The Life and Teachings of Sri Aurobindo: a lecture by Dr. Debashish
by Jeremy Johnson
Sri Aurobindo wrote that, “it is a spiritual evolution we foresee and the material is only its shadow and reflex.” It is easy to interpret this statement, without context, as a form of world-denial. Aurobindo began as political activist, but later in his life turned to the path of the Yogi and never left his ashram in Pondicherry. But in many ways, Aurobindo was foreshadowing the spirituality of the future. He taught a path of immanence, a form of spiritual alchemy where our divine nature was directed toward our “lower” nature, resulting in the transmutation of mind, heart and body.
Hence, he dubbed this an “integral Yoga.” A yoga turned, not toward transcendence, but the immanence of the soul brought to fulfillment in life, not beyond it.
Together, with his spiritual counterpart, the Mother, he wrote voluminously about the coming “Gnostic Being” – a new form of human whose soul had come to the forefront of the person.
Without writing further on this, I thought I would share a twitter, stream-of-consciousness rant. My attempt to describe Integral Yoga in 140 characters or less!
I’m drawn to Sri Aurobindo’s teachings on the Psychic Being, a kind of ambiguous “sheath” around the soul that develops through lifetimes. Consider it a tiny divine guide, an inner Guru, that can transmute the soul spark to a bright body of light. It is not shy to time, yet it is not affected by it. It gains wisdom by the lifetimes and attempts to draw the person towards the divine. I love this because it, to some degree, reconciles history. Its a way of telling us what the soul is doing all wrapped up in the flesh. And what’s especially intriguing about Aurobindo’s mysticism is that his teachings are about immanence.
He and his partner, the Mirra (the Mother) don’t deny transcendence, but seek an alchemical yoga of transmuting the “lower nature.” I suppose this is why they called it Integral Yoga, the act of acting from the divine soul, coming to the forefront of the person. Transforming the human being into a new kind of being (something we are, already). The “gnostic being.” That works as a transmuter.
Anyhow, I am sure there will be many forms of mysticism in our age that are driven towards immanence of the Soul. Despite our materialistic times, I think it is important that we foster these new traditions and work on “seeing through” the world. But not abandoning it. Perhaps that’s not what it’s been about all along. After all, we have been here for a few million years, the human organism has evolved to worship and craft temples and write scripture. The Earth is a sort of temple for a divine host. There are many ways to interpret what our materialistic age knows through soulful vision.