Bravo, Johnny (by the way, a shoutout to you for a marvelous line some months back: “I loathe Jordan Peterson.” you might enjoy this fellow - https://longsworde.wordpress.com who has been writing over the last month, what I think are the best critiques available on Peterson (in an integral light, no less).
I have a suggestion for the next Life Divine conversation, as a way of illuminating how infinitely far Sri Aurobindo’s language is from anything we ordinarily consider “philosophy.” Getting a 'feel" for his yoga psychology can help bring out the rich experiential aspect of his words - I find it makes it easier for the language to resonate throughout my body, my life-energy, heart, mind and soul (Ok, I’ve been resisting critiques of Wilber, but I’ll add my partially tongue-in-cheek suggestion - a good way to introduce yourself to Sri Aurobindo? Read virtually anything Wilber has written on him and assume the opposite. I don’t quite mean this, but it’s pretty close. It takes some talent to so thoroughly misread Sri Aurobindo as Wilber does).
About 21 years ago, I started an online Integral Psychology forum (this was before Wilber and appropriated a phrase coined in 1935 by a disciple of Sri Aurobindo). One of the first things we decided was to see if we really understood Sri Aurobindo’s psychological terminology. We chose “physical mind” to start (no, it has nothing to do with “con op”)
In the late 1920s, Sri Aurobindo developed a lot of the phrases he uses (vital mind, mental physical, etc) in later versions of the Life Divine and Synthesis of Yoga. He explicitly said that a phrase like the “physical mind” was meant to show that it’s impossible to understand the surface nature (jagrat, “waking state” - which, by the way, has NOTHING to do with the modern meaning of states of consciousness - is that enough to void everything Wilber has ever written?? - should I add that among 95% of psychologists, the whole idea of stages of development is over!!?).
So what does physical mean? If you can find a coherent definition in the entire philosophy of science, let me know. Look at the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: “Physical is what physicists study” is essentially their conclusion.
The “physical” consciousness (this is almost universal in Asian, African, European, Oceanic contemplative traditions, only the terminology is Sri Aurobindo’s - very little completely unique in his language) is that associated with the entire physical universe. There is a universal physical consciousness and individualized (non-individualized at first in what we call “matter” - which is how our senses perceive the Brahman; and slowly becoming more individualized over the course of terrestrial evolution, with self-awareness emerging in dolphins, chimps and maybe even African Grays). (there’s 2 good quadrants for you - inner individual and inner universal).
The “mental” consciousness is the instrument of Vijnana, the Mahat or Logos, the consciousness which completely integrates the finite and the infinite, the mind being the means for the Vijnana or Supramental consciousness to create differentiations in the various universes (physical, vital, mental, and many beyond).
The physical consciousness as it presently functions in humans is very tamasic, inert, dull - as befits a consciousness that began in the very depths of avidya, ignorance.
So the physical mind is the mind (it could be preoperational, concrete operational, formal operation and if anyone believes there are actually differentiated stages beyond formal, I don’t - it’s a complete confusion of what Consciousness is and how it functions - whatever is beyond) swamped, flooded, overrun with the tamasic, dull quality of the physical consciousness.
So that’s a start. Crucial warning - there is no “mind” or “physical” or “vital” or “physical mind” or “supramental” or “Brahman” or “non-dual” or anything else our mind so loves to turn into conceptual objects.
I like to think of Sri Aurobindo’s writings in general, and his yoga psychology in particular (you’ll find most of it in his “letters on yoga” collections) much much less as "ideas’ or "concepts’ or (goddess forbid!!!) “systems” - but as a music lead sheet. he gives you the chords and the melody and lyrics, and you know what? That’s just a jumping off point. You know you’re going to change the chords, with substitutions, added 7ths, 9ths, flat 11ths and 13ths, you’re definitely going to invert, reverse, dance around variously and infinitely change the melody, but somehow you still know whatever you’re playing is related to the original melody and chords.
And the great thing about this yoga psychology improvisation is every time you play, it’s completely different yet “the same.”
What I find is over the years, you just get a feel, in your bones, what things like “psychic being” and “physical mind” and all the rest are, and instead of relying on “definitions,” you find ways to convey it through rich phenomenological descriptions.
really, the best way to “explain” it is like the theological Gabriel Marcel did for the logical positivists who invited him to speak on the topic of “Grace.”
They kept asking him to please be more clear, to “define your terms.” He kept trying to modify what he was saying in order to convey what he intended, but finally he said, “I’m sorry, I don’t think I can speak any more clearly. But if I had a piano here, I could play it for you.”