So the first paragraph does not give you any conclusive proposition because it is a historical argument. Historical argument only gives you probabilities. But there is in this very paragraph one ontological argument, which is conclusive. Ontological argument is always conclusive and that argument is also present, although very slightly given but it is very important, and for philosophy it is very important. You see here one statement, a very short statement, ‘…is also the highest that thought can envisage’ this phrase is very important. ‘…is also the highest which thought can envisage’ that which thought can envisage is not historical. Whether in the past, or the present or the future – thought is thought. Whatever it can think at the highest is always the highest, whether it was thought at that time, or today or tomorrow. The nature of water will remain what water is always, liquid flow. Therefore if you make a statement as to what thought can think highest, is conclusive. What highest about the thought, you take what is thought, it is a fact of thought, what is the nature of thought, and if you analyse the nature of thought as a fact, you find that the nature of thought is definable in terms of an ontological argument. In the history of thought, ontological argument is quite well known to philosophers. What is an ontological argument?
Ontology means Reality, that is the meaning of ontology, study of ultimate Reality is ontology. Now ontological argument is the argument of thought regarding ultimate Reality, an argument which is conclusive. So the argument of the nature of thought, starting from the nature of thought, regarding ultimate Reality which is unquestionable is ontological argument. The ontological argument simply states very easily only this much: ‘thought cannot but think of Reality as spaceless and timeless.’ This is all that the argument says. Thought ‘cannot but’ this is the important point, thought cannot but think of ultimate Reality as spaceless and timeless – this is all that ontological argument. In the history of Western philosophy one of the first persons to formulate it was Parmenides; Parmenides in the Greek thought, he formulated this argument, which is present in Plato and which became revived in Enselm, another great philosopher and became refined in Descartes, Spinoza, Leibniz. It is even today being questioned. The argument is so powerful that even if people try to doubt it and many people think that they have doubted now successfully and yet there are people who say ‘not at all this argument is irrefutable’, you cannot question it. You come right up to Sri Aurobindo and he asserts the ontological argument and that is stated in this very first paragraph, ‘is also the highest that thought can envisage’. What is the highest that you can think of? God – spaceless and timeless Reality and is also the highest aspiration of man. The highest preoccupation of man is also the highest that his thought can envisage, this is the identity of the two. Man is aspiring for God, is also something that is rationally the most justifying thing, this aspiration of man for God is not irrational, it’s the highest that thought can envisage.
Now Sri Aurobindo’s crystallisation that if you read the whole history of mankind, the one fact which emerges is that there is an aspiration for God, Light, Freedom and Immortality. And it is that aspiration which is philosophically, ontologically from the highest point of view of thought, is fully justified. This is the starting point of the very write up. You know when you go to a temple, you have a big bell and massive bell, and you have first striking of a dong and if you make a big dong all the vibrations, the reverberations that come out go on, and on, and on. You have entire movement of the temple all through your journey; similarly this paragraph is a dong, of a big bell in the temple of God. This argument that the whole aspiration of man which you can’t rub out at all, whatever you may do, it comes again and again after every banishment, is the aspiration for God. And it is that aspiration which is fully certified by ontological argument, which cannot be questioned by thought at least, rationally which can’t be questioned, you can question on many other grounds but rationally you can never question.
So you might say that the very first paragraph of The Life Divine gives before us in a massive manner the quintessence of the aspiration of man for whole history, massive history of mankind is summarised in three–four terms God, Light, Freedom, Immortality. And it says that rationally speaking, and this rationally thinking is not only what Sri Aurobindo states here it’s the whole history of thought. If you examine from Parmenides to the present day, if there is one important argument is ontological argument. You may agree with it, you may not agree with it, it does not matter, but nobody can historically deny the fact that the one greatest philosophical argument that history has manifested in regard to philosophy is the ontological argument. And according to that argument at least God is the highest that can be envisaged, unquestionably. …………
This is the basic statement in the very first paragraph; now you can read again. And you will find the statement much more meaningful than what we had started with. It states –
“The earliest preoccupation of man in his awakened thoughts and, as it seems, (I have told you to mark the word – seems, a historical argument is not conclusive argument – as it seems) his inevitable and ultimate preoccupation, (then he says why does it seem to be so, because he gives an example) – for it survives the longest periods of scepticism and returns after every banishment, (because of this reason, this is the argument. Therefore it seems is ultimate, but then comes the word ‘is’ not seems, but is) – is also the highest which his thought can envisage.” It’s an ontological argument. So this very statement contains two arguments, a historical argument and an ontological argument.
As I said a philosophical statement should be relating of one fact with the other fact by a process of reasoning and this form of reasoning can be varied. One of them is the historical argument another is ontological argument. There are many others which we shall come to later on but at least in this paragraph you can see clearly the linking of facts by means of historical argument and by means of ontological argument.
Now the rest of the paragraph is simply a refinement, a further explication of that aspiration. What is that aspiration? What is it that was earliest, what is it that ultimately remained, what is it that survives after every banishment? This is what Sri Aurobindo now clarifies. It manifests (that aspiration) manifests itself in the divination of Godhead, (divination of Godhead, that is to say there is deep conjecture, divination is a conjecture of a special kind, when you divine a thing, it’s an English word which actually is both a conjecture and a conjecture which says what it conjectures. When I say I divine a thing it is to say I divine God, I conjecture God, divine must be conjectured. Human being without knowing at all, there is one conjecture of man without knowing, whenever he blindly turns around and he feels that God is there around, it’s a divination of Godhead. It is like a child, who knows there is a breast which can feed it. It is divination of the child, he cannot but… he conjectures, he doesn’t know, it conjectures, it’s a divination. There is a source of nourishment of the child. Man also is a child and he needs nourishment, all of us need nourishment. We are all as it were on the earth in search of nourishment and whether we like it or not, believe it or not, we are sure there is nourishment, there is God all around us; it’s a divination of Godhead. So, this aspiration of man because there is this divination, he wants it and he aspires for it and he wants to embrace it, and he wants to be nourished by it. So it’s a divination of godhead, the impulse towards perfection. This is another line, all humans striving, it’s a striving for perfection, human striving is never satisfied, you do whatever you like. After airplane what more do you want to have in this world still further, travel, travel to moon, to Jupiter, to Saturn, even that may not be satisfying, to go into galaxies after galaxies even that may not satisfy. We do not even know what more man will strive at. But this is what… there is an impulse towards perfection, the search after pure truth. In the very grain of thought this is inherent, to eliminate error and to affirm truth in very grain of thought.
All thought movement is nothing but to eliminate error and to establish the truth, it’s a constant effort of man. All progression is a progression towards a truth by elimination of error. So this search after pure truth and unmixed bliss, of course people today know very well that happiness is the ultimate justification of life but this word unmixed Bliss is very important, not happiness only but unmixed Bliss. In fact that is all that a human being ultimately wants. One thing that will satisfy, nothing more, you will have nothing more if that unmixed Bliss is obtained. Mere happiness is ephemeral, disappears after some time and therefore even that is not satisfying ultimate goal.
What he seeks after is unmixed Bliss. The sense of a secret immortality, ‘I am immortal’. There is a very beautiful sentence of Danton. You know Danton was the greatest leader of French Revolution. He was the great soul of the French Revolution, who raised the masses of people to liberate France from the tyranny of monarchy. In the turn of the revolution as he says “Revolution tends to devour its own children.” So Danton was also accused of treason. This very man who was the leader of revolution, Robespierre comes to accuse him, his own master, his own inspirer and circumstances of history were such that he was required to put Danton in the prison in the court of law and he was charged that he has committed treason, acted against the highest interest of the nation. It is he who liberated France but such was the irony of history, he was put before the court and it was known that if it is proved that he had committed treason, the only punishment was guillotine, to kill him, death was the only punishment. So one of the arguments that Danton, when he is asked to defend himself, he says that you strive that I should be guillotined but you don’t know that ‘Je suis immortel’, you don’t know ‘I am immortal’. You see the cry of the individual, the real aspiration of man. You try to destroy me, I am indestructible, ‘Je suis immortel’, ‘I am immortal’. And this secret sense of immortality is vibrating in all of us. Whether you like it or not, you want to affirm it or not, you want to question it, doesn’t matter, your aspiration, you, you being you, you cannot but seek immortality.