Sri Aurobindo's - 'The Life Divine' - The Human Aspiration - Chapter I

Track Running The Human Aspiration - Track 011

This is the best introduction to the ‘Life Divine’. You will see what a breath– taking sweep it is; it is only 4–5 lines in fact. It is a difficult sentence, I will read very slowly. Next time when you come, if you bring the text, it will be very useful. “The earliest preoccupation of man in his awakened thought and, as it seems, his inevitable and ultimate preoccupation, ” for it survives the longest period of scepticism and returns after every banishment, ” is also the highest which its thought can envisage. It manifests itself in the divination of Godhead, the impulse towards perfection, the search after pure Truth and unmixed Bliss, the sense of a secret immortality. The ancient dawns of human knowledge have left us their witness to this constant aspiration; today we see a humanity is satiated but not satisfied by victorious analysis of the externalities of Nature preparing to return to its primeval longings. The earliest formula of Wisdom promises to be its last, ” God, Light, Freedom, Immortality”.

This is the 1st paragraph of the ‘Life Divine’ and it contains everything that is in the whole book. Let me make a few comments on the speciality of this paragraph, I don’t like to comment on what Sri Aurobindo has written, but this can be such a innocent comment, it can be pardoned. I just wanted to show you, what I find in this paragraph of very special importance. Let me read again, nowhere “The earliest preoccupation of man in his awakened thought....” this adjective ‘awakened thoughts’ is very important.

Sri Aurobindo here describes the history of mankind from the time, not the most primitive time, but when man began to become awakened, when he began to think at all. In other words, Sri Aurobindo wants to emphasis this history of thought. The human aspiration has expressed itself in the thought movement, so, Sri Aurobindo begins with the history of thought. This adjective ‘awakened thought’ is very significant. Then ‘as it seems’, this phrase, he could have said also ‘it will be’ that would be un–philosophical; he has not proved as yet, that ‘it will be also its inevitable preoccupation’. Since it is not proved intellectually you cannot you cannot make a statement, ‘and it will be’, ” No, ‘As it seems’. Why ‘seems’, because if you read the whole book then it will justify why it ‘seems’ here. So, purely from intellectual rigour this small phrase ‘as it seems’, there is no dogma in it, there is no assertion which is not supported as yet, which has not been examined. ‘….his inevitable and ultimate preoccupation’, that is Sri Aurobindo says, ‘The earliest preoccupation of man in his awakened thought and as it seems his inevitable and ultimate preoccupation’. This is his reading of the whole human history. But since he has not expounded the whole history, he doesn’t say ‘it will be’. That is the subject matter of the whole book, ” to show that what was aspired after by man in earliest times, when he began to think consciously and if you examine man throughout the history of mankind, a constant theme, if there is any one constant theme, in the human history and therefore ‘it seems’ that even in future, it is very likely that it will be his inevitable pre–occupation. But that it will be, cannot be affirmed at the very beginning because that is still to be brought out. So, Sri Aurobindo uses the word’ as it seems’. Let’s read the whole sentence and see the compactness of intellectual rigour in it.

“The earliest preoccupation of man in his awakened thoughts and as it seems his inevitable and ultimate pre–occupation…… is also the highest….” Here it is not ‘as it seems’, here he makes a statement that “The earliest preoccupation of man in his awakened thought and as it seems his inevitable and ultimate pre–occupation ” is also the highest which its thought can envisage.’ Why this, here he doesn’t say, ‘it seems’. Why in the first place he has written ‘as it seems’ and here he simply says, “….is also the highest which his thought can envisage.” What is the justification of this change? Why here he does not say, ‘that earliest preoccupation’ it ‘seems’ to, is also the highest which its thought can envisage.’ Why not?

The reason is that, if you examine the content of that aspiration then philosophically you can demonstrate that it is the highest that human thought can envisage, not seems. You can be demonstrate, that is also the task of the book, it will demonstrate that this preoccupation of man can demonstrably be shown to be really the highest that human thought can envisage. That is to say, if you examine the nature of thought and if you can examine the peaks that thought can rise to, have risen to all the peaks, then having risen to all the peaks you can be absolutely certain, no probability, you can be certain that that content of the preoccupation is the highest that human thought can envisage. That is to say that human thought has itself certain capacity of reaching the highest point. This is the speciality of thought or Pure Reason. This is the strongest point of a philosopher. A philosopher can say that even before the history is over, before that any time in the history of thought you can say what is the highest that thought can envisage.

What Plato says is the highest that human thought can envisage, is also what Deepti can say as a philosopher as to what is the highest that human thought can envisage. The conclusions will be identical, if both have reached the peak of thought and that can be reached at any given time of the human history. The moment you begin to think and think deeply and seriously, this is the possibility that is presented to the thought itself. Thought can rise to its highest peak and can be certain that it has reached the highest peak, it can find out that, now, it has the highest reach. If you reached the top of Everest, you can be sure that you have reached the highest peak. Similarly, when you reach the highest peak of thought you can be sure there is certainty in it. That is the meaning of logic of thought.

The thought and its highest peak; what is the relationship? In the human thought there are many thoughts, among them there are the peaks and you can reach the highest peaks. When you reach the highest peak you are certain that you have reached the highest peak. What you see in that you can be certain that what you are seeing, you can’t doubt it. Therefore, that gives you the strength of stating this small word ‘is’, not ‘seems’. You can say with confidence that, that ‘is’ the highest that human thought can envisage. At the very 1st point you have got the purely philosophical rigour. Where the certainty cannot be ascertained, cannot be affirmed, Sri Aurobindo uses the word ‘as it seems’, where certainty can be ascertained and asserted he uses the word ‘is’.

So, let me read again. “The earliest preoccupation of man in his awakened thought and, as it seems, his inevitable and ultimate preoccupation ...is also the highest which its thought can envisage.” There is a parenthesis, which I omitted a very important parenthesis and is that the justification of the word ‘seems’, ‘The earliest preoccupation of man’, and Sri Aurobindo says ‘it seems’ also his inevitable preoccupation. Then he gives reason, as to why he writes that there is some basis for the word ‘it seems’, ” for it survives the longest period of scepticism and returns after every banishment” ‘this preoccupation of man’, is of such a nature that even when you doubt it and doubt it on, and on, and on, and on ... longest periods of scepticism. Scepticism is an attitude of doubting. You go on doubting for a long period, hundred years, two–hundred years, and three– hundred years. You try to banish it, this preoccupation, you have nothing to do with it, but historically it’s a fact. Now you can controvert it, you can read history, does it happen or not but it’s a fact, it may be mankind is mad and returns to it again and again after banishment of this preoccupation, even after centuries of banishment. This is only a historically fact that man’s madness for that preoccupation is so great that even when you try to throw it away from your kingdom of mind, and exile it for centuries, you exile it, it comes back again, again man begins to think. Man’s search returns to this God, Light, Freedom, Immortality, this is the earliest preoccupation of man. You try to banish God, if you read history, how many times God has been banished by man and yet he returns. Man’s hunger for God returns and sometimes it returns with a tremendous hunger, greater than before. This is a historical fact, if you read the history of mankind. 

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