An Aurobindonian vision and a critique of the Wilberian paradigm Part One: Historical and Comparative use of "Integral" Alan Kazlev integralworld.net
M. Alan Kazlev is a self-taught esotericist and metaphysician, science fiction writer and fan, amateur biologist and palaeontologist, and student of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother's teachings and yoga. His website is at www.kheper.net and he can be contacted at alankazlev (at) ihug (dot) com (dot) au (sorry – problems with spam!)
I refer a lot to Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, and to the Aurobindonian philosophy and practical teaching of Integral Yoga. Statements made here regarding the understanding or misunderstanding of Sri Aurobindo by Wilber, and a critique of the latter on the basis of the former, represent my own interpretations and conclusions, and should not be taken as formally or officially representative of the Aurobindonian position. The only way you can arrive at the latter is by reading Sri Aurobindo's books first hand, or, failing that, by dialogue with members of the Integral Yoga community...
As regards my own belief system, it should be mentioned that I am not and have never been a Wilberian. My spiritual and intellectual affiliation, as the title of this present work indicates, is with Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, and it is from that perspective that I critique Wilber. That does not make me a fundamentalist Aurobindonian either. But the Aurobindonian vision of an Integral transformation even of matter itself is one that I resonate to in a way that I do not and never have to Wilberian Integral theory. And the thesis argued here is that an Integral theory based on an Aurobindonian paradigm will be far more all-encompassing, more profound, more inclusive, and more truly integral, then one based on the Wilberian paradigm.
It is my belief that a true integral understanding has to go beyond intellectualism, and beyond the limits of modernity and postmodernity that Wilber is still tied too. It has to enter into the heart and soul of things, and to incorporate the physical, emotional, mental, spiritual, and divine being. It is hoped that this current work will go some small way towards developing such a goal... The word "integral" was originally used by Sri Aurobindo (1872-1950) from the 1910s onward to describe his own yoga, which he called integral or Purna (sanskrit: "Full") Yoga. Integral Yoga is so called both because it constitutes a synthesis of the three yogas of the Bhagavad Gita – karma (Yoga of Selfless Works), bhakti (Yoga of Devotion to God) and Jnana (Yoga of Transcendent Knowledge), and because it involves a transformation of the entire being, rather than, as in most other yogic and spiritual teachings, a single faculty such as the mind or the emotions or the body... Some of the his followers and students however have taken Integral in a more intellectual sense to refer to the theoretical understanding and application of his unique teachings. Indra Sen (1903-1994) developed an integral psychology and an integral philosophy as early as the 1940s and 50s, while Haridas Chadauri (1913-1975) did so somewhat later...Meanwhile, the word “Integral” was also adopted by the German-born Swiss linguist and phenomenologist Jean Gebser (1905-1973), although this was done quite independently of Sri Aurobindo. ... Gebser's ideas exerted a powerful influence on Ken Wilber (beginning with Up From Eden, which suggests similar stages, but in a specifically evolutionary context), who adopted Gebser's ideas and definitions (along with those of many others, e.g. Habermas, Baldwin, Piaget, etc) to define his own attempts at a synthesis of eastern mysticism, developmental psychology, science, sociology, and postmodernism in an ambitious attempt at an Integral “theory of everything” that integrates all separate fields of study in a large framework. This Integral theory is first presented in what many consider Wilber's greatest work to date, his eight hundred page (including several hundred pages of footnotes) opus Sex, Ecology, Spirituality (SES for short)... And although Wilber certainly regards Sri Aurobindo very highly, his understanding of the Bengali sage is full of misconceptions. For example, he often refers to Aurobindo, along with Plotinus as the classic representatives of the perennial cosmology (sensu Huston Smith's book Forgotten Truth, which emphasises the metaphysical side of the Perennial philosophy, but note that there are other interpretations of perennialism too, e.g. Ananda Coomaraswamy, Henry Corbin, etc) which he refers to as the “Great Nest of Being”. I will also show that attempts to reconcile Aurobindonian Supramental realisation with Wilberian-style Rinzai Zen-inspired enlightenment are problematic to say the least. It is also important to point out that one cannot truly understanding Sri Aurobindo without also considering the life and teachings of his spiritual co-worker the Mother (Mirra Alfassa, known as the Mother of the Aurobindo Ashram). The latter is totally ignored by Wilber's “masculinist” (as William Irwin Thompson would say) philosophising, despite her central role in Aurobindonian teaching and yoga... In contrast, Sri Aurobindo and the Mother have transcended the limitations of rational cognition altogether, although they still deploy the verbal mind in presenting transpersonal and transrational teachings to the wider world. But even there, it is not the rational or even the intuitive-rational mind that is speaking, but the higher mind, which clothes itself in these merely human functionings. So Sri Aurobindo is a transcendentally realised Teacher who (sometimes) uses the philosophical intellect to get a message across.