Correspondence with Sri Aurobindo
The Complete Set
Excuse me – I did not say that a street beggar or a proletarian can't manifest a great spirituality; I know that there have been cases where fishermen, barbers and robbers have been transformed into spiritual men by the touch of saints, prophets and Avatars. So I don't deny the action and the effectiveness of the Divine Power.
Then why bring in the poor street-beggar at all?
But others say – and it was the central question – that wherever the Divine Power has successfully acted upon and miraculously changed those who were in their external nature robbers and social pariahs, there was probably in them, interiorly, something latent. And they say – excuse my reiteration – that from those who have evidently no music or poetry latent in them the Divine cannot bring out these elements in spite of His omnipotence.
What is the use of this argument based on a “probably”? You say that in one in whom poetry and music are not evident, the omnipotent Divine is impotent to create poetry and music. Yet in one in whom virtue and sainthood is not evident at all, criminals, debauchees, etc., he can produce sainthood and virtue. When it appears, it is supposed to have been “probably” latent. But why can't poetry and music also be “probably” latent even when they are not evident? To say that only moral capacities are latent and mental capacities cannot be, is a sheer absurdity. There are plenty of examples of particular mental capacities manifesting in men who had them not before – A man makes one magnificent speech in his life, E writes one or two splendid poems – all the rest is either silence or twaddle. The eye dull to beauty of painting becomes aware of line and colour; the man who was “no good” at logic or philosophy can develop into a logician or a philosopher. When he was “no good” these capacities were not “evident”, – they become evident only when they appear.
Moreover, what is meant by latency – where do these things lie in their latency? If you say in the surface mind, then show me how their secret existence can be discovered while they are still latent. Otherwise how can we affirm an undiscoverable latency? If you say it is in the subliminal, I answer that the subliminal is the inner being which is open to the universal and plastic to it. All things exist in the universal, so it is impossible to say what will or will not manifest in the inner being, once the universal acts on it.
If the Divine is omnipotent, he can do it. If he can't do it, he is not omnipotent. What is this absurd self-contradiction of an Omnipotent who is impotent? If the Divine does not, it is because he does not choose to for one reason or another and I have tried to explain to you how the thing works – it is because he conditions his own working to suit his own self-made law and purpose.
When I argue with these people I say that maybe these things are latent, but even if they are not, the Divine can make them manifest if He chooses to. “Then you mean to say”, they reply, “that a Muthu can be metamorphosed into a saint or an Avatar? A very big jump indeed!” I tell them, “Leave out the Avatars; they are perilous examples. But a Muthu can surely be turned into a great spiritual man by the omnipotent Divine; that is quite possible.” Then these people answer, “Yes, maybe it is possible, but we are in no way wiser for it, because it is not done”.
Now we don't know what is latent and what is not latent, but great Yogis and Avatars do; so we request you to tell us what is meant by mūkam karoti vācālam,1 and whether the Divine can sow a seed in a barren, unproductive plot of land and reap the harvest of music, poetry and spirituality out of it, or whether He brings these things out from seeds which are already there in the soil – latent?
It means exactly what it says – that a man in whom there was no “evident” capacity, can suddenly or rapidly manifest that capacity by the Divine Grace. Indeed such things happen even without the direct intervention of the Divine Grace, so a fortiori the Grace can do it. He can make the barren unproductive land productive and fertile. Even a man can do that, say, Mussolini or the Japanese agriculturist. Seeds are thrown into the soil – they don't lie there for a thousand years and then sprout. But first make clear what is meant by the soil? The surface man? The subliminal man? In every human being there are these two, and if you can say something about the first, how much can you say about the other?
The examples of an unlettered Ramakrishna or a St. Peter and others do not prove much; one may say that big spiritual figures can and do take birth in humble social disguises. When all is said and done, the “latent” theory cannot be entirely waved aside. It seems that the Divine too usually follows the path of least resistance – I mean he brings out generally those tendencies and capacities that one is born with, that is, things that are latent.
It is a mere word – this “latent”. It is like the materialist's “coincidence” and “hallucination” to explain away the appearance of the supernormal. At least it is so unless you define its action and modalities.
Certainly, it is the usual case. But the usual is not the limit of the possible.
Now, about your personal example. You speak of the evolution theory to prove that “it can be done”, though the domain I touched upon was only the spiritual. If the scientists say that man has not been able to create living things up to now, and therefore he will not be able to do so in the future – that “it can't be done”, what will be your answer? And if similarly, I say that a Tom, Dick or Harry cannot be a Rama, Krishna or Sri Aurobindo, what reply will you give?
I have brought in the evolution theory or rather fact of evolution, to disprove your argument that because a thing has not been done, it is thereby proved that it could not be done. I don't understand your argument. If a scientist says that, he is using bad logic. I have never said it can't be done. I dare say some day in the right conditions the creation of life will become possible.
They may not be Ram or Krishna or Sri Aurobindo, but they may become a spiritualised super-Tom, super-Dick or super-Harry. I have answered about the Avatar.
I have never said that you are only a big human person. On the contrary, you are not, and hence nobody can be like you. Nevertheless, I don't quite follow what you mean when you state that whatever you achieve is possible for humanity to achieve, your attainments opening the way for others to follow.
It is singular that you cannot understand such a simple thing. I had no urge towards spirituality in me, I developed spirituality. I was incapable of understanding metaphysics, I developed into a philosopher. I had no eye for painting – I developed it by Yoga. I transformed my nature from what it was to what it was not. I did it by a special manner, not by a miracle and I did it to show what could be done and how it could be done, I did not do it out of any personal necessity of my own or by a miracle without any process. I say that if it is not so, then my Yoga is useless and my life was a mistake – a mere absurd freak of Nature without meaning or consequence. You all seem to think it a great compliment to me to say that what I have done has no meaning for anybody except myself – it is the most damaging criticism on my work that could be made.
If a man has transformed his nature, he couldn't have done it all by himself, as you have done.
I also did not do it all by myself, if you mean by myself the Aurobindo that was. He did it with the help of Krishna and the Divine Shakti. I had help from embodied sources also.
I should say that Avatars are like well-fitted, well-equipped Rolls Royce machines.
All sufficient to themselves – perfect and complete from the beginning, hey? Just roll, royce and ripple!
They do have plenty of difficulties on their journey, but just because they are like Rolls Royce they can surmount them – whilst the rest of humanity is either like loose and disjointed machines or wagons to be dragged along by Avatars and great spiritual personages. Floating on the heights of the Overmind, you have overlooked what this earth-bound clod crawling over low plateaus has meant.
Great Scott! What a penal servitude for the great personages and the Avatars! And where are they leading them? All that rubbish into Paradise? How is that any more possible than creating a capacity where there was none? If the disjointed machines cannot be jointed, isn't it more economical to leave them where they are, in the lumber-shed?
I don't know about Avatars. Practically what I know is that I had not all the powers necessary when I started, I had to develop them by Yoga, at least many of them which were not in existence in me when I began, and those which were I had to train to a higher degree. My own idea of the matter is that the Avatar's life and actions are not miracles, and if they were, his existence would be perfectly useless, a mere superfluous freak of Nature. He accepts the terrestrial conditions, he uses means, he shows the way to humanity as well as helps it. Otherwise what is the use of him and why is he here?
I was not always in the overmind, if you please. I had to climb there from the mental and vital level.
Really, Sir, you have put into my mouth what I never mentioned or even intended to.
You may not have mentioned it but it was implied in your logic without your knowing that it was implied. Logic has its own consequences which are not apparent to the logiciser. It is like a move in chess by which you intend to overcome the opponent but it leads, logically, to consequences which you didn't intend and ends in your own checkmate. You can't invalidate the consequences by saying that you didn't intend them.
Let me remind you of what I wrote about the Avatar. There are two sides of the phenomenon of Avatarhood, the Divine Consciousness behind and the instrumental personality. The Divine Consciousness is omnipotent but it has put forward the instrumental personality in Nature, under the conditions of Nature, and it uses it according to the rules of the game – though also sometimes to change the rules of the game. If Avatarhood is only a flashing miracle, then I have no use for it. If it is a coherent part of the arrangement of the omnipresent Divine in Nature, then I can understand and accept it.
As for the Muthu affair, that was only a joke as ought to have been clear to you at once. Nobody has any intention of making Muthu a saint or an Avatar. But that is only because the Divine is not going to play the fool, not because he is impotent. Muthu's only business in life is to prepare himself for something better hereafter and exhaust some of his lower tendencies in the meantime. That is not the question – the question is whether as a general rule rigid and unalterable man is bound down to his outward nature as it appears to be built at the moment and even the Divine cannot or will not under any circumstances change it or develop something new in it, something not yet “evident”, not yet manifested, or is there a chance for human beings becoming more like the Divine? sādṛśyamukti, sādharmyam āgatāḥ. If not, there is no use in anybody doing this Yoga; let the Krishnas and Ramakrishnas rocket about gloriously and uselessly in the empty Inane and the rest wriggle about for ever in the clutch of the eternal Devil. For that is the logical conclusion of the whole matter.
1 “He makes the dumb talk” (Tulsi Ramayana, 1st part).