July 16, 2016

Colman, Gerbode, Rakover, Overton, Kegan, and Csikszentmihalyi

Sri Aurobindo's Vision of Integral Human Development: Designing a Future Discipline of Study
by Monica Gupta (Author) Springer India 2014

For Sri Aurobindo and The Mother for the revelatory power of the ‘Word’ contained in their writings which has dynamically sustained me through the entire process of writing this work


This work attempts to bring together the developmental insights contained within the works of Sri Aurobindo and The Mother. I have made a conscious attempt in my work to present Sri Aurobindo and The Mother’s ideas in their own terms and to avoid unnecessary generalisations. The main aim is to identify key developmental ideas from theoriginal works of Sri Aurobindo and The Mother, and put them together in coherent developmental framework that represents the theoretical and application potential. The main method adopted for collating these insights is not just an intellectual analysis but a more comprehensive Indian method of śravana, manana andnidhidhyāsana —i.e. listening to or reading the words and meditating on them deeply. I have attempted to practise some of the concepts mentioned in this work in daily life in the past 10 years and to find their verification in experience. Thus, the aim has not been to collect information but represent real living dynamic ideas that have made deep personal sense to me and have changed the way in which I have lived and experienced life and its developmental potential .
Two broad perspectives—the Neo-Darwinian and the relational metatheories—largely the products of the rational age as conceived by Sri Aurobindo are discussed further in the chapter, in terms of their ontological, epistemological and methodological assumptions and their view on the nature of development. Chapter 7 is the concluding chapter where application potential of this developmental agenda is outlined for its power of informing practices in the areas of education, parenting, work, human relations and healing.
I would like to thank Dr. Suneet Varma and Prof. Girishwar Misra for the valuable inputs in this work. I would like to thank my family for their unfailing support, and affection. A special thanks to Shikha for her help at a crucial time. And finally, l would like to express my deep gratitude to Dr. Nirodbaran, Ms. Ameeta Mehra and the Gnostic Centre Family for nurturing my inner growth and progress.
Monica Gupta
New Delhi

About the Author
Monica Gupta is an assistant professor at the Department of Elementary Education, Gargi College, University of Delhi, New Delhi, India. She is also closely associated with International Centre for Integral Studies, Gnostic Centre, New Delhi in an honorary capacity. Email: monicag21@rediffmail.com

1.1 The Aim
Human Development is a key interdisciplinary field of inquiry which aims to study the psychological, sociological and anthropological factors that shape the developmental possibilities of human beings. The current focus of the professionals in this field of study is to understand human development across the entire life span as it unfolds within specific cultural contexts. Specifically, they aim to study the multiple possibilities of life-course pathways as they emerge through the interaction between the individual and collective culture (Valsiner and Lawrence 1997).

The main aim of this work is to re-engage with the disciplinary boundaries in the field of Human Development and explore the viability of a new agenda of human development based on the works and vision of the Indian seer Sri Aurobindo (1872–1950). The book begins by outlining the process of the individual and social evolutionary perspective of Sri Aurobindo. There is a further attempt to delineate a potential metatheory of human development contained within the works of Sri Aurobindo and examine it in the context of the dominant metatheories in the fields of Human Development. For this purpose, the ‘meta-psychological’ approach is adopted and there is an examination of the philosophical and psychological assumptions related to human development including the ontological, epistemological and methodological assumptions. Sri Aurobindo’s perspective on the aims of human existence and the nature of cosmic, social, individual and inner-yogic development is examined in detail and implications drawn for creating a new vision of human development as a field of study.

1.2 The Relevance of Studying Sri Aurobindo and The Mother
Sri Aurobindo is a great spiritual master, Yogi, Rishi and philosopher par excellence whose life and works are a living inspiration in our times. He along with his spiritual collaborator—Mirra Alfassa or The Mother was engaged in creating the new future evolutionary possibilities for humanity through the practice of ‘Integral Yoga’. This yoga is based on a wide synthesis of all the yoga traditions in India but has as its aim not an escape into Nirvana or a Heaven but the perfection of human life on the Earth. 

Sri Aurobindo and The Mother’s works are known to contain a painstakingly detailed map of the psychological make-up of the human being, an understanding of the current problems and crises of humanity, a perspective on the relation between the individual and collective evolution and indicate the next step that humanity needs to take that can catapult it into a new future. It thus becomes relevant to study their writings for they contain a radical and futuristic vision of human development which may have the potential for opening new pathways for the progress for humanity—and have implications for understanding afresh the scope of Human Development as a discipline of study.

1.3 Understanding Metapsychology
The term metapsychology is concerned with the underlying conceptual questions or principles of psychology (Colman 2001). It is the philosophical study of psychology and a systematic attempt to discern and describe what lies beyond the facts and laws of psychology (Online medical dictionary 2000). The term metapsychology has taken on different shades depending on the psychological thinkers who have used this concept. The concept of metapsychology was used initially by Sigmund Freud to denote the most theoretical and abstract elements of psychoanalysis and specifically, it refers to a “psychology that leads behind consciousness” (Masson 1985, pp. 301–302). For Freud, the term ‘consciousness’ was used predominantly to indicate the ‘unconscious’ and ‘subconscious’ aspects of personality and the ways in which they influence the functioning of an individual. The concept of metapsychology has been used in more recent times by the psychiatrist Gerbode (1995), who views it as a discipline that studies the relationship between the “person, mind and the physical universe” (p. 6). Gerbode (1995) has tried to beyond Freud and used metapsychology to recover the original meaning of ‘Psychology’, i.e. a study of psyche or the spirit. Rakover (1990) has used metapsychology as a concept that can include perspectives both from ‘Philosophy of Psychology’ and ‘Philosophy of Science’. In the present work, the term metapsychology examines Sri Aurobindo’s central ideas of re-shaping the discipline of ‘Psychology’ (seeSect. 1.5) and links them to his key ideas on the nature of ‘human development’. Thus ‘meta-psychology’ here becomes an understanding of the nature of the highest reality or the ‘Absolute’ that lies beyond the psychological principle and becomes the fundamental basis from which ensue all processes of human development. (For details see Sect.​ 5.​4.​1).

There is an attempt in this work to specifically delineate the metatheory of human development contained in the works of Sri Aurobindo and The Mother.

A metatheory is a coherent set of interlocking principles that both describes and prescribes what is meaningful and meaningless, acceptable and unacceptable, central and peripheral, as theory—the means of conceptual exploration—and as method—the means of observational exploration—in a scientific discipline. Theories and methods refer directly to the empirical world, while metatheories refer to the theories and methods themselves (Overton 2007, p. 154).
All theories operate explicitly or implicitly on the basis of a metatheory. It is the metatheory that gives shape to the scope within which a theory operates and also defines the methods of study.

An essential and sometimes unrecognized feature of metatheories, however, is that they emerge and operate at several levels of analysis. Metatheories, which are sometimes also referred to as ‘models’ or ‘paradigms,’ tend to form a hierarchy in terms of increasing generality of application. The hierarchical dimension of any given set of metatheoretical ideas also forms a coherently interrelated system of ideas, and the model operating at the pinnacle of this hierarchy is usually termed a ‘world view.’ World views are composed of coherent interlocking sets of epistemological (i.e. issues of knowing) and ontological (i.e., issues of reality) principles (Overton 2007, p. 154).
The function of a metatheory is not only to ground, constrain and sustain theoretical concepts but also to guide the methods of investigation or metamethods as termed by Overton (2003). A metatheory is a set of rules, principles or a story that sets the boundaries for what is acceptable in a theory and prescribes the conceptual exploration in the domain of Science. Similarly, metamethods too are rules, principles or a story that set the boundaries for the acceptable methods and prescribe the means of observational exploration in a scientific discipline (Overton 2003). [...]

The metaphysical basis of human psychology has been often been sidelined as a useless exercise for it is viewed by the empirically oriented psychologists as merely an exercise in mental gymnastics or exercising of fertile imagination in a domain which perhaps has no possibility of giving us any definite answers.

To use the metaphor of a tree, it seems that use of empiricism has largely limited the study of human development to understanding the nature of the trunk, the leaves, the flowers and the fruits of a tree without really bothering to have a coherent theory about the seed from which the tree emerges nor the sun from which it draws nourishment and towards which it grows. Developmental thinkers often relegate the issues of the origin of the cosmos, its goal, purpose and sustenance, to the metaphysical realm, as they cannot be investigated through empirical vision. A new vision of human development, based on Sri Aurobindo’s works, can be explored for its potential to engage with the central philosophical questions related to human development based on direct yogic perception of Reality—i.e. a personal engagement with the original cause and the endpoint of development.

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