Towards a Larger Definition of the Integral: An Aurobindonian vision and a critique of the Wilberian paradigm, Part One: Historical and Comparative use of "Integral"
The Dutch spiritual psychologist Joseph Vrinte, a long time student of Sri Aurobindo and resident of Auroville, the universal village dedicated to his teachings, presents an intriguing attempt at a comparison of Sri Aurobindo and Wilber in his book The Perennial Quest for a Psychology with a Soul. As yet I have only glanced at, and not read, the book, so I cannot presume to write any sort of review, so it may be that many of my comments here are totally in error. If so, I welcome feedback and corrections.
Dr Vrinte's methodology and conclusions apparently differ radically from my own, because (so it seems from my cursorary review) he only looks at Aurobindo from the mental level. In his book, Vrinte presents a sympathetic but scholarly intellectual overview of both Aurobindo and Wilber's integral worldviews, both of which he is clearly familiar with, and taking care not to unduly favour either. In fact he is among the few students of Sri Aurobindo's teachings to present Wilber in a highly positive manner (even if he does ultimately come out on the side of Sri Aurobindo as the greater thinker). His conclusion is that while both have much that is worthwhile to say, ultimately neither is perfect; Sri Aurobindo views need to be modified to accommodate present-day knowledge (this is Wilber's critique too – see sect 3-i), while Wilber's current integral views may well likewise come to be seen as naïve.
Not withstanding the goodwill and sincerity in Vrinte's work, and the interesting material it contains, I cannot agree with this methodology of mental comparison, or with these conclusions, simply because they is limited to the intellectual plane of understanding, and this just doesn't work once you start looking at things like spiritual revelation. And while it is doubtless true that Sri Aurobindo's interpretation of, for example,
- Freudian psychology is dismissive, and
- his coverage of subjects like, say, sociology, minimal,
the point is that, unlike Wilber, he is not interested in presenting an intellectual “theory of everything”.
Rather he, along with the Mother, are providing a visionary revelation, in which words are just the gateways to a deeper spiritual awakening. This sort of “integral” is not intellectual, but yogic. And of course this is the same with spiritual and mystical teachings in general; if you approach them even in a sympathetic intuitive intellectual (let alone a more sceptical rational-intellectual!) manner, without the actual experience, the participation mystique as phenomenologists of religion like Mircea Eliade would call it, it is impossible to appreciate what is being described.
I had to myself let go of my attachment to intellect before I could realise this and experience it in an integral (sensu Aurobindo) way. In fact this very recent realisation (not just in a merely intellectual way which I had before, but in a more complete way) has been one of the main turning points of my own intellectual and spiritual development, and forced me to completely revise the central thesis and argument of my present book in progress (currently tentatively titled Evolution, Metapmorphosis, and Divinisation).