Śrīla Bhakti Rakṣak Śrīdhar Dev-Goswāmī Mahārāj explains the reasonable basis of the subjective evolution of consciousness.
Objective evolution means Darwin’s theory that stone, matter, evolves into consciousness. The object exists first, and then by its development the subject—life, consciousness, or intelligence—comes into existence from the object, stone. So, it is objective; it is the evolution of the object. But ‘object’ is a relative term. Without a subject, an object cannot exist. The subject is the primary substance, and whatever is felt by the subject is an idea in the ocean of the subject’s experience. So, the subject must come first. Consciousness must come first, and then consciousness can develop in a lower line.
(Śrīmad Bhagavad-gītā: 15.2)
prākṛteḥ mahān mahato ahaṅkāras ahaṅkārāt pañcha-tan-mātrāṇi tato kṣity ap tejas marūt vyoma[“From material energy comes material existence. From material existence comes ego, and from the ego comes the five objects of the senses, and then earth, water, fire, air, and space.”]
The objects, the gross, come from the subtle. It is not that the subtle comes from the gross.
mayādhyakṣeṇa prakṛtiḥ sūyate sa-charācharam
(Śrīmad Bhagavad-gītā: 9.10)
When a particular potency, prakṛti, is handled by Mahāviṣṇu, a particular form of Kṛṣṇa, then it begins to move and to produce something. Mahat-tattva is the first product, and that is a general ego. Then, gradually, so many plural and individual egos are created and emanate from the general ego. In this way, from the ego comes the experience of this world. So, from the subtle, the gross comes. That is Vedāntic, and from the gross, the subtle is being produced—that is something like Darwin’s theory.
The present scientists are fond of Darwin’s theory, the idea that the gross produces the subtle, that ultimately a stone can produce consciousness. It is difficult to make them understand that intelligence is more valuable. It is easy for intelligence, consciousness, to produce stone, but it is difficult for a stone to produce consciousness. Something more valuable can produce something less valuable, but something less valuable cannot produce something of higher value. It is difficult to explain this to them. The Vedāntic conception (vichār) is that consciousness is producing everything, consciousness is eternal, and the products of matter are not eternal.
This world is a temporary production. Consciousness is the eternal subject. Pure consciousness, the ātma, is sanātan, nitya [eternal]. It is not a product; it is productive. Consciousness can produce everything. The subtle, ether, can produce the gross—air, fire, water, and earth—but stone, earth, cannot produce ether. The subtle (sūkṣma) is more efficient than the gross (sthūla). The gross is of secondary importance. The soul, the ātma, consciousness, is of principal importance.
Consciousness is the real party. The gross cannot be a party. The starting point must be from the party, the interested thing. The soul is endowed with interest, but a stone has no interest, no plan, no purpose, no project, nothing of the kind. There is a plan and a purpose pervading everything, and that is the important thing. According to that, the original characteristic of the Absolute, the original substance, should be calculated. A thing of limited attributes and capacity cannot be the ultimate cause. An unlimited thing, a thing of unlimited quality and capacity, should be taken as the cause of the whole. That is more reasonable.
Spoken 28 February 1981.