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Monday, 11 March 2013

Mystical Mondays: the poetry of Aurobindo Ghose

Aurobindo Ghose (or Ghosh) was an Indian political and revolutionary leader who became a poet, philosopher, and yogi or spiritual leader. His scholarly and socio-political work was always informed by a sense of mysticism derived from the great traditions of India. A sense that was not world-denying but world-affirming, a mysticism of presence rather than of abstraction. But this is not an essay about the works of Sri Aurobindo (his honourific title), I'll save that for a later date, today I wanted to share one of his short poems and first a quotation from an excellent collection of his work by historian Peter Heehs:

An even more direct sense of the spiritual life comes through his poetry. Like the Vedic rishis, like Yeats and Heidegger, Sri Aurobindo believed that the rhythmic language of poetry could convey meanings that went much deeper than the intellectual significance of the word. The rishis embodied their vision in 'Mantras, revealed verses of power, not of an ordinary but of a divine inspiration and source'. In The Future Poetry Sri Aurobindo showed that this heightened power of speech was not the prerogative of Sanskrit scriptures, but could be found to some degree in the poetry of any languages with a developed literature. English poetry has passed through evolutionary stages of primarily physical (Chaucer), vital (Shakespeare) and mental (Pope) inspiration. In the works of Wordsworth, Blake and other so-called Romantic poets it had sometimes risen to heights of inspiration close to what he called the mantra. He hoped that this tendency would be continued in contemporary poetry, and saw hints of this in the work of Yeats and George Russell (A.E.). But he was disappointed by most poetry published between the two world wars, considering much of the work of Eliot and other Modernists to be a relapse into mere intellectuality.

The Essential Writings of Sri Aurobindo, edited and with an introduction by Peter Heehs (Oxford: OP, 1998), xxix.


A naked and silver-pointed star
       Floating near the halo of the moon;
A storm-rack, the pale sky's fringe and bar,
       Over waters stilling into swoon.

My mind is awake in stirless trance,
       Hushed my heart, a burden of delight;
Dispelled is the senses' flicker-dance,
       Mute the body aureate with light.

O star of creation pure and free,
       Halo-moon of ecstacy unknown,
Storm-breath of the soul-change yet to be,
       Ocean-self enraptured and alone!