This article brings together some predictions and uncanny observations made by Sri Aurobindo that were fulfilled later in time. To preserve chronological fidelity, I will only draw on remarks which predate the actual occurrence of the event. If the modern tech-savvy yogi had to record predictions about the future, he or she could use Trusted timestamping(digital notary), a cryptographic technology which is now available in commercial software products. Such technology was unfortunately not available in Sri Aurobindo’s time nor did he care to impress others with his yogic abilities. Consequently, the neutral observer wishing to verify these predictions has to rely on a combination of trust as well as the fact that the original manuscripts from which these remarks are drawn are preserved in the Archives Department of the Sri Aurobindo Ashram in Pondicherry.
In an interview in January of 1910, Sri Aurobindo told a correspondent of a vernacular Tamil weekly named “India”:
“Since 1907, we are living in a new era which is full of hope for India. Not only India, but the whole world will see sudden upheavals and revolutionary changes. The high will become low and the low high. The oppressed and the depressed shall be elevated. The nation and humanity will be animated by a new consciousness, new thought and new efforts will be made to reach new ends. Amidst these revolutionary changes, India will become free.” 
The British government which then ruled India regarded Sri Aurobindo as a “dangerous man”. They duly made a record of his remarks in their official reports:
Aravinda Ghose who is proved to be living in Pondicherry is stated to have declared in reply to a Karmayogin correspondent that 5,000 years of the Kaliyuga have expired, that a new epoch has commenced and in the next 4 or 5 years there will be “great deluge, change, revolution, great revolution, great persons falling, low persons rising, change, change, change everywhere, change in the Government, change in our people, new methods, new ideas in all .
Four years later, in 1914, the First World War started which in turn led to the Second World War. Britain became saddled with war debt, the British Empire collapsed and it was not just India but many other countries which gained freedom in the subsequent upheavals. Between 1945 and 1965, the number of people under British rule outside the UK fell from 700 million to 5 million. Sri Aurobindo had accurately foreseen that the “oppressed and the depressed [would] become elevated”.
First World War
Durng his early years in Pondicherry, Sri Aurobindo made copious notes of his newborn yogic powers and related developments in a diary now published as The Record of Yoga. On Dec 10, 1912, this diary contains an entry which seems to be a prevision of the First World War that would begin in July, 1914:
The visions in samadhi grow in richness and completeness, eg last night a vision of armies of different nationalities advancing successively along a road, not seen consecutively without interruption but successively with intervals of avikalpa samadhi. Dream is still in the same stage, but last night present associations .
Although Sri Aurobindo does not say so, I believe this was a prevision of the First World War.
The German retreat from Paris in World War I
When the World War I started in July 1914, the German army activated the Schlieffen Plan, whose purpose was to rapidly conquer France so as to avoid a two-front war. By the end of August 1914, the Germans were within thirty miles of Paris. In the first week of September, Alexander von Kluck, commander of the German First Army made a tactical error which opened a 50-km gap between him and the German Second Army commanded by the cautious General Bulow. The Allies took advantage of this blunder and poured troops into the gap. The Germans retreated and regrouped but lost in Battle of Marne which was fought from 5th – 12th Sept, 1914.
Sri Aurobindo seems to have foreseen this German defeat. While reading the remarks below, we have to keep in mind that in 1914, news traveled through telegraph wire services and newspapers and took about a day to propagate from Europe to India. The BBC did not exist until 1922. (See: How fast did news travel in 1914?)
On Sept 10, 1914, Sri Aurobindo wrote in his diary:
Trikaldrishtis (i.e. occult vision of past, present, future)
1. Strong impression of great German reverse approaching
2. Idea of increasing Russian difficulties but eventual victory.
On Sept 15, he noted that the Sept 10 prediction had been fulfilled: “The great German defeat satisfies at once trikaldrishti and aishwarya. Similarly, the Russian victory, in spite of great resistance for several days” .
In the text above, he also refers to a Russian victory. On the Eastern Front, the Russians were suffering from a string of losses. They lost against the Germans in the Battle of Masurian Lakes (present-day Poland) fought between 9th – 14th September but won against the Austria-Hungarians in the Battle of Galicia (modern-day Ukraine) fought between 26 August – 11 Sept, 1914. Sri Aurobindo may be referring to the Russian victory in Galicia.
Death of elder brother
On Feb 14, 1911, Sri Aurobindo noted a vision of his brother in the diary: “My eldest brother in a past state of health & vigour, chhayamay in Samadhi. Indication that he will not recover that health or live long” .
This prediction did come true but it was not the eldest brother Benoy Bhushan but the sibling after him Manomohan who died early. Sri Aurobindo had two brothers elder than him. The eldest brother Benoy Bhushan (b 1867) died in 1947 at the age of eighty, while Manomohan (b 1869) died in 1924 at the age of fifty-five, because his health deteriorated after wife Malati’s death in 1918 [8, 9]. This occurred about thirteen years after Sri Aurobindo had jotted down this vision.
It is worth noting that with the exception of Manomohan, the other three brothers all lived till the age of about eighty – Barindra Ghose (1880-1959) and Sri Aurobindo (1871-1950).
(This was originally pointed out by V. Arvind of the “Institute of Mathematical Sciences”, Chennai)
In a commentary on the Isha Upanishad written in during the 1913-1914 period, Sri Aurobindo predicted that one day man would be able to freely modify plant and animal life:
Modern man has not yet succeeded in discovering or using the laws of Life, but there is no reason to suppose that he will not one day make that discovery also. The day must inevitably come when he will be able even to originate no less than to modify freely both plant life and animal life in matter and govern them for his purposes as he now originates mechanisms of material force and modifies and governs its currents, combinations and separate workings so as to abridge distance, to invade the air, to economise the expenditure of his own life energies or to serve a hundred other purposes of human construction, destruction or development .
Sri Aurobindo was at least 50 years ahead of his time when it comes to advent of genetic engineering. In 1944 Avery, Macleod and McCarty demonstrated that it was DNA that carried genetic information. In 1952, Hershey and Chase confirmed DNA’s role in heredity. In 1953, Watson and Crick discovered the structure of DNA. And it was in the year 1972 that Herbert Boyer and Stanley Cohen proved that genes can be moved between species (i.e. recombinant DNA).
Hypercomplex numbers in physics
In Feb 1935, in a letter exchanged with a disciple named Nirodbaran, Sri Aurobindo made a casual remark which is really unusual given his academic background. He wrote:
In mathematics one works out problems in infinite and in unreal numbers which exist nowhere on earth and yet these are extremely important and can help scientific reasoning and scientific discovery and achievement. The question of a Muthu becoming a Ramakrishna, i.e. a great spiritual man may look to you like being an exercise in unreal numbers or magnitudes because it exceeds the actual observable facts in the case of this Muthu who very evidently is not going to be a great spiritual man — but we were arguing the matter of essential principle .
This remark is unusual because Sri Aurobindo, who was educated as a classics scholar rather than as a physicist or a mathematician and who had finished his schooling in the late nineteenth century, made this assertion at a time when the application of “unreal numbers” (or rather hypercomplex numbers) to physics was hardly as well-known as it is today. Regarding his mathematical education, Sri Aurobindo once said, probably in a self-deprecating manner, that “Euclid was bad enough. When Riemann came in, it was time for me to give up mathematics”. Riemann was a German mathematician who developed complex analysis, among other things.
To understand the significance of the above remark, it would be helpful to briefly trace the history of the development of hypercomplex numbers and their application to physics.
Complex numbers (numbers of the form “a+bi”) were known since their usage by Gauss in the early nineteenth century. Quaternions (numbers of the form “a + bi + cj +dk”) were discovered by Hamilton in 1844 and Grassman developed algebras around the same time. Clifford developed his eponymous Clifford Algebras in 1876. These discoveries remained unutilised by physicists until Gibbs gave a lecture on these topics in 1886. In 1885-1887, Oliver Heaviside wrote Electromagnetic induction and its propagation in which he employed vector calculus to re-express Maxwell’s electrodynamic theory. Eli Cartan developed spinors in 1911 and by 1930, Pauli and Dirac had successfully applied spinors to mathematical physics. It is only after this that the application of hypercomplex numbers picked up in physics. Today, these tools are pervasive in the theory of quantum mechanics. To understand the significance of complex numbers to physics, check out this blog post by physicist Luboš Motl
If Sri Aurobindo was referring to some trivial applications of complex numbers that he studied in school, then his remark is probably not very significant, but if he meant the whole machinery of abstract algebra in general, then it is a mystery as to how he could have known in 1935 of their growing application to physics.
Sino-Indian war of 1962
China launched a military campaign against Tibet in October 1950 and against India in October 1962. Sri Aurobindo had foreseen these Chinese plans when the Korean war had just begun on 25th June, 1950. In a letter to a disciple Amal Kiran dated 28th June, 1950, he had written:
I do not know why you want a line of thought to be indicated to you for your guidance in the affair of Korea. There is nothing to hesitate about there, the whole affair is as plain as a pike-staff. It is the first move in the Communist plan of campaign to dominate and take possession first of these northern parts and then of South East Asia as a preliminary to their manoeuvres with regard to the rest of the continent — in passing, Tibet as a gate opening to India. If they succeed, there is no reason why domination of the whole world should not follow by steps until they are ready to deal with America. That is, provided the war can be staved off with America until Stalin can choose his time. Truman seems to have understood the situation if we can judge from his moves in Korea, but it is to be seen whether he is strong enough and determined enough to carry the matter through. The measures he has taken are likely to be incomplete and unsuccessful, since they do not include any actual military intervention except on sea and in the air. That seems to be the situation; we have to see how it develops. One thing is certain that if there is too much shilly-shallying and if America gives up now her defence of Korea, she may be driven to yield position after position until it is too late: at one point or another she will have to stand and face the necessity of drastic action even if it leads to war. Stalin also seems not to be ready to face at once the risk of a world war and, if so, Truman can turn the tables on him by constantly facing him with the onus of either taking that risk or yielding position after position to America. I think that is all that I can see at present; for the moment the situation is as grave as it can be .
Invention of the atom bomb (nuclear energy)
Pavitra was a French disciple who had been educated at l’Ecole de Polytechnique in Paris. In a conversation with him dated 8 May 1926 regarding the Pancha-mahabhutas (five subtle elements), Sri Aurobindo said:
“Agni is threefold: ordinary fire(Jala Agni), electric fire(Vaidyuta Agni), solar fire(Saura Agni). Science only entered upon the first and the second of these fires. The fact that the atom is like the solar system could lead it to the knowledge of the third” .
The Manhattan project began in 1939 and the first nuclear device (Trinity) was detonated in 1945. Although this conversation took place in 1926, the talk was first published in an internal magazine, Sri Aurobindo Circle, much later in 1952. As a result, it may not satisfy the skeptic’s requirement that the prediction had to be published before the actual event.
Update Nov 11, 2012 : Shyam Kumari wrote to me pointing out that these two lines:
“A scientist played with atoms and blew out
The universe before God had time to shout.”
in the poem “A Dream of Surreal Science” (CWSA vol. 2, p 614). There exist three handwritten manuscripts for this poem dated 25 September 1939, according to CWSA vol. 2, page 721. This is another possible proof that Sri Aurobindo had foreseen the invention of atom bomb.
Existence of vital signs in Coma
When we fall asleep or go into a coma, the greater part of our consciousness recedes from the surface and plunges into the depths of the subliminal being. But there still persists a life-force within the body which can remember and respond when presented with an external stimulus. Writing in the early part of the twentieth century, Sri Aurobindo had outlined this condition of consciousness in his work The Life Divine. Advances in the neuroscientific technologies which allow us to peer deep into the brain of a coma patient are now confirming his insight. It is only recently that science has begun making a distinction between vegetative states and minimally conscious states.
For more on this, see the article “Mental awareness in comatose patients”
In his private diary and in conversations with disciples, Sri Aurobindo had made certain observations regarding the cognitive abilities of animals. Some of these observations are now being confirmed by advances in science which allow us to peer into the animal brain. He specifically said:
- Animals have a wide range of emotions: This is aligned with recent scientific evidence. Animals exhibit emotional fever, ambient emotional states and other non-trivial emotions.
- Animals have a rudimentary language capability: This is aligned with the current scientific data, and has been documented across several species.
- Animals have an “intelligence which acts within narrow limits of the needs of their life”: This is also aligned with the current scientific evidence. Animals can’t function completely like humans but they do exhibit limited rational skills.
- Animals have a “power of wonderful telepathic communication of impulse”: This is not yet scientifically proven, or if it is, I do not know the exact experiment which proves it.
To read more on this subject, see an earlier article “Insights into Animal Cognition”
Lateralization of brain function
In 1910, Sri Aurobindo wrote a series of essays entitled “A system of national education” in the Karmayogin magazine. In one passage in this series, he elucidated on the difference between the capacities of the left hemisphere and the right hemisphere of the brain:
…The intellect is an organ composed of several groups of functions, divisible into two important classes, the functions and faculties of the right-hand, the functions and faculties of the left-hand. The faculties of the right-hand are comprehensive, creative and synthetic; the faculties of the left-hand critical and analytic. To the right-hand belong judgment, imagination, memory, observation; to the left-hand comparison and reasoning….Both are essential to the completeness of the human reason .
Sri Aurobindo’s remarks anticipate the discoveries on functional lateralization in the human brain made by Michael Gazzaniga and Roger Wolcott Sperry in the 1960s. In those days, epileptic patients used to undergo a corpus callustomy to reduce seizures. The reduction of communication capacity between the left and right brain allowed Sperry and Gazzaniga to investigate the unique capacities of each hemisphere. Sperry was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1981 for his work on split-brain functioning. Today, it is commonly known that the left-brain is logical and analytical while the right-brain is said to be intuitive and creative. See Split brain on wikipedia
There are probably a few more such predictions lurking in the written works. Any further discoveries will be added to the comments section of this blog post.
Interpreting the universe by soul signs
He read from within the text of the without:
The riddle grew plain and lost its catch obscure.
A larger lustre lit the mighty page.
(Sri Aurobindo. Savitri, Book I, Canto V)
- Sri Aurobindo. On Himself, SABCL vol. 26, p 390.
- Government of India, Home Department-A, June 1912, 41-68: 67.
- Sri Aurobindo. Record of Yoga, CWSA vol. 10-11, p 143.
- Ibid., p 621.
- Ibid., p 624.
- Ibid., p 42.
- Anurag Banerjee. Private Communication.
- Sri Aurobindo. Isha Upanishad, CWSA vol 17, p 536.
- Nirodbaran. Correspondence with Sri Aurobindo, p 142.
- Nirodbaran, Talks With Sri Aurobindo. Vol 2, page 531
- Sri Aurobindo. On Himself. SABCL vol 26, p 416
- Sri Aurobindo Circle, Eighth number, 1952, pp 99-102.
- Sri Aurobindo. Early Cultural Writings, CWSA vol. 1, p 387.
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