In the present work an attempt is made to compare some important ideas of Transpersonal psychotherapy with Sri Aurobindo’s integral Yoga with the intention to structure some of the material and to gain more insight into their respective views. Nevertheless, the subject is so wide that it is almost impossible to deal in detail with everything that falls within its scope, and this work is therefore not an exhaustive study of the whole movement of Transpersonal psychotherapy or of the complete works of integral Yoga psychology. It only attempts to explore some points of convergence as well as divergence between the two views without opposing both by an antagonistic versus.
In pursuing this purpose a preliminary warning may be in order; the reader has to understand Sri Aurobindo in the context of his vision and spiritual attainments, and this study does not attempt to reduce Sri Aurobindo’s psychology to the transpersonal standards and views. Throughout this work we are dealing with two different but often overlapping psychologies. Both views base their psychology on authentic experience, but Sri Aurobindo does not always present his intuitive vision in Western psychological language; he expresses his insights largely in the language of Indian metaphysics based on spiritual intuition, whereas the transpersonal intuitive reflections about the ultimate reality are more based on rational speculations.
This book is pre-eminently intended for all those seekers on the way who seek for unity in a divided art of healing. In the author’s personal search into the meaning of human existence, through an introspective process of replacing old boundaries and surveying new ones, he indicates and examines various pros and cons involved on the journey to inward continents and self-discovery. During this process the seeker is bound to find a bewilding set of ideas and techniques in the exploration of the various theories and procedures in psychotherapy and spiritual disciplines. The voyage to spiritual fulfilment through inner exploration of the unknown—in terms of predictability—does hardly create any guarantee of security, and this book does not offer an easy escape route but confronts the reader with the realities of the present human state, placing this state within the context of the transpersonal movement and the integral psychology as envisioned by Sri Aurobindo.
As the reader moves through the various systems of psychotherapy and integral sadhana he hopefully gains a wider understanding of the two views and a deeper curiosity and appreciation of the complexity of human nature.
Transpersonal psychology, in changing the contents of psychology, continues to smuggle the spiritual realm into the reductionistic-mechanical psychological realm, using the processes of the post modernistic worldview to prove its valid existence. All transpersonal psychologists struggle with the issues of mechanistic science in order to avoid rejection by the so called mainstream of Western civilization.
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 modem science in order to prove the validity of these phenomena which cannot be studied by empirical methodology alone.
Science for Sri Aurobindo is nothing else than a support for the mind, and extremely practical and useful in dealing with physical energies in the material world. But while these practical aspects of science are valid in their own field, they do not represent the whole truth of things. The scientist, finding out more and more about the processes of the physical field, may now be able to go forward to a more open repossession of mental and psychic knowledge.
Before arriving at supraphysical certitudes the seeker still has to adhere to the rigorous methods of science, though not to its purely physical instrumentation. This supraphysical has another method of verification than that of the physical; its inner method of verification by its very nature cannot be referred to the physical.
Science in its attempt to explain the supraphysical by the physical is limited by the usual vice of the scientist’s intellect. Only when the intellect surrenders itself to the Divine can it be a means of reception of the Light and an aid to the supraphysical experience.
The supraphysical is as real as the physical, in the latter the scientist is able to trace the processes of matter, whereas in the former the seeker is able to discover all that is behind the material surface, the Self, but also the spiritual way of knowledge and action. An integral solution requires the knowledge of both realms.
The preoccupation with physical existence is at the beginning necessary but it is only a preliminary step in the growth of his whole being. After the first necessary foundation in life and matter the seeker has to expand, deepen and widen his consciousness in order to penetrate into the essential nature of the individual and the universe, i.e., the Divine Reality. Spirituality does not cut at the root of science but lifts it out of its limitations and compels it to perceive the divine intelligence and will in the material universe. Such a science which turns its face towards the Divine must be a new science which deals directly with the forces of the life-world and the mind, so as to arrive at what is beyond Mind.
For Sri Aurobindo the real truth lies in the laws of the Spirit and only the Spiritual realm is of primary importance, all other realms are not equally valid; they are only means for the expression of the Spirit. In his spiritual insights he classifies science, religion, philosophy, psychology, etc, as secondary processes making them subservient to spirituality.
Transpersonal psychology, in rejuvenating the spiritual traditions of the West through a synthesis of Eastern and Western traditions and in maintaining true integration, should not merely accept the fundamental reality of the Spiritual realm, but in its investigations it should also establish a more solid spiritual foundation exploring the ultimate divine nature of man.
In exploring the ultimate divine nature of man Sri Aurobindo maintains that humanity is not the highest godhead, God is more than humanity, but in humanity too we have to find Him, i.e., to serve God’s ways upon earth and fulfill the Godhead in man.
Humanity is not satisfied with the analysis of the externalities of Nature and man’s unconquerable impulse directs him towards God. Man as a finite-seeming infinity is seeking after the Infinite and gradually becomes aware of God within him. The highest aim possible to man on earth is the discovery of the manifestation of the Divine within and without. God dwells in all, and only by becoming conscious of God within from within can humanity be saved; it is by helping others to awake to the veiled Divine within them that the sadhak goes the straight way to the creation of his Kingdom on earth.
For Sri Aurobindo modern society, whatever may be the splendour of its achievements, acknowledges only two gods; life and practical reason. The life-power in its manifestation appears to be concerned only with the physical good and vitalistic well-being of the individual and the community. Its primary impulse is individualistic and it makes social and national life a means for the greater satisfaction of the individual’s needs, interests, aggrandisement and well-being.
Science as a manifestation of practical reason aims at a cure of conflicts by carrying artificial remedies to their acme, by a more scientific organisation of life, which means that the logical reason attempts to substitute itself for complex Nature as if humanity can be saved by machinery.
The changes taking place in the present world are mostly intellectual, the spiritual revolution throws up its waves here and there, but until it comes, all interpretations of others and the prediction of man’s future cannot be understood.
Humanitarianism which confines itself to “man above everything else” is supposed to be the highest form of self-sacrifice man is capable of, but for Sri Aurobindo to appreciate the full dignity of man the sadhak has not to deify himself to the rank of God, but to see man as a vehicle of manifestation of the Divine. For Sri Aurobindo the highest good of humanity is conditional upon the fulfilment of the Divine Will in the world. However, Sri Aurobindo accepts human nature as the sadhaks who enter the practice of integral Yoga are after all human. The human approach at the beginning and long after is full of excellent material, but this material should be utilised with the right spiritual attitude. Divinisation of humanity does not mean the destruction of human elements, but raising them, by purification and perfection, to their full power and that means the elevation of the whole of earthly life to its full power.
The transpersonal psychologist insists on the Divine becoming human rather than attempting to make the human Divine. Sri Auro-bindo’s integral Yoga is not for the sake of humanity but for the sake of the Divine which includes the individual, the cosmic and the supracosmic.
Man’s highest ideal of human life is to establish the control of a strong mind, a rational will, to master the emotions and fulfil any human capacity which is useful in life. The object of the divine life, on the contrary, is to fulfil man’s divine capacities and fulfil them in life as a true instrument of the Divine Power. In their apparent nature the two are opposed but it is man’s aim in life to solve the difficulty of harmonising the divine life with human living. The Divine is already there immanent within the seeker and it is this reality that the sadhak has to manifest; it is that which constitutes the urge towards the divine living even in this material existence.
A divine life in a material world implies a necessary union of the spiritual summit and the material base. It is possible to change the human nature into the divine or to make it an instrument of the divine when there is a union with the supreme Being, and a unity with its universal Self in all things and beings i.e., a change in the total life of humanity or a perfect collective life in the earth nature. The human journey to the divine life is characterised by the abolition of the ego but it need not exclude earthly existence; “it will take up human being and human life, transform what can be transformed, spiritualise whatever can be spiritualised, cast its influence on the rest and effectuate either a radical or an uplifting change, bring about a deeper communion between the universal and the individual, invade the ideal with the spiritual truth of which it is a luminous shadow and help to uplift into or towards a greater and higher existence”.
Sri Aurobindo maintains that the ideal of a divine humanity cannot be brought to function by religious or moral sentiments but by transcending the furthest outskirts of the mental realm. It is almost impossible to achieve a harmonious adjustment of all conflicting claims by any mental principle, formula or sentiment.
An ethical solution is therefore insufficient to solve the problem of the universe and human suffering, as it has no power to transform nature. Altruism or humanitarianism are not the first true objects of spiritual seeking, they can only be a means towards finding the Divine, but in themselves they can only be temporary or local palliatives. To serve humanity is undoubtly a lofty ideal, a divine possibility which can be made a first means of the sadhak’s growth into a spiritual unity of being with being, but until the seeker realises the Divine he serves humanity as humanity, i.e., to serve one’s ego expanded to embrance the entire human species.
At best its method is to put a wall of a relative safety around the seeker.
The ethical approach has its relevance in ordinary life and in the beginning of sadhana, but later on it can only be the mark of transition, a deeper solution must be found in a surer supra-ethical dynamic principle. It is only through integral self-surrender to the Divine Will that unity and harmony can be achieved and established in the world.
For Sri Aurobindo a perfected human world cannot be created by men who are themselves imperfect.
To characterize common civilisation, culture, education, science, religion, social laws, etc, as ineffective means to change human life, because they have no power to transform human psychology and the human race, is certainly not accepted by Transpersonal psychologists.
Sri Aurobindo is aware of those critics who oppose such a rigid standard. Those who feel only the human and not divine values may argue that his truth is likely to destroy the very foundation of morality. But Sri Aurobindo maintains that at the human level the standard of conduct may be temporary yet necessary for its time, until it can be replaced by a better standard. For Sri Aurobindo human tendencies and human values, however noble and good, need a metaphysical justification.
But for the transpersonalist’s “wordly” or “human” form of spirituality such a view deprives man of all his significance. Qualities like sympathy, righteousness, solidarity, true love and compassion are necessary constituents in reaching the wealth of a complete life; they are not qualities “about” something and need not be sustained by social, moral or religious values. On the higher planes of man’s spirituality the most profound truths about these illuminative qualities resides in the depth of these qualities themselves. Descriptions of, or reflections on these unique qualities do not capture the deeper essence of them, and because many have never achieved these emotions in their deepest essence they confuse them with religious values, moral standards or social activities.
Interpreting the longings of these pure and natural human characteristics as inferior (a means only) to the ways of the Divine, subordinating the former to the supra-ethical dynamic principles, fails to imply the underlying identity between them.
The transpersonal psychologist grants these human excellences in the higher stages of contemplative development a legitimate life of their own; they are not merely temporary palliatives but often man’s only route to Godhead and can therefore never be dismissed as a mark of transition, or written off as ineffectual.
For Sri Aurobindo, these transpersonal views regarding the triumph of human’s aspirations in a full and new life are certainly meaningful, but they leave out the divine origin of these human potentials, and he moves beyond the transpersonal experiences to the source of them, i.e., to God.
Man is not a self-sufficient being but supported from within and above by the divine spiritual principle. These human qualities have ultimate value only in this wider spiritual context and cannot be seperated from God.
Transpersonal psychology, in its relation with natural science acknowledges mystical/spiritual experiences as symbols which indeed points to God, though the transpersonal psychologist remains searching for the absolute ground of everything exclusively in man rather than in the Divine.
The transpersonal exploration of the mystical dimensions of life and its preoccupation with man’s spiritual aspirations for a “human spirituality” seems therefore a highly valuable self-preparation towards Sri Aurobindo’s aim and destiny of human life, i.e., the evolution of a divine humanity through the mysterious “outflower-ing” of the Divine in man.
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 for a spiritual reality beyond the grasp of the pragmatic human intellect.