Sri Aurobindo's - 'The Life Divine' - The Human Aspiration - Chapter I (Super School Auroville) - Session ix (24 August 2000)

The first chapter of The Life Divine that we are studying is like a stethoscope. You know what a stethoscope is? Every doctor carries a stethoscope. It examines the rate of respiration. Sri Aurobindo is like a doctor and he wants to examine the rate of respiration of humanity. And the first chapter is like a stethoscope. So it is called The Human Aspiration. Aspiration is the breath, is breathing. Sri Aurobindo asks what kind of breathing humanity is having? When he examines its breath he finds there is constant breathing but from time to time humanity falls sick and the breathing is no longer very sound, it is not very regular. If on the whole you want to see what is the breathing, this aspiration of mankind, it simply breathes God, Light, Freedom, Immortality. When it falls sick it becomes sceptical. Scepticism is the malady. From time to time it wanders and wanders, wanders away from its normal breathing.

Scepticism is the sign of sickness. The mood to doubt is called scepticism. To be sceptical means to have the mood to doubt. When mankind is sound in health there is no doubt in the mind. Humanity breathes quite well and breathes with God, Light, Freedom, Immortality. If you leave mankind in its normal condition when it is really breathing quite nicely, the only breath that you have is God, Light, Freedom, Immortality.

If you see human history it is very interesting. The whole human history is like the breathing of humanity. What is mankind doing all the time, what is its breathing? If you took a telescope and put your telescope on humanity's history, thousands of years, the only breath you find is God, Light, Freedom, Immortality. You take your telescope to Ancient Egypt, and you find the Pyramids coming up—it is also a breath, the breathing of Egypt, it is a huge structure reaching out to God, Light, Freedom, Immortality. If you go to the Sumerian Civilization, the Assyrian Civilization it is the same thing. If you go to the early times of Abraham, Moses you find the same things: God's commandments, the Ten Commandments of God. It is also breathing with God, Light, Freedom and Immortality. You go to Greece, the same thing. You hear Socrates, you hear Plato, what are they doing, what are they calling out? Again God, Light, Freedom and Immortality.

In due course we shall study Socrates and Plato particularly, and we shall hear them also on God, Light, Freedom and Immortality. Socrates, when he was taking the poison hemlock which he was given by the Athenians because he was misunderstood and he was told that he was corrupting the youth. Young people are always beloved and all want to protect youth so people said: "You are corrupting the youth therefore you take poison and die." That was the punishment given to him. But even at death, what did he say? "I am immortal." That is his message. "Maybe I am more fortunate than you are!" He said: "I am going to live with immortal people." And if you read Plato what does he say? He says: "We are all bound in a small cave. Suppose that there is a cave in which there are a lot of pillars and each one of us is tied to a pillar. Imagine that mankind is nothing but prisoners tied to small pillars, who can look only in one direction and who cannot look back. And there is sunlight behind, and in between you and the sunlight, a big crowd of people. And what do you see on the wall: only shadows." Plato says: "We are all seeing only shadows here, imprisoned in a cave, not able to turn this way or that way, looking only in one direction." But we are aspiring for what? One of the prisoners gets out of his imprisonment, turns backward and sees "My Lord—the glory of the sun" on the other side. He goes out of the cave and discovers the beautiful origin of all light and he calls out and says to everybody: "Listen, listen, here is the origin of everything. Turn backward and see Light." It is finally the same message God, Light, Freedom and Immortality.

You go to Rome you will find the same story again and again. Go to India. My Lord! India is a cathedral, a huge cathedral. And the only thing that counts is: God, Light, Freedom and Immortality. All the time there is one mantra in India.

Sri Aurobindo says, if you look at the breath of mankind with a stethoscope, the only breath you find is God, Light, Freedom, Immortality. But sometimes humanity falls sick. It is overcome by scepticism. I doubt it. Is there really God; is there really Light; is there really Freedom; is there really Immortality? This is doubt. And Sri Aurobindo says that if you examine the longest period of scepticism, the longest period of doubt, at the end, once again the sickness goes away, mankind becomes healthy and again there pulsates God, Light, Freedom, Immortality. This is the constant refrain of human history.

This is the first paragraph of The Life Divine. One summary. Look at the whole history of mankind, summarize the whole history of mankind and these are the only four words that come out: God, Light, Freedom and Immortality. I think this is the new thing that we learnt the summarizing of the whole history of mankind in one paragraph.

Now the second thing we learned was the basis of the illness of mankind: the scepticism. From where does the scepticism come? It comes from contradiction. There is a sense of contradiction in this world. It is this contradiction which comes like a challenge. In the presence of contradiction you cannot rest. As long as a contradiction remains you remain dissatisfied, restless. You want to overcome the contradiction. But you must know what is this contradiction. So Sri Aurobindo defines for us what this contradiction is. The contradiction is the existence of Matter. This existence of Matter which seems to be insensible, unconscious, insentient, which does not feel anything, which has no light in it, no intelligence in it. This is the basic fact of life. Wherever we turn there is insensitivity. And yet we talk of God, Light, Freedom, Immortality. This is the contradiction.

In the world of Matter, wherever you face Matter you face this kind of contradiction. And yet you are breathing for God. This contradiction is the main study of philosophy. If anybody asks you "What is philosophy?" In a word philosophy is dealing with the contradiction. If this contradiction did not exist there would be no need for philosophy at all. There are many contradictions in the world but this is the one big contradiction; the biggest contradiction is the existence of Matter and the breathing for Light, God, Freedom and Immortality. Because of this contradiction mankind is moving from one pole towards the other pole. He swings. Is this right or is that right? Towards which shall we move? What shall we embrace so that we feel completely fulfilled? We want to be fulfilled—this is the basic fact. We want harmony. That is why Sri Aurobindo says: "All problems of existence are essentially problems of harmony." Because of the contradiction we feel that there should be harmonization. And thus we begin to understand the details of the world better. The whole world is nothing but a song of harmony. It is a music of harmony. Matter and Life are opposed to each other and yet it is in Matter that Life is to manifest. There is nothing in the world which is alive, which is not in the casing of Matter. All life in the world is in a capsule which consists of Matter and yet both are opposed to each other. And both are harmonized, not fully but sufficiently. Life and Mind are opposed to each other and they are also trying to live together. There is no human thought which is not vibrating in Life. All mental thinking presupposes breathing. One who does not breathe cannot think. Such is the condition in this world. If you don't breathe you cannot think. All thinking implies breathing. Some kind of breathing should be before you can think. So there is a harmonization of Life and the Mind. Therefore we can look for greater harmony. The imperfections of Matter and Life, imperfections of Life and Mind, can be completely bridged; and that is Supramental existence. The Supermind in Matter is the ideal towards which we are moving. There will be a total, complete harmony. Then the promise will be fulfilled; there will be no problem because harmony will be achieved.

So we learnt first of all, the real breath of human history. Secondly we learnt what is the contradiction in this world which gives rise to philosophy. Then we found out where exactly is this contradiction and how the contradiction is constantly striving to arrive at harmony. And then we found out the fourth thing; that there is a deeper law in this world of evolution. The whole world is in a process of evolution. It is a new fact which we discovered. The entire fourth paragraph of the first chapter of The Life Divine is devoted to evolution. And Sri Aurobindo, very briefly, gives us—Life in Matter, Mind in Life and Supermind in Mind—the four terms of evolution. This is what we have done so far. All right?

Every statement is a new statement for us. We did not know the whole history of mankind, and in one little paragraph Sri Aurobindo gave us the whole history of mankind. He gave a stethoscope by which we could measure the respiration of mankind. Thus we discovered the contradiction, we then found the urge for harmonization, next we learned of evolution. So we learned four words. Aspiration for God, Light, Freedom and Immortality. The big contradiction, the big movement of harmony and the big movement of evolution. Four terms we learned. But we learned something much more also, we learned the art of philosophy.

As I told you, the first art of philosophizing arises from the fact of contradiction. There is no philosophizing if there is not a fact of contradiction. If you are not confronted with contradiction there is no movement of philosophizing. A contradiction is a challenge which asks you to harmonize. All philosophy is nothing but an attempt to harmonize a contradiction. That is philosophy. Open any book of philosophy; it is nothing but a presentation of some contradictions and philosophers trying to harmonize. So you now know what philosophy is basically. It is the presentation of contradiction and the attempt to harmonize by which contradiction can be resolved.

You did something more. You learned different forms of philosophical argument. First you learned the epistemological argument, then you learned the dialectical argument, the historical argument, the quintessential metaphysical argument, finally the causal argument.

What is the epistemological argument? All arguments in philosophy start with facts. Where there are no facts there are no philosophical arguments. All the arguments start with certain facts. Epistemological arguments start with a fact of the nature of thought. From the nature of thought you derive a conclusion; that is an epistemological argument. You make a statement that all thought is of this nature. That is the first statement. In any epistemological argument the first statement would be that the nature of thought is such and such and because of that reason the conclusion is this. That is the nature of epistemological argument. All argumentation is derivation, you imply, you bring out what is inside the fact. You fathom the depth of the nature of thought and you derive a conclusion—you bring the jewel out of the ocean of thought and put it forward. That is the epistemological argument.

"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." This sentence is an epistemological argument. It tells you what is the highest that thought can envisage. It gives you the argument of the nature of thought. And the argument is conclusive: is, there is no ‘it seems’, ‘probable’, no such words at all. It is a complete argument; it is a complete conclusion. "The earliest preoccupation of man in his awakened thoughts … is also the highest which his thought can envisage." This argument is an epistemological argument. If you examine the nature of thought then you find it is equivalent to "the earliest preoccupation of man in his awakened thoughts". There is no escape from it. If you really go to the highest thought only one thing will come: God, Light, Freedom, Immortality. It is the earliest preoccupation of men and also the highest and it returns again and again in mankind. You climb the highest level of thought and having reached, you look up, inevitably you will see God, Light, Freedom and Immortality. This statement is an epistemological statement.

What is the historical argument?

"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." Sri Aurobindo says that if you look at history you go first to the earliest records of mankind. Then you look at today. You see the earliest past and you see today. From there you now derive conclusions for the future. Historical argument tells you what was in the past, what is the present and then you derive a conclusion for the future. That is the historical argument. Very simple!

There is a difference between epistemological arguments and historical arguments. Historical arguments are never conclusive. Whenever you make a historical argument, the future may seem to be probable, may show a big probability. Historical argument gives you a sense of the highest possible probability. It never gives you complete conclusiveness. You may say that it is the weakness of the historical argument but it is also its strength because it can never be dogmatic. It always keeps you open; open to the future.

"The earliest formula of Wisdom". He does not say it is also the formula of the future. See the language that Sri Aurobindo uses. "The earliest formula of Wisdom" what is the word that Sri Aurobindo uses? Promises! The word promises is not conclusive. He does not say will be or shall be. But it is only promises, which gives you the highest probability. It promises that the future will be the same formula.

Whereas in epistemological argument he does not say — promises. Such an argument always gives you a categorical statement, it affirms without doubt. It is doubtless. It is. "The earliest preoccupation of man … is also …" He does not say seems. The epistemological argument is based upon the nature of thought. Whenever there is something based upon the nature of thought the conclusion is always categorical. If you are really a good historian, you may forecast, which is good, but you cannot say shall, or wil,,l or is, you will say it seems, probably, promises, most likely to happen. That is the nature of historical argument.

What is a dialectical argument? The second paragraph contains a dialectical argument. We have defined the epistemological argument as an argument which states the nature of thought and derives a conclusion from it. The historical argument states the past, the present and derives a conclusion about the future. Similarly dialectical argument states a fact but a fact of contradiction. And having stated a contradiction it derives a conclusion. A contradiction means there is a thesis and there is an antithesis. And having seen the thesis and the antithesis, and the contradiction between the two you derive a conclusion, which is a synthesis. So the nature of dialectical argument is presentation of thesis, antithesis and derivation of synthesis.

If you read the second paragraph what does it say? "These persistent ideals of the race are at once the contradiction of its normal experience and the affirmation of higher and deeper experiences which are abnormal to humanity and only to be attained, in their organised entirety, by a revolutionary individual effort or an evolutionary general progression." So Sri Aurobindo states a contradiction. These persistent ideals are contradicted—God, Light, Freedom, Immortality—by normal experience of mankind. It is a contradiction between the ideals and normal experience, thesis and antithesis. The entire second paragraph is an attempt to resolve this contradiction. Thus the entire second paragraph presents a dialectical argument.

Then we have the quintessential metaphysical argument. This is a fourth kind of argument: quintessential metaphysical argument. What is metaphysics? Metaphysics is a study of the highest reality and also of the meaning of the highest reality. Not only what is ultimately real but also what is ultimately meaningful. This word's meaning is very important. You have no metaphysics unless you raise the question of meaning. What is the significance? Meaning. What is the meaning of this class for example? That question is a metaphysical question. Toward the end of the second paragraph you will find an example of a quintessential metaphysical argument. "But if we take a more deliberate view of the world's workings, that direct opposition appears rather as part of Nature's profoundest method and the seal of her completest sanction." Deliberate view. Deliberate: this word is important. Deliberate means you try to find out the meaning. When you speak deliberately, it means meaningfully. So all sense of meaning is contained in deliberate thinking. Sri Aurobindo says if you take a deliberate view then the same facts will present themselves in a quite new way.

A bird is crying now and you may say it is simply a cry. But if you take a deliberate view—there is a view that all birds have a language and if you understand the crying of the birds you can find out the meaning. It is said, they can tell you all the things that are going to happen tomorrow. In India there is a science to learn the language of the birds. Even in the villages in India they will say that if a crow goes on crying the whole day, it means a guest is coming tomorrow. You may call it a superstition but in any case this is a quintessential metaphysical argument. Because the bird is crying therefore what does it mean? What is the message in it? It means a guest is coming tomorrow. Such a conclusion is a quintessential metaphysical argument. If you know how to read the language you can be sure about it, there is no question. It is like an announcer. When an announcer says that now the drama will start in five minutes time you get ready to watch the drama. It is a quintessential meaning because when an announcer announces there is a meaning in it. It will be fulfilled. So when you see the facts of the world and you ask if there is meaning in these facts, when you try to derive meaning out of the facts it is a quintessential metaphysical argument.

Now—the last argument. It is the causal argument. Aristotle said that a cause is always related to an effect. That is the first definition of a cause. Cause always produces an effect. It is very simple. Aristotle made no great announcement by saying that every cause is that it causes effect. But what was good, what was wise in his analysis was—he said that in every cause there are four aspects. It is these four aspects which are very important. As a result there are four names which are given to a cause. A cause may be a material cause, may be an efficient cause, a formal cause and a final cause.

If you are a carpenter and you make a chair, the wood is the material cause because the material of the chair is wood. In what sense is the carpenter, the cause of the chair? He is the efficient cause. What is the formal cause? The idea or the form of the chair is the formal cause. And now what is the final cause? The purpose for which you make the chair. It is the final cause. Similarly, for anything that happens in the world, for any effect you should look for these four things. If you take a seed and analyse the four causes in order that a tree may come out. What is the material cause, what is the formal cause, what is the efficient cause, what is the final cause? The seed is the material cause; it is the seed which becomes the tree. The farmer is the efficient cause. The form of the tree is the formal cause. The fruit of the tree is the final cause.

Now you give me an example which analyses these four causes. You take any effect and you tell me, take up any effect in the world, there are so many effects in the world… Let us take French Revolution. You know French Revolution? Every human being of modern times should learn of French Revolution. You cannot understand what is happening today without understanding what happened in French Revolution. Such is the importance of French Revolution. What we are doing today is causally connected with French Revolution. One of the greatest events in world history is the French Revolution. Once you know the French Revolution you can answer my question.

You take any event, take up anything that you know and then we shall try to analyse the four causes. Let us say Auroville. Auroville is an event, no? It is a consequence. Now, what is the efficient cause of Auroville? The Mother. She pushed the idea of Auroville, she has given the shape. She is the efficient cause of Auroville. What is the formal cause of Auroville? The Charter of Auroville is the formal cause of Auroville. Then, what is the material cause? The place, the soil, the children of Auroville, the parents of Auroville, administration of Auroville, we are all the material causes. We are the matter of Auroville. And what is the final cause of Auroville? Human unity is the final cause of Auroville. Now you have almost mastered, almost, Aristotle would be very happy to know that in the Twentieth Century, in one corner of the earth, there are some enthusiastic children who have mastered his theory of causation.

I have also told you about the Indian theory of causation. I gave you two Sanskrit words. I should repeat them: asatkaryavada and satkaryavada. Karya means effect, the event. Sat means that which exists. Vada means theory. A theory of the effect which presents that which exists. Satkaryavada is a theory which says that effect already existed before it came out. The effect already existed in the form of the cause. Asatkaryavada says that effect did not exist in the cause. So there are two theories in India. According to one theory for every effect there must be a cause. Both the theories agree on this: effect presupposes a cause. There must be a cause from which the effect derives. But according to one theory effect already existed in the cause, according to another theory effect did not exist in the cause. According to satkaryavada the tree already existed in the seed but according to asatkaryavada tree did not exist in the seed. And there are arguments for both. Both are very interesting arguments which we shall study later.

Sri Aurobindo argues in favour of Satkaryavada: "For there seems to be no reason why Life should evolve out of material elements or Mind out of living form, unless we accept the Vedantic solution that Life is already involved in Matter and Mind in Life because in essence Matter is a form of veiled Life, Life a form of veiled Consciousness."

There is no reason why Life should come out of Matter? It must be only because Life is already in Matter. There is no reason why Mind should come out of Life, unless Mind is already in Life. Not only that but also more than that: Life is nothing but Matter and Matter is nothing but Life. Identical actually. Matter is a veiled form of Life and Life is a veiled form of Mind. It is like a seed in the tree. The seed is nothing but the veiled tree. The tree is already in the seed but it is veiled, you cannot see it. Similarly, Life is already in Matter—not only already in Matter, but Matter itself is veiled Life and Mind is not only already in Life but Life itself is a veiled Mind.

Now we have revised all the four paragraphs that we have covered so far. I shall summarize in two sentences. I said first that Sri Aurobindo's argument has been the study of human history, past, present and future. And his argument is that if you look at the past there is only one breath: God, Light, Freedom, Immortality. If you see the present you find that there is today satiation but not satisfaction and there is already a preparation in humanity for returning to the primeval longing of God, Light, Freedom, Immortality. This is the first argument of this chapter. It summarizes the whole of human history leaping beyond the present and showing the future. The second aspect of the first four paragraphs is various forms of philosophical arguments: epistemological argument, dialectical argument, historical argument, quintessential metaphysical argument and causal argument.