INSTITUTE FOR INTEGRAL YOGA PSYCHOLOGY

(a project of Mirravision Trust, Financed by Auroshakti Foundation)

 
Chapters
Chapter I
Chapter II - Part 1
Chapter II - Part 2
Chapter II - Part 3
Chapter II - Part 4
Chapter III - Part 1
Chapter III - Part 2
Chapter III - Part 3
Chapter III - Part 4
Chapter III - Part 5
Chapter III - Part 6
Chapter IV - Part 1
Chapter IV - Part 2
Chapter IV - Part 3
Chapter IV - Part 4
Chapter V-Part 1
Chapter V - Part 2
Chapter V - Part 3
Chapter V - Part 4
Chapter V - Part 5
Chapter VI - Part 1
Chapter VI - Part 2
Chapter VI - Part 3
Chapter VI - Part 4
Chapter VI - Part 5
Chapter VII - Part 1
Chapter VII - Part 2
Chapter VII - Part 3
Chapter VII - Part 4
Chapter VII - Part 5
Chapter VIII - Part 1
Chapter VIII - Part 2
Chapter VIII - Part 3
Chapter VIII - Part 4
Chapter IX - Part 1
Chapter IX - Part 2
Chapter X - Part 1
Chapter X - Part 2
Chapter X - Part 3
Chapter X - Part 4
Chapter X - Part 5
Chapter X - Part 6
Chapter XI - Part 1
Chapter XI - Part 2
Chapter XI - Part 3
Chapter XI - Part 4
Chapter XII - Part 1
Chapter XII - Part 2
Chapter XII - Part 3
Chapter XII - Part 4
Chapter XII - Part 5
Chapter XIII - Part 1
Chapter XIII - Part 2
Chapter XIV - Part 1
Chapter XIV - Part 2
Chapter XIV - Part 3
Chapter XIV - Part 4
Chapter XIV - Part 5
Chapter XV - Part 1
Chapter XV - Part 2
Chapter XV - Part 3
Chapter XV - Part 4
Chapter XV - Part 5
Chapter XV - Part 6
Chapter XV - Part 7
Chapter XV - Part 8
Chapter XV - Part 9
Chapter XVI - Part 1
Chapter XVI - Part 2
Chapter XVI - Part 3
Chapter XVI - Part 4
Chapter XVI - Part 5
Chapter XVI - Part 6
Chapter XVI - Part 7
Chapter XVI - Part 8
Chapter XVI - Part 9
Chapter XVI - Part 10
Chapter XVI - Part 11
Chapter XVI - Part 12
Chapter XVI - Part 13
Chapter XVII - Part 1
Chapter XVII - Part 2
Chapter XVII - Part 3
Chapter XVII - Part 4
Chapter XVIII - Part 1
Chapter XVIII - Part 2
Chapter XVIII - Part 3
Chapter XVIII - Part 4
Chapter XVIII - Part 5
Chapter XVIII - Part 6
Chapter XVIII - Part 7
Chapter XVIII - Part 8
Chapter XVIII - Part 9
Chapter XVIII - Part 10
Chapter XIX - Part 1
Chapter XIX - Part 2
Chapter XIX - Part 3
 

A Psychological Approach to Sri Aurobindo's

The Life Divine

 
Chapter VIII Part 3

We have considered that when ‘Reason’ bases itself on sensory evidence, the human psyche considers it to be ‘authentic’. On the other hand, when, Reason, or to put it figuratively, THE IDEA, exceeds our senses, becomes independent of the limitations of perceptual information, becomes more flexible but somewhat abstract, ethereal and seems rather to be made up of the stuff of which dreams are made of. It seems to lack the solidity, the concreteness that sensory perception transmits.

 Why is it so?

 Sri Aurobindo answers by stating what He Himself considers to be a very basic psychological postulate:

‘…our nature sees things through two eyes always, for it views them doubly as idea and as fact

and therefore every concept is incomplete for us and to a part of our nature almost unreal until it becomes an experience’. (The Life Divine, pg69)

Every idea has to become an experience if it has to be effectuated in Reality. Life thus turns out to be a matrix for experiential psychology!

Sensory perception is our first experiential level of functioning. It is the experience with which we begin life. Moreover, we live in a physical universe and our senses are enmeshed in our physical schemata—hence the sensory experience appears to be so veridical in nature.

It is also true that we have our non-physical worlds. We have our ideas, fantasies, dreams, ideals, theories, theses, hypotheses—and these make an equally valid claim to be ‘experienced’, ‘worked out’ and ‘lived’. Our inability to experience them with the same concreteness as we experience ‘physical’ phenomena arises due to what Sri Aurobindo explains as a ‘regularity of a dominant habit’. (Ibid, pg 71)                          

Sensory perception is not the only ‘experiential’ measure we have in our repertoire. The next experiential level of functioning operates through the faculty of reason. Beyond that we have supra-rational levels of experience. Before elaborating on these different experiential levels, we need to appreciate two broad types of psychological experience that encompass our experiential ways of acquiring knowledge: OBJECTIVE and SUBJECTIVE.

OBJECTIVE EXPERIENCE

Our objective experience depends on that which we perceive through our external senses. Its importance lies in the fact that it can be verified and corroborated by others. That is why it finds favor with the scientific community. It is on objective experience that the whole field of deductive knowledge has been built and modern science gains its credibility. Objective experience was necessary to counter superstitions and religion based dogmas that were acting as barriers to the expansion of our knowledge- base. 

Sri Aurobindo explains that the main problem of Objectivism is that it is ‘A LAW OUTSIDE ONESELF”--------‘It looks at the world as a thing, an object, a process to be studied by an observing reason which places itself abstractly outside the elements and the sum of what it has to consider and observes it thus from outside as one would an intricate mechanism. The laws of this process are considered as so many mechanical rules or settled forces..which, when they have been observed and distinguished by the reason, have by one’s will or by some will to be organized and applied fully…A law outside oneself,--outside even when it is discovered or determined by the individual reason and accepted or enforced by the individual will, -- this is the governing idea of objectivism..’(Sri Aurobindo, The Human Cycle, ,3rd edition,1997, pg 58)

Why does Sri Aurobindo make such a statement? He points out the disturbing trait that objectivism implies—‘the distinction of ourself as subject and everything else as object’ (The Life Divine, pg 70). This distinction is actually a distortion of the Unity-principle of Reality. Actually, the Unity-principle got distorted with the appearance of multiplicity. Each individual unit of the multiplicity had to assert and develop its own potentiality and uniqueness and this had to be mediated by some separative principle. This separative principle is the ego and is the prime cause why the individual considers oneself as separate from the rest of the world leading to the glorification of objectivism. The spiritual tradition of India considered that the separative standpoint of the ego was a barrier to a “direct’ knowledge of Reality leading one to be dependent on the senses for an ‘indirect’ knowledge. ‘This limitation is a fundamental creation of the ego and an instance of the manner in which it has proceeded throughout, starting from an original falsehood and covering over the true truth of things by contingent falsehoods which become for us practical truths of relation’. (Ibid) (In this passage, the term ‘original falsehood’ refers to the fact that the ego came into existence to distort the unity-principle, and naturally, it had to lead to an indirect, dependent knowledge prone to error)

Hence the spiritual tradition of India tried out a second approach—the exploration of a more ‘direct’ knowledge by a ‘subjective’ approach.

 SUBJECTIVE EXPERIENCE

Subjective experience does not primarily depend on our sensory evidence – it proceeds from within. While objectivism was a law outside oneself, Subjectivism is A LAW WITHIN OURSELVES. Subjectivism ‘regards everything from the point of view of a containing and developing self-consciousness….life is a self-creating process, a growth and development at first subconscious, then half-conscious and at last more and more fully conscious of that which we are potentially and hold within ourselves; the principle of its progress is an increasing self-recognition, self-realisation and a resultant self-shaping…. reason and intellectual will are only a part of the means by which we recognize and realise ourselves. Subjectivism tends to take a large and complex view of our nature and being and to recognize many powers of knowledge, many forces of effectuation.(The Human Cycle, vide supra, pg 58-59)

How does subjective experience proceed? It uses faculties like ‘identity’ and ‘intuition’. These faculties are sporadically present in the general mass of humanity and more intensely present in exceptional individuals. They can be of course cultivated and developed through a technology of consciousness..

In a way, some sort of knowledge by identity operates even in ordinary life. How do we ordinarily experience our emotions? Suppose we want to experience anger. When one trembles with anger, is carried away with the velocity of one’s outburst, then of course, one is not in a state to introspect. But if a part of the consciousness remains detached, then, even during the phenomenon of anger, one can ‘witness’’ one’s anger and identify with it. Or else, after the anger has subsided, one can non-judgmentally introspect into oneself to discover the root-causes that went on building up till the anger burst forth. Thus one can actually identify with one’s anger. 

Spiritual aspirants perfected this technique of ‘identification’ till it extended to identify with deeper and higher levels of consciousness. This is how mystics and seers could ‘experience’ higher spiritual states of ‘Sachchidananda’ and could have realizations like ‘All this is Brahman’.

Sri Aurobindo explains,

The whole impulse of subjectivism is to get at the self, to live in the self, to see by the self, to live out the truth of the self internally and externally but always from an internal initiation and centre (The Human Cycle, pg 59)

 Implications  of Subjectivity and Objectivity

One can say—let the scientist be happy with his objectivity and the mystic be contented with his subjectivity. They represent different paradigms of knowledge and the proponents of one need not worry about the other.

 But there are certain emerging traits that necessitate a reorientation of our conventional ways of classification:  

  1. While physical sciences are ‘pure’ objective disciplines, spirituality is a pure subjective discipline. But there are also wide ranges of psychosocial disciplines that are neither fully subjective, nor fully objective. This is why disciplines like psychology and sociology are not accepted to be strictly ‘scientific’ like physics or chemistry.

    Unfortunately a large number of psychologists and social scientists strive hard to  make their disciplines fully objective. For example, emotions like ‘anger’ and ‘love’ can be objectively studied in terms of physiological correlates that can be externally measured. But ‘anger’ and ‘love’ have their non-measurable ‘consciousness’ dimensions, which need ‘subjective’ understanding.

    It is only recently that a section of psychology has awakened to the fact that it has to expand its horizon and consider human life from a broader consciousness perspective. In that vision, spirituality should have its rightful place. In fact, the emergence of transpersonal psychology, the resurgence of interest in consciousness studies, the study of mystical experiences like ‘trance states’ as valid psychological experiences of a higher order—all these point to the increasing acknowledgement of ‘subjectivity’. The Time-Spirit or Zeitgeist presses for the consideration of ‘objective’ and ‘subjective’ knowledge as complementary and not contradictory movements. 

  2. The ‘pure’ sciences like physics, chemistry and biology also cannot remain strictly objective. As they expand their horizons, they move to subtler realms. It is well known how the old physics, which believed in the inviolability of its laws, had to undergo a paradigm shift to accommodate more flexible and intuitive approaches. Actually, mechanical science in its progress reaches a point where it needs a non-mechanical paradigm to bridge explanatory gaps. This is equally true in the field of biological sciences where imitation and genetic programming have failed to explain all animal behaviors. In the case of the human being, medical science itself had to modify the definition of Health to add spiritual well-being as an equally important dimension to physical, psychological and social well-being. This modification emerged from a growing realization that health and well-being cannot be considered in strictly objective terms.

  3. Spirituality, itself a classical subjective discipline, was content to remain in its ivory tower bestowing its benefits to the select few, beckoning them to an oasis of fulfillment while the rest of humanity continued to languish in the arid desert of a hapless life bounded by suffering, ingratitude, falsehood, ignorance and death. It lured ordinary people with the prize of heaven or scared them with the fear of hell while life continued to remain unchanged. Or else, it overwhelmed spiritual aspirants and mystics with great realizations like Nirvana, Sachchidananda, and Krishna Consciousness and ‘liberated’ the selected from the agony of life. But things changed with Sri Aurobindo’s clarion call of TRANSFORMATION OF LIFE. If life is not rejected for spiritual realization but ‘transformed’ and ‘transmuted’, then spirituality cannot remain absorbed in its subjective stance but must move out to be effectuated in objective life. Spirituality has to be a living discipline and has to be accessible to the modern world in a way that suits the contemporary mind-set. For that, it cannot remain solely in its subjective poise, it has to blossom in the world of objectivity.

 Therefore the Time-Spirit presses the lessening of the gap between

(a)   The objective experience—which has been perfected by science; and

(b)  The subjective experience—which has been perfected by spirituality and reached its acme in the great Vedic and Vedantic realizations.

Sri Aurobindo Himself had commented that the present rational age of humanity would move towards a spiritual age en route an era of subjectivism. This will be marked by a gradual effacing of the borders between science and spirituality.

The Greater Plan

I am held no more by life’s alluring cry,

Her joy and grief, her charm, her laughter’s lute.

Hushed are the magic moments of the flute,

And form and colour and brief ecstasy.

I would hear, in my spirit’s wideness solitary,

The Voice that speaks when mortal lips are mute:

I seek the wonder of things absolute

Born from the silence of Eternity.

There is a need within the soul of man

The splendours of the surface never sate;

For life and mind and their glory and debate,

Are the slow prelude of a vaster theme

A sketch confused of a supernal plan,

A preface to the epic of the Supreme .

(Sri Aurobindo, Collected Poems, pg 167)
 Date of Update:
7-Feb-12   

- By Dr. Soumitra Basu

© 2017 IIYP  |  Contact