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.