As man grows beyond his first primal needs, there also grows in him, especially with the development of the mind, the urge to understand the world around him. Starting from the things immediately at hand he must eventually reach out to the stars and beyond and try to understand how each thing works, what is its place in his life, how he can use it to his advantage, or as in more developed human beings for the larger good of humanity. But the understanding of the world alone does not satisfy his longings for knowledge. There comes a point when he must turn back upon himself, the observer of the scene and try to see who he himself is?
The value of his knowledge of the world will eventually depend upon the value of who he himself is. There is a way that each creature understands the world and navigates through the complex play of forces that weave the fabric of our terrestrial existence. The ant and the worm, the plant and even the inanimate stone are all given a certain amount of knowledge that is enough for their limited purposes. Man too has been given a basic understanding of the world around him. But unlike the animal and the plant, man is a seeker and is not satisfied with what he has or what he knows. He must seek more and find more until the entire earth and beyond becomes his domain of knowledge and power.
Of course there is a scale and gradation. There are human beings closer to the first pristine purity of animal-human life who are satisfied with a little. But as man develops up the scale of existence his thirst for knowledge, for power, for perfection grows. But there comes a time when his mental and vital instruments are not able to fulfill that thirst. They can take him thus far but no farther so to say. At least one is able to see clearly the inherent limitations of the human instruments of knowledge and power. He discovers that his senses that observe and the reason that analyses and arrives at a working knowledge of the reality around him are very limited. And when it comes to subjective domains and questions concerning his self-identity it is still more severely handicapped and restricted.
Few question that there could be any greater reality than the material and end up regarding their body as the self. Some go a little further and feel that the body is an instrument to satisfy their desires and longings which are their true self. Still few move on and regard their most intimate self as thought and idea and would fight and give their life to preserve the truth enshrined in the idea and belief that moves them. But some are destined to go further.
Sometimes we are pushed beyond ourselves, pushed beyond our beliefs and non-beliefs, pushed beyond the boundaries of our religions and our ideologies in which we are trapped, pushed beyond the limits of our senses and our knowledge; in one word pushed beyond what we think ourselves to be and who we believe we are! These are moments of crisis when all is snatched away from us or so it seems. This moment of crisis is also a moment of Grace when we can open an inner door and rediscover ourselves and the world. We can, if we have the courage die to our ego and be reborn to our soul. Savitri reveals this profound truth of our life in equally profound words:
An absolute supernatural darkness falls
On man sometimes when he draws near to God:
An hour arrives when fail all Nature’s means;
Forced out from the protecting Ignorance
And flung back on his naked primal need,
He at length must cast from him his surface soul
And be the ungarbed entity within: