The Life Divine – Reading Group, Session #4 [6/21]

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recording

(Marco V Morelli) #1


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This is our fourth session exploring Integral philosopher, poet, and yogi Sri Aurobindo’s spiritual classic The Life Divine. Psychologist @Don_Salmon, who has been studying Aurobindo’s work for over 40 years, leads off our discussion, which begins with his reading of an evocative passage from a letter by Aurobindo in The Mother (see below for full text), and then goes on to focus on our different ways of reading Aurobindo, as well as some of the questions, challenges, and uncertainties that have come up in our individual readings thus far. These include concerns from scientific, cultural, and ethical points of view.

We also take up a couple points which have surfaced in the forum conversation regarding the relation between spiritual consciousness and the brain. It seems important to read (or receive) Aurobindo in a way that goes beyond the mental intellect, yet The Life Divine IS addressed to the intellect, and so we must also do the work of clarifying concepts and connecting ideas with (as well as distinguishing them from) what we already know, other philosophers we’ve read, and so on.

Some of us feel we’ve glimpsed the greater reality Aurobindo calls “Supermind,” and others are not so sure. Don suggests that in a way, in these early chapters of the book, Aurobindo is still just setting us up, through precise conceptual distinctions, for greater revelations to come.

Much more happened in this experimental supermental-seeking conversation, including a couple of very interesting dream reports, so check it out! And please share your thoughts below…

Reading

The Life Divine, Chapters 12 - 16

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:pray: :prayer_beads: Thank you! :sparkling_heart:: :pray:


(Marco V Morelli) #2

Dear @supermind (The Life Divine) readers~ Just a quick reminder and update about this session. @Don_Salmon will be leading our discussion this week. If you have a chance, do check out the forum topic following last week’s session:

Looking forward to seeing you all!


(Don Salmon) #5

Such a wonderful session this past Thursday, thanks to all. I have a number of reflections, but I thought it might be nice to first post the text for the meditation that I read. This is the longer, unabridged version - the 5th in a series of 6th letters in a booklet simply called “The Mother.”

Let me know if the link works:


Link has been fixed. —admin


(Don Salmon) #6

Toward the end of Thursday’s session, Marco mentioned that the theme of “developmental stages” from last week seemed to call for more exploration. I agree.

I thought, in order to facilitate a spirit of open inquiry and gentle-heartedness, it might be interesting to enter into this in a dialogical fashion. Instead of me presenting Sri Aurobindo and the Mother’s view, perhaps others who are interested could present their understanding of developmental stages. Before I offer any of my own views or ideas, I’ll try to rephrase what y’all say and keep doing this until you think that I have articulated your views accurately.

I don’t know how much more to say to clarify how I’m approaching this. I’m trying to understand what appears to me to be a broadly accepted view of what “integral” means in terms of development. I’m assuming Terri’s writings are excellent exemplars of this view. Later I’d like to explore how this relates to what we’re reading in The Life Divine

So, here goes. I just looked through several online writings by Terri and by Susan Cook-Greuter. It’s probably best if I start with some questions:

1. Questions

a. WHAT DEVELOPS:

i. What is developing? Is it the ego or self-system? What is the “ego” or “self-system”?

ii. When looking at distinct “lines of development,” what is the relationship of the lines to the ego?

(more questions to come:>))

**

A little later - it occurred to me, this might forestall getting caught up in some side issues. In reading several of Terri’s online postings, I noted some very well-written and very thoughtful considerations regarding scientific reliability and validity. Since this conversation, to the extent it includes discussions of Sri Aurobindo, goes far beyond what any current scientific methodology can encompass, I just wanted to say for now, I’m not concerned about whether or not “research” supports this. Just trying to udnerstand (a) integral developmental theory and (b) the psycho-cosmology (as Matthijs Cornelissen refers to it) of The Life Divine.


(Marco V Morelli) #7

That link didn’t work, Don. One thing you can do here, when you want to share a longer text, is use the “Hide Details” feature. Then you can paste a longer text without taking up a ton of vertical screen space (and scaring would be interlocutors away). Here’s where you’ll find that option:

Then, for example, you could do something like this:

CLICK TO OPEN

Fifth letter in “The Mother” (The true doer of divine works) (August 19, 1927)

If you want to be a true doer of divine works, your first aim must be to totally free from all desire and self-regarding ego. All your life must be an offering and a sacrifice to the Supreme; your only object in action shall be to become a manifesting instrument of the Divine Shakti in her works.

A time will come when you are more and more of the instrument and not the worker…your contact with the Divine Mother will become so intimate that at all times you will have only to concentrate and to put everything into her hands to have her present guidance, the sure indication of the thing to be done and the way to do it and the result. Afterwards you will realise that the divine Shakti not only inspires and guides, but initiates and carries out your works.

While this transformation is being done there must be no attachment to the work or the result, no laying down of conditions, no claim to possess the Power that should possess you, Let your faith, sincerity, andpurity of aspiration be absolute then every disturbing element and distorting influence will progressively fall away from your nature.

Give it a try and let me know if you need any help. You will be a pro in no time!

One other tip. If you paste a link on its own line (no spaces or other text before or after), it will often generate a nice preview link like this:

To make that appear, I just pasted this link, which I found on your blog:

https://beyondthematrixnow.wordpress.com/some-reflections-on-infinite-conversations-comments-on-the-life-divine/


(Don Salmon) #8

ok, let’s try:

I see. No spaces before or after, the link on its own line. I’m not sure I’m a pro (don’t want to lose my amateur status) but I’m working/playing at it…

here’s the developmental questions again:

1. Questions

a. WHAT DEVELOPS:

i. What is developing? Is it the ego or self-system? What is the “ego” or “self-system”?

ii. When looking at distinct “lines of development,” what is the relationship of the lines to the ego?

(more questions to come:>))


(Marco V Morelli) #9

Good work, @Don_Salmon! You may not be a pro yet, but you get a :star: :wink:

I think I see what you’re getting at with this.

To whom is a stage development psychology applicable or relevant? It can only be to an individual ego (or "self-system:) but essentially located in or identified with the individual bodymind.

However, my limited understanding of Supermind is that there is only ONE Supermind. There aren’t 7+ billion undeveloped superminds running around, but only one (omnipresent, omniscient, omnipotent) Infinite Being, manifesting as and through all beings. To put it bluntly: Supermind is God.

And so if the point is to realize one’s identity with, or inherence in, Supermind, then it doesn’t make a lot of sense to talk about Supermind as the top rung of the developmental process of an individual, since Supermind is not something which can be ‘achieved’ by an individual development, but is there as the core identity all along.

I’m putting this in logical terms, but I think what I mean to say is that if you actually had realized “Supermind” then you probably wouldn’t be regarding this as a personal developmental achievement. The very realization would dissolve or relativize the very sense of “who” has been developing all along.

And if such development (or evolution) has been always and eternally the case, then doesn’t this render the start and end points of a development sequence, if not arbitrary, somewhat beside the point? Am I following what you’re trying to say?


(Don Salmon) #10

Hi Marco:

Well, I’m trying to confine this first phase of questions to what Integral Theory says (i hope i can keep using that abbreviation - to get more specific, i suppose, I would say, what Terri and Susan say about development in their writings?).

So, to take your initial answer, and put it in specific terms: What does integral theory mean by the word “ego” when it speaks of someone developing from the “High” Conventional Stage to the next or lowest “Individualist” stage?

You seemed to indicate that, from the Integral Theory point of view, there is an “individual” ego, which is located “in” or identified with" the individual body mind.

So if “ego” is a process of identification, what is the “individual body mind” - is there a who? Or is it merely a collection of thoughts, feelings, ideas, memories, sensations, etc? Is there some integrating factor? Do these thoughts, feelings, etc develop solely as individual lines, or as a “system,” and if as a system, what holds the system together?

So strictly from within the Integral Theory perspective, without bringing in anything Aurobindonian, what would an integral theorist say? I guess, if “higher” or subtler stages, states, structures, etc are needed in order to give a comprehensive answer to this, that’s fine ,as long as it’s solely from within Integral Theory and not from Sri Aurobindo (note - this is NOT meant as a challenge - I’m really, sincerely interested in the answers)


(Don Salmon) #11

i can see already it’s going to be tricky to “separate” these completely - let me know if it seems overly artificial.


(Geoffrey Edwards) #12

You say a “system”, but why not a “field”? Isn’t this discussion on Aurobindo dovetailing with the discussion about consciousness and the other concerning quantum poetics? I don’t have any answers either, but I find the questions intriguing!


(Don Salmon) #13

Hi Geoffrey:

Maybe this dialog framework is too confusing for now?

I’m not expressing my own view; i’m trying to express what I understand the current Integral theory to be, particularly as expressed in Terri and Susan Cook-Greuter’s work.

I just looked at something of Wilber’s and he describes the human (in “Sex, Ecology and Evolution”) as a holon, in a nested hierarchy of holons, from subatomic particles to the universe. I suppose though, to say a “holon” is what develops may not yield any greater insight. One could also, i think, within the Integral framework, use a more phenomenological approach and just say, experientially, there is a sense of “I” as a distinct self-system which develops, and developmental stages consist of a radical shift or transformation of that sense of “I”.

So, in the conventional stage, “I” am hardly distinct form the group (white americans, western north carolinians, Americans living in Germany who have studied Gebser:>)), etc) of which I am a member. All of my thoughts, feelings, ideas, actions, etc will reflect that conventional “I”. At the next higher “individual” stage, I am capable of “observing” objectively that with which I was formerly identified.

This doesn’t get us any closer to “seeing” what that “I” “really” is, but maybe it’s a less left brained and more experiential way of talking about it.

Geoffrey, from the Aurobindonian view, “field” might be better - but if we talk about “Field” as expressed in Sri Aurobindo’s Gita commentary, we’re talking about something for which I’m not aware of a counterpart in Integral Theory, so I’m not sure that helps. Similarly, Marco brought up the Supermind, and one could at this point say something about the individual psychic being at the level of the supermind, but I’d still like to try a bit more entirely confining my comments to Integral Theory until some clarity about it results.

I hope it doesn’t seem like I’m trying to “control” the rest of the conversation - I’m just saying, I’m going to try initially to keep my comments within Integral Theory.


(Durwin Foster) #14

curious about this breathing exercise relative to the Microcosmic orbit which is one I am familiar with, but the Microcosmic orbit goes down the front, and then up the spine. it doesn’t go down the spine. would be interesting, i guess, to experiment with both and see what happens in the bodymind.


(Don Salmon) #15

I learned the breathing from Roy Eugene Davis, as part of his “Kriya Yoga” teachings. I’ve been so much oriented toward bhakti, karma and jnana yoga practices that i was skeptical at the time (2006) when I first learned it. But Jan and I both like Roy very much, and trusted him enough to give it a try. I also had avoided the yoga sutras for decades, but after a year or so with Roy, I was practicing the Kriya spinal breath twice a day and doing in depth studies of the sutras.

All i can say is, wow, it’s very powerful stuff. If you know Swami Rama’s “61 points,” you can do one cycle of spinal breathing with each point, and it can be very strong treatment for any kind of physical pain, and excellent for working with lucid dreaming too.

let’s see if this works:

http://www.swamij.com/online61.htm

didn’t get a preview but I think it still works… the points are very easy to learn, and as much as it’s nice to be guided, you’ll probably go deeper if you can do it in total silence…


(Geoffrey Edwards) #16

I am afraid I don’t know anything about “holons” - I have heard them mentioned in regard to Wilber but since I haven’t read Wilber, I am at a loss. Regarding the “I”, one of the interesting things about a field theory is that the definition of a field refers to three things - continuity (although I have some questions about this aspect), connectivity and self-referentiality. In a sense, the latter is built into the connectivity issue - if a set of entities is connected, then it is possible to form self-referential loops. The “I”, from this perspective, becomes simply the activation of a self-referential loop, that is, it is the experience of such a loop. However, this is a field “I” and not an agency “I”, nor, strictly speaking, an ego “I” in the sense that the ego “I” is self-conscious and not just self-referential. For me, I am still not sure the agency “I” exists in the way western psychology would have us believe.

I do find resonances between these field ideas and Aurobindo’s writing. If SuperMind is, to quote Aurobindo, “Being moving out into a determinative self-knowledge which perceives certain truths of itself”, then the self is a kind of storm inside the field that is SuperMind. Aurobindo gives agency to this Being in the next part of the sentence : “and wills to realise them in a temporal and spatial extension of its own timeless and spaceless existence”. The idea of will is, I think, related to agency. However, since I recognize increasingly that Autobindo’s text is also a field, and that any one expression is incomplete, my interpretation could easily be flawed. Perhaps “will” is not central to his philosophy either… Sorry, this is more incoherent than I intended. I realize your comments come in a different context, I just think they raise interesting questions and issues that I like to explore…


(Don Salmon) #17

DON: no problem, i’ll take your words as they are…

GE: Regarding the “I”, one of the interesting things about a field theory is that the definition of a field refers to three things - continuity (although I have some questions about this aspect), connectivity and self-referentiality. In a sense, the latter is built into the connectivity issue - if a set of entities is connected, then it is possible to form self-referential loops.

DS: I would imagine that “self referential loops” would have a very different meaning (though an interesting parallel) for physical (non-conscious in the ordinary way we mean that term) as opposed to what Sri Aurobindo might call “vital beings” (plants and animals) or “mental beings” (human beings - that’s actually a direct translation of the Sanskrit “Manomaya purusha” - the “being” or purusha’ ‘made of’ mind)

GE: The “I”, from this perspective, becomes simply the activation of a self-referential loop, that is, it is the experience of such a loop. However, this is a field “I” and not an agency “I”, nor, strictly speaking, an ego “I” in the sense that the ego “I” is self-conscious and not just self-referential. For me, I am still not sure the agency “I” exists in the way western psychology would have us believe.

DS: I assume again, that in a field as physicists see it there would not be any kind of conscious “I” - though Freeman Dyson speaks of atoms as “making a choice,” or exhibiting some kind of will" (Sri Aurobindo speaks of this later in the Life Divine as well). As far as the ‘agency ‘i’ as western psychology sees it - i need to be careful here not to step on folks’ toes - let’s see, how to say this - it seems that the whole notion of 'I" within scientific psychology and mainstream psychotherapy is one thing, and that in the contemplative experience, whatever tradition, is radically different…

GE: I do find resonances between these field ideas and Aurobindo’s writing. If SuperMind is, to quote Aurobindo, “Being moving out into a determinative self-knowledge which perceives certain truths of itself”, then the self is a kind of storm inside the field that is SuperMind.

DS: Bernardo Kastrup has an interesting if somewhat limited metaphor; he describes individuals as “whirlpools” in the ocean (or unbounded waters) of “Mind.” The difficulty of all of this spatial-temporal metaphors is that Being - whether transcendent (Parabrahman) universal (Mahat Atman) or individual (Jivatman) are non spatial and non temporal. I’m doubtful if our minds can even grasp what it means to speak of differentiation in non-spatial and non-temporal realms, but that is how Sri Aurobindo describes these things.

GE: Aurobindo gives agency to this Being in the next part of the sentence : “and wills to realise them in a temporal and spatial extension of its own timeless and spaceless existence”. The idea of will is, I think, related to agency. However, since I recognize increasingly that Autobindo’s text is also a field, and that any one expression is incomplete, my interpretation could easily be flawed. Perhaps “will” is not central to his philosophy either… Sorry, this is more incoherent than I intended. I realize your comments come in a different context, I just think they raise interesting questions and issues that I like to explore…

DS: “Will” is usually thought of dualistically, which I think is partially why it’s so hard to understand how Sri Aurobindo uses “Will” in the context of Being or Supermind. usually, “I” as some kind of separate entity, am thought to exert something that is “part” of me, my will, and I “impose” that, so to speak, on something that is also separate. In the Supermind, seeing is willing is being. The “rock”, so to speak, IS the seeing of the rock. Krishna Prem used a word “consciring, which is 'knowing together,” He also made a very interesting point that we have no active form of the word “conscious.” We can say, " I am conscious OF" but we have no way to say “I am consciousing the rock.” Of course, the “I” in the latter sentence is not the human “I”, but the Divine “I”, but again, if that is thought of as denying or ignoring the individual, that is not correct either.


(Don Salmon) #18

i guess I’ll just add, the reason I thought of a dialog is I’m aware, as Ed reminded us last week, of how easy it is to think we’re understanding each other’s language when we’re actually not. I thought since most folks here are familiar with Integral theory and not so much with Aurobindo’s language, it might be helpful to spend some time in “integral world” (I don’t mean Frank Visser’s forum:>))

But this is a metapsychotic cosmic play, improvising as the birds and cats play around us, letting whatever flower as is.


(Durwin Foster) #19

What do you mean “at the level of the Supermind?”


(Durwin Foster) #20

From the point of view of someone who dislikes conflict, i am aware of this significant historical rift between CIIS and Wilber. I am curious about seeing if Alan Coombs might be willing to share his wisdom since he might be someone who can bridge the camps.


(Don Salmon) #21

regarding the rift, I’m generally familiar with Wilber from the 1970s up to the late 90s and would be happy to engage in a non-conflictual dialog (as outlined above). But I’ve talked with Alan and would be delighted if he would like to participate here.

yeah, good question about “level” - poor phrasing. I dashed that off quickly when I was still trying to keep my comments focused on understanding (non conflictually!) integral theory. Let’s see if I can say it more clearly.

i think a better way of saying it would have been, "My understanding of Sri Aurobindo’s use of the word “psychic being” is the following: It’s not enough to simply realize the Transcendent (Shanta Atman or Akshara Brahman) or Universal Spirit (Mahat Atman, Logos, Nous, etc). It’s not enough even to be fully conscious of the Jivatman (the individual Spirit beyond time and space). To be a channel of the Supramental Force which can completely transform (i.e. - utterly re-organize so as to function radically differently) the mind, heart, life and most fundamentally, the physical body, one must first awaken and then live completely from the psychic being, the individuated soul.

Sorry for all the technical Aurobindonian jargon. I suppose I could say it in pop language:

For a complete radical reorganization of mind and body, it’s not enough to recognize “I am Awareness” or even the nondual “One Taste” - all this is arising as and within Awareness. There is a possibility of recognizing and living from an individuated (yet not separate!) aspect of Awareness. This individuated Awareness can receive a movement or energy of Awareness which can completely reorganize the fundamental or root nature of all of our cognitive, affective, volitional and behavioral functioning.

This energy of Awareness is at the same time a knowing that is one with will - and simultaneously pervaded by the unfettered Joy and Delight of vast, spacious Awareness - which can create finite forms while maintaining the underlying foundation of unbounded infinite Awareness.

wow, did it:>)) (badly, but hey, takes some time to shed the jargon)


(Don Salmon) #22

And speaking of not liking conflict, do y’all know about www.nextdoor.com? It consists mostly of notes about lost dogs or cats, recommendations for dentists, plumbers, yoga studios, complaints about noise, etc.

I frequently like to bring up local political issues which almost inevitably brings up some kind of conflict. I love playing “mediator” and have had some marvelous successes. I also may be one of the very few participants on next door that brings up (from time to time) philosophic and spiritual issues (though, this being “weird” Asheville, these posts actually get positive replies quite often).

Last week, one of the most amazing online exchanges happened. One of our neighbors, Mary Handy, wrote - about 8 PM in the evening - “hello, how is your day going. It’s been a lovely day here.”

People were just extraordinarily grateful for this simple act of kind neighborliness, and for the next 40 hours or so, almost every 20 minutes, sometimes more often, people wrote what were among the most poetic or at least gracious posts I’ve seen in online conversation. Someone talked about biking along the Blue Ridge highway, another wrote an almost poetic expression of her delight sipping coffee and watching the birds out the window, and so on. last fall I invited someone who attacked me for being “politically correct” to breakfast at “Green Sage” and we had a wonderful time, and have had (mostly!) respectful conversations online since.

All this came to mind when I saw the following article at www.theatlantic.com: