In the passage that follows, Sri Aurobindo gives us a clear glimpse of what this world is at present. But He also gives us hope and reveals to us that this is so because what we see now is a half-finished world. A greater world and a greater destiny awaits its hour. But now what we see is an imperfect world that does not easily lend to us its deeper significance. If anything it fills us with incertitude and can easily inspire the state of vairagya, a luminous sense of futility that comes over us when we see things as they are. But of course Sri Aurobindo does not stop here but also gives us a glimpse of what things can and yet must be.
A machine without a soul
Only beginnings are accomplished here;
Our base’s Matter seems alone complete,
An absolute machine without a soul.
Life upon earth has not yet finished its evolutionary journey. Only the base of Matter has been laid so far and, upon this base, there have emerged half-conscious forms, that can sense and think and feel. But the soul, the spiritual element is yet to emerge.
Travesties of celestial types
Or all seems a misfit of half ideas,
Or we saddle with the vice of earthly form
A hurried imperfect glimpse of heavenly things,
Guesses and travesties of celestial types.
This crucial spiritual element missing, everything seems half done. At best we can have a partial and hurried glimpse of higher things in dreams and imagination. Even the physical world makes an attempt to reproduce something of the Divine Truth but it is a crude initial effort and not the thing in Reality.
Unfinished arcs of power
Here chaos sorts itself into a world,
A brief formation drifting in the void:
Apings of knowledge, unfinished arcs of power,
Flamings of beauty into earthly shapes,
Love’s broken reflexes of unity
Swim, fragment-mirrorings of a floating sun.
Sri Aurobindo gives us a revealing image of the world as half finished, half-in-the-making where nothing is complete and nothing is in its place. All that we presently find here in the forms and figures of the world are imitations and fleeting glimpses of beauty. In this divided and dividing consciousness the only saving Grace that tries to create some semblance of Unity is the power of Love that labours to bring back creation to the Creator where alone everything can rediscover its lost unity. But in this dividing consciousness it only manages to hold the drifting fragments together in an ever changing world.
A packed assemblage
A packed assemblage of crude tentative lives
Are pieced into a tessellated whole.
This is how earthly life presents itself, something imperfect and transient, fragmented and disconnected.
Blind doors and counterfeits
There is no perfect answer to our hopes;
There are blind voiceless doors that have no key;
Thought climbs in vain and brings a borrowed light,
Cheated by counterfeits sold to us in life’s mart,
Our hearts clutch at a forfeited heavenly bliss.
We are as if held in a prison with no road to freedom. A limit is imposed on our thought and feelings. A magic circle is drawn around our soul by forces of nature with seeming doors of escape whose key we have lost. What we think as knowledge turns out to be only a borrowed light and not the authentic Truth. What we call as Joy is soon lost even as we try to hold it. An imperfection dodges our every hope.
Satiety and not the true satisfaction
There is provender for the mind’s satiety,
There are thrills of the flesh, but not the soul’s desire
Within this prison house, Nature provides us with limited possibilities of joy and satisfaction but the deeper and lasting contentment and the joy that comes only from the soul eludes us.
Seraglios of Ignorance
Here even the highest rapture Time can give
Is a mimicry of ungrasped beatitudes,
A mutilated statue of ecstasy,
A wounded happiness that cannot live,
A brief felicity of mind or sense
Thrown by the World-Power to her body-slave,
Or a simulacrum of enforced delight
In the seraglios of Ignorance.
Even the highest joys that earth can experience in a state of Ignorance is nothing compared to what yet may come. It is a mutilated figure where always there is the sense of something missing. Even the little happiness often comes with the price of suffering and is short-lived. This is so because it is a field of Ignorance where everything is second-hand and diminished Light, a shadow of something else that seems to be hidden or not found here.
For all we have acquired soon loses worth,
An old disvalued credit in Time’s bank,
Imperfection’s cheque drawn on the Inconscient.
All earthly happiness that comes through outer means and external gains is transient and soon loses its value and worth. It does not endure and whatever it gives is far less than what we hope and dream of.
Seed of failure in success
An inconsequence dogs every effort made,
And chaos waits on every cosmos formed:
In each success a seed of failure lurks.
Such is the nature of earthly life at present and so will it be as long as the foreseen and promised transformation does not take place. As long as lower nature with its twin engines of lust and ambition is driven by the fuel of desire along routes determined by ignorance and set to course by the pilot ego, even our highest flights of achievement are bound to eventually be dragged towards the abyss of sorrow and suffering. The Inconscient Darkness is too strong for man to resist and it is this that supports these movements that pull our humanity backwards and down towards the abyss of failure and despair.
The doubtfulness and the transience
He saw the doubtfulness of all things here,
The incertitude of man’s proud confident thought,
The transience of the achievements of his force.
Seeing this impermanence, some have declared that earthly life is an illusion and escape from it is the only solution. Nothing is certain here, all is subject to the law of mutation and change. This experience of the awakened soul leads to disenchantment and disillusionment from earthly life. But we should wait before drawing any final and premature conclusions. As always Sri Aurobindo reveals to us a new way of seeing and understanding and opens the doors of a new possibility.
Between the cradle and the grave
A thinking being in an unthinking world,
An island in the sea of the Unknown,
He is a smallness trying to be great,
An animal with some instincts of a god,
His life a story too common to be told,
His deeds a number summing up to nought,
His consciousness a torch lit to be quenched,
His hope a star above a cradle and grave.
From birth to death life is filled with uncertainty. Surrounded by things whose real nature we are hardly aware of, human life is precariously hung between animality and humanity. A giant ignorance surrounds us so much so that we do not even know what our next step is going to be and what will be the outcome of our deeds. Our hopes and our deeds remain narrowly tied around the small circle of pin-point ego. Such is the story of man as long as he chooses to remain in Ignorance and refuses to wake up to the Divine Presence within him and ascend to his higher destiny.
The hope for man
And yet a greater destiny may be his,
For the eternal Spirit is his truth.
And yet there is hope. This hope lies in man’s further evolution from a mentalised to an increasingly spiritualized consciousness. As long as man seeks to find the solutions outside him by outer means, they will all be temporary solutions. It is only when he turns within and seeks his soul he can unlock the doors of the Spirit and by Its power transform his life. This is the greater destiny that awaits man. And since this is his inmost truth, it is bound to manifest one day.
Self above Nature, above Fate
He can re-create himself and all around
And fashion new the world in which he lives:
He, ignorant, is the Knower beyond Time,
He is the Self above Nature, above Fate.
This is man’s secret truth towards which all experiences of life are leading him. He is not bound by Fate. If man can free himself from Ignorance and discover the true Self that is hidden behind the mask of his ego-personality, then he can not only master his own fate but also change the world around him. He is born to master Nature and her forces and powers that move us and determine our destiny. But the true mastery will only come when he discovers he is a portion of the Lord. This is the destiny bequeathed to man, his future, to be the knower and the master. Once man discovers his true Self, the greater Self within himself, he can rebuild himself in the image of a god and refashion the world around by the power of the Spirit within.
Sri Aurobindo is a spiritual realist. On the one hand he is fully aware of the present state of imperfection that we live in. On the other hand he is also aware of the deeper and higher possibility that awaits us. That is why his words always comfort and soothe, give us hope and courage. A greater and luminous future awaits us, a greater destiny, for man is a transitional being who has not yet arrived at his own intended perfection.