Tuesday, February 8, 2011

The Subconscious

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Satprem. "Life Withowt Death"

Then the pioneer enters a dark zone, full of dangers and risks and as vast as an ocean, a bottomless swamp, the real difficulty of the physical transformation to another species: the subconscious.

(Sri Aurobindo:) You have to go on working and working year after year, point after point, till you come to a central point in the subconscient which has to be conquered and it is the crux of the whole problem, hence exceedingly difficult. . . . This point in the subconscient is the seed and it goes on sprouting and sprouting till you have cut out the seed. (36:180)

There are no lights there, no higher illuminations, no Divine. Everybody is equal, without noticeable difference -- the Christian and the Buddhist and the man without religion -- both feet firmly stuck in mud. It is an indescribable place because it contains everything. It is our base, the ground on which the human species has grown millennium after millennium. It is millions of years old and we all have the dubious privilege of plunging our roots into it, adding our personal contribution to it life after life. Twenty-four hours a day it meticulously records, in its own language, our every gesture and action, conscious or unconscious. We visit there almost every night, during our sleep, and do not retain any recollection of our visits.

(Sri Aurobindo:) It contains all the reactions to life which struggle out as a slowly evolving and self-formulating consciousness, but it contains them not as ideas or perceptions or conscious reactions but as the blind substance of these things. Also all that is consciously experienced sinks down into the subconscient not as experience but as obscure and obstinate impressions of experience and can come up at any time as dreams, as mechanical repetitions of past thought, feeling, action, etc., as "complexes" exploding into action and event etc., etc. The subconscient is the main cause why all things get changed except in appearances. It is the cause why, people say, character cannot be changed, also of the constant return of things one hoped to have got rid of. All seeds are there and all the sanskaras [imprints] of the mind and vital and body, -- it is the main support of death and disease and the last fortress (seemingly impregnable) of the Ignorance. All that is suppressed without being wholly got rid of sinks down there and remains in seed ready to surge up or sprout up at any moment. (32:247)

(Mother:) I am right in the subconscious -- a subconscious, oh, hopelessly riddled with weakness, dullness and . . . (what shall I say?) enslaved by a host of things -- enslaved by EVERYTHING. Oh, night after night, night after night, it unfolds before me, to show me. Last night it was indescribable! And it goes on and on; it seems limitless. So, naturally, the body feels the effects, poor thing! That's its subconscious, not personal -- it's personal and not personal: it becomes personal when it enters the body. You can't imagine the accumulations of impressions that are recorded and stored there, one on top of another. Outwardly, you haven't even noticed anything -- the waking consciousness doesn't even notice them, but they keep entering, piling up on top of one another -- horrible! (2/18/61)

No real freedom is possible so long as "that" exists and controls life, no divine species on earth and no hope of transformation. A new man means new roots and a new base. It is a complete illusion -- the illusion of all spiritual teachings -- to call for a New Earth and a New Man while modestly averting one's eyes from that impossible quagmire. (One can understand the reluctance of these spiritual teachings, but then one can also understand why nothing has ever really changed on earth and in man since the advent of the great human religions: They have always prudently skirted the real issue.)

(Sri Aurobindo:) It is a Herculean labour, for, when one enters there, it is a sort of unexplored continent. Previous Yogis came down to the vital. If I had been made to see it before, probably I would have been less enthusiastic. (31:196)

The truth is, we have to go down there, too, and overcome. That is the true labor and the marvel of Mother and Sri Aurobindo.

(Sri Aurobindo:) As for the Mother and myself, we have had to try all ways, follow all methods, to surmount mountains of difficulties, a far heavier burden to bear than you or anybody else in the Ashram or outside, far more difficult conditions, battles to fight, wounds to endure, ways to cleave through impenetrable morass and desert and forest, hostile masses to conquer -- a work such as, I am certain, none else had to do before us. (26:464)

I have had my full share of these things and the Mother has had ten times her full share. But that was because the finders of the Way had to face these things in order to conquer. No difficulty that can come on the Sadhak [disciple] but has faced us on the path; against many we have had to struggle hundreds of times (in fact, that is an understatement) before we could overcome; many still remain protesting that they have a right until the perfect perfection is there. But we have never consented to admit their inevitable necessity for others. It is, in fact, to ensure an easier path to others hereafter that we have borne that burden. (26:465)

And he added:

But it is not necessary nor tolerable that all that should be repeated over again to the full in the experience of others. It is because we have the complete experience that we can show a straighter and easier road to others -- if they will consent to take it. (26:464)

Mother too, indomitably, descended into the pit:

What I am made to see every night is horrible. Horrible. It's as if one were trying to thoroughly disgust me with my work. That subconscious is truly a mass of horrors. . . . The impression is that it's bottomless and limitless, that there always will be new combinations, always as horrible. But that is not true. It does change. It does change . . . but, oh, what a difficult task! And so intractable. Intractable in that you think you've come to the end of something (you don't think so, you know better than that, but you hope!), and it comes right back in another form, which seems even worse than the previous one! (11/3/62)

I don't know if it's the last battle, but these last few days it has gone down very deep, into the least enlightened part of the cells: what still belongs the most to the world of Unconsciousness and Inertia, what is the most foreign to the divine Presence. You could say it's the original substance used by Life, with a sort of incapacity to respond, to feel any reason for that life. . . . This is an identification with the world at large, with the earth as a whole. An absolutely dreadful and hopeless condition, something that has neither meaning nor goal nor purpose, that lacks any joy of its own and . . . that is worse than unpleasant -- meaningless and totally devoid of feeling. Something that has no reason for being, and yet which is. It was . . . it is a dreadful situation.

I have the feeling it's quite close to the bottom. . . . And this is the base, the foundation of all materialism. (8/21/63)

The "bottom" has to be cleaned in order for the "top" to accept to come down and materialize in it.

(Sri Aurobindo:) No, it is not with the Empyrean that I am busy: I wish it were. It is rather with the opposite end of things; it is in the Abyss that I have to plunge to build a bridge between the two. But that too is necessary for my work and one has to face it. (26:153)

But the joining of the two can also be explosive. For the Light does not tolerate the least speck of dust in its path. Everything it touches must be in the image of its own nature -- pure. The least obstacle (or imperfectly purified element) reacts violently, as if violated under the pressure of the unaccustomed Ray. The result in the being, or the beings around -- or even in the world around -- may take the form of a fine catastrophe.

(Sri Aurobindo:) The attempt to bring a great general descent having only produced a great ascent of subconscient mud, I had given up that. . . . At present I am only trying to prevent people from making hysterical, subconscient asses of themselves, so that I may not be too much disturbed in my operations -- not yet with too much success. (32:389)

(Mother:) It is as though that Force I mentioned were penetrating like a power drill, deeper and deeper toward the subconscious. There are unbelievable things in the subconscious -- unbelievable. And it keeps going deeper and deeper . . . IMPERATIVELY. So the human subconscious cries out: "Oh, not yet! Please, not yet! Not so fast!" This is what you are up against. It's a general subconscious. (4/12/72)

Perhaps it is what we see everywhere around us?

(Sri Aurobindo:) Things are bad, are growing worse and may at any time grow worst or worse than worst if that is possible -- and anything, however paradoxical, seems possible in the present perturbed world. The best thing for them is to realise that all this was necessary because certain possibilities had to emerge and be got rid of, if a new and better world was at all to come into being: it would not have done to postpone them for a later time. It is, as in yoga, where things active or latent in the being have to be put into action in the light so that they may be grappled with and thrown out or to emerge from latency in the depths for the same purificatory purpose. Also they can remember the adage that night is darkest before dawn and that the coming of dawn is inevitable. But they must remember too that the new world whose coming we envisage is not to be made of the same texture as the old and different only in pattern, and that it must come by other means -- from within and not from without; so the best way is not to be too much preoccupied with the lamentable things that are happening outside, but themselves to grow within so that they may be ready for the new world, whatever the form it may take. [Letter written in July 1948] (26:1611)

But why, we might ask, is it necessary to confront that horrible subconscious directly? Why can't we keep a "yogic" smile before those base and vulgar things, look at them benignly -- from above -- and manipulate them with the pincers of a "higher" consciousness and power? Why must we stick our necks out? It is a question that Satprem did not fail to ask Mother.

(Satprem:) But is it necessary to go down to the level of all these subconscious things? Can one not act on them from above?

(Mother:) Act on them from above? . . . I have been acting on them from above for more than thirty years, my child! But it changes nothing -- it changes something, but it doesn't transform.

(Satprem:) So one must go down to that level?

(Mother:) Yes. Acting from above may hold things back, keep them under control, prevent them from taking unpleasant initiatives, but that's not -- to transform is to transform.

As long as we talk of even mastery, it can be done -- it can be done very well from above. But, to transform, you must go down, and that's the terrible part. . . . Otherwise things will never be transformed; they'll remain as they are.

You see, you can even pose as a superman! (Mother laughs) But it's still like this (gesture in midair). It isn't the true thing; it isn't the new creation, not the next step of terrestrial evolution. (2/18/61)