October 25, 2005

Sri Aurobindo And Psychoanalysis

By Don Salmon, PhD
Psychoanalytic theory has been used to understand Indian psychology ever since Freud admitted to Romain Rolland that he could find nothing equivalent in himself to the "oceanic consciousness" which Rolland attributed to the 19th century Indian saint Ramakrishna in his states of profound silent contemplation. Freud interpreted these states as a form of regression to an infantile condition, rather than as providing access to a consciousness superior to that of the mind. It is remarkable how resilient this understanding of spirituality as a regressive phenomenon has been over more than 100 years. Edgar Levinson and Hans Loewald are two of the few psychoanalytic theorists who are sympathetic to a psychoanalytic understanding of spirituality which is non-regressive, and both have occasionally referred, in positive terms, to Indian psychology.
According to Sri Aurobindo, "[The psychoanalysts] look from down up and explain the higher lights by the lower obscurities; but the foundation of these things is above and not below... The superconscient, not the subconscient, is the true foundation of things. The significance of the lotus is not to be found by analyzing the secrets of the mud from which it grows here; its secret is to be found in the heavenly archetype of the lotus that blooms for ever in the Light above.... you must know the whole before you can know the part and the highest before you can truly understand the lowest. That is the promise of the greater psychology awaiting its hour."
According to Lawrence Leshan, Marcel was giving a lecture "to a group of American Logical Positivists on grace and transcendence. They kept telling him to speak more clearly and to 'say what he meant.' Finally Marcel paused and then said, 'I guess I can't explain it to you. But if I had a piano here, I could play it.'"

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