11. The Change of Power
But, in truth, this Harmony of the new world is not expressed by great music or ecstatic joys. It is far more discreet and far more efficient - maybe we should say far more demanding.
There is but one Harmony, as there is one Consciousness and one earthly body, which are those of the greater Self, but this Harmony and Consciousness are unveiled a little at a time, as we grow and the scales fall from our eyes, and their effects are different, depending at what level we grasp them. Harmony chants high above, and it is grand and sublime, but it has chanted for millennia and ages without changing much in the world and the hearts of men. And evolution has rolled its cycles, descending, it seems, into an altogether material grossness, density and ignorance, a darkness adorned with all the artifices of the gods to make us believe that we were the masters, while we were really the servants of a machinery, the slaves of a small loose bolt which was enough to blow up the beautiful machine and expose the old untouched savage underneath. Indeed that evolution has descended; it has cast us down from our fragile heights and golden ages, which were perhaps not so golden as it is said, to force us to find here, too, that Light and Harmony and Consciousness, in this low place, which is low only for us. In fact, there is no descent, no fall, no move backward; there is a never-ending precipitation of truth and harmony, which touches deeper and deeper layers to reveal to them the light and joy they always were - had we not fallen, the light would never have penetrated our hovel, matter would never have gotten out of its night. Each descent is an opening of light, each fall, a new degree of blossoming. Through our evil the substance is transmuted. And our evil is perhaps quite simply the unknown territory we wrest from its "nonexistence," the way Columbus's sailors wrested the perilous Indies from their "night."
But the passage is perilous.
In fact, the first effect of Truth as it touches a new layer is to produce a frightful disorder, or so it seems. The first effects of mental truth when it touched the primates must have been traumatic, we can assume, and utterly subversive of the simian order and effectiveness; a peasant has only to take a book for the first time for all his bucolic peace to be upset and his sound and simple notion of things to be thrown into turmoil. Truth is a great disturber. Indeed if it were not there to goad and press on the world, the stone would have forever remained in its mineral bliss and man in his satisfied economy - which is why no supereconomy, no acme of political ingenuity, no perfection of egalitarianism or distribution of human wealth, nor even any paroxysm of charity and philanthropy can ever satisfy the heart of man and halt the irresistible onrush of Truth. Truth can only stop at the totality of Truth - the totality of Joy and Harmony in each particle and the entire universe - although it will not stop anywhere, for Truth is infinite and its marvels inexhaustible. We tend quite naturally and anthropocentrically to declare that we make great efforts to attain light and truth, and this and that, but it may be presumptuousness on our part, and the lotus seed rises inevitably toward the light, wrenches itself free from the mud and bursts open in the sunshine, in spite of all its efforts to become, say, a water lily or a supertulip - and that Sun presses and presses, churns and kneads and ferments its rebellious soil, brings its chemical ingredients to a boil and breaks the husk, till everything is returned to its ultimate beauty, in spite of all our efforts to become, say, just a social and intelligent fellow. The great Sun of evolution presses upon its world, cracking its old molds, fermenting the heresies of the future and bringing to a boil the pale canned wisdoms of the mental legislators. Was there ever a more desperate time, more empty, more dreadfully confined in its flimsy triumphs and enameled virtues than the so-called belle ëpoque? But that enamel is cracking, and so much the better; all our virtues and mental certainties and fantasies of a great economic Disneyland on earth are crumbling, and again, so much the better. Truth, the great Harmony to be, is mercilessly tightening its screw on our intellectual helmets, exposing each speck of dirt, each weakness, drawing out the poison and churning its humanity, like the "ocean of unconsciousness" of the Puranic legends, until it yields all its nectar of immortality.
And the seeker discovers - on his own small scale, in the microcosm he represents - that the Harmony of the new world, the new consciousness he has touched gropingly, is a tremendous transforming Power. In the past, it may have chanted up above, produced lovely poems and cathedrals of wisdom and beauty, but when it touches matter, it takes on the austere face of the angry Mother, thrashing her children and sculpting them mercilessly into the image of her own demanding Rectitude - and compassion, the infinite grace that stops just in time, administers just the necessary does and does not inflict one ounce of suffering more than is indispensable. When the seeker begins to open his eyes to this Compassion, this infinite wisdom in the minutest detail, these unbelievable detours to achieve a fuller and more encompassing perfection, these studied obscurities and concerted rebellions, these falls into a greater light, and the infinite march of a Beauty that leaves no hidden stain, no trace of imperfection, no refuge of weakness or disguised pettiness, no recess of falsehood, he is filled with a wonder that surpasses all sidereal measures and cosmic magic. For, truly, being able to attend to such a microscopic point of matter - so futile under the stars, so complicated in its tangle of pain and revolt, its obscure resistance that threatens disaster at every instant, and those thousands of little disasters to ward off every day and at every step, those millions of little sufferings to transmute without blowing up the world - requires a power such as the earth has never known before. Disease is breaking out everywhere, in every country, every consciousness, every atom of the great earthly body - this is a merciless revolution, a relentless transmutation - and yet, here and there, in each human consciousness, each country, each fragment of the great torn body, the catastrophe is avoided at the last minute, the best slowly comes out of the worst, consciousness awakens, and our stumbling steps take us despite themselves to the ultimate gate of deliverance. Such is the formidable Harmony, the imperative Power that the seeker discovers step by step and in his own substance.
We have therefore come to a new change of power. A new power such as there has never been since the first anthropoids, a tidal wave of power that has nothing to do with our little philosophical and spiritual meditations of past ages, a worldwide, collective and perhaps universal phenomenon as radically new as the first surge of thought upon the world, when mind took over from the simian order and overthrew all its laws and instinctual mechanisms. But here - and this is really the characteristic of the new world being born - the power is not a power of abstraction, not a talent for getting a bird's-eye view of things and reducing the scattered data of the world into an equation in order to make a synthesis, which is always wobbly - the mind has turned everything into abstraction; it lives in an image of the world, a yellow or blue reflection of the great bubble, like a man inside a glass statue - not a discursive and contingent power that only adds and subtracts, not a gathering of knowledge that never makes a whole. It is a direct power of the truth of each instant and each thing harmonized with the total truth of the millions of instants and things, a "power to enter" the truth of each gesture and each circumstance, which accords with all other gestures and circumstances because Truth is one and the Self is unique, and if this point is touched, everything else is instantly touched, like cell and cell of the same body. It is a tremendous power of concretization of Truth, acting directly upon the same Truth contained in each point of space and each second of time, or rather, compelling each moment, each circumstance, each gesture, each cell of matter to yield its truth, its right note, its own innate power buried under all the layers of our vital and mental accretions - a tremendous truing of the world and each being. We could say a tremendous Movement of "realization" - the world is not real! It is a distorted appearance, a mental approximation, which looks more like a nightmare, a black and white translation of something we still have not seized. We do not have our real eyes yet! For, in the end, there is only one reality, and that is the reality of Truth - a truth that has grown, that had to protect itself behind walls, to limit and dim itself under one shell or another, one bubble or another, to make itself felt by a caterpillar or a man, then bursts open in its own Sunlight when the wings of the great Self we always were begin to open.
But this change of power, this transition from the indirect and abstract truths of the mind to the direct and concrete Truth of the great Self is obviously not effected on the summits of the Spirit - it has nothing to do with mental gymnastics, just as the other power had nothing to do with the ape's skills. It is effected in a most down-to-earth way, in everyday life, in the minuscule, the futility of the moment, which is futile only to us, if we understand that a speck of dust contains as much truth as the totality of all space, and just as much power. It therefore applies itself to utterly material mechanisms. The play takes place in the substance. Therefore it comes up against age-old resistances, against a bubble that is perhaps the first self-defensive bubble of the protoplasm in its water hole. But in the end "resistances turn out to have assisted by the resistance much more than they have impeded the intention of the great Creatrix and her Mover,"(25) and we do not know, finally, if there is a single shadow and pain that does not secretly build up the very power we are trying to manifest. If it emerged too soon, truth would be incomplete, or unbearable for the other animalcules that share our water hole and which would soon disgorge it - we are a single human body, we always forget, and our mistakes or slowness are the mistakes and slowness of the world. But if we can win a victory here, in this little point of matter, each of us human beings has a formidable task to carry out, if he understands. Being born in this world is a far more powerful mystery than we had thought.
For a long time now the seeker has got rid of the mental machinery. He has also brought order to the vital machinery. And if old desires, wills or reactions still come to muddy his clearing, they are rather on the order of a motion-picture images projected onto a screen, out of habit, but without real substance. The seeker has lost the habit of sitting in the screen and identifying with the characters - he looks; he is clear; he observes everything; he is centered in his fire which dissipates all those clouds. From then on, another level of entanglement comes more and more to light, another degree of the machine (this is truly a "path of descent"): a material, subconscious mechanism. But so long as he is not clear, he sees nothing; he cannot unravel those threads which are so intertwined with his habitual activities, and "mentalized" like all the rest, that they make up an altogether natural web. This material, subconscious mechanism then becomes extremely concrete, like the whirlings of the goldfish in its glass bowl. But let us emphasize that this is not the subconscious small fry of the psychoanalysts - those fry belong to the mental bubble; they are merely the reverse of the little surface fellow, the action of his reactions, the knot of his desires, the constriction of his nurtured smallness, the past of his old little story inside a bubble, the goat tether of his small separate ego tied to the social and familial and religious stake, and the countless stakes that tie men inside a bubble. And we strongly suspect that those dreamers simply go on dreaming inside a psychoanalytical bubble, the way others dream inside a religious one of hells and paradises that exist only in man's mental imagination. But, as long as one is inside the bubble, it is implacable and irrefutable; its hells are real hells, its filth real filth, and one is the prisoner of a little bright or dark cloud. So let us say, in passing, that one does not free oneself from the mud by digging in the mud and unwholesomely plowing up the byways of the frontal fellow (one might as well take a bath in dirty water to get clean), one does not free oneself from the bubble by the lights of the bubble, or from evil by a good that is only its reverse, but by a something else that is not of the bubble: a very simple little fire within and everywhere, which is the key to freedom, all freedoms, and to the world.
This subconscious resistance is very difficult to describe. It has a thousand faces, as many as there are individuals, and for each the color is different, the "syndrome," so to say, is different. Each one of us has his particular "drama," with its staging, preferred situations, puppetry of Grand Guignol. But it is one and the same puppet show under all colors, one and the same story behind all the words - and the same resistance everywhere. It is the resistance, the point that says no. It does not reveal itself immediately; it is elusive, cunning. In fact, we really believe it loves drama. It is its raison d'ìtre and the salt of its life, and, if it no longer had any drama to grind out, it would make up some - it is the dramatist of all excellence. It is perhaps even the great dramatist of all this chaotic and painful life that we see. But each of us harbors his little man of the big "man of sorrow"(26), as Sri Aurobindo used to call him. The drama of the world will stop when we begin to put a stop to our own little drama. But the clever puppet slips between our fingers. Driven off the mental stage where it ran its explanatory and questioning machinery - it is a tireless questioner; it asks questions for the pleasure of asking, and if all its questions were answered, it would come up with more, for it is also a great doubter - ousted from the mind, it sinks down one degree further to play its number on the vital stage. There it is on more solid ground. (The further it descends, the stronger it becomes, and all the way down at the bottom, it is the very image of strength, the knot par excellence, the irreducible point, the absolute NO.) We are all more or less familiar with its tricks on the vital stage: its great game of passion and desire, sympathy and antipathy, hate and love - but in fact they are the two faces of the same food, and it savors evil as much as good, suffering as much as joy; it is just a way of swallowing in one direction or another. Even charity and philanthropy serves its purpose. It grows fatter either way. The more virtuous it is, the harder it is. Idealism and patriotism, sacred or less sacred causes are its clever victuals. It has mastered the art of dressing itself in superb motives; it can be found at the parties of charity volunteers and Peace conferences - but of course Peace never comes, for if by some miracle Peace ever came, or the eradication of all poverty on earth, what would it do for a living? Driven off that stage, it sinks one degree lower and disappears into the dungeons of the subconscious. Not for long. There it begins to become clear, so to say, and show its real face. It has grown very small, very hard, a sort of grinning caricature: "the grisly Elf," as Sri Aurobindo calls it.
[Man] harbours within him a grisly Elf
Enamoured of sorrow and sin.
The grey Elf shudders from heaven's flame
And from all things glad and pure;
Only by pleasure and passion and pain
His drama can endure.
It is ready for anything, latches onto anything, takes advantage of the least crack to force its way back on stage, the slightest pretext to spit out its inky cloud and overcast everything in an instant. A thick, black and sticky instant cloud. It is a fight to the death, for it knows perfectly well it is going to die. It is its last hand, the very one now playing its last card in the world. At the bottom, all the way down at the very bottom, it is a microscopic knot of pain, something that shrinks from the sun and joy, something suffocating and frightened of vastness. It is as hard as rock, perhaps as hard as the original rock of the earth. A dark NO to life and NO to everything. It simply will not. It is there, and it will not budge. It is perhaps the essence of death, the root of night, the original cry of the earth spurred by the Sun of Truth.
And it remains there to the end - in fact, the end of the end - it remains there perhaps to force us to descend to rock bottom and discover our immortal face beneath this mask of death. If it were not there, we might all have already fled into the heavens of the Spirit. But it is said that our immortality and our heaven must be wrought in matter and through our body.
If we can catch that painful elf - for it is pain itself - just before it buries itself completely, it exhibits a whole daily, material and imperceptible mechanism. This is the great resistance to the change of power, the molehill trying to stay the law of Harmony. Therefore it is where the battle is taking place at this moment, in the microcosm and the macrocosm. It is like a caricature (or the more exact face) of all the polished and civilized activities of the brilliant elf of the higher levels: doubt, fear, avidity, self-centeredness, all the contractions, prehensions and apprehensions of the mental pseudopod. It is a minuscule and ridiculous functioning, and, if by chance we notice it, we shrug it off or attach no importance to it. But we are wrong. We look at everything from atop our mental arrogance, as if those trifles were inconsequential. But they have staggering consequences. We do not see it because we live in our logical and symmetrical clouds. But life grates; there is an immense, universal grating whose source lies in those ridiculous little grains of sand. At the level of matter, there are no "little things," because everything is made of little things, and that absurd reaction of doubt or fear is the incalculable equivalent of the mental misjudgment that makes us shut the door on a brilliant opportunity. We are constantly shutting the door on Harmony, turning our backs on the miracle, locking out possibilities, and making ourselves sick into the bargain. For, at the material level, this Harmony does not flow in majestic symphonies through the great arteries of the spirit; it uses what it has. It percolates through minuscule channels, fragile filaments quivering within our material consciousness; it enters in droplets, spurts, discrete quanta that look like nothing - a passing breath, a flicker of a smile, a wave of ease without reason - which change everything. We do not notice the change because we live in our normal chaos, our usual suffocation, but the seeker, who has become a little clearer, begins to notice, to sense those minute changes of density, those sudden obstructions, those minuscule expansions, those air pockets in his material substance. He sees the almost instant effect of a tiny little emanation of doubt, an absurd fear or tensing up without apparent cause, a ridiculous and morbid imagination crossing his atmosphere. He discovers a thousand sly little pulsations, deceitful palpitations, dark impulses in the great material pond. He puts his finger on fear, the great, voracious and retractile Fear which covers the world like the protoplasm inside its gelatine membrane - the slightest touch, the least breath of air, the tiniest ray of sun, and it contracts, shuts the door and rolls up into a ball in its membrane. The immediate reaction to everything is NO; then, sometimes, a yes blurted out, as if impelled by the same fear of missing something. He discovers the fantastic morbid and defeatist imagination of matter, as if, for matter, life represented a kind of dreadful invasion from which it had never quite recovered, a fall perhaps from the original bliss of the stone, an irruption of death into its peaceful routine. Everything is liable to bring catastrophe - the great catastrophe of Life - expectation of the worst, anticipation of the worst, almost a wish and call for the worst, so this tragedy of life may be stopped at last and everything return to the peace and beatific immobility of dust. He discovers how diseases break out, matter decays, substance ages - the great difficulty of living, the contraction onto self, the suffocation inside, the hardening of all the little arteries through which a drop of all-curing harmony might have seeped in. He hears his fill of petty whining, small grudges, matter's wounded negations, and above all - above all - its despairing leitmotif: "This is impossible, that is impossible..." For matter, everything is "impossible," because the only sure possibility is the inviolable immobility of the stone. Because all movement of life and hope is still a stirring of death. And it shuts the door, turns off the light, refuses the miracle - we all refuse the miracle. We are firmly seated atop our cancer, the doubters of the great immortal Harmony, the dwarves of the earth who believe in pain, believe in disease, believe in suffering, believe in death: This is impossible, impossible, impossible...
So the seeker learns of Harmony. He learns it step by step, by trial and error, tiny little errors that sow disease and confusion. At this stage, the experience no longer takes place in the intellect or heart; it takes place in the body. There is a minute play of sensations, as fleeting as must have been the first quiver of the radiolarian under the temperature changes in the Gulf Stream, and as laden with physical consequences as a storm over the lovely wheat fields of the mind or a typhoon over the murky seas of the vital. We are so dense and blind on our "higher" levels that we need to be hit over the head to understand that the man in front of us is angry and that murder is lurking in those eyes so transparent. But matter is refined; the more we experience it, the more we discover its incredible receptivity, working in both directions, alas. A hundred times or a thousand times, the seeker is confronted with those microtyphoons, those minute whirlwinds that abruptly overturn the whole equilibrium of the being, becloud everything, give a taste of ashes and despair to the slightest gesture, decompose the air he breathes and decompose everything - an instantaneous general decomposition for one second, ten seconds. A hardening of everything. The seeker is suddenly overwhelmed with fatigue; he sees illness coming - and it is indeed coming straight at him. Which illness? The Illness. And just behind, lying in wait, death. In one second, ten seconds, one goes straight to the point; one touches the thing. It is right there, irrefutable: the whole mechanism out in the open, like a sudden call of death. Yet, outside, everything is the same. The circumstances are the same, the gestures the same; the sun still shines and the body comes and goes as usual. But everything is changed. It is a flash-death, an instantaneous cholera. Then it vanishes, dissipates like a cloud, one hardly knows why. But if one gives in, one truly falls ill, breaks a leg or has a real accident. And the seeker starts learning the reason for those minuscule reversals of equilibrium. He tracks down a minuscule hell, which is perhaps the first seed of the great million-faced Evil, the first hardening of death's great blissful petrification. Everything is contained there, in a black spark. But the day we catch hold of that tiny poisonous vibration, we will have the secret of immortality, or at least that of the prolongation of life at will. We die because we give in, and we give in in thousands of little instances. The choice between death and immortality must be made again at every instant.
But this is still a negative and human way of approaching the experience. In fact, the Harmony, the marvelous Harmony that attends to everything, does not want to teach us the laws of hell, even a minute hell. It wants the sunlit law. It flings its typhoons and illnesses at us, casts us down into the black pit, only as much as is necessary for us to learn the lesson, not one minute more. And the second we have recaptured the speck of sun, the little note, the miraculous and tranquil little flowing in the heart of things, everything changes, is cured, tilts into the light - an instantaneous miracle. Actually, it is not a miracle. The miracle is everywhere, at each instant; it is the very nature of the universe, its air, its sun, its breathing of harmony. Only we keep blocking the way, putting up our walls, our sciences, our millions of devices that "know better" than this Harmony. We must learn to let it flow freely, to let go - there is no other secret. It does not "push us down" to crush us or punish us, but to teach us the technique of mastery. It wants us to be the true masters of its solar Secret, to be fully what we have always been, free and kings and joyous, and it will pound and pound our miserable secrets until we are forced to knock at its sunlit door, to open our hands and let its sweetness flow over the world and into our hearts.
For there is an even greater Secret. We face this enormous universe bristling with difficulties and problems and negations and obstacles - everything is a sort of constant impossibility to be overcome by dint of intelligence, willpower, material or spiritual muscles. But, by so doing, we are on equal terms with the caterpillar, on equal terms with the fear-stricken gnome in its death hole. And, because we believe in difficulty, we are compelled to believe in our muscles of steel or not - which always collapse. And we believe in death, we believe in evil, we believe in suffering, as the mole believes in the virtues of its tunnels. But by our morbid belief, our age-old belief, our gray elf-look, we have hardened the difficulty, armed it with a host of instruments and remedies that inflated it even more, planted it more firmly in its implacable groove. The world is enveloped in a formidable elfin illusion. It is in the grip a of formidable Death, which is but our fear of immortality. It is being torn apart by a formidable suffering, which is our refusal of joy and sunshine. Yet everything is here, every possible miracle, in the great open sunlight, every dreamed and undreamed possibility, every simple, spontaneous and natural mastery, every simple power of the Great Harmony. It asks only to pour over the world, flow through our channels and our bodies. All it asks is that we open the passageway. If we let that lightness, that divine ease, that solar smile, flood for a second our little aggregate of flesh, everything melts, obstacles dissolve, illnesses vanish, circumstances are straightened out as if by miracle, the darkness is illumined, the wall collapses - as though they never existed. And once again, it is not even a miracle; it is simplicity reestablished, reality restored. It is the point of harmony here contacting Harmony everywhere and spontaneously, automatically, instantly bringing (or restoring) harmony there, in that gesture, that circumstance, that word, that particular conjunction of events - and everything is a marvel of conjunction because everything flows from the Law. The walls never were; the obstacles never were; evil, suffering and death never were. But we had that look of evil, that look of suffering and death, that look of the imprisoned elf. The world is as we see it, as we want it. There is another Look within us which can transfigure everything. "My children," said She who continued Sri Aurobindo's work, "you all live in an enormous sea of vibrations and you don't even realize it! Because you are not receptive. There is such a resistance in you that if something manages to penetrate, three quarters of what enters is violently thrown out because of an incapacity to contain it... Take simply the example of the consciousness of Forces, such as the force of love, the force of comprehension, the force of creation (it is the same for all of them: the force of protection, the force of growth, the force of progress, all of them), just take Consciousness, the consciousness that covers everything, permeates everything, that is everywhere and in everything - it is almost felt as something trying to impose itself violently on the being, which balks!... Whereas if you were open and simply breathed - that's all, just breathed - you would breathe in Consciousness, Light, Comprehension, Force, Love and all the rest."(28) Everything is there under our eyes, the total marvel of the world, just waiting for our consent, our look of faith in beauty, in freedom, in the supreme possibility that is knocking at our doors, pounding on the walls of our intelligence, suffering and pettiness. This is the supreme "change of power," which is knocking at the world's doors and hammering away at nations, churches and Sorbonnes, hammering at human consciousness and all our geometric and well-thought-out certainties. And if once, only once, man's consciousness opens up to one ray of that living miracle, if the consciousness of a single nation among all our blind nations opens up to one spark of that Grace, then this implacable civilization walled up in its science and laws, in an elf of terror and suffering - this enormous structure in which we have been born and which seems so inescapable, so indestructible and triumphant in its heavy miracles of steel and uranium, this clever prison in which we go in circles - will crumble as rust. Then we will be man at last, or superman rather. We will have joy, natural oneness, freedom without walls and power without tricks. Then we will realize that all this suffering, these walls and difficulties which besiege our life were only the spur of the Sun of Truth, an original restriction to increase our strength, our need for space and our power of truth, a veil of illusion to protect our eyes from too strong a light, a dark passage from the instinctive spontaneity of the animal to the conscious spontaneity of the superman - and that in the end everything is simple, unbelievably simple, like Truth itself, and unbelievably easy, like the very Joy that conceived these worlds. For, in truth, "the path of the gods is a sunlit path on which difficulties lose all reality."(29)
(25)Sri Aurobindo, The Ideal of Human Unity, 15:558.
(26)Nirodbaran, Correspondence with Sri Aurobindo, II.112.
(27)Sri Aurobindo, "A God's Labour," 5:99.
(28)Mother, Conversation of September 16, 1953.
(29)Mother, Some Words of the Mother, p. 31.
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