Ascent and Descent

April 4, 2006

Man rising by his own efforts is ascent. His family or community can raise him from above. The society can do it a thousand times better. Beyond the society are Life and the universe. Neither Life nor the universe is more developed than man. Their raising man to ascend is ruled out. But there is a higher plane than life or universe. It is the plane of the Divine. When the right moment comes, the Divine can descend to raise Man in his ascent. Modern scientific inquiries reveal the labour the brain underwent to develop the paw into five fingers or to develop the five sense organs. In simple works like a child learning to walk or write, we see the enormous energy of the child slowly organising itself into a physical skill of walking or writing. It is true of eating too. If you have ever tried to learn a foreign language, you will know the effort needed to fashion the unorganised sound into an organised pronunciation of a given word. Energy organises into skill. It is a slow process or the slowest process known when the child is not taught writing but is trying to learn it himself. The question of trying to learn to write will not occur to a child. It will remain unlettered. In the extreme event of a child acquiring the aspiration to learn writing, it is obvious that the process is the very slowest. This is what we know of ascent.

Should we observe people acquiring skills – driving a car, learning to cook, public speaking, electioneering, sales at a shop, buying things or any such work – or exercise our minds in recollecting how we have learnt the skills we now have, it will be clear that the process is energy consuming, painstaking and immeasurably slow. This is for one skill to be acquired. What then is capacity? Capacity is the subtle essence of an endowment which collects from the several skills. In other words, one who has acquired several skills such as managing, being a leader, organising a class, making a chair, stitching a shirt, etc. will subconsciously collect their essence. That becomes capacity. One who has such a capacity may try to use it to learn a fresh skill quicker or reinforce an old skill. If this can be called ascent of progress, what can be considered descent of skill formation?

It happens when the child is brought into an atmosphere of learning. The atmosphere carries the sensation of that capacity. Imagine a child learning to sing all on its own and in a music school. In a music school there is the atmosphere of music learning, music talents, etc. There are other children learning. Teachers are there to teach. In such a situation the child quickly learns and better. This I call descent. It goes further. A boy from a village entering the town life learns the skills of urban life not only quickly but more perfectly. Also the talented will learn at once. This is the nature of descent. Ascent is from below. It is usually done individually. It lacks any support or atmosphere. Learning here is by fits and starts, sporadic, in little streaks. One is in despair and gives it up. In the descent, first of all the learner is not alone. He is among several of the learners. Here is a supporting atmosphere of learning. The Power of Learning presses upon him from above in an abundant measure. What needs years is done in a day. The learner's cheerful attitude in an atmosphere of joy achieves all. Time consuming, painstaking and immeasurably slow methods are replaced by instantaneous enjoyable quick methods. They are inconsiderably quick.

Children in the house of educated parents, music learners in a temple devoted to music, sadhaks in the Ashram, researchers in a university enjoy this extra support. What takes ascent centuries or millennia takes the descent days or hours. A school raises children like this. Civilisation is to raise the uncivilised or those incapable of being civilised by its human benevolence. Thus civilisation hastens the historical process and culture quickens the pace of civilisation. Sri Aurobindo desired to bring down the Supramental Force so that MAN can evolve into a Supramental being in 30 years instead of 30,000 years. Now from 1956, that Force is there in the atmosphere of the earth and is becoming richer and more organised daily. Man who is receptive to that Force will achieve in the beginning of his career what he would otherwise accomplish at the time of retirement, or what he may not accomplish even then. How are we to avail of that Force?

A simple rule that can be comprehensive will be to replace the small, self-centred human attitude by a wide attitude of self-giving. Then one can achieve it. More than acquiring those right attitudes, the desire to RISE, the decision to make that effort matters much.

  • A greater basic requirement is humility.
  • Humility makes the personal achievement impersonal.
  • Humility and determination never fail to achieve nor let it down. The momentum continues for over a decade according to recent research.
  • Greater than them is the sanction secured by surrender.