object:1.14 - The Secret
book class:Sri Aurobindo or the Adventure of Consciousness
subject class:Integral Yoga
We can try to say something of this Secret, though keeping in mind that the experience is in progress. Sri Aurobindo began; he found the Secret in Chandernagore in 1910 and worked on it for forty years; he gave up his life to it. And so did Mother.
Sri Aurobindo has never told us the circumstances of his discovery. He was always extraordinarily silent about himself, not out of reserve but simply because the "I" did not exist. "One felt," his Chandernagore host reports with naive surprise, "one felt when he spoke as if somebody else were speaking through him. I placed the plate of food before him, he simply gazed at it, then ate a little, just mechanically! He appeared to be inwardly absorbed even when he was eating; he used to meditate with open eyes." 219 It was only later, from his writings and some fragments of conversations, that his experience could be pieced together. The first clue came from a chance remark made to one of his disciples. It shows that from Alipore onward he was on the trail: I was mentally subjected to all sorts of torture for fifteen days. I had to look upon pictures of all sorts of suffering.220 We must remember that in those worlds, seeing is synonymous with experiencing. Thus, as Sri Aurobindo ascended toward the overmind, his consciousness was descending into what we are used to calling hell. This is also one of the first phenomena the seeker experiences, in varying degrees. This is not a yoga for the weak, as the Mother says, and it is true. For if the first tangible result of Sri Aurobindo's yoga is to bring out new poetic and artistic faculties, the second, perhaps even the immediate consequence, is to shine a merciless spotlight on all the undersides of the consciousness, first individual, then universal. This close, and puzzling, linkage between superconscient and subconscient was certainly the starting point of Sri Aurobindo's breakthrough.
The Gradations of the Subconscient
The "subconscious" of modern psychology is only the outer fringe of a world almost as vast as the Superconscient, with many levels, forces, beings (or being-forces, if we prefer). It is our immediate as well as distant evolutionary past, with all the impressions of our present life and all those of our past lives, just as the Superconscient is our evolutionary future. All the residues and forces that have presided over our evolutionary ascent from inanimate matter to animal to man are not only stored there, but continue to live and to influence us. If indeed we are more divine than we think by virtue of the superconscious future that is drawing us ahead, we are also more beast-like than we imagine thanks to the subconscious and unconscious past we drag behind us. This double mystery holds the key to the total Secret. None can reach heaven who has not passed through hell.
True, one can reach spiritual heavens without even knowing these squalid places, except by accident. But there are different kinds of heavens, just as there are different kinds of hells (each level of our being has its own "heaven" and "hell"). Generally, the religious man leaves behind the individual self, thereby leaving behind the subconscient. He merely has to pass through one gate, with "guardians" unpleasant enough to account for all the "nights" and "temptations" mentioned in the lives of saints. But there is only one gate to pass through. Similarly, the heaven he aspires to means leaving the outer existence and plunging into ecstasy. As we have said, though, the goal of this yoga is not to lose consciousness, any more below than above, and in particular not to close our eyes to the conditions below. The integral seeker is meant neither for total darkness nor for blinding light. Everywhere he goes, he must see. This is the foremost condition of mastery. Indeed, we do not seek to move on to a better existence but to transform this one.
Just as there are several gradations in the superconscient, there are also several layers or worlds in the subconscient, several "dark caves," as the Rig Veda calls them. In fact, there is a subconscient behind each level of our being a mental subconscient, a vital subconscient, and a physical subconscient, opening onto the material Inconscient. 222
There we will find, respectively, all the elementary and crude mental forms or forces that first appeared in the world of Matter and Life; all the aggressive impulses of the beginnings of Life, its reflexes of fear and suffering; and finally the forces of illness and disintegration, and Death, which subconsciously preside over our physical life. It becomes obvious, therefore, that no real life on earth is possible so long as all these worlds remain in control of our physical destiny. We are ourselves the battlefield: all these worlds, from the highest to the lowest, meet within us. So we must not run away, holding our noses or crossing ourselves, but squarely enter the battlefield and conquer:
He too must carry the yoke he came to unloose;
He too must bear the pang that he would heal.
222 - For Sri Aurobindo, human psychological divisions follow our evolutionary ascent, which seems logical since it is in Matter, and beginning with it, that increasingly higher forms of consciousness have manifested. The Inconscient then represents our material, bodily base (Sri Aurobindo prefers to call it "Nescience," since this Inconscient is not really unconscious), while the Subconscient encompasses our earthly past and the Superconscient our future. Within these three zones rise the various universal planes of consciousness (which Sri Aurobindo sometimes calls "subliminal" in order to distinguish them from the subconscient, whose consciousness is very limited or very dim, sub-conscious, whereas the subliminal planes are full of highly conscious forces). The "personal" portion of these various zones is but a thin layer: our own body, plus whatever we have been able to individualize or colonize in this life and in previous lives.
The Limits of Psychoanalysis
Contemporary psychology, too, has become aware of the importance of the subconscient and of the need to cleanse it. But psychologists have seen only half of the picture the subconscient without the superconscient presuming, moreover, that their small mental glimmers would be able to illuminate that den of thieves. They might as well try to find their way through the darkest jungle armed with a flashlight! In fact, in more cases they see the subconscient only as the underside of the small frontal personality, for there is a fundamental psychological law none can escape: descent is commensurate with ascent. One cannot descend farther than one has ascended, because the force necessary for descent is the very same force needed for ascent.
If, by accident, someone descended lower than his capacity for ascent, this would immediately result in some serious accident, possession or madness, because the corresponding power would be missing. The closer we draw to a beginning of Truth down here, the more we uncover an unfathomable wisdom. Mr. Smith's obscure inhibitions are merely a few inches below the surface, we might say, just as his conscious life is merely a few inches above. So unless our psychologists are particularly enlightened, they cannot really go down into the subconscient, and therefore cannot really heal anything, except for a few superficial anomalies (and even then, there is constant risk of seeing these disorders resurface elsewhere, in some other form). One cannot heal unless one has gone all the way to the base, and one cannot go all the way to the base unless one has risen to the heights. The farther one descends, the more powerful the light needed, otherwise one is simply eaten alive.
If psychoanalysis were content to remain within its narrow limits, there would be nothing to fear; it would eventually realize its own limitations, while fulfilling in the meantime a useful social function by treating minor scratches. Unfortunately, psychoanalysis has become for many a kind of new gospel. By its insistent focus on all our murky possibilities rather than on our divine ones, it has become a powerful instrument of mental corruption. No doubt, in the course of evolution, our "blunders" eventually find their place and purpose; our moral, middle-class self-righteousness certainly had to be shaken, but the method chosen is a dangerous one because it calls up the disease without having the corresponding power to cure it. It tends, says Sri Aurobindo, to make the mind and vital more and not less fundamentally impure than before.
. . . Modern psychology is an infant science, at once rash, fumbling and crude. As in all infant sciences, the universal habit of the human mind to take a partial or local truth, generalize it unduly and try to explain a whole field of Nature in its narrow terms runs riot here. . . . The psychoanalysis [especially] of Freud . . . takes up a certain part, the darkest, the most perilous, the unhealthiest part of the nature, the lower vital subconscious layer,225 isolates some of its most morbid phenomena and attributes to it and them an action out of all proportion to its true role in the nature. . . . To raise it up prematurely or improperly for experience is to risk suffering the conscious parts also with its dark and dirty stuff and thus poisoning the whole vital and even the mental nature. Always therefore one should begin by a positive, not a negative experience, by bringing down something of the divine nature, calm, light, equanimity, purity, divine strength into the parts of the conscious being that have to be changed; only when that has been sufficiently done and there is a firm positive basis, is it safe to raise up the concealed subconscious adverse elements in order to destroy and eliminate them by the strength of the divine calm, light, force and knowledge.
There is another drawback to psychoanalysis, a more serious one.
If by chance psychoanalysts had the power to descend into the subconscient, not only would they not heal anything, not only would they risk setting in motion forces which, like the sorcerer's apprentice, they could not control, but even if they did have the power to master and to destroy these forces, they would very probably destroy the good along with the evil, thus irreparably mutilating our nature. For they do not possess knowledge. From their mental poise, they cannot see far enough into the future to discern the good that a certain evil may be preparing and the dynamic Force concealed behind the play of opposites. Another kind of power is needed in order to sort out this bizarre amalgam, and above all another vision: You must know the whole before you can know the part and the highest before you can truly understand the lowest. That is the promise of the greater psychology awaiting its hour before which these poor gropings will disappear and come to nothing.
As we have said, there are numerous gradations and sub-gradations within the subconscient. We deliberately did not dwell on the description of these lower worlds; the seeker will experience them himself when the time comes. To give a specific mental form to these lower forces does not help to exorcise them, as some might imagine, but gives them an even greater hold on our consciousness. The mind is simply incapable of healing anything.
Here we touch upon the fundamental error of our modern psychology: it fails to understand anything because it searches below, in our evolutionary past. True, half the Secret may be there, but we still need the force above to open the door below. We were never meant to look behind, but ahead and above in the superconscious light, because it is our future, and only the future can explain and heal the past: I find it difficult, Sri Aurobindo wrote to a disciple, to take these psychoanalysts at all seriously yet perhaps one ought to, for half-knowledge is a powerful thing and can be a great obstacle to the coming in front of the true Truth. . . . They look from down up and explain the higher lights by the lower obscurities; but the foundation of these things is above and not below. The superconscient, not the subconscient, is the true foundation of things. The significance of the lotus is not to be found by analyzing the secrets of the mud from which it grows here; its secret is to be found in the heavenly archetype of the lotus that blooms for ever in the Light above.
We appear to progress from below upward, from past to future, from night to conscious light, but this is just our small momentary understanding that obscures the whole, for otherwise we would see that it is not the past that impels us, but the future that draws us and the light above that gradually pervades our darkness for how could darkness ever have created all that light? If we had been born out of darkness, we would end up only in darkness. "This is the eternal Tree with its roots above and its branches downward," says the Katha Upanishad. (VI.I) We feel we are making great efforts to progress toward more understanding and greater knowledge; we have a sense of tension toward the future. But this is still our limited perspective. If we had a different perspective, we might see the superconscious Future trying to enter our present. And we would realize that our sense of effort is just the resistance put up by our denseness and darkness.
The future does not move only from below upward, otherwise there would be no hope for the earth, as it would end up exploding in the sky from a supreme psychic tension, or falling back into darkness. The future moves also from above downward; it penetrates deeper and deeper into our mental fog, into our vital confusion, into the subconscious and unconscious night, until it illuminates everything, reveals everything, heals everything and ultimately fulfills everything. Yet the deeper it goes, the greater the resistance for this is the Iron Age, the time of the great Revolt and Peril but also the time of Hope. At the supreme point where this Future touches the rock-bottom past, where this Light bursts into night's nethermost level,
God willing, we will find the secret of Death and of immortal Life.
But if we look below and only below, we will find mud and only mud.
The Dark Half of the Truth
Now we are drawing nearer. The seeker began his journey with a positive experience. He set out on the way because he needed something else. He strove for mental silence and found that his very effort produced an Answer. He felt a descending Force, a new vibration within him, which made life clearer, more alive. Perhaps he even experienced a sudden tearing of the limits and emerged at another altitude. The signs might have come in a thousand ways to indicate that a new rhythm was setting in. But then, after this hopeful start, everything became veiled, as if he had been dreaming or had become carried away by some childish enthusiasm: something within him is now busy taking its revenge through a spell of skepticism, disgust, or revolt. This will be the second sign, perhaps the true sign, that he is progressing and has come to grips with the realities of his nature or, rather, that the descending Force has begun its churning work. Ultimately, progress is not so much a matter of ascending as of clearing up the prevailing obstructions for when we are clear, everything is right there. Thus the seeker begins to discover his many obstructions. On the path of integral yoga, the feeling is often of finding the worst when we had wished for the best, of waging war when we had sought peace and light. Actually, let us face it, it is a battle. As long as we are swimming with the current, we can believe ourselves to be very nice, proper and well-intentioned individuals, but the instant we take another direction, everything begins to resist. We begin tangibly to appreciate the colossal forces that weigh upon human beings and stupefy them; yet it is only by trying to get out of their clutches that we can realize this. Once the seeker has had a first decisive opening above, once he has seen the Light, then almost simultaneously he feels a kick in the shins, as if something in him were in pain. Now he knows what Sri Aurobindo meant by the wounded gloom complaining against light.229 And he will have learned his first lesson: each step upward is necessarily followed by a step downward. Instead of taking these sharp jolts as a kind of fatality, the seeker will make them the basis of his work. Indeed, this dual movement of ascent and descent is the fundamental process of the integral yoga: On each height we conquer we have to turn to bring down its power and its illumination into the lower mortal movement.
Such is the price for transforming life, otherwise we merely poeticize and spiritualize on the peaks, while below the old life keeps bumping along. In practice, the downward movement is never created by an arbitrary mental decision; the less the mind interferes in this, the better. Besides, one wonders how the Mind could ever "descend," comfortably seated, as it is, behind its little desk. It is the awakened and individualized consciousness-force in us that does all the work, automatically. The moment we have attained a certain intensity of consciousness and light, it automatically exerts a pressure on the rest of our nature, which results in corresponding reactions of obscurity or resistance. It is as if an overdose of oxygen were abruptly pumped into the ocean's underworld: the deep-sea creatures would struggle frantically, or even explode. This reversal of consciousness is strange indeed, as if going from a well-lighted room to the same room filled with darkness, or from a joyous room to the same room riddled with pain: everything is the same, and yet everything is changed. As if it were the same force, the same vibratory intensity perhaps even the same vibration but with a minus sign in front of it instead of a plus sign. One can then observe, almost step by step, how love changes into hate, for example, or how the pure becomes impure; everything is the same, only reversed. Yet, as long as our psychological states are merely the reverse of one another, and our good the back side (perhaps we should say the front side?) of evil, life will never change.
Something radically different is needed another type of consciousness. All the poets and creative geniuses have known these swings of consciousness. Even as he experienced his Illuminations, Rimbaud visited strange realms that struck him with "terror"; he, too, went through the law of dark inversion. But instead of being unconsciously tossed from one extreme to another, of ascending without knowing how and descending against his will, the integral seeker works methodically, consciously, without ever losing his balance, and, above all, with a growing confidence in the Consciousness-Force, which never initiates more resistance than he can meet, and never unveils more light than he can bear. After living long enough from one crisis to the next, we will ultimately discern a pattern in the action of the Force, and will notice that each time we seem to leave the ascending curve or even lose something we had achieved, we ultimately retrieve the same realization, but on a higher, more expanded level, made richer by the part that our "fall" has added; had we not "fallen," this lower part would never have become integrated into our higher ones. Perhaps it was the same collective process that brought about Athens' fall, so that some old barbarians, too, might be exposed to Plato. The integral yoga does not follow a straight line rising higher and higher out of sight, toward a smaller and smaller point, but, according to Sri Aurobindo, a spiral that slowly and methodically annexes all the parts of our being in an ever vaster opening based upon an ever deeper foundation. Not only will we observe a pattern behind this Force, or rather this ConsciousnessForce, but also regular cycles and a rhythm as certain as that of the tides and the moons. The more we progress, the wider the cycles, and the closer their relationship with the cosmic movement itself until the day when we can perceive in our own descents the periodical descents of consciousness on earth, and in our own difficulties all the turmoil, resistance and revolt of the earth. Eventually, everything will become so intimately interconnected that we will be able to read in the tiniest things, the most insignificant events of daily life or the objects nearby, the signs of vaster depressions that will sweep over all men and compel their ascent or descent within the same evolutionary wave.
Then we will understand that we are unfailingly being guided toward a Goal, that everything has a meaning, even the slightest thing nothing moves without moving everything and that we are on our way to a far greater adventure than we had ever imagined. Soon, a second paradox will strike us, which is perhaps the very same one.
Not only is there a law of ascent and descent, but there is also, it seems, a kind of central contradiction. We all have a goal in this life and through all our lives, something unique to express, since every human being is unique; this is our central truth, our own special evolutionary struggle. This goal appears only gradually, after numerous experiences and successive awakenings, as we begin to be a person with an inner development; we then realize that a kind of thread runs through our life, as well as through all our lives (if we have become conscious of them), indicating a particular orientation, as if everything always propelled us in the same direction a direction that becomes increasingly poignant and precise as we advance. Yet as we become conscious of this goal, we also uncover a particular difficulty that seems to represent the very opposite or contradiction of our goal. It is a strange situation, as if we carried within us the exact shadow of our light a shadow or difficulty or problem that confronts us again and again with a baffling insistence, always the same beneath different masks and in the most diverse circumstances, returning with increasing strength after every battle won and in exact proportion to our new intensity of consciousness as if we had to fight the same battle over and over again on each newly conquered plane of consciousness. The clearer the goal becomes, the stronger the shadow.
Now we have met the Foe:
This hidden foe lodged in the human breast
Man must overcome or miss his higher fate.
This is the inner war without escape.
Sri Aurobindo also calls it the Evil Persona. Sometimes, we can even negatively guess what our goal must be, before understanding it positively, through the sheer repetition of the same difficult circumstances or the same failures that seem to point to a single direction, as if we were forever revolving in an oppressive circle, drawing nearer and nearer to a central point that is both the goal and the opposite of the goal. A person greatly endowed for the work, Sri Aurobindo wrote, has always or almost always, perhaps one ought not to make a too rigid universal rule about these things a being attached to him, sometimes appearing like a part of him, which is just the contradiction of the thing he centrally represents in the work to be done. Or if it is not there at first, not bound to his personality, a force of this kind enters into his environment as soon as he begins his movement to realize. Its business seems to be to oppose, to create stumblings and wrong conditions, in a word, to set before him the whole problem of the work he has started to do. It would seem that the problem could not, in the occult economy of things, be solved otherwise than by the predestined instrument making the difficulty his own. That would explain many things that seem very disconcerting on the surface.232 In her talks to the disciples, Mother stressed the same phenomenon: If you represent a possibility of victory, you always have in you the opposite of this victory, which is your constant torment. When you see a very black shadow somewhere in you, something truly painful, you can be sure that you also have the corresponding possibility of light. And she added: You have a special goal, a special mission, your own particular realization, and you carry within yourself all the obstacles needed to make this realization perfect. Always you will find that shadow and light go together in you: you have a capacity, you have also the negation of that capacity. And if you discover a very dense and deep-rooted shadow in you, you can be certain there is also a great light somewhere. It is up to you to use the one in order to realize the other.
Life's secret may have eluded us simply because of our imperfect grasp of this dual law of light and darkness and of the enigma of our double nature animal and divine. Trained in a Manichaean conception of existence, we have seen in it, as our ethics and religions have taught us, a relentless struggle between Good and Evil, Truth and Falsehood, in which is was important to be on the good side, on the right hand of the Lord. We have cut everything in two: God's kingdom and the Devil's, the lower life in this world and the true life in heaven.
We had tried to do away with the opposite of the goal, but have at the same time done away with the goal itself. For the goal is not to be amputated, either from the bottom or from the top. As long as we reject one for the other, we will fail miserably and miss the goal of existence. Everything is one: if we remove anything, everything falls apart. How could we possibly remove "evil" without blowing up the whole world? If a single man were to free himself from "evil," then the world would utterly disintegrate, because all is one. There is one single substance in the world, not two, not a good one and an evil one.
One can neither remove nor add anything. This is why, also, no miracle can save the world. The miracle is already in the world, all possible lights are already in the world, all imaginable heavens are already here; any foreign element would upset the whole. All is right here. We are right in the middle of the miracle, only we are missing the key to it. Perhaps there is nothing for us to remove or to add, not even "something else" to discover, but the same thing, only perceived differently.
If we want to find the Goal, we must set aside our Manichaeism and come to a realistic appreciation of what Sri Aurobindo called "the dark half of truth."233 Human knowledge, he wrote, throws a shadow that conceals half the globe of truth from its own sunlight. . . . The rejection of falsehood by the mind seeking utter truth is one of the chief causes why mind cannot attain to the settled, rounded and perfect truth.234 If we eliminate everything that is wrong and God knows this world is full of mistakes and impurities we may well arrive at some truth, but it will be an empty truth. The practical approach to the Secret is, first of all, to realize, and then to see that each thing in this world, even the most grotesque or far-wandering error,235 contains a spark of truth beneath its mask, because everything here is God advancing toward Himself; there is nothing outside Him.
For error is really a half truth that stumbles because of its limitations; often it is Truth that wears a disguise in order to arrive unobserved near to its goal.236 If a single thing in this world were totally wrong, the whole world would be totally wrong. Thus, if the seeker sets out with this premise a positive premise and ascends step by step, each time accepting to take the corresponding step downward in order to free the same light237 hidden under every mask, in every element, even in the darkest mud, the most grotesque mistake or sordid evil, he will gradually see everything becoming clearer before his eyes, not only in theory but tangibly, and he will discover not only summits but abysses of Truth.238 He will realize that his Foe was a most diligent helper, most concerned with ensuring the perfect effectiveness of his realization, first, because each battle has increased his strength, and then because each fall has compelled him to free the truth below instead of escaping alone to empty summits. Ultimately, he will understand that his particular burden was the very burden of our Mother the Earth, also striving toward her share of light. The Princes of Darkness are already saved! They are at work, the scrupulous exactors of an all-inclusive Truth, rather than a truth that excludes everything:
Not only is there hope for godheads pure;
The violent and darkened deities
Leaped down from the one breast in rage to find
What the white gods had missed; they too are safe.239
Now the seeker will realize that each thing has its own inevitable place in the whole. Not only can nothing be left out, but nothing is more important or less important, as if the total problem were represented in the smallest incident or the slightest everyday gesture, as much as in cosmic upheavals; perhaps, too, the total Light and Joy are contained as much in the most infinitesimal atom as in the superconscious infinities. Now the dark half of the truth has become illuminated. Every stumbling or error kindles a flame of pain and seems to produce a breach of light below; every weakness summons up a corresponding force, as if the energy of the fall were the very energy of the ascent; every imperfection is a step toward a greater fulfillment. There are no sins, no errors, but only countless mishaps that compel us to attend to the full extent of our kingdom and to embrace everything in order to heal and fulfill everything. Through a tiny crack in our armor, a love and compassion for the world have entered in, which none of the radiant purities can ever understand; purity is impregnable, self-contained, sealed off like a fortress; some fissure is needed for the Truth to come in!
[He] made error a door by which Truth could enter in.240
There is a truth of Love behind evil. The nearer one draws to the infernal circles, the more one uncovers the great need in the depths of Evil and begins to understand that nothing can be healed without a corresponding intensity: a flame is kindled within, more and more powerful and warm beneath the suffocating pressure there is just Her, nothing but Her as if Love alone could confront the Night and persuade it of its luminous half. As if all that Shadow had been necessary so that Love might be born. In truth, the heart of every shadow, of every evil harbors the inverse mystery. And as each of us bears or harbors a special difficulty, at once the contradiction and the sign of our destiny, it may be that, similarly, the immense "faults" of the earth her sins and sufferings and the thousand gaping wounds of a pauper are the very sign of her destiny, and that someday she will incarnate perfect Love and Joy because she will have suffered all and understood all.
As we progress, the superconscious line recedes upward and the subconscious line downward. Everything widens, everything is illuminated, but everything also closes in and converges around a sharp point of darkness, increasingly acute, crucial and pressing, as if we had turned for years and years for lifetimes around the same Problem without ever having truly touched it. Then, suddenly, it is right there, at the bottom of the hole, wriggling beneath the Light all the evil of the world within one point. The time of the Secret is drawing near. For the law of descent is not a law of oppression, sin, or fall, any more than it is a law of repentance or heavenward escape, but truly a Golden Law, an unfathomable Premeditation that draws us simultaneously upward and downward into the depths of the subconscient and inconscient, to that central point,241 that knot of life and death, shadow and light, where the Secret awaits us. The nearer we draw to the Summit, the more we touch the Depths.
The Great Passage
The last steps of the descent take place beyond the subconscient, in our evolutionary past, in our former, prehistorical consciousness, at the level where, for the first time in the world, life emerged from what seemed to be death; that is, at the border between the material inconscient and the physical consciousness the witness and residue of that original birth in our body. The organs and cells of our body have their own type of highly organized, efficient consciousness, which knows how to choose, to receive or to reject, and which can be manipulated once we have reached a sufficient yogic development. If it were merely a question of improving life's present conditions, the ordinary yogic consciousness would be enough: extension of life at will, immunity against diseases, and even a lasting youth are but some of the frequent results of that discipline. But, as we have said, we seek to change life, not just to improve its facade. Beneath our present physical consciousness lies a physical subconscient, the product of life's evolution in Matter, which keeps a record of all the old habits of life, of which the worst is the habit of dying its reflexes, its fears, its contractions, and above all its habits of closure, as if it had retained the memory of the many protective shells it had to build around itself in order to protect its growth. In the very depths of this physical subconscient, where every form of consciousness or memory seems to die out, one reaches the bedrock, the initial Shell, the underlying Death from which life wrenched itself free. It is something very hard and very vast, so vast and so hard that the Vedic rishis called it "the infinite rock." This is the Inconscient. It is a wall or perhaps a door.
It is the bottom, or perhaps merely a crust. Moreover, it may not be completely dead or unconscious, for it does not feel like something negatively inert, but like something positively negative, as it were, something that refuses, that says No to life:
The stubborn mute rejection in Life's depths,
The ignorant No in the origin of things.242
If the very depths were total Nothingness, there would be no hope, and, in fact, nothing could have grown from nothing, whereas this bedrock bottom is something. If there is a No, there must be a Yes inside; if there is Death, there must be Life inside. And finally, if there is an end, there must be a beginning on the other side. Every negative is necessarily the other half of a positive. Every bottom is a surface covering something else. The very meaning of Sri Aurobindo's yoga is to uncover the positive of all these negatives, in every element and at every level of consciousness and, God willing, to uncover the supreme Positive (neither positive nor negative, it just is), which will unravel our dualities once and for all, those of the bottom as well as the duality of a life that dies or of a Death that lives.
At Chandernagore, Sri Aurobindo had reached the last levels of the physical subconscient. He was before a wall: No, it is not with the Empyrean that I am busy, I wish it were. It is rather with the opposite end of things.243 Knowing the kind of resistance and violent reactions one meets when barely touching the mental and vital subconscient, the snakepit, one can image the difficulty of that descent. The farther one descends, the higher the consciousness required, the stronger the light, since one can only descend as low as one has ascended. And if one understands that consciousness is a force, as tangible as an electric current, one can imagine the traumas and ordeals the overmental power and light can cause as they pour like a cataract into the quagmire of the physical subconscient an assault of ether and of fire.21 There are tremendous difficulties, and even dangers, in this to which we will return when discussing the transformation. As long as we are merely involved with mental or vital resistances, our moral lies, we need only to cultivate willpower and patience, but when we descend lower we must face the lies of the body, as the Mother says, namely, diseases and death. This is why Sri Aurobindo and Mother insisted upon a sound physical base for their disciples: Work from both ends; do not neglect one for the other.
As he reached the extreme overmental frontiers, where "great colored waves" fade into white confines, Sri Aurobindo simultaneously touched the black rock at the bottom:
I have been digging deep and long
Mid a horror of filth and mire. . . .
A voice cried, "Go where none have gone!
Dig deeper, deeper yet
Till thou reach the grim foundation stone
And knock at the keyless gate."244
Then, one day in 1910, at Chandernagore, a strange thing happened. . . . But before describing the experience that would change the course of our evolution, let us stop to take stock and briefly review the present human condition. It is really quite simple: we are stuck in Matter, imprisoned in the Black Egg that constrains us on all sides every second of the day. There are not a hundred ways of getting out of it, but only two: one is to fall asleep (to dream, to fly into ecstasy, or to meditate, but all are more or less lofty, conscious or divine gradations of sleep), and the other is to die. Sri Aurobindo's experience, however, provides a third possibility, allowing us to get out without flying into ecstasy or dying that is, to get out without actually getting out thereby reversing the course of man's spiritual evolution, since the goal is no longer only above or outside, but inside; and, in addition, opening the door of waking life to all the dreams, all the ecstasies, and especially to all the powers that can help us incarnate our dreams and transform the Black Egg into an open, clear and livable place. That day of 1910, in Chandernagore, Sri Aurobindo had reached the very depths, had broken through all the squalid layers upon which Life has grown like an inexplicable flower. There was only that Light above shining more and more intensely as he went down, bringing out all the impurities one after another under its keen ray, as if all that night were drawing in an ever greater amount of Light, as if the subconscious boundaries were receding farther and farther downward in an ever greater concentration the mirror image of the concentration above and leaving just that one wall of Shadow beneath that one Light. Then, suddenly, without warning, in the depths of this "unconscious" Matter and in the very cells of this body, Sri Aurobindo was thrust into the supreme Light, without trance, without loss of individuality, without cosmic dissolution, and with his eyes wide open:
He broke into another Space and Time.245
Night, Evil, Death are masks. The supreme Opposition awakens the supreme Intensity, and the analogous becomes Itself there is only One, tad ekam. The Solar World, the supreme, supramental, divine consciousness, of which all the other worlds are separate rays, was present in the very heart of Matter. The step above the overmind is not "above"; it is here within all things. The door below opens the door above and everywhere:
A fathomless sealed astonishment of Light.246
A grand reversal of the Night and Day
All the world's values changed. . . .247
The high meets the low, all is a single plan.248
The most remote Past touches the heart of the Future that conceived it, God-Spirit meets God-Matter, and there is a divine life in a body. Sat-Chit-Ananda above is Sat-Chit-Ananda below, Existence-Consciousness-Power-Joy. Evolution does not abort into a white or black sleep; nothing is swallowed up into Darkness; nothing is annihilated heavenward; everything connects at last in a perfect circle.
Joy above is Joy below:
An exultation in the depths of sleep,
A heart of bliss within a world of pain.249
An active joy, a powerful illumination within our very veins, instead of a sterile bliss above our heads:
Almighty powers are shut in Nature's cells.250
For the Supramental is not a more ethereal consciousness, but a denser one. It is the very Vibration that creates and endlessly recreates Matter and the worlds. It is what can transform the Earth:
In the very depths of the hardest, most rigid,
narrowest and most asphyxiating unconsciousness,
wrote the Mother, I struck upon an Almighty Spring
that cast me up forthwith into a formless,
limitless Vast vibrating with the seeds of a New World.
Such is the key to the Transformation, the key to overcoming the laws of Matter by using the Consciousness within Matter Consciousness above is Consciousness below. It is the door to the future world and the new earth announced by the Scriptures two thousand years ago: "A new earth wherein the Truth shall dwell." (2 Peter 3. 13) For, actually, the earth is our salvation, the ultimate place of Victory and of perfect accomplishment. There is no need to escape to heaven. All is here, totally, in the body Joy, Consciousness, supreme Powers if we have the courage to unseal our eyes and to descend, to dream a living dream instead of a sleeping one:
They must enter into the last finite if they want to reach the last infinite.251
At the same time, Sri Aurobindo was retrieving the lost Secret, that of the Veda and of all the more or less distorted traditions from Persia to Central America and the Rhine Valley, from Eleusis to the Cathars and from the Round Table to the Alchemists the ancient Secret of all the seekers of perfection. This is the quest for the Treasure in the depths of the cave; the battle against the subconscious forces (ogres, dwarves, or serpents); the legend of Apollo and the Python, Indra and the Serpent Vritta, Thor and the giants, Sigurd and Fafner; the solar myth of the Mayas, the Descent of Orpheus, the Transmutation. It is the serpent biting it own tail. And above all, it is the secret of the Vedic rishis, who were probably the first to discover what they called "the great passage," mahas pathah, (II.24.6) the world of "the unbroken Light," Swar, within the rock of the Inconscient: "Our fathers by their words broke the strong and stubborn places, the Angiras seers252 shattered the mountain rock with their cry; they made in us a path to the Great Heaven, they discovered the Day and the sunworld," (Rig Veda I.71.2) they discovered "the Sun dwelling in the darkness." (III.39.5) They found "the treasure of heaven hidden in the secret cavern like the young of the Bird, within the infinite rock." (I.130.3)
Shadow and Light, Good and Evil have all prepared a divine birth in Matter: "Day and Night both suckle the divine Child." 253 Nothing is accursed, nothing is in vain. Night and Day are "two sisters, immortal, with a common Lover (the Sun) . . . common they, though different their forms." (I.113.2.3) At the end of the "pilgrimage" of ascent and descent, the seeker is "a son of the two Mothers (III.55.7): the son of Aditi, the white Mother254 of the superconscious infinite, and the son of Diti, the earthly Mother of "the dark infinite." He possesses "the two births," human and divine, "eternal and in one nest . . . as the Enjoyer of his two wives" (I.62.7): "The contents of the pregnant hill255 (came forth) for the supreme birth . . . a god opened the human doors." (V.45) "Then indeed, they awoke and saw all behind and wide around them, then, indeed, they held the ecstasy that is enjoyed in heaven. In all gated houses256 were all the gods." (Rig Veda IV.1.18)
Man's hope is fulfilled as well as the rishi's prayer: "May Heaven and Earth be equal and one."257 The great Balance is at last restored.
Heaven in its rapture dreams of perfect earth,
Earth in its sorrow dreams of perfect heaven. . .
They are kept from their oneness by enchanted fears.258
And finally, there is joy Ananda. It is at the beginning of things and at the end and everywhere, if we dig deep enough. It is "the well of honey covered by the rock." (Rig Veda II.24.4)
254 - This ancient tradition, known also to the Hebrews, seems to have been revived, quite literally, by Christianity and the immaculate conception of the Virgin Mary.
255 - The material Inconscient.
256 - On all the planes of our being or in all the centers of consciousness.
257 - On Himself, 26:425
258 - Savitri, 29:684
Life of Sri Aurobindo, 132
Life of Sri Aurobindo, 122
On Yoga II, Tome 2, 686
On Yoga II, Tome 2, 689
On Yoga II, Tome 2, 689
On Yoga II, Tome 2, 689
The Synthesis of Yoga, 20:123
On Yoga II, Tome 2, 733
Thoughts and Aphorisms, 17:15
The Life Divine, 18:12
The Life Divine, 18:12
The Synthesis of Yoga, 20:123
The Human Cycle, 133
Mother India, March 1962
On Himself, 26:153
Last Poems, 5:150
Letters on Yoga, 22:388
The first rishis.
On Yoga II, Tome 2, 34
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