14. The Victory Over Death
The seeker has followed step by step the process of demechanization. Degree after degree, he has unraveled and cleared the various levels of entanglement that prevented the free flow of Harmony. He is no longer caught up in the mental machinery or the vital machinery; to a certain extent, he is no longer caught up in the subconscious machinery. The gray elf is still there, but like a shadow on a movie screen, a lingering memory of pain, a sort of old but still sensitive wound. It really no longer has any hold, except through that shadow, which taints joy and leaves a dull feeling of uneasiness in the depths, an unfathomable something still unhealed, a sort of lurking Threat without a face or a name - something is still there, like the memory of a catastrophe that can unleash catastrophe at any moment - as if everything were in fact terribly precarious and one forgetful second were enough to tip everything over into the old mortal habit again. There remains a point, a formidable point, and so long as that point has not been conquered, nothing is conquered, nothing is definitively certain. One does not quite know what triggers that sudden swing to the other side, the mortal and painful side, the old, anguish-laden and threatening side. (It is a state of threat, a threat in everything, the instantaneous mantle of lead, the old nameless and throat-constricting thing, as though in one second - one suffocating little second - millennia of night and suffering and shame came bursting into the setting and everything suddenly looked like a brilliant picture plastered on that black, untouched density, which sucks one into its destructive dizziness.) That dark swing sweeps down on you abruptly, without reason, strips you of all your suns, and leaves you naked, as at the beginning of time, before the old Enemy - perhaps the foremost enemy of man and life upon earth, an ineffable mystery that wraps you in its embrace, a dreadful vertical fall that is as if tinged with love and the great Fear. You do not know what provokes it - apparently no error, no slackening of tension, no wrong movement of consciousness that would reopen that forgotten dungeon - but it is wide open. And indeed something has been forgotten; and so long as that forgetting has not been unforgotten, the great golden Memory of Truth will be unable to shine its entire Sun over our entire being. And that Enemy, that shadow, is perhaps the disguised Lover who lures us into his supreme pursuit, his ultimate discovery. We are guided each step of the way. An infallible Hand outlines its meanders in order to take us directly, through a thousand detours, to its happy totality:
The one inevitable supreme result
No will can take away and no doom change,
The crown of conscious immortality,
The godhead promised to our struggling souls
When first man's heart dared death and suffered life.
Hence, it is not through an arbitrary and morbid decision of his own that the seeker will undertake this dark descent - for a long time he has stopped willing anything, he only obeys the little rhythm, the flowing that is growing in him, and directs it here or there according to where it presses. The descent takes place gradually, almost unknown to him, but it is accompanied, as it were, by certain phenomena which become increasingly clear and define the "psychological conditions" of the descent. These psychological conditions are threefold. There is that little "flowing" we have often spoken about, there is that "rhythm," and there is that "fire" of being which opens the doors of the new world. One may be tempted to think that this is a poetic fiction, an imagery for children, but it is nothing of the sort, and the whole world is a poem becoming true, an image becoming clear, a rhythm taking body. Little by little, a Child looks at the world with eyes of Truth and discovers the lovely Image that was always there; he listens to an undying Rhythm and, attuned to that Rhythm, he enters the immortality he had never ceased to be. That flowing actually grows, that rhythm becomes clearer, that fire intensifies as the first mental and vital layers are clarified. In fact, it is no longer simply a "flowing" but a sort of continuous current, a descending mass that envelops first the crown of the head and the nape of the neck, then the chest, the heart, the solar plexus, the abdomen, the sex organs, the legs, and which even seems to reach under the feet, as if there were an extension of being all the way down there, an abyss of existence. The farther the current descends, the warmer and more compact and denser, almost solid, it becomes - it feels like an unmoving cataract. The descent is proportionate to our degree of clarification and the downthrust of the Force (which grows as we become clearer). No mental or psychoanalytical machinery has the power to reach those deeper layers. The movement is irresistibly powerful, sometimes even doubling one over, as if crushing one under the pressure. But at the same time as the power grows so does the stability, as if finally, at the end of the descent, there were a motionless mass of energy - or with such an intense vibration, so swift and instantaneous, that it seems solidified, immobile, yet moving unbelievably fast in place - a "powdering of warm gold," says Mother. That is what Sri Aurobindo called the supramental Force. It would almost seem as if it became "supramental," or acquired supramental qualities, as it descends into matter (that is to say, as we consent to let it go through, as the resistances fall away under its pressure and it victoriously penetrates all the way down to the bottom). We say "supramental," but it is the same with this word as with everything else: there is only one Force, as there is only one moon, which gradually becomes full to our vision, but the moon was always full and the Force always the same. It is our receptivity which changes and makes it look different from what it always was. It is that "flowing" which spontaneously, automatically, without any will or decision on our part (all our wills add more confusion), effects the descent, overturns obstacles, exposes falsehoods under its relentless searchlight, exposes the gray elf, brings to light all our hiding places, cleanses, purifies, widens and brings infinity to each level and into each cranny - and does not give up, does not stop for a second until everything, down to the least detail, the smallest movement, is restored to its original joy, its infinity, its light, its clear vision, its right will and divine acquiescence. This is the Force of the yoga, the Consciousness-Force Sri Aurobindo spoke of. It is the one which forges the superman, the one which will forge the supramental being - the one which will forge itself in that forgetfulness of itself.
Thy golden Light came down into my brain
And the grey rooms of mind sun-touched became
A bright reply to Wisdom's occult plane. . . .
Thy golden Light came down into my throat,
And all my speech is now a tune divine. . . .
My words are drunk with the Immortal's wine.
Thy golden Light came down into my heart
Smiting my life with thy eternity. . . .
Thy golden Light came down into my feet:
My earth is now thy playfield and thy seat.
Then there is that "fire." This is not a myth either: "The red-glowing mass of him is seen," says the Veda, "(Agni, the fire) adorable, great of body, wide of light."(41) At the beginning, however, this body is just a little spark, its red-glowing mass, a flickering flame sometimes lit but often extinguished, which has to be relit again and again. It is a tiny cry of suffocation in the world's night, a nameless need walking with us, going up and down our meanderings, following us tenaciously like a memory of something else, a golden recollection amid the grayness of the days, a call for air, a need for space, a need of loving, a need of being true. And this cry, this fire, grows:
Man is a narrow bridge, a call that grows.(42)
At first it is just a little flame in the mind, something groping about in search of a vaster inspiration, a greater truth, a purer knowledge, which soars, soars, and would as soon cut away all the weight of the world, the hindrances, the bonds and tangles of the earth. It soars and sometimes emerges, pure, sharp, upon summits of white light where everything is forever known and true - but the earth, meanwhile, remains false; life and body remain in the dark conflict, and die and decay. So this white little flame begins to take in the heart. It yearns to love, to heal, to save. It gropes about in the dark, helps a fellowman, gives assistance, offers itself and sings a song that would like to embrace all, contain all, take all life into its heart. It is already a warmer and denser flame, but its minutes of illumination are like a pale and fragile firefly on an ocean of obscure life. It is constantly quenched, engulfed, swept under the wave and under our own waves of obscurity - nothing is changed and life continues in its rut. So the seeker decides to drive this fire, this ardent truth, into his every moment and gesture, into his sleep and into his days, into his good and into his evil, into his whole life, so that everything may be purified, consumed by that fire - so that something else may be born at last, a truer life, a truer being. He enters upon the path of the superman. And the fire continues to grow. It goes down and down the degrees of the being, plunges into the subconscious caves, dislodges the gray elf, dislodges the misery within, and burns more and more continuously, powerfully, as if stoked by the obscure pressure. It is already a body almost in our likeness, vermillion-red in color, already verging on gold. But it is still fluctuating and precarious; it lacks a fundamental base, a permanent foundation. So the seeker decides to drive this fire into his substance and body. He wants his own matter to reflect the Truth, to incarnate the Truth; he wants the outside to radiate as the inside. He enters upon the path of the supramental being. For, in truth, this growing self of fire, this ardent body which bears more and more resemblance to our divine archetype, our brother of light up above, and which seems to exceed us on all sides and even to radiate all around with an already orange vibration, is the very body that will form the supramental being. It is the next earthly substance, "harder than the diamond and yet more fluid than the gas," said Sri Aurobindo(43). It is the spiritual condensation of the great Energy before it becomes matter.
But how to induce this fire into our matter, how to effect the passage, or transfusion, of this dark and mortal body to that ardent and immortal one? The work is in progress; it is difficult to talk about. We will not really know how it is done until it is done. No one knows the country or the way to it since no one has ever gotten there. No one has ever made a supramental body! But it will be made, as inevitably as man and the ape and the millipede were already made in the great golden Seed of the world. This is the last adventure of the earth, or maybe the first of a more marvelous series on a new earth of truth. We do not know the secret; we only know in what direction to walk - though knowing the direction is perhaps already knowing the secret, since it unfolds under our steps and is formed by walking it.
So we can at least indicate the direction, the simple direction, for as usual the secrets are simple. The fire is built by the particle of consciousness we put into an unconscious act. Viewed from above, it is unconsciousness resisting and heating up from the friction of the new consciousness seeking entry - it is that futile and automatic gesture which has trouble untwisting its habitual groove and turning differently, under another impulsion; and we have to untwist the old turn a thousand times, insist and persist until a little flame of consciousness replaces the dark routine. Viewed from below, it is that unconsciousness which suffocates and calls out and knocks and seeks. And both are true. It is the memory within which summons the golden ray; it is the great eternal Sun which makes that call for sunlight well up. The process, the great Process, is simple: we must light that little fire by degrees, put the ray into each gesture, each movement, each breath, each body function. Instead of doing things as usual, automatically, mechanically, we must remember Truth there too, yearn for Truth there too, infuse Truth there too. And we meet with resistance, forgetfulness, breakdowns; the machine goes on strike, falls ill, refuses to take the path of light. We must begin again thousands and thousands of times, point by point, gesture by gesture, function by function. We must remember again and again. Then, all of a sudden, in one little point of the body, in that passing little breath, something no longer vibrates in the old way, no longer works as usual; our breathing suddenly follows another rhythm, becomes wide and sunny, like a comfortable lungful of air, a breath of an air never known before, never tasted before, which refreshes everything, cures everything, even nourishes as if we were inhaling the nectar of the immortals. Then everything falls back into the old habit. We must start all over again, on one point, on another point, at each instant - life becomes filled with an extreme preoccupation, an intense absorption. A second's minuscule victory strengthens us for another discovery, another victory. And we begin to work in every nook and cranny, every movement; we would like everything to be filled with truth and with that sun which changes everything, gives another flavor to everything, another rhythm, another plenitude. The body itself then begins to awaken, to yearn for truth, for sunshine. It begins to light its own fire of aspiration here and there, begins to want not to forget anymore; and whenever it forgets that new little vibration, it suddenly feels suffocated, as if it were sliding back into death. The process is simple, infinite, perpetual: each gesture or operation accomplished with a particle of consciousness binds that consciousness, that little fire of being, to the gesture or operation, and gradually transforms it. It is an infusion of consciousness, a microscopic and methodical and innumerable infusion of fire, until matter itself, under that conscious pressure, awakens to the need of consciousness as the seed awakens to the need for sunlight. Everything then starts growing together, inevitably, irresistibly, under that golden attraction. By degrees, the fire is lit, the vibration radiates, the note spreads, the cells respond to the Influx. The body inaugurates a new type of functioning, a functioning of conscious truth.
The body's virtue is its obstinate permanence; once it has learned something, it never forgets it - it goes on repeating its luminous functioning twenty-four hours a day, day and night, with the same obstinacy with which it used to repeat its diseases, fears, weaknesses and all its dark, age-old animal functioning.
This bodily "demechanization" therefore resembles that of the upper, mental and vital levels, but instead of filling a wasteland of mental unconsciousness between this lamppost and that one, from one end of the street to the other, we must fill a wasteland of bodily unconsciousness between this breathing and that one, this movement and that one, from one end of the body to the other. Instead of confronting a mental machinery churning out a thousand futile thoughts, we face a bodily machinery secreting a thousand imperceptible fears, apprehensions, morbid memories, and turning in a circle in its old, dark arteries. And each "recall," each interruption of the machinery to fix the look of consciousness upon this obscure process creates and binds its droplet of light, its brief moment of being, its little fire, adding one drop to another, and finally begins to make another flow in those veins, another rhythm and another song, and a new bodily ardor that feels like another body in the body, a sort of luminous double which becomes the support, the "driver," we could say, of the old shadowy body. It is this luminous double that will ultimately replace (?) or transmute the other. It is the next earthly body, the "Son of the body" the Vedic Rishis spoke of.
In short, we must replace the "program" automatically fed into the cells and the whole inexorable ribonucleic code that keeps secreting its little distress signals and glandular calls with a conscious "program," a call for light, a solar code in that rattle of valves and pistons and wandering enzymes which, while they make up for our weaknesses and plug the holes of our incapability to absorb directly the great current of restorative Harmony, lock us up in a dungeon of microscopic energy that is soon exhausted and decomposed.
A new spiritual training of the body has to be invented.
Like the other changes of program - mental, vital, and subconscious - this change of bodily, cellular program is, as one can gather, extremely upsetting to the old equilibrium, for the very first task of Truth is always to sow chaos, that is, to dislodge falsehood, aim its searchlight and expose all the little rats burrowing in the recesses of the body, or the thousand and one bacteria of death, we should say. If wrong thoughts and wrong impulses are the falsehoods of the mind and heart, illnesses are the falsehoods of the body - and death the foremost of all falsehoods. But, as usual, our falsehoods turn out to be not so much a fundamental error or fundamental falseness as a resistance against a higher order. This resistance is life's protection - and its entombment. We always regard illness as a struggle against a noxious and destructive agent, but it may be, first, the superficial sign of a struggle against truth and a refusal of truth, which spontaneously and automatically invites death. The seeker will therefore be confronted by the falsehoods of the body; illness and death will become his daily battlefield, maybe even hour by hour and minute by minute - flash-illnesses and flash-deaths - in order for him to learn the trade of Truth and the immortal code in this mortality.
But death is a word for something that does not exist. One does not die when one leaves one's body, any more than when one goes from one room to another or changes clothes. Actually, death is not "on the other side"; it is right here, at every instant, inextricably mingled with life; we take it along everywhere we go and, sometimes, it becomes death. That "sometimes," that moment, or more complete movement of death in us, is what we must catch hold of. Death is not "another state," an accident suddenly thrusting us into something else. It is ingrained in life itself; it is its base, its dark foundation. And if we could unravel those tightly knit threads, that death in the quick, that self of death that beats softly within us and tries day after day, almost hour after hour and every instant, to supplant life at will. One dies only from want of truth. It is the only want in the world. If we were totally true, we would be totally immortal. Death is dissolution of falsehood - for falsehood is in essence decay - and we will die only so long as we are not truthful from head to toe and in every cell of our body. In short, death is the keeper of Truth, the dark angel standing at the immortal threshold that destroys anything incapable of passing purely into Truth. We have already crossed the threshold in our purified mind; we have perhaps crossed it in our heart and feelings - we must cross it in our body. The self of truth must completely replace the self of death. The process of immortalization takes place from the top down: first in the mind, then in the heart and senses, then in the body - but the supreme resistance is also the supreme victory. It is indeed a resistance. Death is a resistance to the law of Truth, to the ever-renewed flow of Harmony. Deep down, we are founded on the "rock of the Inconscient"(44) the Vedic Rishis spoke of, the rock that is perhaps the first moment when the great Energy solidified, turned into matter, plunged into a dark contraction of itself, "sank" into an inert stillness of its triumphant flow, lost itself in a black, motionless ecstasy that was like the inversion of its solar ecstasy on the summits. Those who have had the experience of descending into the material Inconscient know that the image of the Vedic Rishis is not just an image but a rather formidable reality to go through. It is truly a rock - immense and seemingly bottomless - a sheer drop into a basalt chasm, which cannot even be termed black because there is not one spark of blackness there, not one glimmer that would permit one to call it black - it is the Blackness, absolute, without one breath, without one vibration of anything whatever: an instantaneous suffocation, a mortal stifling, a world utterly still, utterly closed, as if strangled on itself, without a sound, without a movement, without an echo of anything whatsoever. An utter void, and yet like a black, asphyxiating existence, something that is in spite of everything - but is like a density of absolute negation, a tremendous refusal which raises its walls of basalt and plunges, plunges like an abyss into an abyss, like a death into a death. To descend there is in fact like dying. It is death. It is the Inconscient. One cannot be there; one must not be there. It is like a supreme repudiation of everything that moves and breathes, everything that bears a particle of light making it possible to live. It does not move. It does not breathe. It is a NO. A tremendous NO to everything and of everything, which swallows you or expels you - or forces you to summon a light greater than that Darkness. And there is only one light greater than that thick, stifling Blackness: the supreme Light, the Great Sun of Truth.
This is why it is said in the Upanishads that Yama, the god of death, is the son of the Sun.(45)
The supreme sun is at the bottom of the supreme darkness. "Death" is the passage to immortality, the keeper of the great total Sun, the ultimate compulsion toward integral Truth. At that moment, whatever is incapable of summoning the Light, all the unpurified fragments of being are immediately snapped up by that NO, dissolved in it, frozen in its black ecstasy, because they are themselves a little spark of that NO, a little refusal of that great Refusal, a chip of that formidable Rock.
And, as a result, we have the key to everything that creates death in life - our countless little deaths every minute. And we understand that this body, this ever so fragile and insignificant little body, which others reject as an old rag or a hindrance to the supreme frolicking of the liberated Spirit, is in fact the site of a supreme conquest and a supreme deliverance, and that the heaven of the Sun of Truth is carved out on earth and in our body every minute by our adherence to or refusal of the light, by our choice, minute by minute, between our self of light and our self of death.
The supramental being is one forever delivered from death and, through his deliverance, the earth will be delivered, compelled to her supreme Sun by her supreme darkness.
(39)Sri Aurobindo, Savitri, 28:59.
(40)Sri Aurobindo, "The Golden Light," 5:134.
(41)Rig Veda, V.1.2, V.1.9.
(42)Sri Aurobindo, "The Dumb Inconscient," 5:163.
(43)A.B. Purani, "Evening Talks with Sri Aurobindo", II.291.
(44)Rig Veda, I.71.2.
(45)Katha Upanishad, I.I.7.
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