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object:1.13 - Under the Auspices of the Gods
book class:Sri Aurobindo or the Adventure of Consciousness
author class:Satprem
subject class:Integral Yoga

When he came out of the Alipore jail, Sri Aurobindo found the political scene purged by the executions and mass deportations of the British government. He resumed his work, however, starting a Benagli weekly and another in English, the Karmayogin, with the Gita's very symbolic motto: "Yoga is skill in works." At the risk of a new imprisonment, Sri Aurobindo affirmed once again the ideal of complete independence from and noncooperation with the British
except that now it was not only India's destiny that preoccupied him,
but the world's. He had attained that overmental consciousness from which one sees, in a single glance, "great extensions of space and time," and he wondered about man's future. What could man do?
He had reached the limits of human consciousness. Higher up,
there seemed to be nothing but a rarefied whiteness, fit for other beings or another mode of existence, but not for the earthlings' lungs.
Whether one takes the mystic path or the slower path of the poet, the artist, or all the great creators, ultimately the consciousness seems to vanish at a white frontier, and everything is canceled out. The "someone" who could serve as a bridge disappears, all pulsations die out, all vibrations cease in a frost of light. Sooner or later, the human dissolves into a Nonhuman, as if the goal of this whole evolutionary ascent were only to leave the human smallness and return to the Source, which logically we never should have left in the first place. Even assuming there were some unknown gradation of consciousness beyond the overmind, would it not be a more rarefied,
more evanescent gradation? One climbs higher and higher, more and more divinely, but farther and farther away from the earth. The individual may be transfigured, but the world remains as it is. What,
then, is our earthly future if there is really nothing else but this overmental consciousness?
We all hope the development of consciousness and science combined will bring about a better human world, a more harmonious

life. But life is not changed through miracles; it is changed through instruments, and we have only one instrument the Mind. So if we want to look sensibly at our future, without being carried away by present circumstances and their apparent triumphs others have triumphed before us, at Thebes, at Athens, at Ujjain we must look more closely at our instrument, the Mind; for as the Mind is, so will be our future. Indeed, it would appear that the most beautiful ideas, the highest creative schemes, the purest acts of love all become distorted,
counterfeited, polluted the minute they reach the level of life. Nothing reaches us in its pure form. Mentally, we have already devised the most ingenious systems, but Life has never accepted them. Barely twenty years after Lenin, to speak only of our present civilization,
what remained of pure communism? What remains even of Christ beneath the mass of dogmas and prohibitions? Socrates was poisoned,
and Rimbaud fled to the Abyssinian desert; we know the fate of the Fourierists, of nonviolence; the Cathars wound up at the stake. History keeps turning like a Moloch. We may now appear to be a "triumph"
after many failures, but of what other greater triumph are we not the failure? Is this a chronology of victories or of defeats? Life seems made of a hopelessly distorting substance; everything gets swallowed up in it as in the sands of Egypt, leveled by some irresistible gravitational pull. It is clear, Sri Aurobindo remarked, that Mind has not been able to change human nature radically. You can go on changing human institutions infinitely and yet the imperfection will break through all your institutions. . . . It must be another power that can not only resist but overcome that downward pull.210
Even if our ideas reached life in their pure form, they would still be incapable of creating anything other than a military order or perhaps a holy, comfortable, religious order, but an order all the same,
because the Mind can only devise systems and seek to confine everything in them. The reason of man struggling with life becomes either an empiric or a doctrinaire. 211 It seizes upon a bit of truth, one drop of divine illumination, and makes it a universal law; it constantly confuses unity with uniformity. Even when it is capable of 210

Evening Talks, 120
The Human Cycle, 133

understanding the need for diversity, it is practically incapable of implementing it, because it only knows how to deal with what is invariable and finite, while the world is teeming with an infinite variety. Ideas themselves are partial and insufficient: not only have they a very partial triumph, but if their success were complete, it would still disappoint, because they are not the whole truth of life and therefore cannot securely govern and perfect life. Life escapes from the formulas and systems which our reason labors to impose on it; it proclaims itself too complex, too full of infinite potentialities to be tyrannized over by the arbitrary intellect of man. . . . The root of the difficulty is this that at the very basis of all our life and existence,
internal and external, there is something on which the intellect can never lay a controlling hand, the Absolute, the Infinite. Behind everything in life there is an Absolute, which that thing is seeking after in its own way; everything finite is striving to express an infinite which it feels to be its real truth. Moreover, it is not only each class,
each type, each tendency in Nature that is thus impelled to strive after its own variation. Thus there is not only an Absolute, an Infinite in itself which governs its own expression in many forms and tendencies,
but there is also a principle of infinite potentiality and variation quite baffling to the reasoning intelligence; for the reason deals successfully only with the settled and the finite. In man this difficulty reaches its acme. For not only is mankind unlimited in potentiality,
not only is each of its powers and tendencies seeking after its own absolute in its own way and therefore naturally restless under any rigid control by the reason; but in each man their degrees, methods,
combinations vary, each man belongs not only to the common humanity, but to the Infinite in himself and is therefore unique. It is because this is the reality of our existence that the intellectual reason and the intelligent will cannot deal with life as its sovereign, even though they may be at present our supreme instruments and may have been in our evolution supremely important and helpful.212
But if evolution is, as Sri Aurobindo insists, an evolution of consciousness, we may assume that humanity will not remain stuck forever at the present mental level; its mind will become illumined,

The Human Cycle, 131, 136

more and more intuitive, and will perhaps finally open to the overmind. One might suppose that a humanity opened to the overmind would be capable of handling life's intricate diversity. The overmind is a godlike consciousness, indeed the very consciousness of the greatest prophets the world has ever known, a mass of stable light, so it would seem that everything should be harmonized in that all-embracing light.
Unfortunately, however, two facts shatter this hope: the first has to do with the very nature of the overmind itself. To be sure, the overmind seems formidably powerful compared to our mind, but this is a superiority in degree within the same type; it is not a transcendence of the mental principle, but only an epitomization of it. The overmind can broaden the human scope, not change it. It can divinize man, but it also colossalises213 him, as Sri Aurobindo puts it; for if man attaches this new power to his ego instead of to his soul, he will become a Nietzschean superman, not a god. We do not need a superconsciousness; what we need is another consciousness. Even if man accepted to obey his soul and not his ego, the overmind would still not transform life, for the very reasons that prevented Christ and all the great prophets from transforming life: because the overmind is not a new principle of consciousness, but the very one that has presided over our evolution since the appearance of man; from the overmind have come all the higher ideas and creative forces, and we have lived under the auspices of the gods for thousands of years
sometimes through the voices of our prophets and religions,
sometimes through the voices of our poets and great creators. It is plain enough, however, that none of them have transformed the world,
though they may have ameliorated it. Can we even say that our present life is more livable than that of the Athenians?
The deficiencies of the overmind are retraceable to several causes.
First of all, it embodies a principle of division. Yet, we had said earlier that the overmental consciousness is a mass of stable light, that it possessed the vision of a cosmic harmony and a cosmic unity, since it sees light everywhere as in itself. As such, it is not a principle of division within unity. The overmind sees that all is one, but by the very structure of its consciousness it cannot, in practice, help dividing 213

The Life Divine, 19:722

the unity: It sees all but sees all from its own viewpoint. 214 We need only remember the seemingly contradictory voices of our prophets to realize that each one saw the unity, but saw it from his own viewpoint;
their consciousness' were like floodlights sweeping across the world and capable of embracing anything in their beams without casting any shadows, but they were still beams ending in particular points. Hence,
the series of apparently irreconcilable divine experiences or visions invariably confronting us: some see the cosmic Divine everywhere,
others the Transcendent beyond the cosmos everywhere, and others the immanent Divine everywhere; or there is affirmed the truth of the personal God, the truth of the impersonal God, the truth of Nirvana,
the truth of Love, the truth of Force, of Beauty, of Intellect all the truths of the countless sages, sects, churches, and visionaries that have imparted the Word to us. All are divine truths, all are true and genuine experiences within themselves, but each one is still only a single ray of the total Light. Naturally, these great prophets were wise enough to recognize the truth in other divine expressions they were wiser than their churches or their followers! yet they still remained bound by an essential impairment of consciousness, which could not help dividing,
as a prism divides light. Whether mental or overmental, the consciousness can experience only one truth at a time. This is what all the past and present mythologies express: each god is the incarnation of a single cosmic power love, wisdom, destruction, preservation,
etc. Buddha expresses the transcendent that sees only Nought; Christ expresses loving Charity and sees only Charity, and so on; but no matter how high each of these truths may be, it is still only one truth.
The farther the overmental truth (which is already fragmented)
descends from plane to plane in order to express itself in life, the more fragmented it becomes; beginning in division, it inevitably ends in a superdivision. From the Buddha to the "vehicles," and from Christ to all the Christian sects, the process is visible. This applies not only to the spiritual or religious spheres but to all spheres of life, since the very function of the overmind is to bring into play one possibility and one only: It gives to each [possibility] its full separate development and satisfaction. . . . sheer unsparing logicality. It can give to beauty its most splendid passion of luminous form and the consciousness that 214

On Yoga II, Tome 2, 263

receives it a supreme height and depth of ecstasy.215 This is how millions of idea-forces have divided our world: communism,
individualism; nonviolence, warmongering; epicureanism, asceticism,
etc. Each is one part of the divine Truth, each a single ray of God.
There is no such thing as absolute error, but only divisions of the one Truth. Of course, we can see the Unity, the truth in others, and attempt to form a synthesis, but even our synthesis will not bring about unity,
because it will still be a mental synthesis, a potpourri, not unity, as Mother says. It will be the prism pretending that all the colors do come from a single Light, but meanwhile, in practice, all the colors are divided in the world, and all the forces emanating from the overmental plane result from its own original division. Again, let us emphasize that this is not a matter of intellectual speculation, a philosophical dilemma to be resolved, but a cosmic fact, an organic reality like the needles on the porcupine's back. For division to cease,
the prism has to go. The world is divided and will remain so inevitably as long as the mental principle of consciousness, whether high or low,
ordinary or extraordinary, remains in control of the world.
It is nevertheless conceivable, in a nearer or rather evolutionary future, that one perfect overmental consciousness, or even several simultaneously, could incarnate on the earth. The less evolved human fraction rallying around these luminous centers would then be able to know a harmonious life and, to that extent, life would be changed;
there would be a sort of unity. But it would be unity within a single luminous beam. Some would bask in the beam of pure Beauty, say,
while others would be in the beam of integral Communism based on fraternal love (given the current evolutionary trend, however, these beams would more than likely be made of a hard light, centered around some economic or titanic ideology). Yet even if such divine centers were to appear on the earth, not only would their brand of unity go against life's diversity, but they would also be constantly threatened by the surrounding darkness; humans are at unequal stages of development a fact we always tend to forget. This is the eternal weakness in all our grand schemes. Our centers of grace would be like

Letters, 3rd Series, 128

islands of light216 amid a less evolved humanity, which would naturally tend to overrun, obscure, or even extinguish the privileged light. We all know the fate of ancient Greece and Rome in the midst of a barbarian world. It appears that the world moves according to a wiser evolutionary law, whereby nothing can be saved unless everything is saved. Excommunications and hells are the infantile products of Ignorance, our brainchildren on the earth or above; there can be no paradise so long as a single man is in hell! Because there is only one Man. In addition, assuming that one of these islands of light could, through the Power of its center, prevent incursions from outside, nothing guarantees that this protection would outlast that Power. The history of all the religious, occult, initiatory, or chivalrous movements throughout the world testifies to the fact that, after the death of the Master and his immediate disciples, everything becomes scattered, vulgarized, degraded, distorted, or simply dies. Until now the law of the "downward pull" has seemed insurmountable. If evolution is to triumph, then life must be transformed in its entirety
not just a fragment of life, not just a privileged beam or a blessed island. For this, another type of Power is required, a Power capable of resisting the downward pull, another undivided or global principle of consciousness capable of containing the innumerable diversity of life without mutilating it.
If we look at the evolutionary future from an individual standpoint instead of a collective one, the overmind does not bring us, either, the living fulfillment to which we aspire. If the goal of evolution is merely to produce more Beethovens and Shelleys, and perhaps even a few super Platos, one cannot help thinking that this is really a paltry culmination for so many millions of years and so many billions of individuals expended along the way. Beethoven or Shelley, or even St.
John, cannot be evolutionary goals, or else life has no true meaning
for who could fail to see that their works are admirable precisely because of their lack of contact with life? They all tell us that it is so much more beautiful up there complete with millions of golden birds and divine music than down here. Everything happens above,
but what is happening here? Here, life goes on as usual. Some may 216

The Life Divine, 19:954

say that these lofty thoughts, these poems and quartets and divine visionary moments are worth far more than all the hours of our life put together, and they are right . . . which is just the point! This in itself is the acknowledgment that life is woefully lacking, that life's very goal is not in life. We need a truth of body and of the earth, not just a truth above our heads. We do not seek recreation but a re-creation.
Until now, it is as if the individual's progress in evolution has been to discover higher planes of consciousness, and once there, to build his own private nest apart from the rest of creation, an island of light in the midst of economic philistinism: this one with music, that one with poetry, another with mathematics or religion, and yet another on a sailboat or in a monk's cell, as if the sole purpose of life in a body were to escape from both life and the body. Indeed, we need only look at our own life; we are never in it! We are before or after, engrossed in memories or in hopes; but the here-and-now is so miserable and dull . . . we do not even know if it exists, except in those moments that no longer belong to life as such. We cannot blame the churches,
because we all live in the beyond, all the time; they merely preach a larger beyond. Even Rimbaud said it: "True life is elsewhere."
Sri Aurobindo was searching for a true life here. Life, not a remote silent or high-uplifted ecstatic Beyond Life alone, is the field of our Yoga.217 He was realizing that the summits of consciousness are not sufficient to turn life into a true life. We may have attained the overmind, found joy, a singing immensity, but not that of life, which continues to grate. When you are high up in the consciousness, the Mother remarked, you know, but when you come back down in Matter, it is like water entering sand. We have sent our rockets high into the spiritual heavens, have sung what is best in man without bothering with the lower levels, content if the brute in us was asleep enough not to upset our divine dreams; but this is precisely why life does remain brute, like ourselves: To hope for a true change of human life without a change of human nature is an irrational and unspiritual proposition; it is to ask for something unnatural and unreal, an impossible miracle.218 This is also why our islands of light are 217

The Synthesis of Yoga, 20:82
The Life Divine, 19:1159

periodically overrun by our own inner barbarity, or some insidious cancers, as were those islands called Athens and Thebes. This is why they die and die again, as if the Lord of Evolution were rubbing our noses in the earth each time to remind us that we have not found all the light when we have found it exclusively above. Life does not die because of exhaustion, but because it has not found itself. For centuries we have trod the upward path, conquered island after island,
but we have found only half of the Secret, and we have been ruined each time; yet this may not be because history is hopeless, to punish us for our "sins," or to expiate some improbable Fault, but in order for us to find here, in Matter, the other half of the Secret. Pursued by Death and Unconsciousness, harassed by suffering and evil, the only solution left to us is not to escape but to find in the depths of Death and Unconsciousness, in the very heart of Evil, the key to divine life.
It is to transform the barbarity and darkness down here, not to banish it from our islands. After the ascent of consciousness, the descent.
After the illuminations above, the joy here and the transformation of Matter. One can say that it is when the circle is truly completed and the two opposites are joined, when the highest manifests in the most physical the supreme Reality in the heart of the atom that the experience will reach its true conclusion. It seems, said the Mother,
that one never really understands unless one understands with one's body.
The Secret, what Sri Aurobindo called the Supramental, is not a further gradation above the overmind, not a super-mind or a superascent, but a new Auspice, unconnected to the gods and the religions,
on which the very future of our evolution depends.
One evening in February 1910, less than a year after his release from Alipore, someone came to the office of the Karmayogin to warn Sri Aurobindo that he was to be arrested again and deported to the Andaman Islands. Suddenly, he heard the Voice speak three distinct words: Go to Chandernagore. Ten minutes later, Sri Aurobindo was aboard the first boat going down the Ganges. It was the end of his political life, the end of the integral yoga, and the beginning of the supramental yoga.

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