Translated from the French
Translated from the French
by Michel Danino
After Man, who?
But the question is:
After Man, how?
To Robert Laffont
my French publisher who dared to understand the future
February 29, 1992
To the million souls of India unknown to themselves unknowing of their own Treasure
with my love infinite
May 21, 1992
A mighty child in the womb he is called the son of the body
He discovered the truth, the Sun dwelling in the darkness
1. Evolution II
Darwin must have more than once felt perplexed when it became increasingly clear to him that Queen Victoria too was unquestionably descended from a she-monkey. And the great Archbishop of Canterbury. It was somewhat “like confessing a murder,” he admitted before embarking on The Origin of Species, and proceeded to become agnostic: our whole Biblical and religious “creationism” was collapsing – a deeper revolution than that of 1789, though the latter did shake Europe, but now it was our four-billion-year-old world that was called into question.
Man's essential quality is perhaps to ask questions and call everything into question.
His “homocentric” creationism included.
We change our political systems and religions and ideas – indeed we have changed ideas often enough over a few thousand hominoid years. “Mind is like an infinite snake coiling round and round in infinite ways,” Sri Aurobindo said. It can go on for a long time. But do we change into a new man?
Not “change man,” for he does change a great deal, chameleonlike, while remaining a proper chameleon – not too proper lately. But change into a new man, from the species called Homo sapiens into something else, like the little lizard after the fish, and perhaps even more radically? With her ever-present humor, Mother said (about reincarnation), “You hang the assassin, which is all very well, but he carries on in another shirt” (!) Man's shirt is beginning to be rather old. Assassins, too. Our ideas, too – one more coil round the great snake?
Darwin studied iguanas, turtles and armadillos – they at least lend themselves to study, and fossilize without popes or pomp, without ideology either. But after all, the little fishes too change shirts, and one thing leading to another, or one shirt to another, they end up being proper men – by divine right? And for ever?
Not so long ago, a “great” American head of state peremptorily proclaimed, “We are the leaders of the world.” But that will also end up as fossil matter, without distinction of ideas or religions – lending itself to study in terms of amount of limestone.
So let us ask the one question that would enable us to become something other than a certain amount of limestone in a certain shirt.
I have always found it surprising, astonishing, at any rate since Lamarck,1 who dared to write his Zoological Philosophy the very year Darwin came down into a cradle, that none of those provisional “leaders” of our zoology ever wondered: After Man, who? With so many guns and sapiens, how could that particular shirt be dethroned? Our ancestral and royal she-monkeys would not have “thought” differently, nor hammerhead sharks or tyrannosaurs.
But the question is: After Man, how?
We are now entering Applied Zoology, or evolutionism in vivo.
And it may well be that all those billion years of evolution strove toward the single point where a single species would be able to turn in on itself, not in order to improve its world, its fins or legs, nor also its “ideas” of the world, but in order to study this aggregate of limestone and tissues and see what can emerge from it – how it can change of its own will, through what mechanism, what inherent power?
We propose nothing less than a zoological revolution. We seek nothing less than a hidden, yet inherent lever or spring in this body, which would open for us the doors of a New Evolution, such as there has never been since the first microorganisms three billion years ago: Evolution II.
Yes, it is somewhat “like confessing a murder,” like... an antiscientific and antireligious, perhaps even antihuman enormity. But were the first little seals ever antifish? Evolution is “anti-nothing”: it walks on. And scoffs at our conceit.
With all our traps and trappings, we are perhaps no more than the Prehistory of Man.
You break apart
the hill of being
because it gives not up to you
life's prisoned swiftnesses
2. The Favorable Milieu
I was exactly thirty when I embarked on this adventure of the future of Man. Or let us say, in simple terms, the fabrication process for what will follow Man – not his “improvement” in saintliness, intelligence, means of action, in his ability to “succeed,” nothing to dazzle the fellow human: I was decidedly all for the posthuman. The present zoology, be it scientific or spiritual, appeared to me to be a sort of pretense with hideous caves and abysses, or else evanescent heights without future except for problematic heavens. True, India had more rational openings to offer with her concept of rebirth: you walk on from life to life, growing, filling the gaps of the old failings with renewed courage, conquering the foe you did not or could not exorcise, and the film unfolds to turn defeats into new strengths and pull down old successes that had become prisons. You widen, your gaze encompasses ever more humanity. But in the end, it is always the same scenario with varying ups and downs and varying colors. You love, and laugh, and weep. Then you gaze at the human scenario in its totality, no longer quite for yourself or for your own satisfaction. History comes to life, a life as if your own. The play of contending forces is revealed, so is the collective hypnosis of the time, and the human unfolding. Contour lines take form, with faults as between the continents transmigrating from ancient Gondwanaland and drifting toward... what? And all this multiplying crowd, growing more in coarseness than in refinement, ever multiplying, like a millstone around Earth's neck. What can we DO for all this?
Evolution has the knack of making use of evil as well as good: everything is grist for its mill, the worst catastrophes are its best opportunities for inventing and discovering (or un-covering). All that says no and resists stokes its furnace as much as its prophets do. We are forced to recognize, as I did when I came back to India, that the “milieu” is not favorable, which means it is very favorable to something else. India also speaks of pralaya, the end of a world, but it is only the beginning of another: there were six “pralayas,” it is said, before our present Earth. The Earth seven times over. Seven evolutionary scenarios... “culminating” in some intelligent and rather destructive hominoid who will unfold his particular little scenario, will multiply and start all over again – and so forth till death follows? And we start an eighth Earth over again? But still, there has to be a very unfavorable moment that will give birth to a more favorable milieu or being, better suited to the beauty and durability of the Earth. The Homo called sapiens is definitely not that tool, though he may be instrumental in creating the next being – but through what corporeal, physical mechanism? There must be one, since there have been all those little creatures before us. Evolution is no more interested in multiplying our cerebral convolutions, our highways, our jet planes and wondrous ideas, than it is interested in multiplying the shark's teeth or the myriapod's legs. But it can use our own strangling to smash our walls, as it one day used some dried-up swamp to compel the old fish to invent another way of breathing. The error is to think that the little creatures, be they scientific and academic or papal of one sort or other, constitute the definitive “milieu”: they define and demarcate our prison, that is all, although everyone holds the same secret in his skin. Evolution has brought down more than one prison before us – with the same secret in the skin of every little prisoner. And its ultimate secret – what drives and impels it – may well be the making of the prisonless being, not by means of one more artifice, but with that which was in the heart of the first microorganism and the first atom.
But what is that “thing” which no scientist ever saw under his microscope, no priest from his high pulpit, and no man under his very nose?
Yet scientists have seen it, a few sages have touched it fleetingly, and a fair number of simple and unhappy men have breathed it. But no one has ever put the three things together in a single human physiology.
When we are able to put together 1 + 1 + 1, we will have produced a new species on Earth.
The treasure of heaven
hidden in the secret cavern
like the young of the bird,
within the infinite rock
3. The Two Ends of Human Experience
There are times when the human panorama opens before our eyes or gapes in our heart with a cry. This misery, this beauty in the depths of distress, this infinite rent by the stroke of a wing, then the long cruel nights again, men's savagery, lives scattered like birds in the wind, and lost loves – and something that beats and beats at the bottom of it all like the sea and the sea, that batters stubbornly, loves again and loves always. A savage and sublime paradox, a relentless quest, bloody trails and luminous trails, abysses or heavens thrown open, and then graves, always more graves. There had to be a few gods and dreams to soothe this despair and console this Woe. There had to be some beacon to sail through this storm which delights wear the face of a monster and devils are garbed in gold. Our temples are scattered in the desert like the birds of our lives and the repeated cries of our vanished civilizations – but the cries ring out and ring out again. And what is it that cries? Like a bird in a grave coming back once more to sing its song and its woe.
Perhaps that cry was there in the first grave of a microorganism, when we set out four billion years ago. A cry so futile and so powerful that it set Ages and species rolling along in spite of everything, or because of everything.
So... what can our newborn Science do on this frail ridge of a little century at the end of millennia? It can count the atoms of our grave and propel us to the cauldrons of Venus to count more atoms and galaxies scattered like our dreams. It can destroy everything, and quite ably, that is its greatest creation. Each of its marvels is a brand-new little death, of which it cures you with one more new little death – it is as “new” as the grains of sand in the Nubian Desert. Yet it was very useful to make a well-documented human horde, crying out with enough despair in its crammed prison. The Secret does not seem to belong to this end: seen through a microscope, our atoms are useless, and cyclotron-smashed, they cause accidents. Yet there is a cry there too, and a secret, but our “smashing” achievement will not be able to unshackle it any more than the monkey can find the law of fruits by shaking the tree, good though the harvest may be. But this is a bitter harvest. And ultimately, this end of human experience yields only “tricks” and masks – a Frankenstein – but not the powerful reality that could unshackle itself and propel itself, and yield to us the golden fruit of millennia.
It is in the body that we must go groping in search of the atoms. It is in the rustling night of pain that we must go in search of the cells. And we must go there with our bare hands and our bare cries, there is no other direct way.
But through what “piercing” power shall we descend to the bottom of this physiological pit as coagulated as basalt and as strident as neuralgia? One generally dies of it, or one has to be on one's deathbed to know what it is.
There is nothing more unknown than the body – why go to Mars and the Moon when all universes are there? And all the secrets of all universes in a single little cell. But we must go down there.
There is the other end of human experience.
That heavenly end.
That immense misunderstanding.
There too, the panorama spreads open, all those ardent lives struck by a burst of light, those tender and faltering lives overwhelmed with the great pity of the world, those misunderstood lives lost in solitary illumination, an abysmal understanding wringing the heart, those lives torn by an imperious certitude of what might save the world, and a helpless and sorry anguish in the middle of the throng, those lives and more lives of burning diamond, of unquenchable fire, of quest and questions with a sword in the heart and suppressed tears as of unanswered love – and also chilly dawns when life is felled at one stroke in a triumphant Joy and an immense gaze that embraces all lives like the unfinished breaker of a great Ocean – a cry of being forever beyond all sorrows and all graves.
But the poor man plods on in the night and the throng, unaware of his own secret, unaware that that burning in the heart, those suppressed tears, those unanswered gropings are already the very Answer growing and growing, without words or gospel, burning like the first little fire that set all those Ages and sorrows rolling toward an inevitable point of tension when the being, one being, will at last burst out of his old shell, master of his own power without crushing others, knower of his own world without artifice, lover of all that lives without imposing laws, whether mortal or immortal, for he will know what is burning and growing beneath all our fruitful errors and our false steps in the night.
Learn that you burn, he will say simply.
Use everything to stoke the fire within.
And the goal is certain, for it lit up with the first star.
But in the meantime...
In the meantime, we are that unfinished breaker surging against a shattering shore. And naturally, we feel some anger at all those mitred, capped, turbaned and tonsured charlatans who pour forth the “law of God” from their high minarets or steeples and seize upon all those simple little fires to build their own power of their profitable theatre. Yet each and every one of those small or big temples scattered in our deserts held a gleam of light, a little crying thirst that wanted to quench the great thirst, to soothe the old sorrow and pour out hope. Then the walls rose, wall always to imprison the gleam of light, the glimpsed glimmer. “Everyone takes a small bit and makes it his whole,” said Mother. And finally hope was always in heaven, salvation beyond the graves, far from all this unfortunate slime – this primeval slime we have all emerged from, which holds our fabulous secret.
An immense understanding.
The two dead-end extremes of human experience. One end in flight above, the other end in death below.
The right answer was 1 + 1 = 3. For we are the third unfortunate figure, the crucible in which the meeting of heaven and Earth is being worked out.
The third species after our plant and animal physiology.
Follow the shining thread
spun out across
4. The Thread
If we want to descend into this body, this product of the slime and the beast, and release its evolutionary secret, we need a sufficiently “piercing” power, as I said, but not “smashing” or bloody as are those of our Machine. We scarcely know of any direct, natural power other than the Mind, our tool of higher apes. We are familiar enough with the uses it has been put to, its beauties and horrors, its endless somersaults fruitful as well as disastrous, and its attempts at subterranean or submental exploration that have given us great myths and convulsive dreams in which devils mingled with genii and serpents with beauties: a mixed knowledge that remains skin-deep after all, for in this story we are still quite young. It is strange to note how in every field we are a Sorcerer capable enough of arousing forces without mastering them.
Yet there have been poets, too: “Millions d'oiseaux d'or, ô future Vigueur...”2 Could it be that overmental heights come closer to the secret and the required “strength”?
When I was a child, I was stuck in a boarding school for recalcitrant kids on the outskirts of Paris: a dark blue, tight-collared uniform fastened all the way up to the neck with golden buttons. Enough to stifle you. And on Sundays, bless my soul, we would go in rows of four for a walk in the woods of Verrières. It was charming. One-two-three-four, and a cap with a small golden badge against the blue. To lighten the situation, one “fine” Sunday on some impulse I started telling stories for the benefit of my one-two-three companions in fetters – unknown stories that I had never heard or read anywhere. It was very odd, as if it dropped down on my head, then unfolded on its own. I do not have the faintest idea of those stories I told (I did not have any even while telling them!), but the fact has remained quite vivid in my consciousness. It was like a knowledge or a creation of knowledge above my head, and if for just an instant I “looked” at what I was telling – pfft! everything would get muddled and the thread would be lost. There was a “thread.”
That was my first trail, and for more than fifty years I was going to walk it unceasingly.
But still, that “thing” above my head remained astonishing. And if at times I felt like a poet, if I pulled at that thread with repeated astonishment to see what “came of it,” I was not content with having inspirations or writing novels – what interested me was the human adventure, the one you live with your feet and your sorrows. What interested me was the unknown, the making of the future, because anyhow the present seemed to me as stifling as my boarding school at Verrières.
Had the “thread” perhaps to be pulled still higher?
After many a trail to the west and south of our geography, which taught me nothing but human misery and my own, and a fire within growing like an ill-contained explosion, I steered due east – to India. A country where, after all, the “thread” did not end in a religion – unless there were millions of “religions,” as many as there were men, which was not so bad to begin with. Also I was not hankering after “heaven,” I was hankering after humanity. “Salvation” was very interesting for the Earth, not for one solitary little fellow.
Then Sri Aurobindo said to me (not with words), higher, higher still, there will you find the great Strength.
I walked that higher trail for... twenty years, near Mother, from whom I learned everything, then alone when I started coming to grips with things somewhat directly in my animal physiology. When you are all alone, you have to get by as best you can. Ultimately there is only one way: a thirst, but a thirst to the death. Then you necessarily find the stream, or else you die. But as “streams” go, it was a cataract – a Niagara. A Strength awesome and... unknown. A Power awesome and... piercing.
I can only say what I know. What I have lived, touched, drunk. And the experiment is in progress, who can say how it will end? It is not about building one more theory on top of others, but about geography, a somewhat groping geography because these are unknown trails. And maybe geology too, increasingly crushing as you drill your hole deeper and deeper, down to the first little creature.
But first I should tell you the riddle of this “thread” and how the all-the-way-up leads you to the all-the-way-down, the place where things change, on the threshold of the first grave at the beginning of time.
5. The Gates of the Sun
There is a riddle.
Probably the most powerful riddle since the night before the Sphinxes – and it hangs by a thread. A thread so slender, so frail in the midst of all our racket, as if everything were trying to cover it up, to falsify and pervert it, religions as much as sciences, and to replace the source with television aerials that only reveal our own chaos, or with church hymns that only chant our finite destiny.
But how do you catch the “thread”? I can hardly tell. And how do you cross that mental “line” to emerge into that world of knowledge above the head? In my own case, the process took place quite naturally, unnoticed like the air of the woods at Verrières, but probably with a long preparation in some bygone “shirt” or other, tattered or with golden buttons, and with something inside or beneath that suffocated and kicked and rebelled against this cranial or atavistic carapace, and went to be damned here or there to begin again in another shirt – a thirst, a great thirst for something else. There is no other mechanism in this process: like an old fish that has enough of swimming round and round and would like to breathe another air. It is, after all, quite symbolic that I became aware of the phenomena while walking in rows of four in a tight-collared jacket and a Sunday cap.
It may well be time to “lighten” this human “situation.”
Our cranium is as refractory as the trilobite's carapace, and the poor “thread” has been so debased by antiquated mysticisms that we dare not even tap our own sources! And so we have swung to a rationalism as bigoted as its religious adversary – “I think, therefore I am” or some other height of philosophical and anthropological stupidity: I swim, therefore I am; I crawl, therefore I am; I climb trees, therefore I am.... We can reel off all our evolutionary tools, but what is it that is? what is it that beats in this or that shirt of shellfish or hominoid? what causes it to become? Is there a source to this becoming that caused the little fish to become something else after all, without thinking about it (!) Our philosophers may say we are a “useless passion,”3 but still that passion began before the protozoans.
And it continues.
The riddle nevertheless remains enigmatic, for if we follow the thread, as I did, and patiently trace it back higher and higher through well-known processes of yoga, we emerge into vast realms that would be quite refreshing to men, expanses of peace and light, bursts of spontaneous knowledge, oceans of freedom where the laughing gull skims the surf, limpid depths where such an old tenderness seems to smile, and sometimes abysses of the heights where all melts as in a love from all time. And nothing remains to be “known”: it IS. And it is all that is. And everything is embraced and consoled forever.
If men breathed a little of that air, they would doubtless live better. Yet it is within their reach, and not as high up as we think.
But if we pull the thread a little farther up, we find our heads lolling gently as in a sleep. “They fall asleep in the Infinite,” said Sri Aurobindo with his incomparable humor. And if we persist, we come up or knock up against a new and ultimate barrier, or rather we are kept at arm's length by... something, a radiance so dense that our physical constitution cannot pass through: “The face of Truth is covered with a brilliant golden lid,” says the Upanishad. We have reached the “Gates of the Sun,” Suryasya dwara, which none ever crossed without leaving his body.
One does not come back from there alive.
Between the mental line and the extreme end of the overmental line, we have the whole stretch of human exploration as we know it – Buddha and a few others went to that far line, blissful and disappeared into Nirvana.
But is that all?
He has cloven
wide away the darkness,
even as the cleaver of beasts a skin,
that he may spread out our earth
under his illumining sun.
6. Sri Aurobindo
Four billion years and sorrows to vanish on high?
But that is monstrous.
And all these graves are monstrous.
I CRIED OUT in a death-row cell – and how many times before?
If man is indeed a “useless passion” and all this evolutionary slaughter a mortal insanity, and our most beautiful hymns a cry of beauty and bravery against this Iron Fate, then we understand why today all these little useless passions grab submachine guns at the drop of a hat and these great world cupidities pile up bombs to destroy the Horror. And add one horror on top of another.
And all our heavens will never console us.
Is the Earth consoled?
What does Buddha (and others) tell us in the face of this Woe of beasts and trees and scrawny children? What is their Message? There is no Message, except to change our skin and our physiology and produce another being on Earth that will reverse the conditions of Evolution.
So let us go into the facts and not into philosophy.
There was a man of flesh and blood, a revolutionary who fought the British tyranny in India. In the middle of action and not in some ascetic retreat, one day in Bombay, that city of every foulness and misery, as he was walking in a verandah, this perfectly solid man, endowed with all our Western reason, was seized, snatched upward and engulfed in Nirvana – like Buddha two thousand five hundred years earlier.
... A reef
Foundering in shoreless gulfs the world is done
Four months later, he was arrested by the British and put into a cell in Calcutta, the gallows awaiting him.
This was Sri Aurobindo.
Did he give that cry?
A cry of how many times, how many deaths?
Of how many inconsolable horrors?
He must have been born wise and fearless, for instead of rebelling uselessly, he silently went on “pulling the thread.” And a certain fraternal voice from beyond the graves (it was Vivekananda) said, higher, higher still, beyond the last line.
After a year in the cell, acquitted, he took refuge in French India, in Pondicherry, where for forty years, from 1910 to 1950, he was going to explore and plough that unknown beyond the last line.
In a tranquil letter – everything was so tranquil, so limpid in this being of flesh and blood – he spelt out simply his human panorama and his goal:
“It is only by rising toward a higher consciousness beyond the mental line... that [man] can emerge from his inability and his ignorance. His full liberation and enlightenment will come when he crosses the line into the light of a new superconscient existence. That is the transcendence which was the object of aspiration of the mystics and the spiritual seekers.
“But in itself this would change nothing in the creation here, the evasion of a liberated soul from the world makes to that world no difference. But this crossing of the line if turned not only to an ascending but to a descending purpose would mean the transformation of the line from what it now is, a lid, a barrier, into a passage for the higher powers of consciousness of the Being now above it. It would mean a new creation on earth, a bringing in of the ultimate powers which would reverse the conditions here....”
For forty years, Sri Aurobindo was going to “transform the line” and plough that unknown field of Evolution II which will reverse the laws of our human and earthly condition, and all laws as they have been for four billion years – scientific, religious or zoological.
It does look slightly mad, but to the first granite what could that pretty gull in our skies look like?
“I think I can say that I have been testing day and night for years upon years more scrupulously than any scientist his theory or his method on the physical plane.”
But this is a method in the flesh.
Forty years of testing and solitude in a general human incomprehension.... A long voyage, and, as we shall learn, a dangerous voyage, compared to which Darwin's cruise aboard the Beagle seems lovely.
But at the end of it, we will perhaps find that “piercing” power which will free from their cage the poet's “millions of golden birds.”
What shall I do
with that by which
the nectar of immortality
is not obtained?
Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, IV.5.4
7. Our Human Task
Time and again I have attempted to tell that fabulous discovery, with something like despair.
This thinking tool had been given to us, to mankind, so we would try and understand our unique situation, while poor species before us, struggling in their swamps under scorching suns or sheets of ice, had been buried and had reappeared by some chance. Were these men not going to understand their asphyxiation and their power to find a way out? Or were they going to leave to bruising chance its usual evolutionary way of pulling species out of their pit? “A frightening panboeotia, a league of every stupidity, is spreading over the world a leaden lid which keeps us stifling underneath,” exclaimed Ernest Renan already at the close of the last century.4 But the way out was not there yet. The “way” invariably appears when the need cries out. And I felt like the thinking and bruised witness – “puny self,” as my brother Villon5 said in his Ballad of Hanged Men – of soul-stirring tidings that could change everything, teetering as we are on this ultimate ridge of the Quaternary, once more on the brink of the great evolutionary cauldron. Were we not going to grasp the key and fulfil our human task, which was neither to invent this or that other contraption, but to discover in our old evolutionary carcass what had always been the way to walk farther on – and what had always been, in the end, the secret lever of those billions of attempts: the victory over death, the end of this endless ballad of hanged men?
“The well of honey covered by the rock,” the Vedic Rishis said.
But it is with my own ignorance that I am finding fault: I had read Sri Aurobindo, listened to Mother, I had for some twenty years been the witness, as she groped in the night of the future, of her stammerings, her blazings forth, her moans of giving birth to a new world – the witness of her solitude in the midst of the spiritual horde around her that was hurriedly preparing to start a new religion. I, the survivor, the outlaw, carried a terrifying responsibility. I had to communicate, to bear witness – I had to give thanks to that Love that had carried me for so long, and there remained only one way, to take my turn to try and dig into this old evolutionary carcass. Then I understood my thinking ignorance, which thought it had grasped the secret while it had only caught sight of a first distant outline, a glimmer, a hope. I have written books, but now I am drenched in a fearsome cataract, a new kind of evolutionary convulsion that may produce an unknown being or the old mortal muddle, as though this body were living the very convulsion of the world, its death together with its new life, its contradiction and iron or limestone resistance together with what melts iron – the obstacle together with the very power that is forged in the obstacle. For the impossibility is always the gate to the next possibility.
I will now tell what I have touched and tested – ten years of my own voyage.
For the great floodgate of the new evolution is open, I know it is, the passage is open, I know it is, it no longer is a promise for future times: it is being done, through all our cries and murders and incoherences; the golden or leaden “lid” is pierced, rent open, the Gates of the Sun yawn on us and deliver to us (or deliver us from) the thousand pieces of our edifice in ruins – that the New may burst forth, like the Phoenix from its ashes. And who will close that solar floodgate again? It is now shaking the world more inexorably than all our Floods of old. It is the “favorable milieu” such as there has never been, for we have reached the end of man and must hasten before he puts an end to his Earth; for now is the time when, at the end of our road, we are holding in our hands our own destruction or our own mutation.
So let us throw this last lifebuoy for those who want it. For Hope is here, if we want it; the Way is here, if we want it – and the Time has come, whether we want it or not.
Violent are they,
yet comrades of
a firm gleaming Strength
O master of energy,
they have called him
of the full and compact substance
8. The Drop Hammer
There is that tranquil ocean above life, and when we have made contact with it firmly enough, when the “thread” is quite clear and familiar, we can find that ocean again everywhere, in the subway and all our possible or impossible places – it is there, carrying us, we can plunge into it at will, and all that chaos of the world, that pain and jumble of the world, are, for a moment, abolished in such a very tranquil and vast sweetness.... We are refreshed and can go on with our crazy and jumbled life. At times we cannot help thinking that something is lacking in our education of intellectual little barbarians, and that those things so beautiful and recreative could be easily instilled in children and carry them better – and farther – through life than Euclid's theorems or God's commandments.
But such a civilization of wisdom is not in prospect, and that may be just as well for we would have produced “better” men, frail and mortal, and decidedly too numerous. It is no longer the time to be better, it is the time to be otherwise.
If we have the courage to cross that oceanic and captivating line, things start taking a very different turn. Our peace is gone, our smiles are gone, we are hammered and battered against a furious shore, with all the chaos of our known world sweeping over us, followed by all that is unknown – grating, venomous, macabre – in our evolutionary catacombs.
It is a daring, arduous venture – and back breaking, really as if we had unleashed millennial adversaries. Everything says NO. And that “no” is not particularly “outside,” it is under our own skin along with all the imprints we bear in our animal physiology. It took the courage of Sri Aurobindo and Mother to bore a way through all that and “unleash” the Power that will be stronger than all those Ages of cruelty and death.
The first effect of a powerful beacon is to ferret out all the little creatures lurking in the darkness. An outpouring of ignominy. That is what is now taking place in the world as in the discoverer's body – an “un-covery.”
It is essentially Death that he un-covers, for that is the first “creature” all others derive from. And so long as that one is not conquered, nothing will be achieved, everything will always have to begin again. As Mother so simply put it, “As long as death is there, things will come to a bad end.”
Here is how it works.
Beyond that oceanic or overmental line, as we have called it, we step into a forbidden zone, a no-man's-land – really a virgin land with no trails or signposts – characterized by a... crushing into it, as if we entered a solid air, but the “we” that enters there is our body. The first time I set foot in those regions, I said to myself, or the body said to itself, “This is a liquid solid – or a solid liquid!” And in a new kind of consciousness (to which we shall refer to later – a very interesting and often humorous consciousness that ceases to have anything to do with our intellectuality or our fairy tales), I was shown a “cube of ocean” – a chunk of sapphire-blue ocean with its little silvery glints, but in a cube, held together by nothing but itself! It was so solid that it held together all on its own, yet it was liquid. I said to myself, “This is a new state of Matter! A fourth state of Matter, no longer solid or liquid or gaseous, but something else.” But just try and get this supposedly solid and material body into something more solid than itself. It is like walking through a wall. And naturally, it heats up, as when you try to send too strong a current through a resistance. Yet the thing is “liquid” or fluid, otherwise it would be impossible to go through it.
But everything resists, and how! With all its might and like millions of geological years piled up in a body.
In the meantime we have triggered a sort of irreversible process and can no longer retrace our steps, unless we decide to leave this body. The farther we penetrate into that dense zone (perhaps we should call it a dense “radiance,” but we have no words for what is still without a vocabulary), into that “milieu,” let us say, the higher up we are “snatched,” as it were, into an increasing density, and the deeper down we are simultaneously thrust into a no less increasing resistance. The denser that Power grows, the deeper it bores into resistant corporeal layers, which begin to feel that they are dying. Like a drop hammer: the column rises, and the higher it rises the more the “descending mass” gains in velocity or impact to crush the obstacle and pierce the underlying geology or the recalcitrant physiology. The body begins to feel like a borehole, except that this is geology in the flesh.
And the world's entire geology is there, for where does this Matter end? At which “wall,” if not this entire geographic ball – or beyond....
We are thus “snatched” more and more into a new kind of unlivable, or not yet quite livable life, even as we bore deeper into an increasingly solid and aggressive death. Both together. To such a point that you no longer quite know whether you live every new second or die every old second – like two superimposed existences, one living on somehow, the other somehow not killing you. Two superimposed, coexistent existences or ways of breathing. And you do not know which of the two will outlive the other.
And the drop hammer goes on and on, pounding day after day, year after year: a denser and denser, but self-evident life, and a more and more coagulated, but un-covered death.
The process is very long and exacting for, quite clearly, you cannot penetrate that solar density all at once without bursting into pieces, and, no less clearly, that same density will not tolerate one atom of death – so you die little by little, in small does, and you LIVE little by little, as if beyond death, astonished every day to find yourself again on two human legs.
But shall we eventually reach that last atom of death? That ultimate point when there only remains the other “air” and the other life?
O Tree that keepest the delight,
like the womb of a mother
hear my cry and deliver me.
9. The New Law
The whole process is extraordinarily mechanical. Which is quite natural, since its object is to cause certain transformations in the body – which ones we do not know. Any more than the fish knows how to change its fins into legs – and what's the use of legs, in the first place? You are impelled or propelled by an extraordinarily material Power that makes you live incomprehensible things, with an incomprehensible aim in view – what's the use of being crushed? Crushed by a sunlike something – a new sun? The next sun? But you do not quite know what that is. If Sri Aurobindo and Mother had not opened the way and tried to tell about it, you would run away at the first drops of that fearsome floodgate. Though not quite! The first “drops” are simply adorable, the body and cells are filled with a streaming, soaking, liquid delight – just like cherries in brandy! I very much remembered my mother's sister, who used to prepare her cherries in autumn and put them in old brandy to soak! But now there were millions of little cherries, there in the body, drinking and drinking and soaking up that unbelievable life-giving Nectar, and what life! As though they had never known life, as though they were coming to life for the first time! And at the same time they re-cognized something they had known maybe millennia earlier – “Ah! There we are, there we are!” There they were, besotted and dumbfounded, bathing in those waters of youth.
Oh, none of the “ecstasies” on the heights will be worth that corporeal wonder, as if you had landed in the divine – an unknown divine. The next Divine? The metaphysical had become physical in an old... astounded and overwhelmed creature.
That “bath” went on for a few weeks, then the “drops” grew increasingly dense, oversized, torrential, disquieting – crushing. Imperious. And the Machine started up, wave after wave, day after day. Heavy, increasingly heavy and... Enough to panic a puny little body that has never lived such a thing since the first womb of the first mother of dumb creatures. But these cells will ever remember what they drank, that Life in which they soaked as at the dawn of time – and it is this indelible memory that will carry them through all their tribulations. Perhaps it is the very memory that has carried and impelled all our old groping species in quest of their Nectar full and complete.
Tribulations there are.
But none of the beautiful experiences on the heights, no happy and vast light, nothing to make literature – I might even say, no consciousness or phenomenon of consciousness (save one or two, and very surprising): you walk through night and more night, an endless and painful night in a body that increasingly feels like a stifling bottomless pit – a pit of agony, as it were. All the old human faculties are drained away and you seem to sink deeper and deeper into exhaustion, as if all the old vital energy were ebbing away, while you are at the same time submerged, pierced and smashed by an oversize Energy bordering on the unbearable – and the border is pushed back every day, or I should say every hour, as if you were more and more on the verge of a death that does not come at the start of a life that takes ages to be born.
Perhaps time hangs heavy too for an old fish breathing that other air on the beach – beneath an oppressive sun?
The first steps in the body's new education were obviously to teach it not to panic. And the only way to do so was to put it in a perfectly deadly situation in order to show it that it does not die of it notwithstanding the “laws” – which were only the laws of the old scientific and medical creatures. The two difficult “object lessons” are the heart and the brain. So you have difficult heart phenomena, long or searing and close enough to the “limit” – once, twice, ten times. If you go and consult the doctor, you are done for. A moral for you: never go and consult the doctor of fishes if you wish to become a hominoid, nor their priests for you cannot enter the heaven of men with your body. Then a last “heart attack,” and an extraordinary “saliva” starts flowing in the mouth, liquid as no saliva is, and so profuse! It flows and flows into the throat like an elixir. After that, you are done with “attacks” and are done with belief in the “law of hearts.” As for the brain, it is harder to bear and I had some bad scares – one particularly, like a small tube or iron pipe being driven through the brain to the back of the skull. Then there were so many successive furnaces in there and so many never-exploding explosions that you are done with belief in the “law of convolutions,” too. And finally the body no longer believes in any law because it is constantly dying and constantly finding itself still standing on its two legs, breathing... with another law – a single Law, the new law, that of the other side of the waters, the other side of death. And this body knows by itself, spontaneously and obviously, that it is in a kind of grave and something is trying to haul it out.
Full of solid might
is their shining energy,
sharp is their outflashing light
And thou hast opened
the very Rock to light
by thy flashing strength
and thou hast found
10. The Breathing beyond the Graves
But still, how does it all work? There must be a somewhat logical and sufficiently physiological working as long as we are in this transition from the old animal to another, unknown and incomprehensible product.
Which is the new organ being fashioned, or which is the old organ undergoing modification? – You cannot take a leap from the fish to the bird, or whatever, without a few “transitions.” Unless, who knows, a sudden mutation takes place? But the “sudden” must be prepared by some prior incubation. I remember Mother's “I feel like an egg being hatched” (!)
The body remains long unable to find its bearings or a way to bear that cataract – “the mighty waters,” as the Vedic Rishis called it. It stiffens and tenses up and desperately tries to find a tolerable “position.” It tries remaining seated, standing, lying, with a thousand variants in each of those impossible positions – just like the fish on the sand which “wonders,” “Let's see now, might it not be better face down, or on the back, or... ?” Year after year, the body tries out a thousand ways to hurt itself. It knows it has goodwill (“an idiotic goodwill,” Mother used to say), but what is the way? There is no one to tell you. And I still remember Mother, after Sri Aurobindo left: “It's such a grace to have someone who can tell you.... Sri Aurobindo left without telling us his secret.” For a long time that little sentence left me astounded – why did he not tell us? So the body carries on, year after year, in its grieving ignorance. If it heroically remains bolt upright, it turns into an iron block – and then you become burning hot all over like a myriad electric resistance; if it decides to let itself go and “just let things happen,” it writhes and is excruciatingly torn around that confounded spinal mast, which stretches its shrouds now to the right, now to the left, and if the “thing” does go down through two vertebrae, the tension is no longer the same when it reaches the third, nor the fourth, and so on. Enough to drive you to despair, and you need to be quite stubborn – like the fish on the sand. But if you cannot find the “trick,” you die. And who can tell you what the trick is – there is no trick! There is no way to teach you to become a new species, since it has never been; if we knew the “way,” the thing would be done! Just as there is no way or handbook to teach you to swim in a storm: the only way is not to drown. And the body “pulls through,” or not. The only way is to BECOME, day after day and year after year. You become what is beyond death by not dying of death! It is as simple as that.
But “in the end,” you realize, like a nitwit of a fish, that it is not a questing of finding a chimerical “position,” or a better way of thrashing, but a question of breathing.
In that “iron block,” and in spite or because of its resistance, the body eventually becomes aware of certain more painful furrows and discovers its new physiology through the very point that hurts the most or resists the most – a direct radiology. Microscopically accurate. And it becomes aware that those difficult or “heating” furrows, those “currents” denser or more clogged here than elsewhere in the body's geography, correspond to the movement of its old pulmonary bellows, as though with each breath of the old breathing a fresh dose of that impossible cataract from above came in and circulated. It is a double breathing: along with the old oxygen drawn in by those pulmonary bellows, another kind of “something” is breathed in and circulates, using for mechanical support the old respiratory pouches invented by our amphibian brothers. The body discovers its new circulatory tracts. It can even make a... painful diagram of them.
This is a great step forward in Evolution II.
If the body discovers its circulatory tracts, it means the path has been cleared.
But it is only a beginning.
And as always in the evolution of species, the purpose of the old is to bring on the new, nothing is created ex nihilo. The body thus notices that those painful furrows, clogged and as if constricted, correspond to an ancient knowledge of India's yogas and the Far-Eastern medicine of acupuncture: the former call it kundalini with its two “channels” running along the spine – but these channels go down to the tips of the toes – while the latter calls it meridians. But it no longer works at all as the Ancients knew. Those channels serve no longer as an ascending path for the forces of consciousness to rise upward, to the top of the head, where they are “freed” in happy spaces, but as a descending and recalcitrant path for that “something” to come in and circulate, a something so impossible for a bodily geography in upheaval.
After seven years spent thrashing and groping through my “iron block,” the body even managed to draw its little circulatory sketch as it experienced it. (Who knows if in a few years or later it will not be different again!)
Now, what is that “something”?
It is obviously a new kind of breathing, which does not replace the old but is superimposed on it, and I cannot help recalling the Veda: “He set flowing in one movement human strengths and things divine” (Rig-Veda, IX.70.3). But the Rishis leave it rather vague – intentionally, without a doubt – and merely say “things.” Yet it is clearly a new kind of “air” or energy – a mighty energy!
We may define it as we experience it, but depending on the obstacle or level of the body it flows through, it is experienced differently. What was “drops” becomes a torrent and finally a Niagara. What the cells welcomed with delight becomes oppressive and compressive on the level of the heart and brain. What was solid-liquid becomes increasingly solid on the more primordial level of the skeleton – and the resistance grows and grows. I finally called it “lightning,” because it had incredible velocity – a split second to reach down to the tips of the toes – and was as “piercing” or irresistibly (I should say unrelentingly) crushing and percussive as a bolt of lightning. “It” comes in through the top of the head and hurtles down to hit against an irreducible obstacle, coagulated like basalt, always the same, beneath the feet. The “lightning” falls there, rebounds against the obstacle, rises to fall again, and again and again with each breath. That is the “drop hammer” we have already seen, or rather a kind of pneumatic drill: you are, the body is, the pipeline, the site where the “percussion” takes place. There is, underneath, a basaltic or mineral layer, which seems to be as refractory and as vast as the Earth.
Then, one day, I chanced on the most precise possible definition of this mighty respiratory or pneumatic Energy, dropped by Sri Aurobindo in the course of a conversation, as though inadvertently.
This dense, solar element beyond the last overmental line, the line we supposedly cannot cross without leaving our body, Sri Aurobindo called “Supermind” or “Supra-mental.” And he said simply:
“The Supermind is harder than diamond yet more fluid than gas.”
We thus have a new kind of double breathing, the superimposed breathing being... lightning-like and “crushing,” if I may say so. But before the new nature can become wholly natural, it is very hard to bear and seems unlivable, as the ex-little fishes well know. Were it not “fluid,” you would be flattened like a pancake, or would burst apart like the fish of the deep when jerked up to the surface.
The thing is done, or becomes, in small doses.
But what does this new “thing” crush, pound, or strike with lightning? What does it seek? What is it after? What is its evolutionary goal? If it is pounding us and hammering this Earth with such energy, it must be AFTER something.
The body's simple answer: it is hammering our grave, it is the breathing beyond the graves.
It spreads and assails
the Black Dense
O Fire, thou art the Messenger
between earth and heaven
11. The Cellular Bridge
In the middle of this unstoppable Machine – for who can stop breathing, even if it hurts! – there is hardly any “consciousness” left save that of the body, or in other words, the consciousness of the “worker” who day after day struggles in that recalcitrant corporeal magma and tries rather desperately to find a “position” or movement that might hurt less and offer a better passage to that imperious and unremitting Lightning. The worker's other, mental and vital consciousness, the beautiful dreams and ideas, have withdrawn to give way to that lone battlefield. You are a sort of null and somewhat idiotic thing. Yet there appeared in that magma two recurring and almost natural phenomena of consciousness, surprising too because that consciousness came right out of the skin, if I may say so.
I have not stopped looking at the first with a kind of astonishment and a question – why? From the moment those first “drops” of Nectar came down, and as I sank deeper and deeper into that bodily pit under the pressure of the Fire from on high, I have not stopped seeing “dead” people! My old head is, alas, solid and safely moored, and I have never been enamored of postmortem knowledge. Yet I would see all manner of departed people I was not particularly or at all interested in, who would come and tell me or show me their story (an unhappy story, as always) and sometimes also give me unexpected news. Among all those sad trivialities, I recall, for instance, an uncle of mine, a thorough and even brazen materialist and Cartesian (he was a professor at the Academy of Medicine!), who believed in nothing except the good and rich life. When I saw him, I expressed my gratitude to him, because it was he who had offered me my first boat; he answered, “Oh, life is a small thing.” I was not a little surprised. Seen from the other side, life appeared quite different from what he had all his life thought it was: it was merely a small picture in the middle of a different panorama. But why the devil did I keep seeing all those dead people, and with my body's eyes since it was the only kind of consciousness at work in the present instance? I am not particularly “clairvoyant,” nor am I a medium: I am a sailor, gazing at the color of the sea when it ruffles and turns leaden, at the clouds streaking southward, and at my sail flapping in the wind. The “phenomenon” became so frequent that if I saw someone in my sleep I would think, almost in earnest, “Well, he must have died.” And I truly wondered, with an increasingly keen question, why on earth I did not see the living (except when there was an action to be done – always an action and always the worker trying to put things in order and clear up “situations”), and above all why I did not see those I loved – my mother, for instance, whom I loved very much. She thought of me and I of her, but I would never see her. Why? I even said to myself, “I will see her when she leaves” – which is what happened. But why, what is it that prevents the meeting, except externally or through correspondence? Then I began to think, “There must be something in her material substance which is thicker or more ‘cloaking’ in her and less opaque in me.”
Then one last meeting beyond the grave – and on our side of the grave, both at once – took place that made my question still more acute. It was with a surgeon, a very dear living friend: I did not see him, not even his face, but we had a long conversation which left no recollection in me; on the other hand, I saw a woman I did not know, who “lived upstairs” from the surgeon. That woman looked at me very intensely, and I could have described her face: it was sharp, precise, full of consciousness. When I emerged from my vision, I very much wondered who that woman “living upstairs” from my friend could be. Then I suddenly remembered that he had lost his mother two years earlier – it was his mother! His mother whom I did not know in the least.
I did not see my friend, but I saw that dead woman perfectly well.
That left me thinking.
That we go on living after death is quite obvious, for me at any rate, and we have known it since... before the Egyptians. It is not a new phenomenon. The new phenomenon (new to me), now beginning to be outlined in my uncertain geography where I was treading step after blind step, is that this material body consciousness, therefore the most destructible, the most mortal, the one we leave behind in a box with our bones, is the one that sees, the one that has access to what is on the other side of the graves.... The other consciousnesses – mental, vital or higher – live on, that goes without saying, but this wholly banal consciousness of the worker handling matter, these wholly frail cells aware mostly of pain, all this disintegrates, and just as well for they would keep few memories apart from those of their sorrows – yet this is what has one foot on this side and one foot on the other side of the graves. What does that mean? As if this were the bridge. As if, I might say, this were capable of breathing the air on both sides, and quite naturally since nothing is more natural than a body. And what is more, this poor cellular consciousness, childlike and ill-treated, almost always covered up by our ratiocinations, our mental hubbub, our emotive fog, our social or medical or other imperatives and the whole peremptory bag of tricks of our science, this body consciousness buried under the weight of all that it has been taught about “the right way of living,” is the very consciousness that not only sees and touches the other side of its death, but sees the “dead” as more living and directly accessible than the living!
But such is the fact.
Then you begin to wonder if it is not the body that holds the true secret – if it is not these first cells or that microorganism from a few billion years ago that hold what we have been seeking in vain with all our scientific or intellectual artifices, if it is not this first spasm of “life” enclosed in a bubble that knows or recognizes its Nectar, its “air” from beyond the graves, its LIFE denser than all our lives, its breathing more powerful than all our oxygens – and that, finally knows not only the way out of this grave, but the way to let another air in here which will bring our walls down.
A new Life.
A new Earth.
A new Evolution – Evolution II.
A cellular bridge of the old species that could rebuild its world and its body as it did at the dawn of the Ages, but without having to die again and again in some blind carcass or other in order to find its mighty Secret in broad daylight and its Nectar from all eternity.
And at times we wonder which side the dead are on?
O Fire, when thou art
well borne by us
the supreme growth
and expansion of our being
12. The Porous Body
Another phenomenon of consciousness soon appears, or unhappily starts swarming on every side, as it were – though not so unhappily, after all. Gradually and dozens of times a day, the body comes to realize that it receives everything. It cannot see someone, read a letter or even simply hear about someone or a fact of life without being instantly invaded, weighted down or struck – most often struck – by the said object. We may “embrace” all kind of things and woes in our heart, God knows, but in the body it is something else, at times even dangerous and painful like a neuralgia or the onslaught of a disease, and always an oppression, rarely anything else, as if you instantly fell back into death. Were it not for that other, powerful breathing, you would be in constant danger – but “that” sweeps everything away. That breathing has a surprising clarifying power. The body, in other words, seems to grow porous, completely porous. To such a degree that I cannot keep a letter, even sealed, in my bedroom without the body's feeling the “invasion” or intrusion of what is there. Most of the time, almost always, it feels the coming of the difficulty or the person while the letter is still at the local post office or even when it touches the atmosphere of the continent where the body is. You become rather... frighteningly vulnerable, but there is nothing to “frighten” you, there is that other air which sets everything right.
More than one person must have experienced that sort of phenomenon with varying degrees of intensity, without sensing quite clearly where it came from, and bodies are generally protected by the black armor of the surrounding milieu.
But the phenomenon does not end there. The body seems not only to be porous to all that comes, but also to be spread out everywhere without barrier. No sooner does it “look” at something, a near or distant fact, an event, a person, than it instantly finds itself in it or him, as though directly plunged into the situation – at times it is harrowing, or the body starts sobbing helplessly as if seized with all the sorrows of the world. I do not know why so many wise or not so wise men gloat over their “cosmic consciousness”: it is the body that has the cosmic consciousness, absolutely and directly. You are stripped bare, the various cloaks covering you fall off in succession – and the whole world is there. Among the thousands of examples I could give – sad ones more often than not, for joy seems scarce in this terrestrial milieu – I recall an individual and personal fact, therefore quite banal, but which explains and outlines well enough the phenomenon extending everywhere. I was lying on the grass, my body taking a good rest from its “pounding,” or in other words, spreading out into a somewhat clear and fresh milieu, when it suddenly cried out with a start, “Pierre! Pierre!...” Something had happened to that Pierre. I wired the said fellow, and learned soon afterwards that he had fallen from an electric pole he was repairing some four thousand miles away and, rather miraculously, had merely cracked a vertebra – just when I gave my cry. As for me, I had a pain in my back. And I wonder if my cry (I was instantly there, of course) did not stop things from being worse? I also wonder if there is not a sort of omnipresence of matter once it is stripped of its old habit of being a man or a lizard. Once it is simply a body in the midst of the great earth body. Why all this talk about “psychic” phenomena when the body's cells are perfectly and simply “psychic,” without fuss and high-sounding words? And not only are they clairvoyant and porous, but they do not have a whit of ego: “me” is everyone, sinner or saint, dolt or savant.
Still, that quite natural “phenomenon” has very deep implications for the work that interests us: the evolution of this old species on the way to self-destruction, and making of a next mode of being, less noxious for the planet.
That “pounding” which the body undergoes day after day, that intrusion or invasion of another air, another respiratory mode into this barrierless matter, and especially into these higher vertebrates that are, after all, part of general Matter, must doubtless have some... incalculable and traumatic effects on this old cellular and terrestrial conglomerate that was used to being “human.” The day a first fish was able to land in an amphibian's skin, that must have had geographical repercussions, even if the other fishes were unaware of it – and how could they be aware of it?
So we are landing in another air which will radically change the face of the Earth, which is pounding and kneading her unrelentingly to bring forth a new species capable of bearing and living that Nectar she so much thirsts for. To tell the truth, one would never – but not ever – do this work of evolutionary birthing for one's own sake, one would rather die a thousand times. But we are now dying millions of times – women, trees, children and lovely birds all together – and dying a savage death.
It is a matter of life and death for all species, but has life ever been, except death triumphant since the first grave of the first microorganism? At the close of Evolution I, we are inevitably landing in Evolution II, for where on this Earth or another will the ancient evolutionary thrust stop? And why not this Earth, why not with our own corporeal and conscious collaboration?
Sri Aurobindo, who let himself be pounded and kneaded for forty years, day after day, to open up the passage for the new air, the new motive power, what he called the “supramental,” the gates of the next sun of species, said in simple words to his rationalistic and recalcitrant disciples:
“If the Supermind comes down into our [Sri Aurobindo's and Mother's] physical it would mean that it has come down into Matter and so there is no reason why it should not manifest in the Sadhaks [seekers].... At least you will admit that I have got some matter in me and you will hardly deny that the matter in me is connected or even continuous (in spite of the quantum theory) with matter in general?”
Such is the general and “porous” burden of our old cells, but such is also the “connected” and equally porous hope for an evolutionary breakthrough that will free these millions of bodies, human or not, from their habit of suffering and dying.
“Salvation is physical,” said Mother.
O fierce strengths
our earth's pleasant growths
start away from their roots,
our earth herself
trembles and vibrates
and even her mountain
The horses that
the Breath of Life has yoked
are yoked well
13. The New Impelling Force
The evolutionary operation is in progress, and who can say where it will stop? I can only state the point I have reached. I only know the tool, the means, the impelling force – and what could the first land animal know about that mixture of oxygen, nitrogen and argon or its impelling and transforming force which was to lead to this cerebellar animal? True, the amphibian endowed with pulmonary pouches was going to meet on the way mishaps and obstacles that would compel it to alter its structure, which goes to show that “obstacles” and difficulties are always the best evolutionary means. And if we are confronted with an impossibility, nature laughingly opens a door just where the specimen in formation least expected it. We forget that we are perpetually in formation. Our technology has made us believe that our only tools are technological – that is our obstacle – and we have forgotten that we are nothing but a certain evolutionary clay in an inscrutable crucible. Other mishaps may well propel us where we never expected.
This discovery – this fabulous discovery of a new means of impulsion, a new creative power in an old animal body, thus has unforeseeable ramifications. It is a beginning. This new “strength,” what is it going to do?
I can tell the obstacles it encounters in the body, and those obstacles are the surest sign of where the next door will be.
Day after day I have not stopped marveling at one fact, a fact the body has been watching with a kind of amazement. It is something like a frightful miracle, if I may say so. It was exactly six years ago when that new Power started running along certain contour lines and following certain furrows in the middle of my resistant “iron block,” and for six years that extraordinary descending density has been unceasingly growing – a wild, unimaginable crushing, totally “unreasonably” and unthinkable, yet the body lives it, or through it, wondering every day how it will all end. It is “lightning,” as we have seen, and the body fills up more and more every day, like a bomb. Every evening it says to itself, “It's unbearable,” knowing full well that the “dose” will be still stronger the next day. Were it not “fluid,” as Sri Aurobindo said, you would burst to smithereens, or quite simply like a soap bubble, for what is a puny body to that Power? But still, it is “harder than diamond,” and digging – into what?
I have more than once wondered if what “grows” is not the obstacle or the resistance, rather than the Power?
But the two must go together: the greater the resistance, the stronger the pounding or crushing, like the diamond of a drill in a borehole. Something quite unrelenting and imperious. Yet “it” respects the human limits of the day, only to push them a little farther back the next day.
There is an obstacle below the feet, as I said, an obstacle seemingly as vast as the Earth (it is that “connected” or “continuous” Matter). But this little bodily pipeline, this channel for the other Power, is not exactly rectilinear and does not bore its way below the feet only: it bores its way throughout the body at the same time, as if it had to pierce through a myriad iron maze, which seems very like that terrestrial or subterrestrial resistance. I thought it fit to draw or outline the main circulatory tracts of that dense air which plunges down to the tips of the toes, and I could see (!) that it worked with the mechanical support of our old pulmonary pouches, like a double breathing. But it is not at all – but absolutely not at all – like a small pneumatic tube being filled with compressed air or like a small pouch being filled with oxygen. It is not a local breathing, nor localized in a particular rib cage: it is a total breathing, and the “tube,” that is, the main line of descent, expands or swells into a million and billion corporeal ramifications, as many as there are cells, from the top of the head to the tips of the toes, where it finally strikes that sort of fundamental basalt – but the “basalt” is everywhere! The whole body is swollen like a bulging balloon or like a bomb with that incredible density, mighty, imperious, relentless, but there is everywhere, in the end, that iron shell against which the new crushing breathing strikes and strikes. In the end, too, if organs adapt to that fantastic “fluid pressure,” if the heart and brain and cells bear the crushing, there is on thing that does not in the least (or not yet?) – the skeleton. This sort of contraption with innumerable joints, elbows everywhere, tendons, apophyses and heaven knows what else, is stubbornly against that crushing fluidity. “As for me,” it says, “I am fixed; your new air may be very good for jellyfish, but not for vertebrates.”
And so the Power grows day after day, the new air becomes denser and denser in exact proportion to the resistance it encounters – and what is going to happen?
To “impel” means to drive forward.
In the streams
of its wide-flowing flood
they purify themselves
and garb themselves
with its densities,
they break open the material hill
14. The Three Components of Evolution II
I do not know what is going to happen: I am living the event from day to day. I am becoming it. Indeed, I can observe it as much in the day's newspapers as in my body – with the same question mark. For there is only one earth body, after all, no matter what our narrow limits may think.
And what interests me is not so much the individual body and its future destiny as our great body and the general impulsion.
Impulsion there is.
We, or I at least, tend to look at the phenomenon through Darwin's eyes. Nothing wrong with that, but we no longer have those millions of years and generations to change from one carapace to another, improved one – it is the whole earth carapace that is now being shattered. And yet everything follows a law.
But it is no longer the old law, I know that in my body, and that is what the great earth body is now learning reluctantly.
There is a new law.
A law that no longer operates according to our mercury columns, our atmospheric pressures and our smashing machine, for all our inventions based on our laws are the product of a smashing that creates another and yet another, till death follows. We cure one abomination with another.
I can hardly spell out the equation for that new law (which is just as well), any more than the fishes would be able to define the land milieu in terms of their aquatic equations: they would simply say, “You die of it.” What my body might be able to say simply about this new law and new milieu can be summed up in two words: “It's antideath.”
But mind you! The new law is perfectly deadly for all that wants to die and all that lives on death.
We all live on death! It is our chief trade and our difficulty. Our life is death itself. It is very hard to unlearn those millions of years of habits. It is very hard to learn to live another life in an old carapace falling apart on every side. The new law can only be learned step by step – we are being made to learn it quite radically.
We may first consider this individual little body, then the great general impulsion. But it is the same “thing” that unfolds.
Individually, the body seemed to glimpse two lines of possibility. It has had two kinds of experience, but the experience needs to be repeated thousands of times before the body understands and adheres – it is very slow. One experience has to do with the old resistant evolutionary framework, the other with the new breathing.
The bones are what resists the most, and what remains in a box in the end. Also, the skeleton strongly protests against being crushed by that descending density: the more it is crushed, the more it resists – and that very resistance perhaps gives the key to the difficulty: it forges the key, just as the key of the world is being forged. The solution is found or uncovered in the obstacle.
All resistance generates heat, as is well known – the resistance of the world is now generating a singular heat. But in the individual body, it is quite a strange heat. Just as that “crushing,” unlike our drop hammers, does not break anything because it is “fluid” while being at the same time “harder than diamond,” so too that heat, unlike a furnace, does not burn or cause the mercury to rise, yet at the same time plunges the body into a sort of... temperate boiler. A myriad boiler. The ancient Rishis of India knew this Fire, they called it Agni. The body simple feels itself seethe and burst without either bursting or burning, but with a kind of unusual fever unknown to thermometers – not easy, I have to admit. But it is a long time since the body learned that there is no “law of the brain” or “law of the heart” or anything of the whole blessed lot of our physiological laws – it KNOWS. And it knows there is bound to be another law of the skeleton. Sri Aurobindo, who studied the “problem” at length, simply notes that there is a subtler mechanism than that of our cyclotrons:
“The subtle process will be more powerful than the gross, so that a subtle action of Agni will be able to do the action which would now need a physical change such as increased temperature.”
Atoms too may undergo a change of organization under the action of that Fire, which does not burn you to a cinder any more than the new breathing asphyxiates you. Prometheus, too, wanted to bring the divine Fire to men, but who wants it? To change the properties of a body it is enough to change the organization of its atomic constituents, our Science tells us, but all bodies and forms on earth are made up of the same constituents. There are not thousands of bodies, of fish or monkey or man, nor are there thousands of different “processes” to be followed all over again with each specimen: there is one single body, and one single identical process.
And there is one single instrument, that Power or new Energy now impelling all this world brood.
I had a single experience, which recurred unchanged several days in a row, then disappeared without apparent reason. It may have been simply to show the body, “See, this too is possible.” And perhaps we have to wait till everything is ready in the great earth crucible.... Instead of the usual crushing under the impact of that dense and pounding breathing, it was as if (not “as if”!) fluidity had prevailed over the diamondlike side of the process: a flood tide! A flood tide of dense air, but air nonetheless, streaming through the body, rolling it about in its wave, swelling it with a sense of ease and power, again and again. Really as if the bones had become a sort of boiled cartilage, without any resistance whatever, or perhaps as if that “lightninglike” and wavelike fluidity flowed through them as through an illusory wall dissolving into its intra-atomic emptiness. And all was rolled in the wave and filled with delighted ease – perhaps like a jellyfish!
There was suddenly a new structure, which did not need to wait for Darwinian millennia and the slow modifications of carapace from one species to another. That density kept you standing upright on your own, without framework, through the sole power of its... fluid density.
Nothing is destroyed and all is changed.
But, strangely, that density or Energy is at once your structure and your breathing. The two great evolutionary ingredients put together.
And perhaps three ingredients put together.
For the primal quest of all those species, ours included, is to feed. But the old law is definite and automatic: the eater shall be eaten. As Mother put it, “Food contains its seeds of death.” But I was shown, not in the body's experience but through that sort of vision from beyond the graves – the vision of the body's eyes when it has one foot on this side and one on the other – that this new breathing is nourishing.
A nourishing air.
The three components of Evolution II put together.
But if even one of the components of Evolution II can infiltrate, inch its way through a first animal of flesh and blood, it means it is filtering through all animals made of the same substance.
Such is our chaos. And our hope.
And if it filters in, it means the end of our artifices. For that Power will create all its means through the sole force of its consciousness.
A new universe of action and interaction.
Which of you has awakened
to the knowledge of this secret thing,
that it is the Child
who gives birth to his own mothers
with thy car full of the Waters,
let the high places
and the low be equalled
with each other
15. And This Earth?
The appearances are as chaotic as those of my own test tube – we all seem to be heading for death and destruction, like the dinosaurs of old. And let us be candid, our Frankenstein is ugly.
Yet this is the opposite of despair.
Never before has there been such a fertile time, despite all its destructions. Never before has Man been so dangerously in question – never before has the first question born with the first grave and the first murder of a protozoan come to such a climax as with Man. We can at last become aware that not only is our civilization a civilization of death, but we are an Evolution of Death.
And Evolution, even of death, always bounces back and finds its unexpected solution in the very contradiction that steals over it. Its obstacle is its most powerful lever. We could have despaired at the time of the belle époque, in 1900, when our grandmothers rode about in carriages, corseted in a perpetual Sunday, but now, at last, everything is laid bare, swarming and maskless, like vermin on a corpse – which we have always been. Epictetus already knew it, who was taken away to Rome as a slave: “A little soul carrying a corpse.” There is nowhere to take us as slaves: we are proper slaves everywhere.
And because the present time is so hopeless, it is the Time of Hope.
We have no metaphysics to offer, but a new physics, compelled as we are by the very thing that assails us – and this new physics could not spring up from among our goodnesses and virtues, it could not reveal itself or become manifest so long as we turned our eyes heavenward in quest of “salvation,” or so long as we expected from our Science some panacea for our ills. We are done with our false means – that leaves the true one, in our own body, which perhaps contains its own heaven, exactly “connected” with its own death.
I will repeat Sri Aurobindo in brief, but with the lucidity of a body that has lived and is living what is said here: “This crossing of the line if turned... to a descending purpose would mean the transformation of the line from what it now is, a lid, a barrier, into a passage for the higher powers of consciousness of the Being now above it. It would mean a new creation on earth, a bringing in of the ultimate powers which would reverse the conditions here.”
A bringing in, or invasion.
Since 1950, when Sri Aurobindo left, and still more since 1973, when Mother left – the first “oil war” – our world has been caught in singular acceleration. But as always, we are reading the signs the wrong way because we see everything through our homocentric spectacles. This tremendous negativity of the Earth is supremely Positive, like the eruption of an unknown volcano that brings us an unknown Treasure: our new Means.
An invasion of the divine Fire on the Earth, the hope of Prometheus unbound. The junction of heaven and earth through the walls of our grave.
That Fire un-earths everything: good and evil, the beautiful and the hideous, truth and falsehood – life and death – as though each were merely the reverse of the other, or the same side of a single Falsehood. And we are now realizing that everything is sordidly identical. And that we have always lived on a single side of truth-falsehood, of the beautiful-hideous, of life-death, like the shark under the waters.
Mighty waters are sweeping away our illusion, which was not Buddhist. An awesome impelling Force is now crushing, wrecking and tearing down our walls everywhere, to the farthest recess of our human Nation. Nothing will be left standing, to be sure.
The word does not exist in our four-billion year-old dictionary.
A mighty “something” is overrunning all men under their golden ruins. Unknown to them, a new – or eternal – fire is throbbing in their cells and spreading through all their porous little bodies – and they thrash, toil and struggle on the beach of an Earth they thought they knew so well, but which is slipping through their fingers on every side.
The evolutionary breakthrough is made, and we are now living it in spite of ourselves. Death is exploding everywhere, but that is the lid of our grave. A new sun is burning and stirring and husking these little bodies in distress. And a new breath now weighing on our bruised shoulders will suddenly release an unexpected nectar.
And the true Earth will be.
And true men.
All that is needed is a cry in this human magma, a simple little call as a stifled child might give, and the first thread appears God knows from where, as in the woods of Verrières, the first contact and bridge with that powerful source which will “reverse the conditions here.”
Then deathless life will flow drop by drop through our lungs to refashion us according to its... enigmatic law.
February 27, 1992
We do not know the secret mainsprings of life, that which could change a destiny, or a world. The great secrets are so simple that they elude our eyes, like the bird mingled with the foliage
which suddenly sends its call
and all is athrob
and life changes course.
Now I see so clearly into the destiny of men and their hidden – and transparent – power. I hear in the distance Euripides' poignant voice: “A path is there, and none could see it.” I hear Antigone's tender voice: “Deprived of tears, of my kin, what is this justice that sends me down into this dug dungeon, this unheard grave? Io! Unfortunate outcast, rejected by the living and by the dead, neither alive nor a corpse...” Io! Her cry is echoed again and again, from the dawn of the ages I hear now that cry on our lips, brought to us by so many million sorrows, and I know the secret... so simple that none hears it.
What thought dwells on you, human brother, here on your anytime street? For that thought is what you become. What is your cry, here, in the everyday bustle? For that cry is what makes you be – be what? A man, a monkey, a beast in its millions? Or another unheard being, Io! about to break out of his dungeon?
It is so simple that we do not give it a thought.
So, to you, brother in quest, brother who does not give it a thought, I would like to tell that heartbeat of your heart, so futile and so powerful – if only you will give it a moment's thought instead of beating for nothing. So without rhyme or reason, except my love for nothing, let me tell you
Your sorrow in the street
and the crowd
is not in vain
Don't you know
that we come
here on your boulevard of woes
that great forgotten Day
that great lost Vast
Cleanse your old night
Cleanse your learning and sorrows,
your weary futilities
your mere nothings from nowhere
Cry, cry out that heart
of your heart
and it will come and embrace you,
fill your sorrow, your night, your nothing
and overwhelm you with unexpected
as if at the beginning of Time
as if nothing had
been known or understood
save that throb
of no language, no age,
that almighty spring
of a single second that truly beats,
For now is the time of the all-possible
For now is the time of another Age
if you want it, if you really
turn your thought to it
Grasp, grasp the golden thread
on your boulevard of Woes
and cry out
your TRUE cry
and your grave will open
and Destiny will be changed.
1 The French naturalist Lamarck (1744-1829) was the unrecognized founder of modern evolutionism. His painstaking and gigantic work on the classification of plant and animal species, which led him to the notion of “life's innate tendency to progression” and that “species are descended from other species,” met with vehement criticism, then fell into oblivion until Darwin's own work established Lamarck's pioneering genius.
2 “Millions of golden birds, O future Strength...” Arthur Rimbaud (1854-1891) was perhaps the most inspired among the French Symbolists. “I am working to make myself a visionary,” he wrote when he was sixteen, “a language must be found.... Inventions of the unknown demand new forms.” Also, “Humanity is the poet's responsibility.”
After Rimbaud gave up writing at the age of twenty, the few known pages of his work left poetry changed forever. “The poet is truly a thief of fire.” Rimbaud spent the next seventeen years of his brief life adventuring in the Sunda Islands, Cyprus, and finally Africa, silent, hungry, perhaps feeling helpless to express anything that could deflect the course of humanity: “Here comes the time of the Assassins,” he had written.
3 “Man is a useless passion,” said Sartre, the French existentialist philosopher (1905-1980).
4 A French historian, philosopher and writer (1823-1892), who had the courage to challenge the all-powerful ecclesiastical authorities of the time.
5 Francois Villon, great accursed and tender poet of the Middle Ages (1431-?), who knew the dungeons of a certain bishop and was thrown into prison many times, enough to discover the woe of his “human brothers.” After he was condemned to be hanged, his sentence was commuted and he disappeared without trace.