Sri Aurobindo's - 'The Life Divine' - The Human Aspiration - Chapter I (Super School Auroville) - Session xii (29 August 2000)

Question: Is it really true that humanity has aspired for Truth, Light, Freedom, Immortality only a few individuals here and there have aspired, how can you say that humanity has aspired?

Is it really true, historically, that only few individuals here and there have aspired? You assume when you ask this question, you feel as if you are saying a truth. But that itself can be questioned. Is it really true that only a few individuals here and there have aspired?

If you take a walk in the evening around the temples here, maybe you are not going there, a few extraordinary individuals are not going there, but a large humanity is going there. So how can we say only a few individuals are aspiring? Historically is it a fact that only a few individuals are aspiring? Historically it is not true. Historically, crowds of people, multitude of people...

Question: I put this question because even the ordinary humanity which goes to the temple and all this, they go to pray for what? The necessities, they are tied down to the needs and necessities, they are not aspiring for Truth and Light and Immortality. What they are aspiring for is a little money for his son's career, it is things of that kind.

Why do they want a career for their children? They want them to live. It is an aspiration to live. What is living? And the moment they are begging to live they want something more. What is that more? As you cross one barrier after the other you begin to uncover what exactly was behind it. It may take one form or the other.

As I said last time, somebody hurts you, pains you and immediately you want to reject it. You may not say I am desirous of desires or of bliss. But why do you reject pain at all? Basically all life is seeking for bliss, all life. If you really examine anything that happens, you are actually looking for bliss.

But it is the first answer to the question.

Who is asking the question? Is it your feet, your mouth or your hands? You tell me who is asking the question?

  • It is my mind through my mouth.

That is right. Your mouth is occupying what portion of the whole body? Only a small portion. Isn't it? Your hands are not troubled at all by your question; your feet are not troubled by your question. That is what you think actually. Actually the whole body is asking the question. Where does your mouth end and where does another part of the body start? All ends and beginnings are artificial. Where does this palm end and the arm begin? It is for our practical purpose we divide. Where is my palm if there is no arm? So even if a few individuals have aspired. They are a kind of flowering of humanity. This is the second answer to your question.

There is a third answer to the question. Whenever you refer to the highest that you are capable of, then you can say that is actually what all human beings have been seeking unconsciously—the Highest. The very first sentence of The Life Divine is: It is the highest that thought can envisage. You can therefore conclude, that if you actually take an account of the whole of history from any point of view, the one breath is God, Light, Freedom, Immortality. This is the human aspiration.

Question: What is scepticism?

Scepticism is a state of mind which is inclined to doubt, and doubt as much as possible,—forever if possible. A state of mind which wants to doubt, and doubt again and again, and forever if possible.

Question: What is evolution and what is the explanation of evolution?

What is evolution? Evolution is a gradual development from one stage to the next which prepares for a further development by transmitting to the next what is already acquired and at the same time developing still something new. That is evolution.

The essential point is that there is a gradual development. This word gradual is very important. A gradual development from one stage to the next, and it still wants to develop further. And in developing further there is a transmission of what is already acquired to the next. There is something like an accumulation, a gradual accumulation and then transmission.

The explanation of evolution is that the next stage of evolution is already hidden in the present one. If Life has evolved in Matter the explanation is that Life is already hidden in Matter. Not only that, Matter is already Life in another form. If a tree evolves out of a seed, it is because the tree is already hidden in the seed, and the tree in a sense is already the seed, the seed is already the tree. Basically it is already the tree. This is the explanation of evolution.

Question: Why do religions regard the manifestation of Supermind as perverse?

All religions may not, or all religious people may not. But there is a religionist perception. In all religions there is a religionist perception. There is a difference between religion and religionism. Religion may be an open gate to spirituality, in which case it is not religionism. But those who believe that religion is the highest and you cannot go beyond it; that religion is the top, then that is called religionism. Religionism maintains that there is a vast gulf between man and God. A gulf, God is somewhere there and man is so low. It is a gulf between the two. As a result the highest that man can do is always to keep that gulf,—because there is always a gulf, so you should reconcile with that gulf. And if you say I want to be God, I want to be one with God, if you say that—you are perverse. Something has gone wrong with your mind. You have become too presumptuous, too proud. You want to be like God? You want to be one with God? That is impossible! The gulf between man and God will always remain. And keep that gulf, don't try to jump. And all your desire to jump is presumptuous, perverse.

There is a very interesting sentence in the Bible—it is a sentence which I have discussed with many many Christians—" Be Thou as perfect as thy Father in heaven is perfect." It is a saying of Christ. And I have spoken with many Christians, what about this sentence? You should understand, they answer me: "It is in a certain context. It only means, be as far as possible like God. Don't say, be as perfect. They want to minimize. You can never be like Him. Try as much as possible." But I tell them: "Look, Christ has not said be as far as possible, his statement is very clear, categorical."

Question: I have put to the Christians the following question: It is said in the Bible "And God created man in His own image". And this is exactly what you are saying.

But still this sentence can be: Image is not the same as the original. It is still an image. So you can say there is a gulf. But this sentence of Christ is categorical. "Be Thou as perfect as thy father in heaven is perfect." It is very clear, there is no compromise in it.

Question: What is perfection in this context?

There are three concepts of perfection.

One is the maximum possible. When you reach the maximum—it is now perfect.

The second is a state of equilibrium.

And the third is when all are perfectly mutual.

You can take any one of these three meanings, as you like.

Question: What is causality?

Very good question. This is the one question which I have not answered throughout my lectures. I answered indirectly but never defined.

Causality is not only a connection between cause and effect, but a necessary connection between cause and effect. This word "necessary" is the heart of causality.

This necessity implies that when cause exists, effect must necessarily come about. You cannot escape it. That is causality. Merely connection between antecedent and consequent—this is first and then another comes afterward—is not enough to say it is causality. The connection must be such that if this happens that must happen. Necessary connection.

So causality is not only a connection between cause and effect, but a necessary connection between cause and effect.

Question: What are the four aspects of causality?

Material cause, efficient cause, formal cause and final cause. Four aspects of causality, of causation.

The material cause, if you take the example of the seed and the tree, then seed is the material cause of the tree. The formal cause is the form of the tree. Efficient cause is the farmer who goes on pouring water on the seed and supplying all the fertilizers and the final cause is the purpose for which the tree is grown.

Question: What is the condition of today's humanity for you?

There is one sentence Sri Aurobindo has written in the very first paragraph of The Life Divine: " … today we see a humanity satiated but not satisfied by victorious analysis of the externalities of Nature preparing to return to its primeval longings." That is the condition of humanity.

So there are three things. Today's humanity has been analyzing the externalities of Nature. That is the first point. Nature has many aspects: outer and inner. And today's humanity is not very much concerned with the inside of Nature. It is concerned mainly with the outside of Nature. That is the first condition. It means that today science is nothing but analysis of externalities of Nature. So today, humanity is busy looking at Nature, analyzing the outside of Nature. All that we call science is this. Now it has been done so much, so much, that humanity has become satiated. I told you what satiation is at one time. When are you satiated? When somebody goes on giving you sweets and another sweet, and another sweet, and another sweet what happens to your mouth? You don't want anymore, you are satiated. But it does not mean that you are satisfied. You may still be hungry. If something else is given, a savory is given to you, you can still have it. But as far as the sweet is concerned, finished! No more! Please don't give me anymore. That is called satiation.

Today's humanity has analysed Nature so much, so much that it is satiated, but not satisfied. Therefore the third thing that it is happening is: it is preparing to return to its primeval longings. It remembers now the long forgotten taste of God and wants to return to the original breath: God, Light, Freedom and Immortality. That is today's humanity.

Question: Regarding the definition of evolution you said "gradual developments". I have a problem with this word gradual, because sometimes if you observe Nature, minerals and all which is Matter, and then you go to Life, a quantum jump takes place. So can we call it gradual development?

That is to say, even if it comes as a jump, it is preceded by very gradual movement. It may take a little jump somewhere but this is prepared by gradual developments. It is not all the time happening like jumps. Graduallity is necessary. You know there are children who develop, conscious children, and they jump, but even then they gradually develop. For two days, three days they remain at the same stage and then they make a further progression. This dwelling is very important. At any given stage you dwell for sometimes. Then you move forward.

Question: What is Satkaryavada and Asatkaryavada?

When the effect is present in the cause, that theory is called Satkaryavada. When that effect is not present in the cause it is called Asatkaryavada.

Now we have a very important statement in the form of a comment. As I said Sri Aurobindo has proved that the aspiration for God, Light, Freedom and Immortality is justified on three grounds, — on the ground of reason, on the ground of instincts and on the ground of intuition. On all the three grounds this aspiration is justified. It is already proven.

Now what comes is only a comment: "Attempts are sometimes made to have done finally with questionings which have so often been declared insoluble by logical thought and to persuade men to limit their mental activities to the practical and immediate problems of their material existence in the universe; but such evasions are never permanent in their effect." We shall dwell upon this very important statement.

You remember I had read out to you many days ago a statement from a book by Bertrand Russell. I had with me a book called The History of Western Philosophy by Bertrand Russell. I had read out to you a sentence. I paraphrase that sentence because I don't have the exact quotation. While declaring his own philosophy and the philosophy of his own friends, he said: "We acknowledge that there are many problems which we cannot answer but we refuse to believe that there is any other higher method of knowledge by which you can answer these questions." In other words it is a paraphrase of what Sri Aurobindo has written here. Attempts are being made to stop all questionings, to do away finally with all questionings. What Russell ultimately says is: "We know there are many problems, but they cannot be solved." So his conclusion is: "Therefore remain bound to the insolubility of problems—and deal with all that you can deal with, with your limitations. We refuse to believe that there are other means of knowing by which you can solve the problems." His gospel is: deal with the problems of the immediate world as they come to you, never have the ambition that you can ever solve these problems? Some practical problems here and there you can solve, they don't require higher means of knowledge? But some questions remain as questions—we cannot answer them. Bertrand Russell says in effect: "Do not go beyond a certain level of questioning. Some questions will never have an answer. They are logically insoluble. And there is no other method". If something is logically insoluble and if at the same time there is another method of knowing then you may find a solution. But he says: "No, we refuse to believe". You see the dogmatism, how strongly it comes about. "We refuse to believe that there is another method of knowledge."

They appear to be opposed to all obscurantism. What is obscurantism? It comes from the word obscure. Obscure means unclear. That which is unclear is obscure. Obscure is opposite to clarity. So those who believe in clarity always criticize and say: "Oh! This is obscure." Whenever there is something which is presented to them which is not very clear they say: "It is obscure". And if you believe in obscure things then they say: "You are obscurantist. You believe that which is obscure. You never try to clarify to yourself." So people such as Russell and others believe that they are devotees of clarity. And people who believe in such things as Spirit, God, which is all obscure, are obscurantist. But when they say: "We refuse to believe" what does it mean? "We refuse to believe”—it means you take shelter in the view that it is obscure. So while they condemn others as obscurantist, they themselves are obscurantist. They advocate enquiry but they refuse to enquire completely themselves.

Sri Aurobindo refers to this particular tendency in modern times. Whenever you speak of God, Light, Freedom, Immortality these people will come to you and say: "Oh you are obscure! What is God? Unclear, What is Life? Unclear. What is Freedom? Unclear. What is Immortality? Unclear, and yet you believe in it, therefore you are obscurantist." But what about you? They will admit we also find that it is not easily understandable. But we refuse to believe that there is another way of making it clear. How do you refuse, on what ground do you refuse? Have you tried? Without trying to find other means of knowledge they declare in advance: "We refuse to believe that there is another method of knowing." It is this attitude which is very prevalent in the world today. You come across this attitude as soon as you move out of this classroom, immediately. They will condemn you as obscurantist without realizing that in doing so they are themselves obscurantist, because they refuse even to enquire.

Sri Aurobindo says: "Attempts are sometimes made to have done finally with questionings which have so often been declared insoluble by logical thought and to persuade men to limit their mental activities to the practical and immediate problems of their material existence in the universe". They ask you not to rise into questions of which there is no answer possible. They say you ask questions on which you have an answer. "…But such evasions are never permanent in their effect." If you try to remain in this refusal you will find that gradually you will be bound to cross the limits of this. Sri Aurobindo says: "Mankind returns from them…" As you move forward humanity returns from this kind of denial with a more vehement impulse of enquiry.

We now begin to question Bertrand Russell and others: "My dear friends you have simply refused to enquire. Let us enquire." So there is a fresh impulse to enquire and with a fresh impulse to enquire this attempt of denial is crushed. And then there is a more violent hunger for immediate solution. When you refuse to enquire for some time it may work because it is a very soothing thing for some time when some people say "Don't bother, don't ask many questions." You can go to sleep, which is very nice for some time." But it is only for a short time. A time will come when the questions will bombard you in fact with a tremendous vehemence. Not only vehemence but they demand immediate answers. They come with an immediate necessity for an answer. Take for example a question of a father and a mother and a child. The child is told sometimes to do this; don't do that, etcetera, etcetera… This is the normal case, all parents have the habit of telling children do this, don't do that. Then the child goes into revolt and says: "Now don't tell me anything!" At night the father has told the child: "Be moderate in eating, don't be a glutton, don't eat too much" But the child has done it. The father has been told by the child: "Don't tell me anything, I want to eat, I will eat." At night he wakes up with a tremendous pain in the stomach and then what does he do? He wants an immediate solution. He had stopped the questioning, he had done very well what he wanted to do, he had gone to sleep nicely and in the middle of night there was tremendous pain and he wanted an immediate solution. He cannot wait because pain is so great, he wants an immediate solution. Such is the condition of humanity today.

For a long time we have evaded the questions about God, Light, Freedom, Immortality. Ultimately humanity has produced a nuclear bomb. By denying God, Light, Freedom, Immortality in the free time humanity has produced a bomb. And now you find not only one bomb but hundreds and thousands of bombs already in stock. And we know that sometimes some foolish men can come in control of these bombs and can trigger them off. The whole of humanity can be destroyed. And today's question before humanity is: Can we prevent such a man coming to power? The power to open this stock-pile and throw the bombs on humanity. What is the guarantee? How could you prevent it? It is a very immediate question. Without knowing, we are sitting on a volcano. Suppose there is a volcano. You don't know there is a volcano. You are sitting nicely having a good excursion. You have a dance party, you have an eating party, you have all the fun and joy without realizing there is a volcano burning and it can erupt suddenly and your whole party may be destroyed. We are in that condition today. We are sitting today on a volcano, because the bombs are already there, not that we are going to manufacture them tomorrow. They are already manufactured. They are only stocked. Is there any solution? We are now in search of an immediate solution. Is there any solution by which we can prevent some mad men from coming to power? It is not difficult to come to power these days. If you have a lot of money, and today you can get a lot of money also, it is not very difficult. All those who are in power today know how easy it is to get money. And they are amassing money. If you have a sufficient amount of money you can come to the top of power, it is not difficult, it is not impossible. Now that being the case if one of these people who come to power becomes mad and he has got the key to open the stock of bombs the whole of humanity can be destroyed tomorrow, instantaneously.

Therefore humanity is today asking for an immediate solution. The only solution could be in wisdom. Madness can be cured only by wisdom. Is it possible to inject wisdom into humanity? This is the question. So that such mad people will not come to power. Or even that the madman can be cured of his madness if wisdom can be given. But if you say, you refuse to believe that there is another method, then you remain where you are, the crisis remains constantly, you will not be able to cure the problem. Therefore Sri Aurobindo says that even though attempts have been made to stop your questionings, even if they have said: "don't make further enquiries, there is no such a possibility at all". Such evasions are never permanent in their effects. Mankind returns knocking the doors of questioning to find out other means of knowledge and in search of immediate solutions. They want these now; there is no waiting for it, they want a solution now.

That is what Sri Aurobindo says: "Mankind returns from them with a more vehement impulse of enquiry or a more violent hunger for an immediate solution." Immediate solution. "By that hunger mysticism profits…" Let us define the word mysticism. Mysticism means search or enquiry beyond what is now known, into that which is mysterious, that which is secret, that which is unknown, into the depths, so as to bring out that which is mysterious, that which is spiritual, that which is secret. That is the meaning of mysticism, when you return with hunger, as a result of it, mysticisms profits. The search into the secret, into the unknown, into the mystic reality, the spiritual reality, that search, profits. Large numbers of people then begin to search for God, once again. And new religions flower. There is so much revolt against the old religions, because they are found to be insufficient and new religions begin to flower. That is the condition of today. You will find today how many new religions are arising in the world. Old religions are reviving, new religions are springing forth because mankind has found something terrible and it wants an immediate solution.

By that hunger mysticism profits and new religions arise to replace the old that have been destroyed or stripped of significance by a scepticism...

Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine - I: The Human Aspiration

The old religions have been doubted, but doubt, scepticism which itself could not satisfy. Even the state of doubt is not satisfying; therefore scepticism is also thrown out. Why could scepticism not satisfy? Because although its business is enquiry it was unwilling sufficiently to enquire. Bertrand Russell whose business was enquiry refuses to enquire. Very literally, openly, "we refuse to believe." So although his business was to enquire, he should ask: "All right! We cannot find the solution to the present problems then let us enquire further". But no! His business is to enquire but he is not prepared to enquire. Therefore even that kind of scepticism will be thrown away, old religions will be thrown away; even doubt will be thrown away. And then the real mysticism will prosper.

The attempt to deny or stifle a truth because it is yet obscure in its outward workings and too often represented by obscurantist superstition or a crude faith, is itself a kind of obscurantism. The will to escape from a cosmic necessity because it is arduous, difficult to justify by immediate tangible results, slow in regulating its operations, must turn out eventually to have been no acceptance of the truth of Nature but a revolt against the secret, mightier will of the great Mother.

Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine - I: The Human Aspiration