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At the Feet of The Mother

Correspondence 1930, October-December

October 13, 1930

This is a fundamental experience of the Yoga. It is the free ascent of the consciousness to join the Divine. When, liberated from its ordinary identification with the body, it rises upward to have experience of the higher planes, to link itself with the psychic or the true being or to join the Divine Consciousness, then there is this experience of ascension and of speeding or expanding through space. The joy you feel is a sign of this last movement, — rising to join the Divine; the passivity and expectancy of a descent are signs of the openness to the Divine that is its result; there is also the sense of this openness, and emptiness of the ordinary contents of the consciousness, a wideness not limited by the narrow prison of the physical personality. There is too, usually or very often, a massive immobility of the body which corresponds to the silence that comes on the mind when it is released from itself — the Silence that is the foundation of spiritual experience. What you have felt (the former experiences were probably preparatory touches) is indeed the beginning of this foundation — a consciousness free, wide, empty at will, able to rise into the supraphysical planes, open to the descent of whatever the Mother will pour into it.

*   *   *

December 8, 1930

It is again a beautiful poem that you have written, but not better than the other. Why erect mental theories and suit your poetry to them whether your father’s or Tagore’s? I could suggest to you not to be bound by either but to write as best suits your own inspiration and poetic genius. I imagine that each of them wrote in the way suited to his own inspiration and substance and, as is the habit of the human mind, put that way forward as a general rule for all. You have developed an original poetic turn of your own, quite unlike your father’s and not by any means a reflection of Tagore’s. Besides, there is now as a result of your sadhana a new quality in your work, a power of expressing with great felicity a subtle psychic delicacy and depth of thought and emotion which I have not seen elsewhere in modern Bengali verse. If you insist on being rigidly simple and direct as a mental rule, you might spoil something of the subtlety of the expression, even if the delicacy of the substance remained. Obscurity, artifice, rhetoric have to be avoided, but for the rest follow the inner movement.

I do not remember the precise words I used in my letter to Amal,[1] — I think I advised sincerity and straightforwardness as opposed to rhetoric and artifice. In any case it was far from my intention to lay down any strict rule of bare simplicity and directness as a general law of poetic style. I was speaking of “twentieth century” English poetry and of what was necessary for Amal, an Indian writing in the English tongue. English poetry in former times used inversions freely and had a law of its own, at that time natural and right but the same thing nowadays sounds artificial and false. I have myself used inversions in my earlier poetry, though I would avoid them in anything I wrote now. English has now acquired a richness and flexibility and power of many-sided suggestion which makes it unnecessary for poetry to depart from the ordinary style and form of the language. But there are other languages in which this is not yet true. Bengali is in its youth, in full process of growth and has many things not yet done, many powers and values it has still to acquire. It is necessary that its poets should keep a full and entire freedom of turning in whichever way their genius leads, of finding new forms and movements; if they like to adhere to the ordinary norm of the language to which prose has to keep and do what they can in it, they should be free to do so; but also they should be free to depart from it, if it is by doing so that they can best liberate their souls in speech. At present it is this that most matters.

I think I prefer the original form of your penultimate verse. I did not myself find it ambiguous and it has a native glow of colour in it which the second version misses — at least, so it seems to me on a comparative reading.

P.S. I have had no time to answer today’s letter, but I shall answer it as soon as possible. Do not let your vital get restless, — keep a firm and quiet inner seat. You have progressed much more than you know. Never mind Russell and his shallow materialistic externalism. It is in the inner being that there are the riches and the colour and the immortal joy — but, to get them, first peace, quietude, self-mastery are indispensable.

*   *   *

December 25, 1930

Radharani’s (?) rendering.[2]

It is not a very satisfactory translation, but your changes improve it as far as it can be improved.

Why tobu [yet] in the fourth line? The idea is that work and knowledge and power can only obey the Divine and give him service; Love alone can compel him because, of course Love is self-giving and the Divine gives himself in return.

As for the second verse it does not give the idea at all. To have no contempt for the clod or the worm does not indicate that the non-despiser is the Divine, — such an idea would be absolutely meaningless and in the last degree feeble. Any Yogi could have that equality, or somebody much less than a Yogi. The idea is that, being Omnipotent, omniscient, infinite, supreme, the Divine does not scorn to descend even into the lowest forms, the obscurest figures of Nature and animate them with the divine Presence, — that shows his Divinity. The whole sense has fizzled out in the translation.

You need not say all that to the poetess, but perhaps you might very delicately hint to her that if she could bring in this point, it could be better. Then perhaps she could herself change the verse.

P.S. I shall answer about your sparkles and sounds — which are not an optical or any other kind of illusion, if you please. Why drag in Science! into a Yogic experience?

*   *   *

December 27, 1930

I send you my version of your version of your poem, Dān-Līlā. I have no time to write it out fair, but I suppose you will be able to piece my alterations together.

I have not forgotten Russell[3] but I have neglected him, first, for want of time; second, because for the moment I have mislaid your letter; third, because of lack of understanding on my part. What is the meaning of taking interest in external things for their own sakes? And what is an introvert? Both these problems baffle me.

The word “introvert” has come into existence only recently and sounds like a companion of “pervert.” Literally, it means one who is turned inwards. The Upanishad speaks of the doors of the senses that are turned outwards absorbing man in external things (“for their own sakes,” I suppose?) and of the rare man among a million who turns his vision inwards and sees the Self. Is that man an introvert? And is Russell’s ideal man interested in externals for their own sake, Cheloo, for instance, or Joseph, homo externalis Russellius, an extrovert? Or is an introvert one who has an inner life stronger than his external one, — the poet, the musician, the artist? Was Beethoven in his deafness bringing out music from within an introvert? Or does it mean one who measures external things by an inner standard and is interested in them not for their own sakes but for their value to his inner self-development, psychic, religious, ethical or other. Are Tolstoi and Gandhi examples of introverts? Or in another field Goethe? Or does it mean one who cares for external things only as they concern his own ego? But that I suppose would include 999,999 men out of every million.

What are external things? Russell is a mathematician? Are mathematical formulae external things even though they exist here only in the World-Mind and the mind of man? If not, is Russell as mathematician, an introvert? Again, Yajnavalkya says that one loves the wife not for the sake of the wife, but for the self’s sake, and so with other objects of interest or desire — whether the self be the inner self or the ego. In Yoga it is the valuing of external things in the terms of the desire of the ego that is discouraged — their only value is their value in the manifestation of the Divine. Who desires external things for their own sake and not for some value to the conscious being? Even Cheloo, the day-labourer, is not interested in a two-anna piece for its own sake, but for some vital satisfaction it can bring him; even with the hoarding miser it is the same. It is his vital being’s passion for possession that he satisfies. What then is meant by Russell’s “for their own sake?” If you will enlighten me on these points, I may still make an effort to comment on the mahāvākyā [great dictum] of your former guru.

More important is his wonderful phrase about the emptiness within — on that at least I hope to make a comment one day or another.

*   *   *


[1] Amal Kiran (K. D. Sethna).

[2] A Bengali translation of Sri Aurobindo’s poem, “God.” (The question mark after “Radharani” is Sri Aurobindo’s.)

[3] B. Russell, The Conquest of Happiness (Allen & Unwin, London, 1930), p. 160: “We are all prone to the malady of the introvert, who, with the manifold spectacle of the world spread out before him, turns away and gazes upon the emptiness within.”

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