The Life Divine – Reading Group, Session #4 [6/21]


(Don Salmon) #46

yes, Cage - and there’s a 20 minute LP version of Silence as well!

in his book, Cage tells of traveling across the country with the composer Virgil Thompson. They stop at a small shop in Kansas where the desserts include “peanut butter pie.” They immediately resolve never to visit Kansas again (I think tongue-in-cheek).

Cage also tells of a visit to a singer on the Upper West Side, perhaps Riverside Drive. He is taking a Zen Roshi with him. As he listens to the aria, he somewhat sheepishly begins to turn, apologetically, to the Roshi, describing his remorse for “inflicting” a “second rate Aria sung by a third rate soprano playing on a 4th rate piano,” and he sees the Roshi sitting with a beatific look on his face.

“The Koran is teaching nothing from beginning to end but abandonment of belief in phenomenal causation.”


(john davis) #47

A very sensitive reading, Doug, and you backtrack beautifully. I hope we can continue to relax into the liminal zones and register the subtle effects.

Jove in the clouds had his inhuman birth.

No mother suckled him, no sweet land gave

Large-mannered motions to his mythy mind. (wallace stevens)

Large mannered motions to his mythy mind…Aurobindo had a very mythy mind…and of course the Modern mind tries to operationalize the Mythic. I am open to your influence, Doug, and thanks for your kind attention to over heard and the under heard…

" There is always the silence, but you dont get very far with silence" William Carlos Williams

(Ed Mahood) #48

Where are the links to the readings that are being mentioned in the recording around the 51:00’ mark?

(Douglas Duff) #49

Maybe you are asking about the Shraddhavan reading. Both links below will guide you to the recordings:

A lovely reading of Life Divine Book 1 by Shraddhavan, divided by chapter. I post this, as a few individuals (such as @wronitz and myself) have the occasional preference for downloading audio:

Life Divine Reading from the Savitri Bhavan website
Same reading on YouTube

This is the original thread that covers the links of mentioned readings, listenings, etc. during session #2 (which also covers the links above):

(Ed Mahood) #50

Thanks immensely for this.

Not to be a curmudgeon, but anytime a reference is made, it needs to be repeated. It’s just the nature of the technology. Anyone could “jump in” in Session #3 (for with all our digital technology, we’re not strictly linear anymore), and so the links have to be here too. (I listened to Session #2, but I didn’t go through the accompanying thread in detail.)

Sometimes the technology is more obscuring than revealing. :open_mouth:

(Douglas Duff) #51

Who-wooda-thought that editing threads could be so delightful :roll_eyes:. Maybe this is what you meant by repeat: “Resources/Referenced Material” have been added to each session thread’s first introductory post.

Should look something like this:

Resources/Referenced Material

Study Guides/Introductory Material
Books References During Recorded Sessions
Audio Recordings Of Life Divine

We made a wiki here so anyone (with access to editing priveledges) can add other resources to the list. Many other websites, etc. have been referenced by Don and others in the various threads…hope to compile these into the wiki at some point too. Thanks Ed!

(Ed Mahood) #52

Yes, the “ultimate wiki” is the better answer, but until we can find it and till all the threads off all the recordings get us to think in these terms, we will probably have to repeat ourselves a lot.

Thanks, Doug. Youda man.

(Marco V Morelli) #53

@Don_Salmon: Do you have a recording of that orchestral composition you did for WBAI? It sounds (like it would sound) amazing.

My mother is from El Salvador, and I’ve done volunteer work in Nicaragua, as well as translated poetry by contemporary (at the time) Nicaraguan authors; so there is a personal interest as well as aesthetic, political, and spiritual.

Regarding the revelation of Kali in the Technological Age, you may appreciate the text and audio recording for this piece by @brian.george51, published in Metapsychosis:

It begins:

Student at Rochester University: “Was the bomb exploded at Alamogordo during the Manhattan Project the first one to be detonated?” Dr. Robert Oppenheimer: “Well, yes. In modern times, of course.”

(Ed Mahood) #54

Again, I’m “behind schedule”. I would love to be “in” the discussions, but the time slot just doesn’t work, but that’s perfectly (and I mean that in an Aurobindian sense) OK. I managed to listen to the recording this time before the next scheduled one took place.

Yes, Marco, given the necessary (or even desired) assumptions and presuppositions, any “argument” can be deconstructed. Since S.A. is writing prose (in The Live Divine as opposed to Savitri) it is easy to be seduced into thinking that an argument is being presented. As I stated in my response to the last recording, I don’t think that’s the case at all. The description he’s giving us, however, is difficult in so far as it doesn’t coincide (or perhaps in some cases, even overlap) with our own experience. This makes for the same comprehension difficulties we have when reading Steiner, for example. It is important, I think, when we realize this to remember that “understanding is not agreement” (Verstehen ist nicht Einverstandedsein). What S.A. is saying makes sense, even if it doesn’t necessarily reflect what I think or how I think Reality is constructed.

As the dyed-in-the-wool hermeneuticist that I am, I have to remind us all that we bring all our own unquestioned and hard-fought assumptions and presuppositions about, literally, “everything” to our reading of any text at all, but in the case of The Life Divine, these take on existential importance. That is, it becomes more obvious more quickly, that there’s "a whole lot of me (whoever or whatever that is) involved in the reading. I believe we need to note that and try to consider that when we’re trying to decipher the text. Any time we can separate what-I’m-bringing and what-S.A.-is-bringing to the text makes for moments of blissful “understanding”.

In that vein, @Geoffrey_Edwards’ reflections on reading The Life Divine as compared to reading Savitiri gain particular poignancy. (Unfortunately, too many are not willing to engage the narrative text, let along the poetic one, which is, for too many, too easy to reject, because it’s not empirical enough.

Although I mentioned it last time, I need to reiterate it here as well: I cannot thank @Matteo and @Don_Salmon enough for their firmly grounded – and I’m fine with passionate – devotion to the text, for it provides a contextualization that we would never have if any of us were just reading the text all on our own. Chapeau, gentlemen.

What struck me about the conversation this time around – and there was a certain amount of it last time, but it’s concreticizing itself … thankfully – is the difficulty that many are having with dealing with the text as they encounter it. S.A. challenges our assumptions. He confronts us with our own presuppositions (he’s adept at ferreting out his critics’ objections) and this make many of us readers uncertain, to be sure. We must be careful, I think, about imagining that what he’s saying is the last word on “how things are”. This is related to his take on Reality, be it the three stages of Supermind or any other particular feature of his presentation. He repeatedly emphasizes that he is writing from experience, hence it is most likely necessary that we have had similar experiences in order to truly understand what he is saying. That’s only partially true, as far as I’m concerned.

As Lauren pointed out toward the end of the session, it is easy for lots of folks to think that they know more than they actually do. Integrality has its own mind-set and countenance that too many individuals simply don’t understand. (I never felt as misunderstood as when I was amongst fellow “initiates”, if you will. Or, as my youngest daughter formulated her description of her religious beliefs: “LORD, please save me from your followers.”) Yes, some people think they’re G-d, but it is only their thinking that makes it so.

What I saw in the recording, however, was a wonderfully diverse collection of individuals who are seriously and sincerely trying to make sense of the Reality in which they find themselves, and who think/imagine/believe that The Life Divine just might provide them with a hint or two as to which directions they might further explore. Your example of “torturing the cat” was a bit shocking, perhaps, but intimately relevant in this regard. In traditional religion, in Christianity and Judaism (and their philosophical derivatives … I’m thinking of Leibnitz’s “theodicee question” here … ) it’s a matter of understanding (or better, grokking) why, if G-d is perfect, there is evil in the world. That’s a tough nut to crack, and I never encourage anyone to start there. There’s too much we don’t know and understand in relation to what we do to help us get down that path sensibly.

My suggestion is to simply not worry about it for the moment. The question will arise again and again in so many contexts, when it is utterly unexpected, when we least expect it that there is no existential necessity to answer it “right now”. Sometimes we have to simply suspend our (dis)belief and go with the flow. Or, as I liked to tell my students in regard to their final exams: There’s plenty of time to panic later.

There is only a small – perhaps insignificant – word of caution that I would like to interject at this point. One statement was made about the Abrahamic religions and their apparent threat to true understanding because they conceive G-d as the “complete other”. I can see how one gets there, but it’s not a good place to be. Again, as I noted in regard to the last recording, all the great spiritual traditions – and I mean ALL – are saying the same thing. They are using different words (thank you , @Terri for making this clear), but what they are pointing at with those words is, IMNSHO, the same thing. I don’t think S.A. is saying anything “new” (whatever that means), rather, the difficulties we have with his text (in places) is very much like those we have with reading “the Bible”, especially in translation. We’re reading S.A. in translation, as well. (And, Umberto Eco noted wisely, “Translation is the art of failure.”)

My point it, I think, is that if one is having tremendous difficulties with the text, there are alternatives: the original Upanishads, Savitri, The Zohar, the so-called Old Testament, the Gospels … there are lots of opportunities to get this, albeit not necessarily in the (and I say this somewhat tongue-in-cheek) excruciating detail as S.A. offers us.

Keep up the good work, Fellow Travelers.

(Don Salmon) #55

Ed, you just expressed all the thoughts going through my mind in the last several days. (well, not every thought, but a heck of a lot of them - at least, ones pertaining to this conversation). I should leave it at that:>) (for now)

Marco - really, El Salvador? My father was born in Panama, grew up in Cuba, and came to the US in 1931 when Battista took over. His family’s maid, Lucia Hernandez, came to stay with us in 1959 when Castro took over. we still have distant relatives in El Salvador, Costa Rica (where my father’s mother was born), Venezuela, Chile (or Argentina, I’m not sure), as well as Spain and numerous countries in Europe and North Africa.

I was the music director or La Virgen (sp?) de Guadalupe from 1981 to 1989. Father Dominguez (who appeared as an actor in some old 1950s B westerns, FWIW), my co-director, was in charge of immigration for the Archdiocese of NY, as I mentioned above, and we had a number of immigrants from El Salvador and Nicaragua in our choir.

To answer your question directly, the final masters thesis was a 45 minute composition for live orchestra, choir and electronic tape. I never put together a recording of the entire thing, though with some modifications (with the help of Logic Pro) I could probably do it with the tape. But at the moment, it’s on a tape cassette circa 1985 up in the top shelf of my closet. Some day I plan to have it digitized.

I did at one point find an abstract animated movie - mostly psychedelic swirls with astonishingly beautiful transitions - to which i added the “Oppy” tape as a soundtrack, and it was almost as though the animation was made for the soundtrack - they fit together perfectly.

I doubt if it will be less than a year, but I’m sure I"ll babble on about it pretty loudly once it gets done.

Oh well, i never know when to shut up.

Ed, yes, thanks. “Dedication to the text.” I know I’m going to regret this. My sense is - and I’m sure this is well meaning and it’s VERY difficult to avoid. my sense is people are reacting to their opinion, emotional feeling, analysis, etc of the LD text.

Someone, i forget who, asked why “consensus” was so important to me. I’m afraid I express myself very badly. I’m going to try again, maybe this will come across differently.

Since I’m talking to Ed now, I’ll say this to Ed, I think you’ll take it well. Ed, I dont’ care what YOU think about the text. really, at all. I don’t care what I think about the text either. I dont’ care what anyone’s reaction to it is either.

There, now that I’m sure I’ve riled up somebody!!!

What I’m suggesting, which has nothing to do with consensus or agreement of any kind, as that before expressing our reactions, thoughts, feelings, opinions, etc, we try (at least for a moment, i know, no rules here - i love that),

we try at some point to say something like this;

Here’s some text:

The true soul secret in us — subliminal, we have said, but the word is misleading, for this presence is not situated below the threshold of waking mind, but rather burns in the temple of the inmost heart behind the thick screen of an ignorant mind, life and body, not subliminal but behind the veil, — this veiled psychic entity is the flame of the Godhead always alight within us, inextinguishable even by that dense unconsciousness of any spiritual self within which obscures our outward nature. It is a flame born out of the Divine and, luminous inhabitant of the Ignorance, grows in it till it is able to turn it towards the Knowledge. It is the concealed Witness and Control, the hidden Guide, the Daemon of Socrates, the inner light or inner voice of the mystic. It is that which endures and is imperishable in us from birth to birth, untouched by death, decay or corruption, an indestructible spark of the Divine. Not the unborn Self or Atman, for the Self even in presiding over the existence of the individual is aware always of its universality and transcendence, it is yet its deputy in the forms of Nature, the individual soul, caitya purusa , supporting mind, life and body, standing behind the mental, the vital, the subtle-physical being in us and watching and profiting by their development and experience. These other person-powers in man, these beings of his being, are also veiled in their true entity, but they put forward temporary personalities which compose our outer individuality and whose combined superficial action and appearance of status we call ourselves: this inmost entity also, taking form in us as the psychic Person, puts forward a psychic personality which changes, grows, de- velops from life to life; for this is the traveller between birth and death and between death and birth, our nature parts are only its manifold and changing vesture. The psychic being can at first exercise only a concealed and partial and indirect action through the mind, the life and the body, since it is these parts of Nature that have to be developed as its instruments of self-expression, and it is long confined by their evolution. Missioned to lead man in the Ignorance towards the light of the Divine Consciousness, it takes the essence of all experience in the Ignorance to form a nucleus of soul-growth in the nature; the rest it turns into material for the future growth of the instruments which it has to use until they are ready to be a luminous instrumentation of the Divine. It is this secret psychic entity which is the true original Conscience in us deeper than the constructed and con- ventional conscience of the moralist, for it is this which points always towards Truth and Right and Beauty, towards Love and Harmony and all that is a divine possibility in us, and persists till these things become the major need of our nature. It is the psychic personality in us that flowers as the saint, the sage, the seer; when it reaches its full strength, it turns the being towards the Knowledge of Self and the Divine, towards the supreme Truth, the supreme Good, the supreme Beauty, Love and Bliss, the divine heights and largenesses, and opens us to the touch of spiritual sympathy, universality, oneness. On the contrary, where the psychic personality is weak, crude or ill-developed, the finer parts and movements in us are lacking or poor in character and power, even though the mind may be forceful and brilliant, the heart of vital emotions hard and strong and masterful, the life-force dominant and successful, the bodily existence rich and fortunate and an apparent lord and victor. It is then the outer desire-soul, the pseudo-psychic entity, that reigns and we mis- take its misinterpretations of psychic suggestion and aspiration, its ideas and ideals, its desires and yearnings for true soul-stuff and wealth of spiritual experience.If the secret psychic Person can come forward into the front and, replacing the desire-soul, govern overtly and entirely and not only partially and from behind the veil this outer nature of mind, life and body, then these can be cast into soul images of what is true, right and beautiful and in the end the whole nature can be turned towards the real aim of life, the supreme victory, the ascent into spiritual existence.

now I leave “me” and my opinions, thoughts, reactions, etc aside altogether.

what is Sri Aurobindo putting forth here (and yes, it’s definitely nothing to do with a model or argument or anything the ordinary mind can grasp)?

Here, not only do I welcome, but I can guarantee, we’ll have dramatically different senses of this, which is great. Not only will each of us have a different sense, but from moment to moment, we individually will have an ever-changing sense of it.

This may be true of all texts, but I find this more the case, in my own experience, with LD and Savitri than any other I’ve come across. And the seduction into thinking an argument is being presented - i’ve rarely heard the temptation put in better, more accurate language.

As i’ve humorously said before (I think I ruffled some Wilberian feathers without meaning to), take what Wilber says about the text and assume the opposite. Take whatever I say about the text and assume the opposite. Take whatever you think Sri A is saying about the text and assume the opposite. Then try not assuming anything. read with the feeling of utter confusion, bafflement, with discomfortable uneasy confusion growing by leaps and bounds.

“psychic being”

“supreme Truth”

oh, and desire. Assume that whatever human beings think “desire” means, the energy which appears in the vast unbounded Awareness as shaped through the Ideas that the finite/infintie intelligence chooses as She skates from unbounded Infinity to finite forms without losing the ecstasy of the Vastness and Openness, seems as if divided in the forms though always infinite, yet in the apparent separated seeming-individual this energy or fire of desire pushes against Her skating and delight and when this fire is unleashed as aspiration beyond desire the truer fuller richer more ecstaticer!!! ecstasy is seen to be the substance of all She/you/me/I/All enjoy in our cocaine induced frenzies and our love affairs with Kant and our sexual ripening opening to infants galore and 5 AM bacchanals.

(Don Salmon) #56

or much more simply:

burns in the temple of the inmost heart behind the thick screen of an ignorant mind, life and body


letting agni burn within, in every pore of the body

the temple

temple of the inmost heart…

let the melody resound… the temple of the inmost heart

temple of the inmost heart
inmost heart
inmost heart

the thick screen

William James spoke of the filmy screen which separates us from vast realms of utter amazement, cosmic realms of consciousness in which we are always enveloped…

the thick but truly only filmy screen…

burning in the temple of the heart (not the superficial higher vital emotions)

the inmost heart

in the inmost heart lies the secret of the entire Integral yoga

(Ed Mahood) #57


To be perfectly honest, I would have been disappointed with any other answer.

Hence, when I seems fitting, I’ll drop my opinion in anyway. I’m sure you won’t mind. :wink:

(Don Salmon) #58

psst… don’t tell anyone, but ed, i actually do care what you think about the text…

(Don Salmon) #59

oh dear, another flood…

in regards to what Ed said, these quotations might be interesting:

And philosophy! Let me tell you in confidence that I never, never, never was a philosopher - although I have written philosophy which is another story altogether. I knew precious little about philosophy before I did the Yoga and came to Pondicherry - I was a poet and a politician, not a philosopher. How I managed to do it and why? First, because X proposed to me to co-operate in a philosophical review - and as my theory was that a Yogi ought to be able to turn his hand to anything, I could not very well refuse; and then he had to go to the war and left me in the lurch with sixty-four pages a month of philosophy all to write by my lonely self. Secondly, because I had only to write down in the terms of the intellect all that I had observed and come to know in practising Yoga daily and the philosophy was there automatically. But that is not being a philosopher!


  • Sri Aurobindo

… I never read in order to create. As the Yoga increased, I read very little - for when all the ideas in the world come crowding in from within or from above, there is not much need for gathering mental food from outside sources; at most a utility for keeping oneself informed of what is happening in the world, - but not as material for building up one’s vision of the world and Truth and things. One becomes an independent mind in communication with the cosmic Thinker.
Poetry, even perhaps all perfect expression of whatever kind, comes by inspiration, not by reading. Reading helps only to acquire for the instrument the full possession of a language or to get the technique of literary expression. Afterwards one develops one’s own use of the language, one’s own style, one’s own technique. It is a decade or two that I have stopped all but the most casual reading, but my power of poetic and perfect expression has increased tenfold. What I wrote with some difficulty, often with great difficulty, I now write with ease. I am supposed to be a philosopher, but I never studied philosophy - everything I wrote came from Yogic experience, knowledge and inspiration. So too my greater power over poetry and perfect expression was acquired in these last days not by reading and seeing how other people wrote, but from the heightening of my consciousness and the greater inspiration that came from the heightening.

Sri Aurobindo : The Life Divine is not philosophy but fact. It contains what I have realised and seen. I think many people would object to calling it philosophy….Supermind is not to be philosophised about, it is to be lived.

(A.B. Purani. (1982) Evening Talks with Sri Aurobindo, Vol 1, p 274)

Nagin : You wrote to N that though people call you a philosopher, you have never learnt philosophy. Well, what you have written in the “Arya” is so philosophical that the greatest philosopher in the world could never hope to write it. I don’t mean here the bringing down of the highest Truth, but the power of expression, the art of reasoning and arguing.

Sri Aurobindo : There is very little argument in my philosophy – the elaborate metaphysical reasoning full of abstract words with which the metaphysician tries to establish his conclusion is not there. What is there is a harmonising of the different parts of a many-sided knowledge so that all unites logically together. But it is not by force of logical argument that it is done, but by a clear vision of the relations and sequences of the knowledge.

(Nagin Doshi. Guidance from Sri Aurobindo, vol. 3, p 68)

Charu Chandra Dutt wrote a review of the “Life Divine” in the Vishva Bharati . When it was read out to Sri Aurobindo he said :

He may continue it, it may be for some people an introduction to “Life Divine”.

But you may draw his attention to the following points.

  1. He states : “there can be no escape for the Spirit embodied in matter except through an integral yoga”.

If we accept that position then the goal set forth by the Adwaitwadins becomes impossible of realisation. What I say is not that it is impossible but that such an escape could not have been the object for which the world was created.

  1. He says that I derived my technique from Shanker (Shankaracharya?).

That is not true. I have not read much of philosophy. It is like those who say that I am influenced by Hegel. Some even say that I am influenced by Neitzsche because I quoted his sentence : “You can become yourself by exceeding yourself”.

The only two books that have influenced me are the Gita and the Upanishads. What I wrote was the work of intuition and inspiration working on the basis of my spiri­tual experience. I have no other technique like the modern philosopher whose philosophy I consider only intellectual and therefore of secondary value. Experience and formula­tion of experience I consider as the true aim of philosophy. The rest is merely intellectual work and may be interesting but nothing more.

(A.B. Purani, Evening Talks, First Series, dated 26th August 1940, p 127)