Loretta reads Savitri:Two.XII "The Heavens of the Ideal"
|Loretta reads Savitri
Book Two: The Book of the Traveller of the Worlds
Canto XII: The Heavens of the Ideal
The great king is travelling up the great stairs. He started to ascend the world-stair at the very beginning of this Book, his Book, Book Two: “The Book of the Traveller of the Worlds”. In the first canto of Book Two, which is called “The World Stair”, Sri Aurobindo says that that king saw “a lone immense high-curved world-pile” (p.98), which holds in it all realms. And which is “the single stair to being’s goal” (p.98). It is a summary of all the stages of the spirit. It is a copy of the graded series of levels of consciousness – the “cosmic hierarchies” (p.98). And it refashions in our secret self a subtle pattern of the entire universe.
The “Seer within” (p.101) – the immortal soul, who knows the plan of our destiny – called the traveller in time.
- A figure sole on Nature’s giant stair,
- He mounted towards an indiscernible end
- On the bare summit of created things. (p.102)
The king continues to climb the world-stair. He's been climbing it until this time. And because he's trying to find the Divine Mother, he must also follow the climb of life itself. Because the Divine Mother, the universal Mother, is everything; and he must know her.
And so he must start also at the Inconscience of Matter. He must go to the place where the life-force from her glory and beauty plunged into the complete unconsciousness of matter, to develop – to develop everything, to develop us.
At the same time, this plunge is taken by the Divine Mother, to bring the consciousness – which is the Supreme Lord himself – into our unconscious physical matter. The king wants to learn why there is so much obstruction in his own being, and also in the beings of others: the obstructions to receiving this consciousness which the Divine Mother came here [as] and is working to manifest in us.
So he's travelling through all these levels: up, and then down and up again, in his own consciousness. The king climbs through life's rise in the kingdoms of the little life, as life develops. He climbs up through the kingdoms of the greater life; and then he finds that he's got to go down, to learn everything. He has to descend down into Night, and into worlds of falsehood. “Driven by a strange will down ever down” (p.217), he reaches “the last locked subconscient’s floor” (p.231). And there:
- He saw the secret key of Nature’s change. (p.231)
And then, having gone through all of this:
- He saw in Night the Eternal’s shadowy veil,
- Knew death for a cellar of the house of life,
- In destruction felt creation’s hasty pace,
- Knew loss as the price of a celestial gain
- And hell as a short cut to heaven’s gates. (p.231)
So after enduring so much, being able to keep his spirit's truth whole, and intact, and alive – having gone through all the darkness and falsehood in his own life-forces (his vital being), and conquering them in this way:
- Healed were all things that Time’s torn heart had made
- And sorrow could live no more in Nature’s breast:
- Division ceased to be, for God was there.
- The soul lit the conscious body with its ray,
- Matter and spirit mingled and were one. (p.232)
And then the king's “warrior nature’s wounded limbs” (p.235) were healed, in the paradise of the life-gods. And he began his ascent again, up the world-stair. Now he's [going] through the levels of Mind.
In the little mind, he saw the three functions which serve the Divine Mother as our lower mind. All of these are tied to the senses, and all of them are limited to the outside material scene. In the higher mind, again he ascended through a triple realm: this time “A triple realm of ordered thought” (p.264). On each of these levels in our mind, which are rising towards the Supreme, the traveller met the godheads of greater and greater Thought – thoughts which we can receive consciously when we're able to open and progress beyond our little mind.
But even though these great thoughts had a very important work to do in the cosmos – even though he found higher, more pure, more universal aspects of mind – each one was a limited function of consciousness in the great all-containing consciousness. And none of these great universal functions could grasp or hold eternal Truth.
So the king moved on, up the great world-stair, to the next level: the heavens of the Ideal. Sri Aurobindo tells us in other writings that this is a level of spiritual higher mind, not just higher mind: we are now in realms of the spirit. So today we climb with the yogi king, as his feet climb up and step on the next great rungs of the great stairs. These great rungs are “formed in Being’s mighty stair” (p.277), and each one is “A great wide step trembling with jewelled fire” (p.277).
And Sri Aurobindo now describes for us what the king experiences on each side of this mighty staircase, as he goes higher and higher towards his goal.
So here we are in the ideal mind, the heavens of the ideal mind – the highest place of the Ideal. After all, what is an 'ideal'? The dictionary says that an ideal is 'a standard of perfection', or 'a standard of beauty or of excellence'. According to the dictionary, the ideal is the ultimate object, the final aim, the goal. And this is how beings act in this part of the consciousness – in this part of the universe.
Here Sri Aurobindo shows us two different kinds of ideal worlds. They're at each end of each shining stair. So the picture one gets is one walks up the middle, and on one side is one world, on one side is the other. And both of these worlds are there for the seeker of the upward way.
First, on one side of the eternal stairs, “The lovely kingdoms of the deathless Rose” (p.277). It climbs up from Nature's surrendered heart; and it “blooms for ever at the feet of God” (p.278). Here too, for us, “its bud is born in human breasts”. And because it is here, a touch, or a presence, or a voice, can turn our whole world into a temple ground; and everything will disclose the one Beloved for us. We experience God in everything. Our very cells – our body – our very cells respond. And “The miracle for which our life was made” (p.278) is fulfilled.
On the other side of the eternal stairs, “The mighty kingdoms of the deathless Flame // Aspired to reach the Being’s absolutes” (p.279). Its worlds are steps of an ascending Force. There are “Homes of unfallen and illumined Might” (p.280). There are heavens of unchanging Good, pure and unborn. There are the “Heights of the grandeur of Truth’s ageless ray” (p.280). These call us to exceed ourselves, to surpass ourselves – to rise above, and again to rise above. Too high for our mortal strength and toil, “they claim from us // Efforts too lasting for our mortal nerve” (p.280). Too hard, too difficult, too enduring for our hearts, for our very flesh. Only the Eternal's strength in us – the strength of our eternal soul – can dare the adventure of that climb, and that sacrifice.
But even here, the great yogi king does not pass or stay beneath the rule of the kingdoms of the Ideal. Sri Aurobindo tells us that “All there was an intense but partial light” (p.281). Each ideal – ideal idea, you could say – each idea was considered “Truth’s intimate fount and summit force” (p.281). Each one was “The heart of the meaning of the universe, // Perfection’s key, passport to Paradise.” (p.281). But, the king passed on, through divine worlds of increasing oneness and unity. He is on his way to the supreme goal.
But this partial light is also extremely important in the cosmos, and important for us. When we enter the heavens of the ideal, we are with the king in what Sri Aurobindo calls the “spiritual higher mind”. Sri Aurobindo says that although the power of the spiritual higher mind is not enough to purify us of all the unconsciousness which lives in us – it can't take away all the unconsciousness which still drives us and guides us – it can make a first change in us. It brings us the capacity to receive more and more higher things. In The Life Divine, Sri Aurobindo writes that this:
- “illumines the thought-mind with a direct inner vision and inspiration, brings a spiritual sight into the heart and a spiritual light and energy into its feeling and emotion, imparts to the life-force a spiritual urge, a truth inspiration that dynamises the action and exalts the life movements; it infuses into the sense a direct and total power of spiritual sensation so that our vital and physical being can contact and meet concretely, quite as intensely as the mind and emotion can conceive and perceive and feel, the Divine in all things; it throws on the physical mind a transforming light that breaks its limitations, its conservative inertia, replaces its narrow thought-power and its doubts by sight and pours luminosity and consciousness into the very cells of the body.”
He tells us this here in his beautiful poetry. He tells it to us when he says, “all discloses the unknown Beloved” (p.278). (He says this in the lovely kingdoms of the deathless Rose.) And then he says:
- A fiery stillness wakes the slumbering cells,
- A passion of the flesh becoming spirit,
- And marvellously is fulfilled at last
- The miracle for which our life was made. (p.278)
In the mighty kingdoms of the deathless Flame – the deathless Flame which carries us with its aspiration to reach the being's absolutes – we hear their tremendous voice call to us to exceed ourselves always. It is “A fire along the mystic paths of earth” (p.279) – our earth: our earth which makes up our own physical bodies. Its worlds are steps of an ascending Force. And to climb those worlds we have to use all that we are, to give all that we have, to reach our goal.
Today the broadcast begins and ends with a Sanskrit mantra from the Rig Veda. It was translated into English by Nolini Kanta Gupta in the Ashram. It calls to us to climb the worlds of ascending Force now that we are better able to approach the Light. And the mantra tells us that the Divine Mother has opened the way of the Light to come to us. And it's also the path of the sun, which we travel. The mantra says:
“Climb high, O soul; strength is come to us;
Darkness has fled; behold, the light approaches;
She has opened the path for the passage of the sun.
“We go where life is carried ever forward.
The flame-bearers, the adorers, sing to the rising Dawn;
They utter the right-minded word.
“Appear this day, O Goddess of Plenty, to him that expresses Thee;
In me, illumine a life rich with its fruitfulness.”
We enter “The Heavens of the Ideal”, Canto XII of Savitri’s Book Two.
Canto Twelve The Heavens of the Ideal Always the Ideal beckoned from afar. Awakened by the touch of the Unseen, Deserting the boundary of things achieved, Aspired the strong discoverer, tireless Thought, Revealing at each step a luminous world. It left known summits for the unknown peaks: Impassioned, it sought the lone unrealised Truth, It longed for the Light that knows not death and birth. Each stage of the soul’s remote ascent was built Into a constant heaven felt always here. At each pace of the journey marvellous A new degree of wonder and of bliss, A new rung formed in Being’s mighty stair, A great wide step trembling with jewelled fire As if a burning spirit quivered there Upholding with his flame the immortal hope, As if a radiant God had given his soul That he might feel the tread of pilgrim feet Mounting in haste to the Eternal’s house. At either end of each effulgent stair The heavens of the ideal Mind were seen In a blue lucency of dreaming Space Like strips of brilliant sky clinging to the moon. On one side glimmered hue on floating hue, A glory of sunrise breaking on the soul, In a tremulous rapture of the heart’s insight And the spontaneous bliss that beauty gives, The lovely kingdoms of the deathless Rose. Above the spirit cased in mortal sense Are superconscious realms of heavenly peace, Below, the Inconscient’s sullen dim abyss, Between, behind our life, the deathless Rose. p.278 Across the covert air the spirit breathes, A body of the cosmic beauty and joy Unseen, unguessed by the blind suffering world, Climbing from Nature’s deep surrendered heart It blooms for ever at the feet of God, Fed by life’s sacrificial mysteries. Here too its bud is born in human breasts; Then by a touch, a presence or a voice The world is turned into a temple ground And all discloses the unknown Beloved. In an outburst of heavenly joy and ease Life yields to the divinity within And gives the rapture-offering of its all, And the soul opens to felicity. A bliss is felt that never can wholly cease, A sudden mystery of secret Grace Flowers goldening our earth of red desire. All the high gods who hid their visages From the soiled passionate ritual of our hopes, Reveal their names and their undying powers. A fiery stillness wakes the slumbering cells, A passion of the flesh becoming spirit, And marvellously is fulfilled at last The miracle for which our life was made. A flame in a white voiceless cupola Is seen and faces of immortal light, The radiant limbs that know not birth and death, The breasts that suckle the first-born of the Sun, The wings that crowd thought’s ardent silences, The eyes that look into spiritual Space. Our hidden centres of celestial force Open like flowers to a heavenly atmosphere; Mind pauses thrilled with the supernal Ray, And even this transient body then can feel Ideal love and flawless happiness And laughter of the heart’s sweetness and delight p.279 Freed from the rude and tragic hold of Time, And beauty and the rhythmic feet of the hours. This in high realms touches immortal kind; What here is in the bud has blossomed there. There is the secrecy of the House of Flame, The blaze of godlike thought and golden bliss, The rapt idealism of heavenly sense; There are the wonderful voices, the sun-laugh, A gurgling eddy in rivers of God’s joy, And the mysteried vineyards of the gold moon-wine, All the fire and sweetness of which hardly here A brilliant shadow visits mortal life. Although are witnessed there the joys of Time, Pressed on the bosom the Immortal’s touch is felt, Heard are the flutings of the Infinite. Here upon earth are early awakenings, Moments that tremble in an air divine, And grown upon the yearning of her soil Time’s sun-flowers’ gaze at gold Eternity: There are the imperishable beatitudes. A million lotuses swaying on one stem, World after coloured and ecstatic world Climbs towards some far unseen epiphany. On the other side of the eternal stairs The mighty kingdoms of the deathless Flame Aspired to reach the Being’s absolutes. Out of the sorrow and darkness of the world, Out of the depths where life and thought are tombed, Lonely mounts up to heaven the deathless Flame. In a veiled Nature’s hallowed secrecies It burns for ever on the altar Mind, Its priests the souls of dedicated gods, Humanity its house of sacrifice. Once kindled, never can its flamings cease. A fire along the mystic paths of earth, It rises through the mortal’s hemisphere, p.280 Till borne by runners of the Day and Dusk It enters the occult eternal Light And clambers whitening to the invisible Throne. Its worlds are steps of an ascending Force: A dream of giant contours, titan lines, Homes of unfallen and illumined Might, Heavens of unchanging Good pure and unborn, Heights of the grandeur of Truth’s ageless ray, As in a symbol sky they start to view And call our souls into a vaster air. On their summits they bear up the sleepless Flame; Dreaming of a mysterious Beyond, Transcendent of the paths of Fate and Time, They point above themselves with index peaks Through a pale-sapphire ether of god-mind Towards some gold Infinite’s apocalypse. A thunder rolling mid the hills of God, Tireless, severe is their tremendous Voice: Exceeding us, to exceed ourselves they call And bid us rise incessantly above. Far from our eager reach those summits live, Too lofty for our mortal strength and height, Hardly in a dire ecstasy of toil Climbed by the spirit’s naked athlete will. Austere, intolerant they claim from us Efforts too lasting for our mortal nerve Our hearts cannot cleave to nor our flesh support; Only the Eternal’s strength in us can dare To attempt the immense adventure of that climb And the sacrifice of all we cherish here. Our human knowledge is a candle burnt On a dim altar to a sun-vast Truth; Man’s virtue, a coarse-spun ill-fitting dress, Apparels wooden images of Good; Passionate and blinded, bleeding, stained with mire His energy stumbles towards a deathless Force. p.281 An imperfection dogs our highest strength; Portions and pale reflections are our share. Happy the worlds that have not felt our fall, Where Will is one with Truth and Good with Power; Impoverished not by earth-mind’s indigence, They keep God’s natural breath of mightiness, His bare spontaneous swift intensities; There is his great transparent mirror, Self, And there his sovereign autarchy of bliss In which immortal natures have their part, Heirs and cosharers of divinity. He through the Ideal’s kingdoms moved at will, Accepted their beauty and their greatness bore, Partook of the glories of their wonder fields, But passed nor stayed beneath their splendour’s rule. All there was an intense but partial light. In each a seraph-winged high-browed Idea United all knowledge by one master thought, Persuaded all action to one golden sense, All powers subjected to a single power And made a world where it could reign alone, An absolute ideal’s perfect home. Insignia of their victory and their faith, They offered to the Traveller at their gates A quenchless flame or an unfading flower, Emblem of a high kingdom’s privilege. A glorious shining Angel of the Way Presented to the seeking of the soul The sweetness and the might of an idea, Each deemed Truth’s intimate fount and summit force, The heart of the meaning of the universe, Perfection’s key, passport to Paradise. Yet were there regions where these absolutes met And made a circle of bliss with married hands; Light stood embraced by light, fire wedded fire, But none in the other would his body lose p.282 To find his soul in the world’s single Soul, A multiplied rapture of infinity. Onward he passed to a diviner sphere: There, joined in a common greatness, light and bliss, All high and beautiful and desirable powers Forgetting their difference and their separate reign Become a single multitudinous whole. Above the parting of the roads of Time, Above the Silence and its thousandfold Word, In the immutable and inviolate Truth For ever united and inseparable, The radiant children of Eternity dwell On the wide spirit height where all are one. END OF CANTO TWELVE
- The Life Divine, p.980, “The Ascent towards Supermind”