B1 C1 Movement 1 Passage-by-Passage Summary
Earth-nature receives the Light
Here where our half-lit ignorance skirts the gulfs (p.5 begins)
On the dumb bosom of the ambiguous earth,
Here where one knows not even the step in front
And Truth has her throne on the shadowy back of doubt,
On this anguished and precarious field of toil
Outspread beneath some large indifferent gaze,
Impartial witness of our joy and bale,
Our prostrate soil bore the awakening ray.
Sri Aurobindo describes at first the state of Ignorance in which we ordinarily live. Half-lit Ignorance is mental knowledge which receives some light from above but soon enough converts or distorts it in values of Ignorance. Relying heavily on the sense-mind whose data we cannot really trust, our knowledge is always shadowed by doubt. Moulded almost entirely by suffering and slow and difficult progress, the physical consciousness knows not the Divine Grace that watches over it. All that it experiences or witnesses are brief joys amidst the burden of life it carries. Even this physical consciousness, the material world is touched by the Divine Ray.
Withdrawal of the Divine afflatus
Here too the vision and prophetic gleam
Lit into miracles common meaningless shapes;
Then the divine afflatus, spent, withdrew,
Unwanted, fading from the mortal’s range.
The divine impulsion, that gave a new illumination uplifting everything, withdraws after a while. Its Work is over, the deed is done, a new direction and purpose given to creation, a new turn taken under the creative impulsion of the embodied Divine. It leads creation as far as it can go battling against and conquering the resistances of material nature, redeeming it by its touch. But a certain amount of receptivity is needed for it to stay. Earth-nature, unable to bear the divine pressure, closes to the Light and hence the withdrawal. This withdrawal, however, as the Master-poet suggests, is not a withdrawal from Earth but simply a moving out of the mortal range.
A sacred yearning lingered in its trace,
The worship of a Presence and a Power
Too perfect to be held by death-bound hearts,
The prescience of a marvellous birth to come.
Yet all is not lost. A new aspiration has been implanted upon earth. Man’s soul has heard the call even though his outer mind and surface heart are not yet ready. Even the withdrawal becomes a strategic one, since it awakens in our heart and our very senses a yearning and we feel and worship the Presence that our outer mind does not know but an inner sense feels. The fading away, the disappearance of the divine being from Earth itself becomes a divine action triggering in its wake a deeper yearning, making the aspiration soar even higher. The life of the Avatara becomes a mould for the future type to emerge, a first indication of what is going to come.
Eternity and Time
Only a little the god-light can stay:
Spiritual beauty illumining human sight
Lines with its passion and mystery Matter’s mask
And squanders eternity on a beat of Time.
The Divine Advent brings a touch of the Eternal upon our time-vexed life. It is the intervention of a higher, a greater consciousness arising as a wave from the Eternal giving a new direction and goal to the cycle of Time. It brings illumination to our human mind and brings a new influx into matter itself. Yet matter cannot hold this Light for long.
Diffusion of the Light
As when a soul draws near the sill of birth,
Adjoining mortal time to Timelessness,
A spark of deity lost in Matter’s crypt
Its lustre vanishes in the inconscient planes,
That transitory glow of magic fire
So now dissolved in bright accustomed air.
Sri Aurobindo draws a comparision between the descent of our soul in matter and the Divine Advent upon earth. Our souls are a spark of the Divine but descending into mortal planes and assuming a cloak of physical body, it is covered with the denseness and darkness of material consciousness. So too the Light that is brought down by the embodied Divine is absorbed by the Inconscient and turned into something mechanical and routine, familiar and therefore no more sought after or longed for! Its intensity is no more felt as it diffuses itself in the earth-nature.
Cessation of the message
The message ceased and waned the messenger.
The Truth that has been declared and brought down is reduced in force and intensity even as the Messenger withdraws into the secrecy of Silence.
She looked no more on our mortality
The single Call, the uncompanioned Power,
Drew back into some far-off secret world
The hue and marvel of the supernal beam:
She looked no more on our mortality.
The Divine Advent is a chance for the Earth consciousness to redeem itself. It is an Intervention that comes to change our destiny through embodied Grace. But finding a poor response from Earth-nature, The Divine Consciousness withdraws awhile and lets our mortal life run its course.
The rarity and wonder lived no more
The excess of beauty natural to god-kind
Could not uphold its claim on time-born eyes;
Too mystic-real for space-tenancy
Her body of glory was expunged from heaven:
The rarity and wonder lived no more.
Man’s nature is still crude and unrefined. It cannot hold its gaze or fix the image of subtle forms and godlike beauty in his heart and mind. The doubts and disbeliefs of the material consciousness represented in man by our material mind need something gross for our vision to behold. Hence the vision wonderful and the glorious body fades away.
The common light of earthly day
There was the common light of earthly day. (p.6 begins)
What follows next is the diffusion of the Light that has been left behind as an endowment of the Earth. The new and greater truth brought down by the Divine messenger is slowly replaced with and clothed in common thought, the usual practices, the daily rituals to which we are accustomed to.
Rumour of the speed of life
Affranchised from the respite of fatigue
Once more the rumour of the speed of Life
Pursued the cycles of her blinded quest.
Here Sri Aurobindo brings us back to the day of destiny. Humanity is slowly waking up out of a state of tamas in which it had fallen due to sheer fatigue. This is the only respite that we know. We know not how to rest in Light and Peace. For us life means restless activity and rest means a temporary lapse into tamas, a momentary respite from fatigue. Though the Light comes to awaken us we wake up only to go back to our usual routine, pursuing the life of blind desires. The divine energies given to us for higher purposes are diverted to continue and maintain our old pattern of life. In other words the full results of this awakening are lost since we go back to our accustomed and inferior paths.
Man lifted up the burden of his fate
All sprang to their unvarying daily acts;
The thousand peoples of the soil and tree
Obeyed the unforeseeing instant’s urge,
And, leader here with his uncertain mind,
Alone who stares at the future’s covered face,
Man lifted up the burden of his fate.
The Divine Grace comes to awaken and to save. It comes to take upon Itself the burden of our destiny. But man’s mind is unable to place its trust in the Grace and prefers the leadings of his mind and the promptings of his desires and impulses. Here Sri Aurobindo describes with a touch of irony the inadequacy and at the same time the sense of self-sufficiency of the human mind. It rejects the Divine Light, preferring instead its ignorant ways. It prefers its uncertainties to the divine certitude. The Human being prefers the soulless routine of his life rather than an effort towards a greater and diviner living. He prefers his stumbling mind to carry his burden of fate than trust the Divine Grace and the Glory that had come to save and to succor. He prefers his blindness of Ignorance to the spiritual illumination.