“A tree evolves out of the seed in which it is already contained, the seed out of the tree; a fixed law, an invariable process reigns in the permanence of the form of manifestation which we call a tree. The mind regards this phenomenon, this birth, life and reproduction of a tree, as a thing in itself and on that basis studies, classes and explains it. It explains the tree by the seed, the seed by the tree; it declares a law of Nature. * BUT IT HAS EXPLAINED ###NOTHING### [emphasis added]; it has only analysed and recorded the process of a mystery.”
“But the Supermind works otherwise. […] The tree does not explain the seed, nor the seed the tree; cosmos [cosmic consciousness, not the physical cosmos] explains both and God [the Transcendent] explains cosmos. * The Supermind, pervading and inhabiting at once the seed and the tree and all objects, lives in this greater knowledge which is indivisible and one though with a modified and not an absolute indivisibility and unity.”
In what sense does the Supermind explain whereas the ordinary mind merely records? For ordinary consciousness, I take it, an explanation is a statement of a necessary connection, for example a causal connection: given conditions X, Y, and Z, Q necessarily obtains. Now one can ask why, given conditions X-Z, Q obtains, and an explanation of that is possible, and so on to infinity. In the end we’re led to Leibniz’s question: Why is there something rather than nothing? And there cannot be a causal explanation of why there is something rather than nothing because a causal explanation explains things by appealing to the actions of other things already in existence, whereas this question asks for an explanation of the totality of all that exists and there is nothing apart from that to serve as a cause. Even if there were something rather than nothing because something necessarily exists, it would still be possible to ask why something necessarily exists.
I take it that the sense in which ordinary mind has merely “recorded the process of a mystery” is that it can explain things within the world (If X, then Y) but not the existence of the world as such. I also take Aurobindo to be saying that the Supermind can explain the existence of the world as such – but I’m not persuaded that it does. The questions that apply to the existence of the world as such presumably also apply to the Supermind. Assume that “cosmos” explains the causal processes in the world and that God explains cosmos. One can still ask why cosmos exists and why God exists. Ultimately, I think, we have to admit that there can be no causal explanation for why there is something rather than nothing, and with respect to causal explanation at least cosmos and God are in the same position as ordinary consciousness. The fact that in “comprehensive knowledge there is no independent centre of existence… [T]he whole of existence is to its self-awareness an equable extension” doesn’t explain why there is a whole existence in the first place. God may explain both the physical and the mental, but what explains God? It won’t do to say that God brought himself into existence, since to do anything at all one must first exist.
It seems to me that so far as explanation is concerned, cosmos and God have nothing on ordinary consciousness. They are all inexplicable.
Of course, it doesn’t follow from the fact that there can be no causal explanation of why there is something rather than nothing that there can be no sort of explanation at all. What sort of explanation, then, are we being offered?