by Swami Krishnananda
In our attempt to know Truth, we cannot start with any fixed point in the universe, for every point, when carefully analysed, is found to refer to something beyond itself, until it carries the consciousness to infinity. Every so-called fixed entity is really a mirror in which the entire universe is reflected. To know any point in the universe perfectly would be to know the universe as a whole. Every point is a miniature universe, and so it is impossible for us to start with any fixed point or entity in our attempt to know Truth. The universe is not a thing, not a substance; it is not made up of several three-dimensional points or objects. Every object is a vortex of forces whirling in a particular direction and mode. These modes, however, cease to be such when they become the essential content of the Absolute Consciousness. The universe, therefore, is a form of Consciousness, in which is to be found the atmosphere or the environment which befits the potentialities of the experiencing stresses in it. There is, thus, an experience of objective form, and also an experience of subjective reactions; of the universe based on the Infinite Consciousness, and of the one based on the individual consciousness. The stuff of the universe is the Absolute.
The universe is a bundle of conditions, states or expressions of the Absolute. At any given moment or stage, the universe is one relative interconnected condition, a cosmic situation, and any part of it represents the whole background. The universe in which we live is not physical; it is Consciousness in disharmony and disturbance, trying to adjust and adapt itself, through its universally distributed parts, to regain its equilibrium. Physicality and psychicality are the stages of its expression and development, accidental to its essential being, only to be swept away by degrees in the progression of its evolutionary scheme tending to perfection. The universe is made, ultimately, not of particles, molecules, atoms, electrical charges, protoplasm or cells, but of a process of Consciousness which, when it extends itself into objectivity, goes by the name of space, time, movement, substance, energy, wave, particle, and the like. The universe is a single, continuous, connected, logical, systematic, purposive process with every part of it always mirroring the Absolute, to which it owes allegiance; a process of infinite varieties of qualitative and quantitative stresses, where each stress and aspect and part is pause and effect at the same time, where each determines and is the other, a magnificently worked-out plan of wholeness in every speck and quarter and cranny, a process in which every part is an expression of the whole, a unique and unitary finished act of completeness, the supreme example of matchless performance, and wondrous art, a process of the Self-realisation of the Absolute.
In this universe, nothing is by or in itself. Everything is everything else also, and everything is, because of the Whole which is. The individual and its environment are the same; one is not external to the other. No event is cut off from the others. Every pin-drop, whisper, thought or feeling gets recorded in all existence, setting it in vibration and affecting its equilibrium with an intensity which is in proportion to that of the cause thereof. The universe registers all events in an instant, and even a private act is at once judged in the court of the Universal Whole. Every part reflects the position of the Whole, and we can reach the Whole through a part, provided we know the innermost essence of the part. From the present, the past and the future can be known, for the present is the meeting point of the past and the future, and has in it the effects of the past and the potentialities of the future. The universe consists not of parts but of phases. There are no sharp divisions in it, and all experiences form a continuous process. Existence is an equilibrium, which persists and succeeds in maintaining itself. The cause of any event is not in any other thing or event, but in the Whole. Such is the grandeur of the universe, such the majesty of the Absolute.
The world of sense, therefore, has now been found to be a name given to confounded consciousness. It is a condition of experience. It can be compared to a shoreless, bottomless and surfaceless ocean of interrelated forces reacting upon one another, in order to enter into a transcendent and transfigured experience in which the lower is included and completely transformed and ennobled. Erroneous experience consists in the non-recognition of the fact that experience is always a whole, and never subject to partition of any kind within its indivisible constitution. The moment experience, which is in reality unbounded, appears to be discrete and, like a house divided against itself, begins to manifest phases which are self-contradictory, and objectifies itself into the distinction of subject and object, it becomes the mother of error or mistake. Error is anything that directly or indirectly engages the consciousness in what is other than itself. The degree or intensity of error depends upon the degree or intensity in which the consciousness is forced to engage itself in what is not itself. Consciousness can be said to be in a diseased condition when it is contemplating objects, i.e., when it gets fixed on what is not itself. All forms of error in this universe are derivable, by the process of conditioning, from this ultimate error which consists in the aberration of consciousness from itself, in the concentration of consciousness on what is not itself.
The internal processes of objectified consciousness may be grouped under what are called desires, and the external processes of this very consciousness may come under what are called actions. Desires and actions, which are the subtle and the gross manifestations of the forces of objectified consciousness, constitute the world of relative experience. An action which agitates the nervous system, and consequently excites the senses and gives them the strength to befool the consciousness into the false belief that external forms of perception are real and are instrumental to inner conscious satisfaction, is, in the true sense, the only wrong action. No doubt, all actions are propelled by internal desires, and so, ultimately, we should say that wrong actions are really wrong desires. A mere physical action is no action. It is mental action that is real action. Actions like lusting for sex, bibbing intoxicants, drinking, smoking, violence, stealing, robbing, etc., are the external modes of the internal error of consciousness that experience is individualised in nature, and that, the satisfaction of its urges being the aim of its life, all the objects of the universe are auxiliaries to the fulfilment of these urges. This fulfilment takes place through an interaction of forces extending beyond all individualities, and representing, in their essential characteristics, an index of the face of the Absolute. And this fact of the relative character of the individual and the objects of its desires is explained by the universal organic reactions produced among the constituent parts of the universe. The ultimate desire of every individual is experience of the Universal Whole, which is identical with the Universal Self. By error, which is the centring of consciousness in individuality, one unwisely attempts to comprehend this universal experience in individual consciousness and satisfaction. Every organic reaction produced among individuals is the proof of the incompleteness and the complementary nature of the parts. Nothing short of the Universal Whole, identified with Self-Consciousness, is the real aim of these organic; reactions manifested among individual natures.
This metaphysics of experience discloses the fact that there is no error in Experience-Whole. There is no evil, ugliness, nothing wrong in it. Wrong is in him who sees wrong. Ugliness is perceived by the ugly consciousness. Evil sees he who is evil. Error is a perception by the erroneous consciousness. Pieces of bent sticks may look awkward and crooked and not beautiful to perception; but if these bent sticks can be arranged to form the beautiful pattern of a perfect circle, their ugliness will vanish, and they will build this beautiful whole. In Experience-Whole, which is perfected consciousness, all error is transmuted and abolished. All imperfections, which are imperfections only for the individuals, are overcome and reduced to elements of perfection in the Absolute. Only when the consciousness is envisaged as a fragment separated from other forms of experience, it appears to be ugly, erroneous, immoral. Even beautiful forms, attractive features, virtuous deeds, goodness, etc., meet the same fate as error, etc., in the constitution of the Whole. For, even beauty, etc., are complementary phases of the separated parts of the Whole. There is no beauty, even as there is no ugliness in this universe. There is nothing good, even as there is nothing bad; nothing virtuous, even as there is nothing evil, in this magnificent Whole of the Absolute. Beauty is the name given to that feature of a perceptible objective form which fits into and evokes the complementary and correlated consciousness of the consciousness which perceives beauty. "Beauty is pleasure regarded as the quality of a thing", says George Santayana. In other words, beauty is "pleasure objectified". The craving which is felt in the individual consciousness on account of the deep sense of imperfection inherent in it, and which corresponds to the mode and the degree of this imperfection, causes the consciousness to recognise beauty in forms and to get attracted towards the same, because it is this form that is necessary to rouse the counter-correlate of this consciousness-mode which perceives this beauty through this form of craving; and the degree of beauty beheld in objects is dependent on the degree in which it approximates to the ideal beauty, viz., the form of the object which is necessary to rouse the counter-correlate consciousness of the imperfect consciousness which perceives beauty.
Beauty is the vision of the Absolute through the senses and the understanding. It is symmetry, rhythm, harmony, equilibrium, unity, that is the main material of beauty. Whenever these properties are manifested in consciousness through (1) visual or auditory perception of objects, (2) intellectual appreciation of precision, exactness and logical arrangement, poetic presentation of knowledge and inspiration, etc., or (3) pure spiritual experience, there is said to be the experience of beauty. In these three stages of experience, harmony and perfection are expressed in varying degrees. The second is more enduring and inclusive than the first, and the third more than the second. The perception of harmony is the neutralisation of lack and onesidedness, the fulfilment of personality, the completion of being, and hence a manifestation of the Absolute, in some degree, in one's consciousness.
Beauty is a property neither of the subject alone, nor the object alone, but of a special relation existing between the subject and the object. It is a complex situation in which consciousness finds itself as a result of a reaction between two complementary conditions. The aesthetic experience is a unique whole, and cannot be attributed to any part or parts of the subject or the object of this experience. Beauty is the soul of art, and art is the representation of beauty, visible, audible or intelligential. Architecture and sculpture, painting and drawing, music and literature, represent, in an ascending order, the greatest of the means of the manifestation of 'objective' beauty, apart from the beauty of a subjective-objective character perceived in objects which act as instruments in bringing about the private satisfaction of the unconscious emotional and instinctive urges in individuals. Architecture and sculpture should be considered to be the lowest of arts, for these are most encumbered with matter. Music and literature express the most rarefied of the beauties of the human world, for these, being least affected by matter, are the media of the greatest objectification of the Absolute in the realm of sense and understanding. Music is objectified through the most ethereal of media, and literature manifests the beauty of knowledge and inspiration which transcend mere sense-perception. The highest beauty open to man is the beauty of right thinking, pure feeling, virtue and philosophical knowledge.
Beauty appears to be objective, because men, in spite of the differences present in their psychological constitutions, have many psychological properties which are commonly shared by them all; and beauty appears to be subjective, because men, in spite of their having several common psychological properties, differ from one another in certain individual modes of their psychological constitutions. We should say, therefore, that there is, thus, an objective beauty, and, also, a subjective beauty. Though all men may agree with one another in regard to the perception of objective beauty, there will be difference in their perceptions of subjective beauty.
Even beauty which is commonly perceived by all men is the result of the interaction of the modes of the incompleteness of human experience and their corresponding counterparts, which brings about an experience of equilibrium, filledness, an all-possessing feeling and repose, which are the characteristics of the non-individual being, the Absolute. Hence, on ultimate analysis, beauty is a reflection of the system of the Absolute, in some degree. The greater the degree in which the Absolute thus manifests itself, the greater is the beauty perceived. This manifestation is dependent on the degree in which the complement of the percipient neutralises the sense of lack in the percipient, or on the degree in which the complement is a complement of the percipient. The more a complement approximates to its highest form in relation to the percipient, the greater is the degree in which it is able to neutralise the want of the percipient. The Supreme Beauty is the Absolute, and all other beauties are its partial appearances. Sensuous beauty is the lowest form of beauty; higher than this is the beauty of character, goodness, virtue and right understanding.
Ugliness is explained by the process which is the reverse of that of the perception of beauty.
Virtue is that quality of an act, mental or physical, which directly or indirectly leads the individual consciousness to the experience of the Universal Whole. Primary virtues are those which are directly concerned with the conscious movement of the individual to the Absolute. Secondary virtues are those which are only indirectly responsible. Every act which tends to raise the individual consciousness above and beyond itself, through the processes of self-abnegation, self-sacrifice and self-expansion, is virtuous or righteous. Every act which withdraws consciousness from the senses, pacifies the nervous system and tranquillises the mind is virtuous, because it brings the consciousness back to itself from its erroneous aberration in the delusive fields of belief in the reality of objective experience. In short, every process of the returning of consciousness from externality to rest in itself is a form of virtue or righteousness. The degree or the intensity of the virtue depends upon the degree or the intensity in which it approximates to the ideal virtue or good, which is the complete unification of all individual processes of the universe in one instantaneous Conscious Experience.
The nature of evil or vice is explained by what is other than or is opposite to this process of virtue, explained here.