Our gross material world, as also the subtle worlds, are clothes worn by the Spirit who remains hidden within it as in the oyster shell a pearl of great price. Sri Aurobindo now describes this subtle dress worn by the Spirit before it assumes this thick and heavy and obscure cloak we know as our physical body.
An envelope of self-disguise
For long before earth’s solid vest was forged
By the technique of the atomic Void,
A lucent envelope of self-disguise
Was woven round the secret spirit in things.
The subtle physical envelope covers the soul as a dress covers the body. However, unlike the gross physical world that is built by the atomic technique, the subtle substance is more fluid and translucent.
The subtle realms from those bright sheaths are made.
That is to say, the subtle physical substance has this quality of luminosity, unlike the gross substance which is rather opaque to Light. Possibly it is the ‘matter’ of which Light is made.
This wonder-world with all its radiant boon
Of vision and inviolate happiness,
Only for expression cares and perfect form;
Fair on its peaks, it has dangerous nether planes;
Its light draws towards the verge of Nature’s lapse;
It lends beauty to the terror of the gulfs
And fascinating eyes to perilous Gods,
Invests with grace the demon and the snake.
This subtle world, being translucent and plastic, is easy to mould into beautiful shapes and forms and figures that can bring joy to the senses. It has its dark side as well, since it can drape even the dark forces and deceptive energies into beautiful shapes, thereby deceiving those who are carried away by the form and take it for the real truth of things.
Its trance imposes earth’s inconscience,
Immortal it weaves for us death’s sombre robe
And authorises our mortality.
But then this very substance undergoes a further modification as it plunges into the inconscience. Smeared and modified with the inconscience, it assumes a certain denseness and rigidity which makes it susceptible to disease, disintegration and death.
Subtle ground of Matter’s world
This medium serves a greater Consciousness:
A vessel of its concealed autocracy,
It is the subtle ground of Matter’s worlds,
It is the immutable in their mutable forms,
In the folds of its creative memory
It guards the deathless type of perishing things:
Its lowered potencies found our fallen strengths;
Its thought invents our reasoned ignorance;
Its sense fathers our body’s reflexes.
This subtle realm is the background matrix on which floats this ‘seemingly real-unreal’ material world. In fact, this plunge into the inconscience creates the distortion of the original plan, the blueprint of God for the forms meant for His habitation. It is this mixture that distorts the inner plan and cuts off the powers and radiances of the Spirit that are ever there to help us. Indeed all our spontaneous protective reflexes originate here and take a route through gross material nerves and pathways built for the purpose. But the split second response comes due to sensitive nature of this envelope that detects things and forces and energies and their impacts even before they have touched the physical body. This can of course be trained and developed as athletes and players do. If we become more conscious of this layer, then it can be a very good preventive for illness which can be detected even before they enter the gross body.
Secret breath of untried mightier force
Our secret breath of untried mightier force,
The lurking sun of an instant’s inner sight,
Its fine suggestions are a covert fount
For our iridescent rich imaginings
Touching things common with transfiguring hues
Till even earth’s mud grows rich and warm with the skies
And a glory gleams from the soul’s decadence.
It is through this medium that the Divine Power acts and hints at things. It is this layer that can easily open to telepathic messages and images that come floating from other worlds and enter our ken. Phenomena like clairvoyance and clairaudience awaken when one is awake in this layer and is able to develop it. The stronger it is, the more it lends a radiance to the outer gross frame we know as our physical body. This ‘glow’ is the result of this healthy and strong subtle physical body and its opposite ‘dullness’ when it gets weak or diminished due to our inner or outer conditions.
Error’s starting point
Its knowledge is our error’s starting-point;
Its beauty dons our mud-mask ugliness,
Its artist good begins our evil’s tale.
That is to say, it is the last luminous and responsive outpost before the Spirit plunges into the dense darkness of inconscience, leading to a total eclipsing and obscurity of consciousness. It is thus a meeting point of knowledge and error, beauty and ugliness and good and evil as it plunges into the darkness below.
Our denser Matter
A heaven of creative truths above,
A cosmos of harmonious dreams between,
A chaos of dissolving forms below,
It plunges lost in our inconscient base.
Out of its fall our denser Matter came.
What we know as Matter is actually not true or real Matter but only its shadow, like the bark of a tree, something that is grown out as an interface with the world. In fact outer Matter as we know it is solid and dense whereas it is built with atomic particles which are neither solid and nor dense! Herein lies the mystery. At any given time there are two layers of outer reality, – one that the senses conceive and conjure, while the other which is real but not sensible ordinarily to the outer senses. And yet both dwell together and seem as real like the quantum world and its laws and the hard, solid world and its laws. This superimposing layer is created by the fall of subtle Matter into the dense inconscience.
Thus we see here Sri Aurobindo revealing the nature of this subtle matter and its function and purpose and also how out of it the gross ‘sensible’ matter has emerged.