Myths And The Occult Dimension Of Life And Nature
In spite of growing scientific temper among people of India, there still lies in the subconscious mind a mythical belief, an intuitive mind and an invincible faith that transcend human comprehension and understanding
Lately there have been a number of articles in different newspapers against a science congress providing a platform for a few papers on myth. Are the myths nothing but abracadabra? A true scientific spirit cannot dismiss their significance; no true seeker can pooh at them.
“How was it possible for the ancient Ayurveda to precisely identify such qualities of the Neem which we determine now through our sophisticated laboratory tests?” a NASA scientist asked this author at a conference in Los Angeles, during a tea-break. That was when some agencies in the U.S.A. were trying to take out a monopoly patent on the medicinal use of that plant and India contested the move and won. “What kind of laboratory did you have?” the senior scholar asked again.
“Probably the laboratory of consciousness. The founding seers of the Ayurveda could identify themselves with the plants and discover their secrets,” I said.
The scholar sat silent for a while. “Does that mean that there was an alternative way to delve into the mystery of Nature?” he queried.
“We should suppose so,” said I. “Well, the means through which researchers like you analyse and evaluate different phenomena is your mind, the power of your brain and your rational acumen. What if these faculties were not with you? Surely, you did not invent them! Since they are elements of consciousness, they must have been given to us by some original or pre-existent Consciou-sness. Can we deny that Conscio-usness, ourselves being its products, the freedom to create an alternative route to knowledge?”
“You sound rational,” he said.
“You say so because you have the right scientific temper—not to dismiss a proposition because it does not endorse a notion prevailing at a given time.”
We parted, thus complementing each other. It did not occur to me then to draw his attention to a page from the Prayers and Meditations of the Mother which could have indicated to him that the “alternative way to delve into the mystery of Nature” did not exist only in the past. It could open up before one with a certain opening into the occult realities of Nature even in our time. Wrote the Mother in her diary for April 7, 1917: “A deep concentration seized on me, and I perceived that I was identifying myself with a single cherry-blossom, then through it with all cherry-blossoms, and, as I descended deeper in the consciousness, following a stream of bluish force, I became suddenly the cherry-tree itself, stretching towards the sky like so many arms…”
And while she was in that trance-like condition, the cherry-tree whispered in her ear: “It is in the cherry-blossom that lies the remedy for the disorders of the spring.”
Indian mysticism asserts that there is an occult dimension to our life and Nature. Let us keep aside the Vedas which may prove too symbolic for our comprehension. But when we read episodes like Nachiketa’s dialogue with the god of Death or King Janaka’s with Yajnavalkya in the Upanishads, or for that matter the Gita, we clearly feel that their authors had shot far above the average evolutionary status of the man of their times.
If the scientist Kekulé found his solution to the problem of the structural formula of benzene molecule through a wonderful dream featuring a serpent in whirling motion biting its tail, or if Ramanujam stated that solutions to most complex mathematical problems were revealed to him in a dream by Goddess Namakkal, a psychologist may term them as cases of solutions built up in the subconscious mind. But a student of occultism would assert that they were interventions of the occult dimension of the reality on the normal working of our consciousness.
Broadly speaking, there are three kinds of myth. First, those containing the essence of the wisdom revealed to individuals in a remote past, sealed in a story. Nachiketa’s quest for the mystery of death and the revelation granted to him by the god of Death that the soul, man’s true personality, was immortal, reminds us of the myth of Sphinx. Planting itself on a hill beside a lonely road, it would surprise a traveller with this question: Which is the creature that walks on four legs in the morning, on two legs as the day grows and on three legs in the evening? The strange creature allows the traveller time till the sundown. As the hapless traveller fails to answer it pounces upon him and devours him. At last the hero Oedipus confronts her and asserts, “I am your answer. I the man. A man crawls on all fours in the morning of his life, walks on two as he grows up and takes recourse to a stick —a third leg—in the evening of his life.”
No sooner had he ended his answer than the Sphinx jumped to its death. The moral is unmistakable. Man dies because he does not know himself; the day he knows himself, it is death that dies.
Second category of myths conceal a great but forgotten revelation. Suppose a seer would like to project through a physical method. the idea of relationship between Eternity and the time we experience as past, present and future. Shiva, Mahakala or the unchangeable Time, lies supine on which is seen Kali, the Kala in transit, one leg raised signifying the past, the other indicating the present but in a gesture of stepping into the future. Wearing a garland of skulls, each one representing an aeon past, she is dark, for we never know what the next moment holds for us.
But this subtle significance of a vision depicted through a sculpture had to be replaced by popular stories circulating as Puranic myths, but which are in fact folklore.
The third category consists of stories that played some sociologically important role. Here is a typical example: On the hills of Koraput resides a tribe the womenfolk of which went bare but for some intricate ornaments hanging their waist down. Till the sixties of the last century when I visited their hamlets, they refused to clothe themselves, for it would disrupt their penance.
Penance for what? The answer takes us back to mythical times. Once while Mother Sita was bathing in the river Tamasa, soon after the birth of her twins, some women of the tribe tittered at her bare state. “How, being children of Nature, do you fail to appreciate that I am one with the bare Nature, at this phase of my motherhood?” The repentant women shed their attires at once and they had continued to live like that for numerous generations.
Let us hope, the rapidly changing time had ended what could probably be the longest spell of collective penance in history. I am yet to find an anthropological explanation for it, but the status the legend imparted to a practice, a kind of poetic innocence that went with it, were of great collective value.
Thus, several local traditions, fused with characters and deeds in the epics, the Ramayana and the Mahabh-arata, not only elevated them, but also contributed to a sense of national identity.
Only five and three centuries respectively have passed since Copernicus revealed that the earth moved around the sun and Newton discovered gravitation. Man had since then taken giant strides in science, but the very basic character of life in pre-Copernicus ages were not different from what they are today. There were good and bad people; happy and unhappy ones, though the external causes have changed. What has basically sustained man is faith; faith in one’s mother, faith on the ground at every step, faith in every breath we take, but more than that a faith that is embedded in our deepest spirit, independent of any tangible object or ideal. Often myths reinforce that faith and therein lay a subtle but cardinal role they play in life.
By Manoj Das