Poems after 1943 are uncharacteristically dark – page 398

On page 398, we are given the impression that Sri Aurobindo’s Sadhana(askesis) was failing, and that his poems written during the 1940s were uncharacteristically dark and ominous.

On this page, we read

Because his talks entirely ceased and his correspondence virtually so, there are no first-hand accounts of Sri Aurobindo’s sadhana after 1941. One is tempted to mine Savitri to make up for the lack. Sri Aurobindo’s accounts of Aswapathy’s voyage through the worlds of matter, life, and mind before reaching “the kingdoms of the greater knowledge,” and Savitri’s transit throughthe “inner countries” until she reaches the inmost soul certainly are based on his and the Mother’s experiences; but the poem is a fictional creation, and Sri Aurobindo said explicitly that “the circumstances of this life have nothing to do with” its plot. One is on somewhat firmer ground looking for clues in his lyrical poems, but he wrote only a few after 1943. Those he did write are uncharacteristically dark:

Is this the end of all that we have been,
And all we did or dreamed,-
A name unremembered and a form undone,Is
this the end?
A body rotting under a slab of stone
Or turned to ash in fire,
A mind dissolved, lost its forgotten thoughts,Is
this the end?

So begins a poem of June 1945. It ends, however, on a brighter note: the “Immortal in the mortal” is “unwilling to cease”

I looked up the reference to check where Sri Aurobindo states “the circumstances of this life have nothing to do with” the plot of Savitri.  This is HALF A SENTENCE (!) picked up from CWSA vol. 27 Letters on Poetry...

Question: If Aswapati is he, I’ll learn about his role from the poem-but couldn’t you say something about him in direct reference to Mother and yourself?

Sri Aurobindo: This incarnation is supposed to have taken place in far past times when the whole thing had to be opened, so as to “hew the ways of Immortality”. Theon and the circumstances of this life have nothing to do with it.

10 November 1936

This remark cannot be taken as the essence of Savitri.

With a little effort I found atleast 5 statements in the same CWSA vol 27 that he seems to have ignored. The Agenda may have more.  The very next page of the same CWSA vol 27 from which he picked up this half statement has this to say:

There was no climbing of planes there in the first version—rather Savitri moves through the worlds of Night, of Twilight, of Day—all of course in a spiritual sense—and ended by calling down the power of the Highest Worlds of Sachchidananda. I had no idea of what the supramental World could be like at that time, so it could not enter into the scheme. As for expressing the supramental inspiration, that is a matter of the future. 31 October 1936

page 279

In the new form it will be a sort of poetic philosophy of the Spirit and of Life much profounder in its substance and vaster in its scope than was intended in the original poem. I am trying  of course to keep it at a very high level of inspiration, but in so large a plan covering most subjects of philosophical thought and vision and many aspects of spiritual experience there is bound to be much variation of tone: but that is, I think, necessary for the richness and completeness of the treatment.

page 261

The lines I quoted from myself are not in any published poem, but in the unfinished first book of “Savitri, A Legend and a Symbol” which was in intention a sort of symbolic epic of the aim of supramental Yoga! I may send it to you for typing when I have completed it; but in view of my abundant absence of leisure, the completion seems still to lurk in the mists of the faroff future. 15 September 1931

Page 315

But if I had to write for the general reader I could not have written Savitri at all. It is in fact for myself that I have written it and for those who can lend themselves to the subject-matter, images, technique of mystic poetry. This is the real stumbling-block of mystic poetry and specially mystic poetry of this kind.21The mystic feels real and present, even ever-present to his experience, intimate to his being, truths which to the ordinary reader are intellectual abstractions or metaphysical speculations. He is writing of experiences that are foreign to the ordinary mentality. Either they are unintelligible to it and in meeting them it flounders about as in an obscure abyss or it takes them as poetic fancies expressed in intellectually devised images.

Page 317

This is not the method of Savitri. Its expression aims at a certain force, directness and spiritual clarity and reality. When it is not understood, it is because the truths it expresses are unfamiliar to the ordinarymind or belong to an untrodden domain or domains or enter into a field of occult experience; it is not because there is any attempt at a dark or vague profundity or at an escape from thought.

Ok, time to analyze the other remark from the same page in the biography : “One is on somewhat firmer ground looking for clues in his lyrical poems, but he wrote only a few after 1943. Those he did write are uncharacteristically dark”.

I looked at the Collected Poems volume for poems after 1943 and I didn’t see any other poem which is “uncharacteristically dark” as he seems to suggest. He seems to have picked the only poem which may appear negative – perhaps to fit his account of Sri Aurobindo’s Sadhana.

These are the other poems written after 1943. As you can see, none of these are uncharacteristically dark in nature.

Mother of God from 1945

A conscious and eternal Power is here
Behind unhappiness and mortal birth
And the error of Thought and blundering trudge of Time.
The Mother of God, his sister and his spouse,
Daughter of his wisdom, of his might (strength) the mate,
She has leapt from the Transcendent’s secret breast
To build her rainbow worlds of mind and life.
Between the superconscient absolute Light
And the lnconscient’s vast unthinking toil
In the rolling and routine of Matter’s sleep
And the somnambulist motion of the stars
She forces on the cold unwilling Void
Her adventure of life, the passionate dreams of her lust.
Amid the work of darker Powers she is here
To heal the evils and mistakes of Space
And change the tragedy of the ignorant world
Into a Divine Comedy of joy.
And the laughter and the rapture of God’s bliss.
The Mother of God is master of our souls;
We are the partners of his birth in Time,
Inheritors we share his eternity.

Silence is All 1946

Silence is all, say the sages.
Silence watches the work of the ages;
In the book of Silence the cosmic Scribe has written his cosmic pages;
Silence is all, say the sages.
What then of the word, O speaker?
What then of the thought, O thinker?
Thought is the wine of the soul and the word is the beaker;
Life is the banquet-table – the soul of the sage is the drinker.
What of the wine, O mortal?
I am drunk with the wine as I sit at Wisdom’s portal,
Waiting for the Light beyond thought and the Word immortal.
I sit in vain at Wisdom’s portal.
How shalt thou know the Word when it comes, O seeker?
How shalt thou know the Light when it breaks, O witness?
I shall hear the voice of the God within me and grow wiser and meeker;
I shall be the tree that takes in the light as its food, I shall drink its nectar of sweetness.

Who are thou that camest 22-3-1944

Who art thou that earnest
Bearing the occult Name,
Wings of regal darkness
Eyes of an unborn flame?
Like the august uprising
Of a forgotten sun
Out of the caverned midnight
Fire-trails of wonder run.
Captured the heart renouncing
Tautness of passion-worn strings
Allows the wide-wayed sweetness
Of free supernal things.

Evolution 1938,22-3-1944

I passed into a lucent still abode
And saw as in a mirror crystalline
An ancient Force ascending serpentine
The unhasting spirals of the aeonic road.
Earth was a cradle for the arriving god
And man but a half-dark half-luminous sign
Of the transition of the veiled Divine
From Matter’s sleep and the tormented load
Of ignorant life and death to the Spirit’s light.
Mind liberated swam Light’s ocean vast,
And life escaped from its grey tortured line;
I saw Matter illumining its parent Night.
The soul could feel into infinity cast
Timeless God-bliss the heart incarnadine.

The Silver Call 1938,23-3-1944

There is a godhead of unrealised things
To which Time’s splendid gains are hoarded dross;
A cry seems near, a rustle of silver wings
Calling to heavenly joy by earthly loss
All eye has seen and all the ear has heard
Is a pale illusion by some greater voice
And mightier vision; no sweet sound or word,
No passion of hues that make the heart rejoice
Can equal these diviner ecstasies.
A Mind beyond our mind has sole the ken
Of those yet unimagined harmonies,
The fate and privilege of unborn men.
As rain-thrashed mire the marvel of the rose,
Earth waits that distant marvel to disclose.

The Inner Fields 14-3-1947
There is a brighter ether than this blue
Pretence of an enveloping heavenly vault,
A deeper greenness than this laughing assault1
Of emerald rapture pearled with tears of dew.
Immortal spaces of cerulean hue
Are in our reach and fields without this fault
Of drab brown earth and streams that never halt
In their deep murmur which white flowers strew
Floating like stars upon a strip of sky.
This world behind is made of truer stuff
Than the manufactured tissue of earth’s grace.
There we can walk and see the gods go by
And sip from Hebe’s cup nectar enough
To make for us heavenly limbs and deathless face.

Coming back to the poem “Is this the end”.

A few lines from this poem  have been used to create the illusion that it is somehow connected to Sri Aurobindo’s Sadhana (askesis). You have to read the whole poem to see the truth.

This is the partial poem from the biography

Those he did write are uncharacteristically dark:

Is this the end of all that we have been,
And all we did or dreamed,-
A name unremembered and a form undone,Is
this the end?
A body rotting under a slab of stone
Or turned to ash in fire,
A mind dissolved, lost its forgotten thoughts,Is
this the end?

So begins a poem of June 1945. It ends, however, on a brighter note: the “Immortal  in the mortal” is “unwilling to cease”

Till all is done for which the stars were made,
Till the heart discovers God
And the soul knows itself And even then
There is no end.145

Let us read the entire poem which will shed light on its actual meaning:

Is this the end of all that we have been,
And all we did or dreamed, –
A name unremembered and a form undone, –
Is this the end?

A body rotting under a slab of stone
Or turned to ash in fire,
A mind dissolved, lost its forgotten thoughts, –
Is this the end?

Our little hours that were and are no more,
Our passions once so high
Being mocked by the still earth and calm sunshine, –
Is this the end?

Our yearnings for the human Godward climb
Passing to other hearts
Deceived, while smiles towards death and hell the world, –
Is this the end?

Fallen is the harp; shattered it lies and mute;
Is the unseen player dead?
Because the tree is felled where the bird sang,
Must the song too hush?

One in the mind who planned and willed and thought,
Worked to reshape earth’s fate,
One in the heart who loved and yearned and hoped,
Does he too end?

The Immortal in the mortal is his Name;
An artist Godhead here
Ever remoulds himself in diviner shapes,
Unwilling to cease

Till all is done for which the stars were made,
Till the heart discovers God
And the soul knows itself. And even then
There is no end.

The title of the poem “Is this the end” must be understood clearly. The word “end” here means “Goal” rather than “Termination“. It is a poem about evolution. The Immortal works his magic behind the apparently transient by evolving new forms.

The lines which were omitted

“An artist Godhead here
Ever remoulds himself in diviner shapes,
Unwilling to cease”

are important because they connect the two parts of the poem

The biography has created needless distortions here first by degrading the importance of Savitri, then by claiming all poems after 1943 were uncharacteristically dark and further by misinterpreting the poem “Is this the end” and incorrectly linking it to Sri Aurobindo’s Sadhana.

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3 Responses to Poems after 1943 are uncharacteristically dark – page 398

  1. Diane says:

    As someone who studies History as Uni, for my sins, I would also like to comment that it is normal protocol to place comments about your subject in some type of historical context. The period from 1943 to 1946 was a period of great darkness in world history.. It is known that Sri Auronbindo opposed the dark Asura, Adolph Hitler, and worked hard on the occult planes for his defeat. It was also a time when the dark powers of nuclear energy were unleashed as horrific weapons. One can only assume that if he had written poems of light, our authority PH would have accused him of being out of touch with reality.
    Diane

    • anahata says:

      Yes, it was a period of great darkness but if he wanted to portray that, he could have used the verses Sri Aurobindo wrote on Hitler in Savitri and elsewhere.

      The impression someone might get from the above mistakes is that Sri Aurobindo was failing in his Yoga and then died shortly thereafter.

      • Diane says:

        One can speculate that this indeed was the conscious or perhaps unconscious intent. The problem with writing biographies or history for that matter, is that it is human to select material that will support the author’s own biases. Hence why neither Sri Aurobindo nor the Mother believed a biography would serve any purpose. To my mind this particular biography is about establishing a hegemony of rational thought as some sort of superior world view to the spiritual. A failed effort one would hope.
        Diane

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