This paper was presented at the
National Seminar on
Indian Psychology: Theories and Models

SVYASA, Bangalore,
December 26 - 28, 2007

 

The  cosmic consciousness- Sri Aurobindo’s perspective in The Life Divine

Soumitra Basu — Institute of Integral Yoga Psychology, Calcutta

In the Life Divine, Sri Aurobindo had commented: ‘The possibility of a cosmic consciousness is coming slowly to be admitted in modern psychology.’ It is interesting how the concept of Cosmic Consciousness is introduced in The Life Divine. He could have easily imposed his experiential realization on his readers. Instead, he proceeds logically by attempting to reconcile the ancient debate between subjectivity and objectivity.  The votaries of objectivity believe that the objective world exists independent of the subject while the votaries of subjectivity believe that the objective world exists only in and for the consciousness that observes. Sri Aurobindo examines this conflict and finds it cannot be rationally solved as we have neither enough physical data of the material universe, nor we have adequate experiential knowledge of universal, non-material systems. The only alternative was to progress by an extension of the field of consciousness or an unhoped for increase in our instruments of knowledge. This endeavor resulted in an extension of the individual consciousness to the cosmic consciousness. This itself resulted in the change of status of both the subject and the object.

The cosmic consciousness is known in someway or other to different knowledge systems. The mystic experiences it holistically by transcending the ego. Others might not have a direct experience but construct their hypotheses based on the existence of the cosmic consciousness (viz. the ‘collective unconscious’ of Jung with its archetypes; the morphogenetic transmission of learning in Sheldrake’s animal experiments, the ‘akasic’ record’s or universal memory Bank of parapsychologists).

Sri Aurobindo explains that the cosmic consciousness is a repertoire of universal positive forces as well as negative forces. It is a mixture of falsehood and truth and having a contact with it does not automatically signify a great spiritual breakthrough. Great inspirations enter the inner being of the individual from the cosmic consciousness and even a little of that which enter the outer being is responsible for our creative expressions. However, adverse forces can also invade the individual from the cosmic consciousness and cut off the inner being from the influence of the soul-essence—this is ‘possession’ in yoga psychology.

Eventually there is a ‘Transcendental’ consciousness that surpasses the cosmic consciousness.

This paper discusses the metapsychological perspective of the cosmic consciousness and its relevance to psychology and psychopathology.

Email the author, Dr. Soumitra Basu, at drsbasu@sify.com