Also in this Series
- Culture and Cosmos – 1
- Culture and Cosmos – 2, Part 1
- Culture and Cosmos – 2, Part 2
- Culture and Cosmos – 2, Part 3.1
- Culture and Cosmos – 2, Part 3.2
- Culture and Cosmos – 2, Part 3.3
- Culture and Cosmos – 2, Part 3.4
- Culture and Cosmos – 2, Part 3.5
- Culture and Cosmos – 2, Part 3.6
- Culture and Cosmos – 3, Part 1
- Culture and Cosmos – 3, Part 1.2
- Culture and Cosmos – 3, Part 1.3
- Culture and Cosmos – 3, Part 2.1
- Culture and Cosmos – 3, Part 2.2
- Culture and Cosmos – 3, Part 2.3
- Culture and Cosmos – 3, Part 3.1
- Culture and Cosmos – 3, Part 3.2
- Culture and Cosmos – 3, Part 3.3
- Culture and Cosmos – 4, Part 1
- Culture and Cosmos – 4, Part 1.2
One of the most important aspects of the new creation seeking to take shape in the world is something I have stressed time and again in my writings, in particular in this study, using the shadow-temple in Auroville as a symbol-example. It is growth, evolution, development from within in contrast to the titanic, exclusively rajasic formula of external impositions and development always fed by the periphery, by the play of circumstances, so to speak. The poise of growth from within Sri Aurobindo equates with the spiritual poise. The other is the materialistic. The following passage from his Letters on Yoga makes this clear:
‘…The churning of matter by the attempt of human intellect to conquer material Nature and use it for its purpose may break something of the passivity and inertia, but it is done for material ends, in a rajasic spirit, with a denial of spirituality as its mental basis. Such an attempt may end, seems indeed to be ending, in chaos and disintegration, while the new attempts at creation and reintegration seem to combine the obscure rigidity of material Nature with a resurgence of the barbaric brutality and violence of a half-animal vital Nature. How are the spiritual forces to deal with all that or make use of such a churning of the energies of the material universe? (CE, Volume …., page 5)
Sri Aurobindo seems to have been inspired in this letter by the same Churning of the Milky Ocean myth which has inspired our present discussion regarding the correct poise for the pursuit and the establishment of the more refined creation. In this letter his reference to the ‘barbaric brutality and violence of the half-animal vital Nature’, refers to the spread across Europe at the time of writing of fascistic forces, in particular the rise of Hitler in Germany and his brand of barbarism. He continues,
‘…The way of the Spirit is the way of peace and light and harmony; if it has to battle, it is precisely because of the presence of such forces which seek either to extinguish or to prevent the spiritual light. In the spiritual change inertia has to be replaced by the divine peace and calm, the rajasic troubled energy by a tranquil and potent, pure and liberated dynamis, while the mind must be kept plastic for the workings of a higher Light of knowledge. How will the activity of Materialism lend itself to that change?
‘Materialism can hardly be spiritual in its basis, because its basic method is just the opposite of the spiritual way of doing things. The spiritual works from within outward, the way of materialism is to work from out inwards. It makes the inner a result of the outer, fundamentally a phenomenon of Matter and it works upon that view of things…’ (Ibid, pages 5-6.)
I have discussed extensively the question of the predominance of the rajas guna in the Titanic Superman and the western poise of consciousness in the last issue of -. Indeed, similar to the model I used of the Churning Myth, that Sri Aurobindo should have employed the same symbol to describe the first stirrings in the world which the descent of a higher light was producing, should not surprise us since it is precisely a question of ‘churning’ those material energies which make up our world. The point is that a new creation cannot be a return to the past, as he himself made clear in the portion from The Human Cycle which I reproduced in the last TVN, 8/3. That is, we cannot return to the same poise enjoyed by the Rishis of old with perhaps an exclusive emphasis on the spiritual and a disregard for all things material; though we know that there was a more integrated, unified principle illuminating their consciousness than what the Earth has seen for the past 2000 and more years. In this letter to a disciple, and elsewhere in his writings, Sri Aurobindo discusses the cycles of human evolution and the descent and ascent of the Divine Consciousness through the various layers of universal existence, from the most subtle to the most dense and material. In his Letters on Yoga (page 4) he states that ‘…it is only by the divine use of the pressure of contraries and an intervention from above that there will be the spiritual outcome.’ By the latter Sri Aurobindo means the divinisation of Earth life which is now solely under the rule of the ‘unspiritual’ elements in society, and the re-conquering of the material dimension by this higher Light.
In this portion of the study we shall discover what Sri Aurobindo means by a ‘divine use of contraries’, as well as ‘an intervention from above’, for both are pertinent in the context of today’s great churning.
Indeed, the balance we seek and which will make of our world truly a divine habitation is a new light and power which produces a pressure in a particular area that has become the exclusive preserve of the so-called materialist. This has come to pass not solely by a conquest of the rajasic temperament of this domain but rather by a tamasic recoil or abandonment by the spiritualist. Thus, the realm where that ‘pressure of contraries’ is experienced is the area of the Becoming – or, to put it in other terms, the play of the periphery. The problem the Earth faces, which we may call a crisis of evolution, is the dichotomy wherein a severance between the Being and this Becoming exists. That is, the bridge has not fully manifested which closes the gap between the two. When this bridge is fully operational then Sri Aurobindo’s prophesied emergence of ‘Supermind’s organisation for Earth use’ will become clear. Then the contraries are harmonised and the Being and the Becoming are no longer antagonists but complementary poises. The Being is as it were the centre of the circle, while the periphery is the Becoming. In the latter Supermind is the principle which draws all the elements of that circle/periphery into the cosmos of which the Being is the central, luminous Sun of Truth-Consciousness.
The role of Gnostic Time as Integrator
In the opening lines of the final chapter of his The Synthesis of Yoga, entitled ‘Towards the Supramental Time Vision’, Sri Aurobindo has emphasised the difference between a mental knowing and knowledge by identity and oneness which is the characteristic of the Supermind. At the same time, he has highlighted the capacity of the Supermind to heal the divisions and provide us with a harmonised time-vision wherein the timeless and time are not divided and mutually antagonistic. Rather, it is a simultaneous vision, akin to what I have called simultaneous time.
‘All being, consciousness, knowledge moves, secretly for our present surface awareness, openly when we rise beyond it to the spiritual and supramental ranges, between two states and powers of existence, that of the timeless Infinite and that of the Infinite deploying in itself and organising all things in time. These two states are opposed to and incompatible with each other only for our mental logic with its constant embarrassed stumbling around a false conception of contradictions and a confronting of eternal opposites. In reality, as we find when we see things with a knowledge founded on the supramental identity and vision and think with the great, profound and flexible logic proper to that knowledge, the two are only coexistent and concurrent status and movement of the same truth of the Infinite. (CE, Volume 20, page 853.)
The evolution depends for its unfolding on time. Therefore in order to graduate to another higher state of being as a species, it is important to grasp the implications of what Sri Aurobindo has written in this regard, and in particular its relevance for the Earth. It will then become clear why, from time immemorial, sages and seers have laboured to attain a wider and more illumined time-vision, what has been called in the ancient tradition in India, trikāladrishti, or the vision of the three times, similar to simultaneous time. It is singularly relevant to the Earth because it is here that this process can be carried out with the allegiance of Time itself, – Time as an ally, as creator and not merely destroyer, a consumer of energy which organic evolution feeds to it through the play of the gunas and the creation, preservation and destruction of the worlds.
Indeed, this evolutionary process is restricted to the Earth in our solar system, given its position in the third orbit from the Sun. It is thus the specific purpose of the planet within the system. The Earth itself is therefore that bridge, similar to the Third Power of the Solar Line who is entrusted with the task of constructing that bridge or drawing the Truth-Consciousness down and into the soil of this Earth-plane and rooting it here. This means that Supermind is able then to organise its own manifestation here, making use of the diversified elements of our universal existence. The Bridge constructed means that the Descent – from above, so to speak, – and the ascent from below have joined and the proverbial marriage of Heaven and Earth, prophesied by St John in his Revelation, the last book of the New Testament, along with other prophets of ancient and modern times, has occurred.
It is in this context that the disclosure of the Capricorn symbol superimposed on the actual landmass of the Indian subcontinent assumes tremendous importance. For if the manifestation of the Supermind is a fact of evolution, as Sri Aurobindo has explained time and again throughout his writings, then we cannot remain satisfied with simply an individual breakthrough. In some way the entire species, as well as the full comity of nations, must join in the endeavour or somehow be touched by the new light of the truth-conscious Sun. Therefore, when the symbol-sign Capricorn ‘descends’ and is seen to be a specific segment of the planet’s body, it is evident that the higher knowledge captured in the 12 zodiacal symbols from time immemorial, the tenth of which tradition holds to be the ‘ruler’ of India, itself is undergoing a transformation. Something of its deepest truth is beginning to emerge from behind the veils of the ages. A new face of itself is revealed.
Practically this means that the symbol Capricorn,for the first time in our period of recorded history at least, is measured on the surface of the planet and its unveiling is an indication that the gateway to the Vedic swar, which it has always represented, is to be found on Earth and not in a dimension somehow removed from this material manifestation.
The importance in this revelation is perhaps not easily appreciated by those who have not acquired a deep understanding of Sri Aurobindo’s work and its revolutionary significance for the evolving consciousness of the human species and its societies and civilisations. Sri Aurobindo continuously emphasised the fact that this manifestation had to impact the entire evolutionary process, though in the beginning ‘…it is ourselves that we have to transform and change the earth-consciousness by bringing the supramental principle into the evolution there’. But, he continues, ‘…Once there it will necessarily have a powerful influence on the whole of earth-life’… (Letters on Yoga, page 15) In another letter to a disciple he states,
‘…It would not be possible to change all that in a moment – we have always said that the whole of humanity will not change the moment there is the Descent. But what can be done is to establish the higher principle in the earth-consciousness in such a way that it will remain and go on strengthening and spreading itself in the earth-life. That is how a new principle in the evolution must necessarily work.’ (Ibid, page 14, emphasis mine.)
Sri Aurobindo wrote these letters in the late 1920s and throughout the 1930s. Therefore he was continuously referring to a future happening; and though he understood through the ‘profound…logic proper to that knowledge’, through the realisation he had of the Truth-Consciousness the manner in which this ‘new principle’ had to work, he was quite adamant that it was not possible for him to predict exactly the way in which this power would operate:
‘What the supramental will do the mind cannot foresee or lay down. The mind is ignorance seeking for Truth, the supramental by its very definition is the Truth-Consciousness, Truth in possession of itself and fulfilling itself by its own powers… But what, how, by what degrees it will do it, is a thing that ought not to be said now – when the Light is there, the Light itself will do its work – when the supramental Will stands on earth, that Will will decide.’ (Ibid, page 13, emphasis mine.)
Interestingly, these two elements he mentions – the Light and the Will – as carrying the Supramental Descent into its operational stage in the Earth evolution, are precisely the key elements by virtue of whose appearance in the Work we are allowed to appreciate the lines the Manifestation would take but which in Sri Aurobindo’s time were not yet in evidence. Inasmuch as the Powers had to become rooted in the soil of the evolution by Time’s alliance through the birth process, and that this would be completed only by and through his own passing whereby that ‘incarnate Will’, or the 4th Principle of the solar Line, would return to Earth transmuting the Transcendent (9) into the Immanent (0/1), it is evident that in the 1930s half of the work remained an unknown quantity.
Nonetheless, the broad lines, or the logic proper to the knowledge, allowed Sri Aurobindo to know with great precision in what way his work was not a repetition of past or present spiritual achievements, and the specific characteristics of that newness and its impact on the evolution of consciousness.
‘Evolution takes place on the earth and therefore the earth is the proper field for progression. The beings of the other worlds do not progress from one world to another. They remain fixed in their own type.
‘The purely monistic Vedantist says, all is Brahman, life is a dream, an unreality, only Brahman exists. One has Nirvana or Mukti, then one lives only till the body falls – after that there is no such thing as life.
‘They do not believe in transformation, because mind, life and body are an ignorance, an illusion – the only reality is the featureless relationless Self or Brahman. Life is a thing of relations; in the pure Self, all life and relations disappear. What would be the use or the possibility of transforming an illusion that can never be anything else (however transformed) than an illusion? There is no such thing for them as a “Nirvanic life”…
‘What has to be overcome is the opposition of the Ignorance that does not want the transformation of the nature. If that can be overcome, then the old spiritual ideas will not form an obstacle.
‘It is not intended to supramentalise humanity at large, but to establish the principle of the supramental consciousness in the earth-evolution. If that is done, all that is needed will be evolved by the supramental Power itself. It is not therefore important that the mission should be widespread. What is important is that the thing should be done at all in however small a number; that is the only difficulty.’ (Ibid, page 11.)
In addition to the above, Sri Aurobindo often wrote of a nucleus, a centre where this principle would establish itself. Once thus established, its influence would necessarily spread precisely because it had, through this nuclear activity, become rooted in a critical point which might then affect the larger body. But this action is not a chance occurrence. Sri Aurobindo was aware that there would be certain laws, a certain organisation of the Supermind whereby its influence might be able to spread from the nucleus to the periphery. In fact, from the earliest days of his Yoga he had revealed that the Sun was the ‘symbol of the Supermind’, echoing the call of the ancient Rishis of the Vedic Age ‘to become the Sun’. Indeed, the language of symbols helps us to understand as well as to be able to implement Sri Aurobindo’s call for these laws and this ‘organisation’ to manifest whereby from the centre the influence of the new Principle would spread to the larger boundary of the circle. Thus, from time immemorial astrology, and later astronomy, adopted a symbol for the Sun which in itself explains the process accurately:
We note that at the centre stands the Point. Or the 0/1, and circumscribing it is the periphery which is drawn into the cosmos of this central Principle by virtue of the powers, 9, 6, and 3. The latter in turn are geometrically symbolised by the Triangle, the first ‘form’ to arise out of the circle.
In this simple manner, by this simple equation – 9/6/3-0/1 – the periphery where the ‘pressure of contraries’ is felt is organised, or transformed by the new principle operating in the Earth evolution, from chaos to cosmos, or disorder into Harmony. A blending of the Unity and the Multiplicity by powers inherent in the Being and the Becoming.
Rest and motion are key words of the new manifestation of the Supermind. Stasis has been the preferred poise of consciousness for the old spirituality after the Vedic Age. Consequently, Sri Aurobindo has always stressed the dynamic quality of the Truth-Consciousness and that in this area its revolutionary character is perceived. And when we emphasise dynamics or motion per force Time enters the scheme of things. Thus, the above equation provides the key by which we can monitor the action of the new principle in the evolution via the yardstick universally employed today to measure the flow of time on Earth, the calendar. I have provided sufficient proof of the operation in the birth data of the members of the Solar and Lunar Lines, and from there in countless other happenings. There can be no doubt but that the equation 9/6/3-0/1 is the great key to the ‘organisation of Supermind for Earth use’, which Sri Aurobindo informed us would be a most important attainment in his work.
But when we speak of dynamics the gunas also become prominent in the discussion. Hence the importance of the Capricorn revelation, a symbol which depicts the harmonious interaction of the gunas and roots this dynamic principle in the very soil of the Earth, in Indian the subcontinental landmass.
Bengal in Capricorn: transformation of Tamas
As an appendix to this study I have reproduced a letter in its almost complete form which Sri Aurobindo wrote to his brother, Barin, in April of 1920. Its contents are valuable for students of the New Way in that Sri Aurobindo has traced the broad lines his work would take, the difference between his yoga and all the rest, and the role and condition of Bengal in the scheme of things. In this regard, he states that Bengal is the centre of his work. Given the course his work took, it would appear that this emphatic statement, made from Pondicherry where Sri Aurobindo had by then already established the seat of his work, was not correct. But in fact, as we are in a position to prove by the aid of the new cosmology, Bengal, in the deepest and most significant occult sense, was and indeed remained the ‘centre’ of his work throughout his lifetime until the time of his rebirth. It is precisely the latter that provides the conclusive proof of the truth of this statement. Equally, we have the Capricorn symbol-map wherein the three gunas are integrated in the body of Mother India for further proof.
The portion that draws our attention now, in relation to Sri Aurobindo’s apparently erroneous statement, is the tamas segment, precisely the area of the symbol-map covering all of Bengal. Further, it can be appreciated that this is the portion of the hieroglyph where a shift occurs, a turning back and upon itself of the movement of this energy. However we wish to interpret this symbol, be it as the conventional ‘tail of the Goat-Fish’, or whatever, one thing is more than clear: In the movement of the gunas from rajas in the northwestern section of India, or sattwa in the middle portion, and then tamas in the east, there is a reversal of sorts in the east where Bengal is located. The movement which was proceeding eastward in a clearly defined sequence, turns back and in terms of energy it is a thrust into the system once again from where it had emerged. In other words, this denotes a self-contained system such as a solar system or a galaxy. Or else, the self-contained private cosmos of the individual incarnation. In indicates, in a word, a centre.
The question of self-containment does not conflict with the premise of an eternally renewing source and the flow of the gunas in a constant process of mutation of energy. For it is only the Capricorn hieroglyph of the twelve that indicates this containment and a turn back upon itself after the three gunas have had their play. This is because the glyph indicates a centre, more precisely the centre of the Earth; to be more precise, its incarnate soul. And this, on the map, is India. It is only in the true centre that this self-containment, which does not mean a collapse of energy in and upon itself, can manifest. And this is possible because of skambha, the Point that ‘fills the void’, thus precluding any collapse of energy.
At the same time, the Capricorn hieroglyph refers to the Third Power and the Individual Divine in the higher harmony of life. By consequence, it indicates the individual status in the cosmic harmony. That is, each individual possessed of a soul is equally a centre with the potential for becoming a self-contained, ever-replenishing cosmos. The possibility of replenishment is the prerogative only of a perfect centre. It is the right of any human being who has realigned his or her consciousness so that centering occurs by virtue of which contact is made through the Point, innermost centre of the Centre, with Swar, or the location of that limitless Energy. This, in brief, describes the state of Immortality, apex of the Rigvedic quest and the goal of Sri Aurobindo’s supramental yoga.
The crucial element in the process concerns the transmutation of energy indicated by the hieroglyph in the tamas section. This, in turn, involves Bengal inasmuch as this guna corresponds to that area of the map. Consequently, it is apparent that Sri Aurobindo’s statement was deeply prophetic, especially when we realise that he was the incarnate Transcendent or the 9 in the cosmic scale, and thus the incarnate Time-Spirit par excellence. In terms of the cosmic Godheads, he was the incarnate Shiva in his full manifestation. That is, this Power may have had partial incarnations over the ages, but it is only in this 9th Manifestation of the full Round of 77,760 years that Shiva’s true form can incarnate – precisely because a full manifestation is demanded in order to complete a work proper to Shiva alone within the triad. This is the transformation of tamas, last of the gunas, even as Shiva is the last of the trinity along with Brahma and Vishnu. They form the creative triad of Creation, Preservation and Destruction – or Dissolution; or else, in another form of the same process, rajas, sattwa, tamas.
In the Puranas these Godheads sometimes appear competitive, especially the last two, Vishnu and Shiva, with their devotees often engaging in long exchanges seeking to establish who is the mightier, the greatest, the most important, the most auspicious, the Godhead at the root of all creative manifestation in the universe. At the same time, Vishnu is known to be the deity of whom the Ten Avatars of Hindu tradition are said to be emanations. In this sense, he too is the Time-Spirit. Or else, in the present instance, we have Sri Aurobindo, himself the 9th Avatar, clearly incarnating the power of Shiva in his full form. And yet, this 9th Avatar, is also Vishnu, by virtue of all the Avatars being his ‘emanations’.
This might appear a confusing state of affairs. But if we penetrate the true meaning of these designations and shifts from one to the other, or intermingling of one and the other – as Hari-Hara, the combination of both Vishnu and Shiva – the reason is clear. It is, once again, the cosmos which provides the answer. Especially the zodiacal sense captured in the 12 divisions of the ecliptic. Thus, the period when these Avatars incarnate on Earth is always Vishnu’s period in the zodiacal wheel of the passage of the 12 astrological ages. And these are precisely the four signs of Preservation, for indeed he is known as the God of Preservation or Sattwa. These signs/ages are Scorpio, Leo, Taurus and Aquarius. The latter being our actual Age and the time of Sri Aurobindo’s appearance as Shiva in terms of the role he must play and the work to be done, but still an ‘emanation’ of Vishnu in that it is during Vishnu’s periods that the Avatars appear. These four fixed signs also find mention prominently in an early Christian text, before astrology was deemed evil and blasphemous by the Roman Catholic Clergy. In St John’s Revelation, or Apocalypse, the four signs appear in their proper sequence as the Bull, the Lion, the Eagle (Scorpio’s higher form), and the Man. They are also seen as composite parts in certain renditions of sphinxes in different cultures, thus establishing the fact of a very ancient appreciation of the role of these particular four signs of the twelve. They are also mentioned specifically in the Rigveda, in hymns precisely to Vishnu.
Peace is the keyword of the transformation involving tamas. It indicates either death, – that is, a stillness in which movement ‘goes nowhere’, a stasis which by virtue of a severe contraction of consciousness, like a cosmic black hole, collapses upon itself and cannot renew itself. Or else, by a reverse mode, it expands uncontrollably until the nexus of consciousness is dissolved in a nirvanic extinguishing. In both cases we are dealing with a certain perversion of the cosmic process – or rather, incompletion. Indeed, this is the crux of the matter for which reason the revelation of the Capricorn symbol-map is so important: Swar, or ‘heaven’, is drawn down to Earth. What this means is simply that, as I have often explained in these pages, the quarter of the celestial/zodiacal wheel beginning with Capricorn has become swallowed up (in terms of the energy it represents or contains) by this perversion and black-hole collapse. Its energy was not accessible to the Earth for the attainment here of that ever-replenished condition of Immortality.
The important work of the 9th Avatar is therefore the opening up of that Source; or rather, making that Energy available to an evolving humanity on Earth. Clearly this is a complex work for it involves, above all else, the fashioning, or better, re-fashioning of the instrument which acts as a vessel to contain this Energy. When I write as I have in Volume 3 and in VISHAAL of a binary creation as the description of the actual human species, and the progression we are experiencing to a unitary condition, it is this critical shift that is meant, whereby the vessel is transformed to be able to receive and contain that increase.
All the signs of the last quarter of the zodiacal wheel describe the pure play of energy. Similarly, in The Magical Carousel I have described the transmutation in terms of energy. In the Aquarius chapter, our present astrological age, there is a sequence of veritable ‘shock treatments’ it were, where the two main protagonists of the story undergo a special vibratory impact which alters their very cells, thus permitting their bodies to be the containers of this newly-released power, and to ‘return to Earth’ in this heightened fashion with the message of ‘oneness, of love’. Indeed, the very same message Savitri is commanded to bring ‘back to Earth’ after she has retrieved the soul of Satyavan from Death, according to Sri Aurobindo’s epic.
We have Sri Aurobindo’s own description of his mission, though this has escaped the scrutiny of scholars and disciples over the years. Most biographers when dealing with Sri Aurobindo’s early years are confronted with the difficulty of a blank, a void in terms of genuinely-accepted ‘spiritual’ experiences. Naturally these researchers would like to come upon some indication that from childhood Sri Aurobindo was marked for this great destiny and demonstrated this by certain ‘experiences’ right from his youth. But this is not entirely the case, or at least in a manner which would satisfy the conventional approach to spirituality and avatarhood. In addition, we have Sri Aurobindo’s own words explicitly stating that he was entirely engulfed in a most total ‘tamas’ throughout his youth, thus pre-empting any ardent devotee from attributing to him experiences which he did not have in the effort to present a believable testimony to his avatarhood. And yet, it is precisely the fact of this ‘descent of tamas’ upon him and his description thereof which provides the conclusive proof we need of not only his avatarhood but also of the specific quality and mission of that manifestation. He described the experience thus,
‘I was lying down one day when I suddenly saw a great darkness rushing into me and enveloping me and the whole universe.
‘After that I had a great TAMAS, darkness, always hanging on to me all along my stay in England. I believe that darkness had something to do with the tamas that came upon me. It left me only when I was coming back to India.
‘If people were to know all the truth about my life they would never believe that such a man could come to anything.’
In terms of the mission Sri Aurobindo had come to accomplish, this apparently NEGATIVE experience was indeed the most auspicious for the world. It was then that Sri Aurobindo took upon himself the universal ‘darkness’ of the untransformed tamas guna, an aspect of which may be described as a ‘negative peace’.
This experience of tamas in his childhood, and another of Nirvana in the very early stage of his yoga which we shall discuss further on, were the hallmarks of his mission for the world, for the evolving human consciousness on its way to supramentalisation.
But if this cosmic, yogic language is abstruse and difficult to comprehend, there has been a simple method devised to transmit the same message of a transformation of tamas to a new mode of dynamic Peace. This is accomplished in the Puranic tales involving Shiva. Indeed, so exact is the description in the Puranas that I have been obliged to refer to them as documents of prophetic history. And interestingly, this is the only ‘history’ which captured the imagination and spirit of the ancient and medieval Indian mind. Notwithstanding the fact that India has been in possession of all the elements to permit an accurate documentation of her long, uninterrupted history, the contemporary scholar has had to contend with the unexplained fact of a meagre historic documentation in the terms acceptable to the western researcher. Yet the Puranas are history, but of an order which is pertinent only to India as centre or soul of the Earth and repository of the noble and difficult task of housing the process of transformation I am describing in these pages. The fulfilment of India as a nation lies in this area and no other. That is, all social, economic and political concerns are secondary. They follow and find fulfilment only when the greater Purpose of centrality and immortality is completed.
To return to Bengal, the Puranas, and Sri Aurobindo’s mission, being the Godhead concerned with tamas, it is understandable that the 9th Avatar would take birth in that segment of the symbol-map where precisely the shift involving the tamas guna is indicated. In addition, the Bengali character just as Sri Aurobindo described it in the letter to his brother (see Appendix), is very much a manifestation of the untransformed tamas. Sri Aurobindo makes this clear when he states, ‘…we have ceased to worship Power…’ And this statement brings us to the portals of the Purana and the tales of Shiva, revealing, through the incarnation of Sri Aurobindo, their entirely prophetic content.
Shiva the Renouncer, Shiva the Enjoyer
The Puranas reveal that there are two principle attitudes or attributes of Shiva. One, perhaps the predominant aspect in the spiritual world, due to the realisations of the Shankaracharyas over the centuries, is the image of Shiva withdrawn from the world, self-absorbed, or better, dissolved in the Self. Accompanying this aspect is that of the hermit, the sannyasin, the renouncer of life and all worldly possession, even of all family ties. In this poise we see Shiva with his matted locks, dressed in a tiger skin, his body smeared with ash, seated in meditation with eyes lowered or closed. He is the realiser of the static Peace. There is nothing in this image which encourages an understanding of ‘reconciliation of contraries’ – that is, the Being harmonised and one with the Becoming.
And yet, true to its role of repository of the highest Truth, India also offers the seeker the other half, Shiva as the dynamic power, creator as well as destroyer of the world; and as Natraraj, the king of the dance, the cosmic Dance, that is, where dance is the supreme expression of movement, of the Becoming, and hence the controlled ordering of the material universe where chaos gives way to cosmos. Unlike any other culture, Hindu iconography stresses this fact of dynamism either by the many arms and heads of the deities, or in combination with the multiple limbs, there is the poise adopted – the Nataraj figure, for example, in the bronze sculptures found in South India which convey spectacular dynamism. This supreme bliss of motion does not disturb the self-contained state of consciousness of the Godhead, as depicted in these sculpted renditions of Nataraj. Thus this figure, more than any other, emphasises precisely the cosmic principle of dynamic peace or the tamas guna in its fullest majesty and formidable power. It is through this image that visually we can appreciate the depth of Sri Aurobindo’s statement regarding ‘the divine use of the pressure of contraries’. So many aspects of Indian culture are contained in this figure of Shiva – for example, the Sanskrit alphabet is considered to have emanated from the beats of the drum Shiva played in the ecstasy of the primordial cosmic Dance.
But philosophically, spiritually, how are we to reconcile these apparently opposite poises – status and dynamics, rest and motion? And from there the Being and Becoming, or the Unity and the Multiplicity? For every irreconcilable is contained in Shiva more than in any other Godhead of the Hindu pantheon. The answer lies in Shiva’s ‘better half’, the Divine Shakti. Indeed, another favourite image of this well-beloved Godhead is in the form of Ardhanartisvar, literally meaning half-god, half-goddess, Shiva and Shakti joined in one form.
This complex nature of the Godhead, the ‘deity of contrasts’, is expressed succinctly by Cornelia Dimmit and J.A.B. van Buitenen, in their book entitled, Classical Hindu Mythology (Rupa & Co.). In their introduction to Shiva, they write,
‘Siva is the deity of contrasts. The supreme divine yogin, self-controlled and celibate, he is at the same time the lover of his spouse who is often called his sakti, the divine energy without which the world would cease to move. By tradition, it is Siva who always effects the periodic destruction of the universe, with his frenzied dance, but like the rhythms of a throbbing drum, this dance is also a creative act: the whole world dances to its beat. It is likely that Siva, in the course of time, has gathered into his personality the often conflicting attributes of a variety of gods. His career, like that of Visnu, is a long one largely lost to Hindu memory. Consistent with his mature form, however, is a series of unified polarities within his nature, and it is this unifying feature that characterises the fearsome and auspicious Siva most distinctly.’
It is clear that the element essential to the release and renovation, renewal or replenishing of energy – the story of the gunas – is Shakti, the divine Feminine. It is the Mother who transforms the peace to dynamism. Notwithstanding this complementation, on the basis of just two powers there remains still an irreconcilable. The manifestation of energy in the cosmos for any solidification and the emergence of a material creation, as such, requires three powers. This is explained in the new cosmology by the trinity of 9, 6 and 3. This Sacred Triangle, as I have called it in the Gnostic Circle, is the formula to reconcile these reconcilables. Shiva is the 9, the father; the Mother is the 6 and the first of TWO feminine powers required for the transformation. The 3, in turn, harmonises; while the Fourth, or the 0/1, integrates it all. This formula is the great key by which Supermind is organised for Earth use through the allegiance of Time. It is, as well, the formula of creation, of the emergence of a material universe.
The Puranas describe the very same formula. Shiva has, in effect, two consorts. One, in his early life, is Sati. The other, said to be Sati reincarnated, is Parvati. They would be the 6 and 3, respectively, of the new cosmology. The first ‘incarnation’ is always connected to ‘heaven’, as the tale of Sati’s celestial marriage ceremony to Shiva displays, which ended so disastrously when Daksha ‘insulted’ the bridegroom. Finally, Sati immolates herself, leaving Shiva distraught. He consequently withdraws from the world.
The situation with Parvati is quite different. In the episodes involving this beloved Daughter of the Mountain King (‘Parvat’), everything takes on a more earthy quality. Indeed, the stories invariably describe the wiles and beguiles of the Goddess to entice Shiva (sometimes with the aid of Kamadev, the Hindu Eros), to draw him out of his trance, to notice her, to fall in love and marry her! This, prosaically put, is the gist of her exploits regarding Shiva.
But the essence of the Puranas is prophecy, cyclic episodes of the cosmic manifestation describing the incarnation on Earth of certain cosmic powers. These, in turn, appear in sequence as the Ten Avatars. The last two of whom are Shiva; that is, the 9th is Shiva as the Father (the Transcendent), and the 10th is Kalki (the Immanent) or the Son of that Father. In the tales he is extolled as ‘Shiva himself’ in the form of the divine son Kartikeya, or Skanda.
There are two phases in the operation to draw Shiva back into the world. The first is Parvati’s success in forcing Shiva out of his self-absorption; and finally to accept her as his consort. This indicates the transformation of the Static Peace. Parvati brings to the manifestation of the 9th Avatar that dynamism without which the universe cannot evolve – nay, cannot BE. Sri Aurobindo was explicit on this point when he explained that had it not been for the Mother his work would not have become rooted in the Earth, it would have stayed static and transcendent. Up above, as it were. (It may be of interest to note that his brother, Barin, to whom the letter was addressed which I have included as an Appendix in this issue, failed to appreciate this necessity. When Sri Aurobindo formally declared that the Mother was his co-worker and placed her in charge of the Ashram in 1926, Barin could not accept this fact and left. It is clear that his impression of the ‘body as a corpse’, to quote his letter, was too powerful a feature of his temperament and the dynamism brought by the Shakti to Sri Aurobindo’s mission found this obstacle insurmountable.)
The next phase in the process as described so prophetically accurate in the Puranas, is the birth of the saviour Son who is ‘Shiva himself’. For, once drawn out of his self-absorption Shiva was content to enjoy Parvati without producing any offspring. Yet the Gods knew that to save the Earth which was overrun by the powers of Darkness, led by the infamous asura, Tarak, a son would have to be born of Shiva who alone was empowered by Brahma to conquer that evil. The desperation of the Gods knew no end when Shiva failed to produce this son. Thus, a plot was devised whereby the Divine Sport between the two was timely interrupted and the precious seed of Shiva was stolen by the Gods, transported by Agni in the form of a white dove to the river Ganga who finally cast the then gestated child onto the banks of the sacred river. Thus was Kartikeya born in the month of Kartik.
In The New Way, Volume 2, Chapter 9, and in The Hidden Manna, Chapter 12, I have given the details of this ‘materialisation’ of the Puranic prophecy in full. The story is repeated here for the purpose of an in-depth analysis of the imperative necessity of transforming the tamas guna.
In its untransformed condition tamas is known as inertia. This is the unspiritual aspect of the guna; when spiritualised, it is the realisation of Static Peace. But that is Shiva self-absorbed. In a word, self-enclosed and hence useless to the world, to the evolution of consciousness on Earth. To attain that state the practitioner must follow paths such as the Advaitan, the path laid down by the Shankaracharyas and the great Vedantins. All of whom stress status in contrast to dynamism. All of whom disregard this material manifestation which they consider an ‘illusion’, a dream and nothing more. Shakara represented the apex of this quest, that glorification of the Escape. In the evolution of Hinduism Shankara made the experience of Nirvana respectable and acceptable. Indeed, so powerful has been his contribution that today the stage of Indian spirituality is occupied almost exclusively by exponents of this school. Vedanta, as it is known in its broadest sense, is taken as the repository of all that is of any worth in Hinduism. Whereas, Vedanta is simply a resting place along the way to the full expression of the Divine on Earth. The mission of the 10th Avatar is precisely to arouse the movement and set it on its way to the full experience well beyond the limits of the Self and the Nirvanic mode of Static Peace.
This is the work of the Supramental Avatars. The entire process is described faithfully in the Puranas through Shiva, Sati, Parvati and Skanda; or, in the language of the new cosmology, the 9, the 6, the 3, and the 0/1. The feminine Powers render the peace Shiva brings to the process dynamic. That is, the inertia is transformed until it reaches its pinnacle in the experience of Agni, the One, or ‘the Immobile amidst the Mobile’. For this FOUR POWERS are needed. Shiva and Sati are of the ‘old creation’ – which means they are still above, not yet fully rooted in the Earth, still transcendent, cosmic and ‘celestial’, still ‘up there’. The Third constructs the bridge, Shiva is drawn out of his heavenly realm by Parvati and the outcome is the birth of the One who is ‘Shiva himself’; or Agni the Son, the One, the product of that dynamic Peace.
Bengal of Today
In his letter to Barin, Sri Aurobindo discusses something of the genius of Bengal, but at the same time its failings. Of particular interest is the stress on an emotional excitement, and then the dissipation of the energy it engenders. This is clearly demonstrated in the resurgence of the Bhakti movement precisely in Bengal and centred on the figure of Chaitanya. But where the contemporary historian and political analyst seek to interpret this, and other expressions such as Sufism, as the key to India’s secular and eclectic and synthesising character, in view of what appears to be a nascent fascism and religious bigotry and dogmatism overtaking the country, Sri Aurobindo is clear in his assessment that this ‘emotional excitement’ is the downfall of Bengal. Knowledge, he asserts, must be the first foundation. Failing which the intense emotion of love dissipates.
Indeed, Bengal today images for us this process, this dissipation. During the freedom struggle Sri Aurobindo poured his energy into that portion of Mother India which, it is universally accepted, was the inspiration behind the independence movement. We see in Bengal of the time also an intense artistic and literary life, in a far greater degree than elsewhere in India. But with the attainment of independence, and indeed with Sri Aurobindo’s withdrawal, Bengal began to recede. The creative energy once felt to emanate from that area so powerfully is no longer in evidence. But there is more to this obvious degeneration, and it concerns the transformation of tamas, or its unredeemed state.
The gunas are connected to time, it is clear. We have in this triadic movement, past, present and future – tamas, sattwa, rajas, in this reverse order. Bengal of today, following as it does under the rule of tamas, embodies the past in terms of this energy expression. That is, the movement ends with Tamas, as does the flow of time. But the past can be a black hole, a deadening residue, or it can be a cauldron wherefrom, on the basis of a special process, the energy in this cauldron is transmuted and released, or cast back into the vessel as a replenishing source.
In its present condition, depleted of energy due to the existence of a pocket called Bangladesh, which deprives the area of its full quota we may say, Bengal cannot serve the nation as it should. It is an area where energy is trapped, self-absorbed but cut off from the larger body, as if it were in a time warp. Shiva in such a case, embodiment of tamas, is the Destroyer. Indeed, nowhere on the Indian subcontinent do we encounter the forces of Nature in such regular displays of this power of destruction.
Partition lies at the root of the deletion. But unlike the rajas section where Partition cut into the expression of dynamism, proper to rajas, and since then has resulted in numerous and constant aggressive attacks by Pakistan, in the northeast Partition operates to weaken the nation by undermining, which is a degeneration of self-absorption. There is not out-and-out aggression as in the northwest of the rajas guna. Infiltration, subversive undermining through massive ‘immigration’ is the means to drain the area and secure a steady siphoning off of the energy.
As an example of the manifest effects of an insufficient and depleted energy base, we may note that Bengal, one of the few remaining pockets of communism in the world, has been insulated from the force at work to bring down communism elsewhere, as Sri Aurobindo had aspired for. Bengal, as a tomb of energies of the past, as it were, cannot call up from within its folds the thrust required to break through this encrustation of energy. It is closed in a bubble, insulated in a time warp. Its liberation awaits the coming of the One.
August of 1993
Aeon Centre of Cosmology