The Life Divine – Reading Group, Session #3 [6/14]

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(Durwin Foster) #64

I have read ur full post.


(Don Salmon) #65

Durwin - if you have time (when you have time) I’d be enormously grateful if you could explain to me what you think Wilber means when he says that Sri Aurobindo is modern, but not postmodern (according to John White - who introduced Ken to Sri Aurobindo’s work in 1980 - as of at least 2005, when John conveyed this information to me, the only text that Wilber has actually read (all the way through) of the integral yoga is the Satprem book I referenced earlier, so when I respond to your explanation, i’ll reference Satprem’s “version” in order to make it easier for folks here)


(Don Salmon) #66

note: I’d really like to understand this, as i’ve read a number of texts where Wilber has said that - i’ll try to respond "dialog"style - restating your understanding until you feel satisfied I really get what you’re talking about. I’m completely mystified by the statement, so I’m really grateful there is someone who can explain it to me.


(Ed Mahood) #67

Just a side note from a layman … the “pushed away” part of your statement is worthy of serious attention … certainly not here, for it is worthy of a thread, if not set of online get-togethers (CCafés, workshops, perhaps even a seminar of some kind) all on its own.

It can’t be a simple matter of East vs. West or vice versa, for that would reduce everything that transpires in either domain to be undifferentiated. We use the terms a lot, but they are exceedingly unhelpful. I always take them as generalized pointers, but I know many people who imbue them with existential meaning.

As similar case obtains when we use the term “science” (as was revealed in the @johnnydavis54 - @Geoffrey_Edwards subthread above). There are specific manifestations of ideals that vary greatly from the ideals themselves, and the use of a single word to denote them leads to unexpected and unwanted connotations. I’m pretty sure, for example, that part of John’s motivation is the often overt, adamant, if not aggressive, materialistic bias of those who tend to get the most face time in talking about “scientific” matters. It can be frustrating. Even the professional aspects of “psychology” that you and @Don_Salmon have been touching upon reflect one result of this, e.g. (to whittle my statement using an axe) if there’s no such thing as a psyche, why do you call it psychology? It’s things like this that make interesting discussions like these more long-winded because we have been developing the habit of letting lots of things slide till we understand really what the other person is saying, and then politely (for the most part) teasing out what is really at issue, at which point we realize we’re pretty much on resonant wavelengths but you wouldn’t know that by just looking at the “positions”.

Your reference to a rejection (my word, not yours … you were much more diplomatic) of one’s culture of origin is an attractive subject because I think all of us find (at least what we think is) evidence of it more often than most of us would like. Very often – not always – it comes across as “THEY get it, WE haven’t got a clue”, or, there is the fundamentalist version (which applies to all domains of thought and belief), “Not only do WE get it, but WHAT we get is only thing anybody ever need get.”

To me, it’s a matter of how we deal with others, especially those we truly consider to be other; that is, different from ourselves. Culture, and everything that we tend to throw into that particular basket, is a crucial field of exploration for all of us who better understand ourselves and what it means to be a human being at this point in time. There’s nothing like finding yourself way off dead center to get a whole new take on what you thought was “your culture”, for example. I was born and raised in Western Pennsylvania, I lived and worked and brought up my own family for the most part in Silicon Valley, but this is my second long-term stint working, living, and familying in Germany. I can assure anyone who wants to know that there is as much different culturally between Western Pennsylvanians and Silicon Valleyites as there are between what most of us would conceive to be as differences between American and German.

So questions like, “What constitutes a culture?” and “What makes a culture one’s own?” or "What do we understand under the notion of ‘culture of origin’ (and how broadly do we need to scope that notion)? " and many more. I think that would make for a fascinating line of inquiry especially in light of the kinds of topics that have gotten us to reading Aurobindo. It’s an approach and aspect that we just haven’t got to yet, so thanks for bringing it up.

I just wanted to throw that “out there” so that it’s not just in my own head.


(Durwin Foster) #68

It seems to me you kind of addressed Don’s interest in what might make Aurobindo modern and not postmodern, and said it much better than I could have.


(Ed Mahood) #69

While I certainly appreciate the “vote of confidence”, if you will, I have to tell you that you are giving me far more credit than I deserve.

One of the by-products of three international moves is that I missed a whole lot that was going on in a lot of places. I more or less the whole “postmodern” thing, and I am fortunate to have found enough clear-headed and helpful people hereabouts who have been helping me fill in what the Germans would call a Bildungslücke (lit. “a hole in one’s education”). Yes, I tried – and even did – read what some might consider “key texts” involved, and I watched my daughter slog her way through an MA in English Literature at a British university that had fallen off that deep end, and by that very characterization you will see that I’m not all that hip as far as postmodern anything is concerned. Truth be told, the more I know, the less I find it helpful at all. So, sometimes I find myself struggling to keep up with what others around here deal with as second nature. And, if I’m going to continue on this honest streak, the notion of “modernism” itself doesn’t do a lot for me. “Modern” is, in my simple mind, a notion you can contrast with “Ancient” … sort of like “kinda new” as opposed to “really old”.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m sure that in certain circles the distinctions between such notionalities (and all the variations of them in-between) are relevant and important. I wouldn’t argue that for a minute. It’s just that I’m more of a “broad-brush” guy. I’m more content to order my understanding of human history (if that’s even the right notion to capture it) according to, say, Gebser’s structures of consciousness than any historical/academic/scholarly division of the so-called “arrow of time”. I just find it more helpful for me.

Along a similar line, my whole understanding of the notion “integral” is deeply colored by Gebser’s postulation of the “integral structure of consciousness”. It fits in well in his schema. It makes sense. It’s sort of easy to remember. And, most importantly, for me, it says what I think I need to know (i.e., remember all those other structures? it’s that and just a bit more intense). It’s something I think I can grok, and, importantly to me, it includes a spiritual aspect that is (to my simple mind) sorely missing in most other “systems”. Is this to say the other “systems” are wrong or inadequate or misguided or whatever? Not at all. But others do a better job of obscuring it, in my mind, whereas I find Gebser is open about it, but only so far that it is there … not what it looks like, how it behaves, what it’s made of, how it functions, or anything else. Those are blanks that I have to fill in with further work of my own. And that’s what I do here, primarily: fill in blanks.

Many people besides Gebser have spoken highly of Sri Aurobindo. It is therefore clear that here is a source at which blanks could be filled. So I’m reading with. I have only started, but what I have found thus far is that Aurobindo seems to be approaching the same topic (plus a little more; that is, beyond the mere subject of “human consciousness”, for lack of a better word) from the “other side”. Gebser said, “Look at all this evidence lying around, it looks like it points there.” and I’m hearing Aurobindo saying (remember this is a first impression), “Look, this is how all that evidence gets there.” But both of them, perhaps for that very reason, are speaking directly to me, here, now. Primarily, I’m most interested in what they have to say, not when they said it or whether what they say is categorizable into an academic schema that doesn’t do a lot for me personally. I think there is much more at stake than that. But that’s just me.

Before going, however, I would like to point out that that “culture of origin” thing you mentioned elsewhere forms a bit of a backdrop here. Gebser is often characterized (not incorrectly) as “western”; Sri Aurobindo (not unjustifably) as “eastern”, but – for me – I’m not sure that matters. It can, and may, be interesting, for some, but it’s not my primary concern. That some people find that “this is the way to go” doesn’t strike me as odd, regardless of where they come from. My feeling has always been, go with what floats your boat, regardless of where you find it. The details are secondary for me, and can make for interesting side chats as well.

I’m not unconvinced that they aren’t saying fundamentally the same thing, and I’m not unconvinced that whatever needs to be said has been said again and again and again throughout the entire history of humanity. I’m not expecting anything really new content-wise, but I am expecting to be told it in a very different way which may help me finally understand what it is that I’ve been pursing for as long as I can remember. That’s what makes this journey exciting for me.


(Don Salmon) #70

Durwin, maybe I can save some time. Is this the gist of the Wilber critique of Sri Aurobindo as modern vs postmodern? As far as I can see, it consistes of two major points:

  1. The great modernist philosophers have tried to create complete intellectual systems, which take into account all of reality. They have failed to appreciate the great postmodern insight that it is impossible to create such a complete system.

  2. Like other modernist (and pre-modern) thinkers, Sri Aurobindo still is under the “spell” of the “myth of the given.” It has only been with the emergence of postmodernist thought that the understanding that what was naively taken to be “given” is merely a perspective. This does not, Wilber often hastens to add, detract from Sri Aurobindo, but simply indicates that we must balance what he writes with the new insights of post modernism.


(Durwin Foster) #71

Read it all, and thanks for sharing it :). I think I am relatively broadbrujsh too; perhaps many feel that way on this site since everyone seems to be bringing a lot to the table?


(Durwin Foster) #72

#2 is bang on in my view. #1 maybe reveals the contradiction of postmodernism which is that in saying it is impossible to create such a complete system, they are in effect creating a complete system that ends with them. It seems to me we are engaged in a kind of postmodern project, in the best sense hopefully not the contradictory sense I just indicated, here at the site, by seeking to come to mutual understanding in a way that includes the relational-cultural contexts in which we are situated, and a sense of ethics.


(Geoffrey Edwards) #73

Just a “side note” to use @achronon 's expression : this is not actually a post-modern insight, it dates back to Godel’s work in mathematics. The postmoderns have a somewhat different argument imho, that systems can’t be “objective” (which I guess speaks to your point 2) … they may also argue about completeness, but they are not the first to do so.

I tend to agree with @achronon 's main points (hmmm, it seems to be happening a lot these days, Ed!), both about the need to be careful about sweeping generalizations as well as the specifics of terminology such as “east”, “west”, “modern” and “antique”…

Also, regarding your text, @Don_Salmon, I have been reading Aurobindo perhaps more critically than you suggested to me, no doubt a professional bias. Or rather, I have been reading Aurobindo with two minds simultaneously. With one mind, I am attuned to the poetry and vision of what he is saying, but with the other I am critical of particular terms and concepts that he uses within his “arguments”. One of these I found problematic was his use of the word “Force” (e.g. Chapter X : Conscious Force), which is why it comes up here. I actually prefer your idea of an “inner urge” than that of “force”. Force for me, perhaps because I am at root a physical scientist, is a concept that is closely tied to that of “causality”. Forces are how causality enters into physics - it is what drives or expresses particle exchanges and/or field interactions, which are ultimately all there is in physical systems in terms of dynamical causes. And I have doubts about whether Aurobindo needs to talk about causality in such terms - I think he can make his arguments without doing so, at least, if I understand the arguments at all (putting to one side, perhaps, that the arguments are at least partly more a kind of poetry as well). But I may be the only one who considers this a problem… I just thought I’d raise the issue and see what comes up!


(Don Salmon) #74

Hi Geoffrey: Perhaps keeping in mind that throughout all his writings, whenever Sri Aurobindo uses the word “Force,” he is using it as a translation for the word “Shakti, which to the best of my knowledge, has no equivalent in modern science. The modern tendency to translate it as “energy” could be subject to your critique as well - so I think it best to try to understand Sri Aurobindo on his own terms rather than assume he is talking about “Force” in a way associated with current notions of causality. If you want to look ahead, he offers a radical critique of causality and other physicalist assumptions in the opening chapter of Book 2.”

One of my favorite verses on a radical re-understanding of causality is from Rumi: “The entire Koran is teaching nothing from beginning to end but the abandonment of belief in phenomenal causation.”

Durwin, if I’m correct in summing up Wilber’s critique, here is another view; (1) There is no system in Sri Aurobindo’s writings; and (2) (referencing Geoffrey’s point) the great “postmodern” treatise, the Katha Upanishad, (circa 800 BC) said “that which cannot be established by reason cannot be refuted by reason.” I’ve read a number of commentaries on Godel noting the distant similarity between his incompleteness theorem and Avidya; though of course, Godel is dealing with a minuscule, quantitative method whereas Avidya is, very much like the original meaning of “sin” in Christianity, referring to a cosmic phenomenon.

Quick note - I should have said “materialist” rather than “Western” (I agree with Ed - we should dispense with “East” and “West” altogether. As far as "rejecting’ ‘my’ culture, I find Christian contemplative attempts to integrate their practices with therapy much more integral than much nondual therapy.


(Geoffrey Edwards) #75

Agreed. I will look ahead and have a look at those texts. That is very helpful.

“…that which cannot be established by reason cannot be refuted by reason” is a logical argument, and perfectly valid as far as I can see. I don’t think one can reliably call Godel’s argument “miniscule” and it is certainly not “quantitative”. Godel’s argument is essentially an argument about logic, couched in logical terms, and therefore similar to the above statement about reason. Godel’s theorem is, I believe, probably the single most important theorem in all of mathematics and had a profound effect on the development of mathematics and indeed all of modern science after it was published. It arrived like a bomb within a culture that was convinced that a “complete science” could be developed - witness Russell and Whitehead’s massive effort in this direction (“Principia Mathematica”). Godel’s theorem is as cosmic as one can get and I do not understand what you mean by calling it “miniscule”…


(Ed Mahood) #76

We have a German saying, “Verstehen ist nicht gleich einverstanden sein” (lit. “Understanding is not the same as agreeing”). What I like about all of my interactions here is that there is a genuine effort to understand … what the other is saying, what the other is meaning, and there is an effort to grasp how and why one has come to a particular position. Sure, where understanding is sought, misunderstanding is easily found, but we can generally sort these out and show where the involved parties each got off the track in some way. I would not say we’ve cracked that nut, but I would maintain that we’re often willing to hold the chisel when someone else is wielding the hammer. I don’t know if that makes this a postmodern project, but in my mind it makes for an eminently human one.


(Don Salmon) #77

ed, your repeated caution to us about not making assumptions, about carefully examining our own presuppositions, etc (my language) keeps resonating. Thank you so much for this latest - especially the German saying.

Geoffrey, I’ve just found the words to express something that’s been happening to me through all these comments - i just realized my slight discombobulated state is due to feeling such a disjunct between the experience of talking to y’all on Zoom and “talking” on the printed “page.”

I’m slowly realizing how much i’ve made assumptions about who people are, and what their background interests and views are. I assumed in making the comment about Godel, for example, a huge amount of background that was really silly of me to assume.

I was thinking of on the one hand, the extraordinary contribution Godel made in the context of the current methodology which deals primarily with quantitative aspects of the portion of the universe which is perceived by the 5 senses (as William Blake would add, “in this era”). The description of the limitations of the implications of his theorem was not with respect to science, but with respect to my understanding of the vast multi-dimensional, non-physical aspects of the cosmos – which, at least, for most contemplatives, are infinitely greater than the physical (for some reason, in online conversations, this sort of thing is often taken to be “critical of science” - i’ll just say, I don’t mean it that way; quite the opposite, in fact)

I don’t know if that makes it any clearer, but it was not intended to in any way belittle his extremely important insight.

my original intention was to use primarily experiential language as much as possible, but it seems like a number of intellectual issues have kept coming up today and yesterday, words that seem to call for some clarification… well, going along with the flow…:>)) I’ve written something more in the 'experiential" mode which i’ll put up tomorrow on my “beyond the matrix” website, an attempt to 'integrate" all the posts since last thursday…


(Geoffrey Edwards) #78

I appreciate the correction, @Don_Salmon. You’ll notice on this site that those of us who “hang around a lot” often catch each other on assumptions, and it is, I think, useful to do so. I should mention, if it is not already clear, that I know very little about the “integral” world - I haven’t read Gebser, Wilber or anyone else, really. I am here because “visioning” is important to me, and visioning for me includes the spiritual dimension. Unlike many of the others here, though, even among the stalwarts, I am not personally comfortable with the “transcendental” perspectives. I would say I am struggling to find a more “immanent” understanding that embraces spirituality. Therefore I do not, a priori, accept this idea of the “vast multi-dimensional, non-physical aspects of the cosmos” as you describe them, in the sense of transcendental dimensions… perhaps this is not what you mean, but it is part of my struggle to make sense of the integral ideas in ways that I find compelling. Hence I also slightly resent (although I am trying to still my emotional reactions) the comment that “most contemplatives” view the world as “infinitely greater than the physical” - I think you mean most “contemplatives of the integral persuasion” or something like that. Sorry, I keep tripping over the words. I will try to be more equanimous.


(Don Salmon) #79

Hi again:>)

Geoffrey, and all, I have a suggestion. Do you remember Eric Weiss’ comment in an earlier zoom session, about how Sri Aurobindo frequently takes opposing positions, and sometimes goes on for several pages, to the point you may forget that what he is saying is opposed to or simply very different from the ultimate point he is making?

Here we already have some radically different views. I’m sure if Durwin and I had a chance to Skype, we would have a wonderfully friendly discussion but still discover we had some pretty fundamental differences.

Geoffrey, I suspect, though we could, if we wished simply to be accommodating, go for a long time skirting the edges of our different views; however, I imagine we also have radically different views not only about what “transcendence” means, but about what “physical means” and even what “science” means.

Which is, if I understand the dojo of infinite conversing, just fine. I will say, though, in the spirit of what Eric pointed out, it’s been my experience with Sri Aurobindo that, for 20 years, I tried to fit him into my personal inclination toward “perennialist views,” despite virtually every Sri Aurobindo fellow and sister sadhak telling me “no no no no no” (which only made me cling to my personal inclination even harder! It took a 5 day Tibetan Buddhist retreat in Northern England for me to loosen that attachment, and in 1996, after 20 years of reading bits and pieces, I actually read the Life Divine through - and realized I had utterly misread it for the previous 2 decades.

So, I think it wil be a mich more powerful - and literally mind blowing encounter - if instead of reading it the first time with a critical mind, read it looking as directly and intently as possible for everythign that challenges your way of being/thinking/seeing/feeling.

Then argue as much as you like, criticize to your heart’s content - but if you start by analyzing and criticizing, you’re likely to be analyzing and criticizing somethign in your own imagination that has little if anything to do with what Sri Aurobindo has written. (In fact. Eric and I have had a longstanding disagreement about what Sri Aurobindo means by the word “substance” - which I think just means more dancing in the dojo of delight)… and speaking of the “dojo dance,’… any chance we could dance to Divine Maya, or the Supermind, or anything else in the chapters we’re going over?


(john davis) #80

In a previous Infinite Conversation, many eons ago, members of this group explored some of the same issues that are arising on this thread. The ideas we were kicking around then, gave birth to this study group.

We were, once upon a time, discussing different versions of Integral, comparing Wilber’s work with Gebser and Steiner. We mention, in this episode, reconstructive and deconstructive tensions.

For those who were not there, I point this out as an example of where " we" have been before. And as we are participating observers in a complex situation perhaps we can hear the echos of many previous encounters of the third kind?

Can we start to listen to one another with what Gebser called a third ear? This would, I imagine, bring forward some of the alternate ways of knowing that Sri Aurobindo is investigating.

As we compare models are we learning anything, good people? I am hoping we dont drown out, in our infinite clashes, ’ infinite jests of most excellent fancy '…


In addition, here is a stunning contribution by our own Eric Weiss, on the encounter of Sri Aurobindo, and Process Philosophy. As an amateur ( oh the things we do for love!), without any expertise in anything, I want to reach out towards those who feel lost, lonely and infinitely ignorant! Eric’s paper is a great place to start.
https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=4&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=0ahUKEwjjw8C19d_bAhXB7VMKHe0XAMsQFgg4MAM&url=http%3A%2F%2Fericweiss.com%2FSubtleWorlds%2F&usg=AOvVaw22SPdDa9sA5T-6o9Y3ZBC3

(Don Salmon) #81

Thanks much, Johnny. At the risk of embarrassing you, may I offer some praise that’s been on my mind the last few days – I’m amazed, for someone who I understand has such a rich background in philosophy, how much you can write complex contributions yet maintain such a playful, almost childlike (not childish!) manner. “Much preciated” as we say down South (“what you mean ‘we, ‘yankee kimosabe?”)

So, I’m guessing there’s still some trepidation regarding diving into Sri Aurobindo’s language and text. I think Johnny’s link to Eric’s text is a fantastic one, but given the length of his text and everyone’s “busy-ness,” it may feel somewhat daunting.

After the back and forth about different views of development, questions about transcendence and the brain, it occurred to me – I’ve mostly been writing extremely positive things about Sri Aurobindo, which may, me being a newbie here, convey a certain, well, one might say, “cultishness.” I’m guessing that whaever familiarity any of you have with Sri Aurobindo, you may not be well versed in the critiques of him, excepting maybe Wilber’s. So I thought, well, one way to get what he IS saying, one way to “listen with a third ear,” to enter into “alternate ways of knowing,” is to consider in some depth what may be wrong with what Sri Aurobindo writes – or at least, what some have felt is profoundly wrong.

So I offer several (I’m going to post this on my blog so it won’t get lost in the shuffle – I think it could be helpful, or at least, fun) – from the most severe, which I think would be Seyyed Hossein Nasr’s perennialist/Advaitin critique and the materialist/physicalist critiques, to the most mild, which would probably be Wilber’s metaphysical critique (and perhaps some comments from Eric and Debashish).

So, here goes:

  1. Nasr and the perennialists (note - the perennialists generally believe that it is a universal understanding among sages, mystics and contemplatives over the past several thousand years that the physical world we can perceive with our senses is only the most superficial, least causally effective, and in some senses, most illusory of a vast network of interconnecting planes of existence): “Sri Aurobindo’s writings represent the most severe manifestation of the general darkness and ignorance of the Kali Yuga. He has completely inverted the deepest spiritual understanding, which is that the essence of Divinity is found in transcendence, and any process of “evolution” is one that occurs purely on a vertical access. What he has done, under the influence of the materialistic and perverted Darwinian theory of evolution, is to invert the vertical and laid it out in horizontal, purely illusory, physical time. He has materialized in the grossest, most unspiritual fashion, all of the planes of the spiritual hierarchy and from sheer desire and moha (“attachment”) he has become obsessed with the idea of physical immortality. His entire philosophic output consists of profoundly confused, irrational and ultimately incoherent “ideas” (“ideas” for want of a better term) which are almost the direct opposite of any genuine spiritual teaching.” You can add to this the critique of phenomenologist Herbert Guenther, who wrote that not only was Sri Aurobindo’s philosophy hopelessly corrupted by the materialist leanings he picked up from Darwin, it was hopelessly influence by the extremely naïve, radical dualism of the Sankhya, which divided the world into Spirit and Nature.

  2. The physicalists. "While there may be some useful phenomenological descriptions and insights in Sri Aurobindo’s writings (though these have probably been superseded by the much richer and more complex phenomenology of meditation research over the past 20 years), his ontological claims regarding levels of being, Supramental Force, spiritual evolution, etc are obviously nonsensical and unscientific. Therefore, given the essentially irrational nature of his writings, and at times, the grandiosity and absurd paranormal claims, along with the much superior phenomenological data of recent research, it would be better if Sri Aurobindo’s writings were relegated to an interesting episode in the past, but not much more. "

  3. The standard Advaita Vedanta critique. “Sri Aurobindo has failed to understand the nature of the Brahman (and, from the Buddhist side, has “vedantized” the notion of Nirvana as well, and overly objectified the concept of Sunyata). He does not understand that the “illusory” nature of manifestation does not mean that it does not exist, but that it is thoroughly a misinterpretation of the Brahman. There is no actual, real evolution, and the only purpose of the manifestation is to awaken. There is no possibility of eliminating good and evil, any more than there is of light and shadow, as such dualities are necessary for any manifestation. His understanding fo the Supermind as some sort of integrating factor which can allow the full manifestation of the infinite in the finite world is a fundamental misunderstanding of the most basic philosophy – if the infinite manifested completely in the finite world, it would simply abolish the universe. "

  4. OSHO: “Sri Aurobindo had no spiritual awareness, no spiritual vision, but was simply an intellectual. All of his complex writings are full of non sequitors, useless repettions, and vast numbers of words for things which would be stated simply and wisely in one sentence (as nondualist James Swartz said, “I have been tortured by Sri Aurobindo”). His awkward neologisms only serve to emphasize his lack of spiritual insight and his rather grandiose egoistic attitude toward his intellectual prowess – such as it is"

  5. Peter Heehs, as interpreted by the Sri Aurobindo Ashramities who want his book banned: “Sri Aurobindo was obsessed all of his life with dealing with his bipolar or possibly schizophrenic mother. His obsession with “THE” Mother stems from this. Furthermore, his mistreatment in England, particularly during his college years when his father sent little or no money and he was nearly starving, contributed toward the vehemence of his resentment toward England. When he couldn’t succeed as a terrorist against the British Empire, he retired into a fantasy world, imagining in a grandiose manner that he himself was responsible through his “psychic” experiments of putting out the “Force” for things ranging from the content of Churchill’s speeches to victories at war.”

  6. Ken Wilber “Though Sri Aurobindo was certainly a sage, he was not the greatest sage of his time; that was Ramana Maharshi. Sri Aurobindo had the benefit of the psychological knowledge of his time, but he knew nothing of the dynamic unconscious, focused primarily on the inner individual rather than the outer physical world, inner collective culture and outer institutions. He was a modernist, taking naively the world as given rather than understanding that whatever is said of the world is simply from a particular perspective. He also appeared to make some racist comments but was probably (possibly?) simply using the language of the day which now seems outdated and prejudiced. He also did not have the benefit of modern developmental psychology, so he understood very little of developmental stages, and knew little if anything about lines of development. “

  7. Eric Weiss: (Eric ,you can tell me if I’ve represented your critique correctly): “While Sri Aurobindo has many profound things to say, one of the things that most negatively affects his view is his naïve, philosophically uninformed view of “substance.” He was not aware of Whitehead’s critique of the Cartesian notion of substance, and the relatively static view of substance found in much of Sri Aurobindo’s work, particularly in the Life Divine, represents a fundamental conflict with the more “process” view Sri Aurobindo presents of evolution. This is a problem throughout his philosophic and even yogic writings, and the alert reader needs to attend to this in order to take what is valuable from his work and leave behind what is not.

  8. Debashish Banerji: “Unfortunately, Sri Aurobindo had to make use of the language of his time, and in speaking of “Consciousness as the fundamental thing in the universe,” he was making use of a rather naïve form of American and German philosophic idealism. If he had had the benefit of knowing the French deconstructionists, he could have offered a more philosophically and scientifically informed vision."


(Durwin Foster) #82

Wow – thanks for all this additional nuance over the past couple of days, Don! I don’t feel any push/pull now with your input at all :). If you are feeling any with me, still up for a skype chat.

Where I feel the push/pull now is with respect to the seeming polarity between the spiritual and political. Aurobindo ought to be the guy to help with this. I have a call coming up with a fellow who is arguably a pioneer in the civic technology space. Thurs afternoon 3pm PST. If anyone feels that they have a good grasp on Aurobindo’s political approach, and want to join in on a call like this, please private message me and i can give you more information about the fellow I will be speaking with.


(Geoffrey Edwards) #83

This is very helpful, @Don_Salmon. In addition, could you provide the sources for your quotes. Since you’ve put quote marks around them, I presume these are lifted from texts directly - it would be useful to be able to look up the source material.