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Sri Aurobindo Circle - Sixth Number 



Sri Aurobindo ^ 

SAVITRI BOOK v CANTOS 1-3 . . ! / 1-24 

Arjava (J. A. ChadwicK) 



K. D. Sethna 




Dilip Kumar Roy 
A REVERIE ... ... .. 32 


Norman Doswett 

KUNDALINI . . . . . . 34 

Eleanor Montgomery 

Joyce Chadwick 








NEW APPROACH M . P. Pandit 64 

SIDELIGHTS ON TANTRA T. V. Kapali Sastry 86 

PECULIARS Gerald Heard 105 


OF INTEGRAL YOGA Morwenna Donnelly 121 


THE ETERNAL A.L. Crampton Chalk 146 

FREEING A STAR Joyce Chadwick 158 

MAN IN HIS FREEDOM Rev. E. F. F. Hill 175 


FREEDOM Jibendra 202 


NATIONALISM A. V. Sastri 208 




The five poems on pp. 25-27 are taken from 
Poems by Arjava (]. A. Chadwick) J 

The in 







T>UT now the destined spot and hour were close; 
*-* Unknowing she had neared her nameless goal. 
For though a dress of blind and devious chance 
Is laid upon the work of all-wise Fate, 
Our acts interpret an omniscient Force 
That dwells in the compelling stuff of things. 
And nothing happens in the cosmic play 
But at its time and in its foreseen place. 
To a space she came of soft and delicate air 
That seemed a sanctuary of youth and joy, 
A highland world of free and green delight 
Where spring and summer lay together and strove 
In indolent and amicable debate, 
Inarmed, disputing with laughter who should rule. 
There expectation beat wide sudden wings, 
As if a soul had looked out from earth's face 
And all that was in her felt a coming change 
And forgetting obvious joys and common dreams, 
Obedient to Time's call and the spirit's fate, 
Were lifted to a beauty calm and pure 
That Kved under the eyes of Eternity. 
A crowd of mountainous heads assailed the sky 
Pushing towards rival shoulders nearer heaven, 
The armoured leaders of an iron line; 


Earth prostrate lay beneath their feet of stone. 

Below there crouched a dream of emerald woods 

And gleaming borders solitary as sleep: 

Pale waters ran like glimmering threads of pearl. 

A sigh was straying among happy leaves; 

Cool-perfumed with slow pleasure-burdened feet 

Faint stumbling breezes faltered among flowers. 

The white crane stood, a vivid motionless streak. 

Peacock and parrot jewelled soil and tree. 

The dove's soft moan enriched the enamoured air 

And fire-winged wild-drakes swam in silvery pools. 

Earth couched alone with her great lover Heaven, 

Uncovered to her consort's purple eye. 

In her luxurious ecstasy of joy 

She squandered the love-music of her notes, 

Wasted the passionate pattern of her blooms 

And festival riot of her scents and hues. 

A cry and leap and hurry were around, 

The stealthy footfalls of her chasing things, 

The shaggy emerald of her centaur mane, 

The gold and sapphire of her warmth and blaze. 

Magician of her rapt felicities, 

Blithe, sensuous-hearted, careless and divine, 

Life ran or hid in her delightful rooms; 

Behind all brooded Nature's grandiose calm. 

Primeval peace was there and in its bosom 

Held undisturbed the strife of bird and beast. 

Man, the deep-browed artificer, had not come 

To lay his hand on happy inconscient things, 

Thought was not there nor the measurer, strong-eyed toil, 

Life had not learned its discord with its aim. 

The mighty Mother lay outstretched at ease. 

All was in line with her first satisfied plan; 

Moved by a universal will of joy 

The trees bloomed in their green felicity 

And the wild children brooded not on pain. 

At the end reclined a stern and giant tract 


Of tangled depths and solemn questioning hills 

And peaks like a bare austerity of the soul. 

Armoured, remote and desolately grand 

Like the thought-screened infinities that lie 

Behind the rapt smile of the Almighty's dance. 

A matted forest-head invaded heaven 

As if a blue-throated ascetic peered 

From the stone fastness of his mountain cell 

Regarding the brief gladness of the days; 

His vast extended spirit couched behind. 

A mighty murmur of immense retreat 

Besieged the ear, a sad and limitless call 

As of a soul retiring from the world. 

This was the scene which the ambiguous Mother 

Had chosen for her brief felicitous hour; 

Here in this solitude far from the world 

Her part she began in the world's joy and strife. 

Here were disclosed to her the mystic courts. 

The lurking doors of beauty and surprise, 

The wings that murmur in the golden house, 

The temple of sweetness and the fiery aisle. 

A stranger on the sorrowful roads of Time, 

Immortal under the yoke of death and fate, 

A sacrificant of the bliss and pain of the spheres, 

Love in the wilderness met Savitri. 



A LL she remembered on this day of Fate, 
^ The road that hazarded not the solemn depths 
But turned away to flee to human homes. 
The wilderness with its mighty monotone, 
The morning like a lustrous seer above, 
The passion of the summits lost in heaven, 
The titan murmur of the endless woods. 
As if a wicket gate to joy were there 
Ringed in with voiceless hint and magic sign, 
Upon the margin of an unknown world 
Reclined the curve of a sun-held recess; 
Groves with strange flowers like eyes of gazing nymphs 
Peered from their secrecy into open space, 
Boughs whispering to a constancy of light 
Sheltered a dim and screened felicity, 
And slowly a supine inconstant breeze 
Ran like a fleeting sigh of happiness 
Over slumberous grasses pranked with green and gold. 
Hidden in the forest's bosom of loneliness 
Amid the leaves the inmate voices called. 
Sweet like desires enamoured and unseen, 
Cry answering to low insistent cry. 
Behind slept emeiald dumb remotenesses, 
Haunt of a Nature passionate, veiled, denied 
To all but her own vision lost and wild. 
Earth in this beautiful refuge free from cares 
Murmured to the soul a song of strength and peace. 
Only one sign was there of a human tread: 
A single path, shot thin and arrowlike 
Into this bosom of vast and secret life, 


Pierced its enormous dream of solitude. 

Here first she met on the uncertain earth 

The one for whom her heart had come so far. 

As might a soul on Nature's background limned 

Stand out for a moment in a house of dream 

Created by the ardent breath of life, 

So he appealed against the forest verge 

Inset twixt green relief and golden ray. 

As if a weapon of the living Light, 

Erect and lofty like a spear of God 

His figure led the splendour of the morn. 

Noble and clear as the broad peaceful heavens 

A tablet of young wisdom was his brow. 

Freedom's imperious beauty curved his limbs. 

The joy of life was on his open face. 

His look was a wide daybreak of the gods, 

His head was a youthful Rishi's touched with light, 

His body was a lover's and a king's. 

In the magnificent dawning of his force 

Built like a moving statue of delight 

He illumined the border of the forest page. 

Out of the ignorant eager toil of the years 

Abandoning man's loud drama he had come 

Led by the wisdom of an adverse Fate 

To meet the ancient Mother in her groves. 

In her divine communion he had grown 

A foster-child of beauty and solitude, 

Heir to the centuries of the lonely wise, 

A brother of the sunshine and the sky, 

A wanderer communing with depth and marge. 

A Veda-knower of the unwritten book 

Perusing the mystic scripture of her forms 

He had caught her hierophant significances, 

Her sphered immense imaginations learned, 

Taught by sublimities of stream and wood 

And voices of the sun and star and flame 

And chant of the magic singers on the boughs 


And the dumb leaching of four-footed things. 

Helping with confident steps her slow great hands 

He leaned to her influence like a flower to rain 

And, like the flower and tree a natural growth. 

Widened with the touches of her shaping hours. 

The mastery free natures have was his 

And their assent to joy and spacious calm; 

One with the single Spirit inhabiting all. 

He laid experience at the Godhead's feet; 

His mind was open to her infinite mind, 

His acts were rhythmic with her primal force; 

He had subdued his mortal thought to hers. 

That day he had turned from his accustomed paths; 

For One who, knowing every moment's load, 

Can move in all our studied or careless steps, 

Had laid the spell of destiny on his feet 

And drawn him to the forest's flowering verge. 

At first her glance that took life's million shapes 

Impartially to people its treasure-house 

Along with sky and flower and hill and star, 

Dwelt rather on the bright harmonious scene. 

It saw the green gold of the slumbrous sward, 

The grasses quivering with the slow wind's tread, 

The branches haunted by the wild bird's call. 

Awake to Nature, vague as yet to life, 

The eager prisoner from the Infinite, 

The immortal wrestler in its mortal house, 

Its pride, power, passion of a striving God, 

It saw this image of veiled deity, 

This thinking master creature of the earth, 

This last result of the beauty of the stars, 

But only saw like fair and common forms 

The artist spirit needs not for its work 

And puts aside in memory's shadowy rooms. 

A look, a turn decides our ill-poised fate. 

Thus in the hour that most concerned her all, 

Wandering unwarned by the slow surface mind, 


The heedless scout beneath her tenting lids 

Admired indifferent beauty and cared not 

To wake her body's spirit to its king. 

So might she have passed by on chance ignorant roads 

Missing the call of Heaven, losing life's aim, 

But the god touched in time her conscious soul. 

Her vision settled, caught and all was changed. 

Her mind at first dwelt in ideal dreams. 

Those intimate transmuters of earth's signs 

That make known things a hint of unseen spheres, 

And saw in him the genius of the spot, 

A symbol figure standing mid earth's scenes, 

A king of life outlined in delicate air. 

Yet this was but a moment's reverie; 

For suddenly her heart looked out at him. 

The passionate seeing used thought cannot match, 

And knew one nearer than its own close strings. 

All in a moment was surprised and seized, 

All in inconscient ecstasy lain wrapped 

Or under imagination's coloured lids 

Held up in a large mirror-air of dream, 

Broke forth in flame to recreate the world, 

And in that flame to new things she was born. 

A mystic tumult from her depths arose; 

Hailed, smitten erect like one who dreamed at ease, 

Life ran to gaze from every gate of sense: 

Thoughts indistinct and glad in moon-mist heavens, 

Feelings as when a universe takes birth, 

Swept through the turmoil of her bosom's space 

Invaded by a swarm of golden gods: 

Arising to a hymn of wonder's priests 

Her soul flung wide its doors to this new sun. 

An alchemy worked, the transmutation came; 

The missioned face had wrought the Master's spell. 

In the nameless light of two approaching eyes 

A swift and fated turning of her days 

Appeared and stretched to the gleam of unknown worlds. 


Then trembling with the mystic shock her heart 

Moved in her breast and cried out like a bird 

Who hears his mate upon a neighbouring bough. 

Hooves trampling fast, wheels largely stumbling ceased; 

The chariot stood like an arrested wind. 

And Satyavan looked out from his soul's doors 

And felt the enchantment of her liquid voice 

Fill his youth's purple ambiance and endured 

The haunting miracle of a perfect face. 

Mastered by the honey of a strange flower-mouth. 

Drawn to soul-spaces opening round a brow, 

He turned to the vision like a sea to the moon 

And suffered a dream of beauty and of change, 

Discovered the aureole round a mortal's head. 

Adored a new divinity in things. 

His self-bound nature foundered as in fire; 

His life was taken into another's life. 

The splendid lonely idols of his brain 

Fell prostrate from their bright sufficiencies. 

As at the touch of a new infinite, 

To worship a godhead greater than their own. 

An unknown imperious force drew him to her. 

Marvelling he came across the golden sward: 

Gaze met close gaze and clung in sight's embrace. 

A visage was there, noble and great and calm, 

As if encircled by a halo of thought, 

A span, an arch of meditating light, 

As though some secret nimbus half was seen; 

Her inner vision still remembering knew 

A forehead that wore the crown of all her past, 

Two eyes her constant and eternal stars, 

Comrade and sovereign eyes that claimed her soul, 

Lids known through many lives, large frames of love. 

He met in her regard his future's gaze, 

A promise and a presence and a fire, 

Saw an embodiment of aeonic dreams, 

A mystery of the rapture for which all 



Yearns in this world of brief mortality 

Made in material shape his very own. 

This golden figure given to his grasp 

Hid in its breast the key of all his aims, 

A spell to bring the Immortal's bliss on earth, 

To mate with heaven's truth our mortal thought. 

To lift earth-hearts nearer the Eternal's sun. 

In these great spirits now incarnate here 

Love brought down power out of eternity 

To make of life his new undying base. 

His passion surged a wave from fathomless deeps; 

It leapt to earth from far forgotten heights, 

But kept its nature of infinity. 

On the dumb bosom of this oblivious globe 

Although as unknown beings we seem to meet, 

Our lives are not aliens nor as strangers join, 

Moved to each other by a causeless force. 

The soul can recognise its answering soul 

Across dividing Time and, on Life's roads 

Absorbed wrapped traveller, turning it recovers 

Familiar splendours in an unknown face 

And touched by the warning finger of swift love 

It thrills again to an immortal joy 

Wearing a mortal body for delight. 

There is a Power within that knows beyond 

Our knowings; we are greater than our thoughts, 

And sometimes earth unveils that vision here. 

To live, to love are signs of infinite things, 

Love is a glory from eternity's spheres. 

Abased, disfigured, mocked by baser mights 

That steal his name and shape and ecstasy, 

He is still the Godhead by which all can change. 

A mystery wakes in our inconscient stuff, 

A bliss is born that can remake our life. 

Love dwells in us like an unopened flower 

Awaiting a rapid moment of the soul, 

Or he roams in his charmed sleep mid thoughts and 


The child-god is at play, he seeks himself 

In many hearts and minds and living forms: 

He lingers for a sign that he can know 

And, when it comes, wakes blindly to a voice, 

A look, a touch, the meaning of a face. 

His instrument the dim corporeal mind, 

Of celestial insight now forgetful grown, 

He seizes on some sign of outward charm 

To guide him mid the throng of Nature's hints, 

Reads heavenly truths into earth's semblances, 

Desires the image for the Godhead's sake, 

Divines the immortalities of form 

And takes the body for the sculptured soul. 

Love's adoration like a mystic seer 

Through vision looks at the invisible, 

In earth's alphabet finds a God-like sense; 

But the mind only thinks, "Behold the one 

For whom my life has waited long unfilled, 

Behold the sudden sovereign of my days." 

Heart feels for heart, limb cries for answering limb; 

All strives to enforce the unity all is. 

Too far from the Divine Love seeks his truth 

And life is blind and the instruments deceive 

And Powers are there that labour to debase. 

Still can the vision come, the joy arrive. 

Rare is the cup fit for love's nectar wine, 

As rare the vessel that can hold God's birth; 

A soul made ready through a thousand years 

Is the living mould of a supreme Descent. 

These knew each other though in forms thus strange. 

Although to sight unknown, although life, mil -d 

Had altered to hold a new significance, 

These bodies summed the drift of numberless births 

And the spirit to the spirit was the same. 

Amazed by a joy for which they had waited long, 

The lovers met upon their different paths, 

Travellers across the limitless plains of Time 



Together drawn from fate-led journeyings 
In the self-closed solitude of their human past. 
To a swift rapturous dream of future joy 
And the unexpected present of these eyes. 
By the revealing greatness of a look. 
Form-smitten the spirit's memory woke in sense. 
The mist was torn that lay between two lives; 
Her heart unveiled and his to find her turned; 
Attracted as in heaven star by star. 
They wondered at each other and rejoiced 
And wove affinity in a silent gaze. 
A moment passed that was eternity's ray. 
An hour began, the matrix of new Time. 





of the voiceless mystery of the past 
In a present ignorant of forgotten bonds 
These spirits met upon the roads of Time. 
Yet in the heart their secret conscious selves 
At once aware grew of each other warned 
By the first call of a delightful voice 
And a first vision of the destined face. 
As when being cries to being from its depths 
Behind the screen of the external sense 
And strives to find the heart-disclosing word. 
The passionate speech revealing the soul's need. 
But the mind's ignorance veils the inner sight, 
Only a little breaks through our earth-made bounds, 
So now they met in that momentous hour. 
So utter the recognition in the deeps, 
The remembrance lost, the oneness felt and missed. 
Thus Satyavan spoke first to Savitri: 
"O thou who com'st to me out of Time's silences, 
Yet thy voice has wakened my heart to an unknown bliss, 
Immortal or mortal only in thy frame, 
For more than earth speaks to me from thy soul 
And more than earth surrounds me in thy gaze, 
How art thou named among the sons of men? 
Whence hast thou dawned filling my spirit's days, 
Brighter than summer, brighter than my flowers, 
Into the lonely borders of my life, 

Sunlight moulded like a golden maid? 

1 know that mighty gods are friends of earth. 
Amid the pageantries of day and dusk, 
Long have I travelled with my pilgrim soul 



Moved by the marvel of familiar things. 

Earth could not hide from me the powers she veils: 

Even though moving mid an earthly scene 

And the common surfaces of terrestrial things, 

My vision saw unblinded by her forms; 

The Godhead looked at me from familiar scenes. 

I witnessed the virgin bridals of the dawn 

Behind the glowing curtains of the sky 

Or vying in joy with the bright morning's steps 

I paced along the slumberous coasts of morn, 

Or the gold desert of the sunlight crossed 

Traversing great wastes of splendour and of fire, 

Or met the moon gliding amazed through heaven 

In the uncertain wideness of the night, 

Or the stars marched on their long sentinel routes 

Pointing their spears through the infinitudes, 

The day and dusk revealed to me hidden shapes; 

Figures have come to me from secret shores 

And happy faces looked from ray and flame. 

I have heard strange voices cross the ether's waves, 

The centaur's wizard song has thrilled my ear; 

I glimpsed the Apsaras bathing in the pools 

And saw the wood-nymphs peering through the leaves; 

The winds have shown to me their trampling lords, 

I have beheld the princes of the Sun 

Burning in thousand-pillared homes of light. 

So now my mind could dream and my heart fear 

That from some wonder-couch beyond our air 

Risen in a wide morning of the gods 

Thou drov'st thy horses from the Thunderer's worlds. 

Although to heaven thy beauty seems allied, 

Much rather would my thoughts rejoice to know 

That mortal sweetness smiles between thy lips 

And thy heart can beat beneath a human gaze 

And thy aureate bosom quiver with a look 

And its tumult answer to an earth-born voice. 

If our time-vexed affections thou canst feel, 


Earth's ease of simple things can satisfy, 

If thy glance can dwell content on earthly soil. 

And this celestial summary of delight. 

Thy golden body, dally with fatigue 

Oppressing with its grace our terrain, while 

The frail sweet passing taste of earthly food 

Delays thee and the torrent's leaping wine, 

Descend. Let thy journey cease, come down to us. 

Close is my father's creepered hermitage 

Screened by the tall ranks of these silent kings, 

Sung to by voices of the hue-robed choirs 

Whose chants repeat transcribed in music's notes 

The passionate coloured lettering of the boughs 

And fill the hours with their melodious cry. 

Amid the welcome-hum of many bees 

Invade our honied kingdom of the woods; 

There let me lead thee into an opulent life. 

Bare, simple is the sylvan hermit-life; 

Yet is it clad with the jewelry of earth. 

Wild winds run visitors midst the swaying tops, 

Through the calm days heaven's sentinels of peace 

Couched on a purple robe of sky above 

Look down on a rich secrecy and hush 

And the chambered nuptial waters chant within. 

Enormous, whispering, many-formed around 

High forest gods have taken in their arms 

The human hour, a guest of their centuried pomps. 

Apparelled are the morns in gold and green, 

Sunlight and shadow tapestry the walls 

To make a resting chamber fit for thee." 

Awhile she paused as if hearing still his voice, 

Unwilling to break the charm, then slowly spoke. 

Musing she answered: "I am Savitri, 

Princess of Madra. Who art thou? What name 

Musical on earth expresses thee to men? 

What trunk of kings watered by fortunate streams 

Has flowered at last upon one happy branch? 


Why is thy dwelling in the pathless wood 

Far from the deeds thy glorious youth demands, 

Haunt of the anchorites and earth's wilder broods, 

Where only with thy witness self thou roam'st 

In Nature's green unhuman loneliness 

Surrounded by enormous silences 

And the blind murmur of primeval calms?" 

And Satyavan replied to Savitri: 

"In days when yet his sight looked clear on life, 

King Dyumatsena once, the Shalwa, reigned 

Through all the tract which from behind these tops 

Passing its days of emerald delight 

In trusting converse with the traveller winds 

Turns, looking back towards the southern heavens 

And leans its flank upon the musing hills. 

But equal fate removed her covering hand, 

A living night enclosed the strong man's paths, 

Heaven's brilliant gods recalled their careless gifts, 

Took from blank eyes their glad and helping ray 

And led the uncertain goddess from his side. 

Outcast from empire of the outer light, 

Lost to the comradeship of seeing men, 

He sojourns in two solitudes, within 

And in the solemn rustle of the woods. 

Son of that king, I, Satyavan, have lived 

Contented, for not yet of thee aware, 

In my high peopled loneliness of spirit 

And this huge vital murmur kin to me, 

Nursed by the vastness, pupil of solitude. 

Great Nature came to her recovered child; 

I reigned in a kingdom of a nobler kind 

Than men can build upon dull Matter's soil; 

I met the frankness of the primal earth, 

I enjoyed the intimacy of infant God. 

In the great tapestried chambers of her state 

Free in her boundless palace I have dwelt 

Indulged by the warm mother of us all. 


Reared with my natural brothers in her house 

I lay in the wide bare embrace of heaven, 

The sunlight's radiant blessing clasped my brow, 

The moonbeam's silver ecstasy at night 

Kissed my dim lids to sleep. Earth's morns were mine; 

Lured by faint murmurings with the green-robed hours 

I wandered lost in woods, prone to the voice 

Of winds and waters, partner of the sun's joy, 

A listener to the universal speech: 

My spirit satisfied within me knew 

Godlike our birthright, luxuried our life 

Whose close belongings are the earth and skies. 

Before fate led me into this emerald world, 

Aroused by some foreshadowing touch within, 

An early prescience in my mind approached 

The great dumb animal consciousness of earth 

Now grown so close to me who have left old pomps 

To live in this grandiose murmur dim and vast. 

As if to a deeper country of the soul 

Transposing the vivid imagery of earth, 

Through an inner seeing and sense a wakening came. 

A visioned spell pursued my boyhood's hours, 

All things the eye had caught in coloured lines 

Were seen anew through the interpreting mind 

And in the shape it sought to seize the soul. 

An early child-god took my hand that held, 

Moved, guided by the seeking of his touch, 

Bright forms and hues which fled across his sight; 

Limned upon page and stone they spoke to men. 

High beauty's visitants my inmates were. 

The neighing pride of rapid life that roams 

Wind-maned through our pastures, on my seeing mood 

Cast shapes of swiftness; trooping spotted deer 

Against the vesper sky became a song 

Of evening to the silence of the soul. 

I caught for some eternal eye the sudden 

Kingfisher flashing to a darkling pool; 



A slow swan silvering the azure lake, 

A shape of magic whiteness, sailed through dream; 

Leaves trembling with the passion of the wind 

And wandering wings nearing from infinity 

Lived on the tablets of my inner sight; 

Mountains and trees stood there like thoughts from God. 

Pranked butterflies, the conscious flowers of air, 

The brilliant long bills in their vivid dress, 

The peacock scattering on the breeze his moons 

Painted by memory like a frescoed wall. 

I carved my vision out of wood and stone; 

I caught the echoes of a word supreme 

And metred the rhythm beats of infinity 

And listened through music for the eternal Voice. 

I felt a covert touch, I heard a call, 

But could not clasp the body of my God 

Or hold between my hands the World-Mother's feet. 

In men I met strange portions of a Self 

That sought for fragments and in fragments lived: 

Each lived in himself and for himself alone 

And with the rest joined only fleeting ties; 

Each passioned over his surface joy and grief, 

Nor saw the Eternal in his secret house. 

I conversed with Nature, mused with the changeless stars, 

God's watch-fires burning in the ignorant Night, 

And saw upon her mighty visage fall 

A ray prophetic of the Eternal's sun. 

I sat with the forest sages in their trance: 

There poured awaking streams of diamond light; 

I glimpsed the presence of the One in all. 

But still there lacked the last transcendent power 

And Matter still slept empty of its Lord. 

The spirit was saved, the body lost and mute 

Lived still with Death and ancient Ignorance; 

The Inconscient was its base, the Void its fate. 

But thou hast come and all will surely change: 

I shall feel the World-Mother in thy golden limbs 


And hear her wisdom in thy sacred voice. 

The child of the Void shall be reborn in God. 

My Matter shall evade the Inconscient's trance, 

My body like my spirit shall be free: 

It shall escape from Death and Ignorance. " 

And Savitri musing still replied to him: 

"Speak more to me, speak more, O Satyavan, 

Speak of thyself and all thou art within; 

I would know thee as if we had ever lived 

Together in the chamber of our souls. 

Speak till a light shall come into my heart 

And my moved mortal mind shall understand 

What all the deathless being in me feels. 

It knows that thou art he my spirit has sought 

Amidst earth's thronging visages and forms 

Across the golden spaces of my life." 

And Satyavan like a replying harp 

To the insistent calling of a flute 

Answered her questioning and let stream to her 

His heart in many-coloured waves of speech: 

"O golden princess, perfect Savitri, 

More I would tell than failing words can speak 

Of all that thou hast meant to me, unknown, 

All that the lightning flash of love reveals. 

In one great hour of the unveiling gods 

Even a brief nearness has reshaped my life. 

For now I know that all I lived and was 

Moved towards this moment of my heart's rebirth; 

I look back on the meaning of myself, 

A soul made ready on earth's soil for thee. 

Once were my days like days of other men: 

To think and act was all, to enjoy and breathe; 

This was the width and height of mortal hope: 

Yet there came glimpses of a deeper self 

That lives behind life and makes her act its scene. 

A truth was felt that screened its shape from mind, 

A Greatness working towards a hidden end, 



And vaguely through the forms of earth there looked 

Something that life is not and yet must be. 

I groped for the Mystery with the lantern. Thought. 

Its glimmerings lighted with the abstract word 

A half-visible ground and travelling yard by yard 

It mapped a system of the Self and God. 

I could not live the truth it spoke and thought. 

I turned to seize its form in visible things. 

Hoping to fix its rule by mortal mind. 

Imposed a narrow structure of world-law 

Upon the freedom of the Infinite, 

A hard firm skeleton of outward Truth, 

A mental scheme of a mechanic Power. 

This light showed more the darknesses unsearched; 

It made the original secrecy more occult. 

It could not analyse its cosmic veil 

Or glimpse the Wonder-worker's hidden hand 

And trace the pattern of his magic plans. 

I plunged into an inner seeing Mind 

And knew the secret laws and sorceries 

That make of Matter mind's bewildered slave. 

The mystery was not solved but deepened more. 

I strove to find its hints through Beauty and Art, 

But Form cannot unveil the indwelling Power; 

Only it throws its symbols at our hearts. 

It evoked a mood of self, invoked a sign 

Of all the brooding glory hidden in sense: 

I lived in the ray but faced not to the Sun. 

I looked upon the world and missed the Self, 

And when I found the Self, I lost the world, 

My other selves I lost and the body of God, 

The link of the finite with the Infinite, 

The bridge between the appearance and the Truth, 

The mystic aim for which the world was made, 

The human sense of Immortality. 

But now the gold link comes to me with thy feet 

And His gold sun has shone on me from thy face. 


For now another realm draws near with thee 

And now diviner voices fill my ear, 

A strange new world swims to me in thy gaze 

Approaching like a star from unknown heavens; 

A cry of spheres comes with thee and a song 

Of flaming gods. I draw a wealthier breath 

And in a fierier march of moments move. 

My mind transfigures to a rapturous seer. 

A foam-leap travelling from the waves of bliss 

Has changed my heart and changed the earth around: 

All with thy coming fills. Air, soil and stream 

Wear bridal raiment to be fit for thee 

And sunlight grows a shadow of thy hue 

Because of change within me by thy look. 

Come nearer to me from thy car of light 

On this green sward disdaining not our soil. 

For here are secret spaces made for thee 

Whose caves of emerald long to screen thy form. 

Wilt thou not make this mortal bliss thy sphere? 

Descend, O Happiness, with thy moon-gold feet, 

Enrich earth's floors upon whose sleep we lie. 

O my bright beauty's princess, Savitri, 

By my delight and thy own joy compelled 

Enter my life, thy chamber and thy shrine. 

In the great quietness where spirits meet, 

Led by my hushed desire into my woods 

Let the dim rustling arches over thee lean; 

One with the breath of things eternal live, 

Thy heartbeats near to mine, till there shall leap 

Enchanted from the fragrance of the flowers 

A moment which all murmurs shall recall 

And every bird remember in its cry." 

Allured to her lashes by his passionate words 
Her fathomless soul looked at him from her eyes; 
Passing her lips in liquid sounds it spoke. 
This word alone she uttered and said all: 



"O Satyavan, I have heard thee and I know; 

I know that thou and only thou art he." 

Then down she came from her high carven car 

Descending with a soft and faltering haste; 

Her many-hued raiment glistening in the light 

Hovered a moment over the wind-stirred grass, 

Mixed with a glimmer of her body's ray 

Like lovely plumage of a settling bird. 

Her gleaming feet upon the green gold sward 

Scattered a memory of wandering beams 

And lightly pressed the unspoken desire of earth 

Cherished in her too brief passing by the soil. 

Then flitting like pale brilliant moths her hands 

Took from the sylvan verge's sunlit arms 

A load of their jewel faces' clustering swarms. 

Companions of the spring-time and the breeze. 

A candid garland set with simple forms 

Her rapid fingers taught a flower song. 

The stanzaed movement of a marriage hymn. 

Profound in perfume and immersed in hue 

They mixed their yearning's coloured signs and made 

The bloom of their purity and passion one. 

A sacrament of joy in treasuring palms 

She brought, flower-symbol of her offered life, 

Then with raised hands that trembled a little now 

At the very closeness that her soul desired, 

This bond of sweetness, their bright union's sign, 

She laid on the bosom coveted by her love. 

As if inclined before some gracious god 

Who has out of his mist of greatness shone 

To fill with beauty his adorer's hours, 

She bowed and touched his feet with worshipping hands; 

She made her life his world for him to tread 

And made her body the room of his delight, 

Her beating heart a remembrancer of bliss. 

He bent to her and took into his own 

Their married yearning joined like folded hopes; 



As if a whole rich world suddenly possessed. 

Wedded to all he had betn became himself, 

An inexhaustible joy made his alone, 

He gathered all Savitri into his clasp. 

Around her his embrace became the sign 

Of a locked closeness through slow intimate years, 

A first sweet summary of delight to come, 

One brevity intense of all long life. 

In a wide moment of two souls that meet 

She felt her being flow into him as in waves 

A river pours into a mighty sea. 

As when a soul is merging into God 

To live in Him for ever and know His joy, 

Her consciousness was a wave of him alone 

And all her separate self was lost in his. 

As a starry heaven encircles happy earth, 

He shut her into himself in a circle of bliss 

And shut the world into himself and her. 

A boundless isolation made them one; 

He was aware of her enveloping him 

And let her penetrate his very soul, 

As is a world by the world's spirit filled, 

As the mortal wakes into Eternity, 

As the finite opens to the Infinite. 

Thus were they in each other lost awhile, 

Then drawing back from their long ecstasy's trance 

Came into a new self and a new world. 

Each now was a part of the other's unity, 

The world was but their twin self-finding's scene 

Or their own wedded being's vaster frame. 

On the high glowing cupola of the day 

Fate tied a knot with morning's halo threads 

While by the ministry of an auspice-hour 

Heart-bound before the sun, their marriage fire, 

The wedding of the eternal Lord and Spouse 

Took place again on earth in human forms: 

In a new act of the drama of the world 



The united Two began a greater age. 

In the silence and murmur of that emerald world 

And the mutter of the priest-wind's sacred verse. 

Amid the choral whisperings of the leaves 

Love's twain had joined together and grew one. 

The natural miracle was wrought once more: 

In the immutable ideal world 

One human moment was eternal made. 

Then down the narrow path where their lives had met 
He led and showed to her her future world, 
Love's refuge and corner of happy solitude. 
As the paths end through a green cleft in the trees 
She saw a clustering line of hermit -routes 
And looked now first on her heart's future home. 
The thatch that covered the life of Satyavan. 
Adorned with creepers and red-climbing flowers 
It seemed a sylvan beauty in her dreams 
Slumbering with brown body and tumbled hair 
In her chamber inviolate of emerald peace. 
Around it stretched the forest's anchorite mood 
Lost in the depths of its own solitude. 
Then moved by the deep joy she could not speak, 
A little depth of it quivering in her words, 
Her happy voice cried out to Satyavan: 
"My heart will stay here on this forest verge 
And close to this thatched roof while I am far: 
Now of more wandering it has no need. 
But I must haste back to my father's house 
Which soon will lose one loved accustomed tread 
And listen in vain for a once cherished voice. 
For soon I shall return nor ever again 
Oneness must sever its recovered bliss 
Or fate sunder our lives while life is ours." 
Once more she mounted on the carven car 
And under the ardour of a fiery noon 
Less bright than the splendour of her thoughts and dreams 



She sped swift reined, swift hearted but still saw 

In still lucidities of sight's inner world 

Through the cool scented wood's luxurious gloom 

On shadowy paths between great rugged trunks 

Pace towards a tranquil clearing Satyavan. 

A nave of trees enshrined the hermit thatch. 

The new deep covert of her felicity, 

Preferred to heaven her soul's temple and home. 

This now remained with her, her heart's constant scene. 


Arjava (J. A. Chadwick) 


EVEN lights set in the sky; 
^ Search, search them out; 
Drink from a Golden Chalice 

That puts an end to drought. 

The infinite stairway spirals 

From midnight's heavy dun 
Shadows, beyond the dawn's rim 

To noon-enthroned sun. 

Speeding through clear bright aether 

Go feet that cast no shade; 
Though the footsoles throng on the gleampath 

No phantom of sound is made. 

1 would tread on the aether's truthway 

With a footsole empty of weight. 
And soundlessly fare through that starworld 
To the living Solar Gate. 

3 25 



Night was closing on the traveller 

When he came 
To the empty eerie courtyard 

With no name. 
Loud he called; no echo answered; 

Nothing stirred: 
But a crescent moon swung wanly. 

White as curd. 
When he flashed his single sword-blade 

Through the gloom. 
None resisted till he frantic, 

Filled with doom, 
Hurled his weapon through the gloaming, 

Took no aim; 
Saw his likenesses around him 

Do the same: 
Viewed a thousand swordless figures 

Like his own- 
Then first knew in that cold starlight 

Hell, alone. 


Water softly swirling 

In sea cave, 
Shadowlessly furling 

Tainture of the grave, 
Utterly revealing 

The strewn pearl. 
And the blue fish wheeling 

Waver and curl; 
In their swift bright motion 

They glint and feel 
The wield and surge of ocean 





(Symbols of the Inner Vital World] 

Under the amethyst tree 

In a cavern of ocean 
Pale limbs of the daughters of the sea 

Weave their mystical motion. 

There was no rumour from the land 

Of reef's wave-grapple: 
Their leader shed from her right hand 

The gleam of a ruby apple. 

Each other moon-pale maid 

Bore, heaped and mellow, 
Pomegranates carved from lunar jade 

On topaz salvers yellow. 

No date for steps they dance. 

For song no dimming; 
Time will reive not their beauty but enhance 

Joy's glyph those feet are limning. 


Green holm; the rushy margin of a brook 
A brimming trance-forgetfulness of Time, 
A burnished flow. Strewn petals of brooklime 
Lay on the stream. A wandering Zephyr shook 
To dimples all that ecstasy of glass 
Communing with the sky. The meadow-sweet 
Waved like a fragrant foam amid the grass 
And vague dim whirr of wing of insect's feet. 

D. Sethna 


A CRY of gold piercing the spine's dark sleep, 
^ A dragon fire consuming mortal thought. 
An aureoled hunger that makes time fall dead, 
My passion curves from bliss to heavenward bliss. 

Kindling the rhythm of a myriad smile, 
This white wave lifted by some virgin deep 
Breaks through the embodied moments of the mind 
To a starry universe of infinite trance. 

24 June 1937 


Closing your eyes, outstretch vague hands of prayer 

Beyond the prison-house of mortal air... 

Then, soul-awakened, watch the universe thrill 

With secrets drawn from the Invisible 

A force of gloom that makes each flicker-stress 

Bare the full body of its goldenness 

And yield in that embrace of mystery 

A flaming focus of infinity, 

A fire-tongue nourished by God's whole expanse 

Through darknesses of superhuman trance. 

7 June 1937 




I have come to the secret hour 


Now in my heart a gloam-hue 

Trembles earth-tired. 

My parching sight grows dim 
With blissful dew 
And a breathless night within 
Draws me for ever to You. 

To reach Your heavenly love 
The eyes strain not their gaze: 
They shut, and all my sleep 
Is the quiet of Your Face. 

13 August 1941 


Fold now to quiet fragrance thy rich rose: 
Deep hush is of all love the perfect close. 

Unflower to bud, breathe inward to the mute 
Unnamable essence sucked by rapture's root. 

No longer thrill to sound love's myriad sense 
Gauge through calm clay the immutable, the immense! 





Y1T/1DE, eternal poised on an opal calm 
** Is she enthroned on the ivory loneliness 
In the spheres beyond soul's widest flight. 
Like an august and unreachable peak 
Wearing the argent vesture of snow-trance, 
She wears the silver mask of oblivion. 
Sleepless, immeasurable, bourneless alone 
She spans the infinity with her gaze. 
The immense vistas of her mind's expanse 
Bear the suns and the oceans and the stars 
And luminous kingdoms of enchanted dreams 
And far realms of unbarred distances 
And sapphire-mystic dawns of light; 
She, with her grandiose tranquillity 
Is the flamed spirit of gold-sun-grace, 
Mother of giant solitudes and hush 
With the face of diamond summit-sleep. 

1 6 September 1949 



Stark she stands an icon of towering power 
The vast summit-queen of puissance divine. 
Giant and unseizable is her mind's leap 
From the pinnacles of star-widenesses 
To the last granite womb of nought. 
Her descent is an avalanche-sweep, 
Her steps the terrible typhoons of might. 
Her heart the continent of unbarred love. 
Her soul the dauntless warrior of light. 
Wide and unslumbering is her spirit, 
The priestess of height's flaming force, 
With her titan tornadoes of laughter 
And impetuous thunder of the blue, 
She cleaves the eyeless desert-ignorance... 
O majesty of lightning's swift delight 
Sound the golden clarion of the Sun; 
Unmask thy face of august infinity 
To reveal the splendour of thy ruthless grace! 

18 September 1949 

Dilip Kumar Roy 


A PRAYER stirs in my breast as twilight throws 
** Its chequered shadows upon earth's dimming life: 
"May I seek refuge in the Grace that tows 
My wistful heart to thee beyond all strife. 

After the sun goldens with his soft kiss 
Our land of mist: even so thou kindle my soul 
Of twilight (when decline youth's buoyancies) 
With a radiant aspiration for thy goal." 

The moonbeams deepen along the sky's far shore 
And with their mystic light the earth's brow laves: 
One lilt yields place to another: thou evermore 
Recedest to return like breaking waves. 

The supreme Dancer's footfall knows no flaw; 
The Victor Gleam cannot be quenched by Night; 
When daytides ebb, the stars the gloom outlaw 
When din departs, begins the Lone's delight. 

Thou, Wizard, didst initiate me in this 
Vision Supreme of a termless rebirth 
Flowering on death's stem the drama of bliss 
Battling with bale, God's plenty at war with dearth. 

So behind this world's bewildering hurtle and gyre 
I glimpse a Peace leavening life's wilderness 
And perceive our human love's dark passion and fire 
Thou absolvest with thy all-fulfilling Grace. 

(White House, Shipuri) 
3 November 1949 



ORAISED be Thou who touchest me 

-*- With Thy wand of ecstasy: 

When the seven meanings pass 

Through the lucencies of glass., 

T wining to a rod of white 

Drawn unto Thy Sun-delight; 

When the tranced moon-waters roll 

In the caverns of the soul 

Deep reverberations stored 

Of the laughter of the Lord; 

When the stars of destiny 

Break their Karmic seals, and free 

In the being's living breath 

Secrecies of life and death, 

Placing in my hand the key 

Of Thy folded mystery; 

Sweet Entrancer, round me close 

Magic circlets of Thy Rose. 


Within tonight's moon-vigil, 

Open, O lotus heart; 
White peace is o'er the waters, 

The darkness cleaves apart 
To shining caves of being, 

Spaces of endless light, 
Illumined through the ages 

By moons beyond our sight. 


Norman Dowseit 


HPHERE are stars where the roots are, yet in the sky 
*- An atom flings its light to infinity 
So in the quivering heart-beat of a bird 
The throbbing song of the universe is heard. 
And through the nether worlds a silver stream 
Glides o'er the magic darkness of a dream. 
To paint the peopled palisades of Night 
Into a veiled significance of Light. 
Awake! O hooded serpent, lift thine eyes 
Unto the burning fires of Paradise, 
And bear my spirit to the worlds above 
On wings of fire that seeks to offer love. 
To that high altar where the gods await 
The radiant Dawn, the summit of my fate. 

28 July 1949 


Eleanor Montgomery 


TTEAR! pale moon in the afternoon sky, 
-* -*- The counterpoint that you and I 
Sing lightly, (how aloof!) silently... 

I too bide the beloved night, 

The encircling close, the flush of light; 

Wan crescent prayers wax and wait 

For the wide opening of the sun's floodgate 

Then wane on a tide of eternity. 

Woven through your aeonian sphere 
Another rhythm of the inner ear: 
In contrapuntal ebb and flow 
Wends my night-rising, still, sad, slow 
And lonely line of melody. 




T^IELDS of tranquillity, ages of snow-light, 

-* Absolute calm: 

Yes, if the face of the never-unreachable 

Centre of all is 

Holding the eyes 

Looking at endlessness: 

Seer and sight. 


A Moon that sees, 

A Sun that is, 

Form finds in itself 

On its knees. 

Kneeling Man 

Arising can 

Move delighted in any place 

That silver face. 

That flaming head 

On his little, needed, neat 

Clay feet. 


Now it is August, and the august corn-coloured Moon 

Standing above all stooks ends every cone: 

I see their cobweb-souls fly to her hand, 

Her hand tautly gather them as if reins. 

What passes? A white excitement along the veins: 

Bread shall make all hands daughter that golden Hand, 


Words of the Mother 

TT is only in silence that a true progress can be made; it is only 
-*- in silence that one can rectify a wrong movement; it is only in 
silence that one can be of help to somebody else. 

If you have found out a truth, or rectified in yourself a mistake, 
or made a progress, to speak or to write about it to anybody else than 
the Guru is to lose at once the truth or the progress. 

It is in tranquillity that the body can increase its receptivity and 
gain the power to contain. 

True surrender enlarges you; it increases your capacity; it gives 
you a greater measure in quality and in quantity, which you could not 
have had yourself. 

Grace is equally for all. But it is received according to the sin- 
cerity of each one. It does not depend on outward circumstances 
but on a sincere aspiration and openness. 

In order to be always near me really and effectively you must 
become more and more sincere, open and frank towards me. Cast 
away all dissimulation and decide to do nothing that you could not 
tell me immediately. 

Faith is spontaneous knowledge in the psychic. 



Faith is a certitude which is not necessarily based on experience 
and knowledge. 

Sadhana is always difficult and everybody has conflicting elements 
in his nature and it is difficult to make the vital give up its ingrained 
habits. That is no reason for giving up sadhana. One has to keep up 
the central aspiration which is always sincere and go on steadily in spite 
of temporary failures and it is then inevitable that the change will 

As for the change in the vital, it will come by itself when you 
will take the habit of remaining in your higher consciousness where 
all these petty things and movements are tasteless. 

Always when one faces difficulties and overcomes them it brings 
a new spiritual opening and victory. 

I do not believe that to change work will help you to change 
your character; it has never proved successful before. 

Senses are liars they do not convey to us the truth of things 
but only an incomplete and even falsified appearance of things. 

Women are not more bound to the vital and material consciousness 
than men are. On the contrary, as they have not, in general, the arro- 
gant mental pretentions of men, it is easier for them to discover their 
psychic being and to allow it to guide them. 

In general, they are not conscious in a mental way which can be 
expressed in words, but they are conscious in their feelings and, with 
the best of them, in their actions. 



We find in others what is in us. If we always find mud around 
us, it proves that there is mud somewhere in us. 

Our best friend is he who loves us in the best of ourselves and 
yet does not ask us to be otherwise than we are. 

We are worth only in the measure of our effort to exceed our 
selves, and to exceed ourselves is to attain the Divine. 

Give up yourself- it is the best way of finding yourself. 
* * * 

Before deciding that something is wrong in others or in circum- 
stances, you must be quite sure of the correctness of your judgment, 
and which judgment is correct so long as one lives in the ordinary 
consciousness that is based on ignorance and filled with falsehood ? 

Only the Truth-consciousness can judge. So it is better, in all 
circumstances, to leave the judgment to the Divine. 

Whatever the sincerity, simplicity and purity of the relation 
between two human beings, it shuts them up more or less from the 
direct divine force and helps and limits their strength, light and power 
to their combined potentialities. 

Titles give no value to a man unless he has acquired them in the 
service of the Divine. 


Letters of Sri Aurobindo 


T DO not gather from these extracts 1 the true nature of the trans- 
* formation spoken of here. It seems to be something mental 
and moral with the love of God and a certain kind of union in separate- 
ness brought about by this divine love as the spiritualising element. 

Love of God and union in separateness through that love and a 
transformation of the nature by realising certain mental, ethical, 
emotional perhaps even physical possibilities (for the Vaishnavas 
speak of a new chinmaya body) is the principle of Vaishnava Yoga. 
So there is nothing here that was not already present in that line of 
Asiatic mysticism which looks to a Personal Deity and insists on the 
eternal pre-existence and survival of the individual being. A spiritual 
raising of the nature to its highest possibilities is a part of the Tantric 
discipline so that too is not absent from Indian Yoga. The writer 
seems like most European writers to know only Illusionism and Bud- 
dhism and to accept them as the whole wisdom of Asia (sagesse 
Asiatique); but even there he misinterprets their idea and their 
experience. Adwaita even in its extreme form docs not aim at the extinc- 
tion of existence, the adoption of nothingness, the end of the being 
and destruction of the essence. Only a certain kind of Nihilistic Bud- 
dhism aims at that and even so that Nothingness, Sunya, is described 
on another side of it as the Permanent. What these disciplines aim 
at is a passing from Time to Eternity, a putting off of the finite and 
putting on of the Infinite, a casting off of the bonds of ego and its 

1 From Defense de VOccident by Henri Massis 



results, desire, suffering, a falsified existence, in order to live in the 
true Self. These descriptions of the Christian writer betray an entire 
ignorance of the realisation which he decries, its infinity, freedom, 
surpassing peace, the ecstasy of the Brahmananda. It is an extinction 
of the limited individual personality but a liberation into cosmic and 
then into transcendent consciousness an extinction of thought and 
life but a liberation into an unlimited consciousness and knowledge 
and being. The personality is extinguished but in something greater 
than itself, not in something less nor in mere "Neant". If it be said 
that that negates earthly life, so does the Christian ideal, for the Chris- 
tian ideal aims at the attainment of a celestial existence beyond the 
earth existence (beyond this single earth life, for reincarnation is 
not admitted), which is only a vale of sorrows and a passing ordeal. 
It insists on the preservation of the spiritual personality, but so do 
Vaishnavism and Shaivaism and ether "Asiatic" ideals. The writer's 
ignorance of the many-sidedness of Asiatic wisdom deprives bis 
depreciation of it of all value. 

The phrases which struck you as resembling superficially at 
least our ideal of transformation are of a general character and could 
be adopted without hesitation by almost any spiritual discipline, even 
Illusionism would be willing to include it as a stage or experience on 
the way. All depends on the content you put into the words, what 
actual change in the consciousness and life they are intended to cover. 
If the transformation be "from sin to sainthood" by the union of the 
soul with God "in an intellectual light full of love" which is the 
most definite description of it in these extracts, then it is not at 
all identical, but rather very far from what I mean by transformation. 
For the transformation I aim at is not from sin to sainthood but from 
the lower nature of the Ignorance to the Divine Nature of Light, 
Peace, Truth, Divine Power and Bliss beyond the Ignorance. It 
journeys towards a supreme self-existent good and leaves behind 
it the limited struggling human conception of sin and virtue; it is 
not an intellectual light that is the sun of its aspiration but a spiritual 
supra-intellectual supramental light; it is not sainthood that is its 
culmination but divine consciousness or if you like, soul-hood, spirit- 
hood, conscious self-hood, divine-hood. There is therefore between 
these two kinds or two degrees of transformation an immense difference. 

4 41 


(i) "C'est un abandon hero'ique ou Fame parvient au sommet 
de Pactivite libre, ou la personne sc transform^ ou ses facultes sont 
epurees, deifiees par la grace, sans que son essence soit detruite." 

What is meant by free activity? With us the freedom consists 
in freedom from the darkness, limitation, error, suffering, transience 
of the ignorant lower Nature, but also in a total surrender to the Divine. 
Free action is the action of the Divine in us and through us; no other 
action can be free. That seems to be accepted in 2 and 3; but this 
perception, this conception is as old as spiritual knowledge itself it 
is not peculiar to Catholicism. What again is meant by the purification 
and deification of the faculties by Grace? If it is an ethical purification, 
that goes a very small way and does not bring deification. Again, if 
the deification is limited by the intellectual light, it must be a rather 
petty affair at the best. There was a similar aim in ancient Indian 
spirituality, but it had a larger sweep and a higher height than that. 
No spiritual discipline aims at purification or deification by the des- 
truction of the essence there can be no such thing, the very phrase 
is meaningless and self-contradictory. The essence of the being is 
indestructible. Even the most rigid Adwaita discipline does not aim 
at any such destruction; its object is the purest purity of the essential 
self. Transformation aims at this essential purity of the pure Spirit, 
but it asks also for the purity and divinity of the supreme Nature; it 
is not the essence of being but the accidents of our undeveloped 
imperfect nature that are destroyed and replaced by the manifestation of 
the divine Nature. The monistic Adwaita aims at the disappearance of 
the ego, not of the essence of the person; it arrives at this disappearance 
by identity with the One, by dissolution of the Nature-constructed 
ego into the reality of the eternal Self, for that, it says, not ego, is the 
essence of the person so aham, tat twam asi. In our idea of transforma- 
tion also there is the destruction of the ego, its dissolution into the 
cosmic and the divine consciousness, but by that destruction we recover 
the true or spiritual person which is an eternal portion of the Divine. 

(2) "La contemplation du Chretien est inseparable de Petat de 
la Grace 1 et de vie divine. S'il doit s'aneantir, c'est encore sa person- 

1 Grace is not a conception peculiar to the Christian spiritual idea it is there in 
Vaishnavism, Shaivaism, the Shakta religion, it is as old as the Upanishads. 



nalite qui criomphe en se laissant arracher a tout ce qui n'est pas elle, 
en brisant tous les liens qui 1'unissent a son individu de chair., afin 
que le Dieu vivant puisse s'en saisir, Passumer, Phabiter." 

(3) "Libert e consiste d'abord a subordonner ce qui est inferieur 
dans sa nature a ce qui lui est superieur." 

These passages can be taken in the above sense and as approxi- 
mating to our ideal; but the confusion here is in the use of the word 
"personality". Personality is a temporary formation and to eternise 
it would be to eternise ignorance and limitation. The true "I" is not 
the mental ego or the present personality which is only a mask, but the 
eternal I which assumes various personalities in various lives. The 
Christian and European conception of a single life on earth tends to 
bring about this error by making our present personality appear as 
if it were our whole self.... Again., it is not merely the bodily indi- 
viduality to which ignorance ties ui, but the mental individuality and 
vital individuality also. All these tics have to be broken, the imperfect 
forms of mind and life transcended, mind transformed into something 
beyond mind, life into divine life, if the transformation is to be real 
and not merely a new shaping or heightening of the lights of the Igno- 

(4) "Cette solitude de Tame (de 1'ascete asiatique) n'est pas 

le vrai loisir spirituel, la solitude active ou s'opere la transformation du 
peche en saintete par Punion de Tame avcc Dicu dans une lumiere 
intellectuelle toute pleine d'amour." 

I have commented already on this description of the transforma- 
tion to be effected and have to add only one more reserve. The solitude 
of the self in the Divine has no doubt to be active as well as passive 
and static; but none who has not arrived at the silence and motionless 
solitude of the eternal Self can have the free and integral activity of 
the higher divine Nature. For the action is based on the silence and 
by the silence it is free. 

(5) " la vie chretienne mystique progressive qui est un 

enrichissement, un elargissement infini de la personne humaine." 

This is not our idea of transformation for the human person 
is the mental being limited by life and body. An enrichment and 
enlargement of it cannot go beyond the extreme limit of that formula, 
it can only widen and adorn its present poverty and narrowness. It 



cannot ascend out of the mental ignorance into a greater Truth and 
Light or bring that down in any fullness into earthly nature, which 
is the aim of transformation as we conceive it. 

(6) "Pour Tasiatique la personnalite est la chute de Phomme; 
pour le chretien, c'est le dessein meme de Dieu, le principe de Punion, 
le sommet naturel de la creation, qu'il appelle tout entiere a la Grace." 

The personality of this single life in man is a formation in the 
Ignorance, therefore a fall; it cannot be the summit of the being. We 
do not admit that it is the summit of the natural creation either, but 
say there are higher summits to which we have to climb and reveal 
their powers in earthly nature. The natural creation is an evolution 
of the hidden Divine Consciousness in Nature which is limited and 
disguised at first by the Ignorance. It has still to climb out of the 
Ignorance therefore to get beyond the human person into the Divine 
person. It is in this spiritual evolution that the Plan Divine (dessein 
de Dieu) manifests its central and significant line and calls all creation 
to the crowning Grace. 

You will see therefore that the resemblance of the transformation 
here to our ideal is only on the surface, in the words, but not in the 
content of the words which is much narrower and of another order. 
So far as there is agreement and coincidence, it is because there is 
contained in them what is common (a certain conversion of the con- 
sciousness) to all spiritual disciplines; for all, in East or in West, have 
a common core of experience it is in their developments, range, turn 
to this or that aspect or else their will towards the totality of the Truth 
that they differ. 

9 January 1936 


After a certain stage of development, the capacity of living in the 
ordinary physical consciousness and yet bavins super-added to it another 
and more subtle sense, vision, experience becomes quite normal, 



A little concentration is enough to bring it; or even, it happens auto- 
matically without any concentration. 

There are all kinds in the experiences of each plane symbolic 
forms, figures of suggestion, thought-figures, desire formations, con- 
structions of all kinds, things real and lasting in the plane to which 
they belong and things fictitious and misleading. The haphazardness 
belongs to the consciousness that sees with its limited and imperfect 
way of cognising the other worlds, not to the phenomena themselves. 
Each plane is a world or a conglomeration or series of worlds, each 
organised in its own way, but organised, not haphazard; only, of course, 
the subtler planes are more plastic and less rigid in their organisation 
than the material plane. 

24 August 1930 


An activity on the astral plane in contact with the astral Forces 
attended by a leaving of the body is not a spiritual aim but belongs 
to the province of occultism. It is not a part of the aim of Yoga. Also 
fasting is not permissible in the Ashram, as its practice is more often 
harmful than helpful to the spiritual endeavour. 

This aim suggested to you seems to be part of a seeking for occult 
powers; such a seeking is looked on with disfavour for the most part 
by spiritual teachers in India because it belongs to the inferior planes 
and usually pushes the seeker on a path which may lead him very far 
from the Divine. Especially, a contact with the forces and beings of 
the astral (or, as we term it, the vital) plane is attended with great 
dangers. The beings of this plane are often hostile to the true aim of 
spiritual life and establish contact with the seeker and offer him powers 
and occult experiences only in order that they may lead him away from 
the spiritual path or else that they may establish their own control 
over him or take possession of him for their own purpose. Often, 
representing themselves as divine powers, they mislead, give erring 
suggestions and impulsions and pervert the inner life. Many are those 



who, attracted by these powers and beings of the vital plane, have 
ended in a definitive spiritual fall or in mental and physical perversion 
and disorder. One comes inevitably into contact with the vital plane 
and enters into it in the expansion of consciousness which results from 
an inner opening, but one ought never to put oneself into the hands 
of these beings and forces or allow oneself to be led by their suggestions 
and impulsions. This is one of the chief dangers of the spiritual life 
and to be on one's guard against it is a necessity for the seeker if he 
wishes to arrive at his goal. It is true that many supraphysical or super- 
normal powers come with the expansion of the consciousness in Yoga; 
to rise out of the body consciousness, to act by subtle means on the 
supraphysical planes, etc. are natural activities for the Yogi. But 
these powers are not sought after, they come naturally, and they have 
not the astral character. Also, they have to be used on purely spiritual 
lines, that is by the Divine Will and the Divine Force, as an instrument, 
but never as an instrumentation of the forces and beings of the vital 
plane. To seek their aid for such powers is a great error. 

Prolonged fasting may lead to an excitation of the nervous being 
which often brings vivid imaginations and hallucinations that are taken 
for true experiences; such fasting is frequently suggested by the vital 
Entities because it puts the consciousness into an unbalanced state 
which favours their designs. It is therefore discouraged here. The 
rule to be followed is that laid down by the Gita which says that "Yoga 
is not for one who eats too much or who does not eat" a moderate 
use of food sufficient for the maintenance and health and strength 
of the body. 

There is no brotherhood of the kind you describe in India. There 
are Yogis who seek to acquire and practise occult powers but it is as 
individuals learning from an individual Master. Occult associations, 
lodges, brotherhoods for such a purpose as described by European 
occultists are not known in Asia. 

As regards secrecy, a certain discretion or silence about the 
i nstructions of the Guru and one's own experiences is always advisable, 
but an absolute secrecy or making a mystery of these things is not. 
Once a Guru is chosen, nothing must be concealed from him. The 
suggestion of absolute secrecy is often a trick of the astral Powers to 
prevent the seeking for enlightenment and succour. 



All these "experiments" of yours are founded upon the vital 
nature and the mind in connection with it; working on this foundation, 
there is no security against falsehood and fundamental error. No 
amount of powers (small or great) developing can be a surety against 
wandering from the Truth; and, if you allow pride and arrogance and 
ostentation of power to creep in and hold you, you will surely fall into 
error and into the power of rajasic Maya and Avidya. Our object is not 
to get powers, but to ascend towards the divine Truth-consciousness 
and bring its Truth down into the lower members. With the 
Truth all the necessary powers will come, not as one's own, but as the 
Divine's. The contact with the Truth cannot grow through rajasic 
mental and vital self-assertion, but only through psychic purity 
and surrender. 

ii December 1931 


When the vital being goes out, it moves on the vital plane and 
in the vital consciousness, and, even if it is aware of physical scenes 
and things, it is not with a physical vision. It is possible for one who 
has trained his faculties to enter into touch with physical things although 
he is moving about in the vital body, to see and sense them accurately, 
even to act on them and physically move them. But the ordinary sadhaka 
who has no knowledge or organised experience or training in these 
things cannot do it. He must understand that the vital plane is different 
from the physical and that things that happen there are not physical 
happenings, though, if they are of the right kind and properly under- 
stood and used, they may have a meaning and value for the earth life. 
But also the vital consciousness is full of false formations and many 



confusions and it is not safe to move among them without knowledge 
and without a direct protection and guidance. 

9 October 1927 


This kind of manifestation (adesli) comes very often at a certain 
stage of the practice of Yoga. My experience is that it does not come 
from the highest source and cannot be relied upon and it is better 
to wait until one is able to enter a higher consciousness and a greater 
truth than any that these communications represent. Sometimes they 
come from beings of an intermediate plane who want to use the sadhaka 
for some work or purpose. Many sadhakas accept and some, though by 
no means all, succeed in doing something, but it is often at the cost of 
the greater aims of Yoga. In other cases they come from beings who 
are hostile to the sadhana and wish to bring it to nothing by exciting 
ambition, the illusion of a great work or some other form of ego. Each 
sadhaka must decide for himself (unless he has a Guru to guide him) 
whether to treat it as a temptation or a mission. 

June 1929 


All these difficulties should be faced in a more quiet and less 
egoistic spirit. 

This Yoga is a spiritual battle; its very attempt raises all sorts of 
adverse forces and one must be ready to face difficulties, sufferings, 
reverses of all sorts in a calm unflinching spirit. 

The difficulties that come are ordeals and tests and if one meets 
them in the right spirit one comes out stronger and spiritually purer 
and greater. 



No misfortune can come, the adverse forces cannot touch or be 
victorious unless there is some defect in oneself, some impurity, weak- 
ness or at the very least ignorance. One should then seek out this weak- 
ness in oneself and correct it. 

When there is an attack from the human instruments of adverse 
forces, one should try to overcome it not in a spirit of personal hatred 
or anger or wounded egoism, but with a calm spirit of strength 
and equanimity and a call to the Divine Force to act. Success or failure 
lies with the Divine. 

In dealing with others there is a way of speaking and doing which 
gives most offence and opens one most to misunderstanding and there 
is also a way which is quiet and firm but conciliatory to those who can 
be conciliated all who are not absolutely of bad will. It is better to 
use the latter than the former. No weakness, no arrogance or violence, 
this should be the spirit. 

14 May 1930 



A difficulty comes, an arrest in some movement which you have 
begun or have been carrying on for some time. How is it to be dealt 
with for such arrests are inevitably frequent enough, not only for 
you, but for everyone who is a seeker; one might almost say that every 
step forward is followed by an arrest at least, that is a very common, 
if not a universal experience. It is to be dealt with by becoming 
always more quiet, more firm in the will to go through, by opening 
oneself more and more so that any obstructing non-receptivity in the 
nature may diminish or disappear, by an affirmation of faith even in 
the midst of the obscurity, faith in the presence of a Power that is 
working behind the cloud and the veil, in the guidance of the Guru, 
by an observation of oneself to find any cause of the arrest, not in a 
spirit of depression or discouragement but with the will to find out 



and remove it. This is the only right attitude and, if one is persistent 
in taking it, the periods of arrest are not abolished for that cannot be 
at this stage but greatly shortened and lightened in their incidence. 
Sometimes these arrests are periods long or short of assimilation or 
unseen preparation, their appearance of sterile immobility is deceptive: 
in that case, with the right attitude, one can after a time, by opening, 
by observation, by accumulated experience, begin to feel, to get some 
inkling of what is being prepared or done. Sometimes, it is a period of 
true obstruction, in which the Power at work has to deal with the 
obstacles in the way, obstacles in oneself, obstacles of the opposing 
cosmic forces or any other or of all together, and this kind of arrest may 
be long or short according to the magnitude or obstinacy or complexity 
of the impediments that are met. But here too the right attitude can 
alleviate or shorten and, if persistently taken, help to a more radical 
removal of the difficulties and greatly diminish the necessity of complete 
arrests hereafter. 

On the contrary, an attitude of depression or unfaith in the help 
or the guidance or in the certitude of the victory of the guiding Power, 
a shutting up of yourself in the sense of the difficulties, impedes the 
recovery, prolongs the difficulties, helps the obstructions to recur with 
force instead of progressively diminishing in their incidence. It is 
an attitude whose persistence or recurrence you must resolutely throw 
aside if you want to get over the obstruction which you feel so much 
and which the depressed attitude only makes, while it lasts, more 

12 April 1932 


You should not be so dependent on outward things; it is this 
attitude that makes you give so excessive an importance to circum- 
stances. I do not say that circumstances cannot help or hinder but 
they are circumstances, not the fundamental thing which is in ourselves, 
and their help or their hindrance ought not to be of primary importance. 



In Yoga, as in every great or serious human effort, there is always bound 
to be an abundance of adverse interventions and unfavourable circum- 
stances which have to be overcome. To give them too great an impor- 
tance increases their importance and their power to multiply themselves, 
gives them, as it were, confidence in themselves and the habit of coming. 
To face them with equanimity if one cannot manage a cheerful 
persistence against them of confident and resolute will diminishes 
on the contrary their importance and effect and in the end, though 
not at once, gets rid of their persistence and recurrence. It is therefore 
a principle in Yoga to recognise the determining power of what is within 
us for that is the deeper truth to set that right and establish the 
inward strength as against the power of outward circumstances. The 
strength is there even in the weakest; one has to find it, to unveil it 
and to keep it in front throughout the journey and the battle. 

12 March 1932 


It is not true that virtuous people suffer more than sinners. Many 
sinners are people who are preparing to turn to the Divine and many 
virtuous people have a long run of lives yet to go through before they 
will think of it. 

3 May 1935 



I do not think X's trance has anything to do with her ill-health; 
I have never known the habit of trances of that kind to have any such 
result, only the violent breaking of a trance might have a bad result 
though it would not necessarily produce a disaster. But there is the 
possibility that if the conscious being goes out of the body in an abso- 
lutely complete trance, the thread which connects it with the body 



might be broken or else cut by some adverse force and it would not be 
able to return into the physical frame. Apart from any such fatal 
possibility there might be a shock which might produce a temporary 
disorder or even some kind of lesion; as a rule, however, a shock would 
be the only consequence. The general question is a different matter. 
There is a sort of traditional belief in many minds that the practice 
of Yoga is inimical to the health of the body and tends to have a bad 
effect of one kind or another and even finally leads to a premature or an 
early dropping of the body. Ramakrishna seems to have held the view 
if we can judge from his remarks about the connection between Keshav 
Sen's progress in spirituality and the illness which undermined him, 
that one was the result and the desirable result of the other, a liberation 
and release from life in this world, mukti. That may or may not be; 
but I find it difficult to believe that illness and deterioration of the body 
is the natural and general result of the practice of Yoga or that that 
practice is the cause of an inevitable breakdown of health or of the 
final illnesses which bring about departure from the body. On 
what ground are we to suppose or how can it be proved that while non- 
Yogis suffer from ill-health and die because of the disorders of Nature, 
Yogis die of their Yoga? Unless a direct connection between their 
death and their practice of Yoga can be proved and this could be proved 
with certainty only in particular cases and even then not with an absolute 
certainty there is no sufficient reason to believe in such a difference. 
It is more rational to conclude that both Yogis and non- Yogis fall ill 
and die from natural causes and by the same dispensation of Nature; 
one might even advance the view, since they have the Yoga-Shakti at 
their disposal if they choose to use it, that the Yogi falls ill and dies 
not because of but in spite of his Yoga. At any rate I don't believe that 
Ramakrishna (or any other Yogi) fell ill because of his trances; there 
is nothing to show that he ever suffered in that way after a trance. I 
think it is said somewhere or he himself said that the cancer in his 
throat of which he died came by his swallowing the sins of his disciples 
and those who approached him: that again may or may not be, but it 
will be his own peculiar case. It is no doubt possible to draw the 
illnesses of others upon oneself and even to do it deliberately, the instance 
of the Greek king Antigonus and his son Dimitrius is a famous histo- 
rical case in point; Yogis also do this sometimes; or else adverse forces 



may throw illnesses upon the Yogi using those round him as a door or a 
passage or the ill wishes of people as an instrumental force. But all 
these are special circumstances connected, no dcubt, with his practice 
of Yoga; but they do not establish the general proposition as an absolute 
rule. A tendency such as X's to desire or welcome or accept death as 
a release could have a force because of her advanced spiritual conscious- 
ness which it would not have in ordinary people. On the other side 
there can be an opposite use and result of the Yogic consciousness: 
illness can be repelled from one's own body or cured, even chronic or 
deep-seated illnesses and longe-stablished constitutional defects 
remedied or expelled and even a predestined death delayed for a long 
period. Narayan Jyotishi, a Calcutta astrologer, who predicted, not 
knowing then who I was, in the days before my name was politically 
known, my struggle with Mleccha enemies and afterwards the three 
cases against me and my three acquittals, predicted also that though 
death was prefixed for me in my horoscope at the age of 63, I would 
prolong my life by Yogic power for a very long period and arrive at a 
full old age. In fact I have got rid by Yogic pressure of a number of 
chronic maladies that had got settled in my body. But none of these 
instances either on the favourable or unfavourable side can be made 
into a rule; there is no validity in the tendency of human reason to 
transform the relativity of these things into an absolute. Finally I may 
say of X's trances that they are the usual savikalpa kind opening to all 
kinds of experiences, but the large abiding realisations in Yoga do not 
usually come in trance but by a persistent waking sadhana. The same 
may be said of the removal of attachments; some may be got rid of 
sometimes by an experience in trance, but more usually it must be done 
by persistent endeavour in waking sadhana. 

8 December 1949 


I might say a word about Ramakrishna's attitude with regard to 
the body. He seems always to have regarded it as a misuse of spiritual 



force to utilise it for preserving the body or curing its ailments or taking 
care for it. Other Yogis I do not speak of those who think it justi- 
fiable to develop Yogic siddhis have not had this complete disregard 
of the body: they have taken care to maintain it in good health and 
condition as an instrument or a physical basis for their development in 
Yoga. I have always been in agreement with this view: moreover,, I 
have never had any hesitation in the use of a spiritual force for all 
legitimate purposes including the maintenance of health and physical 
life in myself and in others that is indeed why the Mother gives 
flowers not only as a blessing but as a help in illness. I put a value 
on the body first as an instrument, dharmasadhana, or, more fully, 
as a centre of manifested personality in action, a basis of spiritual 
life and activity as of all life and activity upon the earth, but also because 
for me the body as well as the mind and life is a part of the Divine 
Whole, a form of the Spirit and therefore not to be disregarded or des- 
pised as something incurably gross and incapable of spiritual realisa- 
tion or of spiritual use. Matter itself is secretly a form of the spirit 
and has to reveal itself as that, can be made to wake to consciousness 
and evolve and realise the Spirit, the Divine within it. In my view the 
body as well as the mind and life has to be spiritualised or, one may say, 
divinised so as to be a fit instrument and receptacle for the realisation of 
the Divine. It has its part in the Divine Lila, even, according to the 
Vaishnava sadhana, in the joy and beauty of Divine Love. That does 
not mean that the body has to be valued for its own separate sake or 
that the creation of a divine body in a future evolution of the whole 
being has to be contemplated as an end and not a means that would 
be a serious error which would not be admissible. In any case, my 
speculations about an extreme form of divinisation are something in a 
far distance and are no part of the preoccupations of the spiritual life 
in the near future. 

7 December 1949 


The Divine Personality 

question rises immediately in a synthetic Yoga which must 
not only comprise but unify knowledge and devotion, the 
difficult and troubling question of the divine Personality. All the 
trend of modern thought has been towards the belittling of personality; 
it has seen behind the complex facts of existence only a great impersonal 
force, an obscure becoming, and that too works itself out through 
impersonal forces and impersonal laws, while personality presents 
itself only as a subsequent, subordinate, partial, transient pheno- 
menon upon the fact of this impersonal movement. Granting even 
to this Force a consciousness, that seems to be impersonal, indeter- 
minate, void in essence of all but abstract qualities or energies; for 
everything else is only a result, a minor phenomenon. Ancient Indian 
thought starting from quite the other end of the scale arrived on most 
of its lines at the same generalisation. It conceived of an impersonal 
existence as the original and eternal truth; personality is only an illu- 
sion or at best a phenomenon of the mind. 

On the other hand, the way of devotion is impossible if the per- 
sonality of the Divine cannot be taken as a reality, a real reality and 
not a hypostasis of the illusion. There can be no love without a lover 
and beloved. If our personality is an illusion and the Personality to 
whom our adoration rises only a primary aspect of the illusion, and 
if we believe that, then love and adoration must at once be killed, or 
can only survive in the illogical passion of the heart denying by its 
strong beats of life the clear and dry truths of the reason. To love 
and adore a shadow of our minds or a bright cosmic phenomenon 
which vanishes from the eye of Truth, may be possible, but the way 
of salvation cannot be built upon a foundation of wilful self-deception. 
The bhakta indeed does not allow these doubts of the intellect to come 
in his way; he has the divinations of his heart, and these are to him 



sufficient. But the sadhaka of the integral Yoga has to know the eternal 
and ultimate Truth and not to persist to the end in the delight of a 
Shadow. If the impersonal is the sole enduring truth, then a firm 
synthesis is impossible. He can at most take the divine personality 
as a symbol, a powerful and effective fiction, but he will have in the 
end to overpass it and to abandon devotion for the sole pursuit of the 
ultimate knowledge. He will have to empty being of all its symbols, 
values, contents in order to arrive at the featureless Reality. 

We have said, however, that personality and impersonality, as 
our minds understand them, are only aspects of the Divine and both 
are contained in his being; they are one thing which we see from two 
opposite sides and into which we enter by two gates. We have to see 
this more clearly in order to rid ourselves of any doubts with which 
the intellect may seek to afflict us as we follow the impulse of devotion 
and the intuition of love or to pursue us into the joy of the divine 
union. They fall away indeed from that joy, but if we are too heavily 
weighted with the philosophical mind, they may follow us almost 
up to its threshold. It is well therefore to discharge ourselves of them 
as early as may be by perceiving the limits of the intellect, the rational 
philosophic mind, in its peculiar way of approaching the truth and the 
limits even of the spiritual experience which sets out from the 
approach through the intellect, to see that it need not be the whole 
integrality of the highest and widest spiritual experience. Spiritual 
intuition is always a more luminous guide than the discriminating reason, 
and spiritual intuition addresses itself to us not only through the 
reason, but through the rest of our being as well, through the heart 
and the life also. The integral knowledge will then be that which 
takes account of all and unifies their diverse truths. The intellect 
itself will be more deeply satisfied if it does not confine itself to its 
own data, but accepts truth of the heart and the life also and gives 
to them their absolute spiritual value. 

The nature of the philosophical intellect is to move among ideas 
and to give them a sort of abstract reality of their own apart from all 
their concrete representations which affect our life and personal con- 
sciousness. Its bent is to reduce these representations to their barest 
and most general terms and to subtilise even these if possible into 
some final abstraction. The pure intellectual direction travels away 



from life. In judging things it tries to get back from their effects on 
our personality and to arrive at whatever general and impersonal 
truth may be behind them; it is inclined to treat that kind of truth 
as the only real truth of being or at least as the one superior and per- 
manent power of reality. Therefore it is bound by its own nature to 
end in its extremes at an absolute impersonality and an absolute 
abstraction. This is where the ancient philosophies ended. They reduced 
everything to three abstractions, existence, consciousness and bliss 
of being, and they tended to get rid of the two of these three which 
seemed dependent on the first and most abstract, and to throw all 
back into a pure featureless existence from which everything else 
had been discharged, all representations, all values, except the one 
infinite and timeless fact of being. But the intellect had still one far- 
ther possible step to take arid it took it in Buddhistic philosophy. It 
found that even this final face of existence was only a representation; 
it abstracted that also and got to an infinite zero which might be either 
a void or an eternal inexpressible. 

The heart and life, as we know, have an exactly opposite law. 
They cannot live with abstractions; they can find their satisfaction only 
in things that are concrete or can be made seizable; whether physically, 
mentally or spiritually, their object is not something which they seek 
to discriminate and arrive at by intellectual abstraction; a living becom- 
ing of it or a conscious possession and joy of their object is what they 
seek. Nor is it the satisfaction of an abstract mind or impersonal 
existence to which they respond, but the joy and the activity of a being, 
a conscious Person in us, whether finite or infinite, to whom the delights 
and powers of his existence are a reality. Therefore when the heart 
end life turn towards the Highest and the Infinite, they arrive not 
at an abstract existence or non-existence, a Sat or else a Nirvana, but 
at an existent, a Sat Purusha, not merely at a consciousness, bur at a 
conscious Being, a Chaitanya Purusha, not merely at a purely impersonal 
delight of the Is, but at an infinite I Am of bliss, an Anandamaya 
Purusha; nor can they immerge and lose his consciousness and bliss 
in featureless existence, but must insist on all three in one, for delight of 
existence is their highest power and without consciousness delight cannot 
be possessed. That is the sense of the supreme figure of the intensest 
Indian religion of love, Sri Krishna, the All-blissful and All-beautiful, 

5 57 


The intelligence can also follow this trend, but it ceases then to 
be the pure intellect; it calls in its power of imagination to its aid, it 
becomes the image-maker, the creator of symbols and values, a spiri- 
tual artist and poet. Therefore the severest intellectual philosophy 
admits the Saguna, the divine Person, only as the supreme cosmic 
symbol; go beyond it to reality and you will arrive, it says, at last to 
the Nirguna, the pure Impersonal. The rival philosophy asserts the 
superiority of the Saguna; that which is impersonal is, it will perhaps 
say, only the material, the stuff of his spiritual nature out of which he 
manifests the powers of his being, consciousness and bliss, all that 
expresses him; the impersonal is the apparent negative out of which he 
looses the temporal variations of his eternal positive of personality. 
There are evidently here two instincts, or, if we hesitate to apply 
that word to the intellect, two innate powers of our being which are 
dealing each in its own manner with the same Reality. 

Both the ideas of the intellect, its discriminations, and the aspira- 
tions of the heart and life, their approximations, have behind them 
realities at which they are the means of arriving. Both are justified by 
spiritual experience; both arrive at the divine absolute of that which 
they are seeking. But still each tends, if too exclusively indulged, to be 
hampered by the limitations of its innate quality and its characteristic 
means. We see that in our earthly living where the heart and life 
followed exclusively fail to lead to any luminous issue, while an exclu- 
sive intellectuality becomes either remote, abstract and impotent or a 
sterile critic or dry mechanist. Their sufficient harmony and just recon- 
ciliation is one of the great problems of our psychology and our action. 

The reconciling power lies beyond in the intuition. But there is 
an intuition which serves the intellect and an intuition which serves 
the heart and the life, and if we follow either of these exclusively, 
we shall not get much farther than before; we shall only make more 
intimately real to us, but still separately, the things at which the other 
and less seeing powers are aiming. But the fact that it can lend itself 
impartially to all parts of our being, for even the body has its intui- 
tions, shows that the intuition is not exclusive, but an integral truth- 
finder. We have to question the intuition of our whole being, not only 
separately in each part of it, nor in a sum of their findings, but beyond 
all these lower instruments, beyond even their first spiritual corres- 



pendents, by rising into the native home of the intuition which is the 
native home of the infinite and illimitable Truth, rtasya sve dame, 
where all existence discovers its unity. That is what the ancient Veda 
meant when it cried, "There is a firm truth hidden by truth (the eterna 
truth concealed by this other of which we have here these lower intui- 
tions); there the ten hundred rays of light stand together; that is One." 
"rtena rtam apihitam dhruvam...dasa sata saha tasthatus, tad ekam" 

The spiritual intuition lays hold always upon the reality; it is the 
luminous harbinger of spiritual realisation or else its illuminative light; 
it sees that which the other powers of our being are labouring to explore; 
it gets at the firm truth of the abstract representations of the intellect 
and the phenomenal representations of the heart and life, a truth 
which is itself neither remotely abstract nor outwardly concrete, but 
something else for which these are only two sides of its psychological 
manifestation to us. What the incuition of our integral being perceives, 
when its members no longer dispute among themselves but are illu- 
mined from above, is that the whole of our being aims at the one reality. 
The impersonal is a truth, the personal too is a truth; they are the same 
truth seen from two sides of our psychological activity; neither by itself 
gives the total account of the Reality, and yet by either we can approach it. 

Looked at from one side, it would seem as if an impersonal Thought 
were at work and created the fiction of the thinker for the convenience 
of its action, an impersonal Power at work creating the fiction of the 
doer, an impersonal existence in operation which uses the fiction of 
a personal being who has a conscious personality and a personal 
delight. Looked at from the other side, it is the thinker who expresses 
himself in thought which without him could not exist and our general 
notion of thought symbolises simply the power of the nature of the 
thinker; the Ishwara expresses himself by will and power and force; 
the Existent extends himself in all the forms integral and partial, 
direct, inverse and perverse of his existence, consciousness and bliss, 
and our abstract general notion of these things is only an intellectual 
representation of the triple power of his nature of being. All imper- 
sonality seems in its turn to become a fiction and existence in its every 
moment and its every particle nothing but the life, the consciousness, 
the power, the delight of the one and yet innumerable Personality, 
the infinite Godhead, the self-aware and self-unfolding Purusha. 



Both views are true, except that the idea of fiction, which is borrowed 
from our own intellectual processes, has to be exiled and each must 
be given its proper validity. The integral seeker has to see in this 
light that he can reach one and the same Reality on both lines, either 
successively or simultaneously, as if on two connected wheels travelling 
on parallel lines, but parallel lines which in defiance of intellectual logic 
but in obedience to their own inner truth of unity do meet in infinity. 

We have to look at the divine Personality from this standpoint. 
When we speak of personality, we mean by it at first something limited, 
external and separative, and our idea of a personal God assumes the 
same imperfect character. Our personality is to us at first a separate 
creature, a limited mind, body, character which we conceive of as the 
person we are, a fixed quantity; for although in reality it is always 
changing, yet there is a sufficient element of stability to give a kind 
of practical justification to this notion of fixedness. We conceive of 
God as such a person, only without body, a separate person different 
from all others with a mind and character limited by certain qualities. 
At first in our primitive conceptions this deity is a thing of much 
inconstancy, freak and caprice, an enlarged edition of our human 
character; but afterwards we conceive of the divine nature of persona- 
lity as a quite fixed quantity and we attribute to it those qualities alone 
which we regard as divine and ideal, while all the others are eliminated. 
This limitation compels us to account for all the rest by attributing 
them to a Devil, or by lending to man an original creative capacity 
for all that we consider evil, or else, when we preccivc that this will 
not quite do, by erecting a power which we call Naiure and attributing 
to that all the lower quality and mass of action for which we do not wish 
to make the Divine responsible. At a higher pit?:h die attribution of 
mind and character to God becomes less anthropomorphic and we 
regard him as an infinite Spirit, but still a separate person, a spirit 
with certain fixed divine qualities as his attributes. So are conceived 
the ideas of the divine Personality, the personal God which vary so 
much in various religions. 

All this may seem at first sight to be an original anthropomorphism 
terminating in an intellectual notion of the Deity which is very much at 
variance with the actualities of the world as we sec it. It is not sur- 
prising that the philosophical and sceptical mind should have found 



little difficulty in destroying it all intellectually, whether in the direction 
of the denial of a personal God and the assertion of an impersonal 
Force or Becoming or in that of an impersonal Being or an ineffable 
denial of existence with all the rest as only symbols of Maya or pheno- 
menal truths of the Time-consciousness. But these are only the perso- 
nifications of monotheism. Polytheistic religions, less exalted perhaps, 
but wider and more sensitive in their response to cosmic life, have 
felt that all in the cosmos has a divine origin; therefore they conceived 
of the existence of many divine personalities with a vague sense of an 
indefinable Divine behind, whose relations with the personal gods were 
not very clearly conceived. And in their more exoteric forms these 
gods were crudely anthropomorphic; but where the inner sense of 
spiritual things became clearer, the various godheads assumed the 
appearance of personalities of the one Divine, that is the declared 
point of view of the ancient Veda. This Divine might be a supreme 
Being who manifests himself in various divine personalities or an imper- 
sonal existence which meets the human mind in these forms; or both 
views might be held simultaneously without any intellectual attempt to 
reconcile them, since both were felt to be true to spiritual experience. 
If we subject these notions of the divine Personality to the dis- 
crimination of the intellect, we shall be inclined to reduce them, 
according to our bent, to fictions of the imagination or to psychological 
symbols, in any case, the response of our sensitive personality to some- 
thing which is not this at all, but is purely impersonal. We may say 
that That is in reality the very opposite of our humanity and our person- 
ality and therefore in order to enter into relations with it we are 
impelled to set up these human fictions and these personal symbols 
so as to make it nearer to us. But we have to judge by spiritual expe- 
rience, and in a total spiritual experience we shall find that these things 
are not fictions and symbols, but truths of divine being in their essence, 
however imperfect may have been our representations of them. Even 
our first idea of our own personality is not an absolute error, but only 
an incomplete and superficial view beset by many mental errors. 
Greater self-knowledge shows us that we are not fundamentally the 
particular formulation of form, powers, properties, qualities with a 
conscious I identifying itself with them, which we at first appear to be. 
That is only a temporary fact, though still a fact, of our partial being 



on the surface of our active consciousness. We find within an infinite 
being with the potentiality of all qualities, of infinite quality, ananta- 
guna> which can be combined in any number of possible ways, and 
each combination is a revelation of our being. For all this personality 
is the self-manifestation of a Person, that is to say, of a being who is 
conscious of his manifestation. 

But we see too that this being does not seem to be composed 
even of infinite quality, but has a status of his complex reality in which 
he seems to stand back from it and to become an indefinable conscious 
existence, anirdesyam. Even consciousness seems to be drawn back 
and leave merely a timeless pure existence. And again even this pure 
self of our being seems at a certain pitch to deny its own reality, or to 
be a projection from a self-less ! baseless unknowable, which we may 
conceive of either as a nameless somewhat or as a Nihil. It is when 
we would fix upon this exclusively and forget all that it has withdrawn 
into itself that we speak of pure impersonality or the void Nihil as the 
highest truth. But a more integral vision shows us that it is the Person 
and the personality and all that it had manifested which has thus cast 
itself upward into its own unexpressed absolute. And if we carry up 
our heart as well as our reasoning mind to the Highest, we shall find 
that we can reach it through the absolute Person as well as through 
an absolute impersonality. But all this self-knowledge is only the 
type within ourselves of the corresponding truth of the Divine in his 
universality. There too we meet him in various forms of divine per- 
sonality; in formulations of quality which variously express him to us 
in his nature; in infinite quality, the Anantaguna; in the divine Person 
who expresses himself through infinite quality; in absolute imperson- 
ality, an absolute existence or an absolute non-existence, which is 
yet all the time the unexpressed Absolute of this divine Person, this 
conscious Being who manifests himself through us and through the 

Even on the cosmic plane we are constantly approaching the 
Divine on either of these sides. We may think, feel and say that God 
is Truth, Justice, Righteousness, Power, Love, Delight, Beauty; we 
may see him as a universal force or as a universal consciousness. But 

1 Andtmyam anilayanam. Taittiriya Upanishad. 



this is only the abstract way of experience. As we ourselves are not 
merely a number of qualities or powers or a psychological quantity, 
but a being, a person who so expresses his nature, so is the Divine a 
Person, a conscious Being who thus expresses his nature to us. And 
we can adore him through different forms of this nature, a God of 
righteousness, a God of love and mercy, a God of peace and purity; 
but it is evident that there are other things in the divine nature which 
we have put outside the form of personality in which we are thus 
worshipping him. The courage of an unflinching spiritual vision and 
experience can meet him also in more severe or in terrible forms. 
None of these are all the Divinity; yet these forms of his personality 
are real truths of himself in which he meets us and seems to deal with 
us, as if the rest had been put away behind him. He is each separately 
and all altogether. He is Vishnu, Krishna, Kali; he reveals himself to 
us in humanity as the Christ personality or the Buddha personality. 
When we look beyond our first exclusively concentrated vision, we 
see behind Vishnu all the personality of Shiva and behind Shiva all 
the personality of Vishnu. He is *he Ananta-guna, infinite quality 
and the infinite divine Personality which manifests itself through it. 
Again, he seems to withdraw into a pure spiritual impersonality or 
beyond all idea even of impersonal Self and to justify a spiritualised 
atheism or agnosticism; he becomes to the mind of man an indefinable, 
anirdesyam. But out of this unknowable the conscious Being, the 
divine Person, who has manifested himself here, still speaks, "This too 
is I; even here beyond the view of mind, I am He, the Purushottama." 
For, beyond the divisions and contradictions of the intellect there 
is another light and there the vision of a truth reveals itself which we 
may thus try to express to ourselves intellectually. There all is one 
truth of all these truths; for there each is present and justified in all 
the rest. In that light our spiritual experience becomes united and 
integralised; no least hair's breadth of real division is left, no shade of 
superiority and inferiority remains between the seeking of the Imper- 
sonal and the adoration of the divine Personality, between the way of 
knowledge and the way of devotion. 1 


1 Reprinted from Arya> Vol. V. 


Vedic Study: Need for a New Approach 


11/1" AX MULLER records an interesting incident. Freidrich Rosen 
**-*- was a noted German scholar, one of the pioneers of western 
students who turned to Vedic studies in the early years of the last 
century. It appears one day when he was busy in the British Museum 
copying out the hymns of the Rig Veda, Raja Rammohan Roy the 
leading light of the Indian Renaissance came in and was surprised, 
disagreeably, at the work Rosen was engaged in. He admonished the 
scholar not to waste any time on the Vedas and advised him to take 
to the Upanishads instead. We do not know if Rosen swallowed the 
advice at all. Obviously not. For he was still engaged in the Veda at 
the time of his death and his edition of the First Book of the Rig Veda 
with Latin translation did ippear later. The incident is noteworthy 
for the light it sheds on the mental attitude of the cultured and edu- 
cated Indians of the time towards the Veda. The outlook of the educated 
section of our countrymen as regards the Vedic hymns has undergone 
little change even after more than a century today. And no wonder. 
For they have but dutifully followed all along in the footsteps of the 
European professors who have, as a class, studied and regarded the 
Vedas more as specimens of antiquarian and philological interest than 
as records of any sustaining values. To them the Vedas are study- 
worthy not for anything intrinsically significant but for the side-lights 
they throw on the social and other conditions of their times. By them- 
selves the Vedic hymns are 'singularly deficient in simplicity, natural 
pathos or sublimity', they have c no sublime poetry as in Isiah or Job 
or the Psalms of David'. They are primitive chants where 'cows and 
bullocks arc praised in most extravagant expressions' as among the 
'Dinkas and Kaffirs in Africa whose present form of economics must 



be fairly in agreement with that of the Vedic Aryan'. Even such a 
famous scholar like Oldenburg must needs note that here is 'the 
grossly flattering garrulousness of an imagination which loves the 
bright and the garish', while Winterneitz records, with approval evi- 
dently, that Leopald Von Schroder finds similarity between some of 
these hymnal chants and 'notes written down by insane persons which 
have been preserved by psychiatrists'. 

Not all from the West, however, have reacted in the manner noted 
above. Some have brought to bear a more sympathetic and closer 
understanding on their studies of the Veda and have confessed to 
a remarkable widening of the vistas of their higher mental horizons 
after their study of these Books. There is Brunnhofer, for instance, 
who is constrained to exclaim: 'The Veda is like the lark's morning 
thrill of humanity awakening to the consciousness of its greatness.' 

Indian tradition, however, has held the Vedas all along in the 
highest reverence, it has invested them with the authority of a revealed 
scripture, Books of Wisdom. Notwithstanding all the centuries-old 
efforts at such debunkings, the Vedas stand firm as a rock towering 
like the snow-capped peaks of Kailas overtopping and overlooking 
the vast panoramic expanse below drawing its nourishment every 
moment from the ceaseless streams that flow from above the huge 
and hoary expanse of Indian life and culture. What is the secret that 
has enabled the Vedas to hold the pre-eminent position they have 
occupied from the beginnings of time in this country? Is there anything 
in them which is valuable for man as to exact respect and reverence 
to the extent they have done? And if the Vedas are really so valuable 
and so sacred, why is it that they have become the targets of so much 
criticism? Why is it that the Vedas are today so much enveloped with 
misunderstanding and condemnation that they are in danger of being 
completely lost to sight? 

And what, in the first place, is the Veda? 

The Vedas are the only extant records of the lives and expressions 
of our forefathers in an age upon the time-limits of which scholars and 
historians have been unable to agree with any degree of finality. Indian 
scholars like Tilak and Europeans like Jacobi are inclined to date the 
period from Four to Six Millenniums before the Christian era while 
other western scholars have a strong tendency to advance the date to 



as near the Christian era as possible. Be that as it may, it is the songs 
and chants of these fathers of the race purve pitarah , it is their 
hymns that form the starting point and the kernel for the vast litera- 
ture that has flowed from and developed round them and goes by the 
name VEDA. At some period of their history, very likely at the close 
of the epoch during which the hymns were first sung and celebrated, 
it was found necessary to collect and compile all the available hymns 
current at that time. The necessity for the compilation may have 
arisen in order to prevent their loss inevitable with the passage of time 
and also to preserve them in the form in which they were chanted. 
Tradition has it that they were compiled under the direction of tint 
Master compiler of the Great Age Vyasa. Certainly what have been 
compiled do not exhaust all the hymns that must have been current; 
the compilations represent the remnants that had survived the ravages 
of time and were still extant at the time of the compilation. These 
hymnal texts were handed down from mouth to mouth and it was 
inevitable that they must have suffered diminution in quantity with 
each generation. 

The hymns were collected and arranged in four different com- 
pilations, Samhitasy each collection being governed by different consi- 
derations about the nature of the hymns, the purpose for which they 
were compiled, etc. Thus hymns which were largely in the nature of 
prayers and dedications to Gods were collected says the tradition 
by Paila under the guidance of Vyasa, and wen* to form the Rik Samhita. 
Hymns which were particularly chanted during religious and social 
functions of the community were compiled by Vaishampayana under 
the title Yajus Samhita. Jaimini is said to have collected hymns that 
were set to music and melody Saman. There is also the fourth col- 
lection of hymns and chants ascribed to Sumantu, known as Atharva 
Samhita. We need not dwell upon the subject of the Atharva Samhita 
and the controversy around it but recognise the Vedic tradition as 
has come down to us which includes all the four Samhitas in its field. 
Each of these Samhitas was followed gradually by explanations and 
dissertations in prose and in verse for elucidating the meanings, allu- 
sions, legends, etc. of the hymns and their application. These por- 
tions are known as Brahmanas. The concluding portions of these or 
the portions attached to them are discussions and speculations of a 



philosophical and spiritual import based certainly on the ideas and 
texts found in the Hymns. They are called the Aranyakas and Upa- 
nishads. Each Veda thus comprises the Mantra Samhita, the Brah- 
manas, the Aranyakas and the Upanishads.' 1 


1 The Rig Veda is said to have had 21 recensions. The recension that has come down 
to us and in use now is ascribed to Vedamitra or Shakalya. The Rig Veda Samhita as it 
stands consists of 1,017 Suktas (Hymns) or 1,028 if the n Valakhilya Suktas supple- 
menting the VIII Book are added to them. Each hymn is of varying number of Riks 
and the total number of Riks varies from 10,402 to 10,622. The Samhita is sub-divided 
in two ways. One, for purposes of memorising and study, adhyayana, into eight equal 
portions, ashtakas, each one of which contains eight chapters, adhydyas. The 
adhyayas are further divided into groups, vargas, which consist of an average of five 
riks. The other division, suited for application anushthdna, is into Mandates, Books, 
ten in number, each Mandala into so many anuvdkas and each anuvaka into hymns, 
suktas, the suktas containing varying number of riks. The Hymns have been arranged 
into each Mandala either according to the Rishi or Rishis to whom they are ascribed or 
according to the deity or deities to whom the hymns are dedicated. Thus the Second 
Mandala contains the hymns of Gritsamada and his descendants, the III of Vishwamitra 
and his family, IV mostly of Vamadeva (40 out of 58 hymns), the V of the house of 
Atri, VI mostly of Bharadwaja, VII of Vasishtha and family, VIII of Kanva and Angiras. 
The IX Mandala consists of hymns dedicated wholly to Soma (excepting the Apri 
hymn and one in which Soma is invoked jointly with Agni, and another with Agni and 
other gods.) The first Mandala contains Riks by a number of Rishis shatar 'chins 
authors each of a hundred or an indefinite number of Riks, invoking many different 
deities; so also the last, the tenth Mandala. 

Forming part of the Rig Veda is the Aitareya Brahmana and the Aitareya Aranyaka 
and the Aitareya Upanishad. The Kaushitaki or Sankhayana Brahmana and the Aranyaka 
and Upanishad after the same name also belong to the Rig Veda. 

The Yajurveda Samhita consists of prayers mostly taken from the Rik Samhita 
and formulae which the Adhwaryu priests have to utter while performing their duties 
at the sacrificial ceremonies. There are two Yajurveda Samhitas (i) the Taittiriya 
Samhita or the Krishna Yajurveda Samhita and (2) the Vajasaneyi or the Shukla Yajur- 
veda Samhita. The former contains a Brahmana as part of the Samhita while the latter 
contains an Upanishad instead. For an illuminating account of the origin of the Vaja- 
saneyi Samhita and the implications thereof vide Lights on the Veda (pp. 40-41) by Sri 
T.V.Kapali Sastry. These Samhitas are partly in verse and partly in prose. The 
verse portions are mostly selections of Riks, chosen for particular applications in the 

The Krishna Yajurveda contains the Taittiriya Brahmana which is really a conti- 
nuation of the Taittiriya Samhita. The Taittiriya Aranyaka and Taittiriya Upanishad 
and also Mahanarayana Upanishad belong to this Veda. The Kathaka, Svetasvetara 


Now the hymns collected in the Samhitas are largely prayers, 
invocations to the deities. Each hymn consists of a number of Mantras 
which according to tradition are not compositions but the seeings, 
the revelations made to the particular Rishis who were the seers, mantra- 
drashtdrah, in whose names they have come down to us. These prayers 
and invocations were used during religious and other ceremonies 
like the Yajna, Sacrifice. The authors of the Brahmanas while 
explaining and elucidating the meaning and significances of these hymns 
tended to emphasise the application side of it and dealt at length with 

and Maitrayaniya Upanishads are also of this collection. The Shukla Yajurveda contains 
the famous and most important Shatapatha Brahmana, its Aranyaka and the Brihada- 
ranyaka and Isha Upanishads. 

The Samaveda is almost wholly a collection of Riks from the Rig Veda Samhita 
set to melody generally to Gayatri metre to be sung by the Udgatr priests. Of the 
1500 and odd verses all except some 70 are from the Rig Veda. The collection is divided 
into two parts, archika and the uttararchika. The Samaveda contains the Tandya Maha- 
brahmana, also called Pancha Vimsa one of the oldest Brahmanas containing rites and 
references of special interest, notably the Vrdtyastoma, a ceremony to admit non-aryans 
in the Aryan fold. The Shadvimsa Brahmana, the last portion of which is called the 
Adbhuta Brahmana, is really a continuation after the Pancha- Vimsa; Jaiminiya Brahmana 
is also said to be part of the collection in Sama Veda but is not fully available. 
The Chhandogya Upanishad of which the first section is an Aranyaka belongs to a 
Samaveda Brahmana probably the Tandya Brahmana. The Kena also belongs to this 

The Atharva Samhita containing 731 (760 according to some) hymns about six 
thousand verses is available in the Saunaka recension which is the best preserved. 
Nearly a seventh of the verses are from the Rig Veda. A variety of subjects including 
medicine, charms, love, death, etc. arc treated therein. The Gopatha Brahmana is 
attached to it. The Mundaka, Prasna, and Mandukya Upanishads are parts of this Veda. 

Besides, there is also a class of literature known as Vedangas. But they do not form 
part of the Veda, though they bear upon the study of it. They are really enlargements 
and developments of the dissertations and hints found in the Brahmanas regarding the 
mantras, Yajna, and allied topics. A study of them was held to be indispensable for a 
proper understanding of the Vedas and hence they were attached to the Veda, vedanga, 
limbs of the Veda. They are treatises on phonetics shiksha, and metrics chhandas, both 
of which were necessary for reading of the Vedas, on grammar vyakarna and etymology 
nirukta, necessary for understanding them and on sacrifices (rituals) kalpa and astronomy 
jyotisha, both of these being necessary for the ceremonial use of the Vedas. These contain 
doctrines adumbrated in the Brahmanas and have been put in concise formulas called 
sutras, aphorisms for convenience of memory. 



the details, the minutiae of the ceremonies in which the hymns were 
supposed to be made use of. The human mind has an obstinate pre- 
ference to form, to the concrete as opposed to the abstract and no 
wonder the tendency grew of attaching premier importance to the ritual 
of the ceremonies and only a subsidiary role to the mantras. This 
tendency found expression and a lead in the school ofMimamsakas or 
Vedists whose position was given a respectable footing and influential 
standing by successive champions the first of whom was Jaimini who 
gave an ethical and religious framework for this method of approach 
to the Vedas. Not all subscribed to this way of looking at the Veda 
Samhita. There were those who leaned more towards the thought- 
substance rather than to the ceremonial utility of these hymnal texts 
and developed and cultivated a thought-life and a soul-life on the 
lines discernible in the hymns. The beginnings of these knowledge- 
seekers are to be found in the Aranyakas and the Upanishads. They 
always looked to these texts and not to the Brahmanas for enlighten- 
ment. This dual tendency among the adherents of the Veda found a 
sharp expression, in course of time, in the bifurcation of the Veda 
into Karma Kanda and Jnana Kanda. The Brahmana texts formed 
the authorities of the former and the Upanishads of the latter. The 
hymns themselves were relegated to the background to be summoned 
only for support and sanction to the findings of the respective schools. 
This was the position as far as we can gather, at the end of the Vedic 
period. After that we meet with a big blank in this aspect of the nation's 
history. Doubtless the Vedas continued to exercise thoughtful minds, 
the Vedic hymns must have become objects of attention of serious 
students, particularly in that age of intellectual efflorescence which 
followed close on the heals of the Upanishadic period, and many 
schools of Vedic studies must have sprung up. Yaska the great ety- 
mologist indeed refers to some of them. But to that we will come later. 
Suffice it to say that there were a number of ways of approach to the 
Veda current during those times, ea:h differing with the motive of 
approach. Etymologists, historians, ritualists, priests, seekers of Truth, 
all these had their own ways of understanding the hymns. But there 
was no one tradition as such that stood out over the rest as the one 
true and authoritative interpretation of the Veda. Attempts were made 
now and then by able exponents of the different schools of thought 



to establish their own line of interpretation but none seems to have 
acquired any commanding position as the most widely accepted and 
thereby the authoritative. It was so, at least till the fourteenth century 
A.D., when Sayana appeared on the scene. 


It has always been a debatable question among philosophers of 
history whether it is the men that mould and shape events and epochs 
or whether men are not just material-ends through which historical 
forces precipitate themselves into action. While it is difficult to find 
a verdict exclusively either way, because truth seems to lie in both 
the view-points, instances are not rare when powerful individuals 
by sheer force of their personality and mastery of will and mind have 
succeeded in directing the course of history in the direction of- their 
choice. Such a remarkable personage was Sayanacharya. Living in 
the I4th century A.D. he came to be known as Madhava Vidyaranya, 
founder of the Vijayanagar Empire that glorious isle of culture and 
progress in the surrounding mass of the then ruling cult of Islamic 
sword and fire. Whether he was the same or his brother as sustained 
by some, he was in any case a man of uncommon solidity of learning 
and capacity for industry. He addressed himself to a task which none 
had so successfully attempted before. He set out to comment upon, 
explain and fix the meaning of the entire collection of the four Samhitas 
along with their Brahmanas. He lived at a time when the outer form 
and ritual of religion had attained an increasing supremacy over the 
spirit within and naturally he shared the beliefs of his age. He accepted 
the ritualist doctrines that the Brahmanas constituted the real Veda 
which was traditionally looked upon as having proceeded from beyond 
the beginnings of time and beyond the origins of human mind. The 
Mantras were important in so far as they subserved and allowed them- 
selves to be made use of for support of this position. Sayana set upon 
his task with this avowed intention, namely, to fix firmly the claim of 
the ritualist to be the sole-sufficing guardian and exponent of the Veda. 
He utilised all the resources available to him, applied all the thorough- 
ness he was capable of, commented upon every word of the text with 
meticulous care though with a pronounced ritualist slant and succeeded 



in producing a work which once for all oriented the message of the 
scriptures in the line of the phase of Vedic worship he represented. 
He heavily robed the Vedas in the folds of the ritualist raiments. 
Regarding the achievements and the far-reaching consequences of 
this remarkable work of Sayana, we need make no apology to quote 
from the following striking appraisal of the same: 

"He (Sayana) left to posterity a finished and complete commentary 
on all the Brahmanas and the Mantra Samhitas of which the Rik- 
Samhita presents insuperable difficulties for interpretation. But he 
overcomes them, gives generally a lucid exposition of the hymns 
assigning their place in the ceremonial worship and presents a har- 
monious whole of the plan of his work. The merits of this stupendous 
work of Sayana are many and so precious that his work is an indis- 
pensable help to Vedic students... In a sense Sayana went far beyond 
the Brahmanas themselves; for it is doubtful if the latter were sure that 
they have correctly interpreted the Riks even for purposes of rituals, 
and what is more, they have not taken up the whole body of the hymnal 
text for explanation and use in the sacrificial rites... Sayana's commen- 
tary on the Riks succeeds in establishing Ritualism as the sole and 
central creed of the Veda, founded on the eternal self-existent words 
and passages of the Brahmanas to which the mantras are the uncreated 
self-existent accessories... The work is indispensable for the student 
of the Veda for the invaluable help it gives, the numerous references, 
mention of ancient authorities, traditions, lexicons, legends, alterna- 
tive meanings suggesting possible senses of words, verses and hymns, 
elucidation of accents and points of grammar and construction of sen- 
tences in these ancient litanies of a remote antiquity. There are other 
commentaries on the Riks, but in fragments and are of little avail and 
importance before the weight and prestige of Sayana and the volume 
of his work. 

Nevertheless the central defect of Sayana's work remains. It is 
the defect of a representative obscurantism of the time, unprogressive 
and narrow, vast erudition developing an extraordinary poverty of 
sense attached to the hymns of the Vedic seers, enthroning in the 
heart of the Vedic religion the external cult and worship of Nature 
Powers and performance of ceremonial rites for material benefits and 
other-worldly pleasures, a sublimated hedonistic doctrine before which 



the ideals of an inner and higher life and spiritual knowledge have their 
facets disfigured or eclipsed and hidden in disgrace." 1 

This, then, was the decisive turn given to the course of the Vedic 
stream, setting it run through successive ages along the waste-lands of 
the increasingly mysterious rituals and mystifying priestcraft until 
the waters thinned out into sparse rivulets and almost disappeared 
amidst the arid sands of the Hindus in their decline and all-round 
bankruptcy by the end of the eighteenth century. 

It was about this time that scholars from Europe turned their atten- 
tion towards the Vedas. They desired to make acquaintance with works 
which the Indians held, though only in memory, as revealed scriptures 
of a dateless antiquity, partly in order to probe into the conditions of life 
and mental development of a people whose descendents had been lately 
delivered into their (Europeans') care by a wise Providence and partly 
to see what support they could get from these ancient records for the new 
theories and sciences that were being just developed on the Continent 
of Europe. It was not easy for foreigners to get at these manuscripts 
which had for long become the exclusive monopoly of Brahmins. 
However with the patronage and material help of the East India Com- 
pany they managed to get and study the texts with the aid of indigenous 
scholarship. They equipped themselves with sufficient knowledge 
of classical Sanskrit. But the Vedic language presented considerable 
difficulties and Sayana with his word-to-word renderings and explana- 
tions of legends and ceremonies which were utterly alien to their 
culture and upbringing proved to be a great boon to them. They 
made Sayana the base of their labours and applied to their studies their 
knowledge of the new sciences, Comparative Mythology, Comparative 
Religion, Philology. That the sciences were largely conjectural is 
another matter. They sought to trace parallels between the early 
Chaldean, Roman, Greek and other Mediterranean peoples and the 
Vedic society; Sayana's investiture of the Vedic hymns with a wholly 
ritualistic meaning, his explanations of the prayers and entreaties 
of the early Aryans to their Gods for wealth, cattle, women, protection 
from and destruction of the malevolent, supplications for waters all 
these fitted in perfectly with their ideas of what these primitives should 

1 Lights on the Upanishads (pp. 117-120) by Sri Kapali Sastry. 



have been in that early, pastoral stage of development. But they did 
not stop with Sayana and his ritualism nor did they accept in toto what 
he said. For in many places when Sayana comes across passages which 
are openly spiritual in import he does not hesitate to say so. Again in 
some portions he speaks of God and gods as if they were really super- 
natural living personalities. In such places the scholars dismissed him as 
unduly superstitious, for such primitive people as the emigrant Aryans 
could not be expected to be conversant with ideas and conceptions which 
come in only at a later stage of human development. It would be un- 
natural an impossible exception to the general trend of human progress 
throughout. The Gods that were worshipped by the Vedic people were 
simply personified Nature-powers. Agni was the physical fire element, 
Indra the rain-god and Maruts the storms. Thus they were a myriad 
number of gods and there was polytheism. The whole of Nature was at 
times sung as if she was one deity there was surely pantheism among 
them. To propitiate particular gods, each god, when he was being ad- 
dressed, was invoked as if he was the only and sole God combining all 
the rest within himself. To classify this novel mode of worship a fresh 
term was put into currency Henotheism, and so on. Parallels were 
traced between Vedic Indra and the Teutonic Thuman with his Mjolin, 
the Vedic 'goblin worship 5 and the counterpart in Turanian Chaldea. 
These hymns were not unlike the songs and chants of early people 
anywhere else in the world, when feeling helpless before mighty and 
powerful forces of Nature men seek to propitiate their anger and solicit 
their favour. Thus the modern scholars went one better than Sayana 
in exploding the myth of the spiritual character of the Vedic Hymns. 
We cannot however fail to mention that among these scholars there 
have been some who were deeply struck with something remarkably 
non-mundane in these litanies and have wondered whether after all 
there may not be something true in the claim made for the Veda by 
the country's tradition. But they have been rather exceptions than 
the general rule and have not influenced the general trend of western 
opinion and verdict. We must not also fail to record that the western 
scholars have brought to bear on their studies a most painstaking 
industry, and the splendid editions of the Vedas andBrahmanas brought 
out by pioneers like Max Muller are a standing monument to the almost 
German thoroughness with which they applied themselves to the task. 

6 73 


Of course industry and judgement are not synonymous nor are they 
always coextensive. 

Max Muller observes somewhere that the authors of the Brahmanas 
were blinded by theology, authors of later Niruktas (etymological texts) 
were deceived by etymological fictions, and both conspired to mislead 
later authors like Sayana. Here we may add that it was Sayana who 
misled the later western scholars more effectively and more truly than 
he himself was. For truth to speak, Sayana was not a dupe. He was 
aware of other lines of interpretation, he refers to them and makes 
use of them wherever they support his avowed stand and where they 
conflict with him, he indifferently passes them over. He set out, as 
we noted, with the proclaimed intention of setting the wheels of Vedas 
on the rails of ritualism. He made no ceremony of delving into the 
Vedas for treasures of Knowledge and emerging with hands full of 
Ritualistic shells and Naturalistic lobsters. 


What looked a certain death, however, proved to be just a slumber. 
Indian culture, Indian civilisation knows no death because it is based 
on the eternal verity of the Spirit the sandtana dharma. Soon a many- 
sided powerful revivalist movement was afoot. By the middle of the 
last century the call to re-establish the Vedas in their sovereign pedestal 
for presiding over an assured and inevitable resurgence of the national 
life, found a vigorous expression in that stalwart champion of 
ancient culture, Swami Dayananda Saraswati. He called for a bold 
dispersal of the fog of half-baked theories and alien prejudice that had 
settled round the luminous Vedas and enjoined upon every son of the 
soil to look straight into the face of the Sun and recognise there what 
was indeed a Revealed Scripture. He pointed out with unanswerable 
proof how the concept of One Deity stood out toweringly in the Hymns 
with all other gods as names for its many qualities and powers. He 
summoned the services of the old Nairuktas and commented upon the 
PJks basing his interpretation on the etymological significance of 
the words therein and asked the world to see if there was or 
ihere was not in these Hymns a code of conduct of man, a divine 
law and a law of the universe. The ice was broken and the way 



was once more cleared for a truer appreciation of the significance 
of the Vedas. 

Serious students have since sought to interpret the Vedas with zeal 
and labour but we are afraid they have failed to keep up the initial 
promise. Lokamanya Tilak carried on extensive researches and 
announced his Arctic Theory of the Veda. With the help of clues, astro- 
nomical and others, found in the many hymns, he has traced the original 
home of the Vedic Aryans to the Northern Polar regions. He 
has also calculated on the same basis the approximate date of 
the hymns to be six thousand years before the Christian era. As 
feats of subtle reasonings and mathematical calculations these 
discoveries are certainly admirable but they leave the main question 

Mr. Paramasiva Iyer propounded, in the early years of the century, 
his Geological Theory. He has sought to prove that Vritra-Ahi of the 
Rig Veda is really the Glacier which is the deadliest enemy of human 
life and property in that glacial age in which the Aryans lived and 
Indra is a mighty volcano with Agni for the fire. It is the fight 
between Lava and Glacier that is recorded in the Riks. This, he 
says, is the central fact of the Riks: "The surface of the earth, the 
seat of life, was concealed from her vivifying lord, the Sun, nnd 
weighed down by serpents 1 and in response to her pressure her 
father Vishwakarman raised up mighty volcanoes which fought the 
glaciers, lifted up the earth, loosened the rivers, cut out new beds 
for them high above the old rivers overwhelmed by the glaciers, 
fertilised her and restored her to the embraces of her distant 

He has traced an 'amazing identity of Vedic and Puranic 
stories in the geological and chemical phenomenon" and proved 
that Gayatri =Ch 25 the Rik== bubble of hydro-carbon gas, and 
the like. 

1 Mr. Iyer has drawn parallels between the Vritra-Ahi and the Azi of Zenda Avesta, 
the Python of the Greeks, the Serpent invading the Paradise of the Hebrews, and the 
Dragon of the climbers of Alps and identified Vritra-Ahi, the serpent, with the Glacier 
as they correspond with each other in changing form, creeping movement, etc. Vide his 
book, The Riks. 



Then there is the Biological Theory of Mr. V. G. Rele. Mr. Rele 
maintains that the biological interpretation provides the true key 
for understanding the Veda. These texts really give the physiology 
of the nervous system written by the Vedic seers in symbolic language. 
The Vedic deities represent different centres of activity in brain, 
spinal cord and other parts of the nervous system of the human body. 
The Riks exhibit an extraordinary knowledge of the inner organism 
of the body on the part of the Rishis. Naturally they must have got 
the knowledge by dissecting the dead bodies. "This had to be done 
mostly secretly in those days owing to the fear of being killed as 
cannibals or man-hunters; and, for the same reason, the source 
of this knowledge could not also be revealed. It was therefore 
given out that this knowledge was acquired by divine inspiration; 
the Vedic seers heard it from Brahman. Hence it was called 
Sruti." 1 

We will not say these theories are all woolly conjectures. Perhaps 
they could be sustained, at any rate in parts. We had an old school- 
teacher who used to say that the Rig Veda is nothing but Ayurveda. 
Possibly, he would have proved his case, had we had the temerity to 
ask for it, with the help of a few Riks here and few more there. But 
these theories do not touch the main question at all. Is there any basis 
for the millenniums-old tradition that the Veda is a 'Scripture of 
divine knowledge, divine worship, divine action 3 ? Do the hymns 
contain anything in themselves to substantiate this faith voiced by 
countless saints and sacred books of the past? We have to make our 
choice one way or the other. Or, in the words of Sri Aurobindo: 
"We can no longer enshrine the Veda wrapped in the folds of an 
ignorant reverence or guarded by a pious self-deceit. Either the Veda 
is what Sayana says it is, then we have to leave it behind for ever as 
the document of a mythology and ritual which have no longer any 
living truth or force for thinking minds, or it is what the European 
scholars say it is, and then we have to put it away among the relics 
of the past as an antique record of semi-barbarous worship or else 
it is indeed Veda, a book of divine knowledge, and it becomes of sup- 
reme importance to know and to hear its message." 

1 Vide The Vedic Gods as Figures of Biology. 



IV 1 

And Sri Aurobindo says the Vedas are truly epitomes of Know- 
ledge, gained and bequeathed by the Rishis of old who were not bards 
or poets of common clay but inspired singers who poured out in living 
vocables the highest experiences and realisations of the soul. They 
were seers, leaders of men who had attained a high watermark of a 
particular culture and civilisation and these hymnal records are just 
the finger-prints and signposts of their spiritual and religious endea- 
vour. The Mantras of the Veda are not of the usual human origin, 
their contents bespeak the presence of the Word beyond words. Their 
language is antique, but behind that antiquity lies the story of human 
language. The axis round which the entire litany revolves is the Insti- 
tution of Sacrifice, Yajna, which is the highest secret of all creation, 
the World-Existence that had its origin in the holocaust by which the 
supreme Purusha offered his own Substance for its birth even as it 
is destined to find its deliverance and fulfilment in its own self-giving 
to the Creator. The Gods to whom the hymns are addressed are the 
powers and personalities of the Highest Godhead, enlivening with 
their presence and aid the Sacrifice at which they are the honoured 
guests, maintaining the activities of the world or worlds over which 
they preside. The Vedas record the workings and manifestations of this 
Higher Knowledge; there may be much else besides; but that is 
secondary. They are pre-eminently scriptures of the Knowledge 
and Practice of the Art of God and Science of the soul. 

Such in outline are the findings of Sri Aurobindo. This is no 
hypothesis or theory put forward by him on deliberate study to base 
any chosen line of philosophy of life. His whole manner and occasion 
of entry into the Vedas was unpremeditated and accidental. As he 
himself explains, he looked into the Vedas to see if there was any 
evidence therein to justify the popular theories of racial animosity 
and conflict between the two peoples Aryans and Dravidians of 
that early age and of the utter incompatibility due to differences of 

1 This section is based on the Rig Veda Bhashya in Sanskrit by Sri T. V. Kapali 
Sastry whose commentary on the Riks runs along the lines of Sri Aurobindo's 
esoteric interpretation. 



origin between the northern Sanskritic and the southern Dravidian 
group of languages. And he was struck to find in the hymns much 
that threw light on and in some ways anticipated the ways of spiritual 
realisations he had been charting out independently of his own accord. 
Some of the Mantras lucidly explained experiences that had come 
about, but whose significances were not clear to him before. Besides, 
he recognised here very clearly certain deities which had manifested 
themselves to him in the course of his Tapasya. He pursued his 
enquiry, went straight to the Riks without aid of commentaries, under- 
standing the meanings of words in their original sense with derivative 
significance a course which made a consistent and connected reading 
possible and was left in no doubt that there was a Secret in the Veda 
which explained the reverential homage paid to it from the Upanishads 
downwards. He expounded his method of approach and the lines of 
enquiry on which he proceeded with a summary of his conclusions 
in a series of articles in the Arya 1 under the title of Secret of the Veda. 
It may be asked, and quite relevantly, whether there is any corro- 
boration to this finding besides the authority of Sri Aurobindo. We 
answer there is. The hymns in the Rig Veda 2 proclaim in unmistakable 
terms that the Mantras embody a secret, the Mantras are secret words 
which are known only to the Gods. Asmdkam rahasydni stotrdni 
yuvayor-viditdni, says seer Vasishtha addressing Mitra and Varuna, 
nd vdam ninydni achite abhuvan (VII.6I.5), 'To you are known our 
secret prayers, they are not concealed from you'. Ninydni rahasydni 
api stotrdni> prayers even though they are secret, observes Sayana 
in his comment. Or look to the hymn of Vamadeva: 

Eta vishwa vidushe vedho nithani agne ninya vachamsi 
nivachana kavaye kavyani ashamsisham matibhir vipra ukthaih 

(IV. 3.16) 

"O Agni, Disposer, to thee who knowest these secret words, fructuous 
I have uttered, I have sung, enlightened with thought and prayers. 55 
The Riks revealed their meaning to man, but only to men who had 

1 A philosophical Monthly conducted by Sri Aurobindo from 1914-1921. 

2 The Hymns of the Rig Veda can be taken to represent the Vedic hymnal literature 
in as much as the Mantras in the other Samhitas of the Trayi are mostly taken from the 
Rik Samhita, as pointed out in Section I. 



equipped themselves with the necessary purificatory discipline 
tapas. Emphasising on this aspect of the Mantras, Yaska, the earliest 
extant Vedic Lexicographer who is also the last representative of the 
Nairuktas, quotes two Riks, one of which we shall reproduce here 
for the bold imagery adopted for explaining this truth. Drawing 
attention to this, Sri Aurobindo observes: "But all cannot enter into 
its secret meaning. Those who do not know the inner sense are as 
men who seeing see not, hearing hear not, only to one here and there 
the Word desiring him like a beautifully robed wife to a husband 
lays open her body." 

Uta tvah pashyanna dadarsha vacham uta tvah shrinvanna 


Uto tvasmai tanvam visasre jayeva patya ushati suvdsdh. 

(Rig Veda X. 71. 4). 

'Otherwise seeing he sees not, hearing he follows not. But to 
him (to the qualified) she (Vak in the form of speech) reveals her form 
even as a loving well-drest wife disrobes herself to her husband/ 

But why should secrecy have been necessary at all? Why should 
not the Rishis have given the knowledge they had attained to in a 
form which all could understand and benefit by? And are we sure 
we are not reading our own philosophical ideas into what after all 
may be just the propitiatory and invocatory songs that we are familiar 
with in all early societies among which the Vedic people certainly 
could be counted? 

The early Aryans must have had their primitive and pastoral 
stages of development like any other people without doubt. But 
judging from the vigour of expression, the fullness and the force of 
it, the grace of symmetry and directness in the language, the aptness 
with which figures of poetry are handled and the side-lights which 
casual references throw on environmental life, it does look that these 
people were far removed from an age when men could only gape and 
babble. It rather looks more probable that they were a people who 
had touched a considerable mark of refinement and culture, possibly 
the summit of that particular cycle of civilisation. Like all early socie- 
ties of that age they were governed by a strong symbolic mentality 



and an intuitive vision of things. The Intellect as such had not set 
in its reign and when Intellect is not. Nature gets its work fulfilled 
by means other than Intellect. They, at any rate, the most developed 
among them, had a natural and more unobstructed insight into the 
workings of the Universe around and a more intimate awareness of 
the inner world than is possible for us in this intellectual age. They 
did not stop with appearances. With a directness that is so natural 
to the leap of intuitive perception they recognised that all life was 
instinct with and was overshadowed by, something behind it. The 
outer hid the inner, the lower concealed the higher. They saw that 
the springs of life are operated effectively from behind and above it. 
Behind the distinctive operations of Nature, they saw the Powers 
that directed the elemental forces and sought to get at them by what- 
ever means possible. They also perceived a definite rhythm of order 
in all the movements of Nature and looked for the Law that underlay 
it. It was the Law the Powers obeyed, the Law of the highest Power. 
These Powers, these Gods, wore in the beginning naturally a pre- 
dominantly physical aspect. But gradually they came to be invested 
with a psychological character and Gods were looked upon not merely 
as deities presiding over and directing the powers of Nature but as 
entities that influenced and moulded the inner life of the individuals 
in the universe. They developed their own inner lines of discipline 
to reach out to these secret controllers of the destiny of men and 
Nature. But they kept their knowledge of the technique and results 
carefully guarded. Only rhe initiates were allowed to share it. This 
is the story of the Mystics all over whether in Persia, Chaldea, Egypt 
or Greece. And India was no exception. The Rishis were precisely 
such leaders of society that attempted, persevered and succeeded in not 
only visioning and communing with these higher Powers or Gods but 
devoted their whole lives to develop the inner life for embodying the 
very gods within one's own purified being and with their help to soar 
to the Highest. In this daring adventure of theirs, they relied almost 
exclusively on the aid, grace and support of the higher Powers, the 
Gods whose presence was invoked and sustained by the choicest 
offerings they were capable of, by the offering of the whole of them- 
selves as a mite of love and adoration to the Gods. This is the Yajna 
which figures so prominently in the Hymns. 



Such a higher knowledge as this could not be shared with all, 
with all men high and low, men with different levels of attainment, 
without vulgarising the sacred knowledge and exposing the society 
to possible misuse of the knowledge by the ignorant. But at the same 
time the knowledge had to be preserved. And this task was rendered 
easy by the state of the language and the manner of the use of words 
in that age. For at that stage of human development language as an 
expression of human thought and emotions had not acquired the 
fixity and finish which comes only after a definite maturity is reached. 
In our age, for instance, each word has a particular significance which 
is fastened on it by convention. We use a particular word to denote 
a particular object simply because all have come to accept by conven- 
tion that this word means this. Any other word will serve the purpose 
for us as long as others accept the same meaning for it. Language has 
become mechanical. But in the early stages of development and forma- 
tion of human speech, words were far from the conventional apex. 
They retained the multi-significance of the roots from which they 
were derived. The roots themselves were the spontaneous expressions 
of responses evoked in the psychological and nervous being of man 
by phenomena of the objective and the subjective universes and hence 
each root throbbed with a self-evident meaning or meanings and 
needed no further explanation. Words were consciously derived from 
these roots and their derivative significances went side by side, so 
that one word could denote many objects even as the same object 
could be denoted by a number of words depending on how it was 
looked at. J Thus the word Ghrta signified clarified butter, but it also 
meant brightness, as the root ghr means to shine or glisten. So also 
the word go meant among o'her things not only the quadruped but also 
"ray" the root, from which it is derived, signifying movement. Now 
the Rishis with the help of such words and terminology arranged their 
thoughts in a system of parallelism. They borrowed self-evident figures 
from the environment, like the hills, rivers, forests etc. and placed be- 
hind them the psychological and spiritual truths of existence which they 
had perceived. Here also their choice was not arbitrary. The tree, bhu- 
ruha, for instance, signified human existence since man also derived 

1 Vide Sphota and the Spoken Word By Sri T. V. Kapali Sastry. 



his existence from the earth; the rivers, the waters, signified currents 
of life-energy and consciousness by virtue of their common charac- 
teristics of ceaseless movement and the nourishment they impart and 
so on. Thus it came to be that the hymns in which they clothed their 
thought were understood in the inner sense only by those who knew 
how to look for it, and in the ou'er sense by the laity. The Rishis, 
however, took care to see that even in the outer meaning the Riks 
made sense and were applicable to the external worship and ritual which 
go with every society of the early ages. The terminology devised and 
the series of figures used were such that the the hymns could be taken to 
apply to the outer ceremonials and sacrificial ritual while, for those who 
knew how to get at the esoteric sense, there was the knowledge relating 
to the inner worship, the inner yajna. The externals of worship and 
sacrifice were given considerable importance by these seers as training- 
ground for the less prepared, as vestibules through which they could 
enter the sanctum of the Inner Sacrifice when they were ready. Thus 
both the outer and the inner meaning are worked out side by side. 
But the psychological sense always predominates and at places it throws 
the external physical sense into the background. That is why certain 
portions do not make sense at all when interpreted in the ritualistic 
manner, while there is obtained generally a consistent meaning when 
the esoteric interpretation is applied. 

That there was thus more than one sense in which the Riks were 
to be understood was known not only to contemporary opinion but 
to much later generations also. Thus Yaska 1 refers to the threefold 
interpretation, the threefold sense in which the Mantra was to be 
understood, viz. ddhi-yajnika, ddhi-daivika and ddhydtmika, the meaning 
as related to the sacrifice, yajna, as related to the gods, the cosmic 
Powers and as related to the life of the spirit. These three modes of 
interpretation seem to have been well recognised and each took to the 
particular interpretation to which he felt qualified. But there was 
the recognition of the prime importance of the spiritual interpretation. 
Yaska pointedly observes: 

Yajna-daivate pushpa-phale devate-adhydtme va. (Nirukta i. 6. 4.) 

1 And Yaska came at least three or four thousand years after the Vedic Age, accepting 
the general computation of 700 to 400 B. C. as the period in which he must have lived. 



"The Yajnic is the flower and the daivic the fruit or the daivic the 
flower and the adhyatmic the fruit." What the commentators say on 
this passage is worth-noting: 

"They are the knowledge of the sacrifice, knowledge of the gods and 
the knowledge of the Self. This is what is established by the whole 
Veda. If the Dharma promoting material prosperity (i. e. the Yajna 
which achieves it) is resorted to, then the knowledge of the gods is the 
fruit of it, the former becomes the flower, the latter the fruit. If on 
the other hand the Dharma leading to higher welfare is desired, 
then both the yajnic and the daivic become the flower; the daivic 
containing in itself the yajnic becomes the flower and the adhyatmic 
the fruit." 

This tradition of the spiritual import of the Vedas must have been 
current for a long time till it was eclipsed by the ritualist tradition 
receiving tremendous impetus and prestige at the hands of Sayana 
in the I4th century A.D. Even as late as the I3th century a century 
before Sayana Anandatirtha known as Maddhwacharya revived the 
tradition by writing commentary on the first 40 Suktas of the Rik 
Samhita. Even after Sayana, Sri Raghavendra Swami wrote the 
Mantrartha-manjari explaining and amplifying the Bhashya of 
Madhwacharya and he has quoted therein an ancient Puranic text 
which says that the Vedas have three meanings trayorthah sarva 
vedeshu. } 

The Mantras, the Riks themselves, we must note, were not poetical 
compositions, written to record experiences objective or subjective, 
in the manner of our poets and authors. They were not minted in the 
mart of mind. They had a deeper and other origin. The Rishis them- 
selves disclaimed authorship of the Riks. They were not creators but 
seers who perceived the truth of the mantra. That is why Sayana 

na hi vedasya kartaro drashtarah sarva eva hi> 

"they are no creators of the Veda but seers". In the course of their 
tapasya, the Rishis came across truths in an un-ideaed form which 

1 Vide Lights on the Veda, pp. 84-85. 

8 3 . 


pressed upon them and through them for expression. From the depths 
and heights of the soul where they perceived the spiritual truths of 
Divine import the Rishis dug them out, nirdkhanan, (Shatapatha 
Br. VII. 5.2.52), they carved them out, takshan (RV. 1.62.13), to the 
best of their capacity and clothed them with human speech. The 
Rishis variously refer to the Inner Ocean, antah samudra or the supreme 
ether paramam vyoma, from where they received the riks. That is the 
explanation of the traditional ascription of non-human, apaurusheya 
character to the Mantras. 

If we approach the Riks with an understanding of this their back- 
ground, with a readiness to get into the spirit of the age and proceed 
on the lines chalked out by Sri Aurobindo, the hymns do not appear 
any longer to be the simple folk-songs or abject supplications of a primi- 
tive, barbarian people they are fancied and made out to be. Instead, 
they reveal their true character of being the indices, the charts of the 
spiritual adventure of highly developed men who had pioneered into 
the realm of the Unknown. Seekers of Light they realised and enlisted 
the help and support of the Gods and Goddesses in their fight with 
the sons of Darkness who are ever after man to thwart his progress. 
They perceived the Gods face to face and established a living intercourse 
with them. Like children to the father, they gathered and delivered 
themselves now to Agni, now to Indra. They narrate with nostalgic 
fondness the thunder of the carriage, the hue of the chargers and the 
dazzle of the sun-bright apparel as they recall the visit of the Lord to 
partake of their choicest offering of Soma, the delightful draught of all 
life's experience. They call upon Agni to take birth in them as their Son 
and lead them as their Captain. They address the celestial Twins, Varuna 
and Mitra to cure with their vast purity and harmony the crookednesses 
and imperfections that disfigure the human life. They call upon the 
mighty Indra to smash the Enemy the nescient Darkness which 
baffles them so that the Waters (life-giving and life-building energies) 
waters that flow straight and not zigzag, some of them stream 
upwards may debouch, inundate and fertilise the onward course of 
their journey. They describe the route of their ascent, 'from summit to 
summit 5 , and speak picturesquely of the several breaks of the 
Dawn of illumination before they arrive at the threshold of the Sun 



The Veda is a fitting commemoration of the supreme spiritual 
effort that was the high note of Vedic Civilisation. It forms the Pro- 
logue to the eternal Drama of endless Acts that is being enacted on the 
hallowed soil, punya bhumi, of India ever since. 


"It is when knowledge reaches its highest aspects that it is 
possible to arrive at its greatest unity. The highest and widest 
seeing is the wisest; for then all knowledge is unified in its one 
comprehensive meaning." 


"Knowledge and will have naturally to be one before either 
can act perfectly." 


Sidelights on Tantra 

TN this brief study we shall make an attempt to appreciate the basic 
-*- principles that underlie the Agamas, generally called Tantra 
Shastra. We shall make a general reference to their relation to the 
Vedic and Vedantic schools of philosophic thought and spiritual disci- 
pline. We shall take note of the salient features and evaluate, in the 
light of Sri Aurobindo's teachings, the part they have played in the past 
which has trickled down to the current times. When we look upon the 
past of India, upon the lines of her cultural history in its meandering 
course, with all the vicissitudes of such a long life that has few parallels 
elsewhere, we are struck by a consistent note. It is a note that permeates 
every successive attempt to revive the ancient spirit and restate in the 
language and form suited to the conditions of the age the high ideals, 
the subtle ideas and sublime truths perceived and worked out by the 
early builders of Indian society in its infancy as well as in adolescence. 
What is this perpetual note that arrests our attention? Certainly, it is 
the presence of a large synthesis conceived and worked out first by 
the ancient architects of society, the seers and sages of the Vedic Age 
and later in its decline taken up by the revivalist attempts of the Brah- 
manas and the Upanishads. Nowhere this spirit and vision of synthesis 
is so open and exacting as in the teachings of the Gita which heals up 
the hiatus or the apparent gulf of the intermediate ages and builds a 
comprehensive system having for its basis the spirit of the Veda and 
the substance of the Vedanta, takes up all the accumulated knowledge 
of the past, assimilates the essentials into the body and spirit of its 
instructions, and presents a really grand synthesis not as a metaphysical 
system but as a comprehensive teaching for application under all 
conditions of life. 

But there has been all along another distinctive Synthesis embodied 
in the teachings of Agamas which, while professing general allegiance 



to the Vedic systems of philosophy and thought and spiritual discipline, 
is apparently different in its method of approach and is comprehensive, 
all-inclusive in its spirit, devoid of the exclusiveness associated with all 
the religious schools and rituals based upon the Smritis and Shrutis 
of Vedic ceremonialism. It is difficult to plumb exactly into their 
origins, much less to find the precise period of the beginnings of their 
teachings though the extant works of the Agamas can be traced to 
approximate periods of India's history. For we must note that the 
substance of the teachings may have and certainly has come from 
early ages, though the written texts may have appeared later on at 
different times which may be ascertained with less difficulty. Let us 
first be sure of the sense in which the term Agama is used and came to 
be called Tantra and then proceed with the main principles of the frame- 
work of the Agamas in general and the Shakta Tantras in particular. 
In dealing with the purposes of the study of Vyakarana, Sanskrit 
Grammar, Patanjali uses the word Agama in the sense of Veda or 
Vedic knowledge; and in the Yoga Sutras he speaks of three criteria of 
knowledge Perception (pratyaksha), Inference (anumana), and Reve- 
lation or authentic utterance (agama). Thus we find that because all 
sacred scriptures were considered to be revealed the Veda was termed 
Agama; and when another class of literature, viz. Tantra, scriptural 
in import, appeared and began to hold sway over a vast mass of people, 
the term Nigama was applied to Veda while Agama though not exclu- 
sively but generally came to denote Tantra and to preserve the distinc- 
tion between the Veda and the Tantra on the one hand and ensure its 
sanctity like the Veda on the other. Now it is well known that the 
Rishis of the Veda are not authors of the Veda but seers of the Mantra 
while the Veda is understood to be eternal even as the Divine Wisdom 
that is embodied in it. The Agamas, whoever may be their writers and 
whatever their dates be, are held to be essentially Scriptures 
revealed by the Supreme Shiva or Hari according to the nature and 
class of the Agamas concerned. 1 Let us leave aside for consideration 

1 The dates of the extant Agamas even when they arc settled with certainty do not 
at all mean that the teachings they embody came to birth along with the books. It is 
necessary to strike a note of caution on this point in view of the current beliefs among 
a section of the educated classes, Indian and Western, that the Agamas were later inven- 



the Bauddha and Jaina Agamas which openly disclaim any Vedic autho- 
rity and purport in fact to oppose and supplant the ancient tradition, 
and we have the Vaishnava., the Shaiva and the Shakta Agamas. The 
Vaishnava Agamas look upon Vishnu as the Supreme and other gods 
and goddesses his aides; so do the Shaiva Agamas assign the highest 
position to Shiva. The Shakta Agamas too claim the most superior 
position for the Goddess in practice. 1 But in theory She is not put 
above Vishnu or Shiva. She is indeed the Crcatrix of the Trinity, 
Brahma, Vishnu and Rudra the Mother of the Universe. But She 
is also acclaimed as the Yoga-Maya of Vishnu as in Chandi Saptashati 
or as in other texts the Para Shakti, the Supreme Consort of Shiva. 
There is another notable difference between the Shakta and the other 
two classes of Agamas. For while the Shaiva and Vaishnava Agamas 
continue and preserve the Vedic tradition of confining their knowledge 
and application only to the four Varnas with some restraint, the Shakta 
declares in a more liberal spirit that it is for all people irrespective of 

tions or scriptural adjustments wrought by the endeavours of later writers. Shiva- 
worship side by side with the Vishnu-worship was current in the Southern (Tamil) 
India as early as the first and second century of the Christian Era as is evidenced in the 
sacred poems of Nayanmars, Shaiva Saints, and the Prabandhams of Alwars, Vaishnava 
Saints, whose times extend from the 2nd to the 8th century. Not only worship, but 
references to Agamas are frequent therein. In the North, the Besnagar Pillar Inscrip- 
tion of the 2nd century B. C. bears clear testimony to Vishnu worship in temples. The 
Inscription records the erection of Garuda Pillar in the temple of Vasudeva and indicates 
thereby that that worship had been accepted by a foreign Greek ambassador from Taxila. 
That the major Puranas and the main Agamas of Shaiva and Vaishnava persuasion 
were written and completed by the end of the Gupta period is admitted on all hands by 
students of history. But Vasudeva worship is referred to by Panini whose time is at 
least some four centuries before Christ. Thus it is wrong to deduce from the available 
texts that the teachings themselves started with these books. It is quite possible that 
Shiva worship was a feature of the Indus Valley Civilisation and the recent researches 
based upon the excavations throw some light on prehistoric India and have given shock 
to the accepted notions of historians in regard to stories of Ancient India. 

1 We must note that this was a radical departure from the Vedantic tradition. For 
while the tradition looked upon the Purusha as the Lord of all and the One Substratum 
of All, the Shakta Agama i.e. Tantra increasingly looked to the Energy aspect of the 
Supreme, to the Prakriti in effect and this departure was responsible, as pointed out by 
Sri Aurobindo, for the later loss of its purity of intention in the mechanism of its means. 


their Varna. It is the scripture of the common man. All the Agamas 
are also known as the Tantra Shastra. Tantra in Sanskrit has many 
meanings; but the one significance of relevance to us here is act. 
Act and ritual is an act is the one characteristic common to all 
the Agamas and hence they have come to be known as the Tantra 

A striking feature common to these Agamas is the high reverence 
in which they hold the Vedas. They do not, as is imagined by many, 
run counter to the spirit of the Veda. On the contrary, they declare 
that the knowledge in the Veda is high, beyond the reach of common 
men and claim to hold in themselves the substance and essence of the 
supreme knowledge embedded in that Scripture. And indeed it is so. 
For while the Upanishads represent the revivalist attempts of the 
jnana portions of the Vedas, the practical side of the Vedic teaching, 
not as related to the Ritual for that was the care of the Brahmanas 
but as concerning the inner life of the seeker, the esoteric teaching as 
we would put it, was sought to be revived, continued and preserved 
by these later Yogas and Tantras. As Sri Aurobindo observes; "...The 
mental images of the Vedic gods figured in the mantras (were replaced) 
by mental forms of the two great deities, Vishnu and Shiva, and their 
Shaktis and by corresponding physical images which are made the basis 
both for external worship and for the Mantras of inward adoration 
and meditation, while the psychic and spiritual experience which the 
inner sense of the Vedic hymns expresses finally disappeared into the 
psycho-spiritual experience of Puranic and Tantric religion and Yoga." 
Such knowledge as this of the building of the inner life was tradi- 
tionally handed down from father to son, from Guru to Shishya and 
the Agamas represent a worthy compilation and preservation of this 
inheritance from the forefathers. There are many traces of the Vedic 
influence and outlook in these Agamas. There is, for instance, a mono- 
thesim in them. It is now Shiva, now Vishnu or Hari who is the 
Supreme. There is also, as in the Rig Veda, an apparent polytheism. For 
many are the deities worshipped and invoked by the aspirant though 
their position is one of subordination to, and ultimately identity with 
the Supreme. There is even a tendency to Monism perceptible in 
the Shakta scriptures. The devotee worships the Deity and finds 
his glorious culmination in the final act of complete identification 

7 89 


and merging in the Higher eliminating all difference between 
the worshipper and the worshipped. 

But these Agamas are not a mere conglomeration of various 
systems of teachings and past traditions. They work up a large syn- 
thesis instead. And synthesis is no collection or heaping up of diverse 
elements; it is not eclecticism either. The synthesis we meet with in 
the Agamas is a living whole in which every element of value is pre- 
served and falls into its just position and proportion all together 
making quite a new and developing system which embraces the entire 
life in its sweep, the man in the individual and man in the aggregate, 
man the thinker and the doer, man the soul. This synthesis of the 
Tantra is in fact more comprehensive than the synthesis of the Gita 
and in a sense more in consonance with the Intention in life. For the 
ultimate teaching of the Gita comes to this: action is unavoidable, 
none can subsist without it. So make the best of it, use it such of it as 
allows itself to be so used first of all for your own moral and spiritual 
elevation leading to a progressive surrender to the Lord of all so that 
once you are completely given to Him you may have nothing more to 
do with this transitory and unhappy world, even though you may 
continue to do work for the sake of others. Life is a lever for rising 
upwards and shooting beyond it, not a field to be worked upon and 
cherished as an enjoyable creation of the Divine Being. The Tantric 
synthesis however looks upon life with a different and other vision. 
There is nothing to be rejected from what the Supreme Shakti has 
created. Even that which the Gita enjoins upon all seekers to reject, 
the bhoga, need not be given up. After all the world is for the bhoga 
of the Ishwara or the Ishwari and man at his highest, representing as 
he does an effective portion of Him or Her, must enjoy the bhoga, 
conscious of his part as the vehicle or centre of the Enjoyer. That 
this bhoga-marga, Vama-marga as it is called, later fell into disrepute 
and degeneracy is quite another matter which could be easily explained 
and does not detract from the sublime conception at the base, the 
high standard of purity and sincerity that was expected of one if he 
was to discharge conscientiously his responsibility as an unsullied 
channel of the Joy of Bhoga. It means a tremendous labour of disci- 
pline and self-exceeding, in one's own personal and inner, and the outer 
and collective Jife a continuous action, tantra, on so many planes. 



Let us now turn to a closer view of the Tantric system and scru- 
tinise the four famous parts, pada which go to make up the whole. 
Every way of religious and spiritual life has a basis to stand upon, 
a metaphysical base providing the philosophical Truths underlying 
the system, its genesis, rationale, the aim. In fact it is the strength 
and validity of this source of inspiration that determine the course 
and power of the outflowing manifestation. A systematised presen- 
tation (in intellectual terms) of the underlying Idea, a rational work- 
ing out of its ways and means of expression, an examination of its 
fundamentals in the premisses and in the conclusions vis a vis 
other prevailing Idea-truths, is what we would call the metaphysical 
basis of a system and the Tantra Shastra has doubtless a philosophy, 
a metaphysics of its own. If the esoteric message of the Vedas is the 
substance of its practical teaching, the Vedanta with the Sankhya 
in a modified form provides the background, we may say, even the 
backbone of the philosophy of the Tantra. The Supreme is One 
and All is He. Only there it is Brahman, here it is Vishnu, Shiva or 
Shakti. The psychology of the Tantra is the psychology of the San- 
khyas which itself is a side-product of the Upanishadic thought. These 
teachings are developed and extended so as to apply to a larger and 
larger part of man; the emphasis is sought to be shifted from the *oul 
and mind to the other parts of the being, the heart and emotions and 
the will as well. In fact it is a restatement of the Wisdom of the Upa- 
nishads in terms suited to the changing conditions in which society 
was passing with varying stresses on the different elements that go 
to make up the complex personality of man. But this Knowledge- 
part, Jnana-pada, could not be all. At best it can provide a satisfying 
and even a compelling understanding of the aim and purpose of life. 
Beyond that it has to go, it has to be accompanied by steps taken to 
put it into practice, to translate it into action. And the Tantra has 
the second pada, the Yoga-pada for the purpose. 

It is certainly not that Yoga was born with the Agamas or the 
Tantriks or that there were no Yogins before they came. It cannot 
be said either that even Raja Yoga was first propounded by Patanjali. 
The truth is that Yoga is as old as the Vedas at least and the Insti- 
tution of Sacrifice, Yajna> in the Vedas is just a symbol of the one 
Yoga in which the Rishis were ceaselessly engaged, the Yoga by which 


they endeavoured, invoked and received in themselves the gods from 
high on. In the very nature of things there was no set uniformity in 
every detail of the individual pursuits of the Yoga though in large 
outlines they always corresponded. Handed down by tradition for 
centuries, it was perhaps Patanjali who first picked up one line of 
Yoga, and methodised the system of Raja Yoga in his famous Sutras. 
But Tantric Yoga goes beyond that, it infuses an inner discipline on 
the lines marked out by the Guru to the disciple. Life is sought to 
be purified, uplifted and equipped for effective embodiment and living 
the truths in accordance with the principles laid out in the Jnana-pada. 
The Tantra Shastra does not stop with the individual. It recog- 
nises that for all purposes man is but a member of the larger society 
around. He influences those around and is influenced by their move- 
ments, by their thoughts, aspirations and actions to a greater extent 
than he normally affects the aggregate. It is not enough to educate and 
develop one unit. It is indispensable to mould the general environ- 
ment also on the same lines so that there could be an identity of aspi- 
ration, a mutually helpful and congenial intercourse between the 
individual and the collective. It recognises also that human mind 
in the mass is less attracted to the abstract and the subtle and goes 
on to provide significant rituals and ceremonies by which it could 
be gradually drawn to the inner truth of things. This is the Kriya- 
pada. External ceremonies, ritual, worship have played a notable 
part in the awakening of the normally extrovert consciousness of man 
to the reality of an Inner Presence; they impinge upon the senses and 
sense-faculties of man with considerable force and leave impressions 
which in the cumulative result effect an opening through some part 
into the larger being of himself. Effort at such social and collective 
religious practices is encouraged. Congregational worship has a sti- 
mulating effect and power of invocation not generally realised by most. 
The atmosphere created by the pressure of a single Idea, a single 
mounting aspiration in a multitude of hearts simultaneously striving 
for the same end gets charged with a force and intensity which the 
individuals share, consciously or unconsciously, each benefitting by 
the all, each individual aspiration and realisation contributing to the 
general but also absorbing and growing on the strength and nourish- 
ment received from the total and the general. It is in this light that 



the elaborate ritual-cum-worship aspect of the Tantra is to be exa- 
mined. This aspect of the Tantra bears a close resemblance to and 
recalls the Ritual of the Brahmanas, the Yajna of the Veda. There 
is no more the full figure of the Yajna; yet an important ritual in the 
construction of Temple and the installation of the Idol is theKumbha- 
abhisheka, considered to be a Yaga. Thus even the tradition of the old 
ritual ceremony is absorbed and carried forward in a newer form. 
And this is not all. The seeker is given a philosophy with which 
he equips himself intellectually; he is initiated into a Yoga that could 
yield the truth of the philosophy for his living; he is provided with 
an environment and an outer scaffolding suited to the growth and 
outflowering of his faith and realisation. But the spiritual effort, 
fostered and built up with such an all-round care and eye for detail, 
is not meant to be bottled up in its results within the limits of the 
individual frame. Liberation of the soul from the bonds of the lower 
Prakriti and a release into the heights of the Spirit does not form the 
end of such a comprehensive endeavour. The ideal individual of 
the Tantric Yoga has a responsibility to others less fortunate than him- 
self, he is looked upon as a Siddha, a perfect individual for the out- 
pouring of the Shakti he is in communion with. He has to have deal- 
ings with men and society, he has to discharge all the responsibilities 
that devolve on him by virtue of the pre-eminent position he has 
attained, not without some help from the society. He has to guide 
and lead others. The Shastra lays down the code of conduct, the 
ways of functioning the Charya for these mentors of men. Rela- 
tions and activities of men in the spiritual path are governed by rules 
and modes of conduct other than those that are prescribed by the 
Dharma of the age for the laity. That is because their thoughts and 
their actions proceed on a different basis; they have another motive- 
force and other ends in view. Their attitude to life, their outlook 
on the world, is different from that of common humanity and things 
do not appear to them in the same hue and light in which they do to 
others. As a rule man looks only at the surface of things, thinks 
when he does at all with an insufficient faculty called mind and 
proceeds as best as he could. But one who has effected a change in 
his make-up by dint of tapasya, and stationed himself on a deeper 
basis necessarily governs his life-movement with different considera- 



tions which may at times strike the convention-ridden mind as opposed 
to reason or morality even as the actions of an adult human being may 
well appear to be harsh, cruel and stupid when they are really other- 
wise to an infant. The Tantra Shastra recognises and provides for 
the need of such a higher type of being to proceed on different basis 
of action in the fourth pada, the Charya-pada and enjoins upon him 
to work out the progressive weal of the rest. Mark the three ways 
of worship of the Tantriks: the godly way, divya bhava, the way of 
the hero, vira bhava, and that of the animal, pashu bhava which alone 
is governed by the ordinary stereotyped rules of conduct. 

This in brief is the rationale of the four padas of the Tantra, 
the Jnana pada, Yoga pada, Kriya pada and Charya pada. A Tan- 
tra is whole and complete only when it has these four parts. We can 
now better appreciate the large spirit that has actuated the Tantric 
sages. But no human institution fashioned by human hands in Time 
is known to have escaped the decay and disease inevitable with the 
wear of age and the Tantric system has been no exception. And we 
need not be surprised when we find votaries of the Tantra attaching 
exclusive importance to the externals of the cult, to the minutiae 
and formulae totally forgetful of the original intention of the system- 
builders. Thus when it is asserted that what is of utmost importance 
in the Kriya pada is strict observance, to the very letter, of the 
requirements in measurement and design in the construction of the 
temple and performance of the ritual or when it sought to enforce 
uniform rules for all relating to details of daily life as all-sufficing 
commandments of the Charya pada, one can only smile if he has enough 
detachment or sigh at human stupidity which competes with the 
march of ages in pulling down lofty structures of the ancients. 

Before concluding this section on the Tantric synthesis we cannot 
resist the temptation of drawing attention to the parallel between this 
and the New Synthesis, the synthesis worked out in the Teachings 
of Sri Aurobindo. Not that this our system has been modelled after 
the Tantric, though it is true that the Tantric truths have gone into 
the making of it even as the Vedantic conceptions have. But they 
do not, by any means, form the prototypes; they are important elements; 
we will not go into the question further for the moment but only 
point out an interesting correspondence between the Tantric Quartette 



and the Quartette of writings Sri Aurobindo found necessary to 
broad-base his vast system, for Metaphysics and Philosophy, for the 
realisation of the fundamental truths in one's being, for the develop- 
ment of social psychology in consonance with the principles enun- 
ciated and finally for the actual working out of the Unity of man. 


It is not accurate to describe this ancient religion of India now 
current as Puranic. Neither the Gods of the current religion nor the 
metaphysics and philosophy Shastra are really Puranic in origin. 
The Puranas are compilations of the legendary lore of the country, 
giving different accounts of the cosmogony of the universe accounts 
of the primary creation, the secondary creation, narrations of the 
geneology of the progenitors of mankind, cycles of time, rolls of the 
dynasties of kings, etc. puranam pancha-lakshanam. The Puranas 
are more historical if history they can be called interspersed with 
philosophical or religious stories for the mental and moral elevation 
of man and society. The Gods of the Hindu religion are in fact Tan- 
trie Gods. And the Gods of the Tantra are not sudden arrivals on the 
scene. They are really a continuation of the line of Gods of the Veda. 
Not in the same form and name of course, but with necessary modi- 
fications inevitable with the incidence of Time on tradition. 

The Vedic Gods, as we have noted elsewhere while dealing with 
the subject in fuller detail, have a twofold aspect to the seers of the 
Veda. In their exterior aspect they are essentially Nature-powers. 
Agni is the elemental fire, Indra the rain-god, Surya the solar orb, 
Maruts the storm-gods and so on. But they have another, psycho- 
logical character also and this was more important to those initiated 
into the mystery of the Vedic religion. These Gods are powers indeed, 
but not merely the powers of Nature. They are rather higher Powers, 
Personalities of the Godhead having cosmic field for their action. 
There are also lower gods who preside over the elemental forces of 
nature, over movements in the physical world and also movements 
in the inner world of man. Besides presiding over the Fire element 
in creation, Agni is looked upon as the deity controlling and promoting 
the upward flame, the agni in man stationed on the various levels of 



his being as the agni in life, prana-agni, as the flame of aspiration 
in the heart, as the consuming quest for knowledge in the mind. 
He has other functions also. Similarly, Indra is the God governing 
the higher regions of the luminous mind, the Maruts controlling 
and contributing to the life-powers and thought-powers of man. 
Thus the Gods are cosmic Powers with specific functions in the 
external world of Nature as well as with more important and signi- 
ficant charge in the inner world that supports it from behind 
and above. The sages of the Tantra carried on the tradition 
in the essentials that mattered. The Gods are very much the 
same here also, only the external functions in their physical aspect 
which predominate in the common mind of the early times have been 
appropriately relegated to the background when they are not altogether 
dispensed with. Thus Agni of the Veda continues in the Tantra, with 
a change of name certainly, yet with the same functions and' even 
the new name, Kumara, Child, is significant for the Agni-origin it 
preserves. Agni is Kumara, Child of the Supreme Shiva. In the Rig 
Veda Agni is in the forefront of the Gods, their guide, their messenger. 
Here he is their chief of Powers who leads them to victory, the com- 
mander behind whom they line up. In the Veda Agni is regarded 
by the seers as the all-effecting and all-knowing pilot of their journey. 
Kumara is also looked up to for his immense store of knowledge and 
wisdom by these seers of later times. Again the mighty Indra is 
there, but in the Tantra and the Puranas his part is taken up by Rudra 
the powerful who brooks no obstacle. The hosts of Indra the Maruts 
continue as the pramathas of Rudra. Indra the marutwan, leader 
of the hosts of Maruts, the storm-gods or life-powers, continues to 
play his effective part as Rudra the lord of the pramathas, Pramatha- 
natha. The Sun, the Highest God of the Veda is also here as Vishnu 
a name which is applied to the Supreme Sun in the Rig Veda itself. 
Aditi the mother of All is not there under the same nomenclature, 
but there is the Supreme Shakri, called variously Uma, Gouri etc. 
All the important Gods are there. The other minor gods with mainly 
physical functions and less of psychological have been consigned to 
the position of the Dik-palakas> guardians of the several quarters or 
of some other minor importance. Newer Gods have arrived, true, 
but the older ones have not been altogether supplanted and totally 



forgotten, they retain their due supremacy though in different form. 
We have referred to thai" interesting feature of the Tantra, namely 
the recognition of the Supreme Deity as the Highest with a simul- 
taneous adoration of a number of other deities. The sages of the 
Tantra do not see any inconsistency in the position, for they recognise 
that this creation is not a unitary system but a gradation of worlds 
spread over a rising tier of consciousness and planes and the various 
Gods and Goddesses are higher beings, powers and entities deriving 
their authority from the Supreme to participate and act or preside 
over their spheres of domain. There is a regular hierarchy of Gods 
some of whom are far above the highest heavens of human reach. 
But there are also Gods and Goddesses closer to the human level. 
They are more readily accessible to those that aspire to them and in 
some cases the seeker on the Tantric path looks to the aid and lead 
of these deities in his effort. They are endowed with capacities and 
powers beyond normal human possiblity, but they are not all for that 
reason divine in nature. There are higher and lower classes of them, 
Uchcha and Kshudra devatas. Those that are nearest to the earth-plane, 
swarming in the vital world overtopping the physical, are usually of 
the latter type. They respond very readily to the approaches of those 
that seek their help, but they do so mainly for their own purpose, 
namely to get hold of the particular human vehicle and convert it 
into a centre for their activity on the earth. They may and do answer 
the call of the seeker in the beginning but in the end they let him down, 
rather roughly, once their purpose is fulfilled. The seeker is misled, 
his inner progress comes to a standstill if it does not end in disaster. 
The Kshudra-devatas mislead the seeker with petty glamorous gifts, 
induce a false sense of progress and siddhi, prevent the dawn of real 
Jnana which would expose their whole game and succeed in enslaving 
the man for their purpose at the cost of his soul which is betrayed into 
misadventure. It is to eliminate all such chances and possibilities of 
mishap that orthodox spiritual tradition frowns upon and strongly 
discourages occult lines of effort in which intercourse with the beings of 
other worlds is not rare. But we must remember at the same time that 
all the Devatas or deities are not of this type. There are benevolent 
deities who answer equally readily to the prayers of the devotee and 
their help is inestimable for him if only he keeps his Ideal pure and 



aloft. If he aspires only for the Highest the deity helps him, takes 
him a long way, not merely with spiritual aid but help of other kinds 
as well. The Tantra Shastra has done signal service in emphasising 
that though all the devatas are of the same divine origin, yet each has 
a special stress in its character, each is meant to actualise and help 
to actualise the particular potentiality of the Supreme in creation. 
Thus certain deities have it within their power to confer wealth, 
material and spiritual, some to confer health of mind and body, some 
have an exclusively spiritual function. It is again a fact to be noted 
that prayer to an indefinite something, to an Impersonal divinity can 
only evoke an impersonal or indefinite response. If a response is 
sought to be evoked for a particular need, the prayer could be fruitful 
when it is addressed to a canalised centre of the divinity, the Personal 
form which is active for the purpose in question, and that is precisely 
what the devata in its higher sense is in the Tantra. Spiritual pro- 
gress with the help of deities as these is rendered easy and safe. The 
sincerity with which the seeker puts himself to their care guarantees 
safety against the rocks and steeps in the path, the progress is smoother 
and the growing realisation richer by reason of the happy contribu- 
tion made and especial gifts conferred on him by these chosen 
deities, Ishta-devatas. 

The Tantra Shastra develops the means wherewith to commune 
with the Gods is rendered possible. Man is endowed with faculties 
all of which are not active or perceptible to the physical eye, but are 
nonetheless real; and given the necessary touch of awakening and 
opportunity for development they function with much more effect 
and with an infinitely larger range than the normally active sense 
organs. The ancients knew this and developed various lines of dis- 
cipline for the development of this less-cared-for and hidden side of 
man in which lies the means for his deliverance from helpless sub- 
jection to the bonds of physical nature. There are the man> lines of 
Yoga, including the Hatha Yoga, Mantra Yoga, Raja Yoga, Laya 
Yoga, not to speak of Devotion and Knowledge, each with its own 
basis, technique and process of functioning and the seeker has to 
choose in accordance with the aptitude of his nature and demands of 
his soul which way he would commence. Now the Tantriks took 
over these Yogas, as they were, improved upon them with their special 



knowledge of the occult worlds and applied these means for opening 
up the inner centres that window upon the supraphysical and still 
higher regions. But they did not stop with that. They developed 
another Sadhana which also had significant origins with the Vedic 
Rishis the mantra. The Mantra-sadhana has survived to this day 
as the most significant contribution of the Tantras to the spiritual 
heritage of mankind. A Mantra, as is well known, is not a meie letter 
or collection of letters, with some meaning. It is the sound-body of 
a Power charged with the intense vibrations of the spiritual personality 
of the creator or the seer of the Mantra. The Mantra is an ever-living 
embodiment of the Truth and Power which have found expression in 
it through the medium of the Rishi or Yogin who has given them that 
body. And when a Mantra is uttered, under proper conditions, it is 
not the feeble voice of the reciter that goes forth to evoke the response 
of the Gods to whom it is addressed, but the flame of tapasya and 
realisation, that is lying coiled up in the body of that utterance. The 
vibrations issuing from the Mantra are its own and they create the 
necessary conditions in and around the reciter appropriate to the 
reception of the response from the deity to whom the address is made. 
The form of the Mantra may be coherent words or may be simple 
letters arranged in a certain order. The Tantra has thus formulated 
some seed-letters, Bija-akshara, which the seeker uses as the Mantta. 
These Bijaksharas have been endowed with a perennial store of 
power by the Tantric seers and it needs only the living touch of the 
Guru to set them awake in the disciple. This is the true sense in which 
the use of the Mantras is to be understood. They are not, as at times 
the superficial mind may be tempted to suppose, just convenient aids 
for concentration, mechanical devices for keeping the mind from 

These are f he essentials of the Tantra Sadhana the Devata, the 
Mantra and the Guru. The Devatas are certainly not worshipped in 
the abstract. They are approached in the form in which they revealed 
themselves to the inner eye of these seers. For these Gods and God- 
desses though they may not have the physical form of the gross kind 
have yet their own characteristic figure and colour. They have their 
own vehicles, vahana, their auras of specific colour. Some of them 
reveal their presence in certain definite symbols. All these are 



matters of experience with the Tantric seers who proceeded to render 
these subtle forms and figures in their physical correspondences as 
close and faithful as possible. Hence the sacredness and importance 
attached to the images and figures in the Tantric ritual. The image, 
murti, or the diagram, yantra, are the meeting places of the Invisible 
Presence of the Deity and the sense-bound soarings of human aspiration. 

The Bijakshara, the Mantra of the seed-letter, is also no cons- 
truction or invention of the imaginative Tantriks. These letters have 
an individuality of their own, their own shade and colour and reveal 
themselves as such. Each seed-letter refers to a certain principle 
related to the Tattwa of the Deity. And it could by itself be a Mantra 
or form a Mantra in conjunction with other seed-letters or words. 

Then there is the Guru, who carries the Tantric tradition in 
himself, is instinct in some measure with the living presence of the 
deity invoked and who implants the Mantra along with the activating 
personal force of his own in the disciple. The Mantra-dynikmis is set 
in motion within the being of the disciple by the Guru and if only 
he would co-operate by assiduous attention and compliance with the 
needs of the growing Sadhana the progress is assured and the goal 
sure of reach. The Guru, the Deity, the Mantra are all equally 
important. The Shastra goes so far as to combine them in the identity 
of a single whole, and with reason. For the Guru is present in the 
Mantra through the influence he puts into it while initiating the dis- 
ciple. The Devata is present in the Mantra which is indeed the Sound- 
body of the deity. Again the Devata is also present in the person of 
the Guru. And it is the Mantra which works out the Sadhana. That 
is why it is said, the Guru, the Devata and the Mantra are one, guru- 
devata-manundm aikyam. 

Thus it will be seen that the Tantra Shastra attaches great import- 
ance to all the three essentials of the Sadhana. The Guru is much 
more than the physical appearance he wears; he is looked upon as 
the embodiment of the Deity sought to be realised or attained; to 
look upon him as a human being like any other is not merely wrong 
but also a dangerous delusion. Then there is the image in which 
the deity is worshipped. The image or the form is the 'material foun- 
dation' to form the 'physical nodus' for the act of external worship. 
To look upon such an image as mere stone is profane. Again the 



Mantra has a special character, it is the body of a spiritual truth or 
deity. To look upon it as mere letters is to blaspheme the sacred 
character of the Mantra. Thus the Tantriks have a famous dictum 
which sums up the Tantric position in regard to the Guru, the Image 
and the Mantra: "To hell he goes who mistakes the Guru for a human, 
who takes the image for a piece of stone, who looks upon the Mantra 
as mere letters." 1 


This, then, is the Tantric system in its fundamentals. We see 
that there is nothing in it which runs radically counter to the ancient 
spirit of the Vedic teachings. On the other hand there is much in 
conformity with it or in continuation of it. It has assimilated the Vedic 
spirit and revived it in a modified form. If there is a note critical and 
antagonistic to the Vedas in some of the extreme texts of the Tantra, 
it is in the nature of a rejoinder provoked by criticism of the later 
Vedists, the Smritikaras that the Tantra, unlike the Veda, has no 
sacred character about it because all castes, varnas, including women, 
have access to it, and such other insinuations. We have referred to 
the esteem in which they hold the Vedas. The central feature of the 
Vedic ritual, viz. the Yajna is taken up in the Ritual of the Tantra 
with suitable changes and there is no temple without a Ydga-shdld, 
Sacrificial Hall. The gods of the Veda continue to adorn the Tantric 
pantheon; their functions continue, but vary in form; the names 
undergo a change. The same gods are worshipped under different 
names and, what is remarkable, at times the very same Mantras and 
gods in the Rig Veda figure in the Tantra in all their grandeur. We 
shall illustrate this point as it is important to show how the Tantra 
has worked its way up to adumbrate in it the gods of th'e Vedic pan- 
theon. We shall take an example from the Prapanchasara-tantra 
which deals with many deities, Vaishnava, Shaiva, Shakta without 
distinction of superiority of any one over the other. 

Agni in the Rig Veda is a deity of paramount importance without 
whose help it is impossible for the sacrificer to proceed. Agni is the 



seer who finds the way, the pdvaka who burns the dross and cleanses 
the seeker of all sin and impurity, carries him through all obstacles, 
like a boat over the seas naveva sindhum. In the Shakla Tantra 
the same Deity is worshipped as Durga, the indomitable, the protec- 
trix who carries the devotee safe across the sea of misery, the ocean 
of birth and death, bhavasdgara-nauh. And what is more important, 
in one place the exact Mantra addressed to Agni in the Veda is applied 
here to Durga. 

It is in the text referred to above that we come across three Mantras 
which have been combined together to form a hundred letters and 
give what is known as the Shatdkshari Vidya. The first Mantra con- 
sisting of 44 letters, in trishtup metre, is bodily taken from the 99th 
Sukta of the first Mandala in the Rig Veda. 

Agni is the seer, knower of all. It lies in his power to render 
us all help as a result of his fore -knowledge. Knowledge is a most 
priceless possession of man and without it he is rudderless in the sea 
of life. And Agni deprives the enemy of this indispensable possession. 
To him, says the Rishi, let us offer our choicest gift, the very sap of 
life, the distilled juice of Ananda, the Soma, so that pleased, he would 
transport us over all the eddies and whirls, tides and waves of obs- 
truction and misfortune that beset life. 'Like a boat across the waters,' 
is a favourite image of the ancients. It is repeated in the Upanishads, 
it also finds mention in the Tantric text referred to. Here is the Rik 
and the English rendering: 


c To the Knower of all Birth (Agni) we press Soma, to him who con- 
sumes the knowledge (or wealth) of the enemy. Let Agni carry us 
across all the obstructions like a boat over the river/ 

In the Veda the Rik is ascribed to Rishi Kashyapa; in the Tantric 
text also the Seer of the Mantra is Kashyapa. There the deity is Agni, 
here it is Durga. 

Then follows the second part of the Shatakshari (hundred-lettered 
Mantra) of 32 letters, in anushtup metre, which again is a verbatim 
reproduction of the I2th Rik in the 59th Sukta of the seventh Mandala 



in the Rig Veda. The Rik is addressed to Rudra as Tryambaka, father 
of the Three (worlds). The Rishi aspires towards immortality for 
himself and for others who have engaged themselves in the Yajna, 
the antar-yajna. He has a claim for immortality as a child of the Gods, 
a position he has attained not merely by his endeavours but by the 
benign grace of the Gods themselves. But this high status of immor- 
tality cannot be won and retained by any one without a certain ele- 
vation and strength of purity; the utmost that human effort can build 
up in the direction is inadequate. Only the Divine can promote and 
shape the requisite all-round strength and fitness. Again desire, want, 
greed, lust bring in their train disappointment, grief, unhappiness, 
disease and ultimately death. And for those that aspire for immortality 
there should be nothing in them which clings to its opposite, viz. death 
and agents of deafh. He that would share in the high status above 
has necessarily to be aloof and separate from, even while living amidst 
it, the envelope of ignorance and darkness that characterise the human 
world, like a cucumber separate from its shell, says the Rishi, like the ripe 
cocoanut loosened from its shell, say the saints and sages of later times, 

H[*ji'id ii 

c We adore the Father of the three worlds, Tryambaka of auspicious 
Fame, increaser of fullness and strength. May I be detached from Death 
like cucumber from the shell (or the stem,) not from the Immortal.' 

In the Rig Veda, this Rik ascribed to Vasishtha is addressed to 
Rudra, as Tryambaka, father of the three worlds. Here in the Tantra 
also the deity is Rudra, as Mrityunjaya, conqueroi of Death and the 
Mantra is famous as the Mrityunjaya Mantra. 

The third part of 24 letters, in gayatri metre, is the famous Gayatri 
from the 62nd Sukta of Rishi Vishwamitra in the third Mandala of 
the Rig Veda. Savitr is the deity in the Veda; the same supreme deity 
is invoked here also. Savita, it must be noted is identified with Vishnu 
here as in the Rig Veda. Vishwamitra is the seer of the Mantra here 
also. The Sun, Savitr, is not the physical sun we see in the skies, but 
the supreme Effulgence in the highest firmament above, beyond the 
lower triple creation. The physical sun is indeed taken as the image 



of the Truth-Sun, the Centre of all Knowledge and radiating Power. 
It is the radiance issuing from the Supreme Source in which is massed 
all the creative movement of the Uncreate that is the ultimate root 
of all movements in the creation. Let that Light motivate and ener- 
gise our thought-movements, says the Rishi. 

fazff qt ?T: 

c We meditate upon that excellent splendour of the Lord Savitr. May 
he activate our thoughts/ 

One significant fact shall not escape notice here in as much as 
it illustrates the remarkable facility with which these seers reconcile 
the claims of the respective votaries of Vishnu, Shiva and Para Shakti 
for supremacy. Thus here in this single Vidya, there is Durga who 
stands for the Para Shakti of the Shakta, there is Rudra in place of 
Shiva and there is Savitr, Surya for Vishnu. All are placed on the 
same supreme level of adoration, all are simultaneously invoked in 
the prayer poured forth by the Sadhaka. 

Such is the synthesis of the Tantra, broad -based and deep-rooted, 
catholic and progressive. It does not ignore or overlook any past 
heritage of spiritual value. Its Jnana-pada, the metaphysical basis, 
combines in itself the essence of the Vedantic philosophy 
with all the spirit of pliability and catholicity of the ancient 
Rishis. The Yoga-pada, the practical side, revives the remnants of 
past lines of Yoga as far as possible and carries further the esoteric 
tradition, absorbs and develops the later physico-vital and psycho- 
logical methods of self-development and self-exceeding. The Kriya- 
pada, the social and the ceremonial aspect, takes up the institution 
of community worship and ritual from immemorial times and extends 
the claim of the Spirit on the entire society. The Charya-pada, bearing 
upon personal conduct, re-establishes the claim of society on the 
individual and reconciles it with the special privileges and responsi- 
bilities of the latter issuing from his spiritual transcendence. 




THHAT may seem a peculiar title for an article on religious matters. 
-*- It is, however, a specific word for something that bears very 
closely on the religious. A Peculiar, in the language of medieval 
ecclesiasticism, meant a place reserved not merely from the interference 
of the secular power but even from the inspectorship of the local 
religious organisation. A Peculiar was a 'reserve 5 not for a backward 
tribe or an almost extinct culture but for a community that claimed 
that it was living c way ahead 5 of the legal norms of the contemporary 
civil community. In Medieval Ireland the same thing existed, though 
under somewhat different detail of form. The principle that these 
particular social patterns illustrated was that there should be reserved 
places where people who want to live and have shown they could 
lives of a definitely advanced sort, should be permitted to be inde- 
pendent of all jurisdiction save that of the supreme source of morality 
and faith, the Papacy. If they were interfered with by a lesser authority 
they had the right of appeal to the Pope. 

Certainly the need that special communities especially those 
concerned with the exploration of consciousness and the knowledge 
of the human spirit and its destiny should be independent, has not 
grown less. The modern state is now claiming rights of inter- 
ference that would have startled a medieval mind not only in 
matters ecclesiastical but with the rights of the civil population. 
Certainly the Papacy itself claimed too much when it tried to 
reserve the whole of central Italy as its 'Peculiar 5 . But in our 
own day the Vatican has been able to sustain its reasonable right 
that its own administrative quarters the Vatican City should be 
treated as a reserve, an independent centre. The same principle 
was clear to that original thinker Thomas Jefferson when he persuaded 
his fellow founding fathers that it would be necessary that the Federal 

9 105 


Capital should be in no one state but should be in its own independent 
centre, the so-called District of Columbia, and that the people living 
in this district should be under 'peculiar' laws and limitations. 
Such reflections bring us back to the present state in India. The 
various 'civil peculiars' the Raja states are being done away with. 
No doubt there will have to be some sort of reservation rules for the 
more primitive peoples in the great sub-continent. But what about 
those communities which are so much ahead of the current Indian 
social pattern as for instance the Gonds are behind it? India has 
always believed in various levels of social conscience and conscious- 
ness and caste if not hereditary does point to the fact of human inequal- 
ity and the need for its recognition. Should not India which has also 
believed in religious vocation more strongly than any other nation, 
make provisions for religious 'peculiars' for small communities which 
live under the protection of the supreme government but (subject 
to the rule that they must attend to their own business and not interfere 
in external matters) are permitted to govern themselves without 
interference and follow their own advanced pattern of living? Why 
should not Pondicherry which for so long was a French 'enclave' 
in the side of giant British India now become a religious 'enclave' 
in the body of the New India? 



The March of Civilisation 

WE are familiar with the phrase "Augustan Age": it is in reference 
to a particular period in a nation's history when its creative 
power is at its highest both in respect of quantity and quality, espe- 
cially in the domain of art and literature, for it is here that the soul 
of a people finds expression most easily and spontaneously. Indeed, 
if we look at the panorama that the course of human evolution unfolds, 
we see epochs of high light in various countries spread out as towering 
beacons or soaring peaks bathed in sunlight dominating the flat plains 
or darksome valleys of the usual normal periods. Take the Augustan 
Age itself which has given the name: it is a very crucial and one of the 
earlier outflowerings of the human genius on a considerable scale. 
We know of the appearance of individuals on the stage of life each 
with a special mission and role in various ages and various countries. 
They are great men of action, great men of thought, creative artists 
or spiritual and religious teachers. In India we call them Vibhutis 
(we can include the Avataras Divine Incarnations also in the 
category). Even so, there is a collective manifestation too, an upsurge 
in which a whole race or nation takes part and is carried and raised 
to a higher level of living and achievement. There is a tide in the 
affairs of not only men, but of peoples also: and masses, large collectivities 
live on the crest of their consciousness, feeling and thinking deeply 
and nobly, acting and creating powerfully, with breadth of vision and 
intensity of aspiration, spreading all around something that is new 
and not too common, a happy guest come from elsewhere. 

Ancient Greece, the fountainhead of European civilisation of 
the world culture reigning today, one can almost say found itself 
epitomised in the Periclean Age. The light grace, harmony, sweet 
reasonableness that was Greece reached its highest and largest, its 
most characteristic growth in that period. Earlier, al the very beginning 



of her life cycle, there came indeed Homer and no later creation reached 
a higher or even as high a status of creative power: but it was a solitary 
peak, it was perhaps an announcement, not the realisation of the 
national glory. Pericles stood as the guardian, the representative, the 
emblem and nucleus of a nation-wide efflorescence. Not to speak of 
the great names associated with the age, even the common people 
more than what was normally so characteristic of Greece felt the 
tide that was moving high and shared in that elevated sweep of life, 
of thought and creative activity. Greece withdrew. The stage was 
made clear for Rome. Julius Caesar carried the Roman genius to its 
sublimest summit: but it remained for his great nephew to consoli- 
date and give expression to that genius in its most characteristic manner 
and lent his name to a characteristic high-water mark of human civi- 

Greece and Rome may be taken to represent two types of culture. 
And accordingly we can distinguish two types of elevation or crest- 
formation of human consciousness one of light, the other of power. 
In certain movements one feels the intrusion, the expression of light, 
that is to say, the play of intelligence, understanding, knowledge, a 
fresh outlook and consideration of the world and things, a revaluation 
in other terms and categories of a new consciousness. The greatest, 
at least, the most representative movement of this kind is that of the 
Renaissance. It was really a new Illumination: a flood of light poured 
upon the mind and intellect and understanding of the p?riod. There 
was a brightness, a brilliance, a happy agility and keenness in the 
movements of the brain. A largeness of vision, a curious sensibility, 
a wide and alert consciousness: these are some of the fundamental 
characteristics of this remarkable New Birth. It is the birth of what 
has been known as the scientific outlook, in the broadest sense: it is 
the threshold of the modern epoch of humanity. All the modern Euro- 
pean languages leaped into maturity, as it were, each attaining its 
definitive form and full-blooded individuality. Art and literature 
flooded in their magnificent creativeness all nations and peoples of 
the whole continent. The Romantic Revival, starting somewhere 
about the beginning of the nineteenth century, is another outstanding 
example of a similar phenomenon, of the descent of light into human 
consciousness. The light that descended into human consciousness 



at the time of the Renaissance captured the higher mind and intelli- 
gencethe Ray touched as it were the frontal lobe of the brain; the 
later descent touched the heart, the feelings and emotive sensibility, 
it evoked more vibrant, living and powerful perceptions, created varied 
and dynamic sense-complexes, new idealisms and aspirations. The 
manifestation of Power, the descent or inrush of force mighty and 
terrible has been well recognised and experienced in the great French 
Revolution. A violence came out from somewhere and seized man 
and society: man was thrown out of his gear, society broken to pieces. 
There came a change in the very character and even nature of man: 
and society had to be built upon other foundations. The past was 
gone. Divasa gatah. Something very similar has happened again more 
recently, in Russia. The French Revolution brought in the bourgeois 
culture, the Russian revolution has rung in the Proletariate. 

In modern India, the movement that led her up to Independence 
was at a crucial moment a mighty evocation of both Light and Power. 
It had not perhaps initially the magnitude, the manifest scope or 
scale of either the Renaissance or the Great Revolutions we mention. 
But it carried a deeper import, its echo far reaching into the future of 
humanity. For it meant nothing less than the spiritual awakening of 
India and therefore the spiritual regeneration of the whole world: 
it is the harbinger of the new epoch in human civilisation. 

These larger human movements are in a sense anonymous. They 
are not essentially the creation of a single man as are some of the well- 
known religious movements. They throw up great aspiring souls, 
strong men of action, indeed, but as part of themselves, in their various 
aspects, facets, centres of expression, lines of expansion. An Augustus, 
a Pericles, a Leo, a Louis XIV, or a Vikramaditya are no more than 
nuclei, as I have already said, centres of reference round which their 
respective epoch crystallises as a peak culture unit. They are not creators 
or originators; they are rather organisers. A Buddha, a Christ or a 
Mohammed or even a Napoleon or Caesar or Alexander are truly 
creators: they bring with them something some truth, some dynamic 
revelation that was not there before. They realise and embody each 
a particular principle of being, a unique mode of consciousness a 
new gift to earth and mankind. Movements truly anonymous, however, 
have no single nucleus or centre of reference: they are multi-nucleur. 



The names that adorn the Renaissance are many, it had no single 
head; the men through whom the great French Revolution unrolled 
itself were many in number, that is to say, the chiefs, who represented 
each a face or phase of the surging movement. 

The cosmic spirit works itself out in the world and in human 
affairs in either of these forms: (i) as embodied in a single personality 
and (2) as an impersonal movement, sometimes through many perso- 
nalities, sometimes through a few outstanding personalities and some- 
times even quite anonymously as a mass movement. Either mode has 
each its own special purpose, its function in the cosmic labour, its 
contribution to the growth and unfoldment of the human consciousness 
upon earth as a whole. Generally, we may say, when it is an intensive 
work, when it is a new truth that has to be disclosed and set in man's 
heart and consciousness, then the individual is called up and undertakes 
the work: when, however, the truth already somehow found or near 
at hand is to be spread wide and made familiar to men and established 
upon earth, then the larger anonymous movements are born and have 

Indeed, these movements, the appearance of great souls upon earrh 
and the manifestation of larger collective surges in human society, 
are not isolated happenings, having no reference or point of contact 
with one another. On the contrary, they are two limbs of a global evo- 
lutionary process. In and through them across countries and centuries 
the spirit of humanity moves towards greater and greater fulfilment. 
Evolution means the growth of consciousness. In man in his collective 
existence the growth continues: it lies in two directions. First of all, 
in extension. A sufficiently large physical body is needed to house the 
growing life and consciousness: therefore the unicellular organism has 
developed into the multicellular. In the same way, in the earliest stages 
of human society, the light and power of consciousness, characteristic 
of that age, found expression among a few only: it was the age of repre- 
sentative individuals, leaders Rishi, Magi, Patriarch, Judge, King. 
Next a stage cair e when the cultural consciousness widened and, instead 
of scattered individuals or some families, we have a large group, a whole 
class or section of society who become the guardian of the light: thus 
arose the Brahmin, the elite, the cultured class, the aristocracy of talents. 
The light and culture filters down further and embraces larger masses 



of people who take living interest and share in the creative activities 
of man, in the higher preoccupations of mind and thought; this is the 
age of enlightened bourgeoisie. In comparatively recent times what is 
familiarly known as the "middle class" was the repository and purveyor 
of human culture. 

The light sinks further down and extends still more its scope 
seeking to penetrate and encircle the whole of humanity. The general 
mass of mankind, the lowest strata of society have to be taken in, elevated 
and illumined. That must be the natural and inevitable consummation 
of all progress and evolution. And that is the secret sense and justifica- 
tion of the Proletarian Revolution of today. Although, the many names 
and forms given to it by its violent partisans do not bring out or suffi- 
ciently honour the soul and spirit that informs it. 

This then is the pattern of cultural development as it proceeds in 
extension and largeness. It moves in ever widening concentric circles. 
Individuals, small centres few and far between, then larger groups and 
sections, finally vast masses are touched and moved (and will be moulded 
one day) by the infiltrating light. That is how in modern times all move- 
ments are practically world -wide, encompassing all nations and peoples: 
there seems to be nothing left that is merely local or parochial. It is a 
single wave, as it were, that heaves up the whole of humanity. Political, 
social, economic and even spiritual movements, although not exactly 
of the same type or pattern, all are interrelated, interlocked, inspired 
by a common breath and move from one end of the earth to the other. 
They seem to be but modulations of the same world-theme. A pulse- 
beat in Korea or Japan is felt across the Pacific in America and across 
that continent, traversing again the Atlantic it reaches England, sways 
the old continent in its turn and once more leaps forward through the 
Asiatic vastnesses back again to its place of origin. The* wheel comes 
indeed full circle: it is one movement girdling the earth. What one 
thinks or acts in one corner of the globe is thoughc and acted simulta- 
neously by others at the farthest corner. Very evidently it is the age 
of radiography and electronics. 

In the early stages of humanity its history consists of the isolated 
histories of various peoples and lands: intercommunication was difficult, 
therefore all communion was of the nature of infiltration and indirect 
influence. The differences between countries far distant from each 



other were well marked and very considerable in respect of their cultures 
and civilisations. To put it in a somewhat scholarly yet graphic manner, 
we can say, the isometric chart of the tides of civilisation in various 
countries over the globe in those days presents a very unequal and 
tortuous figure. On the other hand, a graph depicting the situation in 
modern times would be formed by lines that aie more even, uniform 
and straight. In other words, the world has become one, homogeneous: 
a consciousness has grown same or similar on the whole in outlook and 
life-impulse embracing all peoples and races in a tight embrace. The 
benefit of the descending or manifesting Light is now open equally 
and freely to each and every member of the human kind. 

Not only in extension but the growth or evolution has progressed 
in another direction. There has been not only a quantitative but also a 
qualitative development. Cul f ure movements have grown in intent, 
in depth or elevation, in the meaning and significance of the conscious- 
ness involved. And they have converged towards a single aim and 
purpose. That purpose is not only the establishment of the global 
consciousness, but the expression and embodiment of the highest, the 
supreme consciousness. The process here too, as in the domain of 
extension, is one of graduation, advance by stages. The light, the light 
of awakening consciousness first touches the more easily accessible 
parts of human nature, the higher domains that are not too much 
involved in the gross material or animal nature. It is the realm of 
thoughts and ideas, of idealism, imagination and aspiration: it is man's 
mind, which is the least heavily weighted or ballasted by a downward 
gravitational pull and the most buoyant and supple the Ariel in him. 
It is his head that first receives the glow of the morning sun. 

If we look at Europe once again and cast a glance at its origins, 
we find at the source the Graeco-Roman culture. It was pre-eminently a 
culture based upon the powers of mind and reason: it included a strong 
and balanced body (both body natural and body politic) under the 
aegis of mem sana ( a sound mind). The light that was Greece was at 
its zenith a power of the higher mind and intelligence, intuitively 
dynamic in onethe earlier phase through Plato, Pythagoras, Heiac- 
litus and the mystic philosophers, and discursively and scientifically 
rational through the Aristotelian tradition. The practical and robust 
Roman did not indulge in the loftier and subtler activities of the higher 



or intuitive mind; his was applied intelligence and its characteristic 
turn found expression in law and order and governance.Virgil was a 
representative poet of the race, finely sensitive and yet very self-con- 
scious earth-bound and mind-bound as a creative artist: a clear and 
careful intelligence with an idealistic imagination that is yet sober and 
fancy-free is the very hall mark of his poetic genius. In the post-Roman 
age this bias for mental consciousness or the play of reason and intellec- 
tual understanding moved towards the superficial and more formal 
faculties of the brain ending in what is called scholasticism: it meant 
stagnation and decadence. It is out of this slough that the Renaissance 
raised the mind of Europe and bathed it with a new light. That move- 
ment gave to the mind a wider scope, an alert curiosity, a keener under- 
standing: it is, as I have said, the beginning of that modern mentality 
which is known as the scientific outlook, that is to say, study of facts 
and induction from given data, observation and experience and 
experiment instead of the other scholastic standpoint which goes 
by a priori theorising and abstraction and deduction and dogmatism. 

We may follow a little more closely the march of the centuries in 
their undulating movement. The creative intelligence of the Renais- 
sance too belonged to a region of the higher mind, a kind of inspi- 
rational mind. It had not the altitude or even the depth of the Greek 
mind nor its subtler resonances: but it regained and re-established and 
carried to a new degree the spirit of inquiry and curiosity, an appre- 
ciation of human motives and preoccupations, a rational understanding 
of man and the mechanism of the world. The original intuitive fiat, 
the imaginative brilliance, the spirit of adventure (in the mental as 
well as the physical world) that inspired the epoch gradually dwindled: 
it gave place to an age of consolidation, organisation, stabilisation 
the classical age. The seventeenth century Europe marked another 
peak of Europe's civilisation. That is the Augustan Age to which we 
have referred. The following century marked a further decline of the 
Intuition and higher imagination and we come to the eighteenth cen- 
tury terre-a-terre rationalism. Great figures still adorned that age 
stalwarts that either stuck to the prevailing norm and gave it a kind of 
stagnant nobility or already leaned towards the new light that was 
dawning once more. Pope and Johnson, Montesquieu and Voltaire 
are its high-lights. The nineteenth century brought in another crest 



wave with a special gift to mankind; apparently it was a reaction to 
the rigid classicism and dry rationalism of the preceding age, but it 
came burdened with a more positive mission. Its magic name was 
Romanticism. Man opened his heart, his higher feeling and nobler 
emotional surge, his subtler sensibility and a general sweep of his 
vital being to the truths and realities of his own nature and of the 
cosmic nature. Not the clear white and transparent almost glaring 
light of reason and logic, of the brain mind, but the rosy or rainbow 
tint of the emotive and aspiring personality that seeks in and through 
the cosmic panorama and dreams of 

A light that was ne'er on sea or land... 
A glory that hath passed away from earth. 

The Romantic Revival was a veritable source movement: it was, 
one can say, a kind of watershed from where various streams of new 
creation and fresh adventure flowed down in all directions. Its echoes 
and repurcussions are met with even today and continue. The next 
stage that followed naturally and inevitably was man's preoccupation 
with his sense being, his external, his physical and material personality. 
It is the age of Naturalism, Realism, Pragmatism, Scientism: it pro- 
claims the birth of the economic man. From the heart and emotions 
we drop down into the field of the nervous and sensuous existence, 
from the vital sphere into the sphere of the body. And that is where 
we are today. It means that we have been made more than ever self- 
conscious on this plane and of this personality of ours. We have been 
given and are being given greater knowledge of its mechanism; we are 
intensively (afid extensively too) getting familiar with all the drawbacks 
and lacunae that are there so that we can remedy them and discover 
new latent forces too, and re-create and possess a truly "brave new 

That is how the spirit of progress and evolution has worked and 
advanced in the European world. And one can take it as the pattern 
of human growth generally; but in the scheme described above we 
have left out one particular phase and purposely. I refer to the great 
event of Christ and Christianity. For without that European civili- 



sation loses more than half of its import and value. After the Roman 
Decline began the ebb tide, the trough, the dark shadow of the deepen- 
ing abyss of the Middle Ages. But even as the Night fell and darkness 
closed around, a new light glimmered, a star was born. A hope and 
a help shone "in a naughty world". It was a ray of consciousness that 
came from a secret cave, from a domain hidden behind and deep 
within in the human being. Christ brought a leaven into the normal 
manifest mode of consciousness, an other-worldly mode into the 
worldly life. He established a living and dynamic contact with the 
soul, the inner person in man, the person that is behind but still rules 
the external personality made of mind and life and body consciousness. 
The Christ revelation was also characteristic in the sense that it came 
as a large, almost a mass movement this approach of the soul 
personality to earthly life. The movement faded or got adulterated, 
deformed like all human things; but something remained as a 
permanent possession of man's heritage. 

This episode links up with the inner story of mankind, its spiritual 
history. The growing or evolving consciousness of man was not only 
an outgoing and widening movement: it was also a heightening, an 
ascent into ranges that are not normally perceived, towards summits 
of our true reality. We have spoken of the Graeco-Roman culture 
as the source and foundation of European civilisation; but apart from 
that there was a secret vein of life that truly vivified it, led it by an 
occult but constant influence along channels and achievements that 
are meant to serve the final goal and purpose. The Mysteries prevalent 
and practised in Greece itself and Crete and the occult rites of Egyp- 
tian priests, the tradition of a secret knowledge and discipline found 
in the Kabbalah, the legendary worship of gods and goddesses 
sometimes confused, sometimes identified with Natule forces all 
point to the existence of a line of culture which is known in India as 
Yoga. If all other culture means knowledge, Yoga is the knowledge 
of knowledge. As the Upanishad says, there are two categories of 
knowledge, the superior and the inferior. The development of the 
mind and life and body belongs to the domain of Inferior Knowledge: 
the development of the soul, the discovery of the Spirit means the 
Superior Knowledge. 

This knowledge remained at the outset scattered, hidden, confined 


to a few, a company of adepts: it had almost no direct contact with 
the main current of life. Its religious aspect too was so altered and 
popularised as to represent and serve the secular life. The systemati- 
sation and propagation of that knowledge at least the aspiration for 
that knowledge was attempted on an effective scale in the Hebrew 
Old Testament. But then a good amount of externalities, of the 
Inferior Knowledge was mixed up with the inner urge and the soul 
perception. The Christ with his New Testament came precisely with 
'he mission of cleaning the Augean stables, in place of the dioss and 
coverings, the false and deformed godheads, to instal something of 
the purest ray of the inner consciousness, the unalloyed urge of the 
soul, the demand of our spiritual personality. The Church sought 
to build up society on that basis, attempting a fusion of the spiritual 
and the temporal power, so that instead of a profane secular world, 
a mundane or worldly world, there may be established God's own 
world, the City of God. 

The drive towards the building of Heaven upon earth and with 
earth, the materialisation of the Spirit on a cosmic scale, the remodel- 
ling of the whole human society in spiritual terms was the secret 
inspiring the other Semitic Revelation, that of Mohammed. The 
Arab Master sought to bring down and establish and express in life 
force what the Rabi of Bethelhem saw and felt in the inner heart 
one was a lover, the other a servant warrior of God. 

Turning to India we find a fuller and completer if not a global 
picture of the whole movement. India, we may say, is the spiritual 
world itself: and she epitomised the curve of human progress in a 
clearer and more significant manner. Indian history, not its political 
but its cultural and spiritual history, divides itself naturally into great 
movements With corresponding epochs each dwelling upon and dealing 
with one domain in the hierarchy of man's consciousness. The stages 
and epochs are well known: they arc (i) Vedic, (2) Upanishadic, 
(3) Darshanas roughly from Buddha to Shankara, (4) Puranic, 
(5) Bhagavata or the Age of Bhakti, and finally (6) the Tantric. The 
last does not mean that it is the latest revelation, the nearest to us in 
time, but that it represents a kind of complementary movement, it 
was there all along, for long at least, and in which the others find 
their fruition and consummation. We shall explain presently. The 



force of consciousness that came and moved and moulded the first 
and the earliest epoch was Revelation. It was a power of direct v : sion 
and occult will and cosmic perception. Its physical seat is somewhere 
behind and or just beyond the crown of the head: the peak of man's 
manifest being that received the first touch of Surya Savitri (the 
supreme Creative Consciousness) to whom it bowed down uttering 
the invocation mantra of Gayatri. The Ray then entered the head 
at the crown and illumined it: the force of consciousness that ruled 
there is Intuition, the immediate perception of truth and reality, 
the cosmic consciousness gathered and concentrated at that peak. 
That is Upanishadic knowledge. If the source and foundation of 
the Vedic initiation was occult vision, the Upanishad meant a pure 
and direct Ideation. The next stage in the coming down or propaga- 
tion of the Light was when it reached further down into the brain 
and the philosophical outlook grew with rational understanding and 
discursive argumentation as the channel for expression, the power 
to be cultivated and the limb to be developed. The Age of the Dar- 
shanas or Systems of Philosophy started with the Buddha and conti- 
nued till it reached its peak in Shankaracharya. The age sought to 
give a bright and strong mental, even an intellectual body to the spiri- 
tual light, the consciousness of the highest truth and reality. In 
the Puranic Age the vital being was touched by the light of the spirit 
and principally on the highest, the mental level of that domain. It 
meant the advent of the element of feeling and emotiveness and ima- 
gination into the play of the Light, the beginning of their reclamation. 
This was rendered more concrete and more vibrant and intense in 
the next stage of the movement. The whole emotional being was 
taken up into the travailing crucible of consciousness. We may name 
it also as the age of the Bhagavatas, god-lovers, Bhaktas. It reached 
its climax in Chaitanya whose physical passion for God denoted that 
the lower ranges of the vital being (its physical foundations) 
were now stirred in man to awake and to receive the Light. Finally 
remains the physical, the most material to be worked upon and made 
conscious and illumined. That was the task of the Tantras. Viewed 
in that light one can easily understand why especial stress was laid 
in that system upon the esoteric discipline of the five w's (pancha 
makara\ all preoccupied with the handling and harnessing of the 



grossest physical instincts and the most material instruments. The 
Tantric discipline bases itself upon Nature Power coiled up in Matter: 
the release of that all-conquering force through a purification and 
opening into the consciousness of the Divine Mother, the transcendent 
creatrix of the universe. The dynamic materialising aspect of con- 
sciousness was what inspired the Tantras: the others forming the 
Vedantic line, on the whole, were based on the primacy of the static 
being, the Purusha, aloof and withdrawing. 

The Indian consciousness, we say, presented the movement as 
an intensive and inner, a spiritual process: it dealt with the substance 
itself, man's very nature and sought to know it from within and shape 
it consciously. In Europe where the frontal consciousness is more 
stressed and valued, the more characteristic feature of its history is 
the unfoldment and metamorphosis of the forms and expressions, the 
residuary powers, as it were, of man's evolving personality, individual 
and social. 

To sum up then. Man progresses thiough cycles of crest move- 
ments. They mark an ever-widening circle of the descent of Light, 
the growth of consciousness. Thus there is at first a small circle of 
elite, a few chosen people at the top, then gradually the limited aris- 
tocracy is widened out into a larger and larger democracy. One may 
describe the phenomenon in the Indian terms of the Four Orders. 
In the beginning there is the Brahminic culture, culture confined 
only to the highest and the fewest possible select representatives. 
Then came the wave of Kshatriya culture which found a broader 
scope among a larger community. In India, after the age of the Veda 
and the Upanishad, came the age of the Ramayana and the Mahabha- 
rata which was pre-eminently an age of Kshatriyahood. In Europe 
too it was the bards and minstrels, sages and soothsayers who ori- 
ginally created, preserved and propagated the cultural movement: next 
came the epoch of the Arthurian legends, the age of chivalry, of 
knights and templars with their heroic code of conduct and high 
living. In the epoch that followed, culture was still further broad- 
based and spread to the Vaishya order. It is the culture of the bour- 
geoisie: it was brought about, developed and maintained by that 
class in society preoccupied with the production or earning of wealth. 
The economic bias of the literature of the period has often been pointed 


out. Lastly the fourth dimension of culture has made its appearance 
today when it seeks to be coterminous with the proletariate. With 
the arrival of the Sudra, culture has extended to the very base of the 
social pyramid in its widest commonalty. 

This movement of extension, looked at from the standpoint of 
intensiveness, is also a movement of devolution, of reclamation. The 
Brahminic stage represents culture that is knowledge; it touches the 
mind, it is the brain that is the recipient and instrument of the Light. 
The Kshatriya comes into the field when the light, the vibration of 
awakening, from the mind comes down into the vital energies, from 
the brain to the heart region. Tne Vaishya spirit has taken up man 
still at a lower region, the lower vital: the economic man that has his 
gaze fixed upon his stomach and entrails. Lastly, the final stage is 
reached when physical work, bodily labour, material service have 
attained supreme importance and are considered almost as the only 
values worth the name for a human being. To walk and work firmly upon 
Earth the Light needs a strong pair of feet. Therefore, the Veda 
says, Padbhydm sudro ajayata, out of the feet of the Cosmic Godhead 
the Sudia was born. 

That is how man has become and is becoming integrally con- 
scious conscious in and of all parts of his being. He is awakening 
and opening to the light that descends from above: indeed the true 
light, the light of truth is something transcendent and it is that that 
comes down and slowly inhabits the world and possesses humanity. 
Its progress marks the steps of evolution. It means the gradual 
enlightening and illumining of the various layers of our being, the 
different strands of consciousness from the higher to the lower, from 
the less dense to the more dense, from mind to the body. It means 
also in the same process a canalisation, materialisation and fixing upon 
earth and in the physical being of the increasing powers of the Light. 
The Light as it descends from its own home above to the lower 
levels of our being expresses itself no doubt in one way, but also gets 
diminished, modified, even deformed in another respect. The work 
of purification certainly goes on and until that is complete and there 
comes the fullest expression, it will continue. The action of light on 
the physical plane, for example, on the body of the Cosmic Being is 
so blurred and confusing apparently that it looks almost like the action 



of Darkness, And yet the Dark Night of the soul is not simply the 
obscurity of Ignorance. It is only the mud that lay diffused or settled 
in the being which has come up in its gathered mass in the process 
of churning and cleaning and appears like an obscure screen. 


"We must be governed by the guide within rather than by 
the opinions of men. The influence of the environment works 
often with great subtlety ; we prefer and put on almost 
unconsciously the garb which will look best in the eye that 
regards from outside and we allow a veil to drop over the 

eye within The eye of man outside matters nothing; 

the eye within is all." 


1 2O 

Some Reflections on the Analytical 
Psychology of C. G. Jung in the Light 
of Integral Yoga 

"Where are the great and wise men who do not merely talk about 
the meaning of life, but really possess it?" 

"Whence does consciousness come? What is the psyche? 

At this point all science ends." 

Modern Man in Search of a Soul. 

1VTO modern psychologist of comparable stature has studied and 
-*- ^ valued the spiritual teaching of the East so fully as Jung. It 
is inevitable therefore that a study of his work should challenge com- 
parison with the system of psychology embodied in Integral Yoga. 
In attempting to measure some of his basic postulates against those 
of Sri Aurobindo it is very important to make two distinctions. First, 
the psychologies of the East and West are based on two different 
kinds of knowledge, that of China and India being metaphysical in 
approach, and that of the West empirical. As Professor Sinha has 
observed in his admirable work Indian Psychology, every school of 
philosophy in India has made valuable contributions to Psychology, 
Logic, Ethics and other mental sciences, but because of the respect 
of the Hindu mind for the organic unity of a subject, it never makes 
a "compartmental study of its different aspects. In the philosophical 
literature of India we find a synthetic treatment of a problem in all 
its multifarious aspects, psychological, logical, ethical, and meta- 
physical There is not a single work which is exclusively devoted 

to the psychological analysis of mental processes." To try and divorce 

9 J2I 


the psychology of Sri Aurobindo from its metaphysical basis would 
be impossible; in the clinical sense in which it is used in Western 
psychology, it is not based on experiment, but on introspection. 
Western psychology, on the other hand, believes that it can explore 
the psyche in the atmosphere of the laboratory and by experiment 
and analysis arrive at conclusive explanations of its origin, activities 
and meaning. The difficulties of this approach to which Jung does 
not, of course, cling are many, and in fact quite intractable of solu- 
tion. As to the organic unity of the subjec* and the impossibility of 
maintaining a compartmental study, Jung himself has this to say: 
"In treating of the problems of psychic life we perpetually stumble 
over questions of principle belonging to the private domains of the 
most different branches of knowledge. We disturb and anger the 
theologian no less than the philosopher, the physician no less than 
the educator; we even grope about in the field of the biologist and 
the historian." 

The second distinction we must keep in mind is not so fundamental; 
it is a distinction of degree rather than of kind. Jung's psychology 
is therapeutic. It has been built up mainly from his experiences as a 
doctor in treating neurotic people. Its aim is to explore the laws 
of the psyche in order to cure psychic suffering. Sri Aurobindo's 
psychology his analysis of personality and the laws which govern 
the individual being is instrumental to a far more extended objective. 
In so far as both psychologies aim at bringing about a right relation in 
the being, which calls for the shift to a new centre of orientation, 
both may be said to be therapeutic. There is, however, a profound 
difference of degree between the needs and aims of the consulting 
room and ttyose of a spiritual community, and to fail to grasp this 
fact creates needless confusion. 


Jung's respect for the psychological discernment of the East 
is very great, and he compares, as an event of the deepest importance, 
the work of Richard Wilhelni in the field of Chinese studies, with 
that of Anquetil du Perron in the eighteenth century, who brought 
the first translation of the Upanishads to Europe, and gave the West 



"its first deep insight into the baffling mind of the East." "Anyone 
like myself," writes Jung in his memorial address on Wilhelm, "who 
has had the rare good fortune to experience in a spiritual exchange 
with Wilhelm, the divinatory power of the I Ching, cannot for long 
remain ignorant of the fact that we have touched here an Archimedean 
poinl from which our Western attitude of mind can be shaken to 
its foundations." But it is not only in fhe scholarly exchange of thinkers, 
or in the first-hand study of the esoteric teaching of the East amongst 
philosophers and orientalists, who might be relied upon to approach 
it without danger, that the wisdom of the East has entered Europe. 
Jung sees that it has entered also in a perilous fashion through the 
back door of our civilization, and assumed many perverted and inju- 
rious forms. To this emotional and uncritical adoption of Eastern 
wisdom by unsuitable people he is fervently opposed. "We do not 
yet realise," he writes, "that while we are turning upside down the 
material world of the East with our technical proficiency, the East 
with its psychic proficiency is throwing our spiritual world into con- 
fusion While we are overpowering the Orient from without, 

it may be fastening its hold upon us from within." For Jung believes 
that in the order of things there is always a readjustment to a disequi- 
librium of psychic forces; "for every piece of conscious life that loses 
its importance and value there arises a compensation in the un- 
conscious." Was it, he asks, a coincidence that the enthronement of 
the Goddess of Reason in Notre Dame occurred at a time when Anquetil 
du Perron was returning with his fifty Upanishads? And we may well 
wonder whether it is coincidence that in the era of the hydrogen bomb, 
the most deadly weapon of destruction ever conceived by man, Sri 
Aurobindo should be distilling the creative wisdom of India in a 
language which is now the most widely used throughout the civilized 
world, and which has therefore greater chances of penetrating to its 
remotest corners than any other. 

The East, says Jung, is at the bottom of the spiritual change 
through which the West is passing today, and its influence, adapted 
into forms suitable to our assimilation, may help "to subdue the 
boundless lust for prey of Aryan man." Again, "European cannons 
have burst open the gates of Asia," he writes, "European science 
and technique, European worldly-mindedness and cupidity, flood 



China. We have conquered the East politically. Do you know what 
happened when Rome overthrew the Near East politically? The 
spirit of the East entered Rome. Mithra became the Roman military 
god, and out of the most unlikely corners of Asia Minor, came a new 
spiritual Rome. Would it be unthinkable that the same thing might 
happen today and find us just as blind as were the cultured Romans 
who marvelled at the superstitions of the Christofi" 

But if Jung is stern in his condemnation of much that is unsalutary 
in the West, he is not without criticism of the East, however great 
his admiration for its spiritual achievements. "When the primitive 
world disintegrated into spirit and nature," he says in Modern Man 
in Search of a Soul, "the West rescued nature for itself... and only 
became the more entangled in it with every painful effort to make 
itself spiritual. The East, on the contrary, took mind for its. own, 
and by explaining away matter as mere illusion... continued fo dream 
in Asiatic filth and misery. But since there is only one earth and one 
mankind, East and West cannot rend humanity into two different 
halves. Psychic reality exists in its original oneness, and awaits man's 
advance to a level of consciousness where he no longer believes in 
the one part and denies the other, but recognises both as constituent 
elements of one psyche." He observes that the East came to its inner 
knowledge "with a childish Ignorance of the world," and claims that 
the West "will investigate the psyche and its depths supported by a 
tremendously extensive historical and scientific knowledge." "It is 
far from my wish to undervalue the tremendous differentiation of 
Western intellect," he adds elsewhere, "because, measured by it, 
Eastern intellect can be described as childish. (Obviously this has 
nothing to do with intelligence.) If we should succeed in bringing 
another, or' still a third function to the dignity accorded intellect, 
then the West could expect to surpass the East by a very great deal." 
Whatever we may think of this rather ambitious and inflated statement 
when it was written it was not likely that Western genius might 
bring about the apotheosis of its precious intellect by an atomic war 
it is important to understand that Jung condemns any facile imita- 
tion of the spiritual proficiency of the East by the West, or any 
depreciation of the frontiers of scientific knowledge hewed out by the 
Western mind. "Whoever seeks to minimise the merits of Western 



science is undermining the main support of the European mind. 
Science is not, indeed, a perfect instrument, but... (it) is the best 
tool of the Western mind and with it more doors can be opened than 
with bare hands." Those who take over Yoga practices "quite literally" 
only become, according to Jung, "pitiable imitators," and he cites 
Theosophy ("pure Gnosticism in a Hindu dress") as the most flagrant 
example of what happens when the Westerner abandons the safe 
foundations of his mind and "loses himself in a mist of words and 
ideas which never would have originated in European brains, and 
which can never be profitably grafted upon them." He maintains that 
the historical premises of Eas^ and West are so different that we desert 
our own cultural nexus at peril. It is, he writes, impossible to give 
too many warnings against the attitude that "accepts the alms of the 
East in specie.... What it has taken China thousands of years to build 
cannot be stolen by us. We must learn to acquire it in order to possess 
it." Indeed, the appropriation of Christianity, a highly developed 
Oriental religion, by the Western world when it was still immersed 
in the early stages of polytheism, was only achieved at the expense 
of psychic strains and stresses which produced in the Western tem- 
perament severe and unpleasant repercussions. 

This conviction of Jung's is based on several observations. First, 
that Western man has suffered "an almost fatal shock... and fallen 
into profound uncertainty." Whether viewed from the moral, 
intellectual or aesthetic standpoint, the undercurrents of the psychic 
life of the West present an uninviting picture. European man himself 
shows an alarming lack of balance, and to add to his difficulties, he 
faces a profound convulsion in his spiritual life. Brought to a kind 
of spiritual nemesis by the conflicting tides of nineteenth-century 
teaching on one side the Church preaching blind faith, oh the other 
the Universities proclaiming an equally dogmatic and indefectible 
belief in the supiemacy of the rational intellect he has at last, through 
disbelief and scepticism, begun to seek a religion based on experience 
and not on articles of faith. Hence his interest in the workings of 
the psyche and psychology, in astrology, theosophy, spiritualism, 
occultism and so on. But only through the peculiar conditions of his 
own historical situation, only by clinging to what roots he possesses, 
can European man find his way out of his own entanglements. He 



must take what light and help he can from other sources, remembering 
always to adapt ir to his own necessity, and drawing into the work 
"the real European as he is in his western commonplaceness, with 
his marriage problems, his neuroses, his social and political illusions, 
and his whole philosophical disorientaticn." 

Secondly, because of his innate vanity and almost psychotic 
sense of superiority, Western man must be thoroughly disillusioned 
with himself, if necessary by a ruthlessly revealing psychology, before 
he can begin to build anew. "The Occidental burns incense to himself 
and his own countenance is veiled from him in 1 he smoke." Therefore 
to the Westerner, acquaintance with the realities of psychic life must 
begin in the depths, "with all that repels us and that we do not wish 
to see." 

For Jung then, Western man is sick; the East holds out healing, 
but in order to be truly effective, the Westerner must transpose the 
technique of that healing into terms consonant with the demands of 
his nature, and within the frame-work of his own history. He sees the 
malaise of the West as a combination of exaggerated intellection, 
self-deception and disillusionment, and a disregard for the things of 
the spirit as the indispensable condition of health. "There are too 
many persons to whom Freudian psychology is dearer than the Gospels, 
and to whom the Russian terror means more than civic virtue." And 
all these things have been exacerbated by war, the collapse of insti- 
tutional religion, and the ideals which Western man held as absolute, 
bringing about a deep spiritual crisis which searches to the roots of 
his being. 

For Jung's purpose it is perhaps necessary to emphasise the differ- 
ences of the East and West in order to hold the European situation 
clearly in the light of analysis and to note its distinctive features. But 
sometimes he seems to over-simplify the issues. The risk of such 
an emphasis is that it tends to caricature the characteristic tendencies 
it strives to define. As Jung himself maintains and no one could 
more scrupulously respect the sanctity of personality each individual 
is unique, and the situation in which he finds himself may require 
from the psychotherapist a continuously creative approach in which 
he is prepared to burn the boats of all his previous convictions in the 
exploration of the parienfs inner reality. Each individual is a micro- 



cosm; each discovers the means of his own healing through methods 
personal to him, and these methods are infinitely plastic, even in the 
use of such things as dream symbols which would appear to be relati- 
vely fixed in their meaning. One must never, he says, violate perso- 
nality by forcing interpretations of experience on the patient to which 
he does not inwardly consent. But just as to some patients health may 
consist in the achievement of normality, so to o*hers who have a special 
ability, normality may be "unbearable boredom, infernal sterility and 
hopelessness," On the lines of this argument we might justifiably 
say that though it may be necessary in defining general tendencies to 
flatten all Westerners into an average mould and label it commonplace 
European, in fact, when we look round us, we see many individuals 
who by taste, temperament and inclination defy all but a superficial 
resemblance to the standard article. What of the deeper individual 
past that lies behind each being? What clouds of experience does he 
come trailing into the world, and from what sources? Can we say quite 
so sweepingly that he abandons his historical ground by immersing 
himself in another culture when, indeed, we canno* tell in terms of 
more than his present life-experience and that perhaps not the most 
potent in its formative influence what that historical ground has been? 


Although Jung is a physician, trained in the exact sciences, he 
uses psychological terms with far less precision than Sri Aurobindo, 
so that it is not always easy to make accurate definitions of what he 
means by them. But since the concepts of consciousness and uncons- 
ciousness occur repeatedly in his work, we must try and arrive at what 
he means by them. 

Jung attributes much of the evil in the world to the fact that 
"man in general is hopelessly unconscious," a view to which any Auro- 
bindonian would happily concede. But the unconscious to Jung is always 
below mind; it is the "collective unconscious," the depths of the psyche 
with its archetypal contents, a "hinterland" of the mind, super-personal 
and continuous. It contains "the powers of darkness," so that to open 
up these unconscious depths always provokes intense suffering. It 
is like Boehme's ungrund, the ground of being, "the abyssal world 



where there is neither end nor limit/' as Boehme put it, "the abyss of 
God's liberty/' the "mysterium magnum,.. the chaos wherefrom ori- 
ginate good and evil, light and darkness, life and death." In Indian 
terminology this ungrund might be called Prakriti, the forces of lower 
Nature. From its depths powers of destruction and healing alike are 
thrown up. "The psychic depths are nature," says Jung, "and nature 
is creative life." But these foundations of psychic life are also "eternally 
unknown and alien," and compared to the powers of the unconscious, 
consciousness itself is very weak. The unconscious may easily seize 
power and in times of a lost psychic equilibrium, can overwhelm not 
only individuals but whole civilizations. "If we might personify the 
unconscious," says Jung, "we might call it a collective human being 
combining the characteristics of both sexes, transcending youth and 
age, birth and death, and, from having at his command a human 
experience of one or two million years, almost immortal." "The uncons- 
cious, which expresses itself in symbols, contains subliminal percep- 
tions whose scope is nothing less than astounding... it is highly 
extensive and can juxtapose the most heterogeneous elements m the 
most paradoxical way." It seems to be "like an unceasing stream or 
perhaps an ocean of images and figures which drift into consciousness 
in our dreams or in abnormal states of mind." Jung then assures 
us that it is with this hinterland that Yoga puts us in touch. "The 
unconscious," he says again, "perceives, has purposes and intuitions, 
feels, thinks as docs the conscious mind." If we could but make them 
conscious, these contents of the psychic underworld "would mean 
an immeasurable increase in knowledge." Its purpose is that of a 
compensatory force which assists the equilibrium of the psyche; only 
when it is excluded, misunderstood, depreciated or repressed by over- 
conscious tendencies, which separate the two realms of the psyche 
conscious and unconscious may it become explosive, but by nature 
i^ is morally and aesthetically neutral. 

To anyone acquainted with the psychology of Sri Aurobindo, 
these dictums of Jung's on the unconscious will seem to contain many 
right things in the wrong place. Moreover for so purposive a mysterium 
magnum, the term "unconscious" does not seem apposite. But we 
will return to this later. 

Jung sees the evolution of man as "the tremendous experiment 



of becoming conscious, which nature has imposed on mankind, uniting 
the most diverse cultures in a common task." This necessitates a 
widening of consciousness; but what does Jung mean by consciousness 
and how does he define it? We should make a grave mistake if we 
were to interpret these statements in an Aurobindonian sense. Jung 
takes consciousness as "the sine qua non of psychic life that is to 
say, as the psyche itself." The identification of the psyche with con- 
sciousness at this point is very confusing, for in another place (in 
The Secret of the Golden Flower, a Chinese Book of Life) he deprecates 
the fact that we "are always attempting to identify the psyche with 
consciousness, or at least attempting to represent the unconscious 
as a derivative (of consciousness). 55 It does not become less confusing 
when he tells us that the ego is the centre of consciousness, but we 
will try and sum up what he means by ego, psyche and self when we 
have attempted to define more clearly what he means by consciousness. 
"Consciousness, 55 he says, "did not exist from the beginning: in every 
child it has to be built up anew. 55 Again, "Experience shows us that 
the sense of the "I 55 the ego-consciousness grows out oJt uncon- 
scious life. The small child has psychic life without any demons- 
trable ego-consciousness, for which reason the earliest years leave 
hardly any traces in memory. 55 

In the instinctive functioning of the unconscious all the patterns 
of life and behaviour inherited from his ancestors are present in the 
human child, and this activity prepares for all the workings of the 
psyche. The essential difference between the unconscious and the 
conscious is simply that consciousness is limited, intensive, concen- 
trated, transient, concerned with the piesent and the immediate field 
of action, while unconsciousness is highly extensive but "shades off 
into obscurity, 55 and contains "besides an interminable number of 
subliminal perceptions, an immense fund of accumulated inheritance- 
factors left by one generation of men after another. 55 But in point of 
fact, the distinction between the two is sometimes held very loosely 
by Jung, as will be evident for instance in his remark: "If we study 
the psychic processes of neurotic persons, it seems perfectly ludicrous 
that any psychologist could take rhe psyche as the equivalent of con- 
sciousness, 5 ' 

It is evident that Jung supposes consciousness to rise from the 



unconscious without any pressure from a higher order, for he says 
in the Golden Flower, "without a doubt consciousness is derived from 
the unconscious" and again "consciousness is a late-born descendant 
of the unconscious psyche." This is a postulate completely at variance 
with Sri Aurobindo's teaching that higher forms cannot evolve from 
lower ones simply by an intrinsic process inherent in the lower, and 
without the operation of a superior power. 

To Jung therefore, consciousness would appear I put these 
definitions forward rather warily to occupy that area which mind 
occupies in the psychology of Sri Aurobindo; it is that which the 
psyche has organised from a kind of total environing psychic reality 
which he designates the unconscious. He does not attempt to explain 
how it arises, but observes that its advent in the child is marked by 
its capacity to "know" things or persons, and that this knowing is 
based "upon a conscious connection between psychic contents." 


We have already seen that Jung regards consciousness as the 
sine qua non of the psyche, or soul. The depths of the psyche reach 
down in^o the collective unconscious, characterised as nature, or 
creative life. As to cause, purpose and meaning, the psyche is first 
and foremost a close reflection of everything we call corporeal, empi- 
rical and mundane the contents of consciousness itself are also 
defined as being largely determined by our sense perceptions. In its 
working the psyche is a self-regulating system like the body, and by 
means of the unconscious can maintain its metabolism under normal 
conditions. Jung suggests that the soul arises from "A spiritual 
principle whieh is as inaccessible to our understanding as matter," 
and in the Golden Flower he describes it again as "a world in which 
the ego is contained." In Modern Man in Search of a Soul he makes 
it clear where his own position lies in regard to a belief in the objective 
reality of the soul, saying that his own system of psychology does 
not seek to explain everything upon physical grounds "but appeals 
to a world of the spirit whose active principle is neither matter and 
its qualities nor any state of energy but God." To those who look 
upon the soul as an epiphenomena of the body, he has some pertinent 



things to say, as for instance in his statement that it is "presumptuous 
and fantastic for us to presume that matter produces spirit; that apes 
give rise to human beings... that the brain-cells manufacture thoughts, 
and that all this could not possibly be other than it is." Matter, 
he remarks, is just as inscrutable as mind. "I must admit that I can 
see as little nonsense in this so-called superstition (of the self-exis- 
tence of the soul) as in the findings of research regarding heredity or 
the basic instincts," he writes, "no chain of reasoning can prove or 
disprove the existence of either mind or matter. Both these concepts... 
are mere symbols that stand for something unknown and unexplored, 
and this something is postulated or denied according to man's mood 
and disposition or as the spirit of the age dictates." And he demands: 
"What, or who, indeed, is this all-powerful matter? It is once more 
man's picture of a creative god." 

Nevertheless, Jung's definitions of the psyche are far from clear, 
a criticism which he himself anticipates, for he says that for the pur- 
poses of psychology he thinks that at the present time it is impossible 
to make statements about the psyche that are "true" or "correct"; 
the best we can achieve is "a detailed presentation of everything that 
is subjectively noted." Part of the confusion would seem to lie in 
Jung's refusal to call in metaphysics, for in a science of the soul meta- 
physics are indispensable. Moreover, Jung often refers to what he 
calls the unconscious psyche, so that we have no idea of the distinct 
functions of the soul, merely that it is a kind of Siamese t win to certain 
psychic states called consciousness and unconsciousness sometimes 
even the equivalent of these states. 

Jung's analysis of the total psychic entity of man includes also 
the distinctions "ego" and "self" (sometimes referred to as the true 
psyche.) He uses the term ego in the same sense as > Sri Aurobindo, 
and contrasts it with the self, or true inner being. These two points 
are alternative centres of gravity for the total personality. If this 
centre is moved from the ego, and is shifted to "what might be called 
a virtual point between the conscious and the unconscious," we shall 
find at this new centre tha* which "might be called the self." So in 
the final transformation of psychotheiapy when the psyche has awa- 
kened to spontaneoas life, the inadequate ego with its "futile willing 
and striving" is supplanted. From the depths the individual is con- 


fronted with "something strange that is not the T, and is therefore 
beyond the reach of personal caprice." We put the ego in the centre 
of our lives from an excess or over-valuation of consciousness, and 
thus mistake the ego for the self. Jung's definition of the true self 
as a point between the conscious and the unconscious is somewhat 
vague and questionable, specially in view of the imprecision 
which we cannot help feeling attaches to his conception of these states. 
The mystic may well feel that his confidence in ihe ability of psycho- 
therapy to achieve our self-perfection is a trifle naive, and that the 
discovery of the true Self demands a more searching experience than 
the confession, explanation, education and transformation of the 


Jung's analytical psychology, though it is by far the most 
compelling of the psychologies of the West, lacks what they all lack (and 
some of course decisively repudiate) a psychology of the soul. This 
is all the more disappointing because he always seems about to invoke 
one. But in his desire to avoid as much theoretical reasoning as he 
can, and to base his discoveries on what can be observed and expe- 
rienced, rather than speculated, he has an almost ludicrous suspicion 
of metaphysics. Since he insists on a religious basis to life as the only 
guarantee of spiritual health, and eschews the claims of scientific or 
naturalistic criterions to apply their standards of proof to the psyche, 
he is continually being dragged from his empirical stronghold to the 
touchline where he begins to slip into the rejected sphere of meta- 
physics, and this tension produces many of the paradoxes in his 
thought. He frequently points out the limitations of the empirical 
approach, yet fundamentally he ha? the deepest distrust for any other 
kind of knowledge. It is not the psychologist, he says, who must be 
questioned as to what happens finally to the detached consciousness 
after death, for "whatever theoretical position he assumed, he would 
hopelessly overstep the boundaries of his scientific competence." He 
does not see that the psychic proficiency of the East is infinitely supe- 
rior to the West because its psychology is based on an adequate philo- 
sophy of being and knowing. "To be specific in the matter," he says 



in his commentary on the Golden Flower, "I can say that my admiration 
for the great Eastern philosophers is as great and as indubitable as my 
attitude towards their metaphysics is irreverent. I suspect them of 
being symbolical psychologists, to whom no greater wrong could 
be done than to be taken literally. If it were really metaphysics that 
they mean, it would be useless to try and understand them. But if 
it is psychology, we can not only understand them, but we can profit 
greatly by them, for then the so-called 'metaphysical 5 comes within 
the range of experience." 

This is to place metaphysics in the sphere of pure speculation, 
in the mistaken way that people designate faith as blind, or unfounded, 
belief: it is to use the word in the debased sense of a chain of over- 
subtle, abstract reasoning weaving itself out in a vacuum. But a true 
metaphysic is founded, like frith, on experience. In the East it might 
be described as a spiritual geography of Reality, and to call it symbolical 
psychology is merely a verbal nicety which changes the name but 
not the precise nature of the activity. The fact remains that however 
firmly we may imagine we have taken Eastern wisdom "out of the 
metaphysical and placed (it) in psychological experience", it does 
not alter the truth that this wisdom is founded on a discernment 
of the nature of God, man and the universe, usually called 
metaphysical which bears the same relationship to its psychology 
as the branch to the blossom, and is indeed its indispensable 

For some reason philosophy is spared the fate of metaphysics, 
the resemblance of its discipline to psychology being "that both are 
systems of opinion about subject-matter which cannot be fully ex- 
perienced and therefore cannot be comprehended by a purely empirical 
approach." Again, "general conceptions of a spiritual nature are 
indispensable constituents of psychic life The future task of psy- 
chology will be the investigation of their (the psychic processes) 
spiritual determinants... We have only begun to take scientific note of 
our spiritual experiences... The spiritual aspect of the psyche is at 
present known to us only in a fragmentary way. We have 
learned that there are spiritually conditioned processes of transforma- 
tion in the psyche which underlie... the states induced by the practice 
of Hindu yoga. But we have not yet succeeded in determining their 



particular uniformities or laws." Certainly, clinical analysis has not, 
but these laws have been understood by Occultism, Yoga and the 
esoteric mystery religions from time immemorial because they 
recognised that there were differing degrees of reality which required 
two different modes of knowing, and they did not make the mistake 
of applying these methods to realms that were inappropriate to them. 
Although he senses the distinction intuitively, it is the failure to hold 
it clearly that accounts for so much of what seems inconsistent in Jung's 
thought, for he is continually appealing to the standards of first one 
and then the other. For instance, he does not burke the problems 
that lie in store for a psychology that appeals to a world of the spirit 
whose active principle is God, yet, because to the European in him, 
knowledge always means rational knowledge, (though he constantly 
shows his mistrust for its claims to absoluteness) he can write .else- 
where: "whether energy is God, or God is energy, concerns me very 
little, for how, in any case, can I know such thmgs? But to give 
appropriate psychological explanations this I must be able to do." 
Until we have decided whether God is eneigy, or energy is God, we 
may be permitted to wonder how far it is possible to give appropriate 
psychological explanations at all. 

Whether psychotherapy likes it or not, if it is going to stumble 
into the domain of metaphysics (or symbolical psychology!) it must 
learn something of its methods. Though we must admire and respect 
Jung's courage in supporting the claims of the spirit in the desert 
of the pre-war slavery to materialism, and his discernment that there 
is abroad among men "a deep spiritual distress to bring meaning once 
more into life on the basis of fresh and unprejudiced experience," we 
cannot but look with doubt on some of his "general conceptions" of 
the life of th& spirit. Belief in God too often becomes a hygienic 
necessity something to be encouraged because it ensures the patient's 
health. And what even shedding any metaphysical pretensions 
shall we make of a sentence such as this: "There is psychological 
justification for this supposition (that God is the quintessence of 
reality) for it is only appropriate to call divine an almost immortal 
being whose experience, compared to that of man, is nearly 
eternal." ! 



Before trying to comment from ^he standpoint of Integral Yoga 
on the various headings under which I have attempted to*outline some 
of Jung's ideas, I want to add something on his conception of the 
highly evolved man, to whom he gives the name "modern". This 
individual, while profoundly receptive to 'he "void out of which all 
things grow," will possess an extension of consciousness fai beyond 
the average. Having freed himself from submersion in the collective 
unconscious, the participation mystique of the herd, he will be solitary. 
He advances at the cost of "tearing himself loose from that 
all-embracing, pristine unconscious which claims the bulk of 
mankind almost entirely." Because he is thus "unhistorical", 
having estranged himself from the bounds of tradition, he has 
to bear the higher level of consciousness "like a burden of guilt," 
because to be unhistorical, in the judgment of the world, is the 
Promethean sin. 

Here Jung makes an important qualification: the truly modern 
man "must be sound and proficient in the best sense a man who 
has achieved as much as other people, and even a little more." He 
must not be a pseudo-modern who by-passes the various stages of 
development and the tasks they represent, one of those "great hordes 
of worthless people... uprooted human beings, bloodsucking ghosts, 
whose emptiness is taken for the unenviable loneliness of the modern 
man." He must have paid all his debts to life; he must have made no 
short cuts; he must have lived, suffered and experienced to the full. 
The truly religious man, says Jung, with a flash of exceptionally deep 
insight, has an unprejudiced objectivity and "senses in everything 
the unseen presence of the divine will" and by everything he means 
that which also appears to be evil. But only the man who has fully 
accepted himself, as did Christ, can do this, which leads him to ask: 
"Are we to understand the 'imitation of Christ' in the sense that we 
should copy his life and, if I may use the expression, ape his stigmata; 
or in the deeper sense that we are to live our owr proper lives as truly 
as he lived his? It is no easy matter to live a life that is modelled on 
Christ's, but it is unspeakably harder to live one's own life as truly 
as Christ lived his." 


Jung does not describe how an extension of consciousness is to 
be brought about, and it would seem to be a mental enlargement of 
consciousness, rather than a different order from that which we ordi- 
narily possess. But, as in psychotherapy the stages of healing are 
classified as confession, explanation, education and transformation, 
so Jung defines the four great gifts of human experience as faith, 
hope, love and insight, and the way to experience, he tells us, is 
"a venture which requires us to commit ourselves with our whole 

As can be seen, throughout the teaching of Jung there are funda- 
mental concepts which link up with some of the basic principles of 
Integral Yoga. Jung tells us in the Golden Flower commentary that 
in his practice of psychiatry, though originally quite ignorant of Chinese 
philosophy, he discovered he had been led unconsciously along "that 
secret way which for centuries has been the preoccupation of the 
best minds of the East." Nevertheless, even judged simply by the 
criterion of giving appropriate psychological explanations, when we 
compare the postulates of Analytical Psychology with those of Sri 
Aurobindo's Yoga we feel as if we were placing the attempt of a 
sixteenth-century cartographer beside a modern ordnance survey map 
of the same locality. The Jungian would doubtless protest that the 
methods of Integral Yoga would be useless for the treatment of the 
great majority of people who seek the aid of a psychotherapist, and 
they would probably be right. But I am not concerned here with 
the therapeutic value of either system, since both are designed for 
human needs that differ so profoundly in degree that they hardly bear 
any resemblance, but simply with the anatomy of the psyche they 
put forward. If I appear to have an unfair bias towards that of Integral 
Yoga it is, in all due humility, because the "psychological explana- 
tions" it advances seem to me more consistent, adequate and complete 
than those of Analytical Psychology, and not because of any illusion 
that they can be proved, in the empirical sense, "true" or "correct", 
since that would be to subject them to tests appropriate to a different 
order of knowledge. 



Jung is at pains to emphasise that the Westerner should not 
become a blind imitator of the spiritual practices of the East, since an 
absence of understanding of the phenomena on which these are based 
leads to their "complete twisting and is a real menace to our world." 1 

Anthroposophy and Theosophy aside to which ihcse remarks 
refer I do not suppose that any sensible European would dream of 
seriously practising Yoga without the aid of a Guru, any more than 
he would practise Christian mysticism without putting himself under 
the guidance of a spiritual director, since these are necessary condi- 
tions laid down through the ages by both the masters of the East 
and the West. As for the suitability of Yoga for the Occidental, given 
this condition, Sri Aurobindo has expounded his views on the subject 
at some length to a correspondent who designated Yoga impossible 
for a non -Oriental. Such an idea, Sri Aurobindo says, "is contrary 
to all experience. Europeans throughout the centuries have practised 
with success spiritual disciplines that were akin to Oriental Yoga and 
have followed too ways of the inner life which came to them from 
the East. Their non-Oriental nature did not stand in their way," and 
he adds that the disciplines of Christian mysticism "were one in 
essence with those of Asia." In fact, as Jung points out, Christianity 
was a highly-developed Asiatic religion. "I do not see either," con- 
tinues Sri Aurobindo, "why theie should be any such unbridgeable 
gulf; for there is no essential difference between the spiritual life in 
the East and the spiritual life in the West; what difference there is 
has always been of names, forms or symbols or else of emphasis laid 
on one special aim or another or on one side or another of psychologi- 
cal experience," The objection of the "incapacity or unsuitableness" 
of Occidentals for Yoga has never been made, he maintains, "either 
from the side of the disciple or from the side of the Masters.... It is 
not the Hindu outlook or the Western that fundamentally matters in 
Yoga, bu*. the psychic turn and the spiritual urge, and these are the 
same everywhere." Orientals and Occidentals may have the specific 
difficulties and advantages of their training and temperament to hinder 

1 Translator's Preface to The Secret of the Golden Flower. 
10 137 


or assist them, but these things are only "supersrructural formations, 
not the very grain of the being." 

As to the relationship of East and West, Sri Aurobindo analyses 
it very much on the same lines as Jung. The East, he writes, has 
always pui the emphasis on Spirit; the West has concentrated on the 
world. These two aspects, Jung says, are both constituent elements 
of one psyche. Their perfection, adds Sri Aurobindo, "can be 
regarded as part of the intention of the spirit in world nature; they are 
not incompatible with each other; rather their divergence has to be 
healed and both have to be included and reconciled in the pursuit of 
the highest and largest ideal, Spirit embrace Matter and Matter find 
its own true reality and the hidden Reality in all things in the Spirit." 


To Jung consciousness appears to be that area of a total surround- 
ing psychic reality called the collective unconscious, which mind has 
appropriated and brought into focus, and of which the ego is the 
centre. It is t he indispensable condition of psychic life. Divorced from 
the depths of the conditioning unconscious, this ego-consciousness 
may upset the whole equilibrium of the being; it is only by balancing 
the heights and depths that man can safely advance in consciousness. 

It would be impossible to deal fully with Sri Aurobindo's defi- 
nition of consciousness within a short space, for ir is the kit motif of 
his thought and he returns repeatedly to its exposition throughout 
his books, so it must suffice to indicate those concepts which seem 
to bear a relationship to Jung's. 

Sri Aurobindo has called consciousness "the fundamental thing 
in existence", and defined it as "a self-aware force of existence." Its 
principle therefore is found throughout the universe, in the stone 
and the star, the atom and the elephant, in the physical processes of 
the body as well as in the activities of mind and spirit. We might 
say that consciousness was the sine qua non of all being, for it is one 
of the attributes of God. The world is "essentially an act of con- 
sciousness," says Sri Aurobindo, but whereas consciousness in the 
material world is veiled and deeply involved in 'he forms it secretly 
supports^ at its highest spiritual level it fully possesses itself. At 

1 3 8 


every level therefore, its character is different, depending on the 
limitation or extent of its status and scope, but at every level it is a 
power of the consciousness of the Divine Being. "Consciousness is a 
reality inherent in existence, 5 ' writes Sri Aurobindo, "it is there even 
when it is not active on the surface, but silent and immobile... it is 
there even when it seems to us to be quite absent and the being to 
our view unconscious and inanimate. 

"Consciousness is not only power of awareness of self and things, 
it is or has also a dynamic and creative energy. It can determine its 
own reactions or abstain from reactions: it can not only answer to 
forces, but create or put out from itself forces. 

"Consciousness is usually identified with mind, but mental 
consciousness is only the human range which no more exhausts all 
the possible ranges of consciousness than human sight exhausts all 
the gradations of colour or human hearing all the gradations of sound 
for there is much above or below that is to man invisible and 
inaudible. So there are ranges of consciousness above and below the 
human range, with which the normal human has no contact and they 
seem to it unconscious, supramental or overmental and submental 
ranges." Again he says: "The gradations of consciousness are universal 
states not dependent on the outlook of the subjective personality; 
rather the outlook of the subjective personality is determined by 
the grade of consciousness in which it is organised according to its 
typical nature or its evolutionary stage." This accords with Jung's 
definition of the contents of consciousness, and we see also something 
of his concept of a total environing psychic reality in which man is 
immersed, with the important indeed vital proviso that it has ranges 
superior to our mental consciousness, as well as inferior. Jung has 
observed that the subliminal perceptions of the unconscious, as they 
appear in dreams, cover an enormous field and give expression "to 
ineluctable truths, to philosophical pronouncements, illusions, wild 
fantasies, memories, plans, anticipations, irrational experiences, even 
telepathic visions, and heaven knows what besides." But to 
Jung all these phenomena of sleep, some of them representing highly 
ordered and conscious experiences, rise from the depths, from that 
dark, obscure, chaotic void of the unconscious. It is surely not neces- 
sary to be very perceptive or conscious to realise the illogicality of 



such a supposition! Indeed only a concept of the gradations of con- 
sciousness such as Sri Aurobindo's can supply anything like a rational 
explanation of what is otherwise inexplicable in the experiences of 
sleep. Moreover, it does not seem to have occurred to Jung that when 
heterogeneous things are juxtaposed in the "unconscious" this may 
be due to a perfectly orderly para-normal experience being hopelessly 
distorted by the receiving mind. 

The autonomous nature of psychic happenings has been noted 
by Jung, and our inability to change them, for they are largely outside 
our conscious control; at times the depths of psychic life "which are 
nature" rise up and overwhelm us and sweep us away. This is the 
matrix in which all men under the domination of nature are sub- 
merged, but its operation and character are very obscurely envisaged, 
since the highest illuminations of the spirit are also represented as 
issuing from this sphere so ambiguously designated the unconscious. 
"Psychic science calls this hidden consciousness the subliminal self," 
says Sri Aurobindo, "and here too it is seen that this subliminal self 
has more powers, more knowledge, a freer field of movement than the 
smaller self that is on the surface. But the truth is that all this that 
is behind, this sea of which our waking consciousness is only a wave 
or series of waves, cannot be described by any one term, for it is very 
complex. Part of it is subconscient, lower than our waking conscious- 
ness; part of it is on a level with it but behind and much larger than it; 
part is above and superconscient to us. What we call our mind is 
only an outer mind, a surface mental action, instrumental for the 
partial expression of a larger mind behind of which we are not ordi- 
narily aware and can only know by going inside ourselves. So too 
what we know of the vital in us is only the outer vital, a surface acti- 
vity partially, expressing a larger secret vital which we can only know 
by going within. Equally, what we call our physical being is only a 
visible projection of a greater and subtler invisible physical conscious- 
ness which is much more complex, much more aware, much wider 
in its receptiveness, much more open and plastic and free." And 
elsewhere he adds that the body consciousness itself "is only part 
of the individualised physical consciousness in us which we gather 
and build out of the secretly conscious forces of universal 



In the light of these statements it becomes clear that what is 
unsatisfactory about Jung's estimation of consciousness and uncon- 
sciousness is his failure to recognise that there exists a hierarchy of the 
states of the universal consciousness, in which our consciousness is far 
from being the ne plus ultra which merely requires extension of its 
habitual contents. This extension of consciousness would seem to mean 
the hewing of fresh frontiers by the mind in the virgin forest of that 
which lies outside the range of its present apprehension. But Jung does 
not suggest that to do this fully requires a different order of knowing, 
and the advance to a superior power of consciousness and this is a 
conception absolutely fundamental to Integral Yoga. 


The terms used by Sri Aurobindo to define the various inner aspects 
of the being are very much more complex than those used by Jung. 
But here a difficulty arises for the European, for though the doctrine 
of the subtle bodies, on which he relies, is now accepted by a number 
of more enlightened doctors in the Wes*, it is not one to which the 
concrete European mind takes very easily. Without it, however, it is 
much mote difficult to accept Sri Aurobindo's analysis as definitive. 
This doctrine maintains that besides a physical body, each individual 
has an etheric counterpart consisting of a mental and emotional sheath. 
These sheaths act as a closed magnetic field and subtle matrix for the 
body, and control its physiological changes; they also act as a connecting 
mechanism which links it with the forces of mind, feeling and will. 
Sri Aurobindo refers to them as the physical, vital and mental planes of 
the being, and affirms that each has its own consciousness, separate 
though inter-connected and inter-acting, though "to our outer mind 
and sense, in our waking experience, they are all confused together. " 
To each of these planes there is an inner, as well as an outer counterpart, 
a higher as well as a lower organisation, and each responds to particular 
stimuli and controls the mental and emotional reactions of the individual. 
Quite apart from its importance to medicine, the recognition of the 
existence of these vital-mental bodies would enormously extend the 
scope of Western psychotherapy. To the practice of Yoga an under- 
standing of their organisation would seem indispensable. 



Sri Aurobindo describes the ego as the frontal personality, or 
desire soul, which serves the being's purposes of rough traffic with 
the world, and is built up in the process of its organic struggle to 
survive and reproduce itself. The individual identifies himself with 
this ego-self and in his early evolution recognises no other "I". In 
Jung's sense the ego is the centre of consciousness at this stage, 
and would far better fulfil his description of being a close reflec- 
tion of the corporeal, mundane and empirical than the soul. Here, 
however, the roads of Integral Yoga and Analytical Psychology diverge. 
Sri Aurobindo would hardly endorse Jung's opinions on the nature of 
the soul, which leave us in fact, in the utmost doubt as to its precise 
character. Instead, he describes the soul as an aspect of the Spirit, 
or Jivatma, which is "above" the manifested being; "a spark of the 
Divine... which comes down into the manifestation to support its evolu- 
tion in the material world. It is at first an undifferentiated power of the 
divine consciousness containing all the possibilities which have not yet 
taken form, but to which it is the function of evolution to give form. 
This spark is there in all living beings from the lowest to the highest." 

In its evolution, the soul forms a "psychic being" to support the 
mind, vital and body, but it is at first veiled by these things, and only as 
it grows "becomes capable of coming forward and dominating the mind, 
life and body." When therefore Jung speaks of his patients becoming 
conscious of something strange within them that is not the "I", and 
that this revelation marks the beginning of their cure, it would be 
optimistic to suppose that this was realisation of the Self or Spirit as the 
contemplative uses the term; rather it may be an initial conscious 
experience of what Sri Aurobindo calls the psychic being. To 
perfect that experience, to bring the psychic being forward so that it 
dominates all- the levels of the individual, is a first step in Integral Yoga 
and on purely psychological grounds one without which it may be said 
no true rehabilitation of personality can take place. 

It may be labouring the obvious to say that Integral Yoga is founded 
on the belief that there is one Being, which manifests itself as the 
Many; but on the intuitive realisation of this truth hang all the law and 
the prophets of Yoga. Its psychology therefore may be said to depend 
absolutely on a metaphysical postulate. Whether the analysis of man 
it advances is veridical can only be tested by subjective exploration and 



experience a standard of psychological judgment which Jung himself 
would seem, fundamentally, to endorse; on that proving or disproving, 
metaphysic and psychology stand or fall. But though Analytical 
Psychology confesses "the individual to be dependent on a world- 
system of the spirit" we must not look upon this as metaphysics, or 
venture to indicate what conclusions might logically be drawn from it 
in the field of psychological practice! 


In view of the foregoing it is unnecessary to go very fully into 
Sri Aurobindo's evaluation of meraphysics, since Integral Yoga without 
metaphysics might be likened to Hamlet without the Prince of Denmark. 
Whether we call him a metaphysician or a symbolical psychologist 
can safely be left to the academic finesse of future disputants. The 
different connotations of words are an endless source of misunder- 
standing, and when Jung envisages metaphysics he is not, I am sure, 
thinking of it in the sense in which Sri Aurobindo uses it in the follow- 
ing: "Indian philosophers have always... tried to establish generalisations 
drawn from spiritual experience by the light of metaphysical reasoning, 
but on the basis of that experience and with the evidence of the spiritual 
seekers as a supreme proof ranking higher than intellectual speculation 
or experience. In that way the freedom of spiritual and mystical expe- 
rience is preserved, the reasoning intellect comes in only on the second 
line as a judge of the generalised statements drawn from the experience. 33 


Jung's conception of the highly evolved man is of 'one who has 
attained an extension of consciousness far beyond the average. He has 
also disengaged himself from submersion in the unconscious. If the 
unconscious meant here the Ignorance domination by the lower 
forces of Nature we should acquiesce; but at the same time this man 
must be receptive to the "void out of which all things grow, 3 ' and this 
represents for Jung the unconscious. And what does he mean by exten- 
sion? He admits that samadhi is a remarkable extension of conscious- 
ness, yet says he cannot distinguish the condition from an unconscious 



state. Dr. Indra Sen has levelled a number of justifiable criticisms at 
this arbitrary identification 1 which would seem to be the result of the 
failure to distinguish the real nature of the gradations of consciousness. 

We might qualify Jung's statement that much of the evil in the 
world comes from man being so hopelessly unconscious, by saying that 
it is also the outcome of the limitations of mental consciousness. We 
have only to add another range of perception extra-sensory perception 
to the ordinary range of the physical senses which largely supply 
the contents of our mental consciousness to find that our idea of the 
world has been completely revolutionised. How can we rely on a mode 
of consciousness so palpably fallible? If the extension of consciousness 
envisaged by Jung is not radically different in quality from our ordinary 
mental consciousness we can have little hope that it will prove a radical 
solution of our difficulties. Moreover, the weakness of his analysis of 
samadhi would seem to be this: on his own admission Jung tells us that 
too deep an attraction for the unconscious has a disintegrating effect on 
personality and may totally destroy its equilibrium, yet in samadhi, 
in all the higher mystical states, the orientation and integration of the 
personality that takes place as a result is of a very exceptional order. 
How then can it be the outcome of submersion in the unconscious? 

Extension, in Jung's terminology, we may infer, is not that highest 
power of consciousness called by Sri Aurobindo the Supramental. 
It is not an intuitive realisation in which a man acts from a centre where 
he is in union with his own highest Self and the Divine Consciousness. 
Nevertheless the loneliness of Jung's modern man has some distant 
resemblance to the inwardness of Sri Aurobindo's gnostic man. 
"The spiritual man lives always within," writes Sri Aurobindo, 
"and in a world of the Ignorance that refuses to change he 
has to be in a certain sense separate from it and to guard his 
inner life against the intrusion and influence of the darker forces of 
the Ignorance; he is out of the world even when he is within it; if 
he acts upon it, it is from the fortress of his own spiritual being where 
in the inmost sanctuary he is one with the Supreme Existence or the 
soul and God are alone together." This transcendence, he adds, is 

1 Vide, "A Psychological Appreciation of Sri Aurobindo's System of Integral 
Yoga" in Sri Aurobindo Mandir Annual, No. 3, 1944. 



necessary "for the freedom of the spirit; for otherwise the identity in 
Nature with the world would be a binding limitation and not a free 

There all resemblance with the spiritual man of Sri Aurobindo's 
ideal ends; for he is the result of a life-long process of steadfast aspira- 
tion, vigilant discipline and devotion, and the transformation he seeks 
is that of being transfigured into the Divine Nature. But Jung has 
posited a new man, and that is a matter of profound significance, for 
it is only when men of good will all over the world begin to grope 
towards a fresh ideal, however imperfectly, that the creative conditions 
for its emergence are released. 


"Humanity is not the highest godhead; God is more than 
humanity; but in humanity too we have to find and to serve 



The Practical Man and the Eternal 

HPHIS epoch may well be thought of as delivered over to the Practical 
* Man. The upsurge of Science, and the increasing importance 
of trained labour within the complexity of the modern industrial 
State, has largely operated to establish what is generally called the 
Practical Man in the forefront of the community. He is the one who 
knows about things; he has an alertness of hand and brain that enables 
him to "get things done", and a natural aptitude for leadership at a 
time when "things" and "the hard facts of life" seem to have the 
ascendancy over ideas and the philosophical ways of living. The Prac- 
tical Man has been in undisputed charge of the world's affairs for the 
past few generations; and the blunt truth is that he has made a frightful 
mess of them. 

Unless the Practical Man can soon be converted into the Spiritual 
Man, to some effective extent at least, it looks as if organised civilisation 
on this planet may shortly come to a full stop. So far as he has got at 
present this modern man feels that he must behave as if he were the 
isolated individual unit he thinks he is, and must strive and fight in 
competition with the other individuals about him. He recognises 
little more common life-interest with others than a mutuality of armed 
suspicion, or at best a precarious bargain of mutual non-aggression. 
He finds it necessary to carve out legal systems, and to maintain police 
and armed forces to guarantee his vital and economic existence, whether 
as an individual, a group, or a nation. The purpose to be served by these 
mechanisms of his is to keep individuals apart, to keep them from getting 
at each other, and so to prevent victimisation and the devouring of 
one human unit, or class, or nation by another. 

The individual in whose breast some glimmering of spiritual 
perception is beginning to shine deplores this general spectacle of a 
humanity composed of mutually exclusive units and groups, but is 



seemingly unable to do anything about it. Such individuals are by 
no means uncommon in all nations which pretend to civilisation. 
They may not be sufficient to provide electoral majorities but still 
there are a lot of them. In general they wish well by their fellow-men 
and they are distressed and bewildered by the pass to which humanity 
has now brought itself, and more especially they are bewildered by their 
own ignorance and apparent futility in helping to make things better. 

Many of them join forces with each other and work hard to impose 
some apparently more logical system of regulation whether reli- 
gious, political, or social on their fellows. But one after another 
their systems are found merely to involve a change of bonds, never a 
release from the bondage of individual separativcness with its conse- 
quent fear and misfortune. The changes of systems appear to act only 
to shift the impact of distress from one individual or class to another 
within the whole, but never to lift all individuals bodily out of their 
common sorrow. 

Although possibly accentuated over the past fifty years or so this 
is the age-old puzzle to which man must have been applying himself 
ever since he could reflect on his own inward state. One after another 
the great religions of history have tried to solve it, and all have made 
some contribution, if only in a negative sense. But still the puzzle 
stands unsolved as a whole, and each religious power which at its 
birth, and for a short time after, looked as if it would provide an answer, 
has gradually withered into a dry social form and has become ineffective 
to help humanity in any real or wide way. 

The latest attack on the puzzle of human misery is by the new 
religion of Political Science, which has grown out of recent industrial 
history and the old pessimistic Political Economy of the igth Century. 
Various "churches" or schisms of this new "Religion of the Common 
Man", as it might be called, have appeared all over the world, ranging 
from confessions of faith in cynical power-materialism to a pampered 
idealisation of the Common Man which goes beyond the limits of 
rationality. Still it is obvious that not yet has the particular political 
system appeared which will deliver individuals, groups, or nations 
from their heritage of suffering and fear. In most areas in the world 
there is little more relative harmony among the men and women who 
inhabit them than there is among the animals in any representative 



tract of jungle, and within only a few small countries which are espe- 
cially rich, possibly through some circumstance of isolation or another, 
is there any settled prosperity or harmony of social conditions. 

Yet, as has been said, the civilised world is full of people practical 
people who wish well by their fellow men and who would make 
personal sacrifices if they knew how they could benefit mankind. 
What is the key to this puzzle of how our human family is to provide 
happiness for itself, instead of unhappiness? 

In his wonderful chapter in "The Life Divine" called "The 
Eternal and the Individual", Sri Aurobindo demonstrates how each 
individual is, as a matter of reality, an embodiment of three things 
at the same time. He is first a terrestial being, individualised and 
separate from other terrestial beings; secondly, he is possessed of the 
potentiality of cosmic consciousness within his own individual vehicle, 
and thirdly he is supported by the Absolute Reality behind all mani- 
festation of which our cosmos is a part. 

In explaining the mechanism of consciousness Sri Aurobindo 
describes the interrelationship of these three states, i.e., the Individual 
mind, the Cosmic consciousness, and the Absolute supporting principle 
of consciousness-life. Each of these aspects has access to the other, 
actual or potential, and it is in the matter of bringing his individuality 
into actual contact with the greater consciousness that the secret of 
man's fulfilment, the sublimation of his humanity into divinity, exists. 

The individual consciousness informs the separated units of 
humanity, and is the outermost expression of that universal sea of 
consciousness that envelops all manifestation. Each human individual 
appears to be shut off in his life and consciousness from all other indi- 
viduals, and finds he must depend on such aids as language, spoken 
or written, to get some rough approximation to the contents of their 
consciousness. In fact, however, all human units of consciousness 
are merely parts of the Cosmic Being who chooses to manifest in this 
way; when an individual gains access to the Cosmic mind he finds 
himself, we are told, in simultaneous contact with the consciousness 
and minds of all other human beings. He perceives his unity with all 
humanity and the separate, or specialised, interests of his own person- 
ality are of no more than mild academic interest to him. He is aware 
of the life of the whole within himself. 



The Cosmic mind, or World-Being is, in its turn, supported by 
the Absolute (Purusha): 

"But we see farther that in the end this Purusha, this cause and 
self of our individuality, comes to embrace the whole world and all 
other beings in a sort of conscious extension of itself and to perceive 
itself as one with the world-being. In its conscious extension of itself 
it exceeds the primary experience and abolishes the barriers of its active 
self-limitation and individualisation; by its perception of its own 
infinite universality it goes beyond all consciousness of separative 
individuality or limited soul-being. By that very fact the individual 
ceases to be the self-limiting ego; in other words, our false consciousness 
of existing only by self-limitation, by rigid distinction of ourselves 
from the rest of being and becoming is transcended; our identification 
of ourselves with our personal and temporal individualisation in a 
particular mind and body is abolished." 1 

It appears, then, that it is the individual's attempt to live his life 
as if he were an isolated and irresponsible unit of life-consciousness, 
of merely a part of a whole, that is the cause of all his unhappiness. 
There is, therefore, every practical reason for the individual to remember 
always that he is, in fact, three things in one he is an individual, he is 
part of a cosmic being, finally he exists only through the support of a 
divine and transcendental principle. 

Nevertheless, because of the limitations of his present perceptions 
it is very natural for the individual to say 

"I am not compelled to reconcile contradictions, not called on to be 
conscious of and conscious in something beyond myself and world and 
yet deal from that basis, as God does, with a world of contradictions. 
The attempt to be as God while I am still an individual or to be three 
things at a time seems to me to involve a logical confusion and a practical 
impossibility. 5 ' 2 

1 The Life Divine, Vol. II, p. 123. 

2 ibid. 



The hard and inescapable fact is, however, that we are each one of 
us "three things at a time" and the endeavour to live our lives as if 
we were only one the individual is the very root and cause of all 
humanity's distress. Until the individual can, to some extent, solve 
in his own understanding this most difficult of all problems, his life 
will lack essential direction and he will encounter frustration and sorrow. 

In dealing with the rational or individual approach to this problem 
Sri Aurobindo says there is involved "a triple error, the error of making 
an unbridgeable gulf between the Absolute and the relative, the error 
of making too simple and rigid and extending too far the law of contar- 
dictions and the error of conceiving in terms of Time the genesis of 
things which have their origin and first habitat in the Eternal." 1 

This illumined conception has great originality among religious 
and philosophical theories of the past or the present. That there is 
not an unbridgeable gulf between the Absolute and the relative is a dis- 
covery in the sphere of spiritual physics as tremendous as and more 
significant for mankind than Einstein's discovery of relativity. Indeed, 
there seems to be some sort of analogy between these two pronounce- 

It must be said at once that because Sri Aurobindo says there is 
not an unbridgeable gulf between the Absoute and the relative, this 
does not put his conception among the easy materialistic philosophies 
of the day which are centered round the vulgar idea of "making one's 
heaven on earth". These ate generally little more than attempts to 
improve material circumstances to suit personal tastes, or at best 
to apply a sort of self-hypnosis so that the stark facts of existence are 
not seen in their true implications but only through a spurious rosy 
mist of sentimentality. The heaven-on-earth school reaches its most 
extreme peak^of credulity with the notion that if material conditions 
are made physically comfortable enough, the ordinary rank-and-file 
individual will grow into spirituality willy-nilly. This astonishing belief 
is a precept of modern Socialism and is in interesting contradiction to 
the exhortation of the great spiritual Light who said "But seek ye first 
the Kingdom of God..." It may be that this faith in the absolute rule 
of matter is strengthened by the theories of the so-called psychological 

1 The Life Divine, Vol. II, p. 123. 



sciences of the day, which have not yet got beyond locating the human 
will and character in the cells and glands of the body. The belief in 
the dominant effect of physical environment on the human spirit is so 
astonishing because it is contrary to all observation and human expe- 
rience; it is an example of misplaced faith the faith that depends 
entirely on will and is not founded on impartial and rational perception. 
Later, we shall develop Sri Aurobindo's conception of a true heaven- 
on-earth of a totally different calibre. This one comes about through 
first seeking the Kingdom of God and, then, having found it, bringing 
it down into manifestation on earth. It does not at all depend on 
rearranging the circumstances of material existence as a first requisite. 
Nor does Sri Aurobindo's teaching have anything to do with the 
schools who deny themselves full expression of their inclinations on 
earth in the hope of being correspondingly rewarded later in heaven. 
Both these apparently opposed points of view are actually rooted in the 
same materialism. The people who bargain away the things they long 
for here and now, in order to enjoy some sublimated form of them in a 
Hereafter, are as hide-bound materialists as are those who collect 
all they can now and refuse to defer cashing their cheques till hereafter. 
Both doctrines want the same things, but one is prepared to wait so as 
to enjoy a more exquisite type of them; or more often because their 
immediate enjoyment of them is not actually possible and they must 
make the best of a bad job. 

By contrast with these easy, but finally ineffective and false, ways 
of achieving serenity, Sri Aurobindo points out a new road by which 
suffering humanity may escape fiom its fears and sorrows. This road 
may appear either simple or difficult according to the psychological 
temperament of the sympathetically inclined seeker. Like all roads of 
escape it will only appeal to those who are in distress, save for a fortunate 
few who are equipped already, by their spiritual past, with the ability 
to see the Light and for whom there is no practical problem. It will 
have no meaning at all for people who are satisfied with their own lives 
and prospects, or with the conditions they see around them, or with 
the religions or philosophies which they already possess, and to which 
they look for explanations of the life that they know. It will, however, 
appeal with exhilarating power to those who have picked up and put 
down as useless, one after another, the nostrums for human happiness 


which are scattered around civilisation East and West in such a welter 
of confused ineffectiveness. To those whose souls are sick for the Light 
of Final Reason, and whose spirits long for complete and unqualified 
serenity, the message of Sri Aurobindo is the supreme hope of the age. 
In passing, it must be admitted that the Path proposed is one of escap- 
ism that word of suspicion to Western minds. But it represents escape 
from the Ignorance into Reality and not merely a temporary escape 
from one bad dream into another temporarily less unpleasant. The 
yoga that Sri Aurobindo describes is the path of escape from the Dun- 
geons of Despair into the Light of bliss. 

With some possible exceptions all effective spiritual philosophies 
have come out of the East. These have generally insisted on the gulf 
which exists between the Absolute and the relative and have been 
addressed to helping their followers to cross it. Christianity and some 
other systems have promised a magical post-mortem crossing, or salva- 
tion, in return for faith in and devotion to a personal Saviour. To 
the extent that other systems identify "salvation" with "illumination" 
and enable this to be brought about during the ordinary life-time by 
a practical technique (or yoga) of mysticism, they arc of the same essen- 
tial nature as the Eastern systems. 

But Sri Aurobindo's yoga is not so much devised to assist the 
postulant to cross a gulf existing between the Absolute and the relative 
consciousness, as to help him to do away with it. He must find a means 
of bringing the two consciousnesses together. He is not intended to 
leap over the abyss into the Absolute, once and forever, abandoning 
humanity behind him in the relative life from which he has himself 

In this chapter The Eternal and the Individual Sri Aurobindo 
develops and < explains, with compelling reason and logical force, the 
interrelationship of the three levels of consciousness, the Absolute 
principle, the cosmic Divine, and that of the individual. He gives 
also the secret for the practical achievement of awareness by the natural 
man of the perpetual presence in his life of the Divine consciousness. 
This fact is the hope and glory of human life, that the Divine con- 
sciousness is always available to the individual, but it is for him to open 
himself up to it and share it. This is the solution of human difficulties, 
and the means for the harmonisation of the relative or personal life, 



The way in which this awareness is to come about is by spiritual expe- 
rience. Sri Aurobindo says, "We see by reason that such an Absolute 
must exist; we become by spiritual experience aware of its existence;..." 

The whole secret and purpose of human life and endeavour, in 
terms of Sri Aurobindo's teaching, is to become aware of the existence 
of the Absolute consciousness, and this we can do by a type of experience 
which transcends the reason and which, for want of more precisely 
developed scientific terms, is called spiritual. Indeed, the term is a 
good one with which to describe supra-rational experience, so long as 
we shake it clear from any connotation with religiosity, as well as from 
formal ethical and moral concepts. This is not to say that ethics and 
morals make no contribution to the experiences of the spirit, but merely 
that these terms imply conditions that are rooted in the relative con- 
sciousness and changeable, so that the practice of any particular form 
of them is not in itself a decisive step towards spiritual experience. 
The latter, even when achieved in very small measure, will be found to 
impose its own rules of ethics and morals, some of which may be in 
startling contrast to commonly accepted conventions. 

Spiritual experience is both the individual's means of connection 
with the Eternal and his hope his only hope for the solution of his 
troubles in the human world of relativities. There is no other path for 
him out of his sorrows and pains than to gain by spiritual experience a 
realisation of the Absolute of which he is a cosmic aspect. All the 
political systems, the economic theories, the religious professions, the 
social endeavours in the world will not take mankind out of his natural 
troubles but only spiritual experience will do this for him. It is 
obviously not the case that politics, economics, religions, social service, 
and so on are useless to mankind. These movements are exercises in 
action and self-discipline; they involve the interchange and friction of 
thought and aspiration and confront the individual with the problems 
of his own being. They are, in one form or another, the essential kinder- 
garten in the curriculum which lies before the individual as soon as he 
becomes capable of reflective thought. This occurs when he begins to 
emerge from the semi-involuntary consciousness of the human-animal 
stage of evolution, during which his thinking will have been merely the 
semi-automatic reflexes arising out of his vital experiences. Following 
the principle of evolutionary recapitulation, the highly civilised man or 

a 153 


woman should normally grow through some enthusiasms for formal 
religion, politics, social service, and so on during the early years of a 
lifetime. There seems, however, to be not much reason or excuse 
for such enthusiasms to persist into the years of mature spiritual endea- 
vour, though there is no reason why some form of these activities 
should not be a means of secular occupation, just as any other profes- 
sion. So far as taking mankind bodily out of its troubles all these move- 
ments are essentially beside the point. They are in Caesar's domain, 
and in themselves are not currency in God's kingdom. The most inge- 
nious rearrangement of economic powers will not change "self" into 
"not-self" in the human breast, and nothing short of this is going 
to help to solve the human problem. 

To change self into not-self, somehow to bring into the waking 
consciousness the realisation of our unity with the World-Being, is 
the aim. Somehow we must become conscious of a Self which at 
one and the same time informs the cosmos and informs our own and 
each other's individuality in the cosmos. This Self, we shall find in 
time, has Its reality and support from, and is an expression of, the 
Absolute, the final conditionless state. 

Although this conditionless condition of all life the Absolute 
is beyond our rational conception it seems well and helpful to think 
of It as bliss and utter fulfilment. It does not take much faith to hold 
that the final state of consciousness-life is fulfilment, and not anni- 
hilation in the ordinary meaning of the word. Preliminary spiritual 
knowledge points to this conclusion, and the whole weight of mystical 
experience is towards a more and more blissful fulfilment, and a con- 
tinuous shedding of a less for a more satisfactory state of being. 

What concerns the practical mind is how to bring into the indi- 
vidual consciousness the spiritual experience that will reveal the con- 
tinuous presence of the cosmic Being or consciousness. It is important 
to see that the sincere formulation of this question how is it to be 
done? is an indication that the answer is already half guessed at. The 
individual who asks the question will not be concerned at all with the 
problem unless he has had some preliminary spiritual conversion, 
that is, presuming the question is not asked out of rhetorical cynicism. 
His experiences arising out of the external or internal circumstances 
in his own life or in those about him, may have sent him seeking for 



more satisfactory explanations of his universe than he has yet been 
offered. He may not recognise his pains and perturbations as spiritual 
experience, although if they have been strong enough to upset the 
equilibrium of his normal, commonplace outlook he will probably 
be aware of the signs and portents of an enlarged cosnciousness. For 
people capable of accepting ideas that go beyond the common- 
or -garden varieties in general currency, spiritual experience may already 
be a reality justifying faith. Not only may this type of postulant have 
some notion of what spiritual experience is, but he may also be able 
to appreciate some of its potentialities for opening up his conscious- 
ness to the power, light, and bliss, of higher realms of being. He may 
even know more or less what he must do to deliver himself from 
his own chains, and will see that he lacks only will and faith enough to 
carry his endeavours into realms which he cannot yet see but only 

To the practical man with spiritual leanings who surveys the world 
Vanity Fair, it does not seem possible that there are enough seekers 
after the Light to make any appreciable difference to the over-all 
spiritual content of the race consciousness. Even if all seekers became 
illuminated at once there would still seem to be far too few points 
of light to have any practical effect on the prevailing darkness. It is, 
indeed, difficult for the isolated striver to see how any large-scale 
conversion of humanity is going to be possible as a result of such 
efforts as his own, and at this stage of his evolution humanity's problem 
will worry him and he will want to do something about them. 

It is the case, of course, chat during such glimpses of the Light 
of reality as he has had all problems will have disappeared both his 
own and humanity's but when the Light has faded his own fears 
and doubts will have flowed back over him and, in f^ct, will have 
reduced him to being a "practical man" again, from which viewpoint 
this article is being written. 

The waking consciousness of the oidinary man floats on the thin 
outer surface of existence. He has no normal contact with the inner 
depths from which spring the outer conditions of which he is aware. 
Indeed, he is generally unaware that his outer conditions spring from 
anything else than other outer conditions. He may vaguely assent to 
interior or superior influences of one sort or another, but he gives 



no practical weight to them in his day-by-day calculations. Unless 
a man makes the great effort, backed by initial faith, which is neces- 
sary to get behind the screen of "things", his waking consciousness 
is restricted to outer sense controls and the semi-automatic reaction 
to images formed in his lower intellect. He must make his judgments 
and strive for his effects on the bare surface of conditions and dealing 
only with the concrete things of his life. This is why the common 
efforts of well-meaning but unenlightened people are so unavailing 
to help humanity to any real betterment of its environment; as rapidly 
as the surface components are rearranged into what seems a better 
pattern, so do new evils and troubles come to the surface to keep the 
fundamentals as they were. In fact, the ordinary life of humanity is 
like dry sand, inelastic and with no mutuality of cohesion in itself. 

What, then, are we to tell our practical man who has the welfare 
of the world at heart? If he will listen, which means if he is both sincere 
and intelligent, we will try and give him Sri Aurobindo's message of 

"The power of the individual to possess in his consciousness by 
self-knowledge his unity with the Transcendent and the universal, 
with the One Being and all beings and to live in that knowledge and 
transform his life by it, is that which makes the working out of the 
divine self-manifestation through the individual possible; and the 
arrival of the individual not in one but in all at the divine life is 
the sole conceivable object of the movement." 1 

He will see that his sole duty, and possibility of help to humanity, 
is himself to find the Divine Life. He will not go far in his search 
before realising that he had previously formed some very erroneous 
notions about what was best and most desirable for his fellow-men. 
From a new elevation of the spirit he will perceive that what he pre- 
viously took to be enormous differences between human beings and 
their personal characters are, in fact, so trifling as to be of little 
practical account. The saint and the sinner may now appear to him 
to be relatively close together perhaps both lacking in the touch 

1 The Life Divine, Vol. II, p. 140. 



of real Light, or perhaps both sharing it. Even pain and sorrow will 
seem to be a phase of the play of Ananda within the crude and rebellious 
material which is being worked into a progressive homogeneity and 
harmony. Individual tragedies, and the horror of separation of life 
from life, will seem less stark and cruel when it begins to be perceived 
that there is no separation either of life from life or of individuality 
from the Whole. The sentimental outlook upon events and history 
will give way to a finer and wider perception of realities, and this 
increase of impersonality will result in a greater power for healing and 
building. How great the power will be, or what il will accomplish or 
when, will be realised to be beside the point. Such as it is, it will be 
placed more and more at the disposal of the Mother, whose guiding 
hands will gradually take over the whole direction of the individual 
life, to the joy and fulfilment in power of the individual. This is no 
isolated triumph for the disciple but he will become another beacon 
for his fellows still in Ignorance, another beach-head for the assault 
upon the forces marshalled under the banner of the blind King of 
personal power. 

The practical man will see, if his sincerity gives him eyes, that 
his formula for the future is the power of self-transcendence and of 
transforming, by self-knowledge, the conditions of the play nearer 
and nearer to the truth of the Divine Delight. "In that power lies 
the justification of individual existence; the individual and the uni- 
versal unfolding in themselves the divine light, power, joy of tran- 
scendent Sachchidananda always manifest above them, always secret 
behind their surface appearances, this is the secret intention, the 
ultimate significance of the divine plan, the Lila. But it is in them- 
selves, in their transformation but also in their persistence and perfect 
relations, not in their self-annihilation that that must 'be unfolded. 
Otherwise there would be no reason for their ever having existed; 
the possibility of the Divine's unfolding in the individual is the secret 
of the enigma, his presence there and this intention of self-unfolding 
the key to the world of Knowledge-Ignorance." 2 


1 The Life Divine, Vol. II, p. 141. 


Freeing a Star 

"If a star were confin'd into a tomb. 

Her captives must needs burn there; 
But when the hand that lock'd her up, gives room,, 

She'll shine through all the sphere." 

Henry Vaughan. 

YifHEN Christianity went west, what happened to the Resurrection? 
The light-loving, sattwic Greeks remained faithful to the 
idea: the Greek church still puts its chief emphasis on the ending of 
a dark phase and the beginning of a bright permanency. Wherever 
the Celts were predominant, a glorious rebirth of light out of darkness 
was what the new faith meant to them: echoing, perhaps amplifying, 
the substance of their own. The cosmogeny of this, quoted 
from the ancient Welsh Barddas by Sir Humphrey Rolleston in his 
Myths and Legends of the Celtic Races, is as follows: "Organised 
life began by the Word God pronounced his ineffable Name and 
the 'Manred 3 was formed. The Manred was the primal substance 
of the universe. It was conceived as a multitude of minute indivisible 
particles atoms in fact each being a microcosm, for God is complete 
in each of them, while at the same time each is a part of God, the 
Whole. The' totality of life as it now exists is represented by three 
concentric circles. The innermost of them, where Life sprang from 
Annwn, is called 'Abred' and is the stage of struggle and evolution 
the contest of life with Cythrawl, The next is the circle of 'Gwynfid' 
or Purity, in which life is manifested as a pure, rejoicing force, having 
attained its triumph over evil. The last and outermost circle is 
called 'Ceugeant' or Infinity. Here all predicates fail us, and this 
circle, represented graphically not by a boundary line, but by divergent 
rays, is inhabited by God alone. Every being, we are told, shall attain 


to the circle of Gwynfid at last." Such a ground enabled the Scottish 
Celts to do lovely things with what they supposed to be the message 
of the new Avatar. Here, for instance, is the translation (from the 
Carmina Gaedelicd) of a very ancient Gaelic hymn of the nativity, 
Duan Nollaig: 

"This is the night of the great Nativity 

Born is the Son of Mary the Virgin 

The soles of his feet have touched ihe earth... " 

(Let us for a moment remember K.D. Sethna's: 

"What shall we mortals do? O ours to meet 
With worshipping brow the flowers of his feet!" 

and let the poems rejoice in each other.) The Gaelic poem goes on: 

"The mountains glowed to him, the plains glowed to him, 
The voice of the waves with the song of the strand 
Announcing to us that Christ is born." 

No one has put the star into any kind of a tomb yet. Listen! 

"Shone to him the earth and sphere together. 

God the Lord has opened a Door 

Son of Mary Virgin, hasten thou to help me 

Thou Christ of hope, thou Door of joy 

Golden Sun of hill and mountain 

All hail! Let there be joy." 

But the Celtic Christians were pushed back too soon, and so was 
their bright faith, by people of cruder and heavier desires: emphasis 
shifted from Christ the Door to a tamasic-rajasic, wallowing accep- 
tance of Christ as vicarious sacrifice for sin. At once the starry idea 
of evolution "from Abred to Gwynfid" is entombed, and Cythrawl, 
a darkness glaring with all the VitaPs hottest and smokiest enjoyments, 
clamps down the lid. Man "sins" and grovels. Even Thomas 



Traherne, a light-loving creature who looked "For Man to act as if his 
soul did see, The very brightness of eternity; For Man to act as if his 
love did burn Above the spheres, even while it's in its urn", could 
also, after a glance about him, write: 

"Mankind is sick, the world distemper'd lies 

Oppressed with sins and miseries. 
Their sins are woes; a long corrupted train 

Of poison, drawn from Adam's vein, 
Stains all his seed and all his kin 

Are one disease of life within. 

They all torment themselves!" 

They do, indeed: ego swells under a thousand disguises. 

"Lord, what is man? why should he cost Thee 
So dear? what had his ruin lost thee? 
Lord, what is man? that thou hast overbought 
So much a thing of nought?" 

True modesty, one would suppose, might conclude that an omni- 
scient and omnipotent Creator must have a very good idea of his 
creatures' value; proceeding thence to the notion that a worthy Crea- 
ture's parr in the endeavour is, with quiet happiness, to go on learning 
how properly to fulfil the creative idea. Indeed the young, musical 
Milton does see what the sentimental Crashaw misses. 

"Blest pair of Sirens, pledges of Heaven's joy, 
Sphere-born harmonious Sisters, voice and verse! 
Wed your divine sounds, and mixt power employ 
Dead things with inbreathed sense able to pierce; 
And to our high-raised phantasy present 
That undisturbed Song of pure concent 
Ay sung before the sapphire-coloured throne 

To Him that sits thereon, 
With saintly shout and solemn jubilee; 
Where the bright Seraphim in burning row 



Their loud uplifted angel-trumpets blow; 
And the Cherubic host in thousand quires 
Touch their immortal harps of golden wires, 
With those just spirits that wear victorious palms. 

Hymns devout and holy psalms 

Singing everlastingly: 

Thus we on earth, with undiscording voice 
May rightly answer that melodious noise; 
As once we did, till disproportioned sin 
Jarred against nature's chime, and with harsh din 
Broke the fair music that all creatures made 
To their great Lord, whose love their motion swayed 
In perfect diapason, whilst they stood 
In first obedience, and their state of good. 

O may we soon again renew that Song 

And keep in tune with Heaven, till God ere long 

To His celestial concert us unite 
To live with Him, and sing in endless morn of light! 33 

Man is here in his place: his voice and his verse penetrate even 
to the core of "dead things", breathing into them breathing back 
into each its own lovely importance, as divined by Man, in whom the 
inarticulate are intended to find voices and by whom alone, in this 
evolution, they are to be shown their "sense." Man is aware, he is 
familiarly and deliciously part of the "fair music which all creatures 
make." The star is out and singing as it sang to Shakespeare, when 
he realised that 

"There's not the smallest orb which thou behold'st, 
But in his motion like an angel sings...." 

Gwynfid is shining everywhere through Abred. But not for long. 

"Methought Death, with his dart, 
Had mortally transfix't my heart; 

And devils round about, 
To seize my spirit flying out, 



Cried 'Now', of which you took no care, 
Is turn'd to Never and despair!" 

In all ages there appear to be artists who reflect their time not 
necessarily with approval and those whose vocation is rather to resist, 
illuminate, and lead it on to its future. While Bishop Thomas Ken 
was writing the verse just quoted, Thomas Shepherd's eye was fixed 
firmly on a distant Gwynfid: 

"Alas, my God, that we should be 

Such strangers to each other! 
O that as friends we might agree 

And walk and talk together." 

Not long afterwards, up jumps Blake with his exasperated and 
perhaps, because exasperated, insufficient revolt against the contem- 
porary isolation of Man from his divine setting and cosmic function. 

"And did the Countenance Divine 

Shine forth upon our clouded hills? 
And was Jerusalem builded here 

Among these dark Satanic Mills? 

"Bring me my bow of burning gold..." 
In vain, one is tempted to think. The fog thickens. 

"The chuich bells toll a melancholy round... 
Surely the mind of man is closely bound 
In some black spell..." 

The half Cornish, half Cockney poet who thought so, did, we may 
gratefully suppose, as thoroughly as anyone could, what his Muse 
required of him toward counteracting the spell, and he tried to discover 
the cause of the melancholy: in the letter to George Keats, his brother, 
dated 3Oth April 1819, he puts in a strong plea thus for Gwynfid-and- 
evolution against Cythrawl-and-substituted-retaliation. "The common 



cognomen of this world among the misguided and superstitious is 
'a vale of tears' from which we are to be redeemed by a certain arbitrary 
interposition of God and taken to Heaven what a little circumscribed 
straightened notion! Call the world if you please 'The vale of Soul- 
making'. Then you will find out the use of the world....! say 'Soul- 
making', soul as distinguished from an Intelligence there may be 
intelligences or sparks of the divinity in millions but they are not 
Souls till they acquire identities, till each one is personally itself. Intel- 
ligences are atoms of perception they know and they see and they are 
pure, in short they are God. How then are Souls to be made? 
How then are these sparks which are God to have identity given 
them so as ever to possess a bliss peculiar to each one's indivi- 
dual existence? How, but by the medium of a world like this..., As 
various as the Lives of Men are so various become their Souls, 
and thus does God make individual beings, Souls, Identical Souls 
of the sparks of his own essence. This appears to me a faint 
sketch of a system of salvation which does not affront our reason and 

But the commercial attitude already hinted at in Crashaw's lines 
is rapidly spreading to life: the industrial revolution is upon us, Man is 
no longer a "voice" for dead things but their exploiter: the more sensi- 
tive, aware of this growing narrowness, go so far as to indulge in a kind 
of grovelling before Nature as well as before God. Listen to Elizabeth 
Barrett Browning: 

" 'O dreary life', we cry, 'O dreary life!' 

And still the generations of the birds 

Sing through our sighing, and the flocks and herds 

Serenely live while we are keeping strife 

With Heaven's true purpose in us..." 

Man lives in himself, and the isolation is terrible: he is afraid of 
his source and his home. 

"The Infinite.' Word horrible! at feud 
With life, and the braced mood 
Of power, and love, and joy..." 



That is Coventry Patmore. Here is Chiistina Rossetti: 

"God strengthen me to bear myself; 
That heaviest weight of all to bear. 
Inalienable weight of care... 

"If I could set aside myself, 

And start with lightened heart upon 

The road by all men overgone!" 

She does, almost, glimpse what may lie at the end of such a journey 
or at any rate, be refreshment on completing a stage. 

"As I lie dreaming 

It rises, that land: 
There rises before me 

Its green golden strand, 
With its bowing cedars 

And its shining sand; 
It sparkles and flashes 

Like a shaken brand." 

But she locates it, not on earth at the end of a brave and extremely 
interesting struggle "out of Abred into Gwynfid", but in a static 
heaven passively reached by the grave. She is typical of her time in so 
doing. Man, his eyes on personal salvation and his thoughts on bargain 
instead of identity and divine calling, grows more and more disgusting to 

himself and even, as Charles Wesley presently discovers, to his Maker: 

"Still, O Lord, for Thee I tarry 

Full of sorrows, sins and wants; 
Thee and all thy Saints I weary 

With my sad and vain complaints; 
Sawn asunder by temptation, 

Tortured by distracting care, 
Killed by doubts' severe vexation, 

Sorer even than despair. 



Will the fight be never over? 

Will the balance never turn?" 

Yes, it will but not just yet. Even to Hopkins, who can begin a 
sonnet, "The world is charged with the grandeur of God", it seems, as 
the poem continues, that: 

"Generations have trod, have trod, have trod; 

And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil; 

And wears man's smudge and shares man's smell..." 

No doubt Hopkins' Muse, too did what could be done with the 
age, and Hopkins. But there is too much commerce, there is too little 
identity, there is too much ego and too little cosmos. 

"Ah well! it is all a purchase, all is a prize. 
Buy then! bid then! What? Prayer, patience, 
alms, vows..." 

But already two young poets in Ireland are preparing to restore 
Man, partially at any rate, to his place in the manifestation a thing 
they have only to look at, anywhere, in order to see in it a whole and 
beautiful, god-occupied, infinitely various marvel. 

"I passed along the water's edge below the humid trees, 
My spirit rocked in evening light, the rushes round my knees, 
My spirit rocked in sleep and sighs; and saw the moorfowl chase 
Each other round in circles, and heard the eldest speak: 
Who holds the world between His bill and made us strorg or weak 
Is an undying moorfowl, and He lives beyond the sky. 
The rains are from His dripping wing, the moonbeams from 
His eye." 

Yeats also walks among the seven woods of Coole: "shady Kyle- 
dortha sunnier Kyle-na-gno" and "dim Pairc-na-tarav, where enchanted 
eyes, Have seen immortal mild proud shadows pass." He had not, he 
tells us; 



"I had not eyes like those enchanted eyes 
Yet dreamed that beings happier than men 
Moved round me in the shadows, and at night 
My dreams were cloven by voices and by fires..." 

Man is not now absorbed in himself: light rocks his spirit; the God 
who is archetype for the moorfowl is archetype for himself and the 
Eternal Beauty; he neighbours beings "happier than men", of a different 
order and yet able to communicate to his poetically alert penetration 
the experience of their pure delight. No longer self-isolated, man no 
longer disgusts himself: he occupies a necessary and intended place and 
is pleased with it. AE contemplates this function and place, as contrasted 
with those of beings not of the Evolution, with passionate awareness 
and deep content. Man says to the Angel: 

"I have wept a million tears: 
Pure and proud one, where arc thine, 
What the gain though all thy years 
In unbroken beauty shine?... 

All your beauty cannot win 
Truth we learn with pain and sighs: 
You can never enter in 
To the circle of the wise..." 

Both of these poets have enriched and steadied the course of man's 
pilgrimage. Their visions were exact and pure: AE's too pure perhaps 
to support many through the waste lands of 1918 to 1943, but do not 
let us on th?t account underrate their value. Do not let us underrate 
the value of any of these cries, these incantations, these creative words: 
for will it not be found when our eyes can see everything that each of 
them has been an entirely necessary more, an indispensable thread 
in the fabric of the Manifestation? It would at any rate have been quite 
different without them: each as it was spoken has had some effect, and 
each as it is quoted here will change for ever, in some degree, the con- 
sciousness of the reader: he will wish the star to come out of the tomb, 
he will want resurrection, he will see himself as a voice for dead things, 



he will with Blake ask for and perhaps receive and bend his Gandiva; 
he will, with Charles Wesley, make the lovably comic discovery that 
man too much occupied with the idea of his sins, may be an almost 
insufferable bore to his God. 

And he will pass again through the waste land. Perhaps its greatest 
desolation was not voiced by T. S. Eliot for in his work Man is often 
aware of his plight: in the nineteen-thirties, I think, Man was not. 
W. J. Turner, in The Dancer surely one of the most poignant small 
poems ever written describes the seeming gaiety and the real void: 

"The young girl dancing lifts her face 

Passive among the drooping flowers; 
The jazz band rattles sticks and bones 

In a bright rhythm through the hours..." 

Wordsworth listened to silence and found himself hearing the 
"still, sad music of humanity." It was worse than that, from 
1918 to 1943 much more desolate than "sad". It is worse than merely 
"sad" now. 


It is the perpetual sound of the sea, but shriller. 
Wind in a shell makes this moan but this is sadder, 
A sound that scarcely can bear its own sadness any longer 
(Not knowing it is sad, or that a sound made by it 

could be other). 

O breaking heart of the world grey abscess ! 
There is a living-sound of perdurable rapture. 

K.D. Sethna describes the sound flawlessly when in his preface 
to The Adventure of the Apocalypse he speaks of "a low universal croon, 
a far away rhythm with a deep monotone overlaid with small varia- 
tions: even the variations repeat one and the same softly trembling 
theme: some ultimate Mother Spirit seems to be gently singing to 
her child the cosmos..." Other poets are listening for the sound; 
some, to it. The wisest of them, having watched time ripening, know 



that they are demanding an intended thing in asking for a 
Nollaig: a "night of the Great Nativity", which, because Man is now 
maturer, shall be strongly, faithfully and intelligently welcomed. 
They believe that now they could be shown a Door of joy that they 
could manage not to bang shut at once; they think of a golden Sun 
by which they intend not to be dazzled; of divine feet touching their 
mountains and not moving thence to crucifixion. Here is Vernon Wat- 
kins looking from Abred to Gwynfid, and sending his perceptions 
into the storming ocean of Possibility that was 1943: 

"Plunging below the paths and deaths of ships 
To the first film of pearl, 

Shell of the world unborn and of the waking girl, 
Treading time down through rhyme and slime 
To the first norm 
Of self-engendering flame, 
Slow miracle-bed of lightning and coiled limbs, 
Where no prolonged martyrs 5 crucifix beats 
Cobbles of a pilgrim's streets, 
But the crust breaks in Christ's original radium." 

It is a strong cry. Five years later Edwin Muir, in his own fashion, 
repeats it, in a poem of heart-breaking beauty calling for the return 
of a Christ who shall no longer be a Man of Sorrows, but: 

" Christ the uncrucified, 

Christ the discrucified, his death undone, 
His agony unmade, his cross dismantled 
Ghd to be so and the tormented wood 

Will cure its hurt and grow into a tree 

And Judas damned take his long journey backward 
From darkness into light " 

It cannot really, of course, be a journey backward. "The road 
leads on." We are told that by the same poet with the utmost firmness 
in another, intensely moving, poem called The Way in the same 
volume in which The Transfiguration appears (The Labyrinth. Faber, 

1 68 


1949). He even says that the road "leaps on". Where? He does not 
tell us. So let us listen again to the Indian voice which has twice 
already duetted in so brotherly a way with our Celtic-Germanic-Ro- 
mance muse: 

"The golden sphere of the sun in earthly skies 
Echoes a globe of God whose self is light 

Hung over mortal mind in a blue of bliss 

A sun beyond this sun above the mind 

Waits in a mystery beyond the blue; 

A night more vast than the blue distances ^ 

Between our reveries and the flame they reach 

Is spread between that flame and fathomless truth's 

Gigantic star seen like one diamond speck 

Lost in a time-transcending loneliness. 

Remote from the globed sun is that strange blaze 

It rounds not human knowledge but reveals 

A gold in which mind's glimmering bents are drawn 

Straight by a pattern holding God's full Self 

Of being and consciousness, delight and power 

In a gathering of the immense to the intense 

A foursquare sun focussing eternity, 

Formless perfection caught in a perfect form!" 

More, then, than f he old wisdom of the serpent and the harm- 
lessness of the dove (more, anyway, than what Man has usually under- 
stood by the phrase) is required now for Man to be his age: he must 
have the wisdom of his extended self. To deserve, or recognise a divine 
Presence which shall no longer be a Man of Sorrows he must give 
up grieving. "Pain," says Sri Aurobindo in a letter to a disciple, 
"is caused because the physical consciousness in the Ignorance is 
too limited to bear the touches that come upon it. Otherwise, to 
cosmic consciousness in its state of complete knowledge and com- 
plete experience, all touches come as Ananda." It is possible at a 
very low level of awareness to observe something of such a transmu- 
tation: to watch, and find the feel of pain altered by an open-minded 
staring to, perhaps, the sight of colour: noble red and royal yellow, 

12 169 


symbol or actuality of a force courtship or lash that some, possibly 
quite distant, faltering yet delightful and necessary constituent of 
life has to make contact with in order to exert itself and increase. The 
feeler of the pain becomes enchanted co-operator then instead of 
victim; he grows, he has comrades he has everything that exists for 
his comrade. Where is there any room for distress? None, of course, 
at the moment of insight; but in habit, in memory, in tamasic enjoyment 
of weakness, in the general pulling back of the Ignorance, plenty of 
room will be discovered for it later. What does it matter? We do not 
expect to reach Gwynfid from Abred in the time that one candle takes 
in burning. 

"Like falling plum-blossom, lily-coloured rain, 

Like moonlight pelting through the black boughs of a pine, 

More delicate, more kind, more subtle, strange 

Than any of these out of range 

Because of its function, which is to enchant us on 

To the round-as-a-pearl perfect, unguessed as well as unknown 

End it has pictured and we, wise with its wisdom, will be: 

That is how, last night, the Nature of God shone to me." 

"Wise with its wisdom." A sobering thought. Bur really we have 
known for a long time now that we cannot, as they did in Wordsworth's 
time, go on "moving about in worlds not realised". They impinge too 
dangerously upon our function as conscious traveller "out of Abred 
into Gwynfid", as voice "for dead things", as a shower of Ceugeant to* 
and in Cythrawl. 

Ceugeant? the state in which to the old Barddic seers "all pre- 
dicates fail us"? Yes, Ceugeant. Man is to go beyond Gwynfid. And 
Ceugeant is not to be, when he reaches it, at all strange to him. Listen ! 

"A Transcendent who is beyond all world and all Nature and yet 
possesses the world and its nature, who has descended with something 
of himself into it and is shaping it into that which as yet it is not, is the 
Source of our being, the Source of our works and their Master. But 
the seat of the Transcendent Consciousness is above in an absoluteness 
of divine Existence and there too is the absolute Light, Power, Bliss 



and Truth a divine Truth-Consciousness as the ancient mystics 
called it, a Supermind, a Gnosis, with which this world of a lesser 
consciousness proceeding by Ignorance is in secret relation and which 
alone maintains it and prevents it from falling into a disintegrated chaos. 
The powers we are now satisfied to call gnosis, intuition or illumination 
are only famter lights of which there is the full and flaming source, 
and between the highest human intelligence and it there lie many 
levels of ascending consciousness, highest mental or overmental, 
which we would have to conquer before we arrived there or could 
bring down its greatness and glory here. Yet, however difficult that 
ascent, that victory is the destiny of the human spirit and that lumi- 
nous descent or bringing down of the divine Truth is the inevitable 
term of the troubled evolution of the earth-nature; that intended 
consummation is its raison d'etre, our culminating state and the 
explanation of our terrestrial existence." 1 

Most loving reverence, I think, should flow out to the old Bards 
who knew there was a Ceugeant and, while feeling that there all predi- 
cates failed them, yet put its rays protectingly around Gwynfid and 
round Abred: the stage of struggle where we are now. 

"O diamond Master, inmost undefeatable Fighter, 

Be me now to the feet and a blue sword besides at the 


I am in great danger. 
The Asura-mouth, even of my sister, 
Gapes... Take, like lightning, the kiss." 

Mistily, Man is beginning to recognise that in the rtiost ordinary 
intercourse with his fellows he is actually played upon and playing 
with powers of which he knows nothing. Notice any conversation 
running round a group of acquaintances. Words are spoken, but it is 
not words which are most significantly answered: it is unconscious, 
half conscious, sub- and super-conscient likes, dislikes, memories, 
illuminations, threats, hopes, encouragements, lusts to dominate, 

1 Sri Aurobindo. Synthesis of Yoga. 


dreads of diminution. In less casual companionships the thing naturally 
goes deeper. "There is always some vital interchange, unless one 
rejects what comes from the other instinctively or deliberately. If 
one is impressionable, there may be a strong impression or influence 
from the other. Then when one goes to another person it is possible 
to pass it on to the other. That is a thing which is constantly happening. 
But this thing happens without the knowledge of the transmitter. 
When one is conscious one can prevent it happening." 1 It is said so 
quietly that we cannot help hearing it in, even to the centre: the effect 
of that being that the centre, so charged, takes charge of us, holding 
and furthering us into recognition that it, our Centre, is also everyone's 
and everything's: absolute knower, faultless protector, enjoyer and 
lover. What then it sends oui again through us to the confronted 
Self can only be what the reality of that Self ardently wants to receive 
from it whether lightning to strike, shrivel, and eject a fault of a pos- 
session, or smile to welcome, warm and increase one of its own hidden, 
tentatively emerging splendours. Bu* really to reach Gwynfid from 
Abred we must go higher and deeper than our fellows' needs. 
"It is very true that physical things have a consciousness within them 
which feels and responds to care and is sensitive to careless and rough 
handling. To know or feel that and learn to be careful of them is a 
great progress in consciousness." 2 Let us listen to the fuller statement: 
"A certain reverence, even, for Matter and a sacramental attitude in 
all dealings with i 1 is possible. As in the Gita the act of Baking food is 
spoken of as a material sacrament, a sacrifice, an offering of Brahman 
to Brahman by Brahman, so also the gnostic consciousness and sense 
can view all the operations of Spirit and Matter. The spirit made itself 
Matter in order to place itself there as an instrument for the well-being 
and joy, yogd-hshema> of created things, for a self-offering of universal 
physical utility and service. The gnostic being, using Matter but 
using it without material or vital attachment or desire, will feel that 
he is using the Spirit in this form with its consent and sanction for its 
own purpose. Theie will be in him a certain respect for physical 
things, an awareness of the occult consciousness in them, of its dumb 

1 Sri Aurobindo. Letters. Second Series. 

2 ibid, 



will of utility and service, a worship of the Divine, the Brahman in 
what he uses, a care for a perfect and faultless use of his divine material, 
for a true rhythm, ordered harmony, beauty in the life of Matter, in 
the utilisation of Matter." 1 We have travelled a long way here from 
Milton's bright Seraphim in their burning row. The "sapphire throne" 
is not now being sung to by the creatures of an infinitely remote earth; 
rather, That which occupies it is Itself singing and in every clod 
It is itself the song, and Man is its ears hearing, its mind thinking, its 
feet moving upon the mountains toward itself, its innumerable eyes 
look'ng in an intoxication of delight at the enchanting novelty, the 
dear known-ness, of its own innumerable faces. Ceugeant is visibly and 
everywhere pouring an unveiled divinity into Gwynfid, into Abred, into 
Cythrawl. Childishness is over, the entombed star is out and shining: 
any discerning poet should be able to say now with Christina Rossetti: 

"As I lie dreaming 

It rises, that land: 
There rises before me 

Its green golden strand, 
With its bowing cedars 

And its shining sand; 
It sparkles and flashes 

Like a shaken brand. " 

But to establish the reality, we must follow what winding, leaping, 
certain road? 

"The technique of a world-changing Yoga has to be as multiform, 
sinuous, patient, all-including as the world itself. If it does not deal 
with all the difficulties or possibilities and carefully de&l with each 
necessary element, has it any chance of success? And can a perfect 
technique which everybody can understand do that? It is not like 
writing a small poem in a fixed metre with a limited number of modu- 
lations. If you take the poem simile, it is the Mahabharata of a Maha- 
bharata that has to be done. And what, compared with the limited 
Greek perfection, is the technique of the Mahabharata?... What the 

1 Sri Aurobindo. The Life Divine. 



Supramental will do the mind cannot foresee or lay down. The 
mind is ignorance seeking for the Truth; the Supramental by its very 
definition is the Truth-Consciousness, Truth in possession of itself and 
fulfilling itself by its own power. In a Supramental world imperfection 
and disharmony are bound to disappear. But what we propose just 
now is not ro make the earth a Supramental world but to bring down 
the Supramental as a power and established consciousness in the midst 
of the rest. This will be enough to change the world and to change 
Nature by breaking down her present limits. But what, how, by what 
degrees it will do it is a thing that ought not to be said now when 
the Light is there, the Light will itself do its work when the Supra- 
mental Will stands on earth, that Will will decide. It will establish a 
perfection, a harmony, a Truth creation for the rest, well, it will be 
the rest that is all. 5 ' 1 "Meditation, work, bhakti are each a means of 
preparative help towards fulfilment. . .If one can dedicate oneself through 
work, that is one of the most powerful and indispensable means towards 
the self-giving which is itself the most powerful and indispensable 
element of the sadhana....It is the path of self-offering of the whole 
being in all its parts, the offering of the thinking mind and the heart, 
the will and actions, the inner and the outer instruments.... But all 
cannot do ir to the same extent, with the same rapidity, in the same 
way. How others do it or fail to do it should not be one's concern 
how to do it faithfully oneself is the one thing important." 2 

But let us again give them our loving reverence: the Bards who 
put Ceugeant around Gwynfid, those who looked through the Door 
to a Sun that was joy, those who, finding the Star was entombed, 
said so, those who struggled to free it, who have freed it. 

* r The mountains glow to them, the plains glow 

to them, 
The voice of the waves with the song of the 

God the Lord has made them a Door..." 


1 Sri Aurobindo. Letters. First Series. 

2 Sri Aurobindo. Letters. Second Series. 


Man in his Freedom 

TN creating, man is created. In freedom he creates and is created 
-*- free. He is born a slave. 

Freedom and slavery are nor opposites, but truths of distinct and 
separated orders which are unrelated and unrelatable save as they are 
related in their relation to the field of consciousness of an experiencing 
subject. Indeed, they are not, in principle, transcendent to this field 
of consciousness but are of the structure of its formation. I am not 
conscious of freedom or of slavery, but my consciousness is, in its 
structural formation, free or enslaved. I shall return to this. 

So also, creativity and birth are unrelated and have a dialectical 
character reflected upon them only in so far as they are related in their 
relation to the field of consciousness of an experiencing subject. 

It is the subject, in the passion and action of relating himself to 
himself or, as the case may be, as indeed it most often is, in the passion 
of disrelationship in the action of relating himself to himself, who is 

As definienda, freedom and slavery are not thing-property concepts 
but relational concepts. It is only by a process of abstraction in the 
direction of reducing them to thing-property concepts that one comes 
mistakenly, to speak of them as contraries. 

If, in the passion of the movement of relating myself to myself, 
I am in a relation of disrelationship to the relation which is my self, 
either in the direction of integration, so that it may be said that I am 
not yet a self, or in the direction of disintegration, so that it may be 
said that I am no longer a self but an ego, then the truth is, not that 
I am either free or enslaved, but that I am both free and enslaved. It 
is this fact which gives to the dialectical conflict of consciousness its 



bitter and terrifying quality . And it is to this fact that attention must 
be directed if one would uncover the ground of conflict between man 
and man. Here it is that one must search to discover the ground of 
the blasphemous and bestial. 

Freedom has a much deeper ground than the ability to choose be- 
tween 'this and that'; deeper even than the ability to draw 'this and that' 
out of an undifferentiated mass and to name them; deeper still than the 
ability to weld 'this and that' into an oider of intelligibility. He who 
is free is the truth of 'this and that', their ground and constituting 
factor. But in his freedom man may become the untruth of 'this and 
that', their abgrund, the factor of their dissolution and disappearance. 

If it be the truth that in relating myself to myself there is no 
disrelation, so that I am therefore a self, then it is also the truth, not 
that I am either free or enslaved, but that I am free. And the opposite 
is not one who is enslaved but another self who is likewise free, one 
who in his freedom addresses himself to me and elicits from me, in 
my freedom, a response: here there is no conflict between opposites, 
not yet a synthesis of opposites, but an immediate transparent contem- 
poraneity, a transcendent immanence and an immanent transcendence. 

If it be the truth that in relating myself to myself there is a dis- 
relationship so that I am not a self but an ego, then it is also the truth 
that I am enslaved. And the opposite is another ego who is likewise 
enslaved. Here again, there is neither a conflict nor a synthesis of 
opposites; there is simply no relation, save as each is related to the 
nothing of intelligibility, the nothing of address, the nothing of res- 
ponse, the nothing of being: to the abyss across which each confronts 
the other. 

If I hold, and persist in making, slavery the opposite of freedom, 
then I degrade man in his freedom to the condition of servitude. If 
I hold, and persist in making, freedom the opposite of slavery, then 
I exalt slavery to the nobility of freedom: I invest the nothing of being 
with the authenticity of being; I invest the radically absurd with the 
truth of intelligibility. 

The argument, up to its present point, may be summarised as 

I am free because I am the truth of 'this and that'. 

I am the truth of 'this and that' because I am free. 



These two statements are one statement. They cannot be taken 
apart. Neither speaks of a moment of existence which is prior to that 
of which the other speaks. 

But: Because I am free, I may become the untruth of 'this and 

I am enslaved because I am the untruth of 'this and that 5 . 

There is a moment of existence wherein these two statements 
are one statement, corresponding to one factum. It is the moment of 
becoming. It is not the moment of being. The moment of being is 
the moment of separation, wherein this one statement is seen as two 
statements which correspond to one factum> seen as two aspects of one 
contradiction. The moment of becoming is the form and utterance of 
the moment of creating. 

Man in his freedom is the truth of 'this and that' who is becoming- - 
the untruth of 'this and that'. 

This must be taken as a primary definition of man of every man. 

This movement of becoming is not stayed if man is taken out of 
his freedom and brought under compulsion. 

Destruction, the fruit of becoming the untruth, the abgrund, is 
a dialectical moment of man in his freedom. 

It must be noted that destruction does not always take the form 
of disintegration, it may take the form of complete organisation. Indeed, 
this is its most common historical form. 

The six following relations are to be found together in every 
concrete human situation. The first three belong to the dialectic of 
the self, of man as the truth of all that is; the remainder belong to the 
dialectic of the non-self, of man as the abgrund of all that is, of man in 
his enslavement. 

i). The self and the not-self. 

2). The self and the I. 

3). The self and the not-I. 

4). The not-self and the I. 

5). The I and the not-I. 

6). The not-self and the not-I. 

The only non-human factor is the not-I. 

God is absolute Self; the absolute Self is God. 



Creative activity is the primary movement of the self in the act 
of relating itself to itself. It is, therefore, the primary movement of 
consciousness, which is the movement of the subject in its search 
for an other subject as the ground of its own integrity, intelligibility 
and fulfilment. In this sense, creative activity is accomplishment; 
but it is never an accomplishment which is over and done with, which 
can be put behind one as that which has come to an end. It is the 
posing of one's self before the face of an other, being present to the 
presence of an other over against the unintelligibility of a radical 
nothing and confusion which ever threatens to dissolve the relation. 
It is the accomplishment of a living participation, an inner flaming 
rhythmic union. 

That which is created bears the image of the eternity of its creator. 
It does not bear within itself the seed of its own decay, but the seed 
of its own eternity. In the midst of change, it is the changeless. If 
it were not so, there would be no tragedy: no death> no evil, no suffering, 
no love, no resurrection. 

The Ego is not primary,, as is sometimes thought, but derivative, 
and is incapable of creative activity. 

Spirit, that is the self relating itself to its self and disclosing in 
the act the ground wlrch constitutes it a self, is primary. 

The Ego is derived from a disrelationship in the passion of the 
act of the self relating itself to its self, whereby the self is aware of 
itself as a synthesis which may fall apart, because it is unaware of, 
or because it has denied, the possibility of a ground in which the essen- 
tial structures of the relating factors may cohere. 

Ego is not oneness but particularity. When a man becomes an 
Ego, he is no longer one, but a particular among particulars, and the 
particularity of the context, which is his world, is his own fashioning, 
the fruit of his desire: it is a world in dissolution, a world returning 
to confusion and nothing. 

Creative activity is primary, no matter at what point in cosmic 
and historical times it is manifested, or for what duration in these 
times. It is primary, even if its first appearance is at the end of historical 


Creative activity does not impress form upon an already 'given 3 
thing, whether or no this 'given thing' be understood under the cate- 
gories of substance or matter; neither is it its peculiar character to 
bring order out of chaos. 

The impressing of form is not a creative act; neither is the move- 
ment towards a transcendent object, whatever be the 'nature' of this 
object, with the intention of bringing an authoritative will or purpose 
to bear upon it, a creative movement. This activity and this movement 
do not belong to the realm of life wherein creative activity has its 
source; they belong to a world which is already in being for death: 
they are the modes of a struggle against life and, in this sense, are to 
be understood as modes of dying. 

The creative act achieves form and the movement is from within, 
outward. All form is a manifestation of the inner processes of Spirit. 

Form is the shattering of Being and its persistent transformation 
into Becoming: it is the overcoming of the inertia of a world which 
has become in being for death; it is a shattering of the permanent and 
its persistent transformation into movement and change; it is the 
shattering of ideals, the dispersal of the fog and confusion that they 
are, and the persistent transformation of them into phenomena, into 
that which appears. The categories of chaos and cosmos, of disorder 
and arrangement, do not here apply. Form is a movement of becoming. 
The imagination of God is a movement of becoming, of light breaking 
forth from within darkness, of speech breaking forth from within 
silence and, much more profoundly, of silence breaking forth from 
within speech. Man is the imagination of God. The image of God 
is the light which is within reason, the utterance, the address and the 
silence which is within speech. The imagination of man is both God 
and Devil. Man is the bearer of the image of God, and" is the ground 
of God in whatever world there is. Man is also the ground of the 
absence of God. 


Man is born a slave. 

Birth is separation. Reason is left without illumination and 
speech without address and address without silence. Light has for- 



saken the darkness within which it shone; silence has forsaken the 
address and address has forsaken the speech within which it was heard; 
the inward has forsaken the outward and become chaos; the outward 
has been cast adrift into confusion and darkness. 

Birth is not manifestation. Manifestation is not birth. 

Separation does not confer freedom but slavery. Absolute 
separation is absolute slavery. 

Loneliness and slavery are terms which cannot be defined apart. 

The lonely man is the spectator, he before whom the whole world 
is but a show, he who, in some way, succeeds in absenting himself 
from the world. 

There is a metaphysical connection between being a spectator 
and being enslaved. 

Separation is not detachment. Detachment is a mode of inward 
participation. And manifestation is a mode of detachment. 

To value others for the sake of oneself: the will to dominate; 
to value oneself for the sake of others: the will to be dominated; indi- 
viduality, independence, the snapping of chains these are modes of 
separation. It would be a mistake to assume that the forging of chains 
confers freedom. Yet the acceptance of them may be a manifestation 
of it. 

Separation is not primary. It is the end of a process, the conse- 
quence of an event which has already taken place in the inner life of 
the spirit. Its presence in the biological and material orders is a reflec- 
tion of this event. 

Separation is the mode of evil. Victory over, or deliverance from 
evil, would be manifested in the overcoming of separation and in the 
healing of its wounds. 

The proximity of one individual is not a sign that separation has 
been overcome, neither is the distance of one individual from another 
a sign that it still exists. 

Separation is the rupture of the inner relatedness of the self, of 
one with an other, of man with man, of man with his self as with the 
whole, of man with God: of the many with the One and the One with 
the many. It is, therefore, synonymous with disintegration, with the 
nothing-of-being and the becoming-nothing. The mutual co-operation 
of the One with the many and the many with the One, of man with 



God and God with man, in the relational structure of the self, which 
is the mode of freedom in the truth, is ruptured. 

Separation is the quenching of creative fire. 

Separation results in the establishment of the individual, the 
monad and the fragment in the order of objective existence. It has 
nothing to do with the person or with the unique, save to destroy 
them. Individuality is the negation of freedom; it may be the apotheosis 
of licence. On the other hand, Collectivity does not know freedom 
and can neither affirm nor deny it. 


Man is born into the world, into an order which is both in being 
and is in process of becoming. But he is not enslaved by the world. 
He enslaves the world. His entry into the world entails a new departure 
for the world. The world has now a history and a destiny, that is, 
his birth into the world is the taking up of a position outside the world, 
from which the world is surveyed as an object which has an accountable 
beginning and an imaginable end. And yet it is the case that he cannot 
escape from the world or from the fact that he has been in the world, 
that is, he cannot escape from his own accountable beginning or from 
his own imaginable end. It is also the case that the world cannot 
escape from him. 

Man, sundered from the source of his own becoming, is sundered 
within the self and claims the right to be this source, and assumes 
despotic power. The claim is rooted in the will. It is possible to ground 
it in reason. But freedom is grounded neither in the will nor in reason; 
neither justice nor judgement can secure it. To will and to reason, and 
to be in the act of willing or of reasoning: these are partial states and 
discrete functions. Man is neither a state of being nor a function of 
being. Man is grounded in freedom and is created by God in the 
act of himself creating. He is not grounded in God. God is the source 
but not the act of his becoming. God is neither the source nor the 
act of his freedom. 

Freedom is groundless; it is the abgmnd. But when man becomes 
the abgrund of all that is, he is enslaved. 

Freedom is not to be reached by the denial or destruction 



of grounds. Such destruction results in chaos, in the nothing-of- 

But freedom is not chaos. Itself groundless, it is grounded in 
the relational structure of the self and is thus the source and the ground 
of all grounds: it is the ground of all order, all discipline, all obedience 
and all responsibility. But if order, or discipline, or obedience, or 
responsibility is made into a ground, spirit is driven out, freedom is 
destroyed, the image of man is debased and the world, as cosmos, 
becomes an arrangement for the orderly burial of the dead: the "maxi- 
mum number of actual avenues of opportunity are opened", but only 
abstractions are left to make use of them. 

Freedom is the burden of being one, in the wholeness of life, 
with God and with one's fellow men and with every other thing that 
is in God. 

God is one with all that is in the wholeness of life. This may be 
taken as a definition of God, if it be understood that it is not the noun 
in the nominative case but the activity which we are defining: 'being- 
one-with', and if we are careful to cast and retain the definition in its 
verbal and not its substantival form. 

Man's situation in the world is tragic. 

We do not speak of the situation of a flower in the world as tragic, 
not even when we watch it wither in a dry season, or when we uproot 
and trample on it because its beauty is an offence to us. We behold the 
flower, and behold the perfection of the possibilities of a living thing 
unfolding form and order from within. The perfection of possibilities 
is a spontaneous event. We note, as a fact, that it is rooted in a place 
which we may map with ease, and we write down its immobility as the 
mark of an order of being in the world which is lower than our own. 
We note the rhythm of the change of seasons, and write down the rhythm 
of the unfolding of the inherent possibilities of the growing plant as 
contingent. Man is nobler than the plant and wise with the knowledge 
of an ancient freedom, of an ancient evil and an ancient good. 

The ground of tragedy is not in the world but in man. 

The limit situation, which is so dominant a feature of man's aware- 
ness of himself in the world, the difficulty of overcoming the 'distance' 
of discreteness, the necessity of submitting to pre-determined laws 
which are altogether indifferent to him, the flight from death which is 



masked as the joy of life this is not a fabrication of powers which are 
external to himself, but is the construction of his own interior processes. 
Law, necessity, causality: each is a victory of man in his freedom over 
chaos, but each is a renunciation of the victory upon the instant of its 
achievement. The structure of every possible limit situation which 
may truly describe man as being in the world, is a triumph of man in his 
freedom. Death, not the death of an other, nor my participation in or 
my beholding or my sorrow at the death of an other, but my own death, 
is my triumph in my freedom. And yet man is enslaved and made 
trivial by his victories. He is their creature: the creature of his dying 
and his living, of his future and his past. He is no longer in his acts. 
He is become the drift and wreckage swept on the flow of the deeds of 
others, even on the flow of deeds which have no doer but themselves, 
which perform themselves without reachable or assignable cause. 
Life, death, truth, falsehood, justice are become elemental formless 
forces, like fire and air and water, which strive no longer one with another 
for mastery, but each against itself: fire with fire consuming, air with 
air dispersing, water with water dissolving, and man is caught up in 
the rage of conflict to be destroyed utterly as an un-free thing of nought. 
When a man ventures to act on the ground that everything is 
allowable, he does not overstep limits; he creates limits and sets himself 
securely in a limit situation. His despair, the despair at being in the 
world, his destructive nihilism is turned, not against the limits, but 
against himself, and he destroys himself. 


Death and life, slavery and freedom, evil and good are in man as 
of the structure of his inwardness: he is their logos; they* are not, and 
cannot be, imposed from without. The hierarchy of existence is in man. 
Its rupture, and the confusion, and contradiction which follow, is in 
man. The whole company of heaven and the vast concourse of hell, 
and the abyss which distinguishes and separates them, are in man. 
If there be highest and lowest, noblest and basest, greatest and smallest, 
these are together in man. Man contends "with dominion, with autho- 
rity, with the blind rulers of this life, with the spirit of evil in things 
heavenly": in all this he contends with himself. 



The spontaneous perfection of possibilities, which is not quite 
without a place among the definitions of man in his freedom, implies 
the perfection of evil as well as the perfection of good. The perfection 
of good is the achievement of authority in the abstract, of form sketched 
in from outside; it may be likened to the perfected structure of an un- 
inhabitated prison which is waiting to welcome and give security to its 
first chained inmate. The perfection of evil is the achievement of 
nothing, the degradation and denial of the self, that is, of the worth of 
an other. Achievement of nothing is not a contradiction in terms or 
the fruit of a wizardry of thought which is busy thinking itself; it is a 
terrifying experience: it is the European and Western contribution to 
the experience of man. 

But the spontaneous perfection of possibilities implies the perfec- 
tion of the 'marriage' of good and evil, of life and death: it implies the 
wholeness, the health, the sanity, the sanctity of man. 

Man is in the world as a sundered being. The rhythm of polarity 
is not expressed spontaneously throughout; there is a continuing tension 
of complementary principles which gives rise to tragedy and suffering. 
The rhythm of polarity is integral, and its spontaneous expression is 
synonymous with the overcoming of a deeper disjunction, which is 
prior to the distinction between good and good and between good 
and evil. 

Man's inner division is grounded in the rift between divine and 
human freedom: in the depolarisation of God. This is not a cosmic 
event, but an event in the realm of the spirit. It does affect the cosmos: 
it is the event on account of which the cosmos has a history and a destiny, 
and is carried towards the past and the future. 

Man has power to depolarise God, and he docs so whenever he 
separates himself from and denies the worth of an other. Then it is 
that, of the Many, one separates itself with a will to establish itself 
as the centre of an autonomous sphere and claims the authority and 
power of the One. 

The lewd hatred which shews itself in sexual licence, for instance, is 
not due to the splitting apart of the complementary principles of polarity 
and their consequent antagonism, but to this deeper, preonic rift. 

Man is sundered from God but not from freedom, and creates a 
civilised non-divine, non-human, non-free, non-existential ontological 



self-contained world, the kingdom of death; nay, rather, the dead 
kingdom, the kingdom of frozen fire. 

It must be re-stated: the rifr is not from compulsion, but from 
freedom. And, in the sundering, freedom is destroyed, and man with 
freedom: every defined and positive principle is split up into its strictly 
formal elements and emptied of content and man is left with a negation, 
and the crushing burden of limitations; with the burden of being shut 
fast in a closed, self-contained order from which there is no way of 
escape. And God stands over against him as a limiting concept. It 
is not Death but God who is now man's last enemy, his impossible 
possibility. Or, it may be said that there is no recognisable difference 
between Death and God. Alan's desire to break away from restraint, 
which is really a decision to be irresponsible, is negative, and cannot 
be expressed in any positive aim. There is no goal; there is only inter- 
ference to be avoided. He is then the arbitrary despot who tramples 
to and fro upon the earth; the man-god who rules in the wrath of his 
right and sells the needy for a pair of shoes and holds the world to 
ransom for less worthy ends. 

Man is both a polarised and a sundered being, a creator and a 
destroyer, free and enslaved at one and the same instant. 


Man is the power to live and the power to die; the power to will 
and the power to despair; the power to good and the power to evil; 
the power to love and the power to hate; the power to truth and the 
power to falsehood. He is not the sum or the product of these; he is 
the structure of these, and he is this structure here and now. But the 
here, the place where he is, is not where his body rests 1 or where his 
voice may sound; it is not to be defined as the field of his awareness 
or of his sensibility or yet of his consciousness. Where he is the range 
of the effect which he himself is as the power to live and the power 
to die, the power to will and the power to despair, the power to good 
and the power to evil, the power to love and the power to hate, the power 
to truth and the power to falsehood, even if his body be far out and 
solitary in desert space. And the now when he is, is the range of the 
when of the presentness of this effect, and is not to be determined by the 

13 185 


time when he lived or by any moment of this time. And, interred far 
out in desert space, may be, or wandering alone in country places, or 
asking the way of a stranger in a city street, or bargaining in the market- 
place for bread, or deep in conversation with a friend, or face to face 
with a third-degree examiner, he is here now as in the rear of himself, 
as moving towards himself, towards himself in his freedom. 


No man is free and whole in his freedom while somewhere else in 
the world there is an other who is enslaved. The principle involved 
here does not require that one shall have knowledge of the existence of 
the other. 


Evil cannot be overcome; it cannot be legislated out of harm's way; 
reason has no power over it. Evil has a logic of its own; it has its own 
mode of rationalising and defining. There is not conquest of evil which 
is not evil raised to a higher power. If a man wills to be evil that evil 
may be glorified in him, if he wills this by an absolute decision, the way 
of redemption is not closed to him; but if the wills evil that good may be 
established and glorified in him, good is established but he is doomed. 

The denial of evil is the denial of man. It is also the denial of God. 
The affirmation of the good does not cancel out this denial, not even if it 
takes the form of affirming God as the God of goodness. This is the affir- 
mation of God as a limiting concept which confirms the denial of man. 

Man may choose to surrender his freedom in order to secure victory 
over evil. Bui surrender is never his final act. There is no common 
bond between man and the authority to which he makes the surrender, 
and in the end he rebels against it. 


Man destroys his fellow-man because he cannot forgive himself 
the burden of his freedom, and for the same reason he seeks to destroy 



If a clearly defined conflict between contraries, a crusade of life 
against death, of good against evil, of truth against falsehood could 
suffice to rid the world of its ills and to usher in a kingdom of bliss, 
then man would love his fellow man and God, and no inner searching 
of conscience would arise to disturb him. But, as we have seen, the 
conflict 1 is of life with life, of good with good, of truth with truth, of 
love with love, and its issue is the destruction of man and the world. 

Where there is conflict, freedom ie, but is not. 

The denial of freedom is the denial of man. Affirmation of the 
Collective Man (as a kind of totum simul which is 'given', somehow, 
as an object) as the destined end of man's sundered objective exis- 
tence in the world and of freedom as the freedom of the Collective 
Man, does not cancel out this denial. 

The great heresy is not the denial of God but the denial of man. 
God canaor be affirmed if man is denied. Neither can man be affiirmed 
if God what is then, in each case, affirmed is a monstrous tyranny: life, 
love, good, truth diseased and foul with corruption. The last enemy 
is not death, but the foul corruption of these. 


The burden of freedom: One ought to pray: deliver us from evil. 
But once one has known it, one cannot be delivered from it; one is 
committed to the task of redeeming it. 

As a pregnant woman is c big' with child, so is a free man 'big' 
with love for evil: what he brings forth is not evil, neither is it good, 
but love and love which simply cannot be characterised. 


Man has been revealed to us and we have seen his glory, the 
glory of freedom in the truth. But in the name of, and on behalf of 

' I ought to distinguish, and at some time consider closely, the difference between 
conflict and tension and the active will to destroy, that is, the will so to deal with the other 
that I am able to say: "I do not know where he is; he is not anywhere; I am in 
his place, his kingdom is mine, his power is mine; he is not but I am, and I am because 
he is not." It seems to me that, as regards both conflict and tension, I am according to 
the degree in which the other is and is for me. 



some abstract ideal, we have been busy through the centuries des- 
troying man. 


The son of man who, in the last days, will come in power with 
great glory will bring with him new houses, better drains, swifter 
means of communication and surer means of destruction, to establish 
justice upon the earth, and we all shall be interchangeable. 

But he who will come humbly into our midst, bearing our image, 
our weakness and our strength, our folly and our wisdom in great 
love, will bring with him life and freedom and the power of healing 
to establish mercy and generosity and love upon the earth, and his 
holy angels will be evil men transfigured and redeemed. 


He who, in his freedom, chooses evil as his good, and follows 
to the end the course which he has set himself upon, has dignity and 
splendour which he who follows good upon direction can never have. 
He affirms the freedom of the Spirit in relation to God, and is in pos- 
session of himself at the instant of destroying himself. He destroys 
the image of God, the divine in himself and in others, but in the act 
he affirms the worth and dignity of that which he destroys, for the 
freedom of man in relation to God is the meeting point of the divine 
and human in the innermost reaches of spirit, and there is none other. 
God can always accept him. 

But he who follows good upon direction, because some external 
authority reqtdres it, renounces and surrenders the possession of 
himself to this external authority. He cuts himself off from immediate 
and vital contact with the inner sources of becoming. He denies 
freedom, spirit, man and God and is for ever a stranger to himself 
and to his fellows. There is no point where God can meet with him. 



The Place of Democracy in Human 

word 'democracy 5 is, theoretically at least, simple in its signi- 
ficance. It means a form of government in which the supreme 
power is wielded by the people, where the supreme authority vests in 
the whole body of the people. It is obviously something quite different 
from a theocracy, an autocracy, an oligarchy or a monarchy, absolute 
or limited. Lincoln's definition is the aptest we can think of, govern- 
ment of the people, by the people, for the people. A sovereign people 
may exercise its power directly, as in the little republics of olden times; 
or it may function through its elected representatives, as in a modern 
republic like, say, France. It is an essential condition that every adult 
subject should have the right to control the affairs of the State. For, 
it is obvious that by restricting the franchise a government, democratic 
in form, may be reduced virtually to an oligarchy. Old Athens was a 
republic in form, but, in so far as neither a woman nor a helot nor a 
naturalised alien had any voting rights, it fell short of the true democratic 
ideal. Ancient Rome was definitely class-ridden and, in spite of her 
undoubted greatness in so many directions, never realised the republican 
ideals envisaged by the ancient philosophers. Each of the two warring 
classes fought for its own rights and privileges, never for the freedom 
of the people as a whole. Roman citizenship was conferred on loyal 
and worthy individuals in conquered territories, much as titles are 
conferred today, but that did not imply a recognition of democratic 
principles. Equality, as an essential element of a republican State, does 
not appear to have been stressed even by such staunch champions of the 
people as the brothers Gracchi. Medieval States like Venice were 
republics in name only. They were under the complete control of a 
powerful body of merchants. Larger countries like England and France 
were, up to the period of the protestant Reformation, but fields of 



incessant political struggle where the king, the church and the barons 
were striving for supremacy. Democratic slogans were not unknown, 
but they were used by the various contending parties only to serve 
their own ends. The common people, as such, were nowhere to be 
seen, except in the solitary instance of the Peasants' Revolt in Wycliffe's 
time. Ordinarily each contending party was working in its own interest. 
When it suited the king, he sent a cardinal to the scaifold or had an 
archbishop assassinated. When it suited the barons, they called in a 
papal legate backed by a foreign monarch, and humbled the pride of 
their own king. In the Great Charter wrested by the barons from 
King John there was a clause asserting the rights of the common 
people, embodying the principle of "no taxation without representa- 
tion". But, evidently, no one attached any importance to it, for, it 
was glibly dropped by the barons a few years later when the Charter 
was confirmed by Henry III. Richelieu in France was a Duke, a 
Chief Minister, as well as a Cardinal. But his red hat sat very lightly 
on his head, for the pith of his foreign policy was to sap the Pope's 
influence in France, just as his domestic policy was to crush the power 
of the turbulent barons. There was, no doubt, a parliament in England 
and a parliament in France during this period. But what did either 
Valois and Bourbon in France or Tudor and Stuart in England care 
for the will of the people ? What did Wolsey or Richelieu or Morton 
or Staffoid care for the interests of the commonalty? Yet their fateful 
will was already rumbling in the bowels of the mountain, preparing 
to erupt when Providence called. The guildsman, the yeoman, and 
even the serf were beginning to assert, however inarticulately, the ; r 
inalienable rights. The masses, hitherto more or less submental, were 
passing slowly to rhe mental rational stage. Gun-powder had been 
discovered and the printing press invented; both these played their 
part in the emancipation of the people. Humanity was getting ready 
for the struggle typified by the English Civil War and the French 
Revolution. But did these two great movements usher in democracy? 
By no means. They but cleared the air. As a matter of fact, the two 
countries passed into the control of Cromwell and Bonaparte respec- 
tively, rulers more despotic than even a Stuart or a Bourbon. After the 
downfall of these two dictators there was a swing back of the pendulum. 
General Monk placed a Stuart on the English throne and Talleyrand 



installed a Bourbon on the throne of France. These monarchs of the 
Restoration had, however, learnt caution and they behaved on the whole 
in a circumspect manner. There were, no doubt, a few vicissitudes to 
be gone through yet. James II was rash and had to pay for his rashness. 
But, on the whole, ir can be said that an era of constitutional monarchs 
was ushered in over Europe. By the end of the nineteenth century 
Russia and Turkey were about the only countries in that continent with 
absolute autocratic rulers, while France had decided finally on a repub- 
lican form of government. Little Switzerland had already founded a 
democratic constitution, some time before under most difficult condi- 
tions. She had proved to the world that a nation could be formed, a 
republic could be established, even while the population was hetero- 
geneous in race, religion and language. In spite of Russia and Turkey 
(and they, too, began to change their outlook very soon), the trend of 
political thought in Europe at the close of the last century may be 
characterised as democratic, in so far as the right of a people to govern 
itself was generally conceded in theory. The success of the United 
States in establishing a popular government on a firm basis was a 
great encouragement to the progressive politician everywhere. Latin 
America soon followed the lead of the United States and set up 
republics everywhere. 

So far things looked very hopeful. But with the advent of the new 
century various hostile forces came into play, and the progress of huma- 
nity towards individual liberty received a definite set-back. It behoves 
the student of politics to analyse the situation and find out the reasons 
for this retrogression. We shall briefly indicate the causes. The most 
notable effort in history to realise the democratic ideal in man's corporate 
life wgs the French Revolution of 1789. It accepted Liberty, Fraternity 
and Equality as its basic principles. In spite of the passing dictatorship 
of Napoleon, already referred to, the principle of civic liberty may be 
said to have been accepted in France and in Europe generally. It 
was recognised by all thinking people that the commons of a realm 
should have a potent voice in the government thereof. A qualified 
kind of freedom was thus achieved. Even the conservative England of 
Pitt passed a Reform Bill to enfranchise the lower strata of the people. 
But the other two ideals of the Jacobin revolutionaries Fraternity and 
Equality were definitely shelved by the statesmen who set about 



building a new Europe after 1815. Soon, with the advent of industrial- 
ism inequality became more marked than before. Organised capitalism 
became the order of the day, and the cleavage between the interests 
of the industrial magnates and of those that toiled for them grew 
wider and wider every day. An atmosphere was created which was 
totally inconsistent with true democracy. The man in power, the opu- 
lent Philistine began to overshadow every institution in the Slate; 
not satisfied with the influence he exercised in the field of commerce, 
he spread his tentacles out to control every sphere of the nation's 
life art and science and literature and politics and even religion. 
These Philistines so distinguished themselves by an utter disregard 
for the interests of others that by the end of the last century people 
had lost all faith in the sham democratic institutions under which they 
lived and for which they had once worked so hard. The world was 
getting ready for new experiments in forms of Government, forms that 
would curb the power of the plutocrat. They were preparing to sacrifice 
a part of their individual rights to a State that would pass the steam 
roller over the much hated class difference. More of this anon. 

Another evil appeared on the horizon about the same time, and in 
a very ugly form. Already in the eighteenth century the British, the 
French and the Dutch, following in the footsteps of their antagonists 
rhe Spaniards and the Portuguese had established colonies and 
dependencies all over Asia and Africa. The spirit that fired these bold 
navigators and adventurers was totally inconsistent with a democratic 
idealism. Even when these reckless pirates settled down as rulers, 
their mentality did not change. They claimed and exorcised absolute 
authority over the dark-skinned people they had robbed of their heritage. 
We know that Romans and Greeks had no compunctions about, ensla- 
ving other pcbples; they believed that they had a divine mandate to 
subjugate and civilise "barbarians". Did Christianity give Europe 
a loftier outlook than this? It would hardly seem to be so, when we 
remember iniquities perpetrated by the holy Crusaders in Palestine 
and Syria, or when we read the Golden Bull issued by the Pope at a 
later period dividing the whole world outside Europe between Spain 
and Portugal, America to go to the Spaniards and Asia to the Portu- 
guese. Did the intrepid mariners of the Spanish main, men like Raleigh 
and Drake or their prototypes in France and Holland possess any higher 



conception of human rights? Hardly, as every student of history knows. 
The dark deeds committed by these adventurers in remote countries 
were bound to have serious repercussions on their conduct at home. 
The Spanish inquisition, the French Wars of Religions, the cruel 
persecution of both Catholics and Protestants in England and numerous 
other things of the same kind show clearly that whatever ideas ^he 
ancient philosophers had about freedom and equality vanished com- 
pletely in the Middle Ages, and that the European mind switched 
off quite easily from its creed of medieval Christianity and Feudalism 
to new ideals and ends first of aggressive nationalism and then of 
Imperialism and Imperial expansion. Imperialism is not a new con- 
ception in human thought; the Greek Alexander had his empire, the 
Roman Augustus had his, and the Tartar Chenghiz Khan had his. 
The ancient Hindu, too, had his Rajachakravarti, King of Kings, 
who established his claim to rule over other monarchs by performing 
suitable sacrifices. It would be incorrect to say that in these ancient 
empires the people were unhappy. They were happy enough, for they 
knew no better. They had no rights whatsoever, and, in return for 
peace and protection, were willing to render divine honours to the 
emperor. This divine aspect of ihe ruler was, no doubt, very much 
clearer in old Egypt and Assyria, but ic continued to be an important 
factor of royalty even in much later times. In fact, it formed the basis 
of the authority of the Holy Roman Empire in Christendom, and the 
Caliphate in Islam. There was no room for popular rights in these 
olden empires, where the ruler wore the garb of divine sanctity. The 
only people who dared challenge and limit imperial authority were 
the priestly hierarchy as in Egypt, or the Pope as in Christendom, or 
the Ulemah as in Islam. Things were, however, different in ancient 
India, for, we find it laid down in one of the oldest codes that the 
subjects of a State may, if they want to, bring to trial a king guilty of 
treason to the people and sentence him, even to death. This provi- 
sion is hardly consistent with the conception of the divinity of the 
king. On the contrary, it would seem to indicate that the H'ndu 
jurist recognised that the people had definite rights of their own vis-a- 
vis the monarch. Sri Aurobindo's characterisation of the ancient 
Hindu State throws a great deal of light on the point: "The King 
was the living representation of the Divine and the other orders of 



the community the natural powers of the collective self." "The old 
Indian State was a complex of communal freedom and self-determina- 
tion with a supreme co-ordinating authority." The whole system 
had for its basis the village community and the township, which were, 
respectively, the rural and urban units of autonomy. These units 
have been described as republican in character, and not without reason. 
But what is truly singular in the Hindu socio-political system is that 
it "tends to fuse together in different ways the theocratic, the monar- 
chic and aristocratic, the plutocratic and democratic tendencies in a 
whole." There were a few small States in northern India (like the 
Kshudraka, Mallvaka and Yaudheya) which were definitely republican 
in form. These were, by no means, typical of ancient India. The 
normal Pre-Mauryan realm was as described above, a harmonious 
combination of various human elements, where there was little to 
provoke discord between the component parts. This state of things, 
however, did not last, when powerful alien hordes like the Sakr ;, 
Hunas and Yavanas pressed hard on the frontier. India, too, J 
so many other lands, developed large empires which complf 
swamped the old Hindu State. But the spirit of communal freedon 
and self-determination survived for a long time in the village Pan- 
chayats and is probably not quite dead even today. 

Coming back to the industrialism and the imperialism of modern 
times, it is not difficult to understand how these two trends of the 
human mind run together, and how they are both inconsistent with 
democratic ideals. There is nothing intrinsically degrading in orga- 
nising a country industrially. Nor is there apparently any moral bar 
to a country conserving its raw materials and vastly increasing its 
manufactures. But if this policy is pushed on to its extreme limits, 
what would be the immediate effect? Obviously, over-production, if 
the country is, at all efficient industrially. Over-production is, however, 
an evil only if no ready market can be found for the goods turned out. 
If the country concerned has its own colonies and dependencies, the 
manufactured goods can be dumped down there and disposed of by 
the use (or misuse) of political power. But if it has not, then it has 
to persuade or coeice other countries into purchasing them. In either 
case, political complications are bound to set in, political complications 
that are not likely to bring either freedom or happiness to the nation 



at large. In all such matters, the people who play a prominent part 
are the big capitalists who organise themselves into trusts, and, when 
necessary, control the elections. Wars have been fought before now 
at the instance of petroleum magnates, iron and steel kings and arma- 
ment manufacturers. After a disastrous war has been fought and 
millions of men have been killed and cities have been burnt to ashes, 
readjustment of territories is sought to be made in the interests of 
the capitalists. In the olden times people fought to satisfy national 
greed and dynastic ambition. Today the lure is money and money, 
almost nothing else. We hear a great deal of talk about liberty, justice 
and righteousness, but the common soldier gets precious little benefit, 
either in liberty and justice or in money and comfort, out of these 
wars brought on by the money-grabbers of all countries. Where was 
there any democratic principle involved, when, for weeks together, 
England and Germany were trying to soft-soap Molotov and get into 
the good books of Stalin at the commencement of the last war? The 
protestations of friendship indulged in by Truman and Churchill 
and Stalin during the struggle deceived nobody, even at that time. 
Today we know all about it, but, strange to say, we shall indulge in 
the same hypocrisy over again. War to end war, how beautiful it 
sounds, but who ever meant it! Industrialism, with all that it involves, 
is not, then, the road to freedom the freedom of the people. Some- 
thing less selfish, something more honest, must inspire our action if 
we aim at realising the democratic ideal. In fact, as the Master has 
put it, the fraternity that lies at the root of democratic freedom is 
something that is contrary to the very nature of ego. It exists only 
in the soul, and by the soul, it can exist by nothing else. Man's ego- 
sense, either in the individual or in the group must be eliminated 
before he can achieve, in a true meaning, the Liber te> 'Egalite and 
Fraternite of the French Revolution. Perfect democracy has, so far, 
never been attained by man. In the course of human history, 
now one class, now another, has controlled man's corporate life. At 
the present time, the Priest and the Warrior have been deprived of 
all influence in the body politic. But the Merchant and the Toiler 
have come to the forefront and are engaged in a life-and-death struggle 
a bitter struggle where all rules of fair play seem to be suspended. 
Whether the smug self-satisfied Mammon-worshipper of the last 



century will regain his dominant position in society, or the "horny- 
handed tiller of the soil" and his brother, the wielder of the hammer, 
will impose their authority on all, is really a matter of indifference to 
the lover of freedom, because, in either case, the State will be class- 
ridden, as far from democracy as was the Egypt of the Pharaohs or 
the England of the Plantagenets. We shall see, later, in what direction 
man's group life is likely to evolve. 

Let us pause a while here, and enquire if, and to what extent, 
man's empires and leagues and federations are going to be helpful 
to his political progress. Being larger units of corporate life, they, 
certainly, constitute a step in advance of the normal nation-state 
evolved by man in the sixteenth century just as these states were, 
politically, ahead of the average county or duchy or principality of 
the Middle Ages. Human unity is our ultimate goal, and, whatever 
helps us to eliminate differences and disparities between groups 
and classes is a move in the right direction. This move towards 
fusion is sometimes deliberate and conscious, sometimes brought 
about by outer circumstances. Even in the latter case, a purely 
mechanical grouping may in the course of time lead to true 
unity, even an organic oneness. On the other hand, a league or fede- 
ration brought about by necessity, or rather by outer pressure, is 
dissolved rapidly when the pressure or necessity is no longer there. 
This is what happened to Austro-Hungary after the first World War. 
The union of England with Scotland and Wales has led to organic 
unity in a common British State, while the iorced union with Ireland 
has come to nought. Spain and Portugal, Sweden and Norway, have 
come together and separated many limes in spite of their ethnic affi- 
nity and geographical position. The federation of many races and 
languages and religions in Switzerland has endured in spite of the 
tremendous shaking of two Great Wars. The union of many States 
into a larger political unit is undoubtedly a move in the right direction, 
as far as the ideal of ultimate human unity is concerned. But neither 
federation nor empire necessarily brings about or promotes a demo- 
cratic constitution. The Egyptian or the Phoenician or the Chinese 
or the Moghul Empire, great as they were, had nothing to do with 
individual liberty. In India, as we have seen already, the earlier States 
stood for a certain amount of autonomy and self-determination; but 


the empires that rose in their place the Maurya and the Gupta 
lost that character completely. In Greece, likewise, the earlier 
republican forms of government, where they existed, dwindled com- 
pletely with the rise of Macedonia. Within the limited space of a 
magazine article, it is not possible to multiply such instances. Now, 
just as there have been all these autocratic empires in the past, so 
have there been others, more recent, that have never lost their original 
democratic trend. America (The United States) has always been a 
republic. The conquest of other territories, like Cuba and the Philip- 
pines, did not make any difference to its character, for, at the earliest 
opportunity both these conutries were developed into autonomous 
States. The only question that can be asked about the U.S.A. today 
is: Does it still retain its character as a champion of political freedom, 
or has it also acquired an imperialistic outlook and is seeking naval 
and air bases all over the world? Sri Aurobindo feared this change 
of outlook thirty years ago. England has today developed a common- 
wealth of nations, a happy combination of the two trends in modern 
political history, the democratic and the imperialistic. When the 
commonwealth idea was first mooted, the Master remarked that 
Britain's honesty of purpose would be judged by her conduct towards 
India and Egypt. Well, Britain has proved her good intentions by 
the status she has given to Egypt and the constitutions she has allowed 
to be developed peacefully in India, Burma and Ceylon. Her genero- 
sity has forced the hands of Holland and, it is hoped, will force the 
hands of the great French Republic in the near future. What is more 
difficult to understand is the attitude of England, France and the 
U.S.A. towards Germany and Korea. Things have begun to settle 
down in Italy and Japan. But why dismember Germany t and Korea? 
If it is a mere matter of self-interest, there is nothing to say, for group 
ego is a nasty thing and dies hard. But the leaders of thought in 
Europe and America should bear in mind that dismemberment of 
already existing nation-states is a retrograde step, as far as human 
evolution in the group is concerned. China has, by her own effort, 
saved herself from fragmentation. With regard to the political creed 
she has adopted, it is impossible to say whether she has acted through 
conviction or coercion or merely policy. It is so difficult to get at the 
truth in these matters! Have Western and Eastern Germany decided 



upon their respective affinities and forms of government by free choice? 
Nearer home, has Hyderabad entered upon her new political career 
through conviction the conviction of the people of Hyderabad? 

This much is sufficient on the subject of empires and federations 
and their bearing on political freedom. Let us now try and determine, 
in the light of Sri Aurobindo's political philosophy, the place of demo- 
cracy in human evolution. 

In "The Human Cycle 5 ', the Master traces in brief the growth 
of man's collective life. It is important for us to know that "there 
are necessarily three stages of the social evolution or generally, of 
the human evolution in both individual and society." Man starts 
with an infrarational stage, in which he has not yet learnt to refer 
his life and action to the judgment of his intellect. He regulates his 
conduct by his instinct, intuition and impulses, much as the ant and 
the bee do, under the supervision of nature. From this rude beginning, 
man goes forward by various stages to a rational state, where his 
intelligent will, more or less developed, takes charge of his thought, 
feeling and action. It is of man in this rational stage, that Sri 
Aurobindo says: "His politics and society are a series of adventures 
and experiments among various possibilities of autocracy, monarchism, 
military aristocracy, mercantile oligarchy, open or veiled plutocracy, 
pseudo-democracy of various kinds, bourgeois or proletarian, 
individualistic or collectivist or bureaucratic, socialism awaiting him, 
anarchism looming beyond it." This is a truly comprehensive list of 
man's achievements in the political field. The student of history will 
easily, by casting his eyes behind, discern instances of all these forms 
of government through the ages. But we must not look at them as 
separate and unconnected manifestations of man's thinking mind. 
"All these correspond to some truth of man's social being, some need 
of man's complex social being. Mankind works out these difficulties 
under the stress of the spirit within by throwing out a constant varia- 
tion of types...." But we must realise that human reason is an imper- 
fect light. It has ever glibly justified, according to need, every species 
of autocracy or plutocracy and every grade of democracy; it has sup- 
ported with excellent reasons both individualism and communism. 

The truth is always hidden from the rationalist, largely because 
it is a constant article of faith with him that his own reasoning is right 



and that the reasoning of those who differ from him is wrong. He 
does not know that truth is infinite and that our finite reason cannot 
embrace the whole of it. It can grasp only that portion of which we 
have immediate need. Nature does not intend rational man to seize 
the whole truth of his being at once. He has to go on experimenting 
till the limit of reason is reached and its function is finished. At that 
stage rational man hands over the reins to the suprarational and 
the spiritual, and says, "There is a Soul, a Self, a God in the world 
and in man, who works concealed, and all is his self-concealing and 
self-unfolding. His minister I have been, slowly to unseal your eyes... 
until there is only my luminous veil between you and him. Remove 
that and make the soul of man one in fact and nature with the Divine." 
When this condition has been reached, human evolution moves 
towards a suprarational and spiritual stage; man is able to see a higher 
divine end, a divine sanction, a higher guidance for the organisation 
of his corporate life. The three stages are inevitable, but we must 
not think that they are naturally exclusive and absolute. In fact, they 
grow out of each other and may exist simultaneously in different 
regions. Moreover, man being a complex creature, the three parts 
of his being bestial, human and spiritual, or rather, infrarational, 
rational and suprarational are present and active in him at one and 
the same time. So we see that a society which is called barbaric is 
not wholly infrarational; it has a rational, even a spiritual, side to 
it. Sri Aurobindo says explicitly, "An infrarational period of human 
and social development need not be without its elements, its strong 
elements, of reason and spirituality." We know, likewise, that a highly 
civilised man or society acts sometimes in a barbarous infrarational 

In the light of what we have said above, let us try and place demo- 
cracy in the scheme of man's social evolution. Reason, as a renovator 
and creator of society, in its march onwards passes through three 
successive stages stages that constitute the very logic of its growth: 
the first, individualistic, and ever more democratic, with liberty for 
its principle; the second, socialistic (probably communistic in the end) 
with equality and the State for its principle; the third, anarchistic, in 
the higher sense of the word. It is individualism that marks the end 
of conventionalism and ushers in the age of reason, of which the 



keynote is liberty. It is this age which recognises the free right of the 
individual to control not only his own life and action but also the life 
and action of the group of which he is a component part. We have 
already shown how man partially achieved freedom but failed to bring 
in equality and fraternity. Still, the rational democratic stage was a 
very necessary step in the evolution of human society. Why it has 
failed is obvious. The ordinary man is not as yet a rational being. 
Having just come out of a long period of infrarationalism, he cannot 
form a reasonable judgment with any facility. Usually he either follows 
his own impulses and prejudices or falls under the influences of men 
who are more active in intelligence and quicker in decision. The 
result is that a pseudo-democracy intervenes and ihe State passes into 
the hands of a dominant class that exploits in the name of democracy 
"the ignorant, numerous and less fortunate mass/ 5 This state of 
things cannot continue long. The ideal of liberty and equality is abroad 
and cannot be stifled; ultimately the worm turns, and a period of bitter 
class-struggle begins. Each class raises its own flag and fights for its 
own interests. The victory goes not to * c the spiritually, rationally or 
physically fittest" but to "the most fortunate and vitally successful". 
This is not what the rational mind of man had started to accomplish. 

The remedy for these defects would seem to be education, for 
one expects that proper education and training would produce a rational 
being. But what is proper education and training, who is to decide 
upon it? While we have to realise that democracy and its panacea of 
education and freedom have done a great deal for human society, it 
has also to be admitted that in various countries ideals of education 
have been altered and twisted to suit the interests of the dominant 
class. Frustration has, thus, turned men's minds towards democratic 

The state of things that led to this socialistic phase of evolution 
has been described vividly by the Master: "Instead of a harmoniously 
ordered society there has been developed a huge organised competitive 
system, a frantically rapid and one-sided development of industrialism 
and, under the garb of democracy, an increasing plutocratic tendency 
shocks by its ostentatious grossness and the magnitude of its gulfs and 
distances. These have been the last results of the individualistic ideal and 
its democratic machinery, the initial bankruptcies of the rational age," 



Socialism naturally sounded very attractive to the deluded masses. 
To begin with, it promised equal opportunities of education and 
training to all, and, in order to facilitate the success of its programme, 
it proposed to do away with the right of personal property. But this 
was not all. To go the whole hog, the socialist found it desirable, even 
inevitable, to abolish the individual altogether, to affirm that the indi- 
vidual belongs wholly to the group, nor only his estate, but himself, 
his labour, his capacities, the fruits of the education given to him by 
the State, his mind and knowledge, his life, the life of his family and 
the life of his children. 

This is the inevitable character of socialism. No doubt, the demo- 
cratic section of the socialists does not wholly accept these extreme 
ideas. But "the uneasy mental poise between two opposing principles, 
socialistic regimentation and democratic liberty, may have been the 
root cause of the failure of socialism in so many countries." 

Individualistic democracy was discredited, and floundered, as a 
result of the disparity between life's facts and the mind's idea. Collec- 
tivist democracy, too, may find itself in difficulties for the same reasons. 
Life's facts cannot be ignored. 

Individualism failed because man sacrificed equality in order to 
attain liberty. Collectivism will fail because man is sacrificing liberty 
in order to attain equality. 

Man will, in future, be probably led to experiment with a free 
class-less state-less organisation based on fraternal comradeship. Com- 
munism is being tried today. But it has practically dropped its inter- 
national aspect. A scheme of anarchism, spiritual if not philosophic, 
may well be man's future pursuit for a while. 

Thus will man be led on, by his reason, to try one panacea after 
another for his ills. He will never get on to the right path till he realises 
that the liberty and equality which he has so long been seeking must 
be the liberty and equality of the soul. This realisation can come only 
when he has eliminated his egoism, transcended his rationalism and 
climbed up to a suprarational and spiritual plane. 


14 201 

Spirituality and Indian Freedom 

AFTER centuries of political subjection and economic and cultural 
set-back, India has achieved her long-cherished and well- 
merited freedom. This is as yet a. nascent, a newly-won freedom and 
has to be carefully consolidated in every sphere of her national life, 
political, military, economic and social. Ignorance and poverty, the 
two outstanding legacies of subjection to British rule, still stalk the 
land and they have to be entirely liquidated before she can fully launch 
on the career of a sovereign state which has a distinct role to play in 
the comity of nations. That role, as we shall presently see, will be 
not only political and economic but also cultural and spiritual though 
her influence on the world polity will be a clear reflection \>f her 
innate and characteristic spirituality. Much lee-way has, however, to 
be made up in the meantime by way of spread of knowledge and edu- 
cation, development of arts, industries and commerce, science and 
technology, public health and sanitation, improvement of agriculture, 
animal husbandry and live-stock, extension of civil and political liberties 
and social and economic justice and freedom to her down-trodden 
masses. As it is, an immense responsibility rests on the politically 
conscious and economically powerful elements of the Indian society 
to make an intense and all-out effort to bring the benefits of freedom 
and peace to the common man. The zeal and earnestness with which 
our top-leaders are exerting themselves augur well for the future. 
Given sincerity, faith and good will, it is to be hoped that in the course 
of the next two decades, India will be a happy, peaceful and pros- 
perous land with the breath of her free air blowing from the highest 
to the least of her citizens. 

India has achieved her freedom but she is as yet far from reaching 
her goal. Political freedom is only a step, the first step on her journey 
towards a larger and more comprehensive freedom which is the fullest 



evolution of her destiny. That destiny is not merely any political 
or economic social Ultimate that is only incidental but the spiri- 
tual realisation of her Soul and the freedom and opportunity afforded 
to every single individual within the state for the same consummation. 
Without that, she will be only one among the many so-called rich 
and prosperous nations of the world. But that will hardly be an index 
to the progress of her civilisation; for 3 true progress consists not so 
much in material prosperity and abundance though that also is 
necessaiy and of that the Western nations have had enough as in 
possessing the treasures of the Spirit of which India was once the 
great repository of the world. But since the decline of spirituality in 
India added to an over-emphasis of the material values by the West, 
the world has been torn by constant and unremitting conflicts of a 
political and economic character. These politico-economic causes 
accentuated by the possessive and acquisitive instincts of our nature 
have brought the present materialistic civilisation almost to the verge 
of a collapse today. We are scarcely out of the frightful nightmare 
and aftermath of one war when the rumours of another, a more total, 
ruthless and destructive war, persistently assail our ears. With the 
discovery and harnessing of atomic energy for destructive purposes, 
the world seems to be precipitating towards a worse danger, a more 
fearful catastrophe. Men are not wanting who predict cold-bloodedly 
that the end of civilisation is at hand. Nothing but a miracle, nothing 
short of a divine intervention can, it seems, avert the impending cala- 
mity. Mental intelligence with its main power of reason has so far 
failed to arrive at any solution of this crisis in human destiny. All 
pleas for tolerance, sympathy, understanding, reciprocity and mutual 
good -will among the nations, all appeals to their noble and generous 
sentiments and enlightened self-interest have proved unavailing with 
men's hearts turbid with passion, fear, hatred, suspicion and distrust 
of their kind. Though hope and fear have brought some nations 
together in sheer self-defence, the world is divided into two armed 
camps based on different and conflicting political, economic and 
social ideologies. There is no knowing when and how a small spark 
may ignite the fire and set the whole world in conflagration. 

It is at this fateful juncture of history that men's eyes are turning 
more and more towards this ancient land in the hope that some solution 



may yet be found in the wisdom of her sages. India had indeed 
long solved the problem of life in the only way a solution is possible, 
namely, by unfailing and repeated insistence on spiritual values of 
existence. "I have known this great and effulgent One who is beyond 
all darkness; by knowing Whom we cross death and suffering. There 
is no other way". This is the crux of the whole matter, this knowledge 
of the One. The Indian Rishis had long discovered that this universe 
with its myriads of apparently conflicting and irreconcilable problems 
was only a play of Unity in diversity and of diveristy in Unity and 
patterned all their laws and institutions according to this supreme 
discovery. This enabled them not only to live in peace and prosperity 
in their own country but also to avert any possibility of clash and 
conflict with the world outside. There was a perception not only of 
"I am He" of the Upanishad but also the realisation of its other grea 
corollary, "Thou art That," "All this is Brahman; this Self is Brah- 
man". Interpreted in modern terms this means, "Live and let live", 
on the basis of the recognition of the similarity of the constitution, 
needs, aims and purposes of all human life. Let live others not grud- 
gingly and with conditions and reservations, but fully, freely and gladly 
as part of ourselves, as ourselves. In the blind and hectic pursuit of 
materialistic ends, we have lost sight of this ancient wisdom; hence 
this want of peace, coherence and harmony in our individual and 
collective existence. It is the exaggeration of the materialistic aspect 
of life with its endless competitions, jealousies and strifes and the 
depreciation and utter neglect of the spiritual values that is at bottom 
responsible for this unbalance, disorder and crisis in human affairs. 
Revival of spirituality and spiritual ways of life is the only clear way 
out of the present tangle. There is no other. 

The age of the Upanishads was the very heyday of Indian civi- 
lisation when Rishis like Manu, Parasara, Vrigu, Yajnavalkya and 
others lived, worked and drew up their great codes for the guidance 
of their fellowmen. It was the age when Yogins like Janaka, Ajata- 
shatru and Kartavirya sat on the thrones of India and governed the 
fate of the nation with their remarkable spiritual wisdom. The Rishi- 
idea is no new conception to India. It is in line with her hoary tradi- 
tion. The Rishis not only ministered to the spiritual needs of the 
people but were also valued counsellors to the kings and rulers 



because of their intimate and direct knowledge of men and affairs. In 
some, though rare, instances there was a combination of the Raja and 
Rishi in one. It is a total ignorance to think that the Rishi was a 
solemn, mystic and austere figure who was cloistered in his own 
ivory tower of spirituality, cut off and isolated from life and having 
nothing to do with the world. The codes and institutes of the Rishis 
referred to above bear ample testimony to this. This misconception 
arose from a later recoil of the spiritual impulse from the life of matter 
and the pursuit of purely spiritual and quietistic ends, such as per- 
sonal salvation and release of the soul from the bondage of material 
nature. It was this narrow and exclusive pursuit of one side of Truth 
that subsequently brought about a gradual deterioration of the all- 
embracing and comprehensive spiritual ideal and a sharp cleavage 
between the life of the Spirit and the life of the world wMi results 
that have by no means been happy to India. To this period of decline 
we can ascribe the downfall of India from her position of eminence 
in the world, her political and economic servitude and the stagnation 
and eclipse of her great culture. 

But even in the darkest days of her misfortune India never com- 
pletely lost sight of her supreme spiritual ideal. This we find in the 
emergence of her renowned spiritual leaders who from time to time 
came out of the darkness of the centuries like blazing figures of light 
till we come to great Masters like* Sri Ramakrishna, Vivekananda and 
Sri Aurobindo of our own day. They have all declared emphatically 
that India's greatness lies in the revival of her ancient spirituality, 
her Sanatana dharma, because that is her nature, her national charac- 
teristic, the very rationale of her existence and deviation from 
this ideal is fraught with grave danger for her national life. 
Those who are at all acquainted with the life and activities of these 
Masters and have read their conversations or speeches and writings 
will at once see that they have nowhere cut off the life of the 
world from the life of the Spirit though they have undoubtedly assigned 
the pride of place to the latter. For, Spirit, Self or Soul is the funda- 
mental reality of existence lying at the root of everything and whether 
we know and concede it or not, ultimately governs all our thought, 
life and action from behind the veil. This is the truth revealed to the 
world by all our Rishis, ancient or modern, though the modern age 



has turned its face against it. Material life figures at the lowest end 
of existence rising through the vital and mental planes to the 
summit of the Spirit. There is a continuity of life from one end 
to the other so that we may scale the summit one day and reach 
the consummation and fulfilment of our destiny. Any excessive pre- 
occupation therefore with one aspect of life to the exclusion of the 
other cannot but adversely react upon the whole. Spiritual life does 
not destroy or impair the value of our human existence. "The divine 
or spiritual life", says Sri Aurobindo, "will not only assume into itself 
the mental, vital, physical life transformed and spiritualised but it 
will give them a much wider and fuller play than was open to them 
so long as they were living on their own level... in their divine change 
they break into possibilities which in their unspiritualised condition 
could not be practicable or imaginable." 

Spirituality and the spiritual way of life, then, are the sovereign 
remedy for all the ills of the world, prescribed to us by all the ancient 
as well as the modern Rishis. Any attempt therefore to solve our 
problems on a mental basis, or by political, social or economic slogans 
and catchwords like democracy, socialism, communism, etc., any 
attempt that fails to take cognizance of and fulfil the deeper and 
higher spiritual needs and instincts of our nature, is foredoomed to 
failure. In the onward march of humanity we have now reached a 
stage where the limited and groping powers of the mind are an insuffi- 
cient and insecure guide for its further progress. A higher power 
and instrumentation than mind, the power and instrumentation of 
Intuition and Supermind is needed for our guidance. As these 
are powers and principles overtopping the mind and mental intelli- 
gence, it is only by a spiritual orientation of our consciousness and 
nature that we can solve the problem of life at this critical phase of 
the world's history. We can only hope that in any effort to icconstruct 
our national life, the men who are at the helm of affairs will not lose 
sight of this most vital spiritual need of our nature or fail to direct, 
as far as that can be done by mental agency, the destiny of the nation 
along spiritual channels. We can, in conclusion, do no better than 
repeat what Sri Aurobindo, the foremost of the Indian mystics, has 
affirmed in course of a recent message to the country: "It would be 
a tragic irony of fate if India were to throw away her spiritual heritage 



at the very moment when in the rest of the world there is more and 
more a turning towards her for spiritual help and a saving Light. 
This must not and will surely not happen; but it cannot be said that 
the danger is not there. There are indeed other numerous and diffi- 
cult problems that face this country or will very soon face it. No doubt 
we will win through, but we must not disguise from ourselves the fact 
that after these long years of subjection and its cramping and 
impairing effects a greater inner as well as outer liberation and change, 
a vast inner and outer progress is needed if we are to fulfil India's 
true destiny." 



The Psychology of Indian Nationalism 

(Concluded from the last Number} 



T^ROM the foregoing survey it emerges that India has had a view 
* of her own political development all along, although baulked 
by circumstances, and that we have not to begin the first stages of 
our political existence and that necessarily on the lines traced by the 
British. The British period of her history, it is clear, represents a 
breach with the past and India certainly has now not to revert to her 
ancient past, no such returns arc possible in history, but to join 
the m?in route from which she was temporarily deflected. It was 
assumed by English writers on India that she was totally devoid of 
political tradition and political capacity except for certain primitive 
beginnings in early Aryan institutions and that there was no alternative 
to her acceptance of British models, British guidance and British 
lines of growth. Lord Irwin said: "Much of the current controversy 
in both India and this country assumes that recent political develop- 
ments in India represent a violent break with India's past, an un- 
natural turning away from what is Indian, and from what is therefore 
more appropriate to Indian conditions and circumstances. If this 
were true, it would be a matter for anxious heart-searching on the 
part of all concerned, because then there would be an alternative to 
the purely British institutions and form of government which have 
been during recent years in process of establishment m India. More- 
over, the alternative would be something home-grown and acclima- 
tized to the soil. But, since it is not true, the sooner the unreal 
alternative is dismissed, the more speedily and effectively will the way 
be open to the recognition of the real forces now governing the political 



life of India, and the easier will it be able to guide these into construc- 
tive channels where they may produce their legitimate effect." 1 From 
this it is but one step to argue that we are not different but 
backward and that we need political instruction or indoctrination 
of approved British experience. 

As if to meet the bureaucracy half way, public men al the begin- 
ning of the nineteenth century and even after took it upon themselves 
to prove that India was apt for representative institutions judged by 
the criteria of the West. They tacitly admitted the absence of demo- 
cractic conceptions in India, accepted British dogmas as the last word 
of political wisdom. They did not understand the past achievements 
of the race or had scant opinion of their worth and lacked independent 
political thinking. It is no longer necessary to collect data and educe 
that India is a nation answering the tests of British or other political 
pontiffs. We have now to get at the deeper, the deepest truth of Indian 
nationalism and, may be, give the concept a new significance. For the 
truth is that nations arc real entities and if they take up the business 
of living in earnest, they cannot help evolving each a type of its own 
nationalism. Each nation is bound to evolve a pattern of its own, 
its outlook, its line of practical endeavour, its ethos. 

In a brilliant essay on "What is a nation?" Harold Stannard 
says: "When the last nation has finally passed into history, it will be 
possible to define nationalism. Meanwhile we can but note certain 
outstanding phases of a developing idea." Nationalism, as we 
know it today, has taken long to develop itself. The form it has 
now assumed is not by any means the final. Nationalism is the 
incarnation of the soul of a people. If a great nation emerges that 
can creatively, spiritually build itself, nationalism may present a novel 
face, an unprecedented political type. If the beginnings of nationalism 
can be hardly recognised for such, its possibilities in the future may 
exceed all our present imaginings. Sri Aurobindo envisages a future 
for the Indian nation for which there is no example or exact parallel 
in history, a new type of people lifting nationalism to a new pinnacle 
justifying the separate existence, separate effort of a whole people in 
fundamental unity with entire humanity. 

1 Political India, Lord Irwin, pp. 6-7. 




But this vision did not come in the first phase of British rule in 
India. It was inevitably a period of surprise, of the easy glamour for 
novel political ideals and methods, of the easy acceptance and mecha- 
nical adaptation of the dogmas of the ruling power. The effects of 
political domination were obvious. The British brought with them 
certain axioms of social and political philosophy which were genuine 
enough so far as they were concerned. They were the crystallised 
outcome of British history, of European tradition. As rulers they 
could and did presume the superior merit of their culture and sought 
to impose it on the subject population. Macaulay's philistinism and 
dogmatic assumption of the superiority of a single shelf of European 
books to all the literature of the East is a typical illustration of the 
inability of the Western mind to appreciate the characteristic worth of 
a different culture. It is an opposition of standpoints, temperamental 
divergencies between the two halves of the globe fully analysed by 
Sri Aurobindo in the first part of his rejoinder to Archer's attack on 
India. Political authority, missionary propaganda and educational 
innovations combined to operate a powerful illusion in regard to the 
virtue of British institutions, ideals and methods and to inspire in 
the first generation of Indian intellectuals a pathetic blindness and con- 
tempt for their own past. 

The advent of the British in India synchronised with a low ebb 
of national vitality. It was the reign of passivity, a moment of Tamas, of 
the exhaustion of a long endeavour such as comes upon all nations. 
The acceptance of the rationalistic, individualistic modes of thinking 
was not prompted by a real need, by the insufficiency of their traditional 
philosophy, by the proved inadequacy or unsoundness of their prime 
beliefs. It was an inert acceptance, a lazy tribute to the ruling power. 
It meant an acquiescence in the British regime and a docile, servile 
apprenticeship to their methods of reforms and agitation. Nineteenth 
century politics in India was utterly derivative, imitative, self-forgetful. 
It was a barren phase of political constitutionalism, significant and 
effective in England where the constitution was of the people's making, 
a reflex of their national need and temperament, but here in India a 



"The redress of particular grievances and the reformation of 
particular objectionable features in a system of Government are suffi- 
cient objects for organized resistance only when the Government is 
indigenous and all classes have a recognised place in the political 
scheme of the State. They are not and cannot be a sufficient object 
in countries like Russia and India where the laws are made and adminis- 
tered by a handful of men, and a vast population, educated and unedu- 
cated alike, have no political right or duty except the duty of obedience 
and the right to assist in confirming their own servitude. They are still 
less a sufficient object when the despotic oligarchy is alien by race and 
has not even a permanent home in the country, for in that case the 
Government cannot be relied upon to look after the general interests of 
the country, as in nations ruled by indigenous despotism; on the con- 
trary, they are bound to place the interests of their own country and 
their own race first and foremost. Organized resistance in subject- 
nations which mean to live and not to die, can have no less an object 
than an entire and radical change of the system of Government; only 
by becoming responsible to the people and drawn from the 
people can the Government be turned into a protector instead 
of an oppressor. But if the subject-nation desires not a provincial 
existence and a maimed development, but the full, vigorous and 
noble realization of its national existence, even a change in the 
system of Government will not be* enough; it must aim not only 
at a national Government responsible to the people but at a free 
national Government unhampered even in the least degree by foreign 

"It is not surprising that our politicians of the nineteenth century 
could nor realize these elementary truths of modern politics. They 
had no national experience behind them of politics under modern 
conditions; they had no teachers except English books and English 
liberal 'sympathisers' and c friends of India'. Schooled by British 
patrons, trained to the fixed idea of English superiority and Indian 
inferiority, their imaginations could not embrace the idea of national 
liberty, and perhaps they did not even desire it at heart, preferring 
the comfortable ease, which at that time still seemed possible in a 
servitude under British protection^ to the struggles and sacrifices of 
a hard and difficult independence. Taught to take their political 



lessons solely from the example of England and ignoring or not valuing 
the historical experience of the rest of the world, they could not even 
conceive of a truly popular and democratic government in India 
except as the slow result of the development of centuries, progress 
broadening down from precedent to precedent. They could not then 
understand that the experience of an independent nation is not valid 
to guide a subject-nation, unless and until the subject-nation throws 
off the yoke and itself becomes independent. They could not realise 
that the slow, painful and ultra-cautious development, necessary in 
mediaeval and semi -mediaeval conditions when no experience of a 
stable popular Government had been gained, need not be repeated 
in the days of the steamship, railway and telegraph, when stable 
democratic systems are part of the world's secured and permanent 
heritage. The instructive spectacle of Asiatic nations demanding and 
receiving constitutional and parliamentary Government as the price 
of a few years' struggle and civil turmoil, had not then been offered 
to the world. But even if the idea of such happenings had occurred 
to the more sanguine spirits, they could have been prevented from 
putting it into words by their inability to discover any means towards 
its fulfilment. Their whole political outlook was bounded by the 
lessons of English history, and in English history they found only 
two methods of politics, the slow method of agitation and the swift 
decisive method of open struggle* and revolt; unaccustomed to inde- 
pendent political thinking, they did not notice the significant fact 
that the method of agitation only became effective in England when 
the people had already gained powerful voice in the Government. 
In order to secure that voice they had been compelled to resort no 
less than three several times to the method of open struggle and revolt. 
Blind to the 41 significance of this fact, our nineteenth century politicians 
clung to the method of agitation, obstinately hoping against all ex- 
perience and reason that it would somehow serve their puropse. From 
any idea of open struggle with the bureaucracy they shrank with 
terror and a sense of paralysis. Dominated by the idea of the 
overwhelming might of Britain and the abject weakness of India, 
their want of courage and faith in the nation, their rooted distrust 
of the national character, disbelief in Indian patriotism and blindness 
to the possibility of true political strength and virtue in the people, 



precluded them from discovering the rough and narrow way to 
salvation. 1 


The Indian motive in politics had to find its entry from other 
sources, from the depths of the consciousness of the race which had 
been overlaid temporarily, dulled but not extinguished. Religious 
consciousness is total, emphatic and pervasive, not partial and super- 
ficial like political velleities, not lacking in intensity and effectiveness 
like humble petitions and advices, not again limited to certain spheres 
of life only but embracing rhe totality of existence. The phenomenon 
broke forth in numerous movements. The beginnings of the Brahmo 
Samaj, the Arya Samaj in the Punjab, the movement associated with 
the great names of Sri Ramakrishna and Vivekananda, the movement 
of orthodox Hindu revivalism, Neo-Vaishnavism in Bengal, the 
revitalisation of old sects and disciplines, all attest to the psychic 
reaction against the pressure of alien incompatible modes. A central 
impulse started afresh. It was not a pragmatic gesture. It was a reaching 
out of the nation's consciousness, not a petty purposive expression, or 
conscious calculated direction of the mind towards certain points 
but a movement of energy, a movement of light, a movement of joy 
at the discovery of the nation's soul. Vivekananda gave Hinduism 
an aggressive turn "necessary for self-preservation" against the 
onslaught of misconceived missionary activities in our land and neces- 
sary for a re-emergence of the faith in its plenary vigour. "In a recent 
unique example, the life of Ramakrishna Paramahansa, we see a colossal 
spiritual capacity first driving straight to the divine realization, taking 
ai> it were, the kingdom of heaven by violence, and then seizing upon 
one Yogic method after another and extracting the substance out of 
it with an incredible rapidity, always to return to the heart of the 
whole matter, the realization and possession of God by the power of 
Love, by the extension of inborn spirituality into various experiences 
and by spontaneous play of an intuitive knowledge." 2 

1 The Doctrine of Passive Resistance, pp. 16-20. 

2 Life and Yoga, Advent, Vol. III., p. 99. 



There was an upsurge of consciousness of power, a new dynamos 
of the spirit that was bound to revivify the nation as a whole. 

"It was in religion that the soul of India awoke and triumphed. 
There were always indications, always great forerunners, but it was 
when the flower of the educated youth of Calcutta bowed down at 
the feet of an illiterate Hindu ascetic, a self-illuminated ecstatic and 
'mystic* without a single trace or touch of the alien thought or education 
upon him that the battle was won. The going forth of Vivekananda, 
marked out by the Master as the heroic soul destined to take the world 
between his two hands and change it, was the first visible sign to the 
world that India was awake not only to survive but to conquer." 1 


The religious consciousness extended to the political field in 
Bengal. The movement in Bengal prefigured the coming struggle 
on the wider stage of India. Swadeshi, National Education, Arbi- 
tration, the whole technique of Passive Resistance that later obtained 
freedom for the country as a whole were first resolutely tried in Bengal. 
From an outer imitative phase Bengal had entered upon a subjective, 
inwardly inspired stage. The religious awakening that came early, 
the peculiar temper of the Bengali race, their implicit faith, readiness 
to sacrifice all for a cause, their imaginative susceptibilities, the hurt 
they received from the Partition all account for Bengal becoming the 
first workshop of Indian nationalism. The new nation was born. 
Here, as in the early Sein Fein, the ideal was "to be ourselves", not 
to be like the English or some one else. "The Swadeshi movement 
was a movement which attempted to override the previous impossi- 
bility of political creation by the Indian spirit upon other than imi- 
tative European lines in the present circumstances of the country." 2 
"The movement of 1905 pursued a quite new conception of the nation 
not merely as a country, but a soul, a psychological, almost a spiritual 
being, and even when acting from economical and political motives, 
it sought to dynamise them by this subjective conception and to make 

1 The Ideal of the Karmayogin y p. 22 (Sixth edition). 

2 Arya, Vol. V, p. 310. 



them instruments of self-expression rather than objects in themselves." 1 
It was a process of self-finding. In Bengal there was a first trial of 
all those means which later availed to secure freedom for us, Swadeshi, 
Boycott, National Education, Arbitration, Passive Resistance, and 
being confined in the first stages to the limits of a province, the move- 
ment exhibited singular unanimity, concentration and energy. It was 
not, however, in the anticipation of the mere machinery of agitation, 
the invention or energetic application of the methods of Passive Resis- 
tance but in the rarer divination of the soul of the people that the 
Bengal movement really proved to be the precursor of Indian nationa- 
lism. "Our attitude is a political Vedantism. India, free, one and 
indivisible, is the divine realization to which we move, emancipation 
our aim." 2 The exposition of the Nationalist creed by men like Bipin- 
chandra Pal, its final Vedantic statement by Sri Aurobindo in the 
Karmayogin and the Dharma, and, to anticipate a little, its affirmation 
from the Congress Presidential chair in less metaphysical, less com- 
prehensive, but substantially Identical terms by Chitta Ranjan Das 
in 1925, all reflect the stamp set by Bengal on Indian Nationalist 
thought. The religion of patriotism enshrined in the Bandemataram 
of Bankim rapidly spread. It made articulate the nation's soul. If 
the nationalism of the first stage had been an intellectual creed which 
could not be transmitted to the bulk of the nation, it now found rhyth- 
mical utterance and straightaway appealed to the heart and the great 
mass of the people. The nation had definitely come to regard itself 
subjectively. It was set on the path to discover itself and the signi- 
ficance of the changed vision and changed direction will be evident 
only when spirituality is completely exemplified in the nation as a 

Nationalism has a physical basis, a geographical, material, objective 
aspect. But the real body is not the land but the people who inhabit 
the surface of the earth. So viewed the objective becomes the subjective. 
Writers on nationality include territory under the objective factors. 
But territory and the human portion are indissolubly wedded and a 
deeper subjective view is possible. Land is the basic earth-principle, 

1 Arya, Vol. Ill, p. 230. 

2 The Doctrine of Passive Resistance, p. 79. 



the material manifestation. The people thereon are the living, animate, 
sentient part of it. When this entity proceeds to discover its inner life 
and arrives at its deepest self, there stands forth a corporate soul, 
Narayana. But many are the pitfalls on the way. Egoism comes to be 
mistaken for the self, the individual is immolated to collective egoism 
and great national folly and turpitude such as illustrated by the exag- 
gerated German ego are committed. In an organic view the land and 
the people are fused into a single centre of consciousness, assume a 
living personality and the nation is inspired to heroic endeavour. 

Nationalism, ultimately considered, is what binds a people 
together, what gives them a sense of kinship and confraternity. The 
people may be composite. They may be speaking various languages. 
But a common destiny compasses all who inhabit a common portion 
of land. 

The explanation of community life as the product of historical 
circumstances, common memories, common struggles, common 
triumphs, common failures, fails to satisfy. The human collectivity is 
prior to history, subjectively regarded. It reaches back to identity of 
being, primordial oneness. The truth of history consists in the objective 
working out of consciousness, in devising an appropriate framework 
of living, in making life a rhythm of the Spirit. We come to share a 
common lot or experience. This undoubtedly reinforces our essential 
identity, but it is the oneness of substance, oneness of origin, unity in 
God of which we are all portions that is the secret of all subsequent 
historical evolution. History sometimes errs, takes a wrong turn when 
the truth of spirit is infringed, when false forms and false external ways 
are pursued, when the vital dominates. That is why it becomes a zig- 
zag, an experiment. But the only road to correcting the lapses of history 
is not to fetch "pragmatic sanctions" but return to our inner, our inmost 
apprehension of ourselves, to the Real-Idea enabling us at once to see 
and execute. This is what Sri Aurobindo means by "operative insight, 
now supermental to us," "an immediate, intuitive consciousness of 
things and an immediate intuitive control of things." 1 Were this path 
chosen, history would be a progressive ascent, not "meandering with a 
mazy motion", a line of trial and error. But ultimately the "stress 

1 The Life Divine, Vol. II, p. 908. 



of the hidden spirit" will force itself to the surface and the human 
march is assured. 

The herd -instinct is said to be the source of community living. 
This too is mote an objective than a subjective view of the human group. 
We become one,, because we are one. We draw together, herd, because 
so to do is a necessity of our being. A spiritual oneness, mutuality, 
an inherent consciousness of our identity is the psychological source 
of our collective living. The outward association, the herd is but an 
expression of the impelling urge in us. 

"A common memory and a common ideal these more than a 
common blood make a nation." So says Renan in his famous essay 
emphasising the cultural over the racial element. A common divinity, 
a something prior to all memory, a common destiny, a something more 
imperative, more inescapable than an ideal binds us together. We are 
all one in God. We lose consciousness of this at birth which is the begin- 
ning of division. But the sense of unity, of fundamental oneness abides 
and makes man a gregarious animal. Common memory refers to a 
chain of historical happenings, but the consciousness of unity, the 
secret intention of Nature, is prior to all history. Common ideal refers 
to our strivings in the present, man's conscious activity, speculation 
and mental idealism. There is an ineluctable something that determines 
the direction of our endeavours and the fruit thereof. 

Land is the primary basis of nationality. Race, religion, language 
all come next. A common land is the pledge of a common conscious- 
ness. It may begin with an attachment to the land, it will thence pass 
to the people and subjectively lead them to the discovery of the soul of 
the nation. Given a well-defined, terrirotial unit, a life of harmony and 
mutuality within the area is inevitable early or late. A conception 
embracing the whole land, a vision of the Mother is all that is needed. 
That took hold of the consciousness of the race since Bankim gave the 
Mantra. "Once that vision has come to a people, there can be no rest, 
no peace, no farther slumber till the temple has been made ready, the 
image installed and the sacrifice offered. A great nation which has had 
that vision can never again bend its neck in subjection to the yoke of a 
conqueror." 1 

1 Bankim-Tilak-Dayananda, p. 14. 
15 217 


The prophecy is since fulfilled and it will accomplish itself yet 
further. "A free and united India will be there and the Mother will 
gather around her her sons and weld them into a single national strength 
in the life of a great and united people." 1 

Political divisions have no permanent force as long as the country 
is one. People dwelling in one country, however diverse they may 
happen to be, will be driven to know each other intimately and cooperate 
towards the solution of common problems which can neither be put off 
nor disingenuously met. Geography lays on the people a need which 
cannot be denied; ?t favours physical contact and commerce, unity at 
the gross level too, what, given spiritual perception and spiritual 
oneness, renders possible unity in the complete sense, the earth-sense 
too no less than the spirit-sense of it all. "The feeling of almost physical 
delight in the touch of the mother-soil, of the winds that blow from 
Indian seas, of rivers that stream from Indian hills, in the hearing of 
Indian speech, music, poetry, in the familhr sights, sounds, habits, dress, 
manners of our Indian life, this is the physical root of that love. The 
pride in our past, the pain in our present, the passion for the future 
are its trunk and branches. Self-sacrifice and self-forgetfulness, great 
service, high endurance for the country are its fruit. And the sap which 
keeps it alive is the realization of the Motherhood of God m the country, 
the vision of the Mother, the perpetual contemplation, adoration and 
service of the Mother." 2 


The Nationalist Party insp ; red by this religion of patriotism envi- 
saged absolute Swaraj, self-government as it exists in the United 
Kingdom, not as it exists in the colonies, which was the scope of the 
Congress demand enunciated by Dadabhai. The firsc formulation of 
the Swaraj ideal was more a matver of finding a Sanskrit equivalent for a 
Western political vocable than rediscovering the spirit of the India of 
long ago and recharging it with a new potency. But the spirit emerges. 
The policy of Passive Resistance was evolved as the necessary comple- 

1 Sri Aurobindo's Message, Feb. 5, 1948. 

2 The Doctrine of Passive Resistance,, p. 84. 



ment of self-help. "Self-development and a scheme of Passive Resis- 
tance are supplementary and necessary to each other." 1 Passive Resis- 
tance was a courageous doctrine of the soul expressing the determination 
of the nation at once to resist bureaucratic high-handedness and to 
depend on themselves for the realisation of freedom, preparedness to 
suffer for one's convictions, this again attesting to the high value of 
what we contend for. The nation had indeed travelled a long way from 
moderation, compromise and conciliation. There was a tendency to 
swing to the opposite extreme of intransigence and violent display of 
anti-British feeling. 

"The outburst of anti-European feeling which followed on the 
Partition gave the required opportunity. Anger, vindictiveness and 
antipathy are not in themselves laudable feelings, but God uses them for 
his purposes. They drove listlessness and apathy away and replaced 
these by energy and a powerful emotion; and that energy and emotion 
were seized upon by the national self and turned to the uses of the 
future." 2 A further explanation is offered: "When tamas, inertia, 
torpor, has benumbed a nation, the strongest forms of rajas are neces- 
sary to break the spell; there is no form of rajas so strong as hatred. 
Through rajas we rise to sattwa, and for the Indian temperament the 
transition does not take long." 3 The newborn energy manifested itself 
in stray anarchical developments. Some few not merely repudiated with 
scorn all that savoured of British 'origins but indulged in violence. 
Rajas tended to satfwa, however. 

Nationalism had found its law of being. It had clearly seen and 
unmistakably stated its ideal. It had ceased to look for help from the 
constituted powers and developed an ethic of self-reliance. "Mendi- 
cancy" was finally abandoned. A change in method and spirit both 
were noticeable. Not infructuous agitation but constructivwegenerative 
activities, withdrawal of consent and cooperation and the organization 
of a programme of non-cooperation became the nation's motto. Socially 
the movement widened itself by enlisting the youth, the masses and the 
women. The response of these sections of society indicated the extent 

1 The Doctrine of Passive Resistance, p. 39. 

2 The Ideal of the Karmayogin, p. 23. 

3 The Doctrine of Passive Resistance, p. 85. 



to which nationalism had succeeded in its idealistic appeal to the heart 
and the imagination. 

The Nationalist movement in its new fervour assumed full form 
under the leadership of Tilak. "He was the foremost exponent and 
head of a thorough-going nationalism. 5 ' 1 The greatness of the Loka- 
manya consists in Indianising the political movement, in giving it a 
virile turn in rejecting Western estimates, in the application of a subtle 
intellect to the various aspects of political regeneration. It was spiritual 
not in the deepest sense of the word but in the gospel of self-reliance it 
inculcated, in the conception of Swaraj as a birthright, not a concession 
or gift and the definite acceptance of Swadharma in politics. It assumed 
a popular expression in the inauguration of Ganesh and Shivaji festivals 
and the wide diffusion of the new ideology through the vernacular 
press. The mass mind began to be leavened. 


With the advent of Gandhiji whose name is inseparably associated 
with the fruition of our protracted struggle for freedom, the nation 
entered upon a phase of ethical discipline. Non-cooperation was a 
moral campaign directed against a political system. There is no example 
in history of a whole people led to freedom without sanguinary violence 
by a man of Gandhiji's purity of temperament, single-minded dedication 
to the good of the country and an unbending will in the pursuit of the 
chosen ideal. Yet what a commentary on human nature as it is that this 
supreme moral effort should have been misapprehended and Gandhiji's 
very life not thought too precious! This should make us pause. The 
nation's homage to Gandhiji was assured and the misguided act of a 
single individual only served to bring home, to demonstrate to the 
world, how sound is the nation's core that sang sorrow 'up into immortal 

Yet the question remains, reviewing the whole problem, what the 
main leverage of life is. What is the supreme dynamis? What is its 
metaphysical validity? What is its practical utility? Can the ethical 
be regarded as an absolute or all-sufficing or all-comprehensive formula 

1 Bankim-Tilak-Dayanandd) p. 23. 



of life? A consideration of these questions by competent men will 
mean the revision of the foundations of life as at present constituted. 
Realization of the Highest Truth and its actualisation in the circum- 
stances and conditions of life, this has been the single problem of 
humanity through the ages. How to secure power, how to forge the instru- 
ments that will avail to make life divine, have been man's preoccupation. 
Sri Aurobindo wrote in his letter to Deshabandhu Chitta Ranjan Das 
in November 1922: "I have been confirmed in a perception which I 
had always less clearly and dynamically then but which has now become 
more and more evident to me that the true basis of work and life is the 
spiritual, that is to say, a new consciousness to be developed only by Yoga; 
I see more and more manifestly, that man can never get out of the futile 
circle the race is always treading until he has raised himself on to the 
new foundation. I believe also that it is the mission of India to make 
this great victory for the world. But what precisely was the nature of 
the dynamic power of this great consciousness? What was the condition 
of its effective truth? How could it be brought down, mobilised, orga- 
nized, turned upon life? How could our present instruments, intellect, 
mind, life, body be made true and perfect channels for this great trans- 
formation?" This was the problem Sri Aurobindo set to work out in his 
own experience. 

The spiritual is other than the moral; it is supra-ethical. Rising 
above the ethical does not mean allowing our lower nature a free rein. 
The moral like the mental is an intermediary phase. It has a preparatory 
value. None but the Jivanmuktas may transgress the moral law with 
impunity. But we have to realize its essential nature and limitations 
as well. While, in the first instance, we have everyone of us to achieve 
Sattwa, moral high-mindedness, we have at the same time to recognise 
that it is but a part of the process, is efficacious up to a point, and, beyond 
that, for a higher operation, we have to acquire a spiritual transcendence, 
a transcendence that has its portion, its essence, in the universal, 
in the individual as well, and ensures to us a totality, an integrality of 
action. The Gandhi movement was essentially one of riddance. It 
achieved political freedom, a preliminary purificatory process. While it 
purged the political atmosphere by fixing a high ideal, by insisting on 
clean methods, while it ethically drew together the elements for a 
struggle, 'a fight to the finish' and imposed on them a technique of 



resistance best fitted under the circumstances of a disarmed people 
dominated by armed might, it could not ideally purify the nation 
because a higher than moral sanction is needed for the purpose. The 
mass of the nation being what it is, Gandhism, by force of individual 
example, could only loosely organize it for a campaign of independence. 
In the process it suffered dilution, attrition, distortion, so that Gandhism 
at its rare height remains a solitary individual exemplification. This 
initial purificatory movement, while availing to save the people from the 
British and forcefully changing the current back from the channels of 
decadent European nationalism, helps the waters to gather for a resumed 
flow in its ancient bed. Spiritualising politics by direct political action, 
by fixing allegiance to the country and the nation as the sole godheads, 
will only result in a travesty of spirituality, though it brings its own 
incidental good. The turbid mass may respond outwardly by desisting 
from acts of open violence, not always to be depended on, however, 
but it neither understands the technique nor yet the spirit that 
saves it. It comes to harbour unregcnerate passion. The higher the 
ethic, the severer the strain upon common human stuff and the greater 
the distortion and sanctimonious humbug that will prevail. Real 
purification can be effected only by other and more radical means, a 
spiritual conversion of our nature, and not mere moral medication. 
Externally holding back from violence, the mass mind seethes internally, 
and in a crisis, borne down by the weight of its own unchastened lusts 
and unsatisfied hungers and ravenous instincts, breaks loose into 
anarchic acts of arson and murder such as painted red the dawn of 
Indian freedom and such as has ensanguined the record of history 

Gandhism marks the limit of the moral example. It shows the furthest 
that can be done in the direction of ethical discipline, ethical influence 
and ethical endeavour. In Bengal, earlier, the insufficiency of the in- 
tellectual effort has been illustrated. "This state of despair was the best 
thing that could have happened for Bengal, for it meant that the intellect 
had done its best, that the intellect had done all that was possible for 
it, and that the work of the unaided intellect in Bengal was finished. 5 ' 1 
It is Nature's way to carry any line of endeavour to its extreme logical 

1 Speeches, p. 27 (1922 edition). 



limit. If ethical means could suffice. Gandhism should. The restraint, 
the purity, the candour, the very human ties of sympathy by which it 
sought to bind the people together, the rigour and suffering it cheerfully 
bore as part of the process, the practical success it achieved, stamp 
Gandhism with a grandeur of its own; it is a tribute to the individual; 
it is a tribute to the potency of principles and ideals conceived on the 
mental, the moral plane. Attested in its high purity in the individual, 
when the austere ethic is applied to the mass, it will find itself in the 
grip of giant passions which it (the mass) may hide but cannot subjugate. 

There is a constant permeation of the planes, and even though 
we have no access to the highest, the spiritual and the supramental, 
we share by our aspiration whatever admixture, infiltration of the highest 
is achieved at our present level and by virtue thereof attain partial 
results. The spirit is the sole power. We give credit to our intellectual 
policies, our present modes of working, while all the while they are 
really derived from the highest planes, attenuated reflections of the 
Real. But for anything like transformation, for a radical remoulding of 
our nature, we have to lay ourselves open to the descent of the Divine, 
abolish the ego and convert ourselves into instruments for the work of 
the Divine. 

We have passed through a moral phase of nationalism. It cannot 
be the final. "The effort at governing political action by ethics is 
usually little more than a pretente." 1 Exceptional individuals may 
regulate their political conduct by strict moral injunctions; even they, 
proceeding by mental and moral rule, cannot escape miscalculation. 
"Sattwa binds by knowledge and pleasure; it is always attaching itself 
to some imperfect realisation, to the idea of one's own opinions and 
principles or at its highest, as in the case of Arjuna, opposing some 
personal idea of altruism, justice or virtue against the .surrender of 
our will that God demands of us. It is for the escape from the Sattwic 
Ahamkara that we have to pass beyond the attachment to the duality 
of virtue and sin, ubhe sukrtaduskrte"* 

"There is no passion so terrible as the passion of the altruist, 
no egoism so hard to shake as the fixed egoism of virtue, precisely 

1 The Spirit and Form of Indian Polity, p. 21. 

2 The Yoga and its Objects, pp. 38-39. 



because it is justified in its own eyes, and justified in the sight of men 
and cannot see the necessity of yielding to a higher law. 5 ' 1 

Action will be infallible only when it draws down a higher sanc- 
tion, a supra-ethical descent of divine energy, when man becomes an 
absolutely pure channel of His will and puissance. Meanwhile what 
saves us is our moral purity, loftiness of motive, integrity of conduct, 
qualities not at all to be underrated but to be diligently sought 
after as a first condition without which there is no transcending the 
'modes of naiure. 5 

The meaning of ethics considered from a metaphysical standpoint, 
its transitional value is characterised by Sri Aurobindo in the fol- 
lowing paras which I extract for a highest perspective of the entire 
ethical problem: 

"We have to recognise, if we thus view the whole, not limiting 
ourselves to the human difficulty and the human standpoint, that we 
do not live in an ethical world. The attempt of human thought to 
force an ethical meaning into the whole of Nature is one of those 
acts of wilful and obstinate self-confusion, one of those pathetic 
at tempts of the human being to read himself, his limited habitual human 
self into all things and judge them from the standpoint he has personally 
evolved, which most effectively prevent him from arriving at real 
knowledge and complete sight. Material Nature is not ethical ; the 
law which governs it is a co-ordination of fixed habits which take no 
cognizance of good and evil, but only of force that creates, force that 
arranges and preserves, force that disturbs and destroys impartially, 
non-ethically, according to the secret Will in it, according to the mute 
satisfaction of that Will in its own self-formations and self-dissolutions. 
Animal or vital Nature is also non-ethical, although as it progresses 
it manifests the crude material out of which the higher animal evolves 
the ethical impulse. We do not blame the tiger because it slays and 
devours its prey any more than we blame the storm because it destroys 
or the fire because it tortures and kills; neither docs the conscious- 
force in the storm, the fire or the tiger blame or condemn itself. Blame 
and condemnation, or rather self-blame and self-condemnation, are the 
beginning of true ethics. When we blame others without applying 

1 The Yoga and its Objects, p. 26. 



the same law to ourselves, we are not speaking with a true ethical 
judgment, but only the language ethics has evolved for us to an emo- 
tional impulse of recoil from or dislike of that which displeases or 
hurts us. 

"This recoil or dislike is the primary origin of ethics but is not 
itself ethical. The fear of the deer for the tiger, the rage of the strong 
creature against its assailant is a vital recoil of the individual delight 
of existence from that which threatens it. In the progress of the men- 
tality it refines itself into repugnance, dislike, disapproval. Disap- 
proval of that which threatens and hurts us, approval of that which 
flatters and satisfies refine into the conception of good and evil to 
oneself, to the community, to others than ourselves to other commu- 
nities than ours, and finally into the general approval of good, and 
general.disapproval of evil. But, throughout, the fundamental nature of 
the thing remains the same. Man desires self-expression, self-develop- 
ment, in other words, the progressing play in himself of ihe con- 
scious-force of existence; that is his fundamental delight. Whatever 
hurts that self-expression, self-development, satisfaction of his 
progressing self, is for him evil; whatever helps, confirms, raises, 
aggrandises, ennobles it is his good. Only, his conception of the 
self-development changes, becomes higher and wider, begins to exceed 
his limited personality, to embrace others, to embrace all in its 

"In other words, ethics is a stage in evolution. That which is 
common to all stages is the urge of Sachchidananda towards self-expres- 
sion. This urge is at first non-ethical, then infra-ethical in the animal, 
then in the intelligent animal even anti-ethical for it permits us to 
approve hurt done to others which we disapprove when done to our- 
selves. In this aspect man even now is only half-ethical? And just as 
all below us is infra-ethical, so there may be that above us whither we 
shall eventually arrive, which is supra-ethical, which has no need of 
ethics. The ethical impulse and attitude, so all-important to humanity, 
is a means by which it struggles out of the lower harmony and univer- 
sality based upon inconscience and broken up by life into individual 
discords towards a higher harmony and universality based upon con- 
scient oneness with all existences. Arriving at that goal, this means 
will no longer be necessary or even possible, since the qualities and 



oppositions on which it depends will naturally dissolve and disappear 
in the final reconciliation." 1 


The spurious political agitation of the nineteenth century was 
succeeded by a realistic nationalistic phase under Tilak. The masses 
first emerged into notice. Independence was claimed as of right and at 
the same time constructive genius was displayed. 

Then came the moral phase of Indian nationalism organized by 
Gandhiji which by internal strength and aided by world conditions 
availed to secure freedom for India, It completes the preliminary 

The trammels of political bondage cast off, India has now to answer 
a creative test in respect of herself, in respect of the world at large by 
the way in which she uses her freedom. Socialistic, Communistic, 
Radicalistic ideologies, most of them still Western in inspiration, are 
battling for the victorious possession of the national mind and the 
sovereign direction of affairs. The old guard representing the conti- 
nuous tradition in Indian politics is at the helm. We must arrive at a 
deeper subjectivity and make spirituality the sole principle of the new 
effort if India should be true to her age-long endeavour and render to 
the world the gift "of her spiritual knowledge and her means for the 
spiritualisation of life to the whole race." 2 "When spirituality is lost, 
all is lost. This is the fate from which we have narrowly escaped by the 
resurgence of the soul of India in Nationalism. 5 ' 3 

But what then does it mean? What the conditions required after 
the witness of Ramakrishna, the vivid and convincing realization in a 
master-soul f the power of the spirit, after the reaflfirmation of the 
gospel of Ramakrishna by Vivekananda, after the awakening of the 
soul of the common people from the slumber of centuries, after the 
ethical discipline enforced by Gandhiji, after the concentration in certain 
directions for securing the immediate objective of freedom, was a wider 

1 The Life Divine, Vol. I. pp. 115-117. (Second edition). 

2 The Fifteenth of August, 1947, Sri Aurobindo's Message. 

3 The Need in Nationalism and other Essays, p. 7. 



permeation of the national consciousness, a whole gathering of the 
past acquisitions of the race in a new synthesis, a massed structure of 
thought that shall base a new creation. "Its (spirituality's) real work 
is not to solve human problems on the past or present mental basis, 
but to create a new foundation of our being and our life and knowledge." 1 
The Life Divine and other writings of Sri Aurobindo which gather in 
their immense scope all the heritage of our race with whatever additions 
it can profitably coalesce of Western thought indicate the shape the new 
creation should assume, in fact, they liberate the energy necessary for 
the new creation they adumbrate. 

The time has now come when all obstacles can be surmounted. 
Time is an indispensable factor in all evolution, time which witnesses 
dramatic reversals and catastrophic changes which really all the while 
are a mixing up of the elements for a predestined new formation intended 
by Nature, the secret will in things. When the evolution is from within 
outward, as in India's case, time is a necessary aid. It indicates inward 
ripeness and then will follow precipitate expression. A thing fails in 
time because it has no necessity in the cosmic. A thing succeeds only 
when the Transcendental sanctions, the universal needs and the indi- 
vidual wills; this triple rhythm is the very necessity of all manifestation 
in time. "His is the impetus which fulfils itself in Time and once there 
is movement, impetus from the spirit within, Time and the Mother 
take charge of it, prepare, ripen and fulfil. When the Zeitgeist, God in 
Time, moves in a settled direction, then the whole forces of the world are 
called in, to swell the established current towards, the purpose decreed." 2 
"The time has now come when those obstacles can be overcome." 3 

"The command is now." 4 

"It is sure to succeed because the freedom, unity and greatness 
of India have now become necessary to the world." 5 

In these and numerous other places does the Prophet seize the 
Time-sense, the imminence of India's destiny. 

The British period is an interregnum in Indian history. The 
clearance of the British, the acceptance of a federal polity, the resultant 

1 The Life Divine, Vol. II, p. 720. (Second Edition). 
2 3 3 > 5 * The Ideal of the Karmayogin. 
4 The Yoga and its Objects. 



integration in spite of the major rift of Pakistan all open a new chapter 
in India's political evolution. India is faced with the choice indicated 
in the Message at the opening of this essay. 

The vestiges of our recent political experience which have to be 
worked out and which still dominate us in the framing of our new polity 
are the theory of a secular State and the organization of our life on a 
uniform Unitarian basis ignoring regional diversities. Both these are 
an atavistic taint. If the secular State means the submission or subordi- 
nation of credal and sectarian loyalties to the interests of the people as 
a whole, it will be a step in the right direction. But secularisation may 
mean a sovietising of our outlook and policy, an attempt to divest the 
new building polity of its age-old spirit, a ruthless rationalistic drive to 
reduce everything to clear oui lines and mechanical efficiency at the 
cost of the soul which should pervade and animate the whole frame; 
if so it will be an irreparable error. As the notion of the secular State 
is Western it will be profitable to know its genesis and its development. 
Sri Aurobindo writes: "The emphasis of the Western mind is on life, 
the outer life above all, the things that are grasped, visible, tangible, 
and on the inner life only as an intelligent reflection of the outer world, 
with the reason for a firm putter of things into shape, an intelligent 
critic, builder, refiner of the external materials offered by Nature; the 
present use of living, in this life and for this life, is its whole preoccupa- 
tion, the present existence of the 'individual, the continuous physical 
existence and developing mind and knowledge of humanity. Even of 
religion the West is apt to demand that it shall subordinate itself to 
this utility. The Greek and the Roman looked on religious cult as a 
sanction for the life of the 'polis' or a force for the just firmness and sta- 
bility of the State. The Middle Ages when the Christian idea was at 
its height, w^re an interregnum, a period during which the Western 
mind was trying to assimilate in its emotion and intelligence an oriental 
ideal, though it never succeeded in firmly living it, just as for Asia the 
present moment is an interregnum dominated by an attempt to assi- 
milate in its intellect and life in spite of a rebellious soul and tempera- 
ment, the Western ideal and outlook; but even then the Christian idea 
marked in its purity by the emphasis of its introspective tendency and an 
uncompromising other-worldliness had to compromise with this 
demand of the occidental temperament and in doing that it lost its own 



real kingdom. And finally the genuine temperament of the West 
triumphed in an increasing rationalising and secularisation of religion. 
Religion became more and more a pale and ever thinning shadow pushed 
aside into a corner of the being and lucky if not entirely exiled, while 
outside the doors of the vanquished Church marched on their victorious 
way the triumphant secular pomps of the life and reason. 

"The tendency to secularism is a necessary consequence of the cult 
of life and reason. Ancient Europe did not separate religion and life, 
but that was because it had no need for the separation, since its religion, 
once it had got rid of the oriental element of the mysteries, was a secular 
institution which did not look beyond a certain supra-physical sanction 
and aid to the government of this life, and even then the final tendency 
was to philosophise and reason away the relics of the original religious 
spirit, exile such shadow as remained of the brooding wings of a supra- 
rational mystery and get into the clear sunlight of the logical and 
practical reason. But modern Europe, the more effectually to shake 
off the obsession of the Christian idea, which like all oriental religious 
thought claims to make religion commensurate with life and to spiritua- 
lise, against whatever obstacles may be opposed to it by the unregenerate 
vital nature of the animal man, the whole being, separated religion from 
the life, from philosophy, art and science, from politics, from the greater 
part of the action of society; it secularised and rationalised too the ethical 
being so that it might stand in itself and have no need of any aid from 
any religious sanction. It left religion an impoverished system of belief 
and ceremony to which one might or might not subscribe with very 
little difference to the march of the human mind and life; for its pene- 
trating and colouring power had been reduced to a fine minimum, a 
superficial pigmentation of dogma, sentiment and emotion. 

"Even the poor little corner that was left, intellectualism insisted 
on flooding as much as possible with the light of reason; it has been 
bent on reducing not only the infra-rational but equally the supra- 
rational refuges of the religious spirit. The old pagan polytheistic 
symbolism which had clothed the ancient idea of a divine presence and 
greater supra-physical life and being in all Nature and in every particle 
of life and Matter and in all animal being and in all the mental action 
of man, an idea which to the secularist reason is only an intellectualised 
animism had been swept aside. The Divinity had left the earth and 



lived far aloof and remote in other worlds, in a celestial heaven of 
saints and immortal spirits. But why any other worlds? We will admit, 
said the progressing intellect, only this material world to which our 
reason and senses bear witness, and, for the rest, a vague idea of spiritual 
being without a habitation to satisfy the chilled remnants of the old 
spiritual sense or illusion, Theism or else a rationalised Christianity. 
Or why that even? A Reason or Power, called God for want of a better 
name, represented by the moral and physical law in the material universe 
is surely sufficient for a rational mind; so we get to Deism. Or why 
then any God at all? The reason and the senses give no witness to God, 
can make of Him at most a plausible hypothesis; but there is no need of 
an unsubstantial hypothesis, Nature is enough and the sole thing of 
which we have knowledge. Thus by a quite inevitable process we have 
got to the atheistic 01 agnostic cult of secularism, and there reason and 
life may henceforward take their foundation and work well satisfied, 
if only that inconvenient veiled ambiguous infinite something behind 
will leave them alone for the future." 1 

With what delicious and devastating irony is the road traced from 
externalised life-activity to the logical culmination of the atheistic or 
agnostic cult of secularism! If we do nor desire to develop a godless 
corporation in our midst, we should be warned by the experience of 
of the West. 

The second tendency which *again is atavistic is the tendency 
on the assumption that "the first and last need of India at the present 
moment is that it should be made a nation," as if it is not one and has 
to be new made, to try to have a homogeneous State mistaking this 
for strength. This administrative policy also runs counter to the bed- 
rock principle of our evolution, unity in diversity. Referring to the 
demand for the reconstruction of the artificial British-made Presidencies 
and Provinces, Sri Aurobindo says in his Message to the Andhra 
University on the occasion of the Presentation of the Sir Cattamanchi 
Ramalinga National Prize (Dec. n, 1948): 

"In taking over the administration from Britain we had inevitably 
to follow the line of least resistance and proceed on the basis of the 

1 Arya y Vol.V, pp. 608-611. 



artificial British-made provinces, at least for the time; this provisional 
arrangement now threatens to become prcmanent, at least in the main 
and some see an advantage in this permanence. For they think it will 
help the unification of the country and save us from the necessity of 
preserving regional subnations which in the past kept a country from 
an entire and f horoughgoing unification and uniformity. In a rigorous 
unification ihey see the only true union, a single nation with a standard- 
ised and uniform administration,, language, literature, culture, art, 
education, all carried on through the agency of one national tongue. 
How far such a conception can be carried out in the future one cannot 
forecast, but at present it is obviously impracticable, and it is doubtful 
if it is for India truly desirable. The ancient diversities of the country 
carried in them great advantages as wel) as drawbacks. By these differ- 
ences the country was made the home of many living and pulsating 
centres of life, art, culture, a richly and brilliantly coloured diversity 
in unity; all was not drawn up into a few provincial capitals or an 
imperial metropolis, other towns and regions remaining subordinated 
and indistinctive or even culturally asleep; the whole nation lived with a 
full life in its many parts and this increased enormously the creative 
energy of the whole. There is no possibility any longer that this diversity 
will endanger or diminish the unity of India. Those vast spaces which 
kept her people from closeness and full inter-play have been abolished 
in their separating effect by the march of science and the swiftness of 
the means of communication. The idea of federation and a complete 
machinery for its perfect working have been discovered and will be at full 
work. Above all the spirit of patriotic unity has been too firmly estab- 
lished in the people to be easily effaced or diminished, and it would be 
more endangered by refusing to allow the natural play of life of the 
subnations than by satisfying their legitimate aspirations. The Congress 
itself in the days before liberation came had pledged itself to the forma- 
tion of linguistic provinces, and to follow it out, if not immediately, 
yet as early as conveniently may be, might well be considered the wisest 
course. India's national life will then be founded on her natural 
strengths and the principle of unity in diversity which has always been 
normal to her and its fulfilment, the fundamental course of her being 
and its very nature, the Many in the One, would place her on the sure 
foundation of her Swabhava and Swadharma." 



These two tendencies corrected, one a large question affecting the 
spirit and form of Indian polity, the other a detail of policy and internal 
adjustment, but both involving central principles of our civilisation 
through the ages, then a right beginning will have been made towards 
spiritualising nationalism. 


A clear conception of spirituality and its application to national 
life in all its aspects is the single test of the world-value of Indian 
nationalism. "Spirituality is not a high intellectuality, not idealism, 
not an ethical turn of mind or moral purity and austerity, not religiosity 
or an ardent and exalted emotional fervour, not even a compound of all 
these excellent things; a mental belief, creed or faith, an emotional 
aspiration, a regulation of conduct according to a religious or ethical 
formula are not spiritual achievement and experience. These things are 
of considerable value to mind and life; they are of value to the spiritual 
evolution itself as preparatory movements disciplining, purifying or 
giving a suitable form to the nature; but they still belong to the mental 
evolution, the beginning of a spiritual realisation, experience, change 
is not yet there. Spirituality is in its essence an awakening to the inner 
reality of our being, to a spirit, self, soul which is other than our mind, 
life and body, an inner aspiration 10 know, to feel, to be that, to enter 
into contact with the greater Reality beyond and pervading the universe 
which inhabits also our own being, to be in communion with It and 
union with It and a turning, a conversion, a transformation of our 
whole being as a result of the aspiration, the contact, the union, a 
growth or waking into a new becoming or new being, a new self, a 
new nature.'-' 1 

The first turn to the spiritual, the first movement will begin only 
when the individual is able to resist the glamorous outward life, when 
the individual is drawn within, when he transfers the centre from the 
vital and physical to which he is now riveted by a thousand bonds 
to the subjective and there arrives at the deepest truth of himself, 
not in the world of mind, not in an ethical idealism or aesthetic 

1 The Life Divine, Vol. II, p. 688 (Second edition). 



thrill or gratification, but in the world of the spirit which is the source 
of all these experiences and can alone provide the right rule of living, 
the right law of enjoyment. The spirit, once found, it will be realised, 
is not only static but dynamic as well, though it is possible to seek a 
beatitude of Nirvana and abide in the Transcendent. The spirit is 
capable not only of working on all these lower members, on every one 
of these instruments of mind, life and body but also of converting them 
to its law, in a word, transforming them to a higher knowledge, higher 
power, a higher delight. As long as we are centred in the outer vital 
and the physical, it is natural that they should seem more real, more 
tangible than the inner subjective being which, just because it is 
insufficiently developed, not properly seized in the consciousness, 
seems comparatively feeble and ineffectual, but the subjective, the 
inner is ever the origin of the outer. "The outer has a value only in 
so far as it is expressive of the inner status." 1 The spirit must not be 
reduced to the inferior formulations of the mind, rather the mind 
must know itself as the power, the instrument of the spirit. The spirit 
must not be reduced to the terms of life, rather life must find its force 
in the spirit and operate as a channel of the supreme energy. The body 
too must not attempt to reduce the spirit to its gross level but seize 
the intuition of its inherent divinity, not simply aim at increased 
material functioning but undergo a spiritual transformation. The 
moment this Spirit-sense as the Real, the Sole-Existent dawns, our 
normal view of things will be transfigured. 

We must arrive at a decisive crisis of transformation, not simply 
be content with a modicum of spirituality, a little leavening or modi- 
fication of our normal life with the spiritual motive. So far man's 
achievement has been partial or maimed. If he aimed high at the 
true, the good, the beautiful, he either chose to let alone the vital 
and the physical or effected a compromise with the lower nature; 
the higher and the lower existed side by side, the higher no doubt 
controlling the lower but not setting its total stamp upon it. "There 
was a dominance, but not a transformation." At the first chance, 
life will assert its claim or if forcefully held down, suffer an atrophy, 
a loss of vitality, a decay of itself causing a decay of the whole society. 

1 The Life Divine, Vol. II, p. 884 (Second Edition). . 
16 233 


In the age typified by German vitalistic philosophy, the higher powers 
of the mind and intelligence catered for the vital and physical impulses 
instead of subjugating them to a higher law. The suffering that 
inevitably accompanied unbridled vital indulgence has meant a trans- 
ferring of the centre to the mental and with its aid a better ordering 
of individual, of national and international life. This is roughly the 
road traversed by Bhrigu in the Upanishads, first beginning with the 
material, then passing on to the vital and again to the mind. But not 
until the last ascension of the spiritual is made will man know either 
rest or satisfaction. The spiritual self must conquer man, the manu, 
commandeer the forces of the mind not in its characteristic 
modes but spiritualised and likewise the clamorous vital and the 
inert physical. "Our right and natural road is towards the 

"A third stage has been long in preparation, its idea often cast 
out in limited or large, quiet or striking spiritual movements and 
potent new disciplines and religions, but not successfully yet, because 
the circumstances were adverse and the hour not come, which will 
call the community of men to live in the greatest light of all and to 
found their whole life on some fully revealed power and grand 
uplifting truth of the spirit. Not undl that third enlarging move- 
ment has come into its own, a thing not so easy as the purist 
of the reason or the purist of the spirit constantly imagines and 
by that too hasty imagination falls short in his endeavour, can 
Indian civilisation be said to have discharged its mission, to have 
spoken its last word and be fully functus officio, crowned and 
complete in its office, of mediation between the life of man and 
the spirit." 1 

Before this decisive turn can come, there must be a fortunate 
coincidence of two factors. The individuals who initiate, who com- 
municate the impulse and the mass which receives, responds, must 
meet in fruitful conjunction. If either of them shows defect, if the 
individual is imperfectly evolved and is in undue haste, or the mass 
is dull and impervious, not susceptible in the right degree, the divine 
consummation cannot be. The key to the evolution is the individual. 

1 Arya, Vol. VI, p. 160. 



The group is static, conservative. Society suppresses the individual 
it its peril, for the individual is the luminous point of the social for- 
nation, the spirit-head of the community in whom the dumb instincts 
ind impulsions of the man become articulate, assume energy and 
hrow out creative possibilities. These impacts of light and energy 
rom the individual permeate the mass and raise it to new levels. Left 
o itself the mass would wallow; it is a leviathan that cannot under- 
stand, manage itself but lies "floating many a rood 55 . A group-soul 
hat has understood itself or has the right psychic sense will 
ecognise in the individual its own crystallised expression, the 
embodiment of its own possibilities and help him to flower into 
lis perfection so that he may pour forth his idealism, spiritual 
quality and raise society to new heights. If, on the other hand, 
:he group entity is only a collective ego, it will require the individual 
:o annul himself, in the end bringing about its own stagnation and 
possible extinction from failure of living inspiration 2nd direction 
from the individual. 

"Within the general nature and general destiny of mankind each 
ndividual being has to follow the common aim on the lines of his own 
nature and to arrive at his possible perfection by a growth from within. 
So only can the race itself attain to anything profound, living and 
deep-rooted. It cannot do it in the mass, regarding the individual 
as if he were only a cell of its body, a stone of its edifice, a passive 
instrument of its collective life and growth. Humanity is not so consti- 
tuted. We miss the divine reality in man and the secret of the human 
birth if we do not see each individual man as tha* Self and sum up 
all human potentiality in his own being. That potentiality he has to 
find, develop, work out from within. No State or legislator or reformer 
can cut him rigorously into his perfect pattern; no Church or priest 
can give him a mechanical salvation; no order, no class life or ideal, 
no nation, no civilisation or creed or ethical, social or religious Shastra 
can be allowed to say to him permanently, c ln this way of mine and 
thus far shalt thou act and grow and in no other way and no 
farther shall thy growth be permitted.' These things may help 
him temporarily or they may curb and he grows in proportion 
as he can use them and then exceed them, training and teaching 
his individuality by them but asserting il always in the end in its 



divine freedom. Always he is the traveller of the cycles and his road 
is forward." 1 

Led by an increasing number of individuals, the standard-bearers 
of the spirit, society must learn to regard itself as a collective soul. 
It must give up its compacted egoism seeking to immolate the indi- 
vidual on its altar. An inwaidly turned society should make "the 
revealing and finding of the divine self in man the whole first aim 
of all its activities, its education, its knowledge, its science, its ethics, 
its art, its economical and political structure." 2 

Basing all the vision and endeavour of a spiritual society will 
be three essential truths of existence; God, freedom, unity. To the 
sceptic and agnostic of today, an endeavour that begins with God 
may seem remote and illusory, but that is where it has to begin. "As 
the old vedic seer puts it 'our divine foundation is above with its rays 
reaching downward, out through our inner being," nichindh sthur 
upari budhna esham, asme antar nihitdh Ketavah syuh"* To point to 
a rough analogy in Nature's organic realm, it is a sort of an immense 
stalactite formation hanging down from the roof of the heavens. 
The nourishment is from the super regions. 

God is the highest term of liberation; all other freedoms are 
relative; once man realizes God he knows his place in the cosmos, 
can obey lesser divinities and finds the just meaning of all human 
ideas and institutions. God gives meaning to the universe; God gives 
meaning to individual life. Freedom and unity become real only when 
founded upon the absolute. 

"Three things (God, freedom, unity) which are one, for you 
cannot, realise freedom and unity unless you realise God, you cannot 
possess freedom and unity unless you possess God. The freedom and 
unity which 'Otherwise go by that name, are simply attempts of our 
subjection and our division to get away from themselves by shutting 
their eyes while they turn somersaults around their own centre. When 
man is able to see God and to possess him, then he will know real 
freedom and arrive at real unity, never otherwise. And God is only 

1 Arya, Vol. Ill, p. 421. 

2 ibid.. Vol. V, p. 370. 

3 ibid. 



waiting to be known, while man is seeking for him everywhere and 
creating images of him, but all the while finding and creating only 
images of his own ego. When this ego pivot is abandoned and the 
ego-hunt ceases, then man gets his first real chance of achieving 
spirituality." 1 A spiritual society will concede the largest measure of 
freedom to the individual; it will admit the superiority of inner sanction 
to outer regulation; it will diminish the element of external compulsion. 
"For the perfectly spiritualised society will be one in which, 
as is dreamed by the spiritual anarchist, all men will be entirely free, 
and it will be so because the preliminary condition will have been 
satisfied. In that state each man will be not a law to himself but the 
law, the divine law, because he will be a soul living in the 
Divine and not an ego living mainly if not entirely for itself. His 
life will be led by the law of his own divine nature liberated from 
the ego. 

The third word of the spirit is unity. Each man has to grow into 
the Divine within himself through his own individual being, therefore 
is freedom a necessity of the being and perfect freedom the sign and 
condition of the perfect life. But also the Divine whom he thus sees in 
himself, he sees equally in all others, and as the same Spirit in all. 
Therefore too is a growing unity with others a necessity of his being 
and perfect unity the sign and condition of the perfect life. Not only 
to see and find God in oneself, -but to see and find God in all, 
not only to seek one's own liberation or perfection, but to seek the 
liberation and perfection of others is the complete law of the spiritual 
being." 2 

A spiritual nation knows no exclusions nor limits. Science, pro- 
gress, democracy are welcome to it but only on a new basis as the joyous 
expressions and activities of the spirit, as aids to the realization of the 
Divine. "True spirituality rejects no new lights, no added means 
or materials of our human self-development." It includes them all 
and when moulded by the spirit they become the phenomena of a full 
and varied existence. How philosophy, science, art and poetry, politics, 
society and economy will reflect a change in spirit, how spirituality 

1 Arya, Vol. IV, p. 683. 

2 ibid., p. 687. 



takes them all and gives them a greater, diviner, more intimate sense and 
what the elements of a spiritual culture are may be understood from the 
following paragraph: 

"Philosophy is, in the western way of dealing with it, a dispassionate 
enquiry by the light of the reason into the first truths of existence, 
which we shall get at either by observing the facts science places at our 
disposal or by a careful dialectical scrutiny of the concepts of the reason 
or a mixture of the two methods. But from the spiritual view-point 
truth of existence is to be found by intuition and inner experience and 
not only by the reason and by scientific observation; the work of philo- 
sophy is to arrange the data given by the various means of knowledge, 
excluding none, and put them into their synthetic relation to the one 
truth, the one supreme and universal reality. Eventually, its real value 
is to prepare a basis for spiritual realization and the growing of the 
human being into his divine self and his divine nature. Science itself 
becomes only a knowledge of the world which throws an added light on 
the spirit of the universe and his way in things. Nor will it confine 
itself to a physical knowledge and its practical fruits or to the know- 
ledge of life and man and mind based upon the idea of matter or mate- 
rial energy as our starting point; a spiritualised culture will make room 
for new fields of research, for new and old psychical sciences and results 
which start from spirit as the first truth and from the power of mind 
and of what is greater than mind to act upon life and matter. The 
primitive aim of ?rt and poetry is to create images of man and Nature 
which shall satisfy the sense of benuty and embody artistically the ideas 
of the intelligence about Hfe and the responses of the imagination to it; 
but in a spiritual culture they become too in their aim a revelation of 
greater things concealed in man and Nature and of the deepest spiritual 
and universal beauty. Politics, society, economy are in the first form of 
human life simply an arrangement by which men collectively can live, 
produce, satisfy their desires, enjoy, progress in bodily, vital and mental 
efficiency; but the spiritual aim makes them much more than this, 
first, a framework of life within which man can seek for and grow 
into his real self and divinity; secondly, an increasing embodiment of 
the divine law of being in life; thirdly, a collective advance towards 
the light, power, peace, unity, harmony of the diviner nature of humanity 
which the race is trying to evolve. This and nothing more but nothing 



less, this in all its potentialities, is what we mean by a spiritual culture 
and the application of spirituality to life." 1 


The subject of Indian nationalism could not be more than sketched 
in these notes; for it has to be as wide as Sanatana Dharma, and that 
is universal in scope. It has been argued above that the evolution of 
consciousness, the unity of consciousness is the only evolution, the 
only unity that will abide, that this evolution is complex having to 
reckon with all the parts of man's nature, that the Rishis realized 
consciousness in its whole gamut of the Transcendent, the universal 
and the individual, that they laid the foundations of a religio-philo- 
sophic polity in their efforts to embody consciousness in all its vastness, 
that the political is but the partial, the inadequate, that a federation 
reconciling the claims of the individual, the communal, the regional, 
the national and the international is the true line of progress, that 
such an evolution aiming at unity in diversity and issuing from within 
outwards is bound to be slow, that the historical eovlution of India 
was interrupted, deflected at one crucial stage by the imposition of 
an inimical alien culture, that in the process of recovery, preceded 
by a religious awakening, we have successively passed through the 
phases of intellectual, political and moral nationalim, that all this 
should be but a prelude to spiritual nationalism, that the time is ripe 
for this great orientation, new creation, in fact, that now is the hour 
for the true apprehension of spirituality in its application to the various 
aspects of national life, that India is faced with a choice, and that her 
national destiny and her value to the world will be determined by the 
choice she makes, whether she shall be like one o the existing 
nations of the world "evolving an opulent industry and commerce, a 
powerful organization of political and social life, an immense military 
strength, practising power-politics with a high degree of success, 
guarding and extending zealously her gains and her interests, domi- 
nating even a large part of the world, but in this apparently magni- 
ficent progression forfeiting its Swadharma, losing its soul," or whether 

1 The Renaissance in India, pp. 77-79 (1920 edition). 



she will be true to her heritage, "live also for God and the world as 
a helper and leader of the whole human race." For a full illumination 
of these lines of thinking, the reader has to go to The Life Divine, The 
Synthesis of Yoga, Essays on the Gita, etc. The essay catches in fragment 
what "high-piled books, in charact'ry Hold like rich garners the full- 
ripen's grain", what all aspirants may glean at will and in abundant 
measure in the wide fields of Sri Aurobindo's fruitful realizations. 


For the most part we are much too busy living and thinking 
to have leisure to be silent and see. 


A miracle can be a moment's wonder. A change according 
to the Divine Law can alone endure. 



Mysticism and Einstein's Relativity Physics 

NOTE: Einstein has once again got into the headlines with his "unified field theory" 
perfected after thirty years of acute mathematical thinking. As yet the details of it are 
unknown, except that it is a generalised theory of gravitation bringing gravitational 
and electromagnetic phenomena, which have so far fallen apart, under one compre- 
hensive concept, and that it copes with microphysics as well as macrophysics 
and absorbs into the theory of relativity the occurrence and behaviour of the ultimate 
particles. It is thus an extension of the General Theory of Relativity propounded by 
Einstein in 1915 to deal with accelerated motion as he had dealt with uniform motion 
by means of his Special Theory of Relativity in 1905. His work up to the present new 
discovery remains, therefore, unsuperseded in essential thought and an exposition of 
it with an eye to deeper significances than the scientific cannot fail to be apposite. The 
following essay is both critical and constructive in treating of the relation between 
mysticism and the Einsteinian "field", "energy" and theoretical method. The major 
portion of it is constructive, but in leading up to it and laying bare the genuine pro- 
mise of profundities beyond the scientific in Einstein's physics it briefly tries to clear 
from the way whatever false hopes might have got attached to the work of the greatest 
mathematical mind of our century. In the course of the treatment, comments have 
been found necessary on also some of Einstein's own philosophical ideas. 


YP7HEN Archbishop Davidson, in the early days of relativity theory, 
" asked Einstein what effect his theory would have on religion, 
Einstein answered: "None. Relativity is a purely scientific theory 
and has nothing to do with religion." This answer seems to give 
short shrift to any attempt at aligning with a mystical view of the 
universe the revolution in scientific thought which Einstein brought 
about. But Eddington suggests that Einstein's remark must be 
understood in the context of the times in which it was made. In those 
days, Eddington explains, one had to become expert in dodging 
persons who were persuaded that Einstein's four-dimensional conti- 
nuum was what spiritualistic seances were supposed to reveal: 



Einstein's hasty evasion was therefore not surprising. But, according to 
Eddington, the compartments into which human thought is divided 
are not water-tight: fundamental progress in one cannot be a matter 
of indifference to the rest. He caustically offers an analogy: "Natural 
selection is a purely scientific theory. If in the early days of Darwinism 
the then Archbishop had asked what effect the theory of natural selec- 
tion would have on religion, ought the answer to have been 'None. 
The Darwinian theory is a purely scientific theory, and has nothing 
to do with religion 5 ?" 

Is Eddington's interpretation of Einstein's remark correct? 
Before we pass judgment we must note, by the way, that Eddington's 
excuse for Einstein does not seem quite pertinent. Einstein may have 
wished to dissociate his theory from the claims based on table-rapping 
and the ouija board. But Archbishop Davidson could scarcely, have 
appeared to him their champion. The more serious-minded among 
the religious interpreters of relativity theory believed that Einstein 
confirmed an attitude which was usually considered favourable to 
religion, the attitude of subjectivism. When, for instance, Einstein 
declared that space and time are not absolute but relative and that 
measurements of them depend on the state of the observer, he appeared 
to make the observing mind the determinant of space and time. Physics 
prior to Einstein was supposed to present us with a world in which 
the observing mind made no difference to what was observed; but if 
space and time vary with the state of the observer, docs not the world 
become permeated with subjective values and does not the material- 
istic world-view based on the old physics collapse, giving precedence 
to the power of the mind? 

No doubt, Einstein himself employs the word "subjective", 
yet to connect his theory with religion via subjectivism in the common 
acceptance of the term is to misconstrue him. The word has a spe- 
cial connotation in physics, and what Einstein calls subjective 
has, in the universe of discourse to which it belongs, no 
psychological content in any determinant sense: it does not mean that 
the differences in measurement arise from the state of the observer's 
mind and occur because he is making use of his consciousness. On 
this point there is a consensus of scientific authorities. Sullivan, in 
his article The Physical Nature of the Universe in An Outline of Modern 



Knowledge (page 99)3 writes: "It is hardly necessary to say that by 
referring to an 'observer' we do not imply that there is anything 'sub- 
jective 5 or 'psychological' about this theory of relativity. Instead of 
'observer' we could substitute the phrase 'automatic measuring appa- 
ratus' without affecting the validity of any of our conclusions." White- 
head, on page 142 of Science and the Modern World, has the same 
thing to affirm: "There has been a tendency to give an extreme sub- 
jectivist interpretation to this new doctrine. It is perfectly legitimate 
to bring in the observer, if he facilitates explanations. But it is the 
observer's body that we wanr, and not his mind. Even his body is 
only useful as an example of a very familiar form of apparatus." Jeans 
makes a similar statement on page 65 of Physics and Philosophy: "It 
is the body of the observer we want and nor his mind; a laboratory 
equipped with cameras and various instruments of measurement 
would serve our purpose jusr as well." Eddington also, on page 183 
of Space, Time and Gravitation, speaks of relativity employing "the 

different possible impersonal points of view. those for which the 

observer can be regarded as a mechanical automaton and can be 
replaced by scientific measuring appliances." Bertrand Russell explains 
on page 219 of The ABC of Relativiiy: "People have been misled by 
the way in which writers on relativity speak of 'the observer'. It is 
natural to suppose that the observer is a human being, or at least a 
mind; but he is just as likely to b'e a photographic plate or a clock. 
That is to say, rhe odd results as to the difference between one 'point 
of view' and another are concerned with 'point of view' in a sense 
applicable to physical instruments just as much as to people with per- 
ceptions. The 'subjectivity' concerned in the theory of relativity is a 
physical subjectivity which would exist equally if there were no such 
things as minds or senses in the world." 

All these pronouncements have, of course, to be taken in refe- 
rence to a particular limited issue and not to the general philosophical 
problem whether anything can exist independently of consciousness 
or else, existing, be to consciousness anything other than what the 
constitution of consciousness makes it like. They should also not be 
taken in reference to the truism either that even physical subjectivity 
can have no meaning and no place in physics in the absence of con- 
sciousness or that it is, for the purposes of science, always a part of the 



plan and procedure which emanates from and depends on conscious- 
ness. The question fronting us is nothing more than the following: 
Is the observer's consciousness directly and immediately necessary for 
the "odd results" of relativity physics? To return a true answer 
let us pause a moment on the phrase "physical subjectivity". 
It is worth while bringing the meaning of it to sharp focus by marking 
it off from other species of subjectivity similarly leading to disagreement 
between observer and observer. Subjectivity by which, within 
our sphere of discussion, differing statements can be made are of 
three types. There is psychological subjectivity. If I recite Sri 
Aurobindo's Savitri to an audience, half of whom know English and 
half do not, those who know it will understand him, while, for the 
rest, wonderful lines like 

The superconscient realms of motionless peace 
Where judgment ceases and the word is mute 
And the Unconceived lies pathless and alone 

will be no more than a series of rhythmically arranged sounds. Nor 
will those who know English find in the lines the same wonderfulness. 
Lovers of mystical poetry will be enchanted and exalted, lovers of 
modernist poetry will not respond so whole-heartedly; lovers of the 
so-called matter-of-fact will be quite out of tune with Sri Aurobindo's 
profound and spell-binding vision of superconscient peace and will 
perhaps feel because of it only a desire to stretch their legs and have 
a quiet nap in a corner. All these different impressions are instances 
of psychological subjectivity. Then there is physiological subjectivity. 
My audience may be composed of those who hear well, those who 
are hard of hearing and those who are stone-deaf. So, some will catch 
every word, some will miss a word or *wo here and there, some will 
only see my lips moving inaudibly. The different impressions result 
not from states of mind but from the body's normality or defective- 
ness. Then there is physical subjectivity. Part of the audience may 
be near me, part far from me. Or else some hearers may be standing 
in one place, others moving about. What I read will be received 
differently by the near, the far, the standing and the moving. The 
'differences will depend neither on the mind's condition nor on the 



state of the body's organs but only on the circumstances of situation 
and motion. The minds may be all akin, the bodies may be utterly 
similar, and yet these differences will come to pass. For, they are 
purely physical and can exactly be reproduced by putting, in place 
of the people, recording instruments all alike. They arise from 
"observation" in a sense in which observation can go on without minds 
or bodies being present, since all chat is required is recording instru- 
ments. And if the human observer himself acts as such an instrument 
the character of the subjectivity involved is not changed: it remains 
physical and within our sphere of discussion, has no bearing in the 
least on any problem connected with psychological subjectivity. 

Physical subjectivity is what all physics, classical or Einsteinian, 
speaks of. According to Einstein, if the observer is moving at such 
and such a speed relative to an object under observation, a particular 
kind of effect will be observed in the object: the object will have a 
certain behaviour. Change the speed and the behaviour of the 
observed object will be changed. Obviously what affects the observation 
is the state neither of the observer's mind nor of his bodily organs 
but the motion of his body. This implies that the point about the 
difference either of mental or bodily condition does not arise: were 
the mental and bodily condition exactly the same in all observers 
but the rate of motion dissimilar, the variations observed would 
still be there. The essential factor is not psychological, not even 
physiological but totally physical. And if it is totally physical we can 
break up the observation into two parts: an instrument's recording 
an effect and the observer's reading off what is thus recorded, 
It is with this break-up in view that Philipp Frank, in Between Physics 
and Philosophy, makes what is the final elucidation in brief of the 
whole issue. He writes: "It is only essential in relativity that in 
accordance with the motion of the measuring instruments the results 
of the measurements will be different. But in this there is nothing 
psychological, at any rate not more than in classical physics. The 
role of the observer is in both cases entirely the same: he merely 
substantiates the fact that in a certain instrument a pointer coincides 
with a division mark on a scale. For this purpose the state of motion 
of the observer is of no account." To sum up in our own words: a 
moving laboratory fitted with recording apparatus can be a substitute 



for both the mind and the body of the observer and, though the 
observer's mind-body accompanies the moving laboratory in order 
to substantiate its readings, the mind-body need not move at all for a 
particular behaviour to be registered of an object. The observer plays 
no determinant part in any immediate sense raising a special 
subjectivist issue. 

So, relativity theory, in this context, is to be understood simply 
as changing our old ideas about what happens when one frame of 
reference or co-ordinate system or physical standpoint is in relation 
of motion to another: the term "observer" can be dropped from a 
formulation of it with as much or as little impunity as from a formu- 
lation of classical physics. And, unless we choose general philosophical 
grounds having nothing to do in particular with any physics, we cannot 
here subscribe to subjectivism in the common acceptance of the term. 
In all physics the "subjective" does duty only for the "variant" and 
the "objective" for the "invariant." The variant is the different 
characteristics an object or event has in its relation to diverse physical 
standpoints outside itself, carrying measuring instruments: the invari- 
ant is what characteristics must be possessed by it or be attributed 
to it in order to correlate and unify the variant characteristics. The 
variant is the pointer-readings unique to a particular place: the 
invariant is the common factor found in or suggested by the unique 
pointer-readings from all possible places. The variant is the local or 
relative feature of an object or event: the invariant is the feature that 
is universal or absolute. 

If Einstein, as Eddington believes, was discouraging popular 
confusions when he refused to sec any religious significance in his 
theory, the mixing up of the scientific variant with the psychologically 
subjective wjs more probably in his mind than seances. But it is 
doubtful whether any excuse that could be found for him has force. 
Einstein's remark is really of a piece with all his other pronouncements 
on science and religion. Religion, in his view, is of two sorts: either 
it considers God to be personal, a Being other than the universe and 
interfering with natural events, or it feels that a mighty intelligence 
is within the universe, imbuing it with a rationality, an ordered regu- 
larity, which nothing can break and which is discovered progressively 
by the human mind when this mind functions as scientist. Science, 



according to Einstein, is in conflict with *he first sort, while it is 
actually based on the second. "What deep faith," he exclaims, "in the 
rationality of the structure of rhc world, what a longing to understand 
even a small glimpse of the reason revealed in the world, there must 
have been in Kepler and Newton!" But, beyond the derivation of 
science from a "cosmic religious feeling", there is for Einstein an utter 
divergence between science and religion. Science, he believes, deals 
with what /s, religion with what should be: the one v/ith truth, the 
other with value. Science is impotent to provide principles necessary 
for judgment and action, it is not even able to justify its very basis 
the value of the search for truth. Religion is equally impotent to give 
any knowledge of the world-process, it is not able to tell us what prin- 
ciples operate in the working of cosmic nature. "Science without 
religion," says Einstein^ "is laroo; religion without science is blind." 
When the two, by being complementary, are entirely different in 
field and function, how, asks Einstein, can science have any bearing 
on religion and how can we talk of any religious significance in the 
theory of relaiivity? 

Einstein's conception of science and religion is open to criticism 
on many heads. We, however, do not need to go into a detailed 
philosophical discussion. Suffice it to say that his cutting asunder 
of science as the realm of truth, from religion as the realm of value, 
is arbitrary. What science gives is a certain type of truth: surely we 
cannot restrict the discovery of truth to the scientific method. The 
human consciousness has many modes of operation and each comes 
into contact with reality in a dilferent aspect: we cannot dogmatically 
deny that the artistic imagination or the mystical intuition is incapable 
of finding truth. The truth they find may be of another type than 
the scientific, but truth it can remain no less. The knowledge of what 
is cannot be confined to science; even the realm of value is concerned 
with the discovery of what is, for unless we know that our ethical 
aspirations are supported, however secretly, by the nature of 
reality we shall have no genuine sanction against selfishness and cruelty 
and deception. As Einstein realises, the pursuit of scientific truth 
itself has no justification without our being convinced that reality is 
such as to make it worth while for the researcher in pure science to 
tear himself away from immediate practical life and devote himself 



to the terrific exertions without which pioneer creation in scientific 
thought can never come into being. It is not only a "cosmic religious 
feeling' ', a sense of an ordering mind within the universe, that inspires 
a Kepler and a Newton and an Einstein, but also an admitted or 
unadmitted reliance on the discovery by intuition that reality supports 
by its nature the ideal of truth. Take away from the non-scientific 
domain the quest for knowledge of what is and you make the disin- 
terested passion of the pure researcher in science a mighty foolishness. 
Religion without science is not blind: it is blind merely to scientific 
truth while being open-eyed to truth of a different order. If this is 
so, it would be a perfectly legitimate question whether one scientific 
theory is more favourable than another to religion. 

Eddington's citing the example of Darwin's theory of natural 
selection is most apt. Samuel Butler revolted against Darwinism by 
shouting: "It banishes mind from the universe." Strictly speaking, 
he is not right. Darwinism merely stated that evolution proceeds 
not by an urge in the organism towards a certain way of living but 
by a series of accidental variations our of which some are accidentally 
preserved by the fact that they happen to fit in with the environment 
while the others do not. How can such a theory banish mind from 
the universe? It just banishes the operation of mind in the evolution 
of species. To banish mind from the universe can mean either of 
two things: there is no consciousness present in the world or, if there 
is, it is totally explicable in physical terms. Darwin points to neither 
conclusion. But his theory does definitely lessen the importance of 
consciousness in the world-process. If religion involves stress on the 
play of consciousness, as it certainly must, the Darwinian theory is 
anti-religious. If there is an intelligence at the back of the world, 
we surely 4o not deny it by saying that it chooses natural selection 
as the means of evolution; but we cannot overlook the extreme 
oddness in this intelligence's manifesting itself in a mode which so 
little stresses the role of consciousness. The unimportance of the role 
of consciousness strongly suggests, though it does not prove, that 
there is no intelligence at the back of the world and that soul and 
freewill and miracle are non-existent. Similarly, a theory in physics 
may favour materialism or lean towards a mystical world-view: all 
depends on the implications of the mathematical structure it regards 



as final. The terms employed are not abstract symbols as in pure 
mathematics: they are a symbolic language interrelating, at the end of 
a long or short process of deduction, actualities of observation and 
experience. In physics, unless the contrary is proved, every formula of 
structure can be taken to correspond to a world-reality, and the nature 
of that reality to be suggested by the manner in which the terms of the 
formula are combined. We commit no "howler" in inquiring whether 
relativity theory sheds on world-reality a light in the direction of 


To come to the correct conclusion it is best to make a short survey 
of the rise and development of Einsteinian physics. Einstein versus the 
cthjr! That is the form in which the first battle was fought between 
the new physics and the old. For, the ether was vitally bound up with 
the problem with which he was occupied: Newton's absolute motion, 
absolute space and absolute time. 

To observe absolute motion we should have a frame of reference 
absolutely at rest. Otherwise motion would be merely relative that 
is, a body 1 to which reference is made when calculating another body's 
motion may itself be moving but is. taken to be at rest for only con- 
venience's sake and so the rate of motion it yields for the other body 
is not absolute. Thus the sea is moving relatively to the earth which 
seems to be at rest, but the earth is itself moving round the sun and the 
sun too is moving relatively to the so-called fixed stars and they in turn 
are moving relatively to one another. Newton, however, declared that 
though all bodies are in relative motion the frame of reference that is 
absolutely at rest is space and that such a frame is necessary for the 
purposes of physics. He further declared that there is one time flowing 
uniformly so that at any chosen moment we can say that events are 
happening everywhere in space simultaneously with it. Indeed, as 
motion is measured as a certain number of space-units traversed in a 
certain number of time-units, time as well as space has to be absolute 

1 A "body" in physics does not mean a human body : it is a brief way of designating 
a frame of reference or a co-ordinate system. 

17 249 


if we are to have absolute motion. But is any experiment possible by 
which these absolutes can be verified? 

Space can hardly prove a frame of reference absolutely at rest if 
we regard it as empty. Luckily, to explain the phenomenon of light 
there was invented the undulatory theory. Light was found to behave 
as if it were a wave. To be a wave was thought to imply something in 
which the wave could form. A universal substance called ether was 
postulated to fill all space to permit light's vibratory motion. Having 
postulated the luminiferous ether, physicists naturally attempted to 
discover its other properties than that of being vibrated. Certain 
experiments seemed to show it to be dragged with celestial bodies, like 
a super-atmosphere, as they moved; many more seemed to show it to 
be not dragged with such bodies but fixed in space, though capable 
of internal movements such as light- 
Taking it to be some sort of subtle material stuff, composed of 
particles like all matter, Michclson devised an experiment which has 
often been repeated. Our earth's atmosphere is dragged with the 
earth, but for moving objects on the earth it is fixed as a whole, though 
capable of internal movements. That is why we find an air-drift when 
we speed through air in a Dakota plane. When we are stationary, there 
is no air-drift of the same kind. Similarly, if the ether is dragged with 
the earth, an appropriate stationary apparatus will record no ether- 
drift. But if it is not dragged and is fixed in space the apparatus will 
record the drift. By measuring the speed of the ether-drift we should 
know our own speed through a fixed ether and thus know the earth's 
motion in reference to something not only at absolute rest but also 
practically playing the role of space by being all-pervasive. Here was 
a chance to get at absolute motion and absolute space. Further, by 
knowing one piece of absolute motion we can translate all known 
motions into absolute terms. Thus, we can know the absolute speed 
of light and by making allowance for the time-lag between the moment 
when light leaves a source and the moment when it reaches us we can 
know what moment anywhere ir. space could be considered as simul- 
taneous with the moment at which we receive the light-rays. So abso- 
lute time also can be found if we can measure the ether-drift. 

Of couise, the ether is too subtle to tackle directly. But if light is 
an ether-phenomenon we can get at the drift by marking light's move- 



ment in a particular fashion. Michelson's experiment was meant 
precisely to do this. In principle it consisted in sending two beams of 
light from the same source in two directions, one in the direction 
in which according to astronomical observations the earth was 
judged to be moving and the other at right angles to this, and 
then getting them reflected by mirrors fixed at equal distances from 
the source. The reflection of the beam sent in the direction of the 
earth's movement would naturally cake less time to reach the source 
than the other reflection, for the earth would be moving forward to 
meet it and there would be less distance for the beam to travel. The 
difference in the two times would indicate the speed with which the 
ether-drift was felt by the moving earth and therefore the rate at which 
the earth was moving in reference to a fixed ether. The experiment 
was a masterpiece of delicacy and could have detected even one-hun- 
dredth of the extremely minute difference expected; but it failed totally. 
There was no diffeienre at all. Light coming towards us as we moved 
towards its source travelled with the same speed as from other sources! 

Could it be there was no ether? Micbelson, rather than face an 
etherless physics, concluded that the ether was dragged with the earth 
and thus counteracted the difference in speeds. But the majority of 
physicists, relying on astronomical data, would not hear of any dragging. 
Fitzgerald opined that somehow the rod with which the distances 
travelled by the two beams on their return journey were measured 
had contracted when put in the direction of the earth's movement. 
Lorentz went furthei and deduced from the then-current laws of 
electrodynamics that the electrons composing the rod would so readjust 
themselves in the direction of the rod's movement with the earth that 
the rod would get short by exactly the amount that would be needed 
to make the two distances travelled by the letuming teams appear 
equal. According to Lorentz, theie was no wonder that the times 
taken were the same and that light behaved so paradoxically : the null 
result of the Miehelson experiment was due not to the absence of the 
stationary ether but simply to rod-contraction. 

Einstein was the only thinker unsatisfied with Lorentz's idea. 
He brought three arguments against it. In the first place, if rod -con- 
tract ion would always exactly hide the speed of anything in reference 
to a stationary ether, then, whatever other functions the supposed 



ether might serve, the function of being a concrete form of Newton's 
absolute space would never be served by it. A subtly material stationary 
ether is as good as non-exislent for physics, since every measurable 
quantity it might have yielded is precisely compensated for by a con- 
traction in the measuring rod. Such an ether is a useless hypothesis. 
In the second place, if we take for reference a body which is moving 
relatively to another body but which for convenience's sake we regard 
as being at rest relatively to our own motion, our rod will show exactly 
the same contraction as we attribute to i f in reference to a hypotheti- 
cally stationary ether. So there is no reason to believe that the lod- 
contraction conceals from us a stationary ether, an absolute frame of 
reference. By means of the rod-contraction there is no possibility of 
distinguishing between an absolute and a relative frame. In the third 
place, since in all relativities of motion between two bodies the mathe- 
matical terms remain the same whether the first body be accounted as 
moving and the second as at rest or the second as moving and the 
first as at rest, the rod on either body must be thought of as showing 
the same contraction. The unchanging mathematical terms imply 
that from the standpoint of the one body the rod going with it would 
contract while from the standpoint of the other body the contraction 
would occur in its own rod. The contraction is a common and mutual 
feature of relative motion and gives not the least indication as to which 
of the two bodies is moving in reference to a stationary ether. In the 
face of this ambiguity, what sense can there be in talking of it as com- 
pensating for and hiding any particular quantity of motion which 
reference to such an ether might yield? 

Why then cling to a subtly material ether which must be consi- 
dered as capable of being a frame of reference at absolute rest ? Why 
even hypothttise that it is dragged and therefoie inaccessible as such 
a frame? Do we require it as a medium for light's vibrations? Clerk 
Maxwell proved light to be a species of electromagnetism. For several 
years physicists tried to figure out an electromagnetic wave in terms 
of waves of air or water or a jelly-like solid; bur all attempts failed. 
Hertz, to some extent, and Lorentz, fully, made it clear that light 
could not be explained as a vibratory movement carried on from particle 
to particle as in the case of matter. If light was a wave, it was a wave 
sui generis and could not be understood in terms of oscillating particles, 



like all other waves. The medium postulated for light's transmission was 
left sufficiently immaterial by its being not composed of particles. 
And if a subtly material ether was unnecessary for even the mathe- 
matical description of motion, why not eliminate it? 

Einstein eliminated the ether composed of fine particles which had 
stood for Newton's absolute space. Absolute space, he said, does not 
exist for physics. If absolute space is non-existent for physics, no 
absolute motion can be measured. And if absolute motion cannot be 
measured, how shall we measure absolute time? To know what time 
it is at a distant place when the clock here shows a certain hour, we 
must have a message from that place, a signal by light or radio: every 
message, be it ever so fast, travels at a finite speed and, if we never 
know the absolute value of any speed, how allow correctly for the 
time-lag between the starting and the arrival of the message? Hence 
physics has no means of judging absolute time: a time flowing 
uniformly in the whole universe cannot figure in our equations. With 
the impossibility of the ether's serving as a frame of reference at 
absolute rest, the entire construction of Newtonian physics topples 

Einstein began a new construction founded on the fact that light's 
speed is constant, whether we move towards it, away from it or stay 
where we are. Speed being measured, as we have already said, in terms 
of certain space-units travelled in Certain time-units, Einstein argued 
that not only rods shorten because of movement but also clocks slow 
down. This conclusion at once illuminated the equation Lorentz 
had based on rod-shortening, for in it there had figured a term which 
could not be identified: now Einstein identified it as a sign of change 
in time-measurement owing to the slowing down of clocks. He even 
indicated a method by which the slowing down could be experimentally 
confirmed in a direct fashion by studying rhythmically vibrating 
atoms. In 1936, H. Ives of the Bell Telephone Laboratories, New 
York City, carried out the experiment with positive results. So Einstein 
has sound experimental backing. And, according to him, both the 
shortening of rods and the slowing down of clocks are proportional to 
the rate of movement of one body in relation to another which is itself 
moving. Readings of space and time made on a moving body are 
shared by another only if the latter has the same speed. When the 



speeds differ, the readings also must differ. As a consequence of relative 
motion, there is a relativity of space and time. 

We have nothing non-materialistic, nothing mystical, so far. 
But to get to the heart of relativity theory we must fix our attention 
on one fact pointed out .by Einstein and already noted by us: the 
reversibility of relation when motion is considered relatively. Just as 
our rod is shortened and our clock slowed down when we are in a 
certain relation of movement to a body which is itself moving, a tod 
and a clock on that body would in relation to the body which is our 
frame of reference undergo exactly the same changes which we observe 
in our instruments. If the mathematical terms denoting relative speed 
remain the same, whether we regard one body as at rest and the other 
as moving or vice versa, the question crops up: on which of the two 
bodies can really the rod be said to shorten and the clock to slow down? 
Well, if we consider both the bodies together as standpoints, the judg- 
ment of Daniel would be that the change really occurs in rod and 
clock on both. If we adopt one of the two standpoints, the change is 
real on one of them. If we adopt neither standpoint but some entirely 
other, a different reality will be registered by our measuring instru- 
ments. They give us variants according as we adopt one standpoint 
or another. To say this is to say that measuring instruments like clocks 
and rods can never give a reading that would be invariant from all 

But physics always aims at invariants. The laws of nature must 
be so formulated that they hold for all standpoints. It is not sufficient 
to find a "transformation" rule by which we may make the requisite 
adjustments in calculation as we pass from standpoint to standpoint. 
We must find a rule for the same reading from every standpoint: then 
alone can we give a description that is universal and absolute, a calcu- 
lation of the fundamental quantity that different standpoints differently 
evaluate. But how are we to get beyond the relativity which Einstein 
disclosed of all space-measurements and time-measurements? 

The mathematician Minkowski showed the way. When the time- 
measurements are multiplied by themselves that is, squared and 
then subtracted from the square of the space-measurements we get 
a quantity which is the square of what is universal, absolute, invariant. 
Distance of space and discance of time alter with the rate of motion, 



but as soon as we follow Minkowski's rule we strike upon a distance 
or interval between two events which is found to be unaltered no matter 
what the rate at which we move. This rule is somewhat analogous 
to the one for calculating the distance or interval between two points in 
three-dimensional space. The latter rule is: Take the three co-ordinates 
of both the points, x and x ls y and y 13 z and z la and deduct the lesser 
co-ordinates from the greater and, squaring the result, add up all the 
squares: the sum gives the square of the distance or interval. 
Considering x, y and z to be the lesser co-ordinates, we write the 

Minkowski's equation introduced a fourth co-ordinate, as it were, 
which was time and had a minus sign unlike the others: 

Mathematicians, however, cannot be completely at ease with this 
equation. In the first place, the minus sign is not quite to their liking: 
it is an irregularity. Minkowski comes to their rescue by saying: 
"Multiply the minus-signed time-measurements by the square root 
of minus one and, as every schoolboy knowing mathematics will 
understand, we reach immediately a plus quantity like all the other 
dimensional quantities, and the equation becomes: 

Everything is now symmetrical and there is no technical distinction 
between time and the other variables. It is as if we had, instead of a 
continuum of three space-dimensions, a continuum of four space- 
dimensions completely isotropic that is, similar in all diiections 
for all measurements; no direction can be picked out in it as funda- 
mentally distinct from any other." But one step more is required to 
systematise everything for mathematical purposes. In the new equa- 
tion, as in the old, time-measurements are left in time-units. How can 
units like seconds be added to or subtracted from units like inches? 


We can multiply or divide time-units and space-units by each other: 
for example, we divide the number of inches a moving object traverses 
by the number of seconds elapsed and we get the velocity of that object. 
But every schoolboy knows that it is mathematically inadmissible to 
subtract seconds from inches or add them. Minkowski again comes to 
the rescue. He says: "Luckily, in all the measurements concerned in 
relativity theory the speed of light remains constant. So we can use 
it as a common denominator. Thus, we can consider one second as 
equal to the 186,000 miles which light travels during a second. So we 
substitute for the time-measurements the miles which light would 
travel. Then we have complete symmetry, and the whole equation is 
completely as of a space of four indistinguishable dimensions. Further, 
the new statement of the equation facilitates the employment of the 
equation and any development that may be possible." 

The procedure adopted by Minkowski in the interest of systemati- 
sation is often looked upon as vital to the conception of the four-dimen- 
sional continuum. This is a capital mistake and is responsible for the 
notion that the four-dimensional continuum is created by artificialities. 
It is argued: What can be the justification of the square root of minus 
one and how can the substituting of miles for seconds give us a time- 
dimension really like the space-dimension? Well, if Minkowski's 
systematisation did create the concept, we can look on his two steps 
as acts of analytic insight discerning and supplying what was missing 
in the steps by which a necessary concept was to be created. This way 
of looking is open as an alternative to the view of his steps as being 
artificialities, though that view is likely 10 be more stressed. But the 
alternative is not even called for. There is a fact which modifies the 
entire complexion of the controversy. The fact is: when Minkowski 
found that the time-measurement had to be substracted from the space- 
measurements in a certain manner in order to get the invariant without 
which physics ceases to be physics, he found space-time to be the 
unavoidable invariant without needing to flourish in the face of the 
world his square root of minus one and the miles-equivalenc of a 
second. In Minkowski's original formula which can be accused of 
waving no such stage-conjuror's wand as the square root of minus one 
and the miles-equivalent of a second might seem, we have space-time 
no less than in the new formula, since it actually subtracts time- 



terms from space-terms and theiefore implies terms that are neither 
space nor time or are bo^h together and are best described as neutral. 
Of course, we have not shown why, if space and time are indistinguish- 
able, there should be a subtraction sign: we shall touch on this point later. 
It is not crucial here: here we are concerned not with the dejure indis- 
tinguishableness but the de facto indistinguishableness which is involved 
by substracting one quantity from another. To such indistinguishable- 
ness Minkowski's seeming artificialities make no odds. We can drop 
them without jeopardising anything essential. When we realise this, 
we learn to see them as neither artificialities normative acts of analytic 
insight, they lead not to the creation of the concept but to the schemati- 
sation of it so as to make it most amenable to mathematical employment 
and possible development. 

All the same, it must be admitted that the concept would never 
have emerged clearly without the schematisation. For, thus alone 
the invariant wanted by Einstein's physics was cast into a proper 
mathematical mould of four indistinguishable dimensions and brought 
to a focus. But, when we avoid the impression that it was not implicit 
in Minkowski's original equation, we must also avoid the impression 
that Minkowski gave us a four -dimensional space. Time is indeed 
spatialised by the form he put forth as mathematically the best 
for the four-dimensional continuum and the process begun by physics 
of reckoning time in space-terms .by means of a clock or any other 
clock-like space-mechanism reaches its apex in a manner undreamt of 
by the old physicists. But it would be a mistake to think that the 
four-dimensional continuum is conceived with a space-bias. Of course, 
a clock stands for time in physics, but after multiplying time-terms 
by the square root of minus one in order to get a plus sign we can perform 
the next operation in just the opposite direction: we can reduce 
space-terms to time-verms by considering 186,000 miles as equivalent 
to one second. The temporalisation of space instead of the spatialisation 
of time is equally possible. The point is that somehow space and time 
should be made indistinguishable dimensions. The four-dimensional 
continuum, therefore, is best designated space-time or time-space 
rather than space or time. The dimensions, being equally designable 
as four of space or four of time, cannot be reckoned in terms either of 
time or space. The reading made for any event must be taken to be in 


units which are neutral. Also, the interval between any two events 
must be read in neutral units. 

The neutral character can be realised, too, from another angle. It 
was found, mathematically, that to get the invariant interval between 
two events we had to attend to three conditions. If the space-distance 
between the events is such that an object can travel from one to the other 
before light from them can reach an observing standpoint, the interval 
between them foi all standpoints is just what a clock on that object 
would record as the time taken by the object during its travel. The 
interval is then to be called "timelike." But if an object cannot travel 
between two events before light from them reaches a standpoint, the 
interval is just what a rod on that object would record as the space- 
distance travelled by the object. The interval is then to be called ' 'space- 
like/' If the two events are the leaving of a ray of light from a source 
and the reaching of it at any standpoint the interval is such that both 
a rod and a clock would record it as zero. For, at the progressive rate 
at which, during motion, a rod shortens and a clock slows down, the 
rod would be shortened to nothing and a clock stop completely if they 
were put on a ray of light which travels 186,000 miles per second. 
The progression-rate can be understood if, for instance, we look at the 
increase of mass due to motion : here there is a progressive increase 
instead of decrease but the* essence of the rate is the same. At half 
the velocity of light the mass of an electron or any object is increased by 
one-seventh. At nine-tenths the velocity the mass is nearly two and a 
half times greater, while at nincty-nine-hundredths of the velocity 
the mass has seven times its value at relative rest. At higher speeds the 
mass increases with such leaps that at light's velocity it must become, 
mathematically, infinite. From this we can say that no object can travel 
as fast as ligltf: light becomes a limiting velocity. We can also say that 
like the mass-increase the decrease in the size of a rod and in the 
rhythm of a clock would be, mathematically, infinite. The interval, 
therefore, in terms of an object carrying a rod and a clock and travelling 
with light from the event which is light's leaving a source to the event 
which is light's reaching a measuring instrument is nil, if the interval 
is to be invariant from all standpoints. To sum up: the interval is in 
certain cases reckonable as timelike, in others as spacelike and in yet 
others as no time and no space! Obviously, it must be a neutral unit 



and we get clean beyond space-terms and time-terms to terms of 
space-time or time-space in which the interval cannot be legitimately 
deemed either space or time. If it can be either in different cases and 
neither in particular cases, it is something sui generis: we can also 
regard it as a fusion of space and time, in ^which both are indistingui- 
shable and become a tertium quid, a "third something". 

The indistinguishableness of space and time is most commonly 
underlined by also pointing our that from different co-ordinate systems 
in relative motion at different rates the interval between any two events 
will be differently split up into time and space. Suppose we take the 
famous eruption of Krakatoa and the outburst on the star Nova Persei. 
The interval between these two events may be measured from a 
coordinate system on the earth as so many years and so many millions 
of miles. But a system on the Nova will measure it as a different number 
of years and miles. A third system, neither on the earth nor on the 
Nova, will have still different readings. And what figures as miles 
in one measurement will figure as years in another! 

We must not conclude, however, from the indistinguishableness 
and from the fusion, that Minkowski meant to deny the difference 
between space and time in common human experience by any given 
individual. In this experience they are indeed inseparable at least 
as far as measurements are concerned, no place having been measured 
except at an instant and no instant having been measured except at a 
place. But they are felt to be different in spite of their inseparableness. 
Space has three dimensions, while time has only one, since we can 
move only from past to present to future as in a straight line. There 
is also a difference psychologically in the very texture, so to speak, of 
extension which is space and duration which is time. Even in physics 
the experimental modes are dissimilar: a clock is indeed % measurement 
in space-terms, yet it is not at all a mode like the measurement in 
space-terms which we call a rod. Moreover, when a physicist measures 
his own movement in space-coordinates and a time-coordinate, the two 
are never interchanged. Relativity leaves all these unlikencsses what 
they are in common human experience by any given individual of his 
own history and what they were in the old physics. What is new 
is, in the first place, the discovery of the way in which with relative 
motion both time-terms and space-terms vary in measurement. 



A variation of a kind had been acknowledged in space-terms in even 
the old physics. Thus, if a stone falling from a tower to the 
ground were measured from different standpoints moving at different 
rates, the space-coordinates would be different. But the difference 
did not take into account the rod-shortening and it was fitted into a 
context of absolute space. Also, it did not go hand in hand with any 
difference in time-measurements. Time was thought to be unvarying 
and every moving standpoint was thought to give the same measure- 
ments of time. Now that both time-terms and space-terms are 
declared to be radically variant with standpoints, a novelty is introduced, 
which, when we search for the goal of all physics the invariant, 
the uniform, the absolute from all standpoints, the universal reading 
necessitates the concept of fused space and time. Therefore what is 
new is, in the second place, the concept of a four-dimensional continuum 
in which the dimensions are indistinguishable. 

What is the precise import of the concept ? And is it merely a mathe- 
matical convenience or does it represent a state of reality of which 
we have no cognisance in common human experience and the old 
physics had no idea? Is it an utterly revolutionary concept with 
serious supra-physical consequences? 



Einstein, in several places, has made pronouncements tending to 
dissipate the air of mystery which comes with the idea of four-dimen- 
sionality. Thus, in collaboration with Infeld, he writes on page 219 of 
The Evolution of Physics: "Four numbers must be used to describe 
events in nature. Our physical space as conceived through objects 
and their mojion has three dimensions, and positions are characterised 
by three numbers. The instant of an event is the fourth number. 
Four definite numbers correspond to every event; a definite event 
corresponds to any four numbers. Therefore: the world of events 
forms a four-dimensional continuum. There is nothing mysterious 
about this, and the last sentence is equally true for classical physics 
and the relativity theory." On pages 54 and 55 of his book. Relativity ', 
the Special and the General Theory, Einstein informs us: "The non- 
mathematician is seized by a mysterious shuddering when he hears 



of 'four-dimensional' things, by a feeling not unlike that awakened 
by thoughts of the occult. And yet there is no more commonplace 
statement than that the world in which we live is a four-dimensional 
continuum.... That we have not been accustomed to regard the world 
as a four-dimensional continuum is due to the fact that in physics 
before the advent of the theory of relativty, time played a 
different and more independent role, as compared with the space- 
coordinates." Again, on page 30 of The Meaning of Relativity, 
Einstein declares: "The conception of something happening was 
always that of a four-dimensional continuum; but the recognition 
of this was obscured by the absolute character of the pre-relativity 

Is not Einstein forgetting that the new role played by time in his 
theory has converted the old inseparableness of time and space into 
indistinguishableness? Is he not ignoring the essence of the situation 
by labelling the old inseparableness as four-dimensionality? To count 
a continuum's dimensions just by the descriptive numbers required 
for an event is a loose manner of specification. Space is a three-dimen- 
sionality strictly and precisely because its dimensions are indistingui- 
shable in basic character and composed analogously to one another 
and form one methodical block. If pre-relativity time which is the 
time of common calculation can only accompany but never fall in 
step, so to speak, with this methodical block and increase a dimension 
systematically instead of by a mere tacking-on, can it legitimately be 
held to constitute, together with space, a four-dimensional continuum? 
Let us make a brief inquiry into the meaning of the terms involved 
in this discussion and ascertain how dimensions must be conceived 
if they are to build up a continuum. 

A continuum, of any number of dimensions, is something that 
is continuous, admitting of no gap anywhere. Mathematically, this 
is expressed by saying that between any two specified components 
of it there can be an infinite number of arbitrarily small steps. If the 
number were finite and the steps not arbitrarily small, there would 
be no continuity: each step would be distinct and disparate and, 
instead of a continuity, we should have a mere aggregate. A line is 
a one-dimensional continuum and it is made up of an infinite number 
of successive points. A surface is a two-dimensional continuum and 



it is made up of an infinite number of successive lines. A volume is 
a three-dimensional continuum and it is made up of an infinite number 
of successive surfaces. Thus each continuum is formed by a continuous 
succession of components of the next lower number of dimensions. 
And a four-dimensional entity would consist of an infinite number of 
successive volumes. Suppose we take a brick which is a three-dimen- 
sional object, and ask how we are to conceive it as constituting by 
continuous succession an entity of four dimensions. Just a row of 
bricks will not do: it will not give us a four-dimensional entity. More- 
over, a row is not a continutiy such as we want: between any two 
bricks we cannot put an infinite number of bricks. Also, no fourth 
dimension of space is available: the only dimension other than the 
available three of space is time, the continuum of moments or 
instants. But if we take time to be the fourth dimension to 
make a four-dimensional entity the continuous succession of a three- 
dimensional entity in it must be properly understood. Time 
must be a genuinely new dimension which was not there for any of 
the entities of the other dimensions. As a line is strictly one-dimen- 
sional, a surface strictly two-dimensional, a volume strictly three- 
dimensional and none of them has any other dimension than those 
already specified, an entity having time as its fourth dimension must 
be something that extends in time in a sense in which none of these 
entities do. But time, as ordinarily understood, is already there for 
a line, a surface and a volume: all of them need it in order to be them- 
selves. Simply to continue in time as normally things do is not to 
have the genuinely new fourth dimension we require. To revert to 
our brick: a brick existing in time will not thereby become a four- 
dimensional entity any more than an infinite number of bricks in a 
row in three Dimensions will do so. It will have to exist in the time- 
dimension in an entirely new way. What the new way must be can 
at once be grasped by analogy. A line has a co-existence of conti- 
nuously consecutive points, a surface a co-existence of continuously 
consecutive lines, a volume a co-existence of continuously consecutive 
surfaces: similarly, our four-dimensional entity must have volumes 
co-existing along the time-dimension in a continuous consecutiveness. 
In other words, all the moments of time in which a brick continues 
must be co-existent! This is the sole valid sense we can attribute to 



time as a continuum adding a fourth dimension not already present 
for entities made up by the other three. 

It is in this sense that time operates in Minkowski's continuum. 
Evidently, here is much more than is meant by the necessity felt 
even by the old physics to regard space and time as inseparable 
though not indistinguishable and to use four numbers in describing 
an event. Nor have we here what Einstein appears on occasion to suggest 
in The Evolution of Physics: merely a four-dimensional form of the 
representation known to us in a geometrical graph. The stone falling 
from a tower, which we have mentioned before, can be geometrically 
plotted, after it has fallen, as if the time-dimension were also 
stretched out like a space-dimension and all the moments during the 
fall were co-existent. There would be a time-axis perpendicular to 
a one-dimensional space-axis showing the one direction "down", and 
lines joining different moments on the time-axis to different positions 
on the space-axis would be time-coordinates and space-coordinates 
and a line drawn through the joinings of the coordinates would indi- 
cate the path of the stone's fall downward through space and time. 
Indeed, what is done here with two dimensions is implied with four- 
dimensions in Einstein's concept. But there are two dissimilarities 
beyond the fact that a four-dimensional representation is not pictur- 
able and can be expressed in nothing save mathematical terms, a 
mathematical and not a graphical geometry. One is that the time- 
dimension is not concerned with only what has already occurred: it 
is also concerned with what is occurring and is going to occur, all the 
moments are co-existent in it. The other is that because of the 
co-existence of all the moments we cannot equate the graph with 
things as we ordinarily observe them. The line showing the stone's 
fall answers to what was observed: the "world-line", .#s Minkowski 
called the path of events in his continuum, crosses the present and 
the future no less than the past and we can answer with it to observed 
things only by choosing not to conceive it in its total significance. 
The four-dimensional concept is more than a plotting out of Nature, 
it plots out that which seems to transcend or underlie Nature, and of 
which Nature seems a projection within a certain framework. So, all 
matters considered, Einstein misses the mark when he deprecates the 
mysterious shuddering and the thoughts of the occult which he finds 



in the non-mathematician on hearing what he calls the commonplace 
statement that the world in which we live is a four-dimensional 
space-time continuum. There is really nothing commonplace in the 
statement if the reference is to Minkowski's concept which Einstein 
accepts as integral to his own theory; and the mathematician, deluded 
by the ease with which he can abstractly tackle any number of dimen- 
sions through his symbols, is likely to overlook the definitely supra- 
physical suggestion here. To be precise, Einstein's continuum carries 
the suggestion of what philosophers have conceived as Totum Simul, 
the All-at-once, a state of existence in which the whole past and 
present and future are a grand simultaneity and all that is in space is 
not only existent together but each thing is existent in its reality at 
all moments past, present and future! 

This state of existence is deterministic in one sense, for all fs 
already there and cannot be changed, but the determinism is not of 
the ordinary kind, since in ordinary determinism the present is dic- 
tated by the past and the future by the present whereas here there is 
no sign of any direction and we can with the same justification say 
that the future dictates the present and the present the past or that 
the present dictates both the past and the future ! In the last alternative 
we have room for an utter freewill; in the first alternative we have 
room for an utter fixity of fate; in the middle alternative we have 
room for God knows what! Living as we ordinarily do in the present, 
with the past vanished and the future unrealised, we are permitted 
by Einstein's concept as much to believe in freewill as to be deter- 

The concept of freewill is a most difficult one to state, for in 
common statements ir looks like asking for something which is 
unconnected jvith the past to the degree to which the freedom is 
granted. Especially scientific thought feels foreign to such a lack of 
connection, since in it the convention has been to regard the past as 
leading to the future: most of experimental physics is concerned 
with expecting results which, however unforeseeable at times, are 
supposed to follow from antecedents and all theoretical physics is 
concerned with forming mathematical equations of rigorous intercon- 
nectivity. No doubt, indeterminsim is ascribed by many to quantum 
phenomena, but Einstein is not one of these many: he is an out-and-out 



determinism hoping for a "unified field theory" which would account 
for all quantum phenomena without the assumption of indeterminism. 
And he is unable to conceive of freewill. "Honestly I cannot under- 
stand/' he remarks, "what people mean when they talk of the freedom 
of the will. I feel that I will to light my pipe and I do it, but how can 
I connect this up with the idea of freedom? What is behind the act of 
willing to light the pipe? Another act of willing? Schopenhauer once 
said: Man can do what he wills, but he cannot will what he wills." Evi- 
dently, Einstein implies that if we allowed the statement "I will that 
I will to light my pipe", we should have to explain the new willing 
and say "I will that I will that I will": we should have to go on like 
this without end and that seems meaningless as well as contradictory 
of our experience. The reasonable thing, in Einstein's opinion, is to 
postulate, behind every act of willing, a number of events we are not 
aware of whenever we have the feeling that we are free to will some- 
thing. In other words, our willing is determined by other events that 
are themselves determined and we can never significantly be thought 
free. Einstein's idea is that all happenings hang together without any 
break and with complete continuity, the whole universe thus hangs 
together at every instant and its hanging together every instant hangs 
together with all that precedes and follows every instant. The idea is 
in consonance with the four-dimensional continuum and the geome- 
trical mode of representing events in all space and all time. But, as 
we have seen, determinism which makes the future an effect of the 
presenc and the present an effect of the past is only one of several 
conclusions from it, and, philosophically speaking, Einstein's continuum 
does xio. negate freewill. All it negates is discontinuity such as quantum 
physics seems to demand, and Einstein is a determinist essentially 
in the sense that he is all for continuity: the view that negates freewill 
and makes the past determinative of everything else is merely a con- 
ventional interpretation of the kind of continuity involved in a conti- 
nuum of four dimensions a kind which, if established over even 
quantum phenomena, would not philosophically discomfit freewillists. 
Perhaps our knowing only the present and having the past and the 
future clipped off is a clue to the alternative we should regard as the 
best of the three offered by the continuum. Instead of saying the future 
dictates everything or the past dictates everything we may say the 

18 265 


present dictates both the past and the future and holds them actually 
co-existent in itself. Then the Totum Simul would be also a Nunc 
Stans, an ever-standing Now. But it is impossible to equate the ever- 
standing Now with any space-terms or time-terms or both terms 
merely combined. A neutral factor is to be posited and this can only 
be called what traditional language has called Eternity which is also 
Infinity. Not, of course, an Infinity-Eternity negating space and 
time: it holds in itself their essence, as it were, and that is why it allows 
itself to be calculated in space -terms and time-terms combined without 
being fused. 

It is appropriate here to explain that, by being Infinity-Eternity, 
not only does the neutral factor hold the one essence of both space and 
time but also contains the raison d'etre of their difference in common 
human experience. We must remember that Minkowski's original 
equation has a minus sign and is not symmetrical. Although implying 
the indistinguishableness of time and space it does not show the time- 
coordinate to be utterly like the space-coordinates. So we must con- 
ceive space and time as a dual expression of one and the same reality: 
to use Aurobindonian phrases, space is the reality stretched out for 
the holding together of objects and time is the reality stretched out for 
the deployment of a movement carrying objects. The former expresses 
the Infinity-aspect, the latter the Eternity-aspect. Inasmuch as 
Infinity and Eternity are different aspects of the one reality, there is in 
even the invariance or absoluteness of the one reality something answer- 
ing to the difference between space and time in the world of variants 
and relativities. This "something" is the ultimate significance of the 
lack of symmetry with which the fourth dimension enters Minkowski's 
original equation. Minkowski removed the lack and thereby gave 
mathematician easier instrument to use. If he had not done it, Einstein 
himself would have encountered greater difficulty than he did though 
the actual difficulty was great enough in moving to the second state- 
ment of his theory which came many years after the first formulation 
in 1905. Yet the central discovery of space -time as being in physics 
not only two elements inseparable but also fused in a literal and 
unavoidable sense has its most accurate embodiment in the original 
equation which is a-symmetrical, it is philosophically finer and, 
without in the least wanting in the radical fusion which Minkowski 



embodied more smoothly in the later equation, it makes us understand 
how the distinction between space and time, the absence of fusion, in 
spite of their inseparableness becomes possible in common human 

One further point about the Totum Simul which is Infinity-Eternity, 
[ust as determinism in the ordinary sense is not the single deducible 
:onclusion from the nature of the Totum Simul \ so also it is illegitimate 
to deduce only the conclusion that the Totum Simul is static. We can 
squally deduce the conclusion that in the Totum Simul everything 
everywhere is happening together, as that everything everywhere 
has happened together. If we use the words "has happened" we are 
thinking in terms of the past. But the Totum Simul has no partiality 
for the past. I* can be described by us in terms of the present and 
when we think of the present we cannot help thinking of "happening" 
that is, of dynamism and not stasis. Again, it can be described in terms 
of the future and then we can legitimately say that in it everything 
everywhere will happen together. To designate it static is insuffi 
cient or, rather, irrelevant. Here, as in the case of determinism and 
freewill, our knowing directly only the present may be regarded as 
favouring the alternative of "happening". But, accurately speaking, 
we should not equate this "happening" with any term pertaining to 
time and space separately or merely ^combined. A neutral factor has 
to come in an Eternity which is also Infinity and it does not negate 
either stasis or dynamism but holds the essence of either while trans- 
cending both, just as it does with regard to determinism and freewill. 

Evidently, the Totum Simul carries us far beyond the usual 
materialistic view of the world. A materialist may argue that so long as 
Einstein's continuum is not thought of as a consciousness it does not 
non-materialise anything even if it is a reality and no mere 'convenient 
device. But it certainly mixes up things a great deal and will not permit 
any of the old materialistic dogmas to hold unchallenged sway. As 
we saw, it leaves, for one thing, a loop-hole as much for the validity 
of human freewill as for that of determinism. And once we grant this 
validity we bring in a host of others which would shatter materialism 
to bits. So where is any security for the materialist? He may protest 
that there is no security for the non-materialist either. But that is 
surely to confess that fundamental issues go into the melting-pot as 



soon as we warm up to relativity theory. And when a large look is 
taken at the riddle of the universe, even the most rabid materialist 
must grant that the Totum Simul is more in tune with the concept of 
God than with the concept of a universe having no consciousness at 
its back and bearing a soulless insignificant humanity on its blind 
breast. Mystical experience gives the closest description possible of 
a God, who, besides being many other wonders, is a Totum Simul. 
And if the Totum Simul is a reality and no convenient device for cal- 
culation, mystical experience seems more to be trusted than anything 
else. The poor materialist is in for a seveie headache once he concedes 
the reality of Einstein's continuum. 

Has he any ground for not conceding it? We have now to find 
an answer. Let us ask what would be meant by calling this continuum 
a mere convenient device, We have seen that no charge of artificiality 
can be levelled against the concept of it as put forth by Minkowski. 
Perhaps it will be urged: "Time in physics is measured by a clock 
or some clocklike mechanism which gives space-quantities and no 
genuine time at all. If such artificialised time is shown to be fused 
with space, we have only a convenient device." But, Mr. Convcnient- 
Devicer, are you not forgetting that time, even in the old physics, 
was measured in space-quantities by a clock? Nobody ever main- 
tained that in the old physics space and time helped materialism just 
because time wis measured in space-quantities. To think spatially of 
time through a clock was more than irrelevant to the issue of mate- 
rialism, for everybody was saying that though time was measured 
spatially by a clock it could never be fused with space and any sug- 
gestion of a fusion would have occasioned a doubt about materialism. 
So, if the fusion has to take place, the clock-measurement of time 
cannot logically be pressed against the fusion having a significance 
which is non -materialistic. 

Is there any other argument left? Well, the very idea of looking 
for an argument becomes ridiculous if we but analyse the phrase 
"convenient device." There are many convenient devices in physics. 
Have they any resemblance to the fusion of space and time? If the 
fusion is a convenient device, it is one on which hangs the whole status 
of physics as a science, If physics cannot reach the invariant, uniform, 
absolute, universal description of phenomena, it cannot satisfactorily 



move forward. There is unavoidable and basic necessity here. To 
compare the fusion of space and time to any mathematical quantities 
created for convenience is to fail to mark this necessity; none resembles 
it in being unavoidable for the very basis of physics. They are also 
dissimilar in never involving the literal fusion of any two terms com- 
bined. Take the concept of "light-year." Two entirely different 
ideas are joined to render easy the indication of astronomical distances. 
Instead of running into inordinately long series of integers to indicate 
how distant a star or nebula is, we adopt the device of employing as 
a unit the number of miles traversed in a year by light travelling at 
the rate of 186,000 miles per second. The light-yeai is no necessity: 
it is an arbitrary combination, we can do without it altogether and 
nothing in physics will suffer: it may be called also a figurative fusion 
and not a literal one, since in no sense are light and a year to be taken 
as indistinguishable. The light-year is not in the least comparable 
to space-time: it falls into another category. 

Now look at a quantity like momentum or horse-power. We 
multiply mass and velocity to give momentum, divide energy by time 
to give horse-power. Is space-time like these quantities? Haidly. 
They may not be dispensable conveniences like the light-year; they 
may be necessary to physics but even they are necessary only for 
getting variants. Like mass and velocity themselves, momentum is 
always a variant; like energy and rime themselves, horse-power is 
always a variant. They change as the standpoint changes. Space-time 
is an invariant. The two necessities are not on the same footing. 
Besides, when we construct momentum or horse-power, there is no 
implication that mass and velocity are indistinguishable, or energy 
and time are indistinguishable. The implication would come only if 
one is added to or substracted from the other. It is only ^addition or 
subtraction that, according to mathematics, shows the essential same- 
ness of terms. 

Perhaps the sole concept that gets nearest to the fusion of space 
and time is the interchangeabilily of mass and energy a conclusion 
drawn by Einstein himself from his own theory of relativity. We 
shall not explain this concept at the moment, but it has two characteristics 
relevant to the discussion in hand. Fhst, the interchangeabilily implies 
a genuine oneness, so much so that we can actually convert mass into 



energy and energy into mass. There is no question of a device here. 
Second, the genuine oneness is still on the level of the variant. Space- 
time is on the level of the invariant. It is, thereby, a deeper necessity 
for physics and, in any case, it is not shown to be a device. So to 
call it a mere device adopted for convenience is to institute everywhere 
incongruent comparisons. It cannot be likened to any other combi- 
nation or fusion effected by physics of two different kinds of terms. 
In short, no meaning attaches to the labelling of it as a convenient 

And if there are any difficulties or oddities to be tackled in con- 
nection with space-time, we must do our best to avoid sliding into 
a view which tends to bring in that blessed label: we must watch out 
for an alternative. Thus, there are what are called "lumber 55 equa- 
tions. Relativity mathematics grinds out equations that seem to have 
no equivalents in perception, nothing we can verify by experimental 
observation. How are we to avoid the dangerous sliding and still 
explain their presence? Perfectly easy, my dear Watson! We have 
only to fall into the arms of Eddington and agree with him to regard 
the "lumber" equations as the mathematical symbols of unperceived 
properties of something objective. To Eddington, even perceived 
properties of the world are subjective in the Kantian sense that they 
are imposed on an unknown objective reality by the constitution of 
one's mind. But the Tightness or wrongness of this point is not of 
importance here: what is of importance is that all the mathematical 
symbols grinded out by relativity correspond, in the ordinary sense, 
to objective properties: some of these properties are perceived, some 
unperceived. The unperceived are shadowed in the "lumber" equa- 

Oncewe interpret thus the "lumber" equations, we get a new 
"slant" on the fact that no experimental observation has found any- 
thing to contradict them. They may not be confirmed, but why are 
they not contradicted? Some equations of Einstein's are marvellously 
confirmed, some are not, but none are contradicted. Is this not 
curious? One single contradiction would disprove his theory. Eins- 
tein, being no epistemological physicist like Eddington, does not dare 
to say that no contradiction will ever appear. But it is a tremendous 
tribute to his theory that die last forty years and more have not 



disclosed anything to throw doubt on its essential correctenss within 
the domain of macrophysics. With all objections out of the way, this 
tribute gains the colour of an argument that "caps, crowns and clinches 

To sum up: nothing disproves th.e actuality of the four 
dimensional continuum whose concept seems so much a mathematical 
formulation of the mystic's vision. 


When we go from the special or restricted theory of relativity 
propounded in 1905 to the general theory developed in 1915 after 
years of intense concentration on several possibilities, the implication 
of a supra-physical reality becomes acuter. 

The special theory proved Newton's invariants to be no invariants 
for physics, but it did not cover all the problems Newton had dealt 
with. The chief problem it kept aside was "acceleration." Newton 
had divided motion into two parts: one was uniform, the other was 
accelerated. Accelerated motion meant change in the rate of speed 
or in the direction of speed. There was one factor which was thought 
by Newton to induce on the widest and most general scale acceleration 
both in rate and direction. This factor he called gravitation and 
enunciated a law for it. The law extended to a vast range of phenomena, 
but at certain points it broke down. Its failure as well as the invalidity 
shown by Einstein of Newtonian invariants in physics made it 
impossible of acceptance. An alternative was badly required and to 
search for it became the master-passion of Einstein, particularly as, 
in the first place, gravitation involved both types of accelerated motion 
which still remained outside the relativistic scheme and, ia the second 
place, gravitation involved peculiarities marking it out from any other 
force namely, that heating or cooling a body, difference of chemical 
constitution and the interposing of a screen have no effect in the least 
on gravitational attraction, and the attraction is across a distance 
without any medium seeming to convey it. 

Broadly speaking, the problem was to explain how the planets of 
the solar system remain moving in their elliptical paths round the 
sun and how at certain arcs of their paths they move faster. Newton 



said that all objects have an attractive force and an enormous object 
like the sun must draw towards itself smaller ones like the planets. 
The sun, according to Newton, would bring all the planets crashing 
into it, were it not that they were in motion and this motion acted so as 
to make them fly away from the sun but was not strong enough to free 
them from the sun's gravitation and, as the result of balance of forces, 
could only set them moving round it in elliptical paths. On analysis, 
we see that Newton's picture is systematic only if we grant one thing: 
an object in motion tends to follow a straight path in space unless 
disturbed by another object, either through impact or through gravi- 
tation. If we do not grant this, there is no compulsion to believe that 
the planets are held in elliptical paths by the sun's gravitation, thus 
being prevented from moving straight away into outer space. Gravi- 
tation as a force directly acting on objects is not a necessary concept 
without the concept of the straight path as the most natural for motion. 
The change in speed, on the other hand, can be ascribed to gravitation 
only if we grant that an object tends to move not only straight but 
also at a uniform rate. Einstein, therefore, when faced with the 
question: How are the facts ascribed to gravitation to be accounted 
for, so as to need none of Newfon's absolutes nor his law, which had 
been found faulty, of a force of gravitation? decided to throw doubt 
on the concept that straight uniform motion is the natural one for 

In this he was helped by Minkowski's equation of a continuum of 
four symmetrical and isotropic dimensions. For, Minkowski had 
formulated a geometry of the continuum symbolised by his equation. 
Geometry, we may remark, is essentially an abstract science 
and the mathematician does not bother what meaning in terms of 
common human experience is to be attached to the dimensions he 
symbolises. On the analogy of a geometry of three dimensions such 
as worked out by Euclid the mathematical geometrician can build 
up many self-consistent systems. Whether a system applies to the 
conditions of common human experience is an issue to be tested by 
instrumental observation. In the nineteenth century, mathematical 
geometricians like Gauss, Lobatschcwsky, Bolyai and Riemann built 
up strange systems different from Euclid's. They admitted that if 
Euclid's initial axioms and postulates were righc all his propositions 



logically followed. But they refused to admit that his axioms and 
postulates were self-evident as truths. Neither would they admit 
that Euclid had been completely borne out by instrumental observa- 
tion. Riemann emphasised ; n particular the fact that a triangle drawn 
on a curved surface does not have the sum of its angles equal to two 
right angles, nor 'he ratio of the circumference of a circle *o ihe 
diameter equal to "FT, the well-known Ludolph number 3* 141 59265... 
And just as Euclid had exrended to three-dimensional space the 
geometry of a flat surface, Riemann dared to extend the geometry 
of a curved surface to three-dimensional space. He posed the query: 
"Why should geometrical figures in space not exhibit properties as do 
geometrical figures on the curved surface of a sphere?" 

His query remained academic because nothing was found to con- 
tradict Euclid directly. There was the indirect contradiction in the 
faultiness of Newton's law of gravitation in small isolated cases; for, 
the law assumed space to be Euclidean, with the straight line as the 
shortest and therefore most natural path for an object in motion to 
pursue. But everything else was overwhelmingly on Euclid's side. 
When the special theory of relativity dethroned Newton's absolutes 
and, with them, his law of gravitation, it became possible to think of 
space non-Euclideanly. But not till Minkowski's genius came to the 
aid of Einstein's was the possibility taken advantage of. Minkowski 
rendered it easy to tackle the rtfathematics of Einstein's continuum 
and thus tackle also the riddle whether the world of common human 
experience, the world of space and time which this continuum was 
meant to correlate by means of invariants, was Euclidean or no. 

Minkowski's own answer, in effect, was: "When you have the 
geometry of a continuum which is as much time as space, Euclidean 
geometry which is exclusively of space cannot be whoUy valid. Take 
a triangle ABC. In terms of space, if you measure with a scale from 
A to B and B to C, the sum of your readings will be greater than the 
reading obtained from A to C. Two sides of a triangle are greater than 
the third. But if you take three events A, B and C and measure with 
a clock the time which would be taken in moving from A to B and 
B to C, there crops up a condition which is unique. To measure with 
a scale from A to B, the scale must He so as to touch A with one end 
and B with the other: the scale has to be present at both A and B. 



Similarly, the clock has to be present at A as well as B. This means 
that when the events A and B happen, the clock must run with such 
speed as to be present at both the events. Now, speed affects the 
rhythm of a clock: the faster a clock moves across space the slower its 
rhythm. So, if the distances from A to B and B to C are very great, 
while that from A to C is small, the clock in running along the two 
greater distances will go much slower than in running along the one 
shorter distance. The sum of the readings of the two sides of a triangle 
formed by three events will be less in this instance than the reading 
3f the third side. Euclid's geometrical rules will not universally hold. 
The geometry of space-time is not quite Euclidean: it is semi-Eucli- 

The suggestion that a geometry other than Euclid's could be 
actually applicable to the invariant reality whose variants are observed 
by means of scientific apparatus fell like a most fruitful seed into Eins- 
tein's mind. Could gravitation be accounted for in terms of the geo- 
metrical structure of space-time? In answering that it might be thus 
accountable Einstein was aided considerably by his realising more and 
nore that gravitational effects could not be distinguished from other 
phenomena of acceleration. For instance, when a lift starts to rise, 
:he occupants feel all the effects of a sudden though temporary increase 
)f weight. Indeed a mass hung from a spring-balance would weigh 
leavier till the upward speed of the lift becomes uniform. Further, 
t is not logical to say that when an object is falling freely through 
;pace it gives rise to the phenomenon of weight which we attribute to 
gravitation : only when it is prevented from falling by a weighing 
nachine placed under it the phenomenon of weight is shown. Weight 
herefore may be regarded as due to upward acceleration impressed 
m the object fey the bombardment of the molecules of the piece of the 
veighing machine upon which it drops. Again, a motor cyclist riding 
n a circle and trying to keep at a uniform speed will feel that the con- 
itant bending of his movement, the constant change of direction he 
las to maintain, acts as if he were drawn towards the centre of the 
:ircle. This draw would make him fall inside the circle unless, to 
ivoid the slant induced, he inclined his machine to the vertical. Finally, 
he mass of a body as measured by the amount of resistance to another 
)ody colliding with it or dragging it and thus being liable to produce 



non-gravitational acceleration is exactly equal to the mass as measured 
by the amount of attraction between them according to Newton's law. 
In all these instances are such effects as are attributed to gravitation. 

Instead of stipulating a gravitational force acting directly from 
body upon body across a distance, why not formulate laws embracing 
all phenomena of motion both uniform and accelerated? The only 
conceivable laws which would not exclude gravitational phenomena 
would be of some change worked upon whatever is between bodies, 
some change guiding the less massive body into the accelerated motion 
which imitates or is equivalent to the assumed effects of a direct gra- 
vitational force. In other words, what is between the two bodies 
should be so affected around the massive one as to induce the 
acceleration of the less massive. Gravitational force as such will not 
be denied, but it will not be a force of the Newtonian kind: a body 
will involve a certain structuring of what is between bodies and this 
structuring w ; ll make the less massive behave towards the more 
massive as if pulled in its direction at a constantly increasing rate. 

Now, what is between bodies is, in ordinary computation, either 
empty space or some medium filling space. There is no air in the outer 
expanses of space where gravitation still acts. The luminiferous ether, 
even if it exists, has never been found competent to explain gravitation. 
But electromagnetism itself, of which light is a phenomenon, is proved 
impossible to interpret in terms- of an ether composed of particles 
that is, a subtle material ether which can serve also as a static frame of 
reference for absolute motion. Einstein opened Lorentz's eyes to the 
mathematical superfluity of postulating a static frame. So a subtle 
material ether cannot be thought even to exist. Empty space is all 
that remains unless we introduce a new concept. 

But before we introduce a new concept we must recollect that 
there can be no concept without a background of space-time. Accelera- 
tion, like all quantities, is relative: from different coordinate systems 
different readings would be obtained. The laws of motion both uniform 
and accelerated which would cover gravitational phenomena as well 
as others and which would operate through a structure of what is 
between bodies must arise from a four-dimensional continuum 
of fused space and time. The symmetrical and isotropic equation 
of Minkowski, involving a semi-Euclidean geometry, turned Einstein's 



attention to the many systems of non -Euclidean geometry of 
symmetrical and isotropic dimensions built in the near past. Rie- 
mann's extension of the geometry of curved surfaces to three dimensions 
struck him as the most promising. He extended the geometry to four 
dimensions and took the simplest formula for what would be an unobs- 
tructed body's natural path* in them. The natural path of an unobs- 
tructed body on a flat surface is the straight line between two points: 
it is the shortest path. On a curved surface it is the shortest curve. 
The shortest distance or interval is called the geodesic. Einstein found 
the formula for the geodesic in a four-dimensional continuum and, 
translating it into terms of separate space and time, compared the 
result with gravitational observations. Eureka! The problem was 
solved. As Whetham puts it on page 255 of The Recent Development of 
Physical Science, Einstein's geodesic of space-time is found to bend 
in space towards a mass of matter and, in time, to move faster the 
nearer it passes to the mass precisely like the path of a planet swinging 
round the sun. 

Einstein then connected the amount of mass with the character 
of the geodesic. Geodesies are different according as the amounts of 
mass present. If the masses are not disproportionate the geodesic 
describes in space the natural motion of a body as Newton conceived 
it. If they are disproportionate, the natural motion in space would not 
be a straight line but a curve. The curve is not due to a pull of gravita- 
tion directly from body upon body: it is due simply to the structure 
of space when disproportionate masses are present in space-time: 
space is as if non-Euclidean or Ricmannian in the neighbourhood of 
bodies not flat but curved. 

With the help of his Riemannian geometry Einstein found he 
could explain ajl the facts of gravitation Newton had explained as well 
as one important fact which the Newtonian theory had not explained 
the erratic behaviour of the planet Mercury in certain sections of 
its elliptical path. On top of this, he offered beforehand the calculations 
which would be obtained if two crucial experiments were carried out. 
One concerned the passing of the rays of stars through the sun's neigh- 
bourhood and the other the rate of vibration of atoms in the sun. The 
study of the star-rays was made by several astronomical expeditions 
during two eclipses of the sun when alone the rays could be distinctly 



measured. Einstein had predicted the curved continuum would deflect 
the rays to such and such an amount: frs prediction was completely 
confirmed as against that which the Newtonian theory allowed. The 
measuring of the vibration-rate of the sun's atoms proved very difficult 
but the results were regarded as a satisfactory approximation to what 
Einstein had foretold. Hence ihe curved four-dimensional continuum 
was accepted as scientifically proved. 

Not only gravitational phenomena but all other motions become 
natural deductions from the formula connecting the character of geo- 
desies in space-time with the amount of mass present. An immense 
simplification is achieved: a vast correlation is made. But we seem to be 
confronted with a puzzle in the idea of curved space and also of the 
curved space-time that results in space-curvature. The puzzle, however, 
is verbal. Wo mean by curved spico noihing more puzzling than what 
we mean by flat space. How do we conceive space, which is not a sur- 
face, to be flat like a surface? What is the sense in calling space Eucli- 
dean? All we can mean is simply that, just as on a flat surface, the 
shortest line is the straight line between two points, the shortest line 
between two points in space is straight. On the basis of this we deduce a 
whole geometry of how bodies behave in space: a triangle in space would 
have the sum of its three angles equal to two right angles. Similarly, 
by non-Euclidean or Riemannian or curved space we simply mean that 
the shortest line is a curve. And in the geometry of curved space a 
triangle would not be found to be as on a flat surface. In no other sense 
is space-curvature to be understood. That is to say, it must not be 
understood literally any more than space-flatness. When forms existing 
in three dimensions are measured, they exhibit certain geometrical 
charecteristics. It is these geometrical characteristics that we meet 
with our instruments when we meet curvature. 

In specifying these characteristics Einstein's theory of gravitation 
specifies mathematically the phenomena of gravita'ion. But this is 
not the end of the story. The characteristics come about because of 
something happening between bodies. When we think of something 
happening between bodies so that they exhibit non-Euclidean charac- 
teristics we bring in again the notion of some kind offeree. The charac- 
teristics describe a "potential" or "stress" or "strain" in what is between 
bodies. If what is between is empty space, theic can be no stress mani- 



Testing itself in the Riemannian behaviour of bodies: empty space cannot 
get structured so as to guide bodies into Riemannian behaviour. On 
Einstein's theory of gravitation space becomes "substantial" without 
being composed of particles or having any qualities which would 
lead us to deem it subtle niatter like the old ether or would make it 
serve as a frame of reference for motion. Inasmuch as it is "substan- 
tial" and not void, it is legitimate to bring in the term "ether" 'again: 
only, this ether does not fill space but is itself identical with space! 

In the sense that it is not empty Einstein calls this ether-space 
physical. Physicality, however, is here Pickwickian: it is devoid of all 
that can properly be called physical unless we can speak of physical 
emptiness. Emptiness is itself a disconcerting concept, but becomes 
physicalised when we fill it with an all-pervading ether which is subtle 
matter. Take away such an ether, and what is left? Surely not some- 
thing which we can clearly identify as "vital" or "mental" or "spiritual", 
yet something so non -material, non-physical and still substantial as to 
look like the most natural emanation, as it were, of a conscious omni- 
present Being in terms of a stretching out of itself for the holding 
together of objects that are physical and material. 

So much for Einstein's space. What about his time? If ultimately 
time and space are fused, it is impossible to regard time as an emptiness 
either. No empty space, no empty time. A time-ether, non-physical, 
non-material and still substantial, has to be conceived the most natural 
emanation, as it were, of a conscious omnipresent Being in terms of a 
stretching out of itself for the deployment of a movement carrying phy- 
sical and material objects. 

When we take the space-ether and the time-ether in fusion, we 
have as a result of the curvature-concept a space-time explicitly subs- 
tantialised. All the more it becomes no fiction, no convenient device 
but a reality existing in its own rights. And there is now yet another 
helpful feature which emerges on our asking: Are the material masses, 
which lie at the centre of the curvature-pattern and whose amounts 
bear a fixed ratio to the pactern, the cause of this pattern or themselves 
a peculiar manifestation of it? On the mere strength of the general 
theory we cannot give an entirely decisive answer, but important indi- 
cations are against their being the cause. The fundamental quantity 
termed interval of space -time yields a number of mathematical expres- 



sions which call for comparison with mathematical expressions concern- 
ing what physics names matter. Matter, for instance,, is conserved. 
It is curious that precisely an expression for conservation is derived also 
from the quantity named interval. But what is here derived refers to 
some property of space-time a specific kind of curvature. We may, 
therefore, submit that where there is this curvature there is, in another 
language of mathematical equations, conserved matter. Several other 
observations we associate with matter are similarly matched. The 
physical quantities we know as density, velocity, internal stresses etc. 
obey certain mathematical relations. Now, some equations got by ana- 
lysis from the interval happen to have exactly the same number of com- 
ponents as matter, and these components are put together in exactly 
the same way. The query, as stated by Sullivan, inevitably occurs: 
"May we not affirm that these components which express features of 
the space-time continuum are identical with density, stress and the 
like?" That is to say, what we usually name matter may be what space- 
time holds as curvature of a certain sort. The curved four-dimensional 
continuum appears to be the original reality and matter its manifestation. 

What relation matter has with space and time as we normally 
know them we need not here consider. It is sufficient for our purpose 
to have shown how the general theory of relativity drives home more 
vividly than the special theory a reality which, to say the least, renders 
materialism utterly inadequate and? to say the most, suggests a spiritual 
substance of Totum Simul variously manifesting itself. 

A question, however, which we must tackle is raised by the concept 
of curvature vis-d-vis our description of the four-dimensional conti- 
nuum as Eternity-Infinity. An ever-new endlessness of time is not 
doubted by science, but there is the phrase current in Einsteinian 
physics: "boundless yet finite space." Some years ago, the astronomer 
Edwin Hubble calculated that on the average the distribution of masses 
in the universe known to the telescope is .0000000000000000000000- 
oooooooi gramme per cubic centimetre. According to Einstein's 
equations of the relation between masses and curvature, Bubble's 
figure involves a small uniform curvature of all space over and above 
the non-uniform curvatures involved by the different masses. Thus 
space becomes a hypersphere, finite yet unbounded in three dimensions 
in a way analogous to that in which the two-dimensional surface of 



a sphere is limited in area yet allows endless repetitive movement 
over it. Hence curved space-time, it may be argued, cannot be an 
infinity, and infinity is negated by science and a barrier set up against 
mysticism which talks of an infinite Being. 

Two answers may easily spring to the mind. We may argue that 
all concepts of curvature call for room in which the curving can take 
place: beyond the hypersphere there must be space to accommodate 
it, just as the curving of the two-dimensional surface is accommodated 
by a third dimension. Or we may argue: "Let us be clear about the 
terms we use. Curved space means that there is no straight line except 
as a short-distance illusion and consequently the universe is 're-en- 
trant' in space. If one could ferry oneself across space and survive 
for an enormous number of years and always continue along what 
one would believe to be a straight line, one would at length arrive 
somewhere near one's starting point. Nothing can escape the 
c re-entrance'. But surely here is just the fact that there are geometrical 
limits to our exploration of space. Boundless yet finite space implies 
this fact: it does not imply the negation of space-infinity by science." 

Unfortunately, neither argument is cogent. The first is built on 
a double error. To begin with: a two-dimensional surface has room 
to curve in because it curves in space which has three dimensions; 
but a hypersphere has itself three dimensions and if it curves in any- 
thing it would be in a fourth dimension, but a fourth dimension of 
what? The hypersphere, being three-dimensional, exhausts all the 
dimensions of what we call space; so, what it might curve in cannot 
be space! By the analogy of a two-dimensional surface we do not 
get the space-infinity that is denied. Furthermore, in geometrical 
physics the term "curvature" has no reference to room to curve in. 
Surface-geometry in physics, though having a background of actual 
flatness or curvature, is essentially concerned only with the behaviour 
of measuring-rods and the properties deducible from various arrange- 
ments of them: it abstracts the rods, as it were, from the surface on 
which they are laid and omits reference to the surface's actual shape. 
A reference to it would stop all extension of geometry from a surface 
to space which is evidently not a surface; and the reference is techni- 
cally avoided by the device of calling a surface itself a space. Thus 
a curved surface is called a two-dimensional space with a curvature 



measured in terms of arrangements constituted by rods. The question 
of curved shape within room to accommodate it is ignored and rendered 
irrelevant from the beginning: the physical presence of the measuring 
rods is the sole connecting link between two dimensions and three: 
unless this were so, the concepts of surface-geometry could never 
be adapted to three dimensions or more. If there is known to be room 
to curve in, we accept it but scientifically no such room is considered 
in our concepts and when we speak of a hypersphere we confine our- 
selves to the behaviour of measuring rods and never bring in a hypo- 
thetical room in which it can be hyperspherical. We have to hold on to 
relations which exist within the space we speak of and drop reference 
to anything external to it. 

The answer to the second argument and 'his could apply also 
to the first is quite short: "Since in very principle we can never observe 
what may lie beyond our 're-entrant' space and since under no con- 
ceivable circumstances can anything beyond it figure in our equations 
any theory assuming such a beyond is superfluous in science and science 
can supply no basis to any philosophy erected on such a theory." 

We have to look for other arguments if we are to talk of infinity of 
extension on scientific grounds. Only one argumem is possible. Il is 
admitted by all thai, according to its very nature, Einstein's finite 
though boundless hypersphere cannot be stable: it must either contract 
or expand and the current astronomical interpretation of the red- 
shift in the spectrum of nebulae as a sign of their recession tends to 
show thai the hypersphere is expanding. Eddington computes thai the 
present circumference of the universe is beiween 6,000 and 60,000 
million light-years but that the size of the universe is doubled about 
every 1,300 million years. A curious point is that it is not the masses of 
matter that are expanding but the space beiween them: it. these masses 
expanded together with the space there would be no means of measuring 
any expansion. But an expanding universe, however "re-entrant", 
involves the concept of more and more space not merely in the sense of 
boundlessness through which we may move over and over again as on 
the surface of a sphere: it is analogous to a growing larger of the very 
surface! And though at each stage of the expansion the amount of space 
remains finite, it is a greater finite each time and what we have is extra 
and new space. The extra and new space definitely involves a beyond of 

19 281 


space to each amount of finiteness. The hypersphere could not have 
this extra and new space if none were available beyond the geometrical 
limits of our exploration at each stage. And once we admit this avail- 
ability constantly coming into our observation we break through the 
concept of the finite and though we do not directly have the infinite 
we have it indirectly in the constantly realised possibility of the hyper- 
sphere's expansion. Hence physics with its curvature does not shut 
the door against the infinity of the four-dimensional continuum but 
points in its direction, and the boundlessly finite space that is expanding 
can be taken to correspond to a certain diminishing delimitation within 
the limitless Spirit a selective play, as it were, of the original reality 
so that a particular range of possibilities is actualised with a wider 
and wider scope. There is nothing here against the infinite Being of 
whom mysticism talks. 

Even if there were anything, we should do well to remember that 
while non-uniform curvatures connected with different masses are 
accepted by science as proved, Bubble's estimate has no finality and 
the small uniform bending of all space is only a rather plausible specula- 
tion. Convincing proof is wanting and it can come only if the light 
of a distant object in the sky, sent out in all directions, reaches us not 
only from the front of it but also from behind it by getting curved in 
the long run and arriving on earth by the opposite route! General 
space-curvature should enable us' to see a remote nebula twice in a 
front-view and a back-view in parts of the sky exactly opposite to 
each other. Unless the new 200 inch telescope recently set up at Mount 
Palomar gives us the two views the hypersphere offered us will not pass 
from plausibility to certainty and infinite space will not be disproved. 
Astronomers have little hope of getting these views. Of course, the 
failure may be due to the radius of overall general curvature being too 
great; but it may just as well be due to utter lack of such curvature. 

Two topics remain now to be dealt with in order that we may 
have a complete picture of the mystical implications of relativity. 
One is the equivalence of mass (or what is commonly called matter) 
and energy, about which we have already spoken en passant. 



Before .Einstein came on the scene of physics, the atom of matter 
which had been supposed to be the ultimate constituent of things had 
already been broken up and found to consist of electrons and protons. 
Today we know of many other particles neutron, positron, meson. 
But to approach Einstein's concept of equivalence of mass and energy 
we need consider only the electron, the particle of negative electricity. 
The electron in very rapid motion had been observed to increase in 
mass while ordinary matter in all the motions that had been observed 
never disclosed any increase. Of course, one could have said that 
ordinary matter had never been observed moving so fast as the electron. 
But here it was pointed out that Maxwell had established certain equa- 
tions of electromagnetism, which described the behaviour of electric 
energy. From these equations we could deduce that if the electron was 
a concentration of electric energy it would show exactly the increase 
of mass that it did. Since the atom of matter was electrically neutral, 
ordinary matter was supposed not to increase in mass with motion. 

Einstein broke down this distinction. There are several ways of 
indicating how he did it. We may choose a few simple ones. As change 
of velocity of any kind brings about a change in our measurements 
of the space-quantity of length and the time-quantity of duration, 
whatever is associated with velocity must undergo a change as measured 
by our instruments: mass, therefore, of all bodies and not simply that 
of an electron can never remain constant. Again, motion being relative, 
we can reverse the relation of movement and quite legitimately regard 
our frame of reference as moving and the electron as at rest, instead 
of doing the opposite as at present. So, not the electron only but our 
own co-ordinate system from which we observe it, can be said to increase 
in mass: from the electron's point of view it is our co-ordinate system 
that is whizzing past at 100,000 miles per second and getting its mass 
increased! Electrical properties have thus no monopoly of conducing 
to increase of mass. Finally, when we consider the rate at which with 
increase of motion rods shorten and clocks slow down we observe that 
the progression of shortening and slowing down is such that at light's 
speed represented in physics by the letter c rods would shorten to 
absolute nothingness and clocks stop dead. This shows that nothing 
can exceed the speed of light. With this conclusion before us, we can 
reason in the following manner: "When motion increases, momentum 



increases with it. Momentum is mass multiplied by velocity, but if a 
body were to move at c, the momentum would not increase by an 
increase in velocity, since c cannot be exceeded. So what would be 
affected and change is the mass. The extra momentum would be as if 
a body with more mass were moving at velocity c. This means that, 
since there would always be an impossibility for the motion of a body 
to increase so as to reach c, there would be with every increase of 
momentum a certain increase of mass resulting from the thwarted 
development in motion." The increase mathematically calculated by 
Einstein from several angles happened to be exactly the same as had 
been experimentally observed in the electron before the reativity theory 
was formulated. It was proved all-round that the electron's increase in 
mass is not due to any electrical properties and that it was observed 
merely because its speed is sufficiently large to make the increase 
perceptible and that all bodies whatever have the mass-increase 
though their small speeds prevent it from being perceived. 

Nor was the universality of mass-increase with motion the sole 
revolutionary concept introduced by Einstein in this context. Still 
more revolutionary was the new concept of energy in general, which 
implied that we could consider matter itself and all particles consti- 
tuting matter as a state of energy. How the concept was arrived at 
can be grasped if we examine the rate at which the mass of a body 
increases with motion. The rate, as we have already noticed, is such 
that if motion reached light's speed the mass would become infinite. 
This, meaning as it does that motion can never reach c, means too that 
as motion increases we find it more and more difficult to increase it 
further. According to Newtonian physics, the speed of matter makes 
no difference to the amount of force wanted to increase the speed: a 
certain amount of matter needs the same force to increase speed from 
10 miles per hour to n miles as to increase speed from 100 miles to 101, 
and this force depends exclusively on the amount of matter. Now, if 
motion, the faster it becomes, is found to resist increase more and more, 
it acquires the property usually attributed to matter resistance to what- 
ever acts upon it the property which makes a greater amount of matter 
resist more than a smaller does. This property is inertia, involving 
mass and weight. Now, motion is a form of energy: as a body moves, 
it acquires what is named kinetic energy. Kinetic energy, therefore, 



behaves like matter. Nor is this all. The increase of mass the material 
body gets by motion is exactly the increase of mass the kinetic energy 
exhibits. The two masses are one and the same we can look upon the 
extra mass as either the kinetic energy's or the material body's. Hence 
the kinetic energy and the material body must be the same kind of 
entity. But kinetic energy is only one form of energy: it can be con- 
verted into other forms chemical, electric, radiant. It is the conversion 
of one sort of energy into another thai leads to the law of conservation of 
energy: the amount of energy remains constant throughout the conver- 
sions. So all energy must be deemed the same kind of entity as a material 
body. And if it is the same kind, all energy and all matter must be inter- 
convertible. In that case, how can the law of conservation of energy 
be kept apart from the law of conservation of matter which tells us that 
matter remains constant in amount throughout its conversions? The 
two laws get merged into one law based on the interconvertibleness 
of matter and energy. And through calculation of the amount of energy 
which leads to the increase of mass the law can be made to tell us that a 
very small amount of matter represents a very great amount of energy 
in fact, the amount of energy into which matter can be converted is 
34,596,000^000 times the amount of matter. 1 

Here the question becomes pertinent: If matter and energy are 
interconvertible, is matter proved to be energy or energy proved to be 
matter? In physics, energy used defined as matter's capacity for 
doing work. The capacity was considered a property of matter and 
matter the more fundamental reality. Now it is shown that the capacity 
itself possesses the essential property of matter: inertia, mass, weight. 
If energy is a property of matter, it cannot itself possess a materiality 
of its own and bring extra inertia, mass, weight co matter whose property 
it is ! This argument is irrefutable and final. Energy, therefore, cannot 
any more be regarded as a property of matter. Can we say that it has 
itself become a state of matter because it exhibits inertia, mass, weight? 
How can we? It exhibits something else, too namely, work-capacity: 
otherwise it would not be energy. Can we then say that matter has 

1 It is Einstein's new law of conservation and his calculation of the energy-amount 
to which matter is convertible that formed the basis of the research whose result was 
the atom bomb. 



become a state of energy? Well, matter must be thought of as exhi- 
biting inertia, mass, weight differently than energy does. The differ- 
ence lies evidently in the work-capacity exhibited with inertia, mass, 
weight by energy. In matter there is no work-capacity shown. But, 
since matter and energy are interconvertible because of the common 
property of inertia, mass, weight, the work-capacity must be looked 
upon as what is hidden in matter and brought out in energy. To be 
more accurate: when a certain quantity of inertia, mass, weight is in 
the phenomenon called matter, it hides the work-capacity which is 
brought out when the same quantity is in the phenomenon called 
energy. With the passing of the one phenomenon into the other and 
the conversion of matter into energy, this quantity does not disappear, 
as commonly supposed: it remains m existence but is pait of a phe- 
nomenon not found before. Thus, in the sun's radiation that is the 
energy into which the sun's matter is converted, there is the precise 
inertia, mass, weight of the converted matter the energy radiated 
every second is computed to weigh 4,200,000 tons but there is with 
these tons something else not openly carrying them prior to the con- 
version. Hence the concept of energy is fuller than that of matter, 
and we can regard matter as concealed energy. Conversely, we can 
regard energy as matter revealed in its completeness. But this just 
means that there is an incompleteness in matter as such and energy 
is the more comprehensive and fundamental phenomenon whose 
checked and bound state is matter. It is because of being checked 
and bound that a very great amount of energy is represented by a 
very small amount of material substance. 

When energy is no longer a property of matter but a more compre- 
hensive and fundamental phenomenon which is work-capacity with 
inertia, mass, weight of its own it cannot be considered purely physical, 
though we cannot explicitly designate it Life or Mind or Spirit. 
Or, rather, it becomes something in which the physical is subsumed 
under a mysterious more-than-physical reality quite unlike the old 
energy which was never independent of matter and was subsumable 
under a reality quite physical. An indirect testimony to the meta- 
morphosis is the new definition found necessary in the fourteenth 
edition of The Encyclopaedia Britannka: "That by which work is 
done and which diminishes in proportion to the work done." 



This is so vague that it is merely an effort to define the physically inde- 

The mysterious more-than-physical energy to which, if we analyse 
Einstein's ideas, the entire universe is reduced joins up philosophically 
in the most natural manner with the curved space-time, the conscious 
divine Toium Simul suggested by relativity theory, because this 
energy renders modern physics open to a non-materialistic inter- 
pretation: the world as a Will at work. On the scientific plane itself, 
a connection between it and the curved continuum has been attempted. 
As we saw, what we ordinarily call matter seems to be what space- 
time holds as curvature of a certain sort. And, if matter if concealed 
energy, energy would be this curvature interpreted in terms of 
space and time instead of in terms of space-time, the Totum Simul. 
It appears to be the World- Will of the Infinite and the Eternal 


The second topic is the philosophy implicit in the scientific 
method established by Einstein. This method falls into two parts. 
To begin with, there is the principle of rejection of the unobservable. 
Every statement must be made with reference to what can be observed. 
Of course, this brngs in always the observer, but, as we have already 
shown, there is no subjectivism kere. By observation we mean in 
physics the procedure of reading off the results produced on scientific 
measuring instruments by nature's phenomena either as they are or 
as adapted to particular ends in the laboratory. The observer in 
Einstein's physics plays the same role as in classical physics. To 
quote Sullivan: "we must not interpret the word 'observable' too 
narrowly. It would be more correct to substitute for 'observable 5 
'definable in terms of physical processes/ If an entity is to be consi- 
dered as a scientific entity we must be able to say what physical pro- 
cesses would enable us to detect it. This is the basis of Einstein's 
obejction to Newton's absolute space and absolute time." That is 
to say, we know of no physical operations, no experimental techniques, 
no manipulation of scientific apparatus and instruments by which 
absolute space and time can be measured or even their existence 



By "observable", however, is not meant something of which we 
must have direct experimental evidence. Consider the interior of the 
earth. There are no experiments by which we can observe it. But 
the absence of observation is due to practical difficulties. We disre- 
gard practical difficulties and, on indirect evidence, assume that the 
earth has an interior. Einstein has no quarrel with an unobservable 
of this kind. Nor are such quantities as the electron's mass rejected. 
We do not directly observe an electron's mass, but there are observa- 
tions from which we infer or deduce this quantity. It is *he imper- 
fection of scientific apparatus that keeps the electron's mass away 
from observation. The unobservable that came under Emstein's, 
censure is not due to imperfection of scientific apparatus or to practi- 
cal difficulties. 

It is due to a special factor which may be called compensation. 
When a quantity investigated is always and automatically and exactly 
compensated for by an equal and opposite one, it can never be ob- 
served. There seems to be a conspiracy on the part of nature's pro- 
cesses to keep certain quantities for ever beyond observation. If, 
when an effect x is supposed to be produced on phenomena, we find 
that there is also produced a countervailing effect -x, all processes of 
nature appear to be in a league against the observer. How arc we to 
interpret such a perfectly organised conspiracy of compensation? Are 
we to go on saying that the quantity under inquiry still exists although 
unobserved? If we do, what utility are we to ascribe to it? Since 
physics will never come across it, it is for physics an utterly useless 
and gratuitous supposition and as good as non-existent. It will never 
figure in the observations we make by experiments: so, we must build 
our equations as if it were not there at all. It may be in itself logically 
conceivable, Jbut it is not logically admissible in physics; it may be 
in itself philosophically necessary, but the philosophy of physics can 
have no place for it. 

Not that physics should be confined to the observable, actual 
or potential. What it has to do is, in the first place, not to allow a 
quantity that is inutile by compensation to enter the equations built 
on the observable, and, in the second place, not to allow such a gra- 
tuitous quantity from entering fundamental theory. Fundamental 
theory is the postulate or set of postulates by which we seek an 



explanation of observed phenomena: it correlates and unifies them. If 
a compensated quantity enters it, the postulates will never admit 
real verification: there will always remain in the alleged verification 
a hypothetical and superfluous component. After rejecting the 
unobservable, the method of physics a la Einstein is, therefore, 
concerned with finding the correct type of fiindamental theory beyond 
observation, actual or potential. 

Here we strike upon an extremely significant characteristic of 
Einsteinian science. Although Einstein acts the "observer" in essen- 
tially the same mariner as Newton or Galileo or even Archimedes and 
imports no special subjectivism into physics, yet when it comes to 
correlating the data of observation and reaching fundamental theory 
he works with a radical dissimilarity to the manner of physics in the 
past: his mind so proceeds as to give consciousness an entirely new 
value and to convince us that the path to ultimate truth in physics 
lies not in an effort to arrive at a mere generalisation from the observed 
world but in a creative flight breaking away from observation. Doubt- 
less, observation cannot be dispensed with: we have to start from it 
for reaching fundamental theory and we have to return to it in order 
to test the theory, but our theory is no longer at the mercy of what 
is observed. The mind is made to act with a certain degree of inde- 
pendence of all observation of the world, and in this independence 
is a hint not only that truth in physics is to be found subjectively but 
also that the reality at the back of phenomena is of the nature of con- 

Perhaps the most concise approach to this hint is in some passages 
of Einstein's The World as I See It. Writes Einstein on page 180: 
"The theory of relativity admirably exemplifies the fundamental 
character of the modern development of theoretical ^cience. The 
hypotheses with which it starts become steadily more abstract and 
remote from experience. On the other hand it gets nearer to the 
grand aim of all science, which is to cover the greatest possible number 
of empirical facts by logical deduction from the smallest possible 
number of hypotheses or axioms. Meanwhile the train of thought 
leading from the axioms to the emprical facts or verifiable consequences 
gets steadily longer and more subtle. The theoretical scientist is 
compelled in an increasing degree to be guided by purely mathema- 



tical, formal considerations in his search for a theory, because the 
physical experience of the experimenter cannot lift him into the 
regions of highest abstraction. The predominently inductive methods 
appropriate in the youth of science are giving place to tentative 
deduction. Such a theoretical structure needs to be very thoroughly 
elaborated before it can tead to conclusions which can be compared 
with experience. Here, too, the observed fact is undoubtedly the 
supreme arbiter; but it cannot pronounce sentence until the wide 
chasm separating the axioms from the verifiable consequences has 
been bridged by much intense hard thinking. The theorist has to 
set about this Herculean task in the clear consciousness that his efforts 
may only be destined to deal the death-blow to his own theory. The 
theorist who undertakes such a labour should not be carped at as 
'fanciful'; on the contrary, he should be encouraged to give free rein 
to his fancy, for there is no other way to the goal. His is no idle day- 
dreaming, but a search for the logically simplest possibilities and their 
consequences. 55 

What have we here? An underlining of "purely mathematical, 
formal considerations 55 rather than "the predominantly inductive 
methods appropriate in the youth of science 55 and a clear realisation 
that the final formulas are "abstract and remote from experience 5 ' 
and an open admission that the theorist has "to give free rein to his 
fancy. 55 Surely this is no denial of the principle which rejects the 
unobservable: theory is not to assume quantities unobservable through 
compensation but, provided it does not assume them, it can be any 
kind of mathematical construct, no matter how unfamiliar and un- 
visualisable in its terms. What makes direct contact with the world 
known to experiment is not the theory but only the consequences 
logically dedyced from it: the theory itself remains akin to pure ma- 
thematics that is, to structures raised with no immediate practical 
aim but as mere expressions of imaginable possibilities. It is what 
Einstein, on pages 135 and 136 of his book, calls a free fiction or free 
invention or free creation of the mind. Its only difference from the 
various other structures that can be freely created is that it is not only 
self-consistent but also makes the fewest possible assumptions from 
which consequences are to be logically derived for verification by 
means of scientific apparatus. 



Apropos this difference Einstein makes on page 136 a pronounce- 
ment which is the most significant in the methodology of modern 
physics. "If the axiomatic basis of theoretical physics/' he says, 
"cannot be extracted from experience but must be freely invented, 
can we ever hope to find the right way? Nay more, has this right 
way an existence outside our illusions? Can we hope to be guided 
in the right way by experience when there exist theories (such as 
classical mechanics) which to a large extent do justice to experience, 
without getting to the root of the matter? I answer without hesitation 
that there is, in my opinion, a right way and that we are capable of 
finding it. Our experience hitherto justifies us in believing that nature 
is the realisation of the simplest conceivable mathematical ideas. 1 I 
am convinced that we can discover by means of purely mathematical 
constructions the concepts and the laws connecting them with each 
other, which furnish the key to the understanding of natural pheno- 
mena. Experience may suggest the appropriate mathematical concepts, 
but they most certainly cannot be deduced from it. Experience 
remains, of course, the sole criterion of the physical utility of a mathe- 
matical construction. But the creative principle resides in mathematics. 
In a certain sense, therefore, I hold it true that pure thought can 
grasp reality, as the ancients believed." 

Free creations thus fall into two classes those that correspond 
to reality and those that do not. What i s the precise significance of 
the former for a philosophy of physics? First we must note the status 
which, among ideas, Einstein accords to free creations. Can they be 
put on a par with what Kanr calls a priori ideas? The so-called a 
priori ideas are those that some other philosophers label as logical 
generalisations from experience: Kant considers them forms of thought 
inherent in the mind and imposed by it on the stuff* of sensation. 
When Einstein declares the fundamental concepts of physics to be 
no generalisations from experience, he sets them outside the class of 
ideas taken to be a priori. The fundamental concepts, according to 

1 "Simplest" does not mean for Einstein the easiest to conceive or memorise: as 
already mentioned in the preceding paragraphs, it means the ideas which, however 
difficult or complex, are the minimum required to correlate the greatest number of 



Einstein, are not dictated by any necessity arising either from expe- 
rience or from the mind's inherent forms of thought. Of course, they 
must have contact both with experience and whatever inherent forms 
of thought there may be in the mind, but they are still free and found 
by a creative activity of the mathematical consciousness, akin to the 
activity of the artist. 

Being artistic in quality they are reached by a sort of inner vision, 
a sort of intuition. They are divined. In Einstein's view, the mathe- 
matician's mind has a capacity of sheer insight into reality. The 
capacity, as far as Einstein knows, is not quite like what the ancients 
believed a royal and plenary penetrativeness; it does not carry an 
absolute self-certainty and must get its final seal from experiment 
after logical deductions from the axioms found by it have been made, 
but something it still retains of the self-guidance, the direct grasp, 
the interior apprehension attributed to pure thought by the ancients. 
Such a capacity implies, however pin-pointedly, that somehow the 
mind is able to be one with reality and know it from the inside, as 
it were, by getting identified with it. The oneness, the inside know- 
ledge by identification, argues for reality itself having a secret nature 
analogous to the mind. 

No wonder Einstein believes in a world-intelligence and regards 
physics as a search for truth which has at its source a unison 
between one's mind and the world-intelligence, a pre-established 
harmony without which neither the search for truth nor the divining 
of truth can have sufficient explanation. Einstein is a Spinozist, 
affirming with Spinoza that the ultimate reality is a universal 
Substance with the dual aspect of mind and matter. He also calls 
himself a pantheist, with in his own words "the firm belief, which 
is bound up with deep feeling, in a superior mind revealing itself in 
the world of experience." 

Here we may hark back for a moment to Einstein's contention, 
noticed at the beginning of our essay, that only science can find truth 
and that what religion finds cannot be given the same name. " 'Reli- 
gious truth,' " he has said, "conveys nothing clear to me at all." But 
once intuition is granted a place in knowledge, we should be arbitrary if 
we ruled out of court various other kinds of intution than the one 
which the mathematician practises in physics. Mystical insight is an 



intense type of intuition and there is no point in denying off-hand 
that it can both arrive at fundamentals of the universe and perceive 
their unfoldment in a wider manner than mathematical intuition 
plus mathematical logic can. What mystical insight would lay bare 
may not be mathematical structure; but that does not invalidate it 
as knowledge, as discovery of truth, as the formulation of what is. 
Spinoza himself does not seem to have depreciated mystical 
insight as a gateway to knowledge, Einstein's Spinozism is therefore 
somewhat faulty and narrow. Nor is Spinozism an entirely satisfying 
philosophy in itself. For one thing, it does not realise that if universal 
mind and universal matter are dual aspects of one Substance they need 
not be merely parallel attributes but must be capable of interaction. 
Again, it puts the two universal aspects on an equality in spite of uni- 
versal matter seeming to be expressive of universal mind's scheme and 
purpose and therefore to be its manifestation in a new form. Further, 
this logical primacy of universal mind argues the one Substance to be 
an ultimate Existence that is Consciousness. Lastly, Spinozism leans 
towards an impersonal divinity and does not account for the individual 
human soul and its supporting truth in a Super-person who is more 
than the universal existence He has emanated. Yes, the metaphysics 
of Spinoza, for all its sweep and grandeur, does not go far or high enough. 
But the general theoretical method of Einstein's physics unequivocally 
suggests that if Spinozism is to ba criticised the criticism must come 
from above it and not below. A cosmic consciousness into which we 
have a pin-point entry through mathematical divination is the 
irreducible minimum this method implies. To make that minimum 
yield a Spinozistic philosophy is to express a particular type of intel- 
lectual and emotional disposition. A deeper and richer Weltanschauung 
may be extracted from it. So we need not take Einsteiji's Spinozism 
as the only possible scientific philosophy to which the free mathe- 
matical creativity exemplified by his theorising from the data of rela- 
tivity is a pointer. But, while something more than Spinozism may be 
approached, nothing less than it will serve. This means that the 
general theoretical method of Einstein's physics turns away from 
materialism in a subjectivist manner foreign to classical physics. Not 
that classical physics knew of no divination, no intutive leap of the 
mind, by which a gap in physical knowledge was filled a leap which 



necessity neither from experimental evidence nor from inherent forms 
of thought could justify. Clerk Maxwell made such a leap when in 
stating his famous equations for electromagnetism he postulated a 
certain term which was not necessitated by anything at the time and 
which was found correct by experiment many years later. Without 
that term wireless and radio and radar would have been impossible. 
But the Maxwellian leap figured in the method of classical physics 
as an astonishing freak and had no pervasive significance. Einsteinian 
theoretical physics, making it the common rule instead of an astoni- 
shing freak, acquires an utterly new orientation. Although the attempt 
to escape materialism by putting a subjectivist interpretation on the 
role of the observer is misguided, the moment Einstein's physics 
tries to correlate and unify facts found by observation it stresses a 
creative and intuitive activity of the mind, by which, from subjective 
depths within us, a glimmer is brought of the vast subjectivism of a 
Supreme Spirit who is the single secret self of human observers and 
of the whole universe and whose consciousness not only pervades but 
seems to have become all things. 


We may now briefly take stock of our conclusions from Ein- 
stein's relativity physics. By three independent routes we arrive at 
an undeniable implication of the supra-physical, the mystical: i) the 
Einsteinian "field" whose four-dimensional continuum of indis- 
tinguishable space and time is revealed by the special theory of rela- 
tivify as a mathematical approximation of the mystic's Infinity-Eternity 
and by the general theory of relativity as an utterly non-material 
space-time ether rendering the approximated Infinity-Eternity all 
the more real and even originative of matter: 2) the Einsteinian 
"energy" which, by positing something indefinable by any scientific 
concept, points beyond materialism to a World- WiD; 3) the Eins- 
teinian theoretical method with its "free creation," involving the 
discovery of scientific truth by our mind "insighting" a World- 
Intelligence that seems all-formative. The independence we have 
given to each of the three routes results in a threefold strength to 
the suggestion of the supra-physical and the mystical. 



Einstein himself does not appear to be always aware of the direc- 
tion in which his theory leads. This is because of many reasons. 
He lacks a full intimate grasp of the relation between science and 
religion. There is missing also the reading of the true philosophical 
significance of four-dimensionality. Again, little philosophical 
endeavour is made to identify the sense of liis new concept of energy. 
Only in connection with his theoretical method he seems to discern 
a direct liaison between science and the religious frame of mind which, 
he confesses, can never be absent in the true scientific pioneer. Eins- 
tein is content in general to affirm an indirect liaison a liaison merely 
of an original stimulus and initiative to scientific research by a pan- 
theistic feeling and outlook. But the fact that he has not himself sounded 
all the philosophical depths of his own theory is no argument against 
the existence of those depths. Neither is it an argument against the 
supremacy of scientific genius that is Einstein's. We should be 
extremely thankful to this supremacy for providing us, independently 
of mysticism, with mathematical formulas and processes which we 
can interpret best in terms of mystical experience. 



Rasa: Its Meaning and Scope 

(Concluded from the last issue) 

'T'HE attitude of the artist, at the apex of ^ts awakening, resolves 
itself into ineffable calm, into contemplative and creative delight. 
This delight is even regarded as the one and only rasa. What manner 
of experience is this and how is it related to the various modes of 

Bhoja states that all bhavas which attain individual Prakarsha 
or intensity like Rati, Hasa> etc., culminate in one rasa called Preman, 
love. Through Preman or Love, they pass again mto the one basic 
rasa of Ahamkara or Individual consciousness. Bhoja thinks that 
all bhavas are of the form of love. The warrior fights because he loves 
to fight. The clown laughs because he loves to laugh. This Preman 
is the culmination of Ahamkara as Shrangara through Abhimana. It 
is the aesthetic attainment that a cultured being is privileged to have. 
Every bhava is a kind of love and, after passing through the bhavana 
stage or attaining intensity, the bhava enriches the individual's con- 
sciousness and merges into it in a plunge of delight. We thus come 
to the stage : t " ripeness is all". The various bhavas dissolve themselves 
in the act of contributing to the ripeness of the individual consciousness. 

This process of enrichment and expansion is rendered possible 
by the artist's sattwika Ahamkara which enables him to enjoy himself 
or other persons and objects as objects of pure aesthetic contemplation. 
Tamas is inertia and leads to moha, stupor. Rajas is restlessness or 
constant movement and leads to agitation or sorrow. It is the sattwa 
guna or the capacity for harmony that leads to aesthetic bliss or repose: 
*j :? says Jagannatha. The elimination of other modes of 



consciousness and the predominance of the sattwic mode paves the 
way for the revelation of the soul which is pure delight. 

This delight is not exactly ^FF^TC (Brahmasvada) but srerrc^rc tf?fteT:i 
The definition of aesthetic experience given in the Sahitya Darpana, 
Illy stanzas 2-3, is reproduced below as translated by A. K. Coomar- 
swamy: "Pure aesthetic experience is theirs in whom the knowledge of 
ideal beauty is innate; it is known intuitively, in intellectual ecstasy 
without accompaniment of ideation, at the highest level of conscious 
being; born of one mother with the vision of God, its life is as it were a 
flash of blinding light of trans-mundane origin,, impossible to analyse, 
and yet in the image of our being," This has been stated with reference 
to the Sahradaycfs or reader's delight. But it applies equally well to that 
state of Preman, Love of delight in the artist which is the final phase of 
his contemplative experience. It applies as much to self-identification 
of the artist with the appointed theme as to that of the spectator with 
the presented matter. This preman is said to be rasa par excellence. 

Aesthetic experience is thus a transformation of feeling as well as 
understanding. It is to be had by an exaltation of the sattwa, i.e. by 
resolving all affective and mental barriers (Avarana Bhanga) and making 
the chosen theme the single object of his devotion or meditation. The 
two chief avaranas to be removed are, (i) Kleshavarna: sensual attach- 
ment or affections, (ii) Jneyavarna: mental hindrances or prejudices. 
Ideal beauty is unconditioned by natural affections. It is super-sensual. 
The mental image (jnana-sattwa-mpd) of the object arises by an act 
of attention or dharana. According to Eckhart, as interpreted by A. 
Coomarswamy, aesthetic experience is the vision of the world-picture 
as God sees it, loving all creatures alike, each in its divine nature and 
in unity, as a conscious eye situated in a mirror might see all things in all 
their dimensions, apart from time and space as the single object of 
its vision. "This sharing of God's vision of himself in his c work' which 
in so far as we can have an 'inkling' of it is what we mean by aesthetic 
experience is likewise what we mean by Beauty as distinct from loveli- 
ness or liking which have their drawbacks in their opposites." Aesthetic 
sympathy is felt in the presence of all artistic representation, whether 
of good or evil, pleasure or pain. 

Aesthetic experience is super-mundane or transcendental. It 
transcends the limits of worldly experience. Abhinavagupta shows that 

20 297 


it is not Nirvikalpa or unrelated knowledge like the perception of the 
Absolute, for Rasapratiti involves the knowledge of the vibhavas, etc., 
in their generalised form. It is not quite Savikalpa or related knowledge 
for it is not related to any particular name, jati, etc., does not attach 
much value to them and is, at the moment of realisation, an indefinable, 
blissful state. Again, it is different from the knowledge of the Yogi, 
for the Yogi realises the Absolute Brahman, whereas the bliss of 
rasa is not incompatible with an awareness of differences, the dome 
of many-coloured glass. It therefore stands by itself, between the 
worldly and spiritual states. 

According to Sri Aurobindo, there is an Infinite of Being which is 
also an Infinite of power of consciousness. An infinite Consciousness 
must hold within itself endless truths of its own self-awareness. These 
in action would appear to our cognition as aspects of its being, to our 
spiritual sense as powers and movements of its dynamics, to our aesthcsis 
as instruments and formulations of its delight of existence. The eternal 
delight of being moves out into the infinite and variable delight of 
becoming and affects by its movement the variations of pleasure, pain 
and mental indifference in our sensational existence. But this is a super- 
ficial arrangement created by the limited mental self. Behind it is the 
much vaster consciousness which takes delight impartially in all expe- 
riences. It exposes the external self as a sensitive covering to contacts 
of the world and these it assimilates into the values of a creative expe- 
rience. 1 

What do we imply when we say that the artist reaches out to this 
delight through the sattwic quality in him? What form does this self- 
exceeding take? We have already seen how the artist invariably gene- 
ralises his experiences, he discovers the core or essence of the object 
and seeks to identify himself with it. The artist's mission, therefore, 
is so to generalise and universalise his reactions to external contacts 
as to enable him to transcend the dualistic consciousness and experience 
the impartiality, detachment, peace or joy itself, of his vaster delight of 
consciousness. The poet has his bhoga^ his imaginative, recapitulatory, 
logistic, emotional or mental (or all these put together) reactions to the 
object. Persisting deeper, he grasps the rasa or essence of the object 

1 The Life Divine, pp. 156-157. 



through his higher mind mjnana buddhi; probing still deeper and attain- 
ing the superconscient level of vision, he sees that his rasa is beauty 
which, along with love, is an expression or form of Ananda created by 
it and composed of it. This beauty conveys to the mind the delight 
of which it is made. The artist's or the rasika's enjoyment of rasa is 
thus the mind's and the vital's reaction to this perception of beauty. 
The process could be analysed as follows: 

(i) The poet's experience born of his contact with the object 
or Vibhava or Karana. 

(ii) His perception of rasa or essence of the object or Sadhara- 
nikarana or bhavakatwa (generalisation and universal! sation). This 
is also the perception of the Collective Unconscious to which Jung 
refers and the experience of "Psychological reality" or the emotional, 
supra-personal life mentioned by Miss Bodkin in her book, Arche- 
typal Patterns of Poetry. 

(iii) His apprehension of the Beauty underlying the rasa or 
essence (Bhojakatwa). 

(iv) His realisation of the Ananda which has created Beauty 
and of which Beauty is composed. 

These four movements represent the contemplative phase of the 
process, from individual awareness through the many-coloured 
dome to the white radiance of Beauty. 

The second phase which is cr&tive may be set forth as follows, 
indicating its origins in bhoga or enjoyment: 

(1) Realisation of the Ananda of which Beauty is composed. 

(2) The mind's and the vital's reaction to this perception of 
Beauty, bhoga. 

(3) A continuation of yoga in its executive sense, karmasu 
koushalam, skill in work, attempting to convey this delight to others 
through a work of art. 

(4) The aesthetic realisation may be partial or complete and 
include any or all of the following steps: 

(i) The simple joy of creation such as is seen in nursery 

(ii) The heart's ease proceeding from a pourng out of one's 
own feelings, such as is experienced by all poets. 

(iii) Detachment from one's own emotions so as to have the 



freedom and restraint necessary for expressing them calmly. This 
is seen in the intellectual? sed poetry of Arnold and Meredith. 

(iv) The joy of the subliminal or psychic activity wh:ch accom- 
panies a spontaneous overflow or imperceptible movement of feel- 
ings to the surface and brings with it a touch of the inner delight. 
This is seen in the poetry of Shelley (Skylark; Cloud} and A.E. 

(v) The contemplative peace or calm which follows the over- 
flow and the psychic activity. This is frequently seen in Words- 

(vi) The positive delight born of a perception of beauty in 
an inspired moment, as in Coleridge' sKubla Khan or Shelley's Epipsy- 

(vii) An experience of the delight which transcends sorrow 
and evil even when the artist is aware of them. This is seen in the 
great Tragedies of Shakespeare and Keats' Hyperion. 

Sri Aurobindo has shown where the artist parts company with the 
spiritual seeker, the Yogi. 

The truly spiritual realisation passes beyond the aesthetic limit, 
sees the Universal Beauty and passes beyond rasa and bhoga to pure 
Ananda. The aesthetic reception of contacts "admits us in one part 
of our nature to that detachment from egoistic sensation and to that 
universal attitude through which tRe one soul sees harmony and beauty 
where we divided beings experience rather chaos and discord. The 
full liberation can come to us only by a similar liberation in all our 
parts, the universal aesthesis, the universal standpoint of knowledge, 
the universal detachment from all things and yet sympathy within 
our nervous and emotional being." 1 

The tamasic happiness consists in vulgar pleasures, smug 
satisfaction, indolence, inertia. The pleasures of the senses and the 
body and the kinetic will and intelligence are all the joy of life to the 
rajasic mind. This joy is nectar to the lips at the first touch, but there 
is a secret poison in the bottom of the cup and, after it, the bitterness 
of disappointment, satiety, fatigue, disgust, sin. This must be so 
because there is always something beyond the transience of the mere 

1 The Life Divine, pp. 164-165. 



form. The sattwic attitude seeks the satisfaction of the higher mind 
and the spirit. This happiness does not depend on outward things 
but on the flowering of what is best and most inward within us. This 
means much struggle and bitterness in the beginning, due to the 
insistence of vital forces. But when the necessary conquest of our 
nature and self-discipline have been attained, the nectar of immortality 
rises in the place of bitterness. The self-exceeding of the sattwic 
nature is seen when we pass on to the eternal calm of the self and the 
spiritual ecstasy of the divine oneness. It is, then, no longer the 
sattwic happiness, sukha but Ananda. 

Art is not in itself Yoga. We should not mistake the mental, 
moral and aesthetic idealisms and their inferior degrees for spirituality 
or spiritual values. The mental intuitions of the metaphysician or 
the poet, for the most part, fall short of a concrete spiritual experience; 
they are distant flashes, shadowy reflections, not rays from the centre 
of light. 

But all things in the Lila can turn into windows that open on the 
hidden Reality. The Divine can take a mental formula, a piece of 
sculpture, a strain of music or a line of poetry as its channel of touch 
and one feels the invasion of the Infinite. Such touches can come 
through art or poetry to their creator or to one who feels the shock 
of the word or the hidden significance of a form. 

Poetry can start from any plaftie of consciousness although, like 
all art, or one might say all creation, it must come through the vital 
if it is to be alive. And as there is always a joy in creation, that joy, 
along with a certain Anandamaya Avesha must always be there, 
whatever the source. One might write from a purely vital inspiration 
and another from the linking of the vital creative instrument to a 
deeper psychic experience. The joy that is the simple j&y of creation 
as well as the joy of expression of the psychic being seeking for an 
outlet, justifies the writing of poetry as a part of Sadhana. Poetry and 
music come from the inner being and, to write a great poem or com- 
pose great music, one has to have the passage clear between the outer 
mind and the inner being. Again, as one offers a flower, a prayer or 
an act to the Divine, one can offer too a created form of beauty, a 
song, an image, a strain of music, and gain through it a contact, a 
response or an experience. 



Still^ so long as one is content with shadowy reflections, 
the gain is only initial. One day one will have to take the pilgrim's 
staff and start out on the journey to where Reality is for ever mani- 
fest and present. A search eventually imposes itself on the artist for 
the Light which he strives to figure. 

When the divine consciousness grows within, then, too, creative 
activities can have a place in life. In their ordinary functioning, art, 
poetry and music create mental and vital, not spiritual values. But 
they can be turned to a higher end. They will take new value from 
the Divine Consciousness that uses them and they can be admitted 
as part of a life of yoga. 

The six paragraphs immediately preceding this are a summary 
of Sri Aurobindo's views on the relations between aesthetic and spi- 
ritual consciousness. These views have been gleaned from his Bases 
of Yoga, Lights on Yoga and Letters. They clarify the affiliations 
between the two modes of consciousness and also explain wherein 
the aesthetic approach falls short of the spiritual. They also show 
how the pure delight of the spirit lurks behind the contemplative and 
creative delight of the artist. 

It may now be asked how exactly this delight is experienced in 
the presence of pain, sorrow and evil. There is a good deal of illumin- 
ating speculation on this subject in Sanskrit literature. Bhattanayaka 
remarks that, since disinterested contemplation is possible only through 
the predominance of the sattwic quality, sorrow and pain themselves 
are contemplated in this way. Since the dominance of the sattwic 
quality results in sukha or experience of happiness, pain and sorrow 
themselves lead to an experience of delight. Abhinavagupta ascribes 
the transformation or culmination of pain and sorrow into delight 
to this very -capacity for disinterested contemplation. The poise of 
the mind is sukha, oscillation or disturbance is dukha. This is in 
accordance with Sankhya thought. Hrdaya samwada or utter 
absorption in the object disengages us from worldly distractions and 
induces in us the visranti or repose which is Ananda. This repose, 
along with priti (love), sukha (happiness) and light (prakasha) is 
one of the characteristics of sattwa guna. It is the sattwic or the 
sublimated consciousnesss that gives us the gift of empathy and 



Abhinavagupta thought that aswada or aesthetic experience is 
of the identical nature of Ananda in all attitudes. This Ananda is 
Preman of Bhoja and the contemplative and creative delight that we 
have referred to. But it seems reasonable to recognise variations and 
different degrees of intensity in this del'ght. Firstly, to what level 
and measure of this delight the artist rises depends on the quality 
and level of his seership. Secondly, when the transformation of 
unpleasant attitudes TS involved, much of the imaginative energy of 
the artist is expended in overcoming initial distractions and he succeeds 
in arriving only at an ultimate calm and very rarely at the pure delight 
of the spirit, unless he is himself a mystic. In dealing with pleasant 
attitudes, however, there is less of distraction and the artist's con- 
sciousness flowers naturally and petal by petal into the deep perfection 
of Ananda. This is so because the painful emotions are perversions 
of the true delight whereas the pleasurable emotions are only imper- 
fect versions. They can be transmuted with less difficulty into their 
original nature of Ananda. 

Two distinctive varieties of contemplative delight therefore 
emerge, the dominant one of delight against a background of calm 
and the mood of calm and serenity with a suggestion of delight lurking 
behind it. Madhusudana Saraswati admits that rasaswadana differs in 
quality and quantity with regard to the various attitudes: 

Dr. Raghavan quotes in his thesis 1 the view that the unpleasant 
attitudes are like the sour and pungent flavours. They are not sweet 
but they enrich our experience of Reality and of the artist's genius 
and are therefore pleasing: "It is to witness the art of the poet and 
the actor that people crowd to see even such plays, though nothing 
but unhappiness is produced in their hearts while witnessing them. 
These four rasas (karuna, roudra, bhayanaka, beebhatsa) resemble the 
hot and sour tastes which also add to the tastes of the dishes as much 
as the taste of sweetness." We shall see in the final section how the 

1 Srangara Prakasha of Bhoja, Vol I, Part II, p. 495. 



thirteen primary modes of the artist's consciousness result in nine rasas 
or states of aesthetic experience. Each state has its own distinct flavour 
and carries with it a suggestion of eternal delight or enduring calm. 
Four of these states have already been set forth in Sanskrit aesthetics. 
They are applicable to the experience of the artist as well as to the 
reader, to the response to life as well as to its representation in art. 
These are the mountain paths that lead the human consciousness to 
the twin summits of calm and (or) delight. Equal delight the trans- 
formation of the triple vibration of pain, pleasure and indifference 
into Ananda is possible only for the universal aesthesis, for the 
Yogi, who first cultivates neutrality to the imperfect touches of plea- 
sure and the perverse touches of pain and then gradually acquires 
the conversion to equal delight. But the aesthetic reception, as opposed 
to the spiritual, admits rasas like sorrow, terror, horror and disgust. 
In the presence of tragedy, poets like Shakespeare close on a note 
of grandeur and calm. It is only in a Blake or Sri Aurobindo that we 
detect the note of equal delight. 

This is what Sri Aurobindo has to say on the subject: "Pain and 
pleasure themselves are currents, one imperfect, the other perverse, but 
still currents of delight of existence. The reason for this imperfection 
and this perversion is the self-division of the being in his conscious- 
ness by measuring and limiting Maya and in consequence an egoistic 
and piecemeal instead of a universal 'reception of contacts by the indivi- 
dual. For the universal soul all things and all contacts of things carry 
in them an essence of delight best described by the Sanskrit aesthetic 
term, rasa, which means at once sap or essence of a thing and its taste. It 
is because we do not seek the essence of the thing in its contact with us, 
but look only to the manner in which it affects our desires and fears, our 
cravings and shrinkirigs, that grief and pain, imperfect and transient 
pleasure or indifference, that is to say, blank inability to seize the 
essence, are the forms taken by the rasa. If we could be entirely 
disinterested in mind and heart and impose that detachment on the 
nervous being, the progressive elimination of these imperfect and 
perverse forms of rasa would be possible and the true essential taste 
of the inalienable delight of existence in all its variations would be 
within our reach. We attain to something of this capacity for variable 
but universal delight in the aesthetic reception of things as represented 



by Art and Poetry, so that we enjoy there the rasa or taste of the 
sorrowful, the terrible, even the horrible or repellent; and the reason 
is because we are detached, disinterested, not thinking of ourselves 
or of self-defence (jugupsa\ but only of the thing and its essence. 
Certainly, this aesthetic reception of contacts is not a precise image 
or reflection of pure delight or reflection of pure delight which is 
supramental and supra-aesthetic; for the latter would eliminate sorrow, 
terror, horror and disgust with their cause while the former admits 
them: but it represents partially and imperfectly one stage of the 
progressive delight of the universal Soul in things in its manifestation 
and it admits us in one part of our nature to that detachment from 
egoistic sensation and that universal attitude through which the one 
Soul sees harmony and beauty where we divided beings experience 
rather chaos and discord." 1 

If, in his own life, the artist comes across situations evoking disgust, 
resentment, sorrow, repulsion, etc., he is, at first, completely under 
their spell. He identifies himself with these emotions in the beginning. 
His higher mind gradually awakens and he soon grasps the generic and 
essential significance of his misery. A sense of reconciliation dawns on 
him, a condensation out of the flying vapours of his pain, as it were, of an 
enduring law or principle, an attitude of acceptance, of resignation. A 
chastening calm, a soothing peace, caresses him. At this stage, delight 
touches him in one of the two ways,- or both. In this state of peace, he 
feels the psychic or the superconscient touch and is blessed with a vision 
or touch of the Divine within or above him; and the touch brings him 
ineffable delight. Or he is able to embody both the repulsion and the 
acceptance in some telling phrase or an enduring image or, later, a sus- 
tained work of art. This brings to him the joy of creation which, in its 
own way, is divine. 

If it is the misery of the world, external to himself and his own 
life, that he is confronted with, as a nerve that feels the else unfelt 
oppressions of the earth, he is, again, obsessed with it in the beginning 
and it is resolved in very much the same way in which his personal 
sorrow and disharmony is resolved; with this difference that, in the 
dilation of his sympathy for others, he has the subdued and chastening 

1 The Life Divine, Vol. I, pp. 163-165. 



joy of a capacity for self-identification with others in their sorrow. There 
might be less identity but there will certainly be more comprehensive- 
ness in his response, more of calm, lesser delight of revelation perhaps 
and lesser relief through self-expression, but certainly much more of 
the joy of creation. 

To take an instance, if a callous critic points out to a sensitive 
painter certain natural gaps and deficiencies in his work, not patiently 
but with heartless intolerance, the consequent unpleasantness rankles 
in the mind of the sensitive man. It clouds out, for the moment, all 
other considerations from his being. But he soon begins to think, if 
he is imaginative enough, of the common lot of humanity; of the cold- 
heartedness of the world which, in its blind, cantering way, rides 
rough-shod over human hearts; of the inevitability of such disharmony 
in life as long as the world hugs its limited consciousness; of its signi- 
ficance for him, in his own life, as a divinely ordained event shaping 
the evolution of his consciousness in the manner and with the means 
deemed proper by the Divine Will. He is, then, reconciled to it. Such 
an acceptance resolves the conflict and brings him calm, peace. In this 
moment of calm, a peace forms itself in his mind's shell, a sentence 
is crystallised: "He pointed out the inevitable shortcomings in my work 
as one might point out the holes in the tattered rags worn by a poor 
woman, laying on and passing his finger through each one of them." 
The satirical sting in the sentence is expressive of the man's sense of 
repulsion at the happening. The undertone of humour is the tone of 
quiet and wise acceptance, a tone which reveals the reconciliation effec- 
ted within him. The crystallisation of this sentence gives him a veri- 
table thrill of delight. He has thus succeeded in transmuting 
sorrow itself into delight by universalising his sorrow and viewing 
it impersonally in its generic aspect, by relating it to his system 
of sentiments or basic attitude towards life through disinterested 
contemplation. When the sense of misery rises to its peak and the 
resulting disharmony is more intense, it is even possible that a 
greater delight will precede the joy of creation, a vision or a 
contact with Reality that will have illuminated his consciousness 




We have seen in a preceding section how the white radiance of 
the artist's seership breaks into prismatic colours with the love-tryst 
of the subject and the object. Thirteen primary attitudes have been 
formulated. But the aesthetic object also ' brings some of its own 
potentialities into this complex creative activity. These have to be 
recognised and distinguished from the basic attitudes of the subject 
or the artist. 

The object or Vibhava has also been called rasa by some aes- 
theticians. Since rasa, the supreme Reality , is immanent in the subject 
as well as the object and since it emerges from the complex process of 
the identity of subject and object as Ananda or Reality in its aspect of 
bliss, the word has lent itself to subjective as well as objective exten- 
sions of meaning. The whole, as well as its parts, are rasa. Thus there 
is no reason why we should deny the name of rasa to the object or 
theme or to any of its parts. We should only remember to what aspect 
of the entire rasa we refer when we use the word and not confuse it 
with any other. 

Some have called Vibhava the only rasa. This implies the 
sovereignty of Prakriti over Purusha, of object over subject. It rests on 
the assumption that Reality resides in the object and that the seeing 
eye is only a passive witness. But* we believe that Reality permeates 
both the subject and the object. Both, therefore, are rasa. 

The determinant in the artist's life is called Karana and in the life 
of the work of art, Vibhava. Thus the huntsman killing the mating 
bird is the Karana or determinant of Valmikf s anger and sorrow. 
Ravana carrying away Sita is the Vibhava. 

What, exactly, is the artist's object? The object ^, essentially, 
life itself, or prakriti\ or that section of lokadharma or life which the 
artist endeavours to present in a work of art. He starts with a Karana^ 
a determinant. But the mating bird that is killed gradually begins to 
live on in Valmiki's imagination. It begins to attract to itself the lives 
of all parted couples and star-crossed lovers. It becomes Tara and 
Sita. It even assumes a powerful abstract life, that of a family ideal 
subjected to barbaric inroads. A contemplation of this ideal even 
induces an awareness of the struggle for its establishment, of a 



conflict between race and race, of the foundation of a new civilisation. 
Then is the great epic, Ramayana, born. The mating bird died, but it 
lived on in Valmiki's imagination and grew co-extensive with a whole 
aspect of life. The entire aspect, then, is the aesthetic object in this 

This is what is meant by the reference to the four states of exis- 
tence of the aesthetic object, sensuous, imaginative, archetypal and 
spiritual. The object may be a thing or person, a collective object or 
an abstract quality. But it is, ultimately, prakriti itself, life in all 
its infinity. 

The artist selects a theme to convey his vision of prakriti. We 
have seen that, in a sustained work of art, the theme contains certain 
potentialities which are untapped, either by the artist's central attitude 
or by his fugitive emotions at the moment of creative vision. These 
kindle the poet's emotions in the course of creative activity, and, 
consequently, receive artistic sanction. Certain gaps or perplexities 
in the theme induce sudden flashes of insight in the artist, as is seen 
in the Porter's scene in Macbeth. The aesthetic object is thus an active 
factor in the moulding of a work of art. 

It is maintained by some that the theme alone is rasa, that the 
character or characters alone are rasa; and that the anubhavas the 
"doings" of the characters alone are rasa. We can only say that they 
are rasa. There can be no aesthetic experience without the transpa- 
rency of a theme reflecting the poet's primary and secondary modes of 
consciousness; without the central character which gripped first the 
artist's consciousness; without the other characters which are indis- 
pensable for unfolding the entire plot which alone contains the artist's 
integral apprehension; without the doings of these characters which 
make up the story; without the scenes, episodes, descriptions and 
particular beauties of thought and phrase scattered in profusion through- 
out a work of art, which constitute the infinite variety the very life 
of the work of art. 

We can examine, in this context, the three assumptions that (a) 
the character or characters are rasa, (b) that episodes, situations and 
descriptions are rasa', (c) that rasoktis are rasa. Apart from their signi- 
ficance as parts of a whole, i.e. the work of art, we shall see whether 
they have an independent excellence and, if so, in what manner. 



The question arises pointedly with regard to characterisation. 
A character will have certain well-defined sentiments of its own, as 
human beings have. It is with regard to dramatic and narrative poetry 
that this question assumes great importance. Thus Bhoja refers to four 
kinds of heroes, Dhirashanta (the serene), Dhiralalita (the romantic), 
Dhiroddhata (the proud) and Dhirodatta (the magnanimous) and remarks 
that the four new rasas Shanta^Preyas^Uddhata and Udatta are illus- 
trated in these dramatic types. Bhoja was, in a sense, justified m using 
the word rasa in this connection. The four dramatic types that Bhoja 
mentions can be illustrated from Shakespeare, by Prospero, Romeo, 
Coriolanus and Hamlet respectively. The serenity of Prospero, the 
innocent and romantic love of Romeo, the self-centredness of Corio- 
lanus and the idealism of Hamlet are, no doubt, master sentiments and 
have to be recognised as such. But these are the sentiments or attitudes 
of the characters drawn by the dramatist, not those of the dramatist 
himself. The meaning that Shakespeare had in mind when he wrote 
the plays of which these characters are heroes is to be extracted, not 
merely from a study of these dominant heroes but of the entire plot, 
of all the characters and circumstances in their proper setting and 
not merely of one character, however important the character may be. 
The celebrated controversy as to the primacy of plot or character can 
be easily resolved by a consideration of the primary and secondary 
rasas present in a work of art. Plot 4s of the first importance in a work 
of art, however outstanding the characters delineated in it; for it is the 
accredited vehicle of the artist's attitude. Characters are only one aspect 
of plot, of the providential scheme of which the artist is the creator. 
Thus, if one were to extract Shakespeare's own attitude towards life as 
set forth in Macbeth, one would say that it consists in a marvellous 
sense of the pity, the terror and the grandeur of life as seen jn a particular 
fragment of it, the story of Macbeth and another characters. But 
Macbeth himself embodies the sentiment or rasa of ambition or 
Akanksha. The Akanksha of Macbeth, the Udattata of Hamlet, the 
Uddhatata of Coriolanus, the Asuya of Othello and even the serenity 
of Prospero are secondary rasas inherent in the object or the theme, 
however close the affiliation of some of them may be with the attitude 
of the artist himself. 

Apart from characters, one has to recognise also the existence 



of certain thematic rasas, the significance of situations and episodic 
descriptions inherent in the object or the theme. If characters are 
comparable to the sthayins or basic sentiments of a play, the thematic 
rasas correspond, on the objective side, to the sanchari bhavas or tran- 
sitory emotions on the subjective plane. These are the high lights of an 
otherwise uniform artistic delineation, just as transitory emotions are 
the flame-jets of a central attitude. They inhere in the theme and the 
artist releases them from the bondage of lifeless or cold fact by animating 
them with his imaginative energy. These situations also have been called 
rasas. For instance, the Dasarupaka is said to record a view that 
i.e. hunting and dice were considered by some as rasas: fT^r srr^rt 
Belinda at the toilet in The Rape of the Lock, the Ferdinand-Miranda scene 
in The Ordeal of Richard Feveral, the sleep-walking scene in Macbeth, 
all these interesting situations are developed with feeling. Bhoja who 
mentions a few rasas of this type is at a loss how to account for their 
sthayins, etc. in the orthodox manner. But we are not discussing 
sentiments or attitudes constituted with a propensity or a conceptual 
core or cores at the centre. When the artist handles a large theme, it 
has numerous potentialities. It contains situations or episodes which, 
if they are well developed, can have an independent and self-contained 
excellence of their own, in addition to their function as coloured pieces 
in a mosaic of meaning. The description of a landscape or castle, the 
psychological analysis of a particular type of character, the portrayal 
of a special kind of atmosphere, all these and their like can have an 
individuality of their own in drama fiction and epic or narrative poetry. 
These can, therefore, be considered as thematic rasas or manifestations 
of the potentiality in the material. That the vision and the craftsmanship 
of the artist contribute ultimately to this consummation need not 
invalidate our assumption which has a certain practical basis and utility. 
Bhoja confused thematic rasas with basic sentiments or attitudes. 
But they are transitory or Vyabhichari rasas, being sresn^ and 3i<wd* 
i.e. ancillary and dependent. 

Bhoja even enlarges the meaning of the word rasa so as to include 
any literary expression that can be relished or tasted. WTR T*T: i 
w: i Thus rasa, as Dr. Raghavan points out, is considered as 
even as Dandin defined Alamkara as ^ftoFR *nr. This need not be 
objected to. Of the three kinds of Ukti or utterance that Bhoja mentions 



Swdbhavokti (direct expression), Vakrokti (oblique expression) and 
Rasokti (emotive expression), Rasokti consists in the expression of feel- 
ing or an emotional state. It is the utterance that goes straight to 
the heart. Dramatic, narrative or lyrical poetry and even imaginative 
prose is replete with such utterances. Portia's great speech on mercy, 
Hamlet's speech on man as the quintessence bf dust. Prosperous speech 
about the "great globe itself" all these are Rasoktis and have an 
independent beauty of their own. Whole volumes, in fact, of extracts 
from Shakespeare's plays have been published as "Beauties from 
Shakespeare". The expression of the feelings proceeding from the 
poet's basic attitude in the course of his endeavour to embody it in 
a work of art results in Rasoktis^ metaphysical shudders, flashes of 
insight and felicities of phrase, passing and surpassing beauties of 
thought, feeling and utterance. They contribute to the ultimate effect 
but have, nevertheless, an excellence of their own. 

Character is a system of sentiments, their organisation into an 
attitude. In all full-length portrayals of character it is such systems 
that are embodied into secondary rasas. We have seen how fugitive 
emotions and consequents can develop into sentiments when they 
get linked to a conceptual core and even into attitudes. But some 
aestheticians regarded them as rasas even when these remained them- 
selves, without attaining any higher status. This is possible only in 
a restricted sense. Just as a theme (the vibhava or object contains 
characters having sentiments of their own, it may contain characters 
which are nothing more than embodiments of an idea or feeling or 
automatons of a particular type of repetitive action. Jealousy, for 
instance, can be typified as in Ben Jonson's Kiteley or raised to the 
status of a master sentiment or attitude on the tragic plane as in Othello. 
Inner conflict can be presented comically as in Drawqmsir of The 
Rehearsal or set forth tragically as in Hamlet. Sleep can be presented 
as a symbolic attitude, as in Sleeping Beauty or presented comically 
in a character like Joe in The Pickwick Papers. Reticence can be tragic 
as in Cordelia or comic as in a young bridegroom covered with blushes. 
The great characters in world literature, even comic characters like 
Don Quixote, Falstaff and Uncle Toby, are embodiments of attitudes. 
The caricatures and comic and melodramatic types are embodiments 
of simple ideas, fugitive emotions or "consequents". There is no 



idea, transitory emotion or "consequent" that cannot be raised to the 
tragic plane or to the status of a master sentiment. 

Even yawning can have a tragic significance. If it has not been 
so used in the past, it can be used in the future. Pride, bashfulness, 
perspiring, trembling, crying, these and their like can develop into 
sentiments and rise in the scale of literary creation or sink to the level 
of caricatures and types without having any such affiliations. We 
thus see how sanchari bhavas and anubhavas can be embodied into 
minor types of character and become rasas. (These types are different 
from sketches like Enobarbus and Kent who embody sentiments but 
are drawn sketchily on a crowded canvas.) Enough has been said to 
prove that every theme contains certain minor potentialities, by way 
of character material, which can be embodied into minor rasas. 

Whether the bhavas are turned into great characters or mere 
types, depends on the basic attitude of the artist. If it is the point 
of view of Ben Jonson or Kyd, the whole stage will be littered with 
humours and emotional types. If the poet's attitude is one of high 
seriousness, the delineation will be equally lofty. The kind of drama, 
fiction or narrative poetry, v/hether romantic or realistic, comic, tragic 
or melodramatic, and of characterisation, whether individual or 
typical, will depend on the basic attitude of the artist, his tastes and 
talents and the material he chooses. 



The transmission of the artist's contemplative delight into a work 
of art is facilitated by his tastes and abilities. If sentiments connote 
likings and dislikings for objects, tastes, as McDougall remarks, are 
likings and .dislikings for particular modes of activity. Sentiments 
determine the major goals; tastes determine the choice of means in 
pursuing the goal. If a taste is to be indulged, there must be some 
motive springing from some other source than taste itself. The average 
pleasure seeker only indulges his tastes. But the essential condition 
of happiness, as has been pointed out by McDougall himself, is 
activity springing from a system of sentiments. Tastes are thus 
developed in the service of sentiments. They determine the artistic 
fashion or form utilized in a work of art. There is plausible ground 



for speculating that Hamlet, if it had been produced during the nine- 
teenth century, might have come down to us in the form of a novel 
rather than a play. 

It is the abilities of the artist that serve to transform his 
contemplative delight into creative delight. His skill in construction 
and imitation and his play-attitude affect* the transition and build 
up an illusion which becomes a satisfying vehicle of his delight. 

A work of art is called rasavat. But this is said to be simply a 
manner of speaking by projection, imputation, or inference, for it is 
insisted that rasa is not an objective quality present in the work of 
art or any of its parts 1 . Rasa as essence as the significance of life 
seen through a temperament is certainly to be found in a work of 
art, not in the print or pulp of the pages, but in the expression or 
language in which it has been embodied by the artist. An object or 
event or person in the external world is permeated by Reality and is, 
to that extent, capable of arousing the imagination of the artist. The 
object can thus be said lo contain in itself rasa, essence, the essence 
of Reality in its own kind, the common and essential traits of its class. 
Similarly, a work of art which moves the rasika or "Taster" to aesthe- 
tic delight can be said to contain in itself rasa, an essential attitude, 
the distilled, transmuted and concentrated essence of certain aspects 
of life as seen through a temperament. Bharata remarks that the 
sthayi bhavas or dominant sentiments presented in a drama with the 
aid of emotions and histrionic presentation are tasted by the knowing 
or the cultured through their mental palate and they are therefore 
called natyarasas. 

Rasa as essence is embodied in a work of art. As experience it 
resides in the reader who has the capacity for tasting the experience. 

Moreover, in the section on rasa as object, we haye seen how 
there are secondary rasas embodied in a character or characters of 
a given theme, thematic rasas arising from collateral description or 
presentation and Rasoktis or emotive utterances which are the parti- 
cular beauties of a work of art. 

Thus, in the linked chain of sweetness that is aesthetic experi- 
ence, a work of art is itself an invaluable link. What is a culmination 

1 The Transformation of Nature in Art, A. K. Coomarswamy, p. 196. 

21 313 


and fulfilment for the artist is a vibhava or determinant or a starting 
point for the reader whose fulfilment lies in a sublimated consciousness, 
in enriched and illuminated experience. 

Once the artist's attitude, brought into full play by contact with 
the object, has been experienced and resolved into delight, his crea- 
tive activity occupies the foreground. He pours his delight and his 
vision into a work of art and experiences the joy of creation. It is 
through the magic of language that the poet achieves his object. He 
presents his basic attitude through a suitable theme which becomes 
the vibhava or determinant for arousing the reader's imagination 
in the direction in which he wishes to take it. This is the stage of 
anubhava for the artist, of a bodying forth of his experience. Lite- 
rary form has srfwT or a significative aspect. This is the presentation, 
in words, of a fusion of plot, character, stylistic excellence, decorative 
design, grace and the immanence of rasa. The artist avoids structural 
and stylistic flaws. By employing direct, oblique and emotive expres- 
sion, he secures the immanence of rasa. He objectifies his own 
Sthayibhava or attitude in this way so that the reader's Sthayibhava 
might be enkindled. For the karana or the immediate cause that 
aroused his own imagination, the artist substitutes a vibhava or an 
appointed theme. In the course of his unfoldment of his own attitude, 
the artist's Pegasus strikes sparks with its hooves. These are the 
artist's fugitive emotions and the expression of these, in turn, becomes 
a series of stimulants or sffaFf *RTS for the reader. That is how the artist 
achieves an intensive delineation of his own attitude. 

A rupa or image is produced by a co-ordination of the sensational 
and intelligible (formal) elements of appearance, Bhuta matrd and 
Prajna matrd (Kaoshitaki Upanishad,ll. 8). Art has to maintain pramana, 
the norm of properly conceived design. The creative faculty is of three 
kinds, innate (sahaja\ acquired (aharya) and learnt (aupadesikd). 
Thus poets are saraswata, abhyasika (trained), and aupadeshika (taught) 
depending on rules). Abhyasa (practice) or anusila (devoted application) 
is essential for every artist. This alone results in shlishtatwa or technical 
skill which is necessary for madhurya (grace or facility) in the perfor- 
mance. (Rajashekhara's Kavyamimamsa. Chap. II). "The true artist is 
both born and made, both theoretically and practically equipped by 
genius (sakti\ imagination or vision (pratibhd), scholarship (vyutpatti) 


concentration (samadhi} and practice (abhyasaj 1 . "Ascertained 
rules", remarks A. Coomerswamy "should be thought as the vehicle 
assumed by spontaneity, in so far as spontaneity is possible for us, 
rather than as any kind of bondage." 2 The beauty of the work will 
in no way depend on the beauty of the theme itself or its component 
parts. It is pointed out that any theme whatever, "lovely or unlovely, 
noble or vulgar, gracious or frightful" etc., may become the vehicle of 

It is the concomitance of sound and sense or the identity of form 
and concept embodied in a work of art that conveys to the reader the 
ultimate context of art. 

The bhavana or bhavakatva or the generalised presentation of his 
own attitude is secured by the artist, by avoiding what Abhinavagupta 
calls barriers to the realisation of rasa: 

(i) The artist should be steeped in his theme and prefer "probable 
impossibilities" to impossible probabilities. 

(ii) An avoidance of the distraction of the local and the particular 
beyond the bounds of propriety, of the pressure of the age and body of 
a particular time or locality. 

(iii) Failure to disengage the reader or the spectator from a pre- 
occupation with his own affections and prejudices without providing 
suitable attractions for his imagination, intellect and taste. 

(iv) The absence of adequate means provided in the work of art 
itself for an immediate realisation of its significance. 

(v) Lack of perspicuity. 

(vi) The absence of unity, the crowding out of the original design 
by a disproportionate place given to particular beauties. 

(vii) The absence of a clear presentation of design which leaves 
the meaning of a particular episode, speech or gesture in doubt. 

Rasa is bodied forth when there is a harmonious co-ordination 
of all the parts, the subordination of the parts to the whole, of particular 
beauties and even of outstanding characterisation to the basic attitude 
of the artist. 

1 The Transformation of Nature in Art, A.K. Coomarswamy, p. 186. 

2 ibid. p. 23. 

3 ibid. p. 48. Quoted from Dasrupa, IV. 90. 


It is when these conditions are fulfilled that the imaginative 
sympathy of the reader is aroused. The reader identifies himself with 
the presented matter and criticism, as A. K. Coomarswamy says, 
"repeats the process of creation." It is by the operation of ideal sensi- 
bility, aided by the means provided by the artist, that the soul of the 
reader breaks through the enclosing walls. 

The basic attitude has to be presented with the utmost intensity if 
it is to lead to aesthetic delight. But there will naturally be many degrees 
of intensity. There is the full-fledged state of Prakarsha or complete 
emergence. This is possible in a sustained work of art. It is usually 
in the full-length portrait of a hero or heroine or of the author himself, 
if he is the central theme, that this identification is seen. In the second 
kind, which is called bhavarupa, we have undeveloped rasa, as in sub- 
plots, episodes or lyrics. Rasa is seminally present in these because 
presentation of determinants, stimulants, consequents, etc. is not 
possible in them on the same scale on which it is possible in an epic 
or drama. There should be no extended development of a transient 
emotion for it becomes an inhibition of rasa. Again, even if rasa has 
been delineated elaborately, with the full presentation of stimulants 
determinants, transient emotions, etc., if either the context or the attribu- 
tion of it to a particular character is inappropriate, there is rasabhasa, or 
bhavabhasa, the inhibition of rasa or bhava. Such an inhibition may 
be used as a source of humour, as* in Chaucer's Tale of Chaunticleer. 

When the work of art happens to be a drama, the technique of 
the artist has to be aided further by the talents of the actor and the 
producer, even as a lyric has to be interpreted by a reciter, whether the 
reciter is the poet himself or any other individual. The view that there 
is a rasa called nepathya rasa and the view that the actor is the seat 
of rasa are justified in this context. The equipment and decoration of 
the stage so as to harmonise with the theme, the capacity of the actor 
to identify himself with the role he plays, to the minutest point of 
intonation and gesture, these are necessary for exhibiting the rasa 
Jatent in the play so as to arouse the imagination of the spectator. More- 
over, production and histrionics can also be enjoyed separately in 
their own right and for their own excellence. 

Matragupta mentions a rasa called nepathya rasa: 

(Quoted by Dr. Raghavan in his thesis on Bhoja, p. 458). 


Since stage-production can give delight and excite admiration both 
independently and in relation to the play, it can be said to have an 
independent artistic validity evoking a corresponding aesthetic response. 


We now come to the final phase of the aesthetic process, the form 
that rasa takes in the consciousness of the rasika, the cultured recipient. 
The supreme Reality has split itself into subject and object for its 
own leela or delight. Every object has thus a core of reality or ideal 
beauty in it and every subject has the capacity to experience it. The 
approach of the subject towards the object or prakriti, of the sattwic 
ahamkara or awareness sublimated but still limited and divided in its 
consciousness, results in the evolution of several basic attitudes. These, 
in their turn, culminate in integral knowledge or experience achieved 
through the identification of the subject with the object. Such a perception 
or experience results in a calm of spirit or pure delight. This delight 
then seeks to embody itself into a work of art, partly impelled by a love 
of the pure joy of creation and partly for intensifying itself by commu- 
nicating itself to other minds. It thus reaches the rasika> sahrdaya or 
pramatru, the cultured recipient. 

The heavenly Ganges of pure delight descends on the head of 
Siva, the world's redeemer from the world-poison. She is lost in Siva's 
locks of matted hair and gives him the cool and divine touch he needs. 
She then issues forth in a second profusion led by Bhagiratha, the res- 
ponsive interpreter, who leads her on for the resurrection of his vast 
brotherhood, the community of deadened souls. In the inevitable 
march of humanity towards a higher and nobler life, art is the torch 
held high, the light, the guide and the redeemer. t 

The rasika is himself a rare person, as rare a person as the artist. 
T*r:3TFT sF^ftfo Tfa^: i The faculty of disinterested aesthetic contemplation 
is innate in the rasika. It is this faculty which distinguishes him from 
the vulgar multitude. Not that this capacity is denied to other human 
beings. It is latent in them and has to be aroused by a rasika, an inter- 
preter. The gramya or rustic has to be shown how to cultivate the 
qualities of the heart and the power of imaginative sympathy. The 
sahradaya is one whose heart or entire being is permeated by such 



sympathy. He has the power of Bhogi-karana or the sattwic imagination 
which responds to the generalised presentation of emotions or of basic 
attitudes. Through complete identification with the presented theme 
the sahrdaya loses his own individuality for the time being. Such a 
contemplation brings his own system of sentiments or basic altitudes 
into full play ^ that aspect of it which is related to the attitude portrayed. 
Rising to its peak, the attitude resolves itself into a thrill of delight. 
We detect the following factors in this aesthetic experience: 

(1) The sense of satisfaction arising from an awareness of our capa- 
city to identify ourselves with others, to experience the joys and sorrows 
of others as our own. By "others" is not necessarily meant the characters 
in a given work of art. It is not the tragedy of Desdemona that moves 
us to tears, but the tragedy of any woman placed in the circumstances in 
which Desdemona was placed. This is what is meant by referring to the 
generic aspect of an emotion. 

(2) The actual experience of joy or sorrow arising out of the 

(3) The admiration for the genius of the poet (and the actor) 
who present it and the pleasure born of 'tasting* a perfect work of 
art, a pleasure which is the counterpart of the artist's joy of creation. 

(4) If it is the pleasurable emotions that are evoked, the ultimate 
delight that transcends both pleasure and pain, reveals itself accom- 
panied by the glow and warmth *of contentment, prasannata or the 
serene diffusion of spirit, the exuberance of spring. If the painful 
emotions are evoked, the delight reveals itself accompanied by chastened 
calm, the calm after the storm, the wintry heroism and humility of 
dreary-nighted December. But the delight lurks behind both the flow 
of contentment and the chastened calm and is distinct from both. 
Tragedies which produce a merely depressing effect are, to that extent, 
indicative of the incomplete contemplative activity of the artist, his 
failure to carry his conflict through to its triumphant conclusion. There 
is the flowering of the soul fanned by the cool breezes of spring or the 
flower's unshrinking calm beneath the scorching rays of the sun, 
gazing back at the sun with an eye as effulgent as his. 

The Sanskrit aestheticians distinguish between various kinds of 
aesthetic experience by the rasika, which should suffice to prove that 
several of them recognised qualitative and quantitative variations in 


the enjoyment of rasa. The features possessed in common by all 
kinds of aesthetic experience are: 

(i) The sense of satisfaction born of a capacity for identification. 

(ii) The admiration for the artist's (and the actor's) genius. 

(iii) The transcendent delight that lurks behind both pleasure 
and pain. 

It is easily seen that variations are possible here too because no 
two rasikas have the capacity in an equal degree, no two works embody 
the same kind and degree of genius and no two poets have the capacity 
for evoking pure delight in the same measure. The one distinguishing 
feature is the actual state of joy or sorrow delineated in the work and 
experienced by the rasika. This causes considerable variations in the 
sum-total of his experience. 

But we should not ignore the background of unity and sameness 
present in all aesthetic experience. Poetry 'moves' us. Sanskrit 
aestheticians use the word druti or dipti to signify the same process, 
poetry melts the frozen current of the soul. It kindles our consciousness. 
All genuine poetry generally does this for us. 

But there is a variety in this unity of aesthetic experience. The 
words druti and dipti have themselves a special connotation. Pity melts 
the heart. Enthusiasm or the delineation of thrilling exploits and 
adventures kindles it. As a result of the predominant delineation of 
one or more basic attitudes in a work of art, the general effect is sure 
to differ from one work to another. Certain broad types emerge in 
this connection. Vikasa (unfolding), Vistara (heightening), Kshobha 
(churning, tumultuousness, agitation); and Vikshepa (penetration, the 
piercing or stabbing effect) are recognised in Sanskrit. The following 
analysis is based on the thirteen basic attitudes discussed in a preceding 
section. Each type of aesthetic experience is illustrated with reference 
to relevant attitudes. 

(1) Chittavikasa: (the expansion of consciousness): realism in its 
normal and traditional aspect; impressionism; the 'wit' of the comedy 
of wit and manners; the egoistic and expressionist approach; optimism; 
faith and doubt; surrealism; the intellectual or neoclassical approach; 
detective fiction; the attitude of the comic spirit. 

(2) Hitting or bruising the consciousness: the satirical and cynical 



(3) Tumultuousness: Kshobha: the agitation of consciousness: resent- 
ment; scorn; the sardonic; repulsion. 

(4) The contraction of consciousness: freezing or depressing it: fear; 
settled despair; misanthropy; pessimism. 

(5) Vikshepa, piercing^ or stabbing the consciousness: Shoka or 

(6)Dipti: the kindling of consciousness: the apprehension of the 
supernatural, or of the romance of the past; revolt against tradition; 
the revolutionary light of the future; fantasy; mystery; burlesque and 
parody; utsaha or enthusiasm. 

(^Druti: the melting of consciousness. pity; vatsalya, universal 
sympathy; melancholy or divine discontent; Jove; platonic love; 
friendship; nature-worship; Kierkeguaardism. 

(8) Vistara, the heightening of consciousness: the endeavour to 
maintain the mind in an attitude of 'prayer'; sublimity; stoic calm or 

(9) Prakasha: the illumination of consciousness: superconscient 
vision; the apprehension of the enduring significance of an object. 

Of these nine aesthetic states, the first is predominantly one of 
the cognition, the continual drinking in of knowledge. The expan- 
sion of consciousness is achieved through the stimulus supplied by 
introspection, by an apprehension of reality through the intellect. 
We have included here the perceptions of the comic spirit and of 
the core of an object as in Hardy's At the Time of the Breaking of the 
Nations. These perceptions seem to illuminate the consciousness. 
But they have no pronounced connection with a superconscient source. 

The second is a more active process. The consciousness is teased 
and roused through exaggeration, undue emphasis, irony and other 
acute appliances. 

This process is intensified in the third, the consciousness is 
now in a state of great agitation. 

The fourth state brings about a shrinking or contraction of the 
consciousness. It is benumbed by the sensuous, intellectual or emo- 
tional apparatus used for freezing it. 

There is a piercing or stabbing of consciousness in the fifth. 
It is no mere agitation or bruising but almost a dissolution of the 
consciousness, the overpowering of a stricken animal in the dark. 



The sixth is a kindling of the consciousness. Wonder and surprise 
give it a foretaste of light and heightening. 

The seventh indicates a melting of consciousness, the udreka 
emanating from a touched and moved heart. 

Behind each of these seven states the Pleiades is the calm 
light of the setting sun or santi or the soft and pure delight of the 
moon, ananda. 

These states can be spoken of as the nine rasas. Any one or more 
of them can be the dominant effect of a work of art. Galsworthy's 
plays leave us in a state of tumultuous and unsettled emotion. A 
romantic comedy like Shakespeare's melts the heart. A satirical 
comedy like Ben Jonson's Volpone hits the sense with its satire and 
cynicism. A melodrama has a freezing effect, it benumbs the mind. 
The last book of Swift's Gulliver's Travels leaves us depressed and 
appalled. A classic or great work of art leads us through as many of 
these emotional states as possible to a heightening or illumination of 
consciousness. Shakespeare's Tragedies heighten our consciousness, 
while kindling, agitating and melting it at the same time. They impart 
a sense of pity, terror and grandeur. Every great work of art plays on 
some or many of these chords of the human heart and leaves a final 
impression of calm, of ineffable peace, or its twin brother, the delight 
of the spirit, which always lurks behind it. 

Needless to say, untrained and primitive responses to aesthetic 
presentation are ruled out of consideration here. The lady who 
exclaimed after witnessing the tortuous treatment meted out by Othello 
to Desdemona "you black fool! Can't you see?" or the Muslim specta- 
tor who went forth to slap the actor who played the role of Haris- 
chandra for the suffering inflicted on Taramati, these and their like 
stand for a raw vital response which is not relevant to $ consideration 
of pure aesthetic experience. 

It is true that every one cannot respond to all the varieties of 
aesthetic experience. That is why Abhinavagupta remarks that only 
certain rasas appeal to certain persons. A few sentiments, like love 
in its common aspects, have a universal appeal. Very few can identify 
themselves with a work of art capable of inducing in them a state of 
santi (serenity) or pure ananda. These few, in their turn, will not 
very much appreciate the presentation of the erotic. One is reminded 



here of the humourless professor of English reading a novel by Dickens 
with his pupils in the class and remarking, when he came to an 
unusually humourous situation or comment, "Here, gentlemen, you 
are expected to laugh." The poetry of one generation is likely to pall 
on the palate of another. What one nation worships, another may 
only glance at curiously. The classics that have a universal appeal 
are limited in number. A uniform excellence of aesthetic taste is one 
of the miracles which humanity has yet to achieve. 

Aesthetic experience helps the diffusion of shanti, pushti and tushti 
peace, strength and content in society. It makes for man's sayujya 
and samrajya, his empire over self and over his cosmic environment. 
Rasa the Supreme Reality splits itself into Purusha and Prakriti. 
It reunites itself and, through the projection of various modes of 
consciousness or leela dharmas, tries to realise itself as the conscious 
and cosmic Immanent Divine, the samarasa or harmony of a glorious 
samashti or emancipated and divinised humanity. 1 


1 I have to acknowledge my deep indebtedness to my friend and colleague, Mr. 
G. K.Gadre, M.A., but for whose invaluable assistance, constant intellectual compa- 
nionship and participation hi reading, study and discussion, this article could not have 
been written at all. 





Rs. As. 
Letters of Sri Aurobindo 

First Series 6 8 

Second Series 8 o 

Third Series 6 o 


Cantos 1-6 3 

Cantos 7-15 3 

Chitrangada (A Poem) SRI AUROBINDO i o 

The Significance of Indian Art SRI AUROBINDO i 8 

Words of the Mother: Second Series o 8 

Towards a New Society NOLINI KANTA GUPTA i 12 

The Poetic Genius of Sri Aurobindo K. D. SETHNA 4 4 

The Adventure of the Apocalypse (Poems) K. D. SETHNA 5 8 

Sun-Blossoms (Poems) NIRODBARAN 4 8 

Dream Cadences (Poems) . NISHIKANTO i 12 

Sri Aurobindo and the World-Crisis KISHOR GANDHI o 10 

What is Sri Aurobindo Doing? KISHOR GANDHI o 8 

Previous Annual Numbers of Sri Aurobindo Circle: 

First Number 5 o 

Second Number * 5 o 

Third Number 5 8 

Fourth Number 6 o 

Fifth Number 7 o 

Available at the following centres: 

Sri Aurobindo Circle, 32, Rampart Row, Fort, Bombay i. 
Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry, South India. 
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Sri Aurobindo Library, 369, Esplanade, Madras. 


New Publications 

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SAVITRI: Book V (Cantos 1-3) R C . I/- 

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A companion volume to the First and Second Series containing a large 
number of letters on the various questions of Yoga.