On the Divine Mother : A Mystery and Prophecy
an essay (2002)
1 - Transition and Transformation
2 -Contexts and Contrasts
3 - Time, Tragedy and Transcendence
1 - Transition and Transformation
Our mental species has stepped into a clearing, to use the metaphor of phenomenology, parallel perhaps to the one into which our primate ancestors stepped more than a million years ago. And perhaps a similar social and ecological crisis prevailed then, accompanied by an overwhelming inner urge among the avant garde to survive and transcend. We might also conjecture, however, that the conditions under which we have been forced into the clearing today are unique, precipitated perhaps by the brilliant deconstructions of post-modern philosophy and by the perilous moments of economic and political crisis that contemporary humanity has created, as it vacillates between the suprarational and irrational, under the stress of an intricately interdependent world-wide physical, social, and ecological fabric stretched to the tearing point.
We might also point to the extraordinary probability that our industrial, technological age and global civilization have reached their terminus, following two-hundred and fifty years of Rationalism, two major world-wars, numerous lesser wars, nationalism, internationalism, economic globalization, and a population explosion that has overburdened the planet's natural resource base. It seems most likely that it is all of these developments along the arc of human progress combined, with their underpinnings of human ignorance, greed, and lust for power, which have placed us emphatically before the definitive choice that we must now boldly confront, between two imminent possibilities: a profounder, truer, more luminous future, or self-destruction and chaos.
As the Mother put it in a message in 1967 or 1968, - when we were in the midst of one of the more significant lesser wars of the Twentieth Century, and she was on the threshold of the mystery and prophecy that were the issue of her life, - with her characteristic irony and simplicity, "Men, countries, continents, the choice is imperative - Truth or the Abyss?"
And then, in the course of the following year, she experienced the momentous change, which a lifetime of spiritual work had prepared her for and moved her steadily toward. Of it she said:
It was the complete Presence, absolute freedom, and a certitude: these cells, other cells (gesture here and there showing other bodies), it didn't matter, it was life everywhere, consciousness everywhere.
It came effortlessly, and it left simply because I was too busy. It doesn't come at will - what comes at will is what we might call a "copy": it looks like it, but it's not THE Thing. The thing There is something wholly independent of our aspiration, our will, our effort wholly independent. And this something appears to be absolutely all-powerful, in the sense that none of the body's difficulties exist. At such times, everything disappears. Aspiration, concentration, effort no use at all. And it's the DIVINE SENSE, you understand, that's what having the divine sense means. During these few hours, I understood in an absolute way what having the divine consciousness in the body means. And then, this body, that body, that other body it doesn't matter: it moved about from one body to another, quite free and independent, aware of the limitations or the possibilities of each body - absolutely wonderful. I had never, ever had this experience before. Absolutely wonderful. It left because I was so busy that and it didn't leave because it had just come to show "how it is" - that's not it: it's because life and the organization of life engulf you.
I know it's there (gesture in the background). I know it is, but But that's a transformation as I understand it! And clearly, in people it could express itself - not something vague - clearly - in this man, in that woman, in (gesture here and there), quite clearly. And with a smile. It is yes, I think the only word that can describe the sensation it gives is "an Absolute" - an Absolute. That's the sensation: of being in the presence of the Absolute. The Absolute: absolute Knowledge, absolute Will, absolute Power Nothing, nothing can resist. And then this Absolute is so merciful! But if we compare it with all that we regard as goodness, mercy ugh! That's nothing at all. It's THE Mercy with the absolute power and it's not Wisdom, not Knowledge, it's It has nothing to do with our process. And That is everywhere, it's everywhere. It's the body's experience. And to that it has given itself entirely, totally, without asking anything - anything. A single aspiration, "To be capable of being that, what that wills, of serving That" - not even "serving," of BEING That.
But that state, which lasted for several hours never had this body, in the ninety-one years it's been on earth, felt such happiness: freedom, absolute power, and no limits (gesture here and there, and everywhere), no limits, no impossibilities, nothing. It was all other bodies were itself. There was no difference, it was only a play of the consciousness (gesture like a great Rhythm) moving about.
You know, there's a considerable increase in the people who want to see me, and in the influences when they see me, the effects when they see me (which don't at all correspond to a will or a consciousness or anything - that no longer exists: it works or it doesn't work), and seen like that, it's: either you hold out and can do the work, or else, too bad. That's how it is, you understand.
It's really like a GRACE, you know, as if: don't waste time - don't waste time, you must do the work, or else
But this tremendous Power is especially this, a mercy, a clemency! NO, there are no words, we have no words to describe that, it's something Just paying attention and it's bliss. And I understood (it made me understand certain things), the stories of people who, in the midst of torture, felt bliss - that's how it is. A bliss. (Mother's Agenda, Vol. 10, February 15, 1969)
We must take life as a Grace, otherwise it's impossible to live.
I am entirely convinced that things are as they must be, and that it's simply the body that lacks suppleness, tranquillity, trust So I can't even say that things grate, but You understand, the work consists in changing the conscious base of all the cells - but not all at once! Because that would be impossible; even little by little is very difficult: the moment when the conscious base is changed is there is almost a sort of panic in the cells, and the impression, "Ooh! What's going to happen?" There is a moment when there's almost an anguish, you know, you're suspended like that; it may be a few seconds, but those seconds are terrible.
But more and more - more and more - the body has been learning that what happens (what happens every second) is the best thing that can happen given the general condition. It's entirely convinced of that. And it's content to do like this (gesture of self-abandon) and say, "Let Your Will be done." That's all. If it can do that in a very continuous and peaceful way, then things are fine. It's only when it tries to find out why and how and then things go wrong. It has to be like this (same gesture of self-abandon): "Let Your Will be done." Then it's all right. It doesn't ask to know, only there's the old habit.
At the critical moment (there are critical moments), at the critical moment, this surrender (it's even more than surrender, it's a complete abdication of everything, of its existence, and everything) is filled with light and force. That's the Response. (February 19, 1969)
There is clearly a work of change of consciousness (Mother touches her body), and it's going very, very fast, so I don't remember the transition, the passages
It's the sense of the body's ego that has gone away, with a very strange result While the experience is there, I might just manage to describe it, but First the sense of limit, that is, of the body existing as a separate thing, has disappeared; for instance, the sensation that "you" knock against "something else" (I don't know how to explain) has completely gone. And it leaves
There is something existing in a constant, permanent way; it's a sort of STATE of consciousness related to the material world In the ordinary state, a sensation comes from a precise place in the body, it's noted, recorded somewhere in the brain - now it's no longer like that at all. The sensations but they're not exactly sensations: it's a certain type of VIBRATION, and it comes from EVERYWHERE, like that (gesture all around); also like this (gesture from the body), but like that, like that (gesture from every side), everywhere like that. So then the consciousness I've tried to see where the consciousness is, and it's somewhere above; it's everywhere, diffused absolutely everywhere, but there's still a center of consciousness somewhere above (gesture above the head), as though it were more compact there; otherwise it's everywhere, diffused everywhere, but it's slightly more compact here (same gesture above the head), compact and stable, like that (Mother closes her two fists in an unshakable gesture), and that's what conveys orders to the body (but all those words are idiotic; when I utter them they disgust me). You understand, that's where the relationship with the Supreme Consciousness is established permanently and constantly - I say "Supreme Consciousness," I've adopted these words so as not to make sentences all the time; I might say "the Divine," but the Divine is so totally present everywhere that It's not the same thing (gesture above); I can't call it "will" because it has none of the characteristics of human will: it's not a will "exerting itself on" something, that's not it, it's IN ITSELF; it's between vision, decision, will, power, all of it together. I don't know. And much more than that. But that's where the center is, as far as the body and all that's immediately around it is concerned. And that is Strange, it's extraordinarily imperative and all-powerful, and at the same time it's the Peace ("peace" is a poor little word worth nothing much), it's perfect Peace and Immobility ("immobility" is idiotic - but how are we to speak?!). And that is there constantly (gesture above Mother).
That's what is taking the place of the conscious will as regards moving the body, for its internal functioning and for its action. And when the moment comes (it takes place gradually but there is a "moment") for the old functioning - the ordinary functioning - to be eliminated or to disappear and be replaced by That (gesture above), the result is (wobbly gesture), I don't know if it's long or brief, but there's just a difficult transition. So then the body is caught between (here or there, on one spot or another, for one thing or another) between the old habit and the new functioning. There's just a transition of anguish. In most of its parts, the body is conscious of the stupidity of that anguish, but the function or the part or is seized with panic. Then it takes a material stillness for order to be restored.
That's a wholly inadequate and stupid description, but I don't know what to do! There are no words. It's an approximation.
And all that takes place within a permanent Consciousness (Mother makes a round gesture), solid, you know, extraordinarily stable! It's everywhere like that.
And the two things: the true Perception, and a sort of diminished, slowed down memory of the old way; and in that old way there are all kinds of undesirable but general, universal things, which are hard to change for that reason, because the sort of "formation" now in the making is foreign, so to speak, to the world. (February 26, 1969)
And so it goes, from week to week, throughout the year 1969, and the five hundred pages of her Agenda for that year, with description after description of her experiences of the "new consciousness" and its process of cellular transformation. Until, on November 19, she reaches a definitive realization. And in this commentary, the many attempts she has made throughout the year to express the ever elusive contradiction between that "material stillness" and "Immobility," and its concurrent sense of Absolute Power and Irresistible Action, which was her constant, paradoxical experience, culminate in a final resolution. Almost a year after the beginning of the physical realization of the "new consciousness," she is able to declare the nature and characteristic form of the "supramental consciousness" manifest in the body.
There was a day when many problems came up, following something that took place then this morning (at the end of the night) I had the experience which was the explanation. And for hours, I lived in an absolutely clear perception (not a thought, a clear perception) of the why and the how of creation. It was so luminously clear! It was irrefutable. It lasted for at least four or five hours, then it settled; little by little the intensity and clarity of the experience diminished
But everything had become so limpid! All opposite theories, all that was down below (Mother looks down from above), and all explanations, all that Sri Aurobindo said, certain things too that Theon had said, all that, as a result of the experience, found its own place and was absolutely clear. At the time I could have told you, now it's going to be a bit hard.
You understand, many things Sri Aurobindo had said remained in spite of all that one has read, all the theories and explanations, something remained (how can I put it?) hard to explain (it's not "explain," that's very small). For instance, suffering and the will to cause suffering, all that side of the Manifestation. There was indeed a sort of foreknowledge of the original identity of hate and love, because they went to the two extremes, but for all the rest, it was difficult. Today it was so luminously simple, that's it, so obvious!
I don't know if you can make out these words. They represented something very precise for me; now it's nothing but words.
Stability and change
Inertia and transformation
Eternity and progress
It was the vision of the creation: the vision, the understanding, the why, the how, the whither, everything was there, everything together, and clear; clear, clear I tell you, I was in a golden glory, luminous, dazzling.
I might put it this way (for the convenience of expression, I'll say "the Supreme" and "the creation"): In the Supreme it's a unity that contains all possibilities perfectly united, without differentiation. The creation is, so to speak, the projection of all that makes up that unity, by dividing all opposites, that is to say, by separating (that's what was caught by those who said that creation is separation), by separating: for instance, day and night, white and black, evil and good, and so on (all that is our explanation). All together, all of it together is a perfect unity, immutable and indissoluble. The creation is the separation of all that "makes up" this unity - we might call it the division of the consciousness - the division of the consciousness, which starts from unity conscious of its unity to arrive at unity conscious of its multiplicity IN UNITY.
So then, this route is what, for us - for the fragments - is expressed as space and time.
And for us as we are, each point of this Consciousness has the possibility of being conscious of itself AND conscious of the original Unity. And that's the work now being accomplished, that is to say, each infinitesimal element of this Consciousness, while retaining this state of consciousness, is now recapturing the total original state of consciousness - the result is the original Consciousness conscious of its Unity AND conscious of the whole play: all the innumerable elements of this Unity. So for us, it gets expressed as the sense of time: going from the Inconscient to this state of consciousness. And the Inconscient is the projection of the primeval Unity (if we may say so - all those words are completely stupid), of the essential unity unconscious of its own Unity - that's the Inconscient. And this Inconscient is growing increasingly conscious in beings who are conscious of their infinitesimal existence and AT THE SAME TIME - through what we call progress or evolution or transformation - who manage to be conscious of the original Unity.
And that, as it was seen, explained everything.
Words are nothing.
Everything, everything, from the most material thing to the most ethereal, EVERYTHING was included in it, clear, clear, clear - a vision.
And evil, what we call "evil," has its INDISPENSABLE place in the whole. But it would no longer be felt as evil the minute one became conscious of that - necessarily. Evil is that infinitesimal element looking on its infinitesimal consciousness; but because consciousness is essentially ONE, it recaptures, regains the Consciousness of Unity - both together. And that's what, THAT IS WHAT has to be realized. It's a marvelous thing. I had the vision: at the time, there was the vision of THAT And the beginnings (is it "beginnings"?), what they call in English the outskirts, what's the farthest from the central realization, becomes the multiplicity of things, also the multiplicity of sensations, feelings, everything - the multiplicity of consciousness. And that action of separation is what created, what constantly creates the world, and what at the same time creates everything: suffering, happiness, all, all, all that was created, through its - what we might call "diffusion" - but it's absurd, it's not a diffusion: we live in the sense of space, so we say "diffusion" and "concentration," but it's nothing like that.
The first thing written was this:
Stability and change
It was the idea of the original Stability (if we may say so) which, in Manifestation, is expressed as inertia. And the unfolding is expressed as change. All right. Then came:
Inertia and transformation
Eternity and progress
Those were the opposites (those three things).
Then there was a pause (Mother draws a line below the triple opposition), then a Pressure again, and I wrote:
Unity = Power and repose combined
Yes, that's it.
Stability and change
Inertia and transformation
Eternity and progress
Unity = power and repose combined.
It's the idea that these two, combined, restored that state of consciousness which was trying to express itself.
It was on the scale of the universe - not on the scale of the individual.
I draw a line between the two to express that they didn't come together.
I remember; I had written the two ("power" and "repose") and this (the equals sign) to express that they were together, then the word "combined" came.
"You said, a vibration so rapid that it's imperceptible, that it's as if coagulated and still." (Satprem, referring to a previous conversation)
Yes. But it was really a Glory in which I lived for hours this morning.
And then everything, all, all our notions, all of them, even the most intellectual, it had become like this like childish pursuits. And it was so obvious that the impression was, "there's no need to say that!"
All human reactions, even the highest, the purest, the noblest, it all seemed SO childish!
But I could note, I could note that all the work could be done without the consciousness being altered. That's not what altered my consciousness: what veiled my consciousness was seeing people; that was when I began being here and doing what I do every day: projecting the divine Consciousness on people.
But it has come back (what could I call it?) on the fringe, I mean that instead of BEING in it, when you asked me I began perceiving it. But the sensation is no longer there - there was nothing left BUT THAT, you understand! There was nothing left but that, and everything, everything had changed - in appearance, in meaning, in
That must be the supramental consciousness, I think that's what the supramental consciousness is.
There are no OPPOSITES. No opposites - not even contradictions. I say, NO OPPOSITES. It's that Unity, it's LIVING in that Unity. And it's not expressed in thoughts and words. I tell you, it was a limitless immensity and a light a motionless light, and at the same time a well-being without even the appreciation of a well-being.
Now I am convinced that's what the supramental consciousness is.
And necessarily, necessarily, it must little by little change appearances.
Life as it is can be lived in that consciousness - but then one lives it well! One doesn't need to change anything: what needs to be changed changes by itself quite naturally.
I'll give you an example. For a few days I had difficulties with Z. and there was a sort of need to exert pressure on him so he would rectify a few of his movements. Today he made at least four or five mistakes (they weren't perceptible, in the sense that I didn't have a sensation of them: it was taking place there, like that, some distance away), but he was conscious of them in a COMPLETELY different way from usually, and he admitted it (which he never did before), and in the end he said he was changing (which is true). And all of it not only without one word, but without one movement of consciousness: simply the Pressure. So there. That's a proof Everything would be done automatically, like an imposition of the Truth, without any need to intervene: simply remaining in the true consciousness, that's all, it's enough. There.
You are conscious in a golden immensity (it's wonderful, mon petit!), luminous, golden, peaceful, eternal, all-powerful.
How did it come? There are really no words to express it, that sense of wonder towards the Grace the Grace, the Grace is a thing that exceeds all understanding in its clear-sighted goodness
Naturally, the body had the experience. Something took place which I won't tell, and it had the true reaction; it didn't have the old reaction, it had the true one: it smiled, you know, with this Smile of the supreme Lord - it smiled. That remained there for a day and a half. And that difficulty was what let the body make the last progress, let it live in that Consciousness; if everything had been harmonious, things might have dragged on for years - it's wonderful, you know, wonderful!
How stupid people are! When the Grace comes to them, they drive it away, saying, "Oh, how horrible! " I'd known that for a long time, but my experience is a bedazzlement.
"Yes, each thing is perfectly and marvelously what it must be every instant." (Satprem)
"But it's our vision that isn't in tune." (Satprem)
Yes, it's our separate consciousness.
The whole is brought with lightning speed towards the consciousness that will be this Consciousness of the point and of the whole at the same time. (November 19, 1969)
In these few pages, from more than 6000 pages of recorded conversations that she had with Satprem, from 1958 until her physical passing in November 1973, we get a glimpse of what Sri Aurobindo often referred to in his many volumes of spiritual philosophy and integral Yoga as "the supramental transformation." And we get a glimpse of "the Mother," Mirra Alfassa, narrating her experience of transformation, of whom Sri Aurobindo said, "There is one divine Force which acts in the universe and in the individual and is also beyond the individual and the universe. The Mother stands for all these, but she is working here in the body to bring down something not yet expressed in this material world so as to transform life here - it is so that you should regard her as the Divine Shakti working here for that purpose." (The Mother, p.50, SABCL, Vol. 25)
And it was this process, so thoroughly elaborated and grounded in his many volumes of philosophy and Yoga, this process of the Divine Shakti working through him to achieve the supramental transformation which he also had undertaken, which became the theme of his epic mantra of transformation, Savitri (1950). And it is there, as in the Mother's Agenda, that we can come into contact with and grasp something of this extraordinary spiritual phenomenon, which is the reason why we recommend in our Savitri Immersion Workshops the reading of these two works together, as companion teachings. As the Mother remarked, in the context of this same volume of conversations in 1969,
Yesterday, I read another part of Savitri which tells how the king is transformed - those are ALL the experiences my body is now going through! I knew nothing about it (I don't remember that at all), and I seemed to be reading all the experiences my body is now going through It's interesting.
There's EVERYTHING in this Savitri. (July 26, 1969)
The Canto of Savitri that she was referring to is largely autobiographical, and is the fifth Canto of Book One, titled The Yoga of the King, from which she quotes these lines:
He saw the unshaped thoughts in soulless forms,
Knew Matter pregnant with spiritual sense,
Mind dare the study of the Unknowable,
Life its gestation of the Golden Child.
A Will, a hope immense now seized his heart,
And to discern the superhuman's form
He raised his eyes to unseen spiritual heights,
Aspiring to bring down a greater world. (I.V.76)
In order to better illustrate the correspondences between the experiences narrated in these two, different forms of autobiography - personal conversation and epic poetry - by these two masters of the Supramental Yoga, it will be helpful to turn now to a longer passage a few pages on in the same Canto, and to quote it at length. For it highlights some of those same experiences just related by the Mother, about which we may recall that she said her words were painfully inadequate to express the experience. The unique aspect of mantric verse is precisely its ability to convey something of such experiences with an authenticity and completeness that cannot be achieved by any other form of speech. In these lines, the experience of ego-loss, and liberation from mind into another, more direct way of knowing, - by seeing the Absolute in all things - is vividly and dramatically portrayed.
In a moment, shorter than death, longer than time,
By a Power more ruthless than Love, happier than Heaven,
Taken sovereignly into eternal arms,
Haled and coerced by a stark absolute bliss,
In a whirlwind circuit of delight and force
Hurried into unimaginable depths,
Upborne into immeasurable heights,
It was torn out from its mortality
And underwent a new and bourneless change.
All that represses our fallen consciousness
Was taken from him like a forgotten load:
A fire that seemed the body of a god
Consumed the limiting figures of the past
And made large room for a new self to live.
Eternity's contact broke the moulds of sense.
A greater force than the earthly held his limbs,
Huge workings bared his undiscovered sheaths,
Strange energies wrought and screened tremendous hands
Unwound the triple cord of mind and freed
The heavenly wideness of a Godhead's gaze.
As through a dress the wearer's shape is seen,
There reached through forms to the hidden absolute
A cosmic feeling and transcendent sight.
Increased and heightened were the instruments.
Illusion lost her aggrandizing lens;
As from her failing hand the measures fell,
Atomic looked the things that loomed so large.
The little ego's ring could join no more;
In the enormous spaces of the self
The body now seemed only a wandering shell,
His mind the many-frescoed outer court
Of an imperishable Inhabitant:
His spirit breathed a superhuman air. (Savitri, I.V.80-82)
If the reader is able to hear these texts - from the Mother's Agenda and from Sri Aurobindo's Savitri, preferably read aloud with power and conviction, parallel to each other in the same audible/sensible time frame, they have the power to mutually clarify and reinforce the experiences that are being narrated, in a way that does not require the enhancement of commentary or analysis but rather lets them stand on their own, in a self-explanatory clarity, directly perceived by the hearing/seeing intuitive consciousness. And it is perhaps only in this way that these extraordinary experiences can be meaningfully grasped and somewhat fully appreciated.
If we are able to employ this strategy successfully and are brought into the tangible presence of something of the Yoga of Transformation of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, without the necessity of drawing and analyzing mental parallels and attempting to restate the substance of the experience in a more abstract way, we may then be able to ask ourselves, within this ambience of receptivity, - How is such an experience possible, given the nature of the mind and the world as we know them? And what is the deeper meaning of this practice and process for the future of humanity?
The answer to both questions is to be found in the principle of the Divine Shakti which is fundamental to Sri Aurobindo's spiritual philosophy. Supermind, in his philosophical/spiritual vision is the Consciousness-Force of the Absolute, and the creative power of existence in time and space, from which mind, life, and matter devolve. As such, it is the Divine Mother, of whose process he says in Savitri:
Our life is a holocaust of the Supreme.
The great World-Mother by her sacrifice
Has made her soul the body of our state;
Accepting sorrow and unconsciousness
Divinity's lapse from its own splendours wove
The many-patterned ground of all we are.
An idol of self is our mortality. (II.I.99)
It is in this next Canto, titled The World-Stair, which follows immediately after the one from which we have taken our earlier selections, that Sri Aurobindo lays out most explicitly the theme of creation, the basis of evolution in the Inconscient, and the return through evolution to Divine Consciousness, which recurs throughout this poem of over 700 pages. Like Mother's Agenda, we shall here sample only a few brief pages of Savitri. But it is here, in this poetic masterpiece, that Sri Aurobindo makes living and tangible the concepts of the two who are one, Self and Nature, Purusa and Prakriti, Ishwara and Shakti, Brahman and Maya, Being and Becoming, so thoroughly explored with incomparable philosophical power in The Life Divine (1940), but expressed here in the more powerfully vibrant visionary rhythms and images of mantric revelation. And it is through these lines of poetry that we may perhaps be brought most closely into resonance with the unity of stillness and power that the Mother identified as the defining characteristic of the supramental consciousness. This is Sri Aurobindo's vision:
All could be seen that shuns the mortal eye,
All could be known the mind has never grasped;
All could be done no mortal will can dare.
A limitless movement filled a limitless peace.
In a profound existence beyond earth's
Parent or kin to our ideas and dreams
Where Space is a vast experiment of the soul,
In an immaterial substance linked to ours
In a deep oneness of all things that are,
The universe of the Unknown arose.
A self-creation without end or pause
Revealed the grandeurs of the Infinite:
It flung into the hazards of its play
A million moods, a myriad energies,
The world-shapes that are fancies of its Truth
And the formulas of the freedom of its Force.
It poured into the Ever-stable's flux
A bacchic rapture and revel of Ideas,
A passion and motion of everlastingness.
There rose unborn into the Unchanging's surge
Thoughts that abide in their deathless consequence,
Words that immortal last though fallen mute,
Acts that brought out from Silence its dumb sense,
Lines that convey the inexpressible.
The Eternal's stillness saw in unmoved joy
His universal Power at work display
In plots of pain and dramas of delight
The wonder and beauty of her will to be.
All, even pain, was the soul's pleasure here;
Here all experience was a single plan,
The thousandfold expression of the One.
All came at once into his single view;
Nothing escaped his vast intuitive sight,
Nothing drew near he could not feel as kin:
He was one spirit with that Immensity.
Images in a supernal consciousness
Embodying the Unborn who never dies,
The structured visions of the cosmic Self
Alive with the touch of being's eternity
Looked at him like form-bound spiritual thoughts
Figuring the movements of the Ineffable.
Aspects of being donned world-outline; forms
That open moving doors on things divine,
Became familiar to his hourly sight;
The symbols of the Spirit's reality,
The living bodies of the Bodiless
Grew near to him, his daily associates.
The exhaustless seeings of the unsleeping Mind,
Letterings of its contact with the invisible,
Surrounded him with countless pointing signs;
The voices of a thousand realms of Life
Missioned to him her mighty messages.
Tireless the heart's adventure of delight,
Endless the kingdoms of the Spirit's bliss,
Unnumbered tones struck from one harmony's strings;
Each to its wide-winged universal poise,
Its fathomless feeling of the All in one,
Brought notes of some perfection yet unseen,
Its single retreat into Truth's secrecies,
Its happy sidelight on the Infinite.
All was found there the Unique had dreamed and made
Tinging with ceaseless rapture and surprise
And an opulent beauty of passionate difference
The recurring beat that moments God in Time. (II.I. 95-97)
And to discover the impact of the realization of this all-creative Consciousness-Force of the Absolute on the person of the Yogi in Sri Aurobindo's words, and the new possibilities that it makes available, we need only look back briefly to the previous Canto and the Yoga of the King:
All she new fashions by the thought and word,
Compels all substance by her wand of Mind.
Mind is a mediator divinity:
Its powers can undo all Nature's work:
Mind can suspend or change earth's concrete law.
Affranchised from earth-habit's drowsy seal
The leaden grip of Matter it can break;
Indifferent to the angry stare of Death,
It can immortalise a moment's work:
A simple fiat of its thinking force,
The casual pressure of its slight assent
Can liberate the Energy dumb and pent
Within its chambers of mysterious trance:
It makes the body's sleep a puissant arm,
Holds still the breath, the beatings of the heart,
While the unseen is found, the impossible done,
Communicates without means the unspoken thought;
It moves events by its bare silent will,
Acts at a distance without hands or feet.
This giant Ignorance, this dwarfish Life
It can illumine with a prophet sight,
Invoke the bacchic rapture, the fury's goad,
In our body arouse the demon or the god,
Call in the Omniscient and Omnipotent,
Awake a forgotten Almightiness within.
In its own plane a shining emperor,
Even in this rigid realm, Mind can be king:
The logic of its demigod Idea
In the leap of a transitional moment brings
Surprises of creation never achieved
Even by Matter's strange unconscious skill.
All's miracle here and can by miracle change. (II.I.84-85)
It is the authenticity of these lines that brings them home to the listening soul, more powerfully and essentially than any particular aspect of the art of poetry. From "A self-creation without end or pause," to "The recurring beat that moments God in Time," there unfolds a continuous vision of the One in All, through eighty lines of poetic image, each line of which amplifies the same constant perception, conveying something of "the inexpressible." And it is clearly his perception, his vision of the world, energized by a consciousness that is one with the world, in an interior poise of unchanging unity and stability, and a simultaneous intimate engagement with its manifold extension in form and force. This poetry is not merely the product of a creative intelligence with a mastery of language, or of a spiritual teacher imparting words of wisdom. It is the voice of the divine Inhabitant chanting out the rhythms and images of his myriad embodiments. It is the Self, expressing itself, through its luminous creative power of speech (Savitri, the goddess of illumined speech), with the same energy, and infinite variety, that it employs in the manifestation of its spatial, temporal world of material life and mind. Therefore we are able to receive something of its simultaneous stillness and power of creation through the power of its poetic word.
Similarly, the authenticity of the Mother's descriptions of her Yogic realizations comes home to us with a directness that is only possible because they are lived experiences, narrated day by day, year after year, as they unfold, and we can hear them, breathe them, and assimilate them with something of the immediacy and simplicity of the moments that are being lived even as they are being expressed. There is no pretense in this communication, even though it conveys some of the most extraordinary and momentous discoveries possible to humanity at this time. And even though Savitri is the product of one of the most extraordinary spiritual masters and poetic geniuses of the age, the experiences are similarly being lived by him day by day, over a period of some thirty years during which the poem is being written, and therefore bear an authenticity of discovery no less immediate, and certainly no less momentous, for having been formed by the highest art, with the deliberate purpose of imparting guidance and enlightenment to this and future generations.
And yet, it is only when the receptive soul becomes a vehicle for the light and power of the message, and is able to identify with the divine Inhabitant, even for a moment, that we know with certainty the seed of future realizations has been sown. Then we are able to feel the Stillness and the Presence of the Divine Shakti working in us, surrounding us and penetrating us with its solid spiritual Force, beginning in us the process, and the miracle, of divine change. And we begin to understand the mysteries and prophetic possibilities that she revealed with statements of such simplicity and candor, as in: ...this Consciousness which has manifested since the beginning of the year, it's VERY active; it has spread about and is very active. The body consciousness has become individualized and at the same time independent, which means it can enter other bodies and feel quite at ease there. That completely changes the body's attitude with regard to solutions: there's no more attachment or sense of extinction, you understand, since the consciousness it's the body consciousness that has become independent. And that's very interesting. In other words, in any physical substance sufficiently developed to receive it, it can manifest. (March 12, 1969)
2 - Contexts and Contrasts
We should perhaps begin to put this experience of transformation in perspective by considering the highly significant contrast drawn by the Mother between Consciousness and consciousness. This distinction appears to be similar to that found in Sri Aurobindo between Mind and mind. And this is a distinction that also occurs frequently in the context of Buddhist philosophy, where Mind is the fundamental principle of existence, and is thought of as a pure, self-existent emptiness. In traditional Vedanta, it is the Absolute, or Brahman, which is thought of similarly as the One Self, a self-existent reality that negates the nominal mental realities of nama (name) and rupa (form). The world of sensation, impression, and conceptual judgment that constitute the nature of most normal human experience, and in Western philosophy provide the ground of subjective knowledge, is the world of "small mind," a mental world that in Buddhist philosophy is thought of as being essentially a world of illusion, and the source of attachment and suffering, as opposed to "big Mind," which is bliss. Western philosophy has generally held that the "objective" world is just as real as the subjective world, and that in fact the latter is a reflection of the former. For this tradition also, especially in the Platonic version, the subjective impressions and judgments of the world are often illusory and false, but truth - or a true knowledge of the world - is nevertheless possible for mind that reaches the plane of the Ideal. The conventional interpretation of this philosophy holds that even for ideal mind, knowledge is still only representational. From the modernist perspective, however, the subjective nature of human knowledge, especially in the light of scientific knowledge that contradicts what we often believe about the world that we perceive, has led to the widespread acceptance of the modern view that human knowledge is incapable of knowing the world absolutely as it really is, with a consequent skepticism toward human knowledge in general.
For the illusionist philosophies of Buddhism and Vedanta, both objective and subjective knowledge of the world of everyday sense experience may have some relative truth, but both are ultimately false, in the sense that only the Absolute is Real. The makeshift reality that we contend with on a daily basis can never be really real, and knowledge based on it can never be truly true. Big Mind, in this view, transcends all relative, phenomenal existence.
Such illusionist philosophies, which characterize much of what we think of as Eastern religious thought, are based on an experience of the Absolute, an experience of absolute emptiness and bliss, as the ultimate achievement of consciousness, and one that liberates a person so enlightened from illusion and suffering. It appears that this is what the Mother has referred to above as Consciousness with a capital C., and what Buddhism refers to as Mind with a capital M. The knowledge that characterizes this knowing is knowledge of absolute Reality; its experience is of oneness with an infinite, divine, all-encompassing Being.
But it also appears that the Mother's experience of this Consciousness, from the point of view of the "new consciousness" that she has realized, includes the world of relative and finite form and change, which no longer appears to be characterized by the opposites of suffering and joy, good and evil, for there are no longer any opposites. Illusion, from this point of view, seems to be the result, or characteristic nature, of the way of experiencing and perceiving the world that is common to the mind of humanity, but not to the "new consciousness," which is no longer subject to this illusory way of knowing and being. It is one with the world of name and form, energy and experience, in which it continues to be a related, active participant, but with a new ability to interact without a sense of separateness, and to act as an effective channel of the one Consciousness that seems to be continuous with all the forms of existence. The result is that everything internal and external is elevated to the status of the Real.
There are lines from Canto V in Savitri, as we have seen, that convey this notion exactly: "Illusion lost her aggrandizing lens/ As from her failing hands the measures fell; /The little ego's ring could join no more;/ The soul and cosmos faced as equal powers./ A boundless being in a measureless Time/ Invaded Nature with the infinite; "
In The Life Divine, Sri Aurobindo restates the philosophy of the Upanishads, the basis of that Hindu corpus of wisdom-teachings known as Vedanta. And it is this philosophy which provides the framework for an understanding of how the experience of such a cosmic consciousness and identity with the All is possible. For example, he writes: "An absolute, eternal and infinite Self-existence, Self-awareness, Self-delight of being that secretly supports and pervades the universe even while it is beyond it, is then the first truth of spiritual experience." (LD, 1997, p.235) And it is notable that even here, in the midst of an elaborate philosophical treatise, he declares its foundation to be experience. But let us take this opportunity to hear him out, at least briefly, concerning the Absolute and its extension in time and space, which seems very close to the experience that the Mother was talking about, and in this short but vivid passage it seems also that Sri Aurobindo's interpretive language breaks into a form of poetic expression similar to that of the ancient Upanishad, where philosophy becomes revealed understanding.
"Brahman is the Consciousness that knows itself in all that exists; Brahman is the Force that sustains the power of God and Titan and Demon, the Force that acts in man and animal and the forms and energies of Nature; Brahman is the Ananda, the secret Bliss of existence which is the ether of our being and without which none could breathe or live. Brahman is the inner Soul in all; it has taken a form in correspondence with each created form it inhabits. The Lord of Beings is that which is conscious in the conscious being, but he is also the Conscious in inconscient things, the One who is master and in control of the many that are passive in the hands of Force-Nature. He is the Timeless and Time; he is Space and all that is in Space; he is Causality and the cause and the effect: He is the thinker and his thought, the warrior and his courage, the gambler and the dice-throw. All realities and all aspects and all semblances are the Brahman; Brahman is the Absolute, the transcendent, the incommunicable, the Supracosmic Existence that sustains the cosmos, the Cosmic Self that upholds all beings, but It is too the self of each individual: the soul or psychic entity is an eternal portion of the Ishwara; it is the supreme Nature or Consciousness-Force that has become the living being in a world of living beings. The Brahman alone is, and because of It all are, for all are the Brahman; this Reality is the reality of everything that we see in Self and Nature. Brahman, the Ishwara, is all this by his Yoga-Maya, by the power of his consciousness-force put out in self-manifestation: he is the Conscious Being, Soul, Spirit, Purusha, and it is by his Nature, the force of his conscious self-existence that he is all things; he is the Ishwara, the omniscient and omnipotent All-ruler, and it is by his Shakti, his conscious Power, that he manifests himself in Time and governs the universe." (LD, 324-325)
Of course, the Mother had read this and other passages like it many times before, along with all his other writings, and in particular Savitri, on which she had commented at length in earlier years. But in her conversations of 1969 she was engaged in a process of physical transformation, of the realization of the divine consciousness-force in her body, and she remarked more than once how her "mind" had been "taken away" in order for that process to proceed more rapidly. Although she still spoke logically about her experiences and tried to make sense of them, she did not make any attempt to explain things intellectually or to situate her thoughts in a theoretical framework. In fact, she preferred not to express her experiences in words at all, but was intent on living them out to their ultimate conclusion, and channeling their force into the world around her. And therefore, she was able to confide to Satprem that an experience such as the one she was having could never have been understood, even by her, merely on the basis of what Sri Aurobindo had written, even though it seems certain that he too must have been describing first-hand experiences in his poetry and philosophy.
Like earlier Vedantic schools of philosophy, Sri Aurobindo carried forward the tradition of the inspired word as the vehicle for spiritual knowledge, and of the practice of Yoga as the means for the experiential realization of that knowledge. But while traditional Vedanta was, for many centuries in India, a dualistic philosophy which held that Brahman, the Absolute, was the sole reality, and all else Maya, a dream or illusion of mind to be rejected in favor of liberation, Sri Aurobindo's vision and philosophy hold that Maya is the divine creative force of Brahman, and the world it creates at least a portion of the Real. The spiritual truth of existence, according to this philosophy, is an integral non-dualism in which the Absolute, Infinite, and Eternal is realized through his Yoga-Maya force of creation in time and space. It is because of this fundamental divine nature of existence that consciousness is able to emerge through the evolution of life in matter. And because Consciousness is the fundamental principle of existence, mind is present as potential from the beginning of the material universe, which is in the process of a further evolution beyond mind into a divine supermind, and into a form of body and life that can fully express the harmony and beauty and power of that original, though still largely concealed, immanent nature.
This new consciousness that is evolving through a process of physical transformation, was called by Sri Aurobindo a "supramental" consciousness, and the transformed human vehicle of that emerging consciousness was sometimes referred to by him as a "superman." The Mother, in her conversations, therefore also sometimes used the term "superman" or "overman" consciousness in referring to the phenomenon that she was experiencing. And the use of that terminology by both Sri Aurobindo and the Mother has, I believe, more than a coincidental historical precedent in the philosophy of Nietzsche, as we shall see. But first, it is worthwhile at this point to present the view, often expressed by Sri Aurobindo in Savitri, of mind as a transitional vehicle of consciousness whose process and products are generally characterized by ignorance and illusion, but whose potential lies beyond in a yet unrealized life divine.
A world-conjecture's scheme is laboured out
On the dim floor of mind's incertitude,
Or painfully built a fragmentary whole.
Impenetrable, a mystery recondite
Is the vast plan of which we are a part;
Its harmonies are discords to our view
Because we know not the great theme they serve.
Inscrutable work the cosmic agencies.
Only the fringe of a wide surge we see;
Our instruments have not that greater light,
Our will tunes not with the eternal Will,
Our heart's sight is too blind and passionate.
Impotent to share in Nature's mystic tact,
Inapt to feel the pulse and core of things,
Our reason cannot sound life's mighty sea
And only counts its waves and scans its foam;
It knows not whence these motions touch and pass,
It sees not whither sweeps the hurrying flood:
Only it strives to canalise its powers
And hopes to turn its course to human ends:
But all its means come from the Inconscient's store. (II.V.160-161)
And if this were all and nothing more were meant,
If what now seems were the whole of what must be,
If this were not a stade through which we pass
On our road from Matter to eternal Self,
To the Light that made the worlds, the Cause of things,
Well might interpret our mind's limited view
Existence as an accident of time,
Illusion or phenomenon or freak,
The paradox of a creative thought
Which moves between unreal opposites,
Inanimate Force struggling to feel and know,
Matter that chanced to read itself by Mind,
Inconscience monstrously engendering soul. (II.V.166)
Yet was this only a provisional scheme,
A false appearance sketched by limiting sense,
Mind's insufficient self-discovery,
An early attempt, a first experiment.
This was a toy to amuse infant earth;
But knowledge ends not in these surface powers
That live upon a ledge in the Ignorance
And dare not look into the dangerous depths
Or to stare upward measuring the Unknown.
There is a deeper seeing from within
And, when we have left these small purlieus of mind,
A greater vision meets us on the heights
In the luminous wideness of the spirit's gaze.
All is not here a blinded Nature's task:
A Word, a Wisdom watches us from on high,
A Witness sanctioning her will and works,
An Eye unseen in the unseeing vast;
There is an Influence from a Light above,
There are thoughts remote and sealed eternities;
A mystic motive drives the stars and suns.
In this passage from a deaf unknowing Force
To struggling consciousness and transient breath
A mighty Supernature waits on Time.
The world is other than we now think and see,
Our lives a deeper mystery than we have dreamed;
Our minds are starters in the race to God,
Our souls deputed selves of the Supreme. (II.V.167-169)
Another important context in which the mystery and prophecy of the Divine Mother is to be understood, is that of the recent development in Western philosophy known as "postmodernism," which is perhaps best expressed in the writings of Nietzsche, Heidegger, and Derrida. This development is the culmination of a tradition of European philosphical thought that stretches over two millennia, from Plato to Hegel - a tradition that has seen its recapitulation and innovative renewal by great thinkers every few hundred years since its inception, in much the same way as the Hindu-Buddhist tradition developed during approximately the same time-frame in India. In the Twentieth Century it was Heidegger who accomplished the most comprehensive recapitulation and renewal, in such works as Being and Time (1927) and in his comprehensive interpretive study of Nietzsche (1946), both written at about the same time that Sri Aurobindo was writing The Life Divine and Savitri. It is unquestionable that Sri Aurobindo's creative thought, like Heidegger's, was directly influenced by Nietzsche. And in several respects, Sri Aurobindo too may be considered a postmodern philosopher.
For example, Sri Aurobindo wrote, in an early essay on Heraclitus, "Nietzsche, the most vivid, concrete and suggestive of modern thinkers, as is Heraclitus among the early Greeks, founded his whole philosophical thought on this conception of existence as a vast Will-to-become and of the world as a play of force; divine Power was to him the creative Word, the beginning of all things and that to which life aspires. But he affirms Becoming only and excludes Being from his view of things; hence his philosophy is in the end unsatisfactory, insufficient, lopsided; it stimulates, but solves nothing. Nietzsche denied Being, but had to speak of a universal Will-to-be; which again, when you come to think of it, seems to be no more than a translation of the Upanishadic tapo brahma, Will-Energy is Brahman." (The Supramental Manifestation, SABCL, Vol. 16, p. 344,349) Like Heidegger, for Sri Aurobindo the importance of the concept of Being to an adequate philosophy of existence was paramount; and he admired Nietzsche's effort, which even in its apparent denial seems to have been an affirmation of Being as Will-to-Power.
With regard to the "new consciousness," the consciousness of the "overman," experienced by the Mother as related in her Agenda, and articulated in depth by Sri Aurobindo in Savitri, - descriptions of a world without opposites, in which Time and the Timeless, Stillness and Power, Being and Becoming are experienced in a relationship of Unity, - it is Nietzsche's Zarathustra and Heidegger's Being and Time that provide the most relevant Western philosophical context for understanding this remarkable evolutionary phenomenon of consciousness.
Let us reconstruct this context, briefly, by first recalling the words of Nietzsche, as they were first spoken by Zarathustra, in the beginning of the book Thus Spoke Zarathustra (1884):
I teach you the overman. Man is something that shall be overcome. What have you done to overcome him?
All beings so far have created something beyond themselves; and do you want to be the ebb of this great flood and even go back to the beasts rather than overcome man? What is the ape to man? A laughing-stock or a painful embarrassment. And man shall be just that for the overman: a laughing stock or a painful embarrassment. You have made your way from worm to man, and much in you is still worm. Once you were apes, and even now, too, man is more ape than any ape.
Whoever is the wisest among you is also a mere conflict and cross between plant and ghost. But do I bid you become ghosts or plants?
Behold, I teach you the overman. The overman is the meaning of the earth. Let your will say: the overman shall be the meaning of the earth! I beseech you, my brothers, remain faithful to the earth, and do not believe those who speak to you of otherworldly hopes! Poison-mixers are they, whether they know it or not. Despisers of life are they, decaying and poisoned themselves, of whom the earth is weary: so let them go.
Verily, a polluted stream is man. One must be a sea to be able to receive a polluted stream without becoming unclean. Behold, I teach you the overman: he is this sea; in him your great contempt can go under.
What is the greatest experience you can have? It is the hour of the great contempt. The hour in which your happiness, too, arouses your disgust, and even your reason and your virtue.
Man is a rope, tied between beast and overman - a rope over an abyss. A dangerous across, a dangerous on-the-way, a dangerous looking-back, a dangerous shuddering and stopping.
What is great in man is that he is a bridge and not an end: what can be loved in man is that he is an overture and a going under.
I love those who do not know how to live, except by going under, for they are those who cross over.
I love the great despisers because they are the great reverers and arrows of longing for the other shore.
I love those who do not first seek behind the stars for a reason to go under and be a sacrifice, but who sacrifice themselves for the earth, that the earth may some day become the overman's.
I love him who does not hold back one drop of spirit for himself, but wants to be entirely the spirit of his virtue: thus he strides over the bridge as spirit. (Thus Spoke Zarathustra, Walter Kaufmann trans., 1966, p. 12-15)
How can we not view this call of anguish at the state of humanity, and this vision of overcoming, as an essential and defining context for so much that transpired in the Twentieth Century, not the least of which was Sri Aurobindo's vision of a transformation of consciousness as the next step in the evolution of the earth? But to make the comparison easier and more explicit, we may turn to Heidegger for an explication of Nietzsche's tragic vision, and in particular Nietzsche's attempt at a resolution of the problem of time, which shows his thought to be most directly and emphatically relevant to our study.
In his masterful essay, Who Is Nietzsche's Zarathustra, Heidegger confronts the problem of Being in Nietzsche's brilliantly inspired, yet darkly enigmatic work, Thus Spoke Zarasthustra, its relationship to Time and Becoming, and Nietzsche's recourse to the idea, and philosophy, of the eternal return of the same to solve this monumental issue in Western metaphysics. Because we have Heidegger's profound interpretation to guide us, we are able to discover an explanation of Nietzsche's "lopsided" emphasis on Becoming that was identified by Sri Aurobindo as this philosophy's major weakness. Heidegger writes:
In converse with his soul Zarathustra thinks his "most abysmal thought" (The Convalescent, section one; cf. Part II, On the Vision and the Riddle, section 2). Zarathustra begins the episode On the Great Longing with the words: "O my soul, I taught you to say 'Today' like 'One day' and 'Formerly,' I taught you to dance your round-dance beyond every Here and There and Yonder." The three words "Today," "One day," and "Formerly" are capitalized and placed in quotation marks. They designate the fundamental features of time. The way Zarathustra expresses them points toward the matter Zarathustra himself must henceforth tell himself in the very ground of his essence. And what is that? That "One day" and "Formerly," future and past, are like "today." And also that today is like what is past and what is to come. All three phases of time merge in a single identity, as the same in one single present, a perpetual "now." Metaphysics calls the constant now "eternity." Nietzsche too thinks the three phases of time in terms of eternity as the constant now. Yet for him the constancy consists not in stasis but in a recurrence of the same. When Zarathustra teaches his soul to say those words he is the teacher of eternal return of the same. Such return is the inexhaustible abundance of a life that is both joyous and agonizing. Such a life is the destination toward which "the great longing" leads the teacher of eternal return of the same. Thus in the same episode "the great longing" is also called "the longing of superabundance."
The "great longing" thrives for the most part on that from which it draws its only consolation, that is to say, its confidence in the future.
Yet what induces Zarathustra to such hope, and what entitles him to it?
What bridge must he take in order to go over to the overman? What bridge enables him to depart from humanity hitherto, so that he can be released from it? in the episode "On the Tarantulas," Nietzsche has Zarathustra say: "For that man be redeemed from revenge - that is for me the bridge to the highest hope and a rainbow after long storms."
Yet what does Nietzsche understand here by "revenge"? In what, according to Nietzsche, does redemption from revenge consist?
We shall be content if we can shed some light on these two questions. Such light would perhaps enable us to descry the bridge that is to lead such thinking from prior humanity to the overman.
In the second part of Thus Spoke Zarathustra, in the episode we have already mentioned, "On redemption," Nietzsche has Zarathustra say: "This, yes, this alone is revenge itself: the will's ill will toward time and its 'It was.' "
Nietzsche defines revenge as "the will's ill will toward time and its 'It was.' " The supplement to the definition does not mean to put into relief one isolated characteristic of time while stubbornly ignoring the other two; rather, it designates the fundamental trait of time in its proper and entire unfolding as time. With the conjunction and in the phrase "time and its 'It was,' " Nietzsche is not proceeding to append one special characteristic of time. Here the and means as much as "and that means." Revenge is the will's ill will toward time and that means toward passing away, transiency. Transiency is that against which the will can take no further steps, that against which its willing constantly collides. Time and its "It was" is the obstacle that the will cannot budge. Time, as passing away, is repulsive; the will suffers on account of it. Suffering in this way, the will itself becomes chronically ill over such passing away; the illness then wills its own passing, and in so doing wills that everything in the world be worthy of passing away. Ill will toward time degrades all that passes away. The earthly - Earth and all that pertains to her - is that which properly ought not to be and which ultimately does not really possess true Being. Plato himself called it me on, nonbeing
But in what does redemption from ill will toward transiency consist? Does it consist in a liberation from the will in general - perhaps in the sense suggested by Schopenhauer and in Buddhism? Inasmuch as the Being of beings is will, according to the doctrine of modern metaphysics, redemption from the will would amount to redemption from Being, hence to a collapse into vacuous nothingness. For Nietzsche redemption from revenge is redemption from the repulsive, from defiance and degradation in the will, but by no means the dissolution of all willing. Redemption releases the ill will from its "no" and frees it for a "yes." What does the "yes" affirm? Precisely what the ill will of a vengeful spirit renounced: time, transiency.
The "yes" to time is the will that transiency perdure, that it not be disparaged as nothing worth. Yet how can passing away perdure? Only in this way: as passing away it must not only continuously go, but must also always come. Only in this way: passing away and transiency must recur in their coming as the same. According to the doctrine of metaphysics, the predicate "eternity" belongs to the Being of things.
Redemption from revenge is transition from ill will toward time to the will that represents being in the eternal recurrence of the same. Here the will becomes the advocate of the circle. (We should note that Heidegger defined revenge as used by Nietzsche here as "revulsion and defiance," "defiant persecution," and "vengeful persecution" that "defies its object by degrading it." Nietzsche himself elaborated the notion in these same sections of Zarathustra as "punishment": "For 'punishment' is what revenge calls itself; with a hypocritical lie it creates a good conscience for itself. Things are ordered morally according to justice and punishment. Alas, where is the redemption from the flux of things and from the punishment called existence? No deed can be annihilated: how could it be undone by punishment? Has the will been unharnessed yet from his own folly? Has the will yet become its own redeemer and joy-bringer? Has he unlearned the spirit of revenge and all gnashing of teeth?")
To put it another way: Only when the Being of beings represents itself to man as eternal recurrence of the same can man cross over the bridge and, redeemed from the spirit of revenge, be the one in transition, the overman.
Who is Nietzsche's Zarathustra? He is the teacher whose doctrine would liberate prior reflection from the spirit of revenge to the "yes" spoken to eternal recurrence of the same. (Nietzsche, Vol. 1-II, 1979, p. 218-226)
Thus, as Heidegger helps us see, Nietzsche solves the problem of transient mortality by investing Becoming with Being, and he thereby elevates time to the status of Eternity: the eternal recurrence of the same. To achieve this he must "go under" and that is his tragedy. "Creation - that is the great redemption from suffering, and life's growing light. But that the creator may be, suffering is needed and much change. Indeed, there must be much bitter dying in your life, you creators. Thus are you advocates and justifiers of all impermanence. To be the child who is newly born, the creator must also want to be the mother who gives birth and the pangs of the birth-giver." (Op cit, Kaufmann trans., p.87)
Heidegger: "But what does Nietzsche understand by "tragedy"? Tragedy sings the tragic. "It is the stillest words that bring on the storm. Thoughts that approach on doves' feet govern the world (Thus Spoke Zarathustra, conclusion to part II)." "The world revolves, not about the discoverers of new forms of hullaballoo, but about the discoverers of new values. It revolves inaudibly (Thus Spoke Zarathustra, Part II)." The supreme art is the tragic; hence the tragic is proper to the metaphysical essence of beings. Tragedy prevails where the terrifying is affirmed as the opposite that is intrinsically proper to the beautiful. Greatness and great heights subsist together with the depths and with what is terrifying "What makes someone heroic?" asks Nietzsche ; and he replies, "Going out to meet one's supreme suffering and supreme hope alike." (Nietzsche, p. 28-29)
"Tragic knowing realizes that "life itself," being as a whole, conditions "pain," "destruction," and all agony; and that none of these things constitutes an "objection to this life." The tragic in Nietzsche's sense counteracts "resignation," if we may say that the tragic still finds it necessary to be "counter" to anything. The tragic in Nietzsche's sense has nothing to do with sheer self-destructive pessimism, which casts a pall over things; it has just as little to do with blind optimism, which is lost in the vertigo of its vacuous desires. The tragic in Nietzsche's sense falls outside this opposition, inasmuch as in its willing and in its knowing it adopts a stance toward being as a whole, and inasmuch as the basic law of being as a whole consists in struggle." (Nietzsche, Vo. I-II, p. 61)
"Only when contempt stems from love of the task, being transformed in such a way that, undergirded by an affirmation of the necessity of outrage, suffering, destruction, it can pass by in silence; only when the silence of such loving passing-by prevails; only then does the vast stillness extend and the sphere expand about the one who in this way has become himself." (Nietzsche, p. 60)
Is this experience a premonition of the supramental consciousness?
In his substantial, four-volume treatise on the philosophy of Nietzsche, Heidegger never tires of reminding us that "In philosphy the Being of beings is to be thought." And he never tires of asking the question, here as elsewhere throughout his writings, "What is Being?" The history of Western metaphysics is the attempt to answer this question, to determine the Real and distinguish it from the illusory and transitory. This is a tradition of philosophical and religious thought that has consistently rejected the impermanent and transient, much like Eastern tradition has done. In the Twentieth Century, under the influence of pervasive human destruction in Europe, this thinking led to the rejection of rationalism which supplied grounds for belief in the possible, and replaced it with the nihilistic judgment of life as absurd. It is the predominant Platonic tradition of this questioning in which both Heidegger and Nietzsche place themselves squarely, as subversives, indefatigably determined to overturn both the classical and the modern versions of the tradition. And it is in their determination to do this, and thereby to restore value and primacy to the material world, that we find them aligned with Sri Aurobindo and the Mother.
This is not to say that the transitory aspect of existence is not to be despised, nor that it is not equally a spur to human progress and transcendence. For Sri Aurobindo, in Savitri, it is exactly that, and his point of view toward it is certainly no less contemptuous than Nietzsche's; it verges on what might be termed divine contempt:
He saw the doubtfulness of all things here,
The incertitude of man's proud, confident thought,
The transience of the achievements of his force.
A thinking being in an unthinking world,
An island in the sea of the Unknown,
He is a smallness trying to be great,
An animal with some instincts of a god,
His life a story too common to be told,
His deeds a number summing up to nought,
His consciousness a torch lit to be quenched,
His hope a star above a cradle and a grave. (I.V.78)
And the leap the Yogi makes to exceed this pathos is more dramatic, one could say more violent, than even Nietzsche's boldly inspired crossing-over:
The Immortal's pride refused the doom to live
A miser of the scanty bargain made
Between our littleness and bounded hopes
And the compassionate Infinitudes.
His height repelled the lowness of earth's state:
A wideness discontented with its frame
Resiled from poor assent to nature's terms,
The harsh contract spurned and the diminished lease. (I.V.77)
And the hope expressed by Sri Aurobindo for mankind, for the "overman" and for the future, is more radical, more extreme, perhaps, than even the most inspired and insightful philosopher can yet dare:
And yet a greater destiny may be his,
For the eternal Spirit is his truth.
He can re-create himself and all around
And fashion new the world in which he lives (I.V.78)
As Heidegger puts the situation with respect to Nietzsche's effort: "Overturning Platonism means, first, shattering the preeminence of the supersensuous as the ideal. Beings, being what they are, may not be despised on the basis of what should and ought to be. But at the same time, in opposition to the philosophy of the ideal and to the installation of what ought to be and of the "should," the inversion sanctions the investigation and determination of that which is - it summons the question "What is being itself?" If the "should" is the supersensuous, then being itself, that which is, conceived as liberated from the "should," can only be the sensuous. The interpretation of truth or true being as the sensuous is of course, considered formally, an overturning of Platonism, inasmuch as Platonism asserts that genuine being is supersensuous. Yet such inversion, and along with it the interpretation of the true as what is given in the senses, must be understood in terms of the overcoming of nihilism. Art and truth, creating and knowing, meet one another in the single guiding perspective of the rescue and configuration of the sensuous." (Nietzsche, Vol. I-II, p. 160-161)
The whole of Heidegger's work on phenomenology, and what he terms "fundamental ontology" is devoted to a demonstration of the Being of beings, through the deconstruction of Western metaphysics, and the overcoming of both Nihilism and Idealism. The problem that this effort encounters, and the one with which Western metaphysics is perpetually occupied, is that our knowledge of the beings that we know through our senses and cognitive processes, is an abstract knowledge made up of generalities: types, qualities, species, laws, none of which, to our conventional, logical way of thinking, exists concretely in itself as "something," but all of which are known only through innumerable particular examples that embody the values that our knowing encounters. All human beings are unique, just as are all snowflakes, all fingerprints, all genomes, all societies and cultures and economies and ecologies and galaxies, though each member of these groupings shares the unifying, identifying categories of characteristics whereby they are known and named by us. But is that which appears to persist throughout each exemplar's existence, - their apparently eternal forms, so obviously maintained through processes of perpetual regeneration and degeneration, something Real, or is it only an abstract concept that we deduce? If we consider the existence of the exemplar itself, standing there before us, made up of ever-changing material stuff, isn't the totality of its Being-there, as opposed to its possibly not-being-there, significant as well? That is to say, isn't its determining force of being-what-it is, its immediate spatial-temporal Presence, something remarkable in itself? Isn't this Being of the thing that we perceive and conceptualize as existing in time and space also something Real, that we also happen to know because of its presence in and through both a sensual and abstract form? Is the Permanent the Real, or is the Passing-away?
Heidegger's point, (which we hesitatingly suggest in a simplified way here only, without presuming to restate his arguments which are unsurpassed in their completeness), is that we know Being through the presence of beings in Time. And even though we know it mentally as an abstraction, we also know it as a concrete actuality of Force with Quality and Presence that appears to us through beings here, in the same world that we also inhabit as beings, in time. Thus, we know the "essences" of things through their recurrence as the "same." What we know is not merely an idea that we obtain through experiencing an object that embodies an Ideal relatively and imperfectly. We know the Being of those objects because we are continuous with their material embodiments in form, which we know sensually and mentally, and which separately and together embody the Force by which their essence, or Being, is determined. Being, knowing, and the things being known become one through their unified, continuous presence in time. Thus the Being of beings, and their existence as specific temporal things, are in some sense one and knowable as such.
In the interpretation of Vedanta that Sri Aurobindo presents in The Life Divine, the term for this embodying of being in things is swabhava, self-nature. He writes, " every possibility implies a truth of being behind it, a reality in the Existent; for without that supporting truth there could not be any possibles. In manifestation a fundamental reality of the Existent would appear to our cognition as a fundamental spiritual aspect of the Divine Absolute (for example, Beauty or Power as Form expressed through an infinite variety of colorful self-replicating creatures capable of flight through a complex environment of co-evolved plants, insects, and air - author's note); out of it would emerge all its possible manifestations, its innate dynamisms: these again must create or rather bring out of a non-manifest latency their own significant forms, expressive powers, native processes; their own being would develop their own becoming, svarupa, svabhava." (LD, 1997, p. 313)
Heidegger and Sri Aurobindo, utilizing similar processes of deconstruction, and basing their thought, similarly, on discoveries made in the earliest extant philosophical meditations of their respective traditions, both reject the definitive separation of the Ideal Forms from the manifestations of the temporal, material world, and the devaluation of the body and life that has resulted, traditionally, from such a mental separation. Truth, Beauty, and the Good are not merely shining Immortals, forever aloof on an immaterial plane inhabited by these gods and goddesses, through whose intimations we are enabled to judge the relative values of temporal things, imbued forever with mortality and transience, as the myths of both rationalist and religious, Western and Eastern, cultures have generally wanted us to believe. Nor are our mental constructions simply the result of innate physical and chemical processes. Being and knowing are a complex totality of self-replicating processes and patterns of existence, far more complex and self-assured than we imagine. And we might, perhaps, recognize that Infinite behind each finite - individual, species, society, culture, ecology - as the boundless potential as well as the actual force that sustains each. And shall we not then call this Being, in relation to the entity that it presences, its Soul or Self?
The "new consciousness" realized by the Mother makes this abstract understanding of Being a concrete, sensuous, material reality. One wonders whether Nietzsche or Hiedegger even glimpsed the possibility of this plenitude of experience. But it certainly seems that they would agree with the view, often expressed by Sri Aurobindo, that even if we have fallen here from forgotten spheres of the Ideal, of which we are reminded by the imperfection of things, it is those godheads of the Ideal which must be brought down here, if the truth of things is to be realized in form.
But to discover, and grasp, the Immortal in mortal things, the Spiritual in material things, and to make that discovery in a living way that changes the quality of life and invests everything with its highest value, requires "another way of thinking and being." It requires a "transformation of consciousness." And the way to that discovery and change is arduous. As the Mother commented, it is still "foreign to the world" of everyday human experience, knowledge, and habit. Even the reading of Heidegger and of Sri Aurobindo is still difficult for the ordinary mind, with its "vulgar concept of time," and its passionate commitment to speed and noise (however modulated by style). The call to radically change our way of thinking, being and living, through Nietzsche's "crossing over" and "going under," or through the Yoga practices of "silence," "surrender," and "abdication to the Divine Shakti," are as yet almost inconceivable to a humanity consumed by "transient things." Still the Zarathustra's of tragedy and transcendence are needed to help us interpret the words of the seers, to help us deconstruct our vulgar concept of time, to help us build bridges to the Unseen, and to help us restore to Time the mystery of the presence of Being.
On the postmodernist route of Nietzsche and Heidegger, the clearest vision and voice of the late Twentieth Century is the French philosopher Jacques Derrida. In a lecture delivered in 1968, contemporaneously with the Mother's discovery of the Unity of Opposites, Derrida, speaking about Being and Time and the thought-process of creative deconstruction, said: "Its execution directed at the question of the meaning of Being, the "destruction" of classical ontology first had to shake the "vulgar concept" of time. This is a condition for the analytic of Dasein, which is there through the opening to the question of the meaning of Being, through the precomprehension of Being; temporality constitutes the "Being of a Being-there (Dasein) which comprehends Being," and it is the "ontological meaning of care" as the structure of Dasein. This is why temporality alone can provide the horizon for the question of Being." (Margins of Philosophy, 1972, p. 31)
It should be possible for us by now to take these cues from the preeminent deconstructionist and begin the process of revaluation for ourselves, so urgent for us today and for the future of humanity. It is our privilege, and our responsibility, as conscious beings, present in time, to ask the question of Being with care; to become conscious of the essential care that is the essence of all temporal Being, and thereby to comprehend the essence of Being, which is also our Being-there (Dasein). And in the consciousness of that Presence, we shall celebrate and honor all Being.
Derrida said, most precisely and essentially, in another lecture of about the same date: "Speaking of the first word of Being, Heidegger writes: The relation to what is present that rules in the essence of presencing itself is a unique one, altogether incomparable to any other relation. It belongs to the uniqueness of Being itself. Therefore, in order to name the essential nature of Being, language would have to find a single word, the unique word. From this we can gather how daring every thoughtful word addressed to being is. Nevertheless such daring is not impossible, since Being speaks always and everywhere throughout language (The Anaximader Fragment, 1946, p.52).
"Such is the question: the alliance of speech and Being in the unique word, in the finally proper name. And such is the question inscribed in the simulated affirmation of differance. It bears on each member of this sentence: Being/speaks/always and everywhere/throughout/language." (Margins of Philosophy, 1972, p. 27)
(Differance, the title of the lecture, is a word invented by Derrida to convey the idea that existences or beings differ from each other in whatever ways, and are deferred with respect to their occurrences, in whatever ways, as an essential fact or aspect of Being. But Being, like difference, and differance, doesn't actually exist apart from the existences themselves and their relationships to each other in time and space. "For us, differance remains a metaphysical name, and all the names that it receives in our language are still, as names, metaphysical. And this is particularly the case when these names state the determination of differance as the difference between presence and the present, and above all, and is already the case, when they state the determination of differance as the difference of Being and beings.") If we grasp this concept of differance, with respect to presence and the present, then we grasp a concept of time that is something altogether other than the vulgar concept of time. We grasp the Being of beings in its force, by which a being recurs as "the same" itself, the self of its identity, and is known as such, throughout its necessary duration, in spite of all changes of linear time, space, and circumstance that it may endure. And in this way we also grasp the wholeness and completeness of Time.
It is precisely this revaluation of time, - emphasized constantly by the postmodernists, - that the European visionary and historian of consciousness, Jean Gebser, found to be the unique sign of a turning in Twentieth Century thought and the beginning of a new evolution of consciousness. In his massive, and at times prophetic psychological analysis of culture he writes, in 1949, "By now it ought to be evident to what extent the incorporation of and pervasive encounter with the question of time has brought about a fundamental change in philosophy. All aspects of time previously hidden by the "concept" of time are now visible, and its multi-leveled nature has become clear. At the same time, the recognition of time as intensity and quality, as an independent value and an inherent element, has exploded the formal-logical system of previous philosophies. Philosophy is mutating from the spatially-bound representational and three-dimensional world into the four-dimensional perceptual world of aperspectival space-time-freedom. This means that philosophy is superseding itself." (The Ever-Present Origin, Authorized Trans. 1985, p. 406) "What is needed is care; a great deal of patience; and the laying aside of many preconceived opinions, wishful dreams, and the blind sway of demands. There is a need for a certain detachment toward oneself and the world, a gradually maturing equilibrium of all the inherent components and consciousness structures predisposed in ourselves, in order that we may prepare the basis for the leap into the new mutation." "The additional capacity of "verition," which becomes a reality with the new mutation, is the guarantee that someone who endures the effects and transformations that are manifest in him by four-dimensional integration effects in turn a transformation of events. This is not in the sense that he or she can exercise, say, a new kind of magic power, a new mythical equipoising or polarizing, or a new kind of mental superiority over persons, events, or processes. It is rather that his or her being present is in itself sufficient to effect new exfoliations and new crystallizations which could be nowhere manifest without his or her presence." (The Ever-Present Origin, p. 300)
It is thus, by way of contemplative thought and language, that the enigma of Being, - shall we say the unity and difference of Consciousness and Force - and the meaning and re-evaluated value of this existence as That, are sought and restored with daring - however tentatively - by such postmodern Western thinkers as Nietzsche, Heidegger, Derrida, and Gebser. And throughout their search we hear Sri Aurobindo's footsteps echoing in the corridors of time, beckoning beyond mind.
All was found there the Unique had dreamed and made
Tinging with ceaseless rapture and surprise
And an opulent beauty of passionate difference
The recurring beat that moments God in Time.
Only was missing the sole timeless Word
That carries eternity in its lonely sound,
The Idea self-luminous key to all ideas,
The integer of the spirit's perfect sum
That equates the unequal All to the equal One,
The single sign interpreting every sign,
The absolute index to the Absolute. (Savitri, II.I.97)
3 - Time, Tragedy and Transcendence
It is only through temporality that the question of Being can be asked. That is the thought of Heidegger and Derrida. The answer to the question, What is Being?, or one of many cogent answers offered by Heidegger in his study of Nietzsche, - the experiential answer: "Living, suffering, and circling are not three distinct matters. They belong together and form one: being as a whole, to which suffering, the abyss, belongs "(Nietzsche, Vol. II, p. 50)
" 'Downgoing' means descent as acknowledgment of the abyss. the eternity of the Moment that embraces everything in itself at once: the down-going." (Nietzsche, Vol. II, p. 59)
Again, we hear the resonance of this thought with that of Sri Aurobindo, when he speaks of the Yoga of Transformation to be undertaken by the Mother:
One dealt with her who meets the burdened great.
Assigner of the ordeal and the path
Who chooses in this holocaust of the soul
Death, fall and sorrow as the spirit's goads,
The dubious godhead with his torch of pain
Lit up the chasm of the unfinished world
And called her to fill with her vast self the abyss.
August and pitiless in his calm outlook,
Heightening the Eternal's dreadful strategy,
He measured the difficulty with the might
And dug more deep the gulf that all must cross. (I.II.17)
It is remarkable, I think, that now, at the end of the old and the beginning of a new millennium, Satprem, another French philosopher of postmodernism, and the Mother's biographer and chronicler, who knows the Mother's Agenda first hand, should write a book titled: The Tragedy of the Earth - from Sophocles to Sri Aurobindo (1996, English trans., 1998) And in it we hear again the hymn of eternal return. But this time, it seems, we also hear a promise of change, not only of what is temporal, but of the tragedy at its roots - a promise of change in the nature of Being itself perhaps. For Heidegger, Dasein, Being, is the Being of human consciousness, the ability of mind to exceed itself and to realize, within and out beyond itself, Conscious Being. But its essence is still characterized by the tragic. The challenge put forth now, is a challenge put to Being itself and its tragic spirit. And do we not hear again in these pages the voice of Zarasthustra reborn?
Satprem: Even Machinery has taken the place of Fate, unless it is Fate masked. Perhaps it has taken the place of man the better to shatter the little barbarians we are, gorged with science and religion, as if these four and a half billion years of toil and kneading and convulsion had only served to produce a vain Primate, religious and scientific, or shameless, as we like - a nonman, or a Man yet to be, and yet to be the master of his Destiny.
Power is in us, but we do not yet know who we are and what is there, which is why we are the slaves of gigantic and cruel forces; our power is only for death and destruction and the thousand remedies and artifices of our powerlessness.
Power is in us, such is the constant chorus of that great tragic epic, Savitri - Sri Aurobindo's whole Work, whole life - power even over Death.
And because we have not solved that Riddle, which goes back a few billion years before the Sphinx, we have solved nothing of our life and our Earth - death is just, sorrow is just, our destructions are just, and, we might say, injustice is just, because they destroy what we are not, or not yet, and because they want to compel us, through fire and lightning and the whip, to find who we are, find our Power at the end of those thousands of years of preparatory Barbarism.
Nothing will ever be changed, neither the Earth nor the stars, until Death is changed - we cannot change life, our life, without changing Death. Such is Fate, our own and the Earth's destiny. Or else, we may change our little clothes for new ones equally fateful and cruel - until we have found that for which we are here, on this Earth and not in Heaven, since the first little cell of a first little algae of Greenland three billion years ago. For Fate begins there. And at the heart of that first little cell, it holds its own answer.
But we have never gone that far, even with our microscopes, which only yield our own barbarian view of things.
After the inventions born of our powerlessness, we must invent our Power, or find it anew.
And Mother, that Actress in Sri Aurobindo's great tragedy, exclaimed: "Death must be vanquished, there must be no more death. That's very clear."
And she added: "What lends force to the opposition [the "opposition" is always Death] is superstitious ignorance - superstitious in the sense of a sort of faith or at least of belief in Destiny, in fate. It's ingrained, as if woven into the human substance So there is the good destiny and the bad destiny; there is a divine force which one regards as something entirely beyond understanding, whose designs and aims are perfectly inexplicable, and the submission, the surrender consists in accepting - blindly - all that happens. One's nature revolts, but revolts against an Absolute against which it is helpless. And all of that is Ignorance. Not one of all those movements is true - from the most intense revolt to the blindest submission, it's all false. But I hear very strongly (not for myself, for mankind): AWAKE AND WILL . And it's as if it were the key that opens the door to the future . For man, the supreme realization is understanding - understanding things. For the Supermind, realization is Power, it is creative will tomorrow's realization."
The end of Machinery. All necessities of life created and fashioned, or refashioned, by the direct power of consciousness. But let us be clear: that unknown consciousness is not up above, in some superintellect; it is, on the contrary, at the other end of things, in the depths of the body, at the end of graves and Hell, where the miracle of a first life emerged from a first magma of plasma and steam. I listened to her, heard her moan, and then her radiant smile, always, "It's as if a superhuman Power were trying to manifest through millennia of powerlessness. And a superhuman Power is trying to is pressing here to manifest. In Savitri, he clearly says, 'Almighty powers are shut in Nature's cells ' He says it clearly: it's THERE, inside, within the very cells. It must be done NOW. It is now "
But that is not the last act of the Tragedy. Because it is the very Tragedy of our Earth. In truth, every man repeats the mystery of all centuries and of the whole species; only, he does not always know it. The moment he knows it, he enters Destiny.
If we knew how to catch hold of Sophocles' blue gaze
And we hear the coryphaeus' voice to Electra:
You were born of a mortal.
Orestes too was mortal;
This is a fate we all must suffer,
Do not weep too much.
Or what vibrates in the voice of Odysseus to Zeus's daughter Athena when the door closes on Ajax struck with madness:
Are we not all here, all living things,
Shadows of nothing?
Twenty-five centuries later, Sri Aurobindo is another gaze on the same question - but with a will, or a Destiny, to find the answer, the true answer, the solution, the true solution. (The Tragedy of the Earth, p. 19-26)
What answer did Sri Aurobindo bring to the question of Being? What true solution? Let us listen again, for his answer comes on the wings of a great soul rhythm, to be seen and heard by the listening soul who is ready to hear. As we have mentioned briefly in this study, and discussed at length elsewhere, it is indeed the divine Word, the word of Truth, which is able to reveal itself as the One in all, and make the soul a vessel of divine Power. Therefore, it is at this point in our study that we would turn to a reading from Savitri, in an "Immersion Workshop," to hear Sri Aurobindo's complete answer. In this context, we shall only gather a few more pertinent fragments from Savitri in our attempt to piece together the mystery of Being. Let us listen to one such fragment that recalls, as is so often the case, the Mother's words:
In our body's cells there sits a hidden Power
That sees the unseen and plans eternity
A work is done in the deep silences;
A glory and wonder of spiritual sense,
A laughter in beauty's everlasting space
Transforming world-experience into joy,
Inhabit the mystery of the untouched gulfs;
Lulled by Time's beats eternity sleeps in us.
In the sealed hermetic heart, the happy core,
Unmoved behind this outer shape of death
The eternal Entity prepares within
Its matter of divine felicity,
Its reign of heavenly phenomenon.
Our error crucifies Reality
To force its birth and divine body here,
Compelling, incarnate in a human form
And breathing in limbs that one can touch and clasp,
Its Knowledge to rescue an ancient Ignorance,
Its saviour light the inconscient universe.
And when that greater Self comes sea-like down
To fill this image of our transience,
All shall be captured by delight, transformed:
In waves of undreamed ecstasy shall roll
Our mind and life and sense and laugh in a light
Other than this hard limited human day,
The body's tissues thrill apotheosised,
Its cells sustain bright metamorphosis. (II.V.169-171)
Sri Aurobindo's solution, and the Mother's sacrifice, was the transformation of mind, life, and body into a channel and vessel of that truth of Being which our "image of transience" always secretly was, even in its ever-changing forms of mortality and ignorance. Man is a transitional being, and his life a "passing-away," but mankind is also a crossing-over, capable of conscious being, and as such, of Being, conscious of itself. That is mankind's highest mental possibility. As Heidegger wisely recognized, it is Man's essence to become conscious of Being, and by doing so to go out beyond himself toward all-Being. Or, as Nietzsche discovered in Zarathustra's tragic over-coming, it is also his destiny to accept all, as a mother does by self-giving in birth, such that every destruction is redeemed, as a necessity of creation.
But this is man's tragic destiny, not Being's. Being is the Immortal in mortals, the Force behind every form, the possibility of every being to persist through change and to fulfill a destiny. The "care," and "faith in the future," and "heroic sacrifice," which are held up by the postmodern prophets of transcendence as ultimate "ends of man," and therefore the meaning of our existence, are fundamental aspects of human being and of human understanding of Being. But these aspects, or expressed powers and potentialities, of Being do not pass away with their transient forms. They persist through Time, even as their momentary formations crumble and fade. The eternal powers of Being last through every change and temporal expression, as the truth-force present in those changing formations; and the climb up the ladder of Immortality continues in spite of the phenomenon of mortality that predominates in our experience of Being. This "holocaust of the soul," is "the Eternal's dreadful strategy," and sacrifice and self-giving are, from the point of view of the Divine Mother, the essence of Being, and source of all Power and Bliss.
Beyond our human experience and understanding, says Sri Aurobindo, is the possibility of a transformed consciousness and a new form of manifestation, a new being of Being, made possible by a Divine Will in evolution. And just as every form of transitory, mortal manifestation is now a deformation of a secret immortal Bliss, it is the Bliss of Immortality that shall characterize the overt experiences, forms, and processes of that new being, materially and sensually conscious of the Truth of Being.
The Mother said it was her body's consciousness that knew the Power of the Absolute, as utter stillness and utter energy combined. Therefore, the perception of our ordinary human power as a "power only for death and destruction," to use Satprem's expression, is THE Illusion. It is a consciousness of the limitations of the human being, by the human being, but not a consciousness of Being as such, in its infinite and eternal aspect of Consciousness-Force. It is the error of the Buddhist's "little mind" with its attachments and consequent suffering on the wheel of rebirth. It is Nietzsche's contempt for transience, which leads him to the overman." But this "overman" is still "man," tragic man, not super-man, and as such not a true solution, although it is an approach, a first step, perhaps, on the bridge-across.
Jaques Derrida, in his insightful interpretations of Heidegger, has provided an important key to understanding this essential, problematical feature of Heidegger's conception of Being, which seems to have led Heidegger quite naturally to identify with, and possibly to take his cue from, Nietzsche's tragic sense of the eternal return of the same and will-to-power, as adequate definitions of the essence of Being. And the same problematical feature seems to have led Satprem, in his interpretation of the work of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, to characterize man's fate as one of "only destruction and death." But these "conceptions" of Being, - at the highest range of mental understanding - are still only human conceptions. Derrida points out that "Heidegger's thought (in Being and Time) is guided by the motif of the proximity of Being to the essence of man," and he makes this important and relevant observation: "It remains that the thinking of Being, the thinking of the truth of Being, in the name of which Heidegger de-limits humanism and metaphysics, remains as thinking of man. Man and the name of man are not displaced in the question of Being such as it is put to metaphysics. Even less do they disappear. On the contrary, at issue is a kind of reevaluation or revalorization of the essence and dignity of man. What is threatened in the extension of metaphysics and technology - and we know the essential necessity that leads Heidegger to associate them one to another - is the essence of man, which here would have to be thought before and beyond its metaphysical determinations. The widely and rapidly spreading devastation of language not only undermines aesthetic and moral responsibility in every use of language; it arises from a threat to the essence of humanity. Where else does 'care' tend but in the direction of bringing man back to his essence? What else does that in turn betoken but that man becomes human? Thus, humanitas really does remain the concern of such thinking. For this is humanism: meditating and caring that man be human and not inhumane, 'inhuman,' that is, outside his essence. But in what does the humanity of man consist? It lies in his essence (from Heidegger's, "Letter on Humanism," in Basic Writings, p.198-202)." (Margins of Philosophy, p. 128-129)
Here we get a glimpse of the grave conclusion to which Heidegger was drawn by his analysis of Nietzsche's philosophy of eternal return of the same and will-to-power. In the last volume of his study, Heidegger writes: The Overman simply leaves the man of traditional values behind, overtakes him, and transfers the justification for all laws and the positing of all values to the empowering of power. An act or accomplishment is valid as such only to the extent that it serves to equip, nurture, and enhance will to power. (Nietzsche, Vol. IV, p. 6)
The catastrophe for the Twentieth Century, in Heidegger's interpretation, is that the metaphysics of the will-to-power led to the dangerously exclusive assumption of power and validity by "calculative thinking" and "technology," which threaten humanity's potential for "the thinking of Being," which is its essence, at its very roots.
It is important for us to grasp the relevance of these philosophical insights, in the context of our study of the Divine Mother, and to reaffirm that the essence and being of man are indeed threatened today, as never before. And it is by those same powerful and dominant extensions of his being, in the form of communications and production technologies, by which he would establish a lasting and invulnerable world power, that he is likely to be undone. The tragic outcome of his illusion of the proximity of immortality, to be achieved through economic and military global dominance, will inevitably entail a magnitude of death and destruction, over time, from which it is unlikely that the human being will survive in its present form. The theme of "world domination," discussed at length by Heidegger in his study of Nietzsche, has come to the forefront of our concern again today, with constant daily references in the media to the games of nuclear-arms brinksmanship being played out between nations, to national economies being destroyed and governments collapsing under economic pressures brought on them by the controllers of world-economic power, and to the depletion and pollution of global water resources and food supplies, and destruction of the planet's ecology, as a result of a globally unsustainable human population growth, leading to famine, disease and revolt. All of these global crises are reported daily along with mundane news, advertising, and entertainment as though they were all equally dispensable bits of information to be deferred to another time.
But are these looming threats to human existence indications of the loss of its "essence," its Being? In fact, aren't they perfectly justifiable in terms of the nature of that Being itself, in the terms by which it has been understood by Nietzsche and Heidegger? In Being and Time, Heidegger has offered a detailed discussion of death as a necessary component of man's Being, as essential as its will-to-power and its tragic spirit: "As the end of Da-sein, death is the ownmost nonrelational, certain, and, as such, indefinite and not to be bypassed possibility of Da-sein. As the end of Da-sein, death is in the being of this being-toward-its-end. The problem of the possible wholeness of the being which we ourselves actually are exists justifiably if care, as the fundamental constitution of
Da-sein, "is connected" with death as the most extreme possibility of this being." (Being and Time, p. 239)
It is man's essence to know Being, as the Being of man, through its proximity to man, and by this knowing man transcends himself. But Being is known through man's powerlessness. Its Immortality is known through his mortality. Its infinity is known through his finite awareness. It is his transitory reality that enables him to conceive of the Idea, of the Timeless in the infinite diversity of its beings in time. Is it not, then, perfectly consistent with this understanding of Being that in the very threat to its existence Mankind comes into the greatest possible fullness of Being? And might this not be the most logical and consistent end-of-man, in the hour of greatest threat, to realize in this paradox of Being and mortality that is his essence, the will to surpass himself, and to become the "overman?"
The true solution, and the definitive transcendence, lies in the surpassing of man. And this solution is made possible by the manifestation of Being in a new form - one with not only the consciousness of Being, but with the Power of Being. And the way to this overcoming has been described in detail, and its experience narrated by Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, at the inevitable end of an epoch of the dominance of the mental, when the tragedy of man and his essence of mortality threatens to become the tragedy of the Earth. But it is now that the possibility of a true transcendence, and the realization of an absolute stillness and power, can reverse the very process of mortality.
And in this process of reversal, the destiny of the Earth may be held in a protective embrace, as the old and devalued forms crumble, and the new takes birth, emerging slowly into Being, as forms radiant with the delight and power of a divine Will-Force.
This is the process proclaimed by Savitri, the creative Word and luminous Force that descends in the mortal to effect this transformation. And the inevitable future is made explicit by this Word:
Even should a hostile force cling to its reign
And claim its right's perpetual sovereignty
And man refuse his high spiritual fate,
Yet shall the secret Truth in things prevail.
For in the march of all-fulfilling Time
The hour must come of the Transcendent's will:
All turns and winds towards his predestined ends
In Nature's fixed inevitable course
Decreed since the beginning of the worlds
In the deep essence of created things:
Even there shall come as a high crown of all
The end of Death, the death of Ignorance.
But first high Truth must set her feet on earth
And man aspire to the Eternal's light
And all his members feel the Spirit's touch
And all his life obey an inner Force.
This too shall be; for a new life shall come,
A body of the Superconscient's truth,
A native field of Supernature's mights:
It shall make earth's nescient ground Truth's colony,
Make even the Ignorance a transparent robe
Through which shall shine the brilliant limbs of Truth
And Truth shall be a sun on Nature's head
And Truth shall be the guide of Nature's steps
And Truth shall gaze out of her nether deeps.
When superman is born as Nature's king
His presence shall transfigure Matter's world:
He shall light up Truth's fire in Nature's night,
He shall lay upon the earth Truth's greater law;
Man too shall turn towards the Spirit's call.
Awake to his hidden possibility,
Awake to all that slept within his heart
And all that Nature meant when earth was formed
And the Spirit made this ignorant world his home,
He shall aspire to Truth and God and Bliss.
Interpreter of a diviner law
And instrument of a supreme design,
The higher kind shall lean to lift up man.
Man shall desire to climb to his own heights.
The truth above shall wake a nether truth,
Even the dumb earth become a sentient force.
The Spirit's tops and Nature's base shall draw
Near to the secret of their separate truth
And know each other as one deity.
The Spirit shall look out through Matter's gaze
And Matter shall reveal the Spirit's face. (XI.I.708-709)
The descent of this transforming force and the emergence of the divine consciousness-force in man is perhaps the last tragedy. For this force, symbolically named by Sri Aurobindo Savitri, has to confront death in us, as it did in the Mother, and in that confrontation the essence of man must be transformed. This is the true possibility, and the responsibility, of the "overman," and the process of the divine change.
But first the spirit's ascent we must achieve
Out of the chasm from which our nature rose.
The soul must soar sovereign above the form
And climb to summits beyond mind's half-sleep;
Our hearts we must inform with heavenly strength,
Surprise the animal with the occult god.
Then kindling the gold tongue of sacrifice,
Calling the powers of a bright hemisphere,
We shall shed the discredit of our mortal state,
Make the abysm a road for Heaven's descent,
Acquaint our depths with the supernal Ray
And cleave the darkness with the mystic Fire. (II.V.171-172)
December 31, 2002
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