As someone who is relatively new to Sri Aurobindo’s cosmology, and the way it represented itself in his life and teachings, I have been wondering about ‘The Mother’ (the human) as a…what? incarnation? symbol? concretion? actualization?..of ‘The Mother’ (the cosmological, divine)—and whether conversely there is, in Aurobindo, a ‘Father’ who is both symbol and reality (perhaps, a ‘real idea’) and if so, is Aurobindo ‘The Father’? Did he ever call himself ‘The Father’? If not, then who on earth would ‘The Father’ be? If there is a Mother, mustn’t there be a Father—not only cosmically but historically incarnate?
Hi Marco - I didn’t see any other responses to this so I’ll give it a try.
Sri Aurobindo has referred to the Transcendent Consciousness as roughly equivalent to the Father of the Christian Trinity, but he rarely refers to the “Father.” This is because the goal of “ascending” to the transcendent has been so ingrained in spiritual traditions for thousands of years, he wanted to emphasize the importance of the “Mother” - the dynamic, “consciousness-force” which is ever creating anew everything in this and all universes - for the ongoing evolution.
One description of Consciousness I’ve always loved comes from a letter he wrote to a disciple: “Consciousness is the fundamental thing in the universe — it is the energy, the motion, the movement of consciousness that creates that universe and all that is in it.”
That is the Mother. Mira Alfassa, the human “colleague” of Sri Aurobindo, is regarded as a human incarnation of this Conscious-Force.
On a much more practical level, when awareness opens, and the mind and “life-consciousness” (vital/emotional) is relatively quiet and still, it’s possible to feel very concretely a “Force” that pervades everything. Traditionally, it is thought that this Force in a special way resides at the base of the spine, and meditative and yogic practices are aimed at stimulating it and having it ascend up the spine to the top of the head and beyond.
In the Integral Yoga, the aim is simply to have enough stable peace and equanimity , and a stable aspiration of the innermost heart, in order to open to that Force which is experienced as coming down from above the head.
In a way, there’s no rules or set practices, other than this quiet mind and open heart, aspiring to open to the “Mother’s Force.” Intuition gradually develops along the way, so knowing what to eat, how to exercise, sleep, work, interact with others, etc, is more and more guided by this sense of the Presence of the Mother.
But being there are no rules, some don’t find the “image” of “Mother” helpful at all. There may be just a sense of Divine Presence (and no need for the word “Divine” if that chafes!). My Sufi teacher Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee simply used the word “guidance” – for example, right now, I’m taking a break from finishing up a psycholgoial evaluation, and I am aware of a bit of time pressure, as I have to prepare for another evaluation tomorrow morning, and I also need to work steadily from now (10:30 AM EST) until we leave about 5 to go to a gathering of friends, and then return in time for the Zoom meeting tonight with you guys.
As long as the mind is busy and the identification with this physical/vital/mental activity is strong, it acts as a block to that Force and guidance.
So reminders are helpful to open, to let the mind become quiet and allow the innermost, spontaneous aspiration of the heart to emerge, and let the Force, or Presence, or Mother, or whatever you want to call it, be more and more the guiding energy in the writing of the evaluation, the editing I’ll be doing of sound files in Logic Pro, interacting with folks at the gathering, and listening mindfully and responding heartfully tonight on Zoom.
Don, thanks for the thoughtful and helpful response. I have been thinking about fatherhood a lot lately, as I am not only literally a father to two daughters, but also have a father who I’m intimately aware is growing older, and it was recently Father’s Day, and so at a cultural level there is a superficial (but real) attention put on fatherhood and the archetype of the father, even if he is mainly portrayed as a hamburger-grilling, football-watching, power-tool using (rugged, yet oddly pampered) kind of guy.
It seems to me “The Father” is a crumbling, yet still ominously-shaped archetype. On the one hand, God the father is dead—on the other hand, many are longing for the authoritarian Force of the father to come down and impose order on the teeming chaos of Mother Earth’s body. It is all very interesting from intellectual perspective, but practically it seems we may need to rethink the wisdom of conflating human relations with divine (or even ecological) ones; or if it’s inevitable that we do, I wonder how Mother and Father interrelate on a spiritual level; hence my question regarding Aurobindo’s construction of “the Father”—it seems only logical that the Father, in his philosophy, would be him.
That’s very interesting about the Force in Integral Yoga coming down from above rather than moving up from the base of the spine. I will have to watch for that. And, on the question of the word, “Force,” I’ve been thinking…maybe it’s actually kind of the perfect word, culturally, if we can think of it in the sense of “the Force” in Star Wars. Is that so far off the mark?
This may be something you already know about, but I believe they are referred to as “avatars” by their disciples. That means something very specific to me when I use it, and I’d be curious to know how others interpret it. For me, it means something like guru with lots of archetypal significance and corresponding siddhis or powers. Someone who can move things on multiple planes or who is often used in enacting macrocosmic shifts on a microcosmic level (in some occult groups, including Trungpa’s circle or Gafni’s or Crowley’s, for instance–much easier for an Avatar, though I think this is a watering down of the term as it is often used in the god/goddess/puja-based Hindu traditions). If anyone is a devoted Aurobindo practitioner or devotee of the Mother, please don’t be offended by my outsider explorations and musing here. I don’t mean any offense, and I also recognize that i have an -etic vs. -emic orientation to the communities of practice.
In Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series, there were characters who could shift forces in the dreamtime, and they were able to draw others to them and around them to play our k/cosmic forces–I think of avatar kind of like that. But, a quick search shows that definitions indicate it has more to do with realization. (What?! the universe is not really playing out Robert Jordan’s mythos exclusively? I’m shocked.)
Also, the Integral Yoga, as practiced, is a guru tradition, and I knew a woman who grew up in Pondicherry and attending the Mother’s schools there. She described her practice with the Mother as though she were a doorway to the divine feminine/Great Mother, and that she (this woman) would pray intercessory prayers to her (the Mother) for assistance all the time. She would ask for her guidance, as though she were internally fused. So, perhaps she had internalized her (as I think is typical (?) with guru relationships) as a homunculus (Jung’s term) or as an intermediary at least. It seemed like a true guru relationship that practitioners have with both of them, even after their passing.
It is interesting that the traditions recognize a Great Mother (Matrix), but that the paternal aspect is mostly expressed as Logos/Phallus/Divine Organizing principle or as a trickster god (these corresponding to the static and dynamic aspects–maybe related to Gareth Hill’s book on the masculine and feminine). Isn’t Sri Aurobindo sometimes correlated with Shiva in the writings? Maybe I’m totally wrong about that and the way his archetypal energy is/was interpreted. But, he did transcend the Overmind and pull it down so that the archetypes were in this realm (and processed sooner). I spent several years really battling archetypal energy and feeling almost completely defeated by it at times, so his yogic work on this was probably of great benefit.
The Mother would most likely be the “static feminine” in Hill’s formulae. (You might be interested in the Matrixial Bordersphere by Bracha Ettinger that explores some of this.) The “dynamic feminine” pole corresponds in Hill to a trickster (often of male gender, but the fluidity of his energy is what makes him dynamic feminine–like musicians and other performers, for instance). The father is the “static masculine” probably (which would be like Zeus or Kronos maybe?) and I can’t remember what the “dynamic masculine” corresponds to in symbolism. However, Hill, as a depth psychologist, emphasized that these patterns and configurations and the way they get arrested correspond to different personality disorders and psychological problems.
Not sure if 'm really addressing your question here–and maybe it was more pertinent for the call on the film that I have to catch up on. But, I don’t think Sri Aurobindo was ever considered a Father figure, but more of the divine masculine/guru or as pure presence. I may be way off base with some of these explorations, not sure, but it’s an interesting question (and I could myself in the Auro-noobie) group. @Matteo would be a great person to ask these questions.
I’ll try to make the next call, but am not sure if The Life Divine is the right book for me right now (and will catch up on the rest of this thread tomorrow too).
What is your sense of what MIGHT be the right book for you right now?
Thank you for asking that question, @DurwinFoster. It’s a good one, and I was thinking about it too as I wrote that line above. So, the Erin Manning book is in some ways “very right” for me right now, but I am also inquiring into that. I don’t know if that satisfies me more on a cognitive level, but the sense of fit is something I can access with my felt sense. It’s a little bit like an “ahhhhh” of sliding into it. It’s the book I was waiting for across multiple levels and lines–my life as a writer, my needs as a thinker, my self as a practitioner. Even the neurodiverse line of reasoning feels healing to me, and is opening up inquiries about perception and reality, distinctions that have been also echoed in two other books I’ve picked up recently: Gary Lachman’s Dark Star Rising (to be followed by his recent book on imagination as well–both on the recommendation of @johnnydavis54 via an interview he posted with Lachman in it) and Richard Rorty’s Philosophy and Social Hope, which I picked up at the library for free yesterday on a trade shelf. I had dismissed Rorty’s neo-pragmatism (much like many integrals have dismissed Derrida by taking Ken’s word for it), but after reading the intro and first chapter, I can see that he is doing something I’ve been searching for since 2006 (and before actually), when I was in grad school and trying to write my dissertation. He is often accused of postmodern relativism, but he spends at least three chapters in this book refuting that, and it has an autobiographical flavor to it. He really is aligned and allied with John Dewey, who wrote long before postmodernism and articulated a similar hope for antifoundational (or postconventional) values. His argument is with Platonic opposites and the Cartesian dualisms they gave rise to, and he wants to articulate his views and concrete hopes for action and change through the American (instead of European) tradition of thought. Rorty says:
Our opponents like to suggest that to abandon that vocabulary [Platonic vocab] is to abandon rationality–that to be rational consists precisely in respecting the distinctions between the absolute and the relative, the found and the made, object and subject, nature and convention, reality and appearance. We pragmatists reply that if that were what rationality was, then no doubt we are, indeed irrationalists. But of course we go on to add that being an irrationalist in that sense is not to be incapable of argument. We irrationalists do not foam at the mouth and behave like animals" (hahaha)… "We pragmatists shrug off charges that we are ‘relativists’ or ‘irrationalists’ by saying that these charges presuppose precisely the distinctions we reject. If we have to describe ourselves, perhaps it would be best for us to call ourselves anti-dualists. This does not, of course, mean that we are against what Derrida calls ‘binary oppositions’: divide the world up into the good Xs and the bad non-Xs will always be an indispensable tool of inquiry. But we are against a certain specific set of distinctions, the Platonic distinctions. We have to admit that these distinctions have become part of Western common sense, but we do not regard this as a sufficient argument for retaining them (xix).
In my dissertation, I had attacked Rorty as representing something antithetical to what I valued, and this book is helping me understand Rorty (in a way that feels like an unfolding) of more aligned with what I value than I could possibly have imagined from my perspective at that time. It also resonates with the Gary Hampson article I love on postmodernism with the title “The Way Out is Through” on Integral Review that looks at how there are two traditions of integral thought–that in line with Wilber and that more resonant with the deconstructionists. These are, to his way of thinking, two halves of the whole that is construction. Rorty is helping me pick apart more of these threads, and that will be useful for a piece I’d like to write for a special issue of IR as well (if it’s accepted).
So, that’s what I look for–this book speaks to my “lived questions” (quoting Brandy here). It’s about philosophy and activism, as are Erin Manning’s more recent books with Brian Massumi (whom I also want to read). I can’t have a diet of only philosophy, but there is something emerging here for me that I want to attend to.
Sorry to submerge all of this content in the Auro-noobie thread. I don’t actually see it as off-topic. Sri Aurobindo and the Mother advocated that we be guided by the Psychic Being (one can’t not be, I guess, in a certain sense or at a certain point of listening to it). They also saw this world as the destination of yogic practice, something I resonate with from my Zen practice origins. That the way Sri Aurobindo is writing about things isn’t mediating for me is something I wanted to listen to, question, and learn from. And, the answers he’s offering are actually very aligned with my questions, but I can’t seem to access them as such or very fluidly. I’m patient. Maybe this is a lived question that will keep unfolding with time. But, I don’t want to just read it because I would hate to miss out on practice with a fantastic group of people if there are things that are being coughed up in my path. If I felt less alive and engaged, I might need to search for more transcendent answers. But, as it is, my life is giving me a steady diet. Still, I wonder if there is a hole or gap where the spiritual is concerned and how that will take shape–and whether the Life Divine could midwife that part of myself.
But, I seem to be in a place where I have a very full plate and to overstuff it is not optimal either. I really appreciate the invitation to share and explore this more.