Loretta reads Savitri:Two.X "The Kingdoms and Godheads of the Little Mind" part 2
|Loretta reads Savitri
Book Two: The Book of the Traveller of the Worlds
Canto X: The Kingdoms and Godheads of the Little Mind
Part 2 of 4, pages 243-249
The traveler is now going through all the worlds of all the mental planes which mankind is open to. Each man is open more to one plane, more to another, depending on his individual development. So the traveler is in the mind that we all have, that we all share. This is part of our surface individuality, the different aspects of the universal mind that function in each of us.
We are what we think. We act according to the way our mind works. Last time, at the beginning of this canto, Sri Aurobindo told us about the first mind to develop in life. This is the 'physical mind'. It only accepts what the senses can experience and bring to it. Now he's going to describe the ways this physical mind can work in us. He's already explained that when we're in the consciousness of the physical mind, we are subject to the way it works. So we are not only slaves to our imperfect senses – we are also slaves of the mind which receives the sense-impressions and gives us our thoughts.
He's also explained that in general, the way our mind has to work is that it has to cut the whole Truth of things into manageable bits. And then, it has to believe that each bit is the whole thing: the exclusive, whole truth. It's not capable of seeing the whole truth of things, and seeing that what it receives is just a part, and fitting it in.
And Sri Aurobindo tells us that the surface man is limited because of his physical experiences, which are the only things that he realizes he is or can have. He knows only what his nervous system in the body brings to his embodied mind. And even with all that, we can only retain, only keep, and only use, as much as our surface mind gives us and consciously remembers. (Or we could say: as much as our surface mind listens to and then does things with.)
But we all have a larger subliminal consciousness inside us – the inner man – which senses what has not been sensed by the surface mind and its organs. It's just that we're not consciously living that way, yet.
And through all this – through all this canto – Sri Aurobindo is telling us stories to show us how mind developed and evolved. He tells us how it was born in life, and that life is in matter; and he speaks often of 'infant' things, babies, young things, a Child that begins to think and see.
Sri Aurobindo's been speaking about the yogi king's travels in the mind, but he hasn't said much about the Divine Mother. And it's the Divine Mother who he is looking for. The Divine Mother who is all of this, who has created all of this, and who is basically in charge of the whole universe. He has already lightly told us that all the development we are reading about is the working of a great Power. (And it's 'Power' with a capital 'P', so it's an entity, a thing, an object, a living being.) Now he's going to describe the instrument chosen by “the great Puissance” (p.243) – and 'puissance' is the French word for 'power', just as the Sanskrit word for 'power' is 'Shakti': the Power of the Supreme.
So this instrument – this “small keen instrument” (p.243) – is the slave of the great Shakti. And it has three aspects – or we could say three ways of thinking and dealing with life and the world. Today we learn about two of them.
The first one – as indeed all the three – but we're told, the first one is obedient to the rules of gross Matter. It's the kind of thinking that wants everything to stay the same; never change. And we can see that it's in the limitations of the physical. “It takes its stand on Nature’s solid base” (p.245), and in Matter's physical limits, and therefore it is limited. It sees the habits of the mind as Truth; always repeating the old familiar acts, it lives happy and contented with the common and the known. It wants things to progress very slowly and very safely – or maybe not even to progress at all, but just to stay. The things that this mind feels as wisdom are “things long known and actions always done” (p.246). When people think like this, they're happy to go around in the same old familiar circles.
And yet, Sri Aurobindo tells us, behind it there is a cosmic might. It has its place in the evolution. Many people think this way, more or less. Probably everyone has thought this way at some time in their life. And often when people become older, their thinking follows more and more this pattern. They want to live this way, the same old way; they don't need new things; they don't want to learn new things. And they would prefer that the rest of the world is the same.
The second way of thought that Sri Aurobindo describes to us here is unstable, passionate, irrational. Thought rushes everywhere to satisfy itself; changes quickly; passions after whatever it does: good, bad, up, down, light, dark. Whatever flatters its hopes is what is true for it. It eagerly grabs and keeps the things for itself that the senses give it, and that it thinks about; and it claims for itself – or claims about things – things that have no truth. And in this way of thought, Sri Aurobindo tells us, “the burning vision of Desire” (p.247) came in. Desire of course is in the vital; it has its seat in the life-energies. But here is the mind: the desire-mind, the vision of desire. Unstable, unjudging (in a sense) – rushing for everything.
And we can see, from Sri Aurobindo's descriptions, actions and ways of desire in our own thought-processes. When we think like this, we waste our own life-force trying to achieve the impossible. Running here and there; feeling this and that; getting this and that. And yet, this erring, passionate thought, which makes and believes its own truths, can catch what the calm intelligence misses. It has some infinite strength. And it can create the high things that its fancy wills. So it also has a place, a clear place, in the creation.
Perhaps the question that might face people who want to progress is: 'should this be functioning in us?' And each one answers the question for themselves.
So when we start reading, we'll find that Sri Aurobindo begins by telling us that we are in the “bright realms” of “Mind’s first forward steps” (p.243). And also that here, the Divine Mother – the great Creatrix, the great Puissance – has to move slowly as she evolves mind in matter, because the earth (our matter, our earth) can only bear a slow advance. She is moving in us from Night to Light.
Then he's going to describe these two ways of thinking. And he uses poetic images: he describes these two ways of thinking in terms that are familiar to us – and it brings in something familiar, helps us to recognize it – and his poetry will bring them alive for us. Because of course he's realized this.
So now we're in Book Two, Canto X: “The Kingdoms and Godheads of the Little Mind”. We left off last time at the point in mind's evolution where ethereal thinkings “streamed down from the realm of early Light” into Matter's world. And they “move the mind of earth // To labour and to dream and new-create”. They move the mind of earth – that mind in our matter – “To feel beauty’s touch and know the world and self” (p.243).
… In those bright realms are Mind’s first forward steps. Ignorant of all but eager to know all, Its curious slow enquiry there begins; Ever its searching grasps at shapes around, Ever it hopes to find out greater things. Ardent and golden-gleamed with sunrise fires, Alert it lives upon invention’s verge. Yet all it does is on an infant’s scale, As if the cosmos were a nursery game, Mind, life the playthings of a Titan’s babe. As one it works who builds a mimic fort Miraculously stable for a while, Made of the sands upon a bank of Time Mid an occult eternity’s shoreless sea. A small keen instrument the great Puissance chose, An arduous pastime passionately pursues; To teach the Ignorance is her difficult charge, Her thought starts from an original nescient Void And what she teaches she herself must learn p.244 Arousing knowledge from its sleepy lair. For knowledge comes not to us as a guest Called into our chamber from the outer world; A friend and inmate of our secret self, It hid behind our minds and fell asleep And slowly wakes beneath the blows of life; The mighty daemon lies unshaped within, To evoke, to give it form is Nature’s task. All was a chaos of the true and false, Mind sought amid deep mists of Nescience; It looked within itself but saw not God. A material interim diplomacy Denied the Truth that transient truths might live And hid the Deity in creed and guess That the World-Ignorance might grow slowly wise. This was the imbroglio made by sovereign Mind Looking from a gleam-ridge into the Night In her first tamperings with Inconscience: Its alien dusk baffles her luminous eyes; Her rapid hands must learn a cautious zeal; Only a slow advance the earth can bear. Yet was her strength unlike the unseeing earth’s Compelled to handle makeshift instruments Invented by the life-force and the flesh. Earth all perceives through doubtful images, All she conceives in hazardous jets of sight, Small lights kindled by touches of groping thought. Incapable of the soul’s direct inlook She sees by spasms and solders knowledge-scrap, Makes Truth the slave-girl of her indigence, Expelling Nature’s mystic unity Cuts into quantum and mass the moving All; She takes for measuring-rod her ignorance. In her own domain a pontiff and a seer, That greater Power with her half-risen sun Wrought within limits but possessed her field; p.245 She knew by a privilege of thinking force And claimed an infant sovereignty of sight. In her eyes however darkly fringed was lit The Archangel’s gaze who knows inspired his acts And shapes a world in its far-seeing flame. In her own realm she stumbles not nor fails, But moves in boundaries of subtle power Across which mind can step towards the sun. A candidate for a higher suzerainty, A passage she cut through from Night to Light, And searched for an ungrasped Omniscience. A dwarf three-bodied trinity was her serf. First, smallest of the three, but strong of limb, A low-brow with a square and heavy jowl, A pigmy Thought needing to live in bounds For ever stooped to hammer fact and form. Absorbed and cabined in external sight, It takes its stand on Nature’s solid base. A technician admirable, a thinker crude, A riveter of Life to habit’s grooves, Obedient to gross Matter’s tyranny, A prisoner of the moulds in which it works, It binds itself by what itself creates. A slave of a fixed mass of absolute rules, It sees as Law the habits of the world, It sees as Truth the habits of the mind. In its realm of concrete images and events Turning in a worn circle of ideas And ever repeating old familiar acts, It lives content with the common and the known. It loves the old ground that was its dwelling-place: Abhorring change as an audacious sin, Distrustful of each new discovery Only it advances step by careful step And fears as if a deadly abyss the unknown. p.246 A prudent treasurer of its ignorance, It shrinks from adventure, blinks at glorious hope, Preferring a safe foothold upon things To the dangerous joy of wideness and of height. The world’s slow impressions on its labouring mind, Tardy imprints almost indelible, Increase their value by their poverty; The old sure memories are its capital stock: Only what sense can grasp seems absolute: External fact it figures as sole truth, Wisdom identifies with the earthward look, And things long known and actions always done Are to its clinging hold a balustrade Of safety on the perilous stair of Time. Heaven’s trust to it are the established ancient ways, Immutable laws man has no right to change, A sacred legacy from the great dead past Or the one road that God has made for life, A firm shape of Nature never to be changed, Part of the huge routine of the universe. A smile from the Preserver of the Worlds Sent down of old this guardian Mind to earth That all might stand in their fixed changeless type And from their secular posture never move. One sees it circling faithful to its task, Tireless in an assigned tradition’s round; In decayed and crumbling offices of Time It keeps close guard in front of custom’s wall, Or in an ancient Night’s dim environs It dozes on a little courtyard’s stones And barks at every unfamiliar light As at a foe who would break up its home, A watch-dog of the spirit’s sense-railed house Against intruders from the Invisible, Nourished on scraps of life and Matter’s bones In its kennel of objective certitude. p.247 And yet behind it stands a cosmic might: A measured Greatness keeps its vaster plan, A fathomless sameness rhythms the tread of life; The stars’ changeless orbits furrow inert Space, A million species follow one mute Law. A huge inertness is the world’s defence, Even in change is treasured changelessness; Into inertia revolution sinks, In a new dress the old resumes its role; The Energy acts, the stable is its seal: On Shiva’s breast is stayed the enormous dance. A fiery spirit came, next of the three. A hunchback rider of the red Wild-Ass, A rash Intelligence leaped down lion-maned From the great mystic Flame that rings the worlds And with its dire edge eats at being’s heart. Thence sprang the burning vision of Desire. A thousand shapes it wore, took numberless names: A need of multitude and uncertainty Pricks it for ever to pursue the One On countless roads across the vasts of Time Through circuits of unending difference. It burns all breasts with an ambiguous fire. A radiance gleaming on a murky stream, It flamed towards heaven, then sank, engulfed, towards hell; It climbed to drag down Truth into the mire And used for muddy ends its brilliant Force; A huge chameleon gold and blue and red Turning to black and grey and lurid brown, Hungry it stared from a mottled bough of life To snap up insect joys, its favourite food, The dingy sustenance of a sumptuous frame Nursing the splendid passion of its hues. A snake of flame with a dull cloud for tail, Followed by a dream-brood of glittering thoughts, A lifted head with many-tinged flickering crests, p.248 It licked at knowledge with a smoky tongue. A whirlpool sucking in an empty air, It based on vacancy stupendous claims, In Nothingness born to Nothingness returned, Yet all the time unwittingly it drove Towards the hidden Something that is All. Ardent to find, incapable to retain, A brilliant instability was its mark, To err its inborn trend, its native cue. At once to an unreflecting credence prone, It thought all true that flattered its own hopes; It cherished golden nothings born of wish, It snatched at the unreal for provender. In darkness it discovered luminous shapes; Peering into a shadow-hung half-light It saw hued images scrawled on Fancy’s cave; Or it swept in circles through conjecture’s night And caught in imagination’s camera Bright scenes of promise held by transient flares, Fixed in life’s air the feet of hurrying dreams, Kept prints of passing Forms and hooded Powers And flash-images of half-seen verities. An eager spring to seize and to possess Unguided by reason or the seeing soul Was its first natural motion and its last, It squandered life’s force to achieve the impossible: It scorned the straight road and ran on wandering curves And left what it had won for untried things; It saw unrealised aims as instant fate And chose the precipice for its leap to heaven. Adventure its system in the gamble of life, It took fortuitous gains as safe results; Error discouraged not its confident view Ignorant of the deep law of being’s ways And failure could not slow its fiery clutch; One chance made true warranted all the rest. p.249 Attempt, not victory, was the charm of life. An uncertain winner of uncertain stakes, Instinct its dam and the life-mind its sire, It ran its race and came in first or last. Yet were its works nor small and vain nor null; It nursed a portion of infinity’s strength And could create the high things its fancy willed; Its passion caught what calm intelligence missed. Insight of impulse laid its leaping grasp On heavens high Thought had hidden in dazzling mist, Caught glimmers that revealed a lurking sun: It probed the void and found a treasure there. A half-intuition purpled in its sense; It threw the lightning’s fork and hit the unseen. It saw in the dark and vaguely blinked in the light, Ignorance was its field, the unknown its prize. ...