January 9, 1962
(Mother has been unwell the past few days and is receiving almost no one.)
Are you better?
I think so! (Mother laughs) I don't know.
It's strange, these attacks... bizarre; they seem to have nothing to do with my state of health.
It's a sort of... decentralization. You see, to form a body all the cells are concentrated by a kind of centripetal force that binds them together. Well, now it's just the opposite! A kind of centrifugal force seems to be dispersing them. When it gets a bit too much I go out of my body; outwardly I seem to faint – but I don't faint, I remain fully conscious. So obviously this creates a sort of... bizarre disorganization.
And there's a strange thing about it, which so far I haven't figured out: it always happens (it has already happened three times, and that's a lot for me) when X1 comes, the night before he arrives.
Ah! It doesn't surprise you either?
No, I have noticed that his arrival triggers something off.
Someone happened to be there last time so I didn't fall and hurt myself. But this time I was alone in my bathroom and... actually I was going through a phenomenon of consciousness in which I was spreading over the world – spreading PHYSICALLY, that's the strange thing! The sensation is in the CELLS. There was a movement of diffusion in me, becoming more and more rapid and intense, and then suddenly I found myself on the floor.
There's a seat in my bathroom upstairs, and between the seat and the wall are two small tables (not tables, but small stools where a few things are kept), and a porcelain towel bar (luckily, everything has rounded corners). I found myself wedged in between the seat and the two small tables (a space about this wide!). And all that matter – the material substance of the table and the objects on the table and the porcelain seat – it all seemed so unreceptive! It doesn't give way like it should for things to be comfortable; but it wasn't that my body was uncomfortable – there was no body! The whole set-up was bizarre, everything was in a bizarre and absurd situation which I couldn't really understand, couldn't make out: “What's this big lump doing here,” I seemed to be wondering, “taking up so much room, getting in the way?”
My elbow had ended up leaning on a little plastic tray I have there, where I keep pencils, ball-point pens, note pads and so forth. The body was leaning on this tray, evidently trying to get up, and the whole thing started cracking noisily under the weight. And in a diffuse but very clear consciousness I was saying to myself, “But why? What's all this ridiculous noise? And what's this heavy thing doing? What disorder.... There shouldn't be such disorder.” And it went on crack-crack-cracking. Then suddenly normal consciousness returned – to be exact, what returned was the normal RELATIONSHIP consciousness has with things – and I said, “Well, really! What a ridiculous situation! What is this elbow doing on that tray? It should realize it's breaking it!” And when things were all completely back to normal I told my body, “What are you doing, you idiot! Come on, pick yourself up, get moving!” Immediately, docile as a little child, it extricated itself, turned around, and stood up straight – quite straight. I had scratched my knee, scratched my elbow, and taken three knocks on the head. Luckily there were no sharp edges – it was all hard enough, but no sharp edges. Anyway, in the end I was all right, no damage done.
No damage at all, but it was a bizarre sensation. So I tried to understand how it could have happened, how I could have so lost my sense of relation to things.... For a long time my body had been telling me, “I've got to lie down, I've got to lie down.” And I would very sternly reply, “You don't have time!” (Laughing) So then this happened. Had I obeyed it and laid down, there would obviously have been no problem. But I was in my experience, going on with my experience, and at the same time I was getting ready to come downstairs. So I told my body, “It's all right, it's all right, you'll lie down later.” But it had its own way of lying down! (Laughing) It just stretched out right where it was. Actually it wasn't even stretched out – it was all askew.
Afterwards, I looked into it a bit. “What's wrong with you, anyway?” I said. “If you don't have the strength to bear experiences you won't be able to do the work!” My body answered me very clearly that I was overworking it; and Sri Aurobindo's will was clearly behind it, saying, “It's overwork. You can't keep on seeing people and talking for hours on end and then going into these kinds of experiences. You can't do both, you have to choose, or at least strike a better balance.” Well, I certainly wasn't going to stop my experiences, so I took advantage of this little incident to get some rest. It was nothing, really! The doctors were saying, “Take care, the heart isn't working properly,” and all that. They wanted to start drugging me! All I need is peace and quiet, not drugs. So I took a rest – and since I had to have an excuse, I said I wasn't well and needed rest.
But following that, and because of the overwork, an old thing I thought I had cured has come back. It was originally brought on by overwork when I was going to the Playground and resting only two hours out of twenty-four, which wasn't enough – a sort of ulcer formed between my nose and throat. It's an old complaint, dating from the removal of adenoids in my childhood; the operation left a kind of small cavity, which was nothing in itself, except that occasionally it would give me a cold. But as a result of overwork it came back in the form of an ulcer, and gave me artificial colds; it was so sour and corrosive, a terrible irritation in the throat and nose. It got much worse when I was giving classes at the Playground, and once I showed it to the doctor. “Why, you have an ulcer!” he said. A big fuss. He offered to treat me. “No thanks!” I said. “Don't worry, it will pass.” And I began my own yogic treatment. It was over in a week and for three years there was no further sign of it. Recently (the last two or three months) I had felt it trying to come back, for exactly the same reason of overwork. And with that little adventure the other day, it did come back – it gave me one of those stupid colds: sneezing, coughing. It's not quite over yet. But it's nothing, it just gives me an excuse (laughing) to tell people I am still not quite well!
I am resting.
It's a difficult problem to resolve, because at no price do I want to stop the discipline (the tapasya,2 to be precise). I don't want to stop. And both things together are clearly too much for a stupid little body – stupid mainly because it lives in tension.
These past few days I've had some interesting experiences from this standpoint. I had what is commonly called fever, but it wasn't fever – it was a resurfacing from the subconscient of all the struggles, all the tensions this body has had for... what will soon be eighty-three years. I went through a period in my life when the tension was tremendous, because it was psychological and vital as well as physical: a perpetual struggle against adverse forces; and during my stay in Japan, particularly... oh, it was terrible! So at night, everything that had been part of that life in Japan – people, things, movements, circumstances – all of it seemed to be surrounding my body in the form of vital3 vibrations, and to be taking the place of my present state, which had completely vanished. For hours during the night, the body was reliving all the terrible tensions it had during those four years in Japan. And I realized how much (because at the time you pay no attention; the consciousness is busy with something else and not concentrated on the body), how much the body resists and is tense. And just as I was realizing this, I had a communication with Sri Aurobindo: “But you're keeping it up!” he told me. “Your body still has the habit of being tense.” (It's much less now, of course; it's quite different since the inner consciousness is in perfect peace, but the BODY keeps the habit of being tense.) For instance, in the short interval between the time I get up and the time I come down to the balcony,4 when I am getting ready (I have to get this body ready to come down)... well, the body is tense about being ready in time. And that's why accidents happen at that moment. So the following morning I said, “All right, no more tension,” and I was exclusively concerned with keeping my body perfectly tranquil – I was no later than usual! So it's obviously just one of the body's bad habits. Everything went off the same as usual, and since then things are better. But it's a nasty habit.
And so I looked. “Is it something particular to this body?” I wondered. To everyone who has lived closely with it, my body gives the impression of two things: a very concentrated, very stubborn will, and... such endurance! Sri Aurobindo used to tell me he had never dreamed a body could have such endurance. And that's probably why.... But I don't want to curtail this ability in any way, because it is a CELLULAR will, and a cellular endurance too – which is quite intriguing. It's not a central will and central endurance (that's something else altogether) – it's cellular. That's why Sri Aurobindo used to tell me this body had been specially prepared and chosen for the Work – because of its capacity for obstinate endurance and will. But that's no reason to exercise this ability uselessly! So I am making sure it relaxes now; I tell it constantly, “Now, now! Just let go! Relax, have some fun, where's the harm in it?” I have to tell it to be quiet, very quiet. And it's very surprised to hear that: “Ah! Can I live that way? I don't have to hurry? I can live that way?”
So that's why I am resting. Am I better or not? Things are always the same. Were I to start doing what I was doing before, which I KNEW all along was absolutely unreasonable.... It's not that I didn't know it; I did know and I wasn't happy about it, because I knew I was doing something I shouldn't. I have no intention of starting again, but if I had said, “I am withdrawing for good,” it would have been.... If you knew how MANY things have gone slack [in the Ashram]! And how many people I am telling off: “Well, you wouldn't have done that a week ago!” Oh, that's an experience in itself – to see what people's so-called faithfulness depends on.
You have to constantly keep a firm grip on them – constantly, constantly.
That's how it is.
Here, mon petit,5 I've been given something very good! (Mother laughs and gives Satprem a tin of... perhaps it was foie gras.)
I've been slacking off too.
For material substance it's a necessity.
It's exactly what I was complaining about: “If this stuff can't go on without flagging, if it can't take it and absolutely has to relax, if it can't keep up with the movement of consciousness and just has to slacken from time to time, well... how can it ever be supramentalized?” Precisely what everyone has always said: “It CANNOT hold the charge, it has to let go. It can't hold the charge of Energy.” And especially THIS Energy, which seems almost abnormal to people – an Energy that works like this (inflexible gesture) and can keep it up indefinitely.
And when the body can't take it “like this,” it breaks – you find yourself between a table and... and suddenly you're flat on the floor!
That must be it, because I've fainted fairly often in my life. Even when I was young, I would remain conscious, and there was a whole period when I used to go out of my body, which I would always immediately see in some ridiculous position (just where it had no business being, of course!). So I would rush back into it and say, “Come on! What's wrong with you!” Then it would shake itself and get moving again, like a donkey – you give it a good whack, and it gets back to work.
This need for relaxation was never psychological with me. And I have seen that the habit people have of slackening has the same origin: it's not necessarily negligence or vital weakness, the body simply gets winded. It bears up under the tension of vital energy, but eventually it gets winded, tired out, and needs rest.
Given the world's present set-up, this is “normal” – but if the supramental world were to be realized, it shouldn't remain normal. Clearly, a considerable change has to take place in the physical substance. That will probably be the essential difference between the bodies fashioned by Nature's methods and those to be fashioned by supramental knowledge – a new element will come in, and we will no longer be “natural.” But so long as this natural element is present, well, a certain amount of patience is probably required – let the body catch its breath, otherwise something gives way.
It gets much less winded, of course, when you have the inner equality of the divine Presence. So much fatigue is due to excess tension produced by desire or effort or struggle, by the constant battle against all opposing forces. All that can go.
We tire ourselves out quite needlessly.
During that return to the past over the last few days, the life I led with Sri Aurobindo suddenly came back to me.... What helped this to happen was reading passages about me in his book,6 letters he wrote about me that I had never read before. And it all came back, those full thirty years I lived with him....
Psychologically, there was no struggle, no tension, no effort – not ONCE; I was living in total and confident serenity. On the material plane there were attacks, but even these he took upon himself. Well, I saw it all, all those thirty years of life; not for a SECOND did I have any sense of responsibility, in spite of all the work I was doing, all the organizing and everything. He had supposedly passed on the responsibility to me, you see, but he was standing behind – HE was actually doing everything! I was active, but with absolutely no responsibility. I never felt responsible for a single minute – he took the full responsibility. It was really....
For the first seven years he was doing the work, not me. He was the one who saw people; I looked after his personal affairs, his housekeeping, his food, his clothes and so forth. I kept myself quietly busy with that, doing nothing else, not seeing people, simply looking after his material life – like a child at play. It was seven years of integral peace.
Later, when he withdrew and put me in front, there was naturally a bit more activity, as well as the semblance of responsibility – but it was only a semblance. What security! A sense of total, total security – for thirty years. Not once.... There was just a single scratch, so to speak, when he had that accident and broke his leg. There was a formation at work (an adverse force) and he wasn't taking sufficient precautions for himself because it was directed against both of us, and more especially against me (it had tried once or twice to fracture my skull, things like that). Well, he was so intent on keeping it from seriously touching my body that it managed to sneak in and break his leg. That was a shock. But he straightened everything out again almost immediately – it all fell back into place and went on like that till the end.
And the feeling was so strong that even during his illness (which lasted for months, you know), I had a sense of perfect security; so much so that the idea of his life being really affected in the least by this illness couldn't even occur to me! I didn't want to believe it when the doctor said, “It's over.” I didn't want to believe it. And as long as I stayed in the room... with me in the room he couldn't leave his body. And so there was a terrible tension in him – on the one hand the inner will to depart, and then this thing holding him there in his body: the fact that I knew he was alive and could only be alive. He had to signal me to go to my room, supposedly to rest (I didn't rest); and no sooner had I left his room than he was gone. They immediately called me back.... That's how it was. Then when he came to me, when I really saw what had happened, when he went out of his body and entered into mine (the most material part of him, the part involved with external things) and I understood that I had the entire responsibility for all the work AND for the sadhana7 – well, then I locked a part of me away, a deep psychic8 part that was living, beyond all responsibility, in the ECSTASY of the realization: the Supreme. I took it and locked it away, I sealed it off and said, “You're not moving until... until all the rest is ready.”
That in itself was a miracle. If I hadn't done it I would have followed him – and there would have been no one to do the Work. I would have followed him automatically, without even thinking about it. But when he entered into me, he said, “You will do the work; one of us had to go, and I am going, but you will do the work.”
And that door was opened again only ten years later, in 1960. Even then, it was done with great care – it was one of last year's major difficulties.
And only in the last few days have all those memories been allowed to rise up again from the subconscient where they were being kept; and with that, the state I lived in for thirty years has resurfaced – with this tremendous difference.
And suddenly I said to myself, “How could it be? During all the time he was here, the time we were together (after I came back from Japan, when we were together), life, life on earth, lived such a wondrous divine possibility, so... really so unique, something it had never lived to such an extent and in such a way, for thirty years, and it didn't even notice!”
That's what I have been experiencing recently.
Yes, at one point I wondered (I don't remember when, a few days ago): “How could people have lived here, so near (but the same thing is still happening), how could human beings on earth who had an aspiration, who had their consciousness turned towards those things, have lived that possibility, have HAD that possibility at their fingertips, without being able to take advantage of it! How could something so wonderful and unique have taken place here, and yet people had such a small and childish and superficial image of it!”
Truly, I wondered, “Has the time really come? Is it possible?... Or will it once again be postponed?”
Yesterday evening I read something in the book9.... Sri Aurobindo is writing to someone who said, “How lucky people are who live near the Mother.” “You don't know what you're talking about!” he replies. “To live in the Mother's physical presence is one of the most difficult things.” Do you remember this passage? I didn't know he had written that. “Well, well...” I thought. He writes, “It is hard to stay near her, because the difference between the physical consciousness of all you people and her physical consciousness is so enormous....” 10 Indeed, that's what tires me out. That's what tires my body, because it is used to living in a certain rhythm, a universal rhythm.
No one can imagine what it was, those thirty years I had... beyond all problems and difficulties; we went through every possible difficulty – and it was nothing, NOTHING. It was nothing, it was... like a great harmonious orchestra.
But... it's clear that Matter must be rigorously hammered if it is to be made ready and able for this Transformation.
And nothing, nothing imaginable in the eternal history of the universe can be compared to that shock: to have lived a perfect divine life as something completely natural and everyday, something OBVIOUS (it was never even in question), and then... all of a sudden, physically – your base is snatched away. Well, to stay on after that!... You just go, quite naturally: the base goes, you go.
I can't blame my body for anything. It may be a bit weary, but it has held out very well.
It was a unique kind of grace, an absolutely miraculous power, which did what I just mentioned, which locked up the part of my consciousness that was CONSCIOUSLY living that miracle, locked it all up tight, padlocked it: “You're locked in, don't stir; no manifestation for you – you're going out of Time and Manifestation until everything else is ready to follow.”
That, more than anything else, may be why I needed a bit of solitude: to reactivate that part of the psychic being which was the individual intermediary between true Consciousness and the body-consciousness: the part which had lived THAT, was aware of THAT, knew THAT – knew that wondrous miracle.
What's really almost miraculous is that I can speak of it even now.
So here we are again – we won't get much work done today! Do you have any questions [on Sri Aurobindo's Aphorisms]?
67 – There is no sin in man, but a great deal of disease, ignorance and misapplication.
68 – The sense of sin was necessary in order that man might become disgusted with his own imperfections. It was God's corrective for egoism. But man's egoism meets God's device by being very dully alive to its own sins and very keenly alive to the sins of others.
69 – Sin and virtue are a game of resistance we play with God in His efforts to draw us towards perfection. The sense of virtue helps us to cherish our sins in secret.
Do you have any comments?
No; for me the thing to be particularly looked into is the sense of virtue which...
“...helps us to cherish our sins in secret.”
That's not something ordinary human thought can easily grasp.
Helps us to cherish in secret the sense of sin....
But did you think of a question?
It's not directly connected. If you have something to say....
It always revolves around the same thing, but here it's presented in a very subtle way.
To cherish in secret the sense of sin.... No, I can't say I've had that experience, in the sense that I have never had a very pronounced love of virtue.
That's another thing I have noticed: even in my childhood I was already conscious of what Sri Aurobindo calls “living divinely,” that is, outside the sense of Good and Evil.
This was counterbalanced by a terrible censor which never left me.11 It took Sri Aurobindo to clear it from my path. But I didn't have the sense of sin, of Good and Evil, sin and virtue – definitely not! My consciousness was centered around right action and wrong action12 – “this should have been done, that shouldn't have” – with no question of Good or Evil, from the standpoint of work, of action alone. My consciousness has always been centered on action. It was a vision, a perception of the line to be followed – or the many lines to be followed – for the action to be accomplished. And any deviation from what to me was the luminous line, the straight line (not geometrically straight: the luminous line, the line expressing the divine Will), the slightest deviation from that, and... oh, it was the only thing that tormented me.
And the torment didn't come from me, it came from that character hooked on to my consciousness and constantly whipping me, hounding me, ill-treating me – what people call their “conscience,” which has nothing whatsoever to do with consciousness!13 It's an adverse being, and whatever it can change, it changes for the worse; whatever is susceptible to being changed into something antidivine, it changes. And it is constantly repeating the same thing: “This is wrong, that is wrong, this is wrong....”
But this was the only thing; there was never, never the idea of being either virtuous or sinful – never. It was a matter of doing the right thing or not doing the right thing. That's all. No sense of being virtuous or sinful, none at all! I never, ever had that sense.
So it's a bit difficult for me to identify with the feeling Sri Aurobindo describes here; it doesn't correspond to anything in me. I understand, of course! I understand very well what he means. But to identify with that sentiment....
But tell me what you wanted to say.
All in all, in these last few aphorisms Sri Aurobindo is clearly trying to show us that we must go beyond the sense of sin and virtue. It reminds me of a passage from one of your experiences which struck me very much at the time. In that experience you went to the supramental world: you saw a “ship” landing on the shore of the supramental world and people being put through certain tests – some people were rejected, others were kept. There's a striking passage in your description, and it bears a relation to these aphorisms.... May I read you what you said?14
Yes – I don't remember it any more.
After describing the ship and the disembarkation, you say:
“The criterion or the judgment [for passing the tests] was based EXCLUSIVELY on the substance constituting the people – whether they belonged completely to the supramental world or not, whether they were made of this very special substance. The criterion adopted was neither moral nor psychological. It is likely that their bodily substance was the result of an inner law or an inner movement which, at that time, was not in question. At least it is quite clear that the values are different....”
And then you add:
“At that time, my impression (an impression which remained rather long, almost the whole day) was of an extreme relativity – no, not exactly that, but an impression that the relationship between this world and the other completely changes the criterion by which things are to be evaluated or judged....”
“This criterion had nothing mental about it, and it gave the strange inner feeling that so many things we consider good or bad are not really so. It was very clear that everything depended upon the CAPACITY of things and upon their ABILITY to express the supramental world or be in relationship with it. It was so completely different, at times even so opposite to our ordinary way of looking at things!”
You go on:
“With people, too, I saw that what helps or prevents them from becoming supramental is very different from what our ordinary moral notions imagine.”
Yes. Yes, indeed.
So what I wanted to ask you was: if it's not a matter of moral notions, then what capacity or quality DOES help us on the way towards the Supermind? What is this totally different criterion?
All this is exactly what I have been observing and studying these past few days. I will tell you about it next time.
I was particularly struck at the time.
And it has never left me. Ever since then I have kept that same vision of things. But I have to make it intelligible.
I'll see you on the 12th.
Or, the 12th I'll tell you – I will try to find a way to express it.
(Laughing) Do you have enough cheese, petit? Have you everything you need? You must take care of yourself!
1 The tantric guru.
2 Tapasya: yogic discipline.
3 For Sri Aurobindo and Mother, the “vital” represents the regions or centers of consciousness below the mind, between the throat and the sex center, i.e. the whole region of emotions, feelings, passions, etc., which constitute the various expressions of Life-Energy.
4 Up to March 1962, Mother came out every morning on the first floor balcony. The disciples were assembled on the street below.
5 Mother frequently addressed Satprem as “mon petit” or “petit,” terms of endearment she used for very few other people, which can be approximately rendered as “my little one” or “my child.” Since no English phrase can capture the nuances of Mother's simple “petit” and “mon petit,” we have decided to leave them in the original French wherever they occur.
6 Sri Aurobindo on Himself.
7 Sadhana: spiritual discipline.
8 The soul or portion of the Supreme in man which evolves from life to life until it becomes a fully conscious being. (Sri Aurobindo differentiated psychic and soul — “The Jivatma, spark-soul and psychic being are three different forms of the same reality and they must not be mixed up together” see here)
9 Sri Aurobindo on Himself.
10 Here is the text of Sri Aurobindo's letter: “There is a confusion here. The Mother's grace is one thing, the call to change another, the pressure of nearness to her is yet another. Those who are physically near to her are not so by any special grace or favour, but by the necessity of their work – that is what everybody here refuses to understand or believe, but it is the fact: that nearness acts automatically as a pressure, if for nothing else, to adapt their consciousness to hers which means change, but it is difficult for them because the difference between the two consciousnesses is enormous especially on the physical level and it is on the physical level that they are meeting her in the work.” (Centenary Edition, Vol. XXV, p. 297)
11 See Agenda I, p. 143.
12 Throughout the Agenda, words Mother spoke in English are italicized.
13 Conscience in French means both “conscience” and “consciousness.”
14 See experience of February 3, 1958: Agenda I, p. 137 ff.