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At the Feet of The Mother

Writings on Book One


An In-depth Summary of Book One


‘The Book of Beginnings’, as the name itself suggests, lays the broad foundations of the story itself. The story in essence is the story of creation itself and the Divine Mother’s Advent that rescues earth and men from the darkness that has enveloped it. The story, therefore, starts with a description of this fathomless darkness. However, within this darkness, concealed as it were, there is the entire creation itself in a seed state, involved within it, so to say. But even more importantly there is within it the Divine Presence struggling to emerge out of this immense darkness. We are not told here how this darkness has come to be and how creation has plunged into this dark and obscure state. This truth is revealed to us later in the poem. Here we are introduced to this dark beginning of all things and the progressive advent of Light.

But this chasing away of darkness by the Light is itself a symbol of the Divine Mother’s Advent. Her coming is to chase away darkness and ignorance and death from earth that afflicts the fate of humanity and retards its Godward progress. Thus, we are introduced to Savitri in the very first canto itself, as an embodiment, an incarnation of the Divine Mother in far back times. In the very next canto we are also told about the purpose of Her incarnation which is to save man from his present predicament and the dangers that arise from the state of consciousness he finds himself in. Thus, the story becomes at once ancient as well as contemporary, in fact, perennial, since this danger of the collapse of creation into a state of darkness and chaos haunts earth and mankind in every cycle of creation. But She brings divine Hope, Light, Harmony, Order, Peace and above all Love. Indeed, through the story and the experiences of Savitri Sri Aurobindo gives us not only a glimpse but brings us into contact with the vast and luminous consciousness of the Divine Mother in Her present incarnation. Her own story becomes the symbol of a larger story taking place upon earth.

Thus trapped in the gin of earthly destinies,
Awaiting her ordeal’s hour abode,
Outcast from her inborn felicity,
Accepting life’s obscure terrestrial robe,
Hiding herself even from those she loved,
The godhead greater by a human fate.
A dark foreknowledge separated her
From all of whom she was the star and stay;
Too great to impart the peril and the pain,
In her torn depths she kept the grief to come.
As one who watching over men left blind
Takes up the load of an unwitting race,
Harbouring a foe whom with her heart she must feed,
. . .
Apart, living within, all lives she bore;
Aloof, she carried in herself the world:
Her dread was one with the great cosmic dread,
Her strength was founded on the cosmic mights;
The universal Mother’s love was hers.
Against the evil at life’s afflicted roots,
Her own calamity its private sign,
Of her pangs she made a mystic poignant sword.
A solitary mind, a world-wide heart,
To the lone Immortal’s unshared work she rose. [8-9]

After a brief introduction to the Divine Mother in Cantos 1 and 2 of this Book of Beginnings, the scene shifts into a kind of flashback revealing to us the background of this marvellous Advent. It is the tapasya of Aswapati, the human father of Savitri, who brings down Her Advent as a boon. At the end of a long and perilous journey, the yogi-seer Aswapati stands face to face with the Divine Mother and seeks Her direct intervention in earthly life which is packed with suffering and pain. In this first book we are also introduced to Aswapati as the forerunner and pioneer of the race who embodies within himself the aspiration and the anguish of humanity and seeks a way out of the impasse in which we are caught. It is a long and arduous tapasya, possible only to a divine representative assuming a human form, as King Aswapati indeed is. In ‘The Book of Beginnings’ we are introduced to some first important steps of Aswapati’s yogic journey. We are given a glimpse of the state and steps that mark King Aswapati’s freedom from the general state of ignorance to which humanity is subject. We are also given a glimpse of the secret knowledge to which he is admitted having freed himself from the clutch of earthly mind and senses that hold us captive to the state of ignorance. Finally, we are given a glimpse of the New Consciousness and the new Yoga of supramental descent that awaits its hour of manifestation. As this New Consciousness begins to descend into Aswapati bringing with it new and divine possibilities Aswapati renounces his individual realisation in favour of a much vaster change for earth and humanity as a whole.

Here comes the luminous close to the first book, the rest of his journey being described in Books Two and Three. Thus we see that once again the story is given a contemporary touch echoing through its pages the life of Sri Aurobindo himself, the vast labour undertaken by him, the arduous tapasya he engaged in, the purpose and goal of his Yoga.

One in the front of the immemorial quest,
Protagonist of the mysterious play
In which the Unknown pursues himself through forms
And limits his eternity by the hours
And the blind Void struggles to live and see,
A thinker and toiler in the ideal’s air,
Brought down to earth’s dumb need her radiant power.
His was a spirit that stooped from larger spheres
Into our province of ephemeral sight,
A colonist from immortality.
A pointing beam on earth’s uncertain roads,
His birth held up a symbol and a sign;
His human self like a translucent cloak
Covered the All-Wise who leads the unseeing world.
Affiliated to cosmic Space and Time
And paying here God’s debt to earth and man
A greater sonship was his divine right.
Although consenting to mortal ignorance,
His knowledge shared the Light ineffable.
A strength of the original Permanence
Entangled in the moment and its flow,
He kept the vision of the Vasts behind:
A power was in him from the Unknowable.
An archivist of the symbols of the Beyond,
A treasurer of superhuman dreams,
He bore the stamp of mighty memories
And shed their grandiose ray on human life. [22]


Book 1 Canto 1

Book One, Canto One has two main passages. The first passage, which is the very beginning of the book, describes through a succession of images the coming of Dawn amidst the Night. As the name of the canto itself suggests this is a symbol of a yet deeper reality. The Night here is the state of inconscience in which creation is plunged. However, this Night is not an absence but only a self-concealment of Light. Even in this utter darkness the seeds of creation are there waiting for their hour to sprout again. Touched by the Light they would spring up and bear their bloom. It is also revealed to us that this effort at creation is not the first one. Possibly it is another cycle of creation that is about to begin after an earlier civilisation has been plunged into darkness, what is called a pralaya in Indian thought and conception. During this dissolution of a whole cycle of civilisation, the structures and superstructures are pulled down into the dust of Time. Yet something remains. All is not finished. The soul of a civilisation, the memory of its collective effort remains as a seed state buried in the darkness in which everything has collapsed. But with the coming of Light there is an awakening of hope and effort amidst the torpor and drowse that accompanies the dissolution. All this makes the epic poem so very contemporary especially as we stood recently at the doorsteps of yet another collapse during the two great Wars and the widespread collapse of age-old institutions.

But there is hope; in fact, there always is hope because there is the Divine. Hidden in the depths of inconscience even as blazing above the distant horizons there is the Divine Presence. Just as light descends to awaken life once again, so too the Divine Consciousness descends upon Earth to awaken the souls and bring rescue to the Light hidden in the secret heart of Night. The first passage ends with this hope as also with the hint of the first divine descent into creation that comes to rescue and save. The second passage now reveals the truth behind the symbol Dawn. Savitri, an incarnation of the Divine Mother, has come down amidst the darkness of Ignorance to bring there Light, Truth, Peace, Harmony and Joy. Here too we see a progression, an initial resistance of the Night unwilling to yield to the growing Light, but eventually the Light grows stronger and more intense until even the darkest corners are suffused with the glow. It spreads and is diffused, so to say. So also the divine Advent meets with the resistance of humanity but slowly the magic works and in the inner battle of man’s soul with darkness and doom, Death is conquered and the way is opened for a new step in the great journey.

The canto ends poignantly on the note that ‘This was the day when Satyavan must die.’ It had started with the state of utter darkness thus, ‘It was the hour before the Gods awake’. Thus we know now where the story is poised and we have been given a hint about its end which is an inevitable victory of the Light. But now the battle must be faced in grim earnest, the resistance of Darkness and Death and Night must be negotiated and conquered, the soul of man called Satyavan rescued from the clutch of ignorance and pain. Savitri, the Divine Mother, is here upon earth to fight and win this battle for man.

IT WAS the hour before the Gods awake.
Across the path of the divine Event
The huge foreboding mind of Night, alone
In her unlit temple of eternity,
Lay stretched immobile upon Silence’ marge. [1]

All the fierce question of man’s hours relived.
The sacrifice of suffering and desire
Earth offers to the immortal Ecstasy
Began again beneath the eternal Hand.
Awake she endured the moments’ serried march
And looked on this green smiling dangerous world,
And heard the ignorant cry of living things.
Amid the trivial sounds, the unchanging scene
Her soul arose confronting Time and Fate.
Immobile in herself, she gathered force.
This was the day when Satyavan must die. [10]


Book 1 Canto 2

In Canto 2 we are given a brief summary of the story and its central theme which is the conquest of Love over death and fate. This Love is of course not the usual passion that human beings experience but a Power that descends from high to save creation. This Power has incarnated in Savitri who has come down to save Satyavan, the human soul entangled in the forest of human life and the laws of karma and all the forces of Ignorance that hold this earth and humanity a captive and slave. Savitri descends to change the law by accepting its burden upon herself. Therefore we find in this canto a constant contrast drawn between the human soul caught in the net of darkness and ignorance and the being of Savitri who has come to share the burden of the race and to save. Outwardly she too seems to share the same human fate as others but inwardly there is a vast difference. She refuses to accept the law of doom and chooses to fight and change the law that is rather too harsh upon the human soul still journeying in the darkness of the Night.

The first long passage (page 15) brings us in contact with Savitri’s being and the challenge that she faces assuming the human body and hence the human fate. Sri Aurobindo reveals to us through the eyes of Savitri the tangled knots of fate and the forces of Ignorance that keep the soul captive. But Savitri is born to save. She has brought with her the supreme Power of transformation, that is to say, Love. It is not love as we understand it but Love in its divine form, in its pristine purity and power. She is an embodiment of this Love. That is why she has accepted this burden and is capable of saving the race against the law of death.

The second passage contrasts our human life with Savitri who is now armed for the struggle. The Divine is ever ready to help but there is something in our nature that not only refuses but even actively revolts against the divine touch. This too must be faced and tackled for it is this that prevents man’s advance towards a divinisation of life, towards freedom from the law of death, towards Love and Light and Unity and Bliss. Once again Sri Aurobindo brings us back to the story and connects the inner state of Savitri with the outer story. She is now fully awake on the fated day, awake not only outwardly but awake with the power and strength of the Divine Mother who alone can change the law.

A deep of compassion, a hushed sanctuary,
Her inward help unbarred a gate in heaven;
Love in her was wider than the universe,
The whole world could take refuge in her single heart. [15]

The great World-Mother now in her arose:
A living choice reversed fate’s cold dead turn,
Affirmed the spirit’s tread on Circumstance,
Pressed back the senseless dire revolving Wheel
And stopped the mute march of Necessity.
A flaming warrior from the eternal peaks
Empowered to force the door denied and closed
Smote from Death’s visage its dumb absolute
And burst the bounds of consciousness and Time. [21]


Book 1 Canto 3

Now that we have been given the backdrop of the story and have been introduced to the being and persona of Savitri, the master Poet launches us into a long journey which relates to the birth and coming of Savitri. He now introduces us to Aswapati, the human father of Savitri, who brings her down into the mortal world from Her immortal heights. But who is Aswapati and why has he engaged himself in an arduous tapasya? It is towards this that the Poet invites us now. For the background of Savitri’s coming is not less interesting than the story of Savitri herself.

The canto starts by introducing us to Aswapati. He is the forerunner, a pioneer, so to say, who has come down from the higher worlds for a specific purpose. His thought and actions will leave an imprint and impact upon earth-nature.

His was a spirit that stooped from larger spheres
Into our province of ephemeral sight,
A colonist from immortality.
A pointing beam on earth’s uncertain roads,
His birth held up a symbol and a sign;
His human self like a translucent cloak
Covered the All-Wise who leads the unseeing world. [22]

All of us have within us something that is like a descent. The psychic being in man belongs in fact to the higher hemisphere of existence. It is a drop of divine Bliss, a crystallisation of divine Love that has entered into the play of Time and Space for eventually becoming a means for the divine manifestation upon earth. But first it must recover itself through a rather long evolutionary process stretching through many lives. We see this described in some marvellous lines that summarise the evolutionary journey of man, his real self that is hidden within, the grand purpose and the great goal towards which all creation with humanity as its spearhead moves. Aswapati has now come to lead humanity towards this grand fulfilment.

With this background, we are led into experience after experience that the seer King Aswapati undergoes as part of the transformation that is beginning to take place within him. These are high and profound experiences known to ancient yogis which are like a prototype of what humanity will later experience at large. Essentially these are experiences wherein there is a progressive heightening, widening and deepening of his consciousness bringing with it new powers and knowledge that are hidden behind the veil of our human personality. Described here in great detail are the ascending states of knowledge, the awakening and the operations of faculties of knowledge that are presently only rarely glimpsed, such as inspiration, revelation and intuition. Described also is the awakening of subtle senses as well as of higher powers. We also see here the actual movement of sadhana that moves in a waveform manner touching now the heights and now the abysses rather than moving in one straight-line ascension. This is so because of the integral nature of Reality and of the workings of the Yoga-Force, the Divine Shakti. Finally, the seer King Aswapati being led through these experiences arrives at the first fundamental freedom, the freedom of his soul from the clutches of the lower nature. This allows the soul to soar higher and higher and ascend to regions of Light and Peace freed from all delusion and grief.

   Thus came his soul’s release from Ignorance,
His mind and body’s first spiritual change.
A wide God-knowledge poured down from above,
A new world-knowledge broadened from within:
His daily thoughts looked up to the True and One,
His commonest doings welled from an inner Light.
Awakened to the lines that Nature hides,
Attuned to her movements that exceed our ken,
He grew one with a covert universe….
One and harmonious by the Maker’s skill,
The human in him paced with the divine;
His acts betrayed not the interior flame.
This forged the greatness of his front to earth.
A genius heightened in his body’s cells
That knew the meaning of his fate-hedged works
Akin to the march of unaccomplished Powers
Beyond life’s arc in spirit’s immensities.
Apart he lived in his mind’s solitude,
A demigod shaping the lives of men:
One soul’s ambition lifted up the race;
A Power worked, but none knew whence it came.
The universal strengths were linked with his;
Filling earth’s smallness with their boundless breadths,
He drew the energies that transmute an age. [44-45]


Book 1 Canto 4

Having freed his soul from the bondage of ignorance that ties us like a helpless creature to the stake, Aswapati now turns his gaze deeper to discover the secret Wisdom that has gone forth into the creation. He seeks and discovers the master plan of this universe, its occult cause and moving force, the great purpose and the will that labours in the atoms and the stars, the far-off goal towards which creation moves. Step by step he discovers the secret Knowledge, secret because we cannot find it through the mind or the senses but can discover it through other faculties and powers which have now awakened in Aswapati. It is a great grand reversal, a reversal of understanding, a reversal of our self-regard and world-view, a reversal of the very basis of our action and our values. Along the path of this discovery, one of the first and the most fundamental discoveries is that of the secret Fire that burns within everything. This Fire is the divine Will that hides behind the mask of forms and names. It is the Glory of God whose sparks illuminate creation and lead our life towards the Divine and creates even here a response to all that is True, Good and Beautiful. In man this spark develops into a flame, the psychic centre that survives death and returns again into the great adventure of life for the great fulfilment.

But all this is hidden and what we experience here is only a half-light or grey shadows of the unseen Reality cast by our surface mind. Yet man can connect with this deeper source of wisdom and power and thereby reorganise his entire life. This is the yoga of the earth that has been going on since its inception. Earth is the chosen place for this work wherein the Divine hid within matter uncovers and manifests Himself progressively. We call it evolution, but from a spiritual perspective all evolution is simply a growing manifestation of That which is concealed within. Therefore, it is inevitable that one day the Divine hid in forms will manifest Himself fully and thereby our present life based on ignorance and suffering and error will change into a life of Truth and Beauty and Bliss and Love,  a life divine.

Man is meant to be the catalyst for this great change. Now he moves between two poles of one tremendous Reality. On one side of our human consciousness, below it, so to say, is the dark pole of existence where all is a shadow and ignorance. On the other side are the flaming powers and potencies of God. But the most important Truth is that within us is the One who is present in each and every element and particle of creation. He is ever close to us and intervenes with His powers and His Grace to lead creation out of chaos and confusion towards Light and Beauty and Truth. Behind all the surface anomalies of life there is a Guidance that leads us through everything in this ignorance towards the great divine disclosure.

What follows next are some long and engaging passages describing how the One becomes the Two for the purposes of His Play. Soul and nature, Purusha and Prakriti, Ishwara and Shakti are various poises of the One Reality for the sake of creation. So too Knowledge and Ignorance, the gods and the titans are luminous and shadowy masks of the One. It is He who has become all these various objects. It is He who has become Space and Time and the creation. It is He who has become bird and beast and man. In and through man He climbs towards still greater heights of supermanhood and a divinised humanity. Since God has become man, since man is created in the image of God, so to say, man must become one with God. He is so already in essence as indeed all creation is. But what is within him in essence must become his normal and natural state. This is the purpose of creation, its eventual design. What we now see, however, is a half-finished product. The emergence of divinity in man is the next logical step, the inevitable next disclosure of creation.

Finally, Sri Aurobindo takes us on the entire evolutionary journey of man from the most primitive stages where man is conscious only of the immediate material world and physical existence through various degrees of self-awareness and world-awareness until he becomes a seeker of Truth and Light and begins to be drawn towards what lies beyond his mind and his present limited consciousness. The canto ends once again with the hope and the certitude of a New Creation upon earth, a divine creation with the full manifestation of divinity, of the divine Truth and Power and Glory upon earth and in man.

A sailor on the Inconscient’s fathomless sea,
He voyages through a starry world of thought
On Matter’s deck to a spiritual sun.
Across the noise and multitudinous cry,
Across the rapt unknowable silences,
Through a strange mid-world under supernal skies,
Beyond earth’s longitudes and latitudes,
His goal is fixed outside all present maps.
But none learns whither through the unknown he sails
Or what secret mission the great Mother gave.
In the hidden strength of her omnipotent Will,
Driven by her breath across life’s tossing deep,
Through the thunder’s roar and through the windless hush,
Through fog and mist where nothing more is seen,
He carries her sealed orders in his breast.
Late will he know, opening the mystic script,
Whether to a blank port in the Unseen
He goes or, armed with her fiat, to discover
A new mind and body in the city of God
And enshrine the Immortal in his glory’s house
And make the finite one with Infinity.
. . .
He travels on through waking and through sleep.
A power is on him from her occult force
That ties him to his own creation’s fate,
And never can the mighty Traveller rest
And never can the mystic voyage cease
Till the nescient dusk is lifted from man’s soul
And the morns of God have overtaken his night.
As long as Nature lasts, he too is there,
For this is sure that he and she are one;
Even when he sleeps, he keeps her on his breast:
Whoever leaves her, he will not depart
To repose without her in the Unknowable.
There is a truth to know, a work to do;
Her play is real; a Mystery he fulfils:
There is a plan in the Mother’s deep world-whim,
A purpose in her vast and random game. [71-72]


Book 1 Canto 5

Now Aswapati’s gaze is turned to discover the greater possibilities that await the embodied being upon earth. The Spirit’s now hidden powers must manifest in a nature that is ready and released from the bonds of Ignorance. It is here that we see Sri Aurobindo’s Yoga beginning to part ways with the traditional yogas that are content to seek a release from Ignorance and thereby disappear from the manifestation, abandoning the cosmic labour. Instead, Aswapati is striving to bring down a greater world, to hasten the advent of the superhuman form upon earth that he has seen as the far-off goal awaiting its hour.

But first we are led to share the great discovery that what we experience as a mystic void or a Nihil is in fact filled with the omniscience and omnipotence of the Divine. Therein Aswapati steps in and discovers the grand reconciliation he is seeking between God and world, soul and nature, Spirit and matter. The secret sense and purpose of the Night of ignorance and error and pain are now revealed to Him. He discovers why the Divine has chosen to become what seems to be His very opposite. In other words, he discovers the greatest of all truths that ‘there is nothing else but the Divine.’

Once this is revealed a new aspiration is now born in Aswapati. He seeks to embody the divine in this house of flesh. It is no more enough for him to experience and realise the Divine within. Even the outermost consciousness, even this material body in its each and every cell must experience this profound truth and undergo a transformation by its touch and pressure. It is an entirely new and unprecedented aspiration and needs full commitment. So we are told that Aswapati withdraws from the din and noise of earthly life to focus on this one goal above all else. Even as he thus hopes and aspires he is surprised by a descent from above. Some Power and Glory of God, some Bliss and Beauty of the Unmanifest descends from the transcendent realms into his body and being, initiating a new transformation.

   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.
The glory he had glimpsed must be his home.
A brighter heavenlier sun must soon illume
This dusk room with its dark internal stair,
The infant soul in its small nursery school
Mid objects meant for a lesson hardly learned
Outgrow its early grammar of intellect
And its imitation of Earth-Nature’s art,
Its earthly dialect to God-language change,
In living symbols study Reality
And learn the logic of the Infinite.
The Ideal must be Nature’s common truth,
The body illumined with the indwelling God,
The heart and mind feel one with all that is,
A conscious soul live in a conscious world. [76-77]

   In a divine retreat from mortal thought,
In a prodigious gesture of soul-sight,
His being towered into pathless heights,
Naked of its vesture of humanity.
As thus it rose, to meet him bare and pure
A strong Descent leaped down. A Might, a Flame,
A Beauty half-visible with deathless eyes,
A violent Ecstasy, a Sweetness dire,
Enveloped him with its stupendous limbs
And penetrated nerve and heart and brain [80-81]

This transformation reveals to him the entire secret plan, the forces and springs that move creation, the powers that create numerous finites out of the One Infinite. The entire range of occult powers and cosmic forces now pass into his charge. He begins to enter into the supramental domain even while in the body and fully consciously. He glimpses the triune One, the Supreme Transcendent Divine as Sachchidananda. He enters into the adventure of the unknown.

This canto and the book end here. The descent now opens new possibilities of the future, not only for Aswapati but for the earth and humanity. Ascension of consciousness must necessarily be an individual phenomenon though it may include more and more individuals. But the descent can become a collective possibility if the Powers and Forces that descend can find a sufficient point of support in earth nature and from that point spread as a contagion to the rest of humanity. Now Aswapati turns towards that possibility. Renouncing his individual realisation he turns towards the earth and studies the various forces and energies that have gone into its making and worked towards our evolution. All this is described in Book 2 and Book 3 in great detail.



Beginnings, – the Dawn (Book 1, Canto 1)


The Coming of the Divine Mother and the Initiation of the Earth

The seers of the Vedas saw in the physical world a reflection and an image of subtle profound truths. They used this imagery with a deftness to convey deeper realities to man’s consciousness still bound to the physical world and its images. Sri Aurobindo, in almost a similar vein, opens the first canto of Savitri with the powerful symbol of dawn. However, even though this is a symbol of illumination, and more specifically, the awakening of man to greater truths and hidden realities of existence, he with his masterly touch weaves it into the narrative of the epic. Thus, the dawn becomes at once a symbol and a reality. On the physical plane, it is the day of destiny when Satyavan must die. But at a deeper level, and almost paradoxically, it is the dawn of creation, the coming of hope, light, effort, beauty and joy into the world. The prophesied day of the fatal stroke is described so beautifully because regardless of the dark sombre night, the Divine Mother is there bending over earth to bring about the needed change. She is the giver of Hope, of Light, of Beauty, of Strength, of Bliss. Her coming, her Presence is the sure sign that all will turn out to be good for even out of darkness, She can pluck out the Light. Lighting the commonest of objects, even the dust below our feet, She creates shapes of beauty. She is indeed the Creatrix Consciousness, the Power of the Lord of whom the sun is a representative symbol. Even as the sun stays where it is but awakens, illumines and conducts all the operations of creation from its birth until its passing, — or its evolutionary change, through the rays leaning across the spaces, so too She has come from the land of shadowless Light reaching out to one and all for the enormous task before Her.

But this is not the first time this is happening. Whenever creation has been plunged into darkness, in a state of utter oblivion, losing all strength and hope, She comes. Listening to the cry of nature, She arrives from the other side of boundlessness to change all this into Light by Her transfiguring touch. When that happens, then all grows beautiful and joyous, uplifted as a sacrament reaching out to the highest abode of Truth. The will and the joy to live is born with Her coming and man once again takes up the journey of fate whose far ends are not visible to his eyes.

All this is revealed to us at the very opening. It is as if the essence of the story is being given to us. Savitri is after all the story of the Divine Mother’s Advent that will change the tides of Time. It is the story of the conquest over darkness by Her Light and Peace and Love. It is the story of conjugal love conquering death, the conjugal love born of the eternal wedding of the human soul struggling in ignorance with its Divine Beloved. If that can happen, if the human soul can give itself unreservedly to the Divine Mother, surrender itself to Her transfiguring touch, then nothing is impossible. Such is the message of Savitri, the message of hope that comes by the Presence of divine Love in creation. After all, creation is not an accident, it is a divine event. There are a Will and Wisdom working in its heart. True it has plunged into darkness and seems to have lost its aim and direction, but She is there to redeem it by Her Love and Light. She is there as an inmost Presence moulding the clay from behind the seemingly mechanical workings of material nature. But more importantly, She descends into our obscure outer fields of ignorance, dons the terrestrial robe of mortality and death, stands as the leader and queen of the human march, fights for us against inevitable destiny and the complex workings of blind fate to win the godlike game for man. Because She is there the world can hope and dare; because She is there the world can climb towards the Light; because She is there the world forgets to die; because She is there man will one day cross the dangerous brink of death that skirts throughout his journey of life and discover the pathways of immortality.

She is not only up above but here too, in a human body. Through the toil of the Ages, She labours to mould creation and man into a perfect image of God. But some consent is needed from man for Her workings to have full effect. Even without this consent the Truth hidden behind nature is sure to reveal itself but our consent will make the journey shorter and smoother. Alas! Man prefers the comfort zones of his ignorance rather than the great adventure of life to discover its own hidden truth. He prefers his routine and accustomed ways rather than the greatest of all adventures that will take him eventually beyond even the gods. He prefers his little comforts and small ephemeral joys rather than to be charged with the passion of the Infinite. He repels the Light and prefers to go back to sleep in the night of his ignorance which he mistakenly calls light. And when the true Light comes into his life, he rejects its divine gifts doubting them and prefers instead the old and ‘seemingly secure’ ways. Nay, he even tries to capture the Splendour that has come from afar and shut it into his little room with locks of creeds and cults. The Light comes for all but he tries to appropriate it for his personal use, claiming it for himself alone for his egoistic uses. He erects temples and churches and mosques around the divine Name but refuses to build the one true temple of the Godhead that dwells within his own heart, refuses to participate in the great labour of creation to manifest the Godhead hidden in the depths of creation, refuses to change and be transformed by Her touch of Love.

Such has been the story so far. But the Divine Mother refuses to give up. She knows that it is not man but the Inconscient that holds the human soul captive in its net of ignorance and death. All growth is out of darkness into the Light and darkness does not easily give up its reign. It extracts its price of suffering which is what it knows. It inflicts upon the Light and its messengers the law of misery and pain, it afflicts us with unconsciousness and imprisons us with the deceptive play of falsehood that makes us turn away from Light and Peace and Truth and Love. But She has come and all will surely change. While man can and must collaborate, Her work does not depend upon man. She has been labouring since earth began, nay She has been there even before the elements could emerge. Her Love has plunged into the darkness of the Inconscient and fights with doom. That is why in spite of everything slowly the Light grows and man evolves and earth moves further in its tremendous journey towards the Light. It is Her Work and She is bound to succeed but meanwhile, man must go through the state of death and darkness knowing that She is here. She is here upon earth, leaving Her Abode of Truth. ‘She made earth her home, for whom heaven was too small.’ She has accepted the burden of human fate even though man refuses and the abyss denies. She has become the sacrifice so that man may burn in Her purifying fire and emerge as a new being with a new body and mind and this earthly life become the life divine.

This is the great significance of Her coming, Her coming for which seers and sages have waited and aspired.

Her coming they had asked for earth and men. [332]



Darkness to Light (Book 1, Canto 1)


The Vedas and the Upanishads speak of human life as a journey from darkness to Light. The darkness is the state of ignorance from which all seems to emerge. It is this ignorance which is the cause of suffering and pain. Since we are ever surrounded by this ignorance we fill it with all kinds of beliefs and conceptions. Our hopes create heavens, our shame creates hell. Our fears create death. Thus we get trapped in our mental conceptions which take the place of Reality. These conceptions become the prison of our souls. How to break free from this state? Well, the way is to free ourselves from our mind and senses that hold us a captive. But if mind sits a jailor and the senses build the jail walls, our desires become so many bars between us and the vast Freedom and Delight that are at the root of the creation. This need for freedom, this compelling urge in nature that climbs from a state of darkness towards Light as if drawn helplessly is beautifully described in the famous verse of the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad:

Asado ma sadgamaya, tamaso ma jyotirgamaya, mrityor ma amritamgamaya……

From Non-being to the true Being, from Darkness to Light, from Death to Immortality.

This is not to say that something corresponding to the state of heaven and hell does not exist. States of joy and peace (heavens) as well as states of suffering and despair (hell) exist. So also death exists, not as we understand it but as a power of destruction in the universe. This destruction removes forms that can no longer serve the evolutionary purpose that drives creation. It is, we may even say, indispensable, complementary to the birth of forms. This destruction or the cessation of forms would not, however, carry so much horror attached to it if we were conscious of the immortal element within us and identified with it. Then it will be no more than changing our clothes as the Gita puts it succinctly. It is our ignorance that gives to death its awful shape of terror and fear. Due to this fear and terror that get associated with the destruction of forms, death appears as something abominable to our limited consciousness. We begin to live in its shadow, which increases with every year of our life upon earth, as if a grim reminder of the transience of all our joys and the brevity of our love. It seems to make all our efforts at perfection vain until we in our limited understanding of the ways of God in creation end up declaring all as an illusion and creation itself a vanity of vanities. Quite naturally, such a God, if any existed, would not be the wise and compassionate Being we intuitively expect Him to be, but a kind of tyrant who builds worlds merely to trap our souls in an illusion, and make us pray to him out of fear and run towards Him from the horror of creation. Such is often the god of religions, painted in the human mind through popular lore and certain scriptures. This fear and horror are due to the Ignorance and the Inconscient that stand at the back of the world and from which not only our souls but also our nature seeks deliverance.

My will, my call is there in men and things;
But the Inconscient lies at the world’s grey back
And draws to its breast of Night and Death and Sleep.
Imprisoned in its dark and dumb abyss
A little consciousness it lets escape
But jealous of the growing light holds back
Close to the obscure edges of its cave
As if a fond ignorant mother kept her child
Tied to her apron strings of Nescience.
The Inconscient could not read without man’s mind
The mystery of the world its sleep has made:
Man is its key to unlock a conscious door.
But still it holds him dangled in its grasp:
It draws its giant circle round his thoughts,
It shuts his heart to the supernal Light. [690]

But Truth is other than what we conceive of It with our limited consciousness. This world is other than what it seems. It is an illusion only in the sense that we do not perceive it correctly. But we can correct our perceptions, we can fill our minds with Truth-Light, flood our senses with the harmonious rhythms of Beauty that stand behind creation. Thus can this illusion be corrected and this nightmare cease to be. Thus reveals Savitri to us:

But Maya is a veil of the Absolute;
A Truth occult has made this mighty world:
The Eternal’s wisdom and self-knowledge act
In ignorant Mind and in the body’s steps.
The Inconscient is the Superconscient’s sleep.
An unintelligible Intelligence
Invents creation’s paradox profound;
Spiritual thought is crammed in Matter’s forms,
Unseen it throws out a dumb energy
And works a miracle by a machine.
All here is a mystery of contraries:
Darkness a magic of self-hidden Light,
Suffering some secret rapture’s tragic mask
And death an instrument of perpetual life.
Although Death walks beside us on Life’s road,
A dim bystander at the body’s start
And a last judgment on man’s futile works,
Other is the riddle of its ambiguous face:
Death is a stair, a door, a stumbling stride
The soul must take to cross from birth to birth,
A grey defeat pregnant with victory,
A whip to lash us towards our deathless state.
The inconscient world is the spirit’s self-made room,
Eternal Night shadow of eternal Day.
Night is not our beginning nor our end;
She is the dark Mother in whose womb we have hid
Safe from too swift a waking to world-pain.
We came to her from a supernal Light,
By Light we live and to the Light we go. [600-601]

And the Mother says:

The knowledge possessed by the Yogi is also an answer to the terrible theory that all that takes place is God’s direct working. For once you rise to the Supermind you immediately perceive that the world is false and distorted. The supramental truth has not at all found manifestation. How then can the world be a genuine expression of the Divine? Only when the Supermind is established and rules here, then alone the Supreme Will may be said to have authentically manifested. At the same time, we must steer clear of the dangerous exaggeration of the sense of the falsehood of the world, which comes to those who have risen to the higher consciousness. What happened with Shankara and others like him was that they had a glimpse of the true consciousness, which threw the falsehood of this world into such sharp contrast that they declared the universe to be not only false but also a really non-existent illusion which should be entirely abandoned. We, on the other hand, see its falsehood, but realise also that it has to be replaced and not abandoned as an illusion. Only, the truth has got mistranslated, something has stepped in to pervert the divine reality, but the world is in fact meant to express it. And to express it is indeed our Yoga.

CWM 3: 162

What is the way? The path is inbuilt within us. We have been already provided with the means to rectify the distortion. Deep within the heart of creation, in each and every particle of creation, in the very dust that constitutes this earth, there is lit a flame, a flame of aspiration that ever burns and increases by the day and the night. It seeks for Beauty and Truth and Good even when all around is darkness and strife. It is the immortal element in us that survives death and defeat, rises from the pyre and the grave, persists in the effort and the pang despite a million obstacles and temporary failures. Savitri reveals to us the secret of this flame of God that resides within man:

But since she knows the toil of mind and life
As a mother feels and shares her children’s lives,
She puts forth a small portion of herself,
A being no bigger than the thumb of man
Into a hidden region of the heart
To face the pang and to forget the bliss,
To share the suffering and endure earth’s wounds
And labour mid the labour of the stars.
This in us laughs and weeps, suffers the stroke,
Exults in victory, struggles for the crown;
Identified with the mind and body and life,
It takes on itself their anguish and defeat,
Bleeds with Fate’s whips and hangs upon the cross,
Yet is the unwounded and immortal self
Supporting the actor in the human scene.
Through this she sends us her glory and her powers,
Pushes to wisdom’s heights, through misery’s gulfs;
She gives us strength to do our daily task
And sympathy that partakes of others’ grief
And the little strength we have to help our race,
We who must fill the role of the universe
Acting itself out in a slight human shape
And on our shoulders carry the struggling world.
This is in us the godhead small and marred;
In this human portion of divinity
She seats the greatness of the Soul in Time
To uplift from light to light, from power to power,
Till on a heavenly peak it stands, a king. [526-527]

Savitri also assures us the eventual victory of this spark of God against the darkness of Ignorance that surrounds our life here. This flame which is a gift of Grace to life upon earth was implanted even before early life-forms emerged. It has been sent especially to earth to assist the evolutionary process through the long winding roads of Time. But from time to time, when the play of earthly life becomes too dramatic, when creation is passing through a crucial phase and stands on the brink of chaos and collapse, a special Intervention takes place to assist the journey. A breath of God comes down from the heights and the Spirit becomes flesh again so that filled with its divine afflatus, matter too can become conscious of the Spirit. These periods of Intervention when the otherwise slow and painful evolution takes a sudden and swift leap are called the ‘Hour of God’, and the special Descents that change the course of Time and save creation from inevitable disaster are known as Avataras. Of course God is always there hidden behind all things, behind creation as well as destruction, behind good as well as evil, using both as a means of the human ascension towards divine Freedom, Light, Truth and Immortality. He pushes things from behind using instruments for His grand design. But during these special Descents, He Himself steps into the forefront of the journey, takes up the role of the Leader and the Guide, steers the wheel of Time and changes destiny. Once the change is affected, the decisive turn taken, the victory of Light and Truth assured, the breath of God retires for a while even as it now watches from the hills of silence from where it had descended. Then man must once again follow the labour of the stars now aligned rightly and set to course by the divine Intervention. He along with Time must work out the great journey and its next step with faith as the compass and the awakened soul as the pilot and guide. It is one of these divine Interventions that is described in Savitri, the Hour of God when the Divine Mother Herself descended into creation to lead it one step forward towards its inevitable destiny, — Light and Truth and Freedom and Bliss. In fact, the New Dawn is closest when the Night is thickest:

But when the hour of the Divine draws near
The Mighty Mother shall take birth in Time
And God be born into the human clay
In forms made ready by your human lives.
Then shall the Truth supreme be given to men: [705]

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. [708]



Human Aspiration and the Past Dawns (Book 1, Canto 1)


The truth of an inner awakening and growth of experiences on the spiritual journey is beautifully described by Sri Aurobindo through the images of dawn and light as they progress during the day. Even as the dawn, at first just a faint glimmer, next a trickle of light, grows into the full blaze of the sun, so too our spiritual journey begins with the birth of aspiration, an awakening to the Truth, then experiences come and go touching us awhile until finally darkness is dissolved in the growing Light.

First, of course, is the birth of aspiration. Our earthly matter becomes a vase that holds the flame. We must guard it against the forces of Night that are still active. But eventually dawn arrives and with it the first glow of awakening. There is now clarity as the path is seen before us. It is like the initiatory ritual of yoga. In the beginning is prepared the close. So too the seeds of Light enter deep into the Earth and bury the dreams of the Sun and its grandeur into the human soil. There is an outpouring of the revelations and the glories that have just been witnessed. All this is yet a first sign of the things that are yet to come. The Light brings with it the message of hope, the certainty of the victory against the Night and its powers that have taken shelter in our obscure parts. However dark the Night, however difficult and challenging the battle with the Inconscient, the triumph of the divine afflatus is bound to come. Even if the Light seems to fade after a while, it has given the impetus and the impulsion for a future New Creation. The seeds sown in this hour will surely sprout one day when the time is ripe and the seasons are ready.

The seemingly senseless world begins to assume a new meaning and purpose revealing in its newfound Light the drift of past dawns and the spiritual efforts of the past seers of Truth and Light. The inner sky of man, the heavens of his higher mentality, are filled with wonder and beatitude. His nature’s peaks are set afire and glow with the splendour. The orange-red glow reminds the earth that one day its red and brown body will turn into sun-bright gold. Matter shall be transformed by the Spirit’s power and the past spiritual awakenings will come to their full fruit and eventual fulfilment.

By making a reference to the past spiritual dawns and then connecting them to the present and the future, Sri Aurobindo sheds a new light on our current understanding of the myths that believes they were mere babbles of a primitive people who were nature-worshippers. Just as in this opening passage of Savitri, the past seers too used the images of physical nature to reveal profound inner experiences. The initiate who had taken to the path of these ‘forefathers’ could well understand their meaning while to the non-initiate the inner sense was lost in a jumble of unintelligible words.

Sri Aurobindo too uses very much a similar style and imagery as the Vedas that speak about the forefathers who had gone before the Rishis of that time. It will not be an exaggeration to say that Savitri is indeed a Veda, a Veda of the future that carries the lines of previous spiritual efforts of mankind to their grand culmination. What has been foreseen and promised comes to its inevitable fulfilment.

Our earth shaped out of the dark inconscient ocean of existence lifts its high formations and ascending peaks heavenward; the heaven of mind has its own formations, clouds that give out their lightnings and their waters of life; the streams of the clarity and the honey ascend out of the subconscient ocean below and seek the superconscient ocean above; and from above that ocean sends downward its rivers of the light and truth and bliss even into our physical being. Thus in images of physical Nature the Vedic poets sing the hymn of our spiritual ascension.

That ascension has already been effected by the Ancients, the human forefathers, and the spirits of these great Ancestors still assist their offspring; for the new dawns repeat the old and lean forward in light to join the dawns of the future.

CWSA 15: 383

We may therefore surmise that our actual Sanhita represents the close of a period, not its commencement, nor even some of its successive stages. It is even possible that its most ancient hymns are a comparatively modern development or a version of a more ancient1) lyric evangel couched in the freer and more pliable forms of a still earlier human speech. Or the whole voluminous mass of its litanies may be only a selection by Veda Vyasa out of a more richly vocal Aryan past. Made, according to the common belief, by Krishna of the Isle, the great traditional sage, the colossal compiler (Vyasa), with his face turned towards the commencement of the Iron Age, towards the centuries of increasing twilight and final darkness, it is perhaps only the last testament of the Ages of Intuition, the luminous Dawns of the Forefathers, to their descendants, to a human race already turning in spirit towards the lower levels and the more easy and secure gains — secure perhaps only in appearance — of the physical life and of the intellect and the logical reason.

But these are only speculations and inferences. Certain it is that the old tradition of a progressive obscuration and loss of the Veda as the law of the human cycle has been fully justified by the event. The obscuration had already proceeded far before the opening of the next great age of Indian spirituality, the Vedantic, which struggled to preserve or recover what it yet could of the ancient knowledge. It could hardly have been otherwise. For the system of the Vedic mystics was founded upon experiences difficult to ordinary mankind and proceeded by the aid of faculties which in most of us are rudimentary and imperfectly developed and, when active at all, are mixed and irregular in their operation. Once the first intensity of the search after the truth had passed, periods of fatigue and relaxation were bound to intervene in which the old truths would be partially lost. Nor once lost, could they easily be recovered by scrutinising the sense of the ancient hymns; for those hymns were couched in a language that was deliberately ambiguous.

CWSA 15: 12-13

The Mother also reminds us in her answers to a student:

Sweet Mother, you have said: The Supramental has descended upon earth. What does that mean exactly? You have also said: “The things that were promised are fulfilled.” What are these things?((( Mother announced the Supramental Manifestation of February 29 in two messages published in the Bulletin of April 1956:
“Lord, Thou hast willed and I execute,
A new light breaks upon the earth,
A new world is born.
The things that were promised are fulfilled.”
“The manifestation of the Supramental upon earth is no more a promise but a living fact, a reality.
“It is at work here, and one day will come when the most blind, the most unconscious, even the most unwilling shall be obliged to recognise it.”)))

Ah, that’s ignorance indeed! This was promised a very long time ago, this was said very long ago — not only here — since the beginning of the earth. There have been all kinds of predictions, by all kinds of prophets; it has been said, “There will be a new heaven and a new earth, a new race will be born, the world will be transformed….” Prophets have spoken about this in all the traditions.

You have said, “They are fulfilled.”

Yes. And so?

Where is the new race?

The new race? Wait for something like… a few thousand years, and you will see it!

When the mind descended upon earth, between the time the mind manifested in the earth-atmosphere and the time the first man appeared, nearly a million years elapsed. Now it will go faster because man expects it, he has a vague idea; he is expecting in some sense the advent of the superman, while, certainly, the apes did not expect the birth of man, they had never thought of it — for the good reason that they probably don’t think much. But man has thought of it and awaits it, so it will go faster. But faster means still thousands of years probably. We shall speak about it again after a few thousand years!


People who are inwardly ready, who are open and in contact with higher forces, people who have had a more or less direct personal contact with the supramental Light and Consciousness are able to feel the difference in the earth-atmosphere.

But for that… Only the like can know the like, only the supramental Consciousness in an individual can perceive this Supermind acting in the earth-atmosphere. Those who, for some reason or other, have developed this perception, can see it. But those who are not even conscious of an inner being — just slightly within — and who would be quite at a loss to say what their soul is like, these certainly are not ready to perceive the difference in the earth-atmosphere. They still have a long way to go for that. Because, for those whose consciousness is more or less exclusively centred in the outer being — mental, vital and physical — things need to take on an absurd and unexpected appearance for them to be able to recognise them. Then they call them miracles.

But the constant miracle of the intervention of forces which changes circumstances and characters and has a very widespread result, this they do not call a miracle, for only the mere appearance is seen and this seems quite natural. But, truly speaking, if you were to reflect upon the least little thing that happens, you would be obliged to acknowledge that it is miraculous. It is simply because you don’t reflect upon it that you take things as they are, for what they are, without questioning; otherwise every day you would have any number of occasions to tell yourself, “Really, but this is quite astonishing! How did it happen?”

Quite simply, it is a habit of seeing things in a purely superficial way.

CWM 8: 126-128


The fire mentioned in the Vedas is quite clearly not just the heat and light of the outer sun but the mystic fire worshipped by the ancient mystics. It is a subtle fire experienced through the eye of yoga. This fire is the first clear manifestation of the divinity in man and represents the divine Will working in the cosmos:

When the seer speaks of Agni as “the luminous guardian of the Truth shining out in his own home”, or of Mitra and Varuna or other gods as “in touch with the Truth and making the Truth grow” or as “born in the Truth”, these are words of a mystic poet, who is thinking of that inner Truth behind things of which the early sages were the seekers. He is not thinking of the Nature-Power presiding over the outer element of fire or of the fire of the ceremonial sacrifice.

Sri Aurobindo: Hymns to the Mystic Fire, p. 12

The elements of the outer sacrifice in the Veda are used as symbols of the inner sacrifice and self-offering; we give what we are and what we have in order that the riches of the divine Truth and Light may descend into our life and become the elements of our inner birth into the Truth, — a right thinking, a right understanding, a right action must develop in us which is the thinking, impulsion and action of that higher Truth, ṛtasya preṣā, ṛtasya dhīti, and by this we must build up ourselves in that Truth. Our sacrifice is a journey, a pilgrimage and a battle, — a travel towards the Gods and we also make that journey with Agni, the inner Flame, as our path-finder and leader. Our human things are raised up by the mystic Fire into the immortal being, into the Great Heaven, and the things divine come down into us.

ibid., p. 20

Agni is this power. He is divine force which manifests first in matter as heat and light and material energy and then, taking different forms in the other principles of man’s consciousness, leads him by a progressive manifestation upwards to the Truth and the Bliss.

Sri Aurobindo, Isha Upanishad, p. 10

On the basis of this conception of the worlds and the relation of these different soul-states to each other the Upanishad proceeds to indicate the two lines of knowledge and action which lead to the supreme vision and the divine felicity. This is done under the form of an invocation to Surya and Agni, the Vedic godheads, representative one of the supreme Truth and its illuminations, the other of the divine Will raising, purifying and perfecting human action.

ibid, p. 68

Our surface vision looks at nature as an inert mechanical movement somehow set into motion in some void called Space. It sees life and all else that has followed matter as the result of chance and random accidents. But the deeper seer vision looks at material nature as a hearth where a vast cosmic yagna (sacrifice) is going on. The fruits of this sacrifice are the progressive emergence of consciousness in dumb matter. To this deeper vision, everything comes alive and we can feel and sense a greater consciousness, a Wisdom, a Power, an Intelligence even a conscious Being who is hidden behind everything. The most material shapes, the most commonplace everyday experience becomes to this vision shapes and movements of a conscious Force, bodies of a living Reality. This is being beautifully described here wherein the air that raises all things upwards becomes the hymn of the priest, the priest being none other than Agni himself. The hills are the altars and the high boughs of the trees are like hands joined in prayer.

Yet as Sri Aurobindo reminds us in one of his letters, nothing is written in Savitri merely for the sake of creating a symbolic image. A subtle truth is hidden behind each and every image, a living experience.

The mystic feels real and present, even ever-present to his experience, intimate to his being, truths which to the ordinary reader are intellectual abstractions or metaphysical speculations. He is writing of experiences that are foreign to the ordinary mentality. Either they are unintelligible to it and in meeting them it flounders about as in an obscure abyss or it takes them as poetic fancies expressed in intellectually devised images. That was how a critic in The Hindu condemned such poems as Nirvana and transformation. He said that they were mere intellectual conceptions and images and there was nothing of religious feeling or spiritual experience. Yet Nirvana was as close a transcription of a major experience as could be given in language coined by the human mind of a realisation in which the mind was entirely silent and into which no intellectual conception could at all enter. One has to use words and images in order to convey to the mind some perception, some figure of that which is beyond thought….

To the mystic there is no such thing as an abstraction. Everything which to the intellectual mind is abstract has a concreteness, substantiality which is more real than the sensible form of an object or of a physical event. To me, for instance, consciousness is the very stuff of existence and I can feel it everywhere enveloping and penetrating the stone as much as man or the animal….

The mystical poet can only describe what he has felt, seen in himself or others or in the world just as he has felt or seen it or experienced through exact vision, close contact or identity and leave it to the general reader to understand or not understand or misunderstand according to his capacity. A new kind of poetry demands a new mentality in the recipient as well as in the writer….

CWSA 27: 311-317


Indeed, our everyday life recreates the images of a deeper Reality albeit in imperfect and symbolic terms. And if we can go deeper within ourselves or in the heart of all things we shall feel this Reality pulsating through the warp and woof of existence. We shall then feel the prayer of a tree, the music of the winds, the aspiration of matter in the figure of mountains. Such is the deeper vision, a vision mystically-real that is being conveyed to us through Savitri.



The Issue (Book 1 Canto 2)


From Crisis to Liberation

As man grows beyond his first primal needs, there also grows in him, especially with the development of the mind, the urge to understand the world around him. Starting from the things immediately at hand he must eventually reach out to the stars and beyond and try to understand how each thing works, what is its place in his life, how he can use it to his advantage, or as in more developed human beings, for the larger good of humanity. But the understanding of the world alone does not satisfy his longings for knowledge. There comes a point when he must turn back upon himself, the observer of the scene, and try to see who he is. The value of his knowledge of the world will eventually depend upon the value of who he is. There is a way that each creature understands the world and navigates through the complex play of forces that weave the fabric of our terrestrial existence. The ant and the worm, the plant and even the inanimate stone are all given a certain amount of knowledge that is enough for their limited purposes. Man too has been given a basic understanding of the world around him. But unlike the animal and the plant, man is a seeker and is not satisfied with what he has or what he knows. He must seek more and find more until the entire earth and beyond becomes his domain of knowledge and power. Of course, there is a scale and a gradation. There are human beings closer to the first pristine purity of animal-human life who are satisfied with a little. But as man develops up the scale of existence his thirst for knowledge, for power, for perfection grows. But there comes a time when his mental and vital instruments are not able to fulfil that thirst. They can take him thus far but no farther, so to say. At least one is able to see clearly the inherent limitations of the human instruments of knowledge and power. He discovers that his senses that observe and the reason that analyses and arrives at a working knowledge of the reality around him are very limited. And when it comes to subjective domains and questions concerning his self-identity, he is still more severely handicapped and restricted. Few question that there could be any greater reality than the material and end up regarding their body as the self. Some go a little further and feel that the body is an instrument to satisfy their desires and longings which are their true self. Still fewer move on and regard their most intimate self as thought and idea and would fight and give their lives to preserve the truth enshrined in the idea and belief that moves them.

But some are destined to go further. Sometimes we are pushed beyond ourselves, pushed beyond our beliefs and non-beliefs, pushed beyond the boundaries of our religions and our ideologies in which we are trapped, pushed beyond the limits of our senses and our knowledge; in effect, we are pushed beyond what we think ourselves to be and who we believe we are! These are moments of crisis when all is snatched away from us, or so it seems. This moment of crisis is also a moment of Grace when we can open an inner door and rediscover ourselves and the world. We can, if we have the courage, die to our ego and be reborn to our soul. Savitri reveals this profound truth of our life in equally profound words:

An absolute supernatural darkness falls
On man sometimes when he draws near to God:
An hour arrives when fail all Nature’s means;
Forced out from the protecting Ignorance
And flung back on his naked primal need,
He at length must cast from him his surface soul
And be the ungarbed entity within: [11]


Burden of the Past and the Prison of Nature

Beyond there is a whole world awaiting our discovery, a world beyond thought and ideas, a world that expresses itself as a state of consciousness in which delight and harmony, love and truth are inherent and ‘natural’, not something to be acquired through struggle and conflict. It is the realm of intuition and, climbing beyond intuition, is the very Source of all Knowledge. Thus, following the trail of Light that shines upon our mind and falls upon our deeper heart, we go in quest of a Reality that is still only vaguely felt, hardly known. It is here that man begins to fulfil his real role as a human being, which is to go beyond his humanity and transcending the barriers of the mind enter the domains of a higher spiritual truth that is seen, heard and felt through other faculties that his present bodily senses, and understood by a hidden possibility of intuition other than his present mind and reason. This is man’s real business, the work of works he has come to do without which he is merely an animal with some instincts of a god.

But this is no easy task. Nature keeps us tied within its boundaries proper to our humanity. It only allows just a little of what lies behind the screen. It uses every kind of trick up her sleeve to prolong our human play. Prominent among her methods that keep us tied to the present formation of our human personality are the dual tables of pleasure and pain. We are hooked to the present enjoyments and are unwilling to go beyond for a greater delight, lest we lose what we already have. Even after we become aware that there is indeed a greater, a far greater delight that awaits our discovery, we still hesitate and linger with the joy at hand. The fear of loss, the pain that temporarily accompanies it, or simply the force of past habit and momentum, the impulsion given to a tendency formed in past lives, continues to hold us back as if some invisible chains were tied around our feet. Thus we remain a ‘willing and happy’ captive to the complex play of forces and their intricate balance that binds and ties our life to our limited condition. The result is a little joy followed by suffering, a little good followed by much that is harmful and hurtful to others. We move within a narrow range of existence, we are attuned to a small bandwidth of frequencies, we live as if caged within the low walls of an ill-lit room unable to open the doors and windows for fresh air and greater light. We hear a few knocks at our doors but cannot even turn our gaze in the right direction. We see a thin layer of light filter through some chink in our windows but know not how to open them. The latches are firmly secured, the nuts and bolts are rusted and fixed, not easy to dislodge. And if perchance we apply some effort and the window-panes of our prison-house of mind-moulded mud and clay called the body begin to open up to some light, the sentries posted by nature push us back in. The names of these sentries are doubt and fear and despair:

Only the Self that builds this figure of self
Can rase the fixed interminable line
That joins these changing names, these numberless lives,
These new oblivious personalities
And keeps still lurking in our conscious acts
The trail of old forgotten thoughts and deeds,
Disown the legacy of our buried selves,
The burdensome heirship to our vanished forms
Accepted blindly by the body and soul.
An episode in an unremembered tale,
Its beginning lost, its motive and plot concealed,
A once living story has prepared and made
Our present fate, child of past energies.
The fixity of the cosmic sequences
Fastened with hidden inevitable links
She must disrupt, dislodge by her soul’s force
Her past, a block on the Immortal’s road,
Make a rased ground and shape anew her fate. [12]

A gaol is this immense material world:
Across each road stands armed a stone-eyed Law,
At every gate the huge dim sentinels pace.
A grey tribunal of the Ignorance,
An Inquisition of the priests of Night
In judgment sit on the adventurer soul,
And the dual tables and the Karmic norm
Restrain the Titan in us and the God:
Pain with its lash, joy with its silver bribe
Guard the Wheel’s circling immobility.
A bond is put on the high-climbing mind,
A seal on the too large wide-open heart;
Death stays the journeying discoverer, Life. [18]


The Help and the Grace

But if we cannot do it by ourselves, there is someone willing to do it for us. This is Savitri, the Light of the Supreme, the incarnation of the Divine Mother who enters the prison house of matter veiling Her Light and Glory and Powers. She comes near us to breathe hope and give strength. Her very Presence is enough to disarm the sentries. Her smile is enough to fill us with renewed energy and enthusiasm. But for this, She must first sacrifice Her own divinity, become like us, one of us, experience the same sorrow and the pang that human beings experience, feel the same limitations and difficulties that we have, know what moves us and makes us suffer. Though transcendent and beyond the cosmic law, She yet must come beneath the yoke of the laws of karma, assume a limited form and name, take up a human body vulnerable to disease and death like all the rest of us. Nay, She must experience the agony of the human heart, the pains that we experience when we lose a loved one, face and discover the inner reason for hell, wrestle with the Shadow that turns love into hate, good into evil, joy into suffering and life into death. Then alone She can give us a true and lasting solution, a remedy suited to our needs and our possibilities. If She comes flashing Her divinity then there can only be some dazzling miracles for the faithful few but not a change in the very machinery of nature, not a fundamental victory that transforms the way that nature operates now subjecting us to grief and death. The very cosmic laws must change as they have outlived their purpose. New laws must be established in place of the old, new ways of life, new modes of thought and activity, an entirely new way of being:

In her the superhuman cast its seed.
Inapt to fold its mighty wings of dream
Her spirit refused to hug the common soil,
Or, finding all life’s golden meanings robbed,
Compound with earth, struck from the starry list,
Or quench with black despair the God-given light.
Accustomed to the eternal and the true,
Her being conscious of its divine founts
Asked not from mortal frailty pain’s relief,
Patched not with failure bargain or compromise.
A work she had to do, a word to speak:
Writing the unfinished story of her soul
In thoughts and actions graved in Nature’s book,
She accepted not to close the luminous page,
Cancel her commerce with eternity,
Or set a signature of weak assent
To the brute balance of the world’s exchange.
A force in her that toiled since earth was made,
Accomplishing in life the great world-plan,
Pursuing after death immortal aims,
Repugned to admit frustration’s barren role,
Forfeit the meaning of her birth in Time,
Obey the government of the casual fact
Or yield her high destiny up to passing Chance.
In her own self she found her high recourse;
She matched with the iron law her sovereign right:
Her single will opposed the cosmic rule.
To stay the wheels of Doom this greatness rose. [19]


The Leader of the Human March

Savitri comes to lead and show us the way so that we may follow in Her trail of Light, carried by Her Love. Wherever She goes and whatever She does becomes now a new imprint upon nature, the stamp and seal of the Eternal upon Time that can never be erased. It lingers in the memory of the race, it stirs the coming generations with the new vibrations of Light and Truth, it awakens and inspires us to look beyond our present limited condition and aspire for Light and Beauty and Truth. She activates and then hands over to us the ‘magic lever’ that takes us beyond the cosmic laws. She opens the inner doors and windows to the New Light, She floods the inner chambers of our mind and heart with the New Consciousness. Then we discover that what we call  nature and the laws of nature are merely habits and patterns traced out upon the sands of time. We follow them mechanically and obediently as if there could be no other way. But as Light grows and Wisdom comes, the dust covering the path begins to fly away and we see clearly before us the sunlit way of the soul. We discover the inner Godhead, the Master of our souls. We see how much more is possible than our finite minds can even conceive. We break into the infinity of God:

A magic leverage suddenly is caught
That moves the veiled Ineffable’s timeless will:
A prayer, a master act, a king idea
Can link man’s strength to a transcendent Force.
Then miracle is made the common rule,
One mighty deed can change the course of things;
A lonely thought becomes omnipotent.
All now seems Nature’s massed machinery;
An endless servitude to material rule
And long determination’s rigid chain,
Her firm and changeless habits aping Law,
Her empire of unconscious deft device
Annul the claim of man’s free human will.
He too is a machine amid machines;
A piston brain pumps out the shapes of thought,
A beating heart cuts out emotion’s modes;
An insentient energy fabricates a soul.
Or the figure of the world reveals the signs
Of a tied Chance repeating her old steps
In circles around Matter’s binding-posts.
A random series of inept events
To which reason lends illusive sense, is here,
Or the empiric Life’s instinctive search,
Or a vast ignorant mind’s colossal work.
But wisdom comes, and vision grows within:
Then Nature’s instrument crowns himself her king;
He feels his witnessing self and conscious power;
His soul steps back and sees the Light supreme. [20]

This is Savitri’s work and mission, the work for which She has come down as a deliberate choice, a work for which She is empowered from the Beyond. By opening ourselves to Her Light supreme and receiving Her in our life we too can thus grow into that Wisdom which, as the Upanishad puts it, comes not by thought. Taking upon Herself the limitations of human nature, bearing the burden of our mortality, Savitri opens the hidden doors of a greater Self and a greater becoming for man. We may close with these marvelous lines revealing this truth to us:

The great World-Mother now in her arose:
A living choice reversed fate’s cold dead turn,
Affirmed the spirit’s tread on Circumstance,
Pressed back the senseless dire revolving Wheel
And stopped the mute march of Necessity.
A flaming warrior from the eternal peaks
Empowered to force the door denied and closed
Smote from Death’s visage its dumb absolute
And burst the bounds of consciousness and Time. [21]



Knowledge and Ignorance (Book 1, Canto 3)


Ordinarily, the word ‘knowledge’ stands for being well-informed, educated, learned about many and different things. Each activity becomes a field of knowledge and those who enter this field gathering as much knowledge as they can about the subject are regarded as knowledgeable in that particular field. Seen this way everybody has some kind of knowledge or the other depending upon the person’s engagement and consequent experience in a given field. However, we can go deeper and deeper into this knowledge. Starting from surface understanding and appearances and phenomena as they seem to be to our outward senses we can enter deeper and deeper into the subject or object of our study. This going deeper is also accompanied by another kind of activity of knowledge and it is called integration of the known with the unknown. Each new thing discovered must lead to a further and better understanding of what we had already known. Thus, for example, to say that the leaf is green is one kind of knowledge, a sensory knowledge. All that is needed for this knowledge is that the sensory apparatus must be working well, that we should not be colour blind, so to say. Indeed since it is through our senses that we first come into contact with the world, the senses become our first primary means of knowledge that we gain through observation. But we can go deeper and study what chemical within the leaf gives rise to the colour green. We can go still deeper and find why this particular chemical leads to the green and not some other colour. This way we can enter deeper and deeper into matter and discover the molecular configuration and the atomic constitution that builds or conjures for us the experience of green colour. But now we encounter another problem. Not all animals and other species experience the colour of a leaf as green. This means that knowing the outer phenomenon in all its depths is not enough. There is something within us that also responds to the contact in a particular way, unique to each species, that will give rise to the sensory experience. We can thus go on for everything, for colour and form and perhaps even properties, since everything is dependent upon something else for its existence or its phenomenal appearance. The problem gets even more compounded when we take into consideration all other fields of experience and knowledge-systems as it were and try to integrate them into one. In other words, all our knowledge is a knowledge of relativities, it exists as a result of an interdependence of things and arises as a result of contact between the field and the knower.

The question then arises, what is Real and True? Are this world and all that we experience merely a fabrication of our senses and mind? Or is there a Reality, a Truth independent of all creation and phenomenon out of which all has emerged or extended and into which all is resolved and harmoniously integrated? Science has been grappling with this question of questions since the beginnings of the last century and is yet to arrive at any definitive conclusion. The ancient Vedanta (literally meaning the end of knowledge) grappled with this problem at the dawn of human civilisation! They made their own discoveries and based on that spoke of knowing as a two-fold state, a state of true Knowledge (or just Knowledge) and a state of Ignorance (or knowings without having discovered the true basis or the One Reality that underlies and integrates all different things and experiences within Itself). To put it in another way, true Knowledge meant a state of knowing that emerges out of an experience of the Oneness. It is a state wherein we can understand all things as extensions and expressions and manifestations of the One Reality underlying all things. Even the interconnectedness is seen as the diverse aspects of the One stupendous Reality in which all are harmoniously synthesised and reconciled. On the other hand all knowing that is based on division (of seeing each thing or element as separate and distinct only and without knowing the underlying integrating principle), is Ignorance. It is a partial knowing, a limited knowledge, so to say, and therefore incomplete and prone to error.

Thus they went deeper and deeper into the phenomenon. Crossing the last boundaries of matter they discovered the force of life that animates and moves all things. Going further they discovered that it is the mind (and the senses) that give rise to form out of the formless essence, thereby creating an illusion of separateness. Going still further they discovered the true seat of Knowledge, the One who becomes the Many. Going still further they entered the very heart of creation, the core and substance, the very cause and source to seek an answer to the why rather than the how and discovered the Delight that is expressing Itself in myriad ways through this rainbow-hued tapestry of life. Going still further they discovered the One who is at once the Supreme Form (out of whose substance all else emerges through a progressive condensation and special concentration) as well as Formless essence which no formula can define and no understanding describe. Being and Non-being became a single Reality and yet there was a Beyond of which nothing can be spoken or understood by human mind and speech. But in this process of discovery, they found the path or the paths that can lead us towards That which has no name and yet assumes a name. They found the path that can lead us to an utter identification with That, even an ultimate dissolution into That since it is the base and root and essence of all things including us, including creation. This final dissolution into our Origin was called Mukti, Moksha, Nirvana, a state of utter and final Freedom. It was even envisaged as the goal of creation by some, though not by all who thus went into the very heart of this inner Knowledge (the Upanishad which embodies the Vedantic lore, literally means entering into the very heart of inner Knowledge). The various paths towards this ultimate Reality became to be known as the paths of yoga through which man’s soul climbs from a state of mortality and ignorance towards Knowledge and Immortality. This was but one line of spiritual evolution undertaken by man. The main method was to discover and uncover that divine element in us that sustains all things and stands behind all the works of nature. Once this was discovered, they abandoned the rest of the field of nature as a mere shell that would simply wither off empty of its seed and core once the soul leaves this world and exits creation by plunging into the Absolute!

But there was another line, more consistent with the very logic of creation, undertaken by the early Veda and Upanishad seers. It was to discover the ultimate Reality but instead of dissolution live freely in the world with true Knowledge and true inner Freedom. The two great Upanishads, Kena and Isha, hint towards these two possibilities or two lines of spiritual evolution. Sri Aurobindo belongs to the line of seers who belong to the latter thought and experience that one can live normally and yet be inwardly free. This is the stated position of the Gita as well that not only is it possible to live with an inner freedom but also engage in even the most challenging actions such as war and politics in this state of inner freedom. However, Sri Aurobindo is not satisfied just with an inner freedom since it would still mean that parts of our nature remain still in Ignorance while the soul and possibly the higher mind and the deeper heart are freed. This is still a partial living and not fullness and integration. The body must also share the freedom and liberty gained by the soul. Our outer nature and the senses so prone to error and Ignorance must also be freed for an integral divine life based on Truth and Harmony. This too is possible because of the same logic that since all have emerged from the One, nature too reverts back to the One. Nature too must be free even as the soul or the divine element in us can be free. In fact, soul and nature are also One Reality in two poises. They are the passive and dynamic sides of the One. The Divine looking away from creation towards Itself is the passive side, also called the Purusha; the Divine leaning towards creation is the Shakti.

These are the discoveries among many others that flow from the central truths that we find in Savitri, Book One, Cantos 3 and 4, ‘The Yoga of the King: The Yoga of the Soul’s Release’ and ‘The Secret Knowledge’.


An Evolving Continuum

Ignorance and knowledge can be on a continuum, we start from a state of ignorance and through a progressive enlargement of thought and vision and understanding we move towards knowledge. But it is also and equally true that they are two different modes of nature’s workings, two different states of consciousness. A state of Ignorance is also a state of suffering and striving. This is especially so for man since by his nature he is a seeker and cannot rest content for long in a state of Ignorance. Therefore man is often a double birth. There is his first birth which is in a state of Ignorance and for lives he remains in this state. His instrument for ‘knowledge’, while he labours under the law of the Ignorance, is the dim corporeal mind bound to the senses using reason as its highest faculty for discovering and analysing the data he received through the senses. But a time comes when he is ready for the transition from a state of Ignorance to a state of Knowledge and Wisdom in the true sense of the word. This passage is not a sudden event but a progression that happens by a progressive deepening, heightening and widening of his consciousness. At first, it is the senses that begin to undergo a change and one is able to see and hear and perceive truths that have remained hidden even though right in front of us. This is the awakening of the subtle senses that would eventually transmute into divine senses in the supramental creation. We see an elaborate description of this transmutation in Savitri as Aswapati takes this great journey of yoga.

Next, though going along with it, there is a shift of our mode of knowledge from reason and analysis to inspiration, revelation and intuition. Through this change, we can feel the Divine Presence and understand the ways of the Divine in His creation. The doors of a secret knowledge begin to open and we receive truths directly even as light or rain pours from above, without any distortion that takes place as these truths enter the mind with its atmosphere of doubt and scepticisms, its rational arguments of what can be and cannot be, what is and what is not. The workings of our human mind transcend reason and a new working, the working of a spiritualised mentality begins to operate more and more frequently.

A further shift takes place in our actions. Ordinarily, the centre of our action is the ego, the driving force is desire, the motive is self-gratification, and the field of action is the little circle of people, events and situations that crystallise around our ego-self. But now we discover a new law of action, the law of Truth. The centre of our action shifts from the ego-self to the divine Self from where we get the right indication, the right discernment, the right prompting to act according to the law of Truth which is other than all our mental, moral, social and religious standards that we erect to guide our action while in a state of Ignorance. The driving force also changes from the smoky heat of desire to the pure divine Force, the Shakti. The motive is no more fulfilment of our egoistic selfish interest but the fulfilment of the divine Will in creation. The field also undergoes an enlargement as our limited consciousness extends and expands into the cosmic consciousness.

The human consciousness liberated from the living cage of matter begins to get access to the higher planes of existence where it dwells more and more drawing from it greater and greater Knowledge and Power and above all the Delight of existence that stands behind creation as the sole moving force. Then grief and sorrow leave our list and all becomes a single and yet manifold movement of Delight that has built the worlds for Its own play. The different worlds begin to disclose their energies and forces, the beings who rule over them, and their purpose and place in the grand scheme of things.

As we proceed along these lines, eventually our inner consciousness begins to get more and more attuned to the Divine until there is a growing contact, likeness and then a sheer identity with the Divine. This identity includes not only a discovery of the Divine within but also the Divine in creation. Finally, the growing steps towards freedom lead the human souls completely out of the cosmos into oneness with the transcendent Self out of which both the individual and cosmos are born and by which all is sustained and into which all returns.


The Freedom from Ignorance

The soul’s freedom from Ignorance is the first great step of yoga. It is a step common to all yogas including the Integral Yoga of Sri Aurobindo. In a true sense, Sri Aurobindo’s Yoga begins after this first indispensable task is accomplished. Until this happens everything that we do, every effort that we put in is a preparation. Fundamentally, the soul being a portion of the Divine is, in principle, not ignorant. It has all knowledge within itself in a seed state just as the entire tree is held within a tiny seed. The effort of past lives and the script of future destinies is as if written in a summary way within the soul. But this destiny has to be worked out through a number of experiences encountered in the course of many lives. It is for these experiences which will lead to its eventual blossoming that the soul enters into the cycle of birth and death and rebirth. Just as a seed must bury itself below the soil to gradually blossom and come to fruition so too the soul accepts to enter the dark state of mortal ignorance, get rooted to earth-nature, and then slowly recover its full possibilities. But in the process, it also drags our earth-nature along with it, pulls it upwards towards Light and Freedom and Bliss as it climbs towards Its Source. This emergence is a spontaneous process, an inbuilt mechanism in nature, since the soul is automatically drawn towards divinity from which it has come and of which it is a part. Yet, for the sake of fullness, it has of its own accord consented to take the plunge into Night. This is the background of the soul’s entry into the fields of Ignorance and not some punishment or condemnation by the wrath or folly of some arbitrary God.

Where then does Maya come in, that much-maligned mother whose snare is supposed to be the cause of all our suffering? Well, Maya is simply the power that creates an illusion of separation of division and thereby, in a practical sense (in reality there can be no separation, nor any permanent division) puts a veil upon the soul. Once the veil is put the soul forgets its divine nature and identifies with the fields of darkness and ignorance created for the soul’s experience and growth. It is like a first primary school, the school of ignorance, where the soul must be tutored and trained under difficult and trying conditions so that its latent faculties and capacities may blossom to their fullness. This blossoming takes place under the law of opposition. The forces of darkness deny and obstruct the passage of the soul and even force it to abandon its bodily home, the material frame, again and again. But the soul being immortal does not die. It returns in a new body and new circumstances more or less challenging. But through each challenge it grows by the resistance offered to it. Each such step and growth of the soul brings out from within it a stream of power we call as one’s nature. But this nature is simply a part of universal nature through which the soul swims upwards. The three streams through which it moves are tamas, rajas and sattwa. Identifying with the current of nature and the tools and means given to it, it becomes the soul of matter, the annamaya purusha residing in the physical man. Its state is deluded since it is totally unaware of its divine origin. It engages mainly with material nature and fills it with various godheads of matter through whom it approaches the Divine Presence. In this stage, the soul is nearly fully asleep so to say. But next it ascends to pranamaya purusha or the vital and kinetic soul in man, creating the dynamic man, the hero, the entrepreneur, the natural leader. Here it approaches the Divine Presence through strength and joy of life. Its godheads also are givers of earthly boons and other material riches. The gods of battle and war and the gods of prosperity and power are its companions and partners. Finally, crossing these two difficult stages of schooling it enters the third and final phase of its primary education. It identifies with sattwa and becomes a soul discovering itself in and through the mind as a principle of intelligence and thought. It plays with ideas and walks with godheads of wisdom and knowledge, inspiration and learning, vision and compassion. Here it gets some first far-off glimpse of the Divine who dwells in the heart of creation and beyond it. Thus far the soul had identified with nature and its instruments and had completely forgotten itself. But with the coming of sattwa, the principle of light and balance, it begins to seek itself, to know who it is and for what purpose it is here. It begins to ponder and reflect over deeper issues, seeks higher things. It is then that its first stage of schooling is coming to a close and it is becoming ready for deliverance from the school of Ignorance.

Essentially Ignorance here is a false and limited identification of the soul with limited movements of nature. Even sattwa is not yet its full truth or full potential. It is only a very partial and reflected light, a distant wandering gleam and not the Light of Truth itself. As long as the soul within us remains tied to these three modes of nature, it remains in bondage to Ignorance and therefore prone to error and its consequences that follow naturally. But just as in the course of its evolution it rises upstream from tamas through rajas to sattwa, a time comes when it is ready to sail beyond this magic circle that nature has weaved around it by her forms and forces and figures. Then the soul in man begins to turn upwards or else go deeper in search of something truer, something that is the stable basis of all this movement of nature, something that is like a principle of Truth. It begins to seek for Truth and Good and Beauty and Love. Even in Ignorance it is searching for these very things since such is its own nature (in fact it is seeking to know itself) but a time comes when this seeking becomes conscious. No more satisfied with the parade and presentations of illusions that mimic these high things, it seeks for their truth. In the beginning it seeks this Truth through formulas and concepts of philosophy and religion and occult understanding and even moments of reverie when transported from earthly plane it is lifted above the narrow arc of experiences and gets a glimpse of the Beyond. The curtain of Ignorance is lifted for a while and we feel a light, a warmth, a sweetness, a peace, a joy within. A wisdom begins to dawn within our heart and the entire way of seeing and understanding and relating to life begins to be reversed. Instead of our small ego-self being the reference point, a new reference point is found, a reference point that is at once within us and within all, individual as well as universal. Growing further along this route, we are freed from the debates and dualities that the mind entertained and division begins to give place to oneness and unity that we perceive behind everything. This oneness brings supreme peace and calm, it also awakens a new kind of knowledge and new powers of acting upon the world. We discover what we are here for, even as we discover the drift and meaning of our lives left behind and more that are yet to come.

This is the first radical step that contains within it new possibilities. One such possibility, one that has been so often spoken of and emphasised in traditional spiritual literature, is the possibility of an ultimate withdrawal from birth and death and rebirth. The soul once freed from the circle of Ignorance can choose to stand back from nature and watch the cosmic play from some higher plane in the celestial company of the Great Gods or else enter into a state of endless Peace and Bliss of the Beyond. Or else it can dissolve itself in the vast Infinity of That which is Inconceivable, Infinite, Unknowable, Eternal, Alone. This, however, gives a whole lie to the play. It may solve an individual soul’s problem (to put it that way) but leaves the cosmic riddle unanswered. It does not answer the why and the wherefore of creation. It does not answer what or who compelled the immortal soul, a portion of the Bliss that made the worlds, forget its true nature and become identified with the fields of Ignorance and, if so, then to what purpose was this forgetfulness if at the end it had to return back to what it always was? The Creator and creation then become an absurdity, a play without meaning or sense. It is here that we see that Aswapati’s yoga departs from traditional yogas. The soul in the course of its freedom discovers higher and higher realms and with each such realm there emerge from within it greater and greater powers of knowledge and action. There is no abrupt cutting off of the magic fence of Ignorance creating a sharp unbridgeable divide between Knowledge and Ignorance but a progressive enlargement, a widening and deepening and heightening of consciousness under the pressure of the soul’s aspiration and ascent. The limits of human nature operating within the three gunas begin to fade and blur as newer fields and powers of nature are discovered that were hidden in some higher luminous and vaster fields of creation. In other words, the soul’s freedom here does not leave nature unchanged, as it were. Rather it carries nature too towards its own greater possibilities. Sri Aurobindo summarises it beautifully thus:

   Thus came his soul’s release from Ignorance,
His mind and body’s first spiritual change.
A wide God-knowledge poured down from above,
A new world-knowledge broadened from within:
His daily thoughts looked up to the True and One,
His commonest doings welled from an inner Light.
Awakened to the lines that Nature hides,
Attuned to her movements that exceed our ken,
He grew one with a covert universe.
His grasp surprised her mightiest energies’ springs;
He spoke with the unknown Guardians of the worlds,
Forms he descried our mortal eyes see not.
His wide eyes bodied viewless entities,
He saw the cosmic forces at their work
And felt the occult impulse behind man’s will.
Time’s secrets were to him an oft-read book;
The records of the future and the past
Outlined their excerpts on the etheric page.
One and harmonious by the Maker’s skill,
The human in him paced with the divine;
His acts betrayed not the interior flame.
This forged the greatness of his front to earth.
A genius heightened in his body’s cells
That knew the meaning of his fate-hedged works
Akin to the march of unaccomplished Powers
Beyond life’s arc in spirit’s immensities.
Apart he lived in his mind’s solitude,
A demigod shaping the lives of men:
One soul’s ambition lifted up the race;
A Power worked, but none knew whence it came.
The universal strengths were linked with his;
Filling earth’s smallness with their boundless breadths,
He drew the energies that transmute an age. [44-45]



The Secret Knowledge (Book 1, Canto 4)


When we think of knowledge, we immediately think of packets of information received as data through the senses. Then we apply the faculty of reason and analysis to this data and arrive at an understanding of the nature of reality whether of a person or an object or of creation itself. In other words, the senses and reason are our instruments of knowledge. Yet it is also obvious that our senses do not give us all the data and reason cannot say with certitude about what it has found through rigorous analysis. Therefore, the next stage is to build a hypothesis and then apply it to see if it works and the conditions under which it works. If tested and found to be workable repeatedly then it becomes a theory and an established fact.

So far so good and this kind of knowledge has its practical advantage. But yogic science reveals to us that there is another kind of knowledge that neither the senses nor the mind can arrive at, that any kind of surface observation or rigorous analysis cannot provide us. Yet it is there hidden at the core of things. Nay, we can even arrive at it and know it through certain yogic processes and practices. Like any other knowledge, it can also be tested and found to be true, thereby differentiating yogic knowledge from religious belief systems that have to be accepted whether you experience them or not! Of course, we may say that all religions start with some kind of yogic knowledge. But the inability of its adherents to engage in yoga turns it into a formal practice and belief system. By formal practice is meant the insistence on external rituals while ignoring the inner essentials.

So what is this secret knowledge that yoga aspires for or arrives at and by what processes? This secret knowledge that yogis have engaged with through the Ages is, first and foremost, the knowledge of the eternal Reality, of That which stands behind creation, beyond Time and Space, beyond percept and concepts. In other words, it is a knowledge of the unchanging stable basis behind this ever-changing world. Next, it is a knowledge of how this eternal Reality, evidently spaceless, timeless and formless since it precedes them, relates with creation, with this world of forms and names. Finally, it is a knowledge of how this eternal Reality expresses Itself in us. After all, these are the three fundamental questions we need to answer before anything else. Seen from this side these questions are, — Who am I? What is this world? Is there a stable basis, a permanent indestructible and unchanging immutable element behind the creation? What is my relationship with the world and its inhabitants? Based on our answers to these fundamental questions we shall also discover if there is a purpose in creation and if so, then what role, if any, we have in it. Science does not take up these questions. It proceeds from the observable and tries to dig deeper and deeper, layer by layer, and see if there is anything at all at the base of it. But given the number of layers and layers within layers, dimensions beyond dimensions, it will be quite a while before science will arrive at the doorsteps of these fundamental questions. In the meanwhile it takes the attitude of an agnostic who accepts his limitations and present understanding and says that I know not beyond what I have thus far known. There may or may not be an eternal Reality; there may or may not be any purpose in creation! It leaves us nowhere. Philosophy climbs higher in thought and tries to derive these truths by using a higher reason that uses reasonable assumptions, so to say. Or sometimes, when it rejects all assumptions as science does, then it arrives at some kind of abstraction of thought which gives us no clue or foothold in the inner experience of what it claims to discover, again leaving us nowhere! Yoga, more practical in its approach, does not take this long-winding, tedious and complex process that would leave our burning questions hanging in thin air. It plunges directly into the heart of Reality, finds an inner door and the key to enter a realm that neither the senses show us nor the mind can surmise and then returns with its findings. But here there are different levels of seeing and knowing. Not all yogis climb to the highest rung and return. Most are satisfied with a partial glimpse, a reflected vision, a faint figure of Reality, a hurried glance and hence miss the whole. Evidently, it depends upon the route one has taken. A partial system of yoga, a one-sided approach will help us glimpse partially only, it will show us only one side or aspect of Reality on which we can build up a religion or a cult or sect. But just as in science, the yogin must advance further and further until he has known all that had to be known. And the sign of it is very simple, — ‘knowing That all else can be known.’ Until one has touched this core, our explorations remain partial lights on the way.

This core cannot be known through the present instruments of nature says the yogin. The mind cannot reach it nor the senses know it. This is true of our present mind and sense organisation. Our mind and senses have thus far evolved in the hard grip of matter which they use as a base. According to the spiritual view of things, even the senses have their divine equivalents and there is a divine sense that is used by the beings of higher worlds for experiencing Reality and the truth of things. But here these senses operate under conditions of matter. Matter modifies the experience and limits it, our present mind also labouring under the duress of matter, equally limits and even distorts Reality. Therefore, it is said that we can never know the Truth as long as we are confined in our present state of material existence. This leads logically to only two possible solutions. The first and more commonly envisaged solution is to break the hold of matter and liberate the senses and the mind from its hold. Once this is done our mind becomes a free Intelligence and our senses regain their subtle and diviner capacities. However, this solution means that the yogin must reduce his physical existence to a minimum since to enter the physical body means to enter once again into the conditions that impose ignorance. The other solution is what Sri Aurobindo presents to us. It is to transform matter itself so that it does not diminish the original divine powers either of the mind or of the senses. This is possible because just as the mind and senses have their higher truth and origin in the Divine, matter too has its origin in the spiritual substance that emerges in the divine worlds as a matrix for the play of the Spirit and its manifestation. Meanwhile, it is yet possible to access the secret Knowledge by awakening the power of intuition within us. That is the first fundamental step before we can become privy to this secret Knowledge. This is what Aswapati has done and therefore he can now enter this great secret and share it with us so that we too may feel inspired to undertake this journey. We see in him an awakening of the hidden senses now released from the hard grip of matter. We also see in him his mind attaining to higher and higher modes of functioning going beyond reason into inspiration, illumination, intuitive discrimination, revelation to a direct and all-comprehending power of intuition. Therefore, he can access this hidden secret Knowledge.

What really is this secret hidden from us and knowing which we shall experience a radical change in the way we presently understand and experience life and self and world and God? The Mother calls it as a reversal of consciousness and each such ascent leads to a reversal. This is the subject of this fourth canto, so beautiful and uplifting and inspiring in its scope.

The very first secret is that there is indeed an immortal element within our mortal frame. And this immortal element called the soul changes forms and names and through this perpetual change enters into a new and fresh experience. These experiences eventually feed it and help it to grow and evolve until it reaches a point wherein it can become conscious of itself. The process is akin to a child who grows first through every sense contact and mental influences and vital and occult forces until it reaches a point where it begins to discover and form its own unique identity. This of course happens to the ego-self in our present field of ignorance but it is symbolic of another similar process going on deep within us. The individual soul too gathers and grows through a multitude of experiences from life to life until it is ready to discover and know itself. Until that happens the soul remains in a state of forgetfulness of its origins and defines itself through the veils and shadows of the lower nature and the ego-self. Yet from time to time there arise within us soul-moments when there is a faint remembrance of who we are and why we are here. A faint memory of some bygone past ideal state lingers within compelling us to seek or create it in earthly forms. But the means are limited and the instruments of nature ill-equipped and hence we never really succeed completely in this process. The dream is however never lost. It re-emerges in another life and resurfaces under other conditions and circumstances. Then comes the moment of the apocalypse, and we are ready for the great disclosure. Then a secret Hand of God or the Breath of Grace enters our life and lifts us out of our present state and reveals to us the greater mysteries of existence.

But the individual Self and the universal Self are one like the sea and the waves. This too is discovered by Aswapati as he enters into the deep Oneness of creation where he sees that the distinctions drawn by our mind between this and that separate and independent entity, this and that object and subject, even the distinctions between God and world, soul and nature are mere conventions, a limitation of our vision. In reality, there is only One who fashions Himself as many through His own Power called nature. But deep within, the Two, Being and Becoming, Self and nature are one. In countless worlds this Two-in-One play together. In the fields of Ignorance as well as in the fields of Knowledge each diminishes and adjusts itself to the conditions of the field created by the Great Wisdom that works in the heart of creation. The reason for these many worlds and layers of consciousness and states of being is to provide the individual soul step by step experiences for recovering the fullness of its divine possibilities. The soul is like a divine seed that must grow into the tree of divine life it is meant to be. It must bear divine blossoms on its bodily form built by nature even as it must bear the fruits of divine sacrifice in matter. This is the final consummation for which creation waits, so beautifully summarised in Savitri thus:

   All here where each thing seems its lonely self
Are figures of the sole transcendent One:
Only by him they are, his breath is their life;
An unseen Presence moulds the oblivious clay.
A playmate in the mighty Mother’s game,
One came upon the dubious whirling globe
To hide from her pursuit in force and form.
A secret spirit in the Inconscient’s sleep,
A shapeless Energy, a voiceless Word,
He was here before the elements could emerge,
Before there was light of mind or life could breathe.
Accomplice of her cosmic huge pretence,
His semblances he turns to real shapes
And makes the symbol equal with the truth:
He gives to his timeless thoughts a form in Time.
He is the substance, he the self of things;
She has forged from him her works of skill and might:
She wraps him in the magic of her moods
And makes of his myriad truths her countless dreams.
The Master of being has come down to her,
An immortal child born in the fugitive years.
In objects wrought, in the persons she conceives,
Dreaming she chases her idea of him,
And catches here a look and there a gest:
Ever he repeats in them his ceaseless births.
He is the Maker and the world he made,
He is the vision and he is the Seer;
He is himself the actor and the act,
He is himself the knower and the known,
He is himself the dreamer and the dream.
There are Two who are One and play in many worlds;
In Knowledge and Ignorance they have spoken and met
And light and darkness are their eyes’ interchange;
Our pleasure and pain are their wrestle and embrace,
Our deeds, our hopes are intimate to their tale;
They are married secretly in our thought and life.
The universe is an endless masquerade:
For nothing here is utterly what it seems;
It is a dream-fact vision of a truth
Which but for the dream would not be wholly true,
A phenomenon stands out significant
Against dim backgrounds of eternity;
We accept its face and pass by all it means;
A part is seen, we take it for the whole.
Thus have they made their play with us for roles:
Author and actor with himself as scene,
He moves there as the Soul, as Nature she. [60-61]

Always he follows in her force’s wake.
He sails through life and death and other life,
He travels on through waking and through sleep.
A power is on him from her occult force
That ties him to his own creation’s fate,
And never can the mighty Traveller rest
And never can the mystic voyage cease
Till the nescient dusk is lifted from man’s soul
And the morns of God have overtaken his night.
As long as Nature lasts, he too is there,
For this is sure that he and she are one;
Even when he sleeps, he keeps her on his breast:
Whoever leaves her, he will not depart
To repose without her in the Unknowable.
There is a truth to know, a work to do;
Her play is real; a Mystery he fulfils:
There is a plan in the Mother’s deep world-whim,
A purpose in her vast and random game.
This ever she meant since the first dawn of life,
This constant will she covered with her sport,
To evoke a Person in the impersonal Void,
With the Truth-Light strike earth’s massive roots of trance,
Wake a dumb self in the inconscient depths
And raise a lost Power from its python sleep
That the eyes of the Timeless might look out from Time
And the world manifest the unveiled Divine.
For this he left his white infinity
And laid on the spirit the burden of the flesh,
That Godhead’s seed might flower in mindless Space. [72-73]



Splendours of the Spirit (Book1, Canto 5)


Man is not the summit of creation. There are greater possibilities hidden in the heart of creation that await their hour. Man is an intermediary creation, a transitional being, so to say. Though the facts of our present and outward existence naturally condition us to believe that man is the last and hence the highest term of creation, the inner facts of man’s inner subjective existence state otherwise. There is so much more that we seek and aspire for, so much more that we long and hope for than has ever manifested upon earth. These longings and aspirations are themselves an indication that there is more to come for which presently earth and mankind are not ready. This aspiration is like the inner oestrus that prepares the child of a future New Creation in the womb of the present. Even though nothing of the present may seem to support these dreams and aspirations, even though our present earthly realities seem to deny and contradict these deeper longings and higher hopes, yet we refuse to give up because deep within us these possibilities stir and move us to exceed ourselves. Most give up these dreams and aspirations that call us to the adventure of the Beyond and compromise our life with the smallness of the earthly state and accept that we are nothing more than limited creatures driven by a mud-engine. Others, driven by a mental idealism but nothing more, try to create something more beautiful and perfect but fail since it is not the mind of man and its limited and borrowed light, but the original Power, the power of the Spirit that can recreate our world and ourselves. The yogi and the mystic chase these dreams and succeed in discovering something of that hidden Mystery within themselves. It not only changes their own life but also leaves a stamp upon earth and mankind, rekindling hope and showing the direction towards which we must move.

Yet it is through man that the ascent beyond man has to be accomplished. This is man’s real work; his importance is that he is a bridge for the evolving consciousness of earth to cross over beyond the last frontiers of Ignorance. This is evident if we simply take a close look at the way earth has changed, for better or for worse, since the advent of man. The incorrigible thirst in man to know has been the cause of his losing the spontaneous instinctive knowledge that we find in other species. He does not know by instinct but by applying deliberate reason and analysis, a rather laborious and cumbersome process. But the reward of this is that he ends up knowing much more than what the other species can ever dream of. By this thirst for knowledge he goes far beyond his personal survival, reaches out to the stars, dives into fathomless seas, digs deep into the bowels of the earth for hidden treasures, harnesses electricity from the clouds and running waters, tames the winds and other elements for his purposes, dreams of eternity and immortality. The fruit of knowledge that he ate leading to his fall from the purity and simplicity of his animal state will also be the cause of his redemption. It is true that right now his life is a misery and he burns in the red heat of hell as if condemned by some wrathful god, but this suffering only steels his strength further and feeds his determination to discover and cross the ultimate shores.

Indeed, it is this insatiable urge to know what lies behind and beyond the iron curtain of the senses and the limits of the mind that gives him also the great evolutionary push. It is at once a fall and a means, a tool for a greater rise. It is this urge that gives birth to the fire of yoga. The fire of hell below and the fire of heavens above rub with each other in man and through their consanguineous marriage, there is born in man the fire of aspiration for the True, the Good, the Beautiful. Savitri is the story, nay, the very embodiment, of this fire blazing beyond the last limits that with difficulty few have ever glimpsed. This last limit is what is called the Overmind region. Of course, the Overmind itself is boundless and free from Ignorance but it opens the possibility to Ignorance. It is at this high peak of creation, this last limit of mortal nature, that yogis and mystics have sometimes glimpsed the Glory of Glories, albeit hurriedly and from afar. But Sri Aurobindo, not satisfied with this hurried glimpse, comes with a new aspiration, not just to see from afar but to enter into it, live in it and what is more, to bring it down upon earth and by its presence change earthly life into a life divine. In this canto we are given a little glimpse of this wonderland even as Sri Aurobindo stations his consciousness on the Overmind peaks of creation. He reveals to us that here one can discover the secret truth and intent of creation, the reconciling Power between heaven and earth, the synthesis of different approaches to the Infinite, the secret of Night and God’s sanction to the paradox of life, the paradox of the immortal soul dwelling in a mortal frame and the divine Perfection giving birth to an imperfect world. It is here that he discovers that creation is not finished and there is more that is concealed in God’s Beyond. It is here that we see him planting this new aspiration upon earth, the aspiration for perfecting the bodily instruments, the frame within which the immortal dwells.

Essentially then there are two natures or rather two levels of one nature that operates everywhere. The first and the one with which we are more familiar is the lower nature that operates in apparent ignorance and deals with separate units as if they were distinct and apart from each other. But as science and spirituality both reveal to us, in their own way, that behind the operations of this world there ‘seems’ or ‘is’ a Wisdom that is at work. It takes into account the totality of things and their profound inter-connectedness, even when outwardly they seem distinct and separate. But this Wisdom is hidden behind things and science can at best guess or surmise it if it looks at things honestly and has the courage to admit the facts that stare at our eyes bandaged with prejudices and preconceived ideas, theories, scientific belief-systems and all the rest. Spiritually, mystics have always known by a direct inner identity rather than an indirect inference that there does exist a Wisdom, even a divine Perfection, a perfect state of Consciousness that dwells upon the peaks of nature or else surrounds it and acts as a course corrective Guidance and Power lest chaos prevail upon order and harmony. The chaos, of course, is because on the surface and in the inner being of our own self and the world there is much activity because nothing is finished and all is in the making. Science calls this state of perpetual change and remoulding of creation an evolution through accidents, chance, etc. Spirituality looks at this perpetual hand-in-hand disorder and order as the process through which the eternal Perfection that exists deep within is trying to manifest Itself outside, in a visible and tangible way. The tussle between the two, the conflict and struggle of the two, is the cause of all the crises and upheavals we face in our individual and collective lives. Until now, mystics have taken it for granted that this eternal Perfection cannot manifest here upon earth and the only possibility for the soul of man is to leave this troubled field of perpetual unrest and depart and dwell in the state of eternal Perfection beyond.

Not anymore, says Sri Aurobindo. Based on his own experiences and realisations, he assures us that not only this eternal Perfection, this divine Supernature intervenes from time to time, it is indeed seeking to manifest Itself more and more in and through earthly vessels. Not only so, but it is also progressively building forms of the future that would manifest this hidden Supernature as spontaneously and naturally as we breathe today. Then God will no more remain hidden, to be realised through an arduous tapasya, when it should be the most obvious truth, but manifest openly and naturally and spontaneously. Not only His workings will be clear and obvious as daylight but He Himself will be revealed all the time to the new eye in man. Even more, the bodily instruments now transformed and able to know and understand His ways will also themselves grow capable of ‘playing God’, if we may say so. It means there will be a practical omniscience and omnipotence for man, practical in whatever field he is given to work upon. Sri Aurobindo’s Yoga took this new and unexpected turn with the great intention of bringing down the hidden splendours of the Spirit, this higher Supernature into the surface life of man and activate its play openly in the world. Surely this is no easy task, for several reasons. To start with, man may not aspire for it, he is too busy playing with the surface mud and analysing the mire of earth-nature to look deep within or ascend in his consciousness to discover this greater truth of Himself. Even if he so aspires, it is by no means an easy task. The roads to Nirvana are open and fixed but the roads to transformation, though open now, do not work in a humanly predictable manner since the grand experiment has just begun and the various possibilities and conditions are being worked out. Most of all, the human instruments so far evolved to express the lower nature are not yet tuned to express the higher Power. They sleep off or break down, or become chaotic under the stress of the Divine Shakti. Of course, all this will be done in due course of time but for the moment few are ready to go through the process. Obviously, there may be still a long way to go, but once the way is open humanity is destined to reach one day. This is the promise and the assurance that Sri Aurobindo has given to man.

That is why these splendours have so far been denied to man. Only the gods hidden in the solar Light had the right and the privilege to have these powers. Man is still too weak and imperfect to acquire them. Yet without these powers and corresponding faculties, human life will continue to labour under limitations and struggle against error and imperfection. Herein we begin to see the tremendous significance of Aswapati’s tapasya which is, of course, Sri Aurobindo’s own experiences revealed through Aswapati. The doors of a higher Supernature, long denied and closed, open before Aswapati’s persistent tapasya and the gifts of the Spirit begin to pour down upon him. This descent is the crucial moment that changes everything, changes the course of Aswapati’s tapasya, changes human destiny. Through Aswapati a new door with enormous possibilities begins to open, for what can happen in one human being can, theoretically at least, happen in others. It is towards turning this theoretical possibility into a practical and realisable eventuality for all that his tapasya now turns its course. Already his being has universalised, a pre-condition for the supramental transformation. Now he must aspire for the entire human lot and make humanity a bridge towards the superhumanity of tomorrow. His heart has grown one with every heart, his vast soul a meeting point of many lives.

Therefore, Aswapati, the supreme renunciate, turns back from these borders, renouncing immediate individual success so that the collectivity can progress. What he has gained by arduous tapasya must be given to others as a gift of Grace. It is towards this wonderful Grace, the magic key he is searching for, that he now turns his seeking. The descent of a higher Supernature he has experienced, he now seeks to bring it down and manifest it upon earth. This descent which marks a characteristic movement of Sri Aurobindo’s Yoga is beautifully described thus:

   In a divine retreat from mortal thought,
In a prodigious gesture of soul-sight,
His being towered into pathless heights,
Naked of its vesture of humanity.
As thus it rose, to meet him bare and pure
A strong Descent leaped down. A Might, a Flame,
A Beauty half-visible with deathless eyes,
A violent Ecstasy, a Sweetness dire,
Enveloped him with its stupendous limbs
And penetrated nerve and heart and brain
That thrilled and fainted with the epiphany:
His nature shuddered in the Unknown’s grasp.
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.
An Omniscient knowing without sight or thought,
An indecipherable Omnipotence,
A mystic Form that could contain the worlds,
Yet make one human breast its passionate shrine,
Drew him out of his seeking loneliness
Into the magnitudes of God’s embrace.
As when a timeless Eye annuls the hours
Abolishing the agent and the act,
So now his spirit shone out wide, blank, pure:
His wakened mind became an empty slate
On which the Universal and Sole could write.
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 aggrandising 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
. . .
The old adamantine vetoes stood no more:
Overpowered were earth and Nature’s obsolete rule;
The python coils of the restricting Law
Could not restrain the swift arisen God:
Abolished were the scripts of destiny.
There was no small death-hunted creature more,
No fragile form of being to preserve
From an all-swallowing Immensity.
The great hammer-beats of a pent-up world-heart
Burst open the narrow dams that keep us safe
Against the forces of the universe.
The soul and cosmos faced as equal powers.
A boundless being in a measureless Time
Invaded Nature with the infinite;
He saw unpathed, unwalled, his titan scope. [80-83]


  1. ( The Veda itself speaks constantly of “ancient” and “modern” Rishis, (pūrvah. . . nūtanaḥ), the former remote enough to be regarded as a kind of demigods, the first founders of knowledge. []