Cosmic Involution or emanation
“In order to fully understand the nature and power of beauty we need to remember the spiritual concept which states that everything that exists externally, in concrete form and individually is the manifestation, effect and reflection of a higher, transcendent, spiritual Reality. It is the great principle of involution or emanation. From a basic, original absolute reality, a series of levels of life, intellect, feeling and material life has developed, through gradual differentiation, to the point of inorganic matter. Thus every quality or attribute of the eternal world, of matter itself, and of the countless different creatures is but a pale, obscure reflection of a quality or attribute of the spiritual Reality, the Divine Being. This is particularly true when it comes to Beauty”.
Transpersonal Development, 2007, p. 241
As we consider the subject of love we need to bear this overall spiritual framework in mind. First of all we have the original unity, free from any form of differentiation, i.e. the Absolute, Transcendent, Unmanifested. It is from this that we have obtained the manifestation or differentiation we might regard as the projection, emanation or self-expression of the Supreme. The great cosmic process has various stages. The first is that of duality: the One becomes two. The first fundamental difference has been introduced: spirit and matter, the subjective and the objective aspect, energy and resistance, activity and passivity, a positive pole and a negative pole, a male aspect and a female aspect. So far we have only spoken about the objective aspect of matter, undifferentiated. We have not spoken about matter already differentiated as we know it. This is the primordial stage which we can call the relationship between the two.
The two great aspects of being do not remain separate, as though they were indifferent to one another. Exchanges take place – there is action and reaction – and the effect of this vital attraction is the creation or the manifestation of this fully developed, concrete universe. It did not reach its present form in a moment: there were successive stages of differentiation at the heart of creation. There was the expression of ever more concrete and material planes or levels of life and ever more limited states of consciousness. And at each level countless new, successive differentiations took place until we reached the present highly divided state of separateness and difference between creatures in the widest sense of the word.
This then is the framework, or the stage on which we must come to terms with an understanding of love. Beneath the present state of division, difference and separation, in their various ways, and to different extents, these creatures have a distant, dim recollection of their original unity, a vague sense of common origin and an unconscious, though powerful, longing to return to that origin. Every creature, every separate being, feels incomplete, inadequate, unsatisfied: it lacks peace and searches for something, though it does not know what that something is. As it searches it makes mistakes and suffers one disappointment after another, but it cannot help continuing to search. It is spurred on relentlessly, and its thirst is never quenched.
Indeed there is no alternative because this urge, this yearning, is an expression of the great law of evolution. This gives us a glimpse of the secret of nature and the function of love. This earnest desire to be made complete, to become one, to merge with something else or with someone other than ourselves, is the very essence of love. [Read more on the evolution of love from the biological to the spiritual, in Transpersonal Development, p. 251]
Transpersonal Development, 2007, p. 250-251
Q. Are the terms individual self and group self just terms, since all is one? Do we have to experience individual then group on the way to be One?
Assagioli. Now that gives me an opportunity to take up another essential point of psychosynthesis, that of the various levels of reality. There are various levels of reality, or if you like a modern term – energy fields. Each has its own qualities and laws. For instance, certain chemical laws at the atomic level are no more valid at the subatomic level but they are not abolished, not superseded; only at the other level other laws work.
Here comes a jump, leaving aside intermediate steps which you can find out – “All is One” is a deep metaphysical truth at that level, but unfortunately many bring down that wonderful reality at human levels, or other levels in manifestation where it simply does not operate, and many of the so-called metaphysical movements, and also some Oriental approaches don’t take into consideration the basic difference. All is One in essence, in Being; but in becoming, in manifestation, in that process of life, there are countless many.
I don’t enter into that problem. “All life is One” has chosen to reflect itself in countless ways. If He did it we may surmise He had very good reasons, but it is His business not ours. What we can say is that the great process of involution culminated in the mineral, as far as we know, and then started the contrary movement or process of evolution. We perhaps optimistically can say that we are at the middle point. We have passed through the mineral, vegetable, animal and partially human. So we have to proceed in this evolutionary work towards the “One”, but it is still far off. And here comes the confusion between the two selves which creates so much mischief. When we say “I am that Self” – quite true, I am the One, but we are not that in daily life at all; that could be paranoia.
From: Talks on the Self
The awakening of the soul does not appear complete and pure. In many cases the soul awakens gradually and incompletely: one aspect or another of the awakening appears vaguely at first, then disappears, and reappears later more clearly, or combined with other aspects.
For some, the first glimpse is an intuition of the unity of the whole, a presentiment of great universal harmony; for others it is instead a first movement of the heart, a spontaneous love impulse for the Supreme; others finally begin with an acceptance and attachment of the personal Will to the Divine Will, an interior offering to serve, to be conscious and fervent cooperators in the implementation of the great cosmic scheme.
In many other cases the awakening of the soul takes place in a simple and straightforward way, but is complicated by the intertwining of psychic experiences of another nature. Then there are internal phenomena and events that look very much in certain respects like the awakening of the soul, but in reality they differ profoundly in origin, value and consequence.
The awakening of the soul in its purity must be considered as a first flash of spiritual consciousness, and the characteristics of awakening are precisely the fundamental characteristics of spiritual consciousness, unitary or intuitive, or Buddhist. Now there are also other states of consciousness that usually get confused, both among themselves and with spiritual consciousness, and that are designated with the expression cosmic consciousness, astral consciousness, higher consciousness, etc.
In order to understand the nature of these states of consciousness well, it is necessary to recall some facts and laws concerning the nature and evolution of the universe.
First of all we must abandon the usual external and materialistic conception of nature, we must recognize that nothing exists in the universe that is not vibrant with life and consciousness, that every form and every force of nature are the manifestation of real entities, and that these entities are in contact with each other, coordinated and subordinated in large hierarchies.
Thus, the Earth as a whole – according to the brilliant intuition of the great scientist and philosopher Th. Pechner – is the body of a real being, of a Great Planetary Spirit, with a soul, with a consciousness of its own.
The great natural forces acting on the face of the Earth and within it are at the same time parts of that great being, and relatively independent entities with their own consciousness. And so are all living beings: plants, animals and men, on the one hand, are small cells of that large organism, and on the other hand, distinct entities and consciousnesses, are in the process of gradual differentiation and identification. This reminds us of the great universal law, which must be understood well because it is the key to everything we will say. It is the great fundamental law of involution and evolution, of the descending arc and of the ascending arc, traveled by the spiritual entities on their long pilgrimage during the great cosmic cycles.
In the descending arc, the spirit immerses itself in matter, and the universal monadic consciousness is subsequently limited, descending through the great cosmic planes in ever denser veils of matter until it touches the lowest point of its descent in the physical plane and in the mineral kingdom. Then life goes up again: the dormant latent potentials gradually awaken through the play of mutual influence, expertly preordained by the various forces and hierarchies.
First the plant life arises, then the animal life, and finally we arrive at the human stage, in which the differentiation of the monadic essence has reached such a point, that we have a separate monad for each organism. In other words, a fact of fundamental importance occurred, namely the transition from the group soul to the individual soul. This development of individuality constitutes one of the most important purposes, perhaps even the supreme goal of the great cosmic drama. Because the principle of individuality, of self-awareness, forms the basis of further marvelous developments that we can only vaguely divine in a great light of glory, imagining great spiritual centers capable of indefinitely extending their consciousness without losing the sense and powers of their own individuality, and therefore capable of being conscious, intelligent and willing cooperators and executors on an ever larger scale of the divine will in the cosmic plane.
At the present stage of his evolution, man has a very narrow and limited consciousness. He is no longer in communion with the great natural entities, and has not yet awakened – with rare exceptions – his broader spiritual consciousness. Many certainly accept the current limitations, indeed even ignore them, and they also deny the possibility of transcending them.
But many others are not so easily satisfied. Shaken by pain, attracted by some vague glow, driven by a discontented interior and an uneasiness that nothing in ordinary life can satisfy, they struggle in the narrow cage of their personality and try in every way to escape from it.
Spiritual Consciousness And Astral Consciousness, By Roberto Assagioli, Translated by Gordon Symons. Original title: Coscienza Spirituale E Coscienza Astrale, derived from The Assagioli Archive Florence.
But such an assumption does not hold up to careful examination. If on the one hand we have had to recognize that our ordinary personality is not a homogeneous and static unit as it appears to a superficial and naive consideration; on the other hand we can — indeed must — discover in ourselves a stable, fixed and permanent element. Its most direct and immediate subjective manifestation is the irrepressible sense of individual identity that persists in spite of and through all the vicissitudes and developments of psychic life, from childhood to old age, in spite of the most radical changes, in spite of and through all the most contrasting events and elements.
In another respect, that stable and permanent element can be regarded as the principle of self-consciousness, of that reflexive self-awareness that gives us a sense of being, of being absolutely, without attributes. It could be said that, like all elements that are essential or irreducible, this too can hardly be expressed in words, and can only be “indicated” indirectly and imperfectly. Perhaps some comparisons will help to understand it better. It may be regarded as the unchanging stage on which the innumerable actors of a living tragicomedy take turns, playing their various parts. Or as the snow-white screen on which the colorful images of the inner life are projected, so that from time to time the screen seems to become gloomy by somber colors, and glad in pink or blue, while in reality it has always remained immaculately white.
Such comparisons, however, are very crude and imperfect. For they are worthwhile in highlighting only the static element of the “I” (self) which is certainly a very important element; but they fail, however, to manifest its dynamic and vital element. For the “I” is itself also a living and active entity, continually acting on the other inner psychic entities with which it comes into contact.
But what is its true nature? What are its essential notes? What is its origin?
The “I”(self) is exalted in nature; its origin in the bosom of the Absolute is hidden, and perhaps no person is given to penetrate all its mysteries, to unveil all its transcendent potentialities. Yet perhaps we can “divine” something of it. Recalling the great stages of the involution of spirit by successive waves of life and other great laws of the macrocosm, I believe we can, enlightened by intuition and analogy, conceive of the “I” (self) as manifested in our ordinary consciousness as a reflection of the divine spark, sprung in its turn from the Great Central Flame and projected in space and time. That is, our ordinary self would be the reflection and a projection of the higher and eternal Self residing in the highest levels of Spirit. The ray of the divine spark, in descending from level to level, through denser and denser layers, undergoes various attenuations, refractions and colorings, in the same way as a sunbeam descending to the bottom of a lake, so that its reflection on the screen of the coarsest matter gives a very pale and inadequate image of the dazzling and purest light that it is at its source.
Thus our “I,” our self, imprisoned and limited in the body and obscured by dense clouds of passion, continually agitated and distracted by the clamors of the thousand entities with which it is intimately associated, has lost the memory of its divine origin and intrinsic nobility. It is just like the prodigal son, who far from his father’s house full of riches, lives miserably as a swineherd. The true consciousness of our self is not awake down here: ours is a mere dream consciousness, fallacious and illusory like that of the legend of the mighty caliph who in a dream believed he was a beggar.
If this is, in its essentials, the true nature of our being, what practical consequences follow? What are our tasks? The answer is theoretically easy and clear: to resolutely awaken our “I” to the consciousness of its true being, driving out the ghosts of the dream, freeing it from the multiple inner and outer attachments that grip it, taming the beasts with which it is enclosed in the cage of the body.
The program, I repeat, is quite simple and clear in theory, but its practical implementation is equally arduous and complex, requiring long and tenacious work.
We shall continue to deal with it in the coming lectures, and we shall first make a more precise and concrete study of the main psychic entities living in us, their various combinations and their bitter conflicts; after that we shall see what powers our “I” can make use of to accomplish the great work of spiritual regeneration.
(The Interplay Of Psychic Forces)
 The Prodigal Son is one of the parables of Jesus, told in the Gospel According to Luke 15:11-32. —Tr.
There is an interesting analogy [to introversion and extroversion] with the Eastern doctrines on the manifestation of the Universe, with its two great phases of involution and evolution. The first can indeed be considered as a centrifugal movement of the Spirit: its exteriorization, its extroversion in matter and within matter, by means of successive waves of life. And evolution appears to be the opposite centripetal motion, self-absorption.
This alternate rhythm of universal Manvantara and Pralaya – called the Great Age – was in turn divided into many other relatively smaller and shorter cycles of manifestation and reabsorption:
Manvantara and Pralaya of Solar Systems, planetary chains, of globes, of races, symbolically called “years and days of Brahma”, which according to the great chronology of India last billions and billions of years.
Thus, analogously, there is the great pilgrimage of the human Spirit that comes from the unconscious undifferentiated perfection in the Absolute, goes down from level to level (of manifestation) identifying progressively with various instruments or vehicles up to matter and physical body, to then going back up gradually, until it returns to the bosom of the Father. This pilgrimage is divided into numerous minor cycles of immersion and withdrawal, identification and disidentification, extroversion and introversion.
Some of these minor phases can however last for the duration of an entire human life, which is only a short day in the great life of the soul, and therefore it happens that there are people in whom one of these two vital directions prevails clearly and durably . Thus Jung was able to observe and distinguish two opposite human types: that of extroverts, whose vital interest is directed more often and more intensely towards the external world; and that of introverts, in which on the contrary interest prevails for the subject himself and for his inner activities.
Differential Psychology – Extroverts And Introverts, from the Assagioli Archive Florence. Translated by Gordon Symons, original title: La Psicologia Differenziale – Estroversi E Introversi.
Recognition of the “Presence” can be reached in various ways and in different degrees, or stages. Essentially, it is realisation of the Universal Life, or Reality, pervading both the external world and every human being. In philosophical terms this permeation can be called the immanence or manifestation of the Reality, which in its essence is transcendent; in religious terms it has been known as the omnipresence of God.
A key to reaching the first stage of this realisation is provided by scientific evidence of the close interdependence and interaction of all parts of the universe, showing it to be an organic Unity, or “Whole.” Within it, recent astronomical discoveries reveal, countless galaxies exist, forming gigantic groups and rotating at enormous speeds. The fact that radiations emanating from sources of immeasurable intensity situated at vast distances impinge on this our planet gives a vivid, even a dramatic, sense of this Wholeness.
But the unity of the visible universe may be, and indeed is, only the outer manifestation, or reflection, of a unity subsisting in the inner space of the subjective worlds. The key needed here is another faculty, the intuition. As its etymology indicates, the intuition is a direct inner sight, a “seeing into,” a direct apprehension of reality. It enables its possessor to “see” the “Presence” of the universal Reality in all manifested forms and in all differentiated, individual beings or entities. This act of “seeing” is a wonderful experience, which, though ineffable in its essence, has been described by some of those who have undergone it in terms that give a vivid picture of the wonder they have sensed.
One of the most impressive of these descriptions is to be found in the Eleventh Book of the Bhagavad Gita, where Krishna, the symbol and incarnation of the Supreme, accedes to Arjuna’s entreaty. Having opened Arjuna’s “inner eye,” He reveals to him His divine appearance in countless forms.
“Behold, 0 Partha (Arjuna), My forms, a hundred-fold, a thousand-fold, various in kind, divine, of various colours and shapes” (v. 5). “Here today behold the whole universe, moving and unmoving …all unified in My Body” (v. 7).
Having thus spoken …the great Lord of Yoga then reveals to Partha His Supreme and Divine Form (v. 9). “If the light of one thousand suns were to blaze forth all at once in the sky, that might resemble the splendour of that exalted Being” (v. 12).
But the Divine Presence in the whole universe is only one aspect of the Supreme, Who remains, in His essential Being, transcendent, free and uninvolved in His manifestation within time and space. In the Ninth Book (of the Gita), Radhakrishnan says in his illuminating commentary,
“The Gita does not deny the world, which exists through God and has God behind, above and before it. It exists through Him who, without the world, would yet be in Himself no less what He is. Unlike God, the world does not possess its specific existence in itself. It has therefore only limited and not absolute being. The teacher inclines not to pantheism which aserts that everything is God but to panentheism that denotes that everything subsists in God. The cosmic process is not a complete manifestation of the Absolute. No finite process can ever finally and fully express the Absolute, though this world is a living manifestation of God.” (The Bhagavad Gita, by Radhakrishnan, Allen and Unwin, London, 1970, p. 239.)
The synthesis of transcendence and immanence is called the “Supreme Secret” by Aurobindo, and he expresses it in the following way:
“This mystery of our being implies necessarily a similar supreme mystery of the being of the Purushottama, rahasyan uttaman. It is not an exclusive impersonality of the Absolute that is the highest secret. This highest secret is the miracle of a supreme Person and apparent vast Impersonal that are one, an immutable transcendent Self of all things and a Spirit that manifests itself here at the very foundation of cosmos as an infinite and multiple personality acting everywhere-a Self and Spirit revealed to our last, closest, profoundest experience as an illimitable Being who accepts us and takes us to him, not into a blank of featureless existence, but most positively, deeply, wonderfully into all Himself and in all the ways of his and our conscious existence.
This highest experience and this largest way of seeing open a profound, moving and endless significance to our parts of nature ; our knowledge, will, heart’s love and adoration. It is not the austerity of knowledge alone that can help us; there is room and infinite room for the heart’s love and aspiration illumined and uplifted by knowledge, a more mystically clear, a greater calmly passionate knowledge. It is by the perpetual unified closeness of our heart-consciousness, mind-consciousness, all-consciousness, satatam maccittah, that we get the widest, deepest, the most integral experience of our oneness with the Eternal. A nearest oneness in all the being, profoundly individual in a divine passion even in the midst of universality, even at the top of transcendence is here enjoined on the human soul as its way to reach the Highest and its way to possess the perfection and the divine consciousness to which it is called by its nature as a spirit.”
(Sri Aurobindo, Essays on the Gita, Dutton, New York.)
While in the West the Presence has been for the most part defined in terms of the relationship and close communion between God and the soul, there is no lack of descriptions of the omnipresence in a universal sense. Plotinus affirms: “God is not external to anyone, but is present with all things though they are ignorant that He is so” (Enneads, VI, 9). Then in a collection of sayings attributed to Jesus we find the following: “Lift the stone and you will find Me, cleave the wood and I am there.” The most concise and at the same time inclusive expression of the inner union between God and man is St. Paul’s statement: “In Him we live and move and have our being” (Acts of the Apostles, XVII, 28).
Meditation for the New Age, Year One.
The Souls emanation into the “I”
We have now reached the fifteenth group of symbols, that of resurrection and return, what in the gospels is referred to as the return of the prodigal son to his father’s house. This is a return to a previous state and points to a return to the original, primordial Being.
It presupposes an emanatistic theory of the soul, descending, becoming one with matter, and then returning to its ‘home’, the heavenly homeland – not as it was before, but enriched by the experience of self-awareness which has come to maturity in toil and conflict.
Transpersonal Development, 2007, p. 95
Time and time again one is brought up against the paradoxical duality and unity of the Deity. The personal “I” comes down from the star, or from the spiritual “I”, in the form of a reflection. This fits one of the interpretations of the parable of the prodigal son. The personal “I” is the prodigal son who has descended to the level of the material world and forgotten his origin, to the point where of his own free will he resorts to all the foolishness he is capable of, all the errors (”errors” both in the sense of making mistakes and of going astray), and only then feels a longing for his fathers house, sets out in search of it and eventually finds it.
Transpersonal Development, 2007, p. 85-86« Back to Glossary Index