9. The Greater Self

What is this greater self?

In fact, the self has always been great. We might as well ask, "What is this greater moon?" Because we see a first quarter and then a second, we say, with our geocentric vision, that the moon grows bigger. Our eyes see one thing after another, and for them things grow bigger or appear - unless we are still childish enough to claim they fall from the sky or are eaten by dragons. Things and beings "die," we think, carried away, like the moon, by the dragon of death, but they are still there, just hidden from our vision, and nothing ever dies or disappears, any more than anything ever gets born or appears, like the full moon and the new moon. There is merely something eclipsing our vision. And when we say that this lesser or greater self is the result of our lesser or greater capacities, we may be as vain as the savage looking through a telescope for the first time and saying that those unknown stars and lights blinking at the edge of the universe are the result of our instruments. The world does not "arrive" and nothing arrives; it is we who gradually arrive at total vision. And the fuller that vision, the more the world attains the perfection it has always been.

But what eclipses our vision? We might as well ask, "What eclipses the linear vision of the centipede?" Or what eclipses the lotus in the seed? For our eyes, the universe is gradually becoming, but our eyes are really the supreme Look hiding from itself to look through the eternity of the ages and through our millions of eyes, and with millions of colors and faces, at the one perfection it saw in an eternal white second. The world is one; it is a single global unity, even the scientists tell us so. And they are trying to find that equation. But to restore this oneness, they have divided and subdivided matter to infinity, or almost. They have come upon an infinitesimal existence and a smaller infinitesimal existence, a vastness and an even greater vastness. But this oneness is neither an addition nor a reduction to the microscopic level, any more than eternity is an infinite number of years or immensity so many miles plus one. This oneness is there, totally, in each point of space and at each second of time, as much as in all the infinitudes put together and all the vastness added up. Each point contains the whole; each second is eternity looking at itself. And we who stand in this point at this second are eternal and complete, and all the earths and all the galaxies meet in our essential point; an eternal lotus shines in our heart - only we do not know it. We know it little by little. And it is not enough to know it in our heads and hearts - we have to know it in our body. Then the marvel will be truly complete and the eternal lotus on the summits of the spirit will shine forever in our matter and in each second of time.

This perfection, this oneness of substance and consciousness and being, is like the world's golden memory, the blurred image that each one and each thing strives to conjure up and capture, the goad of the world's great Thirst, the driving force of its gigantic Need to be and embrace and grow. It is like a tenacious memory thrusting things and beings and even galaxies into a mortal embrace that would like to be an embrace of love, that would like to understand all, hold and possess and encompass all within its circumference. Each thing strives toward that gropingly: the sea anemone with its tentacles, the atom with its gravitation, and man with his intelligence and his heart. But our thirst cannot be quenched until it seizes all, encompasses all in its being, and there remains not one particle of the universe that has not become our substance, for, in reality, everything was always our substance and our being and our own face under millions of smiles or sufferings seeking their smile - but which cannot really smile so long as they have not found what they always were.There is no other suffering in the world, no other gap, no other lack. But so long as this need is not fulfilled, we will go on and on; atoms will go on whirling to make increasingly purer and lighter kinds of matter, sea anemones ceaselessly seizing and men adding up their treasures, plundering or loving - but only one thing is lovable, and until they love everything, they will have nothing really and will possess only their shadow.

But how is it that this self, this great self that we are, divided itself, multiplied, atomized into a million things and beings? Why the long journey of repossession? Actually, it did not really divide; it was never pulverized into stars separated by light-years, into amoebas of consciousness separated by teguments, rinds or armor of being, into little men separated from each other by a white skin or black and a few vague thoughts. Nothing was ever separated and our stars meet in one single little star that shines in the heart of man and in each thing and each pebble of the universe. How could we ever recognize the world if we were not already it? We can only know what we are, and anything that is not us is simply nonexistent or invisible to our eyes. We can foresee tomorrow, sense an accident coming, a pain or a thought ten thousand miles away, a treasure buried in a field, the tiny life quivering in a leaf in front of us only because we are connected; we are one, and everything is already there, immediately and without separation - tomorrow and the day after, the here and there, in sight and out of sight. There is no separation; there are only eyes that do not see well. There is a sum of invisible things that gradually become visible, from the protoplasm to the caterpillar to man, and we have not exhausted the whole spectrum. Tomorrow perhaps, we shall see that the distance between one country and another, one being and another, between today and tomorrow is as fragile and illusory as the tuft of grass separating one caterpillar from another in the same field. And we shall step over the wall of time and space as today we step over the caterpillar's tuft of grass.

We have cut little pieces out of that great indivisible oneness, that fullness of the world, that global self. We have sliced little pieces out of space and time, particles of self and not-self, protons and electrons, pluses and minuses tightly wedded to one another, good and evil, night and day inextricably bound to one another, incomplete without one another, never complete with each other; for all the nights and days together will never make a complete day; all the pluses and minuses, goods and evils, selves and not-selves added up will never make a full beauty, a single being. And we have replaced oneness by multiplicity, love by loves, rhythm by harmonies that are broken and restored. But our fusion is nothing but an addition, and life is born out of death as if we constantly had to destroy in order to be, split in order to join in a new appearance of unity - which is only the sum of the same separations, of the same good and evil, of plus and minus, of a self that is a million past selves but not a single little full drop. We have drawn a little circle in the great indivisible Life, enclosed a fragment of being in a gelatine capsule, set apart one note of the great rhythm beneath a shell of beast or man, and seized a few hard and trenchant thoughts from the great rainbow current whose strands dangled over the bushes of the world. We have cut up the great Look in the heart of things and produced a thousand irreducible facets. And since we could no longer see anything of the great world, shielded, fragmented and syncopated as it was, we have invented eyes to see what we had driven away, ears to hear what whispered everywhere, fingers to grasp a few fragments of a full beauty we had truncated, and thirst, desire, hunger for everything that was no longer us - antennas, thousands of antennas to capture the one note that would fill our hearts. And since we could no longer grasp anything without these inventions, these eyes, senses and gray cells - oh, so gray! - we came to believe that the world was inaccessible without them, that it resembled the reading on our little dials, and that perhaps we were even the creators of the broken waves going through our antennas. We have said I, others, and I again and I forever and ever, in a black or a yellow skin, under an Athenian shell or a Theban one, under these ruins or those, under the same old ruins of little I's who die without knowing why, who live by fragments, enjoy themselves without ever really enjoying themselves, and come back again and again to understand what they had not understood and, perhaps, to build the full City of the great self at last. When we touch that fullness, our good will no longer clash with our evil, our pluses with our minuses, because everything will be our good and flow in the same direction; our nights will no longer be the opposite of our days, our loves a fraction of all loves, our little notes a cry torn from the great Note, because there will be only one music playing through our millions of instruments, only one love with a million faces and only one great day with its cool shades and rainbow cascades beneath the great tree of the world. Then it may become unnecessary to die, because we will have found the secret of the life that is reborn from its own joy - one dies only from lack of joy and in order to find an ever greater joy.

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This all, this great all has been seen by sages in their visions and by a few rare poets and thinkers: "All this is Brahman immortal, naught else; Brahman is in front of us, Brahman behind us, to the south of us and to the North of us and below us and above us; it stretches everywhere. All this is Brahman alone, all this magnificent universe."(18) "Thou art woman and thou art man also; Thou art the boy and girl, and Thou art yonder worn and aged man that walkest bending upon a staff... Thou art the blue bird and the green and the scarlet-eyed."(19) "Thou art That, O Swetaketu."(20) This great all that is us has shined at the summit of human accomplishment, left a few hieroglyphic traces on the walls of Thebes, and nourished initiates here and there - at times we have entered a white radiance above the worlds where, in a flash, we have dissolved the little self and emerged into a cosmic consciousness... But none of that has changed the world. We still did not have the clue that would connect that vision to this earth and make a new world with a new look. Our truths remained fragile; the earth remained refractory - and rightly so. Why should it obey the illuminations from above if that light does not affect its matter, if it itself does not see and it itself is not illuminated? In truth, wisdom is very wise and the earth's darkness is not a negation of the Spirit, any more than night is a negation of day; it is an expectation and a calling for light, and so long as we do not call the light here, why should it trouble itself to move from its summits? So long as we do not turn our nocturnal half toward its sun, why should it be filled with light? If we seek solar wholeness on the summits of the mind, we shall have wholeness there, in a lovely thought; if we seek it in the heart, we shall have it there, in a tender emotion - if we seek it in matter at every instant, we shall have that same wholeness in matter and at every instant of matter. We have to know where we are looking. We cannot reasonably find the light where we are not looking. Then, perhaps, we shall realize that this earth was not so dark after all. It was our look that was dark, our want of being that brought about the want of things. The earth's resistance is our own resistance - and the promise of a solid truth: an innumerable bursting of rainbows into incarnate myriads instead of an empty radiance on the heights of the Spirit.

But the seeker of the new world has not pursued his quest in a straight line; he has not closed his doors, rejected matter, muffled his soul. He has taken his quest along wherever he went, on the boulevards and on the stairways, in the crowd and in the empty obscurity of millions of senseless gestures. He has pervaded all the wastelands with being, kindled his fire in all the vanities, and fed his need on the very inanity that stifled him. He was not a little one-pointed concentration that rose straight up to the heights and then fell asleep in the white peace of the spirit; he was this chaos and turmoil, this wandering back and forth, in nothing. He pulled all into his net - the ups and downs, the blacks and less blacks and so-called whites, the falls and setbacks - he held everything within his little circumference, with a fire at the center, a need for truth amid this chaos, a cry for help in this nothingness. He was a tangled course, an endless meandering of which he knew nothing, except that he carried his fire there - his fire for nothing, for everything. He no longer even expected anything from anything; he was only like a mellowness of burning, as if that fire were the goal in itself, the being amid all this emptiness, the only presence in this enormous absence. It even ended up becoming a sort of quiet love, for nothing, for everything, here and there. And little by little, this nothingness was lit up; this emptiness was set afire by his look; this futility stirred with the same little warmth. And everything began to answer. The world came to life everywhere, but infinitesimal, microscopic: a powdering of little truths dancing here and there, in facts and gestures, in things and meetings - it even seems as if they came to meet him. It was a strange multiplication, a kind of golden contagion.

Gradually, he entered an all, but, oh, quite an odd "all," which had nothing to do with a cosmic or transcendent or dazzling consciousness - yet which was like a million little bursts of gold, fleeting, elusive, almost mocking. Perhaps we should say "a microscopic consciousness"? - and warm: a sudden sweetness of recognition, an eruption of gratefulness, an incomprehensible flush of tenderness, as if it were living, vibrating, responding in every corner and every direction. Strangely, when a question arose, or a doubt, or an uncertainty about something or someone, a problem about a course of action, an anxiety about what to do or not to do, it seemed as if the answer came to him as living facts - not as an illumination or inspiration, a revelation or thought, nothing of that sort: a material answer in external circumstances, as though the earth itself, like itself, supplied the answer. As if the very circumstances came and took his hand and said, "Here, you see?" And not great circumstances, not sensational flashes: very little facts, while going from one end of the street to the other. All of a sudden the thing came to him, the person or the encounter, the money, the book, or the unexpected development - the living answer. Or, on the contrary, when he was so much hoping for certain news (if he had not yet been cured of the disease of hope), when he was looking forward to some arrangement, a peaceful retreat, a clear-cut solution, he was suddenly engulfed in a still greater chaos, as if everything turned against him - people, things, circumstances - or he fell ill, met with an "accident," opened the door to an old weakness and seemed to be treading the old road of suffering again. Then, two hours or two days or two months after, he realized that that adversity was exactly what was needed, which led, by a circuitous route, to a goal larger than he had foreseen; that that illness had purified his substance, cut him off from a wrong course, and brought him back, lighter, onto the sunlit path; that that fall had exposed old hiding places in himself and clarified his heart; that that unfortunate encounter was a perfection of exactness to bring forth a whole new network of possibilities or impossibilities to overcome; and that everything concurred meticulously to prepare his strength, his breadth, his extreme swiftness, through a thousand and one detours - the all prepared him for the all. He then begins to experience a succession of unbelievable little miracles, of strange happenings, bewildering coincidences ... as if, really, everything knew, each thing knew what it had to do and went straight to its microscopic goal amidst millions of passersby and trifling events. At first, the seeker does not believe it; he shrugs his shoulders and dismisses it, then he opens one eye, then the other, and doubts his own amazement. It is of such microscopic exactness, such fabulously unbelievable precision in the midst of this gigantic crisscrossing of lives and things and circumstances, that it is simply impossible - it is like an explosion of total knowledge embracing in one fell swoop this ant walking down Main Street and the thousands of passersby and all their possible itineraries, all their particular circumstances - past, present and future - to create this unique conjunction, this incredible perfect little second in which everything accords and agrees, is inevitably, and provides the unique answer to a unique question.

And the same thing happens again and again; the "coincidences" multiply. Chance gradually reveals an innumerable smile - or, perhaps, another self, a great self, which knows its totality, and each fragment of its totality and each second of its world, as much as our body knows the least quiver of its cells, and the passing fly, and the rhythm of its heart. With eyes wide open, the seeker begins to enter an innumerable wonder. The world is a single body, the earth, a single consciousness in motion. But not a body whose consciousness is centered in a few gray cells upstairs: an innumerable consciousness centered everywhere and as total in a little ephemeral cell as in the gesture that will alter the destiny of nations. In each point consciousness answers consciousness. The seeker has left the cutting little truths of the mind, the dogmatic and geometric lines of thought. He enters an inexpressible fullness of view, a comprehensive truth in which each fragment has its meaning and each second, its smile, each darkness, its light, each harshness, its awaiting sweetness. He gropingly discovers "the honeycombs covered by the rock."(21) Each fall is a degree of widening, each footstep, a blossoming of the inevitable efflorescence, each adversity, a lever of the future. Being wrong is a crack in our armor through which a flame of pure love shines which understands everything.


(18) Mundaka Upanishad, II.2.12.

(19) Swetaswatara Upanishad, IV.3.4.

(20) Chandogya Upanishad, VI.8.7.

(21) Rig Veda, II.24.4.

 


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