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Saturday, June 2, 2007

I am not interested in building up a mental fortress within which I wish to chain my soul

Sri Aurobindo and Mirra’s Philosophy
This page was created in response to some readers of this blog who wished to understand better where I was coming from and what, exactly, I was talking about.
My primary source of inspiration is the integral yoga and philosophy of the Indian philosopher-sage Sri Aurobindo and the French occultist-mystic Mirra Alfassa, better known as the Mother. However, their work is very integral and inclusive, and encourages us to have different types of spiritual experiences, not just following any one line of approach. As a result, I do read and refer to other sources as well, perhaps also because if you read just one teacher or philosophy for years and years it can get very mentally stale. Here in this article, though, I wish to describe Sri Aurobindo and the Mother’s philosophy briefly, because I usually model Reality using Aurobindoan motifs and symbols. Somehow Sri Aurobindo manages to be simultaneously theistic, monistic or nondual, emanationist, evolutionary, and panentheistic (what a mouthful!). It is no wonder that it is said that no mental symbols are adequate as far as describing the Supreme Reality goes.
I need to mention two things first, though. One is that I did not arrive at Sri Aurobindo and the Mother through any intellectual process. I had a spiritual awakening and felt an inner call to practice their yoga. My faith is therefore based much more on “heart-holiness” than on the intellect, though I use the intellect to inform my faith. There are many things that Sri Aurobindo writes that I freely admit to not being able to understand intellectually; however, my heart pulls me toward him and the Mother on the grounds that their spiritual presence has been liberating for me and has increased my capacity to manifest love. I have faith that slowly, as I grow spiritually, little by little their message will be revealed to me from within.
The second point is that Sri Aurobindo and the Mother wrote from a supraintellectual perspective. They were established in a universal consciousness that transcends the illusory division created by the ego-mind. They claimed to perceive in terms of direct intuition and apprehension of Reality and experienced other beings as vibrations within their universal consciousness. Thus, they are talking from a transrational and transsensory perspective, and normal humans (like myself!) who live within their limited physical, rational mind are likely to find a lot of what they say to be nonsensical.
Sri Aurobindo and Mirra’s purpose was to formulate spiritual realizations as best as possible — though of course no mental formulation is ever adequate. Their followers consider them to be incarnations of the Divine, evolutionary avatars whose purpose was to usher in a new age and a new consciousness for humanity. Personally, I am cautious before making such proclamations because I feel my own gnosis is not enough at the moment to do so, and I do not wish to form any mental beliefs, something that would be antithetical to their yoga. However, they certainly seem to be two of the most dynamic spiritual teachers that I have ever heard of.
There is no doubt, however, that their message, though revealed during the modern era, has had its roots in ancient traditions ranging from the Vedic scriptures to perhaps what some consider the original nondual message of Jesus Christ: the victory of Life over death, the Kingdom of God on earth. There are parallels between Sri Aurobindo and the Jesuit mystic and paleontologist Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, not to mention Jacob Boehme. But what is remarkable about Sri Aurobindo and the Mother is their marvelous lack of religious or mythical distortion. Both were raised as staunch atheists, and in my opinion, this gave them a solid base for a spiritual journey and an intellectual clarity and freedom that has been rare in spiritual teachers before them. Moreover, they write in the language of modernity and are therefore more directly accessible for people like us in this postmodern era.
I am indebted to my good friend M. Alan Kazlev and his website Kheper.net, for helping me unpack and understand my personal spiritual experiences and locate them within the context of a larger evolutionary process. At the end of this page, I’m also linking to some of my favorite articles from his site that have really inspired me to do much more indepth research myself. With this said, let me quickly reproduce here a summary of the Aurobindoan philosophy, taken from M. Alan Kazlev’s essay at Kheper.net based on Roy Posner’s article entitled The Future Evolutionary and Collective Life on Earth...
Cosmology and Theory of Creation
Note from Ned: The diagram linked to on the left-hand side is from Roy Posner’s Theory of Creation website, and succinctly sums up the Aurobindoan evolutionary vision.
Note however that this is a very simplified view of Sri Aurobindo’s cosmology and may mislead the reader into believing that his view of the cosmos is purely linear. Not so — although he outlines a cosmic teleology, I believe that his view of evolution is much more sophisticated and complex than a simplistic linear teleology. One could perhaps view it as a cyclical teleology (with each cycle having an involution followed by an evolution, and each cycle leading to greater universal self-awareness), an ever-evolving, dynamic spiral converging toward a destiny, a garland of overlapping paths and repeating fractals that ultimately expands out into the Infinite.
There are amazing parallels here with the Jesuit mystic and paleontologist Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, who saw evolution ultimately converging in the Omega Point, where the universe would be united in Christ-consciousness. The following diagram from Higher Ground by Ann K. Elliot shows Teilhard’s evolutionary spiral. Christogenesis is in my opinion the true understanding of the Christian notion of the Kingdom of God and the victory of Life over death (and perhaps also of the “Day of Judgment” in Islam and other religions)...
The Individual’s Psychology
Note from Ned: Sri Aurobindo’s psychology and yoga is based a two-parameter concept: the “vertical” scale and the “horizontal” scale. The “horizontal” scale refers to a series of concentric inner hypostases that includes the subliminal and ultimately leads to the psychic being within, the personal evolving soul or spark of the Divine. The goal of the yoga is to detach from the outer mind and life, and go within into the depths of one’s being, find this psychic being, and draw it to the fore to prepare the outer nature for the ascent to God. The “vertical” scale involves the ascent from matter to vital to mind to spiritual mind to supermind, after which the descent begins: the “vertical” is then drawn down into the horizontal to transform the lower nature and divinise it. (Needless to say I am still at the stage where I am trying to go within into my horizontal depths and bring the psychic to the fore!)
This two-parameter model — summarized as “a soul within and a Grace above” — is one of the most profound models of spiritual psychology that I have seen, and is one that I resonate with based on my own experience. I have linked above to two beautiful diagrammatic explanations of this model and of the integral yoga which do not seem to be available on the Internet anymore. I use these for meditation and contemplation as well...
Other Links of Interest
Here are some articles at Kheper.net that I’m using as a starting point for my own research. I find Alan’s work to be much more comprehensive and balanced that than of the popular writer Ken Wilber. (Basically I am stealing his writings until I come up with my own interpretations. )
Finally, I would again like to mention that I use these theories and maps as a pointer to Reality. The map is not the territory, as the cliche goes. What I am concerned with, first and foremost, is self-transformation. I am not interested in building up a mental fortress within which I wish to chain my soul. Thus, everything on this page is to be taken as ideas being held in abeyance and being currently investigated, and of course constantly subject to revision and improvement. the stumbling mystic God shall grow up . . . while the wise men talk and sleep.

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