November 7, 1961
(Regarding Satprem's letter to Mother on the Veda:)
This has confronted me with a problem....
You are asking about the process, aren't you?
My impression from the Veda is not the same as yours. You say that when they reached the heights they went into trance and then tried the other method. When I read the Veda... at least what Sri Aurobindo translates for us, because otherwise I have no direct knowledge....
But they say nothing about this.
I know my own experience and I can speak of it in detail; and according to what Sri Aurobindo told me, it was the same for him – although he NEVER wrote of it anywhere. But since it has been my experience, I naturally feel that it's the simplest method.
There is also what Théon and Madame Théon used to say. They never spoke of “Supermind,” but they said the same thing as the Vedas, that the world of Truth must incarnate on earth and create a new world. They even picked up the old phrase from the Gospels, “new heavens and a new earth,”1 which is the same thing the Vedas speak of. Madame Théon had this experience and she gave me the indication (she didn't actually teach me) of how it was to be done. She would go out of her body and become conscious in the vital world (there were many intermediary states, too, if one cared to explore them). After the vital came the mental: you consciously went out of the vital body, you left it behind (you could see it) and you entered the mental world. Then you left the mental body and entered into.... They used different words, another classification (I don't remember it), but even so, the experience was identical. And like that, she successively left twelve different bodies, one after another. She was extremely “developed,” you see – individualized, organized. She could leave one body and enter the consciousness of the next plane, fully experience the surroundings and all that was there, describe it... and so on, twelve times.
I learned to do the same thing, and with great dexterity; I could halt on any plane, do what I had to do there, move around freely, see, observe, and then speak about what I had seen. And my last stage, which Théon called “pathétisme,”2 a very barbaric but very expressive word, bordered on the Formless – he sometimes used the Jewish terminology, calling the Supreme “The Formless.” (From this last stage one passed to the Formless – there was no further body to leave behind, one was beyond all possible forms, even all thoughtforms.) In this domain [the last stage before the Formless] one experienced total unity – unity in something that was the essence of Love; Love was a manifestation more... “dense,” he would always say (there were all sorts of different “densities”); and Love was a denser expression of That, the sense of perfect Unity – perfect unity, identity – with no longer any forms corresponding to those of the lower worlds. It was a Light!... An almost immaculate white light, yet with something of a golden-rose in it (words are crude). This Light and this Experience were truly wonderful, inexpressible in words.
Well, one time I was there (Théon used to warn against going beyond this domain, because he said you wouldn't come back), but there I was, wanting to pass over to the other side, when – in a quite unexpected and astounding way – I found myself in the presence of the “principle,” a principle of the human form. It didn't resemble man as we are used to seeing him, but it was an upright form, standing just on the border between the world of forms and the Formless, like a kind of standard.3 At that time nobody had ever spoken to me about it and Madame Théon had never seen it – no one had ever seen or said anything. But I felt I was on the verge of discovering a secret.
Afterwards, when I met Sri Aurobindo and talked to him about it, he told me, “It is surely the prototype of the supramental form.” I saw it several times again, later on, and this proved to be true.
But naturally, you understand, once the border has been crossed, there is no more “ascent” and “descent”; you have the feeling of rising up only at the very start, while leaving the terrestrial consciousness and emerging into the higher mind. But once you have gone beyond that, there's no notion of rising; there's a sense, instead, of a sort of inner transformation.
And from there I would redescend, re-entering my bodies one after another – there is a real feeling of re-entry; it actually produces friction.
When one is on that highest height, the body is in a cataleptic state.
I think I made this experiment in 1904, so when I arrived here it was all a work accomplished and a well-known domain; and when the question of finding the Supermind came up, I had only to resume an experience I was used to – I had learned to repeat it at will, through successive exteriorizations. It was a voluntary process.
When I returned from Japan and we began to work together, Sri Aurobindo had already brought the supramental light into the mental world and was trying to transform the Mind. “It's strange,” he said to me, “it's an endless work! Nothing seems to get done – everything is done and then constantly has to be done all over again.” Then I gave him my personal impression, which went back to the old days with Théon: “It will be like that until we touch bottom.” So instead of continuing to work in the Mind, both of us (I was the one who went through the experience... how to put it?... practically, objectively; he experienced it only in his consciousness, not in the body – but my body has always participated), both of us descended almost immediately (it was done in a day or two) from the Mind into the Vital, and so on quite rapidly, leaving the Mind as it was, fully in the light but not permanently transformed.
Then a strange thing happened. When we were in the Vital, my body suddenly became young again, as it had been when I was eighteen years old!... There was a young man named Pearson, a disciple of Tagore, who had lived with me in Japan for four years; he returned to India, and when he came to see me in Pondicherry, he was stupefied.4 “What has happened to you!” he exclaimed. He hardly recognized me. During that same period (it didn't last very long, only a few months), I received some old photographs from France and Sri Aurobindo saw one of me at the age of eighteen. “There!” he said, “That's how you are now!” I wore my hair differently, but otherwise I was eighteen all over again.
This lasted for a few months. Then we descended into the Physical – and all the trouble began.5 But we didn't stay in the Physical, we descended into the Subconscient and from the Subconscient to the Inconscient. That was how we worked. And it was only when I descended into the Inconscient that I found the Divine Presence – there, in the midst of Darkness.
It wasn't the first time; when I was working with Théon at Tlemcen (the second time I was there), I descended into the total, unindividualized – that is, general – Inconscient (it was the time he wanted me to find the Mantra of Life). And there I suddenly found myself in front of something like a vault or a grotto (of course, it was only something “like” that), and when it opened, I saw a Being of iridescent light reclining with his head on his hand, fast asleep. All the light around him was iridescent. When I told Théon what I was seeing, he said it was “the immanent God in the depths of the Inconscient,” who through his radiations was slowly waking the Inconscient to Consciousness.
But then a rather remarkable phenomenon occurred: when I looked at him, he woke up and opened his eyes, expressing the beginning of conscious, wakeful action.
I have experienced the descent into the Inconscient many times (you remember, once you were there the day it happened – it had to do with divine Love6); this experience of descending to the very bottom of the Inconscient and finding there the Divine Consciousness, the Divine Presence, under one form or another. it has happened quite frequently.
But I can't say that my process is to descend there first, as you write. Rather, this can be the process only when you are ALREADY conscious and identified; then YOU DRAW DOWN the Force (as Sri Aurobindo says, “one makes it descend”) in order to transform. Then, with this action of transformation, one pushes [the Force into the depths, like a drill]. The Rishis' description of what happens next is absolutely true: a formidable battle at each step. And it would seem impossible to wage that battle without having first experienced the junction above.
That is my experience – I don't say there can't be others. I don't know.
One can realize the Divine in the Inconscient rather quickly (in fact, I think it can happen just as soon as one has found the Divine within). But does this give the power to TRANSFORM DIRECTLY? Does the direct junction between the supreme Consciousness and the Inconscient (because that is the experience) give the power to transform the Inconscient just like that, without any intermediary? I don't think so. I simply haven't had that experience. Could all these things I've been describing be happening now if I didn't have all those experiences behind me? I don't know, I can't say.
One thing is certain – as soon as one goes beyond the terrestrial atmosphere, beyond the higher mind's “highest” region, the sensation of “high” and “low” totally vanishes. There are no longer movements of ascent and descent, but (Mother turns her hand over) something like inner reversals.
I think the problem arises only when you try to see and understand with the mental consciousness, even with the higher mind.
I am telling you this because, as soon as I got your letter, I replied with what I'll read to you now; then I was immediately faced with something I couldn't formulate, the kind of thing that gives you the feeling of the unknown (all I knew was my own experience). So I did the usual thing – became “blank,” turned towards the Truth; and I questioned Sri Aurobindo – and beyond – asking, if there were something to be known, that it be told to me. Then I dropped it, I paid no more attention. And only as I was coming here today was I told – I can't really use the word “told,” but anyway, what was communicated to me concerning your question was that the difference between the two processes [the Rishis' and the present one] is purely subjective, depending upon the way the experience is registered. I don't know if I can make myself clear.... There is “something” which is the experience and which will be the Realization; and what appears to be a different, if not opposite, process is simply a subjective mental notation of one SINGLE experience. Do you follow?
That's what I was told.
Now I'm going to read you my reply – it's the first reaction (when something comes, I stay immobile; then an initial reaction comes from above my head, but it's only like the first answering chord, and if I remain attentive, other things follow; what I have just told you is what followed). My immediate written response is based upon my own experience as well as upon what Madame Théon told me and what Sri Aurobindo told me. (Mother reads:)
“It is by rising to the summit of consciousness through a progressive ascent...” (that's what I meant just now by “leaving the body,” but without going into details), “that one unites with the Supermind. But as soon as the union is achieved, one knows and one sees that the Supermind exists in the heart of the Inconscient as well. When one is in that state, there is neither high nor low. But GENERALLY,” (I emphasized this to make it clear that I am not making an absolute assertion) “it is by REDESCENDING through the levels of the being with a supramentalized consciousness that one can accomplish the permanent transformation of physical nature.” (This can be experienced in all sorts of ways, but what WE want and what Sri Aurobindo spoke of is a change that will never be revoked, that will persist, that will be as durable as the present terrestrial conditions. That is why I put “permanent.”) “There is no proof that the Rishis used another method, although, to effect this transformation (if they ever did) they must necessarily have fought their way through the powers of inconscience and obscurity.”
Yes, the Rishis give an absolutely living description of what you experience – and experience continually – as soon as you descend into the Subconscient: all these battles with the beings who conceal the Light and so on. I experienced these things continually at Tlemcen and again with Sri Aurobindo when we were doing the Work – it's raging quite merrily even now!
As soon as you go down there, that's what happens – you have to fight against all that is unwilling to change, all that dominates the world and does not want to change.
Ignore the spelling mistakes!
Now, if there's something else you want to ask me, perhaps it will come....
After reading your letter, I had a very strong feeling that you put the problem like that because you were considering it from a mental plane, which is the only plane where it exists; if you go beyond, there are no more oppositions or problems. These things are subtle, you know, and as soon as you try to formulate them, they elude you – formulation deforms.
What I mean is that it's not necessarily in trance, in another world, that one gets the supramental consciousness....
It's something the Rishis realized with eyes wide open, in day to-day life, if I understand rightly.
I don't know how they did it....
But I myself have never had it in trance, and neither did Sri Aurobindo – neither of us ever had trances! I mean the kind of trance where contact with the body is lost. That's what he always said, and one of the first things I told him when we met was, “Well, everybody talks about trance and samadhi and all those things, but I have never had them! I have never lost consciousness.” “Ah,” he replied, “it's exactly the same for me!”
It depends upon the level of development, that's what Théon used to say: “One goes into trance only when certain links are missing.” He saw people as made up of innumerable small “bridges,” with intermediary zones. “If you have an intermediary zone that is undeveloped,” he said, “a zone where you are not conscious because it's not individualized, then you will be in trance when you cross it.” Trance is the sign of non-individualization – the consciousness is not awake and so your body goes into trance. But if your consciousness is wide awake you can sit, keeping full contact with things, and have the total experience. I could go out of my body with no need of trance, except when Théon wanted me to do a particular work. That was a different business – the vital force (not the consciousness, the vital force) had to go out for that work, so the body had to go into trance. But even then.... For instance, very often when I am “called” and go to do something in response, my body does become still, but it's not in trance; I can be sitting and, even in the middle of a gesture, suddenly become immobile for a few seconds.7 But I was doing another type of work with Théon – dangerous work, at that – and it would last for an hour. Then all the body's vital energy would go out, all of it, as it does when you die (in fact, that's how I came to experience death).
But it isn't necessary to have all those experiences, not at all – Sri Aurobindo never did. (Théon didn't have experiences, either; he had only the knowledge – he made use of Madame Théon's experiences.) Sri Aurobindo told me he had never really entered the unconsciousness of samadhi – for him, these domains were conscious; he would sit on his bed or in his armchair and have all the experiences.
Naturally, it's preferable to be in a comfortable position (it's a question of security). If you venture to do these kinds of things standing up, for instance, as I have seen them done, it's dangerous. But if one is quietly stretched out, there is no need for trance.
Besides, according to what I've been told (not physically), I believe that the Rishis practiced going into trance. But I suppose they wanted to achieve what Sri Aurobindo speaks of: a PHYSICAL transformation of the physical body permitting one to LIVE this consciousness instead of the ordinary consciousness. Did they ever do it?... I don't know. The Veda simply recounts what the forefathers have done. But who are these forefathers?
But surely this supramental consciousness is something to be found in the body?8
When one has these experiences, like the ones I've had in the subtle physical, for example, the body is certainly in trance – but the part having the experience doesn't AT ALL feel deprived or lacking in anything. The experience comes with a fullness of life, consciousness, independence, individuality. It's not like going out in trance to accomplish a work and feeling linked to the body – it's not that: the body no longer exists nor has any reason to! It's simply not there. And it's a nuisance to go back into it – “what is this useless burden!” you wonder. As a result, if this experience becomes permanent, you live in a world that's just as concrete, just as real and just as TANGIBLE as our physical world, with the same qualities of duration, permanence and stability.
It's very difficult to express, because as soon as we notice it....
While having this experience, you are free (as I said, the body no longer exists, it has even no reason to exist, and you don't think of it), and you have just as concrete an OBJECTIVE functioning – even more so! It is more concrete because you have a MUCH CLEARER and more tangible perception of knowledge than ordinary physical perception; our ordinary way of understanding always seems so hazy in comparison. It's not the same phenomenon as going off into trance and being linked to the body, depending upon it for expression, and so forth.
But a certain work [of adaptation] is required to express this experience, and the first impression upon returning is that there's no way to do it. It simply doesn't correspond to anything.9
1 II Peter 3.13.
2 A word coined by Théon, which might roughly translate as “the sublime.”
3 By “standard,” Mother means a sort of model or archetype.
4 Pearson came to Pondicherry in April 1923.
5 In January 1925, mother had an inflammation of the knee. On May 25 of the same year, Sri Aurobindo noted in a letter, “The condition here is not very good. I am at present fighting the difficulties on the physical plane.” (Cited by A.B. Purani, Life of Sri Aurobindo, p. 203.) Note that in 1925 the Nazi Party was founded.
6 We aren't sure, but this may refer to the experience of July 12, 1960, or to that of November 5, 1958, “the almighty spring” (in fact, they are probably one and the same experience) which gave rise to the 1959 New Year Message: “At the very bottom of the Inconscient, most hard and rigid and narrow and stifling, I struck upon an almighty spring that cast me up forthwith into a formless, limitless Vast, vibrating with the seeds of a new world.”
7 Seconds that could last for half an hour!
8 Mother does not reply directly to this question (although she would probably have answered in the affirmative, since the point is indeed to LIVE this supramental consciousness), but she does reply directly to what is BEHIND Satprem's question – that is, this fundamental, deep-rooted assumption that physical life is the sole, concrete reality.
9 This conversation was interrupted before Mother could conclude.