October 27, 2005

Ken Wilber and Sri Aurobindo: A Critical Perspective

Wilber is right when he says that the ultimate resolution of the mind-body problem, and the ultimate understanding of spiritual nondualism, can only be achieved by a higher than rational, contemplative thought. But there are different levels of transrational and transpersonal consciousness, which result in different conceptions of nondualism. The conceptions of the Brahmavidya and of Dzogchen are important examples of such differing views. It appears that the work of Ken Wilber and of Sri Aurobindo diverges along fairly traditional lines of psychological and spiritual development: the one ending in "liberation" and the other in "transformation." This is a distinction that has been emphasized throughout his writings by Sri Aurobindo and constitutes the most prominent contrast between his and Wilber's work.
Intrinsic to Sri Aurobindo's philosophy of the Brahman, with Supermind as the Conscious Force of the Brahman, and therefore both the creative energy and the immortal self of all creation, is the principle of involution. But in this view, involution entails the descent of infinite and eternal principles – Supermind, Overmind, Mind, Life, Matter. These are therefore eternally self-existent planes of Divine Being, not only involved in the evolving universe as potential, but, more importantly, as the overseeing and underlying universal support of the evolving planes, pressing down upon them from above to bring forth their evolving forms in Time and Space. Without these essential, universal divinities, so fundamental to the Vedic knowledge, how could the infinite diversity and integrality of the forms of life and mind have emerged? And how could the embodied soul become cosmically conscious of universal life and mind and of the eternal forms of Truth, Beauty, and the Good, and the Godheads of the Overmind – Divine Love, Power, Joy, without entering into such ideal, divine planes?
Even Plato would consider these Ideal Forms self-existent and therefore irreducible to a quadrant or to any or all of the particular forms of temporal unfolding. Without these principles, how would a psychic transformation of consciousness be possible, by which we might look out over the commons and witness, not merely a myriad of sensorimotor instruments performing rational-scientific operations in order to manifest substitute gratifications, nor an essential emptiness of being in the soul, but divine force embodying, however imperfectly, through minds, lives, and bodies the vibrations of an all-creative divine love and light? And yet, the Atman-project does not take this principle of descent into account, and therefore relies upon a linear, bipolar, and mechanical process of expansion and contraction to bring forth the infinite diversity of being in space and time. This is the second major contrast that we find when comparing the theories of involution and evolution of Ken Wilber and Sri Aurobindo.
The third important contrast in the critical perspective that a textual comparison of the works of these authors provides is found in the form of thought and language that each uses to express his vision. Wilber's is, as he points out, dialogical, analytical, and contemplative, and aims at a psychological interpretation of existence from a synthesizing mental perspective. Sri Aurobindo's is metaphysical and supramental, and attempts the spiritual interpretation of existence, on the basis of thought and language that originate on a spiritual plane of consciousness beyond mind. This characterization is especially true of the language of Savitri, but it is also evident in many passages of The Life Divine which have the clear intention to express the vast and integral truth of the Brahman. Rod Hemsell Jan. 2002

1 comment:

  1. Good article comparing and contrasting the first Integral (and eastern) guy, with the mod western guy. by ebuddha at 10:21AM (PDT) on October 27, 2005 | Permanent Link Integral Practice -