by RY Deshpande on Tue 16 Oct 2007 05:17 PM PDT Permanent Link
[Based on a talk given at Savitri Bhavan on 13 April 2006—Part III. A good deal of material presented here has been drawn from my book Narad’s Arrival at Madra.]
Below him circling burned the myriad suns:
He bore the ripples of the etheric sea;
A primal Air brought the first joy of touch;
A secret Spirit drew its mighty breath,
Contracting and expanding this huge world
In its formidable circuit through the Void;
The secret might of the creative fire
Displayed its triple power to build and form,
Its infinitesimal wave-sparks’ weaving dance,
Its nebulous units grounding shape and mass,
Magic foundation and pattern of a world,
Its radiance bursting into the light of stars;
He felt a sap of life, a sap of death;
Into solid Matter's dense communion
Plunging and its obscure oneness of forms
He shared with a dumb Spirit identity.
We have here the five classical elements appearing in rapid succession: Ether-Air-Fire- Water- Earth, or in their Sanskrit names Akash-Vayu-Agni-Apas-Prithvi. These are the well-known five ancient irreducibles of Matter, panchamahābhūtas, the Five Great Elements, fundamental elements, but not to be confused with what modern chemistry understands as elements. There are quite a few Vedic descriptions associated with these five elements, and they show that their character is more of the subtle kind than the gross. The five qualities related with these five great elements are, respectively: Sound-Contact-Form-Fluidity-Solidness, in Sanskrit Shabda-Sparsha-Roopa-Rasa-Gandha.
We might read this Vedic description of the elements along with the description we have in the Puranas. Thus in the Vishnu Purana, Vishnu is depicted in five luminous forms, each form corresponding to one of the five elements. Their names are: Vasudeva-Sankarshana- Pradyumna-Aniruddha-Narayana, related to Akash-Vayu-Agni-Apas-Prithvi. The associated objects Vishnu carries in his hands are: Conch-Discus-Mace-Lotus-Globe, Shankha-Chakra- Gada-Padma-Prithvi. The first four are in the four hands of the Cosmic Godhead and the fifth, Prithvi or Earth, or Globe, is between his two feet.
With these five elements of Matter there is also the Greek association, linking them with the five Platonic solids: Ether = Dodecahedron; Air = Octahedron; Fire = Tetrahedron; Water = Icosahedron; Earth = Cube.
There exists an extensive study with respect to these five elements in spiritual, occult, religious, and many secular disciplines. But let me take just one example, from Milton’s Paradise Lost, Book III. It belongs to the story of creation as given in it, the story narrated by a deep theological mind. In it Uriel narrates to Satan how, at the command of the Creator, arose out of Confusion the great World-Order:
I saw when at his Word the formless Mass,
This world’s material mould, came to a heap:
Confusion heard his voice, and wilde uproar
Stood rul’d, stood vast infinitude confin’d;
Till at his second bidding darkness fled,
Light shon, and order from disorder sprung:
Swift to their several Quarters hasted then
The cumbrous Elements, Earth, Flood, Aire, Fire,
And this Ethereal quintessence of Heav’n
Flew upward, spirited with various forms,
That rowld orbicular, and turned to Starrs
Numberless, as thou seest, and how they move;
Each had his place appointed, each his course,
The rest in circuit walles this Universe.
Well, this is a fine poetic account of the Sankhya metaphysics, but what about the process by which the material creation came into existence, process which can give us a handle to grapple the issue of materialisation itself? But here is Narad who knows it, the mechanism, even as he adapts it for his present purpose, to visit Aswapati in a gross physical body. Materialisation of the spiritual is a mystery to us yet we can get some idea of it from what Sri Aurobindo has explained in a number of contexts. He has given the details in quite a few places, in Essays on the Gita, The Life Divine, in his writings on the Upanishads, in the Letters, and in fact in Savitri on several occasions. But let us read what he has written in his commentary on the Kena Upanishad. He writes:
In an interview with Pavitra, dated 8 May 1926, Sri Aurobindo explains as follows:
In the West the higher minds are not turned towards spiritual truth but towards material science. The scope of science is very narrow: it touches only the most exterior part of the physical plane. And even there, what does science really know? It studies the functioning of the laws, edificates theories ever renewed and each time held up as the last word of truth! We had recently the atomic theory, now comes the electronic!
According to the experience of ancients Yogis, sensible matter was made out of five elements, bhūtāni: Prithvi, Apas, Agni (Tejas), Vayu, Akasha.
Agni is threefold:
- ordinary fire, Jala Agni,
- electric fire, Vaidyuta Agni,
- solar fire, Saura Agni.
Science only entered upon the first and the second of these fires. The fact that the atom is alike the solar system could it lead it to the knowledge of the third. Beyond Agni is Vayu of which science knows nothing. It is the support of all contact and exchange, the cause of gravitation and of the fields (magnetic and electric). By it, the action of Agni, the formal element, builder of forms, is made possible. And beyond Vayu is the ether, Akasha. But these constitute only the grossest part of the physical plane. Immediately behind is the physical-vital, the element of life buried in matter. J. C. Bose is contacting this element in his experiment. Beyond is the mind of matter. This mind has a far different form than the human mind, still it is a manifestation of the same principle of organisation. And deep below there are two more hidden layers… That is the occult knowledge concerning the physical plane only. Science is far behind this knowledge… Apas is the element that makes life possible—the desire which is the source of life—Agni is the element which renders form possible and Prithvi is the compacting element which concretises.
But how does Narad work out the spiritual to material alchemy? He does it by exercising his spiritual will. We have to understand that there can be different agents entering into the play. There can be mental will, vital, or even physical will. There can be the will of the being of knowledge, of the spiritual self; it could be a free soul’s will. Each has its characteristic form, with each will; each has its own functional role, its own modus operandi. The Avatar uses his supreme Will and comes here by projecting his higher Prakriti into the lower. A free being can prepare a form or body using his spiritual will. Narad is one such. But in all the cases the five great elements, panchamahābhūtas, are the basic ingredients of the bodily existence. There is replication of the grand process by which the Spirit becomes Matter, attains communion with it. Narad’s godly form, daivīrūpam, has now become the form of man, manuşyarūpam. This is the form in which he makes his entry into the palace hall.
I think, we may quickly look here into another aspect, the aspect related to the Mother’s work. She made an important discovery which she disclosed on 1 July 1970. She told that it is the psychic being which will materialise itself and become the supramental being. It is the psychic being which survives death. So, if it materialises itself, it means the abolition of death. The Mother’s new body was aimed at that. Perhaps that is the process. Now it is the New Body which will do whatever is to be done. It is not an inert lump of matter; it is charged with luminous dynamism of the Divine. It is going to exert pressure upon the material in the evolutionary process.
There are other aspects also, aspects of the Chakras or the centres of occult energy in the subtle-physical body. Man is presently endowed with seven Chakras only. But two Chakras below the feet and three above his head have yet to get formed and become operative. This is what the Mother was told by Théon. It was her experience too. For these Chakras to come into operation, it is necessary to do another type of occult-spiritual yoga-tapasya. It is only then that the physical can respond to the working of the higher consciousness-force. This indeed became the main thrust of the Mother’s yoga-tapasya during the last fifteen years or so of her work.