The HINDU 30.7.1996
The phenomenon that is man
“The Quest for the Inner Man”, by Joseph Vrinte
“What is the scope of your study?” a traveller asked Socrates (470-399 B.C.). “To know the phenomenon that is man,” was the reply of the great Athenian savant. The Indian laughed and when asked to explain that strange conduct, said, “How can you know man without knowing God?”
This account left by Aristoxenus, a disciple of Aristotle, continues to retain its relevance when we study the Indian approach to mind and consciousness vis-à-vis the Western approach. The Indian mysticism and philosophies, speaking broadly, have maintained that the phenomenon can be best known only by knowledge of the Spirit hidden at its core and, significantly, several Western Schools of psychology have, in the near past, woken up to hitherto ignored or unsuspected dimensions of consciousness.
Another bright development in psychology is the effort of bringing together the essential truths in different theories, as Maslow did in trying to “integrate into a single theory Goldstein and Fromm.” Such schools of thought come under the category often described as transpersonal psychology, which “takes Spirit as the basis of Reality and in its therapeutical approach concentrates on the restoration of the lost control with the spiritual Self.” Further, as this highly informative work says, “It is characterised by the acceptance of the spiritual and cosmic dimensions of the personality and the possibility for the development of consciousness.”
At this point emerges the irresistible relevance of Sri Aurobindo to modern psychology, for taking cognisance of his visualisation of man as a potential supramental being, psychology can no longer confine itself only to the evolutionary nisus active behind it. Several mental and emotional problems can perhaps be traced to man’s psychic need for growth, about which the conventional psychotherapist may continue to be unenlightened.
Dr. Joseph Vrinte who is a mental health worker in Amsterdam, has devotedly carried on research in comparative fields of Indian and Western psychology and his present work, like his earlier dissertation entitled, “The concept of Personality in Sri Aurobindo’s Integral Yoga Psychology and A. Maslow’s Humanistic/Transpersonal Psychology” is an impressive compendium of developments in psychotherapy and, what is more, a pioneering work in evaluating and enriching the discipline in the light of a revolutionary concept of our time regarding the future of man. Transpersonal psychotherapy and Sri Aurobindo’s psychology are not the same, but “despite these differences between the two views, both in their search for the higher and deeper meaning of the inner dimensions of human existence maintain that man is a never-finished product of evolution with endless potentialities for inner growth, and has the capacity to cultivate the psyche’s higher aspirations or a spiritual reality beyond the grasp of the pragmatic human intellect.”
Date: 14th January 1997
From: Shri Manoj Das C/o Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry 605002
To: Shri Manoj Dasgupta, Trustee, Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust, Pondicherry 605002
I had read Joseph Vrinte’s ‘The Quest for the Inner Man’ earlier and went through the controversial lines once again.
I appreciate the objections raised by some friends. When read in isolation, the lines in question may sound a bit offending, as if the author is pointing at some negligence on Sri Aurobindo’s part.
But read in their proper context, they are not the author’s personal views, but a reference to what might appear to be so, in the perception of Transpersonal Psychotherapy. This is an academic thesis and comparison and contrast are a must in such exercises.
We have to take into account the spirit behind this work. It is a spirit of goodwill and not of the slightest hostility. It is a laudable scholarly work and its reader would, in many ways, be helped to understand Sri Aurobindo.
I suggest that we should not object to selling/distributing this book. I had a discussion with Jugal-da and he too is of the same opinion. Mr. Joseph Vrinte is most willing to explain his point to anyone interested.