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Integral psychology, in the adaptation of Sri Aurobindo's spiritual teachings, refers to an understanding of the various planes and parts of being, which is essential to the practice of integral yoga.
- 1 History of Integral psychology
- 2 Aspects of being according to integral psychology
- 2.1 Faculties ("vertical" divisions)
- 2.2 Types of being ("concentric" divisions)
- 3 See also
- 4 References
- 5 External links
History of Integral psychology
Sri Aurobindo never used the term "Integral Psychology"; the term was coined in the 1940s by Indra Sen, a devotee of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, who established the original field of "Integral Psychology" and integral theory in general, although his book on the subject only appeared in 1986.
Aspects of being according to integral psychology
Sri Aurobindo conceives of human psychology, indeed, of the entire cosmos, as having two major types of distinctions or dimensions. The faculties ascend in a "vertical" fashion, from the subconscient to the higher, transpersonal realms. At the same time, he distinguishes between the Outer being, the Inner being, and other, similarly "concentric" dimensions. The terms vertical and concentric are metaphors for the purpose of visualization and are not meant to be taken literally.
Faculties ("vertical" divisions)
- Main article: Physical (Sri Aurobindo)
The Physical faculty or part of the being, refers not just to the physical body, but the body's consciousness as well. The body is just as conscious as the vital and mental parts of the being, only it is a different type of consciousness. As with the other faculties or principles of the being, in Sri Aurobindo's integral psychology the Physical can be subdivided into finer sub-grades, such as the mental physical, the vital physical, and so on. One does not find the distinction of non-conscious body and conscious mind that characterises Western thought. A partial analogy might be made with the "Moving Center" of Gurdjieff and Ouspensky's "Fourth Way" philosophy and cosmology.
Like the other principles, the Physical not only shades upwards to higher ontological levels, but also downwards into the Subconscient, which equates to the Subconscious or Lower Unconscious, although Sri Aurobindo asserts that the Subconscient includes much more than the unconscious of (Freudian) psychology.
In Sri Aurobindo's reading of the Taittiriya Upanishad, the physical being (or perhaps just the Physical Purusha) is the anna-maya-atma - the self made of food.
- Main article: Subtle physical
The Subtle physical is Aurobindo's term for a subtler aspect of the physical nature. This has many qualities not found in the gross physical nature. In The Agenda, The Mother often refers to it. It might be compared to the etheric body and plane, or even the astral body and plane. The term "subtle physical" to distinguish from gross (sthula) or outer material physical.
- Main article: Vital (Sri Aurobindo)
The Vital or Life faculty or part of the being, refers not simply to the life force as to the various passions, desires, feelings, emotions, affects, compulsions, and likes and dislikes that strongly determine human motivation and action through desire and enthusiasm.
- Main article: Mental (Sri Aurobindo)
The Mental faculty or part of the being, is the conceptual and cognitive mind. Unlike Western psychology, in which mind and consciousness are considered the same, Sri Aurobindo strongly distinguishes between the "Mental" and the "Vital" (emotional) faculties, as well as between Mind and pure Consciousness. Sri Aurobindo in part bases his concept of the Mental on his reading of the Taittiriya Upanishad, the mental being (or perhaps just the Mental Purusha) is the mano-maya-atma - the self made of mind (manas).
Types of Mind
To Aurobindo, Mind or the Mental being is not simple and uniform, but consists itself of various strata and subdivisions, the whole contributing to an elaborate integral theory of psychology. These various faculties are described or variously referred to, usually in obliquely or in passing, in some of his books, including Savitri, which has poetic references to many types of Mind (Jyoti and Prem Sobel 1984 pp.152-62). In his letters answering questions from disciples, Sri Aurobindo summarises the characteristics of the various levels of Mind (see Letters on Yoga vol. I pp.324-5).
Higher levels of Mind
Includes Higher Mind, Illumined Mind, and Intuitive Mind.
- Main article: Overmind (Sri Aurobindo)
Overmind is the plane of Gods. Overmental plane is the highest consciousness one can achieve without transcending the mental system. Beyond overmind are the planes of Supermind or unity-consciousness.
- Main article: Supermind
Supermind refers to the infinite unitary Truth Consciousness or Truth-Idea beyond the three lower planes of Matter, Life, and Mind. Supermind is the dynamic form of Sachchidananda (Being-Consciousness-Bliss), and the necessary mediator or link between the transcendent Sacchidananda and the creation. (Life Divine Book I, ch.14-16)
Types of being ("concentric" divisions)
The Outer Being
- Main article: Outer being
The Outer Being refers to the superficial and limited surface existence which characterises our everyday consciousness and experience. It includes a physical, vital, and mental aspect, and is also the location of the desire soul.
The Inner Being
- Main article: Inner being
The Inner Being is the wider and more plastic subliminal faculty of one's being, that lies behind the narrow surface consciousness.
As with many esotericists, along with Jungian and Transpersonal psychologists, Sri Aurobindo speaks of larger and deeper potentials of human nature, which can be contacted through spiritual discipline and higher states of consciousness. This Inner Being includes the inner realms or aspects of the physical, vital, and mental being, which here have a larger, subtler, freer consciousness than in the small outer mental, vital, and physical nature of everyday consciousness and experience, and its realisation is essential for any higher spiritual realisation. The Inner Being is also transitional between the surface or Outer Being and the Psychic Being, which is also for this reason known as the "Innermost Being". Outer, Inner, and Innmost Being form a "concentric" sequence or hierarchy, which is a counterpart to the "vertical" hierarchy of Physical, Vital, and Mental.
- Main article: Psychic being
The Psychic is the "Innermost Being" (Amal Kiran, quoted by Craig Hamilton) is the permanent being in us that stands behind and supports the physical, vital and mental principles. It takes the essence of experience in the Ignorance to form a nucleus of growth in the nature; it "puts forth and uses mind, life and body as its instruments, undergoes the envelopment of their conditions, but it is other and greater than its members." (The Life Divine p.891)
- Main article: Central being
Central Being is a technical term used by Sri Aurobindo to designate the transcendent and eternal spirit, as opposed to the incarnate and evolving Soul, which he calls the Psychic Being, although sometimes it refers to both of them together as the essential spiritual core of the being. These definitions are found in Letters on Yoga vol.I under "Planes and Parts of Being" (pp.265ff in the 3rd ed.)
- Glossary to the Record of Yoga
- Sri Aurobindo, (1972), Letters on Yoga, Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust
- Sri Aurobindo, (1977) The Life Divine, tenth edition, Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust
- Sen, Indra (1986) Integral Psychology: The Psychological System of Sri Aurobindo, Pondicherry, India: Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust
- Jyoti and Prem Sobel (1984) The Hierarchy of Minds, Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust, Pondicherry
- Sri Aurobindo's Psychology - description of the various psychological faculties according to Sri Aurobindo's teachings
- Sri Aurobindo's Integral Psychology page with book reviews of a number of books relevant to Aurobindonian Integral psychology
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