The wrongest we’ve ever been about anything
It is not a substance that contains the world, as a subject contains the predicate, and it is also not an essence that cannot be predicated of anything but still exists independently as an object, in other words, it cannot be referenced noematically, to use the phenomenological term. But it truly has, as you correctly pointed out, the nature of activity as expression of itself. At a fundamental level, it “is” expression. Some mathematicians like to call the ultimate nature of this creative activity “computational irreducibility”. It sounds plausible, it has as little meaning as anything else.
Self-discovery and self-concealment are those two elements of the religious worldview that pertain to the consequent and the immanent nature of God. Whitehead, as we know, shed some light on the former in his magnificent Religion in the Making: “Apart from God, there would be no actual world; and apart from the actual world with its creativity, there would be no rational explanation of the ideal vision which constitutes God. [He] is that function in the world by reason of which our purposes are directed to ends which in our own consciousness are impartial as to our own interests. He is that element in life in virtue of which judgement stretches beyond facts of existence to values of existence.”
This world of value, that goes beyond the individual towards the other, is not a subsequent development of the One, is not even the One knowing itself directly. (And is not, quite fundamentally, a Kantian law.) The subjectivation of the object and the objectivation of the subject do not have an independent meaning in which we can conceive this as separate from that. They are one and the same activity, which lies entirely in the absolute present; we might call it the subject-as-other and the other-as-subject, because the subject becomes the other when he subjectivize it, and the other becomes the subject once subjectivized.
Every time we naturalise consciousness in terms of some “neural firing”, as if pointing to a kidney stone, a part of our true being dies away inexorably in the background, very slowly. Oxytocin, the messenger of love. Have we released enough BDNF already, or not yet? Dr Frankl understood all this very well, long way back. He used to call it “nothing-but-ness”. We are losing ground at an incredible pace. In 1910 philosophy of science was defending a position five kilometres in front of our body lines, by 1960 we woke up to realise that the line had been surreptitiously moved to the very moat inside our trenches. Nowadays we sit petrified, next to the ammunition dug-out, trying to defend whatever is left out of our own brains, out of our own brains. When you pay the ultimate price, everything has been taken from you. Matter “is” the ultimate price, the definitive victory of Nature over mankind, as Nishitani or Heidegger would put it. I’m not denying knowledge, I’m appalled at the underlying reductionism.
The “evolution” of life does not require the creation of complexity, any more than the existence of the Sun requires the creation of Helium. There is no other place to occupy, it fills the only niche available, there is no teleological necessity on it or advance of any sort. It “could” (counterfactually) have been perfectly otherwise. Cosmologists have a name for it, they call it “initial fluctuations”, biologists prefer to call it “random variations”. From the moment there is a concrete wall on the opposite end, a very factual starting point, complexity is a dice thrown on what there already is. What there is is always entirely in the absolute present, even though in some localised region it might not look to be so. What there is does not “evolve”, it simply changes on itself. History is the entirety of this absolute present. People might celebrate the fact that there is something rather than nothing, that is perfectly reasonable and acceptable, we will have to live with that!
With the exception of mathematical objects and abstractions, true Knowledge shouldn’t be similar to identity, there is nothing static in it. It is not only the identification of the knower with the known, but of the known with the knower. The subject subjectivizes the object and the object objectivizes the subject; you become a thing for everything else, so to speak. That process is the “inner knowledge”. What Sri Aurobindo is saying (if I understand him correctly) is not that there is a back door for the kantian element as such, where you can perceive the object in itself, in a unidirectional secret sense, which would be absurd. It is that this element comes from the interplay of subject and object in a certain space which is always in the absolute present, that is the “larger self within”. It is not a synthesis because there is no reduction of one to the other, even less to a neural pattern. We will never explain what “pink” is materially. Ryle (fail as he did to see too far beyond) did understand clearly that activities “are” minds, and not the manifestation of a second act, a sort of concealed performance. Minds are entirely in the present and are entirely active.
Btw, looking forward to that “further letter” where you will explain how the form of the formless becomes manifest. I do fully agree with those two paragraphs, except for those two suspicions words: “goal” and “evolution”.