2. The Great Process

The secret of a circle is in the very next circle, as the secret of the arrow is in the goal it pursues, and if we could retrace our steps to the Master Archer, we would have the secret of secrets, the central point that determines this circle and all circles, the goal of all goals. But the pursuit is said to be a long one, and we must go back one step at a time, from the tool to the Hand that guides the tool, since we ourselves started out by being that tool: a little vital antenna groping around a self of life before discovering itself as a moth or a millipede, a little mental antenna quivering inexplicably around a nimble self before discovering itself as a man among men, and that other, still undefined antenna which seems to dispense with senses and thought to take us toward another, still greater self. Until the day we arrive at the great Self and shall be fulfilled. We will have found the Master of all tools and the full meaning of the journey.

But how could we possibly know the secret of that which now seems an undefined and disturbing nonself, possibly even destructive of what we so concretely know as self, we who are at the end of this mental circle, in this age of the servants of the ego and ambiguous enjoyments of a little thinking self? . . . Actually, the path is made by walking it, as in a forest. There is no path, it does not exist: it has to be made. And once we have walked a few feet, apparently in the dark, we will realize that our groping steps led to a first clearing, and that we were all the while guided, even in our darkest stumblings, by an infallible Hand that has already directed our millipede meanderings. For, in fact, the goal we pursue is already within; it is an eternal Goal. It is a Future that is millions of years old and as young as a newborn child. It is opening its eyes to everything, constantly staring in wonderment. To find It is to enter constant wonder, a new birth of the world at each instant.

But at least we have signposts to help us take these first steps, and if we pose questions about man's future (not pose questions in the sense of a theoretician spinning his vain web and adding one idea to another only to inflate the same old story, but in the sense of a sailor plotting his course, because there is a channel to go through even as the sea crashes against the reefs), we will perhaps discover a few clues by studying the old animal circle, when we were still only the future of the ape.

An animal is simple. It is wholly contained in its claws, its prey, its senses, in the northerly wind that raises the imperceptible scent of rain and the image of a deer in the tall grass. And when it is not in motion, it is perfectly still, without a quiver of doubt about the past or anticipation of the future. It does exactly what is needed, at the moment it is needed. And as for the rest, it is in harmony with the universal rhythm. But when the first great apes began to emerge from their forests, something had already changed. They cast a less direct look at the world: the past already had a weight and the future its worries - they were engaged in the first act of introspection, which we know well, with its burden of pain and error. What seemed such a futile and vain exercise in terms of simian efficiency has become the cornerstone of our towering mental edifice; everything, even Einstein, was contained in that simple and totally superfluous exercise. And at the edge of another forest, made of concrete and titanium, we may be standing before an identical, even more stupendous mystery, and no less superfluous, as we stop for a second amid the rush of things, this time not to reflect but to cast a mute look, as if blinded, at this thinking and speculating and suffering and struggling first person. We thus raise a strange new antenna, quite meaningless and seemingly pointing at nothing, yet it holds the secret of the next cycle, and marvels next to which the splendid twentieth-century rockets are like clumsy children's toys. We are engaged in the introspection of the second kind; we are knocking at the door of the unknown of the third circle, holding the thread of the Great Process.

The secrets are simple, as we have said. Unfortunately the mind has seized this one, as it seizes everything, and has pressed it into the service of its mental, vital or spiritual ego. It has discovered certain powers of meditation or concentration, more refined energies, higher mental planes that were like the divine source of our existence, lights that were not from the moon or stars, more direct and almost superhuman faculties - it has climbed the ladder of consciousness - but all that only served to sublimate and rarefy a rare human elite; sublimate it so much, in fact, that there did not seem to be any other issue to this climb than an ultimate leap out of the dualities and into the changeless peace of eternal truths. A few souls were "saved," possibly, while the earth went on its dark course, increasingly dark. And what should have been the earth's secret became heaven's. The most frightful schism of all time was accomplished, the bleakest duality was imprinted on the heart of the earth. And the very ones who should have been humankind's supreme unifiers became its dividers, the Founding Fathers of atheism, materialism and all the other isms that struggle for our world. The earth, duped, had no other recourse but to believe exclusively in herself and her own strength.

But the damage does not stop there. Nothing is stickier than falsehood. It sticks to the soles of our shoes even though we have turned away from the wrong path. Others had indeed seen the earthly relevance of the Great Process - the Zen Buddhists, the Tantric initiates, the Sufis and others - and, more and more, disconcerted minds are turning to it and to themselves: never have so many more or less esoteric schools flourished. But the old error is holding fast (to tell the truth, we don't know whether "error" is ever an appropriate term, for the so-called error always turns out to be a roundabout route of the same Truth leading to a wider view of itself). It took so much effort out of the Sages of those days, and out of the lesser sages of these days, so many indispensable conditions of peace, austerity, silence and purity for them to achieve their more or less illumined goal, that our subconscious mind was as if branded by a red-hot iron with the idea that, without special conditions and special masters and somewhat special or mystical or innate gifts, it was not really possible to set out on that path, or at best the results would be meager and proportionate to the effort expended. And it was still, of course, an individual undertaking, a lofty extension of book learning. But this new dichotomy threatens to be more serious than the other one, more potentially harmful, between an unredeemed mass and an "enlightened" elite juggling lights about which anything can be said since there is no microscope to check it. Drugs, too, are a cheap ticket to dizzying glimpses of dazzling lights.

But we still do not have the key, the simple key. Yet the Great Process is there, the simple process.

One has to admit to a major flaw in the method, and first, to a flaw in the goal pursued. What do we know of the goal, really, sunk in matter as we are, blinded by the onrush of the world? Our first immediate reaction is to cry, "It can't be here! It's not here! Not in this mud, this evil, this whirlwind, not in this dark and burdened world!" We must get out at all costs, free ourselves from this weight of flesh and struggle and from that surreptitious erosion in which we seem to be eaten up by thousands of voracious trivialities. So we have proclaimed the Goal to be up above, in a heaven of liberated thoughts, a heaven of art and poetry and music - any heaven at all is better than this darkness! We came here merely to earn the leisure for our own private heaven, bookish, religious, pictorial or aesthetic - the long vacation of the Spirit free at last. So we have climbed and climbed, poeticized, intellectualized, evangelized; we have rid ourselves of all that might weigh us down, erected a protective wall around our eremite contemplations, our cloistered yoga, our private meditations, traced the white circle of the Spirit, like new spiritual witch doctors. Then we stepped into it, and here we are.

But, in so doing, we are perhaps making as great a mistake as that of the apprentice human in his first lake dwelling who would have claimed that the Goal, the mental heaven he was gropingly discovering, was not in the commonplaceness of daily life, in those tools to carve, those mouths to feed, those entangling nets, those countless snares, but in some ice cave or Australasian desert - and who would have discarded his tools. Einstein's equations would never have seen the light of day. By losing his tools, man loses his goal; by discarding all the grossness and evil and darkness and burden of life, we may go dozing off into the blissful (?) reaches of the Spirit, but we are completely outside the Goal, because the Goal might very well be right here, in this grossness and darkness and evil and burden - which are gross and dark and burdensome only because we look at them erroneously, as the apprentice human looked erroneously at his tools, unable to see how his tying that stone to that club was already tying the invisible train of our thought to the movement of Jupiter and Venus, and how the mental heaven actually teems everywhere here, in all our gestures and superfluous acts, just as our next "heaven" teems under our eyes, concealed only by our false spiritual look, imprisoned in the white circle of a so-called Spirit which is but our human approximation for the next stage of evolution. "Life . . . Life alone is the field of our Yoga," exclaimed Sri Aurobindo.(4)

Yet the process, the Great Process, is here, just as it began as long ago as the Pleistocene era - that idle little second, that introspection of the second kind - but the movement revealed to the monkey and the movement revealed to the spiritualist of ages past (and surpassed) are in no way an indication of the next direction it is to take. There is no continuity - that is a delusion! There is no refinement of the same movement, no improving upon the ape or man, no perfecting of the stone tool or the mental tool, no climbing higher peaks, no thinking loftier thoughts, no deeper meditations or discoveries that would be a glorification of the existing state, a sublimation of the old flesh, a sublime halo around the old beast - there is SOMETHING ELSE, something radically different, a new threshold to cross, as different from ours as the threshold of plant life was from the animal, another discovery of the already-here, which will change our world as drastically as the human look changed the world of the caterpillar - yet it is the same world, but seen with two different looks - another Spirit, we might say, as different from the religious or intellectual spirit or the great naked Spirit on the heights of the Absolute, as man's thought is different from the first quivering of a wild rose under a ray of sunlight - yet it is the same eternal Spirit but in a greater concretization of itself, for, in fact, the Spirit's true direction is not from the bottom up, but from the top down, and it becomes ever more in matter, because it is the world's very Matter, wrested bit by bit from our false caterpillar look and false human look and false spiritual look - or, let us say, recognized little by little by our growing true look. This new threshold of vision depends first on a pause in our regular mental and visual routine - and that is the Great Process, the movement of introspection of the second kind - but the path is entirely new: this is a new life on earth, another discovery to make; and the less weighed down we are by past wisdom, past ascents, past illuminations, all the disciplines and virtues and old gilded frills of the "Spirit," the freer we are and more open to the new, the more the path shall spring up under our feet, as if by magic, as if it sprang from that total desecration.

This superman, whom we have said is the next goal of evolution, will therefore in no way be a paroxysm of man, a gilded hypertrophy of the mental capacity, nor will he be a spiritual paroxysm, a sort of demigod appearing in a halo of light and outfitted with an oversized consciousness (cosmic, of course) streaked with bolts of lightning, marvelous phenomena and "Experiences" that would make the poor laggards of evolution pale with envy. It is true that both things are possible, both exist. There are marvelous Experiences; there are superhuman capacities that would make the man in the street turn pale. It is not a myth; it is a fact. But Truth, as always, is simple. The difficulty does not lie in discovering the new path; it lies in clearing away what blocks the view. The path is new, completely new; it has never been seen before by human eyes, never been trodden before by the athletes of the Spirit, yet it is walked every day by millions of ordinary men unaware of the treasure at hand.

We will not theorize about what this superman is. We do not wish to think him; we wish to become him, if possible, keeping away from the old walls and old lights, remaining as completely open as possible, as alert to the great process of Nature as possible - just walking, for that is the only way to do it, solvitur ambulando. Even if we don't get very far, who knows, we may still emerge in a first clearing that will fill our hearts, souls and bodies with sunlight, for everything is one and everything is saved together or nothing is.

Then others will come who will move on to a second clearing.

(4) Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, 20:82. 


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