December 17, 2006

It was written by Sri Aurobindo much before Fermi’s graphite reactor

Re: Instruments of Knowledge and Post-Human Destinies
by RY Deshpande on Fri 15 Dec 2006 03:17 PM PST Profile Permanent Link
You have raised many significant points, but to see Agni as the form-builder, the Lord of the Material Creation, we will have to go the Hymns of the Mystic Fire. We should do it sooner than later. About the discovery of the fission-fusion energy we should remember that it happened much later, 12 years later, in 1938. I have a few things to say about it also, but please allow me some time. There is a significant line in Savitri which appears in the following passage. It appears in the context of Aswapati who has now entered into the House of the Spirit: p. 320...
Sight defines form. The connection of eye-sight-form-Agni is very obvious; but then how is the formless ‘seen’ or discerned? Savitri had obtained formless liberation.
by RY Deshpande on Sun 17 Dec 2006 04:54 AM PST Profile Permanent Link Let me first pick up the following part of the comment by Debashish on Fri 15 Dec 2006 12:08 PM PST...
I had briefly responded to this part of DB’s posting by citing the line “Beyond the sight that seeks support of form” from Savitri, that sight defines form and that the connection between eye-sight-form-Agni is quite discernible in it. Incidentally, this line in the Centenary Edition of Savitri reads as follows: “Beyond the sight, the last support of form.” To my mind, this earlier printed version is occultly more significant than the one which appears in the latest edition. But then what about the formless? Who supports it? What faculty ‘sees’ it? In one of his sonnets Sri Aurobindo speaks of “Each sight is now immortal with Thy bliss.” The phrase “each sight” raises the question of the number of sights that are possible. How many sights are there, and when do they become immortal with bliss? Any prospect of our instrumental sight, our Hubble for instance, shooting to that greatness? Can we really conceive of such likelihood? Frankly, I don’t know.

In fact the question is: when we look at an object what is it that we really see there, an object such as a mountain, a car, a horse, or an electron? and in which space do we see it, physical space, inner space, subtle space, chittakasha, extension of mental or vital consciousness, vyoma or ethereal, antariksha, soul-space, where? Sri Aurobindo sees the electron as something on which forms and worlds are built, not as a theoretical physicist, but as an occult-spiritual seer. Recall his sonnet Electron with the description of form and worlds, the electron but a blind abode of God. He goes a step farther and says

Atom and molecule in their unseen plan
Buttress an edifice of strange onenesses,
Crystal and plant, insect and beast and man,—
Man on whom the World-Unity shall seize.

He is going beyond the materialistic monotheism which itself could hopefully be a half-bright shadow of the advaitic spiritual. This is obvious because it is an experience and not simply a juxtaposition of the whirling of an electron in an atom with the Dance of Shiva, as Tao of Physics would like us to believe. There you are: “In that flaming chariot Shiva rides.” If only we can grasp the significance of that flame, Agni the form-builder!
Related with it must be the significance of the threefold Fire Sri Aurobindo is describing: Jala Agni, Vaidyuta Agni, and Saura Agni. I think we are mostly using the nomenclature, and we do not have direct contact with the entities they represent. Call them powers, gods, deities, beings, forces, embodiments or by whatever else you like, they certainly are not our theoretical-conceptual abstractions, our mathematical formulations, figures.

When Sri Aurobindo is talking of Saura Agni or Solar Fire he is not talking of Atomic Physics of the kind given by Bohr. Bohr gave the theory of the hydrogen atom in 1913, a theory based on our planetary system, planets orbiting around the sun. But that was too mechanistic a theory and Sri Aurobindo would not refer to it. In fact this theory was soon abandoned, during the period 1924-26, when Quantum Mechanics was getting formulated. And it was in 1926 that Pavitra had this talk with the Master. At that time, in the world of physics, Louis de Broglie introduced wave-particle duality right in the heart of the atom. Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle and Schrodinger’s Quantum Mechanics were bringing about a remarkable revolution in our ideas and notions of the physical world. Was Sri Aurobindo sitting far away in Pondicherry oblivious of it? Let us see.

In 1938 Otto Hahn discovered nuclear fission in the laboratory. Soon Otto Frisch and Lise Meitner conducted further experiments and confirmed the findings. Bohr himself gave immediately the theory describing the fission process. In 1939 Hans Bethe extended the ideas to explain the source of energy in the sun and all the stars. Nuclear process made the world, nay the universe, bright. But it left the empty spaces in between dark.

And on 25 September 1939 Sri Aurobindo wrote the sonnet A Dream of Surreal Science. In it are the famous lines

A scientist played with atoms and blew out
The world before God had time to shout.

Was he aware of the fission discovery when it was just being made in the laboratories? If so, he must have been extremely up-to-date. Otherwise, he must have ‘seen’ things with another eye. There is also a note written by Sri Aurobindo around 1940: “Now there is disintegration of the atom and the power that is released at it. Humanity must step in, otherwise they can blow up humanity and human civilisation.”

Take another instance, of the line that appears in Savitri, p. 255:

The riven invisible atom’s omnipotent force.

This is sheer Mantra, and Amal Kiran is simply ecstatic about the poetic power present in it. It was written by Sri Aurobindo much before Fermi’s graphite reactor in Chicago became critical on 2 December 1942. That is the beginning of the success story of the War-time Manhattan Project. It had to succeed, and much credit of it should go to General Leslie Groves than perhaps Oppenheimer, the physicist Project in-charge.

It had to succeed in the US rather than in Hitler’s Germany. No less a person than Heisenberg was in charge of the Nazi effort, and he had already built a heavy water reactor. This had to be thwarted. Soon Germany abandoned its atomic war-effort, arguing that their findings were being secretly passed on to the US scientists. But perhaps another Force had entered into the business and worked its way through all the human agencies. We know Sri Aurobindo and the Mother’s involvement during the War-period and what they did to save humanity and human civilisation. Georges van Vrekhem’s Hitler and his God is a forceful presentation of some of these facts, though he does not bring the atomic angle into discussion. We could perhaps take it on another occasion. RYD

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