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At the Feet of The Mother

Book One Canto IV Summary

Having freed his soul from the bondage of Ignorance that ties as 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 fundamental discovery 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 center that survives death and returns again into the great adventure of life for the great fulfillment.

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 reorganize his entire life. This is the yoga of Earth that is 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, in one word ‘the 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 bails us through everything and leads us even 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 His Play. Soul and Nature, Purusha and Prakriti, Iswara and Shakti are various poises of the One Reality for the sake of creation. So too Knowledge and Ignorance, 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 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 of a divinized 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 however see now 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 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.

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