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The Tenth Day of Victory

The Tenth Day of Victory cover


The unusual nature of events which transpired in my life in 1971, encouraged me to record salient features of those experiences. I did this in the summer of 1972, in Pondicherry, India. However, at that time I was unable to make an accurate assessment of what had occurred because the process was still in its infant stage. Nonetheless, it seemed important to write about the experiences more or less as they were taking place. I had reason to believe that a fuller understanding eventually would come.

Thus the first portion of this autobiographical study was written in mid 1972; the rest, covering the remainder of 1972 and all of 1973, was written a number of years later. It was at that time that I decided to follow the structure in the division of the study which the process itself revealed, as well as to extend the exercise to include a full record of what by then had become clear and coherent to me. I realised that there were cycles in the experiences consisting of nine years each, but marked off by periods of three years and their multiples. Hence, the first part would cover three years, 1971 to 1974; the second portion would comprise the six years, or second multiple of three, from 1974 to 1980; while the last portion would cover the third multiple of three – 1980 to 1989. This rhythm or harmony was borne out by the circumstances of my life and yoga during the eighteen years about which I intend to write.

The better part of 1971 was spent undergoing an 'initiation', for want of a better word. It served to induce a state of consciousness which would prove to be a congenial and fertile terrain for what would occur over the next decades. Most important of all, a 'seed' had been planted in the early period of the initiation and this nuclear element created a structural basis and atmosphere for everything that would transpire in my life thereafter. As I look back on those early events, one feature of the initiation stands out above all others, as if it were a binding energy in the process, its raison d'être. And this, I later came to realize, constituted the heart and soul of the yoga Sri Aurobindo and the Mother of Pondicherry bequeathed to seekers. In their Integral Yoga the primary focus of the initial stages must necessarily be on the act of surrender. But, as all those who begin the practice of their yoga soon come to realise, an accurate definition of just what 'surrender' might be is not easy to formulate. Above all, there is the question, Surrender of what, and to whom or to what?

The discoveries I made in 1971 – forced upon me, I must add – allowed me to appreciate the true nature of the world. I soon realised that our material universe – that is, the physical reality we are an intrinsic part of – is a crust, as it were, within which are numerous more subtle dimensions. In those dimensions there are forces operating, in certain instances capable of crossing thresholds which separate these worlds to interact with elements in our material universe. Needless to say, my first contacts with those forces and the experiences I had as a result were highly disturbing, given the unknown quantity I was dealing with. Gradually, however, I was able to sort out the happenings and put some order into the affair. The most disturbing aspect of all was the inability in the initial stages to know with impeccable certainty exactly who the 'spirit' or 'being' or 'presence' was that appeared to be guiding the process. As I review the events I realise that a major portion of the three years which formed the first period of this study were spent in pursuit of a knowledge which could provide an objective framework for the yoga and the act of surrender.

The question of surrender assumes special prominence in Sri Aurobindo's integral yoga. Indeed, the success of the endeavour hinges in large part on the attainment of a progressively more complete act of surrender. But the condition of the human consciousness complicates the issue considerably. At the root of the problem lies the inability to discriminate between the impulses to action which stem from one's ego nature, or other, higher possibilities of which the initiation provided the first insights. To appreciate the distinction it is first of all necessary to understand something of the true character of the human species, in particular its incomplete status. That is, the human race is engaged in an organically and progressively self-refining operation. This, indeed, is the first premise of Sri Aurobindo's revolutionary teaching. The second is that a new spirituality is manifesting which deals directly with the method to introduce and perhaps accelerate the advent of the next level of human evolution, – what he called the Supramental or Truth-Conscious creation.

It is the second premise which forces the seeker to deal with certain features of our world that are ignored or rejected in the old spirituality. And this fact draws into play the question of surrender. Since the world, our material universe, is seen in this teaching as the field in which the new and superior race is to evolve and where it is to become established, the forces operating in this arena cannot be ignored or brushed aside as illusory or unreal substances. All the former paths demanded that this material plane be transcended entirely, by one method or another; and success was gauged by the degree to which the practitioner was able to peel off layer upon layer of this materiality until the embodied consciousness merged with the Transcendent, dissolving the nexus of consciousness binding one to this plane, pinning one down to this woeful planet Earth. The 'heavens' of all religions, or the 'samadhis' of many schools of Indian yoga, are descriptions of a reality that exists beyond this material crust, as it were. Or else there are the schools of Buddhism – Zen, for example – which emphasise unabashedly the impermanence and hence illusory nature of this material universe, filled with forces in interaction and constant motion; all of which constitute an inferior state. Liberation in these paths signifies the dissolving (nirvana) of any thread in the human consciousness which can bind the seeker to the material and subtle universes. Birth is thus simply a passage, an entry into a field in which this sort of liberation can be attained. Ultimately, the goal is a cessation of birth entirely. To stress the fact that birth is equated with a 'fall', Buddhist tradition sustains that liberated beings who are free from the entanglements of birth and death may choose to be reborn. This choice is the result of their infinite compassion and egolessness: Boddhisatvas return to Earth merely to show seekers the path they need to tread in order to EXIT this plane for good and become liberated from birth forever.

In view of this aim, any transaction with forces operating in the subtle or denser planes, as in Tantric Buddhism, is considered a means to transcend. Their existence provides an atmosphere for the seeker to attain liberation. There is no other purpose involved. In other words, the world is intrinsically unreal, – or real only insofar as it is a field for this escape.

Of course these hypotheses do not answer fundamental questions, foremost of which is the purpose for such an arrangement, imposed on all souls born into this material universe and in particular on Earth. To any pondering intelligence, at some stage the question forcefully arises: Is this all there is? Is birth only for the purpose of transcending – be this either through one life or many lives? Is the Earth merely a testing ground where 'God' will ultimately pass judgment and send one either to heaven or to hell, eternally? If this is so, it appears to be a very complicated design for so small a goal. Why take birth at all if the ultimate attainment is no birth? In addition, what role does suffering play in the design, for surely 'God' could have devised a more painless transition, if transition had been the sole purpose in creation of this material universe.

At one time or another all human beings are brought face to face with the unavoidable fact of death. If we propose to question the purpose of birth, then we must also deal with the most painful of earthly experiences: the death of all things born on this planet and part of its evolutionary process. Indeed, one point is entirely clear. The purpose of this Earth is to provide a field for organic evolution. This cannot be denied. But whether it is 'purposeless' or full of a divine Purpose, none have been able to affirm with any degree of irrefutable certainty.

Spirituality views the destiny of the planet statically. In such a vision Earth is indeed a 'hell' insofar as it is the field in which to become aware of the inferior and irredeemable condition of material creation, as well as the place to discover the method of escape. We are thoroughly indoctrinated to accept this function as the only purpose for evolution on Earth. All spiritual paths and religions have therefore accommodated themselves to this 'truth'. Until the advent of Sri Aurobindo.

In 1872 the birth of Sri Aurobindo brought a new light into the world. But even today as I write these lines in March of 1990, the real scope and newness of the message he brought is not fully appreciated. For it is not simply a 'message'. Sri Aurobindo's birth introduced a new element in the evolutionary process. The experiences I began having in early 1971 gradually opened my eyes to the quality of this new element. Finally, when I had attained a certain maturity in the quest, I could no longer describe his teachings as 'spiritual', or even a new spirituality. It was something else, something entirely, completely different. Indeed, the 'initiation' I was carried through disclosed the true character of Sri Aurobindo's revolutionary coming. At the same time, treading this path revealed the nature of the new world that is being born. This world can best be described as the field wherein the Truth- Consciousness is evolving and is gradually expanding from its 'seed' status to envelop the entire Earth field. Thus, what is recorded in this study is the lived experience of the birth of a new world. That is, a record of transition from the old to the new.

There have been major transitions in the course of evolution prior to the momentous turning point of our times. Nonetheless, a very special quality distinguishes the present one from all others. It is the presence of a witnessing consciousness, so to speak. That is, the passage is not an unconscious, inexplicable leap from animal to man, or from an unknown to a further unknown. Rather, it must be described as a process of becoming conscious within the parameters of a race subjected to severe limitations of consciousness, imprisoned in a world of ignorance which such limitations determine; and based on a new faculty of awareness whereby the leap forward into tomorrow's unknown is consciously pursued. Thus, when we move ahead we carry the light of that awareness with us on our journey. It is then that the motto of Aeon Centre of Cosmology at Skambha, borrowed from Sri Aurobindo, is realised: From truth to greater truth.

That truth we aspire to is not static. This is the most important distinction to make. All spirituality and religions found their teachings on the assumption that the core of the teaching is eternal and valid for all times. This assumption can only be true if we are able to extract this core from an evolving world. If we isolate it and make it a distant light to be reached or attained in a static and unevolving dimension ('heaven'), then it is entirely possible to speak of 'eternal truths of the revealed Word'. But in so doing difficulties surface: the reconciliation of that static truth and the evolving conditions in which this truth seeks to express itself. In a nutshell, this is the problem humanity has faced from the first moment the human consciousness began to dwell on the nature of reality.

In Sri Aurobindo's exposition the problem is solved at the outset when a bridge is forged between the immobile and the mobile. It is the simultaneity of the expression that revolutionises perception. And it is this reconciliation of apparently unreconcilable opposites which forms the basis for the method to transform the old field into the new and higher manifestation, and fulfillment of the Earth's true destiny.

Thus, in this new dispensation Truth evolves pari passu with the march of the species and the embodied consciousness. What this signifies in practical terms is that perception and experience must always be integral. The record I am presenting describes the passage from a separative state of consciousness, where integrality is impossible to achieve, to one in which the total field of our awareness is integrated and centred on a unity of being. The result is that the former separation ceases to hold sway. That which moves partakes of truth as much as that which lies in some immobile and distant Beyond. To put it succinctly, the mobile is simply the vehicle of manifestation for the Immobile, and hence its contribution is indispensable in any integral Reality and is its most precious component as far as the human evolving consciousness is concerned.

I may go further to state that the Truth-Consciousness in movement, its workings perceived and followed in our material world, was an infinitely more satisfying experience than dissolutions and voids and static non-beings and immobile silences.

I am proceeding a bit too quickly by revealing aspects of the process which became apparent only at a later stage. Initially it was necessary to forge a contact with an inner Presence. But in this too a newness surfaced almost instantly, with the very first experiences. While this Presence was inner or inwardly experienced, at the same time the experiences themselves revealed that one of the principal reversals of the perceiving consciousness was the impossibility to continue drawing the old dividing line between inner and outer. No such classification could hold when discussing the actions or placement of this Force. Concurrently, the emphasis from the beginning was the Earth-centredness of the process, the stress on a realisation of the Supreme Consciousness on this planet, in a physical body, and central to every aspect of life and each and every experience the Earth knows. Therefore, nothing I will describe in the following pages was the result of trance or withdrawal of the consciousness from the physical body. This in itself was the most revolutionary aspect of the process, distinguishing it from other paths of self-perfection.

This Earth-centred quality, accompanied by a perceptive faculty fully awake and rooted in the material dimension, understandably introduced difficulties in those early years. First of all, I had to deal with the newness of the approach and the unusual happenings which were necessary in order to open a new path. Added to this was the fact that initially I had no clear vision of what that path was nor its necessity. This understanding came as the process evolved. Consequently, the question of surrender to this guiding Power assumed utmost importance. If the world was not to be rejected and the play of energies was to find its proper place and purpose in the scheme of things, then a true appreciation of these forces and their cosmic necessity could not be ignored or considered irrelevant. And if there was a method to the madness of material creation, this had to be discovered.

A significant aspect of the early stages of my yoga involved what may be described as 'the act of choosing'. This extended beyond the individual and before long it was apparent that civilisation itself was embarking upon some momentous turning point in which a form of collective choosing would play a central role. In ancient mythologies the choice before the seeker is often described as the Dark or the Light. The children of Truth position themselves on the side of the Light, while the offspring of Satan – however he may be called in the different theologies – choose the Dark and become everafter its instruments. Finally there is a showdown. One or the other must prevail and conquer in order to draw the Earth back from the brink of some fateful Abyss.

This was essentially the nature of my early experiences, in particular during the initiation stage. And as knowledge increased a new understanding evolved of these ancient traditions which brought the moment of truth, of choice of truth over falsehood, into the context of our present-day world. Indeed, something significant emerged almost at the outset: Where does one draw the line? What, truly speaking, constitutes the difference between Dark and Light? I was forced to admit that morality played only a small part in any correct assessment. In addition, it seemed that one of the principal goals of that guiding Presence was to break down any ideas I might have entertained in this regard. Good and Evil were relatives and I was given experiences which were akin to electric shocks in my consciousness for the purpose, it seemed, of shattering any preconceptions that might limit the action of the Force I was dealing with and the transformation it was carrying out. Once the slate was clean, so to speak, and preconceptions were done away with to allow a wider vision to emerge, the choice of our times was apparent: the Old or the New.

This was simple enough to appreciate, for there were abundant indications in the late 1960s and early 1970s to suggest that the world as we know it was in some way at the end of its tether. Even the average intelligence had to accept that some tremendous shift was being prepared for societies the world over. But in this perception one could sense that the first sacrifice at the altar of newness was the moralistic foundations which have held our civilisation together from time immemorial.

Thus, choosing presented itself as a clinging to the old and the known, or a bold and courageous and decisive step forward into the unknown and the new tomorrow. In a word, it was a choice between the past or the future, but in some mysterious way, a new future. Somehow the successful march forward into this new and exciting world had to be made CONSCIOUSLY. The question of choosing therefore introduced a new awareness in the evolutionary progress, a sort of release of sleeping energies, we might say, unlike former times when the great leaps the race had made were all impositions, afflictions of a gross unconsciousness.

Thus this act – so central to the experiences I shall now describe – perforce involved a true and real understanding of the old world and its boundaries which had to be exceeded. There was as well the method for this extension to come about in the present, which would then illumine the path and ultimate goal. Gradually, as knowledge increased, the path itself at each moment in its unfolding became the goal. That is, Becoming was entirely equal to Being.

What is this state of Being so coveted by seekers of many diverse paths, though for the most part entirely misunderstood? Similarly, – and I return to my original question, – what is Surrender, and to what or to whom? For they are interconnected. When the integral surrender of all parts of the being is an established fact, one realises BEING, or Sat of Indian tradition.

Thus surrender, as an intrinsic part of the act of choosing, is simply a state of Being. It means that central to the consciousness there is only THAT. Centremost there is a dimension which must be described as 'spaceless' – but not a void. In that 'point' there is BEING. That-ness. Only That. The act of surrender is thus the realisation or unveiling of the divine Presence centremost in our life and consciousness-being. When this process is complete there is really no question of choice at all, nor even surrender. The entire being is possessed by the Presence and reflects the divine Purpose in each and every lived experience on Earth. That divine Purpose becomes unveiled at the core of our embodied consciousness and being.

In this light, it will become evident why I put so much effort in the early stages of my yoga into discovering what it was I had been brought into contact with and where it was all headed. Instinctively I knew that I was engaged in an unveiling process. It was essential to continue the pursuit to its fullest depths and heights, peeling off layer after layer. A halt halfway could prove fatal. But what, after all, was 'halfway'? In other words, an integral seeing alone could save one from a treacherous 'fall' and disastrous incompletion. I knew that this, above all else, was responsible for humanity's increasing misery: the inability of the fragile human creature to follow the process through to completion in a state of conscious surrender to the new, with no preconceived afflictions from the old, binding one to the past and therefore subjected to a drain of energies. The result is a precarious balance on a pole of tension which closes out the experience of a new and dawning world.

There is no moralistic judgment involved, no loss of one's soul and the like. There is simply an act of surrender and acceptance of the new, on its own terms. We either agree to make this conscious transition, or we remain imprisoned in the old and playout the collapse of a dying world. The choice we are faced with draws up from the depths of the intrepid seeker the finest energies of the true warrior of the Divine, for this dawning world belongs to the Earth's heroes of her cause.

The very newness of that dawning world implied that there were no established guidelines to turn to. As one example, and to demonstrate how painful this suspension was, let me quote a portion of my story which involved a climax in the first months of the yoga. I wrote this account in the summer of 1972; yet it was not until more than two years had passed before I received confirmation that what I had experienced and recorded was not only valid but a fundamental aspect of the new yoga.

In late 1974 I came upon a book published for the first time in August of that year, consisting of essays by Sri Aurobindo, translated into English from the Bengali, entitled Karakahini, or Tales of Prison Life [Sri Aurobindo Pathamandir, Calcutta, August 1974]. What Sri Aurobindo recorded in those pages I found to be amazingly similar to what I had experienced and written about concerning my own yoga several years prior to the discovery of this book in which he gives details of his own major breakthrough. In Alipore Jail in 1908, during the year of his painful confinement, undeniably Sri Aurobindo had been involved in a process which unveiled his true destiny and divine mission, and this was almost identical to what I had experienced. Clearly both he and I had been carried through the same 'initiation'. The method or process was the same. Perhaps one of the most fulfilling moments in my early quest was the day I came upon these pages and at last had confirmation, from Sri Aurobindo himself, about the nature of events which were highly disturbing and entirely puzzling. Concerning his breakthrough, he wrote:

    Troubled by mental listlessness I spent a few days in agony in this manner. One afternoon as I was thinking streams of thought began to flow endlessly and then suddenly these grew so uncontrolled and incoherent that I could feel that the mind's regulating power was about to cease. Afterwards when I came back to myself, I could recollect that though the power of mental control had ceased, the intelligence was not self-lost or did not deviate for a moment, but it was as if the intelligence was watching quietly this marvellous phenomenon. But at the time, shaking with the terror of being overcome by insanity, I had not been able to notice that I called upon God with eagerness and intensity and prayed to him to prevent my loss of intelligence. That very moment there spread over my being such a gentle and cooling breeze, the heated brain became relaxed, easy and supremely blissful such as in all my life I had never known before. Just as a child sleeps, secure and without fear, on the lap of his mother, so I remained on the lap of the World-Mother. From that day all my troubles of prison life were over. Afterwards on many occasions, during the period of detention, inquietude, solitary imprisonment, and mental unease because of lack of activity, bodily trouble or disease, in the lean periods of yogic life, these have come, but that day in a single moment God had given my inner being such strength that these sorrows as they came and went did not leave any trace or touch on the mind; relishing strength and delight in the sorrow itself the mind was able to reject these subjective sufferings. The sufferings seemed as fragile as water drops on a lotus leaf . . . Though it is not the purpose of these articles to write a history of my inner life, still I could not but mention this fact. From this one incident it will be clear how it was possible to live happily during long solitary confinement. It was for this reason that God had brought about this situation or experience. Without turning me mad he had enacted in my mind the gradual process towards insanity that takes place in solitary confinement, keeping my intelligence as the unmoved spectator of the entire drama. Out of this came strength, and I had an excess of kindness and sympathy for the victims of human cruelty and torture. I also realised the extraordinary power and efficacy of prayer. (pp.60-62.)

In 1971, in my own private 'jail', during a carefully arranged 'solitary confinement' of my own, I experienced what Sri Aurobindo has described above, whose purpose was the same: to forge an inner and unshakable strength of being. I wrote about this experience in 1972, Sri Aurobindo's centenary year, as part of the record that follows . . .

    From that point on the voice in my head began to increase and increase. I asked it to stop, but it continued. I began pleading with it; it went on and on. I was helpless. It had a life of its own within me and I could do nothing to stop it. I had allowed it to come into me and now there was no way to get rid of it. I was desperate for I saw that at this point I was on the border of insanity. I was literally staring insanity in the face; and once that fatal step was taken into the gaping abyss of the world of the insane, I was gone, there would no longer be the strength and the capacity to emerge, the mind would be completely under the power of this macabre force. I remember this moment so vividly, holding my head between my hands and being agonisingly aware that this was the moment: either I came through and was all the better for it, or I was to be swallowed up by this force forever. But instinctively I knew there was only one thing that could save me. And so, I began praying with all my heart, imploring the Supreme to have pity on me and to understand that all I wanted was the light, that supreme Light, that I could not live on if I had to continue in darkness. I placed myself in his hands at that moment and pleaded with him to carry me out of the abyss . . . And suddenly something happened, all became utterly silent, absolutely, totally still – a stillness made all the more so by contrast with the horrific chaos of moments earlier. It was sublime, it was peace, it was the mind in total, complete stillness, when even breath seems to cease . . . These two experiences . . . brought me to feel an immense compassion for those people who are faced with the same situation and have not the strength to emerge. I saw what a certain form of insanity is, how it comes about, and how also the only salvation at that crucial moment is to completely abandon oneself in the arms of the Supreme. I saw that it was only by plunging into the abyss with the surety that one is plunging into the arms of the Beloved that in the darkest chasm one can find the greatest light. But once the link with this Consciousness, which is the seed of the Divine within us, is lost, how are those wretched souls to emerge from their pitiful condition?

© Patrizia Norelli-Bachelet


Ganesa - god of learning & wisdom