Today we are publishing the interviews of Paul Richard conducted by Dilip Kumar Roy. In 1927 Dilip Kumar Roy was invited by the Gramophone Company to make a few records in New York. Accordingly he sailed for France in March 1927. During his stay in Nice, he was introduced to Paul Richard. Dilip Kumar had kept a record of his conversations with Paul Richard in his Bengali book ‘Edeshe Odeshe’ and later reproduced the translated version in his books ‘Among the Great’ and ‘Pilgrims of the Stars’. Paul Richard’s conversations have been compiled and republished in the forum of Overman Foundation for the benefit of the reader.
With warm regards,
‘A celebrated author and lecturer, Monsieur Richard had written his first book—an English work—in 1920. Its last chapter was an English translation of his lecture on Sri Aurobindo, delivered in Waseda University, Tokyo. In this lecture he had said that the future would be dominated not by Nietzsche’s superman, ruling with his titan ego, but by the divine man of India who would inaugurate a new era and create a new world. He concluded his ringing prophecy with “I have looked for this race for years all over the world till I met in Sri Aurobindo their luminous herald and crowned ruler. His message will transform the world, I tell you, because he has been missioned, as a world teacher, to lead humanity to its destined fulfillment.”…
Paul Richard made such a deep impression on people not merely because he was a radiant intellectual, but because he was, as he was wont to put it, “a dreamer of real dreams” as well… we kept a record of what Paul Richard said—Marthe often supplemented my notes with hers. But here I will give only a few samples of his brilliant conversation which are likely to interest all who believe in dreamers and idealists.
Marthe served him coffee in our sitting room.
“Did you know Rabindranath well?” I asked.
He (nodding): “I had long talks with him first in Japan and then in his country house at Shantiniketan where I was his guest.”
Marthe: “May I know what was your impression of him?”
Richard: “Oh, he is a great poet all right—to his finger-tips.” And he added: “Descended from the world of beauty and harmony of the Gandharvas, the perfect angels. But—well, he hasn’t come in contact with the unbeautiful, unlovely—I mean in close contact.”
Dilip: “So much the better.”
Richard (shaking his head): “There I differ from you, Sir. For till one has an intimate knowledge of the dreadful and the diabolical one cannot grow in strength. That is why Rabindranath is so weak in the world of action and movement.”
Dilip: “May I know what exactly you mean by growing in strength? Or, to be more precise, who are those whom you consider ‘strong’?”
Richard: “Why, Gandhi, Aurobindo. Strong as marble rocks.”
Vladia: “Do let us have a little more of your appraisement of Mahatma Gandhi.”
Richard: “In Ahmedabad when I was his guest I often disagreed with him violently. But the more I came to know him, the less sure I became of my appraisement of him. I can recall how now and again I used to ask myself: ‘Is this frail, lovable man really the king and kingmaker of India?’” (After a pause) “But though he is great in strength, he is deficient in imagination. It is there the Poet scores. Gandhi is too obstinate—he can’t help it because he has a one-track mind.”
Vladia: “Say on, monsieur.”
Richard: “Well, it’s not easy to put it all into words—but I’ll try. You see, the world of dharma, spirituality, has little in common with the world of politics. If you want to drive a nail into the wall, the hammer will give you the best service, isn’t it so? I mean, you would have to be a fool if you wanted to use your spiritual force to drive a nail. Similarly, if you wanted to make use of an intelligent man you could get the quickest results by appealing to his intelligence—coercion would not pay. That is why I used to tell Gandhi that Shiva, the Beneficent God, is not the sole deity—there is Rudra, the Lord of Death, also waiting His hour. In active politics you should steer clear of religion as much as possible, because in its arena of confusion what prevails in the last analysis is the foresight of the statesman.”
Dilip: “Do you imply, then, that in the field of politics soul-force cannot deliver the goods?”
Richard: “But why on earth must you import soul-force where a lesser force could act more promptly and yield better harvests? Remember my simile of the hammer and nail. Why must you waste the vast energy of soul-force to bring about a result that could be achieved more quickly by a simpler power? Didn’tKrishnasay expressly that yoga is skill in works? Didn’t Christ also say that we must give to God and Caesar what is the due of each? When martyrs sacrifice their lives they do so assuredly to promote their ideals. In other words, they see that their sacrifice would invoke a divine intervention sooner and more effectively than their deeds and words could do if they were alive. That a force expressed through life may sometimes be expressed better posthumously is a fact to which history has attested time and time again.”
Dilip (after a pause): “May I put to you a straight question?”
Richard (smiles): “You are a born questioner, aren’t you? Go on. I mean, it is a good sign—this itch to question. Wasn’t that why Krishna encouraged the mortal Arjuna to prod His divine wisdom again and again?”
Dilip (smiling): “But my question is a much simpler one. I want you to tell me frankly your opinion of Sri Aurobindo.”
Richard (after a pause): “I have not met his peer in the whole world. To me he is the Lord Shiva incarnate.”
Marthe: “Please go on, monsieur.”
Richard: “I can assure you, madame, that if Aurobindo came out of his seclusion today he would overtop all others as a king of kings. But he has chosen to decline his country’s invitation to resume his leadership—a renunciation I look upon as the most convincing proof of his spiritual loyalty.”
Marthe: “But aren’t there many other yogis also who have renounced their all?”
Richard: “Granted. Only their ‘all’ hardly adds up to much. I mean, supposing they had remained in the world reaching for worldly laurels, what would they finally have achieved? They were cut out at best to score just a little success by their modest capacities or individual talents. But Sri Aurobindo would have risen to the top in any walk of life—as a philosopher, poet, statesman or leader of thought. But he spurned these lures—why? Only because his vocation was to be an instrument of God missioned to fulfill a human destiny which no other master-builder could have achieved. In this world, madame, the most difficult thing is not to attain eminence in this or that walk of life. The feat of feats is to drive all your aspirations through one single channel—to be wholly one-pointed, exclusively dedicated to one ideal, vous comprenez?
Marthe: “Oui, monsieur. But what exactly is his ideal?”
Richard: “It is that Man must not rest content with his humanity, however brilliant or many-splendored. He has to win through to a new vision and follow it up to reach a peak his predecessors never dared to assault. Nietzsche had indeed heard the call—the call to transcend humanity. Which is why he had said: ‘Der Mensch ist etwas das uberwunden werden soll,’ that is, Man must transcend himself by repudiating this humanity he has gloried in so long. But the mistake he made, as Aurobindo has pointed out, is that the one who is going to fulfil humanity is not the superman of power but the Superman of Love who expresses his love through power. Love is necessary because when it is absent Man becomes not a god but a titan. But power is also necessary because without its support he can’t help but fail to translate his ideal of Love into a real flower-fulfillment in the wilderness of life. This is the Call Aurobindo has heard—a call that once heard can be unheard no more. But you cannot hear such a fateful Call till you are chosen by the One on high who leads us on. It is He who has coronated Aurobindo as His Messiah. So march on he must, for harking to His Call has transformed him into what he is today—a herald of the Power that never came down to earth, though it was destined.”
Vladia: “But why didn’t it come down, since it was destined?”
Richard: “Because the one who was to invoke it had to be created and perfected before he could be missioned to be its harbinger. God acts not in the void but through His agents who have to be chiseled as out of a rock. A deputy like Sri Aurobindo doesn’t grow on every bush, mon ami. He has to evolve in His Light through a thousand births. Every cup cannot bear the soma [wine] of Love Divine which endows us with the status of the Superman. So Sri Aurobindo had to be waited for as the herald of the Power that never came down to earth—or shall I say, the invoker of the sacrificial Flame that performs the miracle.”
‘But he [Paul Richard] was, alas, a man dogged by destiny—the destiny of frustration. He blurted it out one day in deep melancholy in the revealing stillness of midnight when he said that of late he had often felt like committing suicide. I gave an involuntary shudder. He appraised me with his deep eyes and smiled sadly. “But I have never been able to understand,” he said, “why people are so afraid to make an exit out of this world when they can no longer feel the necessity of living. I am persuaded that those who have no faith in a Purpose piloting the world have forfeited their birthright to life. I confess to a sense of shame that I still cling to life simply because of an instinctive attachment to living. But when I see, as I do today, that I have no will to arrive, I feel like a coward who wants to live not because he can help others but because he gloats in his power to hamper those who can. And,” he added, slowly, “I have felt this most powerfully when I first saw—you know whom.”
I felt moved. “You mean—”
“Yes, Sri Aurobindo,” he nodded. Then after a brief pause: “and the one man to whom I have bowed down in my life as my superior… and the only seer who has truly fortified my faith in a Divine Purpose working through life transforming it secretly like a leaven as it were, and bypassing those who will not change themselves.” He shook his head ruefully and went on: “And yet my faith has not stood me in good stead and I refused to collaborate with the Author of this Purpose because He didn’t acclaim me as his sole editor, because I was not entrusted by Him with the sole copyright of the series to come—in a word, because I was too self-willed to be a mere contributor of His Book of Life. I had no humility. That’s why I had to fare like a high peak, where no seed can bear, despising the fertile low lands which,” he gave me a quick look, “which Sri Aurobindo had wanted me to be.”…
“Yes, I should have had the humility to accept the light he had won and could give others who really aspired to it. I should have enlisted under the banner of subservience. That is why I had to leave his mighty aura of the new creation where the rule of mind is going to be replaced by the Supermind, le nouveau Dieu. Oui, c’est un nouveau Dieu qu’il faut adorer—a new Divinity claims our allegiance, as I wrote once, since we have long outgrown the old. And Sri Aurobindo is the only man who has won through to this vision and, what is more, has got the power to translate it in life by ushering in a new era of the Supramental apocalypse…Yes,” he added after a pause, “he and no one else has the key of the world to be, and my tragedy is that my love of self-will forced me to leave his aegis and choose the alternative of living a pointless life away from the one man whose society I rate over that of all the others put together. Do you wonder now why I should be constantly harping on suicide?” …
The last words he said on that last night were: “Oui, pour moi Sri Aurobindo c’est le Shiva incarné: (Yes, to me he is the incarnate Shiva) an Avatar among mortals.”