7. The Fire of the New World
But what is this new consciousness that suddenly appeared in the year of grace 1969 of our evolution? (There may have been many other years of grace before, now buried under the rubble of the earth, and other human cycles that reached the point we have now reached and were destroyed perhaps for the very same reasons that threaten us today. Are we the topmost crest of the great evolutionary wave or simply the nth repetition of an attempt that has taken place many times before, here or in other universes?) This new consciousness may not be so new after all, but it became new for us and entered the field of practical realizations the very day we were able to establish a relation with it - we should perhaps say renew the relation with it, because since the beginning of time, here or on other earths, it may be eternally the same eternal Thing with which we establish different relations according to our degree of preparation. What seemed remote and divine to the orangutan is fairly close and far less divine to us, but the godheads of the future remain to be claimed, and there will always be an ever more to incarnate. This ever more is the very meaning of evolution and the misunderstood "God" we pursue in an orangutan form, a religious or a scientific form; although if we did not baptize Him, He might be the better for it, and we too. But it is one and the same Thing, there, always there - only, there are points of rupture among the species, moments of access to another state or another relation. It is quite evident that on its own a chameleon could not imagine (provided it does imagine) anything other than a superchameleon endowed with more lavish colors and more skillful predatory capabilities; similarly, a queen mole would enlarge its storehouse and tunnels - which is what we are doing in our human way. What, then, is that "vanishing point" to something else, that "moment of imagination" when we emerge into an elsewhere that was always there, another thing that was the same thing, seen and appropriated differently?
If we are to believe materialistic mechanics, nothing can come out of a system except what is already contained in it; we can only perfect what is there, in the little bubble. In a sense, they are right, but one may wonder if a perfected ass will ever yield anything other than an ass. It would seem that the closed system of the materialists is doomed to ultimate poverty, and that, by reducing everything to the degree of development of chromosomes and the perfection of gray matter, they have dedicated themselves to a supermechanization of the machine from which they started (machinery can only lead to machinery). But the ape, the mole and the chameleon do just that; they add and subtract; and our machinery is not fundamentally more advanced than theirs, even though it sends firecrackers to the moon. In short, we are some perfected protoplasm with greater swallowing capacity and smarter (?) tropisms, and soon we shall be able to calculate all that is required to produce biological Napoleons and test-tube Einsteins. All the same, our earth would hardly be a happier place with legions of blackboards and supergenerals, who would not know which way to turn - they would set out to colonize other earths . . . and fill them with blackboards. There is no way out of it, by definition, since the system is closed, closed, closed.
We suggest that there is a better materialism, less impoverishing, and that matter is less stupid than is usually said. Our materialism is a relic of the age of religions, one could almost say its inevitable companion, like good and evil, black and white, and all the dualities stemming from a linear vision of the world which sees one tuft of grass after another, a bump after a hole, and sets the mountains against the plains, without realizing that everything together is equally and totally true and makes a perfect geography in which there is not a single hole to fill, a single bump to take away, without impoverishing all the rest. There is nothing to suppress; there is everything to view in the global truth. There are no contradictions; there are only limited visions. We thus claim that matter - our matter - is capable of greater wonders than all the mechanical miracles we try to wrest from it. Matter is not coerced with impunity. It is more conscious than we believe, less closed than our mental fortress - it goes along for a while, because it is slow, then takes its revenge, mercilessly. But one has to know the right lever. We have tried to find that lever by dissecting it scientifically or religiously; we have invented microscopes and scalpels, and still more microscopes that probed deeper, saw bigger, and discovered smaller and smaller and still smaller reality, which always seemed to be the coveted key but merely opened the door onto another, smaller existence, endlessly pushing back the limits enclosed in other limits that enclosed other limits - and the key kept escaping us, even as it let loose a few monsters on us in the process. We peered at an ant that was growing bigger and bigger but kept perpetually having six legs despite the superacids and superparticles we discovered in its ant belly. Perhaps we will be able to manufacture another one, even a three-legged ant. Some breakthrough! We do not need another ant, even an improved one. We need something else. Religiously, too, we have tried to dissect matter, to reduce it to a fiction of God, a vale of transit, a kingdom of the devil and the flesh, the thousand and one particles of our theological telescopes. We peered higher and higher into heaven, more and more divinely, but the ant kept painfully having six legs - or three - between one birth and another, eternally the same. We do not need an ant's salvation; we need something other than an ant. Ultimately, we may not need to see bigger or higher or farther, but simply here, under our nose, in this small living aggregate which contains its own key, like the lotus seed in the mud, and to pursue a third path, which is neither that of science nor that of religion - although it may one day combine both within its rounded truth, with all our whites and blacks, goods and evils, heavens and hells, bumps and holes, in a new human or superhuman geography that all these goods and evils, holes and bumps were meticulously and accurately preparing.
This new materialism has a most powerful microscope: a ray of truth that does not stop at any appearance but travels far, far, everywhere, capturing the same "frequency" of truth in all things, all beings, under all the masks or scrambling interferences. It has an infallible telescope: a look of truth that meets itself everywhere and knows, because it is what it touches. But that truth has first to be unscrambled in ourselves before it can be unscrambled everywhere; if the medium is clear, everything is clear. As we have said, man has a self of fire in the center of his being, a little flame, a pure cry of being under the ruins of the machine. This fire is the one that clarifies. This fire is the one that sees. For it is a fire of truth in the center of the being, and there is one and the same Fire everywhere, in all beings and all things and all movements of the world and the stars, in this pebble beside the path and that winged seed wafted by the wind. Five thousand years ago the Vedic Rishis were already singing its praises: "O Fire, that splendour of thine, which is in heaven and which is in the earth and in growths and its waters . . . is a brilliant ocean of light in which is divine vision . . .(9) He is the child of the waters, the child of the forests, the child of things stable and the child of things that move. Even in the stone he is there for man, he is there in the middle of his house . . .(10) O Fire . . . thou art the navel-knot of the earths and their inhabitants."(11) That fire the Rishis had discovered five thousand years before the scientists - they had found it even in water. They called it "the third fire," the one that is neither in the flame nor in lightning: saura agni, the solar fire,(*) the "sun in darkness."(12) And they found it solely by the power of direct vision of Truth, without instruments, solely by the knowledge of their own inner Fire - from the like to the like. While through their microscopes the scientists have only discovered the material support - the atom - of that fundamental Fire which is at the heart of things and the beginning of the worlds. They have found the effect, not the cause. And because they have found only the effect, the scientists do not have the true mastery, or the key to transforming matter - our matter - and making it yield the real miracle that is the goal of all evolution, the "point of otherness" that will open the door to a new world.
It is this Fire that is the power of the worlds, the original igniter of evolution, the force in the rock, the force in the seed, the force "in the middle of the house." This is the lever, the seer, the one that can break the circle and all the circles of our successive thralldoms - material, animal, vital and mental. No species, even pushed to its extreme of efficiency and intelligence and light, has the power to transcend its own limits - not the chameleon, not the ape, not man - by the fiat of its improved chromosomes alone. It is only this Fire that can. This is the point of otherness, the supreme moment of imagination that sets fire to the old limits, as one day a similar supreme moment of imagination lit one and the same fire in the heart of the worlds and cast that solar seed upon the waters of time, and all those waves, those circles around it, to help it grow better, until each rootlet, each branch and twig of the great efflorescence is able to attain its own infinite, delivered by its very greatness.
And we return again to our question: What is this new consciousness? Where did it come from if it is not the fruit of our precious brain? . . . At bottom, the dread of the materialist is to find himself suddenly face to face, without warning, with a God to adore, and we certainly sympathize with him when we see the puerile pictures the religions have painted of Him. The apes, too, if they had such an idea, would have painted as childish a picture of the supernatural and divine powers of man. Is to be worshipped what makes us wider, more beautiful, more sunlit; and ultimately, that wideness, beauty and sunlight are accessible to us only because they are already there in us, otherwise we would not recognize them. Only the like recognizes the like. This growing likeness is the only godhead worthy of worship. But we want to believe that it does not stop with the gilded mediocrity of our scientific feats, any more than it stopped with the prowess of the Pithecanthropus. This "new" consciousness is therefore not so new; it is our look which is new, the likeness which is growing more perfect (we should perhaps say the world's exactitude which is drawing closer). This world, as we now all know, is not as it appears; this matter, so solid to our eyes, this water so crystalline, this exquisite rose vanish into something else, and the rose never was rose, nor the water crystalline; this water flows and bubbles as much as this table and this rock, and nothing is immobile. We have widened our field of vision. But what destroyed the rose? Which is right, the microscope or our eyes? Probably both, and neither completely. The microscope neither cancels nor negates our superficial vision; it only touches another degree of reality, a second level of the same thing. And because the microscope sees differently, it can act differently and open up to us a whole spectrum of rays that are going to change our surface. But there may be a third, unexplored level of the same eternal Thing - yet another look, for what is new under the stars except our look at the stars? And most likely there are still more levels, infinitely more levels awaiting our discovery, for what could possibly put a final stop to the great efflorescence? There is no stop, no distant Goal; there is our growing look and a Goal which is here at each instant. There is a great blossoming gradually stripping its marvel, petal by petal. And each new look changes our world and all the surface laws as drastically as the laws of Einstein have changed Newton's world. To see differently is to be able to do differently. That third level is the new consciousness. And it cancels neither the rose nor the microscope - nothing is canceled in the end, except, gradually, our folly. It only links that rose to the great total blossoming, and that bubbling water, that chance pebble, that little being alone in his corner, to the great flow of the one and only Power which gradually molds us into the golden likeness of a great inner Look. And perhaps it will open for us the door to less monstrous miracles: tiny natural miracles that bring the great Goal alive at each instant and reveal the totality of the marvel in one point.
But where is the mysterious key to that third level? In reality, it is not mysterious after all, although it is full of mysteries. It does not depend on complicated instruments, does not hide under a secret knowledge, does not fall from the sky for the elect - it is there, almost visible to the naked eye, utterly simple and natural. It has been there since the beginning of time, in that seed harboring a smoldering fire: a need to reach out and take; in that great nebula gathering its grains of atoms: a need to grow and be; under those sleeping waters already simmering with an impatient fire of life: a need for air and open space. And everything began to move, impelled by the same fire: the heliotrope toward the sun, the dove toward its companion and man toward we know not what. An immense Need in the heart of the worlds, all the way to the galaxies out there, to the limits of Andromeda, which drew each other into a mortal gravitational embrace. That need we see at our own level; it is small or less small, it asks for air or sunlight, a companion and children, books, art and music, objects by the millions - but it has really only one object, it asks for only one music, a single sun and a single air. It is a need for infinity. For it was born out of infinity. And so long as it does not meet its one object, it will not stop, nor will the galaxies stop devouring each other, nor men struggling and toiling to seize the one thing they think they do not have, but which pushes and prods inside, poking its unsatisfied fire until we attain the ultimate satisfaction - and at once the plenitude of millions of vain objects, of an ephemeral rose and a trivial little gesture. It is this Fire that is the key, because it is born out of the supreme Power that set the world on fire; it is this Fire that sees, because it is born out of the supreme Vision that conceived this seed; it is this Fire that knows, because it recognizes itself everywhere, in things and beings, in the pebble and the stars. This is the Fire of the new world which burns in the heart of man, "This that wakes in the sleepers,"(13) says the Upanishad. And it will not rest until everything is restored to its full truth, and the world to its joy, for it is born of Joy and for Joy.
But, at first, this self of fire is mixed with its obscure undertakings; it toils and desires, struggles and strains; it crawls with the worm, sniffs the wind for the scent of its prey. It has to keep alive, to survive. It feels the world with its small antennae; it sees in fragments, according to its needs. In man, the conscious animal, it widens its scope; it still feels, adds up its pieces, systematizes its data: it makes laws, scholarly treatises, gospels. Yet, behind, there is that self of fire pushing, the something that will not quit, that grows impatient with laws and systems and gospels, that senses a wall behind each captured truth, each framed law, that senses a trap closing on each discovery, as if capturing were to be captured, trapped; there is the something that directs the antenna, which grows impatient even with the antenna, impatient with levers and all the machinery for apprehending the world, as if that machinery and that antenna and that look draped one last veil over the world and prevented it from attaining its naked reality. There is that cry of being in the depths which yearns to see, which really so much needs to see and come out in the open at last: the master of the antenna and not its slave. As if, really, a master had been confined there forever, arduously casting out its pseudopods, its tentacles and all its multicolored nets to try to join with the outside. Then, one day, under the pressure of that fire of need, the machinery begins to crack. Everything cracks: laws, gospels, knowledge and all the jurisprudence of the world. We've had enough! Even of the best we've had enough. It is still a prison, a trap - thoughts, books, art and our-Father-which-art-in-heaven. Something else, something else! Oh, something we so much need, which is without a name, except for its blind need! . . . So we demechanize with the same fury with which we had mechanized. Everything is burned, nothing is left, save that pure fire. That fire which does not know, does not see anything, nothing at all anymore, not even the little fragments it had so conscientiously gathered together. It is an almost painful fire. It struggles and toils and searches and bumps into things; it wants truth, it wants the other thing, as once it wanted objects, the millions of objects of this world, and strained to get. And little by little, everything is consumed. Even the desire for the other thing, even the hope of ever clasping that impossible pure truth, even personal effort melts away; everything slips between our fingers.
A pure little flame is left.
A flame that does not know, does not see, but is. And there is a sort of softness in simply being that flame, that tiny little flame without object - it is, it simply is, purely. It even looks as if it did not need anything else. We sink into it, live in it; it is like a love for nothing, for everything. And sometimes we plunge very deeply into it; then, all the way at the end of this tranquil fire - so tranquil - we seem to glimpse a childlike smile, something that looks transparently at the world; and, if we do not pay attention, that look is suddenly dispersed, flows with things, breathes with the plant, goes off into infinity everywhere, smiles in this one, smiles in that one, and everything becomes immediate. There is nothing to take anymore, nothing to seize, nothing to want. It is there; everything is there! It is there everywhere. A look without walls, a vision that does not bind, a knowledge that takes nothing - everything is known, instantly known. And it goes through things effortlessly, like quicksilver, light as pollen, free as the wind, smiling at everything as if we were smiling at ourselves behind everything. Where is "the other," the not-me, the outside, the inside, the near, the far? It merges with everything, communicates instantly, as if it were the same thing everywhere. And soon this little flame begins to recognize its own world; the new geography begins to take on relief, hues, variations. It is one and the same thing, and yet each thing looks unique; there is one and the same fire, but each fire has a particular intensity, a special frequency, a dominant vibration and a seemingly totally different music. Each being has its music, each thing its rhythm, each moment its color, each event its cadence, and everything begins to be tied together. Everything takes on another meaning, a kind of total meaning in which each minute performer has its irreplaceable role, its unique presence, its unique note, its indispensable gesture. Then a vast, miraculous unfolding begins to take place before our eyes. The world is a miracle - a discovery at every step, a revelation of a microscopic order, an infinite journey into the finite. We are in the new consciousness; we have seized the fire of the new world: "O Fire . . . thou art the supreme growth and expansion of our being, all glory and beauty are in thy desirable hue and thy perfect vision. O Vastness, thou art the plenitude that carries us to the end of our way; thou art a multitude of riches spread out on every side."(14)
(9)Rig Veda, III.22.2.
(10)Rig Veda, I.70.2.
(11)Rig Veda, I.59.1.
(*)It was not until 1938 and the cycle of Bethe that this "third fire" - the one triggered in nuclear reactions - was discovered; and it is indeed the fire of the sun, whose enormous radiant energy results from the fusion of hydrogen nuclei into helium. Before then, science knew only of the first two kinds of fire: the fire in chemical reactions, when molecules are destroyed and recombined without any change in the structure of the constituent atoms, and the fire resulting from modifications in the atom's outer layers (the electrons), which are the source of all the electromagnetic phenomena. (Note compiled by P. B. Saint-Hilaire)
(12)Rig Veda, III.39.5.
(13)Katha Upanishad, V.8.
(14)Rig Veda, II.1.12.
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