The Supreme Will
The Unfolding of the Noetic Absolute or Truth Consciousness
By Itself, the Manifest Absolute never creates anything, for Creation implies change and separation between Creator and Created, and how could the Manifest Absolute change, or anything be seperate from it? Therefore we can speak of a more dynamic or manifest mode of the Absolute, which in a sense is also more "limited" relative to the Manifest Absolute (because every manifestation implies a limitation; the exclusion of those things that are not manifested).
One should not think of this Dynamic Manifestation or Truth-Consciousness (as Sri Aurobindo calls it) Absolute (or Absolute in Manifestation) as a distinct sphere of existence, because in the Supreme there is no distinction of higher and lower, or separation, the way there is in the manifest cosmos. Rather, this is simply a different modality or - if Sri Aurobindo, who distinguished four different "planes" of infinite consciousness within the Supreme is to be believed - series of modalities from the most unmanifest or quiescent to the most manifest.
It is this Noetic Absolute which is the cause or Source or First Principle of all subsequent Creation.
This is described in many different esoteric traditions. In the Trika system we find the distinction between Paramashiva and Shiva-tattwa; that is, the distinction between the Supreme Godhead (Shiva) and the Godhead (Shiva)-principle. The Neoplatonist Iamblichus distinguishes between the totally transcendent and ineffable principle, and the One which is the source of all subsequent manifestation. The Sufi Master Ibn Arabi likewise refers to the state of absolute unconditional Unity (ahadiyah) and unicity or oneness (wahidayah). Again, parallels can be found elsewhere; in the teachings of Gorakhnath , Ibn Arabi, Jacob Boehme, Sri Aurobindo, and Meher Baba, we find, although expressed in different ways, the same distinction between the totally transcendent and ineffable Absolute or Godhead, and the Absolute or Godhead in the derived or Manifesting mode, although still infinite and perfect.
Many people tend to have the naive idea (conditioned through simplistic religious ideas) that Creation began when a supernatural entity called "God", after floating around in the void for an eternity, suddenly exerted his power and magically made the planets and galaxies, the Earth and life on it, and so on, appear out of nothing (or, in a more sophisticated version, when God said "Let there be Light" the Big Bang occurred and the cosmos came into being evolved to its present state).
But all this is an erroneous conception. There cannot be Creation out of nothing, for apart from the Absolute ("God" if you like) there is nothing; not even non-being. For if there was something beyond the Absolute, then the Absolute could not be the Absolute, because "Absolute" means there is nothing else, not even "nothing".
Since there is no other being but the Absolute Reality, since only the Absolute, the Godhead, exists, the Absolute in becoming Conscious cannot become Conscious of anything else, but Itself. And this Self-Consciousness is the beginning of Creation.
In Tantric Metaphysics, the Original Absolute or Ultimate Reality, called Paramashiva ("Supreme Godhead") or Parasamvit ("Supreme Consciousness") is described as prakasha. This is the Absolute Reality as pure, static, nondual Consciousness. And just as Shiva is Prakasha, so Shakti - the dynamic self-expression of the Absolute - is Vimarsha.
Vimarsha is the self-contemplation of Prakasha, it is Prakasha reflecting Itself, surveying Itself, Experiencing Itself. As one Shakta Tantric text, the Kamakala vilasa, puts it, "Vimarsha is the mirror in which Prakasha reviews itself" [Shankaranarayanan, Sri Cakra, p.20]
Thus the Godhead, which is of the nature of Prakasha, transcendentally and non-dualistically experiences (Vimarsha) Its own intrinsic nature. This is the state of Shiva and Shakti, Prakasha and Vimarsha, in total identity and union, the Ground of Being, Infinite Consciousness. Through Vimarsha, the Absolute emerges from Its original Latency, to become Self-Conscious (Vimarsha) of Its own Infinity and Its own Infinite attributes.
All Creation and all existence comes about through Vimarsha, through the Absolute experiencing Itself. This can be represented by the following diagram:
(Infinite Latency - "Non-being")
/ ("Being") \
PRAKASHA <--------------> VIMARSHA
At the level of the Unmanifest Absolute (Parabrahman, Parasamvit, etc), Shiva and Shakti, Prakasha and Vimarsha, abide in total identity and union. Parabrahman is eternal and unchanging; the Quiescent Absolute Light and Truth which is beyond Light and Dark, Truth and Falsehood.
According to Sri Aurobindo this ineffable Absolute "first" (in logical sequence, not time) manifests as the infinite, eternal planes of Sachchidananda (or Sat-Chit-Ananda; Being, Consciousness, and Bliss); worlds of Infinite Being, Infinite Consciousness, and Infinite Bliss (here referred to as the Manifest Absolute). The Supermind (Noetic Absolute) then emerges from and as an expression of this Sachchidananda
We could perhaps say that the Noetic Absolute begins when the infinite Ananda decides, through its own innate joy and spontaneity, to become a dynamic Being, to step further towards individualisation, a project would lead ultimately to separation from the Source, finitude, and suffering. For that is the nature of the Divine Play (lila); it is - from the transcendent point of view - spontaneous bliss and joy even in what may appear to our limited perception to be the most unhappy circumstances.
This impulse of Divine Play and Ananda takes the form of Spandana, a movement, so to speak, within the Divine. As the Kashmir Shaivite adept Abhinavagupta explains, Spanda is
"...a throb, a heaving of spiritual rapture in the essential nature of the Divine which excludes all succession...."
It is the throb of the ecstacy of the Divine I-consciousness or Vimarsha; the Divine creative pulsation; the pulse of Shiva's svatantrya or absolute Freedom [Jaideva Singh, Introduction, Spanda-Karikas, p.xvii].
Through this activity a Horizon or ontological discontinuity is crossed, the discontinuity between static and dynamic, trabscendent and creative. So from the totally transcendent and ineffable Absolute (Parabrahman) arises the Absolute or Godhead in the derived or Manifesting mode. It is this which is the Source or First Principle of all subsequent Creation.
The Noetic Absolute is Infinite Being and Truth-Consciousness; the First Emanantion, the Logos of the Absolute; the Shiva tattwa of Kashmir Shaivism (Shiva and Shakti are polarised but still in total unity and identity), the Supermind of Sri Aurobindo. It can be described as the infinite, transcendent, unitary Godhead or Person behind the Cosmos. It is the source of total Truth, the highest Good, beyond (relative) Good and Evil. Although unitary it contains within itself the essences of all the multiform qualities of the subsequent manifestation.
As Sri Aurobindo explains:
"(The Supermind is) Sachchidananda not resting in its pure infinite invariable consciousness, but proceeding out of this primal poise, or rather upon it as a base and in it as a continent, into a movement which is its form of Energy and instrument of cosmic creation."
Sri Aurobindo refers to the Supermind as the transitional stage between the three totally transcendent planes of infinite Consciousness and Bliss and the three lower planes of finite existence. He considers it pivotal for the Divine transformation of the world. "It alone contains the self-determining Truth of the Divine Consciousness (that) is necessary for a Truth-creation." [Ibid. p.239]
The Supermind as Sat-Chit-Ananda in manifestation, is comparable perhaps to the Hellenistic and early Christian idea of the Logos, the creative expression of God. Similarily, in the cosmology of Kashmir Shaivism
"Shiva tattwa is the initial creative movement (prathama spanda) of Parama Shiva. As has been said in the Shattrimshat-tattwa-sandoha:"When Anuttara (the Absolute) by His Svatantrya (Absolute Will) feels like letting go the Universe contained in Him, the first vibration or throb of this Will is known as Shiva.""
The Noetic Absolute is the Creative Cosmic Godhead, is the Infinite in Its mode of Self-Creation of the Cosmos and finite existence. It is the infinite Movement, the Individualisation, the Logos, the Thought, of the quiescent and eternal infinity of Parabrahman. It is the eternal, unchanging, Absolute Light and Truth. It is the supreme Light of Lights (nur al-anwar) of Suhrawardi; the Xvarnah or "Light of Glory" of Zoroastrianism; the En Sof Or or "Infinite Light" of Kabbalah. It is identical with infinite pure Consciousness (or cit), and by which, through its shining, everything exists.
As the Sethian Gnostic tractate The Gospel of the Egyptians says in its opening lines concerning this transcendent Source:
"...the great invisible Spirit, the Father whose Name cannot be uttered, he who came forth from the heights of the Perfection, the Light of the Light of the Aeons..., the Light of the Incorruptions, the Infinite Light,...the Aeon of the Aeons, Autogenes (Self-generated), Self-Begotten, Self-Producing,..."
This is the original transcendent state of being, which was eternally there, even before the Cosmos came into being.
Some forms of Egyptian theology refer to a several highest Gods that make up the Supreme Godhead. One text from the city of Thebes (where the preferred Deity is Amun) states
"Three gods are all the gods: Amun, Re, Ptah, who have no equal. "He whose name is hidden" is Amun, whose countenance is Re and whose body is Ptah.... Amun-Re-Ptah, Unity-Trinity."
The Hellenistic Gnostics, who combined Judaic, Zoroastrian, Egyptian, Platonic, and earliest Christian conceptions, divided the Pleroma or transcendent world of Light and Divinity into successive divinities; Aeons or "Eternities", beginning with the ineffable original Godhead.
The Sufi Jili, a disciple of the great Ibn Arabi, spoke of stages of unfoldment within the Godhead Itself, in which the original simple Essence, the "Dark mist" (al-`Ama), develops consciousness and qualities by passing through various stages of manifestation, which modify Its original simplicity [R. A. Nicholson, Studies in Islamic Mysticism, pp.83-4].
are all transcendent stages of Divine being. From Wahidiyya arise Mercifulness and Lordship, which pertain to God's relation with his Creation [Ibid, pp.98-99].
And Sri Aurobindo states that the Supermind (= The Noetic Absolute) has three "poises" which are outlined as follows:
"...The first founds the inalienable unity of things, the second modifies that unity so as to support the manifestation of the Many in One and the One in Many; the third further modifies it so as support the evolution of a diversified individuality which, by the action of Ignorance, becomes...at a lower level the illusion of the separate ego..."
Here again, as with the Egyptians, we see the idea of a trinity from unmanifest to Manifest within the Absolute itself. The same conception is shared by the North Indian Adept Gorakhnath (?9th- 12th Century), who referred to the transcendent emanation sequence of Absolute Body (Para-Pinda), Eternal Body (Anadi-Pinda) and Primordial Body (Adya-Pinda) of the Godhead (Shiva). [Bannerjea, The Philosophy of Gorakhnath]
So we could posit several stages of self- manifestation and self-unfolding of The Noetic Absolute, which constitute increasing stages of differentiation and duality from the original, highest state of Absolute Unity.
In Kabbalah there is the idea that the entire Cosmos, and even its consummation, was a preceeded by a single unique "Thought of the Creator", but not by a multitude of thoughts as would be the case with any human creation [Rabbi Yehuda L. Ashlag, Ten Luminous Emanations, vol 1, p.37 (1969, The Research Centre for Kabbalah, Jerusalem)].
"With one "Thought" of the Creator all existence was emanated and created, the upper worlds in conjunction with the lower worlds, including the evolutionary processes...which creation will constantly undergo until all functions reach their final completion...""
This Thought of the Creator is simultaneously "(1) the doer of everything; 2) the substance of all actions; 3) the toil and endeavor; 4) the achiever of the goal; 5) the perfection and full reward awaited by the created ones," [Ibid], and, I would also add the totality of all beings and the entire cosmos (since everything emanated from It).
This is the Divine Idea
"...the idea, a pregnant vibration of consciousness...is an initial coming out, in creative self-knowledge, of that which lay concentrated in uncreative self-awareness." That Idea evolves itself by its own Power and Consciousness of Itself, "always self-realising by the knowledge ingrained in its every impulsion. This is the truth of all creation, of all evolution"
According to Sri Aurobindo, at the level of Supermind (Noetic Absolute) the principle of Chit-Tapas (in Sachchidananda - the Manifest Absolute) becomes the Supreme Will. This dynamic principle of the Absolute can be described as the boundless infinite, omnipotent Will of the Absolute, the Will towards Creation. It is however not distinct
"In supermind knowledge in the Idea is not divorced from will in the Idea, but one with it...For the supermind is the Vast; it starts from unity, not division, it is primarily comprehensive, differentiation is only its secondary act. Therefore whatever be the truth of being expressed, the idea corresponds to it exactly, the will-force to the idea, -- force being only power of the consciousness, -- and the result to the will. Nor does the idea clash with other ideas, the will or force with other will or force as in man and his world; for there is one vast Consciousness which contains and relates all ideas in itself as its own ideas, one vast Will which contains and relates all energies in itself as its own energies..."
The sixteenth century Protestant esotericist Jacob Boehme (pronounced "Yahob Burma") writes
"That which is tranquil and without being, resting within itself...(is) God. But as God cannot be without being, He conceives within Himself a will, and this will is love"
What Boehme calls "will", the Tantrics call "shakti", the dynamic potentiality inherent within even the Absolute. Without it, the Absolute would be eternally static and impotent, eternally unmanifest, eternally without being; void, empty.
According to the Indian Sage Gorakhnath, Shakti progresses through succesive stages progression towards greater manifestation. The first of these is called Nija-Shakti. This is the Divine Power in its original Absolute form of Pure Will that is undistinguishable from Pure Consciousness.
In Kabbalah, the first emanation of infinite Godhead - En Sof - is called Keter or "Crown". This is so close to the En Sof as to be sometimes described as synonymous with It. As with Gorakhnath's Nija-Shakti, the Kabbalists identify Keter with the Supreme Will. And in the Trika cosmology of Kashmir Shaivism and Bengali Shaktism, the first principle to emerge out of the transcendent polarity of Shiva (pure Being) and Shakti (the Creative Power of that Being) is Sadakhya or Sadashiva, which is identified with the Self or "I" (Skt Aham) Consciousness and with Iccha, "Will".
Yet this Will, this Power to manifestation, is not something stern and judgmental, something harsh or unbalanced. In Sachchidananda all the principles are in identity and unity. There is no distinction between Bliss (Ananda) and Will (Tapas). Or as Boehme puts it, "God conceives within Himself a will, and this will is love."
Lower down however, this principle or activity of self-focus, which, becomes the cause of all separative existence.
In Lurianic Kabbalah, God (the Infinite Light) and His Name (the Divine Will) are in absolute unity; no difference separates them [Rabbi Levi Krakovsky, Kabbalah, the Light of Redemption, p.81]. The original Divine Will is called Ratzon Ha'elyon, the Supreme or Abysmal Hill. This is not a particular will focused on a specific goal "but the original Divine Willingness (Ratzon) underlying the creative will; it is the Will of all wills" (of the Zohar), the "essence will" or "will to will"...which precedes all powers and attributes" [Jacob Immanuel Schochet, Mystical Concepts in Chassidism, pp.71-2 (Kehot Publication Society, Brooklyn NY, 1979)]
The first level of The Noetic Absolute is referred to by Sri Aurobindo as the first of the three "Supramental poises", which he describes as follows:
"It is not the pure unitarian consciousness; for that is a timeless and spaceless concentration of Sachchidananda in itself, in which Consciousness Force does not cast itself out into any kind of extension....This on the contrary is an equal self-extension of Sachchidananda all-comprehending, all-possessing, all-constituting. But this is all one, not many; there is no individualisation....All is developed in unity and as one; all is held by this Divine Consciousness as forms of its existence, not as in any degree separate existences..."
In very similiar manner, Jili refers to the first stage of Divine manifestation out of the original Unmanifest, the first approach of the Essence to manifestation, as Ahadiyya, or abstract oneness. Just as a wall viewed from a distance appears as a single whole without reference to the clay, wood, bricks, and mortar of which it is composed, so Ahadiyya comprises all particulars negated by the overall unity or one-ness [R. A. Nicholson, Studies in Islamic Mysticism, p.95].
Sri Aurobindo's "second poise" of the Supramental Truth-Consciousness introduces the Particular alongside the Universal:
"...the Divine Consciousness stands back...from the movement which it contains, realising it by a sort of apprehending consciousness, following it, occupying and inhabiting its works (and)...forms. In each name and form it would...realise itself as the stable Conscious-Self, the same in all, but also it would realise itself as a concentration of Conscious-Self following and supporting the individual play of movement and upholding its differentiation from other play of movement - the same everywhere in soul-essence, but varying in soul-form. This concentration supporting the soul-form would be the individual Divine or Jivatman as distinguished from the universal Divine (or Paramatman)..."
So there appears a two-fold Reality at this stage of Divine manifestation. On the one hand, there is the Universal Absolute, the Universal Self or Parmatman. On the other, this Absolute expresses itself for the first time in the beginning of individuality, of uniqueness, yet an individuality and uniqueness still in complete harmony with the Divine.
There is thus a dialectic between Universal and Individual, the Universal expressing Itself in and upholding the Individual, the Individual realising its identity with the Universal. This dialectic would express itself in the perfect qualities, the "Divine Names" or "totaities". All these qualities can only come into being when there is an Individuality against which the Universal can "bounce off" its own Essence. Were there only to be the Universal, there could be no Manifestation, but only the qualities of Supreme Unmanifest Consciousness.
In the theology of the Sufi Jili we see exactly the same doctrine expressed; the emergence of Individuality within the Universal Infinite. From the state of abstract unity or Ahadiyya arises Unity in multiplicity, or Wahidiyya. Unity in multiplicity comes about through the dialectic of Huwiyya ("He-ness") and Aniyya ("I-ness"). As R. A. Nicholson explains:
"Huwiyya signifies the inward unity in which the attributes of the Essence disappear; Aniyya, the obverse side or outward expression of Huwiyya, is that unity revealing itself in existence"
Huwiyya then is the Universal Divine (the "He" in "He-ness" being God - God seen as "the Other" in theistic mysticism), and Aniyya the Individual Divine (hence "I-ness"). From the dialectic between the two arises Unity in multiplicity, Wahidiyya, in which "essence is manifested as attribute and attribute as essence" [Ibid], and the Many are identical in essence with each other and with the One.
Sri Aurobindo refers to the "third poise of the Supermind" as the state in which the Godheadic Consciousness is no longer able
"to stand at the back...of the movement, inhabiting it with a certain superiority...(as in the Second Poise), but were to project itself into the movement and...be involved in it.....This tertiary poise would be therefore that of a sort of blissful dualism in unity...between the individual Divine and its universal source..."
Unlike manifestation or emantion in finite existence, where there are distinct worlds and states of being, in the Absolute the various "poises" are inter-dependent and non-contradictory. Obviously, the logic of Infinite Divine Consciousness is not the same as the logic of finite human or phenomenal consciousness. In finite existence, the Aristotlean law of logic applies: a thing can be either A or Not-A, but it cannot be both. At the level of the Godhead though, it can and is. In this way, the apparent contradictions in the accounts of each of the esoteric theologians are resolved.
So in the Gnostic Apocryphon of John we read that the original Ennoia is also "the androgynous Five-Aeon, which is the Ten-Aeon, which is the Father", indicating that it is equally true to speak of this Transcendent principle as One or as Many.
While according to Gorakhnath, the five forms of Divine Consciousness of Para-Pinda are
"...all shining at the same time without overshadowing each other in His all- comprehensive Divine Self-consciousness..."
Similarily, refering to the three Poises of the Divine Supramental Consciousness, Sri Aurobindo says:
"We human beings are phenomenally a particular form of consciousness, subject to Time and Space, and can only be...one thing at a time....But the Divine Consciousness is not so...limited; it can be many things at a time and take more than one enduring poise even for all time....Supermind itself...has three such general poises...of its world- founding consciousness..."
Two facts stand out very clearly here. First, while finite beings can only be one thing at a time, the Noetic Absolute can be many things simultaneously, without contradiction between them.
And second the fact that the Noetic Absolute contains within itself the entire sequence from Unmanifest to Manifestation, or in other words the archetypal pattern of Reality as a whole. For although the Noetic Absolute is not itself the total Absolute or total Reality, it nevertheless includes that totality. At the level of the infinite, the Part includes the Whole. It is only when we step down to finite reality that this is no longer the case, and the conventional Aristotlean logic begins to apply. This theme of non-contradiction is very important. It occurs especially in the Hua-Yen (Avatmsaka Sutra) Buddhist idea of Non-Obstruction.
The following diagram gives a very tentative correlation of the grades of Absolute Godhead as It progresses from static to dynamic mode, according to several different teachings.
SACHCHIDANANDA Universal Atman Shakti-Shiva Vimarsha-Prakasha _____________||_______________ | AHADIYYA | Shakti "First Poise" Shiva Vimarsha Universal Atman Prakasha |_____________________________| _____________||_______________ | | Shakti "Second Poise" Shiva ANIYYA HUWIYYA ("attributes") ("God") Individual Soul Universal Atman |_____________________________| | | | | | | CREATION Individual Soul
The polarity of Universal and Particular could be seen as a development or progression of the original polarity of Shiva and Shakti, Prakasha and Vimarsha. Shiva-Prakasha is the Universal Consciousness or Atman, Shakti-Vimarsha the individualised and unique expression of this.
So in this way there is a progression, a descent, a creation, from the original simple state of Universal Atman, Universal Self, to the unique and particularised state of Cosmic God and Individual Soul.
It is stated that Atum originated from himself, not from any other being. A "magical papyrus" from the late period (c 300 B.C.E.) has Re or Atum (the Sun God, the supreme deity) say: "When I had come into being, being came into being, and all beings came into being after I came into being." [p. 247]
The idea here is of "being coming into being". Indeed, the very word "being", even in English, remains a verb rather than a noun; existence is a dynamic process of self-becoming.
The Sufi Jili gives a visionary account in which the Ruh or Divine Spirit conversed with him regarding its origin and its nature, saying: "I am the child whose father is its son and the wine whose vine is its jar....I met the mothers who bore me and I asked them in marriage..." [Nicholson, Islamic Mysticism, p.112- 3].
Here we see the same theme as the Egyptian deity, the Divine Power is paradoxically Its own cause, It gives rise to Itself.
This is the paradox of Becoming of the Noetic Absolute. In the Manifest Absolute, the Sachchidananda, there is no Becoming at all, only eternal quiescent perfection. In the Noetic Absolute there is a Becoming, a Manifestation, but it cannot be a Manifestation caused by something else, for the Noetic Absolute is still by Its own nature infinite and uncreated, inseperable in essence from the Unmanifest Absolute of which it is the eternal Self-Becoming Self-Expression.
The Transcendent, All-Pervasive Reality - Professor Andrew Wilson - more readings from world religions
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