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

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

A Psychological Approach to Sri Aurobindo's

The Life Divine

Chapter VIII Part 4

We have seen how difficult it is to have a ‘direct’, first-hand knowledge of everything in the universe as,

    Firstly, we tend to believe that our senses, being enmeshed in the physical schemata can give a faithful representation of physical phenomena. However, we have examined how our sensory perception is prone to error leading to false assumptions;

   Secondly, we tend to regard the findings of our ‘objective’ approach as ‘direct’ in contrast to our ‘subjective’ approach that we think is prone to our individual idiosyncrasies. Yet, we discover that with our entire rational repertoire, our objective approach cannot enter into a ‘direct’ awareness of the ‘psyche’ of others. It can draw some vague representations and symbolizations from psychometric and psychoanalytic approaches but cannot fully identify with the deeper psychological world of other individuals;

(c)   Thirdly, both sensory perception and objective knowledge are instruments used by the individual whose psychological structure revolves around the ego. The ego was specially manifested to develop a unique individuality at the expense of the unity-principle in existence. Hence an ego-bound knowledge cannot reflect the all-pervading unity in the cosmos, and remains imperfect and incomplete.

The Sixth Sense

How can we have a ‘direct’ knowledge of everything?

Ancient Indian seers tried to tackle this problem at a practical level and forwarded the concept of the sixth sense or ‘Manas’—the ‘sense-mind’. It is ostensibly that part of the mind which co-ordinates our sensory experiences to give them a meaningful interpretation but that is only one aspect of its functions. The Manas can also directly perceive objects without the usual physical sensory inputs. It is because of the sovereign action of the Manas that the mind can free itself from its dependence on the physical senses and can ‘take direct cognizance of the objects of sense without the aid of the sense-organs. This is what happens in experiments of hypnosis and cognate psychological phenomena.’(The Life Divine, pg 71) Sri Aurobindo explains that due to our habit of being dependent on the senses, the “mind’ cannot act directly on the objects of sense unless it is put into some sort of trance state, as is done during  hypnosis. With practice, this faculty can also be extended to the waking state. Indeed, He clarifies that the tendency to be aware of the world through our senses is not an iron law—it is merely the regularity of a dominant habit (Ibid).

Sri Aurobindo also explains that that the sovereign action of the Sense-mind or Manas can lead to the development of subjective perception besides the objective perception provided classically by the five senses. That is how we can develop the power of estimation: ‘For instance, it is possible to develop the power of appreciating accurately without physical means the weight of an object which we hold in our hands. Here the sense of contact and pressure is merely used as a starting-point, just as the data of sense-experience are used by the pure reason, but it is not really the sense of touch which gives the measure of the weight to the mind; that finds the right value through its own independent perception and uses the touch only in order to enter into relation with the object…the sense-experience can be used as a mere first-point from which it proceeds to a knowledge that has nothing to do with the sense-organs and often contradicts their evidence. Nor is the extension of the faculty confined only to the outsides…It is possible…to receive or to perceive the thoughts or feelings of others without aid from their utterance, gesture, action or facial expressions and even in contradiction of these always partial and often misleading data.’(Ibid, pg 71- 72)

 Finally, all physical senses have their intrinsic essence that can be developed as subtle senses by a yogic discipline. Yogis and mystics use these subtle sense-powers to ‘perceive’ subtle or non-physical phenomena. (A classical example of such a subtle perception is available in the Downloads section of Publications in this website in the article titled ‘The Amazing Phenomena of Extra-sensory Perception of Nuclear Structure and Subatomic Particles’. In this extra-ordinary article, the authors use their inner, subtle senses to unravel the subatomic structure of particles long before sophisticated instruments were devised)

Beyond ‘Manas’

In Sri Aurobindo’s scheme of things, ‘Manas’ is yet imperfect. Why? The answer arises from a very basic postulate of Integral Yoga Psychology—the psychological perspective of Sri Aurobindo’s Integral yoga. In Sri Aurobindo’s classification of the planes and parts of the Being, “Manas” belongs to the ‘Outer Being’ that is studied as ‘personality’ in contemporary psychology and revolves around the ego. On one hand, there is a lack of harmony between the different components of the outer being, viz. cognition, emotion, will, physical substrate etc. On the other hand, the ego is too skewed to allow full perfection of the components of the outer being—it always leads to a lop-sided development of one part at the expense of the other. Therefore, any approach of the outer being cannot lead to the experiential realisation of truths that are described in the Gita as buddhigrahyam atindriyam-- i.e. truths that cannot be perceived by the senses but cannot be dismissed as they can yet be seized by the domain of the Idea, by the Thinker, by the Idealist, by the Metaphysician, by the Philosopher! (In this chapter, Sri Aurobindo uses the term ‘reason’ to describe the domain of the Idea.)

Sri Aurobindo gives a solution. He explains that the realisation of supra-sensorial truths can be achieved if we develop supra-rational instruments that belong to the domain of the ‘Inner Being’. The Inner Being or Subliminal Being is a distinct dimension of personality that stands in between the outer being and the innermost soul-principle; and is in communion with the cosmic consciousness. We will elaborate the ‘Inner Being’ in full details later on as its structured representation is one of the most unique contributions of Sri Aurobindo to the world of psychology. Suffice it is to mention at this point that one of the chief supra-rational instruments used by the Inner Being is ‘INTUITION”. A methodical and graded development of Intuition can lead to a ‘direct’ awareness of everything in the universe--physical and subtle. This is what is hinted in the verse of the Katha Upanishad(Verse 3.12) quoted at the beginning of this chapter:

‘This secret Self in all beings is not apparent, but it is seen by means of the supreme reason, the subtle, by those who have the subtle vision’ (The term ‘supreme reason’ here indicates a faculty higher than the mental reason; it indicates a supra-rational faculty in contemporary parlance.)


‘Intuition’ is a favourite Aurobindonian postulate and He develops it with great mastery and insight in The Life Divine. Intuition is a supra-rational Light that suddenly leaps with its illuminative ray, opening a gateway to Truth. To the scientist it gives a definitive clue while he gropes with a mass of possibilities. To the artist, it gives a sudden clarity of vision while he guesses. To the seer and mystic, an yet higher intuition, cultivated consciously, gives a glimpse of the Absolute. To the Vedantin, it gives the realisation of the nature of the Brahman. It helps the Yogi to identify with his soul-principle. An  experiential contact with one’s soul-consciousness connects an individual immediately to the cosmic consciousness or to the unity-principle of Reality. Sri Aurobindo qualifies: It is on this possibility that Indian Vedanta has based itself. It has sought through knowledge of the Self the knowledge of the universe. (Ibid, pg73)

Intuition is not only active at the higher levels to unravel the nature of the Absolute-- something with which seers and mystics are at ease. It can also operate at the level of ordinary life—the field of practical action. It is thus that the ancient Ayurveda physician could discover the psycho-active properties of Rawolfia Serpentina—the only pharmacologically correct medicine for schizophrenia till chlorpromazine was synthesized in the 1950s.It is also through Intuition that the three types of fire described in the Rig Veda actually discriminated with finesse ordinary fire from electricity and nuclear fission.

At a collective level, momentary intuitive glimpses led man to give such beautiful names to our flowers, birds, rivers, mountains, and stars. Each such name is in perfect consonance and resonance with the object named. Each name seems to ‘reflect’ perfectly the denoted object. If Intuition was not operative in naming these objects at the dawn of civilization, ‘Reason" could have taken ages to analyze the properties of each object and match it with an appropriate name!

Thus, Intuition not only set the tune for spiritual realizations but also initiated the progressive movement, albeit, the finesse in human civilization. At a certain optimal point in time, Intuition had to recede so that our “reason’ and ‘sensory perception’ could develop to their fullest potential. Otherwise, we would have been unable to sustain the strain of Intuition and succumbed to false intuitions, superstitions, dogmas, misperceptions. That is why, Sri Aurobindo considered that the “fall’ from the level of Intuition to the lower levels of reason and sensation was actually a progressive movement:: ‘For in each case the lower faculty is compelled to take up as much as it can assimilate of what the higher had already given and to attempt to re-establish it by its own methods. By the attempt it is itself enlarged in its scope and arrives eventually at a more supple and a more ample self-accommodation to the higher faculties.’(Ibid, pg 77)

‘Intuition brings to man those brilliant messages from the Unknown which are the beginning of his higher knowledge. Reason only comes in afterwards to see what profit it can have of the shining harvest’ (Ibid, pg 75-76)

‘..the highest intuitive Knowledge sees things in the whole, in the large and details only as sides of the indivisible whole; its tendency is towards immediate synthesis and the unity of knowledge. Reason, on the contrary, proceeds by analysis and division and assembles its facts to form a whole; but in the assemblage so formed there are opposites, anomalies, logical incompatibilities, and the natural tendency of Reason is to affirm some and to negate others which conflict with its chosen conclusions so that it may form a flawlessly logical system.’(Ibid, pg78)

‘Intuition gives us that idea of something behind and beyond all that we know and seem to be which pursues man always in contradiction of his lower reason and all his normal experience and impels him to formulate that formless perception …For Intuition is as strong as Nature herself from whose very soul it has sprung and cares nothing for the contradictions of reason or the denials of experience’. (Ibid, pg76)  

Relevance today

The problem with Intuition is that it is an instrument of the Inner Being. When it comes to operate at the level of the outer being, its action gets thwarted, diluted and fragmented. Therefore, the outer being or our surface personality needs to be reorganized so that Intuition can have a freer play of its sovereign action.

Integral Yoga Psychology postulates that the outer being has to be reorganized by developing the different parts and relating them to a beyond-ego principle that should replace the ego. Pari passu, the Inner Being and its supra-rational instruments have to be simultaneously developed so that faculties like intuition can work with more precision in practical life.

Thus, if the essence of the ancient methods of Vedantic knowledge has to be rediscovered and developed anew, it needs a new field of action. In earlier days, the developed intuition illumined the spiritual field by great revelations that shaped scriptures and inspired prophets, or else, worked behind the surface, dropping brilliant hints here and there. In the contemporary age, that is not enough. If Intuition has to be consciously cultivated and developed, it has to act at the level of our organization of the being—in the field and matrix of our personality. It has to be methodically developed in such a way that its action becomes generalized to eventually replace ‘Reason’. If it can do so, it can perform the action of Reason (like ‘discrimination’) with greater authenticity and simultaneously can move ahead of Reason, opening newer and newer vistas of wisdom.

This is what the Time-Spirit demands.

O hidden door
Of Knowledge,open!Strength,fulfil thyself!

( Sri Aurobindo:Collected Poems, pg 50). 

Date of Update:

- By Dr. Soumitra Basu

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