Vishnu’s Fourth Stride, from Humanity to Divinity

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Editor’s note: April 4th, 1910 was the date when Sri Aurobindo reached Pondicherry, his “cave of tapasya”. It was on a divine ādesha that he left Chandernagore for Pondicherry. Taking complete withdrawal from active politics he plunged deep into Yoga.

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This month brings another significant date – April 24, the date of second and final arrival of the Mother in Pondicherry in 1920. As an offering for these special days, we feature this essay by Nolini Kanta Gupta. It summarises the Life Divine which Sri Aurobindo and the Mother were building with their Supramental Yoga. Theirs was the God’s Labour for the next future of the earth and humanity.

Originally titled ‘Sri Aurobindo – 2’, this essay is included in the book ‘The Yoga of Sri Aurobindo – Part Eleven‘ (Sri Aurobindo Ashram Press, 1971, pp. 75-82). The editors have made a few formatting changes for this digital presentation.


The poet of patriotism, the prophet of nationalism and the lover of humanity” he was, in the famous words of his advocate and friend and follower who stood for him before the bar of History for his cause, and not merely before a British Court of Justice. Indeed he was all that, but today we have to add another epithet and complete the description.

For he is now the builder of the Life Divine.

This was indeed the secret Truth that worked in him from behind and gave to these earlier preoccupations the reality and the beauty they attained and the fullness of their significance. He worked for human evolution, that was his life mission. He thus formulates the stages of human evolution:

Family, nationality, humanity are Vishnu’s three strides from an isolated to a collective unity. The first has been fulfilled, we yet strive for the perfection of the second, towards the third we are reaching out our hands and the pioneer work is already attempted.

~ CWSA, Vol. 12, p. 467
But the supreme secret lies in Vishnu’s fourth stride, from humanity to divinity.

That is the goal of the evolution and that furnishes also the key to the solution of the problem. Whether in the matter of the family or the nationality or humanity in general there has been a stalemate, a stagnation, even a frustration; an effort towards progress seemed to lead more towards conflict, disharmony, away from what is beautiful and good and happy. That is bound to be.

Man must reach his very highest and deepest, his absolute itself before he can arrive at perfection in the lower and the relative. Man must exceed himself if he is to fulfil himself. A new connotation has to be found for family and nationality and even humanity. That connotation, Sri Aurobindo says, is divinity.

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We must understand however that there is divinity and divinity. There is a divinity that suffers, supports and transcends all that is existent. For it is the all-reality, all-consciousness, the ever-present and omnipresent Immutable behind the mutabilities of creation. That does not take part in the cosmic struggle, the universal urge of progress forward.

Apart from the divinity that suffers, there is a divinity that shapes — and is shaped at the same time, shapes from behind and is shaped itself in front. This dynamic Divine Sri Aurobindo calls the supramental Divine or the incarnate Divine Mother.

In the inevitable course of evolution man is something that will be surpassed, not in the sense that he will be rejected and thrown out as an unnecessary element, like some of the prehistoric animals, no, he will still be at the head of earthly creation, but undergo a sea-change, as it were, and be transmuted into a divine creature.

As at present man is a mental being, that is to say, it is his mind — his reason and intellect — that governs him and it is through that faculty that he governs the world.

But mind is not the highest or the most powerful faculty in him, nor the last term of his consciousness. Beyond the mind there rise other powers of consciousness, tier upon tier, and man can go there, live there or bring them down into his normal life and change it into their pattern.

The highest of these Sri Aurobindo calls the plane of Truth-Consciousness, the Supermind. It is the supreme luminous Power — the Light of lights — towards which the creation moves and by which the creation is moved in secret. It is the heart-centre of fulfilled harmony.

Man has been striving through his lesser powers, through the grace of the lower gods since his advent upon earth to arrive at a reconstruction of his life and surroundings. That is why he has never attained the full measure of success. Indeed a period of success or progress was always followed by a period of decline and retrogression, a so-called golden age by an age of iron.

As a matter of fact today humanity finds itself terribly enclosed in a cage of iron as it were. The earth has become too small for his soaring capacities and multitudinous necessities— he is already thinking of a place in the moon! That is only the sign and symbol of an inner impasse to which he has arrived.

The anguish of the human soul has reached its acme: the problems, social, political, educational, moral it is facing have proved themselves to be totally insoluble.

Yes, he has run into a cul-de-sac, where he is caught as in a death-trap. No ordinary rational methods, half-way nostrums can deliver him any more. All the outer doors and issues are now closed for him; the only way is to turn inward, there lies the open road to freedom and fulfilment. That is the way to transcendence and surpassing. To attempt any other way is not only to try the impossible but to head straight towards doomsday.

The time then is now, for the time is ripe.

It will not do to say that the way proposed is beyond the reach of the common man. He has neither the capacity nor the knowledge nor even the inclination or impulse to surpass himself, to do anything non-human.

First of all, as I said, if man is to survive in any form, this is the only way and there is no second. Next, what do we know of the capacity and impulsion even of the common man? Even in a smaller scale and on the material level, have we not seen to what tremendous acts of heroism he can rise automatically, through what travails—tapasya—of concentrated effort he agreed to pass, simply because the occasion demanded it?

Man’s secret soul is greater than all the limitation of his outward frame.

That does not mean that the entire human race will wholly change over to the new life. All, without exception, are not expected to come up to the highest level of fulfilment. But that is not required, for the beginning at least.

It is always the few pioneers, a select group of forerunners that form the foundation of a new creation. A first snowball perhaps, but it moves and gathers others on the way and builds up larger and larger collectivities. At all crises of evolutionary cycles such beings inevitably appear, they are thrown up by Nature or they come down from above and incarnate; especially it is so when Nature proposes to take a leap and not merely trudge and crawl.

It is the fulfilment of Nature that has to happen and is happening, the fulfilment of the inferior Nature in and through the higher divine Nature.

Here we come perhaps to the very heart of the mystery. For till now, till almost yesterday, we may say in a general way, the spiritual life, any kind of divine life was considered possible only through battling with Nature, through a struggle upstream against the current of Nature. Indeed Nature was despised, feared, rejected as an enemy of the Spirit.

But today the wheel seems to have turned full circle. The Spirit recognises the body as its counterpart and visible form, welcomes the body as its earthly figure and expression. The old antinomy has become obsolete, because the body too on its side recognises that it has not the structure and character that millennial ignorance gave it. The material particles that constitute the physical body are found to be after all not inert masses but quantas of energy, of luminous energy.

The spiritual Light above demands nothing better for its earthly home.

This is symbolical of the collaboration that Nature is now offering to the Spirit. A new substance, made of light-energy emanating from Consciousness-Force, is now slowly permeating the earth atmosphere, as the Mother declares and it is this that will serve as the basis of the new creation and give it its law and constitution.

A new world built out of knowledge and vision and luminous power is destined to come, for man is no longer in love with his ignorance, but a divine afflatus is possessing him.

The new world has to be based on new foundations.

The old world was built from outside with superficial cheap elements that lower Nature offers easily and profusely. It is body’s needs, vital hungers assembled and arranged according to a plan supplied by mind’s ideas and notions under the directive and compulsion of the ego, the sense or consciousness of one’s separate individual existence as against others.

The new world will start from the soul, the luminous divine element in man which is one with all and grow from within outward. It is as if the foundations are laid not below, but above—the tree of existence would branch out not from below upwards, but from above downward, in the image given by the ancient Rishis of India.

The individual will therefore be not primarily a body housing secondary—or as it is sometimes called epiphenomenal—movements such as those of the mind and the vital limited and largely conditioned by it. The individual will primarily be a consciousness, a focus of energy-consciousness existing and acting in union and communion with all other similar individual foci, for all form one single undivided entity. The body and life and mind are moulded in the substance and rhythm of that sovereign consciousness.

The hard egoism or self-centredness, the gross animality that seem to be the very constitution of the human individual are dissolved into the soul’s radiant urges.

The individual can be and is to be fulfilled in and through his soul—the presiding consciousness that has at its disposal the mind, the vital and the body as its instruments and means of expression, but which till now, because of an evolutionary necessity of growth and development, acted more as an obstruction or a veil than as an aid or a channel.

When in the new consciousness the individual attains its soul-status, in other words, its divinity, then a reshaping and recasting of the lower limbs becomes possible and even inevitable. The soul status means freedom, harmony, purity, knowledge, power, delight and immortality, absolute and inalienable.

As individuals grow in this line, the social structure too is altered and transmuted.

The harmony and fullness that individuals present are automatically represented in the collective grouping. Instead of a battling competitive society we have not merely a cooperative but a unitive community striving in a common aspiration towards a single unique achievement.

For all individuals know and feel that they are but various limbs of the same organism, luminously and unfailingly functioning each in its and for its own appointment—expressing differently the one Light supreme.

And nations that are finding so difficult, almost impossible, to form a comity, that are in their disparate tendencies driving towards a catastrophe, perhaps annihilation, shall undergo a sea-change. The nation, the national being is also a reality, a divine reality that has to come to its own—that is to say, its own soul.

For there is a collective soul, as well as an individual soul. It is the presiding deity, the norm of consciousness and being that works out the growth and evolution of a collectivity that has found a common life.

This collectivity is also enlarging itself in wider and wider commonalty. As we see actually today the nation is tending towards and growing into the supra-nation or Commonwealth or Federation as it is termed politically.

The conception of the United States of the world is taking possession of the human mind; it is being applied and larger and more integrated collective groupings than the nation are developing; they may ere long become familiar realities. Such formations moving towards and effectuating the one indivisible humanity open out the possibility towards a superhumanity which will have to base itself on a new principle of organisation; for that must be a new mode of consciousness.

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Even the family, the first unit of collective formation in humanity that has attained a fulfilled status, is yet capable of a remodelling, a transmutation in the higher supramental consciousness. The family instead of being built upon blood-relationship may surely have a different foundation in soul-kinship, in affinity of consciousness, comradeship in life-work. It means a total revolution, a reversal of nature, the roots being above instead of being below, as already referred to.

Such far-reaching changes may well be called for and inevitable if mankind is to be radically cured of all the illnesses of which it is till now a natural prey. The full health of a divine body in its individual as well as its collective and global functioning is assured only when the human being is lifted out of its mental sheath and established in the supramental status.

It is an adventure for the heroic soul, for the vanguards of humanity; but its fruition will spread abroad a benefit that even the common level shall share, even those that denied shall offer their accession and adhesion.


~ Design: Beloo Mehra

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