It was the Summer of 1974. Mornings I entered the world of Sri Aurobindo, or the Adventure of Consciousness. Evenings I worked the night shift at Hussmann Refrigerator Company assembling checkout counters in the dimly lit cavern of a factory. At midnight we punched out. Rinse and repeat.
In a certain sense we are nothing but a complex mass of mental, nervous and physical habits held together by a few ruling ideas, desires and associations–an amalgam of many small self-repeating forces with a few major vibrationsSri Aurobindo, as quoted by Satprem in Chapter 4, “The Silent Mind”
To this Satprem commented, “the first task of yoga is to breathe freely.”
That was it. I was hooked. Here was the path to freedom. This book had wormed its way into my life.
Satprem. My friend. The Nazis threw you into a concentration camp. You wandered the earth, suffering so much for the Truth. Banished by the disciples of the very same Aurobindo you brought so many people to. You taught me that the soul is:
the sunlit space where all is forever known
He who chooses the Infinite has been chosen by the Infinite. Now, in the final third of my life, what do I have to show for once being touched by the Infinite? I too have wandered the earth, stumbling, lost, and dazed. Satprem, I have carried your book with me from city to city until the pages fell out. And then I would push it aside when I could reach no further. Alone in the desert, lasting years at a time.
What can we really know of this earthly journey? In 1988 when I lived in New Orleans I carried your book across Lake Pontchartrain and sat in a cabin for days until I thought I understood something. But I still didn’t understand that my escape meant nothing. Satprem, if it weren’t for you I would never have encountered these words from Essays on the Gita:
to look existence in the face is to look God in the face; for the two cannot be separated….the world of our battle and labor is a fierce dangerous destructive devouring world in which life exists precariously and the soul and body of man move among enormous perils, a world in which every step forward, whether we will it or no, something is crushed and broken, in which every breath of life is a breath too of death.Sri Aurobindo, as quoted by Satprem in Chapter 11, “Oneness”
Now, in the Fall of 2020, I have returned to your book. Satprem. And the goal remains elusive, an everlasting challenge. From The Life Divine:
To know, possess and be the divine being in an animal and egoistic
consciousness, to convert our twilit or obscure physical mentality into the plenary supramental illumination, to build peace
and a self-existent bliss where there is only a stress of transitory
satisfactions besieged by physical pain and emotional suffering,
to establish an infinite freedom in a world which presents itself
as a group of mechanical necessities, to discover and realise
the immortal life in a body subjected to death and constant
mutation, — this is offered to us as the manifestation of God in
Matter and the goal of Nature in her terrestrial evolution.
Earth’s pains were the ransom of its prisoned delight
For joy and not for sorrow earth was made