Meditations on the human journey, Part 2

This talk was given at the Savitri Solar Dome, Crestone, Colorado, on August 15, 1995. This is the first half of Part 2. The second half is here. (Part 1 was published in the Spring 1996 issue of Collaboration.)



by C.V. Devan Nair

An evolutionary imperative is at work, and it is a radical evolution of consciousness in our age from mind to supermind. Recall Sri Aurobindo's words: "Man is a transitional animal; he is not final. For in man and high beyond him ascend the radiant degrees that climb to a divine supermanhood." Mental humanity may even now be undergoing, perhaps consciously in a few, something more than a quantum leap into a radically different superconsciousness. Sri Aurobindo preferred the Latin word saltus (i.e., a break in continuity) to describe the process. He wrote: "Mark that each of the great radical steps forward already taken by Nature has been infinitely greater in its change, incalculably vaster in its consequences than its puny predecessor."

The giant leap from mind to supermind will be incalculably greater than all its puny predecessors. That saltus will take up in its movement a spiritual revolution of which Sri Aurobindo wrote thus:

The changes we see in the world today are intellectual, moral, physical in their ideal and intention: the spiritual revolution waits for its hour and throws up meanwhile its waves here and there. Until it comes, the sense of the others cannot be understood and till then all interpretations of present happening and forecast of man's future are vain things. For its nature, power, event are that which will determine the next cycle of our humanity.

Our little gathering here, on this most felicitous of days, is just one of those waves thrown up here and there. Other small scattered groups around the world also constitute similar small waves. In truth, the precursors of all revolutions have invariably seemed a woeful minority. But what of that! Since when have forerunners ever begun as a majority at any stage of the evolutionary journey of life? We may be scorned as oddballs by the rest of the howling tribes. So be it. Regular squares stay put. But balls can roll. Indeed, we might add another beatitude to Christ's great list: Blessed are the oddballs for they shall be the first to roll into the Kingdom. We might also recall Sri Aurobindo, who wrote:

If Krishna be alone on one side and the armed and organized world with its hosts and its shrapnel and its maxims on the other, yet prefer the divine solitude. Care not if the world passes over thy body and its shrapnel tear thee to pieces and its cavalry trample thy limbs into shapeless mire by wayside; for the mind was always a simulacrum and the carcass. The spirit liberated from its casings ranges and triumphs.

Nn onetheless, Mother also announced: Salvation is physical. A divine life in a divine body must necessarily involve a physical transformation. But that comes, as Sri Aurobindo and Mother well knew, only as the culmination of the inner spiritual journey, not at the beginning, nor even at midpoint. Even in our external world, one cannot hope to obtain a Ph.D. without first having gone through the primary, secondary, pre-university, and university stages. And we tend to forget that Mother began her yoga of the body, her descent into the cellular level, only after practicing yoga for nearly 60 years, during which time she had systematically gone up and down the ladder of the worlds. It was after ascending to the supramental level that both Sri Aurobindo and the Mother began their descent through the physical subconscient down to the cellular and mineral levels. They were pilgrims of the Light first, before they became pilgrims of the Night, as Sri Aurobindo made clear in his sonnet, "The Pilgrim of the Night":

    I made an assignation with the Night;
    In the abyss was fixed our rendezvous:
    In my breast carrying God's deathless light I came
    Her dark and dangerous heart to woo.
    I left the glory of the illumined Mind
    And the calm rapture of the divinised soul
    And traveled through a vastness dim and blind
    To the grey shore where her ignorant waters I walk
    By the chill wave through the dull slime
    And still that weary journeying knows no end;
    Lost is the lustrous godhead beyond Time,
    There comes no voice of the celestial Friend,
    And yet I know my footprints' track shall be
    A pathway towards Immortality.

Sri Aurobindo and the Mother hewed for us, through trackless virgin jungle, a pathway to superhumanity. But one can be attacked by a grizzly bear even on a jogging track, as happened recently to a woman in Montana. Seekers need to be very clear in their minds that Sri Aurobindo's Integral Yoga is not an invitation to a picnic, and certainly not to an American-style extravaganza. There are serious pitfalls and dangers on the spiritual path, for the good reason that it is infinity we hope to explore and experience. And infinity contains heights as well as abysses, gods and angels as well as the devils of the deep. The light some seekers imagine they see at the end of the tunnel may be, as Robert Lowell once joked grimly, only the light of the oncoming train.

I am no guru (appalling thought), just one seeker among many. But like other fellow-seekers, I have come to appreciate the need for constant vigilance in the light of the teachings of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, so that one may not lose one's way and be stuck for an unconscionable time in what Sri Aurobindo called "the valley of the false glimmer." Talking about how the vital mimics the spiritual, Mother once observed: "The vital is a sort of super-theater giving performances--very alluring, dazzling, deceptive performances--and it's only when you know the True Thing that, immediately, instinctively, without reasoning, you discern and say, "'No, I don't want that.'"

There are several things in this country that merit admiration and emulation. Nonetheless, one must also observe that nowhere else is this vital super-theater more rampant than in America--a mindless craze for vital extravaganzas of all kinds. Your cinemas, theaters, newspapers, radios and television cable channels make billions of dollars providing them, not merely to cater to domestic vital appetites. You also export them to lands overseas, and have thus contributed to a worldwide deterioration of taste in art, poetry, literature, music, cinema, and theater. In January this year, on a visit to Pondicherry, I was taken aback to see a beautiful Indian lady on TV singing in Tamil the glories, not of Krishna or Shiva, but of Lux toilet soap. Next it might be Kentucky Fried Chicken, if that hasn't already begun. In modern Indian films they already leap, cavort, and vigorously shake their hips and bottoms a la Michael Jackson.

More things are in the offing, like what is called the information superhighway. Press some computer buttons and you can tune into the Internet's cyberspace, where you can encounter everything from vicious political and racist propaganda, religious fundamentalism and its screaming bigotries, terrorism and its targets, crackpot cults, pornography, and all the rest of the unholy tribes in the endless catalog of modern economic barbarism. We originally emerged from primitive forests, only to find ourselves today in an electronic jungle. Cyberspace, in fact, is the topmost floor of the modern counterpart of the biblical Tower of Babel. You know what happened to that tower.

It bears endless repetition that for those on the spiritual path, the true push-buttons of the human journey are within, not without. It is precisely all this vital super-theater that estranges us from the many-splendored thing we seek. One remembers two famous lines by Francis Thompson:

Tis ye, 'tis your estranged faces
That miss the many-splendored thing.


Sri Aurobindo gives us a purview of the vast inner panoramas of which our individual selves are manifestations. He says:

Even the movements of this little surface nature cannot be understood nor its true law discovered until we know all that is below or behind and supplies it--and know too all that is around it and above.

For below this conscient nature is the vast Inconscient out of which we come. The Inconscient is greater, deeper, more original, more potent to shape and govern what we are and do than our little derivative and conscient nature. Inconscient to us, to our surface view, but not inconscient in itself or to itself, it is a sovereign guide, worker, determinant, creator. Not to know it is not to know our nether origins and the origin of the most part of what we are and do. And the Inconscient is not all.

For behind our little frontal ego and nature is a whole subliminal kingdom of inner consciousness with many planes and provinces. There are in that kingdom many powers, movements, personalities which are part of ourselves and help to form our little surface personality and its powers and movements. This inner self, these inner persons we do not know, but they know us and observe and dictate our speech, our thoughts, feelings, doings even more directly than the Inconscient below us.

Around us too is a circumconscient Universal of which we are a portion. This circumconscience is pouring its forces, suggestions, stimuli, compulsions into us at every moment of our existence.

Around us is a universal Mind of which our mind is a formation and our thoughts, feelings, will, impulses are continually little more than a personally modified reception and transcription of its thought-waves, its force-currents, its foam of emotion and sensation, its billows of impulse.

Around us is a permanent universal Life of which our petty flow of life-formation that begins and ceases is only a small dynamic wave.

Savitri and The Life Divine make clear that there are not merely worlds below and around us, but also the spiritual and supramental worlds above. Then there is the supreme unmanifest Transcendent beyond all worlds, which is the one source and continent of all these other worlds, and before which all human mind and speech recoil. Sri Aurobindo and the Mother were the travelers of the worlds, and their Integral Yoga is a yoga of ascent and descent. With them it was never a question of seeking a personal salvation in the supreme Infinite, and leaving the world rotting below. Their aim was radically different, that of a life divine on earth in a gnostic consciousness, which they knew to be the goal of the long evolutionary process on our planet.

Part 2, conclusion

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