The Lure of the Old, of the Known

Extracted from The New Way, Volume 3, Aeon Books, 2005,
Chapter 18, ‘The Power of the One’
by Patrizia Norelli-Bachelet

The reversed direction of the physicist must hence be a shift from the horizontal poise into the vertical — or a plunge into and through the time barrier. For the supramental yogi the same experience is expressed as a plunge into rather than away from creation, a movement in an entirely new and reversed direction from what has been the age-old method in the spiritual quest. Time and again this new direction has been discussed in this study. But its purpose cannot be stressed too often, for it is the only direction possible if the new future is to be born in humankind and on this Earth.
The formidable barrier the initiate must deal with is no less an impregnable fortress than the physicist faces. For the latter the dilemma is primarily mind and the limitations this instrument imposes because of its linear functioning and its poise outside the element observed. For if it seeks to enter or to deal with the seed or the origin of things, it is mind itself then that disturbs the seeing. The result is a collapse for the physicist, whereby the known fails him and he has no language with which to formulate, since his mind imposes on the seeing an external vision that crumbles when formulation beyond the borderline becomes imperative. The physicist must at that point reorient his quest, and in so doing he must deal with the element in creation that until now has eluded him. This is Time. And in dealing with time he must perforce deal with the nature of mind, for the two are interlinked.
The interconnection however is the product of an incomplete vision which the spiritualist of the past manifests, and even into the present via such exemplary realisers as J. Krishnamurti for example. The connection between time and mind is valid, as Krishnamurti encourages us to understand, yet only so far as time is fragmented. When Whole Time is the experience then we enter the spherical realm of awareness and the cage of mind is surpassed. This, however, is the most interesting — and dolorous — part of the path for the supramental yogi.
The known paths, all of them, have dealt with this problem in almost identical ways and it is precisely the achievements of the great sages since the time of the Rig Veda which have served to fortify the barrier, making it nearly impossible to bring down. Sri Aurobindo refers to this time and again in his writings. He states in a letter to a disciple,

‘This yoga aims at the conscious union with the Divine in the supermind and the transformation of the nature. The ordinary yogas go straight from Mind into some featureless condition of the cosmic silence and through it try to disappear upward into the Highest. The object of this yoga is to Transcend Mind and enter into the Divine Truth of Sachchidananda which is not only static but dynamic and raise the whole being into that truth.’ (Letters on Yoga, CE, Volume 22, Part I, p.104)

One of the most formidable examples of the luminous light of the past that has added to the barrier the supramental yogi faces is the great sage Ramana Maharshi. In Volume 2 his abode in Tiruvannamalai (Arunachala Mountain) was mentioned in connection with the geography of this new cosmology. It was mentioned also that Ramana left his body in the same year as Sri Aurobindo. However, at this point of our study it is well to discuss in greater depth the relation between the two, inasmuch as it was not a meaningless coincidence that they should have lived and accomplished their missions during the same time and along the same latitude. They were neighbours on the planet, but their respective realisations were poised on opposite poles. Indeed, the presence of Ramana Maharshi had to have been for Sri Aurobindo a constant reminder of the imperative need to reach his goal if humankind was to be saved, as well as being a tremendous weight, the weight of the inertia generated by the glorious achievements of the past.
Paul Brunton in his book, A Search in Secret India, makes this polarity quite evident. He often refers to Ramana as the last example of the ancient Indian sage, who in a sense has defied the time barrier and reestablished the old tradition. This being true, it certainly must have represented for Sri Aurobindo the laudable though recalcitrant hold of the past on the spiritual consciousness of India as well as on the rest of the world, for indeed even in the West we find a stereotype applied to Indian spirituality, of the sage with nothing but a loin cloth and begging bowl, detached, — nay, abhorring anything creation has to offer. And what formidable power is generated by such great souls. At the same time, what a tremendous addition to the weight of inertia the supra-mental avatar feels in his labour, in his relentless effort to break through the barrier and to force Diti to release her hold, to let forth that most precious of Rays. For here we are dealing with an entirely new action. This is not the mere establishment of another system of yoga, — one more in the vast pool of Indian spiritual achievements. The labour of the supramental avatar is one of bringing an entirely new consciousness onto the planet and of drawing the evolution of the species to its higher poise, which means in and through the formidable barrier of the past. In a word, he or she must draw the unwilling nature into an entirely new world of possibilities, something wholly ignored until now. At the very point in the quest when the human consciousness faces the collapse, the avatar must present the other way, the new way into the core, into the dimension that holds the secret of Whole Time. He must face and conquer the power of Inertia; he must oblige Diti to release her hold.
As often mentioned in this study Diti gains the greatest force not from the materialist but from the spiritual realiser. He is her most precious instrument, for she has in this upholder of the past a luminous example of the sensibleness of escape, of the reasonableness of an unrelated, unmovable, static peace. Who can deny the validity of such achievements and the great solace they offer the suffering, struggling human being?
Ramana Maharshi did indeed offer one of the most magnificent examples of ‘a way out’. He did indeed embody the old way of the classic Indian sage. He carried his followers — while he himself stood as a shining example of the realisation — on the path to the origin of thought, where thought is no more. At that point the seeker plunges into a world void of relationships, of relatedness — for this is to him the property of Mind. When he leaves the mental prison, but has not crossed the barrier to Whole Time, he plunges into the static Peace of pure consciousness and he leaves the world of his fragmented time and cluttered mind. He has indeed found peace — static, not dynamic. But who can really distinguish between the two? And for what purpose?
To answer this we have the example of Sri Aurobindo and the work he sought to accomplish. We discover from a study of his realisation that the luminous ways of the past have simply never solved the real problems mind and its limitations pose. Likewise, they have never dealt with the situation engendered by the ruling mental principle in the evolution of the species. Mind became a thing to be removed, or obliterated, or to be freed from — but it did not occur to the realiser that one must pay the price for escaping to an unrelated Beyond, for playing tricks with the Mother, as it were.
The price the human being has paid is the reign of the Whore of Babylon. The toll is a heavy one, for he cannot escape her embrace at this point. Having succumbed throughout the ages to the lure of a static peace, he has left Diti as the uncontested sovereign of man’s existence. Yet now the human race must face the folly of its escapism. In some way it must crash through this barrier and tread a path whereby mind is transformed in the evolutionary process. In this quest the realiser encounters the first tangible manifestation of the transformation in the Mind of Light. This is the new eye for the supramental yogi in this transitional stage, the element revealed by Sri Aurobindo in his last years of yoga on this planet.

Author’s Note: At the time of the first phototypesetting (1984), an hitherto unpublished passage from an incomplete work by Sri Aurobindo on the Isha Upanishad appeared. It was written in 1912. We quote a portion, cancelled by Sri Aurobindo in his manuscript, but nonetheless published by the editor. Sri Aurobindo voices the anguish of the avatar in his labour to introduce the new; significantly, he felt that he could not publish it at the time:

‘...Before I pass from this subject, it may be well to insert a word of explanation, of self-defence, almost of apology. Among the intellectual interpreters of Sruti, Shankara towers like an unreachable giant above his fellows. As a philosopher, as a meta-physician, as a powerful logician and victorious disputant his greatness can hardly be measured. For a thousand years and more he has stood in the heavens of Indian thought, his head far away in the altitudes of Adwaita, his feet firmly planted on the lifeless remnants of crushed systems and broken philosophies, the wreckage of his logical conquests, his mouth like Trishira’s [a three-headed demon] swallowing up the world, ...annihilating it in the white flame of the Mayavada, his shadow covering our intellects and stunting the efforts of all who have dared to think originally and dispute his conclusions. Not Madhwa, not even Ramanuja can prevail against this colossal shadow. Yet I have ventured throughout to differ from this king of commentators — almost even to ignore this great and invincible disputant. If I have done so, it is because I think the degree of our liberty has already been pronounced by another giant of thought. When the great Vivekananda, potent seedsower of the future, in answer to the objection of the Pundits, “But Shankara does not say that,” replied simply but finally, “No, but I, Vivekananda, say it,” he pronounced the degree of liberation not only for himself but for all of us from the yoke of the mighty Dravidian [Shankara]. For this was Vivekananda’s mission to smite away all obstacles, however great and venerable, and open the path to the resurgence of Indian originality and the direct confrontation of the soul of man with the living Truth. He was our deliverer not only from ignorance and weakness, but from the systems of knowledge that would limit us and impose a premature finality.’(Sri Aurobindo Archives and Research, Pondicherry, December, 1983, p. 138-139.)