Monday, May 7, 2007

Sri Aurobindo’s point of view is a modern statement of ancient Indian wisdom

koantum matters Actually, congratulations, John In response to my post John Horgan’s lost chance, John sent me the following email. (When I asked him whether I have his permission to quote his email, he replied: “Sure, quote away, let’s do our part to enlighten the great online overmind.” I guess he’s paying me back in tongue-in-cheek kind.)
Ulrich, thanks for the poem by Aurobindo. It expresses what I felt, except that my vision was more tinged with fear. I realize that, in actuality, fear and joy are two aspects of the same primal creative impulse. As for dwelling within that state permanently, I can’t do it, or I couldn’t, anyway, back in 1982 (when this happened). I’d go insane, and I can afford to do that now even less than then. I’m a husband and father, whose familydepends on him. But I have never forgotten that vision. In my last book, Rational Mysticism, I describe how I have come to terms with this knowledge. You will probably disapprove of where I end up — back in my little ego, embracing my quotidian world, my family and friends — but maybe I am only supposed to know mysticism from the outside in this life. John
Here is my reply: Dear John,
Actually, congratulations for this profound and immensely valuable experience!
You may not believe in reincarnation, and you certainly should not believe in the enormous amount of nonsense that has been written about it, but no matter how many lives it will take, having an experience like that is a promise that you will get There. No question about loss, really. I was just kidding.
From Sri Aurobindo’s point of view (which is a modern statement of ancient Indian wisdom), fear and joy are both distortions of Ananda, which transcends the subject-object dichotomy and therefore may be thought of as both infinite bliss and infinite quality or value. It is the origin of all emotions and all that elicits them.
Of course you cannot dwell in that state for long. This too can be more veridically expressed in the language of poetry:
Only awhile at first these heavenlier states,These large wide-poised upliftings could endure.The high and luminous tension breaks too soon,The body’s stone stillness and the life’s hushed trance,The breathless might and calm of silent mind;Or slowly they fail as sets a golden day.The restless nether members tire of peace;A nostalgia of old little works and joys,A need to call back small familiar selves,To tread the accustomed and inferior way,The need to rest in a natural pose of fall,As a child who learns to walk can walk not long,Replace the titan will for ever to climb,On the heart’s altar dim the sacred fire.An old pull of subconscious cords renews;It draws the unwilling spirit from the heights,Or a dull gravitation drags us downTo the blind driven inertia of our base.
This too the supreme Diplomat can use,He makes our fall a means for greater rise.For into ignorant Nature’s gusty field,Into the half-ordered chaos of mortal lifeThe formless Power, the Self of eternal lightFollow in the shadow of the spirit’s descent;The twin duality for ever oneChooses its home mid the tumults of the sense.He comes unseen into our darker partsAnd, curtained by the darkness, does his work,A subtle and all-knowing guest and guide,Till they too feel the need and will to change.All here must learn to obey a higher law,Our body’s cells must hold the Immortal’s flame.Else would the spirit reach alone its sourceLeaving a half-saved world to its dubious fate.Nature would ever labour unredeemed;Our earth would ever spin unhelped in Space,And this immense creation’s purpose failTill at last the frustrate universe sank undone. — Sri Aurobindo, Savitri

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