classes ::: chapter, Sri_Aurobindo_or_the_Adventure_of_Consciousness, Satprem, Integral_Yoga,
children :::
branches :::

Instances, Classes, See Also, Object in Names
Definitions, . Quotes . - . Chapters .


object:1.17 - The Transformation
class:chapter
book class:Sri Aurobindo or the Adventure of Consciousness
author class:Satprem
subject class:Integral Yoga


The manifestation of the Spirit in a supramental consciousness and in a new body, a new race, is something as inevitable as was the advent of Homo sapiens after the primates. The only real question now is whether this new evolution will take place with us or without us. This is how Sri Aurobindo expressed the dilemma: If a spiritual unfolding on earth is the hidden truth of our birth into Matter, if it is fundamentally an evolution of consciousness that has been taking place in Nature, then man as he is cannot be the last term of that evolution: he is too imperfect an expression of the spirit, mind itself a too limited form and instrumentation; mind is only a middle term of consciousness, the mental being can only be a transitional being. If,
then, man is incapable of exceeding mentality, he must be surpassed and supermind and superman must manifest and take the lead of the creation. But if his mind is capable of opening to what exceeds it, then there is no reason why man himself should not arrive at supermind and supermanhood or at least lend his mentality, life and body to an evolution of that greater term of the Spirit manifesting in Nature. 340
We are facing, Sri Aurobindo says, a new crisis of transformation341 as crucial as the crisis that marked the appearance of Life in Matter, or the appearance of Mind in Life. Our own choice is crucial, too,
because this time, instead of having Nature to do her work of transmutation without much concern for existing contingencies, we can become conscious collaborators in our own evolution, accept the challenge, or, as Sri Aurobindo says, let ourselves be surpassed.

Future Prospects What will this new race be like? To understand the goal is already a 340
341

The Life Divine, 109
The Human Cycle, 292


great step on the way, because to understand and to aspire for that Future opens up an invisible door within us through which forces greater than our own can enter, and this means the beginning of our collaboration. Indeed, it is not our own human forces that will effect the transition to the supermind but an increasingly conscious surrender to the Force above.
We have already suggested what the consciousness of the supramental being might be like, but it is worth repeating with Sri Aurobindo that supermanhood is not man climbed to his own natural zenith, not a superior degree of human greatness, knowledge, power,
intelligence, will, character, genius, dramatic force, saintliness, love,
purity or perfection. Supermind is something beyond mental man and his limits.342 Driven to the extreme, Mind can only harden man, not divinize him or even simply give him joy, for the Mind is an instrument of division, and all its hierarchies are inevitably based upon domination, whether religious, moral, political, economic, or emotional, since by its very constitution it is incapable of embracing the totality of human truths and even when it is capable of embracing, it is still incapable of implementation. Ultimately, if collective evolution had nothing better to offer than a pleasant mixture of human and social "greatness," Saint Vincent de Paul and Mahatma Gandhi with a dash of Marxism-Leninism and paid vacations thrown in, then we could not help concluding that such a goal would be even more insipid than the millions of "golden birds" or the string quartets at the summit of individual mental evolution. If so many thousands of years of suffering and striving culminated only in this sort of truncated earthly parade, then Pralaya or any of the other cosmic disintegrations promised by the ancient traditions might not be so bad after all.
If our mental possibilities, even at their zenith, are not adequate,
our vital and physical ones are even less so. It is doubtful whether the Spirit, when it manifests in a supreme consciousness, will be satisfied with a body subject to the physical laws of gravity and decay, and whether it will accept as its sole means of expression the limited range of our mental language, the pen, the etching knife, or the brush. This means that Matter will have to change. Such is the purpose of 342

The Hour of God, 17:7


"Transformation," and it begins with our own immediate matter, the body. In the spiritual tradition the body has been regarded as an obstacle, incapable of spiritualisation or transmutation and a heavy weight holding the soul to earthly nature and preventing its ascent either to spiritual fulfillment in the Supreme or to the dissolution of its individual being in the Supreme. But while this conception of the role of the body in our destiny is suitable enough for a sadhana [discipline] that sees earth only as a field of the ignorance and earthlife as a preparation for a saving withdrawal . . . it is insufficient for a sadhana which conceives of a divine life upon earth and liberation of earth-nature itself as a part of a total purpose of the embodiment of the spirit here. If a total transformation of the being is our aim, a transformation of the body must be an indispensable part of it;
without that no full divine life on earth is possible.343
According to Sri Aurobindo, the essential quality of supramentalized Matter is its receptivity: it will be capable of responding to the conscious will and of changing according to the will's dictates, the way clay responds to a potter's fingers. As Matter releases the involved spiritual power it contains and becomes openly conscious, it will be able to respond to corresponding vibrations of the supramental consciousness, just as we now respond to a vibration of anger with anger or to a vibration of love with warmth in our heart.
Conscious malleability will be the essential attribute of supramentalized Matter. All other qualities derive from that fundamental characteristic: immortality (or at least a capacity to modify one's form or even change forms altogether), lightness, beauty,
luminousness. Such will be the natural attributes of supramental Matter. The body could become a revealing vessel of a supreme beauty and bliss, casting the beauty of the light of the spirit suffusing and radiating from it as a lamp reflects and diffuses the luminosity of its in dwelling flame, carrying in itself the beatitude of the spirit, its joy of the seeing mind, its joy of life and spiritual happiness, the joy of Matter released into a spiritual consciousness and thrilled with a constant ecstasy.344 The Veda has already 343
344

The Supramental Manifestation, 15:24
The Supramental Manifestation, 16:8


expressed this: "Then shall thy humanity become as if the workings of the gods; it is as if the visible heaven of light were founded in thee."
(Rig Veda V.66.2)
Before these spectacular and visible changes, which will likely take place at the very end of the process, Sri Aurobindo foresees substantial changes in our physiology. We will return to this point when we discuss the practical work of transformation. For the moment, let us only mention several functional changes that Sri Aurobindo observed in his own body: There would have to be a change in the operative processes of the material organs themselves and, it may well be, in their very constitution and their importance;
they could not be allowed to impose their limitations imperatively on the new physical life. . . . The brain would be a channel of communication of the form of the thoughts and a battery of their insistence on the body and the outside world where they could then become effective directly, communicating themselves without physical means from mind to mind, producing with a similar directness effects on the thoughts, actions and lives of others or even upon material things. The heart would equally be a direct communicant and medium of interchange for the feelings and emotions thrown outward upon the world by the forces of the psychic centre. Heart could reply directly to heart, the life-force come to the help of other lives and answer their call in spite of strangeness and distance, many beings without any external communication thrill with the message and meet in the secret light from our divine centre. The will might control the organs that deal with food, safeguard automatically the health, eliminate greed and desire, substitute subtler processes or draw in strength and substance from the universal life-force so that the body could maintain for a long time its own strength and substance without loss or waste, remaining thus with no need of sustenance by material aliments, and yet continue a strenuous action with no fatigue or pause for sleep or repose. . . . Conceivably, one might rediscover and reestablish at the summit of the evolution of life the phenomenon we see at its base, the power to draw from all around it the means of sustenance and self-renewal.345 Beyond Mind, the complete man 345

The Supramental Manifestation, 16:29,37


rediscovers consciously what Matter already is unconsciously
Energy and Peace since Matter is really but a sleep of the Spirit.
At a further stage of transformation, Sri Aurobindo foresees our organs being replaced by a dynamic functioning of our centers of consciousness or chakras. This is the real transition from the animalman conceived by the lower evolution to the human-man of the new evolution. It is one of the tasks undertaken by Sri Aurobindo and the Mother. From the earliest stages of yoga we have found that each of our activities, from the highest to the most material, was set in motion and fueled by a current of consciousness-force that seemed to converge at different levels of our being, within certain centers and with different intensities depending upon the type of activity;
whenever we have tried to manipulate this current, we have found it to be an extraordinary source of energy, limited only by our own capacity. Therefore, it is not inconceivable that our organs, which are only the physical translation or the material concentration of this current behind, may in the course of evolution be replaced by a direct action of the centers of consciousness, which would simply radiate their energy throughout the new body, just as the heart, blood and nerves now radiate throughout our present body. This is how the Mother once explained the future body to the ashram children:
Transformation implies that all this purely physical organization be replaced by concentrations of force, each with a particular type of vibration; instead of organs, there will be centers of conscious energy moved by the conscious will. No more stomach, no more heart, no more blood circulation, no more lungs; all that is gone and is replaced by a play of vibrations representing what these organs symbolically are. For organs are merely the material symbols for the centers of energy; they are not the essential reality: they simply give it a form or a material support in certain circumstances. The transformed body will then operate through its true centers of energy and no longer through their symbolic representatives as developed in the animal body. Thus, you must first know what your heart represents in terms of the cosmic energy, what your circulation, your brain, and your lungs represent in terms of the cosmic energy, then you must be able to muster the original vibrations that these organs symbolize,
and progressively concentrate all those energies in your body and

change each organ into a center of conscious energy that will replace the symbolic functioning by the true one. For example, behind the symbolic movement of the lungs, there is a true movement that gives the capacity of lightness, and you escape the law of gravity. 346 And likewise for each organ. There is a true movement behind every symbolic one. This doesn't mean that there will no longer be any recognizable form; form will be made up of qualities rather than solid particles. It will be a practical or pragmatic form, so to speak
supple, mobile and light at will, in contrast to the present fixity of the gross material form. Thus Matter will become a divine expression; the supramental Will will be able to translate the whole gamut of its inner life into corresponding changes in its own substance, much as our faces now change (although so little and so imperfectly) according to our emotions: the body will be made of concentrated energy obeying the will. Instead of being, in the powerful words of Epictetus, "a little soul carrying a corpse,"347 we will become a living soul in a living body.
It is not just the body and the mind that will have to change with the supramental consciousness, but also life's very substance. If there is one sign that characterizes our mental civilization, it is the use of artifices. Nothing happens naturally; we are the prisoners of a thick web of substitutes: airplanes, telephones, televisions, and the plethora of instruments and devices that mask our impotence. We forget that our marvelous inventions are only the material extensions of powers that exist within us; if they were not already there, we would never have been able to invent them. We are that thaumaturge sceptic of miracles,348 Sri Aurobindo spoke of. Having delegated to machines the task of seeing for us, hearing for us, and traveling for us, we have now become helpless without them. Our human civilization, created for the joy of life, has become the slave of the means required for enjoying 346

This "true movement" behind our breathing is, according to Sri Aurobindo, the same as the one governing electromagnetic fields, what the ancient yogis termed vayu, the Life-Energy. The well-known breathing exercises (pranayama) are simply one system (among others) of controlling vayu, which eventually enables one to escape gravity.
347
Quoted by Sri Aurobindo 348
Savitri, 28:338


life: sixty percent of our lifetime is spent acquiring means and another thirty percent sleeping. What is absurd here, says the Mother, is all the artificial devices we must use. Any idiot has more power provided he has the means of acquiring the necessary devices. But in a true world, a supramental world, the more conscious and in harmony with the truth of things you are, the more your will has authority over substance; substance responds to the will. There, authority is a true authority. If you want a dress, you must have the power to make it, a true power. If you don't have that power, well, you go naked! There is no artifice to substitute for the lack of power. While here, not once in a million times is authority the expression of something true.
Everything is colossally stupid. This supramental "authority" is not some kind of supermagic, far from it; it is an extremely precise process, as precise and exact as a chemistry experiment, except that instead of dealing with external objects, the supramental being acts upon the true vibration in the core of each thing and combines it with other vibrations in order to achieve a particular result, like a painter mixing colors for a picture or a poet combining sounds for a poem. He is truly a poet, for he creates what he names. The true name of an object is the vibration constituting it; to name an object is to have the power to evoke it or to destroy it.
The spontaneous and natural quality of supramental life for ultimately only Truth is natural will be expressed also in a supramental art, which will be a direct and exact representation of our particular spiritual tonality; an art in which cheating will have become impossible because only our inner light will be able to touch and play upon the same lights involved in Matter and mold from it the corresponding forms. If our vibration is gray, our creation will be similarly gray, and everything we touch will be gray. Our physical,
external environment will be the exact image of our inner environment; we will be able to manifest only what we are. Life itself will be a work of art, our outer dominion the changing stage of our inner states. Our language, likewise, will have power only through the true spiritual force within us; it will be a living mantra, a visible language like the play of emotions upon a human face. All shams will draw to an end, whether they be political, religious, literary, artistic, or emotional. Once, when a skeptical disciple commented that the

Supermind was an impossible invention, first of all, because it had never been seen or realized before, Sri Aurobindo replied with his typical humor: What a wonderful argument! Since it has not been done, it can't be done! At that rate the whole history of the earth must have stopped long before the protoplasm. When it was a mass of gases, no life had been born, ergo, life could not be born when only life was there, mind was not born, so mind could not be born. Since mind is there but nothing beyond, as there is no Supermind manifested in anybody, so Supermind can never be born. Sobhanallah! Glory,
Glory, Glory to the human reason! Luckily the Divine or the Cosmic Spirit or Nature or whatever is there cares a damn for the human reason. He or She or It does what He or She or It has to do, whether it can or can't be done.349 Thousands of years ago, the rishis had already spoken of the skeptics' misfortune: "In these there is not the Wonder and the Might." (Rig Veda VII.61.5)

The Work (First Phase)
As remarkable as the end result will be, the work of getting there is modest and humble and patient, exactly like the work of a scientist with his vials and test tubes: a microscopic work, says the Mother. For it is not a question of performing miracles, but of securing a new physical base by freeing the consciousness-force in each atom and each cell. One might think that this work on the body involves psychophysical methods similar to hatha-yoga, but it is nothing of the kind. Consciousness is and remains the main tool: The change of consciousness will be the chief factor, the initial movement, the physical modification will be a subordinate factor, a consequence. 350
With his usual clarity, Sri Aurobindo puts us before the fact: In the previous stages of the evolution Nature's first care and effort had to be directed towards a change of consciousness; this was a necessity imposed by the insufficiency of the force of consciousness already in formation to effect a change in the body. But in man a reversal is possible, indeed inevitable; for it is through his consciousness,
349
350

Correspondence, Vol. 1, 56
The Life Divine, 19:842


through its transmutation and no longer through a new bodily organism as a first instrumentation that the evolution can and must be effected. In the inner reality of things a change of consciousness was always a major fact, the evolution has always had a spiritual significance and the physical change was only instrumental; but this relation was concealed by the first abnormal balance of the two factors, the body of the external Inconscience outweighing and obscuring in importance the spiritual element, the conscious being.
But once the balance has been righted, it is no longer the change of body that must precede the change of consciousness; the consciousness itself by its mutation will necessitate and operate whatever mutation is needed for the body.351
We can distinguish three phases in this work, corresponding to Sri Aurobindo's and the Mother's own progress and discoveries; three phases that seem to go from bright to dark, from the miraculous to the significant commonplace, and from the individual cell to the earth.
The first phase was devoted to testing the powers of consciousness.
This is what some disciples have called the "bright period," lasting from 1920 to 1926, after which Sri Aurobindo would retire into complete solitude for twenty-four years, to concentrate exclusively on the Work. Using the new, supramental power they had discovered, Sri Aurobindo and the Mother first made several experiments on their own bodies. "Testing" is one of the key words in Sri Aurobindo's vocabulary: I have been testing day and night for years upon years more scrupulously than any scientist his theory or his method on the physical plane.352 From this huge body of experiences, which pervade Sri Aurobindo's written works and correspondence, we might draw four symbolic events illustrating the power of consciousness and Sri Aurobindo's "testing," bearing in mind that these are only instances among many others, and that neither Sri Aurobindo nor Mother attributed any special importance to them. It is through chance conversations or letters that their existence came to be known. Sri Aurobindo had just arrived in Pondicherry when he undertook a prolonged fast, "to see." Years later, when a disciple asked him 351
352

The Life Divine, 19:843
On Himself, 26:469


whether it was possible to go without food, he was told: Yes, it is.
When I fasted for about 23 days or more. . . . I very nearly solved the problem. I could walk eight hours a day as usual. I continued my mental work and sadhana as usual and I found that I was not in the least weak at the end of 23 days. But the flesh began to waste away and I did not find a clue to replacing the very material reduced in the body. When I broke the fast, I did not observe the usual rule of people who observe long fasts, by beginning with little food. I began with the same quantity I used to take before. . . . I tried fasting once in jail but that was for ten days when I used to sleep also once in three nights. I lost ten pounds in weight but I felt stronger at the end of ten days than I was before I began the fast . . . I was able to raise a pail of water above my head, a thing I could not do ordinarily. 353 Another experience goes back to the time of the Alipore jail: I was concentrated. And my mind was questioning: Were such siddhis [powers] possible? when I suddenly found myself raised up. . . . I
could not have held my body like that normally even if I had wanted to and I found that the body remained suspended like that without any exertion on my part.354 Another time, Sri Aurobindo had a large quantity of opium purchased from the Pondicherry bazaar, enough to overwhelm several people, and absorbed it entirely without suffering any adverse effects, just to test the control of his consciousness. We owe the fourth item to the impatience of a disciple who was complaining that he had not received an answer to his letters soon enough. You do not realise, Sri Aurobindo replied, that I have to spend 12 hours over the ordinary correspondence. I work 3 hours in the afternoon and the whole night up to 6 in the morning over this . . .
even the rocky heart of a disciple would be touched.355
Sleep, food, gravity, cause and effect Sri Aurobindo tested one by one all the so-called laws of nature, to find that they hold only insofar as we believe in their hold; if we change our consciousness,
the "groove" also changes. All our laws are only "habits":

353
354
355

Life of Sri Aurobindo, 142
Life of Sri Aurobindo, 121
On Himself, 26:186


Her firm and changeless habits aping Law,356
says Savitri of Nature. Indeed, there is only one true Law, that of the Spirit, which can modify all the lower habits of Nature: The Spirit made it and the Spirit can exceed it, but we must first open the doors of our prison-house and learn to live less in Nature than in the Spirit.357 Sri Aurobindo has no miraculous recipes, no magic formulas;
his entire yoga rests upon a very simple double certainty: the certainty of the Spirit that is within us and the certainty of the Spirit's earthly manifestation. This is the only key, the real agency for doing his work.
In each man there is a God and to make him manifest is the aim of the divine life. That we can all do.358 When a disciple argued that it was easy for exceptional beings such as Sri Aurobindo and the Mother to defy natural laws, while poor mortals had only their ordinary resources, Sri Aurobindo protested vehemently: My sadhana is not a freak or a monstrosity or a miracle done outside the laws of Nature and the conditions of life and consciousness on earth. If I could do these things or if they could happen in my Yoga, it means that they can be done and that therefore these development and transformations are possible in the terrestrial consciousness. . . I had no urge towards spirituality in me, I developed spirituality. I was incapable of understanding metaphysics, I developed into a philosopher. I had no eye for painting I developed it by Yoga. I
transformed my nature from what it was to what it was not. I did it by a special manner, not by a miracle, and I did it to show what could be done and how it could be done. I did not do it out of any personal necessity of my own or by a miracle without any process. I say that if it is not so, then my Yoga is useless and my life was a mistake a mere absurd freak of Nature without meaning or consequence. 359 For Sri Aurobindo, the key is to understand that the Spirit is not the opposite of life but the fulfillment of life, that the inner realization is the key to an outer realization:
356
357
358
359

Savitri, 28:20
Thoughts and Aphorisms, 17:93
Life of Sri Aurobindo, 167
Correspondence, Vol. I, 53,71


Heaven's touch fulfils but cancels not our earth.360
Once humanity understands this simple fact, once it gives up its age-old habit of cloistering the Spirit in heaven and believing in death,
believing in its laws and its smallness, then we will be saved and ready for a divine life. This is what Sri Aurobindo came to show us above all else: there is no need to fly off to heaven to find the Spirit,
we are free, we are stronger than all the "laws," because God is within us. All we need to do is believe this, for faith hastens the world's fairy tale. That was the thing that saved me all through, I mean a perfect balance. First of all I believed that nothing was impossible and at the same time I could question everything. 361 One day, as he was again being urged to resume his political struggle, Sri Aurobindo promptly replied that what was needed was not a revolt against the British Government, which anyone could easily manage . . . [but] a revolt against the whole universal Nature.362
The few disciples there were about fifteen of them all remember that very special, highly concentrated atmosphere prevailing during this first phase. They had dazzling experiences almost at will; divine manifestations were common, and the natural laws seemed to begin to yield. The veil between the physical world and the other planes of consciousness was growing thinner, and the beings we call gods, or the forces of the overmind, were able to manifest, bend the laws, and produce so-called miracles. Had this trend continued, Sri Aurobindo and the Mother would have been well on their way to founding a new religion, and Pondicherry to becoming one of the "holy places" where spiritual fragrances mask the more common odors. But one day, as the Mother was describing one of the latest extraordinary occurrences to Sri Aurobindo, he remarked humorously: Yes, it is very interesting, you will work miracles that will make us famous the world over; you will be able to turn earthly events topsy-turvy; indeed (Sri Aurobindo smiled), it will be a grand success. Then he added: But this is an overmental creation, not the highest truth. It is not the success we want; we want to establish the 360
361
362

Savitri, 29:719
Evening Talks, 198
Evening Talks, 45


supermind on earth, create a new world. Half an hour later, narrates the Mother, everything had stopped. I did not say anything to anyone,
not a word, but in half an hour I had torn down everything, severed the connection between the gods and the disciples, demolished everything. For I knew that as long as this was going on, it was so alluring (one saw astounding things all the time) that we would have been tempted to continue. . . . I tore down everything. From then on,
we started over on a different footing.
That was the end of the first phase. Sri Aurobindo and Mother had verified the power of consciousness, and they had found that "miracles with a method," or interventions of higher powers of consciousness,
merely sugar the pill without changing the essence of things. These particular "miracles" are useless from the standpoint of transforming the world. The real thing, as the Mother would say, is not to change Matter from the outside through fleeting "supernatural" interventions,
but to change it from within, lastingly to establish a new physical order. History is full of "holy places," and they have all failed us. We have lived long enough under the auspices of the gods and religions. I
have no intention of giving my sanction to a new edition of the old fiasco, wrote Sri Aurobindo, a partial and transient spiritual opening within with no true and radical change in the law of the external nature.363 Levitation, the conquest of sleep, hunger and even illness barely touch the surface of the problem. These are negative efforts directed against a prevalent order, which still implies a recognition (in negative terms) of the old laws, while it is the order itself that must change. All such "miracles" are but the reverse side of our impotence.
What we need is not a better world, but a new world, not a "highly concentrated" atmosphere, but a "lowly" concentrated one, as it were.
Everything here below must become holy. Suddenly, on November 24, 1926, Sri Aurobindo announced that he was retiring into complete solitude. Thus would the ashram become founded officially under the Mother's direction. There was no need to tell the disciples that the yoga would henceforth take place "in the subconscient and the inconscient": They all tumbled down from their marvelous experiences . . . soon to confront far harsher realities. Now began the 363

On Yoga II, Tome 2, 406


second phase of the work of transformation.

The Fundamental Agni At the outset of the second phase, a little before his retirement, we find a rather strange conversation that Sri Aurobindo had in 1926 with a French physicist. These few words of Sri Aurobindo's, which must then have seemed rather enigmatic, show the particular orientation of his experiences:
There are two statements of modern science that would stir up deeper ranges in an occultist:
1) Atoms are whirling systems like the solar system.
2) The atoms of all the elements are made out of the same constituents. A different arrangement is the only cause of different properties.
If these statements were considered under their true aspect, they could lead science to new discoveries of which it has no idea at present and in comparison with which the present knowledge is poor.
Let us remember that the year was then 1926.
Sri Aurobindo continued: According to the experience of ancient Yogis . . . Agni is threefold:
1) ordinary fire, jada Agni 2) electric fire, vaidyuta Agni 3) solar fire, saura Agni Science has only entered upon the first and second of these fires.
The fact that the atom is like the solar system could lead it to the knowledge of the third.364
What was Sri Aurobindo driving at? And how is it that he not to mention the rishis of six thousand years ago knew before all our scientific laboratories that solar heat, Saura Agni, has a different origin from what we usually call fire or electricity, that it is produced 364

France-Asie (Journal) April 1953


by nuclear fusion and that it is the very same energy found in the atom's core? It is a fact perhaps disconcerting for science, which needs to deal with "concrete realities" that every physical reality is lined with an inner reality which is both its cause and its foundation;
even the most infinitesimal material elements have their inner counterparts, and foremost among them are our own physical organs,
which are only the material linings or supports of the centers of consciousness. Everything here is the symbolic translation or shadow thrown by a light or a force that is behind, on another plane. This whole world is but a vast Symbol. Science observes and analyzes phenomena, devises equations for gravitation, weight, atomic fission,
etc., but it only touches the effects, never the true cause. The yogi sees the cause before the effect. A scientist can deduce a certain cause from the effects produced, whereas a yogi deduces the effects from the cause; he can even deduce effects that do not yet exist from a cause that already exists (e.g., the accident will happen tomorrow from the force of the accident that is already there in the background). The scientist manipulates effects, at times bringing about catastrophes; the yogi sees the cause, or, rather, identifies with the Cause, and thereby he can alter the effects, or as Sri Aurobindo puts it, the "habits" we call laws. Ultimately, all our physical effects, which we have codified into laws, are nothing more than a convenient support for the manifestation of forces that are behind, exactly as a performance of magic requires certain ritualistic diagrams, certain ingredients or formulas, so that the forces invoked can manifest themselves. This whole world is a gigantic magical performance, a constant act of magic. But the earthly diagram, all the ingredients we have so earnestly and unchangeably codified, all our infallible formulas, are merely conventions. The earthly ritual can change if, instead of remaining mesmerized by the effects, we go back to the cause behind them on the side of the Magician. There is a tale about a Hindu Brahmin who, every day at the hour of his worship, had the family cat tied up so that he would not be disturbed in his ritual. Eventually, both the Brahmin and the cat died, and the Brahmin's son, now in charge of the worship ceremony, procured a new cat, which he then conscientiously tied up during the sacrifice! From father to son, the cat had become an indispensable element in the effective performance of

the ritual. Our own unassailable laws, too, may contain a few little cats. If we go back to the original force concealed behind the physical support, to the "true movement," as the Mother describes it, then we begin to witness the Great Play, and to realize just how different it is from the rigid notions we have of it. Behind the phenomenon of gravitation, to take one of the rituals, there is what the ancient yogis called Vayu, which causes gravitation and the electromagnetic fields (as Sri Aurobindo mentioned also during that conversation of 1926),
and this is how a yogi can eventually defy gravity. Behind the solar or nuclear fire there is the fundamental Agni, "the child of the waters, the child of the forests, the child of things stable and the child of things that move. Even in the stone he is there," says the Rig Veda. (I.70.2)
This is the "warm gold dust" the Mother speaks of, the real cause behind the effect, the original force behind the material, atomic support; "other flames are only branches of thy stock." (I.59) It is because Sri Aurobindo and the rishis saw this spiritual Agni in Matter,
this "sun in the darkness," that they were able to know of its material,
atomic effects, and hence of nuclear fusion, long before our own scientific experiments revealed this phenomenon. This is also why,
since they knew the cause, they dared to speak of transformation.365
Finally, the whole universe is composed of a single substance of divine Consciousness-Force, and Agni is the element of force or energy in consciousness: "O Son of Energy," says the Rig Veda.
(VIII.84.4) It is Force-Consciousness, a warmth, a flame, at whatever level we feel it. When we concentrate in our mind, we feel the subtle heat of mental energy or mental Agni; when we concentrate in our heart or in our emotions, we feel the subtle heat of Life-Energy or vital Agni; when we plunge into our soul, we experience the soul's subtle heat or psychic Agni. There is only one Agni throughout, one 365

Physical light, the extreme combination of speed and immobility, is a remarkable symbol of the supreme Consciousness. Similarly, the physical sun is another symbol of the supreme Power, as many ancient traditions, which were less childish than we might suppose, have seen. "But the Hindu Yogis who had realized these experiences did not elaborate them and turn them into scientific knowledge," remarked Sri Aurobindo. "Other fields of action and sources of knowledge being open before them, they neglected what for them was the most exterior aspect of the manifestation."


current of Consciousness-Force or consciousness-energy or consciousness-heat taking on different intensities at different levels.
Then there is the fundamental Agni, or material Agni, which is the ultimate state of the energy of consciousness, prior to its conversion or densification into Matter. This is how one becomes the other. (Let us here recalled the Mother's words: "It is a movement greater than the force or power holding the cells in an individual form.") Modern science has also finally realized that Matter and Energy can be converted into each other (E = mc2 is its great breakthrough), but it has yet to see that Energy is consciousness, that Matter is consciousness, and that by acting upon consciousness one can act upon Energy and Matter. To transform Matter into Energy, modern science knows only of physical processes that produce heat, but by knowing the fundamental Agni, which is the foundation of Energy or Consciousness-Force, one can, in principle, act directly upon Matter and achieve the same transmutation without setting one's body on fire in the process.
The conversation of 1926 then introduces us to two material facts (and their spiritual basis) that are extremely important from the standpoint of transformation: first, that all earthly forms are made up of the same elements, and only different atomic arrangements account for the different features (this is the physical counterpart to the spiritual truth of the world's divine Oneness: "Thou art man and woman, boy and girl, old and worn thou walkest bent over a staff;
thou art the blue bird and the green and the scarlet-eyed"366 ); and second, that the solar fire in Matter is the material counterpart of the fundamental Agni, which, as Sri Aurobindo stressed in another part of the same conversation, is the builder of forms. To wield Agni is to be able to change forms, to transform Matter: "He tastes not that delight (of the twice-born) who is unripe and whose body has not suffered in the heat of the fire," says the Rig Veda; "they alone are able to bear that and enjoy it who have been prepared by the flame." (IX.83.1) It is the warm gold dust that will transmute its material counterpart, the nuclear dust in our body: The subtle process will be more powerful than the gross, so that a subtle action of Agni will be able to do the 366

Swetaswatara Upanishad IV.3.4


action which would now need a physical change such as increased temperature.367 Our atoms too are merely a convenient translation of the eternal ritual; nothing is fixed or inevitable. There is no end to the possible combinations, no end to the new human Being.

Second Phase The Body The second phase began in 1926 and continued until 1940. It was a phase of individual work on the body and in the subconscient. Up to this point, we have all the clues to achieve the supramental change of consciousness ourselves, and we know the basic principle of transformation. It is Agni "who does the work," says the Rig Veda.
(I.1.5) But how, practically, is Agni going to change Matter? We cannot yet say; we know only some bits here and there. If we knew the process, says the Mother, it would already be done. All the other realizations have been meticulously recorded by the Indian traditions;
we know all the methods for attaining Nirvana; realizing the cosmic Spirit; finding the soul; conquering gravity, hunger, cold, sleep and illnesses; leaving one's body at will; or prolonging life. Everyone can achieve these feats; the way is well charted, and the stages have been described by the seers or the Hindu shastras for thousands of years. It is merely a question of discipline and patience and proper timing. But the transformation is something no one has ever done, an entirely unknown journey, like traveling through a country that does not yet exist. Perhaps it is something equivalent to what happened when the first mental forms began to emerge in the world of Matter and Life.
How could the first semi-animal organism that received these mental vibrations understand and describe what was happening to it, and,
above all, how could it say what had to be done to control thought? To quote the Mother: You don't know whether this or that experience is part of the way or not; you don't even know if you are progressing or not, because if you knew you were progressing, it would mean that you knew the way but there is no way! No one has ever been there!
We won't really be able to say what it is until it has been done. It is an adventure into the unknown, as Sri Aurobindo would emphasize. We 367

On Yoga II, Tome 2, 340


are truly like the old primates before this new creation. From here on,
therefore, we can only indicate some broad lines of development, or of difficulty, without being sure whether or not they really belong to the path. The experience is in process. When it has succeeded once, just once, in a single human being, then the very conditions of the transformation will be different, because the path will have been trodden, charted, and the prime difficulties cleared away. The day Plato conceived Phaedrus, he raised up all of humankind to the possibility of Phaedrus. The day a single human being overcomes the difficulties of the transformation, he will raise up all humanity to the possibility of a luminous, immortal, true life.
It is possible, however, to have some idea in advance of the major problems confronting the seeker. When Agni burns in our mind, in our moments of inspiration, we know it creates a great tension, an almost physical heat. When it burns in our heart, in our soul-moments, we know that our breast feels like a red-hot hearth, hot enough for the skin to change color and to such a degree that even an inexperienced eye can perceive a kind of glowing radiance around the yogi. When Agni burns in our vital, and as we call the force or open to the cosmic world, there is likewise a kind of concentrated pulsation at the level of the navel, almost a tremor of fever throughout the body (since a large amount of force is entering through a tiny channel). But what about the warm gold dust, this wine of lightning,368 in the cells of the body?
It begins to boil everywhere, says the Mother in her simple language,
like a boiler about to explode. The rishis, too, spoke of being broken "like a half-baked jar" if one went too quickly. Furthermore, if it were uniquely a matter of creating something entirely new, the problem would be somewhat simpler, but we must do with what we have,
evolve from our present state to another state, from an old form of organization to a new one. The old heart, the old lungs are still there;
at what moment, wondered the Mother, is the heart going to be stopped and the Force set in motion? The difficulty is in the changeover. Countless experiences in tiny doses are therefore necessary to accustom the cells so that they do not panic during the transition.
Thus, the first problem is to prepare the body, and this requires years 368

Savitri, 29:383


and years, perhaps centuries. Sri Aurobindo worked for forty years and the Mother for fifty years at this preparation. The practical,
immediate necessity, then, is to endure, to outrun death. The basic question, the Mother said, in this race toward transformation is to know which of the two will arrive first: the person seeking to transform the body in the image of the divine Truth, or the body's old habit of disintegration.
For, naturally, the work must be done in one lifetime. From one life to another, it is possible to recover the achievements of the soul,
the mind, and even the vital, which in the current life will result in spontaneous blossomings, innate talents, something already developed. One needs only go over the lesson for ten or twenty years to capture the thread of former lives; there is even a rather striking experience in which one sees precisely the cutoff point where the work already accomplished in past lives ends and the new phase begins. Thus one simply picks up the trail where one had left it. But the cellular progress in the body, the progress of the physical consciousness obviously cannot pass into the next life; everything gets scattered on the funeral pyre or dissipates in the earth. So if we want a continuity in human evolution, if we want the supramental being to manifest in our own flesh rather than in some new, unknown organism that would supersede our mental humanity, it is necessary for one human being to accomplish the work in one lifetime. If it succeeds once, it can be transmitted to others (we will return to this point later).
Sri Aurobindo used to say that it would take three centuries and he had a clear vision for a full supramental being to emerge, luminous,
light, etc., as we have previously tried to describe him. Short of a full supramental being (even Plato was not born in a day), we must then build in our flesh a transitional being, a link between the human and the superhuman, that is, a being who not only would have realized the supramental consciousness but whose body would also have acquired enough immortality, as it were, to last through the transition period,
and enough power and suppleness to effect its own transmutation, or to engender a supramental being through its own energy, bypassing the usual method of earthly birth. Indeed, the heavy animal and human heredity weighing on our subconscient, and automatically transmitted by physical conception, is one of the major hurdles to the

transformation, at least as difficult as the boiling Agni, if not more difficult. This is the second problem. Perhaps it is, in fact, the true problem, far greater than the other, more conspicuous problems of the body. Such are the two fundamental problems confronting the seeker:
to impart to the cells of the body the consciousness of immortality,
which is already there in our soul and even in our mind, and to cleanse the subconscient completely. The progress of Agni in the body depends, it seems, on these two conditions. Thus, as always, the work is a work of consciousness.
First, the ability to endure. In practice, one finds that immortality is always closely related to truth: what is true is immortal. If we were completely true, we would be completely immortal, from head to toe.
Until now, however, hardly anything except our soul has been immortal, because it is the truth of the Spirit within us, passing from one life to the next, growing, evolving, becoming more and more conscious. The mind, too, as it becomes sufficiently integrated around the central Truth of our being, as it thinks the Truth and wants the Truth, is immortal. One can fairly easily remember one's past formations: some truths appear exceedingly familiar, some yearnings for truth inexplicably poignant. The vital also is capable of immortality as it becomes sufficiently integrated with the central psychic Truth: we emerge into another dimension, as familiar as eternity, though this is rather uncommon since our life-force is generally engrossed in all kinds of petty activities instead of building a true life. The more we go down the scale of consciousness, the thicker the falsehood and the more real is death naturally, because in essence falsehood means decay. The vital is already fairly obscure, but the body is full of falsehood. Old age and illnesses are among its most prominent falsehoods; how could what is True become old, ugly,
worn-out, or ill? Truth is so obviously radiant, beautiful, luminous,
and eternal. Truth is invincible. Death and old age can only attain us because of our lack of Truth.
Admittedly, Death is wise for a long part of the way, for an immortal Mr. Smith would be a total waste of immortality. All things considered, Death is a faithful guardian of the Truth. It is remarkable how everything has two faces: if we look one way, we must struggle,


fight, say No; if we look the other way, we can only give thanks and thanks again, and say Yes and Yes again. And we must be capable of both. Thus, the battle against the "falsehoods of the body" illness,
unconsciousness, old age can only proceed after the transformation of the higher mental and vital levels has been secured, when the rest of the being lives in Truth and is settled in Truth. It would be a great error to presume that one can undertake the supramental yoga before completing all the other steps; one must reach all the way to the top in order to be able to reach the bottom.
As silence is the basic condition for mental transformation, and peace the basic condition for vital transformation, so immobility is the basis for physical transformation not an outer immobility but an inner one, in the cellular consciousness. By mental silence and vital peace we have been able to sort out the countless vibrations of the world, the secret stimuli that set us in motion and trigger our feelings or thoughts. Similarly, by an immobility of the physical consciousness, we begin to expose another nest of swarming vibrations and to realize what we are really made of. In cellular terms,
we live in a total chaos: a maelstrom of sensations strong, pleasant,
painful, acute, with very high highs or very low lows and if the maelstrom stops only for a second, a terrible anguish ensues, calling for more and more sensations. We feel alive only when we feel this movement. The basic task, therefore, is to bring all this chaos to a standstill not an equanimity of the soul but an equanimity of the cells. Only then can the work of truth begin. In this cellular equanimity, our body will become like a transparent pool in which the slightest vibrations become perceptible, hence controllable. All the forces of illness, decay and falsehood, all the subconscious distortions and deformities with their horrible little denizens will begin to wiggle visibly in this clearing, and we will then be able to catch them in the act. In fact, the effervescence of Agni is due not so much to a basic cellular incapacity as to the resistance of "our" obscurities. This purifying stillness alone can clear the way and help release Agni's overwhelming Movement without causing the body to quake in unison, to panic and run a fever.
Once this cellular immobility has been relatively well established,


we will make a first discovery. We will encounter a major obstacle,
which is always also a major help in the work of transformation, since on all the planes, every opposition we meet is precisely matched to the force required to take a further step forward; it is both the dead weight and the trigger. We had already isolated, beneath our thinking mind, a "vital mind" that finds wonderful justifications for all our desires and impulses, and then a "physical mind" that repeats the same incidents a thousand times over like a broken record. But there is a deeper layer still, a mental bedrock, as it were, that Sri Aurobindo calls the cellular mind. This is actually a mind of the cells or of groups of cells, very similar to the physical mind in its inexhaustible capacity for repeating the same old refrains, but not limited to the brain area or to the mechanical grinding of bits of thought; it is everywhere in the body,
like millions of little voices one can easily hear once the other mental layers have been clarified. It ceaselessly churns out not the debris of our conscious activities but of all our sensory impressions; all it takes is for a group of cells to be struck once by an impression (a fear, a shock, or an illness), and they will begin repeating their fear, their contraction, the particular tendency toward disorder, or the memory of their illness. It is a gregarious, absurd mental process that spreads from one cell to the next, quivering and quivering everywhere,
endlessly, forever picking up the same wavelengths, the same decaying suggestions, and forever responding to the same stimuli, like a Pavlovian dog to its bell. This is the very fear of life embedded in Matter, which is related to Matter's first conscious efforts to become "alive." Yet unfortunately, the bit of initiative this cellular mind does have is always used to attract every possible disorder through fear
and then to attract death's final unconsciousness as a relief. Yet this cellular mind, which has quite a formidable power if we begin to reflect upon it, likes ants upon an elephant, can put its absurd routine at the service of truth just as well as of falsehood. If it is once turned to a vibration of light, it will repeat that vibration, too, with the stubbornness of a mule, and most remarkably, it will repeat it day and night, nonstop.369 Whatever we may be doing outwardly (working,
talking, or sleeping), it repeats its own vibration over and over again,
369

Hence the usefulness of a mantra, which can direct a vibration of a certain intensity to any point in the body, or to all points, if the cellular mind picks it up.


automatically and independently. Hence, its great value for the transformation: it can become an extraordinary means of fixing the supramental vibration in the body. This is what Sri Aurobindo says about it: There is too an obscure mind of the body, of the very cells,
molecules, corpuscles. Haeckel, the German materialist, spoke somewhere of the will in the atom, and recent science, dealing with the incalculable individual variation in the activity of the electrons,
comes near to perceiving that this is not a figure but the shadow thrown by a secret reality. This body mind is a very tangible truth;
owing to its obscurity and mechanical clinging to past movements and facile oblivion and rejection of the new, we find in it one of the chief obstacles to permeation by the supermind Force and the transformation of the functioning of the body. On the other hand, once effectively converted, it will be one of the most precious instruments of the stabilisation of the supramental Light and Force in material Nature.370
This work is so minute that it is hard to describe. The only way of working is not to go into deep meditations, which affect only the summits of our being, or to attain an extraordinary concentration or ecstasies, but to remain right in the midst of things, to work at the level of the body, at the very lowest rungs of the ladder, so to speak,
every minute of the day and night. This is why Sri Aurobindo insisted on the need for outer work and basic physical exercises, because such activities are the only way to measure oneself against Matter and to drive a little bit of true consciousness into it, or, rather, to allow Agni to emerge. This is why, too, he used to walk for many hours every day and then work at night.
Through this external work, and because of it, the seeker will see all the false vibrations appear in broad daylight, all the creases of the body, as the Mother calls them. Next each false vibration will have to be rectified. But this is still a negative way of putting it, for there is only one Vibration of divine joy in the world and in things the Vibration because God is Joy. The moment falsehood sets in, that very vibration begins to become discolored, hardened, tense, and everything begins grating. Suffering is the most certain sign of 370

Letters on Yoga, 22:340


falsehood. Pain is the Falsehood of the world. The task of the seeker,
then, is not so much to struggle against so-called bad vibrations as to keep the true vibration alive, the divine joy in the body, for this joy has the power to set things right again, to ease the pain, to harmonize and to heal all those tight, wearisome, deceitful little vibrations in which our cells constantly live. It would be tedious, as tedious as the work itself, to describe the countless tiny falsehoods of the body through which old age, disease, and death manage to creep in. To do each thing in the true way, as the Mother says, while there are so many false ways of doing the slightest daily gesture. To give an example, this is one direction of the work among many others: we do everything in a state of tension, hurriedly, carelessly, unconsciously;
in response to the thousand and one stimuli of outer life, not to mention crises, we behave physically like a patient in a dentist's chair;
we are tense and nervous, because we are forever in a rush, afraid,
anxious, or eager. This is the legacy of several millions of years of animal nature; our substance has retained the memory of all our struggles for survival, and its immediate response is to tense up. This tension is one of the causes of death, as well as a major obstacle to establishing the true vibration. When we become tense because of a blow, we concentrate all our vital force in one point, as a defense; an enormous current abruptly passes through a tiny opening, which turns red and hurts. If we could learn to expand our physical consciousness and to absorb the blow instead of rejecting it, we would not suffer; all suffering, at any level whatsoever, is a narrowness of consciousness.
Similarly, if the warm, gold supramental dust were suddenly to fill our cells and the body reacted with its usual contraction, everything would explode. In other words, our cellular consciousness, like our mental and vital consciousness, must learn to expand and to universalize itself. Cosmic consciousness must be introduced there also. In mental silence, the mental consciousness universalizes itself; in vital peace,
the vital consciousness universalizes itself; in the stillness of the body,
the physical consciousness universalizes itself. Stillness, receptivity,
and cellular expansion seem to be among the basic conditions for the bodily substance to be able to withstand Agni and to endure.
Immediately, however, a momentous difficulty arises.
Universalization of the physical consciousness? But then, if the body

is one with all other bodies, it means that all the other bodies are right there inside it, along with all the falsehoods of the world! This is no longer only one person's battle; it becomes the whole world's battle.
We are now approaching the real problem. In this new physical transparency the seeker makes yet another, rather brutal discovery: all his yogic achievements and powers are falling to pieces. He had achieved a control of illness, of the body's functions, perhaps even of gravity, had even been able to swallow poison with impunity; he was the master of his house, because his consciousness was in control. But the moment he decides to transform the body, all his powers vanish,
like water receding into the sand. Diseases assail him as if he were a mere beginner; the bodily organs begin to deteriorate. Everything goes awry. It would seem that the body has to forget its old false, decaycausing operation for it to learn everything in a new way. Then death enters the picture. Between the old mode of functioning of the body and the new one, in which the symbolic organs will be replaced by the true Vibration, the line separating life from death is often very thin indeed; perhaps one must even be able to cross the line and come back for the conquest to be complete and real. This is what Mother called dying to death, after having undergone an experience from which she almost did not return. In other words, one has to face everything, and everything resists. We are already aware of the same phenomenon at the higher levels of consciousness. As the seeker set out on his path,
everything began going wrong: he who believed his mind to be firmly anchored in the truth was suddenly visited by a host of the most aggressive suggestions and doubts; he who believed himself pure and honest suddenly experienced an array of vital horrors, enough to scare off the worst villains in this world plus a few others from beyond. As Sri Aurobindo has already explained, one cannot solve a problem, on any plane, without confronting all the opposites of one's Goal.
Otherwise, there would be no victory, but only repression. Nowhere,
not on any plane, is it a matter of cutting off evil from the rest, but of convincing it of its own light. The yogi who with his power had done away with illnesses had not really solved the problem; he had only muzzled the forces of those illnesses. It is perfectly understandable that no transformation is possible as long as there forces are simply muzzled, prowling around in the dark and awaiting their hour.


Moreover, since nothing can be subtracted from the universe, they must be converted. But how? Death and diseases are everywhere, in the subconscient of our bodies and in all the bodies in the world. The yogi who had conquered diseases and defied death (though not indefinitely, of course) had conquered only for himself, and that is why he could not fully conquer. How wise is the Law! He had built a protective shell, shut himself up in it like an embryo of light, and let everything beyond it swarm around as usual. But if the shell opens,
everything rushes back in! There is only one body! The example of Ramakrishna lashed by the whip that struck the bullock beside him, or of the Mother struggling against a hemorrhage afflicting a disciple several hundred miles away, without her even knowing about it,
places us before the real problem. The body is everywhere! exclaimed the Mother. The conquest has to be achieved everywhere for all the bodies and the whole earth. Nothing can be transformed unless everything is transformed. Otherwise one is simply entrenched alone in one's little hole of light. And what purpose does that serve? What good does it do if one man is transformed while the rest of humanity goes on dying? The body of the pioneer of transformation is therefore like a battlefield: this is where the battle of the world is being fought
where everything meets and where everything resists. There is a central point in the ultimate depths, a knot of life and death where the world's destiny hangs. Everything is gathered into one single point.
I have been digging deep and long Mid a horror of filth and mire,
A bed for the golden river's song,
A home for the deathless fire. . .
My gaping wounds are a thousand and one. . .371
The pioneer must therefore confront all difficulties, including Death,
not in order to destroy them, but to change them. Nothing can be transformed unless it is taken upon oneself: Thou shalt bear all things that all things may change, says Savitri.372 This is why Sri Aurobindo 371
372

Poems Past and Present, 6
Savitri, 29:700


left his body on December 5, 1950, officially because of uremia, he who could heal others in a few seconds. To die on the cross is moving,
to be sure, but crucifixions, especially when worshipped, only perpetuate the law of death. It is not a crucified body that will save the world, insists the Mother, but a glorified body.
No, it is not spectacular work, but decidedly a "microscopic work,"
and it is through the very mud of the world that one must dig.

Second Phase The Subconscient Thus, there is another category of difficulties (though still the same behind a different mask), which is not due to the resistance of individual, corporeal matter but to the subconscious resistance of the entire earth. This is where Sri Aurobindo met Death. And this is, too,
where Mother would resume the work. If we want to understand where the whole story our story is unfolded and to follow the process of the work, we must go back to the evolutionary process itself. The advent of a new stage in evolution, whether it be Life in Matter or Mind in Life, has always resulted from a twofold pressure: a pressure from within or below, from the involved principle seeking to emerge, and a pressure from "outside" or "above," from the same principle as it already exists within its own plane. The conjunction of these two pressures for example, that of the mind involved in certain living forms and that of the Mind as it was created in its own plane in the course of a descending evolution or devolution eventually led to a rupture of the vital limits, and suddenly Mind emerged in Life.
Everything is involved, already there in Matter, but the involution cannot be unlocked except through a pressure from above responding to a call from below and breaking the seal, just as the sun breaks the seed's shell. At present, the supermind involved in Matter pushes from within, in the form of spiritual yearnings, human aspirations for Immortality, Truth, or Beauty, etc.; at the same time, it presses from above, from its own eternal plane, in the form of intuitions,
revelations, or illuminations. This is what the Scriptures expressed in their own way when they linked the appearance of a "new earth" to that of a "new heaven" ("a new heaven and a new earth wherein

dwelleth the Truth"), because without the new heaven or, rather, the new supramental level of consciousness, the emergence of a new earth would not be possible. The new earth will result from the "new heaven" of the supramental consciousness, just as the present earth resulted from the old mental or overmental "heaven" of the gods and religions. So it is for all the evolutionary stages: high and low go together. But the emergence of the new "high" or new level of consciousness, at any stage of evolution, is not a magical phenomenon, which abruptly alters all the preceding levels. Between the appearance of the first amoeba in the world of Life and that of the mammal, we know that it took many millions of years to overcome Matter's inertia and to "vitalize" it. Similarly, from the Neanderthal man to Plato, thousands of years were needed to overcome the resistance of the two previous levels and to "mentalize" Life, to become the complete mental man. Even today, how many human lives are truly governed by the mind rather than by vital passions? The whole task of the pioneers of evolution, at any level, is precisely to join the new height with the former depth; when high meets low, an evolutionary cycle is completed. Likewise, when the pioneer of mental evolution suddenly emerges in the Supramental, his discovery is not a feat of magic that upsets all the former laws. He does not leap to the complete supramental being any more than the Neanderthal man leapt to Plato; he must first "supramentalize" all the previous levels.
Certainly, his consciousness is the meeting point of the supreme High and the supreme Low, Spirit and Matter, Positive and Negative, and his own powers are, of course, considerably increased, but they are increased only in proportion to the new resistance he has to encounter.
The more evolution progresses, the deeper the layers it seeks to touch:
the principle of Life barely colonized the material crust of the world;
the mental principle narrowly colonized its immediate past, the mental subconscient and Life's old profligacies; the Supramental principle confronts not only the mental and vital subconscients, but an even more remote past, the physical subconscient and the inconscient. The higher one rises, the farther one is pulled down. Evolution does not move higher and higher, into an ever more heavenly heaven, but deeper and deeper. Each evolutionary cycle closes a little lower, a little nearer to the Center where the supreme High and Low, heaven

and earth, will finally meet. The pioneer must therefore clear up the intermediary mental, vital, and material levels so that the two poles can actually meet. When the joining takes place, not only mentally and vitally but also materially, then the Spirit will emerge in Matter within a complete supramental being and a supramental body.
. . . earth shall be the Spirit's manifest home.373
This clearing-up of the intermediary levels is the whole story of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother. The difficulties of accustoming the body to the supramental Agni may, ultimately, have a reason and a purpose.
It may not be so much a material difficulty as a strategic one, as it were. Indeed, during that second phase, Sri Aurobindo and the Mother would realize that transformation is not just an individual problem but one involving the earth and that no individual transformation is possible (or at least complete) without some degree of collective transformation. Once collective evolution reaches a satisfactory state of progress, the present material difficulties of transformation, which seem insurmountable, will likely vanish at once. There is never any impossibility, just the question of whether the right time has come. All obstacles, whatever their nature, always ultimately prove themselves to be helpful auxiliaries of a Truth whose meaning and purpose we do not yet know. To our outer, superficial vision, the transformation seems to be exclusively a physical problem, because we always put the cart before the horse, but all difficulties are actually inner and psychological; the visible and dramatic difficulties of the body's growing accustomed to the boiling Agni may be, as we shall see, less a practical or material problem than one involving the whole terrestrial consciousness. But we are speaking in riddles; the problem Sri Aurobindo and the Mother were soon to confront will be better understood with this simple remark Sri Aurobindo once made to a disciple: I have been dredging, dredging, dredging the mire of the subconscious. . . . It [the supramental light] was coming down before November [1934], but afterwards all the mud arose and it stopped. 374
373
374

Savitri, 29:707
Sri Aurobindo Came to Me, 73


Once again, Sri Aurobindo verified, not individually this time but collectively, that pulling down too strong a light causes all the darkness below to groan and to feel violated. It should be noted that each time Sri Aurobindo and the Mother has some experience indicating a new progress in the transformation, the disciples, without their even knowing anything about it, experienced in their consciousness a period of increased difficulties or even revolts and illnesses, as if everything were grating. Now we begin to understand how things work. If a pigmy were abruptly subjected to the simple mental light of an educated man, it would probably cause in the poor fellow subterranean revolutions that would traumatize him forever and drive him insane. There is still too much jungle underneath. This present world is still full of jungles: such is the problem in a nutshell.
Our mental colonization is a very thin crust over a barely dried Stone Age.
The Vedic rishis, speaking of the subconscious forces and subconscious beings, called them "those-who-cover," "those-whodevour," or the "sun-thieves." There could be no better description for them; they are indeed merciless thieves. No sooner do we make some progress, draw a new light or a more intense vibration, than we suddenly become covered over or pulled downward beneath a suffocating bell-jar where everything disintegrates in a dreadful mugginess; the harmonious vibration of the day before, so clear, so luminous, so supple, suddenly become blanketed by a thick, sticky layer, as if finding a bit of light meant wading through miles of seaweed; everything we see, touch, or do becomes as if spoiled,
decayed by that invasion from below. Nothing makes sense anymore.
And yet, outwardly, the conditions are the same, and apparently nothing has changed. There is a sort of locked struggle, wrote Sri Aurobindo, in which neither side can make a very appreciable advance (somewhat like the trench warfare in Europe), the spiritual force insisting against the resistance of the physical world, that resistance disputing every inch and making more or less effective counter-attacks. . . . And if there were not the strength and Ananda within, it would be harassing and disgusting work. 375 The battle seems 375

On Himself, 26:425


endless. One "digs and digs," said the Vedic rishis, and the more one digs, the more the bottom seems to recede downward: "I have been digging, digging . . . many autumns have I been toiling night and day,
the dawns aging me. Age is diminishing the glory of our bodies."
Thus, thousands of years ago, lamented Lopamudra, the wife of the rishi Agastya, who was also seeking transformation: "Even the men of old who were wise of the Truth and they spoke with the gods . . . yea,
they reached not an end." But Agastya was not easily discouraged; his reply is magnificently characteristic of the conquerors these rishis indeed were: "Not in vain is the labour which the gods protect. Let us have the taste of even all the contesting forces, let us conquer indeed even here, let us run this battle-race of a hundred leadings." (I.179) To be sure, it is a hydra. Night after night, in his sleep or with his eyes wide open, the seeker uncovers very strange worlds. One after another, he unearths all the birthplaces of human perversion, human wars, human concentration camps, where everything we live here is being prepared; he catches in their dens all the sordid forces that move the petty and cruel men.
A lone discoverer in these menacing realms Guarded like termite cities from the sun.376
The more Light he possesses, the more darkness he uncovers. Night after night he tracks down the surreptitious rot that undermines Life;
for how can anything change as long as that gangrene is there? Since by now the seeker's mind and vital are too well established in the truth, too pure to be affected by those subterranean forces, it is his body that becomes stricken for the body is Falsehood's last hidingplace. Then the seeker perceives in minute details through what complicity illnesses and death can penetrate the body each defeat in those realms means a defeat here and he understands tangibly,
concretely, the enormous vanity of those who pretend to cure the world through external means and new institutions; no sooner is evil cured here or exterminated there than it instantly revives elsewhere, in some other place or some other form. Evil is not outside, but inside 376

Savitri, 28:216


and below, and as long as that particular Disease has not been cured,
the world can never be cured. As Sri Aurobindo put it: The old gods . .
. know how to transmigrate.377
All the way underneath, beyond the disorders and the fear the great presiding Fear underneath the seeker meets a stupendous Weariness, something that refuses and says NO to all this pain of living and this violation by the light. He senses that going farther down, to the end of this NO, would mean merging into a great release of stone, just as the ecstasy above meant merging into a great release of Light. Yet death is not the opposite of Life! It is the other side of, or the door to, the luminous Superconscient; at the very end of that NO
there is a YES and YES, which keeps driving us into one body after another, for the unique purpose of joy. Death is only the regret of that YES. The great Weariness at the bottom is only a shadow-form of that Bliss. Death is not the opposite of Life! It is the dark release of a body that has not yet found the luminous release of an eternal joy. When the body finds that particular ecstasy, that vastness of light and rapture within its own flesh, as above, it will no longer need to die.
Where is the "I" in all this? Where is "my" difficulty, "my" death,
"my" transformation? The seeker has broken through the thin crust of the personal subconscient only to find himself in the world's totality. It is the whole world that resists: It is not we who wage the war; it is everything that wages wars against us! We think we are separate, each in our own little sack of skin, with an "inside" and an "outside," an individual and a collective, like the tiny borders around our countries but, in reality, everything perfectly interconnects! There is not a single perversion, not a single disease in the world that is not also rooted in ourselves, not a death in which we are not an accomplice.
We are all equally guilty and in the same boat; no one is saved unless everyone is saved! It is not the difficulty of one body, says the Mother, but the difficulty of the Body. Sri Aurobindo and the Mother thus discovered materially, experientially, the oneness of the world's substance: we cannot touch a point without touching all points, take a step ahead or upward without the rest of the world also taking a step ahead or upward. We spoke earlier of a "strategic" difficulty; it may 377

The Ideal of Human Unity, 15:80


well be that the divine strategy is to prevent any single point from progressing all by itself without all the other points. This is why the Vedic rishis failed six thousand years ago. There cannot be any complete and lasting individual transformation without a minimum of world transformation.
The second phase of the work of transformation thus drew to a close. After working for fourteen years, from 1926 to 1940, in an individual, concentrated manner, with a handful of carefully chosen disciples, Sri Aurobindo and the Mother had come up against a wall.
The moment the supramental light approached the earth to join with the same light involved in Matter, torrents of mud would rise up from the collective subconscient and drown everything. To help humanity out, Sri Aurobindo remarked, it was not enough for an individual,
however great, to achieve an ultimate solution individually, [because]
even when the Light is ready to descend it cannot come to stay till the lower plane is also ready to bear the pressure of the Descent. 378 It is very significant that the culmination of the second phase of the work of transformation should coincide with the outbreak of the Second World War. When the pressure of the Light descends into one human body, the body of the world, too, begins to glow. What do we really know of the good of the world, or of its evil?
Confronted with that collective resistance, Sri Aurobindo and the Mother hesitated momentarily, wondering whether they should not cut themselves off from the rest of the world, forge ahead alone with just a few disciples, effect the transformation, then return to the collective work by communicating to the rest of the earth the transformation accomplished (or partially accomplished) in themselves. (This same idea has impelled many spiritual, occult, or chivalrous groups in the past to select a secret place far away from the rest of the world,
sheltered from the contamination of collective vibrations, to do their work.) But they soon realized that this was an illusion and that afterward the gap or the atmospheric gulf,379 as Sri Aurobindo would put it, between the new accomplishment and the old world would be too great to be bridged. Furthermore, what is the point of an individual 378
379

Sri Aurobindo Came to Me, 251
The Synthesis of Yoga, 20:348


success if it is not communicable to the rest of the world? If a supramental being suddenly appeared on earth, no one would even see him! Our eyes must first be unsealed to another way of life. If you advance on the path that is open in front of you, said the Mother,
without patiently waiting for the rest of creation, that is, if you achieve alone something very close to the Truth as compared to the present state of the world what will happen? The whole is thrown off balance; not only the harmony but the equilibrium of the whole will be upset, because a certain part of the creation will not be able to follow. And instead of a full realization of the Divine, you will have a small, local, infinitesimal realization, and nothing of the goal will be achieved. Moreover, emphasized the Mother, if you want to do the work in a solitary way, you absolutely cannot do it in a total way,
because every physical being, however complete he may be, even if he is of an altogether superior nature, even if he was made for an altogether special Work, is only partial and limited. He embodies only one truth, one law in the world it may be a very complex law, but it is still only one law and the full transformation cannot be realized through him alone, through one body. . . . Alone, you can attain your own perfection, become infinite and perfect in your consciousness.
Inner realization knows no limits. But outer realization, on the contrary, is necessarily limited, and a minimum number of physical persons are necessary in order to achieve a general action.
In 1940, after fourteen years of individual concentration, Sri Aurobindo and the Mother opened the doors of their ashram. The third phase of the transformation began, a phase that has expanded today to a world scale.

Third Phase The Ashram Author's Note: The following subchapter should be entirely revised,
as the conditions in the Ashram have drastically changed since the Mother's departure in 1973. The "Sri Aurobindo Ashram" has become an "institution," as opposed to the living experiment it was meant to be. Therefore, the following description now has merely (and regretfully) an historical value. For more details concerning the

Mother's own work in the body refer to Mother's Agenda (her own recorded account to Satprem from 1951 to 1973).

In India an "ashram" is traditionally a spiritual or religious community whose members are gathered around a Master and who have renounced the world to devote themselves to meditation,
concentration, and yogic practices in order to attain "liberation." As we might imagine, though, Sri Aurobindo's Ashram had little to do with this particular definition, except for the fact that the disciples were indeed gathered around Sri Aurobindo and the Mother. It was not an exotic kind of monastery, and still less a place for refuge and peace; it was more like a forge: This Ashram has been created . . . not for the renunciation of the world but as a centre and a field of practice for the evolution of another kind and form of life. 380 Even before his arrest in Bengal, at a time when he was not even remotely dreaming of founding an ashram, Sri Aurobindo had said: The spiritual life finds its most potent expression in the man who lives the ordinary life of men in the strength of the Yoga. . . . It is by such a union of the inner life and the outer that mankind will eventually be lifted up and become mighty and divine. 381 Hence, Sri Aurobindo wanted his Ashram to be fully involved in everyday life, right in the midst of the world-at-large, since that is where the transformation had to take place, and not upon some Himalayan peak. Except for the main building, where the Mother lived and where Sri Aurobindo's monument is located, the 1,200-odd disciples of all nationalities and all social classes (men, women and four to five hundred children)
were scattered throughout the city of Pondicherry in more than three hundred different houses. There were no protective walls in the Ashram, except for one's own inner light; the bustle of the bazaar was just next door.
Any Westerner journeying there with the idea of finding peace or learning "yoga" was certainly disappointed. First of all, no one would try to teach him anything (rather, "unlearning" was what was required); there were no classes and no "teaching," except for Sri 380
381

Letters on Yoga, 23:847
The Ideal of the Karmayogin, 10


Aurobindo's written works and the Mother's Questions and Answers,
which were at everyone's disposal (as well as all other teachings, in fact, both traditional and nontraditional). There were no rules, either.
A disciple had to discover everything for himself, within himself, in the midst of a very active life. He was left to himself. How could mental rules possibly be drawn up for a work embracing all the levels of evolution mental, vital, and psychic, all the human types and all the traditions and cultures (some disciples had been raised as Christians, others as Taoists, Moslems, Buddhists, atheists, etc.)? Each one had to find his own truth, which is never the same as the next man's truth. Some people in the Ashram believed in the virtues of asceticism in spite of all Sri Aurobindo had said about it and they lived as ascetics; others favored judo or football; others liked books and studies, while still others did not; some were involved in business,
or manufactured stainless steel, perfumes, and even tons of sugar in a modern sugar mill. There was something to satisfy every taste. Those who liked painting painted; those who liked music had every possible instrument, Indian and Western, at their disposal; those who liked teaching became teachers at the International Centre of Education,
which covered the whole academic spectrum, from kindergarten to the college level. There were also a printing press; scientific laboratories;
gardens; rice fields; workshops for cars, tractors and trucks; an X-ray department and an operating room. Every conceivable human activity was represented. The Ashram was a microcosm. One could be a baker,
too, or wash dishes, or try one's hand at carpentry, if one believed in the virtues of simple work. But there was no hierarchy among these activities; none was remunerated, nor was any considered superior to any other. All the practical necessities of life were provided for by the Mother to each person according to his or her needs. The only essential task was to discover the truth of one's being, for which the external work was merely a pretext or a means. It was remarkable, in fact, to observe people changing activities as their consciousness awakened; soon, all the values attached to the former profession would fall away, and because money no longer had any meaning, one who considered himself a doctor, say, found that he was really more comfortable as an artisan, while a man with no particular education might discover that he had a talent for poetry or painting, or might

become engrossed in the study of Sanskrit or Ayurvedic medicine.
There was a complete recasting of all external values according to the one inner criterion. When a disciple once asked the Mother about the best way of collaborating in the supramental transformation, he was given this answer: It is always the same thing: by realizing one's own being, in whatever form, by whatever means it doesn't matter but that is the only way. Each person carries a truth within himself; he must become one with that truth, live that truth. When he does that,
the path he follows to unite with and realize that truth is also the path that brings him closest to the Transformation. In other words, the two personal realization and transformation are inseparably connected. Perhaps this multiplicity of approaches will even yield the Secret and open the door, who knows?
There was no communal life either, only the inner connection.
Some disciples kept the habit, from the days when the Mother used to talk to the Ashram children, of assembling twice a week for a collective meditation. But it was especially for sports that the disciples would get together. (There was a common dining room, too, although many chose to eat at home with their families, or alone.) There were all kinds of sports, from the traditional hatha yoga to tennis to boxing,
and almost every disciple devoted an hour or two each day to sports.
Although the sea was nearby, there was also an Olympic-sized swimming pool, as well as basketball and volleyball courts, running tracks, a gymnasium, a boxing ring, a dojo for judo, etc. Every possible sport was practiced there, with participants from the ages of five to eighty. There was also a theater and a cinema. Yet sports were not an article of faith; nothing was an article of faith, except, of course, for the faith in man's divine possibilities and in a truer life upon the earth. All of you here, my children, live in exceptional freedom, the Mother would say to the youngest . . . No social constraints, no moral constraints, no intellectual constraints, no rules; nothing but a Light which is here. But it was a very demanding Light, and this was where the terrestrial work began.
How can anything be "terrestrial" with 1,200 disciples, or even a hundred thousand? The Ashram was actually only a concentrated point for the work. The real Ashram is in fact everywhere in the

world, wherever human beings yearn for a truer life, whether they know of Sri Aurobindo or not, because their inner orientation and their inner need automatically place them in the same evolutionary crucible.
Transformation is not one individual's prerogative; on the contrary, it requires many individuals, as diverse as possible. The Ashram was only a symbolic point of the work, as a laboratory is the symbolic testing-ground for a vaccine that will benefit millions of people. Sri Aurobindo himself often called his Ashram the laboratory. This might be better appreciated if we understand that each individual represents a certain aggregate of vibrations and is in contact with a certain zone of the subconscient. These worlds, apparently full of diversity, are in fact each made up of a few typical vibrations; the multiplicity of forms (of deformations, rather), of beings, places, or events within a given zone merely mask an identical vibration. The moment we become somewhat conscious and begin to descend into the subconscient (without becoming overwhelmed) in order to work, we are surprised,
or sometimes even amused, to find that some persons we know, who are outwardly very different from one another when we meet them on the mental or vital planes, are almost the same and interchangeable in the subconscient! Thus, people separated by different religions,
different backgrounds, different social classes, or even different ethics, can belong to a perfectly identical type and be entirely alike in the subconscient, as if you could see one through the other, says the Mother. Since our vision is limited, we see only two or three people,
one through the other, but if we had total vision, we would see thousands and thousands more behind them, arrayed in well-defined categories. Some people are never seen together in the subconscient,
although they may be quite close in outer life, and vice versa. Now we understand how the work can assume a world scale: Each person, says the Mother, is an instrument for controlling the set of vibrations that represent his own particular field of work. Each of us, through his qualities and his defects, is in touch with a special region of the terrestrial consciousness that represents his part in the overall transformation. So we now understand why the transformation cannot take place through a single individual, for no matter how great he is,
how complex his inner organization, how extensive his mental, vital,
and subconscious colonization, he represents only one set of

vibrations. At most, he can transform the type of vibration he represents, and, if that, because in the final analysis everything is interconnected. We understand, too, why the transformation cannot be realized by saints. It is not from saintliness that one makes a vaccine,
but from that very share of human illness one has the courage to acknowledge and to take upon oneself. In any case, the illness undeniably exists, only one person closes his eyes to it and escapes into ecstasy, while the other person rolls up his sleeves and gets to work with his test tubes. When an older disciple once bitterly complained about the odd human mixture in the Ashram and all those "impossible" individuals who were in it, Sri Aurobindo replied: It is necessary or rather inevitable that in an Ashram which is a "laboratory" . . . for a spiritual and supramental yoga, humanity should be variously represented. For the problem of transformation has to deal with all sorts of elements favourable and unfavorable. The element favourable carries in him a mixture of these two things. If only sattwic [virtuous] and cultured men come for yoga, men without very much of the vital difficulty in them, then, because the difficulty of the vital element in terrestrial nature has not been faced and overcome, it might well be that the endeavour would fail. 382 In a moment of remorse, another disciple wrote to Sri Aurobindo, "What disciples we are! . . . You should have chosen or called some better stuff perhaps somebody like Z." Sri Aurobindo replied: As to the disciple, I agree! Yes, but would the better stuff, supposing it to exist, be typical of humanity? To deal with a few exceptional types would hardly solve the problem. And would they consent to follow my path that is another question. And if they were put to the test, would not the common humanity suddenly reveal itself that is still another question.383 I do not want hundreds of thousands of disciples. It will be enough if I can get a hundred complete men, empty of petty egoism,
who will be instruments of God.384
Practically, the work is done through each of our psychological difficulties, which are symbols of the same difficulties in the world; if a particular vibration is touched in one individual, then the same 382
383
384

Letters on Yoga, 22:856
Correspondence, Vol. I, 101
Life of Sri Aurobindo, 167


vibration is touched in the entire world. Each of you, said the Mother,
represents one of the difficulties to be overcome for the transformation to be complete and that makes a lot of difficulties!
It's even more than a difficulty; I think I told you before that each one represents an impossibility to be resolved; when all these imposibilities are resolved, the Work will be over. As previously mentioned, each person has a shadow that keeps pursuing him and that seems to contradict the very aim of his existence. This is the particular vibration he must transform, his field of work, his impossible knot. At once the challenge of his life and its potential triumph, it is his share in the progress of the collective evolution upon the earth. But something curious happens in this particular laboratory: in ordinary life, or in an individual yoga, the shadow is more or less dormant,
more or less bothersome, and usually dissolves by itself or, rather,
sinks below, into oblivion; but the moment we are involved in a terrestrial yoga, we find that it does not dissolve at all, but resurges again and again, relentlessly, as if the battle had never really been won indeed, as if we were waging a contest against that particular vibratory knot for the entire earth. It appears as if the seeker has become a special battlefield for a fierce and symbolic war against the same knot of darkness in all the rest of humanity. You no longer do yoga for yourself alone; you do it for everybody, unintentionally,
automatically, says the Mother. The seeker verifies in vivo the principle of the world's substantial oneness: trying to straighten a vibration in oneself triggers reactions from myriads of vibrations all over the world. This is what Sri Aurobindo calls a "yoga for the earthconsciousness."385 Accepting life, he [the seeker of the integral yoga]
has to bear not only his own burden, but a great part of the world's burden too along with it, as a continuation of his own sufficiently heavy load. Therefore his Yoga has much more the nature of a battle than others'; but this is not only an individual battle, it is a collective war waged over a considerable country. He has not only to conquer in himself the forces of egoistic falsehood and disorder, but to conquer them as representatives of the same adverse and inexhaustible forces in the world. Their representative character gives them a much more obstinate capacity of resistance, an almost endless 385

On Himself, 26:109


right to recurrence. Often he finds that even after he has won persistently his own personal battle, he has still to win it over and over again in a seemingly interminable war, because his inner existence has already been so much enlarged that not only it contains his own being with its well-defined needs and experiences, but is in solidarity with the being of others, because in himself he contains the universe.386
Will the end of the work ever be reached? We might conclude that the subconscient is an endless sewer the rishis themselves called it "the bottomless pit" and that if we have to wait for it to be totally cleansed before we can achieve a supramental transformation, we might have to wait for a very long time, indeed. But this is only an appearance. The birth of a new individual does not bring with it a new load of subconscious or unconscious material; that individual merely draws from the common source, repeating the same vibrations which circle endlessly through the earth's atmosphere. Man cannot create new darkness any more than he can create new light. He is only an instrument whether conscious or unconscious of the one or of the other (though most often of both). No new vibrations can be brought into the world except those of the superconscious Future, which gradually become the present ones and dissolve or transmute the vibrations from our evolutionary past. Today's Subconscient and Inconscient are obviously less subconscious and unconscious than they were two thousand years ago, and we have all paid to bring about this result. This descent of the Future into the present is the key to the transmutation of the world. Yoga is the process of accelerating the Future, and the pioneer of evolution is the instrument who brings down more and more powerful vibrations. The task of the seeker,
therefore, is not so much a negative endeavor of scouring the Subconscient as it is a positive one of calling the light and bringing down the vibrations of the Future to accelerate the cleansing or purification process. This is what Sri Aurobindo calls "descent,"
which is the main characteristic of his yoga, as has been said earlier. If there is a descent in other Yogas, yet it is only an incident on the way or resulting from the ascent the ascent is the real thing. Here the 386

The Synthesis of Yoga, 20:71


ascent is the first step, but it is a means for the descent. It is the descent of the new consciousness attained by the ascent that is the stamp and seal of the sadhana . . . here the object is the divine fulfilment of life.387 When Sri Aurobindo speaks of "descent," he does not mean a sharp and quick movement upward followed by a sharp and quick movement downward. He does not mean coming down for a brief stint of hard labor to sweep up the dust; he means that the bottom must actually cease to be the bottom. To take an example, a very prosaic one and as one soon learns, the transformation process is prosaic enough we may be shopping at the grocery store amid a rather opaque and gray humanity, or we may be visiting at night rather noxious regions of the subconscient, yet do both things with the same intensity of consciousness, light, and peace as when we are sitting alone in our room, eyes closed, in deep meditation. This is what is meant by "descending." No longer is there any difference between the high and the low; both have become equally luminous and peaceful.
Too, this is how the transformation works on a world scale, for the oneness of substance in the world works both ways. We cannot touch a shadow without touching all the corresponding shadows in the world; but the opposite is equally true: we cannot touch a light without affecting all the surrounding shadows. All vibrations are contagious,
including the good ones. Every victory is a victory for all. It is all the same Being! exclaimed the Mother. There is but one consciousness,
one substance, one force, and one body in the world. This is why Sri Aurobindo could say of the Mother and of himself: If the Supermind comes down into our physical, it would mean that it has come down into Matter and so there is no reason why it should not manifest in the sadhaks [disciples].388
The higher the seeker reaches, the wider his access to the regions below the Past he can come into contact with is exactly in proportion to the Future he has discovered and the greater his capacity for collective transformation. Until now, the only power brought down was a mental power, or overmental at best, which was incapable of touching the bottommost layers, but now that a 387
388

On Himself, 26:109
On Himself, 26:450


supramental or spiritual power has descended into the earthconsciousness through Sri Aurobindo's and the Mother's realization,
we can conceivably expect this supreme Future to touch the supreme Depths and hasten the cleansing, that is, ultimately hasten the evolution of all humanity. Yoga is a process of accelerated evolution,
and the progression is geometric: The first obscure material movement of the evolutionary Force is marked by an aeonic graduality; the movement of Life progress proceeds slowly but still with a quicker step, it is concentrated into the figure of millenniums; mind can still further compress the tardy leisureliness of Time and make long paces of the centuries; but when the conscious spirit intervenes, a supremely concentrated pace of evolutionary swiftness becomes possible.389 We have now reached that very point. The convulsions of the present world are undoubtedly a sign that the descending Pressure is increasing and that we are approaching a true solution. It may well be that, once started, the [supramental] endeavour may not advance rapidly even to its first decisive stage; it may be that it will take long centuries of effort to come into some kind of permanent birth. But that is not altogether inevitable, for the principle of such changes in Nature seems to be a long obscure preparation followed by a swift gathering up and precipitation of the elements into the new birth, a rapid conversion, a transformation that in its luminous moment figures like a miracle. Even when the first decisive change is reached,
it is certain that all humanity will not be able to rise to that level.
There cannot fail to be a division into those who are able to live on the spiritual level and those who are only able to live in the light that descends from it into the mental level. And below these too there might still be a great mass influenced from above but not yet ready for the light. But even that would be a transformation and a beginning far beyond anything yet attained. This hierarchy would not mean as in our present vital living an egoistic domination of the undeveloped by the more developed, but a guidance of the younger by the elder brothers of the race and a constant working to lift them up to a greater spiritual level and wider horizons. And for the leaders too this ascent to the first spiritual levels would not be the end of the divine march, a culmination that left nothing more to be achieved on earth.
389

The Life Divine, 19:932


For there would be still yet higher levels within the supramental realm,390 as the old Vedic poets knew when they spoke of the spiritual life as a constant ascent, 391
"The priests of the word climb thee like a ladder, O
hundred-powered. As one ascends from peak to peak,
there is made clear the much that has still to be done."392
We have in fact spent all these centuries preparing the Base: a base of security and well-being through our science, a base of charity through our religions and morals, a base of beauty and harmony through our arts, and a mental base of rigorous exactitude, but these are all bases for something else. Absorbed as we are in our effort for perfection, we see only one angle of the great Work the angle of earthly immortality, like the rishis; the angle of eternal Permanence, like the Buddha; the angle of charity, of well-being, all kinds of angles but we are not going to continue playing forever like children with building blocks! None of these is an end, but only a negative condition of the Play. Nothing has really yet begun! Perhaps we are expected,
first, to become conscious of the Play in order for it to begin. We have exhausted all kinds of adventures since Jules Verne, and they have all gradually closed in on us. What war, what revolution is still worth giving one's blood for? Our Everests have all been deflowered, and the high seas are patrolled night and day; everything is monitored,
precalculated, even the straosphere. Could this be intended to lead us to the only possibility left in this increasingly asphyxiating world? We had assumed we were only shortsighted little moles on a big planet, so we proceeded to rectify the great Eye within, and our wings, by substituting a steel machinery that is now crushing us mercilessly
perhaps to compel us to believe as much in ourselves as we do in our machines, and to understand that we can realize far more than they.
"They go round and round, battered and stumbling, like blind men led 390

Sri Aurobindo recognized three degrees or planes of consciousness within the Supermind. It does not seem necessary to expound upon them here.
391
The Human Cycle, 332
392
Rig Veda I.101.


by one who is blind," said the Upanishad long ago. 393 Perhaps the time has come to look beyond all our small constructions and to begin the Play? Instead of playing with shovels, bulldozers, gospels, and neutrons, let us clear the consciousness and cast that seed to the winds of time, that life may truly begin.
O Force-compelled, Fate-driven earth-born race,
O petty adventurers in an infinite world And prisoners of a dwarf humanity,
How long will you tread the circling tracks of mind Around your little self and petty things?
But not for a changeless littleness were you meant,
Not for vain repetition were you built. . .
Almighty powers are shut in Nature's cells.
A greater destiny awaits you in your front. . .
The life you lead conceals the light you are.394
Glancing beyond the old wall, we see that everything is already there,
only waiting for us to want it:
I saw them cross the twilight of an age,
The sun-eyed children of a marvellous dawn. . .
The massive barrier-breakers of the world. . .
The architects of immortality. . .
Bodies made beautiful by the Spirit's light,
Carrying the magic word, the mystic fire,
Carrying the Dionysian cup of joy. . .395
The Iron Age Is Ended396
The prerequisites of the Age of Truth may seem harsh the perilous descent into the Inconscient, the battle against Darkness,
393
394
395
396

Mundaka Upanishad I.2.8.
Savitri, 29:370
Savitri, 28:343
Collected Poems and Plays, I, 5:61


Death at every bend in the road. But have we not risked our lives for lesser undertakings? Man's greatness is not in what he is, but in what he makes possible,397 said Sri Aurobindo. The Victory must be won once, in one body. When one human being has won that Victory, it will be a victory for all humankind and in all the worlds. For this little earth, so insignificant in appearance, is the symbolic ground of a battle involving all the cosmic hierarchies, just as a conscious human being is the symbolic ground of a battle being waged for all humankind. If we conquer here, we conquer everywhere. We are the deliverers of the dead the deliverers of life. By becoming conscious, each of us becomes a builder of heaven and a redeemer of the earth. That is why this life on earth takes on such an exceptional significance among all our other forms of life, and also why the guardians of Falsehood persist on preaching to us the hereafter. We must not waste a minute to do our work here, says the Mother, because it is here that we can really do it. Do not expect anything from death; life is your salvation.
It is in life that the transformation must be achieved; it is on the earth that one progresses, on the earth that one realizes. It is in the body that the Victory is won. Then the law of evolution will no longer be a law of opposites exhorting us through endless dualisms in order to uproot us from our human childhood. It will be a law of light and unending progress, a new evolution in the joy of Truth. The Victory must be won only once. One glorious body. One body must break the iron law for all bodies. And all human beings must collaborate in that one Victory. The strategic difficulty of the transformation is fully before us. If earth calls and the Supreme answers, the hour can be even now.398

397
398

The Hour of God, 17:9
From The Hour of God, a posthumous collection of Sri Aurobindo's writings.


CONCLUSION
The End Which Ever Begins Again399
The realization of the Vedic rishis has become a collective one. The Supermind has entered the earth-consciousness, descending right into the physical subconscient, at the last frontiers of Matter. There remains only one final bridge to cross for the connection to be established. A new world is born, said the Mother. At present, we are in the midst of a transitional period in which the two are intermingled: the old world hangs on, still very powerful, still controlling the ordinary consciousness, but the new one is slipping in,
so modest and unobtrusive that, externally, it doesn't change too much, for the moment. . . . But it is working, growing, and one day it will be strong enough to assert itself visibly. Indeed, not all difficulties come from the subconscient.
One difficulty in particular is of a very "conscious" nature,
hindering the new world like a massive bronze door. It is not our materialism, as we so often imagine for scientists, if they are sincere, may be the first to emerge in the Truth but the enormous spiritual carapace under which we have buried the Spirit. The real mischief of the devil is not to sow falsehood and hatred in the world,
such as Attila or the Nazis have done he is far too clever for that
but to lay hands on a grain of truth and then to twist it ever so slightly.
Nothing is more intractable than a perverted truth, because the falsehood is made that much stronger by the power of truth it contains.
We have been told repeatedly that "salvation is in heaven," and it is true. There is no salvation for man so long as his nose remains completely buried in matter; his salvation is in the superconscious heaven. It was probably necessary to preach heaven to us in order to pull us out of our initial evolutionary sclerosis, but this was just a first stage of evolution, which we then turned into an ultimate and rigid 399

This was written in 1914. Perhaps things have improved since then, but this is far from being evident.


end. Now, however, this same end has turned against us. We have denied the Divinity in Matter, to confine it instead in our holy places,
but now Matter is taking its revenge. We called Matter crude, and crude it is. As long as we tolerate this Imbalance, there is no hope for the earth. We will only continue to swing from one extreme to another, both equally false from material enjoyment to spiritual austerity without ever finding any true fulfillment. The ancient intellectual cultures of Europe ended in disruptive doubt and sceptical impotence, the pieties of Asia in stagnation and decline. 400 401 We need both the vigor of Matter and the fresh waters of the Spirit, while our materialisms are stupefying us and our beliefs are merely the reverse of our disbeliefs. The Atheist is God playing at hide-and-seek with Himself; but is the Theist any other? Well, perhaps; for he has seen the shadow of God and clutched at it.402
If we wish to remedy this Imbalance for everything that lacks balance in our bodies, our societies, or our cosmic cycles eventually perishes we must become lucid. We have lost the Password; such is the bottom line of our era. We have replaced true power with devices,
and true wisdom with dogmas. This is the reign of the gnomes, on every plane. And it will become more and more a reign of gnomes,
unless we relinquish these mortifying half-truths, from above or below, and immerse ourselves in the true Source, within, to recover the practical secret of the Spirit in Matter. "That which is immortal in mortals . . . is a god and established inwardly as an energy working out in our divine powers." (Rig Veda IV.2.1) Because they knew this Secret, neither the rishis nor the sages of the ancient Mysteries ever created the monumental schism that presently undermines our lives:
"our Father in heaven, our Mother the earth"; and they did not ever attempt to settle the problem by relegating an earthly human fulfillment to a celestial hereafter: "Let us conquer even here, let us run this battle-race of a hundred leadings." Having reached the summits of consciousness, they did not vanish in a pale ecstasy: "I am a son of Earth, the soil is my mother. . . ." (Atharva Veda XII.1)
Having traveled to the frontiers of the Infinite, they did not find that 400
401
402

The Human Cycle, 278
From Savitri.
Thoughts and Aphorisms, 17:82


the small things here were small: "O Godhead, guard for us the Infinite and lavish the finite." (Rig Veda IV.2.11) "May we speak the beauty of thee, O Earth, that is in thy villages and forests and assemblies and wars and battles." (Atharva Veda XII.44.56) They battled, and they were invincible, for they knew that God is within us:
"O Son of the body . . . full of happiness and light, victorious, to whom no hurt can come." (III.4.2,9.1) A conquering truth of upright men, for whom death is both a falsehood and a defeat. A truth of a divine joy upon the earth. Certainly their truth was premature for the hordes of Europe, who still needed to hear about heaven before earth,
but now the time may have come at last to unveil the Mysteries
whether they be Vedic, Orphic, Alchemical, or Catharist and to recover the whole truth of the two poles within a third position, which is neither that of the materialists nor that of the spiritualists. The ascent of man into heaven is not the key, but rather his ascent here into the spirit and the descent also of the spirit into his normal humanity and the transformation of this earthly nature. For that and not some post mortem salvation is the real new birth for which humanity waits as the crowning movement of its long, obscure and painful course.403
Sri Aurobindo brings us a message of hope. Ultimately, our present reign of gnomes is the sign of a new emergence. Our darkness and declines always signal the advent of a greater light, which had to descend to break the prevailing limits. There are only two ways of breaking the limits: through an excess of light or an excess of darkness, but while one draws our darkness up into the light and dissolves it, the other precipitates the light into our darkness and transmutes it. One way liberates a few individuals, while the other liberates the whole earth. Ten thousand years ago, a few giants among men had wrestled out the Secret of the world, but this was the privilege of a few initiates, while now we must all become initiates.
Ten thousand years ago reigned the Golden Age, while today everything seems to have been swallowed up in darkness. In truth,
though, night has not descended upon the world, as the preachers of doom would have us believe; it is only that the light has been buried in 403

The Human Cycle, 329


the world. The Secret had to be forgotten, humanity had to descend the dark curve of the age of reason and religions, so that all could recover the Secret and the Light everywhere, beneath all the darkness,
all the misery, and the pettiness, instead of in a high brazier in some Vedic or Persian sanctuary. We are at the beginning of Time.
Evolution does not follow an increasingly sublime and vanishing trajectory, but a spiral: It is not a tortuous path leading you back,
relatively battered, to the starting-point; on the contrary, it seeks to bring to the whole creation the joy of being, the beauty of being, the greatness of being, and the perpetual development, perpetually progressive, of this joy, this beauty, and this greatness. Then everything makes sense. An eternal spiral that does not end in an ultimate point for the Ultimate is everywhere in the world, in every being, every body, every atom but a gradual ascent reaching higher and higher in order to descend lower and lower, to embrace ever more,
and to reveal ever more. We are at the beginning of the "Vast," which will become ever vaster. The pioneers of evolution have already recognized other levels within the Supermind, opening up new trajectories in an eternal Becoming. Each conquered height brings about a new change, a complete reversal of consciousness, a new heaven, a new earth for the physical world itself will soon mutate before our incredulous eyes. This is surely not the first change in history; how many were there before us? How many more with us, if only we consent to become conscious? Successive reversals of consciousness, which will bring an always renewed richness of creation, will take place from one stage to the next. Each time, the Magus in us turns his kaleidoscope, and everything becomes astonishing vaster, truer, and more beautiful. We just have to open our eyes, for the joy of the world is at our door, if only we wish it.
Earth's pains were the ransom of its prisoned delight. . . .
For joy and not for sorrow earth was made.404
Such is the Secret. It is here, everywhere, within the very heart of the world. The "well of honey beneath the rock," the "childlike laughter of 404

Savitri, 28:43 29:629


the Infinite" that we are, the luminous Future that pushes back our past. Evolution is far from being over. It is not an absurd merry-goround, not a fall, nor a vanity fair. It is . . . the adventure of consciousness and joy.405
Pondicherry April 14, 1963

405

Savitri, 28:2


REFERENCES
Most quotations refer to the complete edition of Sri Aurobindo's works in 30 volumes (The Centenary Edition). Figures in bold indicate the volume number. Other quotations are taken from the following editions and books.
Sri Aurobindo: Essays on the Gita (1959)
Sri Aurobindo: On Yoga II, Tome 2 (1958)
Sri Aurobindo: The Riddle of the World (1951)
Sri Aurobindo: Letters, 3rd series (1949)
Sri Aurobindo: Poems Past and Present (1952)
Sri Aurobindo: The Human Cycle (1949)
Sri Aurobindo: On the Veda (1956)
Sri Aurobindo: The Life Divine (1960)
Sri Aurobindo: The Ideal of the Karmayogin (1950)
A. B. Purani: Evening Talks with Sri Aurobindo (1959)
A. B. Purani: Life of Sri Aurobindo (1958)
D. K. Roy: Sri Aurobindo Came to Me (1952)
G. Monod-Herzen: Shri Aurobindo (1954)
Nirodbaran: Correspondence with Sri Aurobindo (1959)
Most of the Mother's quotations are taken from Mother's Agenda.


WORKS OF SRI AUROBINDO
Most of the following titles can be found in the complete edition of Sri Aurobindo's works in 30 volumes (the Centenary Edition).

1 - Indian Tradition The Foundations of Indian Culture, 1st ed. 1953
'Arya' Dec. 1918-Jan. 1921 (New York)
On the Veda, 'Arya' Aug. 1914-Jan. 1920 1st ed. 1956
Hymns to the Mystic Fire 1st ed. 1946
Isha Upanishad (translation & commentaries), 1st ed. 1921
'Arya' Aug. 1914-May 1915
Eight Upanishads (translations & introduction) 1st ed. 1953
Essays on the Gita, 'Arya' Aug. 1916-July 1920 1st ed. 1922
The Renaissance in India, 1st ed. 1920
'Arya' Aug. 1918-Nov. 1918
The Significance of Indian Art, 'Arya' 1918-1921 1st ed. 1947

2 - Philosophy-Sociology The Life Divine, 'Arya' Aug. 1914-Jan. 1919 1st ed. 1939
Ideals and Progress, 'Arya' 1915-1916 1st ed. 1920
The Superman, 'Arya' March 1915-Aug. 1915 1st ed. 1920
Thoughts and Glimpses, 'Arya' 1915-1917 1st ed. 1920
Thoughts and Aphorisms 1st ed. 1958
The Hour of God 1st ed. 1959
Evolution, 'Arya' 1915-1918 1st ed. 1920
Heraclitus, 'Arya' Dec. 1916-June 1917 1st ed. 1941
The Supramental Manifestation upon Earth, 1st ed. 1952
'Bulletin' 1949-1950
The Problem of Rebirth, 1st ed. 1952
'Arya' Nov. 1915-Jan. 1921
The Human Cycle, 'Arya' Aug. 1916-July 1918 1st ed. 1949
The Ideal of Human Unity, 1st ed. 1919
'Arya' Sept. 1915-July 1918 Revised 1950


On the War, 1940-1943 1st ed. 1944
War and Self Determination, 1916-1920 1st ed. 1920
Man-Slave or Free? 'Karmayogin' 1909-1910 1st ed. 1922

3 - Yoga Elements of Yoga, 1933-1936 1st ed. 1953
Lights on Yoga, 1st ed. 1935
More Lights on Yoga 1st ed. 1948
Sri Aurobindo on Himself and on the Mother 1st ed. 1953
The Mother 1st ed. 1928
The Yoga and its Objects 1st ed. 1921
The Synthesis of Yoga, 'Arya' Aug. 1914-Jan. 1921 1st ed. 1948
Letters, 2 volumes (On Yoga I & II) 1st ed. 1958
The Riddle of this World 1st ed. 1933
Bases of Yoga 1st ed. 1936
Correspondence with Nirodbaran, vol. I 1st ed. 1954
Correspondence with Nirodbaran, vol. II 1st ed. 1959
Letters (translated from Bengali) 1st ed. 1961

4 - Literature-Poetry-Drama Views and Reviews, 'Arya' 1914-1920 1st ed. 1941
Letters, third series 1st ed. 1949
Life-Literature-Yoga 1st ed. 1952
Conversations of the Dead, 1909-1910 1st ed. 1951
The Phantom Hour (a short story), 1910-1912 1st ed. 1951
Kalidasa, 2 volumes, 1893-1905 (Baroda) 1st ed. 1929
Vyasa and Valmiki, 1893-1905 (Baroda) 1st ed. 1956
The Future Poetry, 'Arya' Dec. 1917-July 1920 1st ed. 1953
Collected Poems and Plays, 2 volumes 1st ed. 1942
Poems Past and Present 1st ed. 1946
Poems from Bengali, 1893-1905 (translation) 1st ed. 1956
Savitri 1st ed. 1950
Last Poems, 1937-1944 1st ed. 1952
More Poems 1st ed. 1957


Vikramorvasie, 1903-1904 (Baroda) 1st ed. 1911
Songs of Vidyapati, 1893-1905 (Baroda) 1st ed. 1956
Rodogune, 1893-1905 (Baroda) 1st ed. 1958
Ilion 1st ed. 1957
Vasavadutta 1915-1916 1st ed. 1957
Urvasie, 1893-1896 1st ed. 1896
Ahana and Other Poems, 1895-1915 1st ed. 1915
Love and Death, 1899 1st ed. 1921
The Viziers of Bassora, 1893-1905 (Baroda) 1st ed. 1959
Eric, 1912 or 1913 1st ed. 1960
The Chariot of Jagannath, 1918 1st ed. 1972 (translated from Bengali)

5 - Political Period The Ideal of the Karmayogin, 'Karmayogin' 1909-10 1st ed. 1918
A System of National Education, 'Karmayogin' 1910 1st ed. 1921
The National Value of Art, 'Karmayogin' 1909 1st ed. 1922
The Speeches, 1908-1909 1st ed. 1922
The Doctrine of Passive Resistance, 1907 1st ed. 1948
Bankim-Tilak-Dayananda, 1907-1916-1918 1st ed. 1940
The Brain of India, 'Karmayogin' 1909 1st ed. 1921
Tales of Prison Life (translated from Bengali) 1st ed. 1974






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