Loretta reads Savitri:Two.V "The Godheads of the Little Life" part 3

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Transcript of:
Savitri: Book Two, Canto V, part 3 of 4
by Loretta, 2016 (33:24)
Listen on Auroville Radio →

Savitri Book 2 Canto V icon.jpg  Loretta reads Savitri
Book Two: The Book of the Traveller of the Worlds
Canto V: The Godheads of the Little Life
Part 3 of 4, pages 160-167
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Last time, Sri Aurobindo took us from the beginning of evolution, when the spirit first became Matter, up through the emergence of man – man, who is “moulded from the original brute” (p.158). “A thinking mind had come to lift life’s moods” (p.158) but man had not yet learned that he had a soul, and he worked on earth only for “means to last” (p.159), so he could enjoy, and suffer, and die.

Although we're following the traveller of the worlds – and therefore we're learning as he learns on the way – Sri Aurobindo didn't mention him at all in that part of the canto. Usually he tells us how the traveller is doing, and how he's feeling, in each of the atmospheres that he passes through. Also in this next part of the canto, we don't hear anything about the traveller. But of course we assume that he's seeing what we're seeing and learning what we're learning as we read.

Last time, Sri Aurobindo spoke of the past. This time, he speaks only about the present. He is describing us, as we live today, when our soul is not forward in us and not active in our being.

So he speaks of man's outer parts, and how they are affected by the subtle forces which drive our life. He describes limitations of our instruments, of the mind, of the intellect, and he speaks in detail about the limited actions of an unconscious being. He's not speaking about Life's evolution in Matter anymore. Here, we live our own little life. He talks of the little being that we are when we live only for ourselves, when we want only outward things, and our immortal soul is sleeping unknown and unfelt within us. Instead, he says:

This is the ephemeral creature’s daily life.
As long as the human animal is lord
And a dense nether nature screens the soul,
As long as intellect’s outward-gazing sight
Serves earthy interest and creature joys,
An incurable littleness pursues his days.
Ever since consciousness was born on earth,
Life is the same in insect, ape and man,
Its stuff unchanged, its way the common route. (p.163)

So it looks like he's telling us that we're living the stage of Life, in all that Sri Aurobindo has had to say so far, about the evolution of Life in the levels of the little petty life, in the kingdoms of the little mind.

Throughout Savitri there's a pattern of his describing how it is, and then he will go into how it can be. And in the last part of the canto, next time, he's going to tell us what will happen when our soul awakens and comes through the smallness of the little life. But here, he gives us such a picture of who we are when our soul is not active, that one longs to go beyond the little life, to something higher. But there is something fundamental that slows us down.

In this part of Canto V, Sri Aurobindo uses a word which has volumes of meaning in it. It is one of the main themes that he works out through all his writings – and also, one of the main themes in Savitri. The word is 'Ananke'. Ananke is a Greek goddess who personified one of the basic ideas which ran through all Greek philosophy. So it's a theme that was in all Greek philosophy and is also in Sri Aurobindo. However, the difference between the way the Greeks saw it, and the way Sri Aurobindo sees it, is that for the Greeks it was unchangeable and inescapable destiny: Ananke. While for Sri Aurobindo, it is something that we can change. And he brings us to that all the time.

Ananke, the Greek goddess, was called by the Greeks “unalterable Fate”. And everyone was subject to unalterable Fate. This goddess was the personification of compelling necessity that no one could ever escape. And even the gods had to obey her. Even the greatest Greek god of all, the mighty Zeus – who decreed all that should be – was subject to the mysterious power of Ananke.

We can get beyond it. And Sri Aurobindo is here to tell us that. But complete freedom is not easy to have, right now. Because also – and it's in The Life Divine where Sri Aurobindo has written this – Sri Aurobindo says that in the Inconscience “there is a self-protective law of blind imperative Necessity which limits the play of the possibilities”[1] that evolve from Inconscience, and emerge out of Inconscience to manifest here in our lives.

“[E]ven when the higher powers and their intensities enter into the substance of the Inconscience, they are met by [Ananke,] this blind opposing Necessity and are subjected to this circumscribing and diminishing law [that is this] nescient substance.”[2].

All is subject to this law of the nescient substance, this limiting necessity. Because it was the totality of all consciousness that involved itself into Inconscience and became Inconscience. And so the totality of all consciousness is subject to the laws of the Inconscience as it evolves back into Consciousness.

Sri Aurobindo speaks of Ananke here when he describes the actions of the small vital beings which drive man for their own evil purposes, whenever there are lives that lack love and largeness and light. He is speaking of it again; the week before last, in part 1 of this canto, he gave us a very detailed and graphic description of these beings. He even described the way some of them looked. And then at that time we also had a talk by Mother, which was really great, because she said the same things that he said.

And here in Savitri in this part, he calls these lower beings that move us – he calls them:

Ananke’s engines organising Chance,
Channels perverse of a stupendous Will,
Tools of the Unknown who use us as their tools, (p.162)
In all our nature’s turns they intervene. (p.163)

And Sri Aurobindo says that we are all subject to the blind Ananke of the Inconscience.

Only the supramental Force – the final goal of consciousness and our final goal – this force is the only thing that can “entirely overcome [the] difficulty of the fundamental Nescience”[3]. Because with the supramental consciousness, there is a “luminous imperative Necessity”[4] – a luminous one. And this underlies all things. And this is what really, actually, underlies all things. It is the “original and final self-determining truth-force of the self-existent Infinite”[5].

In Savitri, when Savitri learns that Satyavan is going to die in one year, her mother says that Fate is waiting to strike, and tells her to go find someone else. And Savitri says:

I am stronger than death and greater than my fate;
My love shall outlast the world, doom falls from me
Helpless against my immortality. (p.432)

And a little later on, again telling her parents that her choice has been made, and it's the right thing, she says:

My fate is what my spirit’s strength can make,
My fate is what my spirit’s strength can bear (p.435)

So now we'll see what Sri Aurobindo is telling us about our little petty life – that we have to illumine with consciousness to escape from its limitations.

So here we are in Book Two: “The Book of the Traveller of the Worlds”, in Canto V: “The Godheads – ” (which means the powers) “ – of the Little Life”. And this is the third part.

      This huge world unintelligibly turns
In the shadow of a mused Inconscience;
It hides a key to inner meanings missed,
It locks in our hearts a voice we cannot hear.
An enigmatic labour of the spirit,
An exact machine of which none knows the use,
An art and ingenuity without sense,
This minute elaborate orchestrated life
For ever plays its motiveless symphonies.
The mind learns and knows not, turning its back to truth;
It studies surface laws by surface thought,
Life’s steps surveys and Nature’s process sees,
Not seeing for what she acts or why we live;
It marks her tireless care of just device,
Her patient intricacy of fine detail,
The ingenious spirit’s brave inventive plan
In her great futile mass of endless works,
Adds purposeful figures to her purposeless sum,
Its gabled storeys piles, its climbing roofs
On the close-carved foundations she has laid,
Imagined citadels reared in mythic air
Or mounts a stair of dream to a mystic moon:
Transient creations point and hit the sky:
A world-conjecture’s scheme is laboured out
On the dim floor of mind’s incertitude,
Or painfully built a fragmentary whole.
Impenetrable, a mystery recondite
Is the vast plan of which we are a part;
Its harmonies are discords to our view
Because we know not the great theme they serve.
Inscrutable work the cosmic agencies.
Only the fringe of a wide surge we see;
Our instruments have not that greater light, p.161
Our will tunes not with the eternal Will,
Our heart’s sight is too blind and passionate.
Impotent to share in Nature’s mystic tact,
Inapt to feel the pulse and core of things,
Our reason cannot sound life’s mighty sea
And only counts its waves and scans its foam;
It knows not whence these motions touch and pass,
It sees not whither sweeps the hurrying flood:
Only it strives to canalise its powers
And hopes to turn its course to human ends:
But all its means come from the Inconscient’s store.
Unseen here act dim huge world-energies
And only trickles and currents are our share.
Our mind lives far off from the authentic Light
Catching at little fragments of the Truth
In a small corner of infinity,
Our lives are inlets of an ocean’s force.
Our conscious movements have sealed origins
But with those shadowy seats no converse hold;
No understanding binds our comrade parts;
Our acts emerge from a crypt our minds ignore.
Our deepest depths are ignorant of themselves;
Even our body is a mystery shop;
As our earth’s roots lurk screened below our earth,
So lie unseen our roots of mind and life.
Our springs are kept close hid beneath, within;
Our souls are moved by powers behind the wall.
In the subterranean reaches of the spirit
A puissance acts and recks not what it means;
Using unthinking monitors and scribes,
It is the cause of what we think and feel.
The troglodytes of the subconscious Mind,
Ill-trained slow stammering interpreters
Only of their small task’s routine aware
And busy with the record in our cells,
Concealed in the subliminal secrecies p.162
Mid an obscure occult machinery,
Capture the mystic Morse whose measured lilt
Transmits the messages of the cosmic Force.
A whisper falls into life’s inner ear
And echoes from the dun subconscient caves,
Speech leaps, thought quivers, the heart vibrates, the will
Answers and tissue and nerve obey the call.
Our lives translate these subtle intimacies;
All is the commerce of a secret Power.
      A thinking puppet is the mind of life:
Its choice is the work of elemental strengths
That know not their own birth and end and cause
And glimpse not the immense intent they serve.
In this nether life of man drab-hued and dull,
Yet filled with poignant small ignoble things,
The conscious Doll is pushed a hundred ways
And feels the push but not the hands that drive.
For none can see the masked ironic troupe
To whom our figure-selves are marionettes,
Our deeds unwitting movements in their grasp,
Our passionate strife an entertainment’s scene.
Ignorant themselves of their own fount of strength
They play their part in the enormous whole.
Agents of darkness imitating light,
Spirits obscure and moving things obscure,
Unwillingly they serve a mightier Power.
Ananke’s engines organising Chance,
Channels perverse of a stupendous Will,
Tools of the Unknown who use us as their tools,
Invested with power in Nature’s nether state,
Into the actions mortals think their own
They bring the incoherencies of Fate,
Or make a doom of Time’s slipshod caprice
And toss the lives of men from hand to hand
In an inconsequent and devious game.
Against all higher truth their stuff rebels; p.163
Only to Titan force their will lies prone.
Inordinate their hold on human hearts,
In all our nature’s turns they intervene.
Insignificant architects of low-built lives
And engineers of interest and desire,
Out of crude earthiness and muddy thrills
And coarse reactions of material nerve
They build our huddled structures of self-will
And the ill-lighted mansions of our thought,
Or with the ego’s factories and marts
Surround the beautiful temple of the soul.
Artists minute of the hues of littleness,
They set the mosaic of our comedy
Or plan the trivial tragedy of our days,
Arrange the deed, combine the circumstance
And the fantasia of the moods costume.
These unwise prompters of man’s ignorant heart
And tutors of his stumbling speech and will,
Movers of petty wraths and lusts and hates
And changeful thoughts and shallow emotion’s starts,
These slight illusion-makers with their masks,
Painters of the decor of a dull-hued stage
And nimble scene-shifters of the human play,
Ever are busy with this ill-lit scene.
Ourselves incapable to build our fate
Only as actors speak and strut our parts
Until the piece is done and we pass off
Into a brighter Time and subtler Space.
Thus they inflict their little pigmy law
And curb the mounting slow uprise of man,
Then his too scanty walk with death they close.
      This is the ephemeral creature’s daily life.
As long as the human animal is lord
And a dense nether nature screens the soul,
As long as intellect’s outward-gazing sight p.164
Serves earthy interest and creature joys,
An incurable littleness pursues his days.
Ever since consciousness was born on earth,
Life is the same in insect, ape and man,
Its stuff unchanged, its way the common route.
If new designs, if richer details grow
And thought is added and more tangled cares,
If little by little it wears a brighter face,
Still even in man the plot is mean and poor.
A gross content prolongs his fallen state;
His small successes are failures of the soul,
His little pleasures punctuate frequent griefs:
Hardship and toil are the heavy price he pays
For the right to live and his last wages death.
An inertia sunk towards inconscience,
A sleep that imitates death is his repose.
A puny splendour of creative force
Is made his spur to fragile human works
Which yet outlast their brief creator’s breath.
He dreams sometimes of the revels of the gods
And sees the Dionysian gesture pass,—
A leonine greatness that would tear his soul
If through his failing limbs and fainting heart
The sweet and joyful mighty madness swept:
Trivial amusements stimulate and waste
The energy given to him to grow and be.
His little hour is spent in little things.
A brief companionship with many jars,
A little love and jealousy and hate,
A touch of friendship mid indifferent crowds
Draw his heart-plan on life’s diminutive map.
If something great awakes, too frail his pitch
To reveal its zenith tension of delight,
His thought to eternise its ephemeral soar,
Art’s brilliant gleam is a pastime for his eyes,
A thrill that smites the nerves is music’s spell. p.165
Amidst his harassed toil and welter of cares,
Pressed by the labour of his crowding thoughts,
He draws sometimes around his aching brow
Nature’s calm mighty hands to heal his life-pain.
He is saved by her silence from his rack of self;
In her tranquil beauty is his purest bliss.
A new life dawns, he looks out from vistas wide;
The Spirit’s breath moves him but soon retires:
His strength was not made to hold that puissant guest.
All dulls down to convention and routine
Or a fierce excitement brings him vivid joys:
His days are tinged with the red hue of strife
And lust’s hot glare and passion’s crimson stain;
Battle and murder are his tribal game.
Time has he none to turn his eyes within
And look for his lost self and his dead soul.
His motion on too short an axis wheels;
He cannot soar but creeps on his long road
Or if, impatient of the trudge of Time,
He would make a splendid haste on Fate’s slow road,
His heart that runs soon pants and tires and sinks;
Or he walks ever on and finds no end.
Hardly a few can climb to greater life.
All tunes to a low scale and conscious pitch.
His knowledge dwells in the house of Ignorance;
His force nears not even once the Omnipotent,
Rare are his visits of heavenly ecstasy.
The bliss which sleeps in things and tries to wake,
Breaks out in him in a small joy of life:
This scanty grace is his persistent stay;
It lightens the burden of his many ills
And reconciles him to his little world.
He is satisfied with his common average kind;
Tomorrow’s hopes and his old rounds of thought,
His old familiar interests and desires
He has made into a thick and narrowing hedge p.166
Defending his small life from the Invisible;
His being’s kinship to infinity
He has shut away from him into inmost self,
Fenced off the greatnesses of hidden God.
His being was formed to play a trivial part
In a little drama on a petty stage;
In a narrow plot he has pitched his tent of life
Beneath the wide gaze of the starry Vast.
He is the crown of all that has been done:
Thus is creation’s labour justified;
This is the world’s result, Nature’s last poise!
And if this were all and nothing more were meant,
If what now seems were the whole of what must be,
If this were not a stade through which we pass
On our road from Matter to eternal Self,
To the Light that made the worlds, the Cause of things,
Well might interpret our mind’s limited view
Existence as an accident in Time,
Illusion or phenomenon or freak,
The paradox of a creative Thought
Which moves between unreal opposites,
Inanimate Force struggling to feel and know,
Matter that chanced to read itself by Mind,
Inconscience monstrously engendering soul.
At times all looks unreal and remote:
We seem to live in a fiction of our thoughts
Pieced from sensation’s fanciful traveller’s tale,
Or caught on the film of the recording brain,
A figment or circumstance in cosmic sleep.
A somnambulist walking under the moon,
An image of ego treads through an ignorant dream
Counting the moments of a spectral Time.
In a false perspective of effect and cause,
Trusting to a specious prospect of world-space,
It drifts incessantly from scene to scene,
Whither it knows not, to what fabulous verge. p.167
All here is dreamed or doubtfully exists,
But who the dreamer is and whence he looks
Is still unknown or only a shadowy guess.
Or the world is real but ourselves too small,
Insufficient for the mightiness of our stage.
A thin life-curve crosses the titan whirl
Of the orbit of a soulless universe,
And in the belly of the sparse rolling mass
A mind looks out from a small casual globe
And wonders what itself and all things are.
And yet to some interned subjective sight
That strangely has formed in Matter’s sightless stuff,
A pointillage minute of little self
Takes figure as world-being’s conscious base.
Such is our scene in the half-light below.
This is the sign of Matter’s infinite,
This the weird purport of the picture shown
To Science the giantess, measurer of her field,
As she pores on the record of her close survey
And mathematises her huge external world,
To Reason bound within the circle of sense,
Or in Thought’s broad impalpable Exchange
A speculator in tenuous vast ideas,
Abstractions in the void her currency
We know not with what firm values for its base.
Only religion in this bankruptcy
Presents its dubious riches to our hearts
Or signs unprovisioned cheques on the Beyond:
Our poverty shall there have its revenge.
Our spirits depart discarding a futile life
Into the blank unknown or with them take
Death’s passport into immortality.

  1. The Life Divine, p. 996
  2. Ibid., p.997
  3. Ibid.
  4. Ibid.
  5. Ibid.