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The Way out is Up and other stories from Equals One

— Medhananda

Price: Rs 180

Soft Cover
Pages: 155
Dimensions (in cms): 14x22
Publisher: Sri Mira Trust, Pondicherry
ISBN: 978-81-86413-24-1

About The Way out is Up and other stories from Equals One

Medhananda, a German disciple who served as the librarian of the Sri Aurobindo Library for many years, also edited the journal Equals One, or =1 for about fifteen years. The title of this unusual publication is the shortest possible formula to remind us that behind the multiplicity of appearances is an essential oneness of things, a oneness which reconciles all dualities, gives meaning to all events. This collection of articles and stories presents some of the most striking shorter pieces from that journal, while its companion volume Guardians of Oneness and other Tales from Equals One features some of the longer ones.


The books under review The Way out is Up and other stories from Equals One and Guardians of Oneness and other tales from Equals One by Medhananda contain collections of stories published in `=1', an unusual journal with intriguing title and a novel get-up. I was a regular reader of this journal way back in the 1970s because I admired the original and innovative way Medhananda unravelled the mysteries of the philosophical and metaphysical subtleties and niceties of Aurobindonian thought in the form of `stories'. To call these collections `stories' may stretch the definition of `story' a little beyond its connotation. Sometimes they are allegories, sometimes anecdotes, philosophical essays, humorous skits or playlets, dialogues, science fiction and what not. But whatever they are, they are full of `illuminating humour, provocative new viewpoints and symbols that both veil and unveil deep spiritual realities'. Perhaps the `veiling' is the result of the scientific jargon Medhananda employs quite often in these collections which are puzzling because their meanings are known only to the educated readers, that too those who are familiar with the frontiers of science. The style that he adopts, however eminently suitable to the subject with which he deals, suffers from lack of familiarity and this very novelty is Medhananda's forte and his obsession. The myriad forms and modes of narration he employs mirroring his scholarship and depth of understanding, though commendable, suffer from a certain lack of unity and the abruptness with which he begins and ends his `stories' sometimes robs the reader of the full enjoyment he would have otherwise had. This is not to detract from the merit of what he writes for we should be indebted to him for his excellent efforts to introduce Aurobindonian thought to the western public as well as others.

  My first impression of Medhananda after reading his stories was that he was a philosopher, a visionary, a futurist, an ecologist, a psychologist and a scientist all rolled into one. He wore a big `rudraksha mala' around his neck which seemed somewhat incongruous with his western looks. He gave enough evidence of his penchant for symbols when he and Yvonne Artaud took a few of us to a Vishnu Temple (preserved by the Archeological Survey of India) near Pondicherry, and explained the symbolism of the sculptures on the outer wall of the sanctum sanctorum. He must have taken to his heart what Sri Aurobindo meant when He said that the whole manifestation was the symbol of God. It would be an understatement to say that his stories are permeated with symbols and symbolism.

  Let us now take a closer look at these stories. The book Guardians of Oneness contains some of the longer pieces while the other The Way out is Up offers the most striking shorter ones. The recurrent theme of the stories in the first book is Oneness and unity of Consciousness. The title story `Guardians of Oneness' is a curious story, almost an incredible story where there is a perfect symbiosis between man and animals and Medhananda goes even one step further when he says man learnt many things from the mammoths and mastodons and later on from horses. He invokes the legend of Ganesha, the elephant God, God of Wisdom and Prosperity, who is supposed to have written the Mahabharata as a scribe to Maharishi Vyasa who dictated it to him. Medhananda dreams of the future life of mankind which extends to the galaxies and beyond, of the life of man when his evolution is complete when he is totally identified in consciousness with the whole of manifested and unmanifested universes. The Mother talked of replacing the organs of man by Centres of Power or the Chakras and it is interesting to note that Medhananda has incorporated this vision of the Mother in his story `One Million A. D.' He introduces the future man thus, `He seemed like a golden alabaster statue come to life, almost transparent and with seven separate and distinguishable sources of light shimmering through the skin.'

  The illuminating theme of the first book becomes the warp and woof of the fabric that Medhananda weaves in the second book. The title story `The Way out is Up' is a humorous playlet whose characters are God, Man, Mother Earth, Telephone Exchange and Galactic Cybernetics. Man is hanging dangerously on a precipice, psychological and physical; psychological because his mental evolution has come to a dead end, physical because he faces extinction because of overpopulation. Mother Earth after offering some bizarre solutions advises him to contact Galactic Cybernetics who offers the only solution, evolving out of man and becoming a Superman. There are many other stories, playlets etc. all exemplifying the theme `evolution of consciousness'.

  In conclusion Medhananda's stories make us think about man's evolutionary crisis and the solution offered by Sri Aurobindo and the Mother to come out of it. These stories may not be understood by children but humanity at large is still beset with juvenile incomprehension about its own destiny. The panacea that Medhananda offers is `evolve and become God'. Then will the earth see the advent of the Sons of God and `the Wilderness is Paradise enow' as Omar Khayyam says in his Rubaiyat.

  While the printing and other associated things are excellent I feel the price is a little on the higher side.

— K. Balasubramaniam

K. Balasubramaniam teaches English, Mathematics and Numerical Analysis at the Sri Aurobindo International Centre of Education since 1972.

May 2004

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