Inspiring and thought provoking view on the spiritual path. A bit dated in places, but not less fascinating for it.
There are real gems here though – things you’ll find rarely anywhere else. Though in places this book is evidently rooted in a time before psychology had taken a serious hold on our culture, it will help any serious student onwards. In my case – it reminded me of my main spiritual practice: finding the Light.
Finding the Light
The basic spiritual practice in this book is – if one can do it – to find the highest light in oneself and shine it on any problem one has.
The Mother starts out saying that not everybody can find that light in themselves. That it’s pretty hard. I don’t know about that – A light lit up in me when I was 17 or 18: it was my first and most basic spiritual experience. It set my on my path. Integrating that light was the challenge back then. Today the trouble may be – reminding myself of It, trusting It.
So I thought – hey, this is one visualization exercise that fits my path: finding that light and letting it shine on whatever it is that’s there.
And since I have some medical issues with my breathing this summer, and stress, I thought I’d try this experiment out: The Mother and Sri Aurobindo clearly suggest that their yoga is strong enough to solve health problems. If the yogi is strong enough.
A week later a doctor diagnosed hyperventilation. In other words: my breathing problems had become worse.
Since all of this obviously has to do with stress, I cannot blame The Mother for my problems.
However, she says about dealing with stress that most people go ‘down’. That is: to relax they drink alcohol and so on. She named some famous people who were licentious in their down time. Well, that’s not me. Still, the alternative isn’t very clear. She says we can go ‘up’ – go more spiritual, find support in ‘The Divine’.
Never seek a support elsewhere than in the Divine. Never seek satisfaction elsewhere than in the Divine. Never seek the satisfaction of your needs in anyone else except the Divine – never, for anything at all. All your needs can be satisfied only by the Divine. All your weaknesses can be borne and healed only by the Divine. He alone is capable of giving you what you need in everything, always, and if you try to find any satisfaction or support or help or joy or … Heaven knows what, in anyone else, you will always fall on your nose one day, and that always hurts, sometimes even hurts very much. (4-391; p. 31)
Well, I’m not sure that’s the best advice ever. I mean, I’m independent enough. I’m not likely to take up my doctor’s advice and find professional help dealing with the stress in my life. However, I have made sure the people I’m working with know of the problems I’m facing – I can’t reduce stress in my life on my own. None of us is an island. The Mother here suggests we ARE islands, or should be. Or something.
“The quality of love is in proportion to the transformation of your consciousness.
Levels of being and spiritual advice
I guess the basic issue I have with this book is about levels. Like theosophy the teachings of The Mother and Sri Aurobindo assume levels of being in each of us. There’s the physical, the life energy in each of us, the emotional, the mental, the supra-mental, the Divine. The Divine in each of us is One with the Divine in every Other BTW.
Anyhow – I’m pretty convinced that both The Mother and Sri Aurobindo were very advanced in dealing with and integrating higher levels of consciousness in their day to day lives.
However, when it comes to dealing with the lower levels their advice reeks of another era. An era in which psychology had hardly been developed yet. It was there, and they responded to it, but I don’t think they picked the most promising aspects of it.
In ‘Search for the Soul in Everyday Living‘ there’s a lot of talk about ‘the shadow’ for instance. She says, p. 46:
… Everyone possesses in a large measure, and the exceptional individual in an increasing degree or precision, two opposite tendencies of character, in almost equal proportions, which are like the light and the shadow of the same thing. Thus someone who has the capacity of being exceptionally generous will suddenly find an obstinate avarice rising up in his nature, the courageous man will be a coward in some parts of his being and the good man will suddenly have wicked impulses. …
Someone asked: can one have only the light?
Yes, if one eliminates the shadow. But it must be eliminated. That does not happen by itself. The world as it is is a mixed world. You cannot have an object which gets the light from one side without its casting a shadow on the other. It is like that, and indeed it is the shadows which make you see the lights.…
I have said that this shadow was like a sign of what you had to conquer in your nature in order to be able to realise what you have come to do. If you have a part to play, a mission to fulfill, you will always carry in yourself the main difficulty preventing you from realising it, so that you have within your reach the victory you must win.
There is probably a lot of truth in this. Someone who becomes a public speaker after having been shy as a child, like me, knows the whole spectrum and that will give their performance strength – if, IF they have fully conquered the tension in the opposing inner forces. I’m not saying I’m that great a public speaker, just that I feel the truth of that.
However, as practical advice I’m not sure it works. Eliminating the shadow is not the same thing as facing up to it. Perhaps that’s still what The Mother meant – but in today’s world we would not put things so black and white. I would say there’s a pain at the root of the shadow, and facing up to that, without losing yourself to it fully, is the only way to transform it.
And realizing that pain at the root of it means accepting the shadow as part of oneself. Whereas seeking to eliminate it totally – as the Mother suggests – works to further divide black from white. A divided consciousness can be the result, where an integrated one works better.
[Partly my terminology, partly that of the Mother and Sri Aurobindo. My point here isn’t about whether that’s a complete catalog of states of being in each of us. It isn’t – neither in theosophy, nor in these teachings. ]
- Paperback: 162 pages
- Publisher: Lotus Press (November 24, 1990)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0941524574
- ISBN-13: 978-0941524575