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The Mother


Volume 2

October 30, 1961

(The day before and at the beginning of this conversation, Satprem read aloud some passages of his manuscript relating to the Veda. Then Mother chose the photograph of Sri Aurobindo for the frontispiece. She speaks slowly, as though from a great distance, in a semi-trance.)

That's how I first saw him, at the head of the staircase.


I had an experience while listening to you read; it was as if I heard, “The beginning of the legend... the beginning of the legend....”

It's rather strange.

He is there and the atmosphere is full of a sort of concentration of force, and there are these two things: “This is how legends come into being... how legends begin.... The beginning of the legend....” I hear this. And there is also a kind of analogy to the old stories of Buddha, of Christ.... It's strange.

I seemed to be looking back into the present from some thousands of years ahead (it's no longer now, but as if I were propelled somewhere several thousand years ahead, looking backwards) and it's the beginning of the legend.

And the photo adopted by the legend is this full-face one of him as a young man. It was made in France from an old snapshot (a poor one, and only the bust was kept); that photo of me wearing a veil was done at the same time.

A strange impression....

And Sri Aurobindo is ever the same.

What I would have liked at the beginning of the book is my vision – how I see him now. But it's untranslatable.


It's so compact.

Curious, this impression – the feeling of the body and the atmosphere when I was propelled into the future. It's something more... more compact, denser than the physical: the New Creation. One always tends to think of it as something more ethereal, but it's not! Théon spoke of it, but he didn't express himself very well; his way of speaking didn't have the power of revelation (it was based on experience, but the experience wasn't his, it was Madame Théon's. She was a marvelous woman from the standpoint of experience – unique – but with no real intelligence... oh, she was intelligent and cultivated, but no more than that, and it didn't amount to much). But they really had come as forerunners, and Théon always insisted, “It will have a greater density.” Scientifically, this seems like heresy, for “density” is not used in that sense – but this was what he said, “A greater density.” And the impression I get of this atmosphere is of something more compact – more compact and at the same time without heaviness or thickness. All this is evidently absurd scientifically – yet there is a feeling of compactness.

It was like that yesterday – something so... solid was with me (Mother touches her head); how to put it?... It's solid, but not in the way we usually speak of solidity! It's not like that.

And my head became heavy.

But he was there the whole time you were reading (and now again it's the same thing, he is there). In his consciousness, all this was already past – I was transported forward, the present moment was behind me – and then, “Ah, here is the beginning of the legend.”

So there will be a legend.

I got the impression of there being the same difference between the physical fact of Christ or the physical fact of Buddha – and everything we know and say and think and feel about them today – as there is between what we now know of Sri Aurobindo and what will be known of him in the time I was propelled into.

This book was like the initiator of the legend. Sri Aurobindo was there, Sri Aurobindo as I know him now – the eternal Sri Aurobindo I know now.

And it was all so solid! oh, so cohesive, SO MASSIVE, and at the same time... I don't know, it's something completely different from anything you might expect. You can't imagine it.

It stayed all day long – something compact and undivided.

Yesterday afternoon and evening, my head seemed soft when I touched it! That's the amazing thing (Mother touches her head). It feels soft when I touch it, as if the head has become soft! And at the same time, it's a compact mass.

What is it?

They'll lead me off to a padded cell!

Well, mon petit, here's an experience for your birthday!

When I began to see this yesterday, I said, “Ah, we've struck gold!” I don't even know why, but it was the way you presented the thing, the way you explained that the most unconscious and the most conscious meet.1 That was the... the thread or the key, I don't know. Then I followed the thread and came to this experience. And it's still going on today.

I mean that there's a feeling of being on the wrong track: ordinarily, when seeking the Supermind, one looks for it on the heights. But that's not it! That's not it. And one always imagines a sort of subtilization, something etherealized, but it's not that.

All right, you don't need to keep a record of this [for the Agenda]. They'll lock me up, I'm telling you!

I said to myself this morning, “if I go on like this, I'll soon have to stop talking – otherwise they'll put me in an asylum!” Don't you agree?...

No, Mother, it seems very....

No danger? (Laughter)

Oh, I'm not afraid of anything!

There you are, mon petit. So, have a good year – it's off to a good start, your year!



The Secret of the Veda

(Extracts from the passage in “Sri Aurobindo and the Transformation of the World” read to Mother by Satprem. This unpublished manuscript would become the first rough draft of “The Adventure of Consciousness”)

Since the time of Adam, it seems we have been choosing to eat of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge, and there can be no half-measures or regrets along this way, for if we remain prostrate in a false humility, our noses in the dust, the titans or the djinns among us will know all too well how to snatch the Power left unclaimed; this is in fact what they are doing – they would crush the god within us. It is a question of knowing – yes or no – whether we want to escape once again into our various paradises, abandoning the earth to the hands of Darkness, or find and seize hold of the Power to refashion this earth into a diviner image – in the words of the Rishis, “make earth and heaven equal and one.”

There is obviously a Secret, and all the traditions bear witness to it – the Rishis, the Mages of Iran, the priests of Chaldea or Memphis or Yucatan ....


When he first read the Vedas – translated by Western Sanskritists or Indian pandits – they appeared to Sri Aurobindo as “an important document of [Indian] history, but seemed of scant value or importance for the history of thought or for a living spiritual experience.”2 Fifteen years later, however, Sri Aurobindo would reread the Vedas in the original Sanskrit and find there “a constant vein of the richest gold of thought and spiritual experience.”3 Meanwhile, Sri Aurobindo had had certain “psychological experiences of my own for which I had found no sufficient explanation either in European psychology or in the teachings of Yoga or of Vedanta,” and which “the mantras of the Veda illuminated with a clear and exact light....”4 And it was through these experiences of his “own” that Sri Aurobindo came to discover, from within, the true meaning of the Vedas (and especially the most ancient of the four, the Rig-veda, which he studied with special care). What the Vedas brought him was no more than a confirmation of what he had received directly. But didn't the Rishis themselves speak of “Secret words, clairvoyant wisdoms, that reveal their inner meaning to the seer” (Rig-veda IV, 3.16)?

It is not surprising, therefore, that exegetes have seen the Vedas primarily as a collection of propitiatory rites centered around sacrificial fires and obscure incantations to Nature divinities (water, fire, dawn, the moon, the sun, etc.), for bringing rain and rich harvests to the tribes, male progeny, blessings upon their journeys or protection against the “thieves of the sun” – as though these shepherds were barbarous enough to fear that one inauspicious day their sun might no longer rise, stolen away once and for all. Only here and there, in a few of the more “modern” hymns, was there the apparently inadvertent intrusion of a few luminous passages that might have justified – just barely – the respect which the Upanishads, at the beginning of recorded history, accorded to the Veda. In Indian tradition, the Upanishads had become the real Veda, the “Book of Knowledge,” while the Veda, product of a still stammering humanity, was a “Book of Works” – acclaimed by everyone, to be sure, as the venerable Authority, but no longer listened to. With Sri Aurobindo we might ask why the Upanishads, whose depth of wisdom the whole world has acknowledged, could claim to take inspiration from the Veda if the latter contained no more than a tapestry of primitive rites; or how it happened that humanity could pass so abruptly from these so-called stammerings to the manifold richness of the Upanishadic Age; or how we in the West were able to evolve from the simplicity of Arcadian shepherds to the wisdom of Greek philosophers. We cannot assume that there was nothing between the early savage and Plato or the Upanishads.5


Nor was it insignificant that fire, Agni, was the core of the Vedic mysteries: Agni, the inner flame, the soul within us (for who can deny that the soul is fire?), the innate aspiration drawing man towards the heights; Agni, the ardent will within us that sees, always and forever, and remembers; Agni, “the priest of the sacrifice,” the “divine worker,” the “envoy between earth and heaven” (Rig-veda III, 3.2) “he is there in the middle of his house” (1.70.2). “The Fathers who have divine vision set him within as a child that is to be born” (IX.83.3). He is “the boy suppressed in the secret cavern” (V.2.1). “He is as if life and the breath of our existence, he is as if our eternal child” (I.66.1). “O Son of the body” (III.4.2), “O Fire, thou art the son of heaven by the body of the earth” (III.25. 1). “Immortal in mortals” (IV.2. 1), “old and outworn he grows young again and again” (11.4.5). “When he is born he becomes one who voices the godhead: when as life who grows in the mother he has been fashioned in the mother he becomes a gallop of wind in his movement” (III.29.11). “O Fire, when thou art well borne by us thou becomest the supreme growth and expansion of our being, all glory and beauty are in thy desirable hue and thy perfect vision. O Vastness, thou art the plenitude that carries us to the end of our way; thou art a multitude of riches spread out on every side” (II. 1. 12). “O Fire... brilliant ocean of light in which is divine vision” (III.22.2), “the Flame with his hundred treasures... O knower of all things born” (I.59).

But the divine fire is not our exclusive privilege – Agni exists not only in man: “He is the child of the waters, the child of the forests, the child of things stable and the child of things that move. Even in the stone he is there...” (I.70.2).


But we have not yet reached the heart of the Vedic secret. The birth of Agni, the soul (and so many men are still unborn) is merely the start of the voyage. This inner flame seeks, it is the seeker within us, for it is a spark of the great primordial Fire and will never be satisfied until it has recovered its solar totality, “the lost sun” of which the Veda incessantly speaks. Yet even when we have risen from plane to plane and the Flame has taken successive births in the triple world of our lower existence (the physical, vital and mental world), it will still remain unsatisfied – it wants to ascend, ascend further. And soon we reach a mental frontier where there seems to be nothing to grasp any longer, nor even to see, and nothing remains but to abolish everything and leap into the ecstasy of a great Light. At this point, we feel almost painfully the imprisoning carapace of matter all around us, preventing that apotheosis of the Flame; then we understand the cry, “My kingdom is not of this world,” and the insistence of India's Vedantic sages – and perhaps the sages of all worlds and all religions – that we must abandon this body to embrace the Eternal. Will our flame thus forever be truncated here below and our quest always end in disappointment? Shall we always have to choose one or the other, to renounce earth to gain heaven?

Yet beyond the lower triple world, the Rishis had discovered “a certain fourth,” touriam svid; they found “the vast dwelling place,” “the solar world”, Swar: “I have arisen from earth to the mid-world [life], I have arisen from the mid-world to heaven [mind], from the level of the firmament of heaven I have gone to the Sun-world, the Light” (Yajur-veda 17.67). And it is said, “Mortals, they achieved immortality” (Rig-veda 1. 110.4). What then was their secret? How did they pass from a “heaven of mind” to the “great heaven” without leaving the body, without, as it were, going off into ecstasies?

The secret lies in matter. Because Agni is imprisoned in matter and we ourselves are imprisoned there. It is said that Agni is “without head or feet,” that it “conceals its two extremities”: above, it disappears into the “great heaven” of the supraconscient (which the Rishis also called “the great ocean”), and below, it sinks into the “formless ocean” of the inconscient (which they also called “the rock”). We are truncated. But the Rishis were men of a solid realism, a true realism resting upon the Spirit; and since the summits of mind opened out upon a lacuna of light – ecstatic, to be sure, but with no hold over the world – they set upon the downward way.6 Thus begins the quest for the “lost sun,” the long “pilgrimage” of descent into the inconscient and the merciless fight against the dark forces, the “thieves of the sun,” the panis and vritras, pythons and giants, hidden in the “dark lair” with the whole cohort of usurpers: the dualizers, the confiners, the tearers, the COVERERS. But the “divine worker,” Agni, is helped by the gods, and in his quest he is led by the “intuitive ray,” Sarama, the heavenly hound with the subtle sense of smell who sets Agni on the track of the “stolen herds” (strange, “shining” herds). Now and again there comes the sudden glimmer of a fugitive dawn... then all grows dim. One must advance step by step, “digging, digging,” fighting every inch of the way against “the wolves” whose savage fury increases the nearer one draws to their den – Agni is a warrior. Agni grows through his difficulties, his flame burns more brilliantly with each blow from the Adversary; for, as the Rishis said, “Night and Day both suckled the divine Child”; they even said that Night and Day are the “two sisters, Immortal, with a common lover [the sun]... common they, though different their forms” (1. 113.2,3). These alternations of night and brightness accelerate until Day breaks at last and the “herds of Dawn”7 surge upward awakening “someone who was dead” (1. 113.8). “The infinite rock” of the inconscient is shattered, the seeker uncovers “the Sun dwelling in the darkness” (111.39.5), the divine consciousness in the heart of Matter.... In the very depths of Matter, that is to say, in the body, on earth, the Rishis found themselves cast up into Light – that same Light which others sought on the heights, without their bodies and without the earth, in ecstasy. And this is what the Rishis would call “the Great Passage.” Without abandoning the earth they found “the vast dwelling place,” that “dwelling place of the gods,” Swar, the original Sun-world that Sri Aurobindo calls the Supramental World: “Human beings [the Rishis emphasize that they are indeed men] slaying the Coverer have crossed beyond both earth and heaven [matter and mind] and made the wide world their dwelling place” (1.36.8). They have entered “the True, the Right, the Vast,” Satyam, Ritam, Brihat, the “unbroken light,” the “fearless light,” where there is no longer suffering nor falsehood nor death: it is immortality, amritam.


All is reconciled. The Rishi is “the son of two mothers”: son of Aditi, the luminous cow, Mother of infinite Light, creatrix of the worlds; and son as well of Diti, the black cow, Mother of “the tenebrous infinite” and divided existence – for when Diti at last reaches the end of her apparent Night, she gives us divine birth and the milk of heaven. All is fulfilled, The Rishi “sets flowing in one movement human strengths and things divine” (IX.70.3), he has realized the universal in the individual, become the Infinite in the finite: “Then shall thy humanity become as if the workings of these gods; it is as if the visible heaven of light were founded in thee” (V.66.2). Far from spurning the earth, he prays: “O Godhead, guard for us the Infinite and lavish the finite” (IV.2.1 1).

The voyage draws to its close. Agni has recovered its solar totality, its two concealed extremities. “The inviolable work” is fulfilled. For Agni is the place where high meets low – and in truth, there is no longer high nor low, but a single Sun everywhere: “O Flame, thou goest to the ocean of Heaven, towards the gods; thou makest to meet together the godheads of the planes, the waters that are in the realm of light above the sun and the waters that abide below” (111.22.3). “O Fire... O universal Godhead, thou art the navel-knot of the earths and their inhabitants; all men born thou controllest and supportest like a pillar” (1.59.1). “O Flame, thou foundest the mortal in a supreme immortality... thou createst divine bliss and human joy” (1.31.7). For the world's heart is Joy, Joy dwells in the depths of all things, “the well of honey covered by the rock” (11.24.4).


1 The day before, Mother had listened to the passage of the manuscript concerning “The Secret of the Veda.” Several extracts from it are included in the Addendum to this conversation.


2 The Secret of the Veda, Cent. Ed., Vol. X, p. 34.


3 Ibid., p. 38.


4 Ibid., p. 37.


5 Ibid., p. 25.


6 In the preceding conversation, Mother was alluding particularly to this passage.


7 Reminiscent of Homer and the “herds of Helios.”









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