Spiritual Evolution of Man
(In the light of Sri Aurobindo’s philosophy)
(Interactive session on 14.11.2014)
Keynote address by Mr. Ashok Kumar Sengupta
(Other participant speakers: Mr. Asim K. Banerjee, Mr. Paritosh Bandopadhyay, Mr. R. K. Gupta, Mr. Sujit Chatterjee, Mr. S.R. Das & Ms. Sharmila Bhawal)
[Devotional song by Ms. Mitali Ghosh]
Anchor, Introduction & Conclusive Remarks: Asish K.Raha
It is believed that man is the only rational animal having the ability to think, analyse, debate and meditate. Man also has the ability to transcend the limits of individuality and enter into the spiritual realm of selflessness. Our focus here is not on the physical evolution of man but on the mental and the spiritual one up to the level of supramental in the light of Sri Aurobindo’s philosophy as contained in his magnum opus, the Life Divine. However, questions and doubts do crop up when we try to understand a new concept or phenomenon, yet to be validated scientifically or empirically. The common posers while on the present subject are as follows:
i) Is the concept of superman or supramental a realistic phenomenon? Is there any predictable time line for supramentalisation?
ii) Is the concept of cessation of the cycle of life and death, evolution and involution, creation and dissolution after the descent of the Supramental, in conformity with any known philosophy such as Samkhya, Vedanta, Buddhism, Abrahamic religions etc., or a unique concept of Sri Aurobindo?
iii) Is the spiritual evolution of man necessarily progressive, as has been explained by Sri Aurobindo with reference to Dashavatar (ten incarnations of Lord Vishnu)?
We will dwell upon the above posers in our concluding remarks, after we have briefly gone through the basic tenets of Sri Aurobindo’s philosophy.
EVOLUTION CONTINUES TILL THE EMERGENCE OF SUPERMAN:
“Evolution is not finished; reason is not the last word nor the reasoning animal the supreme figure of Nature. As man emerged out of the animal, so out of man the superman emerges.”
This statement from Sri Aurobindo indicates that the culmination of spiritual evolution of man will be the emergence of a superhuman race on the earth. But for to-day’s interactive session on “Spiritual Evolution of Man”, let us present the topic in a systematic manner.
A large segment of the Western world that accepts a literal meaning of the Biblical parable of Genesis condemns as false the very concept of evolution as the cause of creation of species. We have to see whether the historic statement by the present Pope last month that there is truth in the scientific theory of evolution as well as in the big bang theory of creation, alters the attitude of the Church faithfully towards evolution.
ANCIENT INDIAN VIEWS ON EVOLUTION:
But in India, the process of evolution seems to have been detected since ancient times. In the Rig Veda, the Nasodiya Sukta (I.129) refers to “the darkness wrapped in darkness” and points out that the breath stirred in that original darkness, there stirred the life-force as desire, and that desire was the seed of the mind. There is a fable in Aiitareya Upanishad that gods rejected the animal forms successively offered to them by the Divine Self and only when man was produced, cried out, “This indeed is perfectly made”, and consented to enter in the human body (I.2.1-3). In Sankhya philosophy, the infinite Force is figured as a sea, initially at rest and therefore, formless, but the first initiation of movement necessitates the evolution of forms of Matter which grow gradually from a subtle to solid states. Upon these forms of Matter depend all our sense experience. What we call the power of sensations, of vibrations of the mind, of the ego-sense and even of intelligence, which has the faculty of discrimination, is involved in Matter; and because of that involution, the evolution of what is involved takes place. In the Sankhya theory of Satkaryavada nothing comes out of nothing, the effect is already present in the cause, and whatever manifests is already inherent in the original state of the Force, the Prakriti. This Sankhyan view of involution and evolution is accepted by several other systems of Indian Philosophy including Vedanta.
Even the Puranic story of Dashavatar, from Matsya to Kalki, is considered to be a parable of evolution. First the Fish Avatar (Matsya) in water, then the amphibious animal (Kurma) then the land animal (Varaha) and then the man-lion (Narasimha) Avatar, bridges man and animal. Isn’t it the exact sequence of evolution that the scientists have postulated? The fifth Avatar dwarf (Vamana), a man not yet fully developed (tamasic) but containing in himself the godhead and taking possession of existence. Then came Parashuram and Ram Avatar, leading the human development from the vital rajasic to the sattwic mental man. The last three Avatars – Krishna, Buddha and Kalki – depicts the stages of man’s spiritual development, Krishna opening the possibility of reaching the highest level of spiritual mind (overmind), Buddha attaining the supreme liberation (Nirvana) but not returning to complete the evolution. Kalki is to correct this by bringing the Kingdom of Divine upon earth, destroying the opposing Asura forces. The progression of 10 Avatars is striking and unmistakably depicts evolution, including the spiritual evolution of man
SCIENTIFIC THEORY OF EVOLUTION:
The scientific theory of evolution began to develop in 18th century through the work of Linnaeus (1707-78) Buffon (1707-88), and in the 19th century by Charles Darwin (1809-82) and his followers. Charles Darwin, in his Origin of Species (1859), argues that life on earth evolved by a gradual and yet continuous process from the earliest form of living organism to the latest species, man. Natural selection, variation and heredity are said to be the factors through the operation of which new species arise out of the existing ones. When new characters are produced by the variability of organisms, natural selection decides their survival or death. If the characters do not adapt to their environment, they are eliminated in the competition. If, on the other hand, they equip themselves better for the struggle, they tend to survive. The off springs of the successful tend to resemble the parents in exhibiting the favoured variation to a greater degree than the parents and a new type gets established by a continuous piling up of small useful accretions through many generations.
There have been critics of Darwin’s theory even among the naturalists and scientists and the faithful even put a Theory of Intelligent Design to counter Darwin. But despite all opposition, particularly from the Church, the concept of evolution deeply influenced the thinkers all over the world including in India. Rabindranath Tagore wrote several essays on evolution of man; Swami Vivekananda referred to it in his speeches in the West and Sri Aurobindo propounded his philosophy of supramental evolution, although his views were based on the Vedantic knowledge of involution and evolution of consciousness
EVOLUTION THEORIES OF WESTERN PHILOSOPHERS:
Ancient Greek Philosophers had important ideas of evolution, but these were set aside later by the account of creation in Genesis. However, in last three centuries a number of Western Philosophers came out with new theories of evolution.
Henri Bergson (1859-1941) felt that there is something more in evolution than mere material urge. He talked of an inner urge or life-force’ (elan vital) that causes evolution. Herbert Spencer (1820-1903) questioned the assumption that life always came from life. He also argued, if survival was the aim of nature, life would have never appeared. According to Samuel Alexender (1859-1938), the whole process of universe is an evolutionary growth from space-time. He enunciated a philosophy of emergent evolution, saying, out of a complexity in the physical structure, life and later mind emerged. Lloyd Morgan (1852-1936), who seems to agree with Alexander’s theory of emergent evolution, acknowledges God as the nisus through whose activity emergents emerge. He maintains that evolution is the expression of God’s purpose.
According to Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (1881-1955) the evolutionary process cannot be evaluated in terms of its origin. What comes later is more than what was earlier. He feels evolution is pushing man towards an omega-point, or stage of collective divinity and foresees a cosmic divine manifestation in the making. While recalling the Platonie view of the cosmic process, Whitehead (1861-1947) put up a theory of “Ingressive evolution”. There is according to him, a progressive ingression and incorporation into the cosmic series of the eternal order which God embraces in Himself.
These philosophical theories depart in different degrees from the scientific concept of evolution, although they admit the world movement as an evolutionary process. They also try to explain in some ultimate terms, the rationale of evolution by a process of philosophical speculation.
SPIRITUAL THEORY OF EVOLUTION:
We have already depicted the vision of ancient India on the question of creation of universe and its gradual unfolding through a process of evolution. Be it in the Nasadiya Sukta, the Purusha Sukta and the Aghamarshana Sukta of Rig Veda, several texts of Sankhya and Vedanta, or in the Puranic story of Dashavatar, we can see that our Rishis had a clear idea of the evolutionary progression in the unfolding of consciousness. Sri Aurobindo (1872-1950) enunciated his vision of a spiritual evolution of man, culminating in a Divine Life on earth and emergence of a god-like supramental species, based on this ancient knowledge of India. He accepts the Sankhya views that nothing comes out of nothing, and points to the Vedantric rationale for evolution, as an inevitable aftermath of involution of consciousness. The following lines from Sri Aurobindo’s magnum opus, the Life Divine, which tells the full story of the spiritual evolution of man – its past, present and future, are cited below:
“We speak of the evolution of Life in Matter, the Evolution of Mind in Matter, but evolution is a word which merely states the phenomenon without explaining it. For there seems to be no reason why Life should evolve out of material elements or Mind out of living form, unless, we accept the Vedanta solution that life is already involved in Matter and Mind in Life. ….. And then there seems to be little objection to a further step in the series and the admission that mental consciousness may itself be only a form and a veil of higher states which are beyond Mind. As the impulse towards Mind ranges from the more sensitive reactions of Life in the metal and the plant upto its full organisation in man, so in man himself there is the same ascending series, the preparation, if nothing more, of a higher and divine life. The animal is a living laboratory in which Nature has, it is said, worked out man. Man himself may well be a thinking and living laboratory in whom and with whose conscious co-operation she wills to work out the superman, the god…..If it be true, that spirit is involved in Matter and apparent nature is secret God, then the manifestation of the divine in himself and the realisation of God within and without are the highest and most legitimate aim possible to man upon earth.”
THE EVOLUTIONARY STAIR:
The process of creation, the model of our evolutionary world, can be metaphorically represented by a stair of worlds manifested by the Supreme Diivine, first to descend (Involution) from the Superconscient to Inconscient, by which He objectively incarnated in every higher evolutionary forms and He now climbs up the stairs (evolution) physically manifesting Himself as new forms of species, back to his absolute perfection. The present human stage is evidently a mid-point in the staircase of evolution.
A little elaboration on these two poles of evolutionary ladder is called for. In Vedanta, the Superconscient is Sat-Chit–Ananda (Existence – Consciousness – Bliss). The other pole is Inconscient, the darkest end of the spectrum, which Sri Aurobindo has also termed as Inane, a total negation of Consciouness. And this is not an abstract term denoting philosophical speculation, but a concrete spiritual experience of many seekers of the spiritual, from Vedic Rishis to Sri Aurobindo. As pointed out earlier, Nasadiya Sukta (Rig Veda) describes it as darkness enveloping darkness, which was the beginning of creation and also the starting point of evolution.
In Vedic metaphor, the two poles – Superconscient and Inconscient – are described as two oceans. In Tantra, they are called Bindu and Visarga. Since Tantric tradition is deep-rooted in Bengal, these two words, signifying beginning and end of any subject, has become commonplace in Bengali language. In his epic poem Savitri, Sri Aurobindo describes these two poles as the “first and the last nothingness”.
In the climb up from Inconscient to Superconscient spanning aeons, man is, at this juncture, somewhere halfway in the stair of evolution. Sri Aurobindo says, the next level in the evolution will be the emergence of superman, a being whose consciousness is supermind. The question comes, what is supermind and how does it differ from mind, which is the centre of our consciousness?
We can give the answer with a little historical tale. In 1908-09, Sri Aurobindo, then a young revolutionary, Aurobindo Ghosh, was serving a jail sentence given by the then British rulers of India. In meditation in his solitary prison cell, he heard the voice of Swami Vivekananda imparting spiritual knowledge to him about the higher spiritual levels of mind for a fortnight (or about a month). Later, out of jail, Sri Aurobindo wrote about these higher levels of spiritual mind. Put in an ascending order, these are the Higher Mind, the illumined Mind, the Intuitive Mind and then the highest level, the Over mind. The Overmind is the abode of the gods, the inspired source of the great founders of religion. This is where all the religions we know were born, deriving from one overmental experience in one of its myriad facets. This is the plane described in the Vedas as “an ocean of stable lightning” and Vedic Rishis made Overmental consciousness their abode.
But Sri Aurobindo and his spiritual consort, the Mother discovered that overmind would not be able to bring about the desired transformation so that a new species of god-like beings evolve on earth. “In the terrestrial evolution itself the overmental descent would not be able to transform in each inner it touched the whole conscious being, inner and outer, personal and universally impersonal, into its own stuff and impose that upon the Ignorance illumining it into cosmic truth and knowledge”, Sri Aurobindo wrote in his Life Divine, the problem lies in the inconscience at the root of all existence including human existence. Giving an example from the world of astronomy he writes, “it would be as if a sun and its system were to shine out in an original darkness of Space and illumine everything as far as its rays could reach so that all that dwelt in the light would feel as if no darkness were there at all in their experience of existence. But outside that sphere the original darkness Inconscious would still be there and, since all things are possible in an overmind structure, could re-invade the island of light created within its empire.” He further explained that Overmental consciousness, by its very nature would develop all possibilities, one at a time, which may hamper the evolutionary ascent. “Also by this much evolution there could be no security against the downward pull or gravitation of the inconscience which dissolves all the formations that life and mind build in it, swallows all things that arise out of it or are imposed upon it and disintegrate them into their original matter.”
For all these levels, including the highest overmental level, belong to the lower half of the evolutionary stair, to the lower hemisphere of the Globe of Being. At the top of the upper hemisphere, there is the Supreme Divine, the Sat-Chit-Ananda of Vedanta. There is a barrier between the two halves, and men are not supposed to cross that barrier in the evolutionary sense, unless done by great yogis individually in their meditation. In Ishopanishad, this overmental line is called the golden plate which covers the face of Truth (Hiranmayena Patrena Satyasyapihitam Mukham).
Vedic Rishis who have crossed this barrier in their individual sadhana, found it difficult to bring it down to earth. A Vedic verse says, he who goes through ‘the gate of the Sun’ cannot come back.
Perhaps the time was not ripe for it in the ancient Vedic period. But Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, who always felt that ‘the time is now’ for the great evolutionary leap, have pierced this golden barrier and ultimately succeeded in bringing down the supreme consciousness from the higher hemisphere to the earth. This consciousness, where Sat-chit-ananda has fully manifested, was called by Vedic Rishis as Satyam, Ritam, Brihat, or the sun world. Sri Aurobindo called it Supermind, a technical, neutral term, to denote a level far above the highest reaches of the mind.
The Supermind – itself a resplendent prism of world – is essentially a principle of Unity. The mind looks at a thesis, and then considers its antithesis and labours to arrive at a synthesis, but in supermind, all contradictions are spontaneously harmonised. Apart from solving the fundamental problem of division and discord, a descent of the Supermind into the terrestrial formula would bring into it ‘the supreme law and light and dynamics of the Spirit’ and transform the inconscience.
According to Sri Aurobindo, only the Supramental Force can entirely overcome the difficulty of the resistance of the Inconscience. “The whole radical change in the evolution from a basis of Ignorance to a basis of Knowledge can only come by the intervention of the supramental power and its direct action in earth-existence,” Sri Aurobindo declares in his Life Divine.
At this stage, it is necessary to clarify one of the basic elements of the Aurobindonian philosophy of evolution. According to him, only earth is the chosen field for evolution. But in the creation, there are many type worlds and the beings that are unaffected by the march of evolution. Here no reference is being made to the physical universe with its galaxy of stars, but realms in the occult space, where beings belonging to what he has categorised as vital plane, mental plane, the overmental plane (the world of gods) and beyond, where beings having the appropriate consciousness exist. This is where the involution that we talked about, get stratified for all eternity, Thus a vital world, a mental world, an overmental world and a supramental world always existed before life or mind appeared on the earth or great yogis possessing the overmental or supramental consciousness, roamed the earth. The Mother has explained that beings in these typal worlds are satisfied with these levels of their consciousness and the state of their existence. But if they wish to transcend themselves and progress, they have to be born on earth and be part of the evolution.
The part of the man which evolves through successive births is their soul, that Shri Aurobindo called the psychic being. While Jivatman remains outside the cycle of births and deaths, the psychic being, which is a part of Jivatman, grows through successive rebirths. In Sri Aurobindo’s integral yoga, stress is put on realisation of the soul. When the psychic being comes in the forefront and takes control of the mind, life and body of the individual, a process Sri Aurobindo called as psychic transformation, the real yoga sadhana of the individual begins. Then he can look forward to the other two stages of sadhana, the spiritual transformation and the supramental transformation, that would take the individual to the next level of evolution by becoming a superman.
DESCENT OF SUPERMIND:
But such an evolution has a pre-requisite condition to be fulfilled, the descent of the Supramental Consciousness on earth. Sri Aurobindo dedicated his whole life to hasten this supramental change, which, he said “is a thing decreed and inevitable in the evolution of the earth nature” When he left his body (on 5.12.1950), the supramental force was said to have descended in his body and kept the lifeless body shining and without any decomposition for five days, till the supramental percolated to the rest of the earth. The Mother took up his work thereafter and declared on 29.2.1956 that the supramental force has manifested on earth (shattering the golden barriers that separates the two hemispheres, of which a mention was made earlier) Mother’s Agenda , a book in 13 Volumes , records Mother’s spiritual experience for continuing the work of supramental transformation. In 1970, she declared that she has completed the work (Yoga) entrusted by Sri Aurobindo upon her. She left her body on 17.11.1973, but her talks during her final years give clear indication that the ‘decreed and inevitable’ evolutionary leap to a supramental species is near at hand.
But how near? Sri Aurobindo termed evolution as the yoga of Nature. It would have taken aeons for the life to appear on a lifeless material world, first as plants and then as animals. Paleonthologists say human beings made its appearance on the Earth between one and three million years ago, and according to Mother, a million years would have already elapsed between the descent of the mental principle on earth and the first material incarnation of the human being. But Sri Aurobindo says, the spiritual evolution of man to superman, would be far more accelerated, since man has the capacity to consciously collaborate and thus accelerate nature’s yoga, the process of evolution. He was asked about 90 years back, how long it would take for the suramental change to become apparent. Instead of replying in terms of million years, he said, ‘let us wait for three hundred years’. But that is also long enough for us who have to count their life-spans in decades or maximum around a century.
But then Sri Aurobindo talks about intermediate beings, like those with a human body and a mind of light, the spiritually advanced individuals who would emerge well before the arrival of the supramental species. The spiritual evolution of man is, therefore, a thing, not only of future, but realisable in our life-time, one that our inner heart can feel, our inner-mind can comprehend and inner eye see and our inner being touch and hold in a rapturous embrace. Sri Aurobindo has termed this period of history as the Hour of God. When a little effort produces big result and changes destiny. This is the period when the spiritual evolution of man makes rapid progress, takes a quantum leap.
Let us now deal with the posers made in the Introduction. These relate to some fundamental doubts about the validity of the concept of descent of the Supramental on our mortal world, as has been developed by Sri Aurobindo, one of the greatest Indian Yogis of modern time.
Poser 1: Is the concept of superman or Supramental a realistic phenomenon? Is there any predictable time line for supramentalisation?
The concept of Supramental in the sense of being Sat-Chit-Ananda is in conformity with Indian Vedantic philosophy according to which Brahman (The Divine) is Sat (Existence-Absolute), Chit (Consciousness-Absolute) and Ananda (Bliss-Absolute). Brahman in the Upanishads / Vedanta is verily described as indescribable, formless, without beginning and end, imperceptible, infinite mass of light, subtler than the subtlest and grosser than the grossest, immanent in every living being and non-being or in other words all-pervasive. When Sri Aurobindo talks of Supramental in conjunction or in juxtaposition with superman, there is obvious distinction between Brahman of the Vedanta and the Supramental or superman of Sri Aurobindo. The Upanishadic sages have envisioned Brahman as existing in every living being. The case in point is the famous anecdote of sage Uddalak and his son Shvetaketu in Chhandogya Upanishad narrating how Uddalak explained the concept of Tat Tvam Asi (Thou Art That) to his son Shvetaketu. The fact that Brahman is immanent in every living being has been postulated by the Vedanta several millenniums ago and is by no means a new concept. However, Sri Aurobindo’s concept of supramentalisation of this phenomenal world including humans in collective sense as a permanent phenomenon is unique inasmuch as such permanence at phenomenal level has not been conceptualized by the Vedanta. In other words, the phenomenal world, according to the Vedanta, is transient and destructible, and the spiritual liberation from the bondage of the cycle of birth and death can be attained only by detachment of the soul from the world of matter. To be more precise, unless a seeker kills or dissolves his ‘I’-ness or Aham, he/she cannot attain liberation.
Sri Aurobindo’s concept of supramentalisation is to materialize in this phenomenal world only when the Super-Mind is envisaged as descending on the world of matter. This, according to sri Aurobindo, is expected to happen in about three hundred years from the time he predicted, some ninety years ago, and that too for reason of his and the Mother’s joint efforts and austerity. However, sceptics have reason to doubt this vision of Sri Aurobindo in view of the fact that in last ninety years there has been no noteworthy spiritual progress in India or for that matter in the world as a whole. According to Sri Aurobindo, descent of the Supramental will happen at the last stage of spiritual evolution of man. Afterward, there will be permanence of the body and mind and no dissolution, as every cell in the body will be transformed or mutated into the Supramental.
It is patently clear that Sri Aurobindo’s concept of spiritual evolution is linear and not cyclical as in the Vedanta, the Samkhya, or for that matter, in the Buddhist philosophy.
As to the question whether the concept of superman or supramentalisation of this world of matter is a realistic phenomenon, we keep our mind open to the possibility of mutation of our cells, whether by Yoga or by science, to turn us into immortal spiritual beings in this material and transient world at some point of time in the future. But we find it difficult at this point of time to accept the proposition that the mutation of cells will bring permanence to the super-human body and the phenomenal world.
Poser 2: Is the concept of cessation of the cycle of life and death, evolution and involution, creation and dissolution after the descent of the Supramental, in conformity with any known philosophy such as Samkhya, Vedanta, Buddhism, Abrahamic religions etc., or a unique concept of Sri Aurobindo?
The cyclical evolution of the four Yugas, viz. Satya, Treta, Dvapar and Kali, without beginning or end is fundamental to all schools of Indian philosophy. Likewise, the cycle of evolution and involution is also fundamental to Indian philosophy. To elucidate the concept of cyclical evolution as in the Vedanta, each Yuga cycle is of 12000 years comprising Satya (4800 years), Treta (3600 years), Dvapar (2400 years) and Kali (1200 years). This cycle rotates alternately in descending and ascending order and is never- ending till the time of dissolution when entire creation gets involved in Brahman (refer: Holy Science by Sri Yukteswar). The above concept of evolution and involution is somewhat similar to the concept of Big Bang after Big Crunch, sans God or Brahman. However, according to Vedanta, the cycle of evolution and involution also has no end as it goes on seamlessly. It is difficult to reconcile this Vedantic concept of evolution-involution to the linear concept of evolution of Sri Aurobindo who rules out involution after Supramentalisation of earth existence.
It is conceived by Sri Aurobindo that after the descent of the Supramental on this material world, all men will become supermen and they will not perish or die. In other words, this phenomenal world will be everlasting. It is not that Sri Aurobindo has rejected the concept of Yuga Cycle of the Vedanta. As a matter of fact he has accepted the concept of Yuga Cycle which would mean that countless times in the past, the world has rotated from the state of the lowest degradation to the highest spiritual enlightenment and again going down from the zenith to the nadir to come up and go down, time and again, ceaselessly. A logical corollary to the above concept is that if supramentalisation has not happened at the pinnacle of the past cycle, it is not likely to happen in next cycle. Alternately assuming that man became superman in each of the preceding cycles, the obvious conclusion will be that there is no permanence in the status of superman also. But Sri Aurobindo has held in Life Divine that supramentalisation of the man will lend permanence to his phenomenal existence. This would pre-suppose that such futuristic phenomenon will be unprecedented, as it would mean an end to the Yuga Cycle as also to the cycle of evolution and involution.
According to Abrahamic tradition, however, on the Judgment Day, all the souls with their bodies shall rise from their graves and God shall determine in each individual case whether the person concerned by virtue of his or her deeds while living, deserves to be in permanent heaven or permanent hell with their erstwhile bodies, re-constructed by God. According to some school, the Heaven will descend on the earth, post-Judgment Day, permanently. Even though we find some similarity in Abrahamic concept of the heaven on earth to the concept of superman of Sri Aurobindo from the point of view of permanence, it is noteworthy that supramentalisation in Sri Aurobindo’s Life Divine is a collective phenomenon while in Abrahamic traditions it is purely individualistic phenomenon, depending upon whether the man was good or evil while living. Since Abrahamic tradition did not generally subscribe to re-incarnation, there is also no scope of evolution of an individual soul in said tradition.
It would thus appear that Sri Aurobindo’s concept of superman and supramentalisation is unique.
Poser 3: Is spiritual evolution of man necessarily progressive, as has been explained by Sri Aurobindo with reference to Dashavatar (ten incarnations of the Lord)?
According to Sri Aurobindo, evolution of man, as is demonstrated by Dashavatar (Ten Incarnations of the Lord), beginning with Matsya (Fish) and followed by Kurma (Tortoise), the amphibious animal, Varaha (Boar), the land animal, Nrisimha (man-lion), who was not yet complete man, Vamana (Dwarf), the first complete man but Tamasic one, Parashuram (Axe-man), the Rajasic man, Rama, the Sattvik man, Sri Krishna, the Overman, Buddha, the Liberated Man and the Kalki, the Superman, was both at physical and spiritual level showing progression at each stage. However, even though at animal level, incarnations may match with Darwin’s sequence, same thing cannot be said about the human incarnations, as per the Hindu text. In the first place, there may be serious objection in categorizing Sri Krishna as Overman on two counts. First, Sri Krishna, according to one school of Hindu scholars was not included in the list of Dashavatar, his brother Balaram taking his place. However, the school that included Sri Krishna in the list of Dashavatar considered him as Purna Avatar (complete incarnation of Lord) while others were partial or fragmented and not complete incarnation. As Purna Avatar Sri Krishna was liberated from the very beginning, possessing supreme wisdom and all the attributes conceivable, and knew the past and the future. Thus, to describe such personality as Overman and not Superman may not be found acceptable.
Secondly, according to the concept of Yuga Cycle, spirituality of man is supposed to take a down-slide when the cycle is on its descending path and up-swing when on ascending path. In the time of Rama and Sri Krishna the cycle was believed to be on a descending path and spirituality collectively was on a down-slide. However, Avatars are believed to be an exception inasmuch as though they themselves were liberated, they came to this mortal world of their free will for good of the people.
Buddha also accepted Hindu Yuga Cycles and its alternate descending and ascending paths.
In Abrahamic religions, notably in Old Testament, spiritual decline of man has been amply demonstrated with help of several anecdotes.
Thus the concept of Sri Aurobindo that man as also the Avatars had been advancing spiritually with the passage of time does not find validation in any religious text. On the contrary, those texts rather suggest that man has become more materialistic and less spiritual in the current cycle.
Be that as it may, Sri Aurobindo’s and the Mother’s Yogic austerity to achieve a near impossible goal of bringing down Supramental to earthly existence for the sake of collective immortality of entire mankind smacks of their boundless compassion for humanity. In the above context, the question whether they have been successful in their endeavour, or their goal is achievable by the projected time-line is not pertinent. What is worth remembering is that two great Yogis of present era dedicated their lives in utmost austerity in order to accelerate the process of liberation of the entire humanity without discrimination.