adhered
to by a few cosmologists. But now, based on the string and
M(embrane) theories, there are also models which bypass
the initial explosion and say that the universe started off as
a dense sea of black holes; or that it was sparked by a colli
sion between two membranes floating in higher-dimen
sional space; or that our universe was originally ripped
from a larger entity, and that countless baby universes will
be born from the wreckage of ours. It would seem that there
is hardly a cosmological theory in science fiction that is not
backed up by theoretical physics, or made acceptable by the
addition of a number of dimensions or universes.
Moreover, the Cambridge Group consisting of Hoy
le, Bondi and Gold, presented as late as 1993 a revamped
steady-state model which posited that there has been a
succession of little big bangs like the one that created our204
e l e v e n tal k s
universe. And Halton Arp, former assistant of the great Ed
win Hubble himself, remains a stubborn opponent of the
standard Big Bang theory. But one of the most impressive
stances against the Big Bang was that by John Maddox, for
years the physics editor of the prestigious science journal
Nature. In 1989 he wrote in an editorial, with the argumen
tative title Down with the Big Bang: Apart from being
philosophically unacceptable, the Big Bang is an over-sim
ple view of how the Universe began, and it is unlikely to
survive the decade ahead. It has survived even two dec
ades ahead, but it is now, as mentioned above, one among
several rival theories which are not yet sufficiently simpli
fied to become the standard fare of the media.
This means that if one reads statements of the follow
ing sort: We can be very confident about tracing the his
tory [of the universe] back to within about one-billionth of
a second after the universe began, one should question
the confidence. Statements like this, by the arch-scientific-
materialist and fertile popular author Peter Atkins, belong
to the gospel of the Church of Scientism. Steven Weinberg,
Nobel Prize winner in physics and the author of The First
Three Minutes, is less forward, and writes in that very book:
I cannot deny a feeling of unreality in writing about the
first three minutes [let alone the first one-billionth of a sec
ond], as if we really know what we are talking about. 19
The main problem is that present-day cosmology uses
the mathematical instruments of present-day physics to cal
culate fantastically complex events in a past many billions
of years ago and totally different from the present circum
stances. New technological instruments, like the Hubble and
Kepler telescopes, do allow to see billions of light years into
the past of the cosmos, but the interpretation of the obtained
19 Steven Weinberg: The First Three Minutes, p. 7.sri aurobindo and the big bang
205
data rests on theories which are quite novel and changing
all the time. Serious doubt has arisen about the fact that the
laws and constants of physics are absolute. This means that
the problem lies in the extrapolations back in time, in ap
plying what is deemed valid now to what happened then.
David Shramm acknowledges that, as cosmologists venture
further back toward the beginning of time, their theories
become more speculative. And Howard Georgi confided to
the science journalist John Horgan: Youre trying to look at
the present-day universe and extrapolate back, which is an
interesting but dangerous thing to do, because there may
have been accidents that had big effects. 20 By accidents
Georgi meant events the nature of which is unknown and
cannot be known or foreseen in the context of the present
scientific paradigm.
Pralaya: the Big Bang and the Big Crunch
All things we know of originate in one way or another,
exist for a shorter or longer time, disintegrate and die. This
is how we perceive their life cycle in time. Until recently
this life cycle has been projected, at least in the West, on
the whole of existence, considering our present universe as
the one and only. But the Brahman is eternal, and if it has
manifested at one moment of its existence, it must have
manifested and will be manifesting continuously in all its
eternity. The universe persists or always comes back into
manifestation, because the will to become is eternal and
must be so since it is the inherent will of an eternal Exist
ence, wrote Sri Aurobindo. 21
In The Life Divine we read also: The emergence of the
movement from the Immutable is an eternal phenomenon
20 John Horgan: The End of Science, p. 104.
21 Sri Aurobindo: The Life Divine, pp. 695-696.206
e l e v e n tal k s
and it is only because we cannot conceive it in that begin
ningless, endless, ever-new moment which is the eternity
of the Timeless that our notions and conceptions are com
pelled to place it in a temporal eternity of successive dura
tion to which are attached the ideas of an always recurrent
beginning, middle and end. 22 Which means that we do
not have any surety that there ever was or ever will be a
period in time when no form of universe, no play of being
is represented to itself in the eternal Conscious-Being. 23
[The ancient Hindu] believes that Nature has repeated it
self over and over again, as indeed it is probable she has
done, resuming briefly and in sum at each start what she
had previously accomplished in detail, slowly and with la
bour. It is this great secular movement in cycles, perpetu
ally self-repeating, yet perpetually progressing, which is
imaged and set forth in the symbols of the Puranas. 24
In this view the ancient Hindu concept of pralaya, or
dissolution of a universe, is part of the eternal process of
manifestation. This concept was even less than a century
ago thought of as part of the old mythical Hindu lore, just
like the cycles of time were part of the mythology of an
cient Greece. Now, amazingly, not only is the universe sup
posed to have burst forth from a magic primordial particle,
the question what came before the Big Bang? has become
scientifically legitimate, as has the question what to expect
after the Big Crunch, when our universe will have died.
Paul Steinhardt and Neil Turok, for instance, have pub
lished a book with the title Endless Universe: Beyond the Big
Bang, and consequently beyond the collapse that will be
the Big Crunch. They say they were motivated to form a
new theory as the Big Bang came to require more and more
22 Id., p. 83.
23 Id., p. 110.
24 Sri Aurobindo Archives and Research, 1979, vol. I, p. 9.sri aurobindo and the big bang
207
exotic elements inflation, dark matter, dark energy to
make it fit observations. And string theory has spawned
not only the possibility of a multitude of universes, a mul
tiverse, but an infinity of them.
Paul Steinhardt is not a science fiction writer, he is Al
bert Einstein Professor of Science at Princeton. His opinion:
Recently some cosmologists have been exploring the possi
bility that the universe is exponentially older [than thought
until now]. In this picture, the evolution of the universe is cy-
clic. The Big Bang is not the beginning of space and time but
a sudden creation of hot matter and radiation that marks
the transition from one period of expansion and cooling to
the next cycle of evolution. Each cycle might last a trillion
years, say. Fourteen billion years marks the time since the
last infusion of matter and radiation, but this is brief com
pared to the total age of the universe. Each cycle lasts about
a trillion years and the number of cycles in the past may
have been ten to the googol power or more! 25 Googol is
a fancy word that means an unimaginably big number. All
at once science too discovers the enormous time spans of
a day of Brahman and a year of Brahman in the Hindu
scriptures, time spans which seem to have some meaning
after all in the mental construct of an oscillating universe,
in other words the cyclic world revisited, to borrow a
phrase from Paul Davies.
In Sri Aurobindos interpretation, however, this is not
the senseless recurrence of a Nietzschean eternal and eter
nally exact replication. [The ancient Hindu] believes that
Nature has repeated [her cycles] over and over again, as
indeed it is probable she has done, resuming briefly and in
sum at each start what she had previously accomplished in
25 In John Brockman (ed.): What is Your Dangerous Idea? p. 126 (em
phasis added).208
e l e v e n tal k s
detail, slowly and with labour. It is this great secular move
ment in cycles, perpetually self-repeating, yet perpetually pro-
gressing, which is imaged and set forth in the symbols of
the Puranas. 26
Multiple universes and typal worlds
In The Book of the Traveller of the Worlds in Savitri,
Sri Aurobindo has given an unprecedented description
of the world-stair, the tremendous hierarchic scale of
worlds that form the divine manifestation. All consist of
their specific substance vital, mental, spiritual; all are
peopled with countless beings; all are perpetual and ex
ist in complete contentment according to their nature. Sri
Aurobindo has called them typal worlds, because they
are not subject to change. In these countless gradations of
existence, however, there is one world where change is the
law: our material, evolutionary world. Matter is an evolu
tionary product of the Inconscient into which the Absolute
has plunged to experience the Lila of rediscovering himself.
Matter may be considered the lowest form of substance, al
though it too is the Divine.
The material universe is only the faade of an im
mense building which has other structures behind it, and
it is only if one knows the whole that one can have some
knowledge of the truth of the material universe. There are
vital, mental and spiritual ranges behind which give the
material its significance. (Letters on Yoga) 27 The immense
material world in which we live is not the sole reality but
only one of innumerable potential and existent universes;
all of them need not have either Matter as we know it or
the Inconscient for their base. Indeed this world of matter
26 Sri Aurobindo Archives and Research, 1979, vol. I, p. 9 (emphasis added).
27 Sri Aurobindo: Letters on Yoga, p. 212.sri aurobindo and the big bang
209
is itself dependent on many planes of consciousness and
existence which are not material; for these have not this
gross substance as their foundation or as the medium of
their instrumentation of energy and consciousness or their
primary condition of existence. 28
As we have seen, according to Sri Aurobindo the crea
tion of a new universe or universes is a phenomenon of
the Eternal that must be continuously repeated. For what
was that portentous date in the history of eternal Nothing
on which Being was born out of it or when will come that
other date equally formidable on which an unreal all will
relapse into the perpetual void? he asks ironically. 29 And
he answers: Creation has no beginning and no end. It is
only a particular creation that can be said to have a begin
ning and an end. 30
For when was the beginning? At no moment in Time,
for the beginning is at every moment; the beginning always
was, always is and always shall be. The divine beginning
is before Time and in Time and beyond Time for ever. The
Eternal Infinite and One is an endless beginning.
And where is the middle? There is no middle; for the
middle is only the junction of the perpetual end and the
eternal beginning; it is the sign of a creation which is new
at every moment. The creation was for ever, is for ever,
shall be for ever. The eternal Infinite and One is the magi
cal middle term of his own existence; it is he that is this
beginningless and endless creation.
And when is the end? There is no end. At no conceiva
ble moment can there be a cessation. For all end of things is
28 Sri Aurobindo: Essays Divine and Human, p. 241.
29 Sri Aurobindo: The Life Divine, p. 32.
30 Sri Aurobindo: Letters on Yoga, p. 252.210
e l e v e n tal k s
the beginning of new things which are still the same One
in an ever developing and ever recurring figure. Nothing
can be destroyed for all is He who is for ever. The Eternal
Infinite and One is the unimaginable end that is the never
closing gate upon new interminable vistas of his glory. 31
The central problem of science, as practiced since the
scientific revolution in the 17th century, is that it recogniz
es only matter as the substance of reality and the object of
its study. The wisdom of ages in East and West has held that
the layers of reality are those of matter, the life forces, mind,
and the spirit, in the traditions called the Chain of Being.
Since Lorentz and Einstein materialistic science has to ac
cept from its formulas that matter equals energy, and that
each term can be transformed into the other. 32 Two of the
basic tools of the scientific method are measurement and
mathematics, the third one being systematic experimen
tation. However, measurement and mathematics are only
applicable to material objects, and materialistic science has
itself already shot far past the boundaries of matter into an
occultism where the intellect feels lost. Of this the paradox
es of quantum mechanics are a telling example.
Neither the laws or the possibilities of physical Na
ture can be entirely known unless we know also the laws
and possibilities of supraphysical Nature, wrote Sri Au
robindo in The Human Cycle. 33 And elsewhere: Having
examined and explained Matter by physical methods and
in the language of the material Brahman, it is not really
explained, but let that pass, having failed to carry that
way of knowledge into other fields beyond a narrow limit,
31 Sri Aurobindo: Essays Divine and Human, p. 220.
32 The complete formula will prove to be, as taught by the great tradi
tions: matter = energy = consciousness.
33 Sri Aurobindo: The Human Cycle, p. 78.sri aurobindo and the big bang
211
we must then at least consent to scrutinize life and mind by
methods appropriate to them and explain their facts in the
language and tokens of the vital and mental Brahman. 34
Western scientific materialism, after initially accepting
the Book of God (the Bible) and the Book of Nature, as Gali
leo and Kepler did, has rejected the former and accepts ex
clusively the latter, not realizing that it is trying to decipher
an amputated version. To solve its own fundamental prob
lems, to approach closer to reality, and to see ultimately
the face of Truth, it will have to recognize the other levels
and dimensions of the world. If science is to turn her face
towards the Divine, it must be a new science not yet devel
oped which deals directly with the forces of the life-world
and of Mind and so arrives at what is beyond Mind; but
present-day science cannot do that. 35
The way science sees itself has changed since the pub
lication in 1972 by Thomas Kuhn of The Structure of Scien-
tific Revolutions. Scientists are now aware of how dependent
their theories and even their formulas are on paradigms
which are sure to change one day. Such changes are pain
ful and bitterly fought by the old against the new; they are
said to become definitive only after the death of those who
refuse to accept that they were wrong. A science which will
one day venture into the realms of life and mind Sri Auro
bindo called the future science. And he warned that it
will be a big step to take.
Only then will be recognized that the universe, uni
verses or multiverse whatever they may really be are
there as the body of hiranyagarbha, the Golden Child, of
which the Upanishad says: In the beginning the Golden
34 Sri Aurobindo: Essays in Philosophy and Yoga, p. 194.
35 Sri Aurobindo: Letters on Yoga, p. 205.212
e l e v e n tal k s
Child arose. Once he was born, he was the one lord of crea
tion. He held in place the earth and the sky. For this is
what is also said in the two lines of our chosen passage on
which we have not commented:
Into its forms the Child is ever born
Who lives for ever in the vasts of God.




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