In the passage that follows Sri Aurobindo shows us the present condition of man tied to the limits of understanding imposed upon him by the senses and the physical mind.
The matted hedge of sense
But few can look beyond the present state
Or overleap this matted hedge of sense.
Ordinarily we are told that what we see, touch, hear is true. But in fact the senses do not reveal the Reality to us, they only cover it as a hedge covers a ground full of Light. Thus we see not Reality or the Truth but bits and pieces that give us the impression of form and reality. But it is a trick, an illusion conjured by the senses. Yet it is not easy to get past these appearances that the senses weave for us.
An Illimitable Plan
All that transpires on earth and all beyond
Are parts of an illimitable plan
The One keeps in his heart and knows alone.
Truth is indeed One and Limitless but the action of the senses presents It to us as a broken discontinuous fragments. Yet all is a single plan, a single chain held by the One, taking place in the Consciousness of the One.
Laws of the Unknown
Our outward happenings have their seed within,
And even this random Fate that imitates Chance,
This mass of unintelligible results,
Are the dumb graph of truths that work unseen:
The laws of the Unknown create the known.
All authentic creation is an outburst from within outwards as a seed breaks out into roots and stems and a plant. So too the real causes of events and happenings lie within. What we see on surface are mere results whose deeper logic is hidden from our sight. That is why it appears as blind chance. But there are deeper and subtler laws and forces at work in the very heart of creation of which we are ordinarily unaware.
Spirit’s sun of hidden powers
The events that shape the appearance of our lives
Are a cipher of subliminal quiverings
Which rarely we surprise or vaguely feel,
Are an outcome of suppressed realities
That hardly rise into material day:
They are born from the spirit’s sun of hidden powers
Digging a tunnel through emergency.
What we see and sense, seem to know and understand is only tip of the iceberg. The larger play of forces remains hidden, submerged and suppressed below the threshold of our outer awareness. These hidden forces are set into motion by the spirit that lies concealed within us and uses every possible means to emerge and express itself, including events and circumstances that seem terrible and catastrophic to our eyes. In fact sometimes to make us take a leap towards the future our soul chooses to take upon itself circumstances that seem extremely difficult but this crisis of outer situations is for the soul an opportunity to bring out its divine wisdom and strength.
The cryptic gulf
But who shall pierce into the cryptic gulf
And learn what deep necessity of the soul
Determined casual deed and consequence?
But our awareness, limited to the surface phenomenon and the data of earthly senses is unable to give us this deeper vision. We cannot get past the appearances that separate us from Reality. The cryptic gulf is our inner being where we find the passage to the inmost soul and arrive at the true understanding of the hidden causes and forces that move us.
Hidden cause of things
Absorbed in a routine of daily acts,
Our eyes are fixed on an external scene;
We hear the crash of the wheels of Circumstance
And wonder at the hidden cause of things.
This is our present state where in we are absorbed so much by external events and scenes, preoccupied with outer circumstances that we forget to look within and discover the real cause. Driven from moment to moment, from scene to scene we miss the Wisdom and the Guidance that uses everything for our soul’s progress and evolution.
The Muffled Daemon Voice
Yet a foreseeing Knowledge might be ours,
If we could take our spirit’s stand within,
If we could hear the muffled daemon voice.
But it is neither necessary nor incumbent upon us to remain in this state of Ignorance. Man can be privy to the Future, he can have the foreknowledge and also the inner necessity of going through the crisis, if he opens the doors to a higher and deeper intuition. The voice of the soul within, ever ready to show us the truth behind appearances, is however muffled and drowned in the mental noise and the vital chatter that goes on within us.
The world’s mind and ours
Too seldom is the shadow of what must come (p 53 begins)
Cast in an instant on the secret sense
Which feels the shock of the invisible,
And seldom in the few who answer give
The mighty process of the cosmic Will
Communicates its image to our sight,
Identifying the world’s mind with ours.
Ordinarily the cosmic Will that operates in the world hidden from us. In fact the ego-self not only fails to recognize it but also deflects and distorts it. It is only when an inner door opens and we are freed from the strong grip of the ego-self, even if for a moment, that we enter into the cosmic vastness and our subliminal being senses what our outer mind has missed.
Light of the Unknown
Our range is fixed within the crowded arc
Of what we observe and touch and thought can guess
And rarely dawns the light of the Unknown
Waking in us the prophet and the seer.
But such moments of revelation are rare. Ordinarily however we remain bound to the limits of our senses, living like blind and deaf through having eyes and ears. It is only when the Ray of Divine Wisdom touches us and wakes up our inner powers to see and feel that the seer and the prophet is born in us.
Mind keeps the soul prisoner
The outward and the immediate are our field,
The dead past is our background and support;
Mind keeps the soul prisoner, we are slaves to our acts;
We cannot free our gaze to reach wisdom’s sun.
We are tied to appearances. We are held back by our past. We are imprisoned by our mind and its dogmas, its beliefs and non-beliefs. The Mind with its doubts and divisive vision cannot show us the face of Truth. It can build theories by stringing together bits and pieces of information but cannot know all the forces at play within and without. The subtler and deeper mysteries completely elude us. But the seat of Wisdom is not in the Mind but in the Soul.
Child in Nature’s mighty hands
Inheritor of the brief animal mind,
Man, still a child in Nature’s mighty hands,
In the succession of the moments lives;
To a changing present is his narrow right;
His memory stares back at a phantom past,
The future flees before him as he moves;
He sees imagined garments, not a face.
But the movements of Nature take place at a much larger scale than we can even imagine. Nature acts on the basis of a deeper vaster Intelligence that is hidden within its core and of which we are unaware. We are held back by the past which exists in us as habit and memory even when it ceases to exist outwardly. It yet prompts us to act in habitual ways and patterns to which we are accustomed. The future is as yet only an imagination for us, an image we build with our hopes and despairs. All that is given to us is the fleeting present whose outer image we see and not the inner Reality that it represents. In the enormous vastness of Nature we are in our infancy and whatever we have accomplished is nothing compared to what we are truly capable of and which is yet to come.
Limited precarious strength
Armed with a limited precarious strength,
He saves his fruits of work from adverse chance.
A struggling ignorance is his wisdom’s mate:
He waits to see the consequence of his acts,
He waits to weigh the certitude of his thoughts,
He knows not what he shall achieve or when;
He knows not whether at last he shall survive,
Or end like the mastodon and the sloth
And perish from the earth where he was king.
This is our predicament as long as we remain tied to the outposts of Ignorance. For all our development and progress we remain insecure and unsure of the future. Uncertainty and error constantly weigh us down. We do not know whether we shall even survive as a race or be wiped out the way it has happened with some species in the past.
His high and splendid Fate
He is ignorant of the meaning of his life,
He is ignorant of his high and splendid fate.
Yet this is not all we are. Much greater possibilities await us in the high peaks of Nature. In fact this is our real purpose, to grow and evolve into the Godhead that is hidden within us. This is the hope for the future that Sri Aurobindo keeps bringing to us, a hope that inspires us to go beyond and discover the real sense and purpose of our life that is embedded and engraved within our soul.
Thus Sri Aurobindo bids us to rise from our present state of Ignorance into the Light and Truth of an illimitable vast Consciousness Beyond and Above and Within us. Until we do that we shall remain tied to the outposts of Ignorance and never really fathom the true cause and the inner reason that moves our destiny. We can never really be secure against the complex forces that move our life until we have broken free from this net of Ignorance into which we are caught. And yet there is hope, and the passage closes with a glance into the Future that is bound to be splendid and meaningful.