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At the Feet of The Mother

Correspondence 1933, June

June 1933

It is not possible that your dream of Girish Ghose[1] should be only a memory of childhood’s thoughts. There are such dreams shaped by old impressions arising out of the subconscient, but they have a different character. This must be a contact with Girish Ghose somewhere in another world or plane — such contacts are frequent when one has become consciously active in dream on supraphysical planes.

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June 15, 1933

The other day at pranam the Mother saw in me the great Latin poet Horace as one of my former incarnations, and what surprised her more was, she said, that Horace, a moment later, brought along Hector,[2] the Trojan King telling Mother that the latter was one of his previous incarnations — consequently one of mine too. She told me that they had, both, some distinct resemblance to my humble physiognomy, and that their psychic being was identical with mine. What, in the name of all that is wonderful, is the import of it all? I hope it’s of delectable augury? My misgivings on this score are due to my surmise that they (Hector and Horace[3]) don’t seem to posterity as outstandingly psychic beings, do they? Nevertheless, I am glad that Horace was one of my refreshing ancestors, though I would have preferred to have been Catullus,[4] the philosopher poet. But I fondly trust that Horace was not simply a poet but a man too, worth the name. But somehow I am sorry I was the hectoring Hector once, in my previous birth. And then didn’t Hector abduct Helen and caused the destruction of Troy? How dreadful!

I must first get the facts right for you have rolled people into each other with an almost divine vigour. It was Paris if you please who made the disreputable false step which led to the destruction of Troy. To put the blame on the shoulders of poor Hector who was not only a fervent patriot and a “bonny” fighter but blamelessly moral in all his family and social relations is really a scandal for which you deserve to be hauled up before the Law-courts of the Beyond. Hector, I may say, has been slandered in another way — for he was really not in the habit of “hectoring”, but really quite reasonable in his talk which was much to the point and full of excellent thoughts and sentiments and he had some perspicacity also. Only his magnanimity and courage often led him into a rash enthusiasm and exaggeration of hardihood which had its recoil reactions of depression and self-blame leading to another kind of rashness, that of despair. This is how Homer depicts him and we can take it at that.

Next Horace. You prefer Catullus because he was a philosopher? You have certainly rolled Lucretius[5] here into Catullus — Lucretius who wrote an epic about the “Nature of Things” and invested the Epicurean philosophy with a rudely Roman and most unepicurean majesty and grandeur. Catullus had no more philosophy in him than a red ant. He was an exquisite lyrist — much more spontaneous in his lyrism than the more sophisticated and well-balanced Horace, a poet of passionate and irregular love, and he got out of the Latin language a melody no man could persuade it to before him or after. But that was all. Horace on the other hand knew everything that was to be known about philosophy at that time and had indeed all the culture of the age at his fingers’ ends and carefully put in its place in his brain also — but he did not make the mistake of writing a philosophical treatise in verse. A man of great urbanity, a perfectly balanced mind, a vital man with a strong sociability, faithful and ardent in friendship, a bon vivant fond of good food and good wine, a lover of women but not ardently passionate like Catullus, an Epicurean who took life gladly but not superficial — that was his character. As a poet he was the second among the great Augustan poets, a great master of phrase — the most quoted of all the Roman writers — a dexterous metrist who fixed the chief lyric Greek metres in Latin in their definitive form, a style and rhythm in which strength and grace were singularly united, a writer also of satire[6] and familiar epistolary verse as well as a master of the ode and the lyric — that sums up his work.

But you must avoid a common popular blunder about reincarnation. The popular idea is that Titus Balbus is reborn again as John Smith, a man with the same personality, character, attainments as he had in his former life with the sole difference that he wears coat and trousers instead of a toga and speaks in cockney English instead of popular Latin. That is not the case. What would be the earthly use or the unearthly use of repeating the same personality or character a million times from the beginning of time till its end? The soul comes into birth for experience, for growth, for evolution till it can bring the Divine into Matter. It is the central being that incarnates, not the outer personality — the personality is simply a mould that it creates for its figures of experience in that one life. In another birth it will create for itself a different personality, different capacities, a different life and career. Supposing Virgil is born again, he may take up poetry in one or two other lives, but he will certainly not write an epic but rather perhaps slight but elegant and beautiful lyrics such as he wanted to but did not succeed in writing in Rome. In another birth he is likely to be no poet at all, but a philosopher and a yogin seeking to attain and to express the highest truth — for that too was an unrealised trend of his consciousness in that life. Perhaps before he had been a warrior or ruler doing deeds like Aeneas or Augustus before he sang them. And so on — on this side or that the central being develops a new character, a new personality, grows, develops, passes through all kinds of terrestrial experience.

As the evolved being develops still more and becomes more rich and complex, it accumulates its personalities, as it were. Sometimes they stand behind the active elements, throwing in some colour, some trait, some capacity here and there, — or they stand in front and there is a multiple personality, a many-sided character or a many-sided, sometimes what looks like a universal capacity. But if a former personality, a former capacity is brought fully forward, it will not be to repeat what was already done, but to cast the same capacity into new forms and new shapes and fuse it into a new harmony of the being which will not be a reproduction of what was before. Thus you must not expect to be what Hector and Horace were. Something of the outer characteristics may reappear, e.g. the lyrist, prosodist, social writer, thinker on life that was in Horace — but very much changed and new-cast in a new combination. Nor must you expect to find in Horace poetry like your own as it is in a new direction that the energies will be guided to do what was not done before.

Another thing. It is not the personality, the character that is of the first importance in rebirth — it is the psychic being who stands behind the evolution of the nature and evolves with it. What the Mother said was not that Hector and Horace were psychic beings — which neither of them predominantly were, but that she saw in you the psychic being that had stood behind the personalities of Horace and Hector. The psychic when it departs from the body, shedding even the mental and vital on its way to its resting place, carries with it the heart of its experiences, — but not the physical events, not the vital movements, not the mental buildings, not the capacities or characters, but something essential that it gathered from them, what might be called the divine element for the sake of which the rest existed. That is the permanent addition, it is that that helps in the growth towards the Divine. That is why there is usually no memory of the outward events and circumstances of past lives — for this memory there must be a strong development towards unbroken continuance of the mind, the vital, even the subtle physical; for though it all remains in a kind of seed memory, it does not ordinarily emerge. What was the divine element in the magnanimity of Hector, that which expressed itself in his loyalty, nobility, high courage, what was the divine element behind the harmonious mentality and generous vitality of Horace and expressed itself in them, that remains and in a new harmony of character may find a new expression or, if the life is turned towards the Divine, be taken up as powers for the realisation or for the work that has to be done for the Divine.

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June 22, 1933?

My experience shows me that the human beings are less deliberate and responsible for their acts than the moralists, novelists and dramatists make them and I look rather to see what forces drove them than what the man himself may have seemed by inference to have intended or purposed — our inferences are often wrong and even when they are right touch only the surface of the matter.

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June 23, 1933

I wired to Sisir Bhaduri “Don’t know your profits, suggest your terms reasonable.” Also I wired to my publisher Haridas Chatterji also a director of the Star Theatre, “Sisir wants Chandragupta Talkie. Wire how much I should charge.” Grant now that I may extract a goodly sum to be able to offer the same at Mother’s feet. The Hindi people gave (disgraceful) only Rs.250 when I had expected at least Rs. 750.

P.S. What is the meaning of your “Unheard is the valued”? I ask again for this and enclose the paper.

[7]… by “valued” that that is what is good for. Of course, it is only an extreme way of putting the idea of that Supreme Affirmation as against that of the Supreme Negation. For the Mayavadin the Brahman is not only an Unheard but an Unbearable; it is an indeterminate X out of which nothing but illusion can come though itself is nothing but Reality, only a Reality without anything in it — except itself and what itself is one can be but never know as it has neither content nor feature. So you get lost in it not so much like a star as like a fire of damp wood that contentedly fizzles out. From the other point of view the Divine is Absolute Bliss, Consciousness, Force, Light, Truth and everything else divine and you can not only lose yourself in it like a star or rather plunge into it as your own perfect element but come out from it like a sun with all that in you. It is an Unheard in which are all divine hearings.

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June 30, 1933

The wild elephants (Mother saw you taming) mean the untamed forces and potentialities that are to be controlled….

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[1] Girish Ghose, a Bengali dramatist and actor, disciple of Sri Ramakrishna.

[2] Trojan warrior, son of Priam and Hecuba, brother of Paris and Cassandra (who was loved by Apollo). Hector was killed by Achilles, who dragged his body three times round the walls of Troy.

[3] Quintus Horatius Flaccus (65-8 BC). Latin poet.

[4] Gaius Valerius Catullus (87-54? BC). Roman poet and epigrammatist.

[5] Latin poet and philosopher (c. 94-55 BC).

[6] Yes, he wrote a series of satires in verse — he ranks among the greatest satirists, but without malice or violence, his satire is good-humoured but often pungent criticism of life and men. [Sri Aurobindo’s note]

[7] The first page of Sri Aurobindo’s reply is missing.

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