July 3, 1957
(Extract from the Wednesday class)
I have been asked if we are doing a collective yoga and what are the conditions of a collective yoga.
First, I could tell you that to do a collective yoga, there has to be a collectivity!... And I could speak to you about the different conditions required to be a collectivity. But last night (smiling), I had a symbolic vision of our collectivity.
This vision took place early in the night and woke me up with a rather unpleasant feeling. Then I fell back to sleep and forgot about it; but a little while ago, when I was thinking of the question put to me, it returned. It returned with a great intensity and so imperatively that now, just as I wanted to tell you what kind of collectivity we wish to realize according to the ideal described by Sri Aurobindo in the last chapter of The Life Divine – a gnostic, supramental collectivity, the only kind that can do Sri Aurobindo's integral yoga and be realized physically in a progressive collective body becoming more and more divine – the recollection of this vision became so imperative that I couldn't speak.
Its symbolism was very clear, though of quite a familiar nature, as it were, and because of its very familiarity, unmistakable in its realism... Were I to tell you all the details, you would probably not even be able to follow: it was rather intricate. It was a kind of (how can I express it?) – an immense hotel where all the terrestrial possibilities were lodged in different apartments. And it was all in a constant state of transformation: parts or entire wings of the building were suddenly torn down and rebuilt while people were still living in them, such that if you went off somewhere within the immense hotel itself, you ran the risk of no longer finding your room when you wanted to return to it, for it might have been torn down and was being rebuilt according to another plan! It was orderly, it was organized... yet there was this fantastic chaos which I mentioned. And all this was a symbol – a symbol that certainly applies to what Sri Aurobindo has written here1 regarding the necessity for the transformation of the body, the type of transformation that has to take place for life to become a divine life.
It went something like this: somewhere, in the center of this enormous edifice, there was a room reserved – as it seemed in the story – for a mother and her daughter. The mother was a lady, an elderly lady, a very influential matron who had a great deal of authority and her own views concerning the entire organization. Her daughter seemed to have a power of movement and activity enabling her to be everywhere at once while at the same time remaining in her room, which was... well, a bit more than a room – it was a kind of apartment which, above all, had the characteristic of being very central. But she was constantly arguing with her mother. The mother wanted to keep things “just as they were,” with their usual rhythm, which precisely meant the habit of tearing down one thing to rebuild another, then again tearing down that to build still another, thus giving the building an appearance of frightful confusion. But the daughter did not like this, and she had another plan. Most of all, she wanted to bring something completely new into the organization: a kind of super-organization that would render all this confusion unnecessary. Finally, as it was impossible for them to reach an understanding, the daughter left the room to go on a kind of general inspection... She went out, looked everything over, and then wanted to return to her room to decide upon some final measures. But this is where something rather... peculiar began happening.
She clearly remembered where her room was, but each time she set out to go there, either the staircase disappeared or things were so changed that she could no longer find her way! So she went here and there, up and down, searched, went in and out... but it was impossible to find the way to her room! Since all of this assumed a physical appearance – as I said, a very familiar and very common appearance, as is always the case in these symbolic visions – there was somewhere (how shall I put it?) the hotel's administrative office and a woman who seemed to be the manager, who had all the keys and who knew where everyone was staying. So the daughter went to this person and asked her, “Could you show me the way to my room?” – “But of course! Easily!” Everyone around the manager looked at her as if to say, “How can you say that?” However, she got up, and with authority asked for a key – the key to the daughter's room – saying, “I shall take you there.” And off she went along all kinds of paths, but all so complicated, so bizarre! The daughter was following along behind her very attentively, you see, so as not to lose sight of her. But just as they should have come to the place where the daughter's room was supposed to be, suddenly the manageress (let us call her the manageress), both the manageress and her key... vanished! And the sense of this vanishing was so acute that... at the same time, everything vanished!
So... to help you understand this enigma, let me tell you that the mother is physical Nature as she is, and the daughter is the new creation. The manageress is the world's organizing mental consciousness as Nature has developed it thus far, that is, the most advanced organizing sense to have manifested in the present state of material Nature. This is the key to the vision.
Naturally, when I awoke, I immediately knew what could resolve this problem which appeared so absolutely insoluble. The vanishing of the manageress and her key was an obvious sign that she was altogether incapable of leading what could be called “the creative consciousness of the new world” to its true place.
I knew this, but I did not have a vision of the solution, which means it has yet to manifest; this “thing” had not yet manifested in the building, this fantastic construction, although it is the very mode of consciousness which could transform this incoherent creation into something real, truly conceived, willed and materialized, with a center in its proper place, a recognized place, and with a REAL effective power.
The symbolism is quite clear in that all the possibilities are there, all the activities are there, but in disorder and confusion. They are neither coordinated nor centralized nor unified around the central and unique truth and consciousness and will. So this brings us back... precisely to this question of a collective yoga and of a collectivity capable of realizing it. What should this collectivity be?
It is certainly not an arbitrary construction of the type built by men, where everything is put pell-mell, without any order, without reality, and which is held together by only illusory ties. Here, these ties were symbolized by the hotel's walls, while actually in ordinary human constructions (if we take a religious community, for example), they are symbolized by the building of a monastery, an identity of clothing, an identity of activities, an identity even of movement – or to put it more precisely: everyone wears the same uniform, everyone gets up at the same time, everyone eats the same thing, everyone says his prayers together, etc.; there is an overall identity. But naturally, on the inside there remains the chaos of many disparate consciousnesses, each one following its own mode, for this kind of group identification, which extends right up to an identity of beliefs and dogma, is absolutely illusory.
Yet it is one of the most common types of human collectivity – to group together, band together, unite around a common ideal, a common action, a common realization but in an absolutely artificial way. In contrast to this, Sri Aurobindo tells us that a true community – what he terms a gnostic or supramental community – can be based only upon the INNER REALIZATION of each one of its members, each realizing his real, concrete oneness and identity with all the other members of the community; that is, each one should not feel himself a member connected to all the others in an arbitrary way, but that all are one within himself. For each one, the others should be as much himself as his own body – not in a mental and artificial way, but through a fact of consciousness, by an inner realization.
This means that before hoping to realize such a gnostic collectivity, each one must first of all become (or at least start to become) a gnostic being. It is obvious that the individual work must take the lead and the collective work follow; but the fact remains that spontaneously, without any arbitrary intervention of will, the individual progress is restrained or CHECKED, as it were, by the collective state. Between the collectivity and the individual, there exists an interdependence from which one cannot be totally free, even if one tries. And even he who might try, in his yoga, to free himself totally from the human and terrestrial state of consciousness, would be at least subconsciously bound by the state of the whole, which impedes and PULLS BACKWARDS. One can attempt to go much faster, one can attempt to let all the weight of attachments and responsibilities fall off, but in spite of everything, the realization of even the most advanced or the leader in the march of evolution is dependent upon the realization of the whole, dependent upon the state in which the terrestrial collectivity happens to be. And this PULLS backwards to such an extent that sometimes one has to wait centuries for the earth to be ready before being able to realize what is to be realized.
This is why Sri Aurobindo has also written somewhere else that a double movement is necessary: the effort for individual progress and realization must be combined with the effort of trying to uplift the whole so as to enable it to make a progress indispensable for the greater progress of the individual: a mass progress, if you will, that allows the individual to take a further step forward.
And now you understand why I had thought it would be useful to have a few meditations in common, to work at creating a common atmosphere a bit more organized than... my big hotel of last night!
So, the best way to use these meditations (and they are going to increase, since we are now also going to replace the “distributions” with short meditations) is to go deep within yourselves, as far as you can, and find the place where you can feel, perceive and perhaps even create an atmosphere of oneness wherein a force of order and organization can put each element in its true place, and out of the chaos existing at this hour, make a new, harmonious world surge forth.
1 The Supramental Manifestation, (Cent. Ed. XVI, pp. 33-36.)