Consciousness, evolution, and mysticism



By Marco Masi

I n recent years a new scientific debate has arisen regarding the phenomenon we call consciousness. Scientists from all over the world are taking more and more seriously questions like these: What is consciousness? Will machines ever be conscious? Is consciousness only a biochemical reaction in our brain or is there much more behind it? Is a single cell conscious of something? If it is, then of what is it conscious? Last but not least, does consciousness really exist as an independent essence or is it only a label that we put on some exterior material phenomenon stemming from an evolutionary process?

Many different theories are defended by different scientists, but they can be divided with a certain approximation into two main positions: On one side there are the material monists, who assert that consciousness is nothing else than a sophisticated computer algorithm in our brain circuitry, and any idea of transcendence that goes beyond matter comes from our more or less unconscious hope for life after death. On the other side there are the dualists, who dare to propose in front of a scientific community that mind and consciousness cannot be described only as a material, biochemical process.

It is interesting to note that these questions, which were previously considered purely religious or philosophical speculations and which were (and still are for most scientists) taboo in the scientific community, are posing themselves with more and more insistence. Is this a sign of the "subjective age" that Sri Aurobindo foresaw?

I t may be indeed that science is becoming more and more aware that the ultrarationalist position based on the pure intellect is not be the highest and most evolved tool that man can use in science, and that something "overintellectual" is slowly but definitively trying to replace the mind.

Until now, it was thought by every good scientist that any material phenomenon that is not, in principle, understandable by the intellect is only an illusion.

It seems, however, as if something is now trying to convince us that the intellect itself may be the biggest of all self-delusions. Probably even the dualists, who accept in principle the possibility of a nonmaterial realm, are not completely conscious of this process and simply feel that their intellect receives, from time to time, some intuitive flash, believing that it comes from a subconscious, mental origin.

If a nonmaterial reality exists -- which by its very nature is not subject to the rules of logic -- then it cannot be understood by mind. A tool that stands on a higher level is needed.

This has caused many scientists to reconsider their position vis a vis the mystical experiences reported by many religions (especially Buddhism), spiritualities, and mystics. Words such as yoga, transcendental meditation, and cosmic consciousness are becoming common in some communities.

U nfortunately, discoveries of Sri Aurobindo and Mother that may be of great scientific interest are still almost completely unknown to scientists. The idea of a mind as an exterior appearance, a mere crust of something that is much vaster than it (an intuitive mind, overmind, and supermind) is still not felt as a key in the understanding of the world.

Scientists speak often of an evolution that produces consciousness and are seldom aware that the contrary may be true: it is consciousness that causes evolution.

Medicine slowly begins to accept the fact that our health is strongly conditioned by mental and psychological factors and states. But most of those who subscribe to the relevance of psychosomatic medicine have rarely heard of Sri Aurobindo's and Mother's discovery that the body has a consciousness of its own and the cells a mind (after all, what does that mean?)

This often creates misconceptions and confusion. Scientists who don't know anything about esotericism, mysticism, and yoga still confuse mind with consciousness or feelings with mind, and many are still in quest about who or what gives rise to the subjective experience of thoughts, memory, and feelings.

Finally, there are the transhumanists. Transhumanism foresees the advent of a new race after man, but it hopes to achieve this with the technological means of the obsolete Homo sapiens. They place their hope in nanotechnology, brain implantations, and other ultratechnological devices. But these marvels, if realized, would only change our outer beings while leaving the real spiritual being in us unchanged.

A new approach

A s a result of e-mail discussions in the online forum Auroconf, a number of disciples of Mother and Sri Aurobindo have established a Web site dedicated to development of a gnostic science. We propose a true transhumanism and a new approach to science.

We believe that if science wants to manage the apparent mystery of the existence of life, evolution, matter, and consciousness and wants to attain a knowledge that leads to a real improvement in and out of us, it must be based on a paradigm that goes beyond reductionist sciences or pseudoholistic New Age approaches that have been unable to give us satisfying answers to these questions and needs.

On the Web site, we provide an introduction to the Integral Yoga of Sri Aurobindo and Mother, placing special emphasis on its evolutionary aspect and its physical and scientific implications. Descriptions of higher states of consciousness such as overmind and supermind and the consequences of cellular yoga and transformation of the body and of matter are especially considered, given their scientific interest. We try to show that their discoveries may be useful for medicine, biological and evolutionary research, psychology, and physics, as well as generally enhancing the scientific debate about consciousness and mind.

We also present the main ideas of how a gnostic science might develop in general as well as in specific fields such as psychology, physics, medicine and biology. We hope to arouse interest in these topics on the Web site, which is dedicated to scientists who feel that science must find new means for investigating nature. The Web site is available at

We are also searching for a designer who can help us with Web editing and graphics. If you are interested, please send e-mail to Marco Masi,

* * *

Marco Masi lives in Padova, a city near Venice, Italy. He studies physics and works occasionally in a city planetarium as a science educator.

Contents || Top ||