Presently we are passing through the Age of Reason and perhaps preparing ourselves, without being aware of it, for the Age of luminous Intuition. The urge of the spirit of man for God-Light-Freedom-Immortality is certainly there, but it is not sufficiently deep-rooted. There is the positive human potential and it has to get firmed up in the spiritual values and possibilities. The present work is an attempt to discover and promote these values and possibilities in the vision of Sri Aurobindo and the dynamics of the Mother's executive Force. There has to be a conviction that the culmination of the social development into the Age of the ageless Spirit is the secret yearning and motivating force behind the evolutionary Nature's long painstaking and patient working. Humanity's conscious participation in it will assuredly hasten this triumph and this glory. To make us perceive some of these elements is the sincere effort of Towards New Age.
This book is a collection of twelve articles by R Y Deshpande based on Sri Aurobindo's perspective of life and his vision of the future. The work consists of conference talks given by the author, literary praise for Sri Aurobindo's epic poem Savitri
, and refutations of criticism "levelled against" the poem. Deshpande honors some of the works by Sri Aurobindo's closest disciples, gives an extensive critique of Kishor Gandhi's book, Social Philosophy of Sri Aurobindo and the New Age
, and includes informative articles about India and the new millennium and the need for an Indian science.
The book begins with an excellent overview of Sri Aurobindo's life, emphasizing his childhood and keen ability to learn languages, his interest in literature, and his involvement in India's struggle for political freedom. Next we are introduced to Sri Aurobindo's spiritual experiences. Especially interesting is the explanation of the power that brought Sri Aurobindo and the Mother together as a team to perfect the Integral Yoga. Some of the Sanskrit terminology in this chapter would be difficult for a reader who is unfamiliar with Sri Aurobindo's poetry, psychology, and philosophy. Deshpande's words and phrasing, however, are dynamic and joyful. One can actually feel the power of his aspiration to transcend our world of ignorance when he explains how the Mother discovered the means to awaken the body's cells to the divine reality and how, upon his passing from the physical body, Sri Aurobindo gave the Mind of Light to the Mother as a parting gift.
Deshpande gives an excellent explanation of the spiritual discipline practiced by the Mother and how Sri Aurobindo made the supramental descent possible. On April 29, 1956, the Mother announced that the manifestation of the supramental had taken place. "A new light breaks upon the earth, a new world is born."
The epic Savitri
, says Deshpande, gives Sri Aurobindo's spiritual experiences in the nature of a poetic record. Savitri
"characterizes the entire evolutionary march of the Soul of the Earth." The poem is the journey of Sri Aurobindo's integral yoga and a symbol of the difficulties he and the Mother encounter in order to transform physical matter through the supramental consciousness. The story of Savitri is the story of heaven and earth coming together, the story of love conquering death.
In Chapter Five Deshpande defends Sri Aurobindo's poems Ilion
and especially Savitri
against certain criticisms lodged by the English poet Kathleen Raine, whom he feels has done Sri Aurobindo a great injustice. His critique is passionate and poetic, but towards the end, Deshpande makes a hasty generalization about all western poetry as "spiritless," which unfortunately lands him in the same camp he puts Kathleen Raine in.
"The Imponderables" is a stimulating overview of the Bhagavad Gita
and the function of the Avatar. In this chapter Deshpande compares the imponderables of Arjuna and Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita
with the imponderables of Savitri, Narad, Satyavan, and Aswapati in Sri Aurobindo's Savitri
The next three chapters honor some of Sri Aurobindo's close disciples. The first is a tribute to Nirodbaran's poetry and his book Twelve Years with Sri Aurobindo
, which covers the period between 1938 and 1950 when he served Sri Aurobindo as a personal attendant. Included are interesting comments on India's freedom (from British rule) and diversity (the partition of the country along communal lines) and the role of the British against Hitler in World War II. Deshpande quotes the Mother as saying, "Thanks to Nirod, we have a revelation of an altogether unknown side of what Sri Aurobindo was."
In "The Parable of Two Birds" the author examines the sources of the two-bird metaphor found in the Mundaka Upanishad and explains the symbology and poetry of each. He argues that Amal Kiran's poem "Two Birds" is more than just a profound and inspired interpretation of the Vedic-Upanishadic parable, exceeding Ralph Waldo Emerson's "Brahma" and Wordsworth's "The Prelude" in spiritual quality, and ranking as a significant success in the direction of future poetry as envisioned by Sri Aurobindo.
Following "The Parable of Two Birds" is a chapter titled "Nolini Kanta Gupta's Perceptions of Poetry." The author gives the literary background of Nolini Kanta Gupta and his skill in learning French from Sri Aurobindo. Nolini-da's poetry, says Deshpande, is the "Poetry of the Spirit" and his perceptions of poetry come from a spiritual empathy, such as his declaration that beauty is the very center of Rabindranath Tagore's poetic creation because the "perfect perfection of beauty is inherent in the nature of his inner being." Deshpande appreciates Rabindranath Tagore's ability to create images of unique beauty, but he prefers Nolini Kanta Gupta's genius, believing that he stood on the borderline between Overmind and Supermind from where "he saw true poetry as an utterance of the Spirit."
In his essay "A Critique of Social Philosophy," Deshpande begins with a critique of ancient Greek political philosophy. He then turns to a critique of Kishor Gandhi's book Social Philosophy of Sri Aurobindo and the New Age
. Part I of Gandhi's book introduces the reader to Sri Aurobindo's book The Human Cycle
. Part II is devoted to Karl Marx's theory of social development. Although Deshpande handles this essay skillfully, the reader needs a background in Marx's dialectic materialism to better understand his point of view. Deshpande agrees with Gandhi that the answer to our social problems lies in Sri Aurobindo's philosophy of the future evolution of humankind.
India's soul is rich, says Deshpande, but the people have lost contact with their souls, their inner beings. "We are sleeping the sleep of the medieval ages." In this chapter "India and the New Millennium," he calls India to awake from the last thousand years and recover her national identity and nobility. He leads the reader through the Indian crises, from losing contact with the meaning of the Vedas to the frenzied adoption of western life's "commercial buzz." To rejuvenate India he turns to Sri Aurobindo, who said that to recover her soul India must move from the age of reason that plunged her into materialism to the age of intuition in which "the Spirit shall take up the human play."
The book concludes with a question: "Can there be an Indian science?" The author discusses the history of science from the early Greeks to the atom bomb that ended World War II. Although atomic energy can be used for peaceful purposes and scientific advances have given us a new world, he asks if science can make it a better world. Deshpande discourages India from assimilating the scientific gains of the western world. She needs, he insists, to rebuild her own values.Towards New Age
is a sympathetic example of scholarship promoting the poetic and spiritual achievements of Sri Aurobindo. Although some of the subject matter is not easy to penetrate, the book is very well done. R Y Deshpande's presentations are intelligent, well informed, and visionary.
Joan Price, Ph.D.
Dr Price has taught History of Philosophy, Philosophical Psychology, and World Religions in the USA for over three decades. She is the author of An Introduction to Sri Aurobindo's Philosophy.