The Perennial Quest for a Reviewed by Daryl S. Paulson

It was only a matter of time before someone compared and contrasted the works of Sri Aurobindo and Ken Wilber. Joseph Vrinte has done this in a rather balanced and fair manner, providing specific criticisms to the works of each.

The book, consisting of twelve chapters, a preface, acknowledgements, epilogue and bibliography, is particularly valuable in that Vrinte has in depth knowledge of the works of both Ken Wilber and Sri Aurobindo.

Yet, it is clear that Vrinte is partial to Aurobindo’s Integral Philosophy!

Review by Dr. P. V. Krishna Rao


by Joseph Vrinte


Joseph Vrinte’s ‘The Quest for the Inner Man: Transpersonal Psychotherapy and Integral Sadhana’ is a significant contribution in the tradition of Geraldine Coster, Alan Watts, Fingarette, Jacobi and Swami Ajaya among others, who juxtaposed the Western and Eastern esoteric psychologies. Like them, Vrinte, a native of the Netherlands, is also very sympathetic towards the philosophical system of Aurobindo and finds it meritorious though he does not claim sole allegiance to it. Dedicated to the Mother, this book is a sequel to ‘The Concept of Personality in Sri Aurobindo’s Integral Yoga Psychology and A. Maslow’s Humanistic/Transpersonal Psychology’ (Vrinte, 1995), which attempted to present a theory of personality embedded in the complex metaphysical thought of Sri Aurobindo. To what extent it made some sense to psychologists is a matter of their conception of a scientific theory. If some principles or techniques derived from a theory are found to be applicable, then the heuristic value may outweigh the hermeneutics of a traditional theory. What is more a practical matter than psychotherapy to psychologists?

The book is a comparative study of transpersonal psychotherapy and Sri Aurobindo’s sadhana. Bringing together transpersonal psychologies and Sri Aurobindo’s integral psychology required their reconstruction and systematic formulation for an intelligible comparison, and Vrinte’s successful attempt at that makes this book valuable to an intelligent layman as well as to a practicing psychologist. Psychotherapists in India who have an identity crisis or at least some cognitive dissonance because of their knowledge of cultural relativism and application of Western concepts and tools in their practice, will once again be reminded of the potential of some of the native systems for adoption in their practice.

The book consists of eight chapters. It begins with a general introduction to psychotherapy. Psychotherapy is described both as an art and science of healing human suffering or illness and also as an endeavour at the development of higher human potentials in psychologically well-integrated individuals. The second chapter is an introduction to various psychotherapies—psychoanalysis, behaviour therapy, rational emotive therapy, cognitive therapy, humanistic and existential therapies. A survey of therapies for a volume like this is bound to be selective. Vrinte’s choice is representative and the description of the central ideas of various therapies is clear and concise.

The third chapter is devoted to the transpersonal approach in which Vrinte discusses psychotherapy and spiritual growth, transpersonal psychology and psychotherapy. It is followed by a description of the systems of various leading transpersonal psychologists, namely, Maslow, Assagioli, Wilber, Grof and Washburn. In a critical evaluation of their thought, the author states that “By including the spiritual development in the therapeutical level, transpersonal psychology reintroduced spirituality in the present materialistic society” (p. 129). He cautions the transpersonal psychotherapists who turned to the oriental heritage for inspiration, that “transpersonal psychotherapist in his analysis must not confuse the meaning of spirituality with the spiritual way, as the authentic elements of the spiritual way falls outside the frontiers of therapy” (p. 130).

According to Vrinte psychologising the conceptions and techniques of spiritual disciplines “may divest them of their spiritual values, and by misunderstanding or misinterpretation may easily lead to real dangers” (p. 130).

Chapter five is an introduction to integral yoga psychology of Sri Aurobindo and describes its aim as the spiritual growth and transformation of consciousness in that direction and presents the structure of individual personality according to Sri Aurobindo. The next chapter is on the practical discipline, sadhana, the aim of which is discovering Self of God within and rising out of the lower life of ignorance into the felicities of the higher realms of the spirit. While aspiration, self-opening, capacity, faith, and surrender are the foundations of it, purification, liberation and perfection are its constituents. The three means to the object of sadhana are work, knowledge and meditation, and love and devotion. All these and the process of transformation have been described in this chapter without an attempt to psychologise them.

The rest of the book compares sadhana and the transpersonal approach (chapter 7) and concludes (chapter 8) on the theme of the book. While discussing the psycho-spiritual concepts in transpersonal psychology and Sri Aurobindo’s writings Vrinte finds them complementary and not contradictory in dealing with the different ranges of human development. In the final conclusion each of the transpersonal thinkers are contrasted to Sri Aurobindo on some of their cardinal concepts. Sri Aurobindo goes beyond the psychologists. Transpersonal psychologists differ in their metaphysical orientation from that of Sri Aurobindo and it is evident in the former’s failure to ascertain the ultimate nature of the mind and consciousness. “By confining themselves only to verifiable psychological facts they withhold the transcendental metaphysical reality, and the fundamental truth of man remains therefore partially hidden for them” (p. 263). Then, what is the accomplishment of the fourth force in psychology? According to the author “in exploring issues such as introspection, intuition, subjectivity and spirituality, the transpersonal psychologists move beyond the mechanistic model of the scientist, but they nevertheless hold on to and use methods and assumptions of modern science in order to prove the validity of these phenomena which cannot be studied by empirical methodology alone” (pp. 264 & 265).

The convergences and divergences of integral yoga and transpersonal psychotherapy have been pointed out with the insight characteristic of Vrinte. The reader is left with the impression that transpersonal psychology falls short of integral yoga and that what constitutes the “ultimate reality” or the transcendental domain is unclear or unknown to the former. It is not so to the latter.

The concepts and tools that are relevant to psychotherapy in the writings of Sri Aurobindo have already been cognised and discussed (e.g., Dalal, 1991). This book directly contrasting some psychotherapists and Sri Aurobindo, at a much higher conceptual level is bound to have an impact on seeking psychologists and the seekers of the divine.


  • Dalal. A. S. (1991). Psychology, Mental Health and Yoga. Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram Press.
  • Vrinte J. (1995). The Concept of Personality in Sri Aurobindo’s Integral Yoga Psychology and A. Maslow’s Humanistic/Transpersonal Psychology.
  • P. V. Krishna Rao
    Institute for Yoga & Consciousness
    Andhra University, Visakhapatnam 530 017

Review by R Gopalakrishna

The Hindu, Tuesday, November 11, 2003

The book under review deals with the aspects related to the transpersonal psychological movement and Sri Aurobindo’s integral yoga in three parts.
Psychotherapy has been compared with spiritual disciplines, especially with the eastern technique of meditation with special reference to Sri Aurobindo’s metaphysical system. The challenges and difficulties in the process of spiritual development are highlighted from the perspective of metaphysical psychology.
Ken Wilber’s psychology and Sri Aurobindo’s metaphysical yoga psychology are the concerns in the study. As a transpersonal theoretical psychologist, Ken Wilber endeavours to synthesise eastern and western thought, which has apparently contradictory outlook.
He depends on the data available from contemporary fields of enquiry such as biology, anthropology, psychology, philosophy, theology and ecology than expounding a metaphysical theory.
The main ambit of this book is to eliminate the boundary lines put up between psyche and body, organism and cosmos by man who unnecessarily limits his sense of identity.
To elucidate his basic tenets he explores the metaphysical foundation of the integral yoga of Sri Aurobindo with reference to the theory and practice of the yoga of works, yoga of knowledge, the yoga of devotion and the yoga of self-perfection. He examines the sadhana of integral yoga by pointing out the difficulties faced while practising.
There is a dialogue between Ken Wilber’s integral views and Sri Aurobindo’s metaphysical vision. The author contends that Sri Aurobindo’s integral yoga aims at a divine perfection where the divine becomes the direct guidance of the sadhana.
Wilber shifts his stand in his integral psychology due to the influence of Sri Aurobindo. The entire spectrum of consciousness is taken into consideration in its ascending and descending orders in the integral sadhana, according to Sri Aurobindo, which was endorsed by Wilber.
However, Wilber points out the shortcomings in the theory of Sri Aurobindo that it lacks interrelations of cultural, social, intentional and behavioural aspects. Sri Aurobindo’s analysis did not proceed on the level of inter-subjectivity (lower left) and inter-objectivity (lower right).
The author proceeds to elaborate Sri Aurobindo’s views on science, his metaphysical vision, views on the individual and collectivity, sociology, culture, religion, ethics, his future vision and Ken Wilber’s world-view.
Both these scholarly writers agree on elevating the human spirit from the empirical realm through the actualisation of the higher human qualities.
The soul, being endowed with divine consciousness initially develops individuality due to its association with matter. Once it realises its true nature through yogic modalities, it is elevated to its original state, called by Sri Aurobindo, the “illumined mind”.
Wilber also subscribes to this view with slight variation since his approach is psychological while Sri Aurobindo’s is metaphysical.
This book is an objective presentation of two great scholars belonging to two different traditions but having similar thinking especially in spiritual lore. Those who are interested in the pursuit of self-realisation and about the total inner framework can read this book and enrich their knowledge.


Review by Professor Manoj Das (Padmashree)

The HINDU 30.7.1996
The phenomenon that is man
“The Quest for the Inner Man”,
by Joseph Vrinte

“What is the scope of your study?” a traveller asked Socrates (470-399 B.C.). “To know the phenomenon that is man,” was the reply of the great Athenian savant. The Indian laughed and when asked to explain that strange conduct, said, “How can you know man without knowing God?”

This account left by Aristoxenus, a disciple of Aristotle, continues to retain its relevance when we study the Indian approach to mind and consciousness vis-à-vis the Western approach. The Indian mysticism and philosophies, speaking broadly, have maintained that the phenomenon can be best known only by knowledge of the Spirit hidden at its core and, significantly, several Western Schools of psychology have, in the near past, woken up to hitherto ignored or unsuspected dimensions of consciousness.

Another bright development in psychology is the effort of bringing together the essential truths in different theories, as Maslow did in trying to “integrate into a single theory Goldstein and Fromm.” Such schools of thought come under the category often described as transpersonal psychology, which “takes Spirit as the basis of Reality and in its therapeutical approach concentrates on the restoration of the lost control with the spiritual Self.” Further, as this highly informative work says, “It is characterised by the acceptance of the spiritual and cosmic dimensions of the personality and the possibility for the development of consciousness.”

At this point emerges the irresistible relevance of Sri Aurobindo to modern psychology, for taking cognisance of his visualisation of man as a potential supramental being, psychology can no longer confine itself only to the evolutionary nisus active behind it. Several mental and emotional problems can perhaps be traced to man’s psychic need for growth, about which the conventional psychotherapist may continue to be unenlightened.

Dr. Joseph Vrinte who is a mental health worker in Amsterdam, has devotedly carried on research in comparative fields of Indian and Western psychology and his present work, like his earlier dissertation entitled, “The concept of Personality in Sri Aurobindo’s Integral Yoga Psychology and A. Maslow’s Humanistic/Transpersonal Psychology” is an impressive compendium of developments in psychotherapy and, what is more, a pioneering work in evaluating and enriching the discipline in the light of a revolutionary concept of our time regarding the future of man. Transpersonal psychotherapy and Sri Aurobindo’s psychology are not the same, but “despite these differences between the two views, both in their search for the higher and deeper meaning of the inner dimensions of human existence maintain that man is a never-finished product of evolution with endless potentialities for inner growth, and has the capacity to cultivate the psyche’s higher aspirations or a spiritual reality beyond the grasp of the pragmatic human intellect.”

Manoj Das

Date: 14th January 1997
From: Shri Manoj Das C/o Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry 605002
To: Shri Manoj Dasgupta, Trustee, Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust, Pondicherry 605002

I had read Joseph Vrinte’s ‘The Quest for the Inner Man’ earlier and went through the controversial lines once again.

I appreciate the objections raised by some friends. When read in isolation, the lines in question may sound a bit offending, as if the author is pointing at some negligence on Sri Aurobindo’s part.

But read in their proper context, they are not the author’s personal views, but a reference to what might appear to be so, in the perception of Transpersonal Psychotherapy. This is an academic thesis and comparison and contrast are a must in such exercises.

We have to take into account the spirit behind this work. It is a spirit of goodwill and not of the slightest hostility. It is a laudable scholarly work and its reader would, in many ways, be helped to understand Sri Aurobindo.

I suggest that we should not object to selling/distributing this book. I had a discussion with Jugal-da and he too is of the same opinion. Mr. Joseph Vrinte is most willing to explain his point to anyone interested.

Manoj Das

Review by Sri D. Raja Ganeshan

The HINDU, Tuesday, July 11, 1995
Perceptions of Personality

A mental health worker at various institutions in Amsterdam and a citizen of the Netherlands the author Joseph Vrinte, has had his higher education in Sanskrit and philosophy in India. This book is based on his research here.

The first chapter is a biographical account of Sri Aurobindo and Abraham Maslow. The author is candid in not omitting the psychologically significant fact that Sri Aurobindo’s mother “collapsed into hysteria” during his early childhood, which led his father to heavy drinking. The psychological significance in turn derives from a decisive pattern discernible in the biographies of most philosophers — from the Buddha through Pascal, Rousseau, Tolstoi, Rabindranath Tagore, John Dewey, to Bertrand Russel and Jean Paul Satre: they have either lost their mothers in early childhood or have had poor maternal care. As for Maslow, he has himself gone on record regarding this aspect of his early childhood: that he had a schizophreno-genic mother and that he used to wonder how come he did not go mad.

The second chapter offers a comparison of the theories of personality in the schools of humanistic and transpersonal psychologies in contemporary Western thought with the concept of personality in the Upanishads, the Sankhya and the Yoga schools in the Indian tradition. This chapter as a whole is pivotal to the author’s thesis. The last four pages of this chapter (pp.65-68) summarising and contrasting the concepts of personality in the East and the West attest to the author’s understanding of the subject.

The third chapter presents Maslow’s theory of personality. Vrinte has done well to highlight the significant contributions of Maslow to our understanding of the psychodynamics of personality; emphasis on the hierarchical nature of man’s needs which become motives when they are activated; the study of healthy personalities as a complement to the original psychoanalytic approach through sickness; and, on holistic inner experiences as against discrete empiricism which is the dominant paradigm in contemporary Western psychology.

Maslow’s theory of need hierarchy is to the effect that unless a man’s lower needs — like food and shelter, security and belongingness — are satisfied his higher needs for self-actualisation — like becoming an artist or scientist — will not be activated. It is to the credit of Maslow that he was aware of the Eastern tradition, which upheld ascetic discipline — that is, control of the lower needs — as the sine quo non for self-actualisation.

The fourth chapter is a presentation of Sri Aurobindo’s ideas on “the nature of Being and the process of transformation”. As the author observes, “Sri Aurobindo’s views of personality is a systematisation as well as elaboration of earlier Indian views on the subject based on his own Yogic explorations and experiences”. However, the relationship between the contents of this chapter and the earlier Indian views given in the second chapter is not properly highlighted. Despite the acknowledged difficulties of Sri Aurobindo’s stylistics Vrinte has succeeded in offering an acceptable topography of Being and an outline of the dynamics of its transformation in the corpus of his writings. The next chapter goes beyond the individual to the social dimension as it is treated by Sri Aurobindo and Maslow. It is presented in terms of ‘Sri Aurobindo’s Divine Humanity and His Vision of a Spiritual Society’ and Maslow’s “Transpersonal Humanism and Eupsychia’. Sri Aurobindo certainly made for a stronger bonding between man and society in his soteriology than has ever obtained in the orthodox Indian tradition. But in his primary emphasis on the individual as against the social unit Sri Aurobindo remained true to the Indian tradition.

‘Eupsychia’ is Maslow’s version of an ideal social order. Its distinct characteristic is ‘synergy’ — the resolution of the dichotomy between selfishness and altruism and, by implication, between the individual and society. Vrinte has rightly pointed out that unlike Sri Aurobindo, Maslow has not paid attention to the problem of accommodating individual differences — in the psychological sense of the phrase — within a framework of unity. Maslow’s lingering affiliation to the Western tradition is evident in his two-pronged approach to normative social change — simultaneously through individuals and institutions. Both ‘Eupsychia’ and the ‘Ashram’ are utopian but both dwell on non-materialistic, psychological processes unlike the earlier utopias. As Maslow explores the unfolding possibilities of ‘Eupsychia’ he reaches beyond basic human needs into the trans-human realm. Vrinte has duly highlighted the differences between the two thinkers in terms of the importance of the individual, the relation of the individual with society and their visions of the future of humanity.

The final chapter offers a critical estimate of the new dimensions in the concept of personality as it is seen by the two thinkers. Both of them, as Vrinte points out, ‘brought the depths of inner reality out of the exclusive sphere of religion, and stressed the need for its systematic investigation’. The outcome of systematic and penetrating scholarship, Vrinte’s book, would certainly interest other scholars in the East and in the West, but not the general reader. The author should have consulted books that are now available on rendering a scholarly thesis into a popular book before he committed this work to publication.

D. Raja Ganesan

Review by Professor R. S. Srivastava

Professor R. S. SRIVASTAVA
M.A. (Phil.), M.A. (Indian Phil. & Religion), D. Litt.
Ex-Head, Department of Philosophy
Ex-Dean, Faculty of Humanities
Ex-Chief Editor : Research Journal of Philosophy
Ranchi University, Ranchi (India)
President : Indian Philosophical Congress
President : Akhil Bharatiya Darshan Parishad
Date 7.5.1993
Ranchi 834001

by Joseph Vrinte

Joseph Vrinte’s monograph offers a very faithful exposition of Sri Aurobindo’s yoga psychology and Maslow’s humanistic psychology. The Eastern spiritual mystic and Western empirical psychologist diverge vastly in their levels of approach. For Sri Aurobindo man is rooted in the Divine and for Maslow in the human psyche. The treatise rightly shows that Maslow’s metaphysical assumptions do not go beyond the intellect and man’s transpersonal state is the extended form of mental consciousness. The eminent psychologist remains ever tied to the intellectual principle, which has no spiritual value.

Joseph Vrinte sincerely represents Maslow’s picture of transpersonal humanism, a society of high individuals having large collective ideals. The pursuit of man is to be the most perfect man in whom society aims at integration, and the destiny of mankind lies in the full actualisation of human potentials and formation of a eupsychian society.

Sri Aurobindo’s integral personality is the Gnostic personality. Joseph Vrinte differentiates between Maslow’s man as biological organism and Sri Aurobindo’s divine being. The Gnostic society of the divinised man transcends Maslow’s eupsychian society. The author shows that the future of man and society is to become superman and Gnostic society, whose roots lie in Sachchidananda.

Joseph Vrinte’s work is unique and surpasses all published books on the subject. The monograph is rich in content, lucid in expression, and charming in style. The monograph deserves all praise from the scholars who pursue their researches in the study of man.

R. S. Srivastava
Dt. 7.5.1993

Review by Arjun Misra

by Joseph Vrinte

I have carefully read the book “THE CONCEPT OF PERSONALITY IN SRI AUROBINDO’S INTEGRAL YOGA PSYCHOLOGY AND A. MASLOW’S HUMANISTIC / TRANSPERSONAL PSYCHOLOGY written by Joseph Vrinte. Though Sri Aurobindo and Maslow born and brought up in two different traditions have many ideas in common, the candidate has never failed to point-out these striking similarities in the views of the two great thinkers. Shri Vrinte knows it well that the views of the two writers are based on the two different types of experiences, Sri Aurobindo bases his Psychology on metaphysical background while Maslow has confined his views to western empirical approach. The author has very well recognised the fact that both these thinkers want to transcend the ordinary man but Maslow ends with man while Aurobindo tries to reach the divine. It makes Maslow a humanist but Sri Aurobindo can only be termed as spiritual humanist. In my view the book has novelty of approach, richness of comprehension and a balanced but critical attitude towards traditional standpoints. The book is a land-mark in the studies of personality from both Eastern and Western points of view. The author deserves congratulations for breaking the new ice in the studies of personality.

Arjun Misra
M.A., Ph.D., D.Litt.
Professor and Head of the Deptt. Of Philosophy (Retd.)
Dr. H. S. Gaur Vishwavidalaya SAGAR (M.P.) 470003 INDIA