Loretta reads Savitri:Two.VII "The Descent into Night" part 3

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Transcript of:
Savitri: Book Two, Canto VII, part 3 of 3
by Loretta, 2016 (32:40)
Listen on Auroville Radio →

[[{{{icon}}}|border|link={{{link}}}]]  Loretta reads Savitri
Book Two: The Book of the Traveller of the Worlds
Canto VII: The Descent into Night
Part 3 of 3, pages 214-219
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The great yogi king is still in the world where “God and Truth and the supernal Light // Had never been” (p.211), or had no more power. All there is evil's extreme. Life is deformed; she's “A strong and fallen goddess without hope” (p.212), luring the spirit to its fall in the gray, Inconscient levels of the earth and of our consciousness.

Here, Life worshiped evil in her unconsciousness. And “She made vileness great and sublimated filth” (p.213). So it was a place without Light; a place of lust and sin. A place existing at a level of unconsciousness which could act in us – which could come into our vital energies.

Now Sri Aurobindo is going to describe what the beings of this place are doing and feeling. The king is traveling down, down, ever down, into the subconscious Inconscience's sunless dusk.

After that, in the very last part of this canto, he describes states which come to people doing the Yoga. And all of this is actually part of that. Not only is he describing what goes on in the world, not only is he describing what we can receive – but he's also describing what happens when we have to work with ourselves. And we also are subject to this (perhaps a little more). But these things also come to the people in the outside world, because the whole consciousness is actually affected.

It helps to know that it's only something along the way of life. It helps to know that it's something – to know from the very beginning – that we could experience these things; and actually we have all along, we just didn't pinpoint it.

The king is seeing the hidden movements which deformed Life. And he's gone through the first land which is ruled by evil, where “deception was the law of things” (p.206). Then he went through the place ruled by Ego and falsehood (also in evil). But these places were not so bad: “the spirit still had power” (p.211). Now he's come to this place where Life is degraded in sin and lust and horror. And he's going through this consciously, because he wants things to change.

Sri Aurobindo came here to change the world. When he was younger he worked on the outer material plane of our existence. He was one of the great beings who brought India to freedom. And he worked on the outer plane in the Ashram, working with the Mother on the ashramites.

He worked much more on the inner planes, to bring the greater consciousness here for all men. And he worked on the inner planes in particular places in the outside world, to help people, even though his physical body never left the Ashram.

There are stories of people that he helped. Most particularly, in the realm of war and politics – because these kinds of people wrote these things down.

And we can see the negative things that he describes here in Canto VII, in the political situations today. Here he speaks of a demnoniac force “lurking in man’s depths” (p.214). It can arise and overthrow reason, and occupy life. Then it acts in the people it possesses. And through them it brings death and ruin.

Sri Aurobindo speaks here of “A mighty energy, a monster god” (p.214), which feels delight in others' sufferings, and only wants power, to master others, and to fill the world with evil. Its rain is a “totalitarian reign” (p.215). Here Sri Aurobindo speaks of dictatorships, and beings who looked like living men, “But harboured all that is subhuman, vile” (p.215).

But he also teaches us how we can deal with it, when we become aware of it, and even when we really feel it all around us. He says that the king's vision is “warned by the spirit’s inward eye”, and he does discover “Hell’s trademark” (p.215) in familiar faces.

This is a place where “All were deceived or served their own deceit” (p.216). Life is not very conscious here, not very developed.

Sri Aurobindo did also expect these things in our history. He expected them when he was here, in the history that is current to his time. In 1947, in one of his letters, he wrote about a state of mind – something that comes in the Yoga – and which was also becoming general all over the world at the same time (that is to say, at that time). Because people experience it as they purify themselves and as they get these things out of their system in the Yoga practice; but because of all the inner work that was being done – by Mother and Sri Aurobindo mostly, I believe – it was also surfacing in the general consciousness. And he describes it:

“Doubt, discouragement, diminution or loss of faith, waning of the vital enthusiasm for the ideal, perplexity and a baffling of the hope for the future are the common features of the difficulty.”[1]

So, he said this. And then he said it was:

“due to the Yoga having come down against the bedrock of Inconscience which is the fundamental basis of all resistance in the individual and in the world to the victory of the Spirit and the Divine Work”[2]

The work of today is the work that is leading towards that victory. And then he said that in the world outside, there were much more terrible symptoms – worse symptoms. And he listed:

“the general increase of cynicism, a refusal to believe in anything at all, a decrease of honesty, an immense corruption, a preoccupation with food, money, comfort, pleasure to the exclusion of higher things and a general expectation of worse and worse things awaiting the world.”[3]

This was in 1947. The Second World War was already quite over. But it also sounds like today. And in this same letter, he wrote that people who know anything about the workings of the world-energy and the workings of the Spirit were prepared for this. He said he knew it would come; and he also knew what was preparing behind the darkness. And he could also “see and feel the first signs of its coming”[4].

He says that the best thing is to realize that it was necessary. Necessary for a new and better world to come into being. And elsewhere, in another letter, he says the way to live, when one is completely swamped by this condition – or in any case, that condition is there – is to live in a complete and total faith, all the time. And it's obviously 'faith' in the coming of what they call the Divine – which means all the goodness, and the good, and the progress, and all the positive things.

Sri Aurobindo speaks several times in Savitri about this particular kind of darkness, which comes to every spiritual aspirant before the dawn of a realization. And we find it in “The Symbol Dawn”, in the beginning of the book. We find it in “The Yoga of the King”. We find it here, where he's symbolizing it in a lot of detail – a lot more than in the other places, actually. We find it in Savitri's yoga. And we find it from time to time in those small little stories of the whole creation, that he tells. In one letter, he says:

“It is the darkest nights that prepare the greatest dawns — and it is so because it is into the deep inconscience of material life that we have to bring, not an intermediate glimmer, but the full glory of the divine Light.”[5]

And he explains again why this happens in another letter:

“It is due to a plunge one has to take into the sheer physical consciousness unsupported by any true mental light or by any vital joy in life, for these usually withdraw behind the veil, though they are not, as they seem to be, permanently lost. It is a period when doubt, denial, dryness, greyness and all kindred things come up with a great force and often reign completely for a time. It is after this stage has been successfully crossed that the true light begins to come, the light which is not of the mind but of the spirit.”[6]

And he's got these great parts here; which are guidance about what we should do when we're going through that, or it's all around us. This is how he describes the king, and what the king does as he travels through this realm:

A lone discoverer in these menacing realms
Guarded like termite cities from the sun,
Oppressed mid crowd and tramp and noise and flare,
Passing from dusk to deeper dangerous dusk,
He wrestled with powers that snatched from mind its light
And smote from him their clinging influences. (p.216)

And as the king continues downward, ever downward, constantly discovering more and more of these things that are in the Inconscient, Sri Aurobindo says:

Around him grew a gaunt spiritual blank,
A threatening waste, a sinister loneliness (p.217)

And a little later he writes:

He heard the grisly voices that deny;
Assailed by thoughts that swarmed like spectral hordes,
A prey to the staring phantoms of the gloom
And terror approaching with its lethal mouth,
Driven by a strange will down ever down (p.217)

And Mother speaks of being drawn down and down and down, on November 5th, 195[8]. Because it was in the class, and she wanted to understand why the students in the class had a general lack of interest. So she went down to the bottom of the Inconscient – and this is where the king is heading. And she said:

“I was literally dragged down to the bottom, as if into a hole.”[7]
“I went down, down, down and there was no end to it”[8]

November 8, 1958

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PDF (4 pages)

Sri Aurobindo keeps describing things as 'gray', during all of the king's descent. And Mother said that the color of the Inconscient is generally a lifeless, amorphous gray. And we find here, as the yogi king moves down, he found himself “alone with the grey python Night” (p.217). Later on, “A whispered grey suggestion chilled his heart” (p.218). But all was never lost; no matter how hard things are, we are able to handle them. For when the traveler yogi king feels he is no longer able to hope, no longer able to have faith, and he feels like a vanquished soul:

[…] the Godhead in him woke
And faced the pain and danger of the world.
He mastered the tides of Nature with a look:
He met with his bare spirit naked Hell. (p.219)

This program begins and ends with Sanskrit mantras from the Rig Veda. These have been translated by Sri Aurobindo.

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“O Fire, bring to us a light full of energy, O unseizable Ray; for us by thy opulence pervading on every side cut out in our front a path to the plenitude.”

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“O Fire, O Wonderful, come to us with thy will and the growth of the judgment; in thee the sacrificial Friend, achiever of the work, can climb to almightiness.”

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“Increase for us, O Fire, the acquisition and the growth of these who are men that are illuminates and by their laudings of thee have attained to the plenitudes of the riches, —”

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“These are those flaming rays of thine, O Fire, and they go blazing and violent, like lightnings that run over all quarters, like the voice of a chariot seeking the plenitude.”

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“Soon, O Fire, may alike those of us who are opposed and obstructed attain to protection and the giving of the riches and our illuminates break through all directions and beyond.”[9]

So now we're with the king, in Canto VII: “The Descent into Night”. And he's in a world of degradation and lust, and power is the only good. And Sri Aurobindo writes...

      A race possessed inhabited those parts.
A force demoniac lurking in man’s depths
That heaves suppressed by the heart’s human law,
Awed by the calm and sovereign eyes of Thought,
Can in a fire and earthquake of the soul
Arise and, calling to its native night,
Overthrow the reason, occupy the life
And stamp its hoof on Nature’s shaking ground:
This was for them their being’s flaming core.
A mighty energy, a monster god,
Hard to the strong, implacable to the weak,
It stared at the harsh unpitying world it made
With the stony eyelids of its fixed idea.
Its heart was drunk with a dire hunger’s wine,
In others’ suffering felt a thrilled delight
And of death and ruin the grandiose music heard.
To have power, to be master, was sole virtue and good:
It claimed the whole world for Evil’s living room,
Its party’s grim totalitarian reign p.215
The cruel destiny of breathing things.
All on one plan was shaped and standardised
Under a dark dictatorship’s breathless weight.
In street and house, in councils and in courts
Beings he met who looked like living men
And climbed in speech upon high wings of thought
But harboured all that is subhuman, vile
And lower than the lowest reptile’s crawl.
The reason meant for nearness to the gods
And uplift to heavenly scale by the touch of mind
Only enhanced by its enlightening ray
Their inborn nature’s wry monstrosity.
Often, a familiar visage studying
Joyfully encountered at some dangerous turn,
Hoping to recognise a look of light,
His vision warned by the spirit’s inward eye
Discovered suddenly Hell’s trademark there,
Or saw with the inner sense that cannot err,
In the semblance of a fair or virile form
The demon and the goblin and the ghoul.
An insolence reigned of cold stone-hearted strength
Mighty, obeyed, approved by the Titan’s law,
The huge laughter of a giant cruelty
And fierce glad deeds of ogre violence.
In that wide cynic den of thinking beasts
One looked in vain for a trace of pity or love;
There was no touch of sweetness anywhere,
But only Force and its acolytes, greed and hate:
There was no help for suffering, none to save,
None dared resist or speak a noble word.
Armed with the aegis of tyrannic Power,
Signing the edicts of her dreadful rule
And using blood and torture as a seal,
Darkness proclaimed her slogans to the world.
A servile blinkered silence hushed the mind
Or only it repeated lessons taught, p.216
While mitred, holding the good shepherd’s staff,
Falsehood enthroned on awed and prostrate hearts
The cults and creeds that organise living death
And slay the soul on the altar of a lie.
All were deceived or served their own deceit;
Truth in that stifling atmosphere could not live.
There wretchedness believed in its own joy
And fear and weakness hugged their abject depths;
All that is low and sordid-thoughted, base,
All that is drab and poor and miserable,
Breathed in a lax content its natural air
And felt no yearning of divine release:
Arrogant, gibing at more luminous states
The people of the gulfs despised the sun.
A barriered autarchy excluded light;
Fixed in its will to be its own grey self,
It vaunted its norm unique and splendid type:
It soothed its hunger with a plunderer’s dream;
Flaunting its cross of servitude like a crown,
It clung to its dismal harsh autonomy.
A bull-throat bellowed with its brazen tongue;
Its hard and shameless clamour filling Space
And threatening all who dared to listen to truth
Claimed the monopoly of the battered ear;
A deafened acquiescence gave its vote,
And braggart dogmas shouted in the night
Kept for the fallen soul once deemed a god
The pride of its abysmal absolute.
      A lone discoverer in these menacing realms
Guarded like termite cities from the sun,
Oppressed mid crowd and tramp and noise and flare,
Passing from dusk to deeper dangerous dusk,
He wrestled with powers that snatched from mind its light
And smote from him their clinging influences.
Soon he emerged in a dim wall-less space. p.217
For now the peopled tracts were left behind;
He walked between wide banks of failing eve.
Around him grew a gaunt spiritual blank,
A threatening waste, a sinister loneliness
That left mind bare to an unseen assault,
An empty page on which all that willed could write
Stark monstrous messages without control.
A travelling dot on downward roads of Dusk
Mid barren fields and barns and straggling huts
And a few crooked and phantasmal trees,
He faced a sense of death and conscious void.
But still a hostile Life unseen was there
Whose deathlike poise resisting light and truth
Made living a bleak gap in nullity.
He heard the grisly voices that deny;
Assailed by thoughts that swarmed like spectral hordes,
A prey to the staring phantoms of the gloom
And terror approaching with its lethal mouth,
Driven by a strange will down ever down,
The sky above a communiqu´e of Doom,
He strove to shield his spirit from despair,
But felt the horror of the growing Night
And the Abyss rising to claim his soul.
Then ceased the abodes of creatures and their forms
And solitude wrapped him in its voiceless folds.
All vanished suddenly like a thought expunged;
His spirit became an empty listening gulf
Void of the dead illusion of a world:
Nothing was left, not even an evil face.
He was alone with the grey python Night.
A dense and nameless Nothing conscious, mute,
Which seemed alive but without body or mind,
Lusted all beings to annihilate
That it might be for ever nude and sole.
As in a shapeless beast’s intangible jaws,
Gripped, strangled by that lusting viscous blot, p.218
Attracted to some black and giant mouth
And swallowing throat and a huge belly of doom,
His being from its own vision disappeared
Drawn towards depths that hungered for its fall.
A formless void oppressed his struggling brain,
A darkness grim and cold benumbed his flesh,
A whispered grey suggestion chilled his heart;
Haled by a serpent-force from its warm home
And dragged to extinction in bleak vacancy
Life clung to its seat with cords of gasping breath;
Lapped was his body by a tenebrous tongue.
Existence smothered travailed to survive;
Hope strangled perished in his empty soul,
Belief and memory abolished died
And all that helps the spirit in its course.
There crawled through every tense and aching nerve
Leaving behind its poignant quaking trail
A nameless and unutterable fear.
As a sea nears a victim bound and still,
The approach alarmed his mind for ever dumb
Of an implacable eternity
Of pain inhuman and intolerable.
This he must bear, his hope of heaven estranged;
He must ever exist without extinction’s peace
In a slow suffering Time and tortured Space,
An anguished nothingness his endless state.
A lifeless vacancy was now his breast,
And in the place where once was luminous thought,
Only remained like a pale motionless ghost
An incapacity for faith and hope
And the dread conviction of a vanquished soul
Immortal still but with its godhead lost,
Self lost and God and touch of happier worlds.
But he endured, stilled the vain terror, bore
The smothering coils of agony and affright;
Then peace returned and the soul’s sovereign gaze. p.219
To the blank horror a calm Light replied:
Immutable, undying and unborn,
Mighty and mute the Godhead in him woke
And faced the pain and danger of the world.
He mastered the tides of Nature with a look:
He met with his bare spirit naked Hell.