February 18, 1967
All these last few days I have been considering the proportion that should be maintained between what was accomplished and established in the past and the attitude of complete acceptance of what comes from the future.
There is obviously in Nature a tendency to want a slow transformation from what was habitually regarded as ‘good’ (expressive, good, harmonious) to the new Thing. And I was observing the extent to which there is attachment: the attachment of habit, something very spontaneous and uncalculating. Then, recently (yesterday), I had an amusing example.
Do you know little S.? Have you ever spoken to her? ... I've heard she beats sixteen- and seventeen-year-old boys at logic and new mathematics. I saw her today. She is obviously quite remarkably intelligent. And yesterday was her birthday. You know that Y. [her adoptive mother] has gone into hospital; and when she went she asked me to send something to Thoth every day (you know who's Thoth, don't you?), because it seems that whenever he receives something from me, he is quite calm for two hours. Very well. So I sent something the first day (that was yesterday). And yesterday was little S.'s birthday. I thought that rather than for her to fetch from the secretary the fruit I give for Thoth, it would be better if she came to see me at 10 and I'd give her her card and bunch of flowers at the same time. But then, everything is disorganized and not too efficient: she wasn't informed. When she came it was too late because it was 10:30 or 11 while I had said “before 10”. So she wrote me a letter.... I saw the girl today, she is really very intelligent, no doubt about that, and here is her letter. (Note that when she came to live with Y., she knew French because she had learned it with the Sisters – she was a pupil at the ‘Mission’ some three years ago – and for three years Y. has been giving her French lessons.) So here is the child's letter:
|I am absolutely ... [one word skipped here] having missed seeing you. Yesterday evening nobody came to tell me. And when they brought the presents for Thoth from You they didn't tell me nothing either.|
|Sweet Mother, since yesterday big S. wants to see you, and now that they say it's too late and I feel I'll miss seeing You, big S. is sad and I don't like that.|
It's not French, of course. You clearly feel that the thought isn't ordinary.... I found that very interesting. But for a French class, it would be riddled with errors.
- Of course, but there is a ‘tone’ in it....
I was surprised, because Y. [the adoptive mother] knows French well, obviously, and she is quite capable of teaching her to write correctly: she hasn't taken the trouble, or didn't want to, I don't know why. But there is a certain force there.
- Oh, yes.
We need a new form of expression; signs and idiograms
And after all, what we want ... we know that we need, not an artificially new language, but something supple enough to be able to adapt to the needs of a new CONSCIOUSNESS; and that's probably how that language will emerge, from a number of old languages, through the disappearance of habits.
What's specific to each language (apart from a few differences in words) is the order in which ideas are presented: the construction of sentences. The Japanese (and the Chinese even more so) have solved the problem by using only the sign of the idea. Now, under the influence from outside, they have added phonetic signs to build a sentence; but even now the order in the construction of the ideas is different. It's different in Japan and in China. And unless you FEEL this, you can never know a foreign language really well. So we speak according to our very old habit (and basically it's more convenient for us simply because it comes automatically). But when I ‘receive’, for instance, it's not even a thought: it's Sri Aurobindo's formulated consciousness; then, to be expressed there is a sort of progressive approximation, and sometimes it comes very clearly; but very often it's a spontaneous mixture of French and English forms and I feel it's something else trying to be expressed. At times (he follows my notation), he makes me correct something; at other times it comes perfectly well — it depends.... Oh, it depends on the limpidity. If you are very tranquil, it comes very well. And there, too, I see it's not really French and not really English. It's not so much the words (words are nothing) as the ORDER in which things come up. And when afterwards I look at it objectively, I see that it's in part the order in which they come in French and in part the order in which they come in English. And the result is a mixture which is neither one language nor the other and endeavors to express ... what might be called ‘a new way of consciousness’.
It leads me to think that something will be worked out that way, and that any too strict, too narrow attachment to the old rules is a hindrance to the evolution of expression. From that point of view, French is a long way behind English — English is much more supple. But the languages in countries like China and Japan that use ideograms seem to be infinitely more supple than our own.
They can express new ideas and things far more easily through juxtaposition of signs.
But now, with this ‘new logic’ and ‘new mathematics’, a whole set of new signs is beginning to be universal, that is to say, the same signs express the same ideas or things in all countries, whatever language is used in the country, quite independently.
These new thoughts and new experiences, this new logic and new mathematics, are now taught in higher classes, but all the primary and secondary studies have remained in the old formula, so I have been very seriously thinking of opening primary and secondary schools in Auroville, based on the new system — as a trial.
Receiving and transmitting the message
- But what's the process? It's a problem that interests me a lot: how do you catch this new expression?
It can only be done ... This is my experience: if I want to express clearly what Sri Aurobindo says (he doesn't ‘say’, I don't know how to explain it ... it's his consciousness going like this [gesture of projection], expressing itself), well, first the mind must be silent, that goes without saying. But the difficulty is the passage to expression; that's what I have studied and where I have seen the extent of that sort of spontaneous and automatic attachment to the old habits.
So what should be done there (and what I try to do) is the same work of receptive silence and to let inspiration, the inspirational consciousness, gather the necessary elements. For that we must be very tranquil. We must be very supple, in the sense of surrendered; I mean, allow as little habitual activity as possible to mix in — be almost like automatons. But with the full perception of the consciousness trying to be expressed, so that nothing gets mixed in with it. That's the most important thing: to receive this consciousness and hold it like ... really like something sacred, without anything getting mixed in with it, like that. So then, there is a problem of attraction, we might say, and of concretization in the formula. I always say to myself that if I knew a lot of languages, it would all be made use of; unfortunately I know only two (properly speaking I know only two) and I have only very superficial and minimal glimpses of two or three others — that's not enough. Only, I had a contact with very different methods: the method of the Far East and the Sanskrit method, and of course the methods of the West. It does give a sort of base, but it's not sufficient — I am poles apart from erudition. I have always felt that erudition shrivels up thought — it parches the brain. (I have great respect for erudite people, oh indeed, and I seek their advice, but ... for myself it won't do!)
Once, very long ago, when Sri Aurobindo was telling me about himself, that is, his childhood, his formation, I put the question to him, I asked him, “Why am I, as an individual being, so mediocre? I can do anything; all that I have tried to do I have done, but never in a superior way: always like this (gesture to an average level).” Then he answered me (at the time I took it as a kindness or commiseration), “That's because it gives great suppleness — a great suppleness and a vast scope; because people who have perfection in one field are concentrated and specialized.” As I said, I took it simply as a caress to comfort a child. But now I realize that the most important thing is not to have any fixity: nothing should be set, definitive, like the sense of a perfection in the realization — that means a dead stop in the march forward. The sense of incapacity (with the meaning I said of mediocrity, of something by no means exceptional) leaves you in a sort of expectation (gesture of aspiration upward) of something better. So then, the most important thing is suppleness — suppleness. Suppleness and breadth: reject nothing as useless or bad or inferior — nothing; set nothing up as really superior and beautiful — nothing. Remain ever open, ever open.
The ideal is to have this suppleness and receptivity and surrender, that is, so total an acceptance of the Influence that whatever comes, naturally, spontaneously and effortlessly the instrument adapts itself instantly to express it. With everything, of course: with the plastic arts, with music, with writing.
Abdul Baha; speaking in tongues
The nature [of Mother] was rather shy, and as a matter of fact, there wasn't much confidence in the personal capacity (although there was the sense of being able to do anything, if the need arose). Till the age of twenty or twenty-one I spoke very little, and never, never anything like a speech. I wouldn't take part in conversations: I would listen, but speak very little.... Then I was put in touch with Abdul Baha (the Baha'i), who was then in Paris, and a sort of intimacy grew between us. I used to go to his gatherings because I was interested. And one day when I was in his room, he said to me, “I am sick, I can't speak; go and speak for me.” I said, “Me! But I don't speak.” He replied, “You just have to go there, sit quietly and concentrate, and what you have to say will come to you. Go and do it, you will see.” Well then (laughing), I did as he said. There were some thirty or forty people. I went and sat in their midst, stayed very still, and then ... I sat like that, without a thought, nothing, and suddenly I started speaking. I spoke to them for a half-hour (I don't even know what I told them), and when it was over everybody was quite pleased. I went to see Abdul Baha, who told me, “You spoke admirably.” I said, “It wasn't me!” And from that day (I had got the knack from him, you understand!), I would stay like that, very still, and everything would come. It's especially the sense of the ‘I’ that must be lost — that's the great art in everything, for everything, anything you do: for painting, for ... (I did painting, sculpture, architecture even, I did music), for everything, but everything, if you are able to lose the sense of the ‘I’, then you open yourself to ... to the knowledge of the thing (sculpture, painting, etc.). It's not necessarily beings, but the spirit of the thing that uses you.
Well, I think it should be the same thing with language. One should be tuned in to someone in that way, or through that someone to something still higher: the Origin. And then, very, very passive. But not inertly passive: vibrantly passive, receptive, like that, attentive, letting ‘that’ come in and be expressed. The result would be there to see.... As I said, we are limited by what we know, but that may be because we're still too much of a ‘person’; if we could be perfectly plastic it might be different: there have been instances of people speaking in a language they didn't know, therefore ...
With everything, the great secret is for the consciousness to be ... THE Consciousness — the limitless Consciousness. Then what It does is to set this [the instrument] in motion. Later — later, when the transformation takes place, when it's total and effective, there will probably be a conscious collaboration; but now it's only a surrender, a self-giving, and this lends itself — lends itself with enthusiasm and joy — for THE Consciousness to use it.
When it's like that, all goes well.
All the old habits, oh! ...
And looking at it from this angle, you realize the total absurdity of judgments, which are more than 99% based on old habits: the old habits of what you regard as good or bad, useful or harmful, and so on. An automatic judgment, automatic acceptance or refusal …
This story of little S. has taught me much. Because I saw that little girl this morning. She is black-skinned, of course — she was all luminous. All luminous. And I don't think she is conscious of it (perhaps only in so far as Y. has flattered her — that's always possible), but it's very spontaneous in her, she wasn't trying to put on airs, she didn't come to strike a pose: she just came to take the fruit and flower for Thoth. She was here in front of my table; when I saw her come in I said, “Strange”. This little girl who is so black-skinned ... she was clearer than others.
And this letter is so strong!
Yet she wouldn't pass an examination.
- A twelve-year-old Tamil child, very dark-skinned, adopted three years earlier by a European disciple.
- Thoth is an ape adopted by that same European disciple and would be, according to her, a reincarnation of the Egyptian god Thoth.
- ‘Big S.’ is the child.
- The ‘attraction’ of the words in which this consciousness will be clothed.