Saturday, January 20, 2007

Aurobler? Wilbindian?

Political events have pulled me away from some of the deeper meditations I had begun with the Kosmic Addresses, p-m reference and so on.

I was talking to my lady last night. She was telling me about her experience at yoga that day. She was explaining how amazing she found it people discovered ways to contort the body, breathe into different parts of it, and isolate the minutest aspects of the body and done well, the positive effects that result.

Just taking physical yoga for a moment--the basic process is tighten/stretch and release. Both are equally important. The second the deep release is often forgotten, even in physical yoga alone, in Western societies, so hung up on achievement. Physical yoga "works" best when one stretches just beyond one's comfort zone but not much beyond that. Over-stretching avails nothing.

When we expand from physical yoga to the Indian Context of Yoga--there are Yogas for everything. Yogas of breath (raja), visualization, selfless love in the world (Karma), sexual-relational (tantra), Devotion to God (Bhakti), The Yoga of Inquiry-Enlightenment (Jnani), mental yogas, on and on.

All are based on this same principle: tighten/bring down/squeeze and release.

In emotional asanas, there is such an isolation of the feeling or the breath, its unwinding, uncoiling and then total release--all is as equally well from the Ground contracted or not.

Aurobindo then brought some profound insights: one the integration of all these yogas. Hence his term Integral Yoga.

Aurobindo's other key insight was that this integration of the yogas was not, as in traditional tantra to be a boddhisattva-only or simply to play with the lila of creation, but to bring down the Supermind.

Aurobindo, due to his Western education and influence, saw the need for Kosmic justice and transformation, something much better dealt with in the history of so-called Western monotheistic religions: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam (better termed Abrahamic---Jesus, Moses, and Muhammad were not exactly Westerners; they were Middle Easterners!!!).

He created lines of thought to make Education, Poetry, Humanistic Learning, Politics, etc. Yogas. I'm not going to comment on those, but for anyone interested go check it out.

The Supermind is the bridge for Aurobindo between the Ultimate Nature (Sacchiananda--Being, Consciousness, Bliss) and Creation. It is the "bringing down" of Brahman to the lowest plane, in his terminology, that of matter, thereby divinizing the material world. The concept of the divinization is itself very Biblical. See St.Paul's Letter to the Romans: All creation groans until the day of its release and revelation as the children of God.

Alan Kazlev has brought forth his own ideas of, what he calls, a Neo-Aurobindian Integral theory & practice. (Integral Esotericism). He often compares his theory (esoteric) with Wilberian integral, which he terms Exoteric--as a result Alan calls himself post-Wilberian. I recommend, no matter what one's position on all this, his writings. For example here.

Alan, however, shows no real understanding, far as I can tell of post-metaphysical "Wilberian" thought--so-called Wilber-5. What I'm going to explore, tentatively, is the interaction between post-metaphysics and Aurobindo and whether some new light could be shed from their interaction.

Before that, want to say no matter what the frame, everyone should read Aurobindo. Even if there are, as I think, elements that are now out of date, the gestalt of his writings is profound beyond belief and there is a "transmission", for lack of a better word that comes through them regardless of some of the interpretative issues I'll raise below.

To say off the start, Wilber himself comes from the tradition of Vedanta-Zen-Dzogchen-Adi Da which is, to my mind, of the non-Aurobindian variety. Aurobindo sourced himself in the line of the Vedas and Upanishads not the Advaita tradition of Shankara. That is, Wilber's spiritual writings on an evolutionary spirituality, talk about the union of Form and Formless in the more traditional Tantra-Boddhisattva model. Evolution is certainly Spirit-in-action in this thinking but there's still a tendency to pull back from the process itself. The status of creation to my mind is ambiguous. I'm not saying that as critique but more to clear the field.

My own heart, being of the Christian background, I think bends more to the Aurobindian way of being. Or as I would say Christic.

As in Jesus: "Take my yoke upon you, for my yoke is easy and my burden is light."

The Greek word translated as yoke is from the same root (Indo-European language family) as yoga (yug, yuk).

Hence Jesus: "Take my yoga upon you, for my yoga is easy and my burden light."

On the other hand, I fully agree with Wilber's post-metaphysical turn. What he sometimes calls the naturalistic turn. So when I say something like post-metaphysics transcends and includes metaphysics, and Aurobindo, as in this example, is part of the metaphysical strain, a couple of points need to be made clear off the bat.

One--the Supermind vastly transcends and includes integral. Colorized Supermind is ultraviolet, integral teal-turquoise-early indigo.

[Please remember colors are just references to worldspaces--to life, things happening, judgments that have to be made, obstacles to manuever--so we don't have these cliched tirades against the male-centered, uber-linear-ness of holarchical views. They are intelligences in people not of people. Everyone and everything from the Ultimate point of view is no higher or lower than anything else. Nobody ever said development at all costs--even within say AQAL, as just one variation, there are plenty of non-developmental components (states, types, quadrants). Those just words for themselves real live stuff happening. More than anything, such distinctions for me are just about locating beings and their views and loving them and seeing them and being with them. A point which never comes across in such criticisms of "Wilberian" integral, for my money].

HOWEVER, Two, Aurobindo's schema of the ladder of reality (matter, bio, life,....Ultimate) is pre-post metaphysical. It is strongly an individualist-experiential path (even if practiced in common by many individuals), which does not deal with the ways in which all truth-experience -perception is semiotic, intersubjectively molded.

When Aurobindo wrote and projected into the ultraviolet, the world was still mostly mired in blue-orange and only beginning to peak strongly into green. There was no real translation, filling out of the integral spheres (teal, turquoise, indigo). So you can't fault Sri A. for not being aware of how the stages would be developed. But there are definitely insights and facts/experiences available now in the Kosmos that did not exist during his life. And we can not have a teaching less than those, even if we still project a la the Supermind, beyond them. [Critique is only of the partial relative to new info./interpret. since emerged].

And for the record, I have read the entire The Life Divine, although it has been about 5 years. Last time I did such a constructive reframing/criticism of Aurobindo, I got a fundamentalist Aurobindian response, along the lines of: Aurobindo is the greatest seer, hence he was right about everything, hence your analysis is wrong. I expect to get more of the same this time around too. so be it.

Going back to states and stages, which is basically everything (as filtered through the intellect) in this context. There are horizontal state-stages, vertical stages, and also individuals who have pushed through the barrier into the as yet not strongly formed higher stages. But/and those individuals are still deeply shaped by their own contexts and the evolutionary point at which they arose.

So it just needs to be held in mind that Aurobindo in ways transcended integral (stage) and in other ways didn't--if you believe my argument anyway. It's part of the paradox of states/stages which as I've said elsewhere never ends.

The element of the post-metaphysical (naturalistic) turn is that every moment consists of consciousness-matter individual and collective (quadrants).

The Supermind existed, or at least qua post-metaphysics, it is not excluded as a possibility, in Aurobindo's experience. Where he went wrong, seems to me, which given where human thought was at is perfectly reasonable and understandable (this is no slight on the Master), is assuming that Supermind existed separate from his experience which was then to descend objectively on all beings in a pre-set manner.

A fascinating study, one I don't know enough about frankly, would be to chart the influences and his own interpretation of the Supermind--the whole notion of the experience as Supermind...I don't know what the word he used in his language meant, but the translation as Supermind (not say Superheart) is very interesting.

I know that the Supermind is the vehicle to bring the Absolute into the lowest realm. The Absolute for Aurobindo was Sacchiananda--Being, Consciousness, Bliss. But even that formulation is deeply entrenched in that tradition.

That Trinity, if you like, is similar though not necessarily the same as others:

Nirmanakaya, Sambhogakaya, Dharmakaya
Father, Son, and Spirit, called by one Church Father: Source, River, Ocean.
--The frame makes a difference in the actual felt experience itself not just as a latter add on.

Doesn't mean Sacc. is wrong, just limited. Perfect and complete from within its own parameters, as I say.

Moreover, how Aurobindo and the Mother's own backgrounds shaped the experience going in, another totally open field of inquiry seems to me, which only comes to awareness once we let go of a metaphysical notion. i.e. That the Supermind exists out there somewhere, located by these two seers, and then just to be practiced (through Integral Yoga) by all of us to be brought down into matter, conceived as the lowest level.

The issue that comes to my mind the with a post-metaphysical Aurobindo is how to do we talk about embodiment and bringing the Yoga "down" when matter is not the lowest level but the corresponding exterior to every depth? That means that matter is not, as Wilber says, the bottom step on the ladder, but the right-hand of every rung. It is a more embodied, historical view, which leaves open the mystery of experience and the future.

Are we bringing Spirit across then as opposed to down?

There is often talk about "locating" feelings, insights in the body--is there a way to recognize depth within the body? Depth to the exterior as Mark Edwards says.

To use Teilhard's old scheme brought up to date. There is phyiospheric matter (rocks, stars, minerals); biospheric matter (cells, animal forms); noospheric matter (triune brain structure); and theoretically I guess eventually to be psycheric matter (soul matter), whatever the h that might be.

I'm just opening up lanes that I hope others will build on.

What I do know is that a false dichtomy, as I see it, has arisen. An Integral Yoga with primary emphasis on divinization and the unwinding/surrender of the body, soul, mind, breath to the Lord can easily co-exist with a post-metaphysical interpretative structure. Hence not Aurobindo versus Wilber then decide who is right, better, who transcludes the other, and so on.

The post-metaphysics is more about "evangelism" if you like in this world. It does not assume there are not higher planes than we can know about through our bodies (gross, subtle, and casual ones btw). It just knows that even thinking about such a reality is already a perspective and there is no way to prove or disprove such statements, so they are better left open than to be argued for. Because putting such elements in, simply from a practical view, leaves spiritual practice and contemplation open to attack and denigration which is so rife in our world anyway, why give ammunition to the haters?


At 3:19 AM, Blogger Tusar N Mohapatra said...

Many thanks for this perceptive post for so rarely one encounter such sympathetic rumination over Sri Aurobindo these days. I hope, you'd carry this discourse forward in conjunction with Godwin, Alan, Anderson et al.

A small factual discrepancy, btw! The Absolute is not same as Sacchidananda for Sri Aurobindo. And that is fodder enough for your next post.

At 8:01 AM, Blogger CJ Smith said...


thanks for the comment. as I understand it, the Supermind is the vehicle for the bringing down of the Absolute to Divinize Matter. So they are not equatable as you say, but I see the Supermind as the mechanism for the descent of the Sacch. If I'm wrong on that, please correct me. thanks.


At 12:53 AM, Blogger Tusar N Mohapatra said...

If we translate the Absolute as Purushottama (i.e. Supreme Divine), then the hierarchy slides down through Paratpara (i.e. higher than the highest), Parabrahma, Brahma, Sat-Chit-Ananda, and Vigyana (i.e. Supermind) via Mind-Life-Body to Subconscient and Inconscient. Each of these stages is divine and it is only the question of progressive manifestation.

If you say, “the Supermind is the vehicle for the bringing down of the Absolute to Divinize Matter” one might construe that there was an original ‘lack’ in the Matter. But that is not the case in Sri Aurobindo’s unique Involution-Evolution cycle.

Divinization of Matter and Physical immortality are the last conceivable aims in the path of Integral Yoga. They need not be pushed as USPs as some people have done in the recent years through their books. A better course is to stick to Sri Aurobindo’s Manifesto of the Five Dreams. There we have enough room for collaboration and innovation.


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