“The word evolution carries with it in its intrinsic sense, in the idea at its root the necessity of a previous involution. We must, if a hidden spiritual being is the secret of all the action of Nature, give its full power to that latent value of the idea. We are bound then to suppose that all that evolves already existed involved, passive or otherwise active, but in either case concealed from us in the shell of material Nature. The Spirit which manifests itself here in a body, must be involved from the beginning in the whole of matter and in every knot, formation and particle of matter; life, mind and whatever is above mind must be latent inactive or concealed active powers in all the operations of material energy.” ~ Sri Aurobindo


So up to this point, we have considered that we have human and spiritual needs, that we live simultaneously in a human world and a spiritual world and that these worlds are connected on a gradient much like a single magnet connects its opposite poles.  If this is an accurate picture of our reality, then how did this come to be and what is the purpose of this type of existence?

This brings us to the topic of involution and evolution.  Most of us have not heard of the former term.  The latter one usually conjures up images of Darwin and his theory of natural selection.  However, the path of involution to evolution encompasses both the spiritual and the physical world while Darwin and his “survival of the fittest” applies primarily to a mechanism to explain the material realm’s path from simple to complex organisms.  The evolution we are discussing here is much broader.

So, what is this “involutionary and evolutionary journey”?  Simply stated, the All, God, Spirit (or whatever word that you use to label the creative force of the universe) when It created the Universe and all its forms, imbedded (or “involved”) Itself into Its creation while also allowing Its creation to “forget” it’s source.  Involution is the process by which God buried Itself and all Its characteristics into everything everywhere.  Evolution, in this context, is the process by which the multiple aspects of God’s creation learns and grows and remembers Its true source.

That’s it in a nutshell but let’s elaborate a bit for clarity.

First, why would Spirit do this?  We can only guess as to any “motivation”, but most spiritual teachers suggest that Spirit created the material world to better understand and experience Itself.  If God were always in a constant state of Pure Oneness Awareness, a pure state of “Being”, then the only thing we might consider that could “add” to Its totality would be to forget that state of Unity and move through experiences as if were not in a state of Unity.   These experiences would provide a path of “remembering” that we might label “Becoming”. 

Said another way, Pure Beingness Unity imbeds Itself into a multi-parted creation that forgets its state of Pure Beingness Unity.  This multiplicity is given the ability to make choices (“free will”) as it interacts in relationship with other aspects of Itself.  This interaction with Itself offers the opportunity to experience Itself differently from Its state of Pure Beingness Unity.

The “forgot Its source piece” is important because if it knew from the outset that everything was really One (in other words, remembered Its real Truth), then it would not get the full range of possible experience.  Therefore, Its forgetting coupled with the ability to make free will choices allows aspects of the multiplicity (including you and I) to screw up and make choices that are not in the best interest of the overall unity of Life.  We have to be able to make mistakes so that we can learn from them, grow and ultimately remember our oneness.  In metaphysical terms, these choices that are not in the best interest of the One are our real “sins”.

So, what are these “God characteristics” that are imbedded in everything?  Well, a list of the major ones would be such things as the feeling of affinity and connection that comes with love, the urge to live and grow and learn, the urge to be creative by expressing oneself and that thing we call “consciousness”.  Therefore, everything contains love and the divine urge to be creative and grow.  Everything contains consciousness (which we will elaborate on in a later article).  It is frequently described that “consciousness is the ground of all Being”.

Are these things in atoms and molecules and minerals?  Are they in simple and more complex organisms?  Are they in humans and even potential states of becoming beyond us?  The answer is “yes”.

Although we cannot know how consciousness or these other characteristics are experienced in other forms, we can imagine that there is “something” in everything that serves to direct their choices and bring forth their experience of their state of existence. We can also sense that there is “something” in every level of existence that seeks to maintain its current state of existence (e.g.; allows an atom, a molecule, a simple organism to maintain itself as an “entity”) while simultaneously “striving” to combine and grow with others in relation to becoming some “higher” state of being.  For example, an atom wants to maintain its state of being an atom while it also combines with other atoms to become a molecule.  This dynamic tension to maintain one’s self (called “agency”) while also seeking be combine with others (called “communion”) is an interesting characteristic all the way along the physical evolutionary path.

As the evolution of forms continues from minerals to simple to complex organisms, at each stage, there is growing complexity and deeper levels of consciousness.  In humans, this complexity crosses a threshold where the level of our consciousness is such that we not only have an inner sense of awareness, but we are also “aware of our awareness” (frequently called becoming “self aware”).  It is here where humans not only can make choices (just as “lower” organisms can), but we can also think about those choices and imagine alternatives. We also begin to think about questions of “meaning” and seek to explain the workings of the universe in which we live.

Crossing this mental threshold leads us to the point of having both the material and the spiritual needs that we discussed previously.  Now we are pulled by physical needs just as all our predecessors were, but we are also urged on by greater needs to see the big picture of life and to transcend our sense of separation.  We begin to be motivated to choose to connect with others and sacrifice our personal needs for the needs of the greater good.  We begin to taste deeper and more metaphysical experiences that point us to some greater existence.  These are key choices as we step further on that path back to remembering our Oneness and our Source.

Humans have told stories for eons to communicate meanings that cannot be totally explained by mere words.  One of those stories is about the journey of one going out in the world and moving through challenging experiences and then returning to the place from which they started.  However, we acknowledge that at the point of return, they come back wiser and understand their “home” at a deeper level than they could have if they had never made the journey.  We often refer to these tales as being about the “hero’s journey”.

In a sense, we are all on a “hero’s journey”.  We started in Unity and a state of bliss in our Oneness.  We “fell” from that state of “Being” into the material realm.  We forgot our source.  We moved through the world believing that we are individuals in competition with one another.  We made mistakes and moved through challenges.  We learned, we grew.  We slowly remembered our home in Oneness and eventually returned there wiser for moving through this process of “becoming”.


NOTE:  This article is a part of our Spiritual Philosophy Series.  THIS ARTICLE describes the series’ intention. To view the entire series, CLICK HERE.