by Swami Krishnananda
Some say the world came into existence by the thought of God. Some say it never came into existence. It is there, as it was, and nobody created it. It is there. Existence is not created by anybody. Who will create existence? To create existence, somebody else has to exist, prior to this existence, and existence is a general principle, so nobody can create existence. Existence is a word which does not require any further explanation. It has been there, and it is there. It is what it is. Nobody created it. That is one view - some kind of scientific view, we may say - the view of modern scientists, to some extent.
But the religious view is that the Absolute Supreme Being, God, willed, "Let there be heaven and earth," and immediately, space manifested itself. Then, vibrations started moving inside space, and it became air. Friction started after that, which is heat, fire. Then condensation took place, which is water. Then solidity appeared, which is earth. Here is the beginning of creation, according to descriptions in religious scriptures.
And, inasmuch as God willed this creation, His consciousness is present in every little part of creation, - this space, this air, this fire, this water, this earth , which are the five physical elements that you see before you. And, then, emerges a group of little, little individualities, which is the beginning of what you call the evolutionary process. There is, in the beginning, inanimate matter, which is described in the form of these five elements I mentioned just now. Then, there is animation starting - like fungi, amphibians, fish and so on. Then, you know the whole story of evolution; some small creatures, insects, and animals, - but animals come later. In the beginning there is only fungus-type plant kingdom, and all that. Even in the scriptures you will find that God created not man first; He created only this plantation, - trees, etc., because trees are the first creation. Higher than plantation kingdom is the animal kingdom; higher than that is the human kingdom. So, we have come like that, by gradual evolutionary process, in the act of creation.
According to the traditional Indian concept, these created species of beings run to eighty-four lakhs (8,400,000) in number, in which series the human being is said to occupy the topmost position, almost completing the purpose of Nature in its scheme of evolution. The general arrangement of things in the evolutionary process is considered to be a gradual ascent from mineral to plant, from plant to animal, and from animal to man. This does not, however, mean that there are five categories separated as if in watertight compartments, for there is a countless variety even in this five fold classification, -varieties in the mineral constitution, varieties in the plant and vegetable kingdom, varieties in the animal kingdom and in the different kinds of subhuman species, and varieties even at the human level. The number, eighty-four lakhs perhaps, would give a good picture of the tremendous specifications in almost unthinkable types of differentiation in the structure of individuality. From mineral to the Absolute is indeed a great sequential procedure of graduated ascent, involving millions of mutations, transformations, births and deaths through numberless ages, till the supreme Unity is reached in actual experience. It is believed that up to the level of the animal, penultimate to the human stage, the process of the ascending series of evolution is spontaneous, without the lower species having to exert on its part or put forth any special effort to evolve into the higher level. The reason for this seems to be that Nature in its all-inclusiveness works automatically, of its own accord, in the case of the species in which the egoism of self-consciousness has not properly manifested itself. But from man onwards a consciousness of effort on one's part appears to be inseparable from natural evolution, though the universal working of Nature cannot be said to have ceased its functions even then, - indeed Nature's work is not complete until the Absolute is realised in a state of Universal Selfhood.
The evolution of consciousness does not end with man, really. Man may be described as the image of God only figuratively but not truly, for there has to be a further ascent in the process of evolution from man to superman, a stage which acts as a link between man and the ultimate Godhead. Indications of the higher category of levels of life, beyond the human state, are available in the positive statements recorded in the Upanishads to the effect that above even the best of human beings there are the levels of the realms of the pitrs, gandharvas, devas, the higher gods of the heavens, the perfected ones almost converging in the stages of Virat, Hiranyagarbha, Ishvara and Brahman. That is to say, man has to evolve further on and he at present occupies a place somewhat midway between God and brute crossed at one point. The restlessness, the finitude, the consciousness of limitation from every side, the incessant and resistless longings for expansion of one's suzerainty in larger dimensions of space and endless life in time, nay, even the compulsions of being born and dying, announce in loud voice that man is far from the expected perfection to be reached in Nature's scheme of evolution, and there is a long way higher up, from man to Godman, and from Godman to God Himself.