November 20, 2007

It is only through collected and concerted efforts that we can hope to shape our civilizational future

“We are on the threshold of a new world” The Mother
“Yoga must be revealed to mankind because without itmankind cannot take the next step in the human evolution” Sri Aurobindo
The Vision
We have transited from the end of one era, to the dawning of a new age. Such periods, when looked upon retrospectively, are periods of turmoil, confusion and transition – and yet through it all, visible to the discerning eye are emerging fresh possibilities and opportunities for human progress and development. An example of this we can see, in the growing interest in subjective modes of knowledge and experience: prolific courses in reiki and pranic healing, corporations and executives taking to meditation, health food, hathayoga and alternative learning and healing systems. Even Science, which can be called the modern day religion, has admitted that matter is not the be and end all of creation but is in fact dense energy. Today, a certain body of scientists is even looking at the hypothesis that energy itself is in fact only a particular mode of consciousness.

It is worth pausing here and asking ourselves why this has happened and how come we have moved from a materialistic, model to a more subjective one? Perhaps because material and intellectual knowledge is no longer sufficient to handle the complexities of human existence. We as a human race have dissected and explored the phenomenal world, but know very little about ourselves. We are conquerors of the Moon and Stars, but slaves of our emotions and desires. It is now dawning upon us that unless we begin to understand ourselves and master our nature, we shall be unable to govern the forces that control us and the world.

Even the present day aim of higher education purported to be academic excellence leading to a successful life, is not being achieved. As long as knowledge is taught, rather thrust upon us in piecemeal snippets of information tightly packaged, excellence cannot be achieved. To lead a complete and successful life, a holistic and integral education for the flowering of the mental, vital, physical, psychic and spiritual capacities is essential. As pointed out by Sri Aurobindo: “Yoga must be revealed to mankind because without it mankind cannot take the next step in the human evolution.”
The International Centre for Integral Studies (ICIS) has been founded to attempt to provide students with an integral education in order to prepare them to take this next step in evolution.
The Aims
The aim of the International Centre for Integral Studies (ICIS) is to open up a field of on-going higher education and research in all areas of human development so as to generate the understanding, responsibility and skills to respond adequately to the opportunities and problems of modernity and to create a better global future. Human civilization today faces us with an unprecedented acceleration of technological progress rapidly globalizing the world and providing large-scale access to information, communication and transport amounting to a realized ubiquity for the human individual.
Advances in the Physical Sciences and in Biotechnology have brought us to the threshold of wielding previously unthinkable powers in the control and improvement of the material and biological life and the scope and variety of vital enjoyment. But this vision of enormous optimism coexists with a global condition of unprecedented crisis – psychological, social and ecological. Social, ethnic, religious and class differentiations are erupting into global wars, disbalances and depletions in natural resources are precipitating an impending crisis of planetary survival, vast disparities in the distribution of wealth, education and healthcare are plunging large world populations into deprivation and abjection and the psychological discontents of modernity are creating an endemic condition of widespread malaise and depression.
The march of modern civilization, in its exclusive focus on material progress has left the subjective life of man in a condition of unorganized chaos, a warring field of incapacity, greed and blind preference, which, faced with the enormous forces of contemporary technology and commerce, can very easily bring about disastrous consequences on a planetary scale, unless the powers of human consciousness are properly understood, organized, integrated and mobilized, so as to match and master the objective sphere. This is our contemporary civilizational imperative.
It is here that the field of Indian knowledge has much of offer. Marginalized as a “world-negating” and “unchanging” spiritual culture, India has an active and widespread field of discourse stretching through the millennia and representing what may be called a subjective science, a science of consciousness as meticulous and focused as the accumulation of knowledge developed through the western efforts at an objective science and technology. It is this field of yoga, the understanding, organization, integration and mobilization of consciousness and its experiences that needs to be brought into engagement with the contemporary forces of the objective world if we are to be equal to our civilizational challenges and opportunities.
The field of studies and research which will be the focus of ICIS aims at making this engagement its central aim and purpose. It is our opinion that two personalities who have gone furthest in interpreting and mapping this field of consciousness and its powers and possibilities in modern times are Sri Aurobindo and his spiritual collaborator, the Mother. Sri Aurobindo tells us that no external solution, be it attempted through social, political or environmental engineering or through good intentions or philanthropy, can solve the problems of humanity.
Tried repeatedly and innumerably through the centuries, such solutions have provided at best cosmetic improvements or temporary relief to our human condition. The problems of humankind can only be solved through a change or transformation of human nature and the science of consciousness is the only key to this change. Moreover, the growth of an experiential knowledge of oneness is the only sure security against the ravages and selfish cunning of the human ego. Contrary to the popular belief in the escapism of spirituality, he thus indicates its critical affirmative and world-transforming power.
Focus & Objectives
A revised understanding of all life and its social fields arises from this insight and exploration, opening up new approaches to all educational disciplines, scientific, philosophical, psychological, social and cultural. Thus Indian Studies and Sri Aurobindo Studies will form the central pillars of ICIS’ endeavours, though, along with this, all contemporary disciplines of human development and progress will be brought into its purview. Diagnosing our modern condition as one of fragmentation, a fragmentation of consciousness, of disciplines and of cultures, integration will be its watchword. Its objectives will encompass the integration of the human personality, the integration of the modes and disciplines of knowledge and the integration of cultures in its approach to knowledge and experience.
Formats of Learning
The ICIS, as the Educational wing of The Gnostic Centre, views its educational efforts as holistic, not merely in terms of its offerings but in the collective life it affords through the various wings and activities of the Centre. Thus, it sees its faculty and student bodies as part of the learning community, developing integrally in consciousness, understanding and expression. Such a community, though centred in the physical resources of the Gnostic Centre, is not localized but forms a closely woven extended life of dynamic interchanges of mental, vital, physical and psychic consciousness. To facilitate this, the programs and courses of ICIS include both on-site and distance learning components. Its on-site components will encompass activities such as exhibitions, presentations, performances, seminars, conferences, residential research and learning paradigms which need embodied interactions. These will include experiential workshops, performative learning and experimentation and creative expressions or exhibitions. Its distance-learning components will encompass online multimedia learning and response paradigms and attempt to bring the inner life of teachers and students into a depth engagement with each other and with the prevailing mental and vital forces of the world. Thus these two components will extend into each other, though developing independent lives of their own. At present, both these components are under development and will become more diversified and articulated with time.
Learning Objectives of ICIS Programs & Courses
Current learning objectives in education, following a western epistemology have been limited to an acquisition of information classified and organized into or around ideas, and procedural skills or technologies in the materializing and handling of such ideas and artifacts. In keeping with the larger vision and aims of ICIS, our learning objectives will encompass an enhanced epistemology based on an integral understanding of the human being and its characteristic forms of knowledge.
Including objective and subjective forms of knowledge in its scope, the Vedas have classified human knowledge in terms of material knowledge or knowledge of the external world, adhibhautika, subjective knowledge or knowledge of the inner world, adhidaivika and non-dual knowledge or knowledge of the Self, adhyatmika. This classification stems from the yogic realization that there is a universal and transcendental conscious Self of all things, manifest in the subject and the object and it is possible for the human being to unite in consciousness with this Self and experience reality through its identity.
Sri Aurobindo presents us with a contemporary and practical formulation of this epistemology. In his terms, knowledge can be seen as external knowledge or knowledge acquirable through the senses and their extensions (adhibhautika), knowledge by inner contact acquirable through the subjective, subliminal or occult consciousness (adhidaivika) and knowledge by identity acquirable through identification with the Oneness of the Self (adhyatmika). The learning objectives of ICIS programs and courses will rest on this epistemology and aim at knowledge acquisition which includes the outer and inner or objective and subjective forms of knowledge and indicates the way towards non-dual experiences of knowledge by identity.
Further, the field of inner experiences and knowledge has been seen by Sri Aurobindo and the Mother as divided into a mental consciousness with its intelligence, rationality and opening to higher intuitions, a vital or life consciousness, with its life powers of feelings, emotions and will, a physical consciousness with its senses, sensations and skills and a psychical or soul consciousness with its spiritual aspirations, creativity and intuitions of divinity, beauty, harmony and oneness. The learning outcomes of ICIS will include becoming conscious of these forms and expressions of the inner life and the ability to integrate them, direct them and make them effective.
Unique Features
Towards this end, it will introduce foundational courses aimed at developing awareness of these forms of consciousness and their control and expression – the control of thoughts and quieting of the mind, concentration and opening to higher intuitions for the mental consciousness, the control and refinement of the feelings and the development and control of the will and the transformation of the animal nature through its opening to the psychic impulses of harmony, beauty, creativity, generosity and self-sacrifice for the vital consciousness and the awakening of direct intuitions and skills for the physical consciousness.
The foundational courses will also aim at opening up some awareness of the psychic or soul consciousness and the importance of bringing this consciousness forward to influence and govern the rest of the being. These outcomes of the foundational courses will facilitate an inner engagement with the other disciplines for study and research, whose learning outcomes will also reflect such engagements. Thus, the forms and modes of understanding for mainstream disciplines will also include intuitive comprehension of the subject, identification with the aspiration intrinsic to the subject, development of a practical creativity related to the subject, self-reflection relating one’s life-world, will, intelligence and goals with the subject and an arrival at the integrality of principles shared by the subject with other courses and programs of ICIS.
To meet the educational aims described above, ICIS will engage a hand-picked corpus of faculty, characterized by educational proficiency, scholarship, maturity and insight of consciousness and the ability to assess and guide the growth of understanding and consciousness in the student, so as to achieve the learning objectives set before them. Though generally residing off-site, faculty members will also be invited to reside on-campus for periods of time as resident scholars, to conduct research, be available for live guidance and participate in conferences, seminars and intensives.
An Invitation to Participate
We are confident that our vision, objectives, curriculum, faculty and teaching and assessment formats will set up a precedent for higher education and that we will be able to offer the conditions for the development of personalities equipped to effectively guide the direction of our future towards the fulfillment of the opportunities and promises of the present and the mitigation of its dangers. To make this dream a reality, we need the support and help of all those who share our vision. If you resonate with our aspiration, you could help in a number of ways:
  • (a) financially, through tax-exempt donations to any of our scholarship or infrastructural funds;
  • (b) educationally, by enrolling as a student in one of our programs or approaching us with your research interests if you wish to join our faculty or as a research scholar;
  • (c) by referring your friends and families to our programs.

It is only through collected and concerted efforts that we can hope to shape our civilizational future. Together, we can hope to succeed.

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