Ganga – Soul of Indian Culture

Myth, the Vision of the Real, The Vishaal Newsletter, volume 1, no. 2, June 1986

‘Religion…by putting God far above in distant heavens made man too much of a worm of the earth, little and vile before his Creator and admitted only by a caprice of his favour to a doubtful salvation in superhuman worlds. Modern thought seeking to make a clear riddance of these past conceptions had to substitute something else in its place, and what it saw and put there was the material law of Nature and the biological law of life of which human reason was to be the faithful exponent and human science the productive utiliser and profiteer. But to apply the mechanical blindness of the rule of physical Nature as the sole guide of thinking and seeing man is to go against the diviner law of his being and maim his higher potentiality. Material and vital Nature is only a first form of our being and to overcome and rise beyond its formula is the very sense of a human evolution. Another and greater Power than hers is the master of this effort, and human reason or human science is not that Godhead, but can only be at best one and not the greatest of its ministers. It is not human reason and human science which have been working out their ends in or through the tempest that has laid low so many of their constructions. A greater Spirit awaits a deeper questioning to reveal his unseen form and his hidden purpose.’

 Sri Aurobindo
‘The Unseen Power’ c. 1918
War and Self-Determination
CE, Volume 15, page 594

‘Twelve books to an epic is a classical superstition, but the new Savitri may extend to ten books – if much is added in the final version it may be even twelve.’

Sri Aurobindo, 1936
Letters on Savitri

On the subject of East/West intermingling, for students of the new cosmology perhaps it would be of interest to present an example of a thoroughly eastern inspiration that was received in the West in early 1970, when I began writing The Magical Carousel. At the time I was unaware of this connection and was not at all familiar with the material which dated back to India’s remote antiquity. My inspiration invoked certain key elements of the nation’s most ancient scriptures, the Vedas, though it is unlikely the pundits would accept the connection I am now able to make between the two. Thus, by presenting the details of this experience, students will bear witness to the manner in which one can unveil truths that in the Indian scriptures themselves have been hidden for the past several thousand years, in the very land of their origin. In this review it will be seen how the East/West barrier disintegrates when true inspiration comes; but more than that, how in reaching the truer essence one is able to rend the veils that obscure the vision in the two hemispheres, by uncovering mysteries ignored by both.

In writing The Magical Carousel I was taken up by a flow of inspiration in a certain sense unrepeated in any of my later works. Indeed, it seemed to be a sort of seed-vision which thereafter blossomed in a host of different ways in all my other writings, in which I have always been able to find traces of the original seed-vision. This is what pundits sustain about the four Vedas of Indian tradition. It is held that all of India’s subsequent spirituality, schools of yoga, philosophy, ritual and so forth, have their roots in the Veda and can be traced to this remote source. Thus these ancient scriptures stand at the heart of Indian wisdom, and one may find verification of any experience in these most sacred and ancient texts – in fact, the most ancient sacred texts the world knows. Furthermore, they are not fossils of a defunct civilisation. Rather, they are still alive and vibrant. Each day in fact, priests, pundits, laypersons chant hymns from the Rig Veda – the Gayatri, for instance, at the start of the day – thereby keeping the ancient tradition alive.

In 1970 I was living in Rome, Italy, and I knew nothing of the Rig Veda, nor had I any conscious knowledge of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, for that matter. My attention at that time was focused on certain methods of self-knowledge and transformation that paralleled their work in a sense, by virtue of an emphasis on the integral nature of the processes. One of the systems I used for objective knowledge at that time was the ancient zodiacal tradition. A source of objective knowledge, always of capital importance, was all the more necessary since I was alone in the quest in the midst of an environment somewhat alien to this type of endeavour.

From the first moment I came upon this branch of ancient lore, I realised that there was far more in the study than anyone realised; and from that moment I set about delving into the art’s sacred mysteries until I reached the core of their wisdom. The twelve hieroglyphs of the signs were, for me, storehouses of higher knowledge, though this seems to have been withheld from seekers over the millennia. Having perceived early on the unity of the signs, the coherent and progressively connected development from the first through the last, I was able to extract from them what had for so long remained hidden. I realised that those sacred symbols were very ancient, far more than we are encouraged to believe by historians and archaeologists. Moreover, the exact origins of the glyphs and pictographs of the signs have never been pinpointed with accuracy, either in space or time. They seem to have been always present among us, in the midst of our civilisation and deeply rooted in our collective consciousness from the dawn of time. However, after moving to India in 1971, I soon came to discover that the accepted thesis of a Mid-Eastern origin of the zodiac is unlikely, insofar as I was able to find indications that the zodiac was not only known in India in very ancient times, but finally I discovered exact references to it in the Rig Veda, which, as we know, is older than any document or other extant evidence pointing to a Mid-Eastern origin of the zodiac. (See, The New Way, Volume 2, Chapter 10.)

To illustrate, I would like to present a few lines of verse that Sri Aurobindo composed at the time he was deeply engrossed in translating the Rig Veda from the Sanskrit, in an effort to unravel its mysteries, much as I had spent years in a quest for the true secrets of the zodiacal language, as part of the discovery of a new synthesis of cosmic harmonies. The following is a translation of Rig Veda I, Sukta 52, Riks 1-5. Sri Aurobindo translated this particular hymn in rhymed couplets. And the astonishing fact is that these few lines disclose, or rather confirm, that in writing The Magical Carousel I had touched the same source of inspiration or had seen into the same plane as the Rishi who composed this hymn. Sri Aurobindo’s poetic translation came to be published only in 1984 for the first time:

‘A hundred perfect births surprised my sight,
Then I beheld the visioned Ram of light
Whose two gold horns have rent the burning gates
Of the Sun-world’s felicitous estates.
He is the Lord who thunders on my eyes
And comes a galloping strength to sacrifice
And like a hastening chariot runs to me
When he has heard my sacred poesy…’

Sri Aurobindo Archives & Research, December 1984

Those who have read The Magical Carousel will immediately recognise ‘Ram of the golden horns’, the personified Aries symbol, whom Val and Pom-Pom meet in their entry into ‘Zodiacland’ (Chapter 1). The concordance of this exact image in both texts, ancient and new, is not an isolated element without an overall significance pertinent to the deepest essence of the Rig Veda as a whole, as a complete system of Knowledge. And the same can be said for the zodiac. “Ram of light/Whose two gold horns have rent the burning gates/Of the Sun-world’s felicitous estates” is of course the God Indra, to whom the hymn is addressed, the Lord of the Heavens in the Vedic Pantheon. I have drawn attention in my writings to the fact that Indra, who is eulogised throughout the Rig Veda as the Ram or the Bull, is connected to the first two zodiacal signs, Aries and Taurus, whose pictographs are precisely the Ram and the Bull. And Indra’s two eyes, the Sun and the Moon, are known in zodiacal tradition to be ‘exalted’ in these two signs: the Sun in Aries, the Moon in Taurus. The very root of the Sanskrit name Indra is associated with the Moon.

However, when I wrote The Magical Carousel I had no conscious knowledge of Indian scriptures and in particular of this most ancient one, no knowledge of any of their Gods, much less of any relation they may have had to the zodiac. I repeat, I was simply following the thread of a vision, allowing the inspiration to flow on and on. Yet it was not a random and uncontrolled flow, with a product conveying a disconnected and hence incoherent vision. Having a background format to guide the seeing – the twelve zodiacal signs – the result was a distinctly unified vision, a development through the signs progressively unveiling the path of the soul in this sublime odyssey, the basic theme of the Vedic hymns in fact: the ‘sacrifice’ or ‘journey’ that was carried out within the measure of the Year, – the Earth’s orbit of the Sun, or its ‘divine measure’ and hence the sacred module for the soul’s unveiling in the prime species that the planet houses. This is essentially the heart of all myth. We can understand by this that in the Rig Veda, as in all other ancient mythologies and systems of Knowledge, the Earth is revealed to have a special mission in the solar system. The evolution she supports allows a conscient being to come into existence, who can participate in full awareness in this journey of discovery, amidst all the glories of the multiple world of form in which this Sacrifice takes place, a witness as well as an active participant of this magnificent unveiling, whereby the Absolute, through the human instrument, knows and enjoys Itself.

The connection is therefore very precise: the 12 signs covering the twelve months of our Earth year were known to the Vedic Rishis, who placed this same Year, divided into 12 and bearing the same symbols for the most part, on the central altar of their sacrifice. Even more specifically, the hymns inform us that the Rishis considered the months to be gateways to the highest summit: ‘Certain eternal worlds are these which have come into being, their doors are shut to you (or opened) by the months and the years; without effort one (world) moves in the other, and it is these that Brahmanaspati [Jupiter] has made manifest to knowledge…’ (II.24-5). These ‘doors’ are the same ‘gates’ that Ram (Indra) of the golden horns is said to rend in the Sun-world, and the same gates that Val and Pom-Pom open with the special keys they are given when they journey ‘into the Sun’.

In The Magical Carousel, without knowing the ancient text, I presented the same vision. In it, ‘Indra’ appears in the same form of a Ram with golden horns:

‘Suddenly from the distance a horn sounds and they [Val and Pom-Pom] hear the thunder of great galloping hoofs, interrupted every now and then by the loudest of bangs; the horns bellow out, then the hoofs, next the bangs, – all sparked by the cracking sounds of a whip.

‘The children rush to hide, or at least to get out of the way of whatever is coming, for they don’t even know what it is or where its path lies. But all too soon through the crimson wilderness a great majestic ram with golden horns and fiery eyes comes dashing forth. He pulls a chariot within which is a huge man in primitive hunter’s dress, of furs, leather and knee-high skin boots. He cracks a whip in the air, setting off sparks the same colour as his flaming red hair that falls in masses to his shoulders. But most incredible of all are his eyes, luminous tongues of fire! He spurs the animal on and the ram knocks down everything in the path of the chariot with the bash of his horns…’,

The Magical Carousel, pages 7-8.

The purpose of this crashing drive is so that Ram may open ‘the pathway of the Sun’. It is evident that in my vision I had entered that same ‘Sun-world’ as the Rishi who sang the glories of Indra in the verses Sri Aurobindo has translated. However, there is more to analyse in this cutting across time and space, and it will cast some definitive light on the great body of Knowledge contained in the Rig Veda, which, lamentably, has not been properly understood by either Indians or Westerners. Indeed, in a recently unearthed and hitherto unpublished piece, ‘The Gods of the Veda’, Sri Aurobindo wrote ‘…for some two thousand years at least no Indian has really understood the Veda.’ (Sri Aurobindo Archives & Research, December, 1984.)

I propose in this article to show how and why this has been so, with exact examples to render concrete and devoid of abstraction the knowledge here put forth. This analysis will assist the contemporary pundit, as well as the Western Indologist, to understand a methodology that is ancient yet modern, a system of knowledge whose foundations lie in that ‘Sun-world’ of the Vedas. It is an eternal plane, but one which is involved in a progressive manifestation in time on our planet. If I could enter that Sun-world today and unknowingly come upon the very same images as the Seer who composed these hymns to Indra some 6000 or more years ago, it is proof enough that the knowledge is one and eternal.

But there are certain details of this concordant vision that must be analysed, for they throw light on various hitherto perplexing areas of thought and aspects of a synthetic seeing with which the contemporary human being has lost touch. This concerns dual and even multiple images that extol or explain the same Godhead. For example, in The Magical Carousel, I describe the Ram of the Golden Horns. This we now know is the same Ram of the Vedic Rishi’s vision of Indra. In The Magical Carousel I have also presented a humanised form of this Godhead, who would be comparable to the more humanly recognisable Lord Indra of the Veda – in these particular verses portrayed as the Ram. In my vision they appear together, as often they do in the Rig Veda by including the God’s vahana or animal carrier. This method of expressing certain profound truths of creation, its powers or the energy flows of our world, our solar system, the many subtle as well as physical dimensions, is unsurpassed. This same system has been carried over to the later Puranic period. Therein we find that all the Gods have a specific carrier, ever connected with their appearances; for example, the Peacock of Kartikeya, Ganesh’s Mouse carrier, Brahma’s Elephant, the Eagle of Vishnu, and so forth.

Why is this imagery chosen, and what is its real significance in each case? It is simply that the humanised form expresses the conscious element, the ‘seeing-eye’ or the aspect of Consciousness emerging in the vision; while the carrier expresses the dynamic Energy and its mode of manifestation. The carrier describes that energy as it is channelled and experienced on Earth and in the conscious act of evolution within the very specific framework that Time provides as a gestating power: the Spirit at work through human evolution. In zodiacal tradition these energy ‘qualities’ are threefold, as they are in Indian systems of knowledge. Thus, to provide readers with a specific example, in the Aries chapter of The Magical Carousel, this energy flow is conveyed in the story in the fact that the adventures experienced in ‘Ariesland’, the land of Ram and the Hunter who are meant to open a pathway for the Sun, occur in fits and starts, we may say. This expresses the Cardinal quality of the sign, or its Rajas nature, according to Hindu psychology. But being the very first sign, it stands that this terrific burst is as yet uncontrolled, less refined; and therefore the image coupled with the Ram is that of a primitive hunter, precisely to convey this experience of a Consciousness-Energy as yet in its initial and more chaotic stages of manifestation, a sort of chaos out of which order (‘cosmos’) is to emerge. Scientific cosmology would call this the Big Bang and similarly describe for the macrocosm an emergent order out of that primordial Chaos.

I have referred to the Puranas wherein we find elements of the Vedic system transported to this more recent mythology. Throughout my written works, in fact, I have consistently drawn a connection between these two sources of wisdom, the Vedic and the Puranic. It may be argued that in so doing I have overlooked what is universally considered the highest India has to offer humanity in sacred texts of knowledge, – that is, the Upanishads. But I must state that my spirit has found immense fulfilment in a penetrating quest into the truths contained in the Veda and the Puranas, rather than the Upanishads. I have always felt that far more is contained in the former, and that indeed in India and the West these two sacred texts have not only been disregarded but often ridiculed. It seemed to me that a rediscovery and reinstatement were called for. And this is what I have done.

In this context, I must point out that Sri Aurobindo came to the same conclusion, that from these two founts the future renaissance of Indian wisdom would be drawn. Thus, in the same essay, ‘The Gods of the Veda’, he wrote,

‘If Purana and Veda cannot be rehabilitated, it is yet possible that our religion driven out of the soul into the intellect may wither away into the dry intellectuality of European philosophy or the dead formality and lifeless clarity of European Theism. It behoves us therefore to test our faith by a careful examination into the meaning of Purana and Veda and into the foundation of that truth which our intellect seeks to deny but our living spiritual experience continues to find in their conceptions. We must discover why it is that while our intellects accept only the truth of Vedanta, our spiritual experiences confirm equally or even more powerfully the truth of Purana. A revival of Hindu intellectual faith in the totality of the spiritual aspects of our religion, whether Vedic, Vedantic, Tantric or Puranic, I believe to be an inevitable movement of the near future.’

Ibid, pages 134-5.

I have written time and again that the fount of myth is the soul. Today, unlike in Sri Aurobindo’s time, it has become fashionable to undertake studies of comparative mythology and to seek thereby to establish a connection between East and West via investigations into the mythologies and epics of ancient cultures. However, I must admit that these studies have never satisfied me. They seem to suffer from the same insufficiency Sri Aurobindo describes regarding an over-intellectualised emphasis that disregards the more soul-inspired texts. Myth is a soul expression. But more than that, it encompasses a very precise system of Knowledge. Without an understanding of what that ancient system of Knowledge is, it is virtually impossible to come to the true heart of Myth, whether eastern or western. Indeed, it is because this system of knowledge and transformation has disappeared from the Indian tradition and only what has been carried over into later schools of thought and to a certain degree preserved in the Puranic myths, has survived, that no truly sound interpretation of the Rig Veda has come forth, – except, I must clarify, what Sri Aurobindo has contributed to this subject. But inasmuch as his interpretation evokes this most ancient wisdom, now ignored, his work in this field has been largely disregarded by contemporary scholars and pundits.

The same could be said for zodiacal wisdom: inasmuch as it embraces a system of knowledge and a ‘path of yoga’ now lost, this tradition has also remained a veiled mystery.

The studies in comparative mythology we find in abundance today, even the best of them, are dry intellectual exercises, devoid of any direct experience and insight in the soul, and hence are unable to throw any real and meaningful light on the subject. Furthermore, and this is by far the most important point, it has been my experience that there is only one way to discover the truth of the past and the real method and purpose of the ancient teachings devoid of romanticism and fanciful extrapolations, the fragments of which we find in myth, sacred architecture and all the extant scriptures and epics from the earliest Ages. This is, to discover that same truth in the present. The arguable point is, however, What is meant by a discovery of this nature in the present, and in what manner can it be experienced? What is the method?

In order to support this statement I have offered examples of this very process in these Newsletters, as I have done in fact in all my published works. The example presented herein is one such clue to the process. Thus, The Magical Carousel can be called a modern myth. And this is the important point. The fount of its inspiration was the soul, as it has been in the composition of any other myth. The soul is an eternal source of Knowledge, and hence if one taps that source, one sees perforce into the same plane of truth (‘eternal worlds’ the Rishis call them) as has been done in other ages, other times. Certain thinkers have realised this; for example, the psychologist Carl Jung, to name just one. But when studying the work of these men, I am left dissatisfied, insofar as it is invariably fragmentary. There may be glimpses of the truth, but the essential psychic element is lacking, and this would reveal that one had indeed entered into that sacred dimension of the soul by virtue of a unity of vision that emerges, accompanied by an Earth-oriented focus. The soul of the Earth is one with the individual soul, as well as with the collective soul of the species. Inspirations which are connected to this soul fount display a oneness whereby all the elements of our world, and in particular the planet on which we live, are encompassed: a true harmony of spirit and matter. The biological laws that describe our physical beings, our ‘vahanas’, have come into existence as conditions imposed by the planet’s constitution, her position in the solar system, and, above all, the measure of her orbit of the Sun. Hence in epic, myth, and the psychic seeing these elements are prominent and are conveyed by unforgettable, striking symbolic imagery.

In true myth – and when I use this word I mean the method to transmit this higher knowledge – the centre one touches in the human being is not the mental, or the intellect. The process is psychic and is directed to the higher emotional centre. In the human brain it would draw into action the right hemisphere, the visual-emotive part. Therefore myths are often considered simplistic – in this age of over-emphasis on mental functioning and development – but invariably they display a capacity to evoke a profound sense of pathos, drama, deep emotional responses, by a direct impact through the centre which by visual stimulation, as in dreams, carries the message to very deep strata in the being. The higher vital is activated, a close companion of the soul.

The question is therefore to present a visual impact that sets off a process that is not intellectual per se. It stands to reason that in order to do this one cannot feign a ‘soul’ experience or mentally set about ‘creating a myth’. Once the intent is mental and not supported by a direct seeing in the soul, the process is aborted. I have come across attempts of this nature and the flaw is immediately evident. The same may be said, though to a lesser degree, of fairy tales.

In the modern myth of The Magical Carousel, the children enter that solar region or dimension the Vedic seers sang of. The story relates how they ‘plunge into the Sun’ in their cosmic odyssey. Once they have gone through the first ‘gate’ of that Sun-world, the same as the Rishi’s, they encounter Ram of the golden horns. Inasmuch as my vision was the product of a spiritual experience, by this direct seeing in the present (and indeed The Magical Carousel is written in the present tense, almost as if to stress this lived experience in the present), I was able to confirm and rehabilitate, to use Sri Aurobindo’s expression, the ancient truth-seeing. This cannot be done solely by intellectual means. It can only be fully accomplished when the truth is made to express itself once more in our lived experience of the present, to merge into this present from the eternal plane of the truth-consciousness. In so doing, we can come to appreciate that eternal element not disconnected from our world, and thereby the eternal Word is given a new body consonant with the realistic and actual poise of the evolving consciousness in time and space. Body and soul cannot be separated, for indeed the soul’s truth is its poise in material creation, that spark of the Divine in matter.

This is an essential factor to bear in mind, and I hope that the example I have furnished will suffice to bring this point home: one cannot bring about a renaissance, true and lasting, by focusing on past forms UNLESS they have become absorbed into our experience in the present, as living eternal truths of our spiritual and psychic realisations in this present. This, I must add, is the real foundation of any renaissance and the only way to avoid a catastrophic plunge into fundamentalism, bigotry, fanaticism, or the dryness of intellectualism that Sri Aurobindo has referred to in the passage I have quoted.

This has been the method I have employed in all the branches of higher knowledge I have treated in my books. For example, whatever I have revealed in sacred geometry and sacred architecture came in the same manner as the mythic experience. I focused on the Mother’s vision and plan of her Temple – a product of this century, this epoch – and not upon a relic of antiquity whose secrets we may seek to unravel notwithstanding the most impenetrable veils the Time-Spirit has drawn about them. Seeking to move into the past for such a discovery is a useless and uninspired mental exercise which can only produce a lifeless intellectual statement with no immediate truth pertinent to our times. In consequence, it does nothing to initiate us into the sacred recondite world of these profound mysteries, because the conditioning circumstances of time and space are part and parcel of the overall significance, and above all, of the monument’s purpose. To disregard these is to make our quest infinitely more difficult and the inner meaning far more obscure.

However, if one has a model that is a product of the present, conveying those eternal truths of which all real sacred architecture is a product – and I must stress the word ‘real’ – , revelatory insights based on that contemporary model will come amidst the total circumscribing circumstances that condition its form, thus casting light on the totality of those conditions. That is, a holistic, integral understanding will emerge, bearing an irrefutable, immediate significance. And at the same time, with this model of truth-seeing one can begin to discover the real significance and function of the models of antiquity. But needless to say, the existence of such a model, the product of a truth-conscious experience, is a rarity. In fact, the Mother’s vision in the plan she left is the sole example we have of such a structure for the past several thousand years.

Regarding myth, The Magical Carousel is a product of this same method. Therefore it can help to establish the zodiacal foundation of the Rig Veda, or at least throw light on the fact that this knowledge was so widespread at the time that the then spiritual elite made easy and free references to it throughout the sacred texts. This knowledge, once so extensive, is now lost, and therefore I can agree with Sri Aurobindo when he writes ‘…for some two thousand years at least no Indian has really understood the Veda.’

In The Hidden Manna, I have also discussed at length the zodiacal references in St. John’s Revelation, the last book of the New Testament. These references are just as precise as the Vedic. Yet it is quite amazing to observe that there is a fanatical denial of any connection between Christian scripture and belief and this ancient body of knowledge, by Protestants and Catholics alike. One is forced to ask, what is the purpose in denying the undeniable?

As a final example of the mythic experience there is Sri Aurobindo’s epic poem Savitri. Its subtitle is ‘a legend and a symbol’. Sri Aurobindo used the Vedic story of Savitri and Satyavan as his theme, concerning the death of Satyavan exactly one year after their betrothal and the Goddess’ subsequent pursuit of the Lord of Death into the underworld, in order to bring Satyavan back to life, back to the Earth. Interestingly, the format Sri Aurobindo has given his poem is equally a development in twelve stages, and for the most part these stages correspond to and follow the same sequence as the zodiacal sign/months. For example, the 5th Book of Love, corresponding to the 5th sign of love, Leo; the 7th Book of Yoga, corresponding to the 7th sign of ‘union’, Libra; the 8th Book of Death, corresponding to the 8th sign of death, Scorpio; and, above all, the victorious conquest of the Lord of Death in the 10th Book which is equivalent to the tenth sign/month Capricorn, known precisely as the Divine Mother’s victory. These are just a few of the correspondences between the poem and the zodiac, but they will suffice to illustrate once more that an Earth-oriented vision of this specific type will follow an almost identical pattern and produce the same results, whether consciously undertaken or not. The reason is more than clear: the soul cannot fail to present a vision that incorporates its journey through time as a gestating process that details the soul’s unveiling in consonance with the Earth’s position in the solar system, a reference that cannot be overlooked or minimised if the quest is Earth-oriented and not otherworldly. Time’s function is precisely to make manifest what is contained in the Seed.

Therefore the Rishis sang of the months of the year as ‘doors’ that had to be opened in order to enter those ‘eternal worlds’. The point of this essay is that by realising this connection and by rehabilitating this ancient body of Knowledge in consonance with our present stage of evolution and in the midst of the great transition we are experiencing as a species, we are in effect collaborating in the manifestation of the truth-essence of those higher planes. This is the proverbial marriage of Heaven and Earth – and more specifically, to use the Vedic and Biblical phrase: a new Heaven and a new Earth. It is this newness that we are concerned with, a rediscovery in the present which alone can make ‘all things new’.

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