The Perennial Quest for a Psychology with a Soul

PREFACE

This book is offered as an explorer’s source book in the mapping of the various psychological problems inherent in Sri Aurobindo’s integral sadhana and Ken Wilber’s integral psychology. The purpose of this book is not to extol or decry one of the two integral thinkers at the cost of the other. This comparative study, therefore, does not aim at setting one approach against the other, but at showing how the two could be complementary in spiritual psychology and human nature.
There are possible dangers in working with the spiritual and psychological domains simultaneously, and the various pitfalls are extensively elaborated in this book, because knowing about them can lessen the dangers. However, in this attempt at clarification of the different problems related to Sri Aurobindo’s and Ken Wilber’s visions, the clarification itself does not constitute a solution to the problems involved in their models.

A few preliminary questions may be helpful in order to avoid certain confusions. Are Ken Wilber’s and Sri Aurobindo’s integral views simply two parallel approaches aiming at the same end but using a different language, or do they have the same ideas about developmental areas but differ in their concepts of growth? Are there many pitfalls in prematurely trying to juxtapose the two approaches, and are they two separate directions in which human life is moving? If yes, are the divergences essentially a matter of terminology, or do the differences affect a genuine plurality of problems?

This comparison does not magnify differences without acknowledging the overlap in issues, as both theories share considerable common ground. Nevertheless, it is not the author’s intention to yoke Sri Aurobindo’s metaphysical yoga psychology to Ken Wilber’s integral psychology, even though it seems that there are some important insights that are similar. Sri Aurobindo’s The Life Divine and The Synthesis of Yoga are mainly works on Yoga and only indirectly on psychology.

The author has tried to use a language that is comprehensible to the laymen without falling into generalities. In spite of this, the contents of this book may not always be easily digestible.
This study comprises three parts, which are subdivided into twelve chapters.
Part One gives the background information, which is needed for parts Two and Three.

The first chapter commences with a brief overview of some of the fundamentals of the aim and nature of psychotherapy as well as some of its limitations. Psychotherapy aims at helping clients to grow and promoting insight and inner freedom. It can be seen as an initiating process for the development of an integrated ego, and its constructive application can be used as a bridge or adjunctive aid to help seekers to a turning point on the spiritual journey.

However, it seems that most brands of psychotherapy focus only on one or some aspects of human functioning and are, therefore, severely limited in the degree to which they are capable of enlarging the client’s awareness and modifying man’s behaviour.

Chapter two elaborates on the relation between conventional psychotherapy and traditional spiritual discipline. Both approaches are concerned with human suffering and self-analysis through a change of automatic patterns of awareness and thinking from which much human suffering originates, yet they differ regarding the fundamental nature of reality and the concept of the self. Nevertheless, in their partially overlapping areas of interest the two approaches can be complementary aspects of the process of self-realisation. Each approach has its own importance; each may be regarded as a different stage in the course of the seeker’s development.

The spiritual journey has its challenges and difficulties and embarking on the spiritual path is, therefore, not something to jump into naively.
Chapter three discusses the metaphysical nature of spiritual discipline and the metaphysical nature of the self. A spiritual discipline is not based on an uncritical acceptance of certain doctrinal interpretations; it demands an initial acceptance of the prescribed methods, but at a later stage, with knowledge and insight, the researcher may be able to debate certain issues which are related to a specific spiritual discipline. In looking at the metaphysical nature of the Self, as distinguished from the psychological nature of the self, the author describes the concept of the Self as explored in the Upanishads, Advait Vedanta, Patanjali’s Yoga, Sri Aurobindo’s metaphysical system, and conventional Western psychotherapy.

The fourth chapter deals with the transpersonal movement and gives a general overview of transpersonal psychology, transpersonal psychotherapy and transpersonal psychiatry.
The transpersonal movement, as a subject for scientific investigation, affirms that the transpersonal realm is not the exclusive domain of priests, yogis or mystics but also of scientists; it is an open system undergoing continuous development. In this development it brings together the ancient wisdom of all the great spiritual traditions of the world and the pragmatism of modern Western science.

Transpersonal psychotherapy is an approach to healing through the integration of the physical, vital, mental and spiritual aspects of the person. The spiritual dimensions and potentials of the seeker are explored from a psychological perspective. In transpersonal psychiatry the mystical experience can be transformative and healing, and the transpersonal psychiatrist, who treats individuals with a spiritual orientation, acknowledges the link between the biological and spiritual aspects of man.
Part Two elaborates extensively on Ken Wilber’s integral psychology and Sri Aurobindo’s metaphysical yoga psychology.

Chapter five describes the main works of Ken Wilber, from his first book, The Spectrum of Consciousness, to his latest work, A Theory of Everything, so that the reader gets a better understanding of Ken Wilber’s multidisciplinary approach.

In the sixth chapter the author examines briefly some of the main works of Sri Aurobindo (The Life Divine, The Synthesis of Yoga, The Human Cycle and Letters on Yoga), the aim of his integral Yoga and the concept of integral transformation. The aim of the practitioner of integral Yoga must be the possession of God, to be as perfect as God in His being, and to live a divine life on earth so that all mankind may attain the same divine perfection. Sri Aurobindo’s integral transformation enables the spiritual seeker to live in the Divine not only in the absorbed ecstasy of trance, but also to live the Life Divine on earth at all times, in all parts and elements of the beingphysically, vitally, mentally and spiritually.
The seventh chapter describes and attempts to analyse Sri Aurobindo’s concept of the psycho-spiritual nature of man, in terms of the various layers of consciousness and in terms of the different parts of the being. This classification is helpful for psychological self-knowledge, discipline and practice, but should not be erected into too rigid a formula. As these things run very much into each other, a synthetic sense of these powers is as necessary as the analytical.

In the eighth chapter insight is gained into sadhana in integral Yoga and its difficulties. Sadhana as a science of spiritual discipline is a conscious effort to find God or the divine within and to transform one’s whole nature. Sri Aurobindo’s integral sadhana, as an intensive preparation for a divine life or Gnostic kingdom of heaven on earth, is not an easy sadhana. The path of integral sadhana is steep and does not avoid regions of darkness. Its difficult, complex course is not a path for any ordinary seeker to follow, but only for those who accept to seek its aim and for those whose inner strength is supplemented by the true aid of the Guru. However, Sri Aurobindo maintains that those who are sincere, faithful in heart and rely only on the Divine will arrive at the kingdom in spite of all difficulties.
Part three attempts to render a critical and constructive dialogue between Ken Wilber and Sri Aurobindo regarding their integral views and their metaphysical vision.

Chapter nine opens with a comparison of conventional psychotherapy and integral sadhana. Systems of psychotherapy and Sri Aurobindo’s sadhana include the development of insight and increasing awareness pertaining to aspects of behaviour of which the seeker has been more or less unaware. But for Sri Aurobindo, psychological difficulties do not disappear by mind’s brooding on them; he wants the seeker to put one’s whole stress on faith, aspiration and surrender to the Divine Will, as it is from something outside and above the difficulties that the solution must come.

After discussing the role of the ego and the place of God in transpersonal psychotherapy and in integral sadhana, the author concludes this chapter with a comparison of transpersonal psychotherapy and integral sadhana. Both approaches take consciousness as the true subject matter of psychology but, unlike transpersonal psychotherapy, Sri Aurobindo’s yoga of integral perfection regards man as a divine spiritual being involved in mind, life and body, and his Yoga aims not only at the realisation but also at the perfection of the seeker’s divine nature. Integral sadhana and transpersonal psychotherapy can be viewed as complementary, however, each representing different levels of health and growth, and each simply dealing with different ranges of human development.

Chapter ten offers a critical evaluation of Ken Wilber’s commentary on the limitations of Sri Aurobindo’s integral Yoga. Does Sri Aurobindo make a sufficiently strong link between his spiritual objectives and social, economic, cultural and scientific goals that can be tested by established social or scientific criteria? The answer lies in Sri Aurobindo’s views on science, metaphysics, culture, religion, the relation between the individual and collectivity, sociology and ethics.

The eleventh chapter examines Ken Wilber’s critical interpretations of various aspects of Sri Aurobindo’s metaphysical vision, and concludes with a critical estimate of Ken Wilber. It may be useful to compare various aspects of Sri Aurobindo’s vision with his own ‘all-quadrant, all-level’ model but, when they are applied to life, are the similarities used in the same way in both systems?
The concluding chapter presents a critical summary of Sri Aurobindo’s metaphysical yoga psychology and the place of psychopathology in it. Sri Aurobindo is not an academic psychologist, but a Yogi who takes psychology in his stride. Are the psychological aspects of Sri Aurobindo’s metaphysical vision, which are based on the practice of his integral Yoga, applicable to the discoveries of clinical psychology, or contemporary applied psychology?

In a critical estimate of Sri Aurobindo’s integralism, the author asks himself if Sri Aurobindo’s metaphysical vision is able to withstand the rise of Western psychology’s scientific development, and if the followers of Sri Aurobindo’s vision are able to use certain contemporary ideas in a constructive manner without deconstructing the major contents of his vision.
It takes a brief look at the ashramites of the Sri Aurobindo Ashram, seen through the eyes of a long-time ashramite and at Auroville, ‘the city of human unity’, through the eyes of this author who lives in Auroville.

The reflections and critical comments at the end of the last three chapters are not meant as an “attack” on their vision, but as an elucidation of their agreements and disagreements, and a genuine appreciation of their integral approach.

SRI AUROBINDO ASHRAM, PONDICHERRY

The ashram was founded as “a centre and a field of practice for the evolution of another kind and form of life, which would be sustained by a higher consciousness and embody a full life of the Spirit.”

It was created to provide a place where individual seekers could work out a complete change of their nature. The ashram was “to provide a secure atmosphere, a place and life apart, in which the consciousness of the individual might concentrate on its evolution in surroundings where all was turned and centred towards the one endeavour and, next, when things were ready, to formulate and develop the new life in those surroundings and in this prepared spiritual atmosphere. It might be that, in such a concentration of effort, all the difficulties of the change would present themselves with a concentrated force; for each seeker, carrying in himself the possibilities but also the imperfections of a world that has to be transformed, would bring in not only his capacities but his difficulties and the oppositions of the old nature and, mixed together in the restricted cycle of a small and close common life, these might assume a considerably enhanced force of obstruction which would tend to counterbalance the enhanced power and concentration of the forces making for the evolution. This is a difficulty that has broken in the past all the efforts of mental man to evolve something better and more true and harmonious than the ordinary mental and vital life. But if Nature is ready and has taken her evolutionary decision or if the power of the Spirit descending from the higher planes is sufficiently strong, the difficulty would be overcome and a first evolutionary formation or formations would be possible.”

The seekers in the ashram have opted to dedicate their lives completely to the practice of sadhana through integral Yoga, a synthesis of karma (action), bhakti (devotion), and jnana (knowledge) Yoga. There are general laws of discipline, but each individual is given the freedom to pursue one’s sadhana according to that which is congenial to his or her temperament.
The problem of transformation deals with all sorts of favourable and unfavourable elements and the sadhaks in the ashram, the laboratory of supramental yoga, are therefore representative of all quarters of life.

It is not easy to verify objectively Sri Aurobindo’s claims of a divine life. It seems that the Ashram is still in the initial formative stages, where any kind of assessment is mainly based on faith. In the course of integral Yoga each plane of being has to be dealt with and people in the Ashram are not yet free in their outer selves from ego and wrong movements. The character of life in the ashram is different from the ordinary environment of life. When the sadhak enters this place, it often takes quite some time to be aligned with the main stream. During this period, the recalcitrant elements—egoism, revolt, etc.—come into reactionary play and they can persist for quite a long time. Other seekers may hand over the responsibility for their life to the Divine, in the supposition that the Divine will do all the work for them, without their needing to examine their own inner world. This is one of the main reasons why all sorts of difficulties arise and which explains much in the Ashram (and also in Auroville) that people do not expect there. Difficulties do not cease by coming here, but have to be faced and overcome.
However, it is extremely difficult to overcome the forces which have controlled mankind for centuries. The old forces are not to be avoided but, on the contrary, have to come to the surface first, before they can be rejected, purified and transformed.

The Ashram sometimes faced difficult periods in its survival after the Mother left her body. Recently, on the 125th year of Sri Aurobindo’s birth anniversary, an insider’s personal view on Sri Aurobindo’s ashram was published, after some negative publications appeared in the press regarding some serious conflicts within the ashram. For the author, Jugal Kishore Mukherjee, these problems are only transitionary and should not unduly discourage the sadhaks. He gives a forthright overview of the development of the ashram from the past up to the present, and its future prospects and destiny.

In this essay, Mukherjee endeavours to answer various critical questions from students of the Sri Aurobindo International Centre of Education. Some of the questions were: “Is there any specific goal towards which the Ashram is moving, are the ashramites not slowly veering round the status of a religio-cultural community, and has the ashram outlived its value as a spiritual institution.”
Mukherjee notices that “the real worth and importance of the ashram is not in its opulent eye-catching façade but in its common spiritual character. He assumes that the ashram’s constant growth is under the silent guidance of the divine conscious Force and the sadhak has to make sincere efforts to receive this Grace and collaborate in the work of each one’s spiritual transformation. “A collective spiritual lifethe goal of the ashramis meant to express the spiritual and not merely the physical, vital or even the mental being of man; it has therefore to found and maintain itself on greater values than the mental, vital, physical values of the ordinary human groupings.”

He concludes that the main concern of the ashramites is related to their development of a spiritual consciousness, but in this process he warns the sadhak “not to be complacent in our attitude and allow things to drift on. On the one side we have to remember that the Ashram is an epitome of the human nature that has to be changed. On the other hand we should not lapse into the indolent attitude, we need not bother; the Mother will do everything for us.”
The seekers in the Ashram are still on a path of preparation. The great adventure of transforming human consciousness and establishing this transformed consciousness in collective humanity is a great work which is still going on.

AUROVILLE : THE CITY OF HUMAN UNITY
The Ashram is the first step towards the accomplishment of the creation of a new being and a new consciousness. Auroville is the next step, more exterior, where Aurovilians attempt to make a collective experiment for the progress of humanity; the experiment puts emphasis on the creation of a new type of society, which is based on human unity. Auroville is envisioned as consciously evolutionary and as the city of the twenty-first century for the twenty-first century man. Its citizens seek a new culture that is universal and integral through an experiment with the evolution of consciousness and its powers. This transcendental humanism involves full human development through the inner psychic and higher spiritual being. In its proper context, Auroville, like the Ashram, has to be seen in its spiritual character, i.e., the transformation of earth life through the descent of the supramental consciousness in matter and the beginning of a new spiritualised collectivity based thereon.

It is difficult, sometimes even impossible, to understand the meaning of the global experiment called Auroville. To give an objective view of what is happening in Auroville raises a serious problem, as it tries to achieve something that has never existed before. The description of the state of the community at present can only be an outward gaze, a half-light, sometimes even a false light, yet an attempt can be made at the evaluation of the present state of the community, even though opinions about this state differ widely amongst Aurovilians themselves. It is obvious that the ideas about the multi-faceted character of Auroville, as expressed by this author, do not represent the views of the entire community.

Auroville, as a growing international township, attempts to find an answer to the global pressure for change. The Aurovilians represent one conscious section of humanity which is ready to offer its energy for the realisation of a ‘city the Earth needs’. Their work towards the growth of a new life and the acceleration of the process of evolution is a continuous research work which is not effected by merely mystical means, as it is by life itself that the Divine has to be discovered.
Auroville has nothing to do with religion, dogma or ideology. It is a place where Aurovilians aim at an integral change of consciousness and a change of institutional, social, educational, economic and organisational patterns.

The Mother—who, in 1926 took up the full charge of the Ashram when Sri Aurobindo retired into seclusion—launched the project of Auroville in 1968, and described the universal township as “a place where man can live away from all national rivalries, social conventions, self-contradictory moralities and contending religions; a place where human beings, freed from all slavery to the past, can devote themselves wholly to the discovery and practice of the Divine Consciousness that is seeking to manifest. Auroville wants to be this place and offers itself to all who aspire to live the Truth of tomorrow.”

The town is being developed around four fundamental aspects of man’s activities, i.e., the residential, industrial, cultural and international zones. These zones are separated more in theory than in practice. At the centre stands the Matrimandir, the Soul of Auroville, that “wants to be the symbol of the Divine’s answer to man’s aspiration for perfection, union with the Divine manifesting in a progressive human unity.”
The various functions of life are all integrated in the unique purpose of the city. All sorts of activities are represented or aimed at in Auroville and include environmental regeneration, industrial growth, organic agriculture, educational research, including body-awareness, physical training and sports, alternative healing, village development, economic self-sufficiency, artistic creativity of all kinds, architectural designing, appropriate building technology, alternative energy sources and business enterprises.

But the products of the outward manifestations do not offer clear and polished results, and do not change Auroville’s unsettled nature. The basic structure of Auroville is based on a synthesis of spiritual and material life. As a spiritual community, Auroville attempts to combine spirituality with modern technology and science; in their synthesis, inner spiritual and outer scientific knowledge serve each other. This town as a model of integral living intends to actualise a new man who forms the basis of a new society; all the problems of human unity find their solution in the levels of consciousness beyond the mind. A unity of mankind can therefore not be long lasting, if it is based on the compulsions of economic, social, technological or political needs. The solution of contemporary problems requires a sounder foundation in the deeper psychological needs of man, i.e., a new knowledge and deeper exploration of consciousness not undertaken by mankind so far.

However, all the external means should not be abandoned, but transformed and made to serve the Divine Consciousness. A genuine human unity becomes possible only if the citizens of Auroville move towards the realisation of the divine Reality that we are all One. It is this secret Spirit and not the ego which will become the centre of all life through the emergence of a new consciousness. This new consciousness is able to transform humanity and its life on earth.

Auroville, as a laboratory for the materialisation of this new consciousness, has been created for those seekers who want to surrender their ego and who want to develop their inner and higher spiritual being. Aurovilians are not in Auroville to fall back into their old habits, desires, and an easy life; life in Auroville means an almost superhuman effort, aspiration, sincerity and surrender for the divinisation of man.

Auroville gets a lot of publicity about its external developments, but not much is known about the inner spiritual development that its citizens are seeking through these externalities. The external development need not always reflect a new consciousness and forces of the old world, from egoism to spiritual dogmatism, are still rampant in Auroville, like anywhere else in the world. These old manifesting forces have to be encountered and dealt with fully in the initial stages, before they can be transformed.
A brochure on Auroville describes this situation as follows: “it’s not easy to live in Auroville, in spite of its comparative lushness during the winter months. It’s not just the climate, nor the sensory and emotional overload, nor the galloping entropy that causes almost everything to fall apart very quickly. Nor is it merely that Auroville reflects so many of the negative trends—politics, money, power, manipulation, small-town gossip, etc.—that exist everywhere else. It’s more to do with the fact that everybody who comes to live here seems to be confronted, sooner or later, with difficulties on a scale and of an intensity rarely experienced before. … What’s going on? At first sight it appears inexplicable. Here is a place dedicated to the highest ideals which appears to magnify individual and community problems rather than to solve them. But if one sees that the purpose of Auroville is individual and collective progress, and if one understands that such progress is impossible unless all personal and collective problems are confronted and dealt with fully, then one begins to understand why Auroville is the way it is.”

It is for this reason that progress in the process of integral transformation is rather slow. Though some Aurovilians talk about their inner centre, what to do with those citizens who by self-deception take their ego for the psychic? Can they be prevented from such regressive tendencies in their endeavour for spiritual development? Who will guide those Aurovilians who lack a transparent sincerity and aspiration for a higher life, the greatest safeguards on the slippery road of sadhana? Do Aurovilians have the courage to see that there is a certain lack of coherence in the collective organisation within the community? The Charter of Auroville indicates that ‘the City of Dawn’ is a place of continual research in human unity. Are the cores of Aurovilians strong enough to keep this experiment on the right track in its contribution to the ideal of human unity? Are they willing to learn of what has been achieved elsewhere, and are they capable of accepting diverse approaches to a shared common goal, without the fear that different new pathways dilute the experiment of their collective yoga?

The citizens of Auroville do not claim to know all the answers to the present global problems; they are nevertheless determined to succeed in their efforts in the spiritual adventure which is based on the integral vision of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother. In this adventure, Auroville stands at the beginning of the beginning and still has a long way to go on the road to genuine human unity.
Through the development of the citizen’s inner and higher levels of consciousness, the divisive forces occasioned by differences in culture, race, religion, language and lifestyle could be overcome. Despite all its innumerable practical difficulties and all its failures, it is in the diversity of experimentation that Auroville hopes to establish its own identity and that this project can be realised.
As a collective experiment for the progress of humanity, Auroville seems to develop gradually with all the perplexities of the complicated human laboratory. Each Aurovilian represents and works out something for humanity, and in order to avoid a gradual collapse of the experiment itself, Aurovilians try to draw ceaselessly on the source of the Divine Force. All the activities in Auroville are opportunities to establish contact with that Divine Consciousness Force, the ultimate supporting principle of Auroville.

Epilogue

Psychology has become a ‘dusty discipline’. It is being eaten alive by the scientific approaches of the Right-Hand quadrants (such as cognitive science) and it is being dissolved and deconstructed by the mean green meme in the Left-Hand quadrants. It [psychology] seems to be on its last legs.

A direct experiential and experimental psychology seems to be demanded if psychology is to be a science and not merely a mass of elementary and superficial generalisations with all the rest guesswork or uncertain conclusion or inference. We must see, feel, know directly what we observe; our interpretations must be capable of being sure and indubitable; we must be able to work surely on a ground of sure knowledge.

In a recent interview with Shambhala Publications, Ken Wilber officially announced his resignation from the transpersonal psychology movement and his withdrawal from his work as a consulting editor of The Journal of Transpersonal Psychology. He resigned because of differences with the major role players of the transpersonal movement, which have led to an impasse in which none of the factions has much to offer the others and where they will likely never to be able to agree with each other. These divisions within the ranks are related to their idea of the nature, scope and role of transpersonal psychology. There is also a great deal of disagreement as to what constitutes transpersonal psychology. Ken Wilber categorizes the four major factions of transpersonal psychology as:
1.the magic-mythic group, which tends to confuse prerational mythic forms with transrational formless Spirit (New Age);
2.the altered states group, which looks at temporary nonordinary states, avoids development, stages and sustained practices (retro-Romantics);
3.the postmodernists, with their pluralistic relativism, criticise universalism and the perennial philosophy, which finally leads to boomeritus;
4.the integral school incorporates the essentials of all the other schools “but that is exactly what is sharply disputed by all of them”.

Ken Wilber, set forth the theory that integral psychology will no longer be affiliated with the transpersonal movement and will be referred to, from now on, as an integral approach wider than any particular approach to psychology. The many positive and brilliant insights and contributions of these four approaches have to be included in a more integral approach but taken by themselves, they lead to difficulties because each of them ignores other equally important aspects of the psyche.

Differentiating the first-tier and second-tier approaches within his integral model, Ken Wilber felt a need to establish the Integral Institute, in an attempt to bring together second-tier thinkers who will use integral solutions to today’s problems in education, medicine, politics, business, ecology, spirituality and art. In an announcement of the formation of the Integral Institute, he describes it in this way: “Integral Institute is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the integration of body, mind, soul and spirit in self, culture and nature. This integral vision attempts to honor and integrate the largest amount of research from the greatest number of disciplines—including the natural sciences (physics, chemistry, biology, neurology, ecology), art, ethics, religion, psychology, politics, business, sociology, and spirituality. Integral Institute is dedicated to the proposition that piecemeal approaches to the world’s problems—war, hunger, disease, famine, over-population, housing, technology, education—not only no longer help but often compound the problem, and they need to be replaced by approaches that are more comprehensive, systematic, encompassing—and integral.”

The members of the Integral Institute, using integral approaches to all the above-mentioned fields, “are trying to position themselves as surfing the front crest of that rising incoming wave of second-tier consciousness”. The younger generation will receive training in all aspects of integral thinking and integral practice and carry on the integral vision in the future. The gathering of second-tier researchers and integral theorists creates some sort of sanctuary where integral second-tier research and writing can occur and where they can come together to share their ideas and experiments.
The general vision that guides the Integral Institute is mainly based on the all-quadrant, all-level model, a union of subjective (I), intersubjective (we) and objective (it) dimensions of reality. This four-quadrant model is able to examine parallel developments in each quadrant, i.e., developmental stages in each quadrant correspond with developments in the others. At the moment there are four hundred members and various branches (psychology, business, politics, medicine, education, art, spirituality and media) and each of them has its “core teams”, gifted and influential integral theorists and researchers in a specific area. Each of the branches is giving and receiving research from all the others, as the findings of one field will have direct relevance to other fields.

At times, Ken Wilber’s all-quadrant, all-level model, which attempts to integrate the scientific system approach and metaphysical system speculation, has the tendency to be immune to criticism. In two published interviews of Ken Wilber with Shambhala publications, entitled On Critics, Integral Institute, My Recent Writing and Other Matters of Little Consequence and Do Critics Misrepresent My Position? as well as in the introductions of The Collective Works, he gives the reader a detailed explanation regarding the various criticisms he has received and the motives for the discriminative and argumentative attitude found in his later works.

For Ken Wilber, a healthy scepticism rather than blind faith or a critical and sometimes even polemical attitude is a proper guide for him on the road to truth. An integral vision can never flourish in the domain of deconstructive postmodernism or of pluralistic relativism infected with the emotional narcissism of the baby boomer generation. He claims his occasional polemical and sarcastic tone in Sex, Ecology, Spirituality; A Brief History of Everything and The Eye of Spirit was necessary in order to remove the major barriers to a universal integralism. Ken Wilber assumes that most of the critical reactions to his works largely reflect a green-meme (first-tier) attack on his second-tier thinking.
In the introduction to Volume 8 of The Collective Works, he defends himself, as follows, in a rather emotional tone: “In today’s climate of postmodern pluralism, since there is no such thing as objective truth, then arguments are conducted almost entirely by attacking the subject who holds the beliefs. … the easiest way to fight this integral view is not to engage the ideas and evidence head on, but simply to try to discredit me as a person (the two most common forms: I don’t fit their version of spiritual, and I am apparently slightly more authoritarian than Mussolini). Those charges are made exclusively by people who have never met me, which I think speaks volumes. … Moreover, my work is such an imposing structure, many theorists feel that in order to make their own contributions, they have to differentiate themselves from me by attacking me – the only way they can make a name for themselves is by tearing me down. … I have one major rule: Everybody is right. More specifically, everybody— including me—has some important pieces of truth, and all of those pieces need to be honored, cherished, and included in a more gracious, spacious, and compassionate embrace. … My critical writings have never attacked the central beliefs of any discipline, only the claims that the particular discipline has the only truth—and on those grounds I have often been harsh. But every approach, I honestly believe, is essentially true but partial. And on my own tombstone, I dearly hope that someday they will write: ‘He was true but partial’.”

Most of Ken Wilber’s criticism in these three books is directed towards the green-meme approach, and is an attempt to get green to examine their own views more extensively. Ken Wilber expresses his anger at the deconstructive postmodernists through his second-tier criticism of the first-tier green wave. Most of the hostile criticism he received came from the greens, who look at his second-tier views but see nothing except their first-tier stage. Ken Wilber assumes that these green critics simply project their own shadows onto him.
In an Online dialogue between Ken Wilber and Allen Combs, on their differences regarding states and structures of consciousness Allen describes such an attack on Ken Wilber as follows: “it is no honor to original thinkers of the caliber of Plotinus, Sri Aurobindo or Jean Gebser to lump them into a kind of jargon-laden transpersonal soup with Great Chain of Being as the stock, as if their original writings could really be geometrically compounded in some uncompromised fashion. Syncretism (the idea that all great religions and philosophies are at the same core) was popular in the late days of antiquity, and is again popular today. Perhaps it contains a serving of truth, but boiling everyone down into the same pot does not do justice to their all-important individual flavors. It gets worse…. Wilber’s efforts to glue a stack of subtle planes on top of integral consciousness in order to make it more spiritual is like pouring sugar into spring water to make it more clear.”

In a reply to this attack Ken Wilber writes; “Actually, in my ‘whole model’ there are the temporary states, the levels of consciousness, and the various developmental lines that move through these levels. Combs is here completely confusing them, and thus once again claims that I don’t differentiate them. What Combs is doing, I believe, is using the phase-2 model presented in Up from Eden, as most of his attacks do. I accept those attacks, belatedly, as accurate criticism of a view I held 15 years ago… he [Allen] is not very good at interpreting even the major themes of my work beyond the Up from Eden period.”6
Ken Wilber does admit that much of the misrepresented reviews of his work are related to the huge amount of his written material which makes it hard for anyone to grasp it accurately. In his multiple perspectives on different issues, Ken Wilber outlines several different meanings of the topic and he includes all of them in his integral theory. Merely focusing on one of his simplified or popularised statements often creates misleading accounts of his real position. To get a whole picture one has to read at least six or seven of his books, including the endnotes as they present his technically correct but often obscure views.

Fortunately, he has also received negative but accurate and constructive criticism from second-tier readers. Those criticisms that he found valid were incorporated into subsequent writings. The major aim of his works is to help start a dialogue, not to finish it.
All the criticism related to misrepresentations of his work has spurred him to start teaching his materials and disclosing his views personally to the outside word.
Ken Wilber’s style of argument and his harsh critique of those who offer thoughtful and critical reflections and who disagree with parts of his integral model are not always appreciated by his opponents within the transpersonal movement. It is often difficult for them to relate Ken Wilber’s engagement in critical discourse on the vision-logic level with his dismissive commentaries and sometimes combative attitudes which are contrary to transpersonal values and discriminating wisdom. Polemical language could be counterproductive to the effort to reach a deeper insight if it lacks cooperation and sympathy for the critical views of his opponents.

When Ken Wilber incorporates Sri Aurobindo’s ideas in his comprehensive theory, he does not always quote Sri Aurobindo’s writings directly, and it is often not clear which aspects of Ken Wilber’s ideas are originally his own and which ones he borrowed from Sri Aurobindo and other integral thinkers.
In his attempt ‘to transcend and include’ in order to differentiate his own from narrower or less inclusive approaches, is Ken Wilber paying sufficient attention to the overall aim of that which he differentiates? He frequently attempts to find parallels with Sri Aurobindo’s integral approach but, while doing so, he often leaves out the profound differences between the two approaches.
The aim of Ken Wilber’s integral approach is One Taste, where the individual merges with the unified consciousness of the non-dual Spirit. In One Taste, “subject [as the unmanifest world of empty consciousness] and object [the manifest world] are both distinct realities and aspects of the same thing: a true unity-in-diversity.”

In the realisation of One Taste, having completely transcended the world of Form, consciousness awakens to a radical embrace of all Form, i.e., there is a perfect union of the manifest and unmanifest and the finite world is included in the infinite Spirit. Ken Wilber, like Shankara’s Advait Vedanta puts “this ultimate ‘transcend and include’ as follows:

This world is illusory
Brahman alone is real
Brahman is the world.

The absolute Self, as pure radiant Emptiness, seems to be the goal and ground of the entire manifest world. But this view does not solve the problem between the ultimate Reality as emptiness and the illusion of objects/subjects in the other three quadrants. When he relates consciousness to depth, Ken Wilber does not mean depth which is qualifiable, such as sensation, perception or intention, as these particular levels of depth are all forms of consciousness. According to Ken Wilber, “Consciousness is not a thing or a process—we can just as well, with William James, deny that it even exists, because it is ultimately Emptiness, the opening or clearing in which the form of beings manifest themselves and not any particular manifestation itself. … The Being of beings is depth, which, being unqualifiable as such, is finally Emptiness as such (consciousness as such).”9 Consciousness is, therefore, not an emergent quality but it allows qualities to emerge.

Emptiness is the central philosophy in Ken Wilber’s integral approach, and this Emptiness is radical Spirit itself. Emptiness does not have any parts, it leaves everything exactly as it finds it, but in its manifestation it takes different forms. Thus Emptiness manifests as a series of dimensions or levels; the spectrum of levels is the relative truth, and the vast expanse in which the spectrum appears is emptiness, or absolute truth. In the nondual realisation the individual experiences both of them simultaneously, i.e., expressing the ultimate reality in the relative world.
As mentioned in the last paragraph, Ken Wilber’s nondual approach has a strong parallel with Shankara’s nondualistic approach. Like Shankara, Ken Wilber could also not incorporate the absolute truth, Atman- Brahman, in the relative truth, the Great Chain of Being.

In one of his latest interviews with Shambhala, Ken Wilber maintains that “the ultimate nondual Ground is not the end limit of evolution; the ultimate Omega is not the highest rung of the ladder, but the ever-present Ground of all the rungs”. So it seems that Spirit is not the highest level. Nevertheless, if Spirit is not the end of the line, there is no acknowledgement from Ken Wilber of what may be beyond this experience. He does not explain where and how this evolution will end. If infinite Spirit is the actual Ground of all four quadrants, then how does the quadrant model, as a manifestation of the Absolute, integrate and incorporate this Absolute? What is Ken Wilber’s driving force of evolution, and where is the unifying principle at the end of it? Is the uniting consciousness of the quadrants model the Divine Force?

For Ken Wilber, Emptiness and Consciousness are just two names for the same reality. Consciousness as depth increases with the complexity of forms in the ascending scale of development, until it experiences itself at the level of One Taste, where it is liberated and has no further need for forms. But what is the relation of Consciousness as Emptiness and the irreducible quadrant model of manifest existence? Relating the realisation of the Ultimate reality with Emptiness does not seem to bridge the status of the forms in the other three quadrants. In the realm of manifestation we are never without these quadrants, but in the formless there are no quadrants. If these quadrants are absorbed into emptiness, does that mean that they are ultimately illusionary?
Ken Wilber’s valuable contribution of his four quadrant model is based on the claim that in order to change the world and to effect a radical change in the human condition it is not sufficient to either change behaviour, or consciousness, or culture and social institution, but it is essential to recognise the importance of all the four quadrants.

Ken Wilber’s integral approach does not only focus on the relative or manifest planes in order to arrive at relative solutions, as this would leave out the infinite Spirit as the ground of all four quadrants. He is aware that ultimate solutions are not found in relative mental constructions, but in the development of the nondual pure awareness of One Taste that persists through waking, dream and deep sleep states. A full understanding of any solution involves therefore the development of consciousness that discloses the supramental states of nondual awareness. In Ken Wilber’s integral Kosmic framework the four quadrants, as the forms of the manifest phenomenal world on the relative plane, ultimately arise from nondual Spirit. Only by going beyond the forms into the formless realms are contradictions dissolved and only then is the seeker able to realise Oneness with the entire Kosmos.

Sri Aurobindo acknowledges the existence of the transcendent nondual Spirit, One Taste, but it seems that Ken Wilber overlooks Sri Aurobindo’s idea of the Supermind as a creative Conscious-Force.
In the metaphor of vertical height or the ascent of consciousness into the superconscious, Ken Wilber does mention Sri Aurobindo’s supermind, but he uses it in a different context. He points out that “the metaphor of vertical height also works well because in many spiritual experiences, we sense that Spirit is descending from above into us (a factor emphasised in many spiritual practices, from Aurobindo’s descent of supermind to the Gnostics’ descent of the holy spirit). We reach up to Spirit with Eros; Spirit reaches down to us with Agape.”10

In describing the descent as the Agape of the supermind, he relates this descent to goodness, compassion and universal love of the Kosmos reaching down to us. According to Ken Wilber, “Many Tantric and yogic schools—Aurobindo’s for example—put prime emphasis on ‘the descent of the supermind’, the agape of the supermind that ‘comes down’ in order to pull us up to an identity with it, so that we then express that agape or compassion for all beings now ‘in’ us.”11 Growing along the path of descent means the widened circle of compassion from oneself to all living beings.

In his Advait-Buddhist approach, Ken Wilber is bound by the adherence of nondual monism, but Sri Aurobindo’s Supermind, as a dynamic aspect of the divine, is not the same as Ken Wilber’s Vedantic Atman. Sri Aurobindo attempts to solve the problem of the linkage between the Absolute and the relative by positing a transitional substratum between the two, i,e., the Supermind. Creation is the descent of the Absolute Spirit into the Supermind and this involution leads to evolution, the ascent of matter to Supermind and finally to Sachchidananda. The Absolute in its creative energy, though timeless and non-spatial, manifests itself as the Supermind, which mediates Sachchidananda to the multiplicity of the manifest world.

For Sri Aurobindo, the supreme Reality is basically Consciousness and it contains within itself a Consciousness Force which, when manifested, becomes an active, dynamic Creative-Force. This creative Consciousness Force of Brahman is responsible for the process of evolution. This Force, as the Becoming, is the action of the Conscious Being and its results are forms of that Conscious Being, i.e., matter, life, mind, soul and spirit. Consciousness Force, as an expression of the universal force of life, manifests as physical energy in matter and emotional energy in all living beings. This consciousness Force, as an expression of evolved consciousness, is able to interact with any form up to subatomic levels, though it is not dependent on forms.

For Sri Aurobindo, “the supramental Consciousness-Force from above and the evolving Consciousness-Force from behind the veil acting on the awakened awareness and will of the mental human being would accomplish by their united power the momentous transition.”12 Only the supramental consciousness can bring about an integral transformation and transform the human life into a divine life. Such transformation cannot be reached merely through a process of spiritual ascent of consciousness but needs the descent of this higher spiritual consciousness into life and matter in order to transform each and every aspect of existence.

In Sri Aurobindo’s integral yoga, this supramental Consciousness-Force is the real force for the transformation of the postmodern stages of development, unlike Ken Wilber’s psychospiritual development, which culminates in the liberation of a nondual pure consciousness.
Sri Aurobindo relates the final goal of the spiritual path in terms of evolution of the human race living a divine life. In integral sadhana, once One Taste, the formless One, is realised, the seeker must bring down this realisation to the exterior world and change the conditions of life upon earth until an integral transformation is accomplished. Sadhana in integral yoga is a means to expedite the descent of the supramental Consciousness-Force. As the Consciousness-Force descends in matter and radiates, it seeks fit instruments to express and manifest itself. The more the instrument becomes pure and opens up to the divine Force, the better are the results. The aim of integral yoga is therefore not merely liberation from life, but a total transformation of life and action on earth, as well as a total transformation of the human being on every level. By consciously participating in the process of evolution the seeker is able to create a divine life on earth.

It seems that Ken Wilber offers the reader the individual’s liberation from life, but not the individual’s total transformation of life.
Though Sri Aurobindo did not support Shankara’s Advait Vedanta’s view regarding the illusion of the world, Ken Wilber could argue that Sri Aurobindo was also not able to solve the problem between the Ultimate Reality in the Formless supra-ethical realm and the status of the relative forms in the ethical realm.

Sri Aurobindo claims that the relative ethical realm is real, but this realm is not the essence of life; it functions merely as a palliative which leaves the roots of the problem untouched and, therefore, needs to be transformed beyond itself. The relative forms of manifestation have no illuminating aim, they are ineffectual means of changing human life and have no power to transform the human race, i, e., in the supra-ethical realm there is no need for ethics, as ‘we do not live in an ethical world’. In other words, the Absolute is not bound by ethics, and Sri Aurobindo denies the underlying identity between the ethical and supra-ethical realm.

Moreover, if the Supermind is the active principle of creation of human life, then it is also the creator of man’s ethical life. If matter and Spirit are real, then the world and the ethical nature of man are as real. In order to affirm the Supermind, Sri Aurobindo also has to affirm man’s ethical activities.
In his metaphysical justification, Sri Aurobindo moves to the divine origin of human tendencies, the Ultimate Formless, where these human tendencies are transcended so that the sadhak is liberated from their limitations or divisions. In doing so, he ultimately denies the integral power of these human qualities for the full life of man.

Sri Aurobindo did not want to establish a school of philosophy or an integral institute, but “to create a ground of spiritual growth and experience and a way which will bring down a greater Truth beyond mind but not inaccessible to the human soul and consciousness.”13
The practice of his yoga needs not only individual effort but also the influence of the Divine Grace or the direct guidance of a Guru, who represents to the disciple the divine wisdom and conveys to the seeker something of the divine ideal.

Ken Wilber admits that he is not a Guru but a pandit. A Guru accepts devotees and when the compassion of the Guru meets the devotion of the disciple then the Guru absorbs the karma of the devotee. The intense bond between the Guru and devotee is an important part of the devotee’s awakening and transformation. Ken Wilber does not take people as devotees or disciples and work with them personally because he does not want to be a Guru and enter into a therapist/client relationship with people.
He admits that he is not qualified “to wrestle with people over their spiritual destinies”. He tries instead to legitimise spiritual practice within Western secularised culture and to find an academic basis for it. As a writer he may reach thousands of people, and his intellectual approach (at the integral vision-logic level) to spirituality, combined with his integral transformative practice makes him an ideal Western pandit.

Ken Wilber’s integral psychotherapy aims not at a mere development and integration of the surface empirical self, but also at the discovery of the central being (Atman). His integral transformative practice includes exercises on all the major levels of the human bodymind— physical, emotional, mental, social, cultural and spiritual. However, this leaves out Sri Aurobindo’s complementary, interdependent intrapsychic processes of aspiration and surrender to the Divine, which depend on faith in the existence of the soul that is conscious of God. Along with this foundation, Sri Aurobindo emphasises an uncompromising movement of rejection of all egoistic habits and insistences, which can be achieved by the realisation and control of the psychic being. When sadhaks are in touch with their psychic being, it becomes possible to open and uplift their whole “lower nature” to the Divine and it becomes possible to purify the external nature. After its purification, the surface nature is able to function as an instrument fit for the manifestation of the divine in one’s life, which then becomes a ‘life divine’. Once one’s psychic being has come to the fore, the sadhak must simultaneously try to transform the external world by bringing down the divine into it. This means that the sadhak’s effort to transform him or herself must have the corresponding effect in stimulating cultural, social and educational transformation.

By moving from Wilber-II to Wilber-III and Wilber-IV and adopting his all-quadrant, all-level model, Ken Wilber was not denying Sri Aurobindo’s integral vision but enriching it. Ken Wilber’s integral vision is, therefore, not based on a total rejection of the old Aurobindonian ideals, but he claims to bring this old vision in tune with new realities. While discussing with Ken Wilber (via a series of email exchanges) the attitude of the Whiteheadian defenders who are not able to extend Whitehead’s enterprise in order to fill in the blanks, Keith Thompson sees a similarly constrained attitude in the Aurobindonians. He has “never understood the impulse of ‘Aurobindonians’ who say that Aurobindo’s system is ‘complete’. (It is not; Wilber has identified weak areas and fleshed them out impressively).”14

This lack of completeness may be interpreted as an omission on the part of Sri Aurobindo’s insights but, in fact, he did not overlook the social, cultural and scientific context in the process of transformation to the divine life. His metaphysics include a socio-cultural orientation and in his writings these issues are definitely one of his major concerns, although they were not his central or ultimate concern.
In the last chapter of The Live Divine, Sri Aurobindo elaborates extensively on the collective aspects of his integral vision. In order to manifest the divine life on earth it is necessary that a group of supramental beings must manifest a new kind of collective life where they are no longer guided by their egoic tendencies but by the supramental Truth-consciousness.

In The Human Cycle and Foundations of Indian Culture, Sri Aurobindo deals systematically and comprehensively with the social and cultural life of man, indicating the effects of the individual’s spiritual development upon the evolution of man’s socio-cultural life. Sri Aurobindo discusses in detail the interaction between the evolution of the Upper Left quadrant and the transformation of the Upper Right, Lower Right and Lower Left quadrants. He brings the Consciousness-Force to all aspects of life enabling the psycho-spiritual evolution and transformation of the collective. For Sri Aurobindo, the evolutionary purpose of earthly existence is fulfilled when the collective is inhabited with those individuals who have attained the supramental stages of development, which is the basis for a collective divine life here on earth. No doubt, Sri Aurobindo did emphasise the ‘individual subjective quadrant’ as this determines and is an expression of the ‘objective quadrant’.

Ken Wilber’s all-quadrant, all-level approach aims at a multi-causal analysis without reducing one to the other. For Ken Wilber societies and individuals occupy different quadrants on the same levels of existence, but other transpersonalists maintain that societies may be considered higher than their individual members; the former has many more properties not found in their individual members, i.e., human societies determine the probabilities of their individual members.

Ken Wilber claims that his integral model is a refinement of Sri Aurobindo’s integral view as it provides an opening to the contributions of Western psychology and psychotherapy, and is set in the context of the all-quadrant all-level model. Ken Wilber maintains that without integrating these contributions Sri Aurobindo’s integral yoga remains limited and partial. However, could it be that some of the weak areas that Ken Wilber identified are more closely related to Aurobindo’s disciples than to his vision? As long as Aurobindonians remain enclosed in Sri Aurobindo’s revealed teachings, treating them as final truths, and refuse to link Sri Aurobindo’s integral Yoga with contemporary scientific research and practical concerns, it remains impossible for them to gain insight into Ken Wilber’s critical questioning and his assumed improvement of Sri Aurobindo’s vision.

Without integrating the developments and insights from other systems of contemporary Eastern spiritual disciplines and modern Western psychology, merely preserving and repeating the original psychological insights of Sri Aurobindo limits the scope of his yoga psychology and makes his vision exclusive.
The author, while critically examining the core assumptions and claims of each, tried to overcome this barrier by giving equal importance to the integrative perspectives of both Sri Aurobindo and Ken Wilber, by sympathetically exploring the points of convergence as well as points of divergence in the two views.
Ken Wilber outlines “a dozen different fields of consciousness studies, all of which need to be brought together in an integral view: cognitive science, introspectionism, neuropsychology, individual psychotherapy, developmental psychology, psychosomatic medicine, nonordinary states of consciousness, Eastern and contemplative traditions, quantum consciousness approaches, and subtle energy research. … each of them has something extremely important and valuable to say. And that means, inescapably, that we will measure our progress towards a truly integral orientation based precisely on our capacity to include, synthesize, and integrate all twelve of those important approaches … anything less than that simply cannot claim the adjective integral.”15

In his attempt to unify all the various aspects of human knowledge, Ken Wilber honours the scientific and spiritual dimensions of man. If the disciples of Sri Aurobindo omit a dialogue about the insights gained through these twelve approaches and maintain that such components are merely palliatives which leave the ordinary consciousness fundamentally the same, and that a radical change from the ordinary consciousness to the divine consciousness is only possible through the practice of integral Yoga, then it becomes difficult to bridge the gulf between Sri Aurobindo’s metaphysical yoga psychology and modern Western psychology as an academic science.

In his integral approach, Sri Aurobindo never overlooked historical contributions in other fields of knowledge, and it is up to his followers to integrate the benefits and contributions of contemporary postmodern Western and Eastern psychology.
The true scientist according to Sri Aurobindo is “always ready to consider old conclusions in the light of new facts, to give a candid consideration to every new idea or old idea revived if it deserves a hearing, no matter how contradictory it may be of previously ascertained experience or previously formed conclusion, is the sceptical temper, the temper of the inquirer, the true scientist.”16
It may be necessary that the integral views Sri Aurobindo once held have to be modified by his followers in the field of present-day knowledge. Ken Wilber’s current integral views may likewise soon be seen as naïve. That’s why further revision of both integral approaches is necessary for future application to each seeker’s unique life and circumstances.
Before arriving at giving Ken Wilber credit for his integral reconstruction of science, based on the quadrant model, it may be useful to refer once more to his integral approach to science, consciousness, and spirituality.

In order to arrive at a spiritual science of the transcendental realm, Ken Wilber meaningfully distinguishes ‘narrow’ science, which uses sensorimotor experiences tied to a rational analysis, from ‘broad’ science, which uses empiricism in a wider fashion, including direct mental and spiritual experiences as presented to consciousness. Each science is based on the investigation of its specific objects or phenomena. In their truth claims, both types of science share the three common tests for knowledge: injunction, experience and confirmation, though each has it’s own domain and its own degree of certainty.

Besides this distinction between ‘narrow’ and ‘broad’ science, Ken Wilber also classifies various levels of science which he relates to the various levels of consciousness: sensory or gross science refers to narrow science, whereas mental or subtle science and spiritual or causal science refer to interpretative and spiritual phenomena respectively.
For Ken Wilber, different stages of consciousness development require different spiritual approaches. On its pre-rational level, spirituality can best be approached through image, metaphor and faith in myths. At the rational stage, spirituality involves a rational scientific approach through faith in reason. At the transrational level, spirituality shifts from the contents of the mind to the contents of the spirit and can best be approached through direct practice.

This transpersonal spirituality is akin to Ken Wilber’s postmetaphysical science; its conclusions are not based on dogmatic theories but on the evidence of those individuals who have demonstrated developmental competence confirmed by reconstructive science.
This postmetaphysical view is meaningfully described by Ken Wilber as follows: “although all of the contemplative traditions aim at going within and beyond reason, they all start with reason, start with the notion that truth is to be established by evidence, that truth is the result of experimental methods, that truth is to be tested in the laboratory of personal experience, that these truths are open to all those who wish to try the experiment and thus disclose for themselves the truth or falsity of the spiritual claims—and that dogmas or given beliefs are precisely what hinder the emergence of the deeper truths and wider visions. … the claims about these higher domains are a conclusion based on hundreds of years of experimental introspection and communal verification. … These spiritual endeavors, in other words, are purely scientific in any meaningful sense of the word, and the systematic presentations of these endeavors follow precisely those of any reconstructive science.”17

For Ken Wilber, each higher level of complexity is not a predetermined or fixed set of levels, through which each and every individual must pass on one’s own realisation, but an open field of developmental potentials for higher functioning. Only when the higher or subtle levels of consciousness emerge or unfold in various people does it become something of a fixed level and a cosmic pattern with universal features for future development.

Ken Wilber maintains that before a particular level of higher consciousness emerges in evolution, that higher stage can unfold in an infinite number of ways; it is determined and formed by the four quadrants, which are constantly changing. This pattern can be investigated by reconstructive science on the basis of extensive empirical phenomenological and experiential research on stages of development.
For Sri Aurobindo, the objective ultimate truth of science is not able to explain all subjective domains of our being which lie behind the obvious surface levels. Nevertheless, subjectivity and objectivity are interdependent realities, as the Being offers itself to its own consciousness as object to the subject and looks at itself as subject on the object. We know the objective universe through our subjective consciousness whose instruments are the physical senses.

There is no difference in the essential laws of the objective physical and the subjective psychical, they only differ in their energies, instrumentation and exact processes. The subjective phenomena must be pursued by a subjective method of inquiry, observation and verification. Research into subjective yogic experiences which belong to an inner domain requires exact observation and scrupulous experimentation but it must evolve, accept and test other means and methods which are used in the examination of the objective external realm. It needs the capacity of spiritual experience and the inner methods by which that experience and verification are made possible.

In Sri Aurobindo’s yoga psychology we deal with subtle, flexible materials that exceed common physical science. Its field is wider than modern psychology, as it includes experiences beyond sense perception and beyond rationality; i.e., it uses subtler inner senses and intuitive perception to evaluate those experiences pertaining to higher states of consciousness. Through this direct psychological instrumentation, the seeker can arrive at certain data and results that can be equally verified by ‘sure data’ and by the results of other sadhaks, like Ken Wilber’s reconstructive science.

To test the validity of spiritual experience, Sri Aurobindo’s yoga psychology uses a method that is similar to Ken Wilber’s research methodology in the higher levels of consciousness. It requires a genuine knowledge through the accumulation of direct experience or apprehension of data (direct apprehension), an all-round actual practice (instrumental injunction), and an intuitive discrimination for its verification (communal confirmation or rejection). Any sadhak who is not prepared to go through the vast field of spiritual phenomena has to accept the guidance of the Guru until the seeker has accumulated sufficient experience and knowledge of the inner and higher subtle forces.

From what is described above, it should be clear that in his integral approach to science and spirituality, Ken Wilber does not only correlate the various types of science with his four quadrant model, but he also correlates major levels of science with the various levels of human existence: sensory, mental and spiritual. By incorporating the higher spiritual realm in his model, he creates an academic basis for a spiritual worldview, and his model offers a scientifically reliable understanding of spirituality. This does not mean that he reduces spirituality to rationality, on the contrary, in his postmetaphysical approach he does not reduce the higher realm to mere science. Each level has its own “I”, “we” and “its” realm, and each level within each quadrant has often its own special approaches. Science (it) is only one third of the gross, subtle and causal realm. These levels include art (“I”) and morals (“We”). Moreover, each level follows its own different methodology and validity claims, i.e., truth, truthfulness, justness and functional fit. Science is only the exterior (it) of Spirit, Spirit seen subjectively becomes the “I” of Spirit, whereas Spirit seen intersubjectively becomes the “We” of Spirit.

Ken Wilber does not want to mystify plain facts and he uses his quadrant model in order to explain his theory of everything without merely using a transcendental hypothesis. His comprehensive theory construction tries to unite all kinds of desperate facts together and his postmetaphysical approach has a necessary relation with the present facts of life. In the practice of spiritual discipline, the results of academic research go side by side with the results of the search for one’s inner being. However, ultimately, only Spirit (the depths of one’s inner being without objects, thoughts, space and time) is the evidence for Spirit.

Sri Aurobindo, like Ken Wilber, is not denying scientific development and the pragmatic truth which science offers to humanity. He preserves the truths of material science and its real utilities in the final harmony, although many of its existing forms have to be broken or left aside.
Sri Aurobindo, unlike Ken Wilber, attributed his spiritual achievements mainly to the practice of his integral yoga and not to the help of academic empirical research. His metaphysical vision is hardly based on the objective approach which is related to observable facts and sense experience. On the contrary, his subjective approach is more related to intuition, insight and introspection, which make his concept of man highly metaphysical and speculative for those people who are not able to move beyond the rational realm.

Should the followers of Sri Aurobindo include in their integral model the rational and academic approaches with a view to determine its degree of authenticity (vertical transformation) and legitimacy (horizontal translation)? A translative spirituality provides meaning and solace to the separate self, and this form of spirituality concentrates on autonomous individuals who consciously choose communities of other autonomous individuals, whereas transformative spirituality seeks to transcend the separate self, and this spirituality promotes transformation to higher levels and an opening of spirituality in terms of true authenticity. It is often the external and experimental verification that confers its potentially believable status to us and, even within broad limits, allows us to judge the relative degree of maturity or authenticity of the transrational or spiritual development of a particular person. Are some Aurobindonians confusing translative spirituality, where the self is given a new way to think about the world, with transformative spirituality, which aims at the dismantlement of the separate sef-sense?
Reason has certainly a legitimate part to play in relation to the higher fields of one’s spiritual experience and divine knowledge, even though that part is quite subordinate.

Describing the utility of the intellect in the context of yogic development, Sri Aurobindo insists that, although “the intellect cannot be a sufficient guide in the search for spiritual truth and realisation, yet it has to be utilised in the integral movement of our nature. … The seeking intelligence has to be trained to admit a certain large questioning, an intellectual rectitude not satisfied with half-truths, mixtures of error or approximations and, most positive and helpful, a perfect readiness always to move forward from truths already held and accepted to the greater correction, completing or transcending truths which at first it was unable or, it may be, disinclined to envisage. A working faith of the intellect is indispensable, not a superstitious, dogmatic or limiting credence attached to every temporary support or formula, but a large assent to the successive suggestions and steps of the Shakti, a faith fixed on realities, moving from the lesser to the completer realities and ready to throw down all scaffolding and keep only the large and growing structure.”18

Contemplation involves theory and practice, intellectual effort and active involvement; the true spiritual seeker is a man of action as much as thinking. Seekers have their hearts and minds open to the spirit of truth, and the intellect is used for empirical verification to differentiate truth from mere delightful theory.

Aided by his overall spectrum model of human development, Ken Wilber’s approach is able to demonstrate the nature of a bona fide authentic spiritual movement. In his all quadrant-all level model all waves and streams of development, and states and types of consciousness, can be disclosed by reputable non-reductionistic researchers who are working with second- and third-tier conceptions.
What is the present state of Sri Aurobindo’s disciples? Are those who have moved to second-tier consciousness (yellow and turquoise) ready to open up to the conclusions from researchers working with second or third-tier conceptions, using premodern, modern and postmodern sources?

Researchers working with these conceptions may be able to investigate certain developmental events which may turn ‘pathological’ in the process of realisation of the Aurobindonians’ ideals, when ‘the higher’ do not transcend and include ‘the lower’ but deny and abuse the lower in the service of the emergence of the higher. Such events are not only related to individual processes but can also be applied to socio-cultural aspects of development, where progress comes at the cost of the exploitation of the lower members of the community. The effect of such pathological events on new levels needs to be critically reviewed.

What happens if the upward movement to self-realisation and self-transcendence begins to go sour when the followers demand allegiance to the Guru’s worldview without their own rational and logical inquiry and postconventional needs?
It is the polemic that may wake many up from spiritual slumber, and a dialogue with second-tier researchers may stimulate a much-needed conversation around crucial issues.
Sri Aurobindo did not care to have his name in any blessed place—for serious work, advertisement or propaganda is a poison, “as it means either a stunt or a boom—and stunts and booms exhaust the things they carry on their crest and leave it lifeless and broken high and dry on the shores of nowhere – or it means a movement. A movement in the case of a work like mine means the founding of a school or a sect or some other damned nonsense. It means that hundreds or thousands of useless people join in and corrupt the work or reduce it to a pompous farce from which the Truth that was coming down recedes into a secrecy and silence. It is that what has happened to the ‘religions’ and is the reason of their failure.”19
Sri Aurobindo had no intention of becoming a ‘traditional Guru’. As a phase-specific authority, he guided the devotees during the awakening of their true self. As a teacher Sri Aurobindo is a virtual necessity on the road, but at some point in the journey, when this centre of the Self was awakened, Sri Aurobindo’s authority as a guru gradually diminishes. He did not encourage dependency on his legacy, nor did he cultivate dependent devotees. On the contrary, he emphasised the disciples’ using their own spiritual resources to find the true guidance within, rather than binding the disciple on his ideology.

Sri Aurobindo describes the Teacher of integral yoga as follows: “The wise Teacher will not seek to impose himself or his opinions on the passive acceptance of the receptive mind. … He will give a method as an aid, as a utilisable device, not as an imperative formula or a fixed routine. … His whole business is to awaken the divine light and set working the divine force of which he himself is only a means and an aid, a body or a channel … what will most stimulate aspiration in others is the central fact of the divine realisation within him governing his whole life and inner state and all his activities. … It is this dynamic realisation that the Sadhaka must feel and reproduce in himself according to his own nature. … He is a man helping his brothers, a child leading children, a Light kindling other lights, an awakened Soul awakening souls.” 20

By overestimating the authority of and a paternalistic dependence on Sri Aurobindo’s integral views, the devotees ignore the constantly evolving character of Sri Aurobindo’s vision, as well as its capacity for diversity and flexibility. Aurobindonians must be aware that the contexts of any system are constantly shifting. Sri Aurobindo’s integral vision, like Ken Wilber’s integral theory, is an open-ended system and how it evolves does not depend on Sri Aurobindo’s views, but on the attitude of his followers in the Ashram and in Auroville. Those Aurobindonians who like to remain faithful to his tradition should nevertheless be able to readjust or partially refine Sri Aurobindo’s open-ended system in order to integrate the discoveries and the demands of contemporary social, cultural and scientific developments that had been hitherto unknown.

The followers of Sri Aurobindo may have faith and find refuge solely in Sri Aurobindo’s metaphysical views, which may comfort them, but through methodical contemplative experiential investigation and research—collecting data from those followers who are already advanced in their sadhana and who are able to compare their spiritual experiment with other seekers (researchers) in the community—the Aurobindonians themselves may be able to explore and verify the authenticity of the spiritual truth with respect to Sri Aurobindo’s supramental claims and place them in the context of the mainstream disciplines of psychology, philosophy, sociology, ecology, physics, etc. In other words, through a process of re-experiencing and mastery of the various phenomena at play within the subtle dimensions of the human psyche, the sadhak is able to know and verify the experiential foundation of integral yoga rather than merely depending on the faith in Sri Aurobindo’s claims.

As discussed before, Sri Aurobindo’s different forms of sadhana are only a method, a means, and though closely related to the goal, the end, these means should not be mistaken for the end itself; such an attitude may end up in dogmatism. The indifference towards the gap between means and end is one of the many problems Aurobindonians have to deal with. Though the Aurobindonian end is driven by divine cosmic ambitions, which keeps the devotee on the slippery path of spiritual practice, could it be that this firmness of purpose degenerates into obstinacy when errors in the practices of the devotees are not recognised, reconsidered and redressed?

The limits of the Aurobindonians reasonableness are often painfully exposed by their unwillingness to let dogmatic habits go unchallenged. Are they not opening their approach to outside research and evidence because it does not fit their prevailing convictions and belief system, or are some genuine aspirants able to experiment with and integrate the results of psychological, social, cultural, and economical sciences, as well as with the technological and information revolution, with the overall metaphysical insights as expounded by Sri Aurobindo?

Are Aurobindonians reducing Sri Aurobindo’s vision to mere dogmatic theories and thereby becoming counterproductive? It is the spirit of free inquiry which is able to unsettle dogmatism and comfortable beliefs. This spirit of free inquiry finds its expression not only in the fields of physical science and technology, but also in fields beyond its narrow departments. Those Aurobindonians who do not easily accept the spirit of critical inquiry into Sri Aurobindo’s vision may easily produce a mood in which they omit any general rational scrutiny.
A critical analysis regarding certain aspects of Sri Aurobindo’s metaphysical views is often qualified by his devotees as academic fundamentalism, but the true test of a great vision is always able to bear criticism. Anti-intellectualism reduces independent judgement formation, and makes room for “flatland” reductionism, i.e., when intellectual knowledge is merely used for limited purposes it often leads to anti-intellectualism, as it reduces the many-sidedness, diversity and complexity of knowledge to one-sided and simplistic views. Sri Aurobindo’s metaphysical yoga psychology is not based on unreflected acceptance; critical questions about various aspects of Sri Aurobindo’s vision are not meant to offend Aurobindonians or drive them into distraction, on the contrary, through re-examination of basic beliefs and self-criticism the followers of Sri Aurobindo may be able to add some creative insight and novelty to Sri Aurobindo’s integral vision. The community should not functionn as a conservative bunker, a place where censors are refusing to distribute critical research work that has been striven by a strong belief and deep need in search for new truths. The devotees should not forget that Sri Aurobindo, as their spiritual guide can show them the path leading towards integration and transformation, but the devotees have to walk the path themselves.

Could it be that in their committed spiritual idealism, the disciple’s intellectual laziness contributes to the collapse of serious argument and dialogue regarding the relevance of Sri Aurobindo’s metaphysical views in contemporary cultural, psychological and social sciences? Attachment to Aurobindonian ideals may become problematic if the devotees of Sri Aurobindo are not able to free themselves from the exclusive identification of their specific idealistic perspectives. In their fixation on Sri Aurobindo’s ideals, Aurobindonians may not be able to appreciate other metaphysical perspectives, which hinders the development of a cosmic truth vision. Spiritual openness is essential in Sri Aurobindo’s metaphysical yoga psychology, i.e., the ideal of a spiritual life integrates new experiences and new understanding (combined with a demanding experimentation and empiricism) in the exploration of an evolving scheme of ideas. In order to remove serious obstacles in the genuine inquiry towards new depths – through spiritual dialogue – there should be sufficient place for critical scrutiny and questioning of claimed truths, rather than excessive agreement and passive faith. Sri Aurobindo does not present his integral vision as a finished creed or dogma to be accepted without questioning, but as a subject of experiment and research. It proceeds from the initial belief to the investigation of it, so that each seeker knows Sri Aurobindo’s claims to be true for him or herself. Sri Aurobindo’s spiritual insights are not based on an unchanging identity, and his devotees do not have the sole right to claim any monopoly of interpretation; findings of new disciplines must be taken into consideration. A fresh outlook, not tied to the past, may function as a challenge for the next generation of Sri Aurobindo’s devotees.

In 1998, on the occasion of the 30th anniversary of Auroville, the members of Auroville and the Auroville Foundation established the Sri Aurobindo World Centre for Human Unity. The idea behind this center is to give concrete expression to Sri Aurobindo’s vision of world unity as the indispensable condition for the transformation and divinisation of the world. This all-encompassing, university-like, centre functions for interaction between Auroville and the world. It provides a platform for research on the world’s quest for human unity, and welcomes research scholars from all over the world to take part in the Auroville experiment while Aurovilians can benefit from their knowledge and expertise.
Despite the various differences between the two approaches, it seems that there are also striking similarities between the experimental project of Auroville and Ken Wilber’s Integral Institute: both projects aim at bringing together the ancient spiritual wisdom of the East with the material achievements of the West, in order to create new integral solutions to the global problems of life. The members of Ken Wilber’s Integral Institute and the citizens of Auroville aim in their research activities at a change in the present human consciousness, i.e., an exploration of psychological ranges of man’s inner and higher consciousness.

Could Auroville offer a contribution in bringing forth some fresh perspectives to the noble endeavour of the all-quadrant, all-level approach where the physical, emotional, mental and spiritual levels of being are exercised simultaneously in the I, we, and it domains? At the same time, could the establishment of the Integral Institute offer some methods to those Aurobindonians who are in the process of re-evaluating Sri Aurobindo’s vision in the context of contemporary scientific development without deconstructing the deeper contents of Sri Aurobindo’s integral insights?

PREFACE
This book is offered as an explorer’s source book in the mapping of the various psychological problems inherent in Sri Aurobindo’s integral sadhana and Ken Wilber’s integral psychology. The purpose of this book is not to extol or decry one of the two integral thinkers at the cost of the other. This comparative study, therefore, does not aim at setting one approach against the other, but at showing how the two could be complementary in spiritual psychology and human nature.
There are possible dangers in working with the spiritual and psychological domains simultaneously, and the various pitfalls are extensively elaborated in this book, because knowing about them can lessen the dangers. However, in this attempt at clarification of the different problems related to Sri Aurobindo’s and Ken Wilber’s visions, the clarification itself does not constitute a solution to the problems involved in their models.

A few preliminary questions may be helpful in order to avoid certain confusions. Are Ken Wilber’s and Sri Aurobindo’s integral views simply two parallel approaches aiming at the same end but using a different language, or do they have the same ideas about developmental areas but differ in their concepts of growth? Are there many pitfalls in prematurely trying to juxtapose the two approaches, and are they two separate directions in which human life is moving? If yes, are the divergences essentially a matter of terminology, or do the differences affect a genuine plurality of problems?

This comparison does not magnify differences without acknowledging the overlap in issues, as both theories share considerable common ground. Nevertheless, it is not the author’s intention to yoke Sri Aurobindo’s metaphysical yoga psychology to Ken Wilber’s integral psychology, even though it seems that there are some important insights that are similar. Sri Aurobindo’s The Life Divine and The Synthesis of Yoga are mainly works on Yoga and only indirectly on psychology.

The author has tried to use a language that is comprehensible to the laymen without falling into generalities. In spite of this, the contents of this book may not always be easily digestible.
This study comprises three parts, which are subdivided into twelve chapters.
Part One gives the background information, which is needed for parts Two and Three.
The first chapter commences with a brief overview of some of the fundamentals of the aim and nature of psychotherapy as well as some of its limitations. Psychotherapy aims at helping clients to grow and promoting insight and inner freedom. It can be seen as an initiating process for the development of an integrated ego, and its constructive application can be used as a bridge or adjunctive aid to help seekers to a turning point on the spiritual journey.

However, it seems that most brands of psychotherapy focus only on one or some aspects of human functioning and are, therefore, severely limited in the degree to which they are capable of enlarging the client’s awareness and modifying man’s behaviour.

Chapter two elaborates on the relation between conventional psychotherapy and traditional spiritual discipline. Both approaches are concerned with human suffering and self-analysis through a change of automatic patterns of awareness and thinking from which much human suffering originates, yet they differ regarding the fundamental nature of reality and the concept of the self. Nevertheless, in their partially overlapping areas of interest the two approaches can be complementary aspects of the process of self-realisation. Each approach has its own importance; each may be regarded as a different stage in the course of the seeker’s development.

The spiritual journey has its challenges and difficulties and embarking on the spiritual path is, therefore, not something to jump into naively.
Chapter three discusses the metaphysical nature of spiritual discipline and the metaphysical nature of the self. A spiritual discipline is not based on an uncritical acceptance of certain doctrinal interpretations; it demands an initial acceptance of the prescribed methods, but at a later stage, with knowledge and insight, the researcher may be able to debate certain issues which are related to a specific spiritual discipline. In looking at the metaphysical nature of the Self, as distinguished from the psychological nature of the self, the author describes the concept of the Self as explored in the Upanishads, Advait Vedanta, Patanjali’s Yoga, Sri Aurobindo’s metaphysical system, and conventional Western psychotherapy.

The fourth chapter deals with the transpersonal movement and gives a general overview of transpersonal psychology, transpersonal psychotherapy and transpersonal psychiatry.
The transpersonal movement, as a subject for scientific investigation, affirms that the transpersonal realm is not the exclusive domain of priests, yogis or mystics but also of scientists; it is an open system undergoing continuous development. In this development it brings together the ancient wisdom of all the great spiritual traditions of the world and the pragmatism of modern Western science.
Transpersonal psychotherapy is an approach to healing through the integration of the physical, vital, mental and spiritual aspects of the person. The spiritual dimensions and potentials of the seeker are explored from a psychological perspective. In transpersonal psychiatry the mystical experience can be transformative and healing, and the transpersonal psychiatrist, who treats individuals with a spiritual orientation, acknowledges the link between the biological and spiritual aspects of man.
Part Two elaborates extensively on Ken Wilber’s integral psychology and Sri Aurobindo’s metaphysical yoga psychology.

Chapter five describes the main works of Ken Wilber, from his first book, The Spectrum of Consciousness, to his latest work, A Theory of Everything, so that the reader gets a better understanding of Ken Wilber’s multidisciplinary approach.
In the sixth chapter the author examines briefly some of the main works of Sri Aurobindo (The Life Divine, The Synthesis of Yoga, The Human Cycle and Letters on Yoga), the aim of his integral Yoga and the concept of integral transformation. The aim of the practitioner of integral Yoga must be the possession of God, to be as perfect as God in His being, and to live a divine life on earth so that all mankind may attain the same divine perfection. Sri Aurobindo’s integral transformation enables the spiritual seeker to live in the Divine not only in the absorbed ecstasy of trance, but also to live the Life Divine on earth at all times, in all parts and elements of the beingphysically, vitally, mentally and spiritually.
The seventh chapter describes and attempts to analyse Sri Aurobindo’s concept of the psycho-spiritual nature of man, in terms of the various layers of consciousness and in terms of the different parts of the being. This classification is helpful for psychological self-knowledge, discipline and practice, but should not be erected into too rigid a formula. As these things run very much into each other, a synthetic sense of these powers is as necessary as the analytical.

In the eighth chapter insight is gained into sadhana in integral Yoga and its difficulties. Sadhana as a science of spiritual discipline is a conscious effort to find God or the divine within and to transform one’s whole nature. Sri Aurobindo’s integral sadhana, as an intensive preparation for a divine life or Gnostic kingdom of heaven on earth, is not an easy sadhana. The path of integral sadhana is steep and does not avoid regions of darkness. Its difficult, complex course is not a path for any ordinary seeker to follow, but only for those who accept to seek its aim and for those whose inner strength is supplemented by the true aid of the Guru. However, Sri Aurobindo maintains that those who are sincere, faithful in heart and rely only on the Divine will arrive at the kingdom in spite of all difficulties.
Part three attempts to render a critical and constructive dialogue between Ken Wilber and Sri Aurobindo regarding their integral views and their metaphysical vision.

Chapter nine opens with a comparison of conventional psychotherapy and integral sadhana. Systems of psychotherapy and Sri Aurobindo’s sadhana include the development of insight and increasing awareness pertaining to aspects of behaviour of which the seeker has been more or less unaware. But for Sri Aurobindo, psychological difficulties do not disappear by mind’s brooding on them; he wants the seeker to put one’s whole stress on faith, aspiration and surrender to the Divine Will, as it is from something outside and above the difficulties that the solution must come.
After discussing the role of the ego and the place of God in transpersonal psychotherapy and in integral sadhana, the author concludes this chapter with a comparison of transpersonal psychotherapy and integral sadhana. Both approaches take consciousness as the true subject matter of psychology but, unlike transpersonal psychotherapy, Sri Aurobindo’s yoga of integral perfection regards man as a divine spiritual being involved in mind, life and body, and his Yoga aims not only at the realisation but also at the perfection of the seeker’s divine nature. Integral sadhana and transpersonal psychotherapy can be viewed as complementary, however, each representing different levels of health and growth, and each simply dealing with different ranges of human development.
Chapter ten offers a critical evaluation of Ken Wilber’s commentary on the limitations of Sri Aurobindo’s integral Yoga. Does Sri Aurobindo make a sufficiently strong link between his spiritual objectives and social, economic, cultural and scientific goals that can be tested by established social or scientific criteria? The answer lies in Sri Aurobindo’s views on science, metaphysics, culture, religion, the relation between the individual and collectivity, sociology and ethics.

The eleventh chapter examines Ken Wilber’s critical interpretations of various aspects of Sri Aurobindo’s metaphysical vision, and concludes with a critical estimate of Ken Wilber. It may be useful to compare various aspects of Sri Aurobindo’s vision with his own ‘all-quadrant, all-level’ model but, when they are applied to life, are the similarities used in the same way in both systems?
The concluding chapter presents a critical summary of Sri Aurobindo’s metaphysical yoga psychology and the place of psychopathology in it. Sri Aurobindo is not an academic psychologist, but a Yogi who takes psychology in his stride. Are the psychological aspects of Sri Aurobindo’s metaphysical vision, which are based on the practice of his integral Yoga, applicable to the discoveries of clinical psychology, or contemporary applied psychology?

In a critical estimate of Sri Aurobindo’s integralism, the author asks himself if Sri Aurobindo’s metaphysical vision is able to withstand the rise of Western psychology’s scientific development, and if the followers of Sri Aurobindo’s vision are able to use certain contemporary ideas in a constructive manner without deconstructing the major contents of his vision.
It takes a brief look at the ashramites of the Sri Aurobindo Ashram, seen through the eyes of a long-time ashramite and at Auroville, ‘the city of human unity’, through the eyes of this author who lives in Auroville.
The reflections and critical comments at the end of the last three chapters are not meant as an “attack” on their vision, but as an elucidation of their agreements and disagreements, and a genuine appreciation of their integral approach.

SRI AUROBINDO ASHRAM, PONDICHERRY
The ashram was founded as “a centre and a field of practice for the evolution of another kind and form of life, which would be sustained by a higher consciousness and embody a full life of the Spirit.”
It was created to provide a place where individual seekers could work out a complete change of their nature. The ashram was “to provide a secure atmosphere, a place and life apart, in which the consciousness of the individual might concentrate on its evolution in surroundings where all was turned and centred towards the one endeavour and, next, when things were ready, to formulate and develop the new life in those surroundings and in this prepared spiritual atmosphere. It might be that, in such a concentration of effort, all the difficulties of the change would present themselves with a concentrated force; for each seeker, carrying in himself the possibilities but also the imperfections of a world that has to be transformed, would bring in not only his capacities but his difficulties and the oppositions of the old nature and, mixed together in the restricted cycle of a small and close common life, these might assume a considerably enhanced force of obstruction which would tend to counterbalance the enhanced power and concentration of the forces making for the evolution. This is a difficulty that has broken in the past all the efforts of mental man to evolve something better and more true and harmonious than the ordinary mental and vital life. But if Nature is ready and has taken her evolutionary decision or if the power of the Spirit descending from the higher planes is sufficiently strong, the difficulty would be overcome and a first evolutionary formation or formations would be possible.”

The seekers in the ashram have opted to dedicate their lives completely to the practice of sadhana through integral Yoga, a synthesis of karma (action), bhakti (devotion), and jnana (knowledge) Yoga. There are general laws of discipline, but each individual is given the freedom to pursue one’s sadhana according to that which is congenial to his or her temperament.
The problem of transformation deals with all sorts of favourable and unfavourable elements and the sadhaks in the ashram, the laboratory of supramental yoga, are therefore representative of all quarters of life.

It is not easy to verify objectively Sri Aurobindo’s claims of a divine life. It seems that the Ashram is still in the initial formative stages, where any kind of assessment is mainly based on faith. In the course of integral Yoga each plane of being has to be dealt with and people in the Ashram are not yet free in their outer selves from ego and wrong movements. The character of life in the ashram is different from the ordinary environment of life. When the sadhak enters this place, it often takes quite some time to be aligned with the main stream. During this period, the recalcitrant elements—egoism, revolt, etc.—come into reactionary play and they can persist for quite a long time. Other seekers may hand over the responsibility for their life to the Divine, in the supposition that the Divine will do all the work for them, without their needing to examine their own inner world. This is one of the main reasons why all sorts of difficulties arise and which explains much in the Ashram (and also in Auroville) that people do not expect there. Difficulties do not cease by coming here, but have to be faced and overcome.
However, it is extremely difficult to overcome the forces which have controlled mankind for centuries. The old forces are not to be avoided but, on the contrary, have to come to the surface first, before they can be rejected, purified and transformed.

The Ashram sometimes faced difficult periods in its survival after the Mother left her body. Recently, on the 125th year of Sri Aurobindo’s birth anniversary, an insider’s personal view on Sri Aurobindo’s ashram was published, after some negative publications appeared in the press regarding some serious conflicts within the ashram. For the author, Jugal Kishore Mukherjee, these problems are only transitionary and should not unduly discourage the sadhaks. He gives a forthright overview of the development of the ashram from the past up to the present, and its future prospects and destiny.
In this essay, Mukherjee endeavours to answer various critical questions from students of the Sri Aurobindo International Centre of Education. Some of the questions were: “Is there any specific goal towards which the Ashram is moving, are the ashramites not slowly veering round the status of a religio-cultural community, and has the ashram outlived its value as a spiritual institution.”
Mukherjee notices that “the real worth and importance of the ashram is not in its opulent eye-catching façade but in its common spiritual character. He assumes that the ashram’s constant growth is under the silent guidance of the divine conscious Force and the sadhak has to make sincere efforts to receive this Grace and collaborate in the work of each one’s spiritual transformation. “A collective spiritual lifethe goal of the ashramis meant to express the spiritual and not merely the physical, vital or even the mental being of man; it has therefore to found and maintain itself on greater values than the mental, vital, physical values of the ordinary human groupings.”

He concludes that the main concern of the ashramites is related to their development of a spiritual consciousness, but in this process he warns the sadhak “not to be complacent in our attitude and allow things to drift on. On the one side we have to remember that the Ashram is an epitome of the human nature that has to be changed. On the other hand we should not lapse into the indolent attitude, we need not bother; the Mother will do everything for us.”
The seekers in the Ashram are still on a path of preparation. The great adventure of transforming human consciousness and establishing this transformed consciousness in collective humanity is a great work which is still going on.

AUROVILLE : THE CITY OF HUMAN UNITY
The Ashram is the first step towards the accomplishment of the creation of a new being and a new consciousness. Auroville is the next step, more exterior, where Aurovilians attempt to make a collective experiment for the progress of humanity; the experiment puts emphasis on the creation of a new type of society, which is based on human unity. Auroville is envisioned as consciously evolutionary and as the city of the twenty-first century for the twenty-first century man. Its citizens seek a new culture that is universal and integral through an experiment with the evolution of consciousness and its powers. This transcendental humanism involves full human development through the inner psychic and higher spiritual being. In its proper context, Auroville, like the Ashram, has to be seen in its spiritual character, i.e., the transformation of earth life through the descent of the supramental consciousness in matter and the beginning of a new spiritualised collectivity based thereon.

It is difficult, sometimes even impossible, to understand the meaning of the global experiment called Auroville. To give an objective view of what is happening in Auroville raises a serious problem, as it tries to achieve something that has never existed before. The description of the state of the community at present can only be an outward gaze, a half-light, sometimes even a false light, yet an attempt can be made at the evaluation of the present state of the community, even though opinions about this state differ widely amongst Aurovilians themselves. It is obvious that the ideas about the multi-faceted character of Auroville, as expressed by this author, do not represent the views of the entire community.
Auroville, as a growing international township, attempts to find an answer to the global pressure for change. The Aurovilians represent one conscious section of humanity which is ready to offer its energy for the realisation of a ‘city the Earth needs’. Their work towards the growth of a new life and the acceleration of the process of evolution is a continuous research work which is not effected by merely mystical means, as it is by life itself that the Divine has to be discovered.
Auroville has nothing to do with religion, dogma or ideology. It is a place where Aurovilians aim at an integral change of consciousness and a change of institutional, social, educational, economic and organisational patterns.

The Mother—who, in 1926 took up the full charge of the Ashram when Sri Aurobindo retired into seclusion—launched the project of Auroville in 1968, and described the universal township as “a place where man can live away from all national rivalries, social conventions, self-contradictory moralities and contending religions; a place where human beings, freed from all slavery to the past, can devote themselves wholly to the discovery and practice of the Divine Consciousness that is seeking to manifest. Auroville wants to be this place and offers itself to all who aspire to live the Truth of tomorrow.”
The town is being developed around four fundamental aspects of man’s activities, i.e., the residential, industrial, cultural and international zones. These zones are separated more in theory than in practice. At the centre stands the Matrimandir, the Soul of Auroville, that “wants to be the symbol of the Divine’s answer to man’s aspiration for perfection, union with the Divine manifesting in a progressive human unity.”

The various functions of life are all integrated in the unique purpose of the city. All sorts of activities are represented or aimed at in Auroville and include environmental regeneration, industrial growth, organic agriculture, educational research, including body-awareness, physical training and sports, alternative healing, village development, economic self-sufficiency, artistic creativity of all kinds, architectural designing, appropriate building technology, alternative energy sources and business enterprises.

But the products of the outward manifestations do not offer clear and polished results, and do not change Auroville’s unsettled nature. The basic structure of Auroville is based on a synthesis of spiritual and material life. As a spiritual community, Auroville attempts to combine spirituality with modern technology and science; in their synthesis, inner spiritual and outer scientific knowledge serve each other. This town as a model of integral living intends to actualise a new man who forms the basis of a new society; all the problems of human unity find their solution in the levels of consciousness beyond the mind. A unity of mankind can therefore not be long lasting, if it is based on the compulsions of economic, social, technological or political needs. The solution of contemporary problems requires a sounder foundation in the deeper psychological needs of man, i.e., a new knowledge and deeper exploration of consciousness not undertaken by mankind so far.

However, all the external means should not be abandoned, but transformed and made to serve the Divine Consciousness. A genuine human unity becomes possible only if the citizens of Auroville move towards the realisation of the divine Reality that we are all One. It is this secret Spirit and not the ego which will become the centre of all life through the emergence of a new consciousness. This new consciousness is able to transform humanity and its life on earth.

Auroville, as a laboratory for the materialisation of this new consciousness, has been created for those seekers who want to surrender their ego and who want to develop their inner and higher spiritual being. Aurovilians are not in Auroville to fall back into their old habits, desires, and an easy life; life in Auroville means an almost superhuman effort, aspiration, sincerity and surrender for the divinisation of man.

Auroville gets a lot of publicity about its external developments, but not much is known about the inner spiritual development that its citizens are seeking through these externalities. The external development need not always reflect a new consciousness and forces of the old world, from egoism to spiritual dogmatism, are still rampant in Auroville, like anywhere else in the world. These old manifesting forces have to be encountered and dealt with fully in the initial stages, before they can be transformed.
A brochure on Auroville describes this situation as follows: “it’s not easy to live in Auroville, in spite of its comparative lushness during the winter months. It’s not just the climate, nor the sensory and emotional overload, nor the galloping entropy that causes almost everything to fall apart very quickly. Nor is it merely that Auroville reflects so many of the negative trends—politics, money, power, manipulation, small-town gossip, etc.—that exist everywhere else. It’s more to do with the fact that everybody who comes to live here seems to be confronted, sooner or later, with difficulties on a scale and of an intensity rarely experienced before. … What’s going on? At first sight it appears inexplicable. Here is a place dedicated to the highest ideals which appears to magnify individual and community problems rather than to solve them. But if one sees that the purpose of Auroville is individual and collective progress, and if one understands that such progress is impossible unless all personal and collective problems are confronted and dealt with fully, then one begins to understand why Auroville is the way it is.”

It is for this reason that progress in the process of integral transformation is rather slow. Though some Aurovilians talk about their inner centre, what to do with those citizens who by self-deception take their ego for the psychic? Can they be prevented from such regressive tendencies in their endeavour for spiritual development? Who will guide those Aurovilians who lack a transparent sincerity and aspiration for a higher life, the greatest safeguards on the slippery road of sadhana? Do Aurovilians have the courage to see that there is a certain lack of coherence in the collective organisation within the community? The Charter of Auroville indicates that ‘the City of Dawn’ is a place of continual research in human unity. Are the cores of Aurovilians strong enough to keep this experiment on the right track in its contribution to the ideal of human unity? Are they willing to learn of what has been achieved elsewhere, and are they capable of accepting diverse approaches to a shared common goal, without the fear that different new pathways dilute the experiment of their collective yoga?

The citizens of Auroville do not claim to know all the answers to the present global problems; they are nevertheless determined to succeed in their efforts in the spiritual adventure which is based on the integral vision of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother. In this adventure, Auroville stands at the beginning of the beginning and still has a long way to go on the road to genuine human unity.
Through the development of the citizen’s inner and higher levels of consciousness, the divisive forces occasioned by differences in culture, race, religion, language and lifestyle could be overcome. Despite all its innumerable practical difficulties and all its failures, it is in the diversity of experimentation that Auroville hopes to establish its own identity and that this project can be realised.
As a collective experiment for the progress of humanity, Auroville seems to develop gradually with all the perplexities of the complicated human laboratory. Each Aurovilian represents and works out something for humanity, and in order to avoid a gradual collapse of the experiment itself, Aurovilians try to draw ceaselessly on the source of the Divine Force. All the activities in Auroville are opportunities to establish contact with that Divine Consciousness Force, the ultimate supporting principle of Auroville.

Epilogue

Psychology has become a ‘dusty discipline’. It is being eaten alive by the scientific approaches of the Right-Hand quadrants (such as cognitive science) and it is being dissolved and deconstructed by the mean green meme in the Left-Hand quadrants. It [psychology] seems to be on its last legs.
A direct experiential and experimental psychology seems to be demanded if psychology is to be a science and not merely a mass of elementary and superficial generalisations with all the rest guesswork or uncertain conclusion or inference. We must see, feel, know directly what we observe; our interpretations must be capable of being sure and indubitable; we must be able to work surely on a ground of sure knowledge.

In a recent interview with Shambhala Publications, Ken Wilber officially announced his resignation from the transpersonal psychology movement and his withdrawal from his work as a consulting editor of The Journal of Transpersonal Psychology. He resigned because of differences with the major role players of the transpersonal movement, which have led to an impasse in which none of the factions has much to offer the others and where they will likely never to be able to agree with each other. These divisions within the ranks are related to their idea of the nature, scope and role of transpersonal psychology. There is also a great deal of disagreement as to what constitutes transpersonal psychology. Ken Wilber categorizes the four major factions of transpersonal psychology as:
1.the magic-mythic group, which tends to confuse prerational mythic forms with transrational formless Spirit (New Age);
2.the altered states group, which looks at temporary nonordinary states, avoids development, stages and sustained practices (retro-Romantics);
3.the postmodernists, with their pluralistic relativism, criticise universalism and the perennial philosophy, which finally leads to boomeritus;
4.the integral school incorporates the essentials of all the other schools “but that is exactly what is sharply disputed by all of them”.

Ken Wilber, set forth the theory that integral psychology will no longer be affiliated with the transpersonal movement and will be referred to, from now on, as an integral approach wider than any particular approach to psychology. The many positive and brilliant insights and contributions of these four approaches have to be included in a more integral approach but taken by themselves, they lead to difficulties because each of them ignores other equally important aspects of the psyche.
Differentiating the first-tier and second-tier approaches within his integral model, Ken Wilber felt a need to establish the Integral Institute, in an attempt to bring together second-tier thinkers who will use integral solutions to today’s problems in education, medicine, politics, business, ecology, spirituality and art. In an announcement of the formation of the Integral Institute, he describes it in this way: “Integral Institute is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the integration of body, mind, soul and spirit in self, culture and nature. This integral vision attempts to honor and integrate the largest amount of research from the greatest number of disciplines—including the natural sciences (physics, chemistry, biology, neurology, ecology), art, ethics, religion, psychology, politics, business, sociology, and spirituality. Integral Institute is dedicated to the proposition that piecemeal approaches to the world’s problems—war, hunger, disease, famine, over-population, housing, technology, education—not only no longer help but often compound the problem, and they need to be replaced by approaches that are more comprehensive, systematic, encompassing—and integral.”i

The members of the Integral Institute, using integral approaches to all the above-mentioned fields, “are trying to position themselves as surfing the front crest of that rising incoming wave of second-tier consciousness”. The younger generation will receive training in all aspects of integral thinking and integral practice and carry on the integral vision in the future. The gathering of second-tier researchers and integral theorists creates some sort of sanctuary where integral second-tier research and writing can occur and where they can come together to share their ideas and experiments.
The general vision that guides the Integral Institute is mainly based on the all-quadrant, all-level model, a union of subjective (I), intersubjective (we) and objective (it) dimensions of reality. This four-quadrant model is able to examine parallel developments in each quadrant, i.e., developmental stages in each quadrant correspond with developments in the others. At the moment there are four hundred members and various branches (psychology, business, politics, medicine, education, art, spirituality and media) and each of them has its “core teams”, gifted and influential integral theorists and researchers in a specific area. Each of the branches is giving and receiving research from all the others, as the findings of one field will have direct relevance to other fields.

At times, Ken Wilber’s all-quadrant, all-level model, which attempts to integrate the scientific system approach and metaphysical system speculation, has the tendency to be immune to criticism. In two published interviews of Ken Wilber with Shambhala publications, entitled On Critics, Integral Institute, My Recent Writing and Other Matters of Little Consequence and Do Critics Misrepresent My Position? as well as in the introductions of The Collective Works, he gives the reader a detailed explanation regarding the various criticisms he has received and the motives for the discriminative and argumentative attitude found in his later works.

For Ken Wilber, a healthy scepticism rather than blind faith or a critical and sometimes even polemical attitude is a proper guide for him on the road to truth. An integral vision can never flourish in the domain of deconstructive postmodernism or of pluralistic relativism infected with the emotional narcissism of the baby boomer generation. He claims his occasional polemical and sarcastic tone in Sex, Ecology, Spirituality; A Brief History of Everything and The Eye of Spirit was necessary in order to remove the major barriers to a universal integralism. Ken Wilber assumes that most of the critical reactions to his works largely reflect a green-meme (first-tier) attack on his second-tier thinking.
In the introduction to Volume 8 of The Collective Works, he defends himself, as follows, in a rather emotional tone: “In today’s climate of postmodern pluralism, since there is no such thing as objective truth, then arguments are conducted almost entirely by attacking the subject who holds the beliefs. … the easiest way to fight this integral view is not to engage the ideas and evidence head on, but simply to try to discredit me as a person (the two most common forms: I don’t fit their version of spiritual, and I am apparently slightly more authoritarian than Mussolini). Those charges are made exclusively by people who have never met me, which I think speaks volumes. … Moreover, my work is such an imposing structure, many theorists feel that in order to make their own contributions, they have to differentiate themselves from me by attacking me – the only way they can make a name for themselves is by tearing me down. … I have one major rule: Everybody is right. More specifically, everybody— including me—has some important pieces of truth, and all of those pieces need to be honored, cherished, and included in a more gracious, spacious, and compassionate embrace. … My critical writings have never attacked the central beliefs of any discipline, only the claims that the particular discipline has the only truth—and on those grounds I have often been harsh. But every approach, I honestly believe, is essentially true but partial. And on my own tombstone, I dearly hope that someday they will write: ‘He was true but partial’.”ii

Most of Ken Wilber’s criticism in these three books is directed towards the green-meme approach, and is an attempt to get green to examine their own views more extensively. Ken Wilber expresses his anger at the deconstructive postmodernists through his second-tier criticism of the first-tier green wave. Most of the hostile criticism he received came from the greens, who look at his second-tier views but see nothing except their first-tier stage. Ken Wilber assumes that these green critics simply project their own shadows onto him.
In an Online dialogue between Ken Wilber and Allen Combs, on their differences regarding states and structures of consciousness Allen describes such an attack on Ken Wilber as follows: “it is no honor to original thinkers of the caliber of Plotinus, Sri Aurobindo or Jean Gebser to lump them into a kind of jargon-laden transpersonal soup with Great Chain of Being as the stock, as if their original writings could really be geometrically compounded in some uncompromised fashion. Syncretism (the idea that all great religions and philosophies are at the same core) was popular in the late days of antiquity, and is again popular today. Perhaps it contains a serving of truth, but boiling everyone down into the same pot does not do justice to their all-important individual flavors. It gets worse…. Wilber’s efforts to glue a stack of subtle planes on top of integral consciousness in order to make it more spiritual is like pouring sugar into spring water to make it more clear.”5

In a reply to this attack Ken Wilber writes; “Actually, in my ‘whole model’ there are the temporary states, the levels of consciousness, and the various developmental lines that move through these levels. Combs is here completely confusing them, and thus once again claims that I don’t differentiate them. What Combs is doing, I believe, is using the phase-2 model presented in Up from Eden, as most of his attacks do. I accept those attacks, belatedly, as accurate criticism of a view I held 15 years ago… he [Allen] is not very good at interpreting even the major themes of my work beyond the Up from Eden period.”6
Ken Wilber does admit that much of the misrepresented reviews of his work are related to the huge amount of his written material which makes it hard for anyone to grasp it accurately. In his multiple perspectives on different issues, Ken Wilber outlines several different meanings of the topic and he includes all of them in his integral theory. Merely focusing on one of his simplified or popularised statements often creates misleading accounts of his real position. To get a whole picture one has to read at least six or seven of his books, including the endnotes as they present his technically correct but often obscure views.

Fortunately, he has also received negative but accurate and constructive criticism from second-tier readers. Those criticisms that he found valid were incorporated into subsequent writings. The major aim of his works is to help start a dialogue, not to finish it.
All the criticism related to misrepresentations of his work has spurred him to start teaching his materials and disclosing his views personally to the outside word.
Ken Wilber’s style of argument and his harsh critique of those who offer thoughtful and critical reflections and who disagree with parts of his integral model are not always appreciated by his opponents within the transpersonal movement. It is often difficult for them to relate Ken Wilber’s engagement in critical discourse on the vision-logic level with his dismissive commentaries and sometimes combative attitudes which are contrary to transpersonal values and discriminating wisdom. Polemical language could be counterproductive to the effort to reach a deeper insight if it lacks cooperation and sympathy for the critical views of his opponents.

When Ken Wilber incorporates Sri Aurobindo’s ideas in his comprehensive theory, he does not always quote Sri Aurobindo’s writings directly, and it is often not clear which aspects of Ken Wilber’s ideas are originally his own and which ones he borrowed from Sri Aurobindo and other integral thinkers.
In his attempt ‘to transcend and include’ in order to differentiate his own from narrower or less inclusive approaches, is Ken Wilber paying sufficient attention to the overall aim of that which he differentiates? He frequently attempts to find parallels with Sri Aurobindo’s integral approach but, while doing so, he often leaves out the profound differences between the two approaches.
The aim of Ken Wilber’s integral approach is One Taste, where the individual merges with the unified consciousness of the non-dual Spirit. In One Taste, “subject [as the unmanifest world of empty consciousness] and object [the manifest world] are both distinct realities and aspects of the same thing: a true unity-in-diversity.”7

In the realisation of One Taste, having completely transcended the world of Form, consciousness awakens to a radical embrace of all Form, i.e., there is a perfect union of the manifest and unmanifest and the finite world is included in the infinite Spirit. Ken Wilber, like Shankara’s Advait Vedanta puts “this ultimate ‘transcend and include’ as follows:

This world is illusory
Brahman alone is real
Brahman is the world.

The absolute Self, as pure radiant Emptiness, seems to be the goal and ground of the entire manifest world. But this view does not solve the problem between the ultimate Reality as emptiness and the illusion of objects/subjects in the other three quadrants. When he relates consciousness to depth, Ken Wilber does not mean depth which is qualifiable, such as sensation, perception or intention, as these particular levels of depth are all forms of consciousness. According to Ken Wilber, “Consciousness is not a thing or a process—we can just as well, with William James, deny that it even exists, because it is ultimately Emptiness, the opening or clearing in which the form of beings manifest themselves and not any particular manifestation itself. … The Being of beings is depth, which, being unqualifiable as such, is finally Emptiness as such (consciousness as such).”9 Consciousness is, therefore, not an emergent quality but it allows qualities to emerge.

Emptiness is the central philosophy in Ken Wilber’s integral approach, and this Emptiness is radical Spirit itself. Emptiness does not have any parts, it leaves everything exactly as it finds it, but in its manifestation it takes different forms. Thus Emptiness manifests as a series of dimensions or levels; the spectrum of levels is the relative truth, and the vast expanse in which the spectrum appears is emptiness, or absolute truth. In the nondual realisation the individual experiences both of them simultaneously, i.e., expressing the ultimate reality in the relative world.
As mentioned in the last paragraph, Ken Wilber’s nondual approach has a strong parallel with Shankara’s nondualistic approach. Like Shankara, Ken Wilber could also not incorporate the absolute truth, Atman- Brahman, in the relative truth, the Great Chain of Being.

In one of his latest interviews with Shambhala, Ken Wilber maintains that “the ultimate nondual Ground is not the end limit of evolution; the ultimate Omega is not the highest rung of the ladder, but the ever-present Ground of all the rungs”. So it seems that Spirit is not the highest level. Nevertheless, if Spirit is not the end of the line, there is no acknowledgement from Ken Wilber of what may be beyond this experience. He does not explain where and how this evolution will end. If infinite Spirit is the actual Ground of all four quadrants, then how does the quadrant model, as a manifestation of the Absolute, integrate and incorporate this Absolute? What is Ken Wilber’s driving force of evolution, and where is the unifying principle at the end of it? Is the uniting consciousness of the quadrants model the Divine Force?

For Ken Wilber, Emptiness and Consciousness are just two names for the same reality. Consciousness as depth increases with the complexity of forms in the ascending scale of development, until it experiences itself at the level of One Taste, where it is liberated and has no further need for forms. But what is the relation of Consciousness as Emptiness and the irreducible quadrant model of manifest existence? Relating the realisation of the Ultimate reality with Emptiness does not seem to bridge the status of the forms in the other three quadrants. In the realm of manifestation we are never without these quadrants, but in the formless there are no quadrants. If these quadrants are absorbed into emptiness, does that mean that they are ultimately illusionary?
Ken Wilber’s valuable contribution of his four quadrant model is based on the claim that in order to change the world and to effect a radical change in the human condition it is not sufficient to either change behaviour, or consciousness, or culture and social institution, but it is essential to recognise the importance of all the four quadrants.

Ken Wilber’s integral approach does not only focus on the relative or manifest planes in order to arrive at relative solutions, as this would leave out the infinite Spirit as the ground of all four quadrants. He is aware that ultimate solutions are not found in relative mental constructions, but in the development of the nondual pure awareness of One Taste that persists through waking, dream and deep sleep states. A full understanding of any solution involves therefore the development of consciousness that discloses the supramental states of nondual awareness. In Ken Wilber’s integral Kosmic framework the four quadrants, as the forms of the manifest phenomenal world on the relative plane, ultimately arise from nondual Spirit. Only by going beyond the forms into the formless realms are contradictions dissolved and only then is the seeker able to realise Oneness with the entire Kosmos.

Sri Aurobindo acknowledges the existence of the transcendent nondual Spirit, One Taste, but it seems that Ken Wilber overlooks Sri Aurobindo’s idea of the Supermind as a creative Conscious-Force.
In the metaphor of vertical height or the ascent of consciousness into the superconscious, Ken Wilber does mention Sri Aurobindo’s supermind, but he uses it in a different context. He points out that “the metaphor of vertical height also works well because in many spiritual experiences, we sense that Spirit is descending from above into us (a factor emphasised in many spiritual practices, from Aurobindo’s descent of supermind to the Gnostics’ descent of the holy spirit). We reach up to Spirit with Eros; Spirit reaches down to us with Agape.”10

In describing the descent as the Agape of the supermind, he relates this descent to goodness, compassion and universal love of the Kosmos reaching down to us. According to Ken Wilber, “Many Tantric and yogic schools—Aurobindo’s for example—put prime emphasis on ‘the descent of the supermind’, the agape of the supermind that ‘comes down’ in order to pull us up to an identity with it, so that we then express that agape or compassion for all beings now ‘in’ us.”11 Growing along the path of descent means the widened circle of compassion from oneself to all living beings.
In his Advait-Buddhist approach, Ken Wilber is bound by the adherence of nondual monism, but Sri Aurobindo’s Supermind, as a dynamic aspect of the divine, is not the same as Ken Wilber’s Vedantic Atman. Sri Aurobindo attempts to solve the problem of the linkage between the Absolute and the relative by positing a transitional substratum between the two, i,e., the Supermind. Creation is the descent of the Absolute Spirit into the Supermind and this involution leads to evolution, the ascent of matter to Supermind and finally to Sachchidananda. The Absolute in its creative energy, though timeless and non-spatial, manifests itself as the Supermind, which mediates Sachchidananda to the multiplicity of the manifest world.

For Sri Aurobindo, the supreme Reality is basically Consciousness and it contains within itself a Consciousness Force which, when manifested, becomes an active, dynamic Creative-Force. This creative Consciousness Force of Brahman is responsible for the process of evolution. This Force, as the Becoming, is the action of the Conscious Being and its results are forms of that Conscious Being, i.e., matter, life, mind, soul and spirit. Consciousness Force, as an expression of the universal force of life, manifests as physical energy in matter and emotional energy in all living beings. This consciousness Force, as an expression of evolved consciousness, is able to interact with any form up to subatomic levels, though it is not dependent on forms.

For Sri Aurobindo, “the supramental Consciousness-Force from above and the evolving Consciousness-Force from behind the veil acting on the awakened awareness and will of the mental human being would accomplish by their united power the momentous transition.”12 Only the supramental consciousness can bring about an integral transformation and transform the human life into a divine life. Such transformation cannot be reached merely through a process of spiritual ascent of consciousness but needs the descent of this higher spiritual consciousness into life and matter in order to transform each and every aspect of existence.

In Sri Aurobindo’s integral yoga, this supramental Consciousness-Force is the real force for the transformation of the postmodern stages of development, unlike Ken Wilber’s psychospiritual development, which culminates in the liberation of a nondual pure consciousness.
Sri Aurobindo relates the final goal of the spiritual path in terms of evolution of the human race living a divine life. In integral sadhana, once One Taste, the formless One, is realised, the seeker must bring down this realisation to the exterior world and change the conditions of life upon earth until an integral transformation is accomplished. Sadhana in integral yoga is a means to expedite the descent of the supramental Consciousness-Force. As the Consciousness-Force descends in matter and radiates, it seeks fit instruments to express and manifest itself. The more the instrument becomes pure and opens up to the divine Force, the better are the results. The aim of integral yoga is therefore not merely liberation from life, but a total transformation of life and action on earth, as well as a total transformation of the human being on every level. By consciously participating in the process of evolution the seeker is able to create a divine life on earth.

It seems that Ken Wilber offers the reader the individual’s liberation from life, but not the individual’s total transformation of life.
Though Sri Aurobindo did not support Shankara’s Advait Vedanta’s view regarding the illusion of the world, Ken Wilber could argue that Sri Aurobindo was also not able to solve the problem between the Ultimate Reality in the Formless supra-ethical realm and the status of the relative forms in the ethical realm.
Sri Aurobindo claims that the relative ethical realm is real, but this realm is not the essence of life; it functions merely as a palliative which leaves the roots of the problem untouched and, therefore, needs to be transformed beyond itself. The relative forms of manifestation have no illuminating aim, they are ineffectual means of changing human life and have no power to transform the human race, i, e., in the supra-ethical realm there is no need for ethics, as ‘we do not live in an ethical world’. In other words, the Absolute is not bound by ethics, and Sri Aurobindo denies the underlying identity between the ethical and supra-ethical realm.

Moreover, if the Supermind is the active principle of creation of human life, then it is also the creator of man’s ethical life. If matter and Spirit are real, then the world and the ethical nature of man are as real. In order to affirm the Supermind, Sri Aurobindo also has to affirm man’s ethical activities.
In his metaphysical justification, Sri Aurobindo moves to the divine origin of human tendencies, the Ultimate Formless, where these human tendencies are transcended so that the sadhak is liberated from their limitations or divisions. In doing so, he ultimately denies the integral power of these human qualities for the full life of man.

Sri Aurobindo did not want to establish a school of philosophy or an integral institute, but “to create a ground of spiritual growth and experience and a way which will bring down a greater Truth beyond mind but not inaccessible to the human soul and consciousness.”13
The practice of his yoga needs not only individual effort but also the influence of the Divine Grace or the direct guidance of a Guru, who represents to the disciple the divine wisdom and conveys to the seeker something of the divine ideal.
Ken Wilber admits that he is not a Guru but a pandit. A Guru accepts devotees and when the compassion of the Guru meets the devotion of the disciple then the Guru absorbs the karma of the devotee. The intense bond between the Guru and devotee is an important part of the devotee’s awakening and transformation. Ken Wilber does not take people as devotees or disciples and work with them personally because he does not want to be a Guru and enter into a therapist/client relationship with people.
He admits that he is not qualified “to wrestle with people over their spiritual destinies”. He tries instead to legitimise spiritual practice within Western secularised culture and to find an academic basis for it. As a writer he may reach thousands of people, and his intellectual approach (at the integral vision-logic level) to spirituality, combined with his integral transformative practice makes him an ideal Western pandit.

Ken Wilber’s integral psychotherapy aims not at a mere development and integration of the surface empirical self, but also at the discovery of the central being (Atman). His integral transformative practice includes exercises on all the major levels of the human bodymind— physical, emotional, mental, social, cultural and spiritual. However, this leaves out Sri Aurobindo’s complementary, interdependent intrapsychic processes of aspiration and surrender to the Divine, which depend on faith in the existence of the soul that is conscious of God. Along with this foundation, Sri Aurobindo emphasises an uncompromising movement of rejection of all egoistic habits and insistences, which can be achieved by the realisation and control of the psychic being. When sadhaks are in touch with their psychic being, it becomes possible to open and uplift their whole “lower nature” to the Divine and it becomes possible to purify the external nature. After its purification, the surface nature is able to function as an instrument fit for the manifestation of the divine in one’s life, which then becomes a ‘life divine’. Once one’s psychic being has come to the fore, the sadhak must simultaneously try to transform the external world by bringing down the divine into it. This means that the sadhak’s effort to transform him or herself must have the corresponding effect in stimulating cultural, social and educational transformation.

By moving from Wilber-II to Wilber-III and Wilber-IV and adopting his all-quadrant, all-level model, Ken Wilber was not denying Sri Aurobindo’s integral vision but enriching it. Ken Wilber’s integral vision is, therefore, not based on a total rejection of the old Aurobindonian ideals, but he claims to bring this old vision in tune with new realities. While discussing with Ken Wilber (via a series of email exchanges) the attitude of the Whiteheadian defenders who are not able to extend Whitehead’s enterprise in order to fill in the blanks, Keith Thompson sees a similarly constrained attitude in the Aurobindonians. He has “never understood the impulse of ‘Aurobindonians’ who say that Aurobindo’s system is ‘complete’. (It is not; Wilber has identified weak areas and fleshed them out impressively).”14
This lack of completeness may be interpreted as an omission on the part of Sri Aurobindo’s insights but, in fact, he did not overlook the social, cultural and scientific context in the process of transformation to the divine life. His metaphysics include a socio-cultural orientation and in his writings these issues are definitely one of his major concerns, although they were not his central or ultimate concern.
In the last chapter of The Live Divine, Sri Aurobindo elaborates extensively on the collective aspects of his integral vision. In order to manifest the divine life on earth it is necessary that a group of supramental beings must manifest a new kind of collective life where they are no longer guided by their egoic tendencies but by the supramental Truth-consciousness.

In The Human Cycle and Foundations of Indian Culture, Sri Aurobindo deals systematically and comprehensively with the social and cultural life of man, indicating the effects of the individual’s spiritual development upon the evolution of man’s socio-cultural life. Sri Aurobindo discusses in detail the interaction between the evolution of the Upper Left quadrant and the transformation of the Upper Right, Lower Right and Lower Left quadrants. He brings the Consciousness-Force to all aspects of life enabling the psycho-spiritual evolution and transformation of the collective. For Sri Aurobindo, the evolutionary purpose of earthly existence is fulfilled when the collective is inhabited with those individuals who have attained the supramental stages of development, which is the basis for a collective divine life here on earth. No doubt, Sri Aurobindo did emphasise the ‘individual subjective quadrant’ as this determines and is an expression of the ‘objective quadrant’.

Ken Wilber’s all-quadrant, all-level approach aims at a multi-causal analysis without reducing one to the other. For Ken Wilber societies and individuals occupy different quadrants on the same levels of existence, but other transpersonalists maintain that societies may be considered higher than their individual members; the former has many more properties not found in their individual members, i.e., human societies determine the probabilities of their individual members.
Ken Wilber claims that his integral model is a refinement of Sri Aurobindo’s integral view as it provides an opening to the contributions of Western psychology and psychotherapy, and is set in the context of the all-quadrant all-level model. Ken Wilber maintains that without integrating these contributions Sri Aurobindo’s integral yoga remains limited and partial. However, could it be that some of the weak areas that Ken Wilber identified are more closely related to Aurobindo’s disciples than to his vision? As long as Aurobindonians remain enclosed in Sri Aurobindo’s revealed teachings, treating them as final truths, and refuse to link Sri Aurobindo’s integral Yoga with contemporary scientific research and practical concerns, it remains impossible for them to gain insight into Ken Wilber’s critical questioning and his assumed improvement of Sri Aurobindo’s vision.

Without integrating the developments and insights from other systems of contemporary Eastern spiritual disciplines and modern Western psychology, merely preserving and repeating the original psychological insights of Sri Aurobindo limits the scope of his yoga psychology and makes his vision exclusive.
The author, while critically examining the core assumptions and claims of each, tried to overcome this barrier by giving equal importance to the integrative perspectives of both Sri Aurobindo and Ken Wilber, by sympathetically exploring the points of convergence as well as points of divergence in the two views.
Ken Wilber outlines “a dozen different fields of consciousness studies, all of which need to be brought together in an integral view: cognitive science, introspectionism, neuropsychology, individual psychotherapy, developmental psychology, psychosomatic medicine, nonordinary states of consciousness, Eastern and contemplative traditions, quantum consciousness approaches, and subtle energy research. … each of them has something extremely important and valuable to say. And that means, inescapably, that we will measure our progress towards a truly integral orientation based precisely on our capacity to include, synthesize, and integrate all twelve of those important approaches … anything less than that simply cannot claim the adjective integral.”15

In his attempt to unify all the various aspects of human knowledge, Ken Wilber honours the scientific and spiritual dimensions of man. If the disciples of Sri Aurobindo omit a dialogue about the insights gained through these twelve approaches and maintain that such components are merely palliatives which leave the ordinary consciousness fundamentally the same, and that a radical change from the ordinary consciousness to the divine consciousness is only possible through the practice of integral Yoga, then it becomes difficult to bridge the gulf between Sri Aurobindo’s metaphysical yoga psychology and modern Western psychology as an academic science.
In his integral approach, Sri Aurobindo never overlooked historical contributions in other fields of knowledge, and it is up to his followers to integrate the benefits and contributions of contemporary postmodern Western and Eastern psychology.

The true scientist according to Sri Aurobindo is “always ready to consider old conclusions in the light of new facts, to give a candid consideration to every new idea or old idea revived if it deserves a hearing, no matter how contradictory it may be of previously ascertained experience or previously formed conclusion, is the sceptical temper, the temper of the inquirer, the true scientist.”16
It may be necessary that the integral views Sri Aurobindo once held have to be modified by his followers in the field of present-day knowledge. Ken Wilber’s current integral views may likewise soon be seen as naïve. That’s why further revision of both integral approaches is necessary for future application to each seeker’s unique life and circumstances.
Before arriving at giving Ken Wilber credit for his integral reconstruction of science, based on the quadrant model, it may be useful to refer once more to his integral approach to science, consciousness, and spirituality.

In order to arrive at a spiritual science of the transcendental realm, Ken Wilber meaningfully distinguishes ‘narrow’ science, which uses sensorimotor experiences tied to a rational analysis, from ‘broad’ science, which uses empiricism in a wider fashion, including direct mental and spiritual experiences as presented to consciousness. Each science is based on the investigation of its specific objects or phenomena. In their truth claims, both types of science share the three common tests for knowledge: injunction, experience and confirmation, though each has it’s own domain and its own degree of certainty.
Besides this distinction between ‘narrow’ and ‘broad’ science, Ken Wilber also classifies various levels of science which he relates to the various levels of consciousness: sensory or gross science refers to narrow science, whereas mental or subtle science and spiritual or causal science refer to interpretative and spiritual phenomena respectively.

For Ken Wilber, different stages of consciousness development require different spiritual approaches. On its pre-rational level, spirituality can best be approached through image, metaphor and faith in myths. At the rational stage, spirituality involves a rational scientific approach through faith in reason. At the transrational level, spirituality shifts from the contents of the mind to the contents of the spirit and can best be approached through direct practice.
This transpersonal spirituality is akin to Ken Wilber’s postmetaphysical science; its conclusions are not based on dogmatic theories but on the evidence of those individuals who have demonstrated developmental competence confirmed by reconstructive science.

This postmetaphysical view is meaningfully described by Ken Wilber as follows: “although all of the contemplative traditions aim at going within and beyond reason, they all start with reason, start with the notion that truth is to be established by evidence, that truth is the result of experimental methods, that truth is to be tested in the laboratory of personal experience, that these truths are open to all those who wish to try the experiment and thus disclose for themselves the truth or falsity of the spiritual claims—and that dogmas or given beliefs are precisely what hinder the emergence of the deeper truths and wider visions. … the claims about these higher domains are a conclusion based on hundreds of years of experimental introspection and communal verification. … These spiritual endeavors, in other words, are purely scientific in any meaningful sense of the word, and the systematic presentations of these endeavors follow precisely those of any reconstructive science.”17

For Ken Wilber, each higher level of complexity is not a predetermined or fixed set of levels, through which each and every individual must pass on one’s own realisation, but an open field of developmental potentials for higher functioning. Only when the higher or subtle levels of consciousness emerge or unfold in various people does it become something of a fixed level and a cosmic pattern with universal features for future development.

Ken Wilber maintains that before a particular level of higher consciousness emerges in evolution, that higher stage can unfold in an infinite number of ways; it is determined and formed by the four quadrants, which are constantly changing. This pattern can be investigated by reconstructive science on the basis of extensive empirical phenomenological and experiential research on stages of development.
For Sri Aurobindo, the objective ultimate truth of science is not able to explain all subjective domains of our being which lie behind the obvious surface levels. Nevertheless, subjectivity and objectivity are interdependent realities, as the Being offers itself to its own consciousness as object to the subject and looks at itself as subject on the object. We know the objective universe through our subjective consciousness whose instruments are the physical senses.

There is no difference in the essential laws of the objective physical and the subjective psychical, they only differ in their energies, instrumentation and exact processes. The subjective phenomena must be pursued by a subjective method of inquiry, observation and verification. Research into subjective yogic experiences which belong to an inner domain requires exact observation and scrupulous experimentation but it must evolve, accept and test other means and methods which are used in the examination of the objective external realm. It needs the capacity of spiritual experience and the inner methods by which that experience and verification are made possible.

In Sri Aurobindo’s yoga psychology we deal with subtle, flexible materials that exceed common physical science. Its field is wider than modern psychology, as it includes experiences beyond sense perception and beyond rationality; i.e., it uses subtler inner senses and intuitive perception to evaluate those experiences pertaining to higher states of consciousness. Through this direct psychological instrumentation, the seeker can arrive at certain data and results that can be equally verified by ‘sure data’ and by the results of other sadhaks, like Ken Wilber’s reconstructive science.

To test the validity of spiritual experience, Sri Aurobindo’s yoga psychology uses a method that is similar to Ken Wilber’s research methodology in the higher levels of consciousness. It requires a genuine knowledge through the accumulation of direct experience or apprehension of data (direct apprehension), an all-round actual practice (instrumental injunction), and an intuitive discrimination for its verification (communal confirmation or rejection). Any sadhak who is not prepared to go through the vast field of spiritual phenomena has to accept the guidance of the Guru until the seeker has accumulated sufficient experience and knowledge of the inner and higher subtle forces.

From what is described above, it should be clear that in his integral approach to science and spirituality, Ken Wilber does not only correlate the various types of science with his four quadrant model, but he also correlates major levels of science with the various levels of human existence: sensory, mental and spiritual. By incorporating the higher spiritual realm in his model, he creates an academic basis for a spiritual worldview, and his model offers a scientifically reliable understanding of spirituality. This does not mean that he reduces spirituality to rationality, on the contrary, in his postmetaphysical approach he does not reduce the higher realm to mere science. Each level has its own “I”, “we” and “its” realm, and each level within each quadrant has often its own special approaches. Science (it) is only one third of the gross, subtle and causal realm. These levels include art (“I”) and morals (“We”). Moreover, each level follows its own different methodology and validity claims, i.e., truth, truthfulness, justness and functional fit. Science is only the exterior (it) of Spirit, Spirit seen subjectively becomes the “I” of Spirit, whereas Spirit seen intersubjectively becomes the “We” of Spirit.

Ken Wilber does not want to mystify plain facts and he uses his quadrant model in order to explain his theory of everything without merely using a transcendental hypothesis. His comprehensive theory construction tries to unite all kinds of desperate facts together and his postmetaphysical approach has a necessary relation with the present facts of life. In the practice of spiritual discipline, the results of academic research go side by side with the results of the search for one’s inner being. However, ultimately, only Spirit (the depths of one’s inner being without objects, thoughts, space and time) is the evidence for Spirit.

Sri Aurobindo, like Ken Wilber, is not denying scientific development and the pragmatic truth which science offers to humanity. He preserves the truths of material science and its real utilities in the final harmony, although many of its existing forms have to be broken or left aside.
Sri Aurobindo, unlike Ken Wilber, attributed his spiritual achievements mainly to the practice of his integral yoga and not to the help of academic empirical research. His metaphysical vision is hardly based on the objective approach which is related to observable facts and sense experience. On the contrary, his subjective approach is more related to intuition, insight and introspection, which make his concept of man highly metaphysical and speculative for those people who are not able to move beyond the rational realm.

Should the followers of Sri Aurobindo include in their integral model the rational and academic approaches with a view to determine its degree of authenticity (vertical transformation) and legitimacy (horizontal translation)? A translative spirituality provides meaning and solace to the separate self, and this form of spirituality concentrates on autonomous individuals who consciously choose communities of other autonomous individuals, whereas transformative spirituality seeks to transcend the separate self, and this spirituality promotes transformation to higher levels and an opening of spirituality in terms of true authenticity. It is often the external and experimental verification that confers its potentially believable status to us and, even within broad limits, allows us to judge the relative degree of maturity or authenticity of the transrational or spiritual development of a particular person. Are some Aurobindonians confusing translative spirituality, where the self is given a new way to think about the world, with transformative spirituality, which aims at the dismantlement of the separate sef-sense?
Reason has certainly a legitimate part to play in relation to the higher fields of one’s spiritual experience and divine knowledge, even though that part is quite subordinate.

Describing the utility of the intellect in the context of yogic development, Sri Aurobindo insists that, although “the intellect cannot be a sufficient guide in the search for spiritual truth and realisation, yet it has to be utilised in the integral movement of our nature. … The seeking intelligence has to be trained to admit a certain large questioning, an intellectual rectitude not satisfied with half-truths, mixtures of error or approximations and, most positive and helpful, a perfect readiness always to move forward from truths already held and accepted to the greater correction, completing or transcending truths which at first it was unable or, it may be, disinclined to envisage. A working faith of the intellect is indispensable, not a superstitious, dogmatic or limiting credence attached to every temporary support or formula, but a large assent to the successive suggestions and steps of the Shakti, a faith fixed on realities, moving from the lesser to the completer realities and ready to throw down all scaffolding and keep only the large and growing structure.”18

Contemplation involves theory and practice, intellectual effort and active involvement; the true spiritual seeker is a man of action as much as thinking. Seekers have their hearts and minds open to the spirit of truth, and the intellect is used for empirical verification to differentiate truth from mere delightful theory.
Aided by his overall spectrum model of human development, Ken Wilber’s approach is able to demonstrate the nature of a bona fide authentic spiritual movement. In his all quadrant-all level model all waves and streams of development, and states and types of consciousness, can be disclosed by reputable non-reductionistic researchers who are working with second- and third-tier conceptions.

What is the present state of Sri Aurobindo’s disciples? Are those who have moved to second-tier consciousness (yellow and turquoise) ready to open up to the conclusions from researchers working with second or third-tier conceptions, using premodern, modern and postmodern sources?
Researchers working with these conceptions may be able to investigate certain developmental events which may turn ‘pathological’ in the process of realisation of the Aurobindonians’ ideals, when ‘the higher’ do not transcend and include ‘the lower’ but deny and abuse the lower in the service of the emergence of the higher. Such events are not only related to individual processes but can also be applied to socio-cultural aspects of development, where progress comes at the cost of the exploitation of the lower members of the community. The effect of such pathological events on new levels needs to be critically reviewed.

What happens if the upward movement to self-realisation and self-transcendence begins to go sour when the followers demand allegiance to the Guru’s worldview without their own rational and logical inquiry and postconventional needs?
It is the polemic that may wake many up from spiritual slumber, and a dialogue with second-tier researchers may stimulate a much-needed conversation around crucial issues.

Sri Aurobindo did not care to have his name in any blessed place—for serious work, advertisement or propaganda is a poison, “as it means either a stunt or a boom—and stunts and booms exhaust the things they carry on their crest and leave it lifeless and broken high and dry on the shores of nowhere – or it means a movement. A movement in the case of a work like mine means the founding of a school or a sect or some other damned nonsense. It means that hundreds or thousands of useless people join in and corrupt the work or reduce it to a pompous farce from which the Truth that was coming down recedes into a secrecy and silence. It is that what has happened to the ‘religions’ and is the reason of their failure.”19
Sri Aurobindo had no intention of becoming a ‘traditional Guru’. As a phase-specific authority, he guided the devotees during the awakening of their true self. As a teacher Sri Aurobindo is a virtual necessity on the road, but at some point in the journey, when this centre of the Self was awakened, Sri Aurobindo’s authority as a guru gradually diminishes. He did not encourage dependency on his legacy, nor did he cultivate dependent devotees. On the contrary, he emphasised the disciples’ using their own spiritual resources to find the true guidance within, rather than binding the disciple on his ideology.

Sri Aurobindo describes the Teacher of integral yoga as follows: “The wise Teacher will not seek to impose himself or his opinions on the passive acceptance of the receptive mind. … He will give a method as an aid, as a utilisable device, not as an imperative formula or a fixed routine. … His whole business is to awaken the divine light and set working the divine force of which he himself is only a means and an aid, a body or a channel … what will most stimulate aspiration in others is the central fact of the divine realisation within him governing his whole life and inner state and all his activities. … It is this dynamic realisation that the Sadhaka must feel and reproduce in himself according to his own nature. … He is a man helping his brothers, a child leading children, a Light kindling other lights, an awakened Soul awakening souls.” 20

By overestimating the authority of and a paternalistic dependence on Sri Aurobindo’s integral views, the devotees ignore the constantly evolving character of Sri Aurobindo’s vision, as well as its capacity for diversity and flexibility. Aurobindonians must be aware that the contexts of any system are constantly shifting. Sri Aurobindo’s integral vision, like Ken Wilber’s integral theory, is an open-ended system and how it evolves does not depend on Sri Aurobindo’s views, but on the attitude of his followers in the Ashram and in Auroville. Those Aurobindonians who like to remain faithful to his tradition should nevertheless be able to readjust or partially refine Sri Aurobindo’s open-ended system in order to integrate the discoveries and the demands of contemporary social, cultural and scientific developments that had been hitherto unknown.

The followers of Sri Aurobindo may have faith and find refuge solely in Sri Aurobindo’s metaphysical views, which may comfort them, but through methodical contemplative experiential investigation and research—collecting data from those followers who are already advanced in their sadhana and who are able to compare their spiritual experiment with other seekers (researchers) in the community—the Aurobindonians themselves may be able to explore and verify the authenticity of the spiritual truth with respect to Sri Aurobindo’s supramental claims and place them in the context of the mainstream disciplines of psychology, philosophy, sociology, ecology, physics, etc. In other words, through a process of re-experiencing and mastery of the various phenomena at play within the subtle dimensions of the human psyche, the sadhak is able to know and verify the experiential foundation of integral yoga rather than merely depending on the faith in Sri Aurobindo’s claims.

As discussed before, Sri Aurobindo’s different forms of sadhana are only a method, a means, and though closely related to the goal, the end, these means should not be mistaken for the end itself; such an attitude may end up in dogmatism. The indifference towards the gap between means and end is one of the many problems Aurobindonians have to deal with. Though the Aurobindonian end is driven by divine cosmic ambitions, which keeps the devotee on the slippery path of spiritual practice, could it be that this firmness of purpose degenerates into obstinacy when errors in the practices of the devotees are not recognised, reconsidered and redressed?

The limits of the Aurobindonians reasonableness are often painfully exposed by their unwillingness to let dogmatic habits go unchallenged. Are they not opening their approach to outside research and evidence because it does not fit their prevailing convictions and belief system, or are some genuine aspirants able to experiment with and integrate the results of psychological, social, cultural, and economical sciences, as well as with the technological and information revolution, with the overall metaphysical insights as expounded by Sri Aurobindo?

Are Aurobindonians reducing Sri Aurobindo’s vision to mere dogmatic theories and thereby becoming counterproductive? It is the spirit of free inquiry which is able to unsettle dogmatism and comfortable beliefs. This spirit of free inquiry finds its expression not only in the fields of physical science and technology, but also in fields beyond its narrow departments. Those Aurobindonians who do not easily accept the spirit of critical inquiry into Sri Aurobindo’s vision may easily produce a mood in which they omit any general rational scrutiny.

A critical analysis regarding certain aspects of Sri Aurobindo’s metaphysical views is often qualified by his devotees as academic fundamentalism, but the true test of a great vision is always able to bear criticism. Anti-intellectualism reduces independent judgement formation, and makes room for “flatland” reductionism, i.e., when intellectual knowledge is merely used for limited purposes it often leads to anti-intellectualism, as it reduces the many-sidedness, diversity and complexity of knowledge to one-sided and simplistic views. Sri Aurobindo’s metaphysical yoga psychology is not based on unreflected acceptance; critical questions about various aspects of Sri Aurobindo’s vision are not meant to offend Aurobindonians or drive them into distraction, on the contrary, through re-examination of basic beliefs and self-criticism the followers of Sri Aurobindo may be able to add some creative insight and novelty to Sri Aurobindo’s integral vision. The community should not functionn as a conservative bunker, a place where censors are refusing to distribute critical research work that has been striven by a strong belief and deep need in search for new truths. The devotees should not forget that Sri Aurobindo, as their spiritual guide can show them the path leading towards integration and transformation, but the devotees have to walk the path themselves.

Could it be that in their committed spiritual idealism, the disciple’s intellectual laziness contributes to the collapse of serious argument and dialogue regarding the relevance of Sri Aurobindo’s metaphysical views in contemporary cultural, psychological and social sciences? Attachment to Aurobindonian ideals may become problematic if the devotees of Sri Aurobindo are not able to free themselves from the exclusive identification of their specific idealistic perspectives. In their fixation on Sri Aurobindo’s ideals, Aurobindonians may not be able to appreciate other metaphysical perspectives, which hinders the development of a cosmic truth vision. Spiritual openness is essential in Sri Aurobindo’s metaphysical yoga psychology, i.e., the ideal of a spiritual life integrates new experiences and new understanding (combined with a demanding experimentation and empiricism) in the exploration of an evolving scheme of ideas. In order to remove serious obstacles in the genuine inquiry towards new depths – through spiritual dialogue – there should be sufficient place for critical scrutiny and questioning of claimed truths, rather than excessive agreement and passive faith. Sri Aurobindo does not present his integral vision as a finished creed or dogma to be accepted without questioning, but as a subject of experiment and research. It proceeds from the initial belief to the investigation of it, so that each seeker knows Sri Aurobindo’s claims to be true for him or herself. Sri Aurobindo’s spiritual insights are not based on an unchanging identity, and his devotees do not have the sole right to claim any monopoly of interpretation; findings of new disciplines must be taken into consideration. A fresh outlook, not tied to the past, may function as a challenge for the next generation of Sri Aurobindo’s devotees.

In 1998, on the occasion of the 30th anniversary of Auroville, the members of Auroville and the Auroville Foundation established the Sri Aurobindo World Centre for Human Unity. The idea behind this center is to give concrete expression to Sri Aurobindo’s vision of world unity as the indispensable condition for the transformation and divinisation of the world. This all-encompassing, university-like, centre functions for interaction between Auroville and the world. It provides a platform for research on the world’s quest for human unity, and welcomes research scholars from all over the world to take part in the Auroville experiment while Aurovilians can benefit from their knowledge and expertise.
Despite the various differences between the two approaches, it seems that there are also striking similarities between the experimental project of Auroville and Ken Wilber’s Integral Institute: both projects aim at bringing together the ancient spiritual wisdom of the East with the material achievements of the West, in order to create new integral solutions to the global problems of life. The members of Ken Wilber’s Integral Institute and the citizens of Auroville aim in their research activities at a change in the present human consciousness, i.e., an exploration of psychological ranges of man’s inner and higher consciousness.

Could Auroville offer a contribution in bringing forth some fresh perspectives to the noble endeavour of the all-quadrant, all-level approach where the physical, emotional, mental and spiritual levels of being are exercised simultaneously in the I, we, and it domains? At the same time, could the establishment of the Integral Institute offer some methods to those Aurobindonians who are in the process of re-evaluating Sri Aurobindo’s vision in the context of contemporary scientific development without deconstructing the deeper contents of Sri Aurobindo’s integral insights?

REFERENCES:

(1) Ken Wilber Online; A Shambhala Interview, p. 6.
(2) Sri Aurobindo; Essays Divine and Human, pp. 335-336.
(3) Ken Wilber Online; Announcing the Formation of Integral Institute, p. l.
(4) Ken Wilber; The Collective Works, Introduction, pp. 41-42.
(5) Ken Wilber Online, Allen Comb’s Open Reply to Ken Wilber
(6) Ken Wilber Online, Ken Wilber’s Second Response to Allen Combs.
(7) Ken Wilber, Integral Psychology, p.181.
(8) Ibid., p. 155.
(9) Ken Wilber, Sex, Ecology, Spirituality, p.539.
(10) Ken Wilber, Integral Psychology, p.111.
(11) Ken Wilber, Sex, Ecology, Spirituality, p.339.
(12) Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine, p.922.
(13) Sri Aurobindo, Letters on Yoga, p.559.
(14) Ken Wilber Online; Do Critics Misrepresent my Position? p.14.
(15) Ken Wilber, One Taste, p.104.
(16) Sri Aurobindo, Essays Divine and Human, p.23.
(17) Ken Wilber, Sex, Ecology, Spirituality, p.265.
(18) Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, p.749.
(19) Sri Aurobindo, On Himself, p.375.
(20) Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, p.60-61.