Living Laboratories of the Life Divine by Debashish Banerji

Living Laboratories of the Life Divine

Debashish Banerji
 (text of a talk delivered for the AUM Conference, Los Angeles, May 2003)

The topic I will attend to today is “Living Laboratories of the Divine Life.”   By ‘living laboratories’, I am referring, of course, to Sri Aurobindo’s justly famous phrase taken from ‘The Life Divine’, where he designates the human being as a ‘living laboratory’ for the experiment leading to what he has termed ‘the Superman’. But before turning our attention to that phrase, I would like to back up a little in time and consider the idea of the Superman as it makes its modern appearance in the utterance of Frederick Nietzsche.
In many ways  Nietzsche, as a philosopher, can be said  to inaugurate  the modern age .  Modern philosophy, where it has been fruitful, has been largely an engagement with Nietzsche’s thought. Nietzsche is a controversial figure, a very complex figure.  Complex because he received intuitions from above and uttered them in a new kind of way which challenged the metaphysical tradition.  Moreover, his ideas were often not well-formed and were sometimes apparently inconsistent.  So to denigrate him or to adulate him is, in either case, a dangerous thing.  Rahter we must see what he has to say and probe the complexity of his thought. Nietzsche introduces the idea of the Superman in his work Thus Spake Zarathustra. I will read a passage from this work.  In recent translations of this work, the German term Ubermensch has been rendered as ‘Overman’ instead of ‘Superman’.  Some of us are familiar with a similar kind of replacement proposed by Georges von Vreckhem who has translated the Mother’s Surhomme as ‘Overman’ rather than ‘Superman’.  I do not wish to enter into technical controversies or debates over these terms, but bring to your notice that there is a degree of fluidity about these things that lend themselves to varieties of interpretation. 

I read you Walter Kaufman’s translation of Nietzsche’s passage:

I teach you the Overman.  Man is something that shall be overcome.  What have you done to overcome him?  
 All beings so far have created something beyond themselves.  And do you want to be the ebb of this great flood and even go back to the beasts rather than overcome man?  What is the ape to man?  A laughing stock or a painful embarrassment. And man shall be just that for the Overman.  A laughing stock or a painful embarrassment.  You have made your way from the worm to man and much in you is still worm.  Once you were apes, and even now, too, man is more ape than any ape.  
 Whoever is the wisest among you is also a mere conflict and cross between plant and ghost.  But do I bid you to become ghosts or plants?  
Behold, I teach you the Overman.  The Overman is the meaning of the earth.  Let your will say: the Overman shall be the meaning of the earth!  I beseech you, my brothers, remain faithful to the earth and do not believe those who speak to you of other-worldly hopes!  Poison-mixers are they, whether they know it or not.  Despisers of life are they, decaying and poisoned themselves, of whom the earth is weary: so let them go…  
Verily, a polluted stream is man.  One must be a sea to be able to receive a polluted stream without becoming unclean.  Behold, I teach you the Overman: he is this sea; in him, your great contempt can go under.  
 What is the greatest experience you can have?  It is the hour of the great contempt.  The hour in which your happiness, too, arouses your disgust,  and even your reason and your virtue. ….
 Man is a rope, tied between beast and Overman – a rope over an abyss. A dangerous across, a dangerous on-the-way, a dangerous looking-back, a dangerous shuddering and stopping.  
 What is great in man is that he is a bridge and not an end: what can be loved in man is that he is an overture and a going under.  
 I love those who do not know how to live, except by going under, for they are those who cross over.  
 I love the great despisers because  they are the great reverers and arrows of longing for the other shore.  
 I love those who do not first seek behind the stars for a reason to go under and be a sacrifice, but who sacrifice themselves for the earth, that the earth may someday become the Overman’s….  
 I love him who does not hold back one drop of spirit for himself but wants to be entirely the spirit of his virtue: thus he strides over the bridge as spirit.

It’s a very interesting passage, a profound passage, a passage that I wanted to read out because many who have read Sri Aurobindo have never read Nietzsche and acquire some preconceptions of what the Nietzschean Superman is all about.   I’d encourage them to divest themselves of these ideas.  Nietzsche inaugurates the future destiny of the human race in the modern age; at a crisis point in western civilization, he holds out the goal of the self-exceeding of man in the Super/Over-man. We don’t need to assume that Nietzsche himself knew with clarity what he meant by the term ‘superman’ or ‘overman’ as the case may be, but it’s best to receive the complexity of his thought and see its vastness and its greatness, see it side by side with the Superman as envisaged by Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, how their Superman relates, if at all, to Nietzsche’s idea.

I read first from the Mother a familiar passage.  It is from a talk to the children of the Ashram:  

There is an ascending evolution in Nature which goes from stone to the plant, from the plant to the animal, from animal to man.  Because man is for the moment the last rung  on the summit of the ascending evolution, he considers himself as the final stage in this ascension and believes there is nothing on earth superior to him in that he is still in his physical nature he is yet almost wholly an animal, a thinking and speaking animal  but still an animal in his material habits and instincts.  Undoubtedly Nature cannot be satisfied with such an imperfect result.  She endeavors to bring out a being that will be to man what man is to the animal, a being that will remain a man in its external form and yet whose consciousness will rise far above the mind and its slavery to ignorance.  Sri Aurobindo came upon earth to teach this truth to man.  He told them that man is only a transitional being living in a mental consciousness but with the possibility of acquiring a new consciousness , the truth consciousness  and capable of living a life perfectly harmonious, happy and fully conscious .  During the whole of his life upon earth, Sri Aurobindo gave all his time to establish himself in this consciousness, which he called Supramental and to help those gathered around him to realize it. 

There is much in this that bears resemblance with Nietzsche’s description of the Overman. Both texts are explicit about the transitional character of the human species. The Mother’s statement actually contains within it Sri Aurobindo’s famous assertion “Man is a transitional being” and for Nietzsche, “Man is a rope tied between beast and overman” and again, “Man is a bridge and not an end…” Secondly, both texts emphasize an earthly destiny. And finally, note the not so noble appraisal of the human being. Man is no longer the “measure of all things” extolled in the European Renaissance, the source of western civilizational hubris. While the human being in the Mother’s formulation may not be the contemptible worm of Nietzsche, it isn’t too far from that either. The Mother quickly disabuses humanity of its exalted notion of itself.

 I now read Sri Aurobindo’s passage from ‘The Life Divine’ where he likens us to ‘living laboratories’:  

 The animal is a living laboratory in which nature has, it is said, worked out man.   Man himself may be a thinking and living laboratory in whom and with whose conscious cooperation she wills to work out the Superman, the God .  Or shall we not say, rather, to manifest God.   For if evolution is the progressive manifestation by nature of that which slept or worked in her involved it is also the overt realization of that which he secretly is. 

Let us ponder these three texts.  In all three, there is the notion of the self-exceeding of man. The human being has to exceed himself, because from the viewpoint of the imperfection of nature, humanity is as faulted as the animal, the worm is to the human being and it is to set our sights on that kind of goal that Nietzsche is calling us through the voice of Zarathustra. But Nietzsche’s call is going out to the will of man. It is not a simple call to the ego – it is not a call to titanism as has been popularly supposed, it is a call to sacrifice, to vastness, it is a call to the formation of the gods within us. The overman according to Nietzsche is like the gods of the Greek classical heritage. It is Nietzsche’s allergy towards the Christian tradition that makes him deny god, but it is in the becoming of god or of the gods in human guise that his message lies. But it ends here. What apart from the human will is there to lead us to this goal? If we are hardly more evolved than the worm or the animal in most of our nature, what hope do we have except for willing something which is faulted into existence in our drive upwards?

If we look at Sri Aurobindo and the Mother’s texts, we see there one critical element which is missed out by Nietzsche. They are not talking about the human will attaining to the superman. They are talking about the human being as the site where the superman is formed by agents other than the human. In both cases they use the term ‘Nature’ to indicate this extra-human agency. What is it that they mean by “Nature”? Evidently, if there is something which ties these uses of the word to some common ground, we have to think of “Nature” as the evolutionary force in a conscious form, the evolutionary will.

Sri Aurobindo’s texts needs to be read in a cross-cultural context. They have contexts which are equally eastern and western. “Nature”, in Sri Aurobindo’s usage, is backgrounded by the entire metaphysical romantic tradition, the European tradition of Nature as a cosmic presence and power. With the metaphysical “death of God” and the birth of the Modern Age at the turn of the 18th/19th c. in Europe, German Romanticism found Nature as replacement for God – Nature as a power with an intelligence instinct in it, as a cosmic container, a Mother-Force. It is in this sense that the English Romantic poets also extol Nature. Sri Aurobindo draws partly on this tradition in his usage. But Nature is equally and perhaps even more for him all that that term means in the Indian tradition when you translate it as Prakriti.

 Prakriti – and Sri Aurobindo has written extensively about this term, the various things it means and has meant. The term comes to us from Sankhya as that mukhya, that Chief of the manifest world which is the primary manifesting force manifesting. It is that which runs us, drives us, drives everything, Matter, Life and Mind. It gives us the sense of agency through the creation of an Ego, ahamkara, but actually is the complete authority through the operation of its three gunas – sattwa, rajas and tamas – of all that happens in us – conditionings, all is conditioning. But Prakriti also, from an even earlier tradition, lost and then revived in the Gita – Prakriti that has two faces to it, returning to us through another guise in the Tantra, two colors – dark and golden. Prakriti which occupies two hemispheres in two different modalities – Para and Apara. Apara Prakriti of the lower hemisphere, of Avidya, Ignorance, wearing the dark guise of Unconscious Nature, the automatisms of Sankhya, the laws that are coded into Matter, Life and Mind, that run everything within which we are given the illusion of Consciousness – and Para Prakriti, the unveiled Force, Nature-Force of the Supreme Divine, the calling forth into Becoming of Being, of the One Being, the only Being there is.  And this dichotomy, this two-fold nature, is something that is contained, encapsulated in that simple word “Nature” that  Sri Aurobindo and the Mother are using in their texts.  Because, indeed, the way to the Superman as far as Sri Aruobindo is concerned, is in these two hands of Nature, this twin-aspected Nature. 

The lower Nature, ignorant, is still instinct with the force of divinity.  It has moved matter into the domain of Life. It has moved Life into the domain of Mind.  It will move Mind into the domain of Supermind.  But the question is when?  Nature has eternity in her hands, as the Mother has said.  Nature doesn’t care for our time schemes.  Nature experiments, plays with forms, plays with possibilities, with ideas and creates this plethora of manifest reality that we find so delightful in this world.  We build our botanical gardens and our zoos so that we can  travel to these parks  and delight in these multitudinous and wonderful creations of Nature.  Nature has thrown up our human diversity too, our diversity of types, our diversity of thinking, our diversity of cultures.  It’s all the doing of Nature, and She is here to play an infinite number of games because She is the creative spirit, and progress takes place at her own slow pace through all this. 

But the human being, as Aswapathy, in Sri Aurobindo’s Savitri, expresses in his appeal to the Supreme Mother, is a hapless unfinished experiment of Nature, a product of its half-grown march toward super-humanity, caught between the worm and the God. From life to life we suffer the pains and discords of a half-baked consciousness that yearns to exceed itself, that is replete with complex problems which it can never solve because of fundamental incapacity, that feels trapped and imprisoned and cries out for moksha, liberation, ultimate escape out of this prison-house of the round of suffering and insoluble complexity, finding no other goal.  

This is where Sri Aurobindo intervenes to indicate that Nature has another poise – the poise of Nature in the Knowledge, in the Vidya, the golden Mahakali behind the black Kali, the body of light, of knowledge, of gnosis, the Gnostic Mother.  And it is this Gnostic Mother, if she descends now, becomes active as the unveiled Power controlling the lower Nature, that can change everything within the Avidya, that can change the conditions of the Avidya.  For then, it will be no longer a play of trial and error, a slow and painful growth through eternity of the ascending powers of consciousness, but of the future bringing the present into itself, a precipitation of the goal that begins working within the present transforming it to its own conditions.  This is the one reason why Sri Aurobindo chose to spend all his time and all of his superhuman yogic power to focus on the bringing down of the Supermind.  He could very easily have sat in his room in Pondicherry and accomplished what he has said some yogis have done in the Himalayas – brought about revolutions in the world.  Why ‘could’, he did – a number of them.  But he wasn’t satisfied with this because it didn’t solve mankind’s problems.  The problems of humanity cannot be solved by a change of the external conditions, or even a temporary change in the inner consciousness of individuals or peoples that causes them to do exalted things beyond their habitual or normal capacity.

For an hour God resides in a nation or in a time.  We experience an Hour of God.  Human beings are empowered temporarily to do deeds they never could have done; but then, as in the first canto of Savitri, the Symbol Dawn, inevitably the Power recedes and we are left to “the common light of earthly day”, we are back to business as usual, the sordid poverty of human life.  There is only one way that this can change and that is not through our unaided effort.  It is through the bringing down of a force which, in spite of us, can change conditions here.  But the “in spite of us” has to be understood in its right dimensions.  This change of conditions is not an external or a temporary change, it is first and foremost a radical change of consciousness – and this cannot change without our conscious cooperation.  That is why in the statement I have quoted from The Life Divine, Sri Aurobindo puts it, as always in his wonderful global sentences, with every aspect of the question included. As he says there, “Man himself may well be a thinking and living laboratory in whom and with whose conscious cooperation she wills to work out the Superman, the God.”  
Let us make no mistakes about the priorities of this process.  It is the Para-Prakriti, Supreme or Higher Nature, who is the Scientist of this laboratory.  It is we who serve her purpose through our adherence.  We are the conscious cooperators.  Sri Aurobindo and the Mother’s primary yogic work has been to change the agency of this process from the Lower to the Higher Nature, or rather, to establish the Higher within the Lower.  And what is called the Supermental descent and manifestation is exactly this collapse of the division between the Vidya and the Avidya.  It is the implosion of the Power, the Knowledge, the Vijnana-Shakti into earth and that entry has initiated a New Age. 

A New Age does not start by astrological factors.  It isn’t because it is written in the calendar that a New Age suddenly begins.  A New Age is an act of consciousness.  It is a powerful act of consciousness, willed by the human cooperators and assented to by the  Divine.  And this is the New Age that Sri Aurobindo and the Mother have inaugurated.  It is an Age, first and foremost, of world yoga.  It is a New Age of Yoga and of World Yoga – Yoga, the accelerated process towards conscious evolution.  Prakriti, Nature, has always been doing yoga.  This is why in The Synthesis of Yoga, Sri Aurobindo can say,  “All life is yoga.”  But the yoga of Nature is a slow, semi-conscious process. The yoga of human beings who wake up from within by the pointing finger of light that comes as a beacon showing the way is a conscious yoga, a conscious yoga that accelerates, quickens the process, that condenses into a lifetime or a few years what would otherwise would have taken many lifetimes, that brings the future into the present.  And this is exactly what Mother and Sri Aurobindo have done on a cosmic or terrestrial level. They have initiated the earth into a new yoga.  The ear of the earth has been privy to the mantra of a new yoga and has accepted it.  That yoga has begun.

Now we heard yesterday about the conditions of the earth and about the earth as the Ashram, the Ashram of the world.  Someone spoke of the entire world as the home of the Lord and the circumstances that come to us in the world as provided by the Lord for our yoga. Indeed it is the Ashram of the world that all humanity can be said to inhabit today and in a profounder sense than of providing materials for the growth of consciousness in those who have chosen to grow in consciousness.  It is the ashram of the world because the world itself has been moved into a world yoga. This is the meaning of the New Age.
I would like to draw your attention at this point to an ancient story, a story from the Puranas, a story which talks about an occult event that happened in eternal time, an eternal event.  It is a story about the churning of the ocean – there is a great churning of the cosmic ocean and the purpose, the objective, is for the pot of Amrita, the ambrosia of Immortality that is at the bottom of the ocean, to be brought to the surface, churned up from the bottom.  And it is the gods and the demons who together undertake this churning.  And it is the great world mountain Mount Meru, which is also represented individually in each of us  – meru-danda, the spine – this world axis, Axis Mundi, the pillar of the world, that is used as the rod for doing the churning.  And it is the great serpent, base and bed of the evolutionary fountain of avatarhood, Vishnu, the serpent Ananta, the coiled infinite potential of Time, Eternity on one side and Perpetuity on the other, eternally changing, never changing, that becomes the churning rope.  And Vishnu himself, as the Tortoise avatar, becomes the base on which the churning rod, Meru is stationed.
The first thing that happens with the churning is the rise of the poisons of the ocean. The poisons of the ocean are so dense, so acrid, so corrosive, that even the demons can’t continue.  Both the gods and the demons are completely stalled.  The sky turns black with poison.  What we today call pollution is as nothing compared to that condition. Man cannot even envisage that condition of poisonous darkness.  Neither the gods nor the demons can cope with it.  And it is at this point that the great Lord Shiva himself comes to the rescue by drinking the poison and holding it, by his yoga-power, in his throat, which is therefore stained blue and which is why Shiva has as one of his names, Nilakanta, the blue-throated. 

A number of mystics had experiences around 5th December 1950, at the time when Sri Aurobindo left his body and several of them saw a vision of the great Shiva drinking the cup of poison.  Indeed, the departure of Sri Aurobindo can be understood in this light. The myth of the churning of the Ocean is an image of the world yoga initiated by Sri Aurobindo and the Mother. Sri Aurobindo has prepared the process, he has initiated it and he has sacrificed himself that our unprepared nature may be able to bear the intense difficulties of the beginning. It is the first stage of this world yoga that he has made possible by drinking the acrid poison that rose up from the depths.  He has held the Supramental light in his body and he has broken the backbone of earthly karma, which would have otherwise made it impossible for us to move into this New Age.  This is why the Mother has addressed Sri Aurobindo’s “material envelope” and said “….Before Thee who has willed all, attempted all, prepared, achieved all for us, before Thee we bow down and implore that we may never forget, even for a moment, all we owe to Thee.”

All that we see today, experience today are the physical repercussions of occult events of this kind.  The pollution that we see is inevitable. It is the result of our collective consciousness.  It is the poison-fruit of our world karma facing us as we take our first steps in the New Age.  It is necessary.  It will pass. It has already been dealt with by the Lord himself. 

But this world yoga, though much quicker than the processes of Prakriti, is still a process of collective preparation which is impersonal and relatively slow, because it is a process of bringing consciousness to the unconsciousness.  It is awakening it, but awakening it over time, slowly.  People receive ideas.  There are many today who are doing the work of the Mother without knowing that they are the Mother’s instruments.  Yet the purpose has not yet become conscious in them, the fullness of divine intent has not dawned on them.  They are serving the world yoga. But the work of the Supermind, the work of the supramental consciousness is not merely at the universal level of the world yoga. It is at the individual level, it is at the cosmic level and it is at the level of several other possible experiments that are being conducted all simultaneously and in an interrelated fashion too complex for the human mind to comprehend. As Sri Aurobindo says in the book ‘The Mother’, the Mother’s steps are too complex, “one and yet so many-sided that to follow her movement is impossible even for the quickest mind and for the freest and most vast intelligence” –  which is why the surrender is demanded of us. It is only through this surrender that we can progressively become more enlightened instruments of her workings and in the process find ourselves more and more a part of Her. By this means, we are to rise to a consciousness one with her consciousness, a state from which our present condition will seem indeed very embarrassing.  In this progression of the world yoga, we have to be open to the vast, complex, global and minute working of Her supramental Shakti, that reality which is here among us. And this is why for this experiment, the living laboratory is not just the individual, nor is it merely the work to ameliorate world conditions, it is these and a variety of other experiments that are going on at the same time.

When Sri Aurobindo and the Mother were in Pondicherry, the Mother has said that there was a question whether they would do the yoga with just a handful of disciples, intensely try to accelerate the process of the descent of the supermind, bring it down and then radiate it. She said the other option was to go slower, but to gather around them representative specimens of humanity that would be able to bring a much wider possibility of the manifestation of supramental consciousness on earth. She says the decision was not made mentally. The Lord made the decision. It happened by itself – and it is the second course that was followed. This was how the ashram developed, the Sri Aurobindo ashram. You and I and all of us here who have been touched by the message of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother have taken maybe a few faltering steps in the direction of the life that they have shown, the goal that they have shown, have inevitably felt at some point how privileged we are, how fortunate we are, what a Grace we have received. Let us not be fooled that it is due to any credit of ours that we have been chosen for this Grace. It is a process which has selected us, and to which all are equal, and again the phrase ‘living laboratories’ is very relevant here. We `are ‘cultures’ both in the sense of social expressions as well as in the biological sense. We are cultures on petri dishes that are being experimented on. We have been chosen because we are representative of something, something which goes far beyond our own understanding. We are here to serve a purpose that will be revealed to us not today, but only when the work is done. Today or tomorrow, all the earth, every individual, will receive this blessing, this Grace, because this is the condition of the world yoga. The world yoga progresses through smaller collectives, not only as the entire body of the earth, but much quicker, much more consciously, through the conscious intention of people who awake to the reality of what the supramental force is bringing. As with the ashram – the growth of the ashram was around Sri Aurobindo and the Mother’s ascension, it was around their attempt to reach the supermind and bring it down for humanity, so the roots had to extend far into the possibilities of terrestrial manifestation. Diverse specimens of humanity gathered around Mother and Sri Aurobindo at the ashram, as we all know – a tremendous variety, tremendous diversity. And yet, each individual carried a personality that was molded into its highest possibilities of individuality by Sri Aurobindo, by the Mother – as possibilities of manifesting the yoga force.

The Mother did not stop with this process.  They had been physically present at the center of the ashram community as a laboratory of the supramental experiment. But in 1968, She spawned another such community, a community with an even wider, more global, planetary basis that would not have them physically at its center, that would have to open to them internally, that would have to be the conscious collaborators in the inner sense, no longer externally guided in the material details of their existence, no longer capable of dragging them down, of pulling at the hem of their robes and soiling them, but who would have to receive the problems of humanity and open to them from within and receive the Grace of the transformation through collaboration with the Para-prakriti, with the supreme Mother Force. This is Auroville.  Auroville today is continuing in this work. It is also a sphere of churning. These are other spheres of the churning of the waters, but these are more conscious spheres – these are spheres, cradles, crucibles, birthplaces of the superman, of the overman.
And yet, this is not all. In a conversation of December 1938, Sri Aurobindo said that a few hundred people in the ashram will not be sufficient to make the supramental effective for mankind. Thousands of people doing the yoga sadhana in many walks of life across the world will be needed for that.  Individually, and collectively, across America, across Europe, across Asia, across the world, we are all invited to be participants in the purpose of the supramental manifestation. The supermind is interested in us. We’re not here merely to make conscious efforts, to make titanic wills, to fling ourselves from this orbit to the higher orbit. We can be heartened by the fact, but we should also be extremely attentive to the fact that the supermind is interested in us. It is a Force that is seeking us out. It is an agency, an active power. And in seeking us out, it is seeking us not merely as individuals because its purpose is a divine life on earth. A ‘divine life on earth’ is not manifested by one person. A divine life is a social context, a divine life is an opening up of a world of phenomena that make for a rich collective existence in all its forms. And if we cannot provide it with the conditions for this, its work is to that extent hampered or thwarted of the cooperation that it seeks. We need to be conscious of this, because it is only to the extent that we are conscious of this that we can be its collaborators. We need to gravitate together; we need to unite our wills; we need to form collective individualities. We need to form collective flames of aspiration – integral collective flames of aspiration that will be able to invoke that higher Consciousness and call down that Light, that Power to work among us, to form itself in us, to radiate through us in our acts, in our bodies.

That, indeed, is what it seeks. The power of the Supramental Shakti, here on earth, seeks unity, seeks integration and seeks perfection. It seeks these in an integral way. We are first called in consciousness to these experiences of integrality. This is the pressure. Can we be integral within? Can we integrate ourselves? Intergate our mind, life and body around the psychic being? Can we feel whole, become one? This is the pressure and the help that’s coming. But again, it’s not merely at the individual level. Can we experience the unity of collective consciousness? In an earlier talk, we were very fortunate to receive a message which I’ve heard for the first time – very refreshing – the fact that the signs of the supramental manifestation are not to be sought primarily in the breakdown of the Berlin Wall or the Fall of Soviet Communism, but within us, in the change in the modality of consciousness that is going on.  Are we aware of this?  Let us become aware of it.  Today, we live in God.  Are we aware of this?  It is the consciousness that has to turn within and see what is being done by the supramental shakti inside first, not outside. This means an awareness of the process of integration of the being and it also results, as Aster was saying, in the recognition of the fact that  unity manifests when you least expect it, it manifests in and through us.  We experience it and we don ‘t know it.

There is a form of experience which the Supermind is calling us to have, to feel, which is new – a new form of spiritual experience.  Individually, great yogis have experienced the divine, have experienced the Oneness, the One Being there is, and yet  when they’ve come out of it, they’ve seen  that every individual has remained in the Ignorance that they always were in.  Why?  Even when they had the oneness experience, it was only they who had it.  When the Mother experienced the descent of the Supermental force into the earth at the ashram Playground, it was such a powerful experience, she felt that when she would open her eyes she would see that everybody was  flat on the ground.  But nobody except for a handful, a very few, even knew what had happened.  The Ignorance encases us so densely that we are unaware of what is going on within.  But the experience, the new spiritual experience to which we are called by the Supermind, first in symbolic form, in collectives , and finally as a world phenomenon,  is that of Collective Oneness.

Collective oneness seems at the outset to be a trivial phrase, one of those catch-alls of the New Age.  But it isn’t that.  Collective oneness is arriving at a poise of consciousness above the mind, not individually,  but collectively, where a number of people  can experience at once that they are the One Being .  They know themselves simultaneously as one and yet irreducibly different – a difference because this One Being is not a finite being, it is the Infinite One. The Infinite One wonders at its own infinity.  It is one and yet infinite.  It has no limits.  Its own potentialities come to it from its own infinity, and it wonders, it is wonderful.  This is the content of the experience of collective oneness that the Supermind is calling us towards as a possibility of being. 

But the possibility of being is not the only aspect of the Supramental invitation.  It is also the possibility of becoming, integral becoming, becoming integral, an integral perfection in becoming.  And for this we need collectively not merely to aspire to the Supermind to be manifest through us, not merely for those few rare experiences where we rise above ourselves  and become privy to a consciousness beyond ourselves  moving us as a collective but where we participate collectively in an expressive field, an integral field, a field of knowledge, a field of work , a field of love and of the emotional life, a field of physical labor and activity.  We offer it an integral field collectively.  But the whole consciousness of this offering is that we are doing this work, not to create an edifice that others will marvel at as some kind of institutional radiation of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother or a new religion, however universal, but to allow the Supermind the conditions that it seeks for our cooperation.  In the works of knowledge, in education, in the works of will, in business, in politics, in the works of culture, of the emotional life, of the refinement of the sensations, in works of the body, of labor, of service, dasya, let us give all our parts of being fully and collectively because that is what the Supramental force is interested in.  I call upon all of us to meditate on this invitation, if we are to be conscious collaborators.

We are called upon to be conscious collaborators, but even more importantly we are the living laboratories of the divine life.  We are living laboratories individually, collectively, and in more ways than one.  To be conscious of this, to hold these possibilities in our being, to be always receptive, this is the call.  To have a will is good.  To surrender the will is better.  But to be receptive to the messages of the scientist who is using us as the site of Her experiment, as the living laboratory, is perhaps the best.  Thank you.  

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