Loretta reads Savitri:Two.VII "The Descent into Night" part 2
|Loretta reads Savitri
Book Two: The Book of the Traveller of the Worlds
Canto VII: The Descent into Night
Part 2 of 3, pages 208-214
The traveler has started on the downward path. He is moving into the inconscient Matter which makes up the substance of our physical material world. He wrote for us that the king – who is of course Sri Aurobindo – that the king turned his gaze away from Nature's visible face, and looked for the real cause of Life's failure.
In The Synthesis of Yoga, Sri Aurobindo wrote that “The proper function of the life-energy...” (which it's not doing, and that's why he is doing all this), “The proper function of the life-energy is to do what it is bidden by the divine principle in us”, which is our soul, our psychic being. And what is bidden is “to reach to and enjoy what is given to it by that indwelling Divine and not to desire at all”.
He has already explained to us that although Life plunged into the complete unconsciousness of our matter – so that we would have all of her highest, to do what the soul tells us to do – while she was on her way:
- Before her gifts could reach our prisoned hearts, (p.130)
(And we know that the heart chakra is the place where our soul does reside.) He explained that in the cosmic movements, on the higher planes:
- The secret Will that robes itself with Night
- And offers to spirit the ordeal of the flesh,
- Imposed a mystic mask of death and pain. (p.130)
So as long as we – as long as our spirit – has chosen to take birth in a physical body, our spirit (us) has to go through “the ordeal of the flesh”.
Last time, in the beginning of Canto VII, in beautiful mystic images, he told us the underlying causes:
- He saw the fount of the world’s lasting pain
- And the mouth of the black pit of Ignorance (p.202)
Because he's starting. He saw “The evil guarded at the roots of life” (p.202). And he saw, behind the ignorance that was there, “a grey carved mask of Night” (p.202) appeared. And this mask has something, and whispered something, that brought “A fatal Influence upon creatures” (p.203). Its lethal touch overcast our soul's native will for truth and joy and light.
Then the traveler of the worlds experiences the first place which Sri Aurobindo describes as being under these dark influences. And although they sound really horrible when he – in his very expert and dramatic way – can really evoke them for us; if we become really conscious of ourselves and others, we can see all this, and we can apply all this information to our lives. And we do make our lives better, and we make the world better.
The first place that he went to, this no-man's land, had unreality as its lord. And it was a “land of evil air” (p.206). He was in “a space where nothing could be true” (p.206). So we are entering into Falsehood.
“A vast deception was the law of things” (p.206) and beings at that level of life's emergence out of the Inconscience into our creation. Sri Aurobindo is giving us the truth; and in other writings he gives us the truth about how we can move beyond these influences in our own lives.
In The Synthesis of Yoga, he explains about our lower vital being – the part of us that can be under the influence of all the things that he's describing for us. And Sri Aurobindo is going to go on experiencing life in successively unconscious levels, all the way to the very bottom.
We have to remember that the path that the traveler is on is in his own being, in his own body, as well as in the universal planes. We all have that path within us. Our life-energies make up our vital being; and the king's consciousness is in his own being, on the lower vital planes. And with this he can connect and experience what is going on.
Here is some of his advice to the early ashramites. There were many letters; and here he says something about how to be beyond all this. You find it in the Letters on Yoga. He says the region of our lower vital being - our lower vital being - is in our body, “from the navel downwards”. And then he says, it is the place of “the reign of the vital passions and sensations and all the small life-impulses that constitute the bulk of the ordinary human life and character.”
This is us in our daily lives. And in this, other – these more darker – things can come. This is what he calls “the lower vital nature”. It's only concerned with “small greeds, small desires, small passions etc.” It is our place for the stupendous play of passion, of joy, of grief, love, hate, wrath, fear, disgust, likes and dislikes, hopes, content, discontent... it goes on forever.
Then he says that the deformation of our emotional or vital mind – which allows it to be so distorted – “hinges upon the duality of liking and disliking”. It is our automatic habit of emotional attraction and repulsion which lets these things in us, and allows them to move us and possess us.
We can see it throughout history; and somehow in these present days, those people who are a little bit aware, and a little bit developed, can see the result of it happening all around them.
- “All the complexity of our emotions and their tyranny over the soul arise from the habitual responses of the soul of desire in the emotions and sensations”.
These are the responses which are these attractions and repulsions – or are responding to attractions and repulsions. Love and hate, grief and fear, hope and joy, and this whole huge list of stuff all have their founts – their beginnings, their source – in this one source. “[T]he vital mind, the mind of desire and sensation, is the creator of the sense of evil”. And then, because it moves us – and people do these things, as we're going to see, and in fact we know some of – so it is also the creator of “the fact of evil”.
So we begin to know that we have a machinery in our own makeup which has come this far in the evolution of consciousness. And it is open to these lower vital worlds. It reflects them, and it responds to them – as long as we're unconscious beings.
So, how do we go beyond it?
Sri Aurobindo speaks of this desire coming from the likes and dislikes as a habit of our emotional nature. And he says that it gets in the way of our intelligent will, and makes it the slave, the “helpless slave of the emotional being or at least prevents [the will, the intelligent will,] from exercising a free judgment and government of the nature”. And “This deformation has to be corrected”.
Our secret inner and vital nature is in contact with the vital plane. Sri Aurobindo says it is a life-world, and our inner vital nature is easily open to it, and we feel (although we don't know it) “the unseen dynamic forces and realities” which are going on all the time beyond our universe of physical life. And usually we're concentrated on the outside, not the inside, so we don't see it.
Our very vital being is molded, consciously or unconsciously, by these influences. And it makes us beings of desire and sensation, of passion and force and emotion. Our mental force is often the slave to the vital force; so our mental life is just our mind going on and on in a kind of slavery to all these vital forces.
So we get rid of desire in the soul's life-force, and its coming and going in the emotional mind, by a constant vigilant rejection, over and over and over. This purifies. This way, we make the whole correction easier; because, as Sri Aurobindo says, then attachment – “attachment which is the strong bond of the heart, falls away from the heart-strings”. The involuntary habit of liking and disliking is still there, but now it is not being made obstinate by attachment. And “it can be dealt with more easily by the will and the intelligence. The restless heart” – which is the surface, the place of the vital, not the deep place of the soul within, which is a place of peace – “The restless heart can be conquered and get rid of the habit of attraction and repulsion”, liking and disliking, and all that.
And then, secondly, our inner, higher mental being has to separate itself from association and self-identification with the desires and all the struggles, sorrows, loves, hates, etc. We know now that all these are actually the workings and habits of Nature in our vital and in our mind, as we have so far evolved today.
We have to be constantly, constantly vigilant. And remember, and remember again, and remember again (it's a long work!) – remember that we are not the thing that sorrows. We are not the thing that suffers. We are not the thing that gets angry; all of those things. Then the mind draws back from its emotions, and it becomes only the witness. Then, we become the master of all these automatic movements of Nature. That includes of course all the things that Sri Aurobindo is describing for us here; and with this mastery, all of it falls away from the liberated psychic being – from our free soul.
And this is not only good for us, and a great relief of course; it is good for all humanity and the future. If we can slow down enough, and purify our beings enough, we can experience – in our own thought patterns, in our feelings and emotions – the actual waves we gather from others. The things that attract us, the things we want to be like, the things we want to have around us; we never stop trying to re-create ourselves by this method. We just don't realize we are doing it. You can feel it in babies, if you hold a small child (if you're really sensitive) – the child cannot speak, but in its consciousness, it's soaking up everything out of you, like a little sponge. It's just – the whole being is greedy for a kind of nourishment that it's supposed to get, which it gets from other people. Of course you don't lose anything. But the child is open; and by the way it's made, and its nature, it takes in all of that.
And when we know that this is who we are and how we do things, we have the possibility of conscious control.
So the traveler is descending into Night. And as he moved on, “the scene changed, but kept its dreadful core” (p.208). The outer form changed, but life was the same. As we saw last time, everyone walked alone in his own darkness. But here it's worse: the only thing that everyone agreed on was that everyone should be on her path or his path of Evil.
The Ego was the lord of that place – the Ego, along with Falsehood. So we are really in the kingdom and domain of Ego and Falsehood. There was no truth, no freedom – just violence and misuse of power. And therefore the beings were committing vile sins. But we will see everyone believes they were not sinful! And they did what they punished others for doing.
- A lie was there the truth and truth a lie. (p.210)
And actually, as we get more conscious, even today we can look around us – at life, and politics, and everything that comes to us through the media and people that we meet – and we can see some of what he's going to describe for us.
In this part of the canto, Sri Aurobindo does give us some advice. One of the things he points out is – he says, “daring Hell’s kingdoms winds the heavenly route” (p.210). And what he means by that, is that the more conscious you become – the [higher you go, the lower you also go]. And so more comes into your consciousness. And there you are. You see it; you know you're subject to it. So this is what he says: in order for “the traveller of the upward Way” (p.210) to get through all this, they have to have this consciousness. The traveller of the upward Way must pause – when all this becomes evident – or “pass slowly through that perilous space”, keeping “A prayer upon his lips and the great Name” (p.210).
We have to be very discerning, and keep watch all around, to escape from Falsehood's net and Evil's spear-point. And these are very evocative images. We don't know – we are suddenly caught in a net that's all false, or we are being speared by something of evil that is coming into our being in a subtle way.
He says, to be safe in a place like this, we have to keep God in our heart. And be an actual hero. And have the courage to be a soldier of Light.
But, as bad as this Falsehood and Ego is, Sri Aurobindo's going to tell us that “Though Hell claimed rule, the spirit still had power” (p.211), at this more upper level. Though the king passes through this No-man's-land without debate:
- Him the heights missioned, him the Abyss desired:
- None stood across his way, no voice forbade.
- For swift and easy is the downward path,
- And now towards the Night was turned his face. (p.211)
So a greater darkness waited for the king – and for us, as we read – a worse reign, where “God and Truth and the supernal Light // Had never been” (p.211), or else did not have power any more, at all.
He crossed into a place of perverted power, where Life displayed her shadow depths. There she was degraded, deformed, “A strong and fallen goddess without hope”. And he saw Life's “dramas of the sorrow of the depths // Written on the agonised nerves of living things” (p.212). There Sri Aurobindo speaks of physical perversion, and lust, and sin.
- Agony was made a red-spiced food for bliss (p.213)
- All Nature pulled out of her frame and base
- Was twisted into an unnatural pose (p.213)
- Beauty was banned, the heart’s feeling dulled to sleep (p.213)
Here, Life wants only sensations, physical thrills, and sense-appeal in the physical. And with this cutting out of everything else, “The filth and festering secrets of the Abyss”, of the Inconscient, rose up to sully the air with filth; and in this kingdom it was “called positive fact and real life” (p.214).
Sri Aurobindo writes these terrible and tragic things much more graphically and much more realistically than one sees and experiences them often. Sometimes people actually do know that's going on; and sometimes we get some of it and we kind of screen it out, because we really can't handle it. But he is describing things that are in the world today – things for us to see, to hear, and to learn from, and to become free of. Next time, he will tell us how the king makes his way through this experience of Life's fall into Matter and Inconscience; now he's just going to describe it for us.
So this is the second part of “The Descent into Night”.
… Then the scene changed, but kept its dreadful core: Altering its form the life remained the same. A capital was there without a State: It had no ruler, only groups that strove. He saw a city of ancient Ignorance Founded upon a soil that knew not Light. There each in his own darkness walked alone: Only they agreed to differ in Evil’s paths, To live in their own way for their own selves Or to enforce a common lie and wrong; There Ego was lord upon his peacock seat p.209 And Falsehood sat by him, his mate and queen: The world turned to them as Heaven to Truth and God. Injustice justified by firm decrees The sovereign weights of Error’s legalised trade, But all the weights were false and none the same; Ever she watched with her balance and a sword, Lest any sacrilegious word expose The sanctified formulas of her old misrule. In high professions wrapped self-will walked wide And licence stalked prating of order and right: There was no altar raised to Liberty; True freedom was abhorred and hunted down: Harmony and tolerance nowhere could be seen; Each group proclaimed its dire and naked Law. A frame of ethics knobbed with scriptural rules Or a theory passionately believed and praised A table seemed of high Heaven’s sacred code. A formal practice mailed and iron-shod Gave to a rude and ruthless warrior kind Drawn from the savage bowels of the earth A proud stern poise of harsh nobility, A civic posture rigid and formidable. But all their private acts belied the pose: Power and utility were their Truth and Right, An eagle rapacity clawed its coveted good, Beaks pecked and talons tore all weaker prey. In their sweet secrecy of pleasant sins Nature they obeyed and not a moralist God. Inconscient traders in bundles of contraries, They did what in others they would persecute; When their eyes looked upon their fellow’s vice, An indignation flamed, a virtuous wrath; Oblivious of their own deep-hid offence, Moblike they stoned a neighbour caught in sin. A pragmatist judge within passed false decrees, Posed worst iniquities on equity’s base, p.210 Reasoned ill actions just, sanctioned the scale Of the merchant ego’s interest and desire. Thus was a balance kept, the world could live. A zealot fervour pushed their ruthless cults, All faith not theirs bled scourged as heresy; They questioned, captived, tortured, burned or smote And forced the soul to abandon right or die. Amid her clashing creeds and warring sects Religion sat upon a blood-stained throne. A hundred tyrannies oppressed and slew And founded unity upon fraud and force. Only what seemed was prized as real there: The ideal was a cynic ridicule’s butt; Hooted by the crowd, mocked by enlightened wits, Spiritual seeking wandered outcasted, — A dreamer’s self-deceiving web of thought Or mad chimaera deemed or hypocrite’s fake, Its passionate instinct trailed through minds obscure Lost in the circuits of the Ignorance. A lie was there the truth and truth a lie. Here must the traveller of the upward Way — For daring Hell’s kingdoms winds the heavenly route — Pause or pass slowly through that perilous space, A prayer upon his lips and the great Name. If probed not all discernment’s keen spear-point, He might stumble into falsity’s endless net. Over his shoulder often he must look back Like one who feels on his neck an enemy’s breath; Else stealing up behind a treasonous blow Might prostrate cast and pin to unholy soil, Pierced through his back by Evil’s poignant stake. So might one fall on the Eternal’s road Forfeiting the spirit’s lonely chance in Time And no news of him reach the waiting gods, Marked “missing” in the register of souls, His name the index of a failing hope, p.211 The position of a dead remembered star. Only were safe who kept God in their hearts: Courage their armour, faith their sword, they must walk, The hand ready to smite, the eye to scout, Casting a javelin regard in front, Heroes and soldiers of the army of Light. Hardly even so, the grisly danger past, Released into a calmer purer air, They dared at length to breathe and smile once more. Once more they moved beneath a real sun. Though Hell claimed rule, the spirit still had power. This No-man’s-land he passed without debate; Him the heights missioned, him the Abyss desired: None stood across his way, no voice forbade. For swift and easy is the downward path, And now towards the Night was turned his face. A greater darkness waited, a worse reign, If worse can be where all is evil’s extreme; Yet to the cloaked the uncloaked is naked worst. There God and Truth and the supernal Light Had never been or else had power no more. As when one slips in a deep moment’s trance Over mind’s border into another world, He crossed a boundary whose stealthy trace Eye could not see but only the soul feel. Into an armoured fierce domain he came And saw himself wandering like a lost soul Amid grimed walls and savage slums of Night. Around him crowded grey and squalid huts Neighbouring proud palaces of perverted Power, Inhuman quarters and demoniac wards. A pride in evil hugged its wretchedness; A misery haunting splendour pressed those fell Dun suburbs of the cities of dream-life. There Life displayed to the spectator soul p.212 The shadow depths of her strange miracle. A strong and fallen goddess without hope, Obscured, deformed by some dire Gorgon spell, As might a harlot empress in a bouge, Nude, unashamed, exulting she upraised Her evil face of perilous beauty and charm And, drawing panic to a shuddering kiss Twixt the magnificence of her fatal breasts, Allured to their abyss the spirit’s fall. Across his field of sight she multiplied As on a scenic film or moving plate The implacable splendour of her nightmare pomps. On the dark background of a soulless world She staged between a lurid light and shade Her dramas of the sorrow of the depths Written on the agonised nerves of living things: Epics of horror and grim majesty, Wry statues spat and stiffened in life’s mud, A glut of hideous forms and hideous deeds Paralysed pity in the hardened breast. In booths of sin and night-repairs of vice Styled infamies of the body’s concupiscence And sordid imaginations etched in flesh, Turned lust into a decorative art: Abusing Nature’s gift her pervert skill Immortalised the sown grain of living death, In a mud goblet poured the bacchic wine, To a satyr gave the thyrsus of a god. Impure, sadistic, with grimacing mouths, Grey foul inventions gruesome and macabre Came televisioned from the gulfs of Night. Her craft ingenious in monstrosity, Impatient of all natural shape and poise, A gape of nude exaggerated lines, Gave caricature a stark reality, And art-parades of weird distorted forms, p.213 And gargoyle masques obscene and terrible Trampled to tormented postures the torn sense. An inexorable evil’s worshipper, She made vileness great and sublimated filth; A dragon power of reptile energies And strange epiphanies of grovelling Force And serpent grandeurs couching in the mire Drew adoration to a gleam of slime. All Nature pulled out of her frame and base Was twisted into an unnatural pose: Repulsion stimulated inert desire; Agony was made a red-spiced food for bliss, Hatred was trusted with the work of lust And torture took the form of an embrace; A ritual anguish consecrated death; Worship was offered to the Undivine. A new aesthesis of Inferno’s art That trained the mind to love what the soul hates, Imposed allegiance on the quivering nerves And forced the unwilling body to vibrate. Too sweet and too harmonious to excite In this regime that soiled the being’s core, Beauty was banned, the heart’s feeling dulled to sleep And cherished in their place sensation’s thrills; The world was probed for jets of sense-appeal. Here cold material intellect was the judge And needed sensual prick and jog and lash That its hard dryness and dead nerves might feel Some passion and power and acrid point of life. A new philosophy theorised evil’s rights, Gloried in the shimmering rot of decadence, Or gave to a python Force persuasive speech And armed with knowledge the primaeval brute. Over life and Matter only brooding bowed, Mind changed to the image of a rampant beast; It scrambled into the pit to dig for truth p.214 And lighted its search with the subconscient’s flares. Thence bubbling rose sullying the upper air, The filth and festering secrets of the Abyss: This it called positive fact and real life. This now composed the fetid atmosphere. A wild-beast passion crept from secret Night To watch its prey with fascinating eyes: Around him like a fire with sputtering tongues There lolled and laughed a bestial ecstasy; The air was packed with longings brute and fierce; Crowding and stinging in a monstrous swarm Pressed with a noxious hum into his mind Thoughts that could poison Nature’s heavenliest breath, Forcing reluctant lids assailed the sight Acts that revealed the mystery of Hell. All that was there was on this pattern made. ...
- The Synthesis of Yoga, p.351
- Letters on Yoga – I, p.190
- Ibid., p.178
- The Synthesis of Yoga, p.659
- The Life Divine, p.630
- The Synthesis of Yoga, p.660
- The Life Divine, p.747
- The Synthesis of Yoga, p.660 (“By getting rid of desire in the psychic prana and its intermiscence in the emotional mind, we facilitate the correction.”)
- The Synthesis of Yoga, p.352 (“Therefore the mental Purusha has to separate himself from association and self-identification with this desire-mind. He has to say 'I am not this thing that struggles and suffers, grieves and rejoices, loves and hates, hopes and is baffled, is angry and afraid and cheerful and depressed, a thing of vital moods and emotional passions. All these are merely workings and habits of Prakriti in the sensational and emotional mind.'”)