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

Track Running The Human Aspiration - Track 1001

You reminded me yesterday that I had forgotten one argument. We had counted five arguments: epistemological, dialectical, historical, quintessential metaphysical philosophical and causal. One argument was missing: analogical argument. This argument can be found in the fourth paragraph: "As there so here…" The phrase appears twice and each time presents the analogy – as there so here.

We come now to the last paragraph. I am taking so much time with the first chapter because if you are well grounded in it you become well grounded in the whole book, because this chapter is a kind of summary of the whole book. If you know the first chapter very well you can say to yourself that you know the basic arguments of the whole book.

"Thus the eternal paradox and eternal truth of a divine life in an animal body, an immortal aspiration or reality inhabiting a mortal tenement, a single and universal consciousness representing itself in limited minds and divided egos, a transcendent, indefinable, timeless and spaceless Being who alone renders time and space and cosmos possible, and in all these the higher truth realisable by the lower term, justify themselves to the deliberate reason as well as to the persistent instinct or intuition of mankind."

It is a long sentence and we have to find its main verb. The main verb of this whole sentence is: justify. Sri Aurobindo has made the full argument and he now concludes. Having employed all arguments the conclusion is that something is justified. Namely: mankind's aspiration for God, Light, Freedom, Immortality. This aspiration is justified rationally, intellectually. It is not merely a matter of faith; it is a matter which you can intellectually justify and prove to yourself that it would be irrational not to accept this aspiration. The aspiration is rational and the main point is: the lower term and the higher term – in fact the argument starts with a contradiction. What is low contradicts what is high. This is the basic contradiction.

Sri Aurobindo has proved that instead of remaining in a state of contradiction the lower is going to embody the higher. So there is basically no contradiction. If the lower can receive the higher it can be only if in the lower there is a possibility of absorbing the higher. And for absorbing you should have corresponding terms.

In the lower there is normally the experience of pain. In all lower life that we live there is pain. In the higher there is bliss. Now if pain and bliss are really contradictory to each other, then, the lower can never absorb the higher. But if pain itself is a limited ananda, a limited bliss, if pain is itself a form of bliss, not opposed to bliss, then you can convert this pain into bliss. This is the argument.

Pleasure for example is in a sense opposed to bliss. Just as pain is opposed to bliss, similarly, pleasure also is opposed to bliss. Because the pleasure that we have is a kind of an ephemeral, flimsy kind of sensation which lasts for a little while and goes away, and that pleasure has nothing comparable to bliss. Therefore pleasure is opposed to that bliss. But if pleasure also is only a limited bliss then that limited thing, when it expands, can become bliss. Thus what was seen to be contradictory is not really contradictory; it is simply a limited form of the higher. Therefore it is an eternal paradox – paradox because how can bliss become pain, how can bliss become pleasure, how can bliss become indifference? These are the only three experiences that we have: indifference, pleasure and pain.

How can these three which are seemingly the opposite of bliss, be turned into bliss? If they can be turn into bliss it is only because they are limited forms of it – when you limit ananda that limitation takes these three forms: pleasure, pain, indifference. There is a full chapter, chapter 12 in this book, where Sri Aurobindo will explain how ananda, the bliss, has become pleasure, pain and indifference by limitation. They are not contradictory of each other; they are only paradoxical of each other.

You see there is a difference between opposition and paradox. A paradox is where two opposites seem to be apparently opposed but not really. "I am hastening slowly", if I speak this sentence, it is a paradox. "Charming by ugly", there are experiences of ugliness but very charming. It is a paradox, but not really a paradox, because in ugliness also there is a charm. "I am tragically happy", it is a paradox, a tragedy occurs and you feel happy. Tragedy normally creates a lot of sorrow but there are experiences where you become tragically happy.

If you see the drama called Hamlet… The story as it unfolds before you begin on a dreadful night. Already the very first scene of Hamlet gives you a kind of atmosphere of dread. Everything is hushed. Not a mouse stirring, as he says in the very beginning. And then there appears the ghost of the father of Hamlet, who has just died, so the whole atmosphere is full of suspense, something weird, something strange, dreadful. In the dark a ghost appears and calls Hamlet alone, he wants to communicate a message. Hamlet is drawn towards the ghost and then the ghost reveals to Hamlet that he has been murdered – it is not an ordinary death –, and the murder has been committed by his own brother and his wife, a dreadful story. This is the starting point of the tragedy. Something horrible has happened and now there is the unfoldment of horrible events one after the other. And if you examine the play, it is a series of deaths which occur one after the other. Polonius is murdered, Ophelia dies, and then several others, and towards the end, the king is killed, Leartes the brother of Ophelia is murdered, the queen dies, and finally Hamlet goes. It is full of tragedy. When you see the end you feel comforted, the whole horrible thing has ended. You are tragically happy. There is a release as it were for Hamlet who was so tortured. There is an end in which you feel relief at the release of Hamlet from all kind of tortures. It is an experience of tragic happiness.

So whenever there is a real tragedy, from another point of view, there is an angle of looking where you find a release. It gives its own unique experience. So there is no exact opposition between tragedy and happiness. It is a paradox.

We use cookies in this webiste to support its technical features, analyze its performance and enhance your user experience. To find out more please read our privacy policy.