Against this sublime Trinity of the Vedanta, this penetrating analysis of the reality of things, this discovery of the real existence of God in the world, the appearances of that world seem to protest and militate. That which strikes us most saliently and leaps on us fiercely at every turn, is grief and pain, not delight; that which besieges our eyes always and everywhere is not conscious awareness, but the inertia or the brute movement of unconscious Matter. Existence we cannot deny; the voice of the mighty Life in us rejects always the systems of Nihilism and leaves them to the enjoyment of a few curious and subtle metaphysicians; nothing either in science or in experience supports the purely metaphysical idea of Nullity. But this undeniable existence stands before us rather as an inextricable confusion of pleasure and pain than as synonymous with delight; in its vast fields sown with worlds we find instead of an omnipresent consciousness rather an omnipresent non-consciousness in which tongues of consciousness flame like little points and tongues of fire on a huge inert pyre of various timber.
Be not deceived, answers the Vedantin; appearances can never be trusted till the secrets behind them are fathomed. To the eye’s unvarying experience the sun is a globe of fire that voyages round its worshipped earth; generations so conceived it & would have mocked at the truth; these solid appearances are an assemblage of gases; the colour of a rose is a brilliant deceit of the vision. Interrogate consciousness to find what it is or holds and unconsciousness to discover its secrets. Interrogate not only the state of waking but the states of dream and sleep. You will find at the end of long, patient and searching experiments that the confused consciousness of dream was confused only in the receiving parts of the material waking mind and behind it was a state of awareness even more perfect and orderly than the awareness of our waking life. You will find that the consciousness in abeyance of dreamless sleep was in abeyance only in the overpowered and cessant parts of the same material waking mind and behind it was a most exalted and perfect state of awareness which stands near the threshold of the House of God in which we really dwell; for here we are only labourers or overseers in His outer farms. It is admitted that when we are in sound sleep we dream; we are conscious, when we are swooned or stunned only a part of our consciousness, the outward, the here active is withdrawn. When you have interrogated unconsciousness in yourself, interrogate it in the tree and the cloud. You will find, for by that time you will have entered into the kingdoms within and learned to command a self-exceeding experience of being, that is the tree and the rock there is the same being, the same consciousness, the same principle of Will to live, of delight, in a word, that is [in] yourself.
The unconsciousness of the tree and the rock is the same unconsciousness as that which occupies your body when mind is withdrawn from the observation of its working. It is the sleep, the universal trance of Matter. And that means, eventually, the trance of consciousness forgetting itself in its own symbol or form. Consciousness in this its outer shell has become to the appearance something else which seems not to have any resemblance to conscious being, as gas becoming water is to appearance something else which has no remotest gaseous semblance. The truth sits veiled behind the appearance, self-absorbed; there is in all things, without exception, “That which is conscious in these conscious and unconscious existences, that which is awake in these who sleep.”
Excerpt from the book Essays Divine and Human by Sri Aurobindo