Suggestions on Structuring the Aurobindo Reading Group Sessions


(Tony Sauer) #1

In the last of the reading group sessions Marco V. Morelli mentioned that he wanted to get more out of the livecalls in terms of discussion, as it relates to specific chapters and the content of Aurobindos ideas. People differ a lot in their experience with the text and bring different perspectives to the discussion, so its natural that a wide range of topics can be connected to it, from Ai to current evolutionary theory, and its fun to do so as long it doesn’t sidetrack to much from the text. So in order to collectively have a better learning experience I would like to open up a thread for suggestions on how to maybe better structure the hangouts to get the most out of it.

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If you like to adopt a specific chapter that your interested, and want to have a deeper dive in, you can easily sign up in this thread below.

Here is a list of the remaining chapters:

Book Two, Part II – The Knowledge and the Ignorance – The Spiritual Evolution

Chapter 15 - Reality and the Integral Knowledge
Chapter 16 - The Integral Knowledge and the Aim of Life; Four Theories of Existence
Chapter 17 - The Progress to Knowledge - God, Man, and Nature
Chapter 18 - The Evolutionary Process - Ascent and Integration
Chapter 19 - Out of the Sevenfold Ignorance towards the Sevenfold Knowledge
Chapter 20 - The Philosophy of Rebirth
Chapter 21 - The Order of the Worlds
Chapter 22 - Rebirth and Other Worlds; Karma, the Soul, and Immortality
Chapter 23 - Man and the Evolution
Chapter 24 - The Evolution of the Spiritual Man
Chapter 25 - The Triple Transformation
Chapter 26 - The Ascent towards Supermind
Chapter 27 - The Gnostic Being
Chapter 28 - The Divine Life


And the breakdown by week:

9/13 – Chs. 15–16 (@justcallmetony)
9/20 – Chs. 17–19 (@Geoffrey_Edwards + @madrush for 19)
9/27 – Chs. 20–21 (@madrush)
10/4 – Chs. 22–23 (@Douggins)
10/11 – Ch. 24 (@Matteo)
10/18– Chs. 25 (@MarcoM)
10/25– Ch. 26 (@KPr2204)
11/1 – Ch. 27 (@johnnydavis54)
*11/7 – Ch. 28 (@Matteo )

*@madrush notes: (I’ve just added this week in order to break up Chs 25 and 26, which were previously joined and would have been almost 80 pages in one week. I don’t know why I didn’t do this before.)


The Life Divine – Reading Group, Session #14 [9/13]
The Life Divine – Reading Group, Session #13 [8/30]
(Tony Sauer) #2

I start with what Marco has suggested:

One way to get more structure into the discussion would be if one person could summarize the last few chapters of the reading assignment for that call, either in written form (a few pages that could be posted in the forum), or just up top of the head if possible.

The idea is that one would read a short summary of the chapters out loud and thereby frame the discussion in a more specific way. I know that’s a lot of work and someone would have to volunteer to do it. - I don’t think I could do it that well because the text to me is very complex and im not very versed in the material.


(Marco V Morelli) #3

Thanks for this post, @justcallmetony. I was thinking we might do something like “Adopt a Chapter”—so that each week we have a couple people to ground the conversation in Aurobindo’s text, and maybe bring some novel perspective to it. In the past (e.g., reading Sloterdjik) this has been a good way to generate focus. Once that’s there, we can (and will) go in many different directions, but the text gives us a common reference and starting point.

Further, there are many interesting chapters in Book 2, Part 2. I think they are the most intriguing chapters in the text (“The Gnostic Being,” etc.) I don’t want to miss them. I want to make the the most of the next couple months—like swimming in the ocean until I am fully saturated and become the water. Then when I get out of the water, I will lie on the sand and dry in the sun, absorbing the solar radiation with all the open pores of my being.

Could we do a sign-up for the upcoming chapters?


(Tony Sauer) #4

Great - So the next Reading Group Sessions will cover Chapter XV and XVI of the third book, that is part two of the second book. That will be in two weeks.

I will try to summarize those two chapters in about three to five pages and will present it in the next hangout in order to sum up the sections in a quick and accessible way. We can than start discussing the book from there.

There is a little bit of a language barrier involved there and I also don’t fully get the ideas, but I just do it and see what comes out. Obviously I have my own biases and other people will have theirs, and they will do it their way.

People who want to do the next chapters can be as creative as they want in reprocessing and reworking the text in a way that makes sense to them. I guess that in doing this the person would make the reading for him or her more alive and more real and get a better understanding of it for them self.

@Geoffrey_Edwards stated he wanted to do the introduction, or anything that would reprocess the text, for the next chapters. Being passionated about writing im sure that would be a fun exercise for him. When the time comes someone else would prepare something for the next chapters. One could bring a guitar and set the mood if he wants.


(Don Salmon) #5

Hi Tony:

This is a great idea. For people who remember when Debashish showed up for a session, it seems that everyone found it helpful to have someone around who had been studying the book for many decades.

This is from Santosh Krinsky, who has been studying the LD over 40 years and whose main work has been publishing books related to the Integral Yoga (“Lotus Press”). https://sriaurobindostudies.wordpress.com/2010/03/

David Hutchinson has an online outline, but it is very fragmentary and I don’t think it would be helpful for an in-depth discussion.

Rand Hicks, who along with Santosh was a student of Madhav Pandit, who himself lived at the Ashram for nearly a half century and had extensive contact with both the Mother and Sri Aurobindo, has excellent extemporaneous recorded talks on every chapter. he reads the text and comments on it, which is particularly helpful. http://www.iksc.org/lifedivine2.html

of course, it’s obvious folks will learn more by making their own outline, which is fine - but since almost everyone here is new to the book, I think it would be very helpful to at least glance at (or briefly listen to) these summaries.


(Marco Masi) #6

My difficulty is that reading two or even three chapters per week is a bit too much for me. The depth and complexity of Sri Aurobindo’s texts is such that, if I want to ‘digest’ it properly I usually don’t go much further than one ch./w. But that might be my weakness…

I enjoyed and liked very much Debashishs commentaries, these helped a lot in understanding and keeping the foucs. However, my experience is that one understands, learns and goes deeper into things by going beyond the passive listening of a lecture-like setting. Something I feel could be helpful is, besides the above mentioned ‘chapter adoption’ and summary, the possibility to throw into the circle open questions that others could help to find an answer for and/or ones own free comments on something.

The open questions in form of personal doubts from each of us about some aspects which need clarification. For instance, while it is clear that, when Sri Aurobindo talks about ‘knowledge’ he does not mean an intellectual and ‘bookish’ understanding of things, I sometimes wonder what exactly he means by that word ‘Knowledge’? Would be interesting to hear how others interpret him here. Another question might be what he means really with the ‘psychic being’ (that I have more clearly in mind now, but can recall how, when once confronted with it for the first time, I wondered what that is).

As to the comments I mean some paragraphs or even few phrases in the text on which everyone might feel to say something due to personal experience. For example, I would like to say something about what he describes being the limits (and dogmas) of the sense-mind knowledge of science in ch. XV, since it is something I can relate to very much because of my past experience with a scientific materialist mindset.

So, if we come prepared with some open questions and/or develop a short comment on some aspect we feel to be relevant in the current chapter, that might perhaps help in focusing and deepen more things. Just some thoughts and ruminations….


(Don Salmon) #7

All excellent suggestions. I hope they’re taken up, Marco.


(Marco V Morelli) #8

I feel the same way, Marco. I like taking one chapter at a time—but practically, we had to judge what could work on the platform, given that’s it’s actually pretty rare (outside of school or church) that people focus on one text for so long. And here on this platform with other readings and creative projects going on, it seemed an initial commitment of almost 6 months would be a good start. And it’s always nice to complete something large and challenging, like a major philosophical text. I think it prepares the ground for deeper explorations in years to come.

So here’s a thought. What if each week when we have two chapters, we divide and conquer, so two people would volunteer, and each do something with that chapter? We can divide the two hours and give one hour to each, and of course, I would expect the discussion to go in any number of directions within that framework.

Matteo also voiced a desire to practice allowing a few breaths of space around each person’s remarks, which I would like to support too…although sometimes, of course, the spirit arises and it’s good to speak without delay. But in general it feels like we could deepen the space based on all the work we’ve already done, just by adding a little structure.

Here is a list of the remaining chapters:

Book Two, Part II – The Knowledge and the Ignorance – The Spiritual Evolution

Chapter 15 - Reality and the Integral Knowledge
Chapter 16 - The Integral Knowledge and the Aim of Life; Four Theories of Existence
Chapter 17 - The Progress to Knowledge - God, Man, and Nature
Chapter 18 - The Evolutionary Process - Ascent and Integration
Chapter 19 - Out of the Sevenfold Ignorance towards the Sevenfold Knowledge
Chapter 20 - The Philosophy of Rebirth
Chapter 21 - The Order of the Worlds
Chapter 22 - Rebirth and Other Worlds; Karma, the Soul, and Immortality
Chapter 23 - Man and the Evolution
Chapter 24 - The Evolution of the Spiritual Man
Chapter 25 - The Triple Transformation
Chapter 26 - The Ascent towards Supermind
Chapter 27 - The Gnostic Being
Chapter 28 - The Divine Life]


And the breakdown by week:

9/13 – Chs. 15–16 (@justcallmetony)
9/20 – Chs. 17–19 (@Geoffrey_Edwards + any volunteer’s for Chapter 19?)
9/27 – Chs. 20–21 (@madrush, @Douggins )
10/4 – Chs. 22–23 (@Douggins)
10/11 – Ch. 24
10/18– Chs. 25 (@MarcoM)
10/25– Ch. 26
11/1 – Ch. 27 (@johnnydavis54)
*11/7 – Ch. 28

(*I’ve just added this week in order to break up Chs 25 and 26, which were previously joined and would have been almost 80 pages in one week. I don’t know why I didn’t do this before.)


@justcallmetony: Would you like to add this list to your original post above, so participants can sign up to adopt individual chapters? You would just have to edit your post, or we could turn it into a wiki and any group member can add their name next to the chapter they want.

For example, I would like to do Chapter 20. I would be very interested in taking a deeper dive into Aurobindo’s “Philosophy of Rebirth.”

@johnnydavis54 has mentioned his interest in Chapter 27, “The Gnostic Being.”

And I would like to nominate @Matteo for Ch. 28. It’s been amazing to have his insight as part of these meetings, and I couldn’t imagine ending the book without him. :slight_smile:


(Geoffrey Edwards) #9

I said I would do Ch. 17 and 18. I guess I can do 19 as well as it is in the same batch… unless someone else wants to take ch. 19 on, as per @madrush’s suggestion?


(Marco Masi) #10

I could do Ch.25, the triple transformation.


(john davis) #11

That’s confirmed. I assume responsibility for that chapter.


(Douglas Duff) #12

These were the most memorable chapters for me during the first go around…and the pages with more underlinings, notes and questions than other chapters. Can’t think of the word (synesthesia?) for vivid recall of the exact location and day I read these chapters; I am rebirthing as I think about it now! If you take stake with 20 & 21, I sense an Auroworld revisit for 22 & 23 (meaning I will “summarize” 22/23).

Additional resources for Rebirth can be found in the collected Works “Letters on Yoga Volume 1” p. 532 ( Section 3, Chapter 4). The Book The Psychic Being (short collection of selections from Aurobindo and the Mother on Soul) has a section on Afterlife and Rebirth beginning page 125.


(Tony Sauer) #13

Thanks for the links, especially the outline by Rand Hicks is very helpful. I think someone has mentioned this website before but I haven’t seen it. I will listen to those in addition to the reading.


(Tony Sauer) #14

I agree that it’s a difficult text. Its dense, its complex, its esoteric, you have to set up a sacred space to even read it. And to really give full justice to him one would probably have to read up on some of his sources. But I don’t have necessarily the highest aims in perfectly understanding him. I see a short summary as an exercise to get closer to the text and understand as much as I can.


(Tony Sauer) #15

For the difficult questions obviously someone like Debashish, Don Salmon, or Mateo have to be on site. Having preprepared comments to exchange is a great idea.


(Marco V Morelli) #16

I do think asking, “What does Aurobindo mean by Knowledge?” is a great question. For clearly, it is not mental-rational knowledge that he’s talking about. I believe he would say that mental-rational (including scientific) knowledge is true—pragmatically, in this universe—but partial and derivate. There is a truer (integral, divine) Knowledge which is prior—even prior to the manifest Cosmos.

But Aurobindo does not seem to me like a Mystic either. He does not just say, “the truth is a fathomless Mystery.” He may say that it would appear that the whole truth (and nothing but the truth!) can’t be know to the intellect, but he also asserts that actually there is a true Truth of which the self (as Self) can have Knowledge. He describes this as “knowledge by identity.” But what does that really mean? What does it really mean to say, I AM THAT?

This is the kind of question I think it would be interesting to explore as we move through these later chapters.