‘Sleeping Sickness’ and the Tapasya of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother

Volume 2   Number 1   April 1987

The following are transcripts of a dialogue between Patrizia Norelli-Bachelet and a disciple, on Oliver Sack’s book, Awakenings (E. P. Dutton, New York, 1983), in which he reports on Encephalitis Lethargica (‘sleeping-sickness’), an illness that raged through Europe and America just after World War I; and what transpired with his patients were ‘awoken’ in 1969, nearly 50 years later.

25 November 1986

…What I wanted to discuss was this ‘sleeping-sickness’. Certain things have come together – incredible things – in my reading of The New Way, Volume 3; and they made me realise a lot of these connections even more closely.

There’s a particular portion in Volume 3, ‘The Nature of the Core and the Question of Integrality’, that describes almost to a ‘t’ the nature of this illness, the way those people were experiencing it. You know, that portion where I write about these four Powers and the combined activities of 2 and 2: the 9 and the 4th (or the 1); and the 6 and the 3; and how these two bring Sri Aurobindo as the Transcendent and then the Mother’s action there in this contraction of consciousness. Then he comes to this ‘point’, this ‘seed’. And there’s this question of this speed that I mentioned, and that in this contracting process, it [the consciousness] attains so much speed that finally he bursts the limits of his physicality, as I wrote, and he comes back in the form of this Seed.

Well, this is so descriptive of what these people were experiencing. I mean, there’s this question of speed. When they were given this drug in 1969, one of the things that clearly happened, that you can see when you read all their case histories, is that they were all ‘speeded up’. I think I’ve mentioned this to you, that almost hilarious description of that woman: when she’d start she couldn’t stop, and she’d take off to the next room, and rebound here and there like a billiard ball! But then there were other cases where really they were speeded up, their consciousness was clearly speeded up. But it was this complete…this distinction from this state of sleep and then the awakening which produced this speeded up consciousness; a lot of times even in thoughts and everything.

But the really fascinating thing was, and I just realised it when I was reading The New Way, these passages about this awakening. This whole chapter, ‘The Nature of the Core and the Question of Integrality’, describes beautifully the action there that was going on. There is a portion about what happens to the Transcendent, and that this Transcendent actually falls asleep, when this contracting power of the Mother comes into play. I’ll read it to you. It was so phenomenal, the link with these people. And then I’ll go over the dates and you’ll see what…

‘Sri Aurobindo’s tapasya hinged entirely on rooting the Transcendent Principle or the Absolute in the Earth. As such the third was his field, or the womb that would finally receive this seed. But the Mother was the indispensable bridge whereby the process of decreasing the Transcendent vastness could be accomplished. The secret of this process is contained in the Rig Veda wherein the nature of Aditi is described. She is the Mother of all powers, those divine as well as un-divine, – for Diti, the Mother of Darkness, is finally also a part of Aditi, the shadow of herself. The Mother in Sri Aurobindo’s tapasya was therefore this great cosmic womb through whom he decreased his vastness, or initiated the process of involution. In this second stage of his yoga he worked the transcendent vastness, or the Absolute, into the cosmic planes via the numerous dimensions or planes of consciousness that are contained in the cosmic womb, the Mother. This tapasya appears to produce a decrease or a diminishing which we can imagine as a whirlpool that carries a spiralling energy into its core; in that area all is then contained in a microscopic circuit; as the energy becomes more and more confined, its speed increases. There is thus a twofold action: the original substance or essence is diminished and this very act of tightening of an original substance into confined quarters creates a greater speed of the energy and thus binds it more solidly. It is thus that the seed is finally born.

The physics-minded seeker can readily understand that Sri Aurobindo’s tapasya was exactly the same as the creation of matter. The macrocosm is diminished in creation by the very same action and the original energy is crystallised in a constant process of tightening, whereby in the atom the action of confinement produces the tremendous speeds that serve to engender the energy that binds the nucleus. From this crystallisation process the solid forms of matter arise.

Fundamental in the process is the power of contraction. In Sri Aurobindo’s yoga this power was the Mother. She added the element that was altogether indispensable for his realisation. Without her he could never have accomplished the first and most essential stage of his tapasya; just as without the Third he could not have completed the final stage.

For Sri Aurobindo’s yoga therefore two feminine powers were indispensable. The first served as the field wherein he became involved or conscious in the countless cosmic dimensions born of the Transcendent, and by this means his vastness experienced the first effects of the power of contraction, bringing ever closer to the Earth dimension the essence of the Absolute. To fully appreciate the nature of his yoga one must envisage it as an awakening act: the Absolute, we may say, falls asleep in the passage of unmanifest to manifest. The deepest secret of this creation is thus the act of awakening of the Absolute. It is the reason why in many religious traditions this act is described as a Fall, a plunge into unconscious slumber. Indeed, at the heart of creation there is this lumbering Eye, and the purpose of evolution is the awakening of that Eye. Hindu tradition describes it as the sleep of Vishnu who is awakened by the power of Laksmi as he rests on the serpent Ananta (Eternity). Sri Aurobindo writes of it in his epic poem Savitri:

He is our seed and core, our head and base.
All light is but a flash from his closed eyes:
An all-wise Truth is mystic in his heart,
The omniscient Ray is shut behind his lids:
He is the Wisdom that comes not by thought,
His wordless silence brings the immortal word.
He sleeps in the atom and the burning star,
He sleeps in man and god and beast and stone:
Because he is there the Inconscient does its work,
Because he is there the world forgets to die,
He is the centre of the circle of God,
He is the circumference of Nature’s run.

                        Book XI, Canto I (CE, Volume 29, pages 681-82)

And then I go on to say the Mother served as this divine Shakti in Sri Aurobindo’s yoga, making his act of awakening possible.

‘In her he realised his Self asleep in the vast cosmic manifestation, his very Self of which he had to become unconscious in order for involution to occur. She aroused him in the deepest recesses of her secret self. For the Absolute this is an experience of confinement, it must be understood. He awakens from his slumber, but finds himself contained in the cosmic womb of the Mother. Yet the greater dimensions of the experience prove this Body to be of the Absolute himself: there is no difference. In the passage of unmanifest to manifest, the Absolute transmutes himself – by his plunge, or his slumber – into this Body. Sri Aurobindo’s yoga or union with the Mother, then served to awaken him in this Body and initiate the process of contraction to a point, a seed. From the vast dimensions this original Essence is carried deeply into creation, in a process of tremendous and overpowering contraction. The deeper the Mother carried him into herself the greater was the speed he acquired. And this is the most profound secret of Sri Aurobindo’s tapasya: he acquired speed, his original essence-consciousness gathered such tremendous momentum that it allowed him to draw this energy into the minute confinements of the seed dimension of Form. With this accomplished, on the basis of the contracting power of the Shakti, he could leave and take birth as Agni, the Vedic principle of speed, of motion, of the upward drive – the God-leader of the journey who carries the movement to the realm of Truth.’

                                    (The New Way, Volume 3, pages 142-143)

Now this is so incredible because of the dates when all of this was going on. I was telling you that it was in 19…those years from 1917, 1919 to 1926/27. That was the end of it and then the thing disappeared completely. Now, those were the very years that Sri Aurobindo and the Mother finally came together for their joint tapasya. And I was reading in Volume 3, this interesting passage describing how…what the really important happening of the 24th of November, 1926, was, for the collective work. It was this factor, when they took up their joint tapasya together. Up until that time, prior to 1920 when the Mother was away, Sri Aurobindo was working on his own… That this was the really important thing because that was essential to working this out. So, during this period, these two Powers came together and this contracting process, putting him to sleep, more and more, as it’s described… And finally locked away in his room…and he came out totally asleep.

Well I mean, look at Satyavan. That’s all he does in the epic, he just goes to sleep…and that’s the end of it! He does nothing. I mean, you don’t even come to the awakening in [the epic].

And now this incredible story. But wait a minute, that’s not the half of it. Because, when did these people get this famous drug that awakened them? It’s clear that on the cosmic level these people succumbed to this sleeping-sickness, this encephalitis, because there was something tremendous happening. And this was a collective movement that responded.

But then there are the connections of the Mother with that influenza epidemic; because Sacks mentions in his book specifically that this sleeping-sickness came about after (I think on two occasions that something of this nature happened)…they directly relate it to that influenza. He believes maybe something weakened… So there, in Japan, I believe it was in 1918, – a few months in 1919 that that influenza happened… And that was when the Mother had that extraordinary experience of seeing the decapitated head, sort of the embodiment of that influenza that was the outcome, precisely, of the First World War. He was dressed as a soldier, I believe.

            Yes, as an admiral, or something like that.

And then she stops the thing right there; almost dies, but stops it.

Yes, the ‘thing’ came to take her away.

And right after starts this sleeping-sickness all over the world: 3 million people afflicted. And then in 1920, she joins Sri Aurobindo and all during that period up to 1926-27, when he finally withdrew, this sleeping-sickness was raging all around. These people were put to sleep, and eventually then, just more and more and more became ‘contracted’.

Now, I mention about him falling asleep in the cosmic womb and being imprisoned in there. Well, you read Sacks’ book, you won’t believe it. The descriptions of these experiences! They were entombed, completely. I mean, it’s absolutely phenomenal. And then you have a reverse action. Now there’s a portion in this book where he describes, regarding a particular patient who was… He was baffled by all of this, of this contraction and expansion. And this question of speed of the consciousness that she [the patient] acquires afterwards.

 ‘Of the twenty patients whose stories I told in Awakenings, the one I did least justice to was Mariam H. Perhaps it has been only since 1972 that I have penetrated past a certain shyness and reserve, and come to realise the massive personality and intelligence within, how spacious she is as a person. Perhaps, previously, there was not only shyness but a contraction of self due to Parkinsonism and depression. If before she had to survive in the face of contraction…’

 (Before the drug awakened her)

‘…now she must hold together in the face of expansion – ’

(This is really too much, isn’t it?)

‘…the centrifugal power of Tourettish excitation – ’

(That’s a manifestation associated with Parkinsonism, tics and all kinds of things; obviously very speeded up and no control.)

‘…convulsive and compulsive motions and notions. If she were less massive, less spacious in her essential self, she would be carried away, or distracted, or fragmented, or contorted by the ‘false self’. The strange enkieness…which has developed on L-Dopa [the drug]. However, she shows not the least sign of being fundamentally discomposed by this – she is discomposed, briefly, in her tantrums and crises, but as soon as these are over, she regains her strong self: one must almost feel (to use one of her own favourite words) that her attacks are a ‘conduit’ to deal with excitement, to discharge it harmlessly, leaving her inner economy, her basic self, undisturbed. She readily accommodates Tourettish excitement, finding room for it in the outskirts of a commodious personality, and even gaining a certain advantage and pleasure from the extraordinary swiftness of thought and invention which goes with it. She lets it be, she allows it a place, but there is never any doubt as to who controls what: there may, indeed, be a ‘Tourettoma’, a false self, an ‘It’; but the real self, the ‘I’ is firmly in command, I find this incredible, when I think what she has been through.’

                                                                        (Awakenings, page 261)

Now, this is one case. Throughout the book he goes on describing this process where these people are contracted literally to a point.

With observation behind it…

But that’s the interesting thing, and that is what’s so pathetic about this, that somewhere that consciousness… Honestly, it’s just like being entombed and there is this tremendous wall between what they’re living inside and the capacity to express this outside. And I am convinced that this is due to the fact that their time-consciousness is completely off. I mean completely gone berserk. And what happens is that in this contraction process, that’s when they go into those lengthy, drawn out time sequences. It’s when they awaken that they go to the reverse, and they’re falling all over themselves. That’s one of the problems of this drug. They had to stop it…most of the patients then went into incredibly terrible experiences on the drug. First they were awakened and they had this remarkable opening; and then they started speeding up too much, and they’d fall and they’d break their hip and their arm and this and that. And then, of course, into hallucinations and all sorts of things.

There is that patient who accomplished this movement of just lifting his arm and cleaning his nose in eight hours! And only by filming it did they see that it was actually one motion and that he was totally convinced that it was done is a fraction of time!

So, there are these two processes, something absolutely extraordinary, where this contraction just drew them to a ‘point’ and enclosed them in this ‘womb’, this cosmic womb of their consciousness, of their illness. And then finally they lived the full process when they are awakened. Like the Transcendent that’s contracted and then awakens; and that is the main aspect of his [Sri Aurobindo’s] tapasya.

Okay, when did this awakening take place? I mean, this is the remarkable thing. Because of this drug…they first used it in 1969, in May, of 1969. Now, if you remember what I wrote in Volume 2 about the Periods of Enhancement, and how Sri Aurobindo’s began in May of 1969, because that was when in his time-cycle he passed over the Cardinal point before his 99th birthday in 1971. [See The New Way, Volume 2, pages 302ff.] So the thing started when they administered the first drugs to these patients who began suddenly awakening. And then by 1971…that Period of Enhancement by his 99th year was complete. Of course that was the return to India in the form of that ‘seed’. And these people by that time, I think by 1972…because the experiences that he writes of in the book cover from 1969 precisely to 1972: Sri Aurobindo’s Centenary and the 100th year that marked the end of that cycle of Enhancement. Absolutely remarkable, this thing…

And then this quantity of 3 million people all over the world, just carried away…into this whirlpool of what was going on cosmically, when these two Powers came together. This isn’t going to be any consolation for them or their friends, but to me it’s just a remarkable play out and the way in which you see how the collective, at the collective level this sort of thing is possible when these formations come. Really, you can’t understand them otherwise. If you read his Preface you’ll see that he was just baffled by this, by whatever happened:

‘The theme of this book is the lives and reactions of certain patients in a unique situation – and the implications which these hold out for medicine and science. These patients are among the few survivors of the great sleeping-sickness epidemic (encephalitis lethargica) of fifty years ago, and their reactions are those brought about by a remarkable new ‘awakening’ drug… (L-DOPA). The lives and responses of these patients, which have no real precedent in the entire history of medicine, are presented in the form of extended case-histories or biographies; these form the major part of the book. Preceding these case-histories are introductory remarks on the nature of their illness, the sort of lives they have led since first being taken ill, and something about the drug which has transformed their lives. Such a subject might seem to be of very special or limited interest, but this, I believe, is by no means the case. In the latter part of the book, I have tried to indicate some of the far-reaching implications which arise from this subject – implications which extend to the most general questions of health, disease, suffering, care, and the human condition in general.’ (Ibid, page 1)

Believe me, he’s more right than what he thinks! I mean, phenomenal, this…really, just phenomenal. But at the same time, you see, I wouldn’t have been able to ever see this connection if I hadn’t perceived this in my own yoga, regarding these four Powers and this contraction. You know, I’ve been lingering with this book now for a couple of weeks, a few weeks, and just sort of barely inching my way toward the end. And now it’s just when I read that chapter [in The New Way, Volume 3] again about this Transcendent falling asleep and then awakening that I’m seeing that the times are exact. That makes me realise why I had to read Sacks’ book right now and discuss it. It’s become a sort of classic in this type of literature.

Some of this is so remarkable. I was telling you about the connection with the sign Cancer because that’s the first degree in the Precession of the Equinox in this Age of Aquarius. So all of this time from 19… So all of this is taking place in the first 72 years of the Age, which is ruled by the individual degree of Cancer. And this whole question of going into this ‘tomb’, this ‘sleep’ and all, is obviously so characteristic [of Cancer].

Now listen, here’s one…describing what this woman called Rose experienced just before she ‘fell asleep’, which probably came to light when she had awakened, I suppose:

‘The night of the sleeping-sickness, and the days which followed it, can be reconstructed in great detail from Miss R.’s relatives, and Miss R. herself. The acute phase announced itself (as sometimes happened…) by nightmares of a grotesque and terrifying and premonitory nature. Miss R. had a series of dreams about one central theme: she dreamed she was imprisoned in an inaccessible castle….’

(The Queen of Night’s castle? Isn’t this incredible?)

‘…but the castle had the form and shape of herself;…’

(Phenomenal, eh? I mean, why a castle? You know, if it was herself, what was… But how interesting compared to Cancer, no? And The Magical Carousel? How absolutely fascinating because obviously that castle image is very apropos. Witness H’s dream about the Ashram and her life at present in the form of a castle, and all connected with Diti and Cancer…)

‘…she dreamed of enchantments, bewitchments, entrancements; she dreamed that she had become a living, sentient statue of stone; she dreamed that the world had come to a stop;…’

(Isn’t it remarkable, this intense contraction?)

‘…she dreamed that she had fallen into a sleep so deep that nothing could awake her; she dreamed of a death which was different from death. Her family had difficulty waking her the next morning, and when she awoke there was intense consternation: ‘Rose,’ they cried, ‘wakeup! What’s the matter? Your expression, your position…You’re so still and so strange.’ Miss R. could not answer, but turned her eyes to the wardrobe mirror, and there she saw that her dreams had come true. The local doctor was brisk and unhelpful: ‘Catatonia,’ he said; ‘flexibilitis cerea. What can you expect with the life she’s been leading? She’s broken her heart over one of those bums. Keep her quiet and feed her – she’ll be fine in a week.’

‘But Miss R. was not to recover for a week, or a year or forty-three years. She recovered the ability to speak in short sentences, or to make sudden movements before she froze up again.’

(A living tomb. Literally, huh?)

‘She showed, increasingly, a forced retraction of her neck and her eyes – a state of almost continuous oculogyric crisis, [The eyes become fixed] broken only by sleep, meals and occasional ‘releases’. She was alert, and seemed to notice what went on around her; she lost none of her affection for her numerous family – and they lost none of their affection for her; but she seemed absorbed and preoccupied in some unimaginable state. For the most part, she showed no signs of distress, and no signs of anything save intense concentration: ‘She looked,’ said one of her sisters, ‘as if she were trying her hardest to remember something – or, maybe, doing her damnedest to forget something. Whatever it was, it took all her attention.’ In her years at home, and subsequently in hospital, her family did their utmost to penetrate this absorption, to learn what was going on with their beloved ‘kid’ sister. With them – and, much later, with me – Miss R. was exceedingly candid, but whatever she said seemed cryptic and gnomic, and yet at the same time disquietingly clear.

The following are typical of some of the ‘dialogues’ I had with Miss R.:
‘What are you thinking about, Rosie?’
‘Nothing, just nothing.’
‘But how can you possibly be thinking of nothing?’
‘It’s dead easy, once you know how.’
‘How exactly do you think about nothing?’
‘One way is to think about the same thing again and again. Like 2=2=2=2=2; or, I am what I am what I am what I am. It’s the same thing with my posture. My posture continually leads to itself.’

(You see, this ‘contraction’ and turning back on itself all the time…)

‘Whatever I do or whatever I think leads deeper and deeper into itself. And then there are maps. I think of a map; then a map of that map; then a map of that map of that map, and each map perfect, though smaller and smaller… Worlds within worlds within worlds within worlds. Once I get going I can’t possibly stop. It’s like being caught between mirrors, or echoes, or something. Or being caught on a merry-go-round which won’t come to a stop.’    (Ibid, pages 68-69)

It’s like all those mirrors of the Queen of Night’s castle…and with the labyrinth of Cancerland, – and all this is taking place in the United States: Cancer personified! She even mentions a ‘merry-go-round’!

There’s this uncontrollable motion with these people. You see that the whole motor thing is completely haywire and they cannot control their movements anymore. And this question of uncontrollable motion is interesting in relation to Cancer too [by its relation to the mechanical, cellular mind].

What an extraordinary happening! I mean, the things that happen on this planet and that people really can’t link to anything. Like this man [Sacks] who is so concerned about making sense of this illness, and the book is beautiful in this respect. He goes into subjects that are quite deep toward the end. But you can see that he is just baffled by this phenomenon but that he has no way… How can you explain something like this? How can you explain the nature of the illness, that is, the pathology of the illness. Or how can you explain, then, something even more: How the devil did it come about? Why did it leave? That’s the crux of it. I mean, why did it affect people at that period? And then or course, for me it’s even more interesting, that particular period connected to the time when they awoke which involved his whole… By that time that ‘seed’ was there.

Then when they [the patients] awoke there is this speed… This speeded up action from that point on; and then these people again carried away and used in this; and then coming out and speaking and some of the most incredible things they’re saying. Just the state that they are describing is something extraordinary. You have to admit that it is phenomenal that, as I say, this isn’t schizophrenia, this is the vital-physical. This is the motor being, the instinctive, the vital-physical, where mentally they’re undisturbed in a way, except that they don’t have the link by which to… They’ve lost that link-up there, where they can observe and they can experience the states, but they can’t express it; then when they were put on this drug they were able to express it but speeded up so much that it would be even more disastrous.

They take the drug for a while…suddenly, almost immediately went into this extraordinary awakening where they thought that they were cured, you know. And then suddenly start these catastrophic experiences. They had to stop the drug. Invariably, there was hardly one or two cases where they could keep on giving it. He had to constantly vary the dosis [doses?]. He had to then finally stop it in some cases because they got so bad, they got so hyped up, let’s say, that then they had to stop it entirely.

So they used to call it a hell and yet at the same time it was this heaven because it took them out of their sleep. But then it became a living hell. Sure, because, you see, this is the whole thing: their time experience, as the experience of consciousness, the vehicle of consciousness… When they were asleep it was contracted, and that’s why a lot of them didn’t age. They looked half their age. Their aging process even went to sleep…

Just on those terms, science ought to go wild over this.

He mentions it so often, regarding age, that most of them looked half their age. That to me is phenomenal. This is not just a sleep, because in a normal sleep you age. Something else was put to sleep…and what it was is their time-experience. Like that man who accomplished his action in a whole day instead of a few seconds. Obviously he wouldn’t age as much, no? But then when they gave him the drug this whole thing speeded up and it was affecting again the particular ‘clock’.

It’s clear, as you say, it’s the vital-physical.

Yes, exactly, because I’ve always described my work…now at the third level, the vital. That’s why I can deal with time, because that’s really where time becomes crystallised, in these periods. That is, in these periods we can begin to define.

Wasn’t it in that period when Sri Aurobindo and the Mother’s yoga was going on in the vital levels and they were predicting they would progressively begin to look younger. And then the whole thing came to a stop and they started aging. And they got down to the physical.

I was also reading this in the third volume, because I start describing this episode, you know, of the beginning of the Age, and that’s how I led up to this point about these four conjunct Powers. So, I was describing the ‘brilliant period’ of the Ashram. It was in the vital. Then he [Sri Aurobindo] put his foot down and stopped the whole thing and they plunged into the physical, and then of course started all the illnesses, started everything.

Now, that’s the same thing that happened with these patients because by that time they were just going into their deep slumber and then even the outburst of the illness itself came to an end. And then they were just left there. So they were left there 50 years! I mean, can you imagine? You know, from 1927…26, 27, 28. It would be interesting to get the exact dates. He gives the years but it would be interesting really to know when was the last recorded case? In any case, it was then 50 years later when they were awakened. And they were put into this sleep. And coinciding with the exact time of Sri Aurobindo’s Enhancement and virtually his own awakening.

I mean, that’s what happened in 1971, which was the beginning, with the return to India. This was the beginning then of the action of that Seed. And then of course, that was my ‘awakening’…and that was the channel through which this had to be done. Then, in 1976, came this final awareness of precisely that ‘seed’.

And all during this time, these poor unfortunate souls have been…I mean, you can’t even call them ‘sacrifices’ because it doesn’t make much sense unless there’s some reason why this had to happen, that there had to be a collective process also that accompanied this…

So, what is the reason that such a thing was necessary? That is, was it necessary, or was it simply a projection of what they were doing and that it was uncontrollable in the sense that since the field is one, this thing had to have certain repercussions? Or was it really a tactical necessity? You know, that there should be this certain amount of people, like this mass that was there following this process that it was necessary for his own realisation – to root this on the Earth – that this group consciousness should have lived this experience. It would seem that there would be some sense to the thing like this because, since you’re dealing in the Supramental Manifestation with this vertical/horizontal, with this individual and the collectivity all the time. There’s always an interrelation and harmonisation of that. You would think that this was the means by which his yoga was affecting the collective experience and that this was part of the mechanism, part of the tactics, let’s say.

Then look, how interesting in his own yoga. I mean, how from that point on…from the point when this illness stopped he withdrew and he was confined. And all these people were confined from that point on, I mean literally confined. As this woman describes a castle that was her own self, her own being, and there he is in this room through this whole period and this ‘confinement’. Then, of course, experiencing this speeding up of the consciousness by this contractive process. But you know, it’s really at the fourth level then when this speed comes to the physical. You understand that that is the essence of matter.

Actually also, even the way he went was through a coma, wasn’t it?

It was, but that strange ‘coma’, eh? Where he’s [he’d?] come out [of it] and go in and come out. But virtually he was…that’s it, he was in a coma. Deeper sleep than that?

Isn’t it absolutely fascinating? How this played itself out so perfectly in the conditions of his own tapasya, you know. This we’ve known and discussed so many times, but in cases like this, I’m absolutely in awe of the way these details take shape. And then, – why? I mean, it’s clear: because these correspond to cosmic principles. As I write in the third volume, this is the very process of creation. So you get down to that seed level where that speed is, where this confinement of his consciousness comes to such a degree, you know, where the speed is such that it generates that energy that binds and that is the core of matter. And that happened then, you see…I mean, that played itself out on Earth, let’s say, from ’69 on, when his Enhancement started and then ended with his return to India. You see how absolutely remarkable…but that’s when you get to the physical level. Precisely. That’s it… That symbol of coming as a small child…I mean, the whole thing plays itself out so beautifully, you know.

When I was reading this, I have to say, all along I was just simply overwhelmed by this phenomenon…the descriptions of this illness. Oh, this fact, as I was saying before, that this is of the vital-physical, that’s where…And these people…the mind is almost intact except insofar as it uses the brain and the brain becomes afflicted to some extent. But you know, obviously then some distortions at a certain point come in, especially when they were speeded up. That’s when they started having hallucinations and everything. But when they were in that state…that was the pathetic thing about it, that there is this consciousness that’s aware of the condition and can do nothing. It’s not schizophrenia. This is a split on that vital-physical motor level. Schizophrenia is a mental condition, an aberration, so there’s nobody witnessing it any more. There is no consciousness of the pain even, because all of that is completely shattered. But here the tragedy is that they were aware. They are not mentally disturbed, as such.

And so, you have to look at all of these things that happen, like AIDS…Clear, I mean, I tried to bring that out – about how much connected it was to something that’s being worked out, this whole guilt… It’s evident that something like this just doesn’t happen because of promiscuous sex. There’s got to be a consciousness factor behind it that’s causing it. When it…it happens on an individual level, imagine on a collective level! Obviously it’s got to gain force.

The remarkable work this man has done, and so dedicated, sensitive, you know, and in his dealing…

That’s the feeling you get from his descriptions.

Of course being English, he has really a very fine use of the language. Certain portions are so beautifully poetic. There’s one place here that…I think it was in his Epilogue… Oh, he constantly talks about it as being ‘in a black hole’. One of these women who would go from extremes, fluctuating between a ‘black hole’ and a ‘super-nova’. Before the awakening she was this black hole. I mean, can it be a more interesting description? Because for me that’s exactly what it is, when this time lengthens then to such an extent where it virtually comes to a stop. And that is what that woman, Rose, was describing: that the world stopped. And then of course this ‘super-nova explosion’…

Here’s a footnote to this Epilogue:

‘There has been a continual struggle to understand the nature of “place” (and “time”, and indeed “reality”) insofar as it may have a peculiar character for the Parkinsonian. In Awakenings (1973) I saw these peculiarities as “Einsteinian” in nature, “a systematic disorder of space-time parameters”, “a systematic warping of coordinate-systems”, though there was a certain paradox or contradiction inherent in such notions, which became explicit, an oxymoron, when I spoke of “Einsteinian delirium”.’ (Ibid, page 318)

Oh, to have been able to discuss with this man, I mean this question of focus on the time factor and see how you can deal with it. I don’t know, in medicine how could they? Because this is a phenomenon of consciousness, a warp; a consciousness warp that expresses itself in their time experience and you do have these drugs that speed up the consciousness, which is clearly what L-DOPA was doing too. But that doesn’t heal, I mean it doesn’t solve anything. In fact, it was complete imbalance in most of the cases, where they really went off.

There were some portions here I wanted to remark on…where he talks about love, and that necessity….

You know that many of these patients were able to attain a sort of accommodation because they had some contact, some love, some human warmth there; that they forged a relationship with either someone in the hospital or family members and that helped them. But at the same time, in other cases where they lost that element then they died immediately; and they just sort of ‘turned off’.

Then there is another very interesting thing: that a certain ‘something’ was controlling the illness, because there are cases which he describes when no matter how much of that drug they gave, it had no effect at all. When the person sort of turned it off, it was turned off; and nothing, nothing could awaken them again. That there was an element that was clearly utilising all this and sort of even conscious of the awakening and able to turn it off when it wanted. Like the interesting cases of several he describes of having this clear premonition of their death during the night, and saying… One lady saying goodbye to everybody: I’m going to die! And then she goes to sleep, and doesn’t wake up again! And there are several of them like that, that knew exactly, you know, when they were… This is quite something because these are states and perceptions that the ordinary human being doesn’t attain. So that alone should have been enough to really make people… Well, as he did – to seek to find the ‘metaphysical’ aspect to all this. Metaphysical, in his terms, meaning just something beyond the physical, some other element. He goes on about this: we have to take this into consideration if we want to understand this disease.

To understand disease itself.

Of course, but here you have a clear example of… It’s like an experience, an experiment that was so concise that you could follow it; because it was over a period in which they were put to sleep and then awakened, you could deal with this. Isn’t it incredible? Something here…

‘One must allow the possibility of an almost limitless repertoire of functional reorganisations and accommodations of all types, from cellular, chemical and hormonal levels, to the organisation of the self – the “will to get well”. One sees again and again, not merely in the context of L-DOPA and Parkinsonism, but in cancer, tuberculosis, neurosis – all diseases – remarkable, unexpected and “inexplicable” resolutions, at times when it seems that everything is lost. One must allow – with surprise, with delight – that such things happen, and that they can happen to patients on L-DOPA as well. Why they should happen, and what indeed is happening, are questions which it is not yet in our power to answer; for health goes deeper than any disease.’ (Ibid, pages 236-37)

There’s a certain portion where he talks about the personal, and the person, how much this is so wrapped up with this experience. Really remarkable.

And now there is this other thing brought to my attention, this ‘Sudden Infant Death’, ‘Crib Death’. Now you have a new phenomenon. I’ve got to get the dates on this; I really want to see when the first such deaths were being reported. But it’s clear that this is going to be the thing that’s winding up this Cancer degree, in the Precession [of the Equinoxes]. This is going to be…to play itself out until the end of the cycle, – which ends in 1998; that this too is connected to something and probably going to be accentuated in the last 9 years, then bringing the shift to the next degree, which will be Leo. So it really makes you wonder, like…to what extremes is this going to go? Here you have 7000 babies dying annually – that’s a lot in a population that is not growing so much, you know. And then, how can you control it? Suppose tomorrow all the babies in America decide they are going to leave like this and you can’t do a damn thing about it! They already can’t handle AIDS: that’s gone completely out of their control.

And now there is this phenomenon of these babies that just take this decision to leave their bodies. Clearly, as clear as a bell – before that connection is made. How fascinating: Those first 6 months when they haven’t become enmeshed in this web, or this network of time on this planet through the lived conscious experience. Obviously, it has to be when they are in a state when they are not living that conscious experience yet.

I mean, I remember P, for example, how long it took him to really get rooted down here – how long? 12 years before he was really in his body; and those first 6 years…Good God, he was elsewhere most of the time, you know. I mean, it wasn’t something like ‘going away’. It was a state of being. His state of consciousness was like that all the time.

So, these little infants, clear, they just slip through the skull there – that’s wide open – as a symbol, really. Not that it would impede it. It’s the opening in the cranium that indicates that that rooting has not yet really taken place. There they go! They take this decision to leave. Now, why do they take that decision? What are they playing out?

Now, it’s clear that as these [sleeping-sickness] patients were representing a tapasya that was going on in the transcendent-cosmic level and they were following the Transcendent’s sleep and awakening, these patients, these babies, are describing a work that is going on in our times, which means also a greater consciousness in birth, in the birth process, as well as the death process. (I’ve written about this – this conscious death.) But, if they are living this, it’s playing out the drama of this critical juncture that we’ve reached on this planet, where clearly they’re the ones that don’t want to hang around to see it, you know. And they consciously leave.

I mean, the atmosphere on the Earth must be so terrible. Imagine a certain awareness in the process of birth, where you are really conscious of those ‘layers’ which most human beings don’t feel. Imagine the chaos which must be going on in there. And that if you retain a certain consciousness and you realise what’s going to hit this planet, let’s say – because of all this chaos which is first felt up in those planes – these little creatures don’t want any part of it, you know? And they are playing out a certain collective choice to leave. And so, it kind of makes a mockery of all this stuff about being lifted off the planet, because you don’t need a space ship to come and get you. Here’s a case – you just leave!

So juvenile.

It is so juvenile… So many things can be the channels for that departure: illnesses, wars, any destruction for that matter. But, I mean, it’s people that always want to cling to…who they are in themselves, in their bodies, as they know them. So, let’s go off on a space ship and then return after it’s all over! It may not play itself out so easily, you know. But these little creatures are definitely sending a signal. And they are, in some way, elements to describe a particular transition right now in these last 12-15 years….

You know, Cancer is the Night; then you go to the everlasting Day….

26 November 1986

I finished that book last night, and I wanted to just add a few words, because I was looking for some dates there: when he actually started using this drug. Apparently it was released or ready for use in 1967. It reminded me of Sri Aurobindo once saying that by 1967 his work would have reached a decisive phase. That was 9 years before ’76 – I always remember that. Anyway, in ’69 they started. There’s one case he mentions, where they started in March administering this thing. Clearly in the spring. The main thrust was from May into the summer. That’s when the thing really got going.

But I can’t tell you how much this has impressed me, this reading. All last night…I came to the end of it and he mentions as a footnote to his epilogue – a long footnote about this ‘Einsteinian delirium’, or something. Because he talks about this time-space warp that’s so noticeable in what these people are living. And then that really brought up some more interesting facts that we didn’t discuss yesterday.

The fact is there is this awakening, like I was talking about, in the Transcendent, as I wrote in the third volume. The awakening in the cosmic dimension – sort of like this ‘integrating process’, as it becomes conscious in all these dimensions. And these people… It is clear, that in this process, this sleep they go into, they become then possessed, really, by the powers in those other planes. That this sleep creates conditions in this vital-physical over which they have no more control eventually. They gradually become totally possessed by this. But the possession, as long as they are not awakened, just means that. It means that they are like in this cosmic womb, this tomb.

When they awakened these people that’s when all these bizarre things really started happening, because they were then just this ‘field’, and they couldn’t control it. A lot of them speak about a ‘force’ just coming like…blocking them, stopping them dead in their tracks…whatever. And all kinds of hallucinations, seeing beings. They became these fields then – because they are open in that dimension. That’s the whole point.

            So they do have some subtle vision?

Yes, yes, hallucinations definitely. There was one lady who was visited every night by a nice gentleman; and he [Sacks] sort of overlooked it, as if to say: Well, it was her companion. He would come in through the window every night!

And then there was this other fellow, Leonard, who was Sacks’ favourite there. He was really articulate in what he was experiencing, to a very high degree, I must say. He had this painting, sort of like the wild west; some town in the wild west. He used to hallucinate with that. During his drug days, when he was taking this drug, he really went wild. And then became, as happed usually… You know they would let themselves go into hallucinations, but then eventually with this drug, those hallucinations overpowered them. They couldn’t block them out. That had opened to all that, awoken all that, and they were in this strange way cosmicised. You know what I mean? Their beings, through this sleep process, whatever it was that happened. This is the way I can see it: Whatever it was that happened to them in those long periods of sleep, especially during the illness as such, allowed for this kind of… Like an interpenetration, or something, with these other dimensions and these forces. I mean, they really lived the process of this womb that’s their tomb, eventually.

I had an experience in Pondicherry like that. I think I may have told you. Once I woke up in the middle of the night. The mosquito net over the bed was really like the womb of the Mother – the cosmic Womb. And then it just became larger and larger, to become the city, and then finally the whole earth, and then the whole universe. And it was this enveloping consciousness.

But then, it was very interesting because Sri Aurobindo was there too. That was when I had this clear realisation of these 3 Powers and how with this Triad all the possible relations were there, you see.

But there was a phase after that, in the days that followed, where at times I felt this being like a prison, you know, and I could understand very well why it was that people wanted to flee from that. Then on the basis of all those experiences – they lasted for many days – I was writing in the second volume [of The New Way] about the Room, going into the Room…and how it becomes, when one hasn’t made the breakthrough… It is…this womb is like a prison. Then that is why many of those realisers just shot off and tried to dissolve the whole cosmic manifestation. Because it seemed like a prison. And of course if you don’t go beyond that point it is a prison.

And these patients…think of it – there were about 3 million people afflicted, which means that there were a lot of people who were overtaken by the forces on those planes. I mean, look what was going on! Then you had the Second World War – that whole period then was tremendously important occultly. Really the period in which the Mother was so active, and that was her dimension [the Cosmic]. All this was happening in there.

There is another interesting factor, because this last degree of the sign…this would have happened in the last 9 years just preceding entry into Aquarius. So you could say, the last degree of Pisces, the very last seconds of degree, you see, of the sign of Pisces, (in retrograde motion, of course)…so, I’ve always found that the last degree is always the most intense. When a person is born with the sun in that very last degree, it’s really not the other sign yet until you get over the hump into the zero degree of the next sign. But it’s like the last death breath. You know where a person comes back to life again and you think he is going to survive, and then he collapses again. So, it’s like this: Those last 9 years of an Age have to be very, very intense indeed and this obviously was one of the expressions.

But what was happening in the whole world was so fascinating. Think of it: the depression, the collapse, – monetary. Look at what was caving in then! Everything was just caving in, and all this… Because you see now, even with the difficult financial situations in the world, somehow they are always propped up. You don’t get the feeling that it is ever going to be possible…something like that – a depression – again, on such a massive scale. World wide and in the States.

Such a peculiar thing. Take a place like New Zealand. However could they have experienced it in a land of plenty like that? But they went through the same thing.

What is behind it? What is manipulating all this? It doesn’t have any logic. Of course, maybe in economics they could explain it because certain key factors work world wide. But surely there must be some way to protect yourself. As you say, a place like New Zealand ought to be able to survive – with a handful of people on it, you know.

I know, only 2 million people at that time. It was a whole trade breakdown too. And of course the States being the focal point.

Well, but at the same time, was it [the USA] really so much a force? It wasn’t the power that it is now for sure; or that it became after the war. Or after the depression, as a matter of fact. That’s when it started getting itself together.

But anyway, the interesting thing is that these are really indications of cosmic forces working and manifesting like this. If you really see the influences prevailing and you see where it’s headed, you can pin-point…and you can see what it’s building up, what it is breaking down.

Whereas now, it is not on that cosmic level – more individual. Terrorism, for example. Individuals, sort of isolated.

It’s very different now. And then, in the 20’s, 30’s, a little before, you really had mass movements. Everything seemed far less conscious, you know. The individual was less aware, so… Look at Nazism, how that was able to come and take possession of people. What’s comparable today? Iran and what is going on there? I mean that’s minute compared to… They have never been able to get that power together. That power is able to work isolated, you know, for those people. Period. But in Germany, this was something that went far beyond and involved the whole world. Quite different you see…

That it was able to take possession of a nation which was in a crucial position, that’s the other thing too. That’s the difference between…Iran, what is it?

No, you’re right. It’s not a key factor at this point but Germany then was. Europe was.

            Germany was the cockpit of Europe.

So, this has been an interesting experience to realise that this was happening. I had no idea of this. Then it was so beautiful when I was reading those chapters in Volume 3 describing this exact process – awakening in the cosmic dimension. I mean, the words were so… And the Absolute’s sleep, the Transcendent’s sleep and then this contraction [power] of the Mother. These poor people. This is actually what they were put through – this contraction like that. Phenomenal.

            And this hell and heaven that they experienced with this drug that released them. But then, the release was what? The release was an opening in those dimensions, you understand, over which they had no control. That’s why they went so berserk. Sure, he awoke then – but I’m telling you, something was cosmicised in these people. Cosmicised, not meaning in the sense of cosmic consciousness but physical-vital – some interpenetration there during that sleep period. Then they had no control over that any more. Yet, their mind was aware. And so, he awakens them and they are at the mercy of this thing, and so before long they are plunged into this absolute hell and with no control whatsoever.

It’s like taking drugs, LSD…

Exactly. But even more interesting because in a sense they are far more aware than the person who is… Because it was not on the mental level, like a schizophrenic. It was a completely different manifestation. That’s why also, having been so cosmicised like that, they had this time-warp, you see. And he remarks on that in the very last pages of the book: this immense slowing down; and then with the drug just the contrary – this acceleration of everything. Just fascinating, huh?

I don’t know if any of these patients are still alive. But when the last one goes that’s the end of it, you know. I mean, it hasn’t repeated itself; it’s not likely to repeat itself. It’s just going to be this interesting phenomenon that hit the Earth and left. Because you know there are other sleeping-sicknesses. I remember…the tsetse fly carries this virus in Africa. But I don’t think anything of this nature happens. This then develops into Parkinsonism, but with the difference that apparently – this is another interesting thing – it doesn’t degenerate, whereas the real Parkinson’s Disease is a progressive degeneration. It gets worse and worse. These, they remain at the level of their illness. It doesn’t progress, except of course when he was giving the drug. Then all these phenomena started happening. But it’s different from the ordinary Parkinson’s Disease; it’s not degenerative like that. So they stay, for as long as they live, in that condition permanently.

And this fellow, Leonard that he writes about… It’s very curious: he couldn’t speak. So being very articulate and all, he had to write it out, tap it out, tap out his words. But then, he’s given this drug and he starts bellowing out! Phenomenal, no? I mean, like that – from one day to the next. And then…Okay, that’s fine – his first awakening… And progressively it got worse. He became an absolute demon with all kinds of hallucinations, of being the Messiah, and everything. Completely. Obviously overtaken, and since he probably had a better instrument for something like that, these forces really wrecked havoc. So then they had to stop all of that; and of course stopped his speaking, because he couldn’t speak without this drug. And then, at times they used it again but it didn’t have any effect. Finally, after years, maybe 12 years, they used it, and again he started that bellowing speech….

Then, there was this Rose…when she was awoken, she awakened to the world of 1926, when she fell ill. Fifty years earlier, you know, forty years earlier. She couldn’t cope with this fact that the world wasn’t 1926 and that she had lost 40 years of her life. So they had to just stop the whole thing.

There’s a photograph of her and it is so impressive. She is just fixed, you know, frozen. She is the one who is going on about becoming this castle [in dream] and then looking and seeing herself [in the mirror] having become fixated, tomb-like creature. I mean, tremendous….

You see, with illness and all, eventually there has got to come some higher understanding, when they really realise that most illnesses have some sort of connection with some cosmic force manifesting, you know? And that…AIDS is like that. All right. It’s this process of guilt, and all. But there is obviously some force active. I mean, to activate all of that. To push it forward, to get this worked out in some way.

And now it’s getting even more and more acute… [Tape ends here].

Aeon Centre of Cosmology
Kodaikanal, November 1986