INFINITY IN A DROP
an introduction to Integral Indian Psychology
based on Sri Aurobindo's vision of an ongoing evolution of consciousness
author: Matthijs Cornelissen
last revision: January 10, 2017
This is the outline for IPI's course on "Integral Indian Psychology".
Please note that Integral Indian Psychology is only one of the subjects offered during IPI's Two-semester Course Indian Psychology. A short description of the full course can be found on its announcement page.
This outline is a work in progress. Though some chapters have already been worked out in great detail and are linked to relevant texts, others, especially in PART III, need still considerable work and may be changed completely in due time. Over the coming months I hope to refine its structure and add more links to actual texts and additional reading material.
Suggestions for change and additional resources are most welcome. Please write to Matthijs.
This outline and the texts it links to are, as of now, only drafts. Your are kindly requested not to copy or share any material from here without explicit permission, in writing, from the author, Matthijs Cornelissen.
√ September 2015 week 1
About this text
Why psychology needs the Indian tradition
- [the preface already covers the gist of this chapter; both texts may need some adjustment]
- what is the natural subject of Psychology and what can we legitimately expect from it?
- why is mainstream Psychology not capable of delivering this?
why has it not made the kind of progress physics has?
- a too limited understanding of reality
- unsuitable research methods
- what is Indian Psychology?
and why would it help Psychology to look at the Indian tradition?
- a psychology-friendly philosophical foundation
- Sachchidananda as the foundation for an integral theory of everything
- effective methods for therapy and inner development
- expanding on the effectivity of "decontextualised" practices like hathayoga and mindfulness
- effective methods to study the subjective domain
- how yoga, and especially jnanayoga, can lead not only to an increase in peace and joy, but also to rigorous, reliable knowledge in the subjective domain.
Why introducing Indian thought into psychology is difficult
- why has the Indian tradition made so little impact till now?
- how organised religion in Europe has stifled open-ended enquiry in the spiritual domain
- how the success of the hard sciences has misled both philosophy and psychology
- issues of power, responsibility, and privilege
- a too anxious protection of science’s position
- remnants of the Euro-American sense of superiority
- making Indian thought irrelevant by booking it under cross-cultural or religious studies
- obstacles on the side of Indian thought:
- segmentation and encrustation
- a too absolute divide between vidya and avidya
- undue stress on the other-worldly
- an unhealthy distortion of the concept of māyā
- the missing link between heaven and earth
- the difficulty of ensuring quality
- how to distil psychology from the Indian tradition?
- the Indian tradition is not static
- eternal and temporal components
- the large-scale passage of the yugas
- a super-short history of Indian thought
- the Indian tradition is not monolithic
- one core and many border-areas
- the main philosophical schools and what they can contribute
(Sāṁkhya, Vedānta and Tantra; Theravadin and Mahayana Buddhism; Jainism; the six Darshanas; the Bhakti tradition; Sufism; Sikhism; etc).
- The main texts from the Rig Veda to modern times
- The main paths of Yoga: hathayoga and rajayoga; karma, jnana and bhakti yoga; purna
- who are the guardians of Indian thought within the Indian society of today?
- philosophers and Sanskrit scholars? pandits, sanyassins, sadhus, yogis, gurus? grandparents, family and neighbourhood gurus?
- methods tried so far
- focussing, or even staying within one of the classical traditions: Vedanta; Rajayoga; Buddhism
- eclectic studies of traditional texts, concepts and issues
- case studies
- why all these are needed, and yet, insufficient
- A bootstrap problem: why research and teaching of Indian Psychology have made so little headway even in India
- the persistent influence of Macaulay in Indian academics
- a failure to organise Indian Psychology around contemporary issues, while remaining faithful to its own core-values
√ (part) 1/2017
Sri Aurobindo's contribution
why Sri Aurobindo?
The experiential and philosophical basis for Sri Aurobindo's contribution to Indian Psychology
- are all religious and spiritual paths created equal?
- Ascetic, religious and integral approaches to spirituality
- a first look at Sri Aurobindo's idea of an ongoing evolution of consciousness
- the world as a progressive manifestation of the Divine
- exclusive concentration as the mechanism behind māyā
- consciousness: physicalist and spiritual approaches
- integrality and the dynamic Divine
- overmind and supermind
- a psychological synthesis of the different systems of yoga
- the evolving soul or "psychic being", as the centre of individual development
- summary and conclusion
√ (part) 1/2017
The philosophical foundation of integral Indian Psychology
- concepts of consciousness:
- part one: Introduction
- part two: A three-dimensional space for concepts of consciousness
- part three: The main concepts of consciousness
- part four: The main concepts of consciousness in tabular form
- the ongoing evolution of consciousness as holding framework for psychology
- Darwin and the Vedic paradigm
- matter, life, mind, and then? how the Indian tradition indicates the next step in the evolution
- from where does the radical new come?
- the radical difference between life and matter
- the radical difference between mind and life
- the fallacy of "emergence" as an explanation for the radically new
- the need for typal planes of consciousness and existence
- idealist realism as the missing third between evolution by chance and by design
- the need for an involution preceding the evolution
- ascent and integration: an evolution of consciousness inside and not out of matter
- four different worldviews
- the physicalist view
- the pure consciousness view
- the religious view
- the integral view
Its scope for the naturalisation of values and the discovery of an intrinsic meaning and direction of life...
- the principle of integrality, purna
√ (part) 2015
What is knowledge and how do we know?
- why do we actually need to know?
- knowledge for knowledge's sake
- knowledge for the mother, gardener, artist, engineer, lover, doctor, therapist, prosecutor... [shift 1.3 to later in this chapter]
- abstract and situated knowledge
- two fundamentally different kinds of knowledge
- knowledge by identity (vidya)
- our awareness of our own existence
- the basic rules of logic and mathematics
- the awareness and knowledge involved in things
- seemingly simple, yet complete, perfect, and infinite in scope
- brain-based, socially-constructed knowledge (avidya)
- the knowledge we have about things
- the danger in thinking that all knowledge is of the constructed type
- the rise of second-hand knowledge
- complex, yet intrinsically imperfect and finite in scope
- how these two basic types of knowledge relate to each other
- the Isha Upaniṣad: vidya and avidya are equally needed
- how they are used together in physics
- integrating them consciously in other fields
- developing intuition, a first look
- the various uses of the mind
- four types of knowing in the ordinary waking consciousness
- sense-based knowledge
- knowledge by identity
- two modes of knowing
- four knowledge realms
- varieties of consciousness in the subliminal
- the preconscious
- the subconscious
- the superconscious
- the intraconscient
- the circumconscient
- stages of knowing
- integration and utilisation
Inner and higher knowledge
- intuition: true, unconstructed, pre-existing knowledge
- why it should exist
- the knowledge in things revisited
- how we lost it
- how we can find it back
- intuition's lookalikes: examples of "pseudo-intuition"
- subconscious expert knowledge
- three types of the "peer-to-peer" variety of intuitive knowledge
- knowledge by intimate direct contact
- knowledge from other realms
- physicalist explanations of déjà-vu
- why genuinely predictive visions and dreams may exist
- types of predictive visions and dreams
- the intuitive mind
- types of true intuition
- indicative intuition
- discriminative intuition
- knowledge on different planes
- two preliminary warnings
- distortions and impurities
- shadows on lower planes
- knowledge at the level of the ordinary mind revisited
- types of knowledge at the level of the ordinary mind
- higher levels of the individual mind
- higher mind
- illumined mind
- overmind and supermind revisited
- the difference between overmind and supermind
- some more detail about the overmind
- why the supermind must be there and why it was forgotten
- some important Vedic distinctions
- saṃjñāna, ājñāna, vijñāna, prajñāna
- satyam and ṛtam
- embodied mind
- knowledge in the different chakras
- the consciousness of the body
- sleep and dream
- the consciousness hidden deep in the nescience
How to improve the quality of our psychological knowledge
- attempts at refinement of our ordinary, constructed knowledge
- faith and scepticism
- the complexities of consensus and "proof"
- provisional, "working" realities
- the unsatisfactoriness of it all;
why more might be possible
- rigorous subjectivity: honing of the antaḥkaraṇa, the inner instrument of knowledge
- eliminating two root-causes of error:
- intrusions from "lower" planes of existence
- atavistic errors intrinsic to the mind
- why it is both, difficult and essential
- equanimity in the vital
- equanimity in the mind
- stages in the development of equanimity
- endurance: the hero
- resignation: the philosopher
- joy: the ṛṣi
- a note on strength and sensitivity; the need for common sense
- mental silence and the witness consciousness
- how it operates
- why it is both, difficult and essential
- the power of silence
- the witness
- the sanctioner
- the master
- methods of becoming silent
- letting your thoughts run out of steam
- looking for silence behind, above, below
- throwing thoughts out, refusing them entry
- one-pointed concentration
- all-inclusive concentration
- progressive intimacy with the Divine as ultimate source of knowledge
√ article, 2006
Towards a yoga-based research methodology
- yoga for healing and for knowledge
- similarities between subjective and objective research
- problems with subjective research
- the problem of 'privileged access'
- the malleability of the mental consciousness
- the core of the Indian solution: Yoga as research methodology
- developing the witness consciousness
- introspection versus the witness consciousness
- developing siddhis
- the relation between the liberation of the Self, and the transformation of the nature.
- four common objections against the use of the pure witness consciousness in psychological research
- is pure consciousness possible?
- what has the silent inner consciousness of the yogi to do with the ordinary mind?
- is yoga not too hard to use as a tool for psychological research?
- how to deal in a scientific manner with the ineffable?
- research protocols [this section is still to be written]
- asking the right questions
- experiments versus long term development
- establishing "data"
- third person studies
- scope and limitatations
- second person reports: interviews
- first person reports: diary notes
- existing methods of qualitatative research
- what IP can add
- rapportage and utilisation
- existing methods
- methods specific and appropriate to YBR
- a few words on philosophical premises and scriptural support in mainstream and yoga-based research
- concluding remarks
√ May 2016week 2,8,10
Who am I? The self and the structure of the personality
- the starting point: a roughly constituted chaos
- the concentric system
- the vertical system
- the physical
- the vital
- the mind
- the higher consciousness
- above the Overmind
- the cakras
- levels of awareness
- overview of terms used for the vertical system in one table
- the centre of identity
- the ego
- the Self: ātman, jīvātman and plane-specific puruṣas
- the Soul: from psychic entity to psychic being
- shifting the border between self and world inwards
- bringing it all together
- Can you get to Rome by behaving like a Roman?
- Right now, as you're reading and "using your mind", the centre of your awareness is most likely located somewhere behind the centre of your forehead.
- As an experiment, stop reading, and try instead to feel love or compassion.
Does your consciousness shift automatically to your heart?
- Imagine yourself involved in martial arts or a contact sport like boxing.
Is your centre of awareness shifting to the centre of your body?
If you know these sports, it almost certainly will: When you're not centred in your hara, it is too easy to push you over.
- Once in Rome, can you resist behaving like a Roman?
- Try to feel love or compassion while looking at the world from some place behind your forehead.
- Does it work? Most people find this impossible: if you insist on the feeling of compassion, it is as if you are pulled down to the middle of your chest.
- Similarly, try to force yourself to stay in your heart while reading a difficult text.
- Do you notice that the ideas don't register? That they go, in an almost literal sense, “over your head” (or rather “over your heart”)?
- Controlling one's anger
When one finds this difficult, it often helps to splash some water over one's face or walk around the block. This helps not only because it “cools you down”, dissipates the energy, and forces a little break; it also forces your consciousness into your physical being which in itself is not angry: the anger is located in the vital part of the nature. Counting to ten helps small children for the same reason: it forces them away from the vital, into the mind. Adults would need a more difficult mental exercise.
- Where is your consciousness located right now?
Or to say it differently, from where do you look out at the world?
- Are there times when you look at the world from a different centre?
- Can you shift the centre up and down at will? How does that change the basic quality of your being in the world.
- Think of a few people around you. Can you make out where their consciousness is most typically located?
week 7, 10
Natural individual development
- development over many lives: reincarnation
- arguments against and alternative explanations
- arguments in favour
- a more detailed description of how it might work
- "unfinished business": neurotic influences from previous lives
- skills and talents carried over from previous lives
- "life between lives"
- the aim of life in a many-lives perspective
- natural development within one life, seen from a many-lives perspective
- the influence of previous lives on childhood and life-span development
- possible mechanisms
- implications for education
- avenues for research
- formations and deformations during childhood: Freud's "traumas" in the light of IP
- "old" and "young" souls
- stages: samskaras & ashramas
- progressive emancipation and integration as binding perspective
- being and becoming revisited
Rasa, the "taste of existence"
- emotions: colours and “tastes” of self and nature
- some classical listings
- vital emotions and psychic emotions
- intrinsic delight; why nothing can exist without ananda at its core
- drama and the rasa in things
- the Godward emotions
- equanimity and "being there"
√ (part) 1/2017week 11,16
What makes me the way I am?
- what makes me the way I am?
- nature and nurture; genetics and culture
- saṁskāras and vāsanas
- svabhāva and svadharma: for one life and for many lives
- general introduction to personality types
- typologies: their use and limitations
- a statuary warning
- mental, vital, physical
- soul-powers and their shadows
- the passing of time and the rise of the panis
- general considerations
- types of prakriti
- mixed personality types
- transforming the mind, managing prakriti
- gods and goddesses
- astrological types
- cautions revisited
- the need for complex, multi-dimensional profiles
Action and agency, fate and free will
- what makes me act the way I act?
- the force that drives us
- hunger, fear, desire and ego-driven action
- desire as atavistic deformation
- desire instead of intrinsically happy energy
- constructed instead of intrinsic knowledge
- is all action due to desire?
- neurotic, healthy, and ego-less action
- what is egoless action?
- the action of equality
- will as conscious force
- śraddhā and śakti, faith as force
- agni revisited
- individual will and universal will
- the scope for conscious, self-willed alignment
- detachment and commitment
- is freedom real?
- why freedom cannot be there
- why freedom must be there
- "most bound most free"
- a schematic overview of the powers that determine who we are and what we do
- Think of your desires, ambitions, plans, agendas, drives, wishes, aspirations, from the most trivial to the most profound....
- Jot as many of them down as you can. Don't enforce any order in your list; don't apply any filter.
- For each item, mark from which part of your nature it comes.
- Mark which ones you would really regret not having achieved when you're say, sixty or seventy. Mark those you would really regret if you had pursued them. Mark those that appear to be neutral.
- Now make an ordered list or, even better, one or more multi-dimensional mind-maps.
Think carefully about the various dimensions you can use to bring some order in them, e.g.
- moral, ethical, spiritual value
- private versus social
- etc., etc.
- Does the soul select the conditions under which it is born?
If this is so, why would people choose very difficult circumstances?
- Any idea why you might have chosen to be born in the family where you were born?
- How do saṁskāras etc. work?
Do they work only through the conditions under which one is born (in terms of nature and nurture), or do they exert an influence even after birth? If the latter, how could this be researched?
- Think of the traits you've clearly received from your family (whether genetically or through your upbringing). Are there also things in your character that don't seem to come from your family? Are there things, whether from family or unique to you, that you consider to be really yours, in the sense that they are part of your svabhava and svadharma?
- the pervasiveness of relationships
- relationships in language (person, number, gender, honour)
- relations with
- self-giving and re-owning yourself
- being lonely, alone, all one
- human love and love divine
- love and oneness
- Make a mind-map of all your relationships
- Become aware how your behaviour changes from relationship to relationship
(think of your language, body-posture, attitude, "things you can think about", etc.)
- focus on how you change in relation to specific people, things
- focus on how a specific aspect of yourself changes in different relationships
- How often are you alone?
- What roles do others play in your life?
- What do others mean to you?
- Who is the other actually?
- group membership
- permanent and temporary memberships
- overlapping memberships
- the group as source of identity
- the group as functional unit
- roles and hierarchies within groups
- the group as carrier of culture
- conflicts between groups: us against them
- harmony within and between groups
Positive and negative motivation for change
- aspiration and the Grace that answers
- self-observation as tool
- reason as tool
- silence as tool
- invoking "the power of harmony"
- remember and offer
- aspiration, rejection, surrender
- aspiration versus ambition revisited
- rejection versus suppression
- active and passive surrender
- humour, detachment and commitment
Things that help
- helpful attitudes
- the four aids
- psychological perfections
- cheerful endeavour
Dealing with difficulties and dangers
- common principles
- atavisms: the “right” of the past to endure
- the role of faith
- using hurdles as steppingstones
- dealing with the mind
- the arrogance of ignorance
- common errors of the mind
- encouraging its innate aspiration for truth
- dealing with the vital
- the fraudulence of drama
- the vital on strike
- relationships gone sour
- encouraging the vital's innate aspiration for pure joy and harmonious action
- when mind and vital gang up
- debating in order to learn or to win?
- dealing with the body
- a servant with many masters
- helping "brother donkey"
- the unholy trinity
- power and ambition
- some common issues
- in conclusion: dealing with the ego
Realisation and Liberation
- changes within the normal range
- making life bearable
- realisation: meeting the infinite
- why would one want it?
- are there preconditions?
- are there paths and methods?
- samādhi and nirvāṇa
- jumps and gradual ascents
- mukti: are there varieties and degrees? If so, how do they relate?
- liberation and then what?
- changes automatically following after
- jīvakotis and īśvarakotis
- ascent and integration
- embracing the shadow
- holding up into the light
- the difference between change and transformation
- psychic transformation
- what is the psychic?
- signs of the psychic
- the presence of the psychic
- consciously organising oneself around the psychic
- "realising" the psychic
- psychic transformation
- spiritual transformation
- the higher planes of mind revisited
- higher mind
- illumined mind
- spiritual experiences and their value
- siddhis, spiritual powers and their use
- re-positioning the self
- supramental transformation
- the difficulty of envisioning it from below
- a monkey's view of "super-monkey": he cannot see man as he is to himself
- the limitations of living in a brain-based mind
- some theoretical considerations
- multiplicity and differentiation in a divine harmony
- shadows on the lower planes
- why it cannot go faster than it goes
- preparatory steps
- a being of light
The complexity of human nature revisited
- the nonlinear nature of progress
- the impossibility of self-assessment
- faith revisited
- helping others: a word of caution
- general principles
- developing the nature as an instrument for the soul to express itself in the world
- the roles of teacher, therapist, counsellor, social worker, manager
- motivation, insight, skill, and effort
- building a tool box
- helping others to help themselves
- integral education: basic principles
- soul-based respect
- devolving responsibility for choices and evaluation to the learner
- the importance of integrated projects
- educating the mind
- the mind's role and potential
- viveka, "non-judgmental discrimination"
- freeing the mind from vital and physical immixtures
- widening of the mind: acknowledging the opposite as equally true
- opening up to higher possibilities
- dealing with the mind's limits and difficulties
- educating the vital
- the vital's role and potential
- fostering good attitudes
- cheerful endeavour and "voluntary optimism"
- training the will
- dealing with vital difficulties
- vital dramas
- the vital on strike
- opening to higher energies and the power of harmony; surrender
- educating the body
- psychic education
- spiritual education
- helping others revisited
- the pitfall of over-educating: Sri Aurobindo's "nothing can be taught"
- the pitfall of "inculcating values"
- the pitfall of over-evaluating
- Imagine a society in which education would encourage honesty, collaboration, and the pursuit of perfection in whatever sphere of interest the child has.
Healing, counselling and therapy
- truth cures
- a perfect therapy session
- faith and Grace revisited
- the place of details; time revisited
- equilibrium and progress; strength and sensitivity
- being healthy
- increasing insight and strength
- promoting psychological health in others
- helping others with mental problems
- helping others with mental illness
- the reason medical health professionals tend to see visions, inner voices, etc. as pathological
- the role (and limits) of
- reason and insight
- re-training, aka "behaviour modification"
- occult processes
- the integration with mainstream methods of therapy and counselling
- the pitfalls of helping others revisited
- psychological and spiritual factors in health and illness
- equilibrium and progress in the body
- the consciousness of the body
- the body and its "masters": vital, mind, and psychic
- idealism versus pragmatism: are interim measures needed, useful, acceptable?
- doctors and healers
- coping with illness
- coping with death
- the various medical systems in the light of IIP
- Ayurveda and Siddha medicine (dealt with separately)
Social & organisational psychology
- the long-term history of social structures, morality, religion, science & technology from an IIP perspective
- the need for a soul- and consciousness-centred understanding of our social reality
- working with a soul- and consciousness-based respect for
- cultures and sub-cultures
- social change and change in consciousness
- working with organisations (taken up separately)
- working with communities (taken up separately)
- short and long term views of the future
- the coming of the subjective age
"Indian psychology" and the future of humanity Postscript: life as sādhanā; sādhanā as life
- why, in spite of all obstacles, an increasing influence of Indian psychology is inevitable
- some strategic possibilities and considerations
Disclaimers and confessions
- still to come...
An expression of gratitude
- still to come...
[shift 1.1 & 1.2 to Part Two]
the text of the next three sections has been taken from an existing article;
they need revision to adapt them to the context of Infinity in a Drop.
the text of this chapter has been taken from an existing article called "Research about yoga and research in yoga";
it needs revision to adapt it to the context of Infinity in a Drop.
One section and a few concrete examples are to be added.
WORKING ON ONESELF
A matter of degree?
WORKING WITH OTHERS
√ partially, 2015
Psychology and the scientific method: a difficult relationship
- [this chapter may need an update as some issues have been shifted (back) into the main text]
- 1913 and beyond: psychology's three lineages
- a mini-history of spiritual, integral, transpersonal, and Indian psychology in modern times
- the present situation
- how defective assumptions and methods of enquiry limit what mainstream psychology can see
- classical Behaviourism
- is schooling injurious to health ?
- mainstream yoga research
- how could we get it so wrong?
- how we have missed the overriding importance of the subjective domain
- ontological issues
- objective psychology provides an empty mirror
- materialism is a flatlanders' view
- "emergence" is not a valid explanatory category
- skyhooks are actually needed: Daniel Dennet mistakes his assumptions for his conclusions
- epistemological issues
- the three core methodologies meant to produce "expert knowledge" fail to do so in psychology
- physicalist reductionism cannot see its subject
- constructionism cuts the branch it sits on
- hermeneutics (interpretation) has no ground to stand on
- ethical issues:
- third person psychology is intrinsically manipulative
- neither reductionism nor constructionism nor hermeneutics offers any hope for finding the intrinsic meaning of life or the "naturalisation" of ethics
- the essential core of "the" scientific method
- the cycle of theory formation and testing
- demand for new knowledge
- formulation of a more or less concrete question
- consultation of literature and existing authority
- intuition, reasoning
- formulation of a testable hypothesis
- rigorous observation, using instruments, doing experiments
- (provisional) conclusion and further questions on a personal level
- publication, application, utilisation
- (provisional) conclusion and further questions on a collective level
- NB. from any stage there can be feedback to any previous stage
- the social setting
freedom and hierarchy
- what Psychology has taken
- poor implementation of crucial aspects of the scientific process
- inappropriate, incapacitating metaphysics
- inappropriate, and as a result ineffective research methods
- what psychology needs (and the Indian tradition can provide)
- a more psychology-friendly ontological foundation
- a more psychology-friendly core-methodology: rigorous subjectivity
- a truly inspiring grand theory
- the future: a fully integrated science.
√ partially, 2015
A short biography of Sri Aurobindo References, bibliography and recommended reading
√ partially, 2015