INFINITY IN A DROP
an integral, consciousness-centered psychology
based on the work of Sri Aurobindo
author: Matthijs Cornelissen
last revision: October, 2017
This outline is a work in progress. Some items are linked to texts that are in fairly good shape; others are early drafts that still need considerable work; many items are not yet linked to any text; the very structure of the outline may be changed completely in due time. Over the coming months (if not years) I hope to refine its structure and add more links to actual texts, as well as additional reading material.
Suggestions for change and additional resources are most welcome.
As said, this outline and the texts it links to are, as of now, only drafts, so you are kindly requested not to copy or share any material from here without explicit permission, in writing, from the author.
√ September 2015 week 1
About Infinity in a Drop
- preface: what is psychology, or rather, what should it be?
- why this book is called "Infinity in a drop"
- how this book is organised and how to engage with it
- a metro map of Infinity in a Drop
- The "metro map" is a clickable map of key issues in Infinity in a Drop.
- So far about 30 items have actually been linked (their names are bold and underlined).
- N.B. Not all browsers are born equal with regards to pdf files. If the links don't work, download the pdf and view it outside the browser.
- here is a more detailed explanation of the "metro map" of Infinity in a Drop
Why psychology needs the Indian tradition
- why does psychology have a problem?
- the basic understanding of reality and knowledge that supports the hard and social sciences doesn't match the mandate of psychology
- the limitations of objectivity
- the limitations of constructivism
- the failure of introspection
- as a result, we simply don't have an effective science of the subjective domain
- how can the Indian tradition help?
- a psychology-friendly philosophical foundation
- Sachchidananda as the foundation for an integral theory of everything
- chit, but ... how can consciousness be everywhere?
- ananda, but ... how can bliss be everywhere?
- why taking sachchidananda as the foundation of reality makes a difference
- 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.
- effective methods for therapy and inner development
- expanding on the effectivity of "decontextualised" practices like hathayoga and mindfulness
- methods to bring science and yoga together that have been tried so far
- using decontextualised techniques for health, self-development and therapy;
(e.g. hathayoga "excercises"; vipassana)
- while maintaining a safe distance from what comes from the Indian tradition by looking at it as something that "others" think, one can
- focus on or even stay within one of the classical traditions: Vedanta; Rajayoga; Buddhism
- follow one particular guru
- produce one's own eclectic study of traditional texts, concepts and issues
- none of these has led to the development of a comprehensive science of the subjective domain
- why is it so difficult to integrate theories and practices from the Indian traditions into science?
- issues of power, privilege and responsibility
- the West not yet willing to give up its dominance
- India not yet ready to play its role
- specific difficulties on the side of science
- is it the limited number of people with direct experience?
- is it a general resistance to change?
- it seems unlikely that either would hold out if India would be ready, but it isn't
- specific difficulties on the Indian side
- not clear who the guardians are of Indian thought within the Indian society of today
- philosophers and Sanskrit scholars? pandits, sanyassins, sadhus, yogis, gurus? grandparents, family and neighbourhood gurus?
- 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
- the many folk traditions
- 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 deep issue underneath
- in practice yoga is pursued for three objectives
- to find the divine
- for comfort, healing and self-help
- to obtain power and followers
- Sivananda's warning
- cons and pros
- none of these is sufficient for the development of a comprehensive science of the subjective domain
- the last two because their aim is too limited
- the first, because it does not need comprehensiveness –– it is effective within narrow boundaries
- summary and conclusion: though the existing schools of Indian philosophy and yoga are useful for finding the Divine as well as for healing and therapy, they are by themselves not good enough to develop a genuine and comprehensive psychology
- what is needed to make make an integration of science and the Indan tradition possible?
- a genuinely integral understanding of reality, knowledge and how they relate.
- this requires a viewpoint that is high enough: it must be a position above all dualities
- the ultimate reality, the divine, cannot be either personal or impersonal
- the self cannot be either eternal or non-existing
- Shiva and Shakti, purity and power cannot be mutually exclusive
- starting just one other school of psychology is not enough
- a genuinely integral objective
- after liberation, transformation
- a genuinely integral methodology for inner development (and thus for education, therapy, social work, and HRD)
- summary and conclusion
- one cannot fit the Indian tradition into science: its basic conception of reality is larger
- one can fit science into the basic understanding of reality at the roots of Indian thought, but at present no existing tradition is vast enough to take up that role
√ partly, 1/2017
Sri Aurobindo's contribution
- Why Sri Aurobindo?
- he realised in himself that height of conscious being from where a genuinely integral perspective is possible, and it is from that height that he
- developed his psychological synthesis of the different systems of yoga
- recognised the world as a progressive manifestation of the Divine and developed the idea of an ongoing evolution of consciousness
- acknowledged the dynamic as well as the passive Divine and recognised exclusive concentration as the mechanism behind māyā
- distinguished the overmind from the supermind
- recognised the evolving soul or "psychic being", as the centre of individual development
- summary and conclusion
√ August 2017
Consciousness as the core-issue of psychology
[the preface covers part of this chapter; both texts may need some adjustment]
√ August 2017 week 2,8,10
Who am I? A first look inside
√ August 2017 week 2,8,10
The self and the structure of the personality
- a roughly constituted chaos
- going within: discovering the "concentric system"
- outer nature
- inner nature
- true or central being — a short introduction
the Self: ātman, jīvātman and plane-specific puruṣas
- the "vertical system"
- higher consciousness
- above the Overmind
- levels of awareness
- overview of terms used for the vertical system in one table
- centres of identity: ego, self and soul
- the ego
- the true or central being
- 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?
√ August 2017 week 11,16
What makes me the way I am?
- 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
WHO AM I?
√ partly, 2015
What is knowledge and how do we know?
- what is knowledge
- why do we actually need to know?
- knowledge for knowledge's sake
- abstract and situated knowledge
- knowledge in the service of life: knowledge for the lover, mother, gardener, doctor, therapist, artist, engineer, prosecutor...
- two fundamentally different kinds of knowledge
- knowledge by identity
- In its supramantal essence (vijnana)
- Its shadow in our ordinary waking consciousness and the physical world
- our human 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
- chemistry-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
- sophisticated, 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
- a look at the future
HOW DO WE KNOW?
the text of this chapter has been taken from an existing article.;
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.
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"
- 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
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?
MEETING OTHERS AND THE WORLD
week 5, 7, 9, 10, 12
Natural individual development; Positive and negative motivation for change
- 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
- the innate aspiration...
- how the will for progress manifests at different stages of the journey
- how the will for progress manifests at the level of the different cakras
- aspiration versus ambition
- ... and what hold us back
- the role of pain
- the sunlit path
Basic methods and things that help
- aspiration and the Grace that answers
- self-observation as tool: insight and detachment
- knowledge and reason as tools
- the different ways knowledge
- types of knowledge and the roles they play
- knowledge of the Divine and one's deepest self
- knowledge of one's aim in life; svabhava and svadharma
- psychological knowledg e and know-how
- knowledge of the world
- understanding of one's own nature
- 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, commitment and love
- helpful attitudes and psychological perfections
- cheerful endeavour
- the four aids
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, liberation and transformation
- 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, liberation
- 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
WORKING ON ONESELF
- 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.
Health, healing, counselling and therapy
- truth cures
- doctors and healers
- the place of details; time revisited
- physical, psychological and spiritual factors in health and illness
- the consciousness of the body
- the body and its "masters": vital, mind, and psychic
- equilibrium and progress; strength and sensitivity
- being healthy
- increasing insight and strength
- other medical and therapeutic systems in the light of IIP
- integration with mainstream methods of therapy and counselling
- Ayurveda and Siddha medicine (dealt with separately)
- promoting health in others
- helping others with physical problems
- 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
- physical interventions
- reason and insight
- re-training, aka "behaviour modification"
- occult processes
- coping with illness
- coping with death
- the pitfalls of helping others revisited
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
WORKING WITH OTHERS
"Indian psychology" and the future of humanity
- why, in spite of all obstacles, an increasing influence of Indian psychology is inevitable
- some strategic possibilities and considerations
Life as sādhanā; sādhanā as life
- still to come...
Disclaimers and confessions
- still to come...
An expression of gratitude
√ partially, 2017
Psychology and the scientific method: a difficult relationship
- [this chapter is still a very rough draft]
- 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
- is there one generic core of good science?
- "the" scientific mindset
- "the" cycle of theory formation and testing
- the variety of scientific methods
- the socio-economical setting supporting scientific progress
- specifics for the hard sciences
- specifics for the social sciences
- what will turn psychology into a "good" science?
- out of the generic set, what is relevant to psychology?
- what is inappropriate?
- what needs to be added?
- what psychology needs (and the Indian tradition can provide)
- why has the Indian tradition made so little impact till now?
- what would a fully integrated science look like?
√ partially, 2015
A short biography of Sri Aurobindo References, bibliography and recommended reading
√ partially, 2015
The following three sections have been shifted to the introduction
Please refer to the Integral Indian Psychology Resources page on the main IPI website
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