The Life Divine - Summary of the first seven chapters of "The Life Divine"

Summary of the first seven chapters of "The Life Divine"

Summary of the first seven chapters of
"The Life Divine"


Kireet Joshi

Summary of the first seven chapters of "The Life Divine"

Summary of the first seven chapters of "The Life Divine"

The first seven chapters of The Life Divine constitute one block of statement and argument, which is centred on the human aspiration that is evidenced by the ancient records and by repeated experiences in each epoch of history, including the present one, where science having analysed the externalities of Nature find itself satiated but not satisfied and is preparing humanity to return to its primeval quest and search. That aspiration can be formulated in the formula of God, Light, Freedom and bliss.

The question is whether this aspiration is truly meaningful and whether there are grounds to justify the persistence of that aspiration and whether, considering all facts of existence, considering all possible speculations on meaning and absence of meaning of the known and possible facts and rationally understandable possible facts, as also considering the totality of experiences that can be gained at various levels and states of faculties, − whether in consideration of all the data that we can collect, that aspiration has any chance or inevitability of fulfilment.

Summary of the first seven chapters of "The Life Divine"

Summary of the first seven chapters of "The Life Divine"

In the first place, what is noticed is the evident contradiction between what we see and experience at our ordinary level, which is dominated by the material organisation of consciousness and the ideals which are contained in the formula of the human aspiration. This contradiction can be sharply stated as follows:

Acquisition of knowledge, possession and being of the Divine in an animal and egoistic consciousness;

Conversion of our twilight or obscure physical mentality into the plenary supramental manifestation;

Building of a self-existent bliss where there is only a stress of transitory satisfaction besieged by physical pain and emotional suffering;

Establishment of infinite freedom in a world which presents itself as a group of mechanical necessities; and

The discovery of and realisation of the immortal life in a body subjected to death and constant mutation.

The ordinary material intellect considers the present conditions in which we live as a limit of what is possible. Therefore, it concludes that the unrealised ideals are unrealisable and therefore in our argument devoid of rational justification and validity.

Summary of the first seven chapters of "The Life Divine"

Summary of the first seven chapters of "The Life Divine"

The question is whether this argument is conclusive or whether there is a ground to investigate into this contradiction between the actual and the ideal and whether there is a rational way of looking at this contradiction and opposition which would prove that the alleged invalidity of the argument can be surmounted. The answer is that if it takes a deliberate view of the movement of Nature and enquire how Nature acts and develops, we shall find that nature moves by the method of opposition and that Nature works out a harmony and realisation of an ideal by a gradual process of affirmation, negation and synthesis.

The world as we see it consists of innumerable qualities and activities of energy; they are all at work, and each one of them strives at self-affirmation and self-expression, and they all seem to be struggling against each other, as though starting from division and arriving at separative conquest over the others. But the world seems to impose a law by means of which separative sovereignty of each is denied and the resultant is some kind of a combination, but not yet unity, or not yet that unity which can be termed perfect unity. What is achieved is only a temporary unity or a kind of an equilibrium which is broken easily and quickly. But still these forces seem to be striving at an ideal unity. 

Summary of the first seven chapters of "The Life Divine"

Summary of the first seven chapters of "The Life Divine"

Ideal unity translates itself into a manifested harmony of perfection; and this perfection manifests itself through sovereignty, maximisation and right proportions of each so as to be mutual in relationships with all the others. It appears that it is towards that ideal harmony that the whole world is in the process of manifestation; and until that is achieved, there is a constant sense of a problem that needs to be resolved. It can, therefore, be said that all problems of existence are essentially problems of harmony.

This is what we perceive in the manifestation of Matter which strives to manifest Life in Matter and when the manifestation of Life strives after the manifestation of the Mind, and we see farther that the manifestation of the mind confronts problems on every side of manifestation, which shows that mind is attempting to manifest a still higher term of manifestation.

Matter is a term where condition of activity itself seems to be inertia and yet there is in it the manifestation of Life, the very nature of which is activity that is opposed to inertia. The accordance of Life with Matter is one problem of opposites that Nature has solved and yet that problem is still sought to be solved better with greater complexities.

Summary of the first seven chapters of "The Life Divine"

Summary of the first seven chapters of "The Life Divine"

The manifestation of Life, which is in itself not overtly self­conscious or at the best only subconscious or mechanical in its will, arrives at the emergence of conscious mind and conscious will. The accordance of Mind with Life is another problem of opposites in which astonishing results have been produced, and yet still further marvels remain to be manifested. The striving at the mind seems to be working out an animal consciousness not longer seeking but possessed of truth and light, with the practical omnipotence which would result in the possession of a direct and perfected knowledge. These facts prove that the opposition between the actual and the ideal does not invalidate the ideal, but it is a sign that the upward impulse of man is rational in itself; it is only a logical completion of a rule and an effort that seems to be a fundamental method of nature and the very sense of her universal strivings.

Summary of the first seven chapters of "The Life Divine"

Summary of the first seven chapters of "The Life Divine"

This basic argument can be further elucidated by a reference to the following:

l. The fact of evolution and the need to explain the evolution of Life in Matter, and of Mind in Life;

2. The materialistic argument and its premise that physical means of knowledge are the only means of knowledge, and its fallacy consisting of arguing in a circle and a priori rejection of the evidence of supra-physical means of knowledge and the discovery of the supra-physical realities;

3.The fact of cosmic consciousness and experiences of universal matter, universal life, universal mind and universal supermind;

4.The fact of the drive of thought towards synthesis and complete affirmation, and of the drive of life to arrive at the knowledge of its aim to serve with the serene and settled joy and light as well as with a rhythmically discursive energy.

Summary of the first seven chapters of "The Life Divine"

Summary of the first seven chapters of "The Life Divine"

As a result, rationality can not but affirm the rationality of complete synthesis and affirmation; and life can not but drive to cross the limitations so as to arrive at serenity, stability and rhythmical manifestation of energy that is diverse and yet united.

5. The drive of Thought and the drive of Life also tend to harmonise themselves, and both of them seek not only perfection in conception and expression but also in the corresponding experience and realisation of That which correspond to the highest mental Thought and the highest expression of Life.

6. The fact of the discovery that cosmic consciousness, even of the highest consciousness of universal harmony, is not the terminal point of our search;

7. There is still a Beyond, where the stillness and silence opens the gate of the Transcendence, which is experienced as the Spirit described in Upanishad luminous, pure, sustaining the world but inactive in it without sinews of energy, without flow of duality, without scar of division, unique, identical, free from all appearance of relation and of multiplicity, − the pure Self of the Advaitins (the Vedantic Monists);

8. The fact that based on this experience a philosophical thought has been constructed, the system of the denial of the world and of the refusal of the ascetic, − parallel at the other pole to the denial or negation of the materialist;

Summary of the first seven chapters of "The Life Divine"

Summary of the first seven chapters of "The Life Divine"

9. The necessity arises here of comparing and contrasting these two negations, both in respect to their conceptions of the Ultimate Reality and their respective valuation of life and the resultant consequences for the possibility of the fulfilment of the human aspiration and its justification;

10. The debate between the materialist and the ascetic can be summarised as follows:

What justification, of logic or of experience, can be asserted in support of the one extreme can be met by an equally cogent logic and an equally valid experience at the other end.

Materialism like spiritual monism arrives at a Maya that is and yet is not − is for it is present and compelling, is not, for it is phenomenal and transitory in its terms. At the other end, if we stress too much the unreality of the objective world, we arrive by a different road at similar but still more trenchant conclusions − a fictitious character of the individual ego, the unreality and purposelessness of human existence, the return into the non-Being, or the relationless Absolute as the sole rational escape from the meaningless tangle of phenomenal life.

11. These arguments can be seen to be inconclusive, for the rational conclusions remains opposed to each other that demand a reconciliation and synthesis, and the experiences on which these arguments rest are found to be incomplete or valid only at a certain level of consciousness and not at a highest possible level of experience.

12. In the experience of the cosmic consciousness, one perceives at once the Truth of unity and the Truth of multiplicity. Matter reveals itself to the realising thought and to subtlised senses as the figure and body of Spirit – Spirit in itself formative extension, Spirit reveals itself through the same consenting agents as the soul, the truth, the essence of Matter. Both admit and consent each other as divine, real and essentially one.

In the light of this conception we can percieve the possibility of a divine life in the world. 

Summary of the first seven chapters of "The Life Divine"

Summary of the first seven chapters of "The Life Divine"

The experience on which the negation of the ascetic is based can still be farther transcended. In that experience, the silent and the active Brahman are not different, opposite and irreconcilable entities, the one denying, the other affirming a cosmic illusion; they are one Brahman in two aspects, positive and negative, and each is necessary to the other.

There is, however a view based upon an experience of what has been termed as the Non-Being. But Non-Being is only a word, for what we really mean by this Nothing is Something beyond the last term to which we can reduce our purest conception and our most abstract or subtle experience of actual being as we know or conceive it while in this universe. This Nothing then is merely a something beyond positive conception.

13. As the perfect man would combine himself the silence and the activity, so also would the completely conscious soul reach back to the absolute freedom of the Non-Being without therefore losing its hold on Existence and the universe.

14.Thus after reconciling Spirit and Matter in the cosmic consciousness, we perceive the reconciliation, in the transcendental consciousness, at the final assertion of all and its negation.

Summary of the first seven chapters of "The Life Divine"

Summary of the first seven chapters of "The Life Divine"

15. We thus arrive at the real Monism the true Advaita which admits all things as the One Brahman and does not seek to bisect Its Existence into two incompatible entities, an eternal Truth and an eternal Falsehood, Brahman and not − Brahman, Self and not-self, a real Self and an unreal, a perpetual Maya.

It is true that there is in the world the phenomenon of discord and apparent evil, and this phenomenon must be admitted, but not accepted as our conquerors. The deepest instinct of humanity seeks always and seeks wisely wisdom as the last word of the universal manifestation, not an eternal mockery and illusion, − an ultimate victory and fulfilment, not the disappointed recoil of the soul from its great adventure.

In the light of the highest experience of Sachchidananda, even of unknowable existence, some utter and ineffable Bliss, we are justified in supposing that even the dualities of the universe, when interpreted not as now by our sensational and partial conceptions but by our liberated intelligence and experience will be also resolved into those highest terms.

Until that liberated experience is reached, we need to be supported by an act of faith, but a faith which the highest Reason, the widest and most patient reflection do not deny, but rather affirm. Finally, we arrive at a stage of development when faith will be turned into knowledge and perfect experience and wisdom will be justified.

Summary of the first seven chapters of "The Life Divine"

Summary of the first seven chapters of "The Life Divine"

16.The integral view of the unity of Brahman to which we arrive by the integral realisation of the Brahman affirms that the world-transcendent Brahman embraces the universe, is one with it and does not exclude it, even as the universe embraces the individual, is one with him and does not exclude him. The individual is the centre of the whole universal consciousness, the universe is a form and definition which is occupied by the entire immanence of the Formless and Indefinable.

17. In fact, the conscious manifestation of the Transcendent in the individual is the means by which the collective, the universal is also to become conscious of itself, the continuation of the illumined individual in the action of the world is an imperative need of the world-play.

In the classical Advaitic view, however, the individual soul is one with the Supreme, its sense of separateness and ignorance, escape from the sense of separateness and identity with the Supreme its salvation.

18. But against this view, the question that can be raised is as to who profits by this escape. Not the Supreme Self, for it is supposed to be always an inalienably free, still , silent, pure. Not the world, for that remains constantly in the bondage and is not freed by the escape of any individual soul from the universal illusion. The only answer that we should get is that it is the individual soul itself which effects its supreme good by escaping from the sorrow and the division into the peace and the bliss. There would seem then to be some kind of reality of the individual soul as distinct from the world and from the Supreme even in the event of freedom and illumination.

Summary of the first seven chapters of "The Life Divine"

Summary of the first seven chapters of "The Life Divine"

19. Therefore, in the integral view we make the following propositions:

i. the transcendent, the supra-cosmic is absolute and free in Itself;

ii. but in cosmos it uses its liberty of self-formation to make a scheme of unity and multiplicity;

iii. this multiple unity is established in the three conditions of the sub-conscient , the conscient and the super-conscient;

iv. the starting-point in the sub-conscient unity where cosmic action and cosmic substance are not themselves superficially aware of it;

v. in the conscient the ego becomes the superficial point at which the awareness of unity can emerge;

vi. but because it is bound to surface consciousness, there is a failure to realise the inner identity with the inmost Self and with others;

vii. but when the ego transcends the personal consciousness, it begins to   include and be overpowered by that which is to us super­consciousness.

viii. it becomes aware of the cosmic unity and enters the Transcendental Self which here cosmos expresses by a multiple oneness.

ix. the liberation of the individual soul is therefore the keynote of the definite divine action;

x. it is the primary divine necessity and the pivot on which all else turns.

Summary of the first seven chapters of "The Life Divine"

Summary of the first seven chapters of "The Life Divine"

20. Through the liberation of the individual there comes about the manifestation of the infinite Bliss, − Existence, − Consciousness in life and mind and body, − for independent of them it exists eternally.

21. This is the transfiguration intended and the utility of the individual existence.

22. There is an intimate relationship between the universal and the individual. This relationship is, in the world in which we live, is worked out through successive levels of an ascent. In this ascent, the universe and an individual are necessary for each other; they exist by each other and profit by each other.

23. But what is the Universe? Universe is the diffusion of Divine All in infinite space and Time. The individual is its concentration within limits of Space and Time. Universe   seeks in infinite extension the Divine totality, it feels itself to be but can not entirely realise; for in extension existence drives at a pluralistic sum of itself which can neither be the primal nor the final unit, but only a recurring decimal without end or beginning. Therefore, it creates in itself a self-conscious concentration of the All through which it can aspire. 

Summary of the first seven chapters of "The Life Divine"

Summary of the first seven chapters of "The Life Divine"

That self-conscious concentration is the individual. On the other hand, it is by means of the universe that the individual is impelled to realise himself; he must necessarily universalise and impersonalise himself in order to manifest the Divine in All which is his reality. But even when he most extends himself in universality, he is called upon to preserve a mysterious transcendence something, which can be called the true individual, of which his sense of personality gives him an obscure and egoistic representation. It is a preservation of that individual that enables him to carry out the Divine work for which he has accepted to be the concentration of the universal.

Universalisation is effected through Life, a dynamism the entire secret of which he has to master so that he can disengage in the world of colliding results some supreme order and some yet unrealised harmony.

Summary of the first seven chapters of "The Life Divine"

Summary of the first seven chapters of "The Life Divine"

The individual in whom the potentialities of Life or Life­ Spirit are centred is pre-eminently Man. Man in his upward journey confronts terms of denials and he can not fathom their essential reality. It is by discovering that the denials are results of his being out of harmony both with what the world is and what he himself should be and is to be. Therefore, it is through this disharmony that the true relationship has to be found.

He has, therefore, to turn Death into a more perfect life, lift the small things of the human limitations into the great things of the Divine vastness, transform suffering into beatitude, convert evil into its proper good, translate error and falsehood into their secret truth. Then the journey will be accomplished and heaven and earth equalised will join hands in the bliss of the Supreme.

This is possible because we have hazarded the suggestion that since all this is one Reality, all that seems to contradict it is none other than that Reality. But we do not perceive that Reality because of some great fundamental error, some possessing and impelling Ignorance. This ignorance has to be annulled; this is the journey of man in the universe, and through this journey we may find some symbols and figures or hints which will help the light of the soul and throw upon the mind some reflection of the ineffable design.

Summary of the first seven chapters of "The Life Divine"

Summary of the first seven chapters of "The Life Divine"

In order to annul the impelling ignorance, we must strive to relate the individual to the harmony of the totality. We discover that there may be mental and supra-mental envisaging of universe which surpass our own.

There are states of consciousness in which Death is only a change in Immortal life, pain a violent backwash of the waters of universal delight, limitations a turning of the Infinite upon itself, evil a circling of the good around its own perfection. To arrive at such stage of consciousness may, for the individual, be one of the most important an indispensable steps of his progress towards self­perfection.

The journey from what we are to those higher states is difficult and may create a disorder and incapacity during the passage, if there is not sufficient preparation.

Summary of the first seven chapters of "The Life Divine"

summary of the first seven chapters of "the life divine"

24.       The true goal is only reached when we can group around the right central conception a reasoned and effective knowledge in which the egoistic life shall rediscover all its values transformed and corrected.

25.       This process must proceed through a renunciation by the ego of its false standpoint and false certainties, through its entry into a right relation and harmony with the totalities of which it forms a part and with the transcendence from which it is a descent, and through its perfect self-opening to a truth and a law that exceeds its own convention - a truth that shall be its fulfilment and a law that shall be its deliverance.

26.       An argument that is advanced is that the transcendence and the abolition of the ego and the dualities are not possible here on earth and in our human life if the terms of that life are necessarily bound to our egoistic valuations. This argument is not valid, because the fact is that the ego and the dualities are not inalienably involved in life which is being manifested on the earth.

summary of the first seven chapters of "the life divine"

Summary of the first seven chapters of "The Life Divine"

It is argued also that man cannot be transcended by any evolutionary process. This argument is not valid, although it is understandable that it is very difficult for the customary mind of man, which is always attached to its past and present associations to conceive of an existence, still human, and yet radically changed in what are now our fixed circumstances. The original Ape could have never been able to conceive the arrival on the earth of an animal who would use a new faculty called reason.

27.   But man has not only customary mind but has also the power of reason, imagination, intuition. He is, therefore, able to conceive and envisage his personal elevation beyond his present state into a higher state. He is capable of conceiving knowledge without error, bliss without suffering, power without incapacity, purity without defect and plenitude without limitation. But he attributes these higher states for his Gods or for his heavens. He concludes that all that is possible for man is the conditioned, limited, and precarious knowledge, happiness, power and good.

Summary of the first seven chapters of "The Life Divine"

Summary of the first seven chapters of "The Life Divine"

As against this argument, we find that in the principle of Reason itself there is the assertion of a Transcendence. For reason is in its whole aim and essence the pursuit of Knowledge, the pursuit of Truth by the elimination of error. It supposes a positive, pre-existent Truth towards which through the dualities of right knowledge and wrong knowledge, we can progressively move. Again, the rejection of pain is a sovereign instinct of death a dominant claim inherent in the essence of our vitality.

28.   In fact, we do pursue as an ideal, so far as we may, the elimination of the negative or adverse phenomena. And if we arrive at root-knowledge, knowledge of the essential cause of error, suffering and death, we may hope to arrive at a mastery over them which should not be relative but entire.

Summary of the first seven chapters of "The Life Divine"

Summary of the first seven chapters of "The Life Divine"

The ancient Vedanta presents us with that root­knowledge and points out that:

a)     there is a conception and experience of Brahman, Sachchidananda;

b)     the essence of all life is the movement of a universal and immortal existence;

c)     the movement of the world is an interplay of energies issuing from the Brahman, where multiplicity permits the interference of a temporary factor, the individual ego;

d)   it is the ego which is the factor determining the reactions of error, sorrow, pain, death;

e)    by recovering the right relation we may eliminate the ego-determined reactions reducing them eventually to their values;

this recovery can be effected by the right participation of the individual in the consciousness of the totality and in the consciousness of the transcendent which the totality represents.

29.   Later Vedanta, however, came to maintain that by getting rid of the ego, we not only eliminate the dualities, but we eliminate along with them our existence in our cosmic movement. But if we adhere to the larger and profounder idea that the ego is only an intermediate representation of something beyond itself, we escape from this consequence. We can then apply Vedanta to fulfilment of life.

Summary of the first seven chapters of "The Life Divine"

Summary of the first seven chapters of "The Life Divine"

Ego is not the cause and condition of universal existence. The essential cause is the Lord, Ishawara or Purusha, manifesting and occupying individual and universal forms. The limited ego is only an intermediate phenomenon for a certain line of development.

Following this line, the individual can arrive at That which is beyond himself and can yet continue to represent That which is beyond himself, as a centre of the Divine and of the Universal Consciousness embracing, utilising and transforming into harmony with the divine all individual determinations.

We have then the manifestation of the divine Conscious Being in the totality of physical Nature as the foundation of human existence in the material universe. We can then have a rational assurance of the process of evolution which will enable man progressively to manifest the Divine in the body.

This is the supreme birth, which material nature holds in itself; of this she strives to be delivered.

Summary of the first seven chapters of "The Life Divine"

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