SECTION ONE: THE HOUR OF GOD
The three essays in this section have been placed together because their subject-matter and style make them suitable opening pieces. They have no physical relation, one not even being from the same period as the others, but they have great similarity in tone, and share the use of the second person singular to address the reader.
The Hour of God. This essay was in all likelihood written in 1918, and not, at any rate, more than a year or two earlier or later. An incomplete text was published as an Ashram “darshan message” in August 1954. The complete text first came out in the November 1979 issue of the Bulletin of Sri Aurobindo International Centre of Education.
The Law of the Way. This essay was written in or about 1927, and was first published in the Bulletin in April 1951. The manuscript is untitled; the editors have used a phrase from the last sentence as heading. In previous editions the essay was called “The Way”.
The Divine Superman. Written in, or shortly after, the year 1918 (like “The Hour of God”), this essay may have been intended for use in Sri Aurobindo’s monthly review Arya, which was being published at that time. The essay’s first appearance in print, however, was in the Bulletin of April 1951.
SECTION TWO: ON YOGA
These nine essays, related in theme, form a neat chronological group: all were written in or about the year 1913.
Certitudes. It is not possible to establish a sure date for this essay, but it was clearly written during the first years of Sri Aurobindo’s stay at Pondicherry, i.e. 1910 -1914. The range of years might safely be narrowed down to 1911- 1913. It was first published in The Advent in February 1957. The Sanskrit phrase at the end, a citation from the Bhagavad Gita (4.11), means “as men approach Me, so I accept them to My love” (Sri Aurobindo’s translation).
Initial Definitions and Descriptions. The notebook in which this essay was written, probably in 1913, has two titles: “Hints on Yoga” and “The Psychology of Yoga”. “Initial Definitions and Descriptions” is the only piece in the notebook that is at all fully developed. It was first published in The Advent in November 1951. In the first edition of The Hour of God (1959), it was combined with other pieces from the same notebook and pieces from other notebooks under the title “The Web of Yoga”. “Initial Definitions and Descriptions” and “The Object of Our Yoga” (the next piece) are the only parts of “The Web of Yoga” published in the present edition.
The Object of Our Yoga. This essay was found in the same notebook as contains the next two pieces. It was written after them, but probably in the same year, 1913. The essay, untitled in manuscript, was published as part of “The Web of Yoga” in the first edition of The Hour of God.
The Entire Purpose of Yoga. Parabrahman, Mukti and Human Thought-Systems. These two essays were written together in this order almost certainly in the year 1913. In manuscript they are headed by the titles given here and the numbers “I” and “II”. A third untitled and not fully developed essay, which has been excluded from the present edition, immediately follows them in the same notebook. The three essays were first published in The Advent in April 1954 under the editorial title “pūrna Yoga”.
The Evolutionary Aim in Yoga. The Fullness of Yoga
— In Condition. Nature. Māyā. These four essays were written probably in 1913 in this order in a single notebook. On the notebook’s cover is written “Natural and Supernatural Man”; this was evidently intended to be the general title of a book that would have included these and other pieces. Texts of the four essays first appeared in the April 1981 issue of Sri Aurobindo: Archives and Research. A draft of the first essay was published in the first edition of The Hour of God (1959) as the first part of Section V of “The Web of Yoga”. The second part of this draft, from the phrase “Yoga practised may be in its aim either perfect or partial” to the end, was rewritten by Sri Aurobindo as the second of the four essays published here, The Fullness of Yoga — In Condition. In this essay the draft is followed rather closely for two and a half paragraphs; after this point the draft is developed on one line and the essay on another. (The significance of the phrase “in condition” in the title is not made clear in the essay; but it is brought out sufficiently well in the draft. See Sri Aurobindo: Archives and Research, Vol. 6 (1982), p. 173.) It is likely that no earlier drafts of Nature and Māyā were written; at any rate none were found along with the drafts of the two other pieces. After the opening or, more likely, the whole of Nature had been written, Sri Aurobindo returned upon it for revision. At this time he added at the top of the first page of the manuscript the lines that have been printed here as a footnote hanging from the second sentence. Sri Aurobindo seems to have intended these lines to be a new opening for the piece, but since he did not alter the original first sentence to follow the new opening, and since this sentence links Nature with the essay that precedes it, the original opening has been retained. Nature was at one point to be entitled “Māyā, Līlā, Prakriti, Chit-Shakti”. Individual essays on each of these aspects of the force called Nature were apparently planned, but only Māyā was written. In the second paragraph of this essay Sri
Aurobindo writes of his intention to “look at the Cosmos from . . . the standpoint of . . . Līlā”. Although never able to complete an essay on this theme, he did sketch, in two sentences written on the back cover of the notebook, his view on the subject. These sentences are given as a footnote.
SECTION THREE: THE ABSOLUTE AND THE MANIFESTATION
All of these pieces were written in 1926 or 1927, except the last two diagrams, which are from a later period. All of the earlier pieces except one occur in a single notebook.
Om Tat Sat. These three words, written by Sri Aurobindo at the top of this piece, may not have been intended as a title properly speaking. The piece was first published in the Bulletin in April 1976.
The Supreme Mahashakti. Under this title the editors have placed three related pieces written on the same general subject in the same notebook in the sequence given. Since, however, unrelated material not published here intervenes between one piece and another, the three pieces have been separated by asterisks. The last two pieces were published in the Bulletin in April 1976; the first appears here for the first time.
The theme of the first piece is alluded to in “Om Tat Sat”. The Sanskrit words written in devangarī script transliterate as follows:
mayobhuh...rādhā mahāmāyā, parāprakrti
The first word is a Vedic epithet meaning “that creates bliss”. Rādhā is “the personification of the absolute love for the Divine” (Letters on Yoga, p. 796). The last two
terms are defined in the glossary of the present volume. Sri Aurobindo may have intended to write a third set of Sanskrit words, but never did.
In the third piece, the two Sanskrit phrases written in devanāgarī script transliterate: satyam rtam brhat, and trih sapta paramā padāni mātuh. The first phrase is defined in the glossary; the second means “the thrice seven supreme planes (literally, “footsteps”) of the Mother”.
The Seven Suns of the Supermind. The version of this piece printed here is the third of three drafts found in the same notebook. It appeared in the first edition of The Hour of God (1959).
The Seven Centres of the Life. This piece was written at the same time as those that precede and follow it, but on a separate sheet of paper. It was first published in the Bulletin in April 1976.
Supreme Self-Contained Absolute. The Manifestation. The first of these may not be a title, but simply the term written at the top of the diagram. The two pieces were first published in Mother India in December 1953 under the editorial title “The Divine Plan”.
The Scale of Consciousness. Overmind Gradations to Mind. These diagrams date from 1931. They were intended to be part of a letter sent in reply to a query of one of Sri Aurobindo’s disciples, who had asked about certain “systems of spiritual and occult knowledge” each of which “constructs its own schema”. These two quoted phrases are taken from the reply finally sent by Sri Aurobindo to the disciple (published in Letters on Yoga, pp. 249-51). Sri Aurobindo’s diagrams were never sent; they were published along with the above two diagrams under the same editorial title in the 1959 edition of The Hour of God. The Mother has stated in one of her conversations that Sri Aurobindo made these diagrams in a half-playful mood.
SECTION FOUR: MAN AND SUPERMAN
Early drafts of the first two of these essays may be dated with some certainty to 1927. The versions printed here are from a single notebook and may have been written as late as the early 1930s. The other two essays are from the same general period.
Man and the Supermind. There are numerous drafts of this essay and of essays thematically related to it. The first draft is clearly from 1927 or thereabouts. The second, rewritten directly from the first and not long after, was published, with some related passages, under the title “Man A Transitional Being” in the Bulletin in August 1951. One more draft intervenes between this and the draft printed in the present volume, which seems to have been written in the early 1930s. It was not published until August 1976, in the Bulletin.
The Involved and Evolving Godhead. An earlier draft of this piece, written around 1927, was first published under the title “Evolution” (III) in the Bulletin in November 1951. The present draft, written probably during the early 1930s (in the same notebook as “Man and the Supermind”), was first published in the Bulletin in August 1976.
The Evolution of Consciousness. This essay was written in the same notebook as the above two pieces, and at about the same time, i.e. around 1930. It was first published in the Bulletin in November 1976 as the first of two separate pieces under the title “Evolution”. In the present volume the essay, untitled in manuscript, has been headed “The Evolution of Consciousness”. The Greek phrase on page 79 means “God is not but is becoming”.
The Path. This essay is one of several pieces written around 1930 on the supramental Yoga. Three of these were published together under the editorial title “The Supramental Yoga” in The Advent in November 1955. The present piece, the most completely developed of them, is the only one that has a title in the manuscript.
EDITIONS OF THE HOUR OF GOD
In 1959 many of the pieces described above, along with others not included in the present edition, were collected together and published under the title The Hour of God. A second impression of this edition was issued in 1964. A second edition was brought out in 1970. (It is not possible to determine with certainty whether 1964 was recomposed or not, i.e. whether it was an impression or edition. At any rate both 1964 and 1970 are textually identical to the first edition.) In 1972 all the pieces in The Hour of God, slightly reorganised, were included in The Hour of God and Other Writings, Volume 17 of the Sri Aurobindo Birth Centenary Library. In 1973, the 1972 texts were reproduced photographically in the old order (but with one omission) as the third edition of The Hour of God. The fourth edition (1982) was thoroughly reorganised: several pieces included in the first three editions were replaced by later versions of the same pieces, some pieces were omitted entirely, and some others were added. Six impressions of the fourth edition were printed between 1982 and 2002. The present (fifth) edition has the same contents as the fourth. The texts are taken from two volumes of the Complete Works of Sri Aurobindo: volume 12, Essays in Philosophy and Yoga (1997) and volume 11, Record of Yoga-II (2001).