4. The Fork in the Road

From this point on, the road forks, and taking one path rather than the other entails far-reaching consequences that can extend over an entire lifetime. Not that one path is true and the other false, for we tend to believe that everything is ultimately true, since it exists, but this is a truth that grows, and falsehood is merely dawdling or persisting in a truth that has outlived its time and usefulness. From the moment we have broken loose from the machine, the outer as well as the inner one (the former is really a reflection or expression of the latter, and once we change inside, we will necessarily change outside; if we cease to "mentalize" life, it will cease being a mental round and become another life), from that moment on, we literally begin to have a certain "latitude." No longer bound to the shadowy little person like a tethered goat, we can choose to move in two distinct directions. We can take the ascending path, that is, subtilize ourselves more and more, cast off the earthly burden, soar off in the enchanted little rocket of light we are beginning to sense, and come upon freer realms of consciousness, explore airy ranges, discover higher mental planes that are like the pure source of everything that takes place, distorted and approximate here, the angel face of what is looking more and more like a caricature.(7) It is very tempting, so tempting in fact that all the sages and rather hasty seekers, or even simply those we would today call advanced minds or geniuses, have taken it - it has lasted for thousands of years. But, unfortunately, once we reach those higher strata, it is very difficult to come back down; and even if we wish to come down, moved by some charitable or humanitarian urge, we notice that the ways above are fairly ineffective here. There seems to be an unbridgeable gulf between that light and this darkness, and what we want (or are able) to bring down from up there reaches here diminished, diluted, disfigured, leaden, finally to be lost in the Machine's great morasses.

But too bright were our heavens, too far away,
Too frail their ethereal stuff;
Too splendid and sudden our light could not stay;
The roots were not deep enough.
(8)

It is the age-old story of the ideal versus "reality." The ideal is inevitably realized, since it is but an advanced future, but it is a long-drawn-out course in which the truth often appears thwarted, slighted. Therefore, it is this course, the faulty transmission between the "summits" and the plains, which ought to be shortened.

But perhaps the "summit" is not located up above. Perhaps it is everywhere here, at ground level, simply covered up by the Machine and all our successive evolutionary layers, like the diamond in its matrix. If the path of ascent is the only way out, then we all had better get out once and for all. And if the saint really is the triumph of the ape, one may doubt that evolution will ever reach its satisfying, and blessed, goal, and that the entire earth will become hallowed. What then of the others, those who balk at saintliness? We do not believe that evolution's ultimate design is a moralistic sorting out of the elect and the damned. Evolution is not moralistic; it just is, and it grows its entire tree so all its flowers can produce blossoms. Evolution is not ascetic; it embraces everything sumptuously and opulently. Evolution has not deserted the earth, or it would never have started on earth. Nature is not incoherent; she is wiser than our mental coherence, wiser even than our saintliness.

But she is slow. That is her shortcoming.

So we want to shorten the course. We want to compress evolution, effect a concentrated evolution, while still respecting its methods. And since Nature embraces everything, we shall follow her example. Since she does not run away from herself but strives always to develop her seeds into fruits, we shall endeavor to bring that seed to fruition, to make what is already inside, and around and everywhere, blossom. Only, we have to find that particular seed. There are many wild seeds in this world - although they, too, have their charm and usefulness. Thus, we shall not seek our summit up above but all the way down at the bottom, for our secret may already be there, in the simple, infallible Truth that one day cast this seed upon our good earth. Then we will perhaps discover that what we were looking for is so near that there is no distance to travel, no unbridgeable gulf, no faulty transmission or dilution of power across ranges of consciousness, and that the Truth is right here, immediate and all-powerful, in each atom, each cell, each second of time.

In short, the method will not be arrowlike, spurning all hindrances in order to soar to spiritual heights, but all-embracing; it will not be a precipitous ascent but a descent or, rather, an unveiling of the Truth which pervades everything, down to the very cells of our body.


(7) This ascending path has been described in "By the Body of the Earth" and the higher planes of the mind have been discussed in "Sri Aurobindo or the Adventure of Consciousness". 

(8) Sri Aurobindo, "A God's Labour," 5:99.


Previous chapter CONTENTS Next chapter