May 16, 2010

Sri Aurobindo contradicts standard Western, Christian prejudices

EVOLUTIONARY,  SPIRITUAL CONCEPTIONS OF LIFE – SRI AUROBINDO ... by M Leicht - 2006 Evolutionary, spiritual conceptions of life - Sri Aurobindo, Teilhard de Chardin and Ken Wilber in comparison Dr. phil. Michael Leicht

Aurobindo’s (1920/1990: 95) ‘total consciousness’ sounds like this: “The capacity of our total consciousness far exceed that of our organs, the senses, the nerves, the brain, but that even for our ordinary thought and consciousness these organs are only their habitual instruments and not their generators. Consciousness uses the brain which its upward strivings have produced, brain has not produced nor does it use the consciousness.” And in deep meditation the spirit is supposed to affect wilfully the neural system. But this is quiet the opposite from the view of modern cognitive science. Mental experiences have their neural correlatives. It was the brain which developed and with it our consciousness. Along with this goes the position of ‘epiphenomenalism’. Consciousness is influenced by the brain, but does not influence the brain. Consciousness has no power to cause anything. It is simply a reflection of biology. Nevertheless it is the starting point of modern philosophy since Descartes, even though consciousness can not be detected by any scientific means. Nevertheless partly we agree with Aurobindo. In the Kantian tradition there is the ‘intelligible world’, which is supernatural (cf. chapter on ‘Kant, Aurobindo and In Between’, above). But this intelligible world’ is by far not so encompassing like Aurobindo’s total consciousness of the supermind.
In a way, Aurobindo’s theory of evolution resembles Lyod Morgan and Samuel Alexander’s theory of emergent evolution. A creationist view of causation can go together with that theory. The pre-existent is not totally determining as cause the effect. But Aurobino also uses the term ‘emergent’ in place of ‘evolutionary’. His is an integral philosophy, that accepts the pre-existence of  divine qualities, running through matter, life and mind. No new qualities are acquired in the process of evolution as opined by Morgan and Alexander. Instead, divinity runs through all living and non-living. The outwardly ‘different’ are inwardly the same. Higher qualities are not devoid of organic connection with their substructure as supposed by Alexander. They evolve from the substructure. Yet there is an element of leap in it. Due mainly to the descent from above and also due to integration that follows (Goswami, 1976: 9).
The following analogy might help to better understand what is meant: A poem  cannot  be explained by the phonemes. A finite number of phonemes combine and repeat themselves and there surge up meaning, emotion, thought, beauty, joy and knowledge. Nothing of these can be deduced from the phonemes. The sonnet is more than the sum of the phonemes. The organisation has somehow led to the expression of realities not suspected in the state of phonemes. Now the question is, was the meaning of the poem already present in the phonemes, or has there been something infused from outside? One answer could be that the creator-god – the poet – has infused meaning which was not there. Another answer could be that the meaning was already latent in it (Sarkar, 2002: 165/166).
Hegel’s views on evolution appear to be close to Aurobindo’s. By a harmonious blending of the opposites, we can know the truth of the reality by reason, according to Hegel. For him antitheses exist for the sake of a higher synthesis, negation for the purpose of establishing a higher affirmation (Reddy, 2004 . Aurobindo does not give much importance to reason. And that is way he stands outside the classical Enlightenment movement! He feels that it is only an aspect or function of the mind. According to Aurobindo the Super-Mind plays a vital role in linking the physical with the spiritual (transmitted by the overmind). Aurobindo in dealing with the ascent of matter and the descent of god (as evolution and involution) dwells upon another idea that god incarnates. The incarnation of god is to reveal the potentiality of man and matter and not necessarily to restore dharma (as in classical Hindu thought). Just as god takes birth as man, man also takes birth in godhood (Reddy, 2006b). But to what extent is Brahman identical with supermind?
In one sense Aurobindo contradicts standard Western, Christian prejudices. They stipulate that you risk losing contact with reality, if you follow the Indian traditions of Advaita (one-wholeness) or Anatta (emptiness)! They fear the breakup of one’s personality to reach the one-whole or emptiness, and warn of getting lost, instead, in dependence on a master or guru (Schmid, 2006: 6). But the position of Aurobindo is quiet different. It is not by removing himself from his body, mind and even his consciousness, that the individual can reach the highest state. But it is by the fullest development of the body, mind and consciousness. Moreover, it is only in an enlightened and ennobled world that the highest type of individual can dwell. The divinised man is a citizen of a divinised world (Reddy, 2004: 147). Here Aurobindo gets quiet sociological. [Schmid, Georg. 2006. Spiritualität im Trend?  – Erwägungen zum spirituellen Markt der Gegenwart. Informationsblatt. Nr. 1 & 2, März, S. 1-6.]
Nevertheless partly we agree with Aurobindo. In the Kantian tradition there is the 'intelligible world', ... In a way, Aurobindo's theory of evolution resembles Lyod Morgan and Samuel Alexander's theory of emergent evolution. ...  4:05 PM
 India: mirage and reality Peter Schmid - 1961 - 256 pages
Aurobindo had shown himself but rarely to his admirers ; during his last years he had scarcely spoken to anybody, ... They were totally different from those of Aurobindo : for there in a finely moulded poet's face were eyes which seemed ...

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