As I understand it, in responding to an intellectual position taken by another, an approach practiced and favored by Sri Aurobindo and the Mother begins with this premise:
Not only all forms and forces, but all thoughts, chains of ideas and works of reason, have behind them, are ultimately based on some truth. This truth has real existence, in the Absolute and in the Saccidananda and, however changed, diminished, distorted it may have grown from the original, any idea of any coherence derives from some basis in truth.
What Sri Aurobindo will often do, in his writings, is express clearly a thought, idea, and chain of reasoning and demonstrate what truth is trying, through such ideas, to be expressed. There is, for example, some truth in Materialism that is aspiring to be realized in life. Sri Aurobindo will then go to express another truth, which may be at apparent odds with the first (There is a truth in Spirituality that presses to materialize), showing clearly how both truths—may be even multiple truths—are striving for living expression, and he will proceed to suggest a more comprehensive truth that assimilates the principal elements in each, reaching in this way some expanded synthesis only partially contained in the various elements of seemingly contradictory truths. He will do this using perfectly well the outward form of mental reasoning, but applying from behind it a wider view based on amore comprehensive or intuitive mode of perceptive understanding.
What he will NOT do is what we human beings always seem to want to do. We always find ourselves saying: This is wrong! I don't agree, I don't like its expression, it's simply not true; maybe it's a deliberate lie, on the basis of some hostile agenda, but it is most certainly false, pernicious even. I don't accept it and I in fact question the very motives of the person who puts forth this pernicious form of expression.
The Mother said more than once that when we disagree with another person's position, a healthy exercise is to identify with that exponent and their position sufficiently so that we can express their side of the issue. This can be a means to broaden our viewpoint, help us not only relate to the other person but strengthen our mental faculties, our understanding, and if we have enough aspiration, reach a greater truth than ours or the other's alone.
I have read in full Peter Heehs's book, "The Lives of Sri Aurobindo," and met with him when he came to San Francisco giving readings and discussing his work. I found he added to my understanding and appreciation of Sri Aurobindo—not only in his life before Pondicherry, but after his great realizations: the Silent Brahman, the Cosmic Consciousness that he entered in the Alipur jail, the Parabrahman realization, the Overmental Realization and through the entire arc of his earthy life. I have adeeper sense now how Sri Aurobindo, by the power of yoga, transformed a human consciousness into an integral divine consciousness. And in respect to his Integral Yoga, which is my principal focus (I was recently co-facilitating a Synthesis of Yoga study group and plan to resume it) the book afforded me stronger hope that humans like myself can make progress on this difficult and thorny path.
Sri Aurobindo struggled with human problems, family problems, national problems; found a way through Integral Yoga to surmount them for himself and even to bring into the world a greater force so that others individually and collectively and the nations and the earth itself have a more certain hope, or at least the main chance, to transform our ignorance and struggling lives into something divine. I venerate Purani's biography, I love and enjoy what I've read of Iyengar's, have deep respect for Van Vrekhem's, but I feel there is room for "The Lives of Sri Aurobindo."
I feel his approach to a critical, scholarly work based on a great deal of research, directed to the scholarly and academic community, is a potent form of inoculation against inevitable intellectual attacks to come. After all, Sri Aurobindo and Mother are not only for devotees, and for much-needed karma yogis; they're also for intellectuals, those with a more mental bent—and an integral Yoga must include in it and integrate the heart, the will, the mind and more, in a "methodized effort towards self-perfection."
I am distressed at the personal invective in the attacks on a hard-working scholar and sadhak whose love for Sri Aurobindo shines clearly through the work, if from under the surface.. He is a good writer and, I feel, a sound scholar who has done much original research.
Peter's work, and that of others, in unearthing and bringing to light the "Record of Yoga" (Sri Aurobindo's own diary of his yogic experience) has shown the world that Sri Aurobindo experimented as much or more than any scientist and attempted to realize (and by his own, remarkably self-consistent account, succeeded in realizing) what he wrote about for the sadhaks and the the public.
It is so disappointing, so dismaying to see so many luminaries whom I respect so much attacking a sadhak who has devoted his life to needed scholarship, and attacking him in such a personal un-Aurobindonian fashion. "I could feel my eyes turning into dust/Like two strangers turning into dust."
I find it hard to believe what I've been seeing. We need to work through this moment in time as an aspiring Gnostic community, however far from a functioning collectivity we still seem to be. This chaotic episode is an opportunity for us to begin again to try to put forward our opinions in an Aurobindonian fashion, respecting the truth that is expressed in another position, trying with the Mother's help to bring it into harmony with our own positions, or showing with logic, respect and fairness where we believe it falls short. This would be the least we can do, as human beings discoursing with other human beings, as well as followers of the Mother and Sri Aurobindo who aspire for a divine life for the earth, based on liberty, mutuality and harmony.
Let me add here that I have been a grateful reader on the SCIY website but have not yet posted. I appreciate the postings of Debashish, Ronjon, Rich, Vladimir, Rakesh, Ned, all the many others. We all have to realize that there are real and still-potent forces that WANT us to clash just as we've been doing, fall into anambush, so to speak. If we have the aspiration, if we can summon it back, there are greater more conscious forces that are leading, even as we speak, to a multi-poised Unity that has infinite room in it for the diversity of our approaches. Rick Lipschutz