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 III - Part 2:

In Chapter III of the life Divine, Sri Aurobindo mentions three important seed -ideas, which need detailed understanding:
THE SUPRASENSIBLE
THE COSMIC CONSCIOUSNESS
THE TRANSCENDENT.

The Suprasensible

Our first gateway to knowledge about our own selves and the world around us is through our senses. In Sanskrit, the term ‘Indriya’ used to denote the senses and the Vedic God ‘Indra’ share the same linguistic root. Indeed, it is the responsibility of Indra to oversee that the quest for knowledge is not distorted or misled by the senses.

As ‘Matter’ is perceived by our external senses, it has acquired a certain tangibility, a certain ‘grossness’, a certain ‘reality’. Whatever is ‘immaterial or not organised with ‘matter’ as a gross base or foundation is considered ‘Suprasensible’ and hence unreal by the materialist. Sri Aurobindo decries this approach as a ‘vulgar or rustic error of our corporeal organs’ (The Life Divine, pg. 23). In this context, one needs to appreciate certain characteristics of sensory perception.

(A)  Sensory DISTORTION:

Even to a person with a clear and unclouded sensorium, the senses can distort the truth. They can carry information that is phenomenally correct but in reality untrue :  e.g. the perception that the sun goes around the earth, the errors of refraction, the phenomenon of mirage, the visual impression of movements in advertisement hoardings(where  there has been no actual movement but successive illumination gives an impression of movement) etc.

In such cases, the limitations of our senses have to be supplemented by a clear, discerning, rational intellect, which puts things in their proper perspective (this rational intellect to date has not been able to explain satisfactorily how the inverted impressions of objects received by our visual apparatus become ‘straight’ when visualized!)

(B)  PERCEPTION OF THE MATERIALLY IMPERCEPTIBLE REALITIES

Sri Aurobindo writes that ‘Even in the world of Matter there are existences of which the physical senses are incapable of taking cognizance’ (The Life Divine, pg. 23). Science acknowledges this and augments the biological limits of our sensory perception with high precision instruments like the microscope to visualize objects that cannot be otherwise perceived by our naked senses. However, the scientist has an ‘intuitive idea’ that there is something which needs a microscope to visualize (It is always remarked, ‘the eyes do not see what the mind does not know!’). The intuitive idea that precedes and determines the scientific endeavor to visualize outwardly imperceptible things is of primary importance. Even before instruments like the microscope was discovered, intuitive scientific ideas stimulated geniuses to ‘discover’ or ‘speculate’ many outwardly imperceptible material facts. Thus, the ancient Ayurvedic physicians in the absence of modern laboratory equipments could ‘discover’ the properties of medicinal herbs – viz. Raulfia Serpentina, the only pharmacologically correct antischizophrenic   drug till chlorpromazine was discovered in the middle of the 20th century.

In more recent times, one of the most spectacular feats has been the unraveling of the nuclear structure of all the 92 naturally occurring elements down to the ‘quark’ and even ‘subquark’ level through sensory dissection of occult nature by two theosophists, Annie Beasant & CW Leadbeater, years before scientists understood them, albeit with more precision then the best supercollider accelerator could do and this endeavor was started in 1895! (A full description of the phenomenon by Dr. Mahadeva Srinivasan which appeared in the Hindu Sunday magazine in 1994 and reprinted in ‘Namah’ can be found in our ‘downloads’ section). Justifiably, Sri Aurobindo comments that the constant sensuous association of the real with the materially perceptible is itself a hallucination because there is so much beyond this oversimplified assumption!

 (C) PERCEPTION OF IMMATERIAL REALITIES

Our external sensory apparatus can only perceive those things which have a foundation in ‘matter’. No doubt this equation persists became matter is solid, tangible and hence phenomenally ‘real’ but we also simultaneously live in a world of ideas, ideals, visions, abstractions, fantasies – things which do not necessarily need ‘matter’ as a starling point though they need the ‘matter’ of our bodily apparatus for expression. Our sensory apparatus cannot perceive directly such ‘immaterial’ items, (though indirectly a person’s body language can sometimes betray one’s thoughts and the sensory feedback can be matched by the brain for an impressionistic, not a veridical view).

It is this limitation of the sensory apparatus to gauge ‘immaterial realities’ that necessitated ‘an extension of the field of our consciousness or an unhoped-for increase in our instruments of knowledge’(The Life Divine,pg 26).

This extension of consciousness first traversed the faculty of ‘Reason’ but as Reason also has its limitations, it had to be exceeded. This is how the great spiritual tradition of India discovered faculties for acquiring knowledge that surpass both ‘sensory perception’ and ‘reason’ -- faculties like ‘inspiration’,’ intuition’, ‘revelation’, ‘identity’. These faculties were always available to humanity in flashes, in glimpses, but too scattered in time and space for providing enough base-material for building up a coherent science. Sri Aurobindo will take up the task of organizing the suprasensory and suprarational faculties in a systematised, graded way so that there can be a logical extension from the realm of ‘Mind’ to the realm of ‘Supermind’.

 (D) ‘Subtle Senses’

Sri Aurobindo makes a distinctly important observation that arises from the experiential spiritual tradition. ‘Not only are there physical realities which are suprasensible, but, if evidence and experience are at all a test of truth, there are also senses which are supraphysical and can not only take cognisance of the realities of the material world without the aid of the corporeal sense-organs, but can bring us into contact with other realities, supraphysical and belonging to another world – included, that is to say, in an organisation of conscious experiences that are dependent on some other principle than the gross Matter of which our suns and earths seem to be made.’ (The Life Divine , pg. 23) These supraphysical senses or ‘subtle senses’ suksma indriya) are located in an ‘inner’ or ‘subtle’ or ‘subliminal’ being that stands behind our outer being ( the outer being is studied as ‘personality’ in psychology, the ‘inner being’ is known to spiritual traditions. In The Life Divine, we will later present a detailed structure of the organisation of the being where the different dimensions of the outer being and the inner being will be clarified in details.)

The inner being’s senses are capable of ‘subtle’ experiences’ (suksma dristi) like inner hearing, inner vision. This is how during meditation one can ‘hear’ voices, mantras, church bells or have ‘visions’ of gods, angels, fairies (we are talking here of meditative experience of ‘normal’ , integrated individuals and not of schizophrenic experiences). In the recent cases of ‘out of body experience’(OBE) reported by subjects undergoing anesthesia, there were reports of  “visualizing’ ones own surgery from the ‘ceiling’ of the operation theater or ‘hearing’ conversations taking place at a distance from the hospital. It seems that somehow the subtle senses can get activated in these states. In fact, ‘parapsychology’ mostly deals with phenomena that can only be explained by the activation of subtle senses - something which the yogis of India and the mystics of all spiritual traditions have experientially perceived throughout the ages. Sri Aurobindo writes, ‘The increasing evidences, of which only the most obvious and outward are established under the name of telepathy with its cognate phenomena, cannot long be resisted except by minds shut up in the brilliant shell of the past, by intellects limited in spite of their acuteness through the limitations of their field of experience and inquiry, or by those who confuse enlightenment and reason with the faithful repetition of the formulas  left to us from a bygone century and the jealous conservation of dead or dying intellectual dogmas’ (The Life Divine, pg. 23-24)

He of course warns that the testimony of the subtle senses have to ‘ be controlled, scrutinised and arranged by the reason, rightly translated  and rightly related, and their field, laws and processes determined’ (The Life Divine, pg. 24). Indeed, this is one of the challenging tasks of the emergent consciousness based yoga psychology. An experiential psychology that is the need of the hour should enable an aspirant to identify with the seer-poet’s realisation:

 ‘ I am caught no more in the senses’ narrow mesh.

My soul unhorizoned widens to measureless sight,

My body is God’s happy living tool,

My spirit a vast sun of deathless light.’

 (Sri Aurobindo, Collected Poems, pg. 161)

 

Date of Update: 18-Nov-11 

- By Dr. Soumitra Basu

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