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The body

The unfinished story

Dr. Alok Pandey

Editor’s note:

There have always been transitions in the evolutionary journey as the human being arose from the bird and beast. The Time-Spirit now presses for a unique transition towards the superman. It is unique, as unlike the bird and the beast, the evolutionary force needs a conscious collaboration from the depths of one’s being.

The last chapter of the ’Book of Life’ has yet to be written. Man’s evolution is not yet over nor is Creation exhausted of all its possibilities. Whether we take the materialistic paradigm or the spiritual one, we arrive at the same conclusion, that evolution is happening, even now, right before our eyes, right under our skins. Whether we see it or not, whether we are conscious of it or not, we are growing under the pressure of Life that always cries for better and better adaptation. It also seeks fullness, the full blossoming of all its possibilities and potentials. The sun and the earth together anticipate and prepare for life as air settles down in the form of earth and water rushes through the empty spaces. The sun supports from afar the great epic drama that takes place upon earth and yet without it life could not be! Its story is written long before the elements emerge. Within this little dumb atomic mass is concealed the super-script of life. Within a small gene is shut the miraculous possibility of a scientist and a sage. Such is the destiny bequeathed to earth and life upon it. Its entire struggle and all its paradoxes lead us towards the fulfilment of this great and grand destiny. But what greater destiny is held back within man’s ignorant heart is yet to unfold. It visits him sometimes in dreams and symbols. It rouses his emotions and takes away rest and peace from his mind. Man, the eternal seeker, must one day find all that he vaguely or assuredly seeks but ever misses. Ever dissatisfied with the banality of his earthly state, he stares at the sky and dives into the seas. Mastering them, he is still more dissatisfied. Then he turns his gaze within and discovers the wonder of wonders that was always there inside him, — his soul, and finds all that he sought outside but ever missed or insecurely held. Man must remain incomplete and all his knowledge remain at best a reasoned guess or a workable hypothesis until he recovers his lost sight by removing the teguments of his secret soul. This is what the next step of evolution is preparing for him, of which all our hopes and achievements are only fleeting facets. But more is there than man has dreamed or dared.

Much more, indeed, for just as the life of the caterpillar conceals a beautiful butterfly, so too the life of man as he now leads it, covers the divinity with a crust impenetrable to his mortal eyes but clear to the eye of faith and transparent to the vision of the soul. Meanwhile our gaze is turned outside towards the body that is simply the chrysalis of the growing divinity within. All that we call good, and all that we call bad, our pain no less than our pleasures, our struggles and our crises, our hopes and our despairs, all, all without exception, feed this divine child within us until it grows and this house of mud turns into a temple of gold. Till then life must stake its claim and pay the price in the mart of world-forces, the tax of Ignorance and Night. Till then we shall have only palliatives but not the radical remedy, we shall have temporary therapies but not the one needed cure. The panacea lies within us and so do the healing springs of bliss, the nectar of immortality that the gods enjoy as their divine potion. Man too can partake in this nectar if he evolves into and shares the nature of the gods. His pain and his seeking both point in this direction and are a spur towards that. The labour of life, the real labour concealed behind all our troubles and suffering is the evolutionary labour, the effort to release this higher spiritual and divine possibility within us. That is our true resting ground, rest is but a half-way home, a temporary inn, however comfortable we may be in it for the moment. Our houses and our hospitals are just such an inn, the ultimate Home and the Hospice is within us.

But besides that, the body is a marvellous instrument evolved through eons of preparations and challenges. Each stage of evolution is imprinted within it, our very cells retain in some mysterious way the memory of past evolutionary efforts that is transmitted to us from our ancestors. We are not only our father’s children but the children of the whole of humanity, nay even more, the children of earth. The primordial sea and the blazing sun as it first shone upon earth billions of years ago still lurk in some corner of our collective experience of life. The earliest winds beat their wings still to the vast expanse of ether we always carry within us. And through these the whole universe connects with us and speaks to us.

The great truth

This is the great truth we have to relearn, the truth of our inter-connectedness. We are connected with the All, not only in terms of Space but also in terms of Time. Causality is merely a mechanism of unfolding, under certain conditions, of what already is. These conditions are not fixed but the evolutionary adventure fixes them through repetition. These repetitions turn into patterns and habits. We study and read these habits that Nature has formed through previous layers of evolution and we take them as unchangeable laws. Studying these laws and believing in them further fixes it in our consciousness. Thus we have our great scientific systems and theories with their practical applications. Thus we become trapped in scientific dogmas and the paradigms that emerge through these dogmas. All our truths and proofs are simply the record of these habits that have formed over millenniums of the evolutionary journey. No doubt these habits had an advantage at some point of time. They were supported by a Wisdom that works silently in Nature’s depths. But when Nature enters into another mode, when it prepares itself for another evolutionary leap it breaks these very habits so that new possibilities of life and creation can emerge. She takes away the fins and the gills of a fish but gives it a million feet to glide on the surface of the earth and endows it with the power to absorb the needed energy through air. Next it takes away that wonderful ability to glide on mud but gives it wings to fly across a limited patch of sky. When this too is exhausted, Nature, the great magician and artisan, clips those beautiful wings but replaces them with strong legs and an immense vitality to run and jump in the wilds. Subduing this immense vital force, it transmutes the animal life into thinking man. Thus arises man out of the mud and losing the unique abilities of the fish, he yet learns to tame the waves of the ocean and dive into the sea and ply across distant waters. Losing the wings of the bird, he yet travels across far reaches of Space beyond anything that a bird can even conceive.

Yet man is not all. The Wisdom that works in Nature’s breast is not exhausted with man. He is neither the summit of creation, nor its final product. More is there that awaits the great evolutionary adventure upon earth that started some billions of years ago. Man, in this vision, is only a transitional being and his greatness is not so much in what he is, but in what he can make possible. He is, unlike other creatures, an ever-evolving being who is never satisfied with his current state. He has already broken through the outer barriers of Space and soon he may break through the barriers of outer Time. But what he needs most and what he must achieve in the next evolutionary cycle is to break and pass beyond the inner barriers of his manhood. He must discover within him the ultimate possibility that is hidden in Nature. That possibility is only hinted right now; a fleeting partial glimpse breaks through the mud walls of our flesh and slips past the pauses of our brain. The seer, the sage, the mystic, the yogi, and in a lesser sense the inspired poet and hero, the genius, the prodigy and exceptionally gifted are all simply the great precursors of a grand design yet hidden from our sight. They prepare our earth to receive a greater and mightier influx from deeper founts of Nature, more powerful, more fulfilling.

The transition

Such is the transition that is taking place right now, right under our skins and all our stress and strain, our greed and our tensions, are only the swelling of the size of the caterpillar’s cocoon hiding within it the beautifully winged butterfly. All our strivings and our restless passions, our hopes and our attempts, the many maladies of the body and the mind that afflict us in the present times are the fierce effort at breaking the walls that limit us as man. The sense of inner stifling and constriction that we experience as the angst of the Age and the expansion of outer horizons and the pushing out of the boundaries, the two that together constitute the paradox of our times, are all merely the labour pains of a greater birth, the birth of a Superman, the evolution of a greater being with a deeper heart, a wider and more luminous mind, a swifter and still stronger life-energy, a truer impulse to action and a vaster faith and will-to-be. The remedies that we discover and patent and advertise as panaceas and miracles are simply halfway homes to rest awhile, a partial fruit, an imperfect prize for our labour. The real solution is within us and it lies in a conscious evolution from the thinking man that we are to the gnostic Superman that we are destined to become. Therein lies the real remedy, the panacea for all our ills. Just as man arose from the bird and the beast, this greater being awaits his hour. Hidden under our bones and skin and concealed from the limited range of our sight lie unseen tracts of Nature waiting to unfold through a moulding of our bodies by the Breath and Fire of the Soul, the Stress of the hidden Spirit in Nature. That which we experience in our ignorance as stress is the call of the secret spirit within us, the demiurge towards a great leap out of our mortal condition into a state of conscious immortality:

“Even as of old man came behind the beast
This high divine successor surely shall come
Behind man’s inefficient mortal pace,
Behind his vain labour, sweat and blood and tears:
He shall know what mortal mind barely durst think,
He shall do what the heart of the mortal could not dare.
Inheritor of the toil of human time
He shall take on him the burden of the gods;
All heavenly light shall visit the earth’s thoughts,
The might of heaven shall fortify earthly hearts;
Earth’s deeds shall touch the superhuman’s height,
Earth’s seeing widen into the infinite (1).


(1) Sri Aurobindo. Savitri, SABCL, Volume 28. Pondicherry; Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust, 1970, p. 344.

Dr. Alok Pandey is a psychiatrist practising at the Sri Aurobindo Ashram.

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