Sri Aurobindo is notable for being one of the few mystics who have given a comprehensive philosophy formulation of the nature of Reality founded in their own experience. For him, consciousness is the fundamental reality of existence. it is the energy, the movement of consciousness that creates the universe and drives the urge towards growth and evolution. The nature and development of the human being finds an explanation in the context of this evolution of consciousness in the universe.
According to Sri Aurobindo, real psychology is the science of consciousness, an examination of its nature and movements. Although he never formally systematised his psychological thought it is found throughout his extensive writings on yoga and philosophy, in this volume, A. S. Dala addresses the need for an ordered look at that aspect of Sri Aurobindo's thought. The first part of the book presents an anthology of Sri Aurobindo's writings on such subjects as the nature of consciousness, the subliminal and the subconscient, the superconscient, the psychic being, the second part collects some of Dala's own essays in which he explicitly delineates the underlying psychological system found in Sri Aurobindo's writings, Among its many insights, the book provides an understanding of concepts such as the self, ego and individuality, often a conundrum to the novice seeker, and a lucid presentation of the psychological structure and organisation of the being.
Sri Aurobindo was born in Calcutta on 15 August 1872. At the age of seven he was taken to England for his education. He studied at St. Paul's School, London, and at King's College, Cambridge.
Returning to India in 1893, he worked for the next thirteen years in the Princely State of Baroda in the Service of the Maharaja and as a professor in the State's college. In 1906 Sri Aurobindo quit his post in Baroda and went to Calcutta, where he became one of the leaders of the Indian Nationalist Movement. As editor of the newspaper Bande Mataram, he put forward the idea of complete independence from Britain. Arrested three times for sedition or treason, he was released each time for lack of evidence.
Sri Aurobindo began the practice of Yoga in 1906. Within a few years he achieved several fundamental spiritual realisations. In 1910 he withdrew from politics and went of Pondicherry in French India to concentrate on his inner life and work. Over the next forty years, he developed a new spiritual path, the Integral Yoga, the ultimate aim of which is the Transformation of life by the Power of a supramental consciousness.
In 1926 with the help of his spiritual collaborator The mother, he founded the institution that bears his name: Sri Aurobindo Ashram. His vision of life is Presented in numerous works of prose and poetry, among the best known of which are The Life Divine, The Synthesis of Yoga, Essays on the Gita and Savitri.
Sri Aurobindo Ghose was India's greatest modern Philosopher-sage, flowing out of a country that is one of the most astonishing and profound geographical sources of spiritual awareness on the planet. But Aurobindo's genius was not merely that he captured the profundity of India's extraordinary spiritual heritage. He was the first great philosopher sage to deeply grasp the nature and meaning of the modern idea of evolution. And thus, in Aurobindo, we have the first grand statement of an evolutionary spirituality that is an integration of the best of ancient wisdom and the brightest of modern knowledge. It wasn't that other great thinkers had not seen that evolution is basically and a profoundly enlightened consciousness the way Aurobindo did. His enlightenment informed his philosophy; his philosophy gave substance to his enlightenment and that combination has been rarely equalled, in this or any time.
There is no question about it: the modern world has irreversibly discovered the fact that the world evolves Matter evolves, life evolves, mind evolves. And Spirit evolves or, we might say spirit is the entire evolves, and Spirit evolves or, we might say, Spirt is the entire evolutionary process of its own unfolding, from matter to life to mind to the higher and superconscient realms of Spirit's own being. This evolutionary unfolding of Spirit – as it plays out in psychology, anthropology , religion, politics, the arts, and spiritual practice itself – is the central message of Aurobindo's voluminous writings.
As such Aurobindo's message is still far ahead of its time. The world remains, to speak in very general terms, divided into two highly contentious camps: those who believe in the ancient wisdom traditions and therefore tend to completely distrust the modern notion of evolution), and those who believe the modern scientific view of evolution (which completely dispenses with any notions of spirit). Both of those views are terribly partial and fragmented, even though both views are terribly partial and fragmented, even though both claim to have the inside track on truth. But as Aurobindo saw probably more clearly than anybody before or since – the scientific account of evolution, which relies on nothing but frisky dirt, dynamic matter, and process systems (e.g., chaos theories, far-from –equilibrium dissipative structures, autopoiesis, etc.) cannot even begin to explain the extraordinary series of transformations that brought forth life from matter and mind from life, and that is destined to bring forth, in just the same way, higher mind and over mind and super mind: spirit alone can account for the astonishment that is the glory of evolution. Likewise, there is nothing that authentic religion should fear in the notion of evolution. Real spirituality is not a theory about how to make the beans grow, nor is it an empirical account of anthropological data. It is not is about whether or not you can awaken to the Spirit in you which is beyond you, and that therefore plugs you straight into the Source and Suchness of the entire Kosmos. That you can develop your own contemplative abilities to recognize this spirit is only to say that you can evolve into your own highest Estate and that is yet another example of Aurobindo's message of evolutionary spirituality.
Aurobindo thus stands as one of the great founders of integral spirituality and integral practice. All subsequent attempts at such integrative efforts must, I believe, at least scknowledge Aurobindo's enduring genius and in many ways still unsurpassed efforts. His influence at home and abroad has been and continues to be, enormous. At the very least, special mention should be made of the work of Mike Murphy (The Future of the Body) Murphy and Leonard (The Life we Are Given); and my own Integral Psychology.
I would also like to take this opportunity to clear up an unfortunate slander that has been circulating about Aurobindo, namely, that some of his writings have a racist overtone. In particular, sections from The Human Cycle have been quoted to allegedly show that Aurobindo was advocating the superiority of certain races. In fact, as those passages make quite clear, Aurobindo was ridiculing and condemning those who think in that fashion. Less than honest critics have simply taken those sections out of context and presented them as Aurobindo's view, whereas they are clearly the view he is convicting. Aurobindo's integral embrace is, if anything, the opposite of racism.
When it comes to a "greater psychology" one which in cludes body, mind soul, and spirit, in both ascending/ evolution ary and descending/involutionary currents – Aurobindo has much to teach us, as is clearly and beautifully documented in the book you now hold in your hands. A.S. Dalal has done a superb job in presenting a balanced sampling of Aurobindo's psychological writings. Because of its fair and representative nature, its comprehensive examples, and the clarity of Dalal's own commentary, this book is surely the finest overview of Aurobindo's psychological thought now available, and it will likely remain a classic reference for the foreseeable future. All of those who are deeply interested in a greater psychology and what sane soul cannot be? Will find this book a wonderful companion, and I believe we can all thank A.S. Dalal for this noble effort, Autobindo stands as a towering lighthouse signalling to all of us, through the stormy waves of life, that home can be found at the Source of that light, which once found, transfigures everything.
I am glad of my association with this very important and remarkably scholarly book by Dr. A.S. Dalal, a valued friend and esteemed colleague. A Greater Psychology is a gathering together under one cover of all the Salient aspects of Sri Aurobindo's psychological thought, thus providing an excellent introduction for psychology students and scholars as well as for the interested general reader.
The time for such a book has come and it is appearing at the right moment. For there is a growing interest in Indian yoga and spirituality in the western world. Though much of this interest is not of the right kind it cannot be gainsaid that there are many people in Europe and North and South America whose interest is genuine, and the glamour of the exotic has little or no part in it. Nevertheless it cannot be denied that there is a good deal of misunderstanding about the nature of yoga.
This book is timely particularly because during recent years there has been an explosion of interest in the study of consciousness as evidenced by numerous journal articles and books on the subject by writers from several different disciplines. But Western thought has been concerned with the aspects and functions of consciousness rather than with the essential nature of consciousness. That is simply this that Consciousness is the reality of all that is; it is self existent and self luminous. William James (whose book Principles of Psychology was admired by Sri Aurobindo) in his celebrated essay "Does Consciousnes Exist?" answered the Question by saying that consciousness is real but as a function, not as an entity. Sri Autobindo says exactly the opposite. Consciousness is not only an entity but the Entity; its various aspects and functions are its self expressions by the exercise of its own inherent Conscious Force.
It may well be asked what the subject of yoga has to do with a book on Sri Aurobindo's psychological thought. The answer lies in the fact that Sri Aurobindo was first and foremost an integral yogi and spiritual mystic. While he was also a philosopher who formulated in rational terms – as far as that was possible a comprehensive system of experiential concepts about the nature of the supreme Reality, the world, man, evolution of consciousness in the world with which is connected the subject of the role of consciousness in that evolution and the goal to which it is moving, still it must be clearly pointed out that Sri Aurobindo was first a yogi and then a philosopher. For on his own admission the materials of his philosophy were provided by yogic experiences obtained by the practice of certain Psychological disciplines and not by speculative thinking. What then is yoga? Normally, practices such as physical postures, breath control, meditation, repeating a name of God or of a word or control, meditation, repeating a name of God or of a word or group of words, a mantra, etc. are understood as yoga. But these are particular disciplines and not the essence of yoga. According to Sri Aurobindo, yoga has the same relation with the inner nature and being of man as the natural sciences have with the forces of external nature like, say steam or electricity. Yoga studies by repeated observation and experiment the forces and movements of the human psyche, its mental, vital and physical aspects, their mutual relation and influence. In the process of this inner exploration Yoga discovers many capacities for knowledge, action and enjoyment which are not known to "empirical" psychology, for that deals with the surface nature of man. True, there is depth psychology but yoga avers that its depth is not deep enough, and that there is or should be a "height" psychology and a "breadth" psychology as well. For yoga includes not only methods of discovering depths of consciousness but also of heightening and widening it. These are not empty notions but actual facts discovered and effectuated by yoga.
Sri Aurobindo has said that real psychology is the science of consciousness. But consciousness in his experience is not only mental intelligence and feeling. For mind is only one level of the multi-level reality called Consciousness. This brings us to the philosophy of Sri Aurobindo. The basic elements of Sri Aurobindo's philosophy, briefly stated, are as follows. There is a supreme, sovereign Reality which depends on nothing for its being: this independent Reality is self luminous, that is, it is not revealed by anything other than itself. It is dynamic and becomes everything in the other than itself. It is dynamic and becomes everything in the world, arranging itself in a hierarchical system. As independent being it is called Sat, existence, or less abstractly, the Existent. It is the inmost Reality of everything and as such is termed self. As a self. As a self luminous reality, it is designated Consciousness which is self conscious. As a dynamic reality, it is known as Consciousness force. As Consciousness force. It manifests itself on many levels. It is life in plants, instinct in insects and animals, mental intelligence, will and feeling in human beings and powers higher than mind in yogis and mystics. It has the power of self determination and self- limitation. By the exercise of this power it becomes determinate things. By self limitation it seems to become progressively less conscious until it becomes what Sri Aurobindo designates the Inconscient, which conceals consciousness to such an extent that it seems non-existent there, though in truth it is existent but only unmanifest. As the Existent Conscious, Reality has three self determined aspects: self, Soul and God the Lord. As Self it remains in the background of the process of self manifestation of the Reality: as Soul it is the Conscious Being who sanctions the creative adventure of the Consciousness Force, and as the Lord it controls the process of the self manifestations of the reality. The ture being in man is a portion of the supreme reality and is called the soul of psychic being by Sri Aurobindo. The psychic being is of the same essence as God and is other than body, life and mind.
Further, Consciousness descended into and self hidden in the Inconscient, progressively manifests itself. Another way of stating it is that it evolves its own higher levels which brings about the emergence of Matter, life and Mind in the world. The evolution of Mind, or mental beings is a stage in this process of evolution of Mind, or mental beings, is a stage in this process of the unfolding of consciousness of the supreme Reality. The process is continuing and is in travail of the manifestation of a level of consciousness higher than mind, for mind is a power which is a seeker of knowledge, and in so far as it has knowledge it is partial and even that too it does not properly possess. The higher level of consciousness which is in the process of manifestation is termed the Super mind by Sri Aurobindo. It is the Reality's integral Self knowledge, and world-knowledge coupled with in fallible will. The Super mind is not only the Knowledge will of the reality it is the medium of its self-manifestation as and in the world. To all intents and purposes Existence- Consciousness-Force as the supermind is at the core of everything through different levels of its own being and power. From the point of view of the world and man, which are respectively the venue and the medium of evolution of consciousness, the supermind is unfolding itself and its manifestation will bring about the emergence of a new race of beings here on this Earth who will be equipped with true knowledge of the Reality and of the world and the will to effectuate the fulfilment of God here. Man is or can be a conscious and willing collaborator in this process of the evolution of the superman. Mind is the medium of the unfolding of the now-concealed and only partly revealed Divine Being.
Sri Aurobindo has been described by ken Wilber as India's greatest modern philosopher sage" and also as" the greatest of all Vedantic philosophers". The aim of this book is to highlight another aspect of Sri Aurobindo, not that of a Philosopher but of a mystic, for whom the ultimate Reality popularly called God or Spirit is not an abstract or Philosophical concept but a concrete experience, "more concrete than anything sensed by ear or eye or touch in the world of Matter". The aim of the book is to present Sri Aurobindo as a Seer whose delineation of the future of the human being and of Human society is not an ideative dream of what ought to be, but a spiritual pre vision of what is already in the process of Becoming.
It is significant that Wilber, whom an another has described as "the most comprehensive philosophical thinker of our times", bases his integral vision on the core model of the spectrum of consciousness, a model which underlies Sri Aurobindo's map of Reality.
Two features of Sri Aurobindo's psychological thought which have appealed to me most, and which I have tried to bring out in particular in this book, are its experiential basis and its integral nature.
Sri Autobindo is among those few mystics who, based on a direct experience of the ultimate Reality, have given a systematic Philosophical formulation of the nature of Reality founded on their experience. The mystical experience, states Sri Aurobindo, pertains to "a greater consciousness beyond Mind" (p. 182), and is therefore supra intellectual. The mystic speaks about the supra intellectual in philosophical or intellectual terms in order to communicate to "those who still live in the mental intelligence". Among such philosophies based on mystical experience, Sri Aurobindo's is perhaps the most comprehensive, permitting a synthesis and reconciliation of diverse insights which appear contrary because of their non integral nature. In particular, Sri Aurobindo's integral Psychological thought provides a framework for the integration of the conventional psychologies of the West - which study the outer personality - with the spiritual psychologies of the East which deal chiefly with the inner person.
While advocating a strictly scientific method in the pursuit of psychological knowledge, Sri Aurobindo points out the inherent limitations of a methodology based solely on reason and positivism, and argues for a spiritual approach to the study of experience which lies beyond the realm of reason, thus vindicating both science and spirituality.
In Sri Aurobindo's experience, the human being is one with and inseparable from the Being of the universe. Therefore in his thought, psychology is part of and intermingled with cosmology. The nature and development of the human being find an explanation in the light of the nature and evolution of the universe.
Sections in Part One of this book, consisting of passages from Sri Aurobindo's writings, follow a sequential development of thought (except for sections 14, 15, 19 and 20), and are, there- fore, best read consecutively, unless one is already adequately familiar with Sri Aurobindo's thought.
The essays in Part Two of this book, originally written as independent articles, are meant to serve chiefly as an aid in understanding Sri Aurobindo's own writings contained in the anthology. They do not purport to be my expositions of Sri Aurobindo's thought but rather a faithful presentation of his thought, to a great extent in his own words. My comments are meant only to provide elucidations and to bring out the integral nature of the thought presented. Both the student and the scholar were kept in view in writing these essays. Therefore their contents pertain to different levels of understanding. Sri Aurobindo never tried to systematize his psychological thought which is scattered throughout his various and numerous writings on yoga and philosophy. The essays aim at bringing out explicitly the system underlying his thought.
Sri Aurobindo's writings, based on spiritual experience rather than on intellectual theory, can convey not only their thought content but also something of the higher state of consciousness underlying the thought when read in a meditatively receptive way. This is but one reason why I have often chosen to quote Sri Aurobindo instead of paraphrasing him.
The reader, if not already familiar with the fact, will discover that Sri Aurobindo's writings cannot be understood by means of "speed reading". To read Sri Aurobindo with understanding is to engage in a sort of reflective meditation, dwelling on each sentence, sometimes re-reading a sentence.
The passages in the anthology have been drawn from a number of different sources, including Sri Aurobindo's letters on the same subject to different disciples. Therefore, although each passage under a given topic deals with a different aspect of the topic, certain ideas are repeated. Some repetitions will be found also in the essays. Generally, these repetitions serve to drive home salient or seminal ideas in Sri Aurobindo's thought.
A word regarding Sri Aurobindo's terminology. As do many original thinkers and persons who have had a unique experience, Sri Aurobindo, too, employs certain words of his own coinage, e.g. "super mind", "over mind", etc., and uses many common terms with an uncommon connotation, e.g. "transformation", "psychic", etc. Grasping well the meanings of such terms as used by Sri Aurobindo is indispensable to the understanding of his thought.
"Yoga", states Sri Aurobindo, "is nothing but practical psychology." For yoga as a method for the attainment of Self-realization and transformation of consciousness is merely the application of certain psychological principles. This book, which deals only with the theoretical aspects of Sri Aurobindo's psychological thought, is thus an introduction to the practical psychology underlying his yoga.
I am deeply grateful to Ken Wilber who offered helpful comments and valuable suggestions regarding the manuscript. His support and commendation have been a great encouragement to me in my hope to bring this book to a wide readership among those interested in a greater than conventional psychology.
I would like to take this opportunity to pay my tribute to Wilber for exercising the widest influence in highlighting the integral nature of Sri Aurobindo's thought. Thanks to Wilber's work, now published in twenty languages, almost everyone the world over interested in integral thought today is apt to be familiar with the name of Sri Aurobindo, whereas until a few decades ago, Sri Aurobindo was to a large extent unknown outside of India.
I am grateful also to Professor Arabinda Basu, former Sri Aurobindo Professor of Philosophy at Hindu Banaras University, who has always been willing to give me his time whenever I needed help for clarifying philosophical points pertaining to Sri Aurobindo's psychological thought.
I wish to express my appreciation to Matthijs Cornelissen, M.D. and Lynn Crawford for their helpful suggestions and feed- back and for their assistance in preparing the manuscript of this book.
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