published: February 2017

Sri Aurobindo Learning Center

The ideal 

by Rod Hemsell

If we are going to envision a society, such as Hegel and Sri Aurobindo envisioned, in which every human being is fulfilled on the basis of freedom, the freedom to be, and the freedom to express in infinitely diverse ways the truths of ourselves and existence, then we must also see that many of the structures of society and human behavior that exist now will have to change. But for that to happen, the human being must change. The outer and relational is a product of the inner. Changing the outer structures on the basis of the rational mind will not change their essential constitution, which in human society is fundamentally mental. It is an order based upon the ethical mind, actuated by the practical mind. The limitation of Hegelian and Marxist thought was that, for them, the structures of society could be changed and the ideals of freedom and right could be realized by the rational will.

Sri Aurobindo saw that until there is a transformation of this mental consciousness into something higher, nothing in the external material world can change significantly. Radical change can happen only after the new consciousness becomes a norm, at least among a few. This follows the evolutionary law. Change always begins with one, and then a few, then a family, and a society, until the new type finally fills a niche. First there must be the ascent, the spiritual elevation of consciousness; then the descent of the new principle and power; and then, finally, a transformation that makes possible the advent of the “other”, which is not a mental being, but a supramental body, life, and mind.  This ideal is symbolized in Savitri by Satyavan, the human soul, and Savitri, the force of illumination that descends to transform consciousness. Satyavan speaks:

Once were my days like the days of other men:

To think and act was all, to enjoy and breathe;

This was the width and height of mortal hope:

Yet there came glimpses of a deeper self

That lives behind Life and makes her act its scene.

A truth was felt that screened its shape from mind,

A Greatness working towards a hidden end,

And vaguely through the forms of earth there looked

Something that life is not and yet must be.

I groped for the Mystery with the lantern, Thought.

Its glimmerings lighted with the abstract word

A half-visible ground and traveling yard by yard

It mapped a system of the Self and God.

I could not live the truth it spoke and thought.

But now the gold link comes to me with thy feet

And His gold sun has shone on me from thy face. . . .

A strange new world swims to me in thy gaze

Approaching like a star from unknown heavens;

A cry of spheres comes with thee and a song

Of flaming gods. I draw a wealthier breath

And in a fierier march of moments move.

My mind transfigures to a rapturous seer.

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