Tusar Nath Mohapatra

Archive for November 2009

Re: The Evolution of Discourse and The Lives of Sri Aurobindo

by Rick on Sun 07 Dec 2008 11:16 PM PST |  Profile |  Permanent Link
Rich and Debashish,

Yes, but there may be another way on this journey that is neither the “submission of the human will” in the Hegelian representation nor the hypertrophy of it in the Nietzschean zeitgeist. It is the approach of yet another German, Jean Gebser who by his own account may be supportive, complementary, corroborative and—I will add, supplementary—to Sri Aurobindo’s approach to evolution and spiritual transcendence past our current conditioning. His approach to languaging was different from Sri Aurobindo’s. Sri Aurobindo will use familiar words like “evolution” and “transcendence” (and even, “empire”) in a revolutionary way that subverts them always towards a radically transformative agenda and allows them to find their place in an utterly profound sense on a most massive canvas. We, however, when we are hypnotized by the convent-shun-all meaning of the words, may often fail to allow the conscious force behind and within his words to take us where could and will lead if we would. Gebser, on or as the other hand, is so conscious of the languaging he is forced often to invent new words, neologize in order not to be conventionally misunderstood. What Sri Aurobindo calls “synthesis” (as in “The Synthesis of Yoga”) Gebser calls “systasis” and “synairesis”—and in writing he comes from a systatic-synairetic condition much as Sri Aurobindo actually writes from the consciousness of the states he is describing. Gebser eschews the concept “evolution” in favor of “discontinuous transformation” towards a new “integral consciousness structure” that’s neither vertically “transcendent” in any usual sense nor the result of any mere image of a linear evolution—and directly equates this integral structure with the Supermind (Jean Gebser discovered “The Life Divine” and other works of Sri Aurobindo in German translations AFTER he had finished his first edition of “The Ever-Present Origin”). His use of “will” and “volition” is also highly original, as some of you may know. In fact I would wonder, since Rich (in “Integral Ideology”) and Ulrich (especially the latter) have written on Gebser, whether it might be useful or some anyway might find it interesting to attempt to view some aspects of this controversy surrounding the “The Lives of Sri Aurobindo” by Peter Heehs in a more Gebserian way that might allow us — if not to reconcile —at least to place some of the elements of this problem in a less polarizing manner that might more effectively express the wholeness of the total situation. If not an evolution of discourse, its discontinuous tranformation…


by Rick on Tue 09 Dec 2008 08:59 PM PST |  Profile |  Permanent Link

Rich: The nomenclature of Gebser and Aurobindo representational systems share similarities and differences. You highlight one seeming difference in that Gebser did not view evolution as progressive, since he defined progress as taking one further from Origin.

Additionally, I dont think Supermind squares with what Gebser calls the Integral Structure. Perhaps Origin would be more akin to Supermind but given that both phenomena exceed any attempt to represent them we still maybe comparing apples and oranges.

Rick: Not apples and oranges, Rich. Oranges and oranges. Gebser himself explicitly identifies (not represents) the “newly emergent consciousness” that Sri Aurobindo called the Supermind with the new consciousness structure (certainly not the “Origin” which is more like the Brahman or even Parabrahman) that Gebser did not represent but himself experienced in a “flashlike intuition” in the winter of 1932/33. Gebser stated he and Sri Aurobindo had “differing points of departure” (see “The Ever-Present Origin,” p. xxix) that did not preclude “the one exposition from not merely supporting and complementing, but also corroborating the others” (including here also Teilhard’s Omega Point). Moreover, when Gebser visited the Sri Aurobindo Ashram in (the ever-present) Puducherry in 1970, he wrote in his diary, and later talked about in a lecture that all his flashes of intuition and flights of the spiritual, all his important ideas, his entire oeuvre in fact, fell within the “force-field” (Gebser’s words) of the consciousness of Sri Aurobindo. This took place 20 years after Sri Aurobindo left his physical body. This is an amazing statement for a respected European intellectual of the very highest caliber to make, one whose erudition rivals Sri Aurobindo’s, and of whom Carl Jung counted himself friend and admirer! I for one take it very seriously. I have heard this from Wolfgang, formerly president of the AVI; from his former secretary; from a Brazilian (I think Aurovilian); and I read it in a published talk of the founder of a new school of interpretation of quantum physics, Ulrich Mohrhoff, an SCIY editor. Neither Sri Aurobindo nor Jean Gebser merely represented what they realized—they presented, and could do so because they were not only reaching for, but experiencing. They were both bringing the same Origin (dynamic Brahman) into the same Present through the power of the integral consciousness that they were both in their own way opening our way to. Gebser is generous in that he considers himself only someone within the force-field that is the consciousness of Sri Aurobindo. They wanted us all to experience the taste of the same fruit which because of certain archaic connotations that have fallen upon the apple, I much prefer to call an orange!

I also feel that if one digs deeply and is not hypnotized by mere words one may find that whereas Gebser did not like the term progress or progressive, the actual meaning of what he was presentiating falls in close harmony with Sri Aurobindo and Mother’s “ever-progressive manifestation.” Ditto with the word evolution.

Rich: The obvious framing of the problems with the Lives of Sri Aurobindo in Gebserian terms would be of the different ways mythic versus mental consciousness apprehend and depict a person whose inner life may best be referred to as Integral.

Rick: Not so obviously, I suppose, I suggest that both the attacks on “The Lives of Sri Aurobindo” and the defenses of the book (coupled with attacks on the attackers of the book) exist in a non-original realm of mythic polarity between a deficient magical structure and a deficient mental-rational structure finding no common ground and imparting precious little integrality. But this last statement of mine is too bald a comparison and leaves out most of the truth. None of us “is” any one consciousness structure (any more than any of us represents merely and only the mind or the vital or the physical or the psychic being—to compare apples with oranges)—all of these live in all of us and all our cultures, and it is a difficult task, but a real task of this new world that is born, born, born to try to present these. I do suggest, however, that the mental-rational structure, because it believes so strongly in its exclusive validity, is—when it becomes deficient—more fundamentalist that the archaic-magic-mythical structures that it so blithely attacks. I don’t have time for more now, but I do firmly and fondly believe that if there is some interest, a Gebser-inspired view of these matters could lead to a greater integrality.


by Rick on Sun 14 Dec 2008 04:51 PM PST |  Profile |  Permanent Link
The mental-rational tends to regard its structures as exclusively valid so much so that its deficient phase had led to exclusive faith in reason. All other conceptions and constructions must fall; only its structures remain. But this is no mere invective against the mind’s fundamentalism. Because if we come unstuck we may find something deeper that is something like the saving grace of the mind. Inherent in mind also is unquenchable aspiration to break out from its prison, to exceed itself. The most human drive in the human being is to exceed the limited, separative desire-driven machine that is far too much, and increasingly, the techno-human condition. We see this trans-humaning drive in Nietzsch, in many postmodernists as we see it in Sri Aurobindo. The instrument of aspiration within the mind is, at its origin, Will. Aspiration, the inner Vedic Sacrifice, living discriminating choice, self-concentration and self-consecration, the free surrender of a living being: all are aspects of will. Will, the transformative element, opens into infinite possibility. Perhaps this came into play in our human mental being with the advent of the Mental Purusha. But as Nolini points out in “Lines of the Descent of Consciousness” it is the soul, it is its mounting flame of aspiration, that called this mental purusha into the early human to be its psychic instrument. The psychic being of the human invoked the mental purusha to descend; this purusha collaborates with the central inner will to help form the unique human being—unique, because its very existence is a bridge and transition.

Discriminating will, says Nolini, is—much more than mere mechanical rationality—the very faculty that makes us human. The human is precisely the creature who comes to link this world we know with worlds of higher quality, intensity, value. In postmodern terms it is primarily Will that leads us into l’Avenir, the Future, opens into light of boundless potential, “millions of golden birds”—and is a potent agent in our self-deconstruction. Deconstruction is an alchemic process of dissolution and coagulation; or, in Integral Yoga, the separation (through the inner Purusha or inner being) of mind from life from body, layer from layer, so that the Mother’s Force can freely reintegrate, can fully reconstruct our nature and being into an interlinked,integrated instrument of a will that is no longer an only child but now is one with knowledge, love and action. We can open to, are invited to freely participate in this process of divine deconstruction. From the mind’s standpoint, there seems to be some kind of ladder, rungs of a hierarchy, an overly certain linearity, a progress and an evolution; from the standpoint of Origin, or Satchidananda, this is more like a growing intensity, an ever-spiral way, a discontinuous transformation or miraculous mutation—even, at highest pitch, a completely spontaneous, constant rebirth of the universe each moment with free and magnificent expression in “the very heart of fulfilled harmony.”

In my practice of Integral Yoga the guiding force has always been the Mystic Fire, Vedic Agni. I resonate to this ever-new statement of T. V. Kapali Shastry: “And yet this Agni who is so close to us and accessible to devout hearts is not different from the Sun of Truth. For in the last resort, the Rishi realizes him as the force of the Sun of Truth” (“The Initiate and the Mystic Fire”). Here Sastriji imparts the essential—the eventual—unity of the Agni, the Supermind, and the Mother’s Force, three that are one in the stream of the Integral Yoga. I believe Nietzsche and many of the postmodernists, too, could resonate to this if presented to them as a pure form of statement. This Agni is a universal power, yet differs so much from all other gods. Agni alone descends into, labors in the darkness-within-darkness, the Inconscient where the gods refuse to dwell. We, humans, bear a strong kinship with Agni for we are here in great part to illumine our porition of the Inconscient and so have each within us our own personal Agni that is the real worker of this work we freely have consented to. Agni, giving humanity and transhumanity to the human, grows through physical life and mind and beyond and is the Force of evolution, the Immortal in mortals, the earth-universal, the purifier who yet transforms all the other universal powers as necessary, as the intensification of the journey proceeds. All the “gods” are held within Agni as the spokes of the wheel within its nave. When given its fullest freest play Agni reveals itself always leading us on to more abundant operations of the Mother’s Force, and to the Supramental because Agni itself was always essentially supramental (only seemed to be involved in smoke and invoked from the ashes) linking us also to wisdom and to love. Opening to Agni if we are perfectly sincere, we are always protected from hubris because Agni is the most humble of the powers. As the divine builder of forms and the conscious integrator-force, Agni even forms then articulates the psychic being and is that power within the soul to integrate the nature around it and turn all towards—though not as yet into—the Divine and the origin. The soul, to be sure, has its more passive aspects, its urge toward release and escape and exclusive transcendence; and it is the efficient power of the Agni—the effective force ensouled, the Will in it and also presiding over it—that leads the soul with its nature in train into its greater intensities and deeper fulfillments. No transformation is possible without Agni. “It is the Mother’s Force that is in the Agni,” as Sri Aurobindo writes to young Nagen Doshi. It seems that all is like some magnificent train set, all those bells and whistles, set and ready to go, but it is the Mother that sets the train in motion and drives it down the tracks.

Amal wrote: “The psychic being in full blaze was the Mother’s secret of sadhana.” In the Agenda, vol. 2, page 176 and selected through 179, we hear her saying: “Yesterday, this ardor of the Flame was there—burning all to offer all….it wasn’t the god Agni, it was a STATE OF BEING. It was a state of the Supreme, and as such, it was intimate, clear, intense, vibrant and living….Simply, the aspiration must be constantly like this (gesture of a rising flame)….The rest doesn’t matter….The important thing is the Flame…it’s absolutely independent of all circumstances….The cells THEMSELVES aspire.”

To bring it on to ground-level, I’ll conclude with a passage from Amal Kiran where he writes on the real question that burns sometimes: Is there any true free will? Where might it lie for us, who still live so much in our surface state? (Ulrich Mohrhoff, one of the editors of SCIY, also deals with this—is there any “free” will for us, and how and where may it be found?—in “Particles, Consciousness and Volition…” in his journal AntiMatters from a quantum Vedantic perspective).

“When the multi-possible Purusha of us with its centre in the psychic being stands fully back, uninvolved in Prakriti and lord of it, though not united altogether with the Jivatman above, we have a clear realisation of some measure of authentic freewill, because that uninvolved and masterful Purusha, centrally psychic, is in rapport with the totally free Jivatman.” (Amal Kiran, “The Vision and Work of Sri Aurobindo,” p. 94-95,” essay “Free Will in Sri Aurobindo’s Vision.”)

This can move from the status of exclusively witnessing, on to the status of giver (or refuser) of the sanction—and from there to the status of knower and lord; on to the truly free exercise of will. And we may choose that which leads to the life divine, rather than what merely enmeshes us in the muck and mire of our own making. Amal continues:
“In our present state, obscure and weak and perverted, we are divorced from the wisdom and puissance and beauty that we are on our ultimate heights: we have not the absolute freedom of our own hidden Infinite, nor have we the potent prerogative of our own psychic depths; still, a dim vestige we do possess of what we have put behind and beyond us and part of the vestige is an ability to give to Prakriti’s fluctuations of inertia, vehemence and harmony a Yes or a No and gradually effect a passage from our human imperfection to a supernal splendour. NO FREEWILL OTHER THAN THIS BARE ABILITY IS OURS, BUT IT IS FREEWILL NONE THE LESS (caps mine). And at least a faint glimmer of freewill has indeed to be there in our surface existence if we are meant to be conscious co-operators in the work of rising from humanity to superhumanity and bringing into all our constituents what Sri Aurobindo terms the Supermind, the archetypal truth of all that we are in the evolutionary process.”

Rick Lipschutz

Tusar N. Mohapatra

Director, Savitri Era Learning Forum
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SELF posits a model of counselling and communicative action as an instrument in order to stimulate the public sphere. The model aims at supplementing the individual’s struggle for a successful social adjustment with more aspirational inputs so as to help one take an informed and balanced attitude towards life as well as society.
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