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At the Feet of The Mother

Correspondence 1932, September

September 8, 1932

I have made some slight corrections, that is all — especially in eliminating your “fancys” which seem to me to introduce too contemptuous a note. I do not agree that Wells and others are more serious than Shaw — if by seriousness is meant earnestness of belief in one’s ideals and sincerity in the intelligence. These can exist very well behind a triple breastplate of satire and humour. Shaw’s merits are surely greater than you seem disposed to admit in your letter. The tide is turning against him after being strongly for him — under compulsion from his own power and will, but nothing can alter the fact that he was one of the keenest and most powerful minds of the age with an originality in his way of looking at things which no one else could equal. If what was original in him has become the common stock of contemporary thought, it was his power and forcefulness that made it so — it is no more to be counted against him than the deplorable fact that Hamlet is only a “string of quotations” is damaging to Shakespeare! I do not share your exasperation against Shavianism — I find it a delightful note and am thankful to Shaw for being so refreshingly different from other men that to read even an ordinary interview with him in a newspaper is always an intellectual pleasure. As for his being one of the most original personalities of the age, there can be no doubt of that. All that I deny to him is a constructive and creative mind — but his critical force, in certain fields at least, as a critic of man and life was very great and in that field he can in a sense be called creative — in the sense that he created a singularly effective and living form for his criticism of life. It is not drama, but it is something original and strong and altogether of its own kind — so, up to that limit, I qualify my statement that Shaw was no creator.

As to the others, I do not feel inclined to be drawn in at present; I would have to say too much, if I started saying anything at all. Galsworthy, I have not read — as to the others, all I can say is that I do not share the contemporary idea about them — so far as I have read their work. Contemporary fame, contemporary opinion are creations of the hour and can die with the hour. I fail to see in many of the much praised writers of the time either the power of style or the power of critical mind or creative imagination that ensures survival. There is plenty of effective writing or skillful workmanship, but that is not enough to make literary immortals.

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September 9, 1932

I am sending you the letter which was forgotten (I intended to send it and took the intention for the act) and also the printed poems. I am quite convinced of the possibilities of the mātrā-vṛttas — which would exist even if Anilbaran is right in insisting that it is the sagotra [kindred] of the akṣara-vṛtta. Two people may be conscious and yet have different characters, possibilities and destinies — and so may two metres.

Why do you want Shaw to be tied to some intellectual dogma and square all his acts, views and sallies to it? He is too penetrating and sincere a mind to be a stiff partisan — when he sees something which qualifies the “ism” — even that on whose side he is standing — he says so; that need not weaken the ideal behind, it is likely to make it more plastic and practicable. However, enough of Shaw, I have to answer Amal’s question and that ought to finish with him. I will only add that whatever his manner, it does not appear to me that he writes merely to shock but to expose in a vivid way the stupidity of the human mind in taking established things and ideas for granted. If he does it in a striking and amusing way, why so much the livelier and the better!

I do not say anything about your poems because I have nothing new to say. You seem to have arrived at a complete command over rhythm and metre and a complete plasticity of expressions. All the rest depends upon the depths and widenesses you command and the heights you scale in the future.

*   *   *

September 14, 1932

I am glad to have your letter, because it makes clear to me what the decision should be. It was not from sentimental but from deeper considerations — my language was probably opaque — that I put in the balance the possibility of your satisfying the request in the telegram. But your letter has shown me very clearly what your inner being demands of me and also that your going now would not be desirable from the point of view of your spiritual life. That for me must be the first consideration. So, since it is left to my decision, I think it must be “no.”

*   *   *

September 21, 1932

No, what you write in your letter was not at all what the Mother was trying to tell you. The question of ahaitukī bhakti and its opposite was settled long ago and the Mother did not intend to return upon it; it is understood that whatever the motive immediately pushing the mind or the vital, an asking for Ananda or knowledge or power, yet if there is a true seeking for the Divine in the being, it must lead eventually to the realisation of the Divine. The soul within has always the inherent (ahaitukī) yearning for the Divine; the hetu or special motive is simply an impulsion used by it to get the mind and the vital to follow the inner urge. If the mind and the vital can feel and accept the soul’s sheer love for the Divine for His own sake, then the sadhana gets its full power and many difficulties disappear; but even if they do not, they will get what they seek after in the Divine and through it they will come to realise, even perhaps to pass beyond the limit of their original desire. I may say that the idea of a joyless God is an absurdity, which only the ignorance of the mind could engender. The Radha love is not based upon any such thing, but means simply that whatever comes on the way to the Divine, pain or joy, milana [union] or viraha [separation], and however long the sufferings may last, the Radha love is unshaken and keeps its faith and certitude pointing fixedly like a star to the supreme object of Love.

All this, however, has nothing to do with what the Mother wished to say in the morning. What she told you was that you seemed to have a fixed notion about the Divine, as of a rather distant Being somewhere whom you expect to give you an article called Ananda, and, when there is some prospect of his giving it to you, you are on good terms with him, but when he doesn’t, you quarrel and revolt and call him names! And she said a notion of the kind was in itself an obstacle, because it is rather far from the Truth, in the way of realising the Divine. What is this Ananda that you seek, after all? The mind can see in it nothing but a pleasant psychological condition, — but if it were only that, it could not be the rapture which the bhaktas and the mystics find in it. When the Ananda comes into you, it is the Divine who comes into you; just as when the Peace flows into you, it is the Divine who is invading you, or when you are flooded with Light, it is the flood of the Divine Himself that is around you. Of course, the Divine is something much more; many other things besides, and in them all a Presence, a Being, a Divine Person; for the Divine is Krishna, is Shiva, is the Supreme Mother. But through the Ananda you can perceive the ānanda-maya [all-blissful] Krishna; for the Ananda is the subtle body and being of Krishna; through the Peace you can perceive the śāntimaya [all-peaceful] Shiva; in the Light, in the delivering Knowledge, the Love, the fulfilling and uplifting Power you can meet the presence of the Divine Mother. It is this perception that makes the experiences of the bhaktas and mystics so rapturous and enables them to pass more easily through the nights of anguish and separation; when there is this soul-perception, it gives to even a little or brief Ananda a force or value it could not otherwise have and the Ananda itself gathers by it a growing power to stay, to return, to increase. This was what the Mother meant when she said, “Don’t ask the Divine to give you Ananda, ask Him to give you Himself” — signifying that in the Ananda and through the Ananda it would be Himself that He would give you. There would then be no cause to say, “I don’t know the Divine I have never felt or met Him”; it would be a gate for other experiences and make it easier to see the Divine in the material object, in the human form, in the body.

It was not a condition that the Mother was laying down when she said this; it was simply a suggestion which, if something in you could seize and profit by it, would make things less slow and difficult than they actually are.

*   *   *

September 22, 1932

I do not know why you concluded from my letter that I was displeased or had lost patience. I was answering two letters of yours in which there was nothing that could displease. I used the phrase about “calling the Divine names” very lightly and with no conscious intention in it; it was not meant in the least to convey displeasure or a reproach to you. It was used simply to point the description of a conception of the Divine, too external and summary, which seems to us to be an obstacle rather than a help to realisation. We saw that you had misunderstood what the Mother said and had taken it for an objection to your seeking for Ananda, — but it was not that at all, it was only a suggestion that in the Ananda itself when it came it was possible to feel the Divine and so open the gates to a concrete and rapturous experience. However, as I said, it was not her intention when she spoke or mine when I wrote to put it as a condition or impose it upon you. As for calling the Divine names I suppose most people have done it at one time or another and the Divine has not resented it nor has it stood in the way of His manifesting Himself to those when they were ready to receive. But I know from my own experience that the conception on which it rests belongs to a stage of misunderstanding and ignorance which one outgrows with the widening of the mind and the spirit. It was the conception as a whole which I was speaking of and this phrase was merely an ornamental detail — I never meant to lay stress on it or to suggest that it was something seriously condemnable or a cause of resentment or displeasure.

I cannot very well answer the strictures of Russell or Vivekananda (in one of his moods) for the conception of the Divine as an external omnipotent Power who has created the world and governs it like an absolute and arbitrary monarch. The Christian or Semitic conception, the popular religious notion, has never been mine; it contradicts too much my seeing and experience during forty years of sadhana. When I speak of the Divine Will I mean something different, — something that has descended here into an evolutionary world of Ignorance, standing at the back of things, pressing on the Darkness with its Light, leading things presently towards the best possible in the conditions of a world of Ignorance and leading it eventually towards a descent of a greater Power of the Divine which will be not an omnipotence held back and conditioned by the Law of the world as it is, but a full action and therefore bringing the reign of light, peace, harmony, joy, love, beauty and Ananda, for these are the Divine Nature. The Divine Grace is there, ready to act at every moment, but it manifests as one grows out of the law of the Ignorance into the Law of Light and it is meant, not as an arbitrary caprice, however miraculous often its intervention, but as a help in that growth and a Light that leads and eventually delivers. If we take the facts of the world as they are and the facts of spiritual experience as a whole, neither of which can be denied or neglected, then I do not see what other Divine there can be. This Divine may lead us often through darkness, because the darkness is there in us and around us, but it is to the Light he is leading and not to anything else.

*   *   *

September 23, 1932

A very fine poem this new one. The metre is a great success.

I return you the former letter from Prabodh Sen which I managed to find time to read only today. He has a most acute, ingenious and orderly mind and what he says is always thought-provoking and interesting; but I am not persuaded that the form of Bengali mātrā-vṛttas and Sanskrit laghu-guru is really and intrinsically the same. Equivalent, no doubt, in a way, — if we substitute Bengali metre for Sanskrit quantity; but not the same because Bengali metre and Sanskrit quantity are two quite different things. It is something like the equivoque by which one pretends that an English iambic metre or any other with a Greek name is the same as a Latin or Greek metre with that name — an equivoque based on the fiction that a stressed and an unstressed English syllable are quantitatively long and short. There is a certain kind of general equivalence but a fundamental difference — as those who have tried to find an equivalent in the English stress system to the quantitative Latin or Greek hexameter, alcaic or sapphic metres have discovered — they could not be transplanted, because it is only on true quantity that they can live.

As to Jyotirmayi’s cousin, I don’t know quite what to say. If he is not interested in Yoga, there seems to be no ground for his staying in the Ashram or for seeing the Mother — that is for the Mother receiving him. If he only wants to come to Pondicherry, visit you, see the Ashram, that would be a different thing — or he might even be allowed to come once to pranam and so see the Mother.

*   *   *

September 25, 1932

So far as the photograph of which you speak can be taken as showing the man, it is that of a nature of which the chief character is intensity, but in a very narrow range. There is here no wide range of ideas or feelings; a few ruling ideas, a few persistent and keenly acute feelings. The face of a man whose vital is also intense, but without strength and therefore over sensitive. There may well be a strong idealistic tendency — but there is not likely to be much power to carry out the ideals. This is the character; as for the genius, if there is any, it will depend on other things which may not find positive expression in the outward appearance; for the external man is often the medium of a Power that is beyond him.

I shall keep the book, for a few days — if you don’t need it — just to glance through it; it is too big to read in detail. I know nothing of Lawrence; I shall see if I can pick up something from here.

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There is nothing sentimental in the true weeping that comes from the soul. All that you feel now is the blossoming of the psychic being in you and the growth of a real bhakti.