1.15 The Larger Picture behind Illness

The larger picture is simply this that we are neither alone nor the ultimate creation. There is a visible and also an invisible thread that links each seemingly separate aspect of creation and holds it together in a chain of oneness. The visible aspects are the various links in the chain of life and the interdependence of each thing upon everything else, from the food we eat, to the climatic changes we witness, the social demands and pressures leading to changing pattern of life to the constant stress and pressures generated by the human being towards its own kind. But behind these more visible links, there are other subtler links, interconnected with the thread of consciousness and woven into the very fabric of life. There are many layers of our being and of the world existence as we are only just beginning to discover. There are worlds within worlds, to use an Upanishadic phrase, that press upon our life through unseen doors and influence us without our knowledge. We are driven to act and think and feel and do often what our innate sense of truth deeply abhors. We are like prisoners who have come to love our prison, either because we see nothing outside of it and wish to make the most we can, or else because any striving to be free only increases the restlessness and frustration, a battle of battles fought within and interminably so. Most human beings therefore reconcile and settle to a third position, a seemingly neutral one, at least one that would avoid conflicts or reduce them to a minimum and only in the sphere of their personal survival and enjoyment! And yet the irony is that this too does not satisfy human beings and there is within us a relentless urge to have more, to want more, even to seek more, to grow more, in short to progress more and more beyond what one is and has to what one believes to be possible.

This constant pressure upon man to exceed himself, to augment his capacities and to actualise his potentialities, leads to a constant evolutionary pressure. On one side, this urge is the birth place of new things and new possibilities. On the other side, it generates a stress born out of a constant friction within, a dissatisfaction with what one is. When something new is born through this creative urge which is at its core an evolutionary urge, then we feel the joy and the release, at least a temporary respite, till the next evolutionary wave comes and sweeps us off our feet and shifts our focus to still higher and deeper unborn things. But when this evolutionary process is blocked, the energy of life turns back upon itself and begins to destroy the form that has become useless for its high purpose. This pressure of conscious evolution is a relatively new emergence and has been born only with man. Animals don’t feel it to that extent beyond their mere physical survival, and that too is usually taken care of by Nature. This is so because in animal forms the quantum and the quality of consciousness is rather small and that too is largely identified with the form. But with the advent of the mind and more so with the appearance of an individual soul in man, the possibilities have become limitless. As an ancient Upanishad puts it, thus that the Supreme Creatrix Consciousness asked the gods (powers and aspects of the One Divine) as to which form they would like to inhabit; they (the gods) rejected all the forms one by one, till they were shown the human form. Once the human form was presented to them, they jumped into it as here alone they felt was the possibility of expressing their force and energies in a material sheath. Since then the material world inhabited by men has become a field of internal and external conflicts between the gods that labour unseen in man to uplift his soul towards greater and diviner possibilities and the powers and forces of darkness, ignorance and unconsciousness that governed the animal kingdom so far.

In other words, man experiences a double conflict, one within and the other without. The outer pressure is from the environment, the other species, the constant bombardment of earth with toxins and chemicals, the many pollutants, the changing pattern of lives, etc. The inner pressure is from a conflict between his animal parts and their needs and wants and the innate urge in man towards a sublimer soar, daring to scale a greater height of his self-being, a deeper and subtler, a nobler and vaster way of thinking, feeling and living. Of course matters become worse because the animal parts in man no more carry the spontaneous and natural simplicity of the animal life that has been lost with the advent of the mind. If anything it is replaced by a kind of perversity, a crookedness that links itself to the animal impulses and distorts even simple things like food and sleep and the movements of fear and rage that are so much part of the animal world and its survival. In human beings, all these movements get linked to thought and intelligence, and get further distorted by the ego-sense that insists upon its own satisfaction to the exclusion of every other unit of life. The distortions that mental power has added to the animal life and its few and simple wants need not be elaborated more. We know it as a species and are constantly facing the threat of extermination, not so much from other species or even the environmental challenges, as much from ourselves. But what we do not yet recognise, and which is the key to solving the human problem, is that even in the worst of human beings, there is something inborn which can be best described as a spiritual urge. We have within us a need to reflect and if nothing else, a need to justify ourselves by some means or the other. However crude and hypocritical this justification may be, it shows the birth of a new tendency. Action on impulse is not enough – it must be right and rationally justified as well. But if we go to the depth of this need we shall see behind this veil of reason and the need of justification, a vaguely felt Light that now shines as idealistic tendency, a need for perfection, a conscious seeking after Love, Knowledge, Power,  Bliss and all the rest. True, we have to cross many deceptive shadows and shades of self-deception, be disillusioned many a time and through many a life before we turn towards the real source of this Light that is within us. But many layers cover this and many veils stands between this inmost entity in man and the surface man as we know and understand ourselves to be.

Eventually this deeper Light is born to grow and win like all new modes of consciousness that have so far appeared upon earth. But this victory is not without a battle and it has its complexities and struggles and frustrations and losses. It was not within a few centuries that the mind began to rule the earth since its advent within the animal world. It has taken millenniums to arrive where man stands today and his mastery or more accurately the mastery of a mentalised consciousness is still far from complete. There is within man the striving for and the birth of a greater spiritual consciousness. Just as we see glimpses of the mind within the animal kingdom, at least in higher animals as a promise of the future, so too we see in man the glimpses of a spiritual consciousness, half-veiled, vaguely felt in most. This spiritual impetus has been quickened in the last century and there are many signs to testify that. One obvious sign is the awakening of the spiritual need in many persons and the growing interest in spiritual things rather suddenly and unexpectedly. There are other signs as well. Nevertheless it is enough to generate an inner pressure and to make the struggle and the conflict much more acute and severe. It is this struggle and conflict of forces that translates itself as an illness, at least in the body and the surface layers of our being.

Man, by this view, is a transitional being, and illness is paradoxically one of the means, a disastrous means no doubt, that Nature has chosen. Not caring for establishing a harmony, or even perhaps the survival of the race, Nature seems to be pressing relentlessly towards creating this new type. And for this it seems to be using all means to hasten the advent of something ‘other’ and different than man, a being who will be as much other than him as today man is from the animal. This is the larger picture and the backdrop of the growing number of illnesses despite an advancing knowledge.


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