Debashish: Looking forward to our second session with you. So just to recap briefly last time we were together you introduced the theme of the impasse of modernity. And he introduced it by referring to it by a passage from The Life Divine, last chapter The Divine Life, which I have circulated to all the participants so that they could look at it and reflect on it. In this passage Sri Aurobindo gives a sweeping overview of the history of civilisation from the early stage in Hellenic civilisation right up to the modern turn of Reason in which we find ourselves and he ends that passage with the present prognosis which is that of a new kind of barbarism in which we find ourselves, finally raising the spectre of the possibility of a evolutionary failure.
Kireet Ji dealt with this passage at length last time and he also introduced the idea that it in the words of the Mother and Sri Aurobindo that has averted in his belief this evolutionary failure that is been referred to but that does not mean that there is any lack of danger and difficulty in our present time is not a time, first to rejoice as the Mother said. With those words I will pass it on to Kireet Ji to continue his exploration and for us to share with him.
Prof. Kireet Joshi: Thank you Debashish, you have done marvellously well in summarising what I was saying last time. I shall continue the theme and I want to suggest that we try to make to ourselves more precise what exactly is the impasse? What that impasse means to our human effort and how we can be benefitted, the whole humanity can be benefitted for its upward evolution by the tremendous work that has been accomplished by Sri Aurobindo and the Mother. I shall first of all make only a short statement by pointing out that three factors have joined together to produce the present impasse. One is the tremendous development of science and technology with the resultant development of huge structures of organisation, this has happened. And the multiplication of this hugeness is still in view and we shall come back to this point very shortly. The second is that Reason of which science is a product, which has developed so far finds itself to move forward. If the Reason were able to race properly the situation would have been different. But Reason is unable to move fast enough – what this means we shall try to become more precise, very shortly. And third is the emergence of the overwhelming preference for the realisation of the economic aim of life. It is these three factors coming together that have caused the jam and as I said last time although this jam has been broken by Herculean …. These three factors have come together and as I said Sri Aurobindo and the Mother have worked out a solution and one of the aims of this exploration is to understand this tremendous work that Sri Aurobindo and the Mother have accomplished. But at the moment I am still dwelling upon this impasse so that we understand quite well, particularly because although the work as I said the work that Sri Aurobindo and the Mother have accomplished is done, the future is still full of perils and we are passing through a perilous time and if we do not understand the impasse which still continues to press upon all of us even though at the end of the tunnel, the blockade has been broken but still we are passing through the tunnel and we also need to cross many hurdles and many perils. So it is inevitable that we must understand, what is this impasse, which has been broken and yet it is still strangulating all of us and we all are struggling to come out of it. We also need to resolve in our own way. And that is why we need to understand these exact factors which are in the loop you might say of the impasse.
Now the hugeness of the structures does not require a long argument, it is right before us even the machine that we are using today as a result of which we are able to converse with each other inspite of long distances is one of the examples of this hugeness of the structures that it is organised. In this connection I will refer to one very interesting book that I have come across just a few days ago, and I thought I will bring it to your notice and read out to you a few portions of this book – it is called The Singularity is Near, this is the title. The Singularity is Near, it is written by Ray Kursweil, he is one of the foremost futurists of our times and when you read a little bio-data of this great futurist, the whole bio- data reads like an amazing achievement for a human being to have achieved. In fact Bill Gates has spoken of him in glowing terms and there are many others who have acknowledged the merits of this great book, it has been published in 2005 and I am sure in America it must be more easily available, a good friend of mine has just recently sent me a copy of it and I happened to read a few pages but even these few pages that I have read are very stimulating and I thought it would be a good idea to share with you, one or two important ideas which have been worked upon in this book.
First of all the sub-title of the book is When Humans Transcend Biology. And it is a very significant statement because biology at present concerns the physiology and biological functions of our body and of which life and death are very important phases and transcending biology would mean transcending many limitations that our biological existence is confronted with, the circulation of blood for example, the dependence upon breathing, dependence upon food and the necessity of death and these are very important concepts which are relevant also for the theme that we are going to discuss at length in due course of time. He speaks of six epochs right from the time that evolution started and he believes that we are now in the sixth epoch and this epoch is what he calls – Let us wake up, the world wakes up. Even this title is also very interesting and he points out that this epoch will achieve by reorganising matter and energy to provide an optimal level of computation to spread out from its origin on earth. This book abounds with facts and figures and diagrams and graphs and they are all very interesting and when you find time and if you find time, and you feel inclined you may like to have a look at this book. And maybe that sometime Debashish may also like to speak on this subject because this is also a part of his own speciality. So I will leave at this moment this particular book, I just wanted to share with you that this book points out the possibilities of tremendous development of the hugeness of the structures that are being built up in our own times. Actually he believes that a time is not very, very far off when human brain can produce a machine which will be super brain and that super brain on the contrary effects our biological development. It is a kind of a statement illustrating Mcluhan statement who said that ‘We make tools and then tolls make us’. But I am not going to discuss this book, nor his thesis.
This is the first point that I would like to make that there is a hugeness of structure and I would like to underline it. The question is how are we going to deal with this structure? How are we going even to deal with the increasing development of the hugeness of the structure? And as I said it would have been much better and much easier if the highest instrument of human consciousness namely Reason were able to aid in our task and that is not happening. And apart from this important instrument which you call Reason there is another factor in human consciousness to which we must pay due attention. And many writers who speak of the future they do not take into account this important factor on which Sri Aurobindo has dwelt at length and that is the factor of the ego of the man.
What is ego, what is the role that ego plays in the development of evolution? As Sri Aurobindo says at one time, ego is the helper and ego is the bar; and we all know ego has been a helper, all psychologists agree with the statement. But we do not realise that one of the most important factors that is blocking the way to a future development and the way by which our dangers can be minimised is to lead our own development to such a point where ego reaches a vanishing point. I do not know if you have remarked at one time in The Life Divine, Sri Aurobindo has, this is in volume no. 18 and this is in chapter no. 2, The Two Negations: The Materialist Denial, where also Sri Aurobindo speaks of the development of hugeness of structures of organisation. And what he has said there is extremely significant and we must remember Sri Aurobindo wrote this in 1914-1915 and at that time how he had perceived the development of the immediate future and how prophetic these words are and let me read out to you this particular passage from The Life Divine, this is on page no. 15 in the 1971 edition that is centenary edition. Sri Aurobindo says: “As the outposts of scientific Knowledge come more and more to be set on the borders that divide the material from the immaterial, so also the highest achievements of practical Science are those which tend to simplify and reduce to the vanishing-point the machinery by which the greatest effects are produced. Wireless telegraphy is Nature’s exterior sign and pretext for a new orientation. The sensible physical means for the intermediate transmission of the physical force is removed; it is only preserved at the points of impulsion and reception. Eventually even these must disappear; for when the laws and forces of the supraphysical are studied with the right starting-point, the means will infallibly be found for Mind directly to seize on the physical energy and speed it accurately upon its errand. There, once we bring ourselves to recognise it, lie the gates that open upon the enormous vistas of the future.”