Part 4. The Master and Lord of Nature, Isa
The game being played between Soul and Nature starts with the utter self-forgetfulness and slavery of the Soul to Nature but ends in Mastery through discovery of our true and highest Self. Indeed just as the soul surrenders itself to nature in freedom, She too gradually and eventually leads the soul towards self-mastery. All the experiences that Nature arranges for the soul, – things terrible and beautiful and dangerous and divine, are really a schooling and a training for the Soul to grow to its full potential and recover its lost divinity.
To reign she spurs him
Even in his mortal session in body’s house,
An aimless traveller between birth and death,
Ephemeral dreaming of immortality,
To reign she spurs him. He takes up her powers;
He has harnessed her to the yoke of her own law.
Even though the journey seems purposeless without an issue and all our ideals and hopes and aspirations appear as mere dreams and imaginations denied by a limiting Nature, in reality Nature takes us through all this towards self-mastery. She teases us and challenges us, but eventually yields her powers before the growing soul. Thus man progressively grows towards a mastery over nature, using her powers by studying her laws and processes.
Ascension of soul through the mind of man
His face of human thought puts on a crown.
This mastery over the forces of Nature starts with man awakening as a mental being, the thinker. By the power of thought, man ascends towards the throne prepared for him by Nature.
For him she was made
Held in her leash, bound to her veiled caprice,
He studies her ways if so he may prevail
Even for an hour and she work out his will;
He makes of her his moment passion’s serf:
To obey she feigns, she follows her creature’s lead:
For him she was made, lives only for his use.
Momentarily Nature seems to yield and acts in subservience to man’s mind. Though mind itself is part of Nature, she makes it appear that he is a free being whom Nature is bound to obey if he can study her ways. Through all this Nature slowly prepares the Purusha, the inmost Soul to grow and become a master of Nature.
She rules him still
But conquering her, then is he most her slave;
He is her dependent, all his means are hers;
Nothing without her he can, she rules him still.
Even when the Soul takes its station in the mind of man and seems to compel the forces of Nature to obey his will, yet Nature remains the worker who builds the instruments and executes the will of the Purusha. Without her, the Purusha can do nothing.
At last he wakes to a memory of Self
At last he wakes to a memory of Self:
He sees within the face of deity,
The Godhead breaks out through the human mould:
Her highest heights she unmasks and is his mate.
It is only when the Soul ascends beyond the Mind and discovers his own highest self, the Divine Self of which he is a portion, that Nature too unveils her highest powers and becomes his mate, the Shakti that is hidden above and behind all the movements of Prakriti. It is then that the Soul’s schooling through Nature is complete and the Godhead within it as a seed emerges fully in the earthly play.
A plaything in her game
Till then he is a plaything in her game;
Her seeming regent, yet her fancy’s toy,
A living robot moved by her energy’s springs,
He acts as in the movements of a dream,
An automaton stepping in the grooves of Fate,
He stumbles on driven by her whip of Force:
His thought labours, a bullock in Time’s fields;
His will he thinks his own, is shaped in her forge.
Until then there is no real freedom. Until we discover our highest self we remain a plaything and a toy, a slave and an automaton driven by the forces of Nature. Until then, even our thoughts which we think are free, are yet driven by her to furrow the fields of Time. Until then even our so-called ‘free will’ is not really free but a manufactured impulse and impulsion of Nature.
His chosen partner in a titan game
Obedient to World-Nature’s dumb control,
Driven by his own formidable Power,
His chosen partner in a titan game,
Her will he has made the master of his fate,
Her whim the dispenser of his pleasure and pain;
He has sold himself into her regal power
For any blow or boon that she may choose:
Even in what is suffering to our sense,
He feels the sweetness of her mastering touch,
In all experience meets her blissful hands;
On his heart he bears the happiness of her tread
And the surprise of her arrival’s joy
In each event and every moment’s chance.
This obedience of Purusha to the Prakriti starts the World-Play. She is a partner in our growth and her own. But to catch the thread of this real play we need to go within and discover the hidden soul, the divine element within us. The soul holds this deep wisdom within itself and hence has accepted the conditions of the play, surrendering itself to Nature who prepares it through all kinds of experiences for its divine efflorescence. While the ego-self, itself a creation of Nature suffers and rejoices, experiences pleasure and pain, the Soul within grows and feels delight in this great adventure of the world-game. To the soul, each experience, each event, each moment are occasions and excuses for coming in contact with Nature and feel the bliss at her touch.
An endless birth in endless Time
All she can do is marvellous in his sight:
He revels in her, a swimmer in her sea,
A tireless amateur of her world-delight,
He rejoices in her every thought and act
And gives consent to all that she can wish;
Whatever she desires he wills to be:
The Spirit, the innumerable One,
He has left behind his lone eternity,
He is an endless birth in endless Time,
Her finite’s multitude in an infinite Space.
The soul is an apprentice being trained by Nature for receiving the fullness of delight. It knows this secret truth and therefore consents to all that Nature does and seeks to build in him. It is for this manifold delight in a multi-hued creation that the One Spirit became many. It is for this delight of the play that the One Spirit entered the vast adventure of Space and Time, accepted a limited name and form called birth and chose to become a finite soul in an infinite creation.
Thus Sri Aurobindo reveals to us not only the unity behind Soul and Nature but the real purpose behind this play. The One assumes two poises for the sake of the world-play whose sole purpose is to multiply the Delight of Being in a manifold way. Just as the Soul is a finite portion of the Infinite Divine Being, Nature too is a limited power of the Infinite Divine Shakti. Here they appear as opposing each other but on in the Divine peaks, to the vision of Divine Wisdom, they are One. It is towards this that both soul and Nature work together and grow. Nature herself is pushing the soul to ascend to these divine heights now concealed from us but she has all eternity at her disposal making the process rather long and painful. We can hasten this growth through conscious participation. Until then, until both can discover their own highest truth, man will continue to experience some kind of self-limitation, error and its consequent suffering and pain.