At the end of the chapter we were talking of the attempts on the part of many not to raise certain questions which are insoluble. Let us take only one question which has been declared insoluble. What is the place of man in the universe? This is one question which has been raised, but which has been declared to be insoluble logically, by logical thought. A number of rationalists, those who believe in logical thought and reason, have worked on this question. What is the place of man in the universe? What does it signify? What does it mean? Is he a worm like many worms in the world crawling upon the earth? Or is he something else? As I told you, while quoting Bertrand Russell ? I consider Bertrand Russell as one of the summits of human thought. There are many summits of human thought and Bertrand Russell represents one of them. If you want to climb a peak on a certain line and you reach the top, then on that line of thought he is the climax. There is another whose name is Bradley who is another climax, if you start from another point of view. There are many others such climaxes. In Indian philosophy we have Shankaracharya as one of the climaxes. On one line of development of thought he reached the climax. In fact there are two denials which are very powerful, two ways by which you can deny, and quite forcefully deny, the possibility of climbing to the Divine life.
I don't know if you have read a short play by The Mother which is called The Ascent to the Truth? A few aspirants, those who want to climb, meet and decide to climb. And then all, excepting the last two, stop at different stages. They feel they reach a climax, then they stop. Each of them represents a denial. "Oh! Now we have reached the climax, nothing further! No more!" Like the philanthropist who is one of the first to drop out. You know a philanthropist is one who wants to give, who wants to help, who wants to give money, who wants to give charity. He is the first one to drop out from the climbing. His aim is to remove poverty but he finds that if poverty is removed, what then will be his business be afterwards. Because his own life is nothing but giving, giving for removing poverty, his life depends upon the perpetuity of poverty. Only if poverty remains, has he a business in the world. He can give only so long as people need him, need his help, but if they don't need his help he has no business, there is no work left. Mother has very humorously drawn his character, a philanthropist who drops out in the very first stage of climbing. And there are several others, an artist and lovers and aspirants of various kind. It is a very interesting drama. It explains what Sri Aurobindo says here, attempts have been made to close the questions, not to raise those questions because they have been found to be insoluble, and to limit our efforts to the immediate problems. There is a very nice article by Jawaharhal Nehru Philosophy of Life is the title. In his article he says: "Is the world real? Is the world an illusion? Has it any purpose? What is the significance of man in the universe? These questions are very interesting but I don't have the time to deal with them." Why? Because immediate problems are very pressing. So he says: "I will not deal with those questions it will take too long a time. I want to attend only to immediate problems." This is also one attitude. One way of closing those questions, is not to raise those questions.
So there are many ways by which people have tried to close down those questions. But as Sri Aurobindo points out, such evasions are never permanent. Mankind returns to those questions again and again and with a greater force to find immediate solutions. As a result mysticism profits, and new religions arise, the old religions are replaced by new religions.
Why have these questions been declared insoluble? They have been declared insoluble because we rely only upon our present instruments of thought. And we refuse to believe that there are other means of knowledge. We think that reason is the only means by which knowledge can be attained.
At one time I had told you to read Chapter 8 of The Life Divine ? Methods of Vedantic Knowledge. We shall come to it too, but in that chapter Sri Aurobindo describes other means of knowledge. Means of knowledge which go beyond rational thought. These means of knowledge are all present in us. Every one of us has some kind of an element of these other means of knowledge. We use them from time to time without knowing we are using them. But we use them in a very poor fashion, in a very unorganised manner, in a sporadic manner. We use them, then we give them up, find other means, give them up too, go to other means. In a very sporadic manner we take up these new instruments of knowledge. And that is why rationalists do not get attracted to these means of knowledge. If you were able to use these means of knowledge in a systematic manner, in their fullness, then of course those who really want to enquire, those who are really seeking for knowledge they would accept it. But those who claim to have new means of knowledge, higher means of knowledge, are themselves crude, they are rough, they have not developed all these powers in their completeness. Unlike Sri Aurobindo who had developed all the powers in their perfection, like the flower of Supramental action. You have seen this flower. It is a round flower with various kind of needles, needles of action coming out from all over, all–comprehensive. If there are some who have organised these powers in their fullness then of course it would be a different thing. But at present, this is not sufficiently known and those who are claiming on loud speakers have themselves not developed these powers. So they become suspect, they are doubted, and quite legitimately. Sri Aurobindo says: "Do not get discouraged merely by the claims of those who have not develop these powers of knowledge. The powers are like northern lights."
You know – northern lights, is an analogical argument Sri Aurobindo gives. If you go to the North Pole you find radiations of light sometimes suddenly coming. From time to time. You don't even know why they are coming out or from where they are coming. It takes time for us to see that behind these lights is a huge store of light ? the sun itself. It is from the sun–spots that there are radiations and sudden flashings of light. Similarly, when you go to the north of your own brain, north of your own regions of thought, to the highest tops, suddenly you find flashings of light coming out. This is an experience of many of us, even ordinarily. We are touched sometimes by those flashes of light, but we have not gone deeper to find out from where these flashes are coming. If we can do so we shall find the source of that light, the Supramental Knowledge, the Sun of Supramental Light where everything is Chidgana. The consciousness is solid, perfect. So just as in the physical world, as you rise towards the northern skies you find flashes of light indicative that beyond these flashes is the real source of light, perfect source of light, similarly, when you rise in your consciousness and find there are flashes of light you should go inwards and see, at the highest levels, the Supramental Light.
You will observe that to read The Life Divine is an interdisciplinary adventure. You need to study so many subjects at the same time. You will not be able to understand this word used in the analogical argument referring to northern lights without a knowledge of astronomy.
In every analogical argument we have to find two words: as there so here. Northern lights are compared with the higher light of illuminated intuition which is obstructed and therefore which manifests only from time to time. The northern lights are the sunlight which is obstructed, and therefore gets manifested only from time to time. Sri Aurobindo's argument is that even as it is a fact that we are able to display light from time to time, like flashes, it is a proof that there is a higher light which can burst out unobstructed at sometime. Therefore we need not fear to aspire. It is a very interesting analogy.
On one side you have the sun, on the other there is the Supramental Light. There it is the physical sun; here it is the Supramental consciousness, psychological light. So there, physical light here psychological light. This psychological light bursts out from time to time as flashes, occasional flashes, it is similar to the occasional lights which are seen on the North Pole or South Pole. Occasional displays. So our flashes, our temporary or sporadic flashes are compared to the northern lights and just as northern lights prove that they are sources of that light in the sun itself where there is plenary movement of light, constant movement of light, not sporadic. Our sporadic lights point to a source of light which is plenary, which is constant. Similarly the flashes of light, which we get from time to time, proves or point to a light, the Supramental Light, which is plenary, constant.
Sri Aurobindo wants to show that there is a Supreme Light which is constant, which is plenary. This is what he wants to prove by this analogical argument. How does he prove it? He points out that this light is not visible to us normally. What is visible to us is only sporadic bursts of light, but these sporadic bursts of light point to a source of light which is plenary. These sporadic lights which are called Northern lights prove the existence of the source of light which is plenary: the sunlight. So sunlight is compared to Supramental Light, just as sunlight is full light and plenary light, Supramental Light is also plenary light, constant light. These northern lights are compared to sporadic lights which happen to our consciousness, flashes of intuitions, expression of inspirations, revelations. But they are sporadic not constant. That which is constant is the sunlight on one side and the Supramental Light on the other side. The two are comparable. On lower level northern lights are comparable to our sporadic intuitions, revelations, and inspirations. So just as northern lights prove the existence of the sunlight, similarly our temporary, sporadic manifestations of intuitions prove that there are sources of these intuitions, revelations, inspirations in a superior source: the Supramental Light.