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Biographies > Sri Aurobindo, the Integral and Supramental Yoga:

"The Ultimate Construction project"

by Peter Holleran

   Sri Aurobindo (1872-1950) was an Indian patriot, philosopher and spiritual master. His written works encompass many areas, from the political and spiritual renaissance of modern India to the intricacies of yoga and the descent of what he called the "Supramental Consciousness”. This western-educated visionary and yogi attempted to create a synthesis of various yoga traditions and ideas of social and spiritual evolution. His work has parallels with the ground-breaking syncretism of Paul Brunton as well as the vision of contemporary non-dualist teachers in attempting to outline a spirituality that does not deny the world as traditional yoga and mysticism tended to do. His is, therefore, an important work in the history of spiritual philosophy, an analysis of which constitutes the purpose of this essay. Many thanks go to Alan Berkowitz and Don Maslow for critical input and editorial help.

   At the age of seven Sri Aurobindo's father sent him to England for schooling, where he was placed in the care of a Protestant minister and his family who were given strict instructions to keep him and his two brothers ignorant of their Indian background. He remained in England for fourteen years during which time he helped organize a group known as the Indian Majlis that advocated Indian independence. He returned to India in 1893 and became professor of Sanskrit and modern Indian languages in Baroda, and eventually Vice-President of Baroda College. In 1906 he moved to Calcutta where he became active in the independence movement in Bengal. He came to the realization early on, however, that the fate of the Indians was not the fault of the British, but of themselves:

   "Our actual enemy is not any force exterior to ourselves, but our own crying weaknesses, our cowardice, our purblind sentimentalism."

   In 1910 he left politics to work solely for the fulfillment of his vision of human unity through the spiritual development of the system he called "Integral Yoga". Aurobindo was critical of the popular interpretations of yoga and spirituality, and felt that they were incomplete, being based almost universally on a model of spiritual development that had the ascent of consciousness (or a radical separation of consciousness from the body) as its goal. To Aurobindo only a complete divinization of the body and world would fulfill the hidden meanings of the ancient Vedic wisdom, which he felt it was his mission to uncover for mankind.

   Aurobindo's spiritual adventure began in earnest after a meeting he had with a yogi named Vishnu Bhaskar Lele. The two spent three days together in a solitary room during which time Lele told him, "see the thoughts entering from the outside. Fling them back, do not let them enter." The result of this was that Aurobindo had a change of consciousness in which he experienced, in his own words, the "divine Silence". In 1933 he wrote a beautiful poem, "Nirvana", describing this state. In 1938 he wrote another called "Liberation". While using the term Nirvana, he later affirmed that this was only the beginning of his realization:

   "I had experience of Nirvana and Silence in Brahman long before I had any knowledge of the overhead spiritual planes." (2)

Whether this initial breakthrough was a realization of Nirvikalpa or Jnana Samadhi (two forms of absorptive, ego-less trance), or some type of Satori, is difficult to know. It sounds very much like what many sages describe as the inner Void where the "I" has temporarily disappeared. Again, this is poetry, not philosophy. What is certain is that Aurobindo later argued for a state or condition that was superior to the realization of the traditional mystical or yogic variety; he attested to the need for, not merely the ascent of consciousness and celestial union with the Divine, but the descent of Divine light, and a transformation of the body. Aurobindo, with his earlier confession, then, either de-emphasized what he called "Nirvana" and "knowledge of Brahman", placing more value on the eventual transformative process that he felt divinized the body-mind, or he was acknowledging the primacy of first achieving direct insight of the inner being (ie., the experience, in his case, of "silence in Brahman") before the possibilities of ascended yoga (i.e., "knowledge of the overhead spiritual planes"), and, as he proposed, the subsequent descent of the divine light into the earth plane. [Problematic at the outset is this idiosyncratic use of the word “Nirvana”, which has no correlation with the traditional meaning. This will be discussed further on]. It is fairly clear, however, from his poem, "The Inner Fields", that Sri Aurobindo believed in an emanationist philosophy similar to that of Plotinus and Sant Mat, in which there were reflections upon reflections of inner planes, with each higher realm more immediately expressing the beauty and divinity of the ultimate Reality.

   Aurobindo, nevertheless, criticized mystical ascension as incomplete, and argued for the necessity of what he called the "Supramental" transformation, which entailed the fulfillment of a simultaneous process of both ascent (of consciousness) and descent (of divine light). A detailed analysis and comparison of his teaching is required at this point, because at first glance it has parallels with that of other sages. There are, however, significant differences as well. Before I begin my comentary and analysis, here is a summary from the Sri Aurobindo Society on the differences between the vision of Sri Aurobindo and that of traditional yoga, and which also contains much useful advice. [One thing that becomes clear from this synopsis is that despite his integration of all traditional forms of yoga, for Aurobindo the path of Bhakti was the best way to invoke the Divine Shakti, which then creates and fulfills one's sadhana. He spoke of constant remembrance leading to Union, and also advised, for the jnana aspect, to always keep aware that one is not the body, vital, or the mind but an eternal, immortal entity that contains and at the same time transcends the universe. This sounds non-dual, except for the entity part. I may be nitpicking, but the idea or suggested idea that there is an 'entity' or a 'something' that achieves Union seem like the weak points in the philosophy, more of which will be discussed later. At the same time it is conceded that these may be only semantic difficulties in accurately communicating Sri Aurobindo’s thought. In Buddhism, however, the notion of an entity would generally be taken apart. For PB and Plotinus, however, there is no difficulty in positting a transcendental Divine Soul that paradoxically knows its individuality from within the Absolute or Universal Soul or being, a point as it were within the World Mind, where a “sutra-atma” would still be philosophically acceptable within a non-dual context].

   The Integral Yoga of Sri Aurobindo (which he also referred to as synthetic, Supramental, or purna yoga) advocated a total transformation: physical, vital, mental, and spiritual. In the big picture which he envisioned, moreover, this transformation was for the purpose of not merely individual, but cosmic, salvation. The liberation of the individual was, for Aurobindo, an illusion; what was required was the divinization of the totality of the cosmos, and to literally bring the Kingdom of God on earth. Liberation of the spirit from the cycle of birth and death was not sufficient for the perfection of man's spiritual realization, he felt; rather, the very cells of the body must be brought into contact with the divine light. The rare phenomenon of the divine body (jyotir maya deha - "radiant or luminous body") was to be the goal of all yogic endeavor. Until that was achieved, said Aurobindo, realization was not perfect.

   At the outset it may be stated that to even discuss this material is now difficult, because both Aurobindo and his companion, the Mother, are gone. So much in his teaching sounds similar to what is described in other teachings, yet also different , and any argument one puts forth may run into a wall of semantic difficulty. For instance, saying that the cells of the body must be brought into contact with the divine light may be taken as presuming that they are not already in such contact, and further, that there exists a “someone” who must do this or achieve it, and finally, that the divine light must literally “come down”. Ramana Maharshi denied all of these assertions. He seemed to subtly poke fun at yogis, for instance, who talked of “nectar dripping down” from the sahasrar. Compared to realization of the Self he felt that was of no value. The teachings of mentalism of PB and Atmananda for the most part denied it, if not as possible, as not necessary. For a sage like Atmananda, for instance, “liberation is not merely going beyond birth and death, but rather, going beyond the delusion of birth and death.” (from Spiritual Discourses) Therefore he would see no need to attempt to transform the cells of the body, to create a divine body, or have the body dematerialize into light - although all these things are possible and have in fact been reported in the yogic literature, and may even be part of man's evolutionary future. On the other hand (and there always seems like an “on the other hand”, doesn’t there?) PB spoke of preparatory practices as necessary for the influx of a higher power into the body:

   “Another reason for the need of the Long Path's preparatory work is that the mind, nerves, emotions, and body of the man shall be gradually made capable of sustaining the influx of the Solar force, or Spirit-Energy." (3)

   And he further asks:

   "Most Short Path teachings lack a cosmogony. They evade the fact that God is, and must be, present on the plane of manifestation and expressing through the entire universe. Why?" (4)

   In the Neo-Platonic tradition, moreover, philosophers such as Iamblicus expressed a tremendous concern with theurgy - practices to bring about a divine descent of the Gods onto earth - using rituals to make a certain kind of influence descend. In the modern sense these ‘rituals’ may be as simple as petitionary prayer, or invocation, and meditation. So why, we must ask, could there not be a further spiritualization of the body, and endless ‘spiral’ of spiritual evolution within the manifest play even after enlightenment, as PB himself once proposed? Such would not be incompatible with a non-dual position. This form of naive criticism only comes in, it will be suggested, when it is assumed that the higher stages, such as proposed by Aurobindo, are stages achieved or fulfilled by the ego, and not the Soul. It must be noted, moreover, that even some non-dual teachers have described a post-awakening cellular transformation similar to that mentioned by Sri Aurobindo. Even an apparently “other-worldly” path such as Sant Mat uses such language at times and speaks of the Divine permeating every pore of one’s body. Sant Kirpal Singh said:

   “The consciousness is first tuned inward so as to contact the Inner Sound Principle, and then as it comes down saturated in the divine it is turned without, converting the preparation into an Amrit. It is only a competent Master (a true Khalsa with full refulgent light in him) who can, by his glance of grace, prepare the Amrit, and whoever partakes of It becomes truly intuned.” (5)

   Papaji describes his realization in terms of both a bodly transformation as well as an awakening from a dream.

   Perhaps the system of Sri Aurobindo was not metaphysically airtight, but in as much as he was attempting to subjectively describe a process that was often bypassed or ignored in popular yoga, leading to something like sahaj, wherein the world is not denied or negated, then much of what he said will have clear value. Let us see, however, if we can break it down for our better understanding.

   There are three main stages, a "Triple transformation", in the progression of the Integral Yoga: the Psychic, the Spiritual, and the Supramental. Psychicization "joins the depth of the being with the surface". The Psychic Being, according to Aurobindo, resides behind the heart and must be brought forward in order for the divine force to be enabled to descend and progressively liberate the head, the heart, and the navel.

   Right here it seems that he is saying that “bringing forward the psychic being which lies behind the heart” does not in itself “liberate” the heart, mind, or navel, but somehow produces an equanimitous condition which itself is conducive to the descent of the divine force which will then affect such liberation. This seems to mean a relative yogic purification and not to be confused with final liberation or enlightenment as spoken of in the scriptures. That is, there are stages of evolution on the way to enlightenment, if you will, that must not be confused with ultimate or final enlightenment itself but are preparation for it. I realize that some contemporary non-duals will scream at me for saying that. So be it. I am simply presenting a doctrine and my interpretaton could be wrong. Sri Aurobindo appears to be saying, however, that there is a point in one’s path where the Soul, or higher part of the Soul, to use the terminology of the ancients, which Sri Aurobindo calls the “Psychic Being”, begins to guide one onwards.

   The Psychic Being is the highest part of the emotional being, the 'deputy' of the Jivatman (which he said resides above the head), the 'flame born out of the divine', the 'concealed Witness and Control', and the 'hidden guide'. Through self-surrender to the divine by mind, heart, and will the Psychic Being will open, and the surface ego-consciousness will be replaced with the self-consciousness of the Psychic. The opening of the Psychic Being brings "not knowledge but an essential or spiritual feeling - it has the clearest sense of Truth and a sort of inherent perception of it." To Aurobindo this stage of bringing forward of the Psychic is a most crucial one for on it rests the entire process that follows. He also considers the Psychic Being an "indestructible spark of the divine", and that by which we exist as individual beings in the world. The transformation of the Psychic is essentially an emotional transformation. To me this seems to be saying that the ‘King within’, the Divine Soul, takes a hand in the work of liberation when the jiva or ego-self is truly serious. The emanent of the Soul, its lower part, to use Plotinus’ term, must try as hard as it can, make all necessary efforts, before the ‘Higher Will’, as Anthony Damiani put it, ‘comes down’ to complete the work. This implies more advanced stages to come after the process of heart-awakening and spiritual glimpses begins during Psychicisation. These develop on the basis of a heart-surrendered ego-I, and are not therefore personal attainments by a willful separate self, but processes of evolution guided by the Soul and the Nous. This may be something, therefore, that “Short Path” advocates and radical advaitists may dismiss since it is not in their experience. But that does not mean that it is not real. While I do not necessarily fully agree with it, the Kheper website offers an interpretation of Psychicisation that is worth considering. Among other things, he equates the Psychic Being with the "Immortal Ego" of Theosophy, "higher manas", and other terms in various traditions.

   While "Psychicization means the joining of the depths of the being to the surface, "Spiritualization" means the uniting of the manifested existence with what is above it." (6) Once Psychicization is achieved, a process of ascent of consciousness is initiated, with an accompanying or simultaneous descent of divine light.

   This entire process, once again, can be considered one in which the Soul comes forth to guide and watch over the aspirant. Aurobindo said [the following excerpt is passage is long but worth reading]:

   “A the crust of the outer nature cracks, as the walls of inner separation break down, the inner light gets through, the inner fire burns in the heart, the substance of the nature and the stuff of consciousness refine to a greater subtlety and purity, and the deeper psychic experiences, those which are not solely of an inner mental or inner vital character, become possible in this subtler, purer, finer substance; the soul begins to unveil itself, the psychic personality reaches its full stature. The soul, the psychic entity, then manifests itself as the central being which upholds mind and life and body and supports all the other powers and functions of the Spirit; it takes up its greater function as the guide and ruler of the nature [note: Anthony Damiani's reference to the “King within”] . A guidance, a governance begins from within which exposes every movement of the light of Truth, repels what is false, obscure, opposed to the divine realisation, every region of the being, every nook and corner of it, every movement, formation, direction, propensity, desire, habit of the conscious or subconscious physical, even the most concealed, camouflaged, mute, recondite, is lighted up with the unerring psychic light, their confusions dissipated, their tangles disentangled, their obscurities, deceptions, self-deceptions precisely modulated in the psychic key, put in spiritual order. This process may be rapid or tardy according to the amount of obscurity and resistance still left in the nature, but it goes on unfalteringly so long as it is not complete. As a final result the whole conscious being is made perfectly apt for spiritual experience of every kind, turned towards spiritual truth of thought, feeling, sense, action, tuned to the right responses, delivered from darkness and stubborness of the tamasic inertia, the turbidities and trubulences of the rajasic passion and restless unharmonised kinetism, the enlightened rigidities and sattwic limitations or poised balancements of constructed equilibrium which are the character of ignorance.

   This is the first result, but the second is a free inflow of all kinds of spiritual experience, experience of the Self, experience of Ishwara and the Divine Shakti, experience of cosmic consciousness, a direct touch with cosmic forces and with the occult movements of universal Nature, a psychic sympathy and unity and inner communication and interchanges of all kinds with other beings and with nature, illumination of the mind by knowledge, illumination of the heart by love and devotion and spiritual joy and ecstasy, illuminations of the sense and the body by higher expereince, illuminations of dynamic action in the truth and largeness of a purified mind and heart and soul, the certitudes of divine light and guidance, the joy and power of the divine force working in the will and the conduct...

   But all this change and all this experience, though psychic and spiritual in essence and character, would still be, in its parts of life-effectuation, on the mental,vital and physical level; its dynamic spiritual outcome would be a flowering of the soul in mind and life and body, but in act and form it would be circumscribed within the limitations - however enlarged, uplifted and rarified - of an inferior instrumentation. It would be a reflected and modified manifestation of things whose full reality, intensity, largeness, oneness and diversity of truth and power and delight are above us, above mind and therefore above any perfection, within mind’s own formula, of the foundations or superstructure of our present nature. A highest spiritual transformation must intervene on the psychic or psycho-spiritual change; the psychic movement inward to the inner being, the Self or Divinity within us, must be completed by an opening upward toward a supreme spiritual status or a higher existence. This can be done by our opening into what is above us, by an essent of consciousness into the ranges of overmind and supramental nature in which the sense of self and spirit is ever unveiled and permanent and in which the self-luminous instrumentation of the self and spirit is not restricted or divided as in our mind-nature, life-nature, body-nature. This also the psychic change makes possible for as it opens us to the cosmic consciousness now hidden from us by many walls of limited individuality, so also it opens us to what is now superconscient to our normality because it is hidden from us by the strong, hard and bright lid of mind, - mind constricting, dividing and separative. The lid thins, is slit, breaks asunder or opens and disappears under the pressure of the psycho-spiritual change and the natural urge of the new spiritualised consciousness towards that of which it is an expression here...

   If the the rift in the lid of mind is made, what happens is an opening of vision to something above us or rising up towards it or a descent of its powers into our being. What we see by the opening of the vision is an Infinity above us, an eternal Presence or an infinite Existence, an infinity of consciousness, an infinity of bliss, - a boundless Self, a boundless Light, a boundless Power, a boundless Ecstasy...

   [The spiritual transformation] achieves itself and culminates in an upward ascent often repeated by which consciousness fixes itself on a higher plane and from there sees and governs the mind, life and body; it achieves itself also in an increasing descent of the powers of the higher consciousness and knowledge which become more and more the whole normal consciousness and knowledge. A light and power, a knowledge and force are felt which first take possession of the mind and remould it, afterwards of the life part and remould that, finally of the physical conscousness and leave it no longer little but wide and plastic and even infinite. For this new consciousness has itself the nature of infinity: it brings to us the abiding spiritual sense and awareness of the infinite and eternal with a great largeness of the nature and a breaking down of its limitations; immortality becomes no longer a belief or an experience but a normal self-awareness; the close presence of the Divine Being, his rule of this world and of our self and natural members, his force working in us and everywhere, the peace of the infinite, the joy of the infinite are now concrete and constant in the being; in all sights and forms one sees the Eternal, the Reality, in all sounds one ears it, in all touch one feels it; there is nothing else but its forms and personalities and manifestations; the joy or adoration of the heart, the embrace of all existence, the unity of the spirit are abiding realities. the consciousness of the mental creature is turning or has been already turned wholly into the consciousness of the spiritual being.”
(LD 941-947)

   So far, so good. Aurobindo, then makes the argument, however, that only now can the supramental transformation begin, something that must happen, on earth, and for man’s furher spiritual evolution to complete itself:

   “Neither life or mind succeeds in converting or perfecting the material existence, because they cannot attain to their own full force in these conditions; they need to call in a higher power to liberate and fulfill them. But the higher spiritual-mental powers also undergo the same disability when they descend into life and matter; they can do much more, achieve much luminous change, but the modification, the limitation, the disparity between the consciousness that comes in and the force of effectuation that it can mentalise and materialise, are constantly there and the result is a diminished creation. The change made is often extraordinary, there is even something which looks like a total conversion and reversal of the state of consciousness and an uplifting of its movements, but it is not dynamically absolute.

   Only the supermind can thus descend without losing its full power of action; for its action is always intrinsic and automatic, its will and knowledge identical and the result commensurate; its nature is a self-achieving Truth-consciousness and, if it limits itself or its working, it is by choice and intention, not by compulsion; in the limits it chooses its action and the results of its action are harmonious and inevitable...As the psychic change has to call in the spiritual to complete it, so the first spiritual change has to call in the supramental transformation to complete it. For all these steps forward are, like those before them, transitional; the whole radical change in the evolution from a basis of ignorance to a basis of Knowledge can only come by the intervention of the supramental Power and its direct action in earth-existence.”
(LD 950-951)

   Before going further, it must again be emphasized how important this issue of Psychicizaton is to all that comes after it in the Integral Yoga. Ascent into the suble planes without the grounding in this higher feeling nature, and moreover, as Aurobindo said, “surrender of the heart, mind, and will” which induces the bringing forth of the Psychic nature, one will run into trouble ascending into the overhead subtle planes, which he terms The Intermediate Zone. Alan Kazlev, in his article The Wilberian Paradigm A Fourfold Critique: Towards a Larger Definition of the Integral, Part Two, found in the Journal Antimatters, published quarterly by Sri Aurobindo International Centre of Education, Podicherry, India, discusses these concepts and argues that without the development and purification brought about by the Psychic Being one can end up with a diluted form of spirituality in which a teacher, “while possessing a greater or lesser degree of non-dual realisation, even total self-realisation on the mental or consciousness level, [one] nevertheless retain ego, and can often have a destructive and abusive effect on their disciples and devotees. To understand how this can be so, we need to look at the Intermediate Zone. The Intermediate zone, in Sri Aurobindo's philosophy, refers to a dangerous and misleading transitional spiritual and pseudospiritual region between the ordinary consciousness of the outer being and true spiritual realisation.” To quote the master of Integral Yoga:

   "These things, when they pour down or come in, present themselves with a great force, a vivid sense of inspiration or illumination, much sensation of light and joy, an impression of widening and power. The sadhak feels himself freed from the normal limits, projected into a wonderful new world of experience, filled and enlarged and exalted;what comes associates itself, besides, with his aspirations, ambitions, notions of spiritual fulfilment and yogic siddhi; it is represented even as itself that realisation and fulfilment. Very easily he is carried away by the splendour and the rush, and thinks that he has realised more than he has truly done, something final or at least something sovereignly true. At this stage the necessary knowledge and experience are usually lacking which would tell him that this is only a very uncertain and mixed beginning; he may not realise at once that he is still in the cosmic Ignorance, not in the cosmic Truth, much less in the Transcendental Truth, and that whatever formative or dynamic idea-truths may have come down into him are partial only and yet further diminished by their presentation to him by a still mixed consciousness. He may fail to realise also that if he rushes to apply what he is realising or receiving as if it were something definitive, he may either fall into confusion and error or else get shut up in some partial formation in which there may be an element of spiritual Truth but it is likely to be outweighted by more dubious mental and vital accretions that deform it altogether." (7)

   Sri Aurobindo suggests that the awakening of the Soul or Divine Center (the "Psychic Entity"), is an understanding that is absent or not acknowledged in many non-dual paradigms. He explains:

   "The other parts of our natural composition are not only mutable but perishable; but the psychic entity in us persists and is fundamentally the same always: it contains all essential possibilities of our manifestation but is not constituted by them; it is not limited by what it manifests, not contained by the incomplete forms of the manifestation, not tarnished by the imperfections and impurities, the defects and depravations of the surface being. It is an ever-pure flame of the divinity in things and nothing that comes to it, nothing that enters into our experience can pollute its purity or extinguish the flame. This spiritual stuff is immaculate and luminous and, because it is perfectly luminous, it is immediately, intimately, directly aware of truth of being and truth of nature; it is deeply conscious of truth and good and beauty because truth and good and beauty are akin to its own native character, forms of something that is inherent in its own substance. It is aware also of all that contradicts these things, of all that deviates from its own native character, of falsehood and evil and the ugly and the unseemly; but it does not become these things nor is it touched or changed by these opposites of itself which so powerfully affect its outer instrumentation of mind, life and body. For the soul, the permanent being in us, puts forth and uses mind, life and body as its instruments, undergoes the envelopment of their conditions, but it is other and greater than its members." (8)

   One practical result of not having alchemized or extracted the Psychic Being from the physical body is the lack of an essential center upon which the disparate 'parts' of ones physical, vital, and mental being can attach themselves. This accounts for, once the anchor of the body is dispersed, the inability to control or understand one's experiences during sleep or after death. Thus the traditional two-part process of inner concentration, followed by an omnipresent realization, is validated. The Psychic Being is not the highest realization, but, for Aurobindo, essential for further growth. Without its center one will have virtually no chance of merging with the Clear Light after death, exploring its depths, or, in contemporary terms, realizing a true non-duality. However, the Integral Yoga, and then the 'Supramental Yoga' goes much further than this. Having realized one's divine essential nature as soul, one then expands to realize the universal 'central being', the Solar Sun to which the soul is but a flame - or cosmic or universal consciousness - as well as the Transcendant (what Aurobindo called 'Nirvana', or akin to Nirguna Brahman or perhaps Nirvikalpa samadhi). Not stopping here, which he termed a 'divine impotence', in that the lower nature remained untransformed, a process of the Supramental begins, where one experiences a simultaneous ascent in the planes of the mind, as well as a descent of the awakened consciousness-force, until an entirely new kind of consciousness appears, which Aurobindo called the Supramental. It is not higher consciousness, but other. It is Truth consciousness, aware of all points of view and the essence within each point of view, including that of 'oneness' or cosmic harmony, which he called a 'division in unity', but yet the spiritual summit of human endeavor until now. This 'overmind' consciousness saw a oneness, but a oneness from its own point of view. The Supramental, on the other hand, recognizes the Infinite manifesting as all forms and beings, but also the Infinite Potentiality of each individual being seeking its own Absolute. Thus, it is a dynamic and not static reality.

   Aurobindo thought that the ancient rishis as well as Mystery schools were aware of this secret unity, this true oneness, but that as religions developed they created a split of spirit and matter,a split that mirrored a necessary separation created by the evolution of spirit embodied in matter. This new consciousness, said Aurobindo, was inclusive of the body, world, individual, mind, and soul. Spirit and Matter, Purusha and Prakriti, are known as one; nay, for Aurobindo, they become melded into one (this is a distinguishing point of which we will have something to say later). The sage himself experienced all these states (Immanence, Universality, Transcendance) in full consciousness, but without the loss of the individual, which he was insistent was the product of a long evolution and not to be annihilated or lost, and without the other realizations lacked meaning, and moreover were somewhat incomplete and incapable of making a fundamental difference from an evolutionary point of view. Aurobindo felt that man would one day realize the Light hidden in the heart of Matter, after, through his descent, reaching the 'bedrock' of man's evolutionary Inconscient roots, which are characterized by the very forces of death and dissolution, which at their root issue a great "No" to existence or life. He interpreted the Vedic rishis as referring to this as the 'infinite rock'. For him, the Supramental is not a more ethereal consciousness than the highest plane of the mind - which he termed the 'overmind', where one sees the same light in himself and all creation and all beings - but actually a more 'dense' and solid consciousness, the very Power that creates Matter. This "No" has a similarity to the concept of a Freudian death wish, a desire for the process of life and consciousness to come to an end, or a refusal of life that many seekers carry into their spiritual quest. As such Auobindo was prescient in where man's quest would lead.

   To reach this primal stage where true freedom lies one must first descend through the layers of one's Subconscient vital and mental being, which are a pit of vipers in themselves. While a new idea in Sri Aurobindo's time, this is not uncommon in depth psychologies today, as well as a few spiritual schools. For Aurobindo, the spontaneous movement of the awakened consciousness-force in a descending manner was only proportionate to one's capacity for ascent. In other words, the darkness could only be encountered with a prior influx of light. In this respect he was different from psychology, which opened up the 'slime' at the risk of inner disintegration. This formidable passage through one's shadow material, as described by Aurobindo, was presaged by persons such as St. John of the Cross, whose 'dark night of the soul' spoke towards a similar passage. The major difference, said Aurobindo, was that such a mystic had only to go through this death-in-life once, and then would enjoy a higher freedom from the constraints of life itself, which is the common view of realization in all traditional schools. For Aurobindo, true freedom lay not in escape or getting out of life, but in not getting out of it, or perhaps, getting out without getting out'. Evolution had a purpose, life was not just a meaningless play or lila of the divine, or a mad stage where we suffered for some unknown original sin, or a blind fall into ignorance on the part of God. All is one, the high and the low are of one piece. One was led to a realization where he could say,

   "An exultation in the depths of sleep, a heart of bliss within a world of pain." (Savitri, p. 192)

   One could say this was a redemption of the earth and matter, and for Aurobindo man's future did in fact herald what scripture spoke of as a 'new Earth wherein the truth shall dwell' (II Peter III), in which the old dualities of spirit and matter did not rule man's sensibilities and understanding.

   But, for now we are getting ahead of ourselves.

   Kazlev summarizes that the stage of Psychic realization ”is not the Paramatman, not Shunyata, not any Transcendent Absolute Reality. It is the Inner Divine center, although it is often – due to the lack of spiritual development in many – veiled and hidden from the surface personality and ordinary consciousness. One can find analogies in other spiritual teachings; the Inner Guide or "Man of Light" in some Hermetic and Sufi beliefs, some interpretations of the Neshamah or higher Soul in Kabbalah, the Higher Manas in Blavatskyan Theosophy (and equivalents in Neo-Theosophy), the "Holy Guardian Angel" in contemporary occultism, the, to some extent, "good heart" in the 14th Dalai Lama's teachings.”

   The ‘Psychic Entity' of Sri Aurobindo might be compared with a term of master Daskalos, who used the words, ‘Permanent Personality’. According to a colleague of mine:

   “This refers to the aspect of the soul or higher self which is its 'shakti' or active expression, entering into greater involvement with the temporary personality (the mental/emotional/physical self), and participating in guiding the incarnated personality acting as the 'voice' of conscience, orchestrating experiences, influencing the working out of karma, and seeking to train and awaken the personality. The permanent personality works in conscious cooperation with the Archangels of the elements that create and maintain our bodies and oversee the working out of karma. Yet the permanent personality is also illuminated by the deeper aspects of the soul of which it is an expression or agent, this deeper aspect remaining in a state of greater nondual illumination, so that the permanent personality acts as an 'agent' of Christ-consciousness."

   “In the Sanskrit terminology of Vedanta, the permanent personality can be understood as a combination of the vijnana-maya-kosa (the higher mental 'discrimination' body) and the ananda-maya-kosa (the higher buddhi or intuitive body). This means that the intuitive soul or higher self of each person, when engaged in the worlds of separation and working through the illumined higher mind, takes the form we might call the 'permanent personality'. Likewise, in another set of terminology from the Sanskrit traditions, the permanent personality may be understood as a union of the buddhi (pure soul intuition) and higher manas (the discriminating, rational intellect). The self or level of consciousness that is formed of this union is sometimes called buddhi-manas, which is synonymous with 'permanent personality'. It is the part of the mind that is an expression of the soul. When manas or mind is linked to desire and the emotional body, it is called kama-manas or the heart of the temporary personality or lower self.”

   “The 'permanent personality' is, of course, a relative term, as there is nothing ultimately permanent in human nature except our nondual essence or Buddha-nature. The permanent personality accumulates relative wisdom and other virtues over numerous incarnations and maintains continuity of awareness throughout all our lives, including the phases of experience in between. It is concerned with harvesting the fruits of each incarnation and integrating these into the realization of the inner being. When it has succeeded in unifying the outer or temporary personality with itself, it then surrenders its will and consciousness to the soul or atman that has always remained in a state of nondual presence or 'sahaja samadhi'. At this time the refined discriminating wisdom and spiritual intentionality of the permanent personality is deeply liberated into Self-realization.”

   “The presence of the permanent personality is very subtle in our experience, speaking in a 'still, small voice', and is contacted in the quiet, spacious levels of our awareness, being essentially a union of our intuitive and higher mental nature.”

   PB hinted at this, perhaps, in the following passage:

   “Freed at last from this ever-whirling wheel of birth and death to which he was tied by his own desire-nature, what happens to him can only be an opening up to a new better and indescribable state, and it is so. He as he was vanishes, not into complete annihilation and certainly not into the heaven of a perpetuated ego, but into a higher kind of life shrouded in mystery.” (8a)

   It is also possible that PB meant something higher, like Atman, with this comment.

   A.E. Powell, who wrote The Etheric Double, The Astral Body, The Mental Body, and The Causal Body, a series based upon the theosophical writings of Annie Besant and Leadbeater, and by association Madame Blavatsky, said this:

   "The heart is the centre in the body for the higher triad, Atma-Buddhi-Manas, so that when the consciousness is centered in the heart, during meditation, it is most susceptible to the influence of the higher self or Ego [i.e., the "higher triad"]. The head is the seat of the psycho-intellectual man: it has various functions in seven cavities, including the pituitary body and the pineal gland. he who in concentration can take his consciousness from the brain to the heart should be able to unite kama-manas to the higher manas, through the lower manas, which, when pure and free from kama, is the antahkarana (the "inner organ"; the link between the personality and the higher self). Then he will be in a position to catch some of the promptings of the higher triad." (8b)

   To say this slightly differently, in the general post Blavatsky 'neo'-theosophical schema, the 'Monad' or pure life essence emanates from beyond all seven planes. When this spirit passes through the archtype of the Human Idea (a term of Daskalos as well as PB), it individualizes, or becomes self-conscious. This individualized being has three aspects - atma-buddhi-manas. The atman is the part that stays closest to the monadic essence and retains a growing nondual realization, yet individualized. The buddhi is spiritual intuition, and the higher manas is the aspect of this being that can participate in and guide the incarnation. For Alice Bailey, this threefold being is the soul or higher self. When master Daskalos talked of this presence and emphasized its higher aspect beyond the bodies (atman) he called it the soul, and said it was on the first of the 'causal planes' of nondual consciousness. Below that it had bodies, and when talking of the aspect of nature of this being to 'look downward' at the incarnate personality, it was the 'permanent personality'. The permanent personality, then, was the part of the higher self that participated in time/space/incarnation, and acted as a source of inner wisdom and guidance, though often unrecognized, for the personality. In Aurobindo's system, the psychic entity may be equivalent to the permanent personality, whereas the Supermind, for instance, might be more like traditional Atman or Soul. There are inherent problems in comparing these systems, but it seems worth the effort.

   In Integral Yoga, in any case, "Psychicization" is when the Divine Center or Heart Consciousness comes to the front and leads the being, transforming and guiding the lower nature as it goes. Continues Sri Aurobindo:

   "The soul, the Psychic entity, then manifests itself as the central being which upholds mind and life and body and supports all the other powers and functions of the Spirit; it takes up its greater function as the guide and ruler of the nature. A guidance, a governance begins from within which exposes every movement to the light of Truth, repels what is false, obscure, opposed to the divine realisation: every region of the being...even the most concealed, camouflaged, mute, recondite, is lighted up with the unerring psychic light, their confusions dissipated, their tangles disentangled, their obscurities, deceptions, self-deceptions precisely indicated and removed; all is purified, set right, the whole nature harmonised, modulated in the psychic key, put in spiritual order."(9)

   This Heart or Divine Soul Consciousness, argues Kazlev, is precisely what is absent in abusive gurus, and others who, by emphasising the non-dual above all else, bypass the work on transforming the personality via the help of the Divine Soul, and one possible result of this is their becoming unknowingly trapped by their own egos, and, for would-be mystics, lost in the Intermediate Zone itself. Sri Aurobindo was well aware of these dangers:

   "Some of these experiences can come by an opening of the inner mental and vital being, the inner and larger and subtler mind and heart and life within us, without any full emergence of the soul, the psychic entity, since there too there is a power of direct contact of consciousness: but the experience might then be of a mixed character; for there could be an emergence not only of the subliminal knowledge but of the subliminal ignorance. An insufficient expansion of the being, a limitation by mental idea, by narrow and selective emotion or by the form of the temperament so that there would be only an imperfect self-creation and action and not the free soul-emergence, could easily occur. In the absence of any or of a complete Psychic emergence, experiences of certain kinds, experiences of greater knowledge and force, a surpassing of the ordinary limits, might lead to a magnified ego and even bring about instead of an out-flowering of what is divine or spiritual an uprush of the titanic or demoniac, or might call in agencies and powers which, though not of this disastrous type, are of a powerful but inferior cosmic character." (10)

   In actuality, most non-dualists teach very clearly of the dangers, delusions, and, in their opinion, relative lack of value in experiences of subtle realms or states as compared to that of the simple presence of the One Mind itself. It is argued by some, however, that such non-duality often tends towards excess reductionism. Kazlev takes the position that many non-dual teachings promise only partial realizations, “shells that might look good on the outside but have no light within,” in contrast to what he calls “Divine Soul-centered realizations” such as Aurobindo's that are free of the perils of the Intermediate Zone. Is this position true? The non-dualists, of course, will argue that it is not. Personally, I do not know which is true, whether it is either, neither, or both. There are, however, two distinct points here. Yes, one who has opened his heart may be free of the delusions of the Intermediate Zone, but so also might one who had achieved a genuine non-dual awakening. Simply because there may be teachers of either non-duality or mysticism who have succumbed to the temptations and ego-inflating inner experiences of the subtle planes does not mean that their philosophy itself is false. That must be argued on more specific philosophical grounds, not the failings of particular teachers.

   Continuing, after the process of Psychicization fulfills itself, four levels of "Spiritualisation" then awaken progressively: Higher Mind, Illuminative Mind, Intuition, and Overmind. Aurobindo describes the manifestation of the Higher Mind as that of conception, spiritual ideas, 'luminous thought'; that of Illuminative Mind as direct inner vision, sight, 'spiritual light'; that of Intuition as more than sight or conception, 'a power of consciousness', 'truth-sight'; and that of Overmind as 'a delegated light from the supramental gnosis'. The Overmind is 'a delegate of the Supermind Consciousness', its 'delegate to the Ignorance'. Further:

   "When the Overmind descends, the predominance of the ego-sense is entirely subordinated and finally lost; a wide feeling of a boundless Universal self replaces it." (11)

   Ken Wilber correlated these levels with stages in his early spiritual schemata as follows: Illuminative Mind (psychic), Intuitive Mind (subtle), Overmind (causal), and Supermind, or the Supramental Consciousness (ultimate stage; Sahaj or Turiya). One can see here that ‘psychic’ for Wilber had little correlation to the term “Psychic Being” as used by Aurobindo. Can we then dissect the work of Aurobindo further to better determine what he means by his use of these descriptive levels? We will try, while continuing to offer links to the Kheper's interpretations for comparison.

   Perhaps “Higher Mind” is what is spoken of elsewhere as “higher manas”, which might be the same as the “rational soul” of the Greeks, such as Plotinus; “Illuminative Mind” might be equivalent to “buddhi”; “Intuition” a direct faculty from the Overmind; and the “Overmind” itself what PB refered to as the Overself or ther ‘World-Mind in Individual-Mind’ - as experienced in trance and the absence of the World-Image. It may be that Aurobindo was attempting to re-cycle standard Hindu concepts and present them to a Western audience.

   While the Overmind is the summit of the usual realization in yoga, in the view of Aurobindo, for him it did not go far enough. This could be the traditional causal stage, the inner heart-realization of the Witness self, or the anandamaya kosha in the heart center, where the world is not yet re-incorporated into the realization for it to be considered the full awakening into Sahaj. The Overmind could be the Void-Mind as experienced within at the furthest reach of subjectivity. Its realization might also be considered Nirvikalpa Samadhi. [The only difficulty here is that he uses the words “the descent of the Overmind”, which is somewhat non-traditional. Does it descend only to someone who is in meditative trance, or in normal waking consciousness? Various writings of Aurobindo and the Mother suggest that it often occurs in the latter.] According to Aurobindo, the descent of the Overmind

   "would not be able to transform wholly the Inconscience ... a basis of Nescience would remain; it would be as if a Sun and its system were to shine out in an original darkness of Space and illumine everything as far as its rays could reach so that all that dwelt in the light would feel as if no darkness were there at all in their experience of existence. But outside that sphere or expanse of experience the original darkness would still be there." (12)

   Now we have other terms to grapple with: "inconscience" and "nescience". And “nescience,” said the great Sankara, “is not explainable.” This might be equated with the concept of "Matter" of Plotinus, a catch-all phrase for what he considered as something inexperiencable and untouchable by consciousness, but a necessary basis for 'Evil'; or, it may just be Aurobindo's way of assigning a label to the as yet unillumined earth plane. It confuses things considerably. Leaving this for now, however, Sri Aurobindo further says that while the Overmind would transform each man it would not "bring about a radical change in the evolutionary process of terrestrial existence." (13) This would also be the case with the yogi’s typical experience of Nirvikalpa samadhi as well. With the descent of the Supermind, however, there can be the realization of the supreme divine reality in ascent as well as the manifestation of divine consciousness in material existence. The descent of the Supermind creates the 'Gnostic Being', in which the will of the Spirit, rather than the unconscious and the subconscious, controls the movements of the body. The mind is replaced with a consciousness of unity and the body is transformed into "a true and fit and perfectly responsive instrument of the spirit." (14) [The language here, while meant to be revolutionary, is almost identical to that used by Babuji Maharaj, a Radhasoami guru mentioned below in note 20]. According to Aurobindo, all opposition between matter and spirit is gone when this gnostic transformation finally occurs.

   "Supramentalisation" might possibly be the equivalent of the development of what PB termed the “philosophic sage.” Without something like the Supermind stage the world would still not be understood as divine when the yogi or mystic comes out of his trance. Samsara and Nirvana, the World and Brahman, would not be realized as One. PB wrote:

   "The highest contribution which mysticism can make is to afford its votaries glimpses of that grand substratum of the universe which we may call the Overself. These glimpses reveal It in the pure unmanifest non-physical essence that It ultimately is. They detach It from the things, creatures, and thoughts which make up this world of ours, and show It as It is in the beginning, before the world-dream made its appearance. Thus mysticism at its farthest stretch, which is Nirvikalpa samadhi, enables man to bring about the temporary disappearance of the world-dream and come into comprehension of the Mind within which, and from which, the dream emerges. The mystic in very truth conducts the funeral service of the physical world as he has hitherto known it, which includes his own ego. But this is as far as mysticism can take him. It is an illuminative and rare experience, but it is not the end. For the next task which he must undertake if he is to advance is to relate his experience of this world as real with his experience of the Overself as real. And this he can do only by studying the world's own nature, laying bare its mentalistic character and thus bringing it within the same circle as its source, the Mind. If he succeeds in doing this and in establishing this relation correctly, he will have finished his apprenticeship, ascended to the ultimate truth, and become a philosopher. Thenceforward he will not deny the world but accept it.

   The metaphysician may also perform this task and obtain an intellectual understanding of himself, the world, and the Overself. And he has this advantage over the mystic, that his understanding becomes permanent whereas the mystic's rapt absorption must pass. But if he has not passed through the mystical exercises, it will remain as incomplete as a nut without a kernel. For these exercises, when led to their logical and successful issue in Nirvikalpa samadhi, provide the vivifying principle of experience which alone can make metaphysical tenets real.

   From all this we may perceive why it is quite correct for the mystic to look undistractedly within for his goal, why he must shut out the distractions and attractions of earthly life in order to penetrate the sacred precinct, and why solitude, asceticism, meditation, trance, and emotion play the most important roles in his particular experience. What he is doing is right and proper at his stage but is not right and proper as the last stage. For in the end he must turn metaphysician, just as the metaphysician must turn mystic and just as both must turn philosopher- -who is alone capable of infusing the thoughts of metaphysics and the feelings of mysticism into the actions of everyday practical life.

   Two things have to be learned in this quest. The first is the art of mind-stilling, of emptying consciousness of every thought and form whatsoever. This is mysticism or Yoga. The disciple's ascent should not stop at the contemplation of anything that has shape or history, name or habitation, however powerfully helpful this may have formerly been to the ascent itself. Only in the mysterious void of Pure Spirit, in the undifferentiated Mind, lies his last goal as a mystic. The second is to grasp the essential nature of the ego and of the universe and to obtain direct perception that both are nothing but a series of ideas which unfold themselves within our minds. This is the metaphysics of Truth. The combination of these two activities brings about the realization of his true Being as the ever beautiful and eternally beneficent Overself. This is philosophy."

   A key difference between Aurobindo and PB, however, and a not insignificant one at that, is that for Aurobindo the process of "Spiritualisation" actually divinizes the world, rather than just ushering in for the sage the realization of the always already, ever-present divinity in the Nous or Divine Mind. This is a major philosophical difference, which we will try to elaborate more on later. [In certain places, followers of Aurobindo rather loosely refer to the Supramental as the Nous, which is not what PB or Plotinus would mean by the term, for there could be no understanding in its traditional usage of "bringing the Supramental light, or light of the Nous, down into the world". Such a descent could only take place through the medium of the Soul, the eternal emanent of the Nous. This, in essence, is something that I feel that Aurobindo apologists such as the Kheper do not fully grasp when, as a reader who studies his links will note, criticisms of the realization of Ramana Maharshi as "Monistic" are made in statements such as, "Supramentalisation means physical Divinisation: the culmination of the ascent along the vertical dimension toward the totally Transcendent or "higher" Radiant Source of Being, and the drawing down of that Source into the physical organism, as opposed to the simple realisation of that Absolute in the heart-centre."] My sense is that such a criticism may have some merit when applied against the early realization and teaching communication of the Maharshi, but fails to truly grasp what he meant by the Heart, and what PB meant by the Overself, in their more mature stages.

   Here the advaitist will also likely object, saying “where is this opposition between the world and God that Aurobindo is trying to close? It doesn’t exist, except in the mind. Only right understanding is necessary to know this.” If what Aurobindo is trying to say is that with the so-called descent of the Supermind one realizes sahaj samadhi, the natural state, turiya, well and good. Yet the feeling can’t help arising that he meant something more. His writing is difficult, at times abstruse and repetitive, but speaks of a hidden revelation in the Vedas which he had newly rediscovered. An article by Sat Prem (author of Sri Aurobindo and the Adventure of Consciousness), called "The Secret of the Veda”, paints an elegant, almost poetic, picture of this divine adventure and these hidden truths, but I still fail to understand it.... Did Aurobindo really find something new , or was his language unclear and perhaps imprecise? Would he have written differently about the process of Psychicization, for instance, if he were alive today, and had access to the past fifty years of advances in body-based psychotherapeutic techniques? [Actually, an Integral Psychology has been developed by some of his disciples that attempts to unite humanistic-existential growth psychotherapies with the principles of Integral Yoga. This hyperlink is also good for a further introduction to the concepts of Integral Yoga, and provides many more links to the same]. Would Aurobindo’s terminology or approach have been different if he had been privy to the worldwide interchange between Zen masters, Lamas, Gurus, Masters, Advaitists and other teachers that we have today, and also the close exchange of ideas provided through the Internet? Is it possible that the secret he felt was imbedded in the Vedas really something newly rediscovered? Again, I don’t know. But talk of a Supermind...mmmmm...reminds me of watching TV as a kid: “able to leap tall buildings at a single bound, more powerful than a speeding locomotive, bend steel in his bare hands, change the course of mighty rivers, ...look....it’s Super-Yogi ! - and who, disguised as Clark Kent-Ji, mild-mannered sadhu for a great metropolitan ashram, fights a never-ending battle for truth, justice, and the ....Divine Plan!” Sorry, I just couldn’t help that. Help me God, I am just a poor, confused writer and would-be lover of yours, who means no disrespect. This is really hard stuff to get through.

   The voluminous work of Aurobindo represents one of the most creative efforts that India had produced in years, and his letters on yoga are still useful and alive. There are so many good points in his teaching that it is a painstaking task to find disagreement with it - or, as mentioned, even understand it. His perspective approximates the higher dharmas in many ways: the advocacy of a stage beyond ascent in which the world is not excluded from realization; the emphasis on the need for a guru and grace; the insistence on beginning the path by bringing the 'Psychic' or intuitive-feeling being forward, to allow the subsequent spiritual process to unfold relatively uncontaminated by egoity, and, particularly, for Aurobindo, secure against the dangers of premature exposure to the subtle dimensions, even for those who have had non-dual awakenings or true spiritual glimpses; and his confession that such awakenings or intuitions of the divine, Brahman, or the Soul can be had without access to the higher planes. All of these points are a positive advance over the one-dimensonal and often escapist mystical strategy that is found so frequently in the East and the West. It could be that Sri Aurobindo was grappling with the difficulties in integrating and modernizing a profusion of ancient doctrines, much like PB.

   To recap, our best guess is that by the process of Psychicisation is meant that the Psychic being or higher Soul at some point takes an active role in the instruction and guidance of the ego and the ego responds and submits to it. It represents an insertion of a higher point of view into the ego and conscious reception of grace. it is yet a step towards liberation, but not infrequently punctuated by moments of awakening. The acknowledgement of the Psychic Being presupposes such a thing as a Soul, which many advaitists, Zen students, and other non-dualists may be quick to deny any role or even existence. This is unnecessary, however, when it is recognized that Soul, as the term was used by the ancients, represents a transcendental and eternal principle and is not a fixed entity or mental construct lending itself to such criticisms.

   There appear, nevertheless, to be essential differences between the communication of Aurobindo and respected teachers such as Ramana Maharshi and Paul Brunton, not the least of which is Aurobindo’s arguing for an eventual attainment of the immortality of the body. PB strongly criticized Aurobindo as well as Mary Baker Eddy (founder of Christian Science) for this claim or attempt, which he saw as philosophically flawed. The body is part of the world of change and must perish, no matter how high ones spiritual attainment. In a future Golden Age it may have a much longer life span, perhaps even thousands of years, but it will still not become immortal. For the students of Aurobindo his emphasis on 'bringing down the light' and the need for 'divinizing the body' may encourage in less-evolved souls an egoic motivation that may actually hinder the real spiritual process from maturing. This was a criticism of Ramana Maharshi's. This criticism is actually unjustified. For Aurobindo, the awakening of the consciousness-force, or the Psychic being, led to a spontaneous process of descent/ascent. It was not something one attempted to do in a motivated fashion. Evolutionary grace, if you will, was the driver of this transformation. Contemporary teachers maintain that there is an embodiment process that occurs after awakening, to the degree one's remaining vasanas or egoic habit-energies do not resist it, and this is a natural enfoldment and not something that one can or must try to do.

   The task in front of the beginner on the way is to understand himself and surrender. The rest is in the hands of the Master, whether that be understood as an adept, consciousness itself, one’s true nature, or God. Sri Aurobindo and Ramana both said this, but often appeared to understand it in quite different ways.

   Once a man came to Ramana Maharshi from the Sri Aurobindo Ashram and told him that he had been advised to keep his mind blank in order that the Divine power might come down from above. He asked for the Maharshi's advice and was given the following answer:

   "Be what you are. There is nothing to come down or become manifest. All that is needful is to lose the ego. That which is, is always there. Even now you are That. You are not apart from it. The blank is seen by you. You are there to see the blank. What do you wait for? The thought, "I have not seen," the expectations to see and the desire of getting something, are all the working of the ego. The ego says all these and not you. Be yourself and nothing more." (16)

   On the other hand, Ramana, when describing his initial and now-famous death experience, said that a “great power took him over.” So it may be that his above oft-repeated statement (“there is nothing to come down”, etc.) was not completely genuine - or genuinely complete, depending on point of view.

   Without the continued guidance of a living guru, or at least an enlightened teaching, the concern with transformation in place of the ordeal of practice leading to Self-Realization easily becomes another egoic project, concern, worry, or burden. After true Self-Realization, say sages, transformations spontaneously occur, but one's orientation to them is very different, for one is no longer bound by the illusion of the ego, and also of the concomitant illusion of independently existing matter, that is, matter existing outside of consciousness or Mind. Here is where the doctrine of “mentalism” comes in. Anthony Damiani said that he guaged someone’s spiritual understanding fundamentally by whether they grasped mentalism or not. In it the principle of Consciousness become one's primary vantage point. One sees that Consciousness is the case, and that the universe exists only in or as Mind or Consciousness. It therefore does not need to be divinized; it is the Divine.

   "If they only realized it," says the Lankavatara Sutra, "all things are in Nirvana from the beginning." Even so, processes of transformation continue after realization, but they are spontaneous and not goal-oriented. It is not necessary that the body become immortal. Aurobindo, like countless beings before him, died. Paul Brunton was of the opinion that to attempt to bypass this inevitable event is fruitless. He states:

   "But we succeed only in fooling ourselves if we imagine it will ever be possible for rnan to eliminate this fundamental process of birth, decay, and death which holds sway throughout the universe. Man can never master it but will always be mastered by it. Through learning to understand it he may modify its workings in various ways and thus improve his position. But he can never outwit a process which carries the very planet on which he dwells along with it. Why he cannot do so is revealed by metaphysical enquiry which shows its value by saving him from time-wasting and fruitless effort." (17)

   Damiani, a student of Brunton's, humorously said,

   "Anybody could have told him, "look, you are going to die just like me," and he did. When your time comes, you'll go. And when your time comes to come back, you'll come back." (18)

   It appears that Sri Aurobindo was on the forefront of a twenty-first century spirituality, yet legitimate questions remain: How does Integral Yoga answer the epistemological and metaphysical questions of Advaita Vedanta? How true is it that the special interpetation of the Vedas by Sri Aurobindo is correct, and that it is radically new and necessary that one must work to help bring the divine light down? He certainly gave the impression of seeming to speak of bringing the light way down to achieve something that had never been done before, and wrote a poem about it called The Golden Light. Regarding this latter point, however, Sant Kirpal Singh used some of the same verses in the Vedas to support the teachings of Surat Shabd Yoga or Sant Mat, i.e., the teaching of Agni, the fire or inner light or flaming-sound which that school feels emanates from the Godhead. He spoke often of the "Master-Power working overhead," and also the Radiant Form of the guru descending to the eye-focus of the disciple (as opposed to simply being a product of one’s mind-or-soul-projection), and often quoted Christ, “If thine eye be single thy whole body shall be full of light,” all without specifically mention the illumination or awakening of the very cells of the body. Yet he nevertheless described a final transmission from his guru, Sawan Singh, shortly before the latter's death, which bespeaks of this possibility:

   "Hazur steadily kept gazing for three or four minutes into my eyes, and I, in silent wonderment, experienced an indescribable delight which infused a beverage-like intoxication down to the remotest corners of my entire body - such as was never before experienced in my whole life." (19)

   The gurus after him have claimed to have had similar experiences. It seems to me, therefore, from this and also from being in the presence of at least one such character, that even in that school, where the path of ascent is generally emphasized, other interesting things do happen.

   Babuji Maharaj, of the Radha Soami Satsang, Agra, made the following comment, which seems particularly directed to someone destined for the role of a Master, and not necessarily for the average disciple. This parallels the confession of Aurobindo himself that the sacrifices and trials he and the Mother had to undergo were not required of their followers :

   “It is usual that the awakened Saint or Gurumukh (beloved disciple of the Guru) must go through a period of great physical depression and weakness. This is because the entire constitution of the body has to be transformed in order that it may be in harmony with the spirit in its awakened condition and be fitted to perform the work before it. This period of depression may continue over a number of years, but it is usually followed by a high degree of bodily health.”

   “This physical change is absolutely essential for making appreciable spiritual progress. The capacity of the body to undergo it constitutes the limit of usefulness of the body. There have been exceptional jivas (souls) endowed with bodies capable of enduring in one life the whole requisite transformation without breaking. But in (such) cases the immediate physical effect of the transformation was a low and depleted bodily condition which continued for quite a number of years. After the changes have been effected, complete physical vigour usually comes back, though with a body very different in its constitution. One of its acquired characteristics is its softness and freshness like that of a babe.” (20)

   But whether it does or doesn't is not the seeker's concern. Again, in terms of advaita, Buddhism and Zen, the very body is itself generally considered a thought, or an appearance to consciousness, so why try to tranform it? and “who” could do such a thing? It seems that must be settled first, before assuming a greater project is necessary, or what form it must take. That was Ramana Maharshi’s standard answer to anyone who questioned what happened after realization. “First surrender, then see,” he would say. Aurobindo was known to give similar advice, although there is no doubt he spoke of a super-structure to be erected, and then radically and deeply illumined on that basis. His grand and unique quest might be summed up as he envisioned it in the poem, "A God's Labor".

   This is poetry, however, not metaphysics. Other questions present themselves. Why would such a transformation be necessary for enlightenment to be universally, rather than only personally, effective, as Aurobindo criticized as limitations of most other realizations? Ramana felt that the realization of the Self alone had a universal effect, more than any lesser shakti or power could achieve. To him, a sage sitting in a cave could do the greater good to the world than an unrealized person without moving an inch. He was criticized for this point of view, and both Aurobindo and PB seemed to agree that as presented it was incomplete, if not out-of-date. The understanding is also different: for Maharshi there certainly could be evolution, but it would be seen as happening within a dream. Contemporary teacher Leo Hartong poses the possibility of awakening to the dream, rather than the more traditional from the dream. Aurobindo and PB might very well agree. Even advaita recognizes the relative existence of koshas or sheaths, and levels of soul and reality. They are just understood as ultimately not different from consciousness. Within this understanding there would be no reason for there not to be evolution, even forms of spiritual evolution.

   Still, I wonder what a sage like Sri Siddharameshwar Maharaj (1888-1936), guru of Sri Nisargadatta, would say about the Divine Yoga of Sri Aurobindo, considering the following words of his:

   "One who has got the purest knowledge of the `Truth' thinks that being `bound and free' is all a joke....What is the meaning of "liberated"? That is only a way, in which people talk. All the bondage is for him, who says he is the body. One who is a Dhyani (Realised) is free from the sense of `I'. For him 'bound and liberated' is only a delusion. 'Bound' and 'liberated' are only concepts expressed. A concept is never true. One who has understood Maya (Illusion) is free from all fear. The one who says, "I will practise yoga after I become Brahman- then I will do something" is like the one going in search of water in a mirage." (from Amrut Laya)

   Personally, I must confess that I haven’t succeeded at understanding Aurobindo (and seriously doubt anyone else has or ever will either), much less actually attain the heights - or depths - of what he proposed. It seems like too much work, when all that many want is a simple response to human prayer. Not only I admit confusion, but a researcher and author of a major book on Sri Aurobindo confessed to me that if you asked one hundred people at Auroville today what Aurobindo taught you would likely get one hundred different answers! Further, after my asking him many, many probing questions he finally admitted that he didn't know anything about Aurobindo!

   Because the issue of Self-Realization in his teaching is vague, at least in my tentative opinion, it follows that there might be vagueness regarding the ultimate nature of the universe, and its relationship to the Self or Consciousness, and even the entire affair of the yoga. Of course, my not being up to the task does not mean that what he said is not the truth. It is just that his writings are quite difficult to wade through, and contain unique usage of various technical terms. The very use of the word “Nirvana” and “silence in Brahman” in his initial description of realization prior to his gaining experience of the “overhead spiritual planes”, for instance, is not quite like the traditional understanding of Nirvana as given in Buddhism or Brahman in Hinduisim. If important terms like these are not clear, then whatever follows based on use of those terms will also not be clear. That much can be assumed from basic logic. "The least initial deviation from the truth is multiplied later a thousand-fold," said Aristotle.

   The quest for the en-light-en-ment of matter of Sri Aurobindo (which, depending on the interpretation of his teaching), seemed to depend on the descent of the Supermind along with the vijnanamaya kosha. While Maharshi on more than one occasion quoted scripture to the effect that "the light of the Self is always shining in the intellectual sheath", this concept of Aurobindo - the "descent of the intellectual sheath" (if the person who confronted Ramana with this understood him correctly) is unusual: what exactly is meant by the descent of a "sheath"? In response to this idea, however, Maharshi remarked,

   "Self-knowledge can shine very well in the [ordinary] human body, so there is no need of any other body."

   The concept of the illuminated transformation of the physical body into a 'divine body' (while existent in the literature, i.e., the "Rainbow Body" in Tibetan Buddhism, and cases such as the saint Ramalingar, who was said to have translated out of this world, body and all, in a blaze of light), as something philosophically necessary, seems to stands in stark contrast with the view of the advaitic sages which, again, asserts that matter as such does not independently exist, but is only an apparent (although not illusory) modification of Consciousness. Brunton argued, the evidence of the senses not withstanding, that nothing is ever experienced outside of Mind or Consciousness, and that matter is only an egoic conclusion or interpretation of a mentalistic phenomenon. His philosophy of Mentalism would uphold the view that Consciousness is primary, while matter is secondary and either non-existent , or simply epistemologically unknowable, as a something outside of our direct awareness. He states:

   "Those who have not had the inward revelation granted them, who have not awakened what the Hindu yogis call antardrishti, a kind of clairvoyant insight, often believe that mentalism is rnere theory and that its talk of the world's unreality is mere verbalism. Even some among the seers have not seen this, although they have seen much else that fleshly eyes cannot. Sri Aurobindo in India, for instance, disputed mentalism, although his neighbour and contemporary, Ramana Maharshi, fully accepted it. Rudolph Steiner likewise disputed it ...This situation is strange, but among the sages with whom I found the deepest penetration into the nature of things... some observed that the capacity to receive and understand the mentalist doctrine was the sharpest of all tests to which a truth-seeker could be subjected."

   “Consciousness presents its own products to itself, fabricating an entire world in the process. Mind makes and sees the picture.”

   There may be accepted dual principles of Purusha and Prakriti, as the Samkhyas teach, or Soul and Matter as Plotinus describes, or a union of Siva-Shakti, but both Purusha and Prakriti are still, according to the ancient philosophy, dualistic manifestations of a something uncharacterizable and even more primal that we can know almost nothing about, other than that it must be. So then what is the ‘Nescience’ that Aurobindo sought to illuminate?

   Damiani explains mentalism in great detail in his book, Looking Into Mind, from which a few quotes are selected to expand on this point:

   “ Your mind thinks your body. It doesn’t need it. It can get along without it. No, it’s not flying anywhere. It needs you physically? Not really. It can get along without you. It puts you to bed every night, and says, “Go to sleep.”

   ...sometimes in mystical development a person experiences himself as the Witness-I and then the world is inside him and he is not in the world, but the world is within him....Not inside the chest but inside the mind.

   You see, the difficulty is that all your life you believe in the existence of a world of things, a reality which is non-mental. And when reason confronts you with the fact that you can’t know anything except your own ideas, you try to excuse yourself by saying, “Well, regardless, there is something out there. It is true that I can know only my ideas, but my ideas are telling me about something out there
[i.e., matter].

   You have to remember that if for many many lives we believed in a real world out there, outside of us, you are not going to be able to abolish a belief which has grown into you...with a stroke of the pen. It is going to take a lot of effort. Because these beliefs are ingrained, inborn, innate.....the mental habits are almost impossible to break....When you start attacking beliefs, whether yours or someone else’s, you are undertaking a Himalayan task. You just have no idea how deeply rooted these beliefs are.

   When you experience the world as a dream, you know you are getting closer to its reality. It is not the reality yet, but you know you are getting closer. It is an intuitive understanding that dawns - that the mind projects the world, then experiences the world that it projects. And all that it could project are its own ideas...

   ...as long as you experience the world as stiff, hard, rigid, you will always think of it as non-mental
[i.e., an appearance to consciousness], as a material thing. But if, while you are looking at that very world, you start experiencing it as a dream, as shadowy, as unreal, then you are getting closer to the mental processes that produce that idea.” (23)

   PB concludes:

   “The existence of the world is not a testimony to the existence of a divine creator, but to the constructive capacity of the mind.” (24)

   The Vedantic scriptures describe this a little differently: Brahman is Reality, with creation due to the mysterious veiling power of maya and from that Iswara (creator God). This allows the jiva some room for bhakti, tempering the apparent coolness of mentalism. Of course, there is more to PB's interpretation of mentalism than this [for an exhaustive study see Part One and Part Two of "Paul Brunton: A Bridge Between India and the West" by Annie Cahn Fung]. It is no dry theory but a living one with ample room for devotion to the source of one's being. There is a World Mind with a World-Idea projecting a master image simultaneously through all individual minds or Souls. There is an Absolute Soul or Intelligence which is "more real the life of the soul than the soul itself," as Christian mystics have said. But every 'thing' arises in and to consciousness, awareness, or the Soul, be it thought, image, sensation, feelings, sounds, smells, etc.:

   ”His first mental act is to think himself into being. He is the maker of his own “I.” This does not mean that the ego is his own personal invention alone. The whole world-process brings everything about, including the ego and the ego’s own self-making.” (PB V6, 8:2.15) That’s mentalism in a nutshell. That’s the whole mentalistic doctrine. The Soul has for its content the World-Idea, and it actualizes that or projects that World-Idea out from within itself. And included in that World-Idea is the ego and the process that it’s going to go through.” (25)

   “The ego is a structure which has been built up in former lives from tendencies, habits, and experiences in a particular pattern. But in the end the whole thing is nothing but a thought, albeit a strong and continuing thought.” (v6, 8:2.44)...All the former tendencies that you have are actualizing themselves as this thought...”

   This philosophical “test”, as PB wrote, is what many, especially those of advaitic or non-dual schools, feel stands as a dividing line between cosmological and transcendental levels of understanding or realization. Whether the doctrine of mentalism feels right to us is one thing; whether it is right is another. Some of the implications of accepting it as true are as follows: while a yogi, mystic, or saint might see the universe as the divine play and revel in the energies of the spirit as they are felt in relation to the body-mind, or even see or merge with the expanse of divine light in savikalpi samadhi, the sage "recognizes" the universe in and as the divine and experiences the bliss and radiance of the energy of the spirit as consciousness itself, prior to but not necessarily separate from the body-mind. From this position there is no "concern" at all with bodily transformation. It may happen, but if one dies before it is appears to have completed itself there is no problem or sense of lack or dilemma. In the case of the completed sage, of course, while he may have no such “concern”, acting as he does from the intelligence of the Nous, he or she can still be a force for change in the world from the basis of his realization. And presumably the deeper or greater the degree of his sacrifice or transformation the more good he can do by virtue of his alignment with the World-Idea issuing forth from the Divine Mind.

   The big question for many is, “was the quest for bodily enlightenment which Sri Aurobindo championed really a new and unique expression of realization, or instead in large measure a sophisticated but unnecessarily complicated expression of a stage of egoic evolution in relationship to the frontal (psychic) dimension of the body-mind, the human heart, so often left out of yogic maps of spiritual growth?” That is, in Taoism, for instance, they speak of not only the spinal chakra system, but also a descending circuit in the front of the body-mind, a complete circuit, as it were. The heart center has, therefore, a causal or root-egoic knot (the “heart on the right” of early Ramana Maharshi’s teachings, and perhaps the Overmind state of Aurobindo), but also a “frontal knot”, which prevents the flowering of love and recoil-less living on the human plane. Unless this frontal dimension is purified and opened, any awakening up to and including Nirvikalpa samadhi will not allow the stablization of true awakening, which ultimately transcends the body-mind but does not negate it. I think what Sri Aurobindo would say, however, is that what I just described accounts for the preparatory stages up to “Psychicisation”, and that indeed there are profound higher and deeper stages.

   What I get as of most value from Aurobindo’s work is this transformation of the human heart, that forms a sound basis not only for exploration of the inner realms, but for the abiding intuition of consciousness itself, or the realization of sahaj. It also prevents the “fall from the heights” spoken of many times in scripture. Michael Murphy, in his new age classic, Golf in the Kingdom, humorously described this perspective:

   “”Ye must have a sturdy place to swing from, before ye open up so wide,” he said, “otherwise ye’ll be swept away.”

   This is pure Aurobindo, and it is not surprising that Murphy, co-founder of the Esalen Institute, is on the board of the Sri Auroville International Centre of Education. [In one of many conferences that Esalen has held on issues of consciousness, mind, the brain, survival after death, and human evolution, Murphy describes Aurobindo's model of the soul, in this instance, interestingly, equating the Supermind with the Nous, which may or may not be exactly what philosophers such as Plotinus meant by the Nous, but which it is important that a discussion about Sri Aurobindo get specific about. This, however, is outside the scope of this article [translation: it is beyond my ability to figure out!]

   It is interesting that while much of the work coming out of these and other such conferences argues for a non-local, or non-brain view of the mind, at the same time they do not explicitly endorse the view of mentalism which rejects the concept of matter altogether. This is consistent, since Aurobindo seems to have believed in matter. That said, this is a huge topic in itself. Aurobindo seemed to believe in the reality of matter, and the necessity of transforming it into energy by a descent of spirit, while 'mind-only' schools such as vedanta, gyan yoga, and dzogchen (sometimes), say matter is just a concept, or percept of the mind. In dzogchen they talk of reducing the physical body into its constituent elements at the time of death, not through yogic siddhi but by the power and depth of one's non-dual realization, into the total assimilation known as the Rainbow Body or the subtle light body known as the Great Transfer. Any matter, gross or subtle, is resolvable into consciousness, and in fact its manifestation. To complicate matters, in some quotes this also seems to be Aurobindo's view, that matter is mental and hence consciousness, but there is little doubt that in the vast bulk of his writings the existence of matter is assumed to be at least provisionally real. And this fact throws a slight wedge into his essential metaphysical arguments. Moreover, he in fact admitted at one point that the Supramentalization and divinization of the body that he and the Mother were attempting had already been accomplished by siddhas such as Ramalingar a century before, in what is called soruba samadhi, except in such cases through devotion and yogic siddhi and not the process of descending into the subconscient that Aurobindo and the Mother were trying to do and claimed to have done. For example:

   "He broke through to the Supramental, which is the very basis of all matter, experiencing an illumination in the very cells of the body. The "Secret" of the transformation was this: the consciousness above is the consciousness below." (Govindam, Babaji and the 18 Siddha Kriya Yoga Tradition, p. 140)

   What Aurobindo wrote about about his initial realizations certainly sounded profound, and similar in extent to other teachings that speak about stages of realization beyond the Atman or what is traditionally considered liberation:

   "The first result was series of tremendously powerful experiences and radical changes of consciousness which I had never intended..and which were quite contrary to my own ideas, for they made me see with a stupendous intensity the world as a cinematographic play of vacant forms in the impersonal universality of the Absolute Brahma...In the enormous spaces of the self, the body now seemed only a wandering shell. It threw me into a condition above and without thought, unstained by any mental or vital movement; there was no ego, no real world - only when one looked through the immobile senses, something perceived or bore upon its sheer silence a world of empty forms, materialised shadows without true substance. There was no One or many even, only just absolutely That featureless, relationless, sheer, indescribable, unthinkable, absolute, yet supremely real and solely real. This was no mental abstraction - it was positive, the only positive reality - although not a spatial physical world, pervading, occupying or rather flooding and drowning this semblance of a physical world, leaving no room or space for any reality but itself, allowing nothing else to seem at all actual, positive or substantial...What this experience brought me was an inexpressible Peace, a stupendous silence, an infinity of release and freedom." (Sri Aurobindo on Himself,1972,p. 127-132)

   However, this 'Nirvikalpa' experience was soon to expand and reveal a grander dimension to reveal itself to him:

   "I lived in that Nirvana day and night before it began to admit other things into itself or modify itself at all...In the end it began to disappear into a greater Super-consciousness from above...The aspect of an illusionary world gave place to one in which illusion is only a small surface phenomenon with an immense Divine Reality behind it and a supreme Divine Reality above it and an intense Divine reality in the heart of everything that had seemed at first only a cinematic shape or shadow. And this was no re-imprisonment in the senses, no diminution or fall from supreme experience, it came rather as a constant heightening and widening of the Truth...Nirvana in my liberated consciousness turned out to be the beginning of my realization, a first step towards the complete thing, not the sole true attainment possible or even a culminating finale...Nirvana can not be at once the ending of the Path with nothing beyond to explore...it is the end of the lower Path through the lower Nature and the beginning of the Higher Evolution." (Aurobindo, On Yoga II, Tome One, 1969, p. 154, 71)

   Despite having reached the upper reaches of the Overmind where 'the great colored waves merge with the white light', Aurobindo felt that the human nature was not and could not be transformed by that, and that another power must come into play that would be able to resist this habituated downward pull. This he called the Supramental consciousness, which must descend deep into the bedrock of matter, into the very cells, as described above. His further speculations and experiments along these lines were indeed somewhat prescient of what many are intuiting today as a new direction for consciousness and eventually for the entire human race. Whether these conclusions as stated were true or not, however, is another matter. What we may accept as true is that in general one cannot ascend higher than one has descended, and for any Divine light to descend by grace into the physical vehicle, that vehicle must have become ready through a conscious descent into the depths of its shadow material - which Aurobindo argued should go even to the very roots of the Subconscient, which he said was the result of the evolution of life into Matter and held the physical keys to disease and death itself. We will have more to say on the merit of this teaching in the concluding remarks to this paper.

   In 1920 Aurobindo was joined in his work by the French woman, Mirra Alfassa (1878-1973), who became known as "The Mother". Aurobindo considered her as an avatar and the Divine Shakti, to whom his devotees should call on for grace. [That was good, because Sri Aurobindo himself only held public darshan once a year, so one was chiefly reliant on his books, all relatively dense except Letters on Yoga[. Before meeting Sri Aurobindo the Mother had a long history of mystical experiences and occult associations, most importantly with one Max Theon, with possible theosophical connections, from which seemingly were derived much of her (and Sri Aurobindo's) cosmological schemas. She assumed direction of Aurobindo's ashram in 1926 (when he retired into lifelong silence) and continued to do so after his death in 1950. For many years she held darshan once a day, but from 1962 until her death she continued this practice only four times a year, spending much of her time with close disciple Sat Prem dictating her inner experences and ‘cellular’ transformations, fully described in a thirteen volume work called The Agenda. Sat Prem and Luc Venet give a summary of much of this, with many quotes from the Mother, in Life Without Death. In 1969 she founded the model community Auroville. For a fascinating, even rivetting account of the powerful transmissions she received from Sri Aurobindo and the development of her inner experiences see her autobiographical Notebook on Evolution. Considering a long previous history of spiritual experiences, her following first meeting with the sage seems all the more significant:

   "Before meeting Sri Aurobindo, I had achieved everything necessary to begin his yoga. It was all ready, organized, systemized – a superb mental construction . . . which he demolished in exactly five minutes. I had tried to achieve complete mental silence – the kind of mental stillness Sri Aurobindo speaks of; when you have it anything can pass through your head without causing the least ripple – but I had never succeeded. I had tried, but I couldn’t do it. I could be silent when I wanted to, but the moment I stopped my concentration, the clatter returned and everything had to be started over again. That’s all I had told him (not in great details, just in a few words). Then I sat down beside him and he began talking with the person accompanying me. They talked about the war (he already knew, five months ahead, that the first World War would break out), yoga, the future, and all kinds of things. They talked and talked and talked – great speculations. I wasn’t in the least interested. I was simply sitting beside him on the floor, with a table in front of me, at eye level, as a sort of little protection. I don’t know how long it went on, but suddenly I felt a great Force come into me – a peace, a silence, something massive! It came in, swept everything blank in my head, descended, and stopped here in the chest. When they finished talking, I got up and left. Then I noticed that my mind was completely blank of thoughts. I no longer knew anything or understood anything. I was absolutely blank. So I gave thanks to the Lord and thanked Sri Aurobindo in my heart. All the mental constructions, all the mental, speculative organizations were completely gone. A big void. And such a peaceful, such a luminous void! Afterward, for at least eight or ten days, I kept very still, not to disturb it. I didn’t speak, and I especially refrained from thinking, holding this silence close to me and saying to myself, “Oh, make it last, make it last, make it last. . . .” From the outside, it must have looked like total lunacy. But I was living in my inner joy. I spoke as little as possible, just mechanically. Then gradually, as if drop by drop, something else began to emerge. But it had no limits. It was as vast as the universe, wonderfully still and luminous. There was nothing left in the head, but everything began to be seen from above the head. And that has never left me. I went to Japan; I did all sorts of things, had all possible kinds of adventures, even unpleasant ones, but it never left me."

   From 1928-1950 Aurobindo did not speak, communicating instead by writing notes on small slips of paper, as well as thousands of letters answering questions on yoga to disciples. He led a private life and came out of seclusion once a year to give darshan to his followers. The question naturally arises, how well could most people interact or relate in a devotional manner to a teacher one only saw briefly for darshan once a year, for over two decades? It was the Mother who took over that active role. With Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, being in their company was considered essential to one’s sadhana:

   “To a follower who later asked, “What is the best means for the sadhaks [disciples] to avoid suffering due to the action of the hostile forces?” Aurobindo [Sri Aurobindo on Himself and on the Mother (Pondicherry, India: Sri Aurobindo Ashram, 1953] replied: “Faith in the Mother and complete surrender.”

   [Physical nearness to the Mother, e.g., via living in the ashram] is indispensable for the fullness of the sadhana on the physical plane. Transformation of the physical and external being is not possible otherwise.”
(Aurobindo, 1953).

   While sounding like traditional guru devotion, it must be mentioned that there are potential dangers in such pronouncements. If a disciple is not clear on what enlightenment is, how does he know if his guru is enlightened, or if his sadhana will lead him in the right direction - especially with such a complicated schema as the Integral Yoga? If one does not understand what or whom he is surrendering to, this may be a problem and real impediment to further growth. Many were afraid to leave Auroville for fear of becoming prey to the "negative forces", which at one point included the Trungpa "furies" and even people like PB, according to one source. In Sant Mat it is called Kal, and in Christianity, Satan. Such negative programming is rampant in spiritual ashrams and religious organizations.

   Sri Aurobindo himself never achieved the supramental transformation. Only the Mother, whom he considered an avatar, professed to have done so. Sri Aurobindo said that in The Mother he found surrender to the Divine down to physical body itself, the cells of the body (not merely the mind and emotions), the likes of which could not be found in any human being. He said he would return one day in the first Supramental body in human history. When he died the Mother related that Sri Aurobindo gathered in his body a great amount of supramental force and as soon as he left his body. She was standing beside him as he lay on his bed, "and in a way altogether concrete -- concrete with such a strong sensation as to make one think that it could be seen -- all this supramental force which was in him passed from his body into mine" (27).

   After his passing The Mother fully took up her promise to Sri Aurobindo to attempt the physical transformation. On 29 February 1956 ("Golden Day") she announced an experience in which she had a vast cosmic golden form and broke open the golden door that separated the Universe from the Divine, allowing the Supramental force to stream down to Earth in an uninterrupted flow. (28) She later (24 April) announced "The manifestation of the Supramental upon earth is no more a promise but a living fact" (29). For the next twenty years she engaged in further experiments to increase this transformation. The names given to some of these events in the Agenda are quite grandious. Here are but a few in the early years, which were supposed to have intensified even more into the 1970's:

*February 1956 - The experience of the first Supramental manifestation (of the new truth consciousness Force) on earth.
*September 12, 1956 - The experience of the Supramental being of a future supramental race entering her body.
*February 1958 - The vision of a Supramental ship in which beings of this race in the subtle plane were preparing for the supramental existence.
*October 1958 - The experience of being the Supreme Lord, the Divine itself.
*November 1958 - The experience of springing from the current unconscious state of human mind to the new Supramental truth consciousness, which is also the generating power of all creation.
*July 24-25 1959 - The first penetration of the descending Supramental force into her body.
*May 24, 1960 - The physical disintegration of the ego, and the Supreme Lord manifesting in her.

   Like Sri Aurobindo, however, the Mother also died - without achieving bodily immortality. The question now arises, since they are both gone, what are their disciples or future practitioners to do in order to pursue the Integral Yoga, which was said to depend so much on their personal company?

   When he died Sri Aurobindo's body was said to have been suffused with a bluish-golden light, and, like that of Paramahansa Yogananda and several Christian saints, remained undecayed until it was interred in a Samadhi site four days later. The Mother said that he telepathically told her that he had consciously left the body because "even when the Light is ready to descend it cannot come to stay till the lower plane is also ready to bear the pressure of the Descent," and that he would return one day and manifest "in the first Supramental body built in the Supramental way", i.e., via the 'dharma of nature' and not by yogic siddhi as had been done by a few in the past.

   Of his first meeting with him the poet Rabindranath Tagore said:

   "At the very first sight I could realise he had been seeking for the Soul and had gained it, and through this long process of realisation had accumulated within him a silent power of inspiration. His face was radiant with an inner light."

   Many testified to feeling a powerful transmission and profound peace in his company. One dares ask, nevertheless, have any self-realized devotees come out of Auroville? Is the Supramental state, described as Union, however evolved and profound, itself Enlightenment or Self-Realization? Unfortunately, there seems no way of getting a resolution on this without the various sages sitting down together and debating with each other. Today, if they were still alive and willing, this could easily be done, and how grand a convocation it might be.

   Still, there is little question that Aurobindo's contributions to the historical evolvement of yoga and our understanding of spirituality are of much importance. At the very least they caused many to rethink their understanding of the path and its goal, and have led to a less dissociative, world and life-denying approach. But the important question remains for the earnest student to decide, is everything that he and the Mother said true?

   One area that I contemplated omitting from this article as of somewhat lesser importance, but decided to include explore anyway because it kept gnawing at me from time to time. This is regarding the numerous accounts of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother being psychically active in altering world affairs. Howard Murphet reported that Sri Aurobindo remarked, at the outbreak of World War II, that if the Nazis won the war it would set the Divine Plan back one thousand years. His disciples claim that he and the Mother used occult powers or yogic siddhis to influence the outcome of the war. [Narayan Maharaj and various other spiritual figures were said to have done likewise, so they are not alone on this.] But one might ask, if all is the One, if God is the One, doesn’t that One include the Nazis? Who can fathom a fixed, unchangeable “Divine Plan” ? This question suggests there may be an inherent dualism in such a philosophical system as that of Sri Aurobindo, where forces of light must do battle with forces of darkness. I am not sure if this is a correct interpetation of his position, but how else is one to understand such statements? And, of course, all this could be reconciled within a non-dual context, where no position is excluded, but, nevertheless, consider the following.

   from “Stripping the Gurus” by Geoffrey Falk, with some additional comments of my own:

   ”Sri Aurobindo put all his [e.g., astral] Force behind the Allies and especially Churchill. One particular event in which he had a hand was the successful evacuation from Dunkirk. As some history books note, the German forces refrained “for inexplicable reasons” from a quick advance which would have been fatal for the Allies.” (Huchzermeyer, Wilfried (1998), Mother: A Short Biography (Silver Lake, WI: Lotus Press).

   Other admirers of Aurobindo regard that Allied escape as being aided by a fog which the yogi explicitly helped, through his powers of consciousness, to roll in over the water, concealing the retreating forces.

   Aurobindo’s spiritual partner, “the Mother,” is likewise believed to have advanced the wartime labor via metaphysical means:

   Due to her occult faculties the Mother was able to look deep into Hitler’s being and she saw that he was in contact with an asura [astral demon] who is at the origin of wars and makes every possible effort to prevent the advent of world unity (Huchzermeyer, 1998).

   When Hitler was gaining success after success and Mother was trying in the opposite direction, she said the shining being who was guiding Hitler used to come to the ashram from time to time to see what was happening. Things changed from bad to worse. Mother decided on a fresh strategy. She took on the appearance of that shining being, appeared before Hitler and advised him to attack Russia. On her way back to the ashram, she met that being. The being was intrigued by Mother having stolen a march over him. Hitler’s attack on Russia ensured his downfall...

   (Apart from the war), Mother saw in her meditation some Chinese people had reached Calcutta and recognized the danger of that warning. Using her occult divine power, she removed the danger from the subtle realms. Much later when the Chinese army was edging closer to India’s border, a shocked India did not know which way to turn. The Chinese decided on their own to withdraw, much to the world’s surprise. Mother had prevented them from advancing against India by canceling their power in the subtle realms....

   The Mother further believed herself to have been, in past lives, Queen Elizabeth of England—the sixteenth-century daughter of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn. Also, Catherine of Russia (wife of Peter the Great), an Egyptian Queen, the mother of Moses, and Joan of Arc.
[the talk around the ashram as to the prevous incarnations of Aurobindo included Michaelangelo, Napoleon, and even Krishna - the latter a bit of a problem since according to Sri Aurobindo not only Swami Vivekananda but Lord Krishna himself had appeared to him while he was in his jail cell. If so, was this a case of his giving darshan to himself?] [Suchlike claims were also made of Paramahansa Yogananda. He was said to have been William the Conqueror in a previous life, and he himself said that Hitler had been Abraham Lincoln].

   The Mother's diary entries reveal that even during her illness she continued through her sadhanas to exert an occult influence on men and events (Nirodbaran, 1990). "[The Mother] is the Divine Mother [i.e., as an incarnation or avatar] who has consented to put on her the cloak of obscurity and suffering and ignorance so that she can effectively lead us—human beings—to Knowledge and Bliss and Ananda and to the Supreme Lord" (Aurobindo, 1953).

   In the person of [the Mother], Aurobindo saw the descent of the Supermind. He believed she was its avatara or descent into the Earth plane. As the incarnate Supermind she was changing the consciousness on which the Earth found itself, and as such her work was infallible.... She does not merely embody the Divine, he instructed one follower, but is in reality the Divine appearing to be human.
(Minor, Robert N. (1999), The Religious, the Spiritual, and the Secular: Auroville and Secular India (Albany, NY: State University of New York Press).

   India’s independence from British rule followed soon after the end of WWII. Aurobindo himself marked the occasion in public speech:

   August 15th, 1947 is the birthday of free India. It marks for her the end of an old era, the beginning of a new age....August 15th is my own birthday and it is naturally gratifying to me that it should have assumed this vast significance. I take this coincidence, not as a fortuitous accident, but as the sanction and seal of the Divine Force that guides my steps on the work with which I began life, the beginning of its full fruition (in Nirodbaran, 1990).”

   [End of Geoffrey Falk material]

   To be blunt, all such talk of helping the “Divine Plan”, if engaged strictly through occult means on the subtle planes, without inspiration directly from the Nous or Divine Mind or Intelligence, coming from a much higher level, would smack of the very “Intermediate Zone” that Sri Aurobindo warned so much about. He would no doubt argue that he did not fall into that category. Certainly, if we take the teachings of a sage such as PB or Plotinus, if there is a Nous, or Divine or "World-Mind" with its "World-Idea" - an evolutionary paradigm for the cosmos - which a sage could tap into through his oneness with his own Divine Soul, being a direct and inseparable emanent of that Nous, which is far above the Intermediate Zone, then he could certainly be a unique force for change in the world. This could include using any and all means on any and all planes of manifestation, or even by silent contemplation in the Void. He may not know he is such a vehicle, and if he is truly realized this is possibly even likely, and a mantle of safety and protection. As PB stated:

   “ The catalyst which by its presence enables chemical elements to change their forms does not itself change. In the same way the illuminate may be used by higher forces to affect, influence, or even change others without any active personal move on his part to bring about this result. He may not even feel, see, or know what is happening, yet he has started it!”(30)

   Even a person of lesser spiritual realization but relatively noble intention could be an agent of destiny - consider one such as Gandhi. No man, however, no matter how highly evolved, is omniscient. The entire history of high spiritual teachings argues against any one person having, or even being able to have, the absolute knowledge or omniscience of the Divine Mind. (And certainly, from the point of view of God, if one might imagine such a thing, 'one thousand years in the Divine Plan', as mentioned above, might be a very minor thing).

   In a conversation PB told his assistant Paul Cash that there is no time when we can expect to have the Overself at our beck and call, but that we can be in a condition of being at the Overself's beck and call, and that is the condition we should strive for. When Paul said to him that while he thought that a sage didn't know everything, he possibly could know anything if he wanted to, PB humorously responded, "It's not even that good!" So omniscience is out. Enlightenment doesn’t guarantee knowledge of everything about everything, or even anything about anything, except the awareness of Being itself. It doesn’t in itself necessarily give one the ability to scan the Halls of Knowledge, the Akashic records or anything of that sort. Getting bogged down in the details and time frame of a so-called divine plan on earth, moreover, sounds more like something ET’s and lower demigods, or religious-fanatic politicians, would play around in. During WWII, it would have been very politically correct to have been on the right side, fighting “pure evil”, but in hindsight, can one always recognize what was the right thing to do?

   To put this in philosophical perspective, in the framework of Plotinus, for instance, we have three Primal Hypostases: the One, the Nous, and Soul, which are all considered to be eternal and beyond time. The One encompasses everything all at once and is beyond being and non-being. It’s emanant, the Nous, Intellectual Principle, or Divine Mind, is considered a “contemplative producer”, as likewise is it’s subsequent emanent, Soul (“subsequent” still being atemporal). To reach or attain union with, or realization of, Soul is itself beyond intellectual knowledge and perception, beyond the great vision of light and all subtle planes, and makes one, as PB wrote, “the feeblest of creatures”, with no longer the consolation or conception of being a conscious co-worker of a great divine plan (which doesn't preclude one from being a co-worker of such a plan, but is still worth contemplating). For here one has entered or dissolved into the Void-Mind, the transcendental ground, the “Cloud of Unknowing”. The Nous or Divine Mind contains all of its ideas, including its "World-Idea", with all of its history, in one single potentiality and actuality, all at once.

   In the light of all of the above, therefore, to suggest that any “godman” can know or consciously do battle with forces arrayed against the “Divine Plan” must, at the very least, be suspect. He may do battle with what he perceives is evil, but who can totally fathom the mind of God?

   It has been well said that the victors write the history books. So much about WWII and world events that we think we know has come under challenge in recent years. The social-political-cultural "Matrix" is being exposed. It is not as easy as it may seem to know who to influence and who to support in every instance for the greater good in the end. But, for the purposes of argument, assuming we know which side and what leaders had God on their side in WWII, from a ‘psychically simpler’ point of view, I can’t help supposing, wouldn’t it have been alot easier for Aurobindo to simply “tweak” the dreams of the assassin of Archduke Ferdinand? There would have then been no WWI, no Versailles, no onerous reparations against Germany, no grounds for the rise of Hitler, and thus no WWII. It seems much more complicated to engage in psychic warfare on the battlefields one at a time. Or why not have “tweaked” the dreams of Winston Churchill, influencing him not to jail Rudolph Hess, who had secretly flown over to England to negotiate a plan to end the war several years early by getting the top brass of the German military to go against Hitler? That would have been much simpler and saved millions of lives. Or why not “tweak” the dreams of the Wall Street bankers, who financed Hitler before and during much of WWII, just like they had done the Bolsheviks in WWI? Why not “tweak” the dreams of FDR, telling him not to hand over eastern Europe to Stalin, thus preventing millions of more deaths, as well as the cold war? And how benevolent was it of the Mother to convince Hitler to attack Russia knowing he would lose? Maybe he would have destroyed communism, and later been able to make a peace with England, which he wanted to do but was not allowed to do so by the allies. Who can say that might not have led to a greater good? There is little doubt Hitler took the ball he was given and ran with it, and was negatively influenced by the occult and perhaps mentally deranged, but are we so sure that is also not the case with the "other side", and that the motivating forces behind world events are much more complicated? In any case, it seems so much easier to just manipulate one person or two than have an elaborate and involved campaign of dealing with evil forces for years and years. Not so dramatic, however, and not so exciting or capable of keeping ones disciples entertained.

   PB admired Sri Aurobindo's letters on yoga and felt they contained much value, but he also, like Ramana, took issue with several aspects of his philosophy. He wrote:

   "There are some points in Sri Aurobindo's teaching which do not accord with the highest teachings of philosophy. Three of these are: his rejection of idealism in the Berkeleyan sense [mentalism], his advocacy of the Incarnation doctrine [avatar theory], and his acceptance of the possibility of mystical union with God [mysticism, not true non-duality or what PB termed "philosophy"]. On the first point, it is impossible to escape from the truth that mind is the only reality we have ever known or can ever know, and therefore there is no place for matter in the scheme of things. In the second case, how can the infinite mind become confined in the finite flesh of no matter how divine an incarnation? In the third case, God as the Ultimate Reality is incomprehensible, intangible, absolute, and unthinkable. No human capacity, regardless of its power of stretching out, can so transcend its finite limitations as to achieve direct union with it. What the mystic does achieve, however, is union with his own individual divine soul--which is quite another matter. Still, Aurobindo is the most outstanding of recent Indian yogis." (31)

   "He must learn to face the startling fact that the human ego carries itself even into his loftiest aspirations for the Divine. Even there, in that rarefied atmosphere, it is seeking for itself, for what it wants, and always for its own preservation. This is merely to enlarge the area of the ego's operations and not, to use Aurobindo's word, to divinize it." (32)

   Ramana Maharshi and Sri Aurobindo, when asked by visiting disciples of their opinions of each other, usually responded in a noncomittal and respectful fashion. Ramana once simply said that as both of them advocated surrender, one should surrender first and then see what is the truth. To the assertion that Sri Aurobindo advocated Self-Realization and then a further divine transformation, Ramana would usually say, "realize the Self, then see what comes afterwards." However, as reported by David Godman, in The Power of the Presence, Part One, at other times both sages made more directed statements about each other's philosophy. Both remained firmly in different camps, Ramana adhering the strict vedantic ajata ("non-becoming") doctrine of Sankara ("There is no creation and no dissolution. There is no bondage, no one doing spiritual practices, no one seeking liberation, and no one who is liberated. One who is established in the Self sees this by his knowledge of Reality." (33), while Aurobindo maintaining what he felt was a true Vedic position that there was an evolution of consciousness and matter, with self-realisation just the beginning.

   These two points of view, were there not contributing semantic difficulties, could perhaps be reconciled through PB's concepts of the Long Path and Short Paths, as well as his view of that of an ever-spiraling spiritual evolution even after the attainment of sahaj or enlightenment. However, there are significant semantic difficulties that need clarification: (1) What does Self-Realization mean for Sri Aurobindo, and how is it compared to what Ramana meant by the term ? (2) Sri Aurobindo numerous times essentially equated nirvikalpa samadhi with realization of the "silence of Brahman", or "Nirvana", which is certainly a non-traditional usage of the latter term, at least according to non-dual Mahayana Buddhism. Aurobindo appeared to use the term more like what the yogis meant by kaivalya; and (3) It is also unclear what Aurobindo meant by the term "Brahman", which he equates with "The Absolute", and which he places even above the Supermental level. He writes about this in his poem called "Ascent". It seems like he is trying to identify the Absolute and Brahman with the One of Plotinus and the ancient Greek philosophers, but his attempt at delineating various eternal dimensions or hypostases in the Absolute looks quite different and not nearly as precise. This has caused various interpretations and cosmological schemas among his followers. For instance, Michael Murphy equates the Supermind with the Nous, and the Kheper website says Overmind is the Nous. The Mother lists seven higher planes and five lower planes, while Sri Aurobindo had four higher and three lower. Again, much of this may have been due to the influence of the occultist Max Theon on the Mother and through her on Sri Aurobindo.

   The following remarks were reported by Swami Madhavatirtha, a prolific author, who spent time with Aurobindo until 1926 before leaving, his questions unsatisfied, and then with Ramana in 1944.

Q: "Sri Aurobindo wants to bring the power of God into the human body."
M: "If, after surrendering, one still has this desire, then surrender has not been successful. If one has the attitude, 'If the higher power is to come down, it must come into my body', this will only increase identification with the body. Truly speaking, there is no need of any such descent. After the destruction of the I-am-the-body idea, the individual becomes the form of the absolute. In that state, there is no above or below, front or back."

   "When people from Sri Aurobindo's Ashram come here and ask about the difference our school and theirs, I always tell them, 'There, complete surrender is advised and insisted upon before anything further could be hoped for or attained. So, do it first - I also advise it. After making such surrender, i.e., complete surrender and not any partial or conditioned surrender, you will be able to see for yourself whether there are two purushas, whether power comes from anywhere and gets into anywhere, etc..' For we know nothing about God or any source from which power comes and gets into us. All that is not known. But 'I exist' is known beyond dispute by all men. So let us know who that 'I' is. If, after knowing it, there still remain any doubts such as are now raised, it will be time enough then to try and clear such doubts." (34a)

   In the book, The Power of the Presence, Part One, by David Godman, the following interesting interchange is recounted that went on over the differences between the philosophies of Sri Aurobindo and Ramana. Swami Madhavatirtha writes that Maharshi held that the transition from dreaming to waking cannot be called an evolution from a lower to a higher state; rather, it is a total negation of the one state in the other. Just so, "even if the jiva enters Supermind, it will remain in the mind, but after surrendering the mind there will be nothing left but Brahman." (35)

Q: "In the ashram of Sri Aurobindo it is believed that if we surrender to Guru or God, the authority of the individual goes away. In exchange we get the support of a bigger authority and a divine power shines in us."
M: "To expect to receive a bigger divine power after surrender is not the true attitude of surrender."

Q: "What about the 'Over-mind', the 'Super-mind', the 'Psychic', and the 'Divine' of Sri Aurobindo's terminology?"
M: "Realise the Self or the Divine. All these differences will disappear."

   On the other side, Sri Aurobindo answered questions from disciples about Ramana:
D: "Ramana Maharshi does not believe in the descent [of the Supermind]."
SA: "In Maharshi's case he has received the thing in the heart and has worked with it, so he does not feel the descent." (38)

   [Ramana admitted that he had little or no experience of the "overhead planes", although he did have frequent samadhis and various psychic experiences such as seeing the sages who lived within Arunachala Hill. His body many times dissolved into its constituent elements as the pranava body, similar to the rainbow or light body as mentioned in Tibetan Buddhism, as reported by devotees and chronicled by David Godman].

   Aurobindo clearly would not accept that Ramana was speaking from full Self-realization or God-knowledge. (39)

SA: "So far as I know he does not believe in the ascent or the descent...Maharshi is very much of a Vedantist. He does not believe in what we believe or in the descent, etc...Because he is a great man, does it follow that everything he thinks or says is right? Or because he lives in the light, does it follow that his light is absolute and complete? The 'Truth-Consciousness' is a phrase I use for the Supermind. He may be, and is, in a true consciousness, but that is a different matter...Living in the true consciousness is living in a consciousness in which one is spiritually in union in one way or another. But it does not follow that [by] so living one will have complete, exact and infallible truth about all ideas, all things and all persons. Maharshi realises the Divine in a certain aspect and he has the knowledge of what is necessary for his path. It does not follow that he will have knowledge that [is] beyond what he has reached or is outside it." (40)

   PB, while critical, was in essential agreement with Aurobindo in the sense that he found limitations in Maharshi's presentation of the doctrines, although not necessarily in the scope of his consciousness or enlightenment. PB felt that Ramana's teaching itself did not always represent pure non-duality, and he was therefore, in PB's language, not a philosophic sage, but nevertheless still a sage. So it was perhaps a bit presumptious for Aurobindo to suggest that the realization of Ramana was limited or of a lesser variety than his own.

   In spite of their apparent disagreements, both sages affirmed that divine realization is possible in this very world, and not merely somewhere else. The Mother, reflecting on Sri Aurobindo’s vision, said:

   “Sri Aurobindo came to tell us: "One need not leave the earth to find the Truth, one need not leave the life to find his soul, one need not abandon the world or have only limited beliefs to enter into relation with the Divine. The Divine is everywhere, in everything and if He is hidden, it is because we do not take the trouble to discover Him." (41)

   Similarly Maharshi remarked:

   "What is meant by liberation? Do the heavenly worlds and heavenly bliss exist somewhere else in the sky? Are they to be experienced in some other world and some other body after leaving this world and the body? The heart alone is the supreme world. Tranquility, in the form of supreme silence, is alone the supreme bliss or the happiness of liberation...The cessation of all worries is the attainment of the supreme truth. By the state of inner consciousness the great life of supreme bliss can be attained at all times in this very world and in this very body." (42)

   So one can see that this issue remains unresolved. Perhaps a good example of this is shown by the following three quotes. Adyashanti writes:

   "Once you see reality, once you know it, you know the whole of it… But, at the same time, reality is like a bud that keeps opening. The petals keep revealing themselves. It's not as if that bud becomes something that it wasn't before. It just keeps showing its potential." (43)

   Stephen Harrison suggests we not rule out the possibility of evolution within the non-dual awakening:

   “Realization of the absolute is not the end, but the beginning of inquiry into that absolute. Recognizing the limitation of the conditioned state is not the end of the state. Our question becomes the investigation of that conditioned state, and its transformation. This integration of the absolute and the relative, the conditioned and the unconditioned, is a kind of evolution of consciousness which is taking place in all of us, but which is taking place outside of time...Can that realization come into our everyday life?...Can the body itself undertake the transmutation necessary for it to be the vehicle for this energy, for it to be this energy, rather than the expression of disease, aging, and death?...This movement can only take place without us, that is, without the psychological “me.” (44)
   Finally, Melvyn Wartella expresses a similar thought:

   “The ego has served its purpose. It has developed a mind that can express itself. One that can see very abstractly and with great complexity. It can see with subtleties that are very profound. It took millions of years to evolve this capacity, but in a timeless reality, it has been instantly. Now Life, that wonder of pure awareness and wisdom, has a vehicle to use that will accelerate the evolution of humankind to undreamed of levels. It is already complete. We just do not see it clearly. As each of us comes to see and understand what we are, we become a voice for Wisdom. Not that we will not make many mistakes along the way. We are breaking down millions of years of conditioning to find the freedom that has always been here. At first, you will wonder if what you feel and think is coming from Life, or is it conditioning. It all becomes clearer as we use our new found connection with Reality. Enlightenment is just a first step towards a full return to Life. However, it is a powerful step that takes us out of the dream of ego and opens our Heart to that which has always been and always will be.... I can well see the possibility of infinite evolution of what we are. All of that both has nothing to do with Enlightenment, and everything to do with it. Enlightenment is awakening to the facts, not the dreams of life. Evolution beyond that can be accelerated to a great degree by the removal of the ego sense/dream. So, Enlightenment is very important, but also just another step forward into an infinity of creation we can hardly imagine now. It is all very wonderful." (45)

   Sri Aurobindo did write that the difficult ordeals he and the Mother had to go through as pioneers were not necessary for others, and that anyone with the will and desire could pursue the path that he revealed. Of his own sadhana Aurobindo wrote:

   "I transformed my nature from what it was to what it was not. I did it in a special manner, not by a miracle and I did it to show what could be done and how it could be done...If it is not so, then my Yoga is useless and my life was a mistake - a mere absurd freak of Nature without meaning or consequence. You all seem to think it a great compliment to me to say that what I have done has no meaning for anybody except myself - it is the most damaging criticism on my work that could be made. I also did not do it by myself, if you mean by myself the Aurobindo that was. He did it by the help of Krishna and the Divine Shakti. I had help from human sources also.”

   At one point, believe it or not, Sri Aurobindo even said that achieving the process he outlined is simple! But how to do it today, and where are such 'divine' and 'human sources' to be found? He said that the Work depended on him and the Mother, and they are gone - where is the living transmission of the lineage? In Sant Mat they say that 'one bulb is fused and another replaces it,' yet this does not appear to be present for the Supramental Yoga. In addition, is what Sri Aurobindo taught really new? Many great masters get more luminous, bodily transformed, and spiritually potent as they mature and integrate their realization. This is evident even in the present day.


   This much must be said. Sri Aurobindo and the Mother actually admitted that they had not succeeded totally in their endeavors, and may have not fully understood what it was they were trying to achieve regarding the 'bringing down of the light'. In Aurobindo's view, he had believed he needed to 'bring down', 'infuse' and even 'force' the Supermind 'into matter', into the inconscient and subconscient of the planet. This, it can be argued, shows a fundamental misunderstanding of the very nature of Supermind, which is, above all else, a point of view that includes what can be called the 'tantric' and 'nondual' views, where one more essentially 'reveals' Supermind itself within the so-called physical and other levels by a change of point of view or realization. One does not bring down or force Supermind, just as one does not bring Buddha-nature into manifestation - one awakens to the realization of the nondual view, or at least the tantric view, which is probably more essentially what the Supermind is, a strong awakening to the tantric view (which, when richly realized, is a strong foundation, and based on a strong foundation, of the nondual vision). So, ironically, Aurobindo was trying to birth the Supermind (tantric/nondual) state by using a pre-Supermind mentality to force it into manifestation. We give them credit for participating in early stage experiments that were inspired by a nascient intuition of an emerging new global spiritual sensibility. But they failed to deeply understand what that vision is, how to 'birth' it, the stage humanity is at in this awakening, and what their role in all that really was.

   On the other hand, the neo-advaita scene is often jumping the gun, believing that everyone is ready to leap over the traditional and tantric sensibilities and embrace the pure nondual. By the 'tantric view' we do not essentially mean the use of kundalini practices, working with chakras and all that, but rather the underlying sensibility of seeing matter as not the enemy, and seeking to transform and include our humanity, desire, sexuality, nature, and so on in our spirituality, rather than judge and reject. It can be that various forms of practices like kundalini yoga, Taoist yoga, Tibetan Buddhism, or Kaballah are a potential natural outgrowth of this view, but they are not necessary to give expression to the 'tantric intuition'. We only need grow into the essential vision of what is happening. No one has adequately addressed the subject so far, which is central to understanding emergent spirituality.



   Here is an interesting view that has come to my intention which suggests that David Godman and I may have been mistaken regarding the incompatibility of or disagreement between Ramana Maharshi's and Aurobindo's teachings. I am indebted to Don Salmon for this. I quote his letter verbatum:

   "Kapali Sastry was a disciple of Ganapati Muni for a number of years, Muni being among Maharshi's most illustrious students.  At one point, Sastry wrote a comprehensive commentary on Maharshi's "Sat Darshana Bhashya".  In it, he included a number of terms coined by Sri Aurobindo, as well as much of Sri Aurobindo's "integral" philosophy.  Maharshi went over the entire commentary and gave it a strong seal of approval!

   The other point is that Sri Aurobindo was never seeking the purely physical prolongation of life in the body.  He made this point many times but people still claim that the fact that he died was proof of the error of his thinking.  He wasn't seeking anything, in fact, but that's a different letter.

    The main point is that Sastry, a student of both Muni and Maharshi for many years, and later a student of Sri Aurobindo, saw no fundamental contradiction between their teachings, remained a profound admirer of the Maharshi after going to study with Sri Aurobindo, and Sastry's own commentary on Maharshi's teaching  - complete with Aurobindonian ideas and even Aurobindoian terminology - was approved by Maharshi.

    David Godman's citations of apparent disagreements in conversations Maharshi had with disciples is different. From what I've seen, many of Sri Aurobindo's current and past disciples took his teachings in an almost purely materialistic (non mentalist) way; and Maharshi was simply pointing this out."

   Sri Aurobindo, moreover, referred to Ramana as having brought "glory of India", and that he was "a Hercules among yogis."

Here is a link to the "Kheper" website with lots of information including summaries of the Triple Transformation: Psychicisation, Spiritualisation, and Supramentalisation, as well as the cosmology of Sri Aurobindo's teachings that may answer some questions not fully addressed in this article. There are also links to interesting on-line biographies of both Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, including one called "Why Sri Aurobindo Is Cool", published in What is Enlightenment? magazine in 2002.

Click here for free downloads of the collected works of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother.


1. Sat Prem, Sri Aurobindo, or the Adventure of Consciousness (New York: Harper & Row, Publishers (copyright Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust, 1968), p. 27
2. Sri Aurobindo, On Yoga II, Tome One, p. 294
3. Paul Brunton, The Notebooks of Paul Brunton, Vol. 15, Part 1, 4.353 (Burdett, New York: Larson Publications, 1988)
4. Ibid, 2.14
5. Kirpal Singh, NAAM OR WORD (Franklin, N.H.: Sant Bani Press, 1970), p. 225
6. H. Chauduri, Sri Aurobindo: The Prophet of the Life Divine, p. 93
7. Letters on Yoga, 3rd edition, 1971, pp 1039-1046. The concept was also used by Paul Brunton, who was familiar with Sri Aurobindo's teachings.
8. The Life Divine pp.891
8a. Brunton, op. cit., Vol. 16, Part 1, 2.194
8b. A.E. Powell, The Causal Body, (The Theosophical Publishing House, 1956), p. 190
9. Ibid, pp.907-908, 225f, 891ff
10. The Life Divine, p.909
11. Sri Aurobindo, Light Divine, p. 1130
12. Ibid, p. 1134
13. K.P.S. Choudhary, Modern Indian Mysticism, (Delhi: Motilal Banarsidas, 1981), p. 255
14. Light Divine, p. 1173
15. Brunton, op. cit., Volume 13, Part 1, 4.115,134
16. Arthur Osborne, Ramana Maharshi and the Path of Self-Knowledge (New York: Samuel Weiser, 1970)
17. Anthony Damiani, Looking Into Mind: How To Recognize Who You Are and How You Know (Burdett, N.Y.: Larson Publications, 1990), p. 156 (an unmarked quote from one of the Notebooks of Paul Brunton)
18. Ibid, p.157
19. Kirpal Singh, from A Brief Life Sketch of Hazur Baba Sawan Singh Ji Maharaj, as quoted in Portrait of Perfection, p. 44-45
20. Babuji Maharaj , Notes of Discourses, Radha Soami Satsang, Agra, 1947), p. 80, 117
21. David Godman, The Power of the Presence, Part One (Sri Ramanasramam, Tiruvannamalai, India, 2000), p. 241
22. Brunton, op. cit., Vol. 13, Part 3, 4.101, 2.41
23. Anthony Damiani, op. cit., p. 28, 32, 39, 45
24. Brunton, op. cit., 2.51
25. Anthony Damiani, Standing in Your Own Way (Burdett, New York: Larson Publications, 1993), p. 125)
26. Ibid, p. 123
27.Notes on the Way, Volume 11, p. 328
28. The Agenda, Vol.1 p.69
29. Ibid, p.75
30. Brunton, op. cit., Vol. 16, Part 1, 4.242
31. Ibid, Vol. 10, 2.479
32. Paul Brunton, Perspectives (Burdett, New York: Larson Publications, Inc, 1984), p. 105
33. David Godman, op. cit., p. 240
34. Ibid, p. 241
34a. A. Devaraja Mudaliar, Day by Day with Bhagavan (Tiruvannamalai, India: Sri Ramanasramam, 2002), p. 190
35. Godman, op. cit., p. 243, 242
36. Ibid, 244-245
37. Ibid, p. 247
38. Evening Talks with Sri Aurobindo, 1982 ed, p. 544
39. Ibid, p. 572
40. Guidance from Sri Aurobindo Vol 1, Letters to a young disciple' (Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust, 1974), p. 252-255
41. (source unknown)
42. David Godman, op. cit., p. 133
43. (source unknown)
44. Stephen Harrison, Doing Nothing, (New York, N.Y.: Jeremy Tarcher/Putnam, 2002), p. 127-129
45. Melvyn Wartella, from "Essays", www.friendsofreality.org
46. from a letter to a dlsciple, 1935, quoted In "A Llfe Dlvlne: The Life and Work of Sri Aurobindo, " by Jyoti Sobel, Indian Currents, Vol. 2, No.9 (December 1988) p. 11)