November 13, 2005

A. N. Whitehead and Sri Aurobindo

Simmons, Ernest Lee
Process pluralism and integral non-dualism: a comparative study of the divine in the thought of Alfred North Whitehead and Sri Aurobindo Ghose
- 1981.- x, 328 leaves, bound; 28 cm.- NOTES: Thesis (Ph. D.)--Claremont Graduate School; 0047, 1981. Bibliography: leaves 320-328. Microfiche. Ann Arbor, Mich.: University Microfilms International, 1981. 4 fiches; 10 x 15 cm.- DAI, VOL. 42-07A, Page 3197, 00338 Pages.
ABSTRACT: Today's unprecedented confluence of religious and philosophical traditions calls for attention to the question of how religious viewpoints can be constructively related without abrogating either side. The present comparative study is one response to this concern. The purpose is two-fold;
  • first, to test the ability of Whitehead's philosophical system, originating in Western exoteric scientific analysis, to take account of the experience of Aurobindo, an Eastern mystic in the esoteric tradition of Advaita Vedanta and,
  • second, to determine whether the philosophical articulation of such non-dual experience can be found at all compatible with Whitehead.

The major conclusion of this study is that Whitehead's metaphysics can adequately account for Aurobindo's experience and philosophy, indicating that a metaphysics grounded in process can be relevant to the articulation of at least one form of mystical experience. Thus the claim of multiplicity and becoming to express the nature of mystical reality may be equal to that of unity and being. Under such circumstances Whitehead's metaphysics may be helpful in grounding inter-religious dialog as well as assisting in the integration of exoteric and esoteric experience.

In his yogic practice Aurobindo contended that he had had four major realizations;

  • Nirvana (non-duality),
  • Cosmic Consciousness in the personal Divine of Vasudeva,
  • Integral Brahman (static and dynamic) and
  • overmental descent leading to Supermind.

A Whiteheadian analysis of yogic method was then shown to involve the silencing of symbolic reference to allow for perception in the two pure modes alone. Perception in presentational immediacy could produce the experience of the illusoriness of the phenomenal world, and causal efficacy without referential specificity may result in the experience of a non-specific unity of reality. These results parallel Aurobindo's experience of the silencing of thought and the unqualified non-duality of Nirvana.

If Whitehead's system is to allow for Aurobindo's other realizations, in some way the unity of Divine experience must be prehendable. The prehendability of any actual entity is via the entity as superject which must also be true of God. The unitive satisfaction of the Primordial and Consequent Natures is prehendable through God as superject which is the Superjective Nature. As a superjective unity, the subjective form of God's physical and conceptual feelings would then be accessible by physical and hybrid physical prehensions analogous to the experience of Supermind as discolsive of the Divine. Through a clearer understanding of the function of God as superject several internal problems in Whiteheadian metaphysics are resolved as well as accounting for the major realizations of Aurobindo.

Aurobindo integrated his philosophy by means of two novel concepts; the "triple poise" Brahman understood as Transcendent, Universal and Individual and Supermind conceived as the "connecting link" between Sachchidananda and Matter-Life-Mind. The triple poise

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