The Mother Divine
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By Sri Aurobindo

THE PROCESS which has led up to the renaissance now inevitable,may be analysed, both historically and logically,into three steps by which a transition is being managed,a complex breaking, reshaping and new building, with the finalresult yet distant in prospect, —though here and there the firstbases may have been already laid,—a new age of an old culturetransformed, not an affiliation of a new-born civilisation toone that is old and dead, but a true rebirth, a renascence.

Thefirst step was the reception of the European contact, a radicalreconsideration of many of the prominent elements and somerevolutionary denial of the very principles of the old culture. Thesecond was a reaction of the Indian spirit upon the Europeaninfluence, sometimes with a total denial of what it offered and astressing both of the essential and the strict letter of the nationalpast, which yet masked a movement of assimilation. The third,only now beginning or recently begun, is rather a process ofnew creation in which the spiritual power of the Indian mindremains supreme, recovers its truths, accepts whatever it findssound or true, useful or inevitable of the modern idea and form,but so transmutes and Indianises it, so absorbs and so transformsit entirely into itself that its foreign character disappears and itbecomes another harmonious element in the characteristic workingof the ancient goddess, the Shakti of India mastering andtaking possession of the modern influence, no longer possessedor overcome by it.

Nothing in the many processes of Nature, whether she dealswith men or with things, comes by chance or accident or isreally at the mercy of external causes. What things are inwardly,determines the course of even their most considerable changes;and timeless India being what she is, the complexity of this transitionwas predestined and unavoidable. It was impossible thatshe should take a rapid wholesale imprint of Western motivesand their forms and leave the ruling motives of her own pastto accommodate themselves to the foreign change as best theycould afterwards.

A swift transformation scene like that whichbrought into being a new modernised Japan, would have beenout of the question for her, even if the external circumstanceshad been equally favourable. For Japan, lives centrally in hertemperament and in her aesthetic sense, and therefore she hasalways been rapidly assimilative; her strong temperamental persistencehas been enough to preserve her national stamp andher artistic vision a sufficient power to keep her soul alive. ButIndia lives centrally in the spirit, with less buoyancy and vivacityand therefore with a less ready adaptiveness of creation, but with great intense, more brooding depth; her processes are apt tobe deliberate, uncertain and long because she has to take thingsinto that depth and from its profoundest inwardness to modifyor remould the more outward parts of her life. And until thathas been done, the absorption completed, the powers of theremoulding determined, she cannot yet move forward with aneasier step on the new way she is taking.

From the complexityof the movement arises all the difficulty of the problems shehas to face and the rather chaotic confusion of the opinions,standpoints and tendencies that have got entangled in the process,which prevents any easy, clear and decided development,so that we seem to be advancing under a confused pressureof circumstance or in a series of shifting waves of impulsion,this ebbing for that to arise, rather than with any clear idea ofour future direction. But here too lies the assurance that once theinner direction has found its way and its implications have cometo the surface, the result will be no mere Asiatic modification ofWestern modernism, but some great, new and original thing ofthe first importance to the future of human civilisation.

This was not the idea of the earliest generation of intellectuals,few in number but powerful by their talent and originativevigour, that arose as the first result of Western education inIndia. Theirs was the impatient hope of a transformation suchas took place afterwards with so striking a velocity in Japan;they saw in welcome prospect a new India modernised wholesaleand radically in mind, spirit and life. Intensely patriotic inmotive, they were yet denationalised in their mental attitude.They admitted practically, if not in set opinion, the occidentalview of our past culture as only a half-civilisation and theirgoverning ideals were borrowed from the West or at least centrallyinspired by the purely Western spirit and type of theireducation.

From mediaeval India they drew away in revolt andinclined to discredit and destroy whatever it had created; if theytook anything from it, it was as poetic symbols to which theygave a superficial and modern significance. To ancient Indiathey looked back on the contrary with a sentiment of pride,at least in certain directions, and were willing to take from it,whatever material they could subdue to their new standpoint,but they could not quite grasp anything of it in its originalsense and spirit and strove to rid it of all that would not squarewith their Westernised intellectuality. They sought for a bare,simplified and rationalised religion, created a literature whichimported very eagerly the forms, ideas and whole spirit of theirEnglish models,—the value of the other arts was almost entirelyignored,—put their political faith and hope in a wholesaleassimilation or rather an exact imitation of the middle-classpseudo-democracy of nineteenth-century England, would haverevolutionised Indian society by introducing into it all the socialideas and main features of the European form.

Whatever valuefor the future there may be in the things they grasped at with thiseager conviction, their method was, as we now recognise, a false method, —an anglicised India is a thing we can no longer viewas either possible or desirable, —and it could only, if pursued tothe end, have made us painful copyists, clumsy followers alwaysstumbling in the wake of European evolution and always fiftyyears behind it. This movement of thought did not and couldnot endure; something of it still continues, but its engrossingpower has passed away beyond any chance of vigorous revival.

Nevertheless, this earliest period of crude reception left behindit results that were of value and indeed indispensable toa powerful renaissance. We may single out three of them asof the first order of importance. It reawakened a free activityof the intellect which, though at first confined within very narrowbounds and derivative in its ideas, is now spreading to allsubjects of human and national interest and is applying itselfwith an increasing curiosity and a growing originality to everyfield it seizes. This is bringing back to the Indian mind its oldunresting thirst for all kinds of knowledge and must restore toit before long the width of its range and the depth and flexiblepower of its action; and it has opened to it the full scope of thecritical faculty of the human mind, its passion for exhaustiveobservation and emancipated judgment which, in older timesexercised only by a few and within limits, has now become anessential equipment of the intellect.

These things the imitativeperiod did not itself carry very far, but it cast the germ whichwe now see beginning to fructify more richly. Secondly, it threwdefinitely the ferment of modern ideas into the old culture andfixed them before our view in such a way that we are obligedto reckon and deal with them in far other sort than would havebeen possible if we had simply proceeded from our old fixedtraditions without some such momentary violent break in ourcustomary view of things.

Finally, it made us turn our look uponall that our past contains with new eyes which have not onlyenabled us to recover something of their ancient sense and spirit,long embedded and lost in the unintelligent practice of receivedforms, but to bring out of them a new light which gives to the old truth’s fresh aspects and therefore novel potentialities of creationand evolution. That in this first period we misunderstood ourancient culture, does not matter; the enforcement of a reconsideration,which even orthodox thought has been obliged toaccept, is the fact of capital importance.

The second period of reaction of the Indian mind upon thenew elements, its movement towards a recovery of the nationalpoise, has helped us to direct these powers and tendencies intosounder and much more fruitful lines of action. For the anglicisingimpulse was very soon met by the old national spiritand began to be heavily suffused by its influence. It is now avery small and always dwindling number of our present-dayintellectuals who still remain obstinately Westernised in theiroutlook; and even these have given up the attitude of blatantand uncompromising depreciation of the past which was at onetime a common pose. A larger number have proceeded by aconstantly increasing suffusion of their modernism with muchof ancient motive and sentiment, a better insight into the meaningof Indian things and their characteristics, a free acceptancemore of their spirit than of their forms and an attempt at newinterpretation.

At first the central idea still remained very plainlyof the modern type and betrayed everywhere the Western inspiration,but it drew to itself willingly the ancient ideas and itcoloured itself more and more with their essential spirit; andlatterly this suffusing element has overflooded, has tended moreand more to take up and subdue the original motives until thethought and spirit, turn and tinge are now characteristicallyIndian.

The works of Bankim Chandra Chatterji and Tagore,the two minds of the most distinctive and original genius in ourrecent literature, illustrate the stages of this transition.Side by side with this movement and more characteristicand powerful there has been flowing an opposite current. Thisfirst started on its way by an integral reaction, a vindication andreacceptance of everything Indian as it stood and because it was Indian. We have still, waves of this impulse and many of its influencescontinuing among us; for its work is not yet completed.But in reality, the reaction marks the beginning of a more subtleassimilation and fusing; for in vindicating ancient things, it hasbeen obliged to do so in a way that will at once meet and satisfythe old mentality and the new, the traditional and the criticalmind. This in itself involves no mere return, but consciously orunconsciously hastens a restatement. And the riper form of thereturn has taken as its principle a synthetical restatement; it hassought to arrive at the spirit of the ancient culture and, whilerespecting its forms and often preserving them to revivify, hasyet not hesitated also to remould, to reject the outworn andto admit whatever new motive seemed assimilable to the oldspirituality or apt to widen the channel of its larger evolution.

Of this freer dealing with past and present, this preservationby reconstruction Vivekananda was in his life-time the leadingexemplar and the most powerful exponent.But this too could not be the end; of itself it leads towardsa principle of new creation. Otherwise, the upshot of the doublecurrent of thought and tendency might be an incongruous assimilation,something in the mental sphere like the strangelyassorted half-European, half-Indian dress which we now putupon our bodies. India has to get back entirely to the nativepower of her spirit at its very deepest and to turn all the neededstrengths and aims of her present and future life into materialsfor that spirit to work upon and integrate and harmonise.

Ofsuch vital and original creation, we may cite the new Indian artas a striking example. The beginning of this process of originalcreation in every sphere of her national activity will be the signof the integral self-finding of her renaissance.