Loretta reads Savitri:Two.VI "The Kingdoms and Godheads of the Greater Life" part 1
|Loretta reads Savitri
Book Two: The Book of the Traveller of the Worlds
Canto VI: The Kingdoms and Godheads of the Greater Life
Part 1 of 5, pages 173-179
The traveler is now coming to the very first world of the greater life. He's escaping from gray worlds, which are beset by forces from the lower vital planes. And he very gladly moves towards a larger air and a freer space.
Still, the greater life starts with a magic air of the first dreams and hopes for something greater – but somehow, none of it could ever actually be.
When Sri Aurobindo told us about the little life, he spoke of living beings in physical bodies. In the kingdoms of the little life there lived Nature's physical creations – at first very rudimentary ones, and crude, but going on and evolving animals, and then beings who resembled human beings, until Man was molded from the original brute. And Man is the highest peak of evolution. Man evolved until he was capable of receiving the descent of the mental being into himself. And the mental being evolved until it could begin to briefly long for something higher – for a life not tied only to physical needs and egoistic desires.
When Sri Aurobindo told us about the godheads, the subtle forces which move the little life, he described in some detail some of the small vital entities, which have ignorant and dangerous wills and are armed with power. They amuse themselves by influencing physical beings in living bodies, to do terrible and unkind and stupid things.
Then he told us that we are moved by these influences also, until we are able to live a life of love and light and largeness.
And, as always, he said that the evolution out of this really primitive condition – compared with beings that are free from this – the way to go out of it is the evolution of the soul emerging to influence us, and finally to govern our being. Then we really start living a higher life.
Sri Aurobindo divided the little life into two cantos: one for the physical planes, and one for the subtle planes (the godheads). But here, as the traveler of the worlds journeys through the greater life, we never get any separation of the physical and vital realms like that. Sri Aurobindo speaks of them both interchangeably, going in each place that the traveler goes.
The traveler moves through worlds that influence our world to move to a greater life.
Today, we start by hearing of a region of “dubious hope”, “And the birth of that which never yet could be” (p.173). In the worlds where one drifted, and dreamed, but never really went anywhere or achieved anything. In the worlds of a twilight wonderland, “imagined, never yet made true” (p.174), we see the beginnings – the first subtle vibrations – of the greater things that will come.
Then after the twilight wonderland, there comes “An infant glow of heavens near to morn” (p.174). And so we see that light is growing.
And then comes the kingdom of the morning star, “And the throb of promise of a wider Life”. “[S]omething seemed to be achieved at last”. “A growing volume of the will-to-be” (p.175), and a story of living and acting, and patterns of force could write themselves on the hearts of living things. Things leapt out from the soul, and they brought moments of immortality, moments of Truth, intuitive sight, moments of Love.
“A soul not wrapped into its cloak of mind” – that is, the soul acting without mind's ignorant cover – “Could glimpse the true sense of a world of forms” (p.176) – the true sense of a physical creation.
So this canto begins with light dawning and becoming day, in a place that is not on physical earth. Sri Aurobindo tells us that this realm inspires us with our vaster hopes, and that “All that we seek for is prefigured there” (p.176).
Sri Aurobindo speaks about four – it's hard to find the word – four beings, or four people, or four powers or forces. And he speaks about all four in this canto. One is Man, us, the humanity that must evolve into its highest potential. The second is the supreme unmanifest All: the purusha which is behind, within, above. And is all things, but unmanifest (but there). The Master of creation. The third is the Divine Mother. And here, she is the manifestation of Life evolving out of the inconscience of Matter. So we can say the third actor here is Life. The fourth one is Nature itself. And this is also the Divine Mother, incarnate in Matter.
Sri Aurobindo often refers to both Life and Nature as doing similar things; so sometimes it could be a little confusing. Whenever he says 'she': 'she is doing', 'she is creating', 'she can or can't do this or that', it is always the Divine Mother – the emanation of the divine unmanifest Master, as the creation – in one of these two aspects: either Life, or Nature. And this goes on through all the things that he tells us about in this whole canto. Here the king is pursuing Life through all her works and creations, hoping to learn more about the problems behind man's difficulties, and why it is such a difficult world that we all live in.
Sri Aurobindo tells us that beauty, and good, and truth, are the godheads of this greater life. So life has evolved into this so far. “This greater life is enamoured of the Unseen”. “[I]t passions for the supreme” (p.179). So life has come a long way from the petty, selfish littleness that was the nature of Life when she was only the little life.
There are so many things going on here, that it's hard to follow it with the mind. The mind's function is to make some kind of order of things – and then the intellect can deal with it. It's always good just to absorb and experience – once we have a kind of idea – because then we can take what Sri Aurobindo shares with us here out of his own experience. Sri Aurobindo's poetry here has magically and mystically brought us right into experiencing along with the king. He brings alive the story of Life's efforts to make what she knows to be the true greatness that she really is in her own divine essence.
So we start with Canto VI: “The Kingdoms and Godheads of the Greater Life”.
Canto Six The Kingdoms and Godheads of the Greater Life As one who between dim receding walls Towards the far gleam of a tunnel’s mouth, Hoping for light, walks now with freer pace And feels approach a breath of wider air, So he escaped from that grey anarchy. Into an ineffectual world he came, A purposeless region of arrested birth Where being from non-being fled and dared To live but had no strength long to abide. Above there gleamed a pondering brow of sky Tormented, crossed by wings of doubtful haze Adventuring with a voice of roaming winds And crying for a direction in the void Like blind souls looking for the selves they lost And wandering through unfamiliar worlds; Wings of vague questioning met the query of Space. After denial dawned a dubious hope, A hope of self and form and leave to live And the birth of that which never yet could be, And joy of the mind’s hazard, the heart’s choice, Grace of the unknown and hands of sudden surprise And a touch of sure delight in unsure things: To a strange uncertain tract his journey came Where consciousness played with unconscious self And birth was an attempt or episode. A charm drew near that could not keep its spell, An eager Power that could not find its way, A Chance that chose a strange arithmetic But could not bind with it the forms it made, A multitude that could not guard its sum Which less than zero grew and more than one. Arriving at a large and shadowy sense p.174 That cared not to define its fleeting drift, Life laboured in a strange and mythic air Denuded of her sweet magnificent suns. In worlds imagined, never yet made true, A lingering glimmer on creation’s verge, One strayed and dreamed and never stopped to achieve: To achieve would have destroyed that magic Space. The marvels of a twilight wonderland Full of a beauty strangely, vainly made, A surge of fanciful realities, Dim tokens of a Splendour sealed above, Awoke the passion of the eyes’ desire, Compelled belief on the enamoured thought And drew the heart but led it to no goal. A magic flowed as if of moving scenes That kept awhile their fugitive delicacy Of sparing lines limned by an abstract art In a rare scanted light with faint dream-brush On a silver background of incertitude. An infant glow of heavens near to morn, A fire intense conceived but never lit, Caressed the air with ardent hints of day. The perfect longing for imperfection’s charm, The illumined caught by the snare of Ignorance, Ethereal creatures drawn by body’s lure To that region of promise, beating invisible wings, Came hungry for the joy of finite life But too divine to tread created soil And share the fate of perishable things. The Children of the unembodied Gleam Arisen from a formless thought in the soul And chased by an imperishable desire, Traversed the field of the pursuing gaze. A Will that unpersisting failed, worked there: Life was a search but finding never came. There nothing satisfied, but all allured, p/175 Things seemed to be that never wholly are, Images were seen that looked like living acts And symbols hid the sense they claimed to show, Pale dreams grew real to the dreamer’s eyes. The souls came there that vainly strive for birth, And spirits entrapped might wander through all time, Yet never find the truth by which they live. All ran like hopes that hunt a lurking chance; Nothing was solid, nothing felt complete: All was unsafe, miraculous and half-true. It seemed a realm of lives that had no base. Then dawned a greater seeking, broadened sky, A journey under wings of brooding Force. First came the kingdom of the morning star: A twilight beauty trembled under its spear And the throb of promise of a wider Life. Then slowly rose a great and doubting sun And in its light she made of self a world. A spirit was there that sought for its own deep self, Yet was content with fragments pushed in front And parts of living that belied the whole But, pieced together, might one day be true. Yet something seemed to be achieved at last. A growing volume of the will-to-be, A text of living and a graph of force, A script of acts, a song of conscious forms Burdened with meanings fugitive from thought’s grasp And crowded with undertones of life’s rhythmic cry, Could write itself on the hearts of living things. In an outbreak of the might of secret Spirit, In Life and Matter’s answer of delight, Some face of deathless beauty could be caught That gave immortality to a moment’s joy, Some word that could incarnate highest Truth Leaped out from a chance tension of the soul, p.176 Some hue of the Absolute could fall on life, Some glory of knowledge and intuitive sight, Some passion of the rapturous heart of Love. A hierophant of the bodiless Secrecy Interned in an unseen spiritual sheath, The Will that pushes sense beyond its scope To feel the light and joy intangible, Half found its way into the Ineffable’s peace, Half captured a sealed sweetness of desire That yearned from a bosom of mysterious Bliss, Half manifested veiled Reality. A soul not wrapped into its cloak of mind Could glimpse the true sense of a world of forms; Illumined by a vision in the thought, Upbuoyed by the heart’s understanding flame, It could hold in the conscious ether of the spirit The divinity of a symbol universe. This realm inspires us with our vaster hopes; Its forces have made landings on our globe, Its signs have traced their pattern in our lives: It lends a sovereign movement to our fate, Its errant waves motive our life’s high surge. All that we seek for is prefigured there And all we have not known nor ever sought Which yet one day must be born in human hearts That the Timeless may fulfil itself in things. Incarnate in the mystery of the days, Eternal in an unclosed Infinite, A mounting endless possibility Climbs high upon a topless ladder of dream For ever in the Being’s conscious trance. All on that ladder mounts to an unseen end. An Energy of perpetual transience makes The journey from which no return is sure, The pilgrimage of Nature to the Unknown. As if in her ascent to her lost source p.177 She hoped to unroll all that could ever be, Her high procession moves from stage to stage, A progress leap from sight to greater sight, A process march from form to ampler form, A caravan of the inexhaustible Formations of a boundless Thought and Force. Her timeless Power that lay once on the lap Of a beginningless and endless Calm, Now severed from the Spirit’s immortal bliss, Erects the type of all the joys she has lost; Compelling transient substance into shape, She hopes by the creative act’s release To o’erleap sometimes the gulf she cannot fill, To heal awhile the wound of severance, Escape from the moment’s prison of littleness And meet the Eternal’s wide sublimities In the uncertain time-field portioned here. Almost she nears what never can be attained; She shuts eternity into an hour And fills a little soul with the Infinite; The Immobile leans to the magic of her call; She stands on a shore in the Illimitable, Perceives the formless Dweller in all forms And feels around her infinity’s embrace. Her task no ending knows; she serves no aim But labours driven by a nameless Will That came from some unknowable formless Vast. This is her secret and impossible task To catch the boundless in a net of birth, To cast the spirit into physical form, To lend speech and thought to the Ineffable; She is pushed to reveal the ever Unmanifest. Yet by her skill the impossible has been done: She follows her sublime irrational plan, Invents devices of her magic art To find new bodies for the Infinite p.178 And images of the Unimaginable; She has lured the Eternal into the arms of Time. Even now herself she knows not what she has done. For all is wrought beneath a baffling mask: A semblance other than its hidden truth The aspect wears of an illusion’s trick, A feigned time-driven unreality, The unfinished creation of a changing soul In a body changing with the inhabitant. Insignificant her means, infinite her work; On a great field of shapeless consciousness In little finite strokes of mind and sense An endless Truth she endlessly unfolds; A timeless mystery works out in Time. The greatness she has dreamed her acts have missed, Her labour is a passion and a pain, A rapture and pang, her glory and her curse; And yet she cannot choose but labours on; Her mighty heart forbids her to desist. As long as the world lasts her failure lives Astonishing and foiling Reason’s gaze, A folly and a beauty unspeakable, A superb madness of the will to live, A daring, a delirium of delight. This is her being’s law, its sole resource; She sates, though satisfaction never comes, Her hungry will to lavish everywhere Her many-imaged fictions of the Self And thousand fashions of one Reality. A world she made touched by truth’s fleeing hem, A world cast into a dream of what it seeks, An icon of truth, a conscious mystery’s shape. It lingered not like the earth-mind hemmed in In solid barriers of apparent fact; It dared to trust the dream-mind and the soul. A hunter of spiritual verities p.179 Still only thought or guessed or held by faith, It seized in imagination and confined A painted bird of paradise in a cage. This greater life is enamoured of the Unseen; It calls to some highest Light beyond its reach, It can feel the Silence that absolves the soul; It feels a saviour touch, a ray divine: Beauty and good and truth its godheads are. It is near to heavenlier heavens than earth’s eyes see, A direr darkness than man’s life can bear: It has kinship with the demon and the god. A strange enthusiasm has moved its heart; It hungers for heights, it passions for the supreme. It hunts for the perfect word, the perfect shape, It leaps to the summit thought, the summit light. For by the form the Formless is brought close And all perfection fringes the Absolute. A child of heaven who never saw his home, Its impetus meets the eternal at a point: It can only near and touch, it cannot hold; It can only strain towards some bright extreme: Its greatness is to seek and to create. ...