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Involution?

May 17th, 2010 · 3 Comments

We already linked to Dembski’s post at UD: Ulrich Mohrhoff on the Hindu alternative to materialism and ID, and there is another link:

Beyond Natural Selection and Intelligent Design: Sri Aurobindo’s Theory of Evolution
Ulrich J Mohrhoff
Abstract
An outline of Sri Aurobindo’s theory of spiritual evolution is presented. Ultimate Reality relates to each world (ours need not be the only one) as the substance that constitutes it, as a consciousness that contains it, and as an infinite joy that expresses and experiences itself in it. In our world, Ultimate Reality is “playing Houdini,” enchaining itself as best it can, challenging itself to escape from self-created darkness and inertia, to rediscover its true self and powers, to affirm itself in conditions that appear to be its very opposite. Sri Aurobindo calls the process by which these conditions are created “involution.” Once we have a sufficient grasp of this process, we are in a position to understand the true nature of evolution, which is not finished: man is a transitional being, his greatness lies not in what he is, but in what he makes possible.

I will cheerfully listen to anyone who can seriously try to explain the difference between evolution and involution, but I must confess at this point that I tend to skulk away from the concept of involution. It smacks of a late response to secular skepticism, an attempt to recast ‘creationism’ in a philosophical concept that was free of theistic implications, and abstract enough to sound profound. The reality is that it is a distorted translation of some ancient concept that meant something else.
In any case, we never observe involution. All we see is the spontaneous appearance of complexities that are hard to account for.
We never observe involution behind the veil of the noumenal boundary to the phenomena of evolution. ‘Involution’ is, I think, a confused take on the ‘mechanism’ of evolution, which is beyond observation.

Look at the Axial Age: it looks like involution is at work. But in fact it makes better sense to think in terms of evolution.
Involution as a concept is good example of the way that secular Indian religious figures will corrupt their own tradition.
Someone find the history of the term, and its correlates, if any, in ancient thought.
I wouldn’t mind someone trying to debate this. But I fear the concept of involution has already been invested in false authority, which means there is still another group of religious idiots with whom I will not be on speaking terms.

The issue then is ‘evolution as phenomenal manifestation before a boundary of a noumenal limit’. It is the latter that is confused with involution.

In the eonic effect, speaking of human evolution, the distinction is ‘System Action’ and ‘Free Action’. The first is macroevolution, and the second is technically ‘microevolution’, better called ‘history creation’ as ‘free action’ realizing ‘system action’. Think of a play, an involution from some source, an author, and its realization as ‘free action’ by actors as their ‘evolution’, not a very good example, but it might help to see how artificial is the concept of ‘involution’. So drop it.
My usage is better: consider the Axial Age. It is a System Action that is macroevolutionary, but its sources spring from behind a noumenal limit that is expressed by individuals as ‘free action’. This distinction is the reason why the myth of the age of revelation is so confused, yet won’t go away. The larger Action is real, but unobserved, all we see is the free action of men (ancient Israelites) creating a primitive religion. This mixture of high and low in primitive religion creation is the source of our perplexities as we look backward. The careful accounting of the distinction in my eonic model can help to sort out the two levels.
The concept of involution won’t help here.

Tags: Evolution · General · The Axial Age · The Eonic Effect

3 responses so far ↓

  • 1 The Gurdjieff Con » Confusion over ‘involution’ // May 17, 2010 at 2:13 pm

    […] Involution? […]

  • 2 Stephen // May 17, 2010 at 10:34 pm

    Evolution is to involution what forward causation is to teleology.

    Teleology find agreement with causation, and coopts causation as life has demonstrated to get beyond the third antinomy.

    What holds evolution to its involution is a middle-term.

  • 3 Darwiniana // May 20, 2010 at 11:43 am

    […] Comment on involution Stephen said, May 17, 2010 at 10:34 pm · Evolution is to involution what forward causation is to teleology. […]

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