(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 III - Part 3:


Chapter III of the Life Divine introduces the concepts of the ‘cosmic consciousness’ and the ‘world –transcending consciousness’.

Subjectivity Vis-à-Vis Objectivity

Sri Aurobindo does not suddenly impose the concept of cosmic consciousness on his readers (which many others would have done on having a spiritual inking of it and which many would love to propagate thinking that an experiential contact with it is an epitome of spiritual realization). Rather he progresses towards it logically by examining the ancient dispute between subjectivity and objectivity. The votaries of subjectivity consider the material, objective world as secondary, existing only in the mind and vision of the Subject ( In the Indian tradition, the Subject is known as the ‘Witness’). The objective world is considered to have no independent Reality and “exists only in or for the consciousness that observes” (The Life Divine, pg.25) and thus is something ‘illusory’ - - a sort of Maya.

The votaries of objectivity claim that 'the material universe enjoys an eternal self- existence.' (Ibid, pg.25) and believe that the objective world continues to exist independent of the Subject. If the Subject is the individual human being, then it is considered to be too insignificant when compared with the vastness and magnitude of universal systems. Yet, just as the individual human being can perish, the universal systems like the solar systems can also collapse, become ‘dead’, fall as ‘meteorites’. Materialism, in glorifying objectivity can thus also lead to a type of illusion -- a type of Maya, "that is and yet is not, -- for it is present and compelling, is not, for it is phenomenal and transitory in its works". (Ibid, pg.25)

This conflict between subjectivity and objectivity was initiated as a metaphysical quest but, as Sri Aurobindo describes ‘is yet of the utmost practical import, for it determines the whole outlook of man upon life, the goal that he shall assign for his efforts and the field in which he shall circumscribe his energies’ (Ibid, pg.25). How true! How much do the physical scientist, the pharmacologist and the psychologist strive to tackle ‘observer bias’ so as to make their experimental results universally acceptable? How much the pharmacological researchers as well as the behavioral scientists have to toil for ‘double –blind’ trials? (Incidentally, some of the archaic philosophers who studied Sri Aurobindo wondered if His Thought should be taken up by psychology – he belonged to spirituality and hence to metaphysics beyond psychology! When Sri Aurobindo Himself asserts that even a metaphysical quest has a practical ramification, He, in a way, authenticates the study of the psychological perspective of His Thought! Especially, the area of subjectivity vis-à-vis objectivity ‘raises the question of the reality of cosmic existence and, more important still, the question of the value of human life’) (Ibid, pg.25).

Conflict Resolution

Sri Aurobindo examines this ‘subjectivity verses objectivity’ debate and finds it cannot be solved logically as we neither have enough physical data of the material universe nor have adequate experiential knowledge of universal non-material systems.  Therefore the only possibility left is to progress ‘by an extension of the field of our consciousness or an unhoped - for increase in our instruments of knowledge’ (Ibid, pg. 26). In doing so, an inner enlargement of the individual experience culminates in a universal, cosmic experience - the individual consciousness extends into the cosmic consciousness.

This extension also marks a change in the status of the ‘Subject’ or Observer (the ‘Witness’ in the Indian metaphysical tradition). The Subject is no longer the consciousness of the ordinary ,limited, embodied human being (as we know ourselves individually) but a poise of an universal or cosmic Consciousness ‘embracing the universe and appearing as an immanent Intelligence in all its works…’(Ibid,pg.26).

 What happens to the status of the ‘object’ then? But we have already seen that Sri Aurobindo eulogizes the formula “All this is the Brahman” implying that the Truth is represented equally and impartially in the ‘Subject’ as well as the ‘object’. Therefore the objective world is either considered to be:

(1) Just as eternal and as real as the cosmic witness consciousness (the Subject), In fact it is the ‘active existence’(Ibid,pg.26) of the cosmic witness’;


(2) If the objective world is considered to be transitory and phenomenal, it is not something ‘separate’ and ‘delinked’ from the cosmic ‘witness’ consciousness but has actually evolved out of it and can dissolve into it by an ‘act of knowledge or by an act of conscious power’(Ibid,pg.26).

What then is the real status of the "Subject" - - the Witness? We have discussed that the Witness is not the ordinary individual mind but a certain poise of the cosmic consciousness. Does this cosmic consciousness denote something diffused, spread-out, amorphous or abstract? Or, just as the mental consciousness or mind-principle is inherently related to an actual individual being, is the Cosmic Consciousness related to an implicit Cosmic Being? The spiritual -experiential tradition affirms that Consciousness, in its "existential mode" is represented at different poises:

  1. In the individual as the True individual Being or Jivatman - - the impersonality-principle that supports and upholds the individual personality and simultaneously projects itself as a fourth-dimensional Beyond-Ego principle (the Psychic Being) within the personality of the embodied human being

  2. In the Cosmos or Universe as the 'Cosmic' or 'Universal Being' or Cosmic principle that supports the cosmic consciousness, and

  3. Beyond the ‘Universe’ as a ‘Transcendental’ principle or Being that supports & transcends the individual as well as the cosmos.

Sri Aurobindo writes about the Witness(or the Observer or the Subject) :  “Not organized mind, but that which, calm and eternal, broods equally in the living earth and the living human body and to which mind and senses are dispensable instruments, is the Witness of cosmic existence and its Lord”(Ibid, pg.26). He adds “….the worlds are only frames for our experience, the senses only instruments of experience and conveniences. Consciousness is the great underlying fact, the universal witness for whom the world is a field, the senses instruments” (Ibid, pg.24).

The Witness Spirit

I dwell in the spirit’s calm nothing can move
And watch the actions of Thy vast world-force,
Its mighty wings that through infinity move
And the Time-gallopings of the deathless Horse.

This mute stupendous Energy that whirls
The stars and nebulae in its long train,
 Like a huge Serpent through my being curls
With its diamond hood of joy and fangs of pain.

It rises from the dim inconscient deep
Upcoiling through the minds and hearts of men,
Then touches on some height of luminous sleep
The bliss and splendour of the eternal plane.

All this I bear in me, untouched and still
Assenting to Thy all-wise inscrutable will.

(Sri Aurobindo Collected poems, pg.143)

Date of Update: 18-Nov-11 

- By Dr. Soumitra Basu

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