(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 II - Part 3:


It is interesting that Sri Aurobindo started to discuss materialism before discussing spirituality. Unlike the traditional spirituality of India, He does not reject Matter but actually gives it its proper place in His integralist world-view. He is extra-cautious as even though the Upanishads are held in so high esteem, its utterance that “Matter also is Brahman” and its figurative symbol of the physical universe being the external body of the Divine Being, could not yet prevent the eulogized Indian ‘recoil from life in the body’ as a prerequisite to salvation. This abject inability to reconcile materialism and spirituality was reflected in the corresponding inability to reconcile the experiential percepts of Purusha and Prakriti as well as of Self and Maya:

Purusha and Prakriti, the passively luminous Soul of the Sankhyas and their mechanically active Energy, have nothing in common, not even their opposite modes of inertia; their antimonies can only be resolved by the cessation of the inertly driven Activity into the immutable Repose upon which it has been casting in vain the sterile procession of its images. Shankara’s wordless, inactive Self and his Maya of many names and forms are equally disparate and irreconcilable entities; their rigid antagonism can terminate only by the dissolution of the multitudinous illusion into the sole Truth of an eternal Silence. (The Life Divine, pg 11)


Sri Aurobindo makes two important observations regarding materialism vis-à-vis spirituality:

  1. Though apparently irreconcilable, Matter and Spirit can be synthesized along a Consciousness perspective as both manifested from a unitary matrix.

  2. The fact that Matter and Spirit manifested as separate and distinct phenomena indicates that they need to be worked out to their fullest and unique potentialities and possibilities before being synthesized.

The grammar of synthesis

Instead of viewing ‘Matter’ and ‘Spirit’ in contradictory terms, Sri Aurobindo links them in a graded way along a spectrum of Consciousness through intervening variables. These intervening variables appear as a series of ascending terms as we traverse the ranges of our ‘inner consciousness’. He names these variables as Life, Mind, Supermind and the grades that link Mind to Supermind and elaborates them in subsequent chapters of The Life Divine. He also describes with precision the ranges of what He ascribes as the ‘inner consciousness’.

However, once the division of ‘Matter’ and ‘Spirit’ was permitted in the cosmic scheme, it became obvious that the two terms had to be worked out to their extreme limits. It is only when both the principles had developed to their fullest possibilities and potentialities and had thus exhausted themselves that the need for reconciliation manifests as a necessity. Indeed, after ‘Matter’ and ‘Spirit’ have developed to their fullest potentials, their reconciliation can be more meaningful, rich, potent and vibrant than the featureless, unmanifested  unitary matrix from which both arose. Sri Aurobindo opines that the Time-Spirit is now pressing for such integration for a more meaningful and higher-order human existence:

‘Therefore the time grows ripe and the tendency of the world moves towards a new and comprehensive affirmation in thought and in inner and outer experience and to its corollary, a new and rich self-fulfillment in an integral human existence for the individual and the race.’(Ibid, pg 13)

Thus, the integral world-order will acknowledge the ‘inner’ subjective as well as the ‘outer’ objective approaches for the new experiential synthesis of ‘Matter’ and ‘Spirit’ where one can experientially  perceive the repose of the ultimate unity without denying the energy of the expressive multiplicity :

‘Only in such a complete and catholic affirmation can all the multiform and apparently contradictory data of existence be harmonized and the manifold conflicting forces which govern our thought and life discover the central Truth which they are here to symbolize and variously fulfil . Then only can our Thought, having attained a true centre, ceasing to wander in circles, work like the Brahman of the Upanishad, fixed and stable even in its play and its world-wide coursing, and our life, knowing its aim, serve it with a serene and settled joy and light as well as with a rhythmically discursive energy.’(Ibid, pg 12)


The Materialist and the Ascetic

We need to synthesize science and spirituality, ‘Matter’ and ‘Spirit’ for an ‘integral human existence’. But who will be more flexible to take the lead—the scientist or the ascetic? To acknowledge each other’s point of view without changing one’s poise is easier for it only requires catholicity in one’s attitude. The scientist can afford to respect the ascetic from his position of safety and even respect him as a guru. The ascetic can afford to condescend to applaud the scientist from his position of security and even accept him as a devotee. This mutual relation between the materialist and the ascetic does not qualify a ‘Matter-Spirit’ synthesis. The synthesis is a deeper movement where spirituality has to blossom in the cradle of matter itself. Both the materialist and the ascetic have to work at different levels and ranges of consciousness giving equal importance and weightage to the outer and the inner consciousness. The experiential contact with the ‘superconscience’ cannot be ‘integral’ unless matched with the cleansing of the ‘subconscience’ and coupled with the surpassing of the ‘ego’ by a deeper principle together with a concomitant development of a subtle ‘body-consciousness’. In this ‘integral’ project, the materialist may initially appear to be more skeptical than the ascetic as he is prone to denying whatever he cannot perceive through the senses and cognisize by the mind. Yet, Sri Aurobindo explains:

The denial of the materialist although more insistent and immediately successful, more facile in its appeal to the generality of mankind, is yet less enduring, less effective finally than the absorbing and perilous refusal of the ascetic’.( Ibid , pg 13-14 )

The ascetic actually becomes so overwhelmed by experiences that surpass the ego that the material life becomes inconsequential. If he has experiences that exceed the limits of human cognition, he outgrows the motivation to live a material life. If he loses himself in a divine ecstasy or identifies with a fathomless zero, his reality-contact becomes meaningless. In contrast, the materialistic scientist might be more skeptical at first but cannot steadfastly hold on to his conviction because science itself continually changes its stands and each time that happens, the foundation of scientific hypotheses collapse and need to be recast. No wonder, the materialist might be more flexible to work for a ‘Matter-Spirit’ fusion than the ascetic!

It is no exaggeration to admit that the modern materialistic mind-set can get more easily tuned to the wavelength of Sri Aurobindo’s Thought than a mind-set steeped in  conventional, world- shunning ascetism.


The Body in the context of Matter-Spirit synthesis

One of the important areas where the Matter-Spirit synthesis has a direct and visible effect is the ‘body’. We have acknowledged that the raison d’etre of the Matter-Spirit split though both arose from the same unitary matrix was that both principles should develop separately to their fullest and extreme potentials and possibilities. Nowhere is this phenomenon so marked as in the domain of the ‘body’. The materialist glorified the body minus the soul. The body worked like a machine to subserve material prosperity and in the process became prey to a plethora of lifestyle disorders ranging from ischemic heart disease to diabetes mellitus. The body had to cater to a mind plagued by boredom, alienation and meaninglessness and thus became susceptible to stress, fatigue, depression and suicide. Or else the body had to be satiated with sensual experiences leading to a hedonistic culture whose end result was substance abuse, perversions and deviations facilitating consequences like AIDS.

The ascetic went to the other extreme. The experiential contact with the superconscience could only take place by transcending the body’s sensory mechanisms. Consequently, the body became initially insignificant and later an obstacle to spiritual progress. In fact, it had been a tradition in India to consider that it was a misuse of spiritual force to use it for preserving the body or for healing its ailments.

Sri Aurobindo’s aim is to transform the human species. To do so, a synthesis of Matter and Spirit is necessary. This only can lead to a divinization of Matter so that the body can be transformed. The body has to be regarded as an instrument of spiritual perfection and a field of spiritual change.

Sri Aurobindo describes that the body itself can be made ‘conscious’ to such an extent that the functioning of the body can become more supple, subtle and flexible. What can happen if the body is divinized? What can happen if the fusion of Matter and Spirit transmutes, transfigures and transforms the present human body? This is the challenge which the Yoga of Transformation offers. The Life Divine will unravel the mystery of the “body-consciousness” paving the way for a new species in evolution that transcends the limitations of the homosapiens.

The Mother has described the characteristics of the New Body that would be the end result of a progressive Matter-Spirit fusion.

  1. Lightness with no feeling of inertia or unconsciousness;

  2. Adaptability in whatever conditions it is placed;

  3. Plasticity that will enable it to be sufficiently pliant to nullify attacks of hostile forces by giving them way to pass off, obviating the necessity of dull resistance that leaves one battered;

  4. Luminosity that will vibrate at the cellular level in a body suffused in Supramental Light.

The Godhead breaks out through the human mould………….. (Savitri, pg. 65)

Date of Update: 18-Nov-11 

- By Dr. Soumitra Basu

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