The following letter was posted to Auroconf, an e-mail discussion group that examines issues related to Integral Yoga. To subscribe, send e-mail to email@example.com. Leave the subject line blank. In the body of your message, type subscribe auroconf.
I have begun a couple of responses to the discussion about psychology, all of which have seemed inadequate and incomplete. My initial reaction was that much of what has been proposed as integral psychology over the years is a rehash of Sri Aurobindo's shastra without much in the way of practical application to the needs of people who seek help.
I don't think that the attempts to find an equivalence between Sri Aurobindo's terminology and western systems (Auroconf has had a brief exchange about Jung and the yoga) to be of much use, as they are taken out of context, both of culture and of intent (yoga versus medical psychology). This is not to say that they are not talking about the same psyche or that we may not deepen our knowledge by a respectful comparison.
My own approach for many years has been to learn and use the western methods (primarily Jungian) and inform them inwardly with what I know and how I practice the yoga. The first and most important aspect is karma yoga: to offer the fruits of psychological and psychiatric healing work to the Divine, to trust that it is She and not my ego that is the agent of change, to do the work at a conscious ego level with as much integrity and impeccability as I can, and to be an instrument as much as possible of the Master of the Works.
As I have delved more deeply into the theory and practice, intuitions about links and similar understandings have borne fruit and become avenues of study and question. I would hope that these sorts of connections between phenomenological psychology and our common spiritual teachings will become the basis for a discussion of how we think about our work and what we actually do in the practice of psychotherapy.
n regards to the quote posted from Letters On Yoga, Vol. 1, p. 205 (remember that this was written in the 1930s) -- "The so-called sciences which deal with the mind and men (psychology, etc.) are so much dependent on physical science that they cannot go beyond narrow limits. If science is to turn her face towards the Divine, it must be a new science not yet developed which deals directly with the forces of the life-world and of Mind and so arrives at what is beyond Mind; but present-day science cannot do that." -- I have always wished that Sri Aurobindo had known of Jung's later writings, especially his studies on alchemy, parapsychology (Synchronicity), the evolution of consciousness (Aion), and the Judeo-Christian myth (Answer to Job); these all came after Jung's near-death, out-of-body experience in 1944, which was followed by a period of deep spiritual experience.
Although holding to his position as an empiricist and phenomenological psychologist (based in part on the early influence of William James), Jung had a subjective basis in consciousness beyond the intellect from which to articulate both his own experience of the psyche and what he saw in others. The "wall between spirit and matter" had become quite thin for him, and the role of the ego enormously relativized.
In my early study of Sri Aurobindo and Jung, which began in the ashram in 1973 (the library has Jung's collected works), I railed against Jung's ignorance about the new yoga that Sri Aurobindo had made possible; but when I returned to the U.S. to finish my training in psychiatry and begin analytic studies, I was grateful to Jung for providing a bridge from the East to a western scientific and cultural body of knowledge. Roberto Assigioli was another possible link, along with the burgeoning transpersonal psychology movement.
As this forum has rightly pointed out, many others have developed experiential approaches and languages for formulating them in the years since Sri Aurobindo wrote. My own hope is that those of us on the list who have delved into one or more of these areas can begin to share our knowledge and experience with each other, and especially how it is informed by the practice of yoga.
-- Richard Stein, firstname.lastname@example.org