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At the Feet of The Mother

Correspondence 1932, October (II)

October 9, 1932

I said that Aeschylus like Milton was austere au fond [at bottom] — there is as in Dante a high serious restrained power behind all they write; but the outward form in Milton is grandiose, copious, lavish of strength and sweep, in Aeschylus bold, high-imaged, strong in colour, in Dante full of concise, packed and significantly forceful turn and phrase. These external riches might seem not restrained enough to the purists of austerity who want the manner and not the fond only to be impeccably austere. I did not mean that Dante reached the summit of austerity in this sense; in fact I said he stood between the two extremes of bare austerity and sumptuosity of language. But even in his language there is a sense of tapasyā, of concentrated restraint in his expressive force. Amal in his translation of Dante[1] has let himself go in the direction of eloquence more than Dante who is too succinct for eloquence and he uses also a mystical turn of phrase which is not Dante’s — yet he has got something of the spirit in the language, something of Dante’s concentrated force of expression into his lines. You have spread yourself out even more than Amal, but still there is the Dantesque in your lines also, — very much so, I should say; for instance:

apār alakh ālo-mandākinī-banyādhāre abanī-ārtir andha bubhukkhā bināshi

Quench the blind hunger of this earth-despair
With flood of glory from the immense Unseen![2]

is the Dantesque itself in its movement and peculiar quality of phrase, — with only this difference that Dante would have put it into fewer words than you do. It is the Dantesque stretching itself out a little — more large-limbed, permitting itself more space.

Aeschylus’ manner cannot be described as uchchvās, at least in the sense given to it in my letter. He is not carefully restrained and succinct in his language like Dante, but there is a certain royal measure even in his boldness of colour and image which has in it the strength of tapasyā and cannot be called uchchvās. I suppose in Bengali this term is used a little indiscriminately for things that are not quite the same in spirit. If mere use of bold image and fullness of expression, epithet, colour, splendour of phrase is uchchvās, apart from the manner of their use, I would say that austerity and uchchvās of a certain kind are perfectly compatible. At any rate two-thirds of the poetry hitherto recognised as the best in different literatures comes of a combination of these two elements. If I find time I shall one day try to explain this point with texts to support it.

I don’t know the Bengali for austerity. Gāmbhirya and other kindred things are or can be elements of austerity, but are not austerity itself. Anuchchvās not accurate; one can be free from uchchvās without being austere. The soul of austerity in poetry as in Yoga is ātmasaṁyama [self-discipline]; all the rest is variable, the outward quality of the austerity itself may be variable.

There is no reason why Dante should not be replaced by the earth in the translation or Beatrice remain in it. Even the last lines could be Indianised, if you wanted, with the exit of Beatrice.

*   *   *

October 10, 1932

Well, that is all right. If Sahana is a devotee of the great goddess “Cha-devi” [tea goddess], she will fly and throw herself on the altar without need of urging — if not, she will sit in tealess meditation invitation-free. It will be a test of her true orientation in this “to tea or not to tea” question. As for chivalry, it is more than a century ago that Burke lamented “The days of chivalry are gone!” And in the year 1932 with feminism triumphant — everywhere except in France and Bokhara — how do you propose to keep the cult going any longer?

*   *   *

October 17, 1932

I don’t think it is at all owing to the suggestion from what I wrote in the letter that you got the experience. The fundamental reason of these things does not belong to the surface; it is in the depths — or on the heights; at any rate, in the inner being behind the veil of the frontal consciousness. The actual occasional cause of the spiritual experience, — the match that sets alight the fire, so to say — may be something very slight and looking accidental on the surface, a chance word or happening or something quite fortuitous in its appearance. The person also through whom it comes may seem very much like a fortuitous instrument. It is true that this is only in appearance; for even things slight and seemingly fortuitous have a reason for happening as they do, but that reason too is not on the surface.

Your meeting with Subhash [Bose] was not on the physical plane, nor was it with the physical Subhash. Although it was not a sleep in which we enter into other planes of being, it was in a concentrated state in which you had crossed or were crossing the border from the physical to a deeper consciousness. The Subhash you met there was some part of him of which the external physical Subhash is probably not himself aware and there it is quite possible that there is a Shivabhakta who could speak in praise of Gauri-vallabh; it may be even from there that come the velleities of sadhana when he is in prison and the surface kinetic man discouraged and inactive. Or it may be the Subhash met in the concentration was only a mask or an instrument for a Power that spoke the word through his voice.

As for the experience itself it takes up the movement which had started in you a long time ago and was interrupted by the vital upheaval that brought you so much trouble and struggle. Only there has been since a widening of the consciousness and a step forward which made this form of the experience possible. At that time you had not much appreciation for calm and peace — you hankered only after bhakti and Ananda. But calm, peace, shanti are the necessary basis for any establishment of other things, otherwise if there is no solid foundation in the consciousness, if there is only unrest and movement, bhakti, Ananda and everything else can only come and go in starts and fits and find no ground to live on. It must, however, be not a mere mental quiet but the deep spiritual peace of the shantimaya Shiva. It was this that touched you (descending through the head) in this experience. For the rest it is a resumption of the piercing of the veil, the beginning of the power of inner experience as opposed to the lesser experiences of the surface, the opening of the inner being, which is necessary for the Yogic consciousness. A certain amount of vital purification has taken place which made the resumption of this kind of experience possible.

You certainly need not be afraid of going into unconsciousness, for it is not unconsciousness that you would go into, but simply the inner consciousness, — that going quite inward which is the result of intense dhyāna [meditation] and the beginning of a certain kind of samādhi.

*   *   *

October 1932?

What the Mother said was that a star [?] moving persistently from up below is frequently seen when there is a process going on of joining the inner consciousness and the outer together. It is the separation, the veil of non-communication between the two that is the chief difficulty of the early stages of the Yoga.

Green indicates vital force, a warm vital force, not exactly love — at any rate there is nothing of the sexual movement in it — but affection and a generous self-giving or self-spending power of the life-force….

*   *   *

October 18, 1932

I am sending you back the letters, etc. The long letter is absolutely unfit for publication, as I see on a final reading, except the first page — the rest won’t do at all. To the others (even the door and head letter) I will not object, if you want them. As to Subhash, I would not advise you to send him this morning’s letter as it would evoke your writing to him about your experience, which it is not good to do from the point of view of your sadhana; the other letter (about Shiva, Krishna, etc.) could be sent, but would it mean anything to him — I don’t know.

I have not yet found a moment’s time to go through Russell’s book; as soon as I can do so I will let you know if I have anything to say about him. I have already said that I have no objection to anybody admiring Russell or Lowes Dickinson or any other altruist. Genius or fine qualities are always admirable in whomever they are found; all that has nothing to do with the turn of a man’s opinions or the truth or untruth of atheism or of spiritual experience. Neither for that matter is the fact that there are people who believe out of fear or desire a valid argument against the existence of the Divine. I will read the book as soon as I can, but I do not expect to find anything very novel in it, as I am perfectly familiar with European atheism and it is for the most part a shallow and rather childish reaction against a shallow and childish religionism — that of orthodox exoteric Christianity as it was believed and practised in Europe. Not much food on either side of the controversy either for the intellect or the spirit!

*   *   *


[1] Dante’s poem, Paradise, translated into English by Amal and into Bengali by Dilip. See Anāmī, p. 210.

[2] Amal’s translation.

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When I ask you to be plastic in relation to the Divine, I mean not to resist the Divine with the rigidity of preconceived ideas and fixed principles.