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

Track Running The Human Aspiration - Track 101

I was very pleased last time when we had a dialogue on what is science, what is philosophy, what is religion, what is yoga. Everyone has a copy of the results our dialogue. Then I had asked that every one read the first chapter of 'The Life Divine'. I want to concentrate on that chapter today. You have a good but not sufficient background for this chapter. Therefore, we need to go a little farther.

"The earliest preoccupation of man in his awakened thoughts and, as it seems, his inevitable and ultimate preoccupation, – for it survives the longest periods of scepticism and returns after every banishment, – is also the highest which his 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 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."

The first paragraph of The Life Divine is a summary of the whole book. So if you just understand the first paragraph, you have the key to the whole book. And, that is why I always take a long time to expound the first paragraph of the first chapter. Basically, it consists only of three sentences. From the point of view of English, it is a rather difficult sentence because it contains one parenthesis. And every sentence that contains a parenthesis is somewhat difficult to understand because you have to connect the main clause with the subordinate clause minusing the parenthesis and yet taking advantage of the parenthesis. But the first paragraph is a summary of the whole, the entire history of the world. And it opens out to the future as well. It is something which Mother has asked us to do in the third article of the Auroville's charter. I don't know if you remember the third article of the Charter of Auroville.

"Auroville wants to be the bridge between the past and the future. Taking advantage of all discoveries from without and from within, Auroville will boldly spring towards future realizations."

This is exactly the idea of the first paragraph. All that mankind has done in the past, even what mankind is doing today and therefore what can be foreseen so that we can spring towards the future is given in the first paragraph. Now let us see. "Its earliest preoccupation..." So it starts with the past right from the time when man began to think consciously; because it says "in his awakened thoughts". This is a very important qualification. When man began to think consciously, that thought reflected a preoccupation. That preoccupation, says Sri Aurobindo, – now you need to concentrate on the parenthesis, what does it say? "For it survives the longest period of scepticism and returns after every banishment". This preoccupation survives the longest periods of scepticism. Now the word, scepticism is a philosophical term for an attitude, for a theory, for a principle which raises doubts regarding every belief, every proposition, or every claim of truth. The history of the world can be seen as punctuated by periods of doubts. As is the present period. For the last two hundred years, mankind has been passing through a great period of scepticism, a great period of doubt. This is only the most recent one, but there have been many other periods of scepticism in the history of mankind.

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