Seth Farber, Ph.D. New York www.sethHfarber.com
Several months ago I fortuitously discovered Stephen Phillip’s provocative book on Aurobindo on your fascinating website which I also discovered fortuitously some months before then. At the time I was writing and thus did not have time to read SP’s book carefully. But I made a mental note to return. I did so last week but lo and behold it has disappeared! I do not have access to a university library and the SP’s book is hard to come by. (I cannot afford the $250 for which it is selling on Amazon!) Is it possible you could make it accessible again? This time I will print it out.
I have been reading Sri Aurobindo off and on since 1980 and have been strongly influenced and inspired and en-couraged by his perspective. I did read carefully one chapter by Phillips–his argument against Aurobindo’s theodicy and eschatology.
SP argued that the independence of perspective of the Divine compared to the human implied by Aurobindo’s claim–based on the Vedas-- that the Divine was free to not manifest the universe was inconsistent with Aurobindo’s argument for the inevitability of the divine life on earth. While SP’s argument is persuasive, I think the problem is easily solved-- merely by positing that Brahman–the Absolute-- is NOT “free” not to manifest the universe.
I think pace Phillips that Aurobindo is inconsistent on this issue, but is probably too often (but not always!) inclined to follow the Vedic precedent of asserting divine “freedom” from manifestation, from humanity. What is freedom? The Eastern Christian author Phillip Sherrard solved this problem nicely I think. God is not compelled to create by anything external to Him/Her self – nothing of course is external to God. Therefore He IS free. But God IS compelled by his inner nature as love to manifest the universe. In the act of creation necessity and freedom coincide. To argue otherwise is to misunderstand the nature of freedom as love.
By making this move, I believe Phillip’s critique of Aurobindo is refuted and Aurobindo’s argument for the inevitability of the divine life on earth is salvaged. Theodicy is salvaged: the Divine is not and cannot be indifferent to the human condition. Do you think I am on solid ground here? Have I misinterpreted Aurobindo in any way? Or do you have an alternative argument against Phillips? This is not an academic question obviously as humanity has seemed to reached the crossroads where we face annihilation, doom, or salvation–eternal joy. And eschatology is the only answer to the problem of “the riddle of the world.” And therefore in it lies our hope–and the impetus for our spiritual endeavors.
I am obviously not a professional philosopher but I have a keen interest in metaphysics and eschatology–in salvation. I am a renegade psychologist in the tradition of the radical psychiatrist R D Laing, as you can see from my website.
Have you reviewed Heehs book yet? I just read it with keen interest. What a excellent book. I have a few quibbles. First he overlooks Savitri which has autobiographical as well as philosophical significance. Obviously judging from Savitri, Aurobindo was a man who had some experience of romantic love – as well as the tragedy of death. One must conclude that this tragedy impinged upon his own life.
- Can one also not conclude that Aurobindo had “fallen in love” with Mira Richard?
- How else can the kind of union Aurobindo asserted he had established with the Mother be attained?
And we know that relationship had a profundity greater than mere sexual love and affection about which Aurobindo was dismissive. Aurobindo’s response to Paul Richard which Heehs reports (for the first time, I think) that if the Mother wanted he would marry her (!!!) is indeed provocative. Strange that Heehs leaves it dangling–it is hardly consistent with the usual relationship between guru and disciple–although Heehs' no comment seems to imply (with Aurobindo) that it is. Quite remarkable. Don't you think?
In the light of these omissions it is not surprising, albeit disappointing, that Heehs also omits a discussion of the idea of physical immortality that is connected, I submit, into the idea of romantic love. In the kingdom of death love is doomed. Is this not the meaning of Savitri for modern man/woman? Have you read Vladimir Solovyov whose ideas seem to parallel Savitri?
Aurobindo was correct: an biography of him had to remain strangely incomplete because so much about this enigmatic figure remained below the surface – as even Heehs’ excavations have confirmed. I look forward to any thoughts you may have on my musings above.
Thanks for your website. I hope it is possible and not difficult for you to reestablish the link to SP’s book. Namaste. Regards, Seth www.sethHfarber.com