Counterculture and the New World (HH 183)


The advent of the New World brings its own share of problems and issues. Some of these are like labour pains while others are simply the result of a temporary disruption in the old established equilibrium. The latter particularly results in certain abnormal phenomenon that increases during times of transition. One such phenomenon was the counterculture movement that rose in silent revolt against the established norms of the old world order. It started in the early sixties soon after the Supramental Manifestation in 1956 and took various forms in different countries. In America it took the form of hippie movement where young persons broke free form societal norms to start living afresh and in unconventional ways. Its dark and dangerous offshoot was the use or rather abuse of psychedelic drugs for alternate types of other-worldly experiences. This evening we share the Mother’s insights on this subject that is fast taking the modern youth in its grips.


Words of the Mother

November 13, 1960

Lots of people from the United States are coming here at the moment, and they bring news of an appalling crisis over there, a crisis of discouraged pessimism…. The whole youth seems to be in a woeful state of depression and discouragement.

They’ve discovered all that was hollow, false, unreal in the old way of seeing life, and they haven’t found anything to replace it with…. A few rare individuals (we get their letters, or they come here) say that they came across Sri Aurobindo’s teaching and found it to be the salvation. But they are very few. And the majority of people don’t understand – they don’t have the intelligence needed to understand.

So everywhere they’re sinking back; there has been an effort to emerge from that exclusive search for personal satisfaction, and it has led to extravagances; but now the very absurdity of those extravagances has become apparent, so they’re sinking back very deep, and they haven’t found – they haven’t found the true path. Because it’s not a mental path.

Everywhere there is still the cult of the mind, that’s the terrible thing.

*

October 7, 1964

But according to what people tell me who listen to the radio or read the newspapers (none of which I do), the whole world is undergoing an action … which for the moment is unsettling. It seems that the number of apparently “mad” people is increasing considerably. In America, for instance, all the youth seem to be seized with a kind of curious giddiness, which for reasonable people would be disquieting, but which is a sure indication that an uncommon Force is at work. It is the disruption of all habits and all rules – it’s good.

For the moment, it’s a bit “strange” (!), but it’s necessary….

*

May 18, 1966
Have you heard of the drugs?… Have you seen pictures?… I saw pictures…. People are hurled utterly defenseless into the lowest vital, and, according to their nature, either it’s horrifying or they find it marvelous. For instance, the fabric covering a cushion or a seat is suddenly filled with marvelous beauty. So it lasts for two hours, three hours like that. Naturally, they are quite mad while it lasts. And the trouble is that people call it “spiritual experiences,” and there’s nobody to tell them that it has nothing to do with spiritual experiences.

… I saw pictures in Life (there were photos): you feel you’ve stepped into an insane asylum…..

If, for instance, you have a sensation or thought that someone is nasty or ridiculous or doesn’t love you, anyway, opinions of that sort, it generally surfaces in dreams; but there [with drugs], you aren’t asleep, yet you have the dream! They come and play the game of what you thought of them: what you thought of them comes upon you in their form. So it’s an indication: for those who see smiling, pleasant, beautiful things, it means that the inner, vital condition is good enough, but with those who see terrifying or malicious things, or things like that, it means the vital isn’t pretty….

*

April 12, 1967
I’ve had an amusing experience these last three days…. Y. sent me a whole treatise on LSD.

It seems the man who discovered it did so by accident (that’s always how it happens): he took a dose without knowing it and without knowing what it was, and the effects on him were extraordinary. And now, for the first time after years (the discovery took place years ago), for the first time he has consented to give a description of his experiences.

Lysergic acid diethylamide, a hallucinogen. The first synthesis of LSD was achieved in 1938 by two Swiss scientists. On April 16, 1943, one of them, Dr. Albert Hofmann, inadvertently swallowed traces of this substance and discovered its strange psychological properties.

Here is Dr. Albert Hofmann’s description: “Vertigo. Intermittent sensation of heaviness in the head and the body, as if it were filled with metal. Everything seemed to topple over. When I closed my eyes, I was overcome by an uninterrupted succession of fantastic images of extraordinary intensity. All sound perceptions (the sound of a car, for instance) were transformed into optical effects, each one creating a corresponding colored hallucination, constantly changing forms and colors. At times I felt I was outside my body.”

This is the description (retranslated from the French) of the “cellular level” by Dr. Timothy Leary, psychologist and professor at the Harvard University: “Huge aggregates of cells are impelled and the consciousness whirls about in strange landscapes for which there exist neither words nor concepts. LSD reveals cellular dialogues imperceptible to the normal state of consciousness, for which we have no adequate symbolic terms. You become aware of processes you never sensed before. You feel yourself sinking into the soft swamps of your own body’s tissues, slowly drifting below dark red aqueducts, floating through endless capillary factories, gently propelled through endless factories of cells, grandfather clocks of fibers tirelessly jingling, clinking, tinkling, pumping. This experience is striking when you have it for the first time; it can also be a dreadful, frightening and at the same time marvelous experience….” Then his description of the “precellular level”: “Your nervous cells become aware, as Einstein did, that all matter, ail structure is nothing but pulsating energy. Your body and the world around you dissolve into a sparkling lattice of white waves. You have penetrated matter’s intimate structure and vibrate in harmony with its primeval and cosmic pulse.”

Then one morning (in the morning, at the time when I have all my experiences), while I was sitting, I suddenly felt something so heavy in my head, heavy in my chest, and … odd. I had never felt that before. And all the sensations had become as if violent. So I closed my eyes, and … you know, an avalanche, a stampede of forms, sounds, colors, even odors, which imposed themselves with a reality and intensity – I had never known that before, never.

I watched, then I said to myself, “But that’s a good way to go insane!” And I started doing what had to be done for it to stop. But it wouldn’t stop! It wanted to go on. So I thought, “It’s clearly here for a reason. Since it’s imposing itself in this way, it means there’s a reason for me to have this experience.” I watched, studied, observed. And I saw it was a magnified faculty of sensation – inordinately magnified, you understand – BECAUSE the equilibrium between all the faculties of the being had been disrupted.

The natural equilibrium which makes things balance each other, harmonize and organize spontaneously into a coherent whole with a conscious existence, was shattered – shattered to the benefit of the faculty of sensation. Naturally, that faculty of sensation was terribly multiplied (or aggravated, I might say) and even imposed itself brutally. And I saw that something had upset the equilibrium. Something that had the power to upset the equilibrium of the being – to insist on one point to the detriment of all others.

Once I had seen that, a sort of tranquillity came into me and it was over.

I didn’t give it any more thought. For three days I didn’t think about it again. It seemed to be some extravagance or other. Yesterday evening, I decided I would read those papers. I asked Pavitra to read them to me. The man describes his experiences – the first description is just what happened to me!

So I had the experience he had when he took the medicine! He describes it (I couldn’t read everything), he describes it exactly as I felt it. So (laughing) I had the experience without swallowing the medicine! Simply because the consciousness was turned to that.

But then, I understood! And those people imagine it’s a way to “develop human consciousness” and open it up to “unknown horizons”…. The effect (now I am absolutely sure of it) is the dislocation of the being’s equilibrium.

In my case, it’s very sensitive, because the equilibrium is very conscious, willed, organized, and naturally that makes a considerable difference; for them (laughing) it’s “just like that,” a fancy. And then, they are convinced (Y. included) that humanity can make great progress with that! It makes them “conscious of a whole realm they didn’t know.” But … it creates one more falsehood in the consciousness, because the perception of a SINGLE aspect of reality to the detriment of all others is a dreadful falsehood. As I said, the impression it made on me was: “It’s a good way to go insane.”

….Now, we may ask if it’s necessary for mankind to fall into general imbalance in order to reach a higher equilibrium?
But it’s perfectly clear that one doesn’t need drugs in order to have experiences – I didn’t take drugs!

That’s what they think, they think it gives them a certainty that it [the other worlds] isn’t imagination, or, for the more reasonable ones, that there are many more things than they know or can imagine. But you can find all this out without swallowing drugs!

*

April 13, 1967

Have you read this report on LSD? What’s your impression?

It’s interesting. They have experiences that aren’t just on the level of brute sensation. That drug does release the consciousness, all the same.

(Mother remains silent)

It releases from the whole habit of formations.

Ah, yes, that, surely.

But he himself says it’s better to begin with a guide.

But do you hold the same opinion after reading the end? Because you hadn’t read the whole thing.

That it disrupts the being’s equilibrium is absolutely without doubt. And obviously, disrupting one equilibrium may lead you to a higher equilibrium. But there is a risk.

(silence)

It’s probably part of the preparations. Only, the results may be catastrophic enough.
It could be part of a scientific discipline. But then, that’s how it should be done, as a discipline, and under the supervision of those who know.

You see, he takes great care not to say anything about the harmful effects. I have personally met two people who had done the experiment and had met with dreadful effects – they decided never to touch it again in their lives.

They are very careful not to say anything about that.

It should be done as a discipline of education, with all necessary safeguard and supervision.

It’s the same as all the rest: it’s the method that starts from below. The true method starts from above – it’s more difficult, less spectacular, and it takes more time.

From the standpoint of study and observation, it’s very interesting. But it should be done scientifically, in a spirit of discipline and almost consecration, as a means of study.

Of course, just the contact with a small amount of the Force from above disturbs many people’s minds; so here, I think the effect would be very widespread.
It’s a risk one has to take.

If someone – someone conscious, who already knows much, has much self-mastery and control over his reactions – does it as a means of study, it can be very interesting. But giving it to a poor devil who knows nothing and is hurled into it out of curiosity can be disastrous….. In the last part, what he calls the “cellular level” is indeed the description – ONE description – of cellular phenomena and activities on their level of consciousness, and also on the level of consciousness of the infinitesimal. He speaks of “great currents” and “cellular transformations” and all that; it’s quite correct, only …34 It’s what is going on at present, but it’s precisely the consciousness brought down to the scale of the infinitesimal. And it’s a reproduction of what takes place in the other dimensions. But, for instance, with all this discipline of the cells that has been going on for … several years now, his description strikes me as the same thing SEEN THROUGH AN ILLUSION. And the illusion is caused by that very imbalance: the illusion of an absolute reality, while it’s a quite relative reality.

You understand, it’s the difference between seeing something with a sense of relativity, with a whole immensity of other things, and seeing it all alone as an exclusive and unique reality. It’s the sense of the harmony and equilibrium of the Whole that is gone. And so, it becomes “awesome”: as he says, some people may find it frightening. And that’s precisely because that equilibrium is missing. It’s the same thing, on a very small scale, in a personality: that vision of the whole which gives the proportion of every event, the importance of every event and everything, changes completely when you have the sense of the Whole, and what appears, as he says, frightening or catastrophic or marvelous becomes again just a part of the Whole. It’s the sense of equilibrium that is gone. When I read the end, it gave me one more confirmation of my experience.

It may be necessary, in certain cases, to disrupt that equilibrium so as to come into contact with something new, but that’s always dangerous. And the way of consecration and surrender to the supreme Power is infinitely superior – it’s slightly more difficult. It’s more difficult than swallowing a drug, but infinitely superior.

We could call it “yoga within everyone’s reach”! But … it’s not without danger.
And they say a considerable number of people are taking it….

That the Force is working is without a shadow of doubt, and that this is the result of the action of the Force is also without a shadow of doubt.

There are other, very interesting examples. There’s a Burmese (you may have heard of this) who has just received a “peace prize.” He has written an article (he is Burmese, I don’t know which language he wrote it in, but it has been published in French in a Swiss newspaper), in which he says what everybody knows, but also what everybody forgets: that if all the money wasted on preparing means of destruction were used for the progress of human well-being, it could work wonders. And he adds (I can’t quote him exactly): for that to be done, men – nations and men – should stop distrusting and fearing each other, and should live in the sense of unity. And he says, if, for that, HUMAN NATURE HAS TO CHANGE, it’s high time it changed and we must all work for that to happen.

I am extremely happy to hear this. Here is a man who has caught the true thing.

(Mother is referring to U Thant, secretary-general of the United Nations. U.N.O., April 10, 1967: “That a fraction of the amounts that are going to be spent in 1967 on arms could finance economic, social, national and world programs to an extent so far unimaginable is a notion within the grasp of the man in the street. Men, if they unite, are now capable of foreseeing and, to a certain point, determining the future of human development. This, however, is possible only if we stop fearing and harassing one another and if together we accept, welcome and prepare the changes that must inevitably take place. If this means a change in human nature, well, it is high time we worked for it; what must surely change is certain political attitudes and habits man has.”)

*

April 22, 1967

(Mother gives S a letter and newspaper cutting she has just received from America about LSD. There is also a poster inviting people on a “trip.”)

They look half mad – a bit more than half!

In America, it has become rather frightening…. There are a considerable number of people who take this drug.

I don’t think it’s possible to stop them – they’ll go on taking it till serious accidents happen, and then … then the government will intervene and will add another blunder to this one.

That there is a very great Pressure, a sort of intensity of pressure, is indisputable – everywhere, just everywhere. And, naturally, the reaction of Ignorance.

Nature, basically, had arranged things, and as she had no limitation of time, they were arranged so as to last millennia and millennia and millennia – she went along at a leisurely pace, having fun on the way; she invented everything that could be invented and had fun. But things didn’t move along very fast. And she has arranged them in such a way that if you exert a pressure to move faster, oh, it causes catastrophes.

On the immense mass, the mass still plunged in Ignorance, it creates a sort of excitement that tends to become unhealthy. Those who are settled in a certain equilibrium protest; I have often heard them say, “But we aren’t in a hurry, things are all right as they are! Why do you want to change them so fast, that will happen in its own time!” That’s the attitude of those who have found a sufficiently harmonious equilibrium in life: “Oh, what a hurry, why do you want to upset everything? Let things just carry on on their own. It will happen in its own time” – like that. All those who are in a somewhat “sattvic” poise are in some such equilibrium.

Then, among those who aspire, a small number are sincere, serious, level-headed, ready for anything: ready to go slowly, to go fast, to do much, to do little – but they are regular and quiet. And finally, a band of people like imbalance and, for them, it’s an opportunity for all kinds of crazy things. But the Pressure of the Force is clearly making itself felt everywhere.

Sri Aurobindo always said that the most important, but also the most difficult thing, is to learn to keep one’s BALANCE IN INTENSITY. To have the intensity of aspiration, the intensity of effort, the intensity of the march forward, while at the same time keeping one’s balance – the balance of perfect peace. That’s the ideal condition. But it’s difficult…..

There is also the pressure of external agitation (the world lives in ceaseless agitation), the external agitation: everything and everyone is rushing towards … one really doesn’t know towards what. They want to squeeze in ten times more things in a space of time than can be normally done, so it goes like this (gesture of tremor). And to have the strength to remain calm and steady in the middle of it, in that whirl …

It’s very interesting, really.

What people generally call force (in the English sense of the word strength) is something very heavy and tamasic. The true force is a movement of fantastic speed but … in perfect calm. There is no agitation; the movement is fantastically faster, but without agitation, in such calm! … They generally don’t even feel that Force, yet it is the one that makes – that will make – the transformation possible.

The difficulty is always the transition….

*

April 2, 1969

Someone from Auroville wrote to me that he thought he had come here to obey no one but himself (or words to that effect), but he noticed there are rules and laws. And he said, “I am not going to do any of this; I am a free man and refuse to do this.” This was reported to me, naturally, so I wrote to him: “One is free only when one is conscious of the Divine and conscious that it is the Divine who makes decisions in everyone, otherwise one is the slave of one’s desires, one’s habits, of all conventions….” I sent him that, and he kept quiet.

That’s what I wanted to add here [to this aphorism]. We should say: One is free only when it is the Divine who makes decisions in each of us, otherwise men are the slaves of their desires, their habits, of all conventions, all laws, all rules…. And the more they think themselves free, the more bound they are!

We must strive for Order, Harmony, Beauty and … collective aspiration – all the things which for the moment are not there. We must … you see, being the organizers, our task is to set the example of what we want others to do. We must rise above personal reactions, be exclusively attuned to the divine Will and be the docile instruments of the divine Will – we must be impersonal, without any personal reaction.

We must “be” in all sincerity. What the Divine wants – let it be. That’s all. If we can be that, then we are as we ought to be, and THAT is what we must become. For the rest … for all the rest, we do the best we can.

I know it’s not easy, but we are not here to do easy things; the whole world is there for those who like an easy life. I would like people to feel that coming to Auroville does not mean coming to an easy life – it means coming to a gigantic effort for progress. And those who don’t want to keep up with it should leave. That’s how things stand. I wish It were so strong – the need for progress, for the divinization of the being, so intense – that those who are unable (unable or unwilling) to adjust to it would leave by themselves: “Oh, this is not what I expected.” As it is now, all those who want an easy life and to do what they please as they please, say, “Let’s go to Auroville!” It should be just the opposite. People should know that coming to Auroville means an almost superhuman effort for progress.

It is the sincerity of our attitude and effort which makes a difference. People should feel that insincerity and falsehood have no place here – they just don’t work, you can’t fool people who have devoted their entire life to go beyond humanity.

There is only one way to be convincing – it is to BE that.

Then we’ll stand strong, we’ll have all the divine force on our side.

We are here to prepare a superhumanity, not to fall back into desires and easy life – no.

People must feel it; it should be so strong that the sheer force of our sincerity would drive them out – that’s what they have to feel. At that point, we will be what we should be. The power of the realization – of the sincerity of the realization – is such that it’s UNBEARLABLE to those who are insincere…..

If in all sincerity we are on the side of the Divine, we ARE all we should be.

That’s what Sri Aurobindo always said. If men only knew this: if in all sincerity – in all sincerity – they give themselves to the Divine and side with the Divine, they become all they should be.

It may take time, there may be turmoil and difficulty – you must be … inflexible: -I am for the Divine and the divine manifestation, in spite of everything and anything.” Voilà. Then it is omnipotence -EVEN OVER DEATH.

I am not saying tomorrow, I am not saying immediately, but … it’s a certainty.

* * *

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