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SRI AUROBINDO

LETTERS ON YOGA

Volume 1. Part One

9. Fate and Free-Will, Karma and Heredity, etc

II  III  IV  V  VI  VII  VIII

736

  Your extracts taken by themselves are very impressive, but when one reads the book, the impression made diminishes and fades away. You have quoted Cheiro's successes, but what about his failures? I have looked at the book and was rather staggered by the number of prophecies that have failed to come off. You can't deduce from a small number of predictions, however accurate, that all is predestined down to your putting the questions in the letter and my answer. It may be, but the evidence is not sufficient to prove it. What is evident is that there is an element of the predictable, predictable accurately and in detail as well as in large points, in the course of events. But that was already known; it leaves the question still unsolved whether all is predictable, whether destiny is the sole factor in existence or there are other factors also that can modify destiny, – or, destiny being given, there are not different sources or powers or planes of destiny and we can modify the one with which we started by calling in another destiny source, power or plane and making it active in our life. Metaphysical questions are not so simple that they can be trenchantly solved either in one sense or in another contradictory to it – that is the popular way of settling things, but it is quite summary and inconclusive. All is free-will or else all is destiny – it is not so simple as that. This question of free-will or determination is the most knotty of all metaphysical questions and nobody has been able to solve it – for a good reason that both destiny and will exist and even a free-will exists somewhere; the difficulty is only how to get at it and make it effective.

Astrology? Many astrological predictions come true, quite a mass of them, if one takes all together. But it does not follow that the stars rule our destiny; the stars merely record a destiny that has been already formed, they are a hieroglyph, not a Force, – or if their action constitutes a force, it is a transmitting energy, not an originating Power. Someone is there who has determined or something is there which is Fate, let us say; the stars are only indicators. The astrologers themselves say that there are two forces, daiva and puruṣakāra, fate and individual energy, and the individual energy can modify and even frustrate fate. Moreover, the stars often indicate several fate-possibilities; for example that one may die in mid-age, but that if that determination can be overcome, one can live to a predictable old age. Finally, cases are seen in which the predictions of the horoscope fulfil themselves with great accuracy up to a certain age, then apply no more. This often happens when the subject turns away from the ordinary to the spiritual life. If the turn is very radical, the cessation of predictability may be immediate; otherwise certain results may still last on for a time, but there is no longer the same inevitability. This would seem to show that there is or can be a higher power or higher plane or higher source of spiritual destiny which can, if its hour has come, override the lower power, lower plane or lower source of vital and material fate of which the stars are indicators. I say vital because character can also be indicated from the horoscope much more completely and satisfactorily than the events of the life.

The Indian explanation of fate is Karma. We ourselves are our own fate through our actions, but the fate created by us binds us; for what we have sown, we must reap in this life or another. Still we are creating our fate for the future even while undergoing old fate from the past in the present. That gives a meaning to our will and action and does not, as European critics wrongly believe, constitute a rigid and sterilising fatalism. But again, our will and action can often annul or modify even the past Karma, it is only certain strong effects, called utkaṭa karma, that are non-modifiable. Here too the achievement of the spiritual consciousness and life is supposed to annul or give the power to annul Karma. For we enter into union with the Will Divine, cosmic or transcendent, which can annul what it had sanctioned for certain conditions, new-create what it had created, the narrow fixed lines disappear, there is a more plastic freedom and wideness. Neither Karma nor Astrology therefore points to a rigid and for ever immutable fate.

As for prophecy, I have never met or known of a prophet, however reputed, who was infallible. Some of their predictions come true to the letter, others do not, – they half-fulfil or misfire entirely. It does not follow that the power of prophecy is unreal or the accurate predictions can be all explained by probability, chance, coincidence. The nature and number of those that cannot is too great. The variability of fulfilment may be explained either by an imperfect power in the prophet sometimes active, sometimes failing or by the fact that things are predictable in part only, they are determined in part only or else by different factors or lines of power, different series of potentials and actuals. So long as one is in touch with one line, one predicts accurately, otherwise not – or if the lines of power change, one's prophecy also goes off the rails. All the same, one may say, there must be, if things are predictable at all, some power or plane through which or on which all is foreseeable; if there is a divine Omniscience and Omnipotence, it must be so. Even then what is foreseen has to be worked out, actually is worked out by a play of forces, – spiritual, mental, vital and physical forces – and in that plane of forces there is no absolute rigidity discoverable. Personal will or endeavour is one of those forces. Napoleon when asked why he believed in Fate, yet was always planning and acting, answered, “Because it is fated that I should work and plan”; in other words, his planning and acting were part of Fate, contributed to the results Fate had in view. Even if I foresee an adverse result, I must work for the one that I consider should be; for it keeps alive the force, the principle of Truth which I serve and gives it a possibility to triumph hereafter so that it becomes part of the working of the future favourable Fate, even if the fate of the hour is adverse. Men do not abandon a cause because they have seen it fail or foresee its failure; and they are spiritually right in their stubborn perseverance. Moreover, we do not live for outward result alone; far more the object of life is the growth of the soul, – not outward success of the hour or even of the near future. The soul can grow against or even by a material destiny that is adverse.

Finally, even if all is determined, why say that life is, in Shakespeare's phrase or rather Macbeth's, “a tale told by an idiot full of sound and fury, signifying nothing”? Life would rather be that if it were all chance and random incertitude. But if it is something foreseen, planned in every detail, does it not rather mean that life does signify something, that there must be a secret Purpose that is being worked up to, powerfully, persistently, through the ages, and ourselves are a part of it and fellow-workers in the fulfilment of that invincible Purpose?

P.S. Well, one of the greatest ecstasies possible is to feel oneself carried by the Divine, not by the stars or Karma, for the latter is a bad business, dry and uncomfortable – like being turned on a machine, “yantrārūḍhāni māyayā”.

*

737

I am afraid I have no great confidence in Cheiro's ideas and prophecies – some prophecies are fulfilled but most have gone wrong. The idea about the Jews is an old Jewish and Christian belief; not much faith can be put in it. As for the numbers, it is true that according to occult science numbers have a mystic meaning. It is also true that there are periods and cycles in life as well as in world-life. But too exact a meaning cannot always be put in these things.

*

738

I'm thinking why it is so important to go on attending the hospital. When R asked, you replied, “If you feel the need”. Why a different decision for me? For my personal profit? For my sadhana or an impersonal play behind?

That was before circumstances took a certain shape. At that time the forces had not so arranged themselves as to make it important. Afterwards when things came to the necessary point, then Mother told R he must continue and it is for the same reason that she asks you to continue. When I say important I don't mean that it is a big thing, but it is a small point in the game (play of forces) and small points, like pawns in chess, can be important – even very important.

It appears the Mother is turning towards manifestation viz. the Town Hall decoration, A.P. House, Art Exhibition in Paris, etc. I heartily like it. Sir. Many, many valuable years have passed by!

Why valuable years? Are some years valuable and others non-valuable? There is no question of Art Exhibition in Paris before 1937 which may be a valuable year but is still far off.

During the hospital work, I feel myself submerged in Inconscience. No remembrance of the Mother at all.

It does not matter. This is not the supramental manifestation – it is simply a little game on the way.

Do you work on those people also and can your Force be invoked in aid of that suffering populace?

What people? Which suffering populace? Mother is not taking up A.P.H. or decorating Town Hall for the sake of any suffering populace.

Apropos of that scorpion incident on the 8th, you explained Dr. B's case, but avoided-mentioning J; yet he was an important link. And if the incident could have manifested in so many ways, then surely the whole thing must have appeared before your vision as soon as it happened.

What is this logic? There is no connection between the premiss and the conclusion.

Finding J a receptive fellow, you acted through him. What do you say?

I was not speaking of any personal action but of the play of forces which happens everywhere, but is of course more marked here because of our presence and the work done.

Then it means that there is no such thing as accident, chance, or coincidence; all is predetermined – all is a play of forces. Sir C.V. Roman once lectured to us that all these scientific discoveries are games of chance.

 I have not said that everything is rigidly predetermined. Play of Forces does not mean that. What I said was that behind visible events in the world there is always a mass of invisible forces at work unknown to the outward minds of men, and by Yoga, (by going inward and establishing a conscious connection with the cosmic Self and Force and forces) one can become conscious of these forces, intervene consciously in the play, to some extent at least determine things in the result of the play. All that has nothing to do with predetermination. On the contrary one watches how things develop and gives a push here and a push there when possible or when needed. There is nothing in all that to contradict the great Sir C.V. Raman. Only when he says these things are games of chance, he is merely saying that [...]1 human beings don't know how it works out. It is not a rigid predetermination, but it is not a blind inconscient Chance either. It is a play in which there is a working out of possibilities in Time.

From the falling down of the bottle – Simpson's discovery of chloroform – to the Irish sweepstake, everything seems to be this blessed play of forces, but not Chance! The bottle had to fall for the great discovery!

Why shouldn't it fall? Something had to happen so that human stupidity might be enlightened, so why not the agency of a bottle?

Your old colleague B says that if there were such a thing as “accident”, then one can no longer say that there is a perfectly uninterrupted order in this world. Order means a regular sequence. An accident can only happen by disturbing this sequence.

That's nineteenth century mechanical determinism. It is not like that. Things can be changed without destroying the universe.

I suppose I am once again knocking my head against a cosmic problem?

Very much so, sir.

*

739

It is difficult indeed to make out what Planck means in these pages – what is his conclusion and how he arrives at it; he has probably so condensed his arguments that the necessary explanatory links are missing. The free-will affair, I see by glancing through the previous pages, arises only incidentally from his position that the new discoveries grouped round the quantum theory do not make a radical difference in physics. If there is a tendency to regard laws as statistical, – in which case there is no “strict causality” and no determinism – still there is nothing to prove that they cannot be treated and may not be advantageously treated as dynamical also – in which case determinism can stand; the uncertainty of individual behaviour (electrons, quanta) does not really undermine determinism, but only brings a new feature into it. That seems from a hasty glance to be his position. Certain scientific thinkers consider this uncertainty of individual behaviour to be a physical factor correspondent to the element of free-will in individual human beings. It is here that Planck brings in the question of free-will to refute the conclusion that it affects strict causality and the law of determinism. His argument, as far as I can make it out, is this:

1. The law of strict causality stands because any given action or inner happening of the individual human being is an effect determined completely by two causes, (a) the previous state of his mind taken as a whole, (b) external influences.

2. The will is a mental process completely determined by these two factors; therefore it is not free, it is part of the chain of strict causality – as are also the results of the free-will.

3. What is important is not the actual freedom of the will, but the man's consciousness of freedom. This creates an inner experience of conscious motive which again creates fresh motives and so on indefinitely. For this reason it is impossible for a man to predict his future action – for at any moment a fresh motive may arise. But when we look back at the past, then the concatenation of cause and effect becomes apparent.

4. The fact of strict causality (or at least the theory of it) stands therefore unshaken by the consciousness of free-will of the individual. It is only obscured by the fact that a man cannot predict his own actions or grasp the causes of his present state; but that is because here the subject and object are the same and this subject-object is in a state of constant alternative motion unlike an object outside, which is supposed not to change as a result of the inner movements of the knower.

There is a reference to causal law and ethical law which baffles me. Is the “ethical law” something outside the strict chain of effects and causes? Is there such a thing at all? If “strict causality” rules all, what is such an ethical law doing there?

That is the argument so far as I can follow it, but it does not seem to me very conclusive. If a man's conduct cannot be predicted by himself, neither can it be predicted by anyone else, though here the subject and object are not the same; if not predictable, then it must be for the same reason, the element of free-will and the mobility created by the possible indefinite intrusion of fresh motives. If that is so, strict causality cannot be affirmed, – though a plastic causality in which the power of choice called by us free-will is an element (either as one among many contributory causes or as an instrument of a cause beyond itself) can still be asserted as possible.

The statement that the action of the individual is strictly determined by his total mental state plus external influences is doubtful and does not lead very far. It is possible to undermine the whole idea of inevitable causality by holding that the total existing state before a happening is only the condition under which it happens – there are a mass of antecedents and there is a sequent, if it may be so called, or a mass of sequences, but nothing proves that the latter are inevitable consequences of the mass of antecedents. Possibly, this total existing state is a matrix into which some seed of happening is thrown or becomes active, so that there may be many possible results, and in the case of human action it is conceivable that free-will is the or at least a determining factor.

I do not think therefore that these arguments of Planck carry us very far. There is also, of course, the question raised in the book itself whether, granting determinism, a local state of things is an independent field of causality or all is so bound together that it is the whole that determines the local result. A man's action then would be determined by universal forces and his state of mind and apparent choice would be part of the instrumentation of the Universal Force.

*

740

In the case of Socrates and that of the habitual drunkard raised by you, the difference you make is correct. The weak-willed man is governed by his vital and physical impulsions, his mental being is not dynamic enough to make its will prevail over them. His will is not “free” because it is not strong enough to be free, it is the slave of the forces that act on or in his vital and physical nature. In the case of Socrates the will is so far free that it stands above the play of these forces and he determines by his mental idea and resolve what he shall or shall not do. The question remains whether the will of Socrates is only free in this sense, itself being actually determined by something larger than the mentality of Socrates, something of which it is the instrument – whether the Universal Force or a Being in him of which his daemon was the voice and which not only gave his mind that decisive awareness of the mental ideal but imposed on it the drive to act in obedience to the awareness. Or it may be subject to a nexus between the inner Purusha and the Universal Force. In the latter case there would be an unstable balance between the determinism of Nature and a self-determination from within. If we start from the Sankhya view of things, that being (viz., the one of which his daemon was the voice) would be the soul or Purusha and both in the strong-willed Socrates and in the weak-willed slave of vital impulse, the action and its results would be determined by the assent or refusal of the Purusha. In the latter the Purusha gives its assent to and undergoes the play of the forces of Nature, the habit of the vital impulse, through a vital submission while the mind looks on helpless. In Socrates the Purusha has begun to emancipate itself and decide what it shall accept or shall not accept – the conscious being has begun to impose itself on the forces that act on it. This mastery has become so complete that he can largely determine his own actions and can even within certain limits not only forecast but fix the results – so that what he wants shall happen sooner or later.

As for the Superman, that is the conscious being whose emancipation is complete by his rising to a station beyond the limits of mind. He can determine his action in complete accord with an awareness which perceives all the forces acting in and on and around him and is able, instead of undergoing, to use them and even to determine.

*

741

After reading X's cogent exposition, I saw what might be said from the intellectual point of view on this question so as to link the reality of the supreme Freedom with the phenomenon of the Determinism of Nature – in a different way from his, but to the same purpose. In reality, the freedom and the determination are only two sides of the same thing – for the fundamental truth is self-determination of the cosmos and in it a secret self-determination of the individual. The difficulty arises from the fact that we live in the surface mind of ignorance, do not know what is going on behind and see only the phenomenal process of Nature. There the apparent fact is an overwhelming determinism of Nature and as our surface consciousness is part of that process, we are unable to see the other term of the biune reality. For practical purposes, on the surface there is an entire determinism in Matter – though this is now disputed by the latest school of Science. As Life emerges a certain plasticity sets in, so that it is difficult to predict anything exactly as one predicts material things that obey a rigid law. The plasticity increases with the growth of Mind, so that man can have at least a sense of free-will, of a choice of his action, of a self-movement which at least helps to determine circumstances. But this freedom is dubious because it can be declared to be an illusion, a device of Nature, part of its machinery of determination, only a seeming freedom or at most a restricted, relative and subject independence. It is only when one goes behind away from Prakriti to Purusha and upward away from Mind to spiritual Self that the side of freedom comes to be first evident and then, by unison with the Will which is above Nature, complete.

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742

In life all sorts of things offer themselves. One cannot take anything that comes with the idea that it is sent by the Divine. There is a choice and a wrong choice produces its consequences.

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743

Destiny in the rigid sense applies only to the outer being so long as it lives in the Ignorance. What we call destiny is only in fact the result of the present condition of the being and the nature and energies it has accumulated in the past acting on each other and determining the present attempts and their future results. But as soon as one enters the path of spiritual life, this old predetermined destiny begins to recede. There comes in a new factor, the Divine Grace, the help of a higher Divine Force other than the force of Karma, which can lift the sadhak beyond the present possibilities of his nature. One's spiritual destiny is then the divine election which ensures the future. The only doubt is about the vicissitudes of the path and the time to be taken by the passage. It is here that the hostile forces playing on the weaknesses of the past nature strive to prevent the rapidity of the progress and to postpone the fulfilment. Those who fall, fall not because of the attacks of the vital forces, but because they put themselves on the side of the hostile Force and prefer a vital ambition or desire (ambition, vanity, lust, etc.) to the spiritual siddhi.

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744

Neither Nature nor Destiny nor the Divine work in the mental way or by the law of the mind or according to its standards – that is why even to the scientist and the philosopher Nature, Destiny, the way of the Divine all remain a mystery. The Mother does not act by the mind, so to judge her action with the mind is futile.

*

745

While crushing my rigid mind, do you want to establish the long-neglected and much-maligned merits of homeopathy as beyond all dispute and, harangue by allopaths?

Not at all. I don't care a penny for homeopathy (or allopathy). I only wanted to poke some jokes at your allopathic mind.

My attack is against two things: R's efficiency and capacity as a doctor; and the rationale of homeopathy on symptomatology alone.

If you question that, you destroy homeopathy altogether.

I asked R about his patient G: “Is there no thickening of the blood vessels, high blood-pressure, no dyspnoea, etc.?” He said, “None at all.” Yet Dr. Prasad Rao found all these and signs of heart-failure.

You went when G had a setback. R had written to me about headache, liver and some other difficulties before you went.

Dr. Rao further said that the patient was still in the danger zone. Any exertion, indiscretion might bring about another attack.

But it seems Valle has different ideas; he does not find G in a dangerous state or on the point of death, as he was before. Admitting P.R.'s infallibility, is Valle then a fool? Why does he give credit to R or keep him there? If R is such an incompetent ass, why does V support him, cover him, keep him there? This is a thing which seems to me a little unintelligible. Doctors differ? Why so much in this case? Valle who does not believe in Divine Force, is I think, the only doctor here who has a practical knowledge of homeopathy – he was struck with the justice of R's treatment from the first in S's case; he approves of his treatment in G's. Would he do so if R were merely a blundering ignoramus?

R gives a high blood-pressure patient on the verge of heart failure “moderate” licence in eating, drinking, etc. He calls it “leaving to Nature”!

Well, I have followed that system with myself and others and gone on the basis that Nature is very largely what you make of her – or can make of her.

Since his heart, kidney cannot be regenerated, his habits have therefore to be adjusted accordingly. He can't remain a “bon vivant” any more.

In that case isn't it better that G should die? What's the use of life under such conditions?

If R is concerned only with symptoms, why does he ask me to find out the significance of high blood-pressure etc. or ask Valle to build up a diet for G?

Because he found you very competent at it. As for the diet he had to cede something to Valle so that the family might see there was a necessary collaboration.

... People will acclaim that allopathy has failed and homeopathy has succeeded. But my point is that Valle, an allopath, would have been as successful as R if he had the backing of your Force.

The Force needs an instrument and an instrumentation also sometimes. The instrument was R, the instrumentation partly at least his drugs. I don't believe in the story of the inefficiency of homeopathic drugs only because they are homeopathic. Also, I don't believe that R knows nothing about them and can't properly apply them. I have noted almost constantly that they have a surprising effect, sometimes instantaneous, sometimes rapid, and this not in R's evidence alone, but in the statement of his patients and the visible results. Not being an allopathic doctor, I can't ignore a fact like that.

I quote to you an instance of the symptomatic riddle. Some symptoms like headache, vomiting etc. may be caused by many diseases such as brain-tumour, syphilis, blood pressure and others. If you tell me that a homeopathic medicine for headache and other symptoms will be a panacea for all of them then I am afraid it will be difficult for me to accept it.

Tumour, syphilis etc. are specialities, but what I have found in my psycho-physical experience is that most disorders of the body are connected, though they go by families, – but there is also connection between the families. If one can strike at their psycho-physical root, one can cure even without knowing the pathological whole of the matter and working through the symptoms is a possibility. Some medicines invented by demi-mystics have this power. What I am now considering is whether homeopathy has any psycho-physical basis. Was the founder a demi-mystic? I don't understand otherwise certain peculiarities of the way R's medicines act.

Now the diagnosis, about which you have joked. Why take a muddle as an instance and ignore other cases? I should say that a mistaken diagnosis of the appendix, far example, is very rare.

Good heavens! It happened in scores and scores of cases when there was the appendicitis mania among doctors in France – and they have other manias also.

Why ignore wonderful things due to thousands of right diagnoses and let sporadic cases of error loom large in your eyes?

Sporadic cases! I have heard of any number of them; they are as plentiful as blackberries in Europe. And as for difference of diagnosis it is almost the rule except when doctors consult together and give concessions to each other. don't try to throw allopathic dust in my eyes, sir! I have lived a fairly long time and seen something of the world before my retirement and much more after it.

We know only a few big cases of success of R, but how many of his failures do we know? In the Ashram itself Rajangam is one. I saw R's most furious letter to you, on Rajangam's lack of faith.

But I have Rajangam's letters also. He seems to have had a curious mixture of superstitious hope and strong doubt, especially as R bungled badly at one point. However the body of an allopathic doctor can't be expected to respond to a homeopathic fellow, can it?

Then I hear he has failed in L's case also.

If L's case failed, then L in her letters lied to me. She related a complete cure of all that she had been suffering from for dreary months and years in which she was writing blood-curdling letters to me relating all her symptoms and miseries in voluminous detail. Once feeling well, she declared she did not believe in treatment but in Divine Force only, gave R a kick and sent him away. He was of course furious. For some time I had no letters, then little by little they began again, but as yet they are not so blood-curdling as before. Question: If D.F. alone does it without drugs, why is not L cured now as she was then under R?

I don't know of the other miraculous cures, nor do I know what rational grounds he has put forward for S's taking Ashram food.

Rational, from the point of view of his experience only – not from allopathic pathology.

I think an allopath like M would be able to cure many people just as R has done – and also without some of R's mistakes.

M has an admirable knowledge and masterful movement in his treatments, but Mother finds that he is an overdrugger. He pours drugs on his patients as some painters overload their canvas with colour. He almost killed himself in this way, and we had all the trouble in the world to tone him down. He admitted it frankly, but since professional bias was too strong for him, when he fell ill, he could not help drugging and drugging.

Now about K's case. R boasts that it is not his principle to make a diagnosis, but to prove a cure and you ask me what I say to that. Well, R proclaimed after hearing the symptoms that it was a case of vicarious menstruation, even after seeing the blood-vomit which is characteristic of T.B. I call it bluff, Sir. Let him stick to his sacred principle and not bluff us with his queer vicarious animal! Dr. Voile who has a big experience to his credit has clearly pronounced it to be T.B. And why vicarious, pray? because she was having some menstrual troubles? But her last period was quite normal. And what about her past history of cough, pain in the chest, blood-vomit?

K's case may be T.B., though Valle dragged in a “vraisemblablement”2 and X-Ray is required – very probably it is, though I am not quite sure. R swears that ordinary doctors who have not had sufficient gynaecological experience can and do take V.M. for T.B. It does not follow that it is so in this case and his statement may be all bluff... Now if we look beyond pathology to what I may call psycho-pathology (non-allopathic, non-homeopathic), this hysteria is usually accompanied with some disorder of the genital parts; wrong menstruation is itself often due to sexual trouble. T.B. again is always (psychologically) due to a psychic depression – I use psychic in the ordinary, not the Yogic sense; this psychic depression may arise from sex-frustration of one kind or another or from some reaction of the sexual order. So if R is wrong in suspecting V.M., psychologically he may be right – there may be, not vicarious menstruation, but its psychological equivalent. All that may no doubt be Greek (not medical Greek) to you, but I know what I mean – and so long as that is there, the cure of the T.B. by D.F.3 is rather problematical. In X's case I saw at once that nothing could be done. That is why R got his chance. The allopaths could have cured the T.B., but it would have come back worse than before. However he is so disgusted with the storm of opposition raised against him that he seems inclined to throw up the cases and even (other things aiding) to leave the Ashram. If so, all will be peace in Jerusalem, S will go back with his liver into orthodox hands, G fulfil his allopathic destiny and an interesting phase will be over.

“I don't care about all that,” he will say. “I will prove by my cure.” If one is dealing with a case of T.B. or of heart-disease, I assert that some knowledge of pathology is necessary so that one can understand how far other organs have been involved. R would be quite ignorant of it and therefore can't treat the case effectively whereas an allopathic-homeopath would be in a better position...

But the allopaths can? Then how the devil do non-allopathic homeopaths (R is not the only example) succeed at all in their pathological cases? They do, you know, and that needs some explaining. Actually, apart from anti-allopathic jokes and speculations, I don't say anything. I am not in the habit of jumping at conclusions when there are many possibles without a complete certitude, but wait till knowledge comes. I do not believe that D.F. has done everything in all these cases and they would have been ameliorated equally well if anybody else had been there. I count R for a remarkable though too resonant instrument. I see there is something in his treatment and medical ideas which is out of the ordinary and cannot be gauged by traditional standards. I am trying to see what it is. Is it that he has an intuition into psycho-physical forces and throws his drugs at them in a successful way, partly intuitional, partly experimental, while his physical renderings of them (attempts at diagnoses) are mere facade or error – except when they happen to be right? It may be, but that sounds too easy and plausible an explanation to be true.

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746

Each has his own destiny and his entering into a particular family in one life is only an incident.

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747

Consciousness is not a mechanical dead thing to cut in that way. Hereditary influence creates an affinity and affinity is a long thing. It is only when the hereditary part is changed that the affinity ceases.

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748

[Stamp of heredity, race, caste and family:] A very big stamp in most cases – it is in the physical vital and physical material that the stamp chiefly exists – and it is increased by education and upbringing.

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749

Many things in the body and some in the mind and vital are inherited from the father and mother or other ancestors – that everybody is supposed to know. There are other things that are not inherited, but peculiar to one's own nature or developed by the happenings of this life.

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750

Karma and heredity are the two main causes [which determine the temperament at birth]. According to some heredity is also subject to Karma, but that may be only in a general way, not in all the details.

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751

All energies put into activity – thought, speech, feeling, act – go to constitute Karma. These things help to develop the nature in one direction or another, and the nature and its actions and reactions produce their consequences inward and outward: they also act on others and create movements in the general sum of forces which can return upon oneself sooner or later. Thoughts unexpressed can also go out as forces and produce their effects. It is a mistake to think that a thought or will can have effect only when it is expressed in speech or act: the unspoken thought, the unexpressed will are also active energies and can produce their own vibrations, effects or reactions.

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752

Exact? How can one measure exactly where vital, mental and spiritual factors come in? In dealing with a star and atom you may (though it appears you can't with an electron) but not with a man and his living mind, soul and body.

II

753

What X said is true, the play of the forces is very complex and one has to be conscious of them and, as it were, see and watch how they work before one can really understand why things happen as they do. All action is surrounded by a complexity of forces and if one puts a force for one of them to succeed, one must be careful to do it thoroughly and maintain it and not leave doors open for the other contrary ones to find their way in. Each man is himself a field of many forces – some were working for his sadhana, some were working for his ego and desires. There are besides powers which seek to make a man an instrument for purposes not his own without his knowing it. All of these may combine to bring about a particular result. These forces work each for the fulfilment of its own drive – they need not be at all what we call hostile forces, – they are simply forces of Nature.

The feeling of jealousy and abhimāna was of course a survival from the past movements of the nature. It is so that these things go out if they are rejected; they lose their force, can stay less and less, can affect less and less the consciousness, – finally, they are able to touch no longer and so come no longer.

*

754

A strange incident occurred today. Dr. Becharlal and I worked as usual in the dispensary. After the day's work we shut the doors and went out – Dr. Becharlal to the pier for his habitual walk, and I to X's place. J also went to the pier at this time. But he somehow did not enjoy his stroll and instead had, what he called, “a very repulsive feeling” when he arrived at the pier, and distinctly felt that he should go back to the dispensary. When he went there, he found a number of people collected near the entrance, knocking at the door; they were waiting for me. J inquired what had happened, and was told that B.P. had been stung by a scorpion and required immediate medical help. He at once hastened to fetch me. I asked him to find Dr. Becharlal, and bring him also to the dispensary. He went towards the pier looking for the doctor. After going a little distance he met Dr. Becharlal, who was returning without finishing his walk; he said that somehow he did not feel like going to the pier that day. I am a little baffled by the whole incident. Are these just accidents?

No, of course not. But they seem so to all who live in the outward vision only. “Coincidence the scientists do them call.” But anyone with some intelligence and power of observation who lives more in an inward consciousness can see the play of invisible forces at every step which act on men and bring about events without their knowing about the instrumentation. The difference created by Yoga or by an inner consciousness – for there are people like Socrates who develop or have some inner awareness4 without Yoga – is that one becomes conscious of these invisible forces and can also consciously profit by them or use and direct them. That is all.

These things manifest differently, in a different form or transcription, in different people. If it had been Socrates and not Becharlal who was there, – which would have been useless as he was no doctor and highly inconvenient to you as he would certainly have turned the tables on you and avenged me by cross-examining you every day and passing you through a mill of philosophical conundrums and unanswerable questions – but still if he had been there, he would have felt it as an intimation from his daemon, “Turn back, Socrates; it is at the Ashram that you ought to be now”. Another might have felt an intuition that something was up at the Ashram. Yet another would have heard a voice or suggestion saying “If you went back at once it would be useful” – or simply “Go back, back; quick, quick!” without any reason. A fourth would have seen a scorpion wriggling about with its sting ready. A fifth would have seen the agonised face of B.P. and wondered whether he had a toothache or a stomachache. In Becharlal's case it was simply an unfelt force that changed his mind in a way that seemed casual but was purposeful, and this obscure way is the one in which it acts most often with most people. So that's thus.

Have you had time and appetite enough to gulp the little whale? If you had I hope it wasn't nauseating!

The whale taken as a whole tasted very well; its oil was strong and fattening, its flesh firm and full and compact and whalish. Not quite so exquisite as the sonnet minnows, but the quality of a whale can't be that of a minnow. As a whale, it deserves all respect and approbation.

Krishna Ayyar has a cold and slight fever. Given aspirin. Requires Divine help.

One tablet of aspirin and another of aspiration might do.

*

755

What exactly is vital interchange?

Difficult to specify. There is always a drawing of vital forces from one to another in all human social mixture that takes place automatically. Love-making is one of the most powerful ways of each drawing upon the other's vital force, or of one drawing the other's, which also often happens in a one-sided way to the great detriment of the “other”. In the passage come many things good and bad, elation, feeling of strength and support, infiltration of good or bad qualities, interchange of psychological moods, states and movements, depressions, exhaustion – the whole gamut. People don't know it – which is a mercy of God upon them – but when one gets into a certain yogic consciousness, one becomes very much aware and sensitive to all this interchange and action and reaction, but also one can build a wall against, reject etc. etc.

It is a wall of consciousness that one has to build. Consciousness is not something abstract, it is like existence itself or Ananda or mind or prāṇa, something very concrete. If one becomes aware of the inner consciousness, one can do all sorts of things with it, send it out as a stream of force, erect a circle or wall of consciousness around oneself, direct an idea so that it shall enter somebody's head in America etc. etc.

I don't understand why you call it God's mercy?

Because ignorance is bliss and they would feel very uncomfortable if they felt these things or were at all aware of them. As for the elation, they get it without needing to know the cause.

*

756

Freed once more from the devil's claws! Just a few words about the process: I took up H's poem, felt like writing one after reading it, failed; then went to Pranam, there found Jatin 's letter which I enclose, waiting, read it and as soon as I sat in the Hall, lo, everything fell off my shoulders or soul, as if by the breath of an invisible wave.

Yes, of course, it was the old man of the Sea, I mean of Sorrows, who dropped off because he can't stand anything cheerful and hopeful. The main credit goes to the letter, because it has a push in it of the psychic force which took your vital and the OM also by surprise and knocked him off and you up, before the said vital had time to turn round and cry, “Hélas! Hιlas! Alas! hāy hāy5 Ototototoi!”

But I don't know what did the job. Poetry, letter or Mother? The letter itself gave me a sense of something pleasant.

All together – Poetry first attempt, letter brought a good atmosphere (that was the sense of something pleasant), and both were the effect of a long pressure from me which you had resisted sitting firm in a Gandhian passive resistance.

This shows. Sir, you make me suffer unnecessarily; you can, at any moment, draw me out if it pleases you.

Not at all; you can't be drawn out if something in you refuses and sticks like a badger in its hole. When that says “Oh damn it, after all let me get out and breathe some fresh air”, then it can be done.

Please read his letter. I am sure your heart will leap at the response to your Force, by at least one soul, what?

Excuse me, he is not the only one.

J's is a most fascinating and convincing example. Alas, when will my hard crust be broken, and feel at least some fragments of what he feels!

The difference is that his mind is ready to accept and makes no resistance. If his vital is as willing, – the sex affair looks like it – then he can go very fast.

I don't understand what my friend means by the disturbance in connection with the affairs of the world.

That is clear enough. His new consciousness makes him feel more strongly the opposite forces that one contacts when one moves in the world and has to do affairs and meet with others and he is afraid of a response in his vital which will upset his sadhana or create difficulties.

Evidently he is a man who is psychically sensitive or has become so to that thing which you blindly refuse to recognise even when you are in the midst of it – the play of forces. You can feel your friend's atmosphere through the letter “so beautiful, so strengthening, so refreshing” and it has an immediate effect on you. But your mind stares like an owl and wonders “What the hell can this be?” – I suppose, because your medical books never told you about it and how can things be true which are not known either to the ordinary mind or science? It is by an incursion of an opposite kind of forces that you fall into the Old Man's clutches, but you can only groan and cry “What's this?” and when they are swept aside in a moment by other forces, blink and mutter “Well, that's funny!” Your friend can feel and know at once when he is being threatened by the opposite forces – and so he can be on his guard and resist Old Nick, because he can detect at once one of his principal means of attack.

Please reply to all the points raised.

Will see, so hold on to the letter.

I went over his letter again – it is so beautiful, so strengthening and refreshing. And how beautifully he writes about the snow-flakelike falling of delight.

That's his psychic atmosphere, sir. That is what the psychic feels like – to anyone who can contact it, “beautiful, strengthening and refreshing.”

Give me a beautiful “beating”. Sir, will you? Have not had it for a long time!

Have given you One or two smacks. No time to make it long.

*

757

The consciousness of these things [influences of people] is intended for knowledge – a psycho-occult knowledge, necessary for the fullness of consciousness and experience. It is not intended that what is felt should be allowed to become an influence, whether a good one or a bad one.

*

758

As for the other matter, there are two different things. Some people have a faculty for receiving impressions about others which is not by any means infallible, but often turns out to be right. That is one thing and the yogic intuition by which one directly knows or feels what is in a man, his capacities, character, temperament is another. The first may help for developing the other, but it is not the same thing. The yogic faculty has to be and it can be complete only with a great development of the inner consciousness.

*

759

Regarding “how many Mothers are there?” K says that all Power, Force, Light in the universe belong to you and emanate from you. In that case, I asked him – “Does Roman Maharshi who is an aspirant of the Impersonal Brahman get a response from Mother and Sri Aurobindo?”

Who is the Mother and who is Sri Aurobindo? And who is this fellow you call the Impersonal Brahman?

K says, “Yes, because they are identified with the Supreme and the Supreme is static and dynamic at the same time.” I answered – maybe – especially when Krishna is supposed to have contained the whole universe in his mouth or when he says that whoever takes the name of the Divine, or offers a flower, etc., comes to his feet. Then why is it said again that he is an Overmind god? doesn't it mean that there is a greater godhead than Krishna?

What was said was that Krishna as a manifestation on earth opened the possibility of the Overmind consciousness here to men and stood for that, as Rama was the incarnation in mental Man. If Krishna was an overmind “God”, that means he was not an Incarnation, not the Divine, but somebody else who claimed to be the Divine – i.e. he was a god who somehow thought he was God.

Somehow I can't accept that people following other paths of sadhana are calling Mother and Sri Aurobindo and getting their help and Force. In that case wouldn't all of them, except the worshippers of the Impersonal, be their disciples?

The Divine is neither personal nor impersonal, formless nor formed. He is the Divine. You talk of these distinctions as if they separated the Divine into so many separate Divines which have nothing to do with each other.

I continued, “My friend J.B. was having experiences which, Sri Aurobindo says, were coming from Mother, even before he was put in contact with them.”

If so, why were you so much flabbergasted when he wrote about them? What was the date on which they began in this vividness – not as a mental impression but as a concrete contact with the Divine Presence or the Force?

I have no objection to your being the Supreme, only it stupefies one to think of you as such!

But there was no question about my being the Supreme; the question was whether there was one Divine Mother or 20,000 Divine Mothers. At the same time I don't see why it should stupefy one (you?), in spite of your absence of personal objections to think of me as such (the Supreme). Why, you are yourself the Supreme, aren't you? so'ham, tat tvam asi {{0))nirada, īśvara kona beṭā āmi i īśvara (Vivekananda).6 āmi in this formula means not V but anyone, that is to say Nirod. Also vide Krishna Prem. So what's this stupefaction about, I should like to know? When everybody is the Supreme and of everybody it can be said that he is God, why should I alone as such stupefy you?

Leave aside the question of Divine or undivine, no spiritual man who acts dynamically is limited to physical contact – the idea that physical contact through writing, speech, meeting is indispensable to the action of the spiritual force is self-contradictory, for then it would not be a spiritual force. The spirit is not limited by physical things or by the body. If you have the spiritual force, it can act on people thousands of miles away who do not know and never will know that you are acting on them or that they are being acted upon – they only feel7 that there is a force enabling them to do things and may very well suppose it is their own great energy and genius.

... Mulshankar has a headache now and then, which he says, is due to exertion in shouting for the servant etc...

So why not give him a small bell from here?

... Coconuts are rather hard to get in the hospital. Shall I ask Dyuman to supply two a day?

If he can find – in some seasons it is hardly possible to find them –

I find that workmen – carpenters – go to see him on their way home. Shall I ask Chandulal to forbid them?

Yes, of course. That should be strictly forbidden.

*

760

The Divine Forces are meant to be used – the mistake of man individualised in the Ignorance is to use it for the ego and not for the Divine. It is that that has to be set right by the union with the Divine Consciousness and also by the widening of the individual being so that it can live consciously in the universal. Difficult it is owing to the fixed ego-habit, but it is not impossible.

*

761

All force comes from the Divine but it is more usually misused than used spiritually or rightly.

*

762

It is certainly possible to have consciousness of things at a distance and to intervene.

The idea that yogins do not or ought not to use these powers I regard as an ascetic superstition. I believe that all yogins who have these powers do use them whenever they find that they are called on from within to do so. They may refrain if they think the use in a particular case is contrary to the Divine Will or see that preventing one evil may be opening the door to a worse or for any other valid reason, but not from any general prohibitory rule. What is forbidden to anyone with a strong spiritual sense is to be a miracle-monger, performing extraordinary things for show, for gain, for fame, out of vanity or pride. It is forbidden to use powers from mere vital motives, to make an Asuric ostentation of them or to turn them into a support for arrogance, conceit, ambition or any other of the amiable weaknesses to which human nature is prone. It is because half-baked yogins so often fall into these traps of the hostile forces that the use of yogic powers is sometimes discouraged as harmful to the user.

But it is mostly people who live much in the vital that so fall; with a strong and free and calm mind and a psychic awake and alive, such pettinesses are not likely to occur. As for those who can live in the true Divine Consciousness, certain powers are not powers at all in that sense, not, that is to say, supernatural or abnormal, but rather their normal way of seeing and acting, part of the consciousness – and how can they be forbidden or refuse to act according to their consciousness and its nature?

I suppose I have had myself an even more completely European education than you, and I have had too my period of agnostic denial, but from the moment I looked at these things I could never take the attitude of doubt and disbelief which was for so long fashionable in Europe. Abnormal, otherwise supraphysical experiences and powers, occult or yogic, have always seemed to me something perfectly natural and credible. Consciousness in its very nature could not be limited by the ordinary physical human-animal consciousness, it must have other ranges. Yogic or occult powers are no more supernatural or incredible than is supernatural or incredible the power to write a great poem or compose great music; few people can do it, as things are, – not even one in a million; for poetry and music come from the inner being and to write or to compose true and great things one has to have the passage clear between the outer mind and something in the inner being. That is why you got the poetic power as soon as you began yoga, – yogic force made the passage clear. It is the same with yogic consciousness and its powers; the thing is to get the passage clear, – for they are already within you. Of course, the first thing is to believe, aspire and, with the true urge within, make the endeavour.

*

763

Jādū (magic) is a special practice which is done by professional magicians or those who learn the art of the magician, but it is no part of yoga. What happens in yoga is that sometimes or even very commonly certain powers develop in the sadhak by which he can influence others or make them do things or make things happen that he wants. This and other yogic powers should never be used by the sadhak for egoistic purposes or to satisfy his vital desires. They can only be used when they become part of the realised divine consciousness by the Mother herself or at her command for good and unselfish purposes. There is no harm in yogic powers that come naturally as a part of the new consciousness and are not used for a wrong personal purpose. For instance you see something in vision or dream and that happens afterwards in the waking state. Well, that is a yogic power of prevision, knowing future things which often occurs as the consciousness grows; there is nothing wrong in its happening; it is part of the growth in sadhana. So with other powers. Only one must not get proud or boast or misuse the powers for the sake of desire, pride, power or the satisfaction of the ego.

The vision you saw of the man and the fire at his feet was probably a vision of the God Agni from whom flows the fire of tapasya and purification in the sadhana.

When the sadhana progresses, one almost always gets the power of vision; what one sees is true if one remains in the right consciousness. There are also wrong voices and experiences. The people who have gone mad, went mad because they were egoistic, began to think themselves great sadhaks and attach an exaggerated importance to themselves and their experiences; this made them get a wrong consciousness and wrong voices and visions and inspirations. They attached so much importance to them that they refused to listen to the Mother and finally became hostile to her because she told them they were in error and checked their delusions. Your visions and experiences are very true and good and I have explained to you what they signify – the wrong ones tried to come but you threw them away, because you were not attached to them and are fixed on the true aim of sadhana. One must not get attached to these things, but observe them simply and go on; then they become a help and cannot be a danger.

*

764

By black magic is meant the occultism of the adverse powers – the occultism of the divine Powers is quite different. One is based on unity, the other on division.

*

765

It is difficult to say [why Christ healed people] – it looks from the Bible account as if he did it as a sign that he was one sent by the Divine with power.

*

766

You are quite right. She [Madame Blavatsky] was an occultist, not a spiritual personality. What spiritual teaching she gave, seemed to be based on intellectual knowledge, not on realisation. Her attitude was Tibetan Buddhistic. She did not believe in God, but in Nirvana, miraculous powers and the Mahatmas.

*

767

It is not possible to put any credence in the stories about this Swami.... It is possible that he has practised some kind of Tantric Yoga and obtained a few occult powers, but in all that you have said about him and in the printed papers there is no trace of any spiritual realisation or experience. All that he seems to think about is occult powers and feats of thaumaturgy. Those who take their stand on occult powers divorced from spiritual experiences are not yogis of a high plane of achievement. There are yogis who behave as if they had no control over themselves – the theory is that they separate the spirit from the nature and live in their inner realisation leaving the nature to a disordered action “like a child, mad man, piśāca or inert object”. There are others who deliberately use rough or violent speech to keep people at a distance or to test them. But the outbreak of rage of this Swami which you recount seems to have been simply an outburst of fury due to offended egoism. His judgment about Ramana Maharshi is absurd in the extreme.8 As to his asking for the nail, hair etc. and his presenting of clothes or jumper, it was probably to establish a physical means of establishing an occult influence on you and your wife possibly by some Tantric or magic kriyā – in Tibet such magic processes are well-known and in common use.

*

768

I don't know whether I can throw any positive light on X's mystic experiences. The description, at any rate the latter part is not very easy to follow as it is very allusive in its expressions and not always precise enough to be clear. The first part of the experience indicates a native power of healing of whose action she herself does not know the process. It seems from her account to come from something in herself which should be from the terms she uses a larger and higher and brighter and more powerful consciousness with which she is in occasional communion but in which she does not constantly live. On the other hand another sentence seems to point to a Godhead or Divine Presence giving commands to her to guide others so that they might grow in consciousness. But she distinctly speaks of it as a greater “me” standing behind a blue diamond force. We must fall back then on the idea of a greater consciousness very high up with a feeling of divinity, a sense of considerable light and spiritual  authority – perhaps in one of those higher spiritual mental planes of which I speak in The Life Divine and the Letters. The diamond light could well be native to these planes; it is usually white, but there it might well be blue; it is a light that dispels or drives away all impure things, especially a demoniac possession or the influence of some evil force. Evidently, the use of a power like this should be carefully guarded from the intrusion of any wrong element such as personal love of power, but that need not cause any apprehension as a keen inlook into oneself would be sufficient to reject it or keep it aloof. I think that is all I can say upon the data given in her letter.

*

769

About spiritism, I think, I can say this much for the present. It is quite possible for the dead or rather the departed – for they are not dead – who are still in regions near the earth to have communication with the living; sometimes it happens automatically, sometimes by an effort at communication on one side of the curtain or the other. There is no impossibility of such communication by the means used by the spiritists; usually, however, genuine communications or a contact can only be with those who are yet in a world which is a sort of idealised replica of the earth-consciousness and in which the same personality, ideas, memories persist that the person had here. But all that pretends to be communications with departed souls is not genuine, especially when it is done through a paid professional medium. There is there an enormous amount of mixture of a very undesirable kind – for apart from the great mass of unconscious suggestions from the sitters or the contributions of the medium's subliminal consciousness, one gets into contact with a world of beings which is of a very deceptive or self-deceptive illusory nature. Many of these come and claim to be the departed souls of relatives, acquaintances, well-known men, famous personalities, etc. There are also beings who pick up the discarded feelings and memories of the dead and masquerade with them. There are a great number of beings who come to such seances only to play with the consciousness of men or exercise their powers through this contact with the earth and who dope the mediums and sitters with their falsehoods, tricks and illusions. (I am supposing, of course, the case of mediums who are not themselves tricksters. ) A contact with such a plane of spirits can be harmful (most mediums become nervously or morally unbalanced) and spiritually dangerous. Of course, all pretended communications with the famous dead of long-past times are in their very nature deceptive and most of those with the recent ones also – that is evident from the character of these communications. Through conscientious mediums one may get sound results (in the matter of the dead), but even these are very ignorant of the nature of the forces they are handling and have no discrimination which can guard them against trickery from the other side of the veil. Very little genuine knowledge of the nature of the after-life can be gathered from these seances; a true knowledge is more often gained by the experience of individuals who make serious contact or are able in one way or another to cross the border.

*

770

They [mediums, clairvoyants, etc.] are most of them in contact with the vital-physical or subtle physical worlds and do not receive anything higher at all.

III

771

The view taken by the Mahatma in these matters is Christian rather than Hindu – for the Christian, self-abasement, humility, the acceptance of a low status to serve humanity or the Divine are things which are highly spiritual and the noblest privilege of the soul. This view does not admit any hierarchy of castes; the Mahatma accepts castes but on the basis that all are equal before the Divine; a Bhangi doing his dharma is as good as the Brahmin doing his, there is division of function but no hierarchy of functions. That is one view of things and the hierarchic view is another, both having a standpoint and logic of their own which the mind takes as wholly valid but which only corresponds to a part of the reality. All kinds of work are equal before the Divine and all men have the same Brahman within them is one truth, but that development is not equal in all is another. The idea that it needs a special puṇya to be born as a Bhangi is, of course, one of those forceful exaggerations of an idea which are common with the Mahatma and impress greatly the mind of his hearers. The idea behind is that his function is an indispensable service to the society, quite as much as the Brahmin's, but, that being disagreeable, it would need a special moral heroism to choose it voluntarily and he thinks as if the soul freely chose it as such a heroic service and as reward of righteous acts – but that is hardly likely. The service of the scavenger is indispensable under certain conditions of society, it is one of those primary necessities without which society can hardly exist and the cultural development of which the Brahmin life is part could not have taken place. But obviously the cultural development is more valuable than the service of the physical needs for the progress of humanity as opposed to its first static condition, and that development can even lead to the minimising and perhaps the entire disappearance by scientific inventions of the need for the functions of the scavenger. But that, I suppose, the Mahatma would not approve of, as it would come by machinery and would be a departure from the simple life. In any case, it is not true that the Bhangi life is superior to the Brahmin life and the reward of a special righteousness. On the other hand, the traditional conception that a man is superior to others because he is born a Brahmin is not rational or justifiable. A spiritual or cultured man of pariah birth is superior in the divine values to an unspiritual and worldly-minded or a crude and uncultured Brahmin. Birth counts, but the basic value is in the man himself, in the soul behind, and the degree to which it manifests itself in his nature.

*

772

Sacrifice has a moral and psychological value always. This value is the same no matter what may be the cause for which the sacrifice is made, provided the one who makes it believes in the truth or justice or other worthiness of his cause. If one makes the sacrifice for a cause one knows to be wrong or unworthy, all depends on the motive and spirit of the sacrifice. Bhishma accepting death in a cause he knew to be unjust, obeyed the call of loyalty to what he felt to be his personal duty. Many have done that in the past, and the moral and psychic value of their act lies, irrespective of the nature of the cause, in the nobility of the motive.

As to the other question, in this sense of the word “sacrifice”, there is none for the man who gives up something which he does not value, except in so far as he undergoes loss, defies social ban or obloquy or otherwise pays a price for his liberation. I may say, however, that without being cold and unloving a man may be so seized by a spiritual call or the call of a great human cause that the family or other ties count for nothing beside it, and he leaves all joyfully, without a pang, to follow the summoning Voice.

In the spiritual sense, however, sacrifice has a different meaning – it does not so much indicate giving up what is held dear as an offering of oneself, one's being, one's mind, heart, will, body, life, actions to the Divine. It has the original sense of “making sacred” and is used as an equivalent of the word yajña. When the Gita speaks of the “sacrifice of knowledge”, it does not mean a giving up of anything, but a turning of the mind towards the Divine in the search for knowledge and an offering of oneself through it. It is in this sense, too, that one speaks of the offering or sacrifice of works. The Mother has written somewhere that the spiritual sacrifice is joyful and not painful in its nature. On the spiritual path, very commonly, if a seeker still feels the old ties and responsibilities strongly he is not asked to sever or leave them, but to let the call in him grow till all within is ready. Many, indeed, come away earlier because they feel that to cut loose is their only chance, and these have to go sometimes through a struggle. But the pain, the struggle, is not the essential character of this spiritual self-offering.

*

773

It simply means that your sacrifice is still mental and has not yet become spiritual in its character. When your vital being consents to give up its desires and enjoyments, when it offers itself to the Divine, then the Yajna will have begun. What I meant was that the European sense of the word is not the sense of the word “Yajna” or the sense of “sacrifice” in such phrases as “the sacrifice of works”. It doesn't mean that you give up all works for the sake of the Divine – for there would be no sacrifice of works at all. Similarly the sacrifice of knowledge doesn't mean that you painfully and resolutely make yourself a fool for the sake of the Lord. Sacrifice means an inner offering to the Divine and the real spiritual sacrifice is a very joyful thing. Otherwise one is only trying to make oneself fit and has not yet begun the real Yajna. It is because your mind is struggling with your vital, the unwilling animal and asking it to allow itself to be immolated that there is the pain and struggle. If the spiritual will (or psychic) were more in the front then you would not be lamenting over the loss of the ghee and butter and curds thrown into the Fire or trying to have a last lick at it before casting it. The only difficulty would be about bringing down the gods fully enough (a progressive labour), not about lamentations over the ghee. By the way, do you think that the Mother or myself or others who have taken up the spiritual life had not enjoyed life and that it is therefore that the Mother was able to speak of a joyous sacrifice to the Divine as a true spirit of spiritual sacrifice? Or do you think we spent the preliminary stages in longings for the lost fleshpots of Egypt and that it was only later on we felt the joy of the spiritual sacrifice? Of course we did not; we and many others had no difficulty on the score of giving up anything we thought necessary to give up and no hankering afterwards. Your rule is as usual a stiff rule that does not at all apply generally.

*

774

Sacrifice depends on the inner attitude. If one has nothing outward to sacrifice one has always oneself to give.

*

775

There is nothing noble besides in fanaticism – there is no nobility of motive, though there may be a fierce enthusiasm of motive. Religious fanaticism is something psychologically low-born and ignorant – and usually in its action fierce, cruel and base. Religious ardour like that of the martyr who sacrifices himself only is a different thing.

IV

776

There has been almost continuous war in the world – it is as in the history of the Roman Republic when the gates of the temple of Janus were closed only once or twice in its many centuries – a sign that the Republic was at peace with all the world. There have been in modern times long intervals between long wars, but small ones have been generally going on somewhere or another. Man is a quarrelling and fighting animal and so long as he is so how can there be peace?

*

777

War and conquest are part of the economy of vital Nature, it is no use blaming this or that people for doing it – everybody does it who has the power and the chance. China who now complains was herself an imperialist and colonising country through all the centuries in which Japan kept religiously within her own borders.... If it were not profitable, I suppose nobody would do it. England has grown rich on the plundered wealth of India. France depends for many things on her African colonies. Japan needs an outlet for her over-abundant population and safe economic markets nearby. Each is pushed by forces that use the minds of rulers and peoples to fulfil themselves – unless human nature changes no amount of moralizing will prevent it.

*

778

I would prefer to avoid all public controversy especially if it touches in the least on politics. Gandhi's theories are like other mental theories built on a basis of one-sided reasoning and claiming for a limited truth (that of non-violence and of passive resistance) a universality which it cannot have. Such theories will always exist so long as the mind is the main instrument of human truth-seeking. To spend energy trying to destroy such theories is of little use; if destroyed they are replaced by others equally limited and partial.

As for imperialism, that is no new thing – it is as old as the human vital; there was never a time in known human history when it was not in existence. To get rid of it means to change human nature or at least to curb it by a superior power. Our work is not to fight these things but to bring down a higher nature and a Truth-creation which will make spiritual Light and Power the chief force in terrestrial existence.

*

779

I see that you have found fault with my expression “findfault”. I didn't use it in the sense of finding fault with others. This was my meaning: Buddha, as an apostle of love, preached Ahimsa and held it as the only dharma in any circumstance of life.

The only Dharma? What becomes of the eightfold Way?

You set aside the whole doctrine and say that one can kill, massacre with absolute Ahimsa within, if called by the Divine to do so. Buddha laid-stress on complete abstinence in spirit and action, from any killing. That's why, perhaps, he is looked upon as the greatest man of compassion.

Did Buddha preach absolute Ahimsa? I thought it was a Jain teaching. What Buddha taught was compassion. And compassion – well, is it not written that Durga is full of compassion for the Asuras when she is exterminating them?

Now, even if he be an Avatar of impersonal Truth, how can a doctrine descend from a Truth-plane to an Avatar, which could be set aside by the later Avatar? The same I say about Ramakrishna.

The impersonal Truth, precisely because it is impersonal, can contain quite opposite things. There is a truth in Ahimsa, there is a truth in Destruction also. I do not teach that you should go on killing everybody every day as a spiritual dharma. I say that destruction can be done when it is part of the Divine work commanded by the Divine. Non-violence is better than violence as a rule, and still sometimes violence may be the right thing. I consider dharma as relative; unity with the Divine and action from the Divine Will, the highest way. Buddha did not aim at action in the world, but at cessation from the world-existence. For that he found the eightfold Path a necessary preparatory discipline and so proclaimed it.

My contention is that not everything they said was infallible... Of course if you hold that all their movements were guided by the Divine, I have nothing to say. Then I'll have to infer that Buddha's doctrine of Ahimsa was the only one needed by the then Yuga. This Yuga needs another, so the doctrine has to be changed or set aside.

It had nothing to do with the Yuga,9 but with the path towards liberation found by Buddha. There are ma1ny paths and all need not be one and the same in their teaching.

When yesterday you gave the example of Rama and the Golden Deer, did you suggest by it that what an Avatar does, he does absolutely consciously? If he follows a golden deer, he knows that it is a golden deer?

No, I did not suggest that. I suggested that if it is necessary to veil his consciousness so that the work may be done, the Avatar does it or rather the Divine in the Avatar does it. The other thing is also quite possible. Krishna could have killed Jarasandha as he did Kansa. Why did he not do it instead of fighting eighteen unprofitable battles, running away to Dwarka, and then getting J killed by others?

About the wrath of the sannyasis, I also meant that they didn't mind a display of their temper while they preserved a complete inner calm. But I don't know whether that would be called conquest of anger or a permissible or laudable thing either.

Of course it does happen like that – because at a certain stage the consciousness gets cut up into two and the outer may do things which the inner observes but does not participate in that movement. My only objection was to regarding this outward bad temper as a proof of the highest spiritual siddhi. One can also act with the Rudrabhava, but without anger, though people may mistake it for anger. That is a higher stage. There there is no disturbance even in the outer being, only a mass of very calm, but intense divine force in action.

A few Blessings – 24th,

Many.

*

780

[Re Vivisection:] I feel inclined to back out of the arena or take refuge in the usual saving formula, “there is much to be said on both sides”. Your view is no doubt correct from the commonsense or what might be called the “human” point of view. Krishnaprem takes the standpoint that we must not only consider the temporary good to humanity, but certain inner laws. He thinks the harm, violence or cruelty to other beings is not compensated and cannot be justified by some physical good to a section of humanity or even to humanity as a whole; such methods awake, in his opinion, a sort of Karmic reaction apart from the moral harm to the men who do these things. He is also of the opinion that the cause of disease is psychic, that is to say, subjective and the direction should be towards curing the inner causes much more than patching up by physical means. These are ideas that have their truth also. I fully recognize the psychic law and methods and their preferability, but the ordinary run of humanity is not ready for that rule and, while it is so, doctors and their physical methods will be there. I have also supported justifiable violence on justifiable occasions, e.g., Kurukshetra and the war against Hitler and all he means. The question then, from this middle point of view, about the immediate question is whether this violence is justifiable and the occasion justifiable. I back out.

*

781

Destruction in itself is neither good nor evil. It is a fact of Nature, a necessity in the play of forces, as things are in this world. The Light destroys the Darkness and the Powers of Darkness, and that is not a movement of Ignorance!

It all depends on the character of the destruction and the forces that enter into it. All dread of fire or other violent forces should be overcome. For dread shows a weakness – the free spirit can stand fearless before even the biggest forces of Nature.

*

782

Why should earthquakes occur by some wrong movement of man? When man was not there, did not earthquakes occur? If he were blotted out by poison gas or otherwise, would they cease? Earthquakes are a perturbation in Nature due to some pressure of forces; frequency of earthquakes may coincide with a violence of upheavals in human life but the upheavals of earth and human life are both results of a general clash or pressure of forces, one is not the cause of the other.

*

783

It seems to be very foolish, these fasts – as if they could alter anything at all. A fast can at most affect one's own condition, but how can it “atone” for the doings of others or change their nature?

*

784

It is a world which has emerged from the Inconscient and these things [poverty and misery] are results of the imperfect working of the human mind which, being born into the ignorant life and matter has to learn by effort and experience. Ignorance and ego have to be outgrown before there can be a true utilisation of the resources of Nature.

V

785

The idea of time may be a mental construction, but the sense of it may not be. Savages have the idea of time but it is in connection with the sun and stars and the lapse of day and night and the seasons, not perhaps a separate construction – but one is not sure for they have metaphysical conceptions of their own. Animals are not, I think, so limited in their consciousness – they have not only sensations, but an acute memory of certain things, observation, clear associations, an intelligence that plans, a very accurate sense of place and memory of place, an initial power of reasoning (not reflectively as the human mind does, but practically as any vital mind can do). I have seen a young kitten observing, coming at a correct conclusion, proceeding to do what was necessary for her purpose, a necessity imposed by that conclusion, just as a human child might do. We cannot therefore say that animals have no ideas. No clear measure of yesterday and tomorrow, perhaps, but the perception of past and future needs is there and of right times and seasons also – all vital, practical, not reflectively mental in the human way.

But it is true that when one gets beyond the mind, this sense of time changes into timelessness, into the eternal present.

*

786

[Time sense in the animals:] A very strong time sense – at least some of them – but usually it works only in connection with strong desires or habits, e.g. food.

*

787

No doubt the physical regulated time consciousness belongs mainly to the waking state but it can be subliminal as well as of the mental waking consciousness. E.g., sometimes one wills at night to get up at a fixed time in the morning and wakes exactly at that hour and minute – it is something in the subliminal being that recorded the time and vigilantly executed it.

*

788

It is the change in the consciousness. When one begins to feel the inner being and live in it (the result of the experience of peace and silence) the ordinary time sense disappears or becomes purely external.

*

789

Time is to the Intuition an extension of consciousness in which happenings are arranged and has not the same rigidity that it has to the intellect.

*

790

You are right. The present is a convention or only a constant movement out of the past into the future.

VI

791

By greatness is meant an exceptional capacity of one kind or another which makes a man eminent among his fellows.

*

792

That kind of greatness has nothing to do with the psychic. It consists in a special mental capacity (Raman, Tagore) or in a great vital force which enables them to lead men and dominate them. These faculties are often but not always accompanied by something in the personality Daivic or Asuric which supports their action and gives to men an impression of greatness apart even from the special capacity – the sense of a great personality.

*

793

People have begun to try to prove that great men were not great, which is a very big mistake. If greatness is not appreciated by men, the world will become mean, small, dull, narrow and tamasic.

*

794

Obviously, outer greatness is not the aim of yoga. But that is no reason why one should not recognise the part played by greatness in the order of the universe or the place of great men of action, great poets and artists, etc.

*

795

It is the power in them [the great men] that is great and that power comes from the Divine – by their actions and greatness they help the world and aid the cosmic purpose. It does not matter whether they have ego or not – they are not doing yoga.

*

796

I don't think it can be said that Napoleon had little of ego – he was exceedingly ego-centric. He made himself a dictator from Brumaire, and as a dictator he should always have acted – but he felt the need of support and made the error of seeking it in the democratic way – a way for which he was utterly unfit. He had the capacities of a ruler but not of a politician – as a politician he would have been an entire failure. His hesitations were due to this defect – if it can be called one. He could not have dealt successfully with parties or a parliamentary assembly.

*

797

Why should the Divine not care for the outer greatness? He cares for everything in the universe. All greatness is the Vibhuti of the Divine, says the Gita.

*

798

It is not only the very very big people who are of importance to the Divine. All energy, strong capacity, power of effectuation are of importance.

As for Napoleon, Caesar and Shakespeare, not one of them was a virtuous man, but they were great men, and that was your contention that only virtuous men are great men and those who have vices are not great, which is an absurd contention. All of them went after women – two were ambitious, unscrupulous. Napoleon was most arrogant and violent.

Shakespeare stole deer, Napoleon lied freely, Caesar was without scruples.

*

799

Are you in a position to make a judgment as to what will or will not help God's work? You seem to have very elementary ideas in these matters. What is your idea of divinisation – to be a virtuous man, a good husband, son, father, a good citizen, etc.? In that case, I myself must be undivine, – for I have never been these things. Men like X or Y would then be the great Transformed Divine Men.

*

800

But do you really believe that men like Napoleon, Caesar, Shakespeare were not great men and did nothing for the world or for the cosmic purpose? that God was deterred from using them for His purpose because they had defects of character and vices? What an absurd idea!

*

801

Why should the Divine care for the vices of great men? Is he a policeman? So long as one is in the ordinary nature, one has capacities and defects, virtues and vices. When one goes beyond, there are no virtues and vices, – for these things do not belong to the Divine Nature.

*

802

Vice and virtue have nothing to do with darkness or light, truth and falsehood. The spiritual man rises above vice and virtue, he does not rise above truth and light, unless you mean by truth and light, human truth and mental light. They have to be transcended, just as virtue and vice have to be transcended.

*

803

Vices are simply an overflow of energy in irregulated channels.

*

804

Great men have more energy (mental, vital, physical, all kinds of energy) and the energy comes out in what men call vices as well as in what men call virtues.

*

805

Men with great capacities or a powerful mind or a powerful vital have very often more glaring defects of character than ordinary men or at least the defects of the latter do not show so much, being like themselves, smaller in scale.

*

806

Yes, certainly. Many great men even have often very great vices and many of them. Great men are not usually model characters.

*

807

Great or dazzling or small in their field, ambition is ambition and it is necessary for most for an energetic action. What is the use of calling a thing a vice when it is small and glorifying it when it is big?

*

808

When vanity is there on a big scale, it usually works like that. The man feels the energy in all he does, and mistakes the energy for high accomplishment. It is a common error. The high accomplishment is in only one or two fields.

*

809

It is a vanity, but it is not humbug, unless he does not believe in it. If he does not believe in it, it is humbug, but it is not vanity.

*

810

Most great men know perfectly well that they are great.

VII

811

[The seeking of animals:] The satisfaction of their emotions and desires and their bodily needs – mostly. Animals are predominantly the vital creation on earth – the mind in them also is a vital mind – they act according to the push of the forces and have a vital but not a mental will.

*

812

Even the animal is more in touch with a certain harmony in things than man. Man's only superiority is a more complex consciousness and capacity (but terribly perverted and twisted by misuse of Mind) and the ability (not much used as yet) of reaching towards higher things.

*

813

Human life and mind are neither in tune with Nature like the animals nor with Spirit – it is disturbed, incoherent, conflicting with itself, without harmony and balance. We can then regard it as diseased, if not itself a disease.

*

814

The plants are very psychic, but they can express it only by silence and beauty.

*

815

[Beauty of a flower:] Form, colour, scent and something else which is indefinable.

*

816

The rose is not the only beautiful flower, there are hundreds of others; most flowers are beautiful.

There are degrees and kinds of beauty, that is all.

The rose is among the first of flowers because of the richness of its colour, the intensity of sweetness of its scent and the grace and magnificence of its form.

*

817

It is true that the plant world – even the animals if one takes them the right way – can be much better than human beings. It is the mental distortion that makes men worse.

*

818

Yes, it is a more simple and honest consciousness – that of the animal. Of course it expects something, but even if it does not get, the affection remains. Many animals, even if ill-treated, do not lose their love which means remarkable psychic development in the vital.

*

819

The emotional being of animals is often much more psychic than that of men who can be very insensitive. There were recently pictures of the tame tigress kept by a family and afterwards given by them to a Zoo. The look of sorrow on the face of the tigress in her cage at once gentle and tragically poignant is so intense as to be heart-breaking.

*

820

Most animals do not usually attack unless they are menaced or frightened or somehow made angry – and they can feel the atmosphere of people.

*

821

Cats have a very sure vital perception.

*

822

There are people who can move the ears without doing yoga at all or calling upon the resources of the Kundalini. I suppose it is simply a movement that man has lost through disuse, not having had like the animals to prick up his ear at every moment to listen to sounds that might indicate danger. I suppose he could revive the faculty if it were of any use.

*

823

[Responsibility for suffering:] Why man's? What about the animals? They too suffer. You can say that suffering is a distortion of the lower consciousness, but you cannot make man or human nature alone responsible for it.

*

824

Yes – to watch the animals with the right perception of their consciousness helps to get out of the human mental limitations and see the Cosmic Consciousness on earth individualising itself in all forms – plant, animal, man and growing towards what is beyond man.

VIII

825

I am not aware that highly evolved personalities have no sense of humour or how the person can be said to be integrated when this sense is lacking. “Looseness” applies only to a frivolous levity without any substance behind it. There is no law that wisdom should be something rigidly solemn and without a smile.

*

826

Sense of humour? It is the salt of existence. Without it the world would have got utterly out of balance – it is unbalanced enough already – and rushed to blazes long ago.

*

827

Dr. B asked me to shift over to the Dispensary today itself, but I refused, waiting for your full instructions about the furniture, table lamp, management work, etc.

I think there is everything needed over there, table lamp and all. You had better go and see. If so, you will need to take only your personal things. One thing the Mother wants to say – she asks you to keep the Dispensary meticulously clean as D.S. did; there is a special servant attached to the Dispensary for that. As a “foreign degree doctor” you will understand the necessity. You can move in whenever you like, handing over your wooden responsibilities to Dikshit.

Now that I shall be in charge of the Dispensary I feel afraid abort my prestige. People expect great things from an England-returned doctor (who I may confide in you, hasn't had enough time for experience). If you can't save my prestige, save at least my face.

People are exceedingly silly – but I suppose they can't help themselves. The more I observe humanity, the more that forces itself upon me – the abysses of silliness of which its mind is capable.

The prestige I can't guarantee, but hope to save something of the face.

Above all, you are putting me in front of my very weakness – to be conquered, perhaps.

It had to be faced someday.

I have no desire to eat though I am hungry. I can't even sleep at night. Can it be due to the hypersecretion of the endocrines from yogic pressure?

Confound your endocrines! You have got to eat. Yoga can't be done on a hungry stomach. Sleep also is indispensable.

*

828

My opinion is that Allah is great and great is the mystery of the universe and things are not what they seem, etc.

 

Full text of the letter

Why do people make such prognostications? Suggestions of the kind ought never to be made, mentally even – they might act like suggestions and do more harm than any good medicines can do.

But I am surprised to hear that even prognostications are very harmful.

Prognostications of such kind should not be lightly thought of or spoken especially in the case of the Mother – in other cases even if there is a possibility or probability they should be kept confidential from the person affected, unless it is necessary to inform. This is because of the large part played by state of consciousness and suggestion in illness. I shall I suppose one day send you the Presse Medicale with my note (the journal is with me and I shall send it to you, it is no longer with Pavitra) and that will perhaps show the basis.

I say – Dr. Hutchinson, President of the Royal Society of Medicine, – a Lord – says (vide “Sunday Times”, page 4) that if all the doctors struck work for a year, it would make no difference in the death rate. The doctor's only use is to give comfort, confidence and consolation. Now what do you say to this opinion of your President? Rather hot, isn't it?

It is not only hot, but a little top-heavy it seems. If the doctor's function is only to give consolation, I fear many patients visiting us will leave, cursing us.

It depends on the effectivity of your consoling words and confidence in giving drugs. Your words and cheery care may so boost X's morale that it will affect his piles and if it can't do altogether that, your medicines may give so much confidence to the piles that they will walk in and give up the ghost. But it is all a confidence trick in reality. If the piles are crass and refuse confidence, well –

I proposed to one patient this consolation treatment; he agreed. Then I asked him, “How is it then that your old malady has come back which was supposed to have been cured by the doctor?” He answered, “But one doctor may fail and, besides, there is the Force.” “Ah, you now bring in the Force!” Well?

Well, that's the point. How did X or how does anybody cure? By his medicines or by his “confidence” imparted to the subconscient of the patient?

The Force is another matter. Your President Hutchinson or Henderson (or what the deuce was his name?) wasn't thinking in terms of force.

Anyway, what is your opinion?

My opinion is that Allah is great and great is the mystery of the universe and things are not what they seem, etc.

01.02.1937

 

1 One word illegible.

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2 Probably.

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3 Divine Force

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4 consciousness (In the "Letter on Yoga")

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5 alas, alas.

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6 “you are That”, famous formula of Upanishad [Chand., 6 passim] – with added “O Nirod”. Then followed Swami Vivekananda's dictum: “Who is this person Ishwara – I am Ishwara.”

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7 know (in the "Letters on Yoga")

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8 Absurd because the greatness of a yogi does not depend at all on how long he lives or his state of health, but on the height or the depth of his spiritual realisation and experience.

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9 yoga (in the "Letters on Yoga")

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