Book One, as the name itself suggests is the Book of Beginnings. It sets the note and the backdrop of the epic. The Beginning referred to here is the beginning of King Aswapati’s Yoga, his central aspiration to save Earth and humanity from its strange predicament of a never-ending cycle of rise and fall. King Aswapati seeks to bring into this world a greater Power, a greater Truth, a greater Consciousness than the Earth has
so far known. But for this he must first complete the lines of yoga that have thus far been realized. He must relive and summarise and synthesise in his single being the results of previous yogas undertaken by man since his conscious search for a greater and higher existence started. He must escape from the law of Ignorance himself before he can help mankind at large realize its dream of terrestrial perfection. He must first discover the Power that dwells on the Beyond and persuade It to descend upon Earth in a human body. That Power is the Grace and the Glory of the Divine Mother, the Great Creatrix who mediates between the Unmanifest Divine and the manifest parts of creation. But for this the seer-king Aswapati, the pioneer of the New Consciousness and the voice of the ignorant world must cross the last threshold of the entire manifestation and yet refuse to annul his being in the Unmanifest as other great yogis have done before him. He must represent within his single being the anguish of a struggling race as well as the aspiration of an ascending humanity seeking for Truth and Light and Beauty and Perfection upon Earth. Aswapati does eventually find the way and the answer to the enigma that rules the human night and leads all our efforts eventually to a collapse into darkness. That answer is Savitri, the embodied Grace of the Divine Mother. She is an emanation of the Divine Mother, a previous incarnation of Her Glory and Grace who came upon Earth to nurture and nourish in its heart the dream of a Life Divine. She came to give hope and hold her example as a promise of the Future. She came to prepare and to realize what man has secretly always hoped for, the dream of a perfect life freed from the clutches of Ignorance and Death.
Quite naturally then the Book of Beginnings starts with the coming of Savitri. We see in the first two Cantos, the background of Savitri’s coming, the purpose of her embodiment. There is also a hint that this coming has taken place from time to time since the beginnings of civilization, nay since the beginning of Earth and humanity. She is the much awaited Dawn, the hope, the bringer of fresh impetus to creation leading the march of civilization towards a far-yet pre-destined Goal. The first Canto (The Symbol Dawn) gives us the background of Her coming, while the second Canto (The Issue) briefly summarises Her cosmic Work undertaken in the garb of her personal affliction.
What follows next in the three remaining Cantos of the first book is the start of a long and perilous journey of the Seer-King Aswapati whose sustained yogic endeavor wins the boon of Savitri’s coming for Earth and men. The third Canto is the first step of his vast and complex yoga wherein he must free himself from the clutch of Ignorance before he can set his feet on the New Path of cosmic deliverance from the enigma of suffering and pain. The fourth Canto reveals in a nutshell the Yogi-King’s secret discoveries that impel him to seek further and confirm that there is indeed a way out of the impasse in which our lives are caught. The fifth Canto summarises what he has seen and experienced, even as the New Consciousness that has so far remained Unmanifest begins to manifest in his personal being. It is these experiences and realisations that marks him out as the center of a great evolutionary step that he must undertake and also expands his personal yoga and its achievements into a collective yoga for the human race.
To summarise we have in the Book of Beginnings two main parts. The first and second Canto introduces us to the central theme as well as the main protagonist of the epic, that is Savitri herself. The next three Cantos introduce us to Aswapati, the yogi and seer and king, Savitri’s human father who is engaged in a superhuman quest. Sri Aurobindo helps us with his letters:
Savitri is represented in the poem as an incarnation of the Divine Mother….. This incarnation is supposed to have taken place in far past times when the whole thing had to be opened, so as to “hew the ways of Immortality”. [CWSA 27: 276]
As to the title of the three Cantos about the Yoga of the King (1), I intended the repetition of the word “Yoga” to bring out and emphasise the fact that this part of Aswapati’s spiritual development consisted of two yogic movements, one a psycho-spiritual transformation and the other, a greater spiritual transformation with an ascent to a supreme power. The omission which you suggest would destroy this significance and leave only something more abstract. In the second of these three Cantos there is a pause between the two movements and a description of the secret knowledge to which he is led and of which the results are described in the last Canto, but there is no description of the Yoga itself or of the steps by which this knowledge came. That is only indicated, not narrated; so to bring in “The Yoga of the King” as the title of this Canto would not be very apposite. Aswapati’s Yoga falls into three parts. First, he is achieving his own spiritual self-fulfilment as an individual and this is described as the Yoga of the King. Next, he makes the ascent as a typical representative of the race to win the possibility of discovery and possession of all the planes of consciousness and this is described in the second book: but this too is as yet only an individual victory. Finally, he aspires no longer for himself but for all, for a universal realisation and new creation. That is described in the Book of the Divine Mother. [CWSA 27: 329-330]
(1) Book 1 Canto 3: The Yoga of the King: The Yoga of the Soul’s Release
Canto 4: The Secret Knowledge
Canto 5: The Yoga of the King: The Yoga of the Spirit’s Freedom and Greatness