Inspired by last week’s post, Robert Forman’s Enlightenment: thoughts on rebirthing a sacred culture, I wanted to share a summative essay I came across: Some Central Themes in Sri Aurobindo’s Works (PDF). For those of you who don’t know this gent, he was a yogi and mystic who lived at the turn of the last century. Aurobindo wrote voluminously on the evolution of consciousness and what he called “Integral Yoga,” which he believed was a new form of spiritual practice centered around bringing a higher, spiritual consciousness down into the material world. For the early part of his life, he was a British educated political activist in India. Following a series of dramatic spiritual events (the central one was quoted at the end of Eugene’s article), he left the political scene to become a full fledged Yogi.
Some of his major themes center around involution, which is something like the process of “descent” whereby spiritual energies become embodied and physical, and evolution, where these physical bodies actualize their spiritual nature. Aurobindo had a spiritual partner, the Mother (Mirra), and the both of them lived at an Ashram for the large part of their lives.
The Yogi and Yogini dedicated their lifetimes to articulating a new kind of human consciousness that would be an active, global agent in world transformation. On Aurobindo’s part, he wrote extensively dense and esoteric texts on his Yoga, a synthesis of Eastern and Western philosophy. Like some other contemporaries such as Rudolf Steiner, Theosophy, and Teilhard de Chardin, Aurobindo attempted to create a synthesis of evolution, science, and spirituality.
Over 100 years later, it’s popular to hear about a “new consciousness,” “collective transformation,” etc. Especially with 2012 here, many spiritual and New Age communities are gearing up for some kind of transformation. Before diving into anything else I just wanted to share an interesting comment in the essay by Gitanjali on what a collective awakening might be like:
Collective and not Individual Achievement Alone: The aim of this Yoga is not only individual perfection and realization for the sake of the individual, “but something to be gained for the earth consciousness here.” This transformation is impossible through individual solitary transformation unconcerned with the work of the earth. “Also, no individual human being can by his own power alone work out the transformation, nor is it the object of the yoga to create an individual superman here and there. The object of the yoga is to bring down the Supramental consciousness on earth, to fix it there, to create a new race with the principle of the Supramental consciousness governing the inner and outer individual and collective life. That force accepted by individual after individual according to their preparation would establish the Supramental consciousness in the physical world and so create a nucleus for its own expansion.” (Letters on Yoga, SABCL, p. 14)
When Aurobindo passed away, the Mother founded a village called Auroville (eventually to be a city), dedicated to the realization of this new consciousness. The city is considered to belong to humanity and the beginnings of a new kind of planetary spiritual society. Aurobindo emphasizes creating a planetary, spiritual global human society is hard work (not even guaranteed), and his message is just as pertinent today; where the challenges and crisis we face grow as exponentially as our consciousness must do in turn.
My partner, Miri, said to me on the phone tonight that whatever transformation might occur, it can’t be from any single book or author or idea. It has to be deeper than that. Rhizomatic even. Deep enough so that even those who do not read or write feel it in their heart, soul, and spirit. It has to rise from our depths, perhaps aptly described by a passage from Aurobindo:
“The thing to be done is as large as human life, and therefore the individuals who lead the way will take all human life for their province. These pioneers will consider nothing as alien to them, nothing as outside their scope. For every part of human life has to be taken up by the spirit, – not only the intellectual, the aesthetic, the ethical, but the dynamic, the vital, the physics; therefore for none of these things or the activities that spring from them will they have contempt or aversion, however they may insist on a change of the spirit and a transmutation of the form. In each power of our nature they will seek for its own proper means of conversion; knowing that the Divine is concealed in all, they will hold that all can be made the Spirit’s means of self-finding and all can be converted into its instruments of divine living.”