February 21, 2006

Sri Aurobindo's Psychology

As in Buddhism, Vedanta, Neoplatonism, Sufism, Kabbalah, and other traditional wisdom teachings, the psychological elements of Sri Aurobindo's teachings are embedded in his overall message, which is essentially the transcendence of the human condition (in this case through spiritual-divine evolution rather than the conventianla nirvana or moksha of eastern spirituality). Psychology as a discipline in itself did not appear until the late 19th century, whereas wisdom traditions go back much further, and in this respect Aurobindo, whilst of the 20th century, follows the perennial philosophy.
However, elements of Sri Aurobindo's writings where he does discuss psychology (e.g. in Letters on Yoga and The Life Divine) are simply so far beyond what is generally considered psychology that they have no rivals anywhere in academia. In the modern world, only Jung and Psychosynthesis are comparable. Interestingly, Sri Aurobindo's psychology has almost nothing in it from traditional Indian systems like Vedanta (five koshas, three or four states of consciousness), Samkhya (tattwas), Patanjali Yoga, etc. Although he does sometimes use some of their sanskrit terms, he interprets them in a very different way.
Most of his psychology seems to employ instead Neoplatonic, Theonian, Theosophical, and generic Western Psycho-analytical (the concept of the subconscious) concepts, although he is very critical of the limitations of the latter. Central to his psychology and yoga is the concept of a two-parameters series of levels of being - a "vertical" series consiting of Physical, Vital, and Mental, and a concentric or inner series that includes the subliminal and the psychic being (Divine Soul). This is a very profound arrangement (and indeed inspired me to develop my own "integral paradigm"), but it is not presented systematically.
In the 1940s Dr Indra Sen, a devotee of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, established the field of "Integral Psychology" (after " Integral Yoga" - referring to Sri Aurobindo's teachings), although it was only in 1986 that his book on the subject - Integral Psychology: The Psychological System of Sri Aurobindo was published (by Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust.) Currently the most detailed coverage of Aurobindonian Integral Psychology can be found at Growth Online (see especially The Makeup of the Individual Human and The Course of Human Evolution for detailed material on this). Original content by M.Alan Kazlev and (integral psychology tables) Roy Posner (Growth Online) Kheper Home Sri Aurobindo and the Mother Home Integral Psychology Topics Index Esotericism Kheper Forum News and Events Khepershop Search Guestbook

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