Letters From Skambha ‘The Infinite and the Detail’


In a letter dated 5.2.1989, a pupil wrote to Thea about his understanding of Sri Aurobindo’s yoga: ‘First there must be a call or a need, then a preparation or purification of the nature. Depending on the strong will of man to reject the vibration of the lower nature, his ability to open and to give himself to the Divine and the help of the Yoga Shakti and in  ‘God’s own time’, there will be progress. The preparation and purification consist of silencing the mind and making the vital calm. With this, man can easily reject the wrong vibration and open himself to the psychic being and the Divine. The psychic leads more and more, first the inner being, then the outer. After this he can open upwards to the Self, the static and dynamic Brahman. Then he can open upwards to mental regions and the overmental, and so on.

            ‘This is the global line of development in the integral yoga. I am aware there are different lines possible according to the different natures and to a man’s ‘mission’. There are also side paths, etc. Now, the Gnostic Circle and The New Way are there. Is this cycle what Sri Aurobindo meant with ‘God’s own time’? The 4.5 Orbit is the point of undoing of the old consciousness and descent of the new power. After this there is the time of growth in the new cycle (consciousness?) and assimilation till the next 4.5. This growth or assimilation and widening of consciousness is the whole of the yoga, to prepare for the utmost benefit till the next 4.5 point?’

Thea replies: [Regarding] your presentation of the Yoga and your questions about the Gnostic Circle, I think things are becoming more and more clear with the exposition you have given. But I hope I can briefly summarise the situation, because the theme is a vast one and cannot really be dealt with in one letter. It is, after all, the entire scope of the work. At that same time, it draws the discussion to this question of the new element that I have brought to the Yoga. I have gone into this matter deeply in the 3rd Volume [of The New Way].

   When I read your description of the Yoga I have a strange feeling that it is something rather foreign to what I know. The words seem to be right, but there is something not right. Pondering over this I realise the problem lies in the DIRECTION you describe; and this confirms the impression I have formed of your yoga and one of the causes for the strain you feel. You see, reading your description the Yoga seems to take a very linear direction. And that is summed up as an ascent up and out and beyond. This impression comes across very clearly in what you write. The psychic realisation becomes then simply a basis for this action, a tool to be used for the transformation of the nature so that this upward and outward direction can be attained without the impurities of the being interfering in this other attainment in any way.

Now, I am fully aware that many people have this notion, and it is perhaps legitimate to believe this insofar as Sri Aurobindo himself may convey this impression in his writings. But the point is that Sri Aurobindo wrote from a transcendent poise. That is, the work he had to do resided in a transformation of THAT PLANE. What I mean to say is that if we are to bring down the light of those planes, it is necessary to prepare those dimensions for this descent as well as this material plane. Someone had to do that, just as someone had to prepare the Cosmic plane, and just as someone has to prepare this Individual Earth-plane. In dealing with the Transcendent, it is clear that Sri Aurobindo was poised THERE. This is what makes his writing so appealing and free from certain demands put upon the consciousness in, for example, my writings. But when we reach the Cosmic and Individual, these demands begin to increase and often they create insurmountable obstacles for people who want to ‘lose themselves’ in that Peace, that Vastness, that uncluttered space beyond.

With the Mother’s work we come to that eternal Knot – Matter and Form. This introduces a series of difficulties Sri Aurobindo did not have to deal with, in that incarnation. Those difficulties increase as we move on down the line, especially when we come to the Individual, in close touch with the Earth-plane.

You know, I experienced this situation very vividly when I was approaching New York by plane last September. I don’t know if you have ever been to New York, but anyone who has is forced to admit that the city is not the prettiest in the world. There are slums, dirt, congestion; and for one who is used to country living, an unbearable lack of SKY and AIR.

But, as the plane descended and circled near and over the city, I noted how extraordinarily beautiful it was, constructed as it is by the Hudson River and with its amazing display of man-made wonders such as the famous skyline of Manhattan. The layout of the city was exquisite from that height. It was sunset when we approached, and the red-pink glow added to the beauty and charm of the vision. I could not fail to see a parallel with this work and the difficulties we face. All other yogas have dealt with the human condition from those heights, and the question has been to draw the seeker UP TO THOSE PLANES. Because, you see, when one sees New York from that height, one does not see its filth, its congestion, its squalor, its lack of sun and air, and all the rest. Nor does one see the misery of many of its residents, caught in a mire that is the outcome of just such a stressful and congested living. One sees only the city’s beauty and general outlines. One does not see THE DETAIL.


Now, it is this question of DETAIL that describes the main focus of my work, and to a certain extent the Mother’s. She began to look at details; she began to DESCEND into material creation with her yogic thrust; she began to deal with matter and with form, – which is where the question of detail begins to surface. Sri Aurobindo did not do this, by his own admission. Therefore Savitri, also by his own admission, is largely a creation of the Overmental plane. This is made evident by the fact that in Savitri that perfection of form and detail is not present, and by consequence that Order that the new creation demands, the creation of a cosmos out of the chaos, to put it succinctly. The prophetic aspect of Savitri makes this clear: it is all rather helter-skelter, figures and events of the prophetic vision overlap or pop up here and there with no proper sequence, no clear time-frame for which that Order is indispensable. One is forced to leap around from page to page in order to form a clear vision with ‘each thing in its place’.

But in composing his epic, Sri Aurobindo was dealing with those planes, opening up the Overmind to the higher light and infusing it with this new and hitherto withheld element – in overt manifestation, that is, not hidden and working from behind the veils. In a sense we could say that with Sri Aurobindo’s work, in particular the creation of Savitri, the Overmind consented to this transformation and to cede the reigning position it has held for so long to the Supermind. Sri Aurobindo was clear about this. He stated quite emphatically that Savitri was an overmental creation for the most part. But the reason for this is what I am here describing: Savitri was Sri Aurobindo’s tool for the Descent.

The Mother’s tool was something quite different and far more material, we may say. It was the creation of the physical ashram but with the culminating experience of the Temple and the City. It is with her vision of the Temple, and above all with the detailed plan she gave, bearing precise measurements, that we observe this Light penetrating more and more deeply into matter and material creation. At the same time we see the murkiness which had not really surfaced in Sri Aurobindo’s time in this new creation. We see types like X coming to the fore, and all the rest. We see the mire of Auroville and all of that. But it is like the city of New York: when viewed from above the creation is magnificent. Descending into that magnificence, however, one begins to see details that from the heights were unperceived. This, in a nutshell, is the work of the second and third members of the Solar Line. And then there is the Fourth.

You see, the point of Sri Aurobindo’s incarnation is that vision from above, the transcendence, as well as that immanence. It is HIS IMMANENCE as the Fourth, as the Point, as the Seed, that puts the seal on the Descent and allows for the creation of a new Cosmos. And this is what is conveyed in the Gnostic Circle. Sri Aurobindo’s position in that Circle is the 9. That point on the Sacred Triangle describes his work in that incarnation – the Transcendent. But as the Fourth it is the opposite to that 9 Point: it is the 4.5…the ‘Masked Transcendent’. This hidden, masked condition is beautifully conveyed in the Gnostic Circle by the fact that there is no Orbit marked out there by any of the enneagram’s lines, neither the Sacred Triangle’s nor the other lines forming the diagram. Yet the entire diagram focuses on that hidden orbit; all its lines point to that Orbit. Visually, this is evident, and it is something the Gurdjieff school missed entirely: the focus on that mysterious Orbit.

That is the Immanent, that is the ‘gold’ hidden in matter, the Hiranyaretas or the Golden Seed. That is what permits a cosmos to be formed, an ordering to be undertaken. It is the infinitesimal point in the core of the Sun that holds a cosmos together. The 4.5 Orbit is therefore the redemption of the Buddhist and Mayavadist ‘void’. This is what Sri Aurobindo meant when he stated that ‘Kalki would come to correct the error of the Buddha’. At the same time, he referred to the experience of Nirvana as the entry into ‘the higher hemisphere’ from the lower and the beginning of the work, not the culmination. And this too perfectly tallies with the image conveyed in the Gnostic Circle because the 4.5 is indeed the half-way point in the wheel and is the threshold to the higher hemisphere. This is corroborated even in the traditional understanding of the zodiac with relation to Libra, the sign of the 4.5 Orbit.

What I perceive in your description is only half the picture, and I feel this may be the basic cause for the strain you experience. I do not perceive any roundness, which is the key to an INTEGRAL work on oneself. Pursuing the direction you describe does not guarantee an integration and harmonisation of the consciousness-being. This can only come about when in your consciousness you create that cosmos, when you establish that Point which is the new base of life that Sri Aurobindo described. For that an entirely new dimension of the psychic realisation has to come into being. And that is the focus of my work. You see, until 1971 nothing was really known of all this. But let us look at the facts: in 1970 the Mother completed her work in terms of dealing with DETAILS within the parameters prescribed for her Incarnation. The original plan of the Temple was the proof that this first ordering had taken place and that her Yoga had made that possible. The City is the physical representation of that Cosmos, which is ‘held together’ by the Temple, which, in turn, is that central Point, the core-point of the cosmos that ‘holds it together’. In this light you can understand quite easily why the actual shape of Auroville was designed by the original architect as a galaxy, and how perfectly accurate that was. The only problem with the physical reality that is the Auroville we know is that there is no central Point that is capable of ‘holding the city-consciousness together’. Hence there is only chaos there as a result. But this was no fault of the Mother, insofar as she did give the key to the true foundation of the City. And here we have used that key in our work, with accurate and measurable results.

A further point is that the Matrimandir was described as ‘the soul’ of the City. And this provides another clue to the process I am describing. You see, as stated, when you are dealing with matter this question of DETAIL comes to the fore. At the same time, when dealing with matter the question of the soul’s role is immediately introduced, because the soul is the nexus of being in material creation.

Now with this you can perhaps begin to draw certain important correlations: the soul, the Individual Divine, the Third member of the Solar Line, the Temple, the question of ‘perfection in detail’. All of this begins to make very logical and coherent sense. We understand fully why the Descent was arranged the way it has been and why, at this stage, we are faced with the question of Measure in the first place, why the Mother insisted on ‘accurate measurements’ and that she wanted ‘only an engineer’ and not an architect because accuracy was of the utmost importance. And we also realise why this was so hotly combated in Auroville: we are dealing with the ‘mire of detail’ in this issue. It is like the city of New York: from above it is clean and pristine and an exquisite creation of man; but when we descend we see the other side, and we may be appalled. The same applies to the City and the Temple. In the plan stage these were impeccable creations; the Mother’s original plan of the Chamber is unparalleled, it is a perfect cosmos and a replica of the Soul in Matter as the binding nexus of a material creation.

But when in the process of bringing that perfect Vision into the material plane – that is, in EXECUTING the plans the Mother left – then we are confronted with those unpleasant facts which we would rather ignore: the murkiness of the detail, with all the knots that have come into being in this material plane because Supermind has not been the overt ruling Principle in creation. This can explain why the work of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother and our present contribution is always so entangled, so difficult, so obstructed. We are working through those knots in the course of our collective endeavour. There is no ‘sunlit path’ here; there is only one direction. And that is through the entire wheel and all its various ‘points’. Precisely because we are dealing with an INTEGRAL REALISATION.


It is this ‘roundness’, if it may be so called, which I find lacking in your brief presentation of the Yoga. Everything is right, the words are accurate, but something is missing. And I feel that this is the root of the strain you feel. As I have written in the past, you are – no doubt very unconsciously – pursuing a wrong direction. You are not allowing the Sun-Core to bring order into your realisations and draw them together here on this material plane for the creation of a new cosmos out of the chaos of your consciousness-being. Perhaps unwittingly, the direction you are pursuing is ‘otherworldly’. This, as I have written you before, is because of your past attainments, what you have brought over from your past incarnations.

There is a lot of material in this letter to assimilate. I do not expect you to understand all of what I write since I realise this may seem to be in conflict with what you have studied of this Yoga in the past. But, to help you out of the impasse, all you need to do is to observe the ACTUAL and REAL course Sri Aurobindo’s yoga and work have taken. You will clearly have to admit, if you are honest, that what I write is borne out by the real facts of our work and the course it has taken. You see, if you ignore this, then the stagnation in the Ashram and the chaos in Auroville and the split between those two bodies of their work would not make sense at all. But when you do see those ‘disasters’ on the background of this larger vision and fuller knowledge, then it is perfectly clear and ‘all is as it should be’. However, that does not eliminate the need to struggle with those confounding ‘details’ of a material creation What does happen when we accept WHAT IS, is that we engage in these struggles with a trust and a certainty that others lack.

The trust and certainty I write of are quite different from the blind faith displayed by most of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother’s disciples; or else the fallacious interpretation we have witnessed in Auroville: the Mother is in control of everything so therefore there can be no mistake in Matrimandir! (My reply to that has always been: since the Mother is in control of everything, then why bother about nuclear weapons and all the rest, since she is also behind that creation!) No, the trust and certainty I write of is something entirely different. It is a poise derived from Knowledge, from knowing and not from believing, or even from blind devotion. The world has had enough of that. What is required now is an acceptance of WHAT IS, primarily of WHAT IS in the Mother’s work. That means, accepting this new direction with all that that implies. This means seeking fervently and sincerely to understand WHY there is this direction at all, what its implications are for the Yoga and the world, what the real meaning of the Temple is in the context of this new direction and its relation to ‘perfection in detail’. Remember, Sri Aurobindo stated that this was the reigning Goddess [Mahasaraswati] of our Age. And nowhere is that better corroborated than in the Mother’s final bequeathal to humanity: the plan of her Chamber, the world’s most impeccable blueprint of ‘perfection in detail’.


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