Sri Aurobindo and Aswapati in Savitri
Who are the protagonists, the principal characters in Sri Aurobindo's Savitri ? This is, apparently, one of the simplest questions that may be asked about the epic: the chief protagonist is Savitri, after whom the epic is named and who dominates its second half; then there is Satyavan, her counterpart and husband, who represents the soul of humanity; and thirdly there is Aswapati, the king who is Savitri's father and who is the main character in the first half of the epic.
The authorities, experts and exegetes who have written on Savitri are unanimously of the same opinion. The following is a small selection from the learned assessment of some of them concerning the first, second and third Book, i.e. almost half of the epic's text. In The Book of the Divine Mother M. P. Pandit writes: "In the first part, [Sri Aurobindo] speaks of Aswapati's Yoga, the Yoga of the King ... Aswapati in the epic is the representative of the aspiring humanity who prepares and lays the path to the Divine Glory ... Aswapati stands face to face with the Creatrix of the universe, the supreme Divine Mother, and prays to her fervently to manifest her glories on Earth ... The Divine Grace takes birth as Savitri, daughter of King Aswapati, and with the birth of this Flame, things get moving ... Aswapati has arrived at the overmental levels of existence and he embodies the consciousness of the One, which includes the many ... After describing the overwhelming experience of Aswapati with the absolute stillness at 'the gates of the transcendent, the poet observes that that is not the Ultimate."1
In Savitri: An Approach and a Study A. B. Purani writes: "Aswapati acquired this secret knowledge [see Book I Canto IV] that had come down by tradition and attained to the freedom of the spirit by cutting the cord of the mind which ties it to the earth... The entire second Book is, in fact, Aswapati's travel over worlds heaped upon worlds in a complex cosmogony mounting from the plinth of the plane of Matter right up to levels of higher Mind and the plane of the Cosmic Being leading to worlds of greater Knowledge. Aswapati represents the aspiring human soul down the millenniums of evolution in his search for the truth of himself, of the world and of God. He acquires
1 M. P. Pandit, The Book of the Divine Mother, pp.17, 40, 42,46and78.
by his tapasya immense knowledge of the possibilities of the human consciousness, its deeper depths and its higher and the highest heights. In his heart bums the flame of aspiration to create here on earth an image of the perfection which his soul feels is possible for man and earth to attain. The third Book describes Aswapati's entry into and experience of Supracosmic planes of consciousness and his meeting face to face with the Supreme Creatrix, the power of the omnipotent Divine."2
And in Rohit Mehta's The Dialogue with Death we read: "In the epic of Savitri, Sri Aurobindo deals exhaustively with the Yoga of Aswapati, which indeed is the Yoga of Ascent. And Aswapati's Yoga is a series of negations [?]. It is only when all is negated that the Voice of the Divine is heard, promising the descent of one of its most brilliant rays for dispelling the darkness of the earth. And so the Birth of Savitri cannot be understood unless one understands the Yoga of Aswapati in which the latter ascends higher and higher by a never-ending process of negations... Instead of showing Aswapati performing austerities and offering oblations in various sacrifices, [Sri Aurobindo] has introduced the journey of the King in quest of a divine blessing so that he may have a child for which he was longing. And so Aswapati's long journey is for obtaining the blessing of a child."3
One could quote many more assertions to the same end; in their unanimity they should be utterly convincing for the student of Sri Aurobindo's cosmic poem. But then: why does Sri Aurobindo write the name Aswapati for the very first time on page 341?* Forgetting to mention the name of a character whose actions are described in no less than 315 successive pages of his poem would indeed be a gross, not to say a staggering oversight by a poet as painstaking as Sri Aurobindo, of whose poetic labour Nirodbaran, his amanuensis, writes: "Revision after revision, addition of lines, even punctuations
2A B. Purani, Savitri: An Approach and A Study, pp. 163- 65.
3Rohit Mehta, The Dialogue with Death, pp. 33-34.
*It is true that Sri Aurobindo mentions the name "Aswapati" a few times in his correspondence with K. D. Sethna, but the letters in which this happens date from the second half of the thirties—a time when Sri Aurobindo's correspondent had no other means of placing the protagonist of the first Books, and a tactful Sri Aurobindo (as we shall see further on) did not want to write otherwise.
A consciousness of brighter fields and skies,
Of beings less circumscribed than brief-lived men
And subtler bodies than these passing frames,
Objects too fine for our material grasp,
Acts vibrant with a superhuman light.9
Sight in the Spiritual Mind Planes
To recapitulate: Once we cross the confines of the normal mind of man, we meet on our ascending climb a series of hierarchised luminous planes of consciousness serving as links and bridges between the now normal waking mind of non-spiritual humanity and the native heights of pure spiritual being. These planes are in their ascending order:
(i) the Higher Mind; (ii) the Illumined Mind; (iii) the Intuitive Mind; (iv) the Overmind; and finally (v) the Supermind or Gnosis, this last being the plane of absolute and everlasting Light, that transcends altogether the aparārdha or the lower hemisphere of existence. Here are some Savitri verses referring to these supernal planes:
He raised his eyes to unseen spiritual heights.10
A vision lightened on the viewless heights."
On summit Mind are radiant altitudes
Exposed to the lustre of Infinity,
Outskirts and dependencies of the house of Truth,
Upraised estates of Mind and measureless.12
Sight in the Higher Mind
The Higher Mind is the first plane of spiritual mind-consciousness to which the first ascent out of four normal mentality takes us. This is a mind of automatic and spontaneous knowledge, knowledge assuming the nature of Truth-Thought. Its most characteristic movement is a mass-ideation, a totality of truth-seeing in a single view. The relation of idea with idea, of truth with truth is not established by logic but emerges already self-seen in the integral whole. Thought in the Higher Mind is not an acquired knowledge but a self-revelation of eternal
9Savitri, p. 28. 10lbid, p. 76. 11Ibid., p. 42.
12Vbid., p. 659.
Wisdom. For, we must not forget, "thought in itself in its origin on the higher levels of consciousness, is a perception,... a powerful but ... secondary result of spiritual vision..."13 Now a few verses form Savitri depicting the sight in the Higher Mind:
There Mind, a splendid sun of vision's rays,
Shaped substance by the glory of its thoughts.14
Idea rotated symphonies of sight.15
The immortal's thoughts displaced our bounded view.16
Illumined by a vision in the thought.17
A cosmic Thought spreads out its vastitudes.18
Sight in the Illumined Mind
Beyond the plane of the Higher Mind of Truth-thought lies the plane of the Illumined Mind of Truth-sight, which works primarily by spiritual vision and not by thought: thought is here only a subordinate and secondary movement expressive of sight.
Now some illustrative verses from Sri Aurobindo's Savitri:
An empyrean vision saw and knew."
Whence it shoots the arrows of its sight and will.20
Whose fire bums in the eyes of seer and sage; A lightning flash of visionary sight.21
There dwelling all becomes a blaze of sight;
A burning head of vision leads the mind,
Thought trails behind it its long comet tail;
The heart glows an illuminate and seer.22
Sight in the Intuitive Mind
Next in the order of ascension is the Intuitive Mind whose characteristic power is an intimate and exact Truth-perception which arises out of a revealing encounter between the subject and the object,
13The Life Divine, SABCL, Vol. 19, p. 945.
14Savitri, p. 327. 15Ibid, p. 301.16Ibid, p. 529.
17Ibid, p. 176. 18Ibid, p. 659. 19Ibid, p. 25
20Ibid, p. 529. 21Ibid, p. 627. 22Ibid, p. 660.
carrying in it as its natural consequence a Truth-sight and Truth-conception. Thought in the Intuitive Mind is revelatory in character.
Here are some verses from Savitri indicating how sight functions in this Intuitive Mind plane:
Sight's lightnings leaped into the invisible.23
Nothing escaped his vast intuitive sight.24
Intuition's lightnings range in a bright pack
Hunting all hidden truths out of their lairs.25
Its fiery edge of seeing absolute
Cleaves into locked unknown retreats of self...
Thought there has revelation's sun-bright eyes.26
Sight in the Overmind
Beyond the plane of the Intuitive Mind is a superconscient cosmic Mind which possesses a power of cosmic consciousness, a principle of global knowledge. In the wide cosmic perception of the Overmind,
Ideas are phalanxed like a group of sums;
Thought crowds in masses seized by one regard;
All Time is one body, Space a single book:
There is the Godhead's universal gaze
And there the boundaries of immortal Mind.27
In the Overmind "all inner individual sight or intelligence of things is now a revelation or illumination of what is seen or comprehended, but the source of the revelation is not in one's separate self but in the universal knowledge."28
Here are some verses from Savitri characterising the sight in the Overmind:
His boundless thought was neighbour to cosmic sight:
A universal light was in his eyes.29
... eyes of boundless thought.30
23Ibid., p. 31. 24 Ibid.,p.96. 25Ibid., p.660. 26 Ibid.
27 Ibid., 28The Life Divine, SABCL,Vol.19, p. 950.
Savitri, p. 79.
All came at once into his single view.31
It enveloped all Nature in a single glance.32
It was sight and thought in one all-seeing Mind.33
Mind was a single innumerable look.34
... the stretch and blaze of cosmic Sight.35
A cosmic vision, a spiritual sense
Feels all the Infinite lodged in finite form.36
Sight of the Overmental Gods
Immobile, seeing the milleniums pass.37
They look on our struggle with impartial eyes.38
The gods who watch the earth with sleepless eyes.39
Unmoved their timeless wide unchanging gaze.40
And look impassive on a suffering world,
Calm they gaze down on the little human scene.41
We have been discussing the nature of sight and vision in the superconscient Higher Mind, Illumined Mind, Intuitive Mind and Overmind levels of consciousness. Now all these sights are called 'Spiritual Sights'. Here a vague question may perhaps trouble the mind of some readers. Why are we taking care to term the cognitions in the superconscient planes as 'sights' and not purely and simply as 'knowledge' ? The question needs some clarifying answer at this point. Sri Aurobindo himself has discussed this specific point at many places in The Life Divine, The Synthesis of Yoga, Letters on Yoga. We give below a summary of his observations.
A mental figure or conception is not what is called a 'realisation' or a 'seeing'. It is no better than an indirect knowledge, paroksa. What is needed is a direct vision of the truth without the need of
31Ibid, p. 96. 32Ibid, p. 661. 33Ibid. p. 587. 34Ibid, p.556
35 Ibid., p.661. 36Ibid, p. 662. 37Ibid, p. 57. 38Ibid.
39Ibid, p. 587. 40Ibid, p. 574. 41Ibid, p. 428.
emerged from the mud, the world-misery to breathe the sovereign plenitude and enter the supreme Ananda. He crossed all these realms, went through the consequences, suffered and endured physically what one cannot imagine. Nobody till today has suffered like Him. He accepted suffering to transform suffering into the joy of union with the Supreme. It is something unique and incomparable in the history of the world. It is something that has never happened before. He is the first to have traced the path in the Unknown, so that we may be able to walk with certitude towards the Supermind. He has made the work easy for us. Savitri is his whole Yoga of Transformation, and this Yoga appears now for the first time in the earth-consciousness."16 The young disciple to whom this was said noted down everything from memory, but the gist is unmistakable. (It was in the same conversation that the Mother gave away that Sri Aurobindo also described in detail many of her own experiences without her having spoken about them, and ascribed them to Savitri.)
Sri Aurobindo himself wrote in a letter to K. D. Sethna: "I have not anywhere in Savitri written anything for the sake of mere picturesqueness or merely to produce a rhetorical effect; what I am trying to do everywhere in the poem is to express exactly something seen, something felt or experienced; if, for instance, I indulge in the wealth-burdened line or passage, it is not merely for the pleasure of the indulgence, but because there is that burden, or at least what I conceive to be that, in the vision or the experience."17 He wrote also: "Savitri is the record of a seeing, of an experience which is not of the common kind and is often very far from what the general human mind sees and experiences."18 It would be possible to cull from his letters half a dozen more quotations to the same effect.
In 1936, the three first Books of Savitri were still "a small passage about Aswapati and the other worlds."19 In 1946, that small passage had developed into the stupendous grandeur of the bases of Sri Aurobindo's Yoga*; the expounding of the new knowledge gained by him and which would support his work of bringing down the
16 Mona Sarkar, Sweet Mother I, pp. 26 -27. See also Perspectives of Savitri, Vol, I pp. 46-47.
17Savitri, p. 794. 18Ibid 19Ibid, p. 731.
* The tide "The Yoga of the King" of Book I Cantos D3 and V, is generally understood to mean 'The Yoga of King Aswapati". Yet it might be a translation of the term rāja yoga, and it surely is a (condensed) telling of the first phases of Sri Aurobindo's own integral, Royal Yoga.
Supramental upon earth and lay the basis of its material transformation; the report of his exploration of the worlds, their connections with our Earth and the work he performed in them; his quest for the supreme goal: the presence of the Divine Mother and her promise to incarnate among mankind in order to assure the foundation of the divine life upon earth. "The Book of the Traveller of the Worlds was just a small passage," writes Nirodbaran. "Here now we find the fully lengthened and developed Book running into 15 cantos. The third Book, The Book of the Divine Mother, was also written probably for the first time, for he wrote to Amal in 1946: '... There is also a third sufficiently long Book, The Book of the Divine Mother.'"20 And we may repeat here part of an already used quotation: "Undoubtedly the first three Books were of a much higher level of inspiration and nearer perfection than the rest."
Is the present writer the first to draw attention to the role and presence of Sri Aurobindo in the first half of Savitri? Not at all. For most of the authors who have written about Savitri the poem occupies an important place in their life; they have studied it thoroughly; they treat Sri Aurobindo's mantric poetry with reverence, even with love. The many insightful and enlightening pages K. D. Sethna has devoted to Savitri, for instance, are widely appreciated. From the writings of the other Savitri admirers, a passage from Mangesh Nadkarni's Savitri: A Brief Introduction must suffice. It says: "Sri Aurobindo's Aswapati is not the sorrow-stricken King of the Mahabharata story, who performs austerities for the sake of having a child. Sri Aurobindo's Aswapati is a seer-king, a representative and a leader of enlightened humanity... His quest is for that creative principle which has the power to put an end to all human frustrations, discontents and ills; this is something which has so far evaded all thinkers, reformers, revolutionaries, even avatars. Aswapati has acquired all that human knowledge and wisdom have to offer in the East as well as in the West; and he is painfully aware of the fact that nothing, neither science and technology, nor religion and art, have so far been able to free man from the clutches of death, ignorance and suffering. Down the ages, man has always aspired for God, Light, Freedom and Immortality... It may be noted here that this was also Sri Aurobindo's own quest as a Yogi. In a very real sense these 22 cantos devoted to Aswapati's Yoga also describe
Sri Aurobindo's own tapasya. Like Sri Aurobindo, Aswapati too seeks to win for mankind the secret of transforming the very structure of human consciousness so that life on earth can blossom into fulfilment."21
Nonetheless, however profound their insight, all authors keep referring, as in the above passage, to Aswapati in a text and context where Sri Aurobindo never mentions the legendary king and sage, and where he is without any doubt writing down his own revolutionary, superhuman experiences. (And when he mentions for the very first time the name Aswapati, on page 341, it is only because he is reaching the end of those personal, all-important experiences and intends to take up again the thread of the legend which he has left on page 21, at the end of Book I Canto II, the beginning of the epic.)
I indeed deem for the following reasons the discernment between Sri Aurobindo and Aswapati in the first three Books of Savitri of the utmost importance:
1.The constant repetition of the name Aswapati in the first three Books of Savitri has grown into a sort of tradition from the earliest commentaries onwards—a tradition that persists fifty years after Sri Aurobindo's passing. Such traditions tend to become regarded as established fact. It this case, this would be disastrous, especially among the reading public who usually do not dare or do not have the means to call a seemingly authoritative opinion into question.
2.In the publications on Savitri the systematic repetition of the name "Aswapati"—where one should read "Sri Aurobindo", or "the protagonist", or "the One in front", or "the thinker and toiler", or whatever name or epithet suitable for the purpose—automatically, not to say subconsciously, pulls the reader back to bygone times in ancient India. In the first half of Savitri Sri Aurobindo, on the contrary, takes us ahead with him in his avataric enterprise to establish the foundations of the future. Aswapati belongs to the world of the legend and the past, Sri Aurobindo to the world of the symbol and the future. No Aurobindonian will show a lack of respect towards the world of the Rishis, of the Mahabharata and of Veda Vyasa but, however great, they belong to the "lower hemisphere" just like all the rest of the bygone history of humanity. In the first three Books of Savitri Sri Aurobindo, "in the front of the immemorial quest," has laid for the very first time and for all time to come the bases of the "upper hemisphere" of a divine Consciousness and Life upon earth. The
21 Mangesh Nadkami, Savitri: A Brief Introduction, pp.-22-23
repetition of Aswapati's name and the associations in accordance with it may act as a kind of film dimming our perception of Sri Aurobindo's world-transforming action.
3. As shown previously, it is beyond doubt that the first three Books of Savitri are a record of Sri Aurobindo's experiences; in other words, they are autobiographical. This, by itself, makes them of incomparable value—a value which would be diminished and distorted by ascribing them to the legendary Aswapati. The following statement of Sri Aurobindo's in a letter to a disciple is well-known: "Neither you nor anyone else knows anything at all about my life; it has not been on the surface for men to see." By now, a great many facts about his life have been gathered and the writing of a responsible, well-founded biography has become possible. The immense value of the first three Books of Savitri, however, is that they present us with an extensive account and narrative of what "has not been on the surface for men to see." Who Sri Aurobindo was and what he did for the world cannot be known without this account, and this goes far beyond anything Aswapati was or could stand for.
These three points of importance to any reader of Savitri deserve some concrete illustration. Be it nevertheless stated that the following illustrations, as well as this short essay as a whole, are nothing more than pointers towards the fundamental thesis. A few examples must suffice; for the rest one can only refer the reader to Sri Aurobindo's grand epic itself.
Sri Aurobindo's Occult Biography
Sri Aurobindo has told us about many of his spiritual experiences. They are strewn, mostly under the cloak of impersonality, everywhere in his letters as in all his other works. In the three Books of Savitri under consideration we read for example:
A fit companion of the timeless Kings,
Equalled with the godheads of the living Suns,
He mixed in the radiant pastimes of the Unborn.22
In the still self he lived and it in him;
Autobiographical, and therefore of immense value too, are the sonnets and shorter poems Sri Aurobindo wrote after his 'retirement'. It is, besides, remarkable that many of this poems contain or prefigure experiences rendered in a broader scope in Savitri.
22 Savitri, p. 236.
Its mute immemorable listening depths,
Its vastness and its stillness were his own;
One being with it he grew wide, powerful, free.23
Himself was to himself his only scene.
Above the Witness and his universe
He stood in a realm of boundless silences
Awaiting the Voice that spoke and built the worlds.
A light was round him wide and absolute,
A diamond purity of eternal sight.24
He had reached the top al all that can be known:
His sight surpassed creation's head and base;
Ablaze the triple heavens revealed their suns,
The obscure Abyss exposed its monstrous rule...
In the kingdom of the Spirit's power and light,
As if one who arrived out of infinity's womb
He came new-bom, infant and limitless
And grew in the wisdom of the timeless Child;
He was a vast that soon became a Sun...
He linked creation to the Eternal's sphere,
His finite parts approached their absolutes,
His actions framed the movements of the Gods,
His will took up the reins of cosmic Force.25
As the Mother said: "Savitri alone is sufficient to make you climb to the highest peaks. If truly one knows how to meditate on Savitri, one will receive all the help one needs. For him who wishes to follow this path, it is a concrete help as though the Lord himself [she always called Sri Aurobindo 'Lord'] were taking you by the hand and leading you to the destined goal. And then, every question, however personal it may be, has its answer there, every difficulty finds its solution therein; indeed there is everything that is necessary for doing the Yoga."26 This is doing Yoga in the footsteps of Sri Aurobindo.
23 Ibid, p. 284. 24 Ibid, p. 297. 25 Ibid, pp. 300-02.
26 Mona Sarkar, op. cit., p. 22.
* In the same conversation the Mother said: "It was his way of speaking, so full of divine humility and modesty. He never asserted himself." (p. 23) The Books here under consideration contain two striking examples of this delicay, tact and humility, the hallmarks of the truly Great Book I Canto III (The Yoga of the King I) should start with the lines: "One in front of the immemorial quest / Protagonist of the mysterious play..." In order to soften
Sri Aurobindo the Warrior
In the writings about Sri Aurobindo by his followers, he is seldom considered to be or represented as a warrior, a dauntless combatant. One mostly reads about him as the ever helpful, infinitely patient, knowledgeable, humorous, compassionate Master or Guru—which he of course also was to a degree out of the ordinary. Yet leaving out his warrior side lessens and therefore deforms his total image. He was after all the Avatar of the Supramental, which is none other than the last Avatar in the Hindu tradition: Kalki, expected to come on a white winged horse brandishing the sword of the spiritual power (and whom nobody perceived when he did come). If it is true that because of his effort the Supramental has descended into the Earth's atmosphere, and if because of this descent the earthly evolution is entering the "upper hemisphere" of the Truth-Consciousness, then Sri Aurobindo cannot but have been Kalki. It is then unthinkable that he could have accomplished his mission without the-severest and continuous battles against the hostile forces in possession of the world. One reads about this in the deeply moving poem A God's Labour, as one reads about it in the first cantos of Savitri:
Here must the traveller of the upward way—
For daring Hell's kingdoms winds the heavenly route—
Pause or pass slowly through that perilous space,
A prayer upon his lips and the great Name.27
He met with his bare spirit naked Hell.28
these strongly accented personal lines, Sri Aurobindo has them preceded with "A world's desire compelled her [Savitri's] mortal birth"—a verse that puts the whole grandiose narration of his personal accomplishments against the background of the world's evolution and the role not of his own but of the Mother's action on it. Another example is the beginning of Canto V in Book I. Again before starting to relate his experiences, Sri Aurobindo begins this canto with the line: "This knowledge first he had of time-bom men." A very personal statement indeed—but it refers to the previous canto The Secret Knowledge, and thus softens its impact. Be it said in passing that this secret knowledge must no doubt be very important for all seekers of Truth, Aurobindonian or not. Yet, strangely, up to now I have nowhere read a thorough comment on this canto. Even its importance is rarely referred to.
For the argument's sake we leave out the Mother's role in all this and the fact that the Kalki Avatar proved to be a complete, double-poled Avatar— something the ancient Hindu tradition could not foresee.
27Savitri, p. 210. 28Ibid., p. 219.
A warrior in the dateless duel's strife,
He entered into dumb despairing Night
Challenging the darkness with his luminous soul.29
Facing the enormous Night he
Fought shadowy combats in mute eyeless depths,
Assaults of Hell endured and Titan strokes
And bore the fierce inner wounds that are slow to heal.30
Invincibly he ascended without pause.31
The Divine Mother addresses him as "Son of Strength" and "strong forerunner". Sometimes one gets a glimpse of his battles in his correspondence with Nirodbaran. But if he had never written his autobiographical poems and these cantos in Savitri, who would have guessed the superhuman difficulties and perils he was involved in— while sitting there for hours in that big chair, almost without moving, staring with open eyes in front of him, as described by the Mother and by the same Nirodbaran? Much of what he had gone through, and hidden from her, the Mother would later suffer in her turn; these experiences of hers are there for all to read in some private conversations held after her withdrawal.
The great who came to save this suffering world
And rescue out of Time's shadow and the Law,
Must pass beneath the yoke of grief and pain...
Heaven's riches they bring, their sufferings count the price...
The Son of God bom as the Son of man
Has drunk the bitter cup, owned Godhead's debt...
The Eternal suffers in a human form.32
Sri Aurobindo and Science
Having all the knowledge of the universe at his disposal, according to his own saying, Sri Aurobindo knew what he wanted to know, also about modem science. This is one of the many barely touched upon subjects concerning Sri Aurobindo and the Mother awaiting to be studied in depth. (One really has the impression that this kind of
29 Ibid, p. 227. 30 Ibid, p. 230. 31 Ibid, p. 306.
32Ibid, p. 445.
study has hardly been taken up and that whole dimensions of the work of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother remain to be discovered— which, in a very real sense, is the discovery of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother themselves.) For instance, when writing the Arya, i.e. years before the formulation of the theory of quantum mechanics, Sri Aurobindo predicted that the deeper science would penetrate into Matter the more Matter would seem to evaporate till none would be left. In Savitri, an explanation of the origin and evolution of the cosmos in addition to so much more, we find numerous revealing examples of this kind of knowledge. To quote a few:
A gas belched out from some invisible Fire,
Of its dense rings were formed these million stars.33
Sri Aurobindo gives here the spiritual explanation of the origin of the cosmos, in science called the "singularity" named the Big Bang. The invisible—but very real—Fire is none other than Agni.
The following quotation belongs to what Sri Aurobindo once called "the science of the future":
At first was only an etheric Space:
Its huge vibrations circled round and round
Housing some unconceived initiative:
Upheld by a supreme original Breath
Expansion and contraction's mystic act
Created touch and friction in the void,
Into abstract emptiness brought clash and clasp:
Parent of an expanding universe
In a matrix of disintegrating force,
By spending it conserved an endless sum.
On the hearth of Space it kindled a viewless Fire
That, scattering worlds as one might scatter seeds,
Whirled out the luminous order of the stars.
An ocean of electric Energy
Formlessly formed its strange wave-particles
Constructing by their dance this solid scheme,
Its mightiness in the atom shut to rest;
A book published by Paul Davies and John Gribbin in 1991 has the title The Matter Myth.
33Ibid, p. 101.
Masses were forged or feigned and visible shapes;
Light flung the photon's swift revealing spark
And showed, in the minuteness of its flash
Imaged, this cosmos of apparent things.
Thus has been made this real impossible world,
An obvious miracle or convincing show.34
One of the unsolved problems is the question whether mathematics exists as such somewhere in an ideal, Platonic space or world, or whether it is a product of the human mind. In the following lines Sri Aurobindo provides the answer from his spiritual experience:
The Unseen grew visible to student eyes,
Explained was the immense Inconscient's scheme,
Audacious lines were traced upon the Void;
The Infinite was reduced to square and cube.
Arranging symbol and significance,
Tracing the curve of a transcendent power,
They framed the cabbala of the cosmic Law,
The balancing line discovered of Life's technique
And structured her magic and her mystery.
Imposing schemes of knowledge on the Vast
They clamped to syllogisms of finite thought
The free logic of an infinite consciousness,
Grammared the hidden rhythms of Nature's dance,
Critiqued the plot of the drama of the worlds,
Made figure and number a key to all that is:
The psycho-analysis of cosmic Self
Was traced, its secrets hunted down, and read
The unknown pathology of the Unique.35
"They" are the world-creators, here called by Sri Aurobindo "a subtle archangel race", and called by the Mother in her Entretiens "demiurges" or "intermediary creators" who shape and concretise the manifestation on the levels between "the Unique" and the Inconscient foundation.
A last example is the role of the "void" in the manifestation of the cosmos. In Savitri we read:
34 Ibid, p. 155. 35 Ibid, p. 269.
A Mystery's process is the universe.
At first was laid a strange anomalous base,
A void, a cipher of some secret Whole,
Where zero held infinity in its sum
And All and Nothing were a single term,
An eternal negative, a matrix Nought.36
The role of the "void" is repeated in several places of the poem, such as
For long before earth's solid vest was forged
By the technique of the atomic Void,
A lucent envelope of self-disguise
Was woven round the secret spirit in things.37
Out of the Void's unseeing energies
Inventing the scene of a concrete universe...38
When earth was built in the unconscious Void
And nothing was save a material scene...39
Understanding of these passages may be helped by the reflection that the One, the All, the Unique, the Absolute is absolute Existence which is absolute density. The cosmic manifestation was (and is) therefore only possible by way of creating space for it within the absolute divine density; it is this initial space of creation that Sri Aurobindo calls the "Void", so essential in the creative process that he writes the word with a capital letter. The Absolute in its pure density can not be approached by an "impure" being (like man): Its density would annihilate him. We find this density reflected in the power— the fire and light—contained in each and every atom. If the means would be found to liberate the entire pure power of one single atom, the whole universe would explode with it. We owe it to the limitation of the scientific process that the atomic power can be liberated only within limits. To a high degree atomic physics has become occultism, as predicted by Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, though without the scientists realising it.
The Reprogramming of Earth's Foundations
In Beyond Man: The Life and Work of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother,
36Ibid, p. 100. 37Ibid, p. 106. 38Ibid, p. 121.
39 Ibid, p. 129.
I have already drawn attention to the fundamental importance of the end of Canto VIII in Book II as to the transformation of Matter in our material world which is now taking place.
Into the abysmal secrecy he came
Where darkness peers from her mattress, grey and nude,
And stood on the last locked subconscient's floor
Where Being slept unconscious of its thoughts
And built the world not knowing what it built.
There waiting its hour the future lay unknown,
There is the record of the vanished stars.
There in the slumber of the cosmic Will
He saw the secret key of Nature's change ...
He saw in Night the Eternal's shadowy veil,
Knew death for a cellar of the house of life,
In destruction felt creation's hasty pace,
Knew loss as the price of a celestial gain
And hell as a short cut to heaven's gates.
Then in Illusion's occult factory
And in the Inconscient's magic printing house
Tom were the formats of the primal Night
And shattered the stereotypes of Ignorance.
Alive, breathing a deep spiritual breath,
Nature expunged her stiff mechanical code
And the articles of the bound soul's contract,
Falsehood gave back to Truth her tortured shape.
Annulled were the tables of the law of pain,
And in their place grew luminous characters...
He imposed upon dark atom and dumb mass
The diamond script of the Imperishable,
Inscribed on the dim heart of fallen things
A paean-song of the free Infinite
And the Name, foundation of eternity,
And traced on the awake exultant cells
In the ideographs of the Ineffable
The lyric of the love that waits through Time
And the mystic volume of the Book of Bliss
And the message of the superconscient Fire.
Then life beat pure in the corporeal frame;
The infernal Gleam died and could slay no more.
Hell split across its huge abrupt facade
As if a magic building were undone,
Night opened and vanished like a gulf of dream...
Healed were all things that Time's torn heart had made
And sorrow could live no more in Nature's breast:
Division ceased to be, for God was there.
The soul lit the conscient body with its ray,
Matter and Spirit mingled and were one.40
This was done by Sri Aurobindo and happened in him. For remember what he wrote to K. D. Sethna: "I have not anywhere in Savitri written anything for the sake of mere picturesqueness or merely to produce a rhetorical effect; what I am trying to do everywhere in the poem is to express exactly something seen, something felt or experienced ..."41 It is this that is being worked out now.
I wonder, scanning those few illustrations—and the wealth of facts and events in Savitri not even touched upon hens—if it is possible to interpret all that as experienced, discovered and effected not by Sri Aurobindo, the Avatar, but by a legendary Aswapati. If one reads the first half of Savitri without Sri Aurobindo himself in mind (and in the heart), one not only misses its true significance; one also erects a screen between the spiritual vibration conducive to his Yoga and one's own receptivity.
All beings existing at present are participating in the ongoing process of terrestrial change, whether they want it or not. Being part of evolution one cannot escape evolving, especially at a moment like this when the evolutionary process is accelerated to a dizzying pace in which time hardly matters anymore. But those who are turned towards Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, and tuned to their presence can, by whetting their understanding, sharpen their spiritual sight and adapt their inner eye to the worldwide transformation, unique not only in history but in the existence of our Mother the Earth.
GEORGES VAN VREKHEM
40Ibid., pp. 231-32. 41 Ibid., p. 794. See references 17 and 18 above ,also Perspectives of Savitri, Vol. I pp. 12-13.
This short essay is based on a talk the author gave on 10 January 1999 in Savitri Bhavan, Auroville.