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Integral Pyschology : The Psychological System of Sri Aurobindo (In Original Words and in Elaborations)

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Item Code: NAZ575
Author: Indra Sen
Publisher: Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry
Language: English
Edition: 2020
ISBN: 9789352101979
Pages: 574
Other Details 9.00 X 6.00 inch
Weight 700 gm
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Book Description
About the Book

The world today presents the aspect of a huge cauldron of Medea in which all things are being cast, shredded into pieces, experimented on, combined and recombined either to perish and provide the scattered material of new forms or to emerge rejuvenated and changed for a fresh term of existence. Indian Yoga, in its essence a special action or formulation of certain great powers of Nature, itself spe- cialised, divided and variously formulated, is potentially one of these dynamic elements of the future life of humanity. The child-of immemorial ages, preserved by its vitality and truth into our modern times, it is now emerging from the secret schools and ascetic retreats in which it had taken refuge and is seeking its place in the future sum of living human powers and utilities.

Yogic methods have something of the same relation to the customary psychological workings of man as has the scien- tific handling of the force of electricity or of steam to their normal operations in Nature. And they, too, like the opera- tions of Science, are formed upon a knowledge developed and confirmed by regular experiment, practical analysis and constant result.

Yoga is nothing but practical psychology.

About the Author

Indra Sen was born in Jhelum, Punjab, in 1903. He passed away in the Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry, in 1994.

He was Professor of Psychology and Philosophy at the University of Delhi. Trained in both Indian and Western traditions, he earned a PhD in Psychology from the University of Freiburg, Germany. However, the psychologist in him — as also the spiritual seeker—remained unfulfilled.

He came to know of the work of Sri Aurobindo in 1939. He found therein an entirely new system of psychology, which he could only call Integral Psychology, as also a path of spiritual practice. He wrote to Sri Aurobindo through his secretary, Shri Nolini Kanta Gupta, about this. Sri Aurobindo sent a reply to the effect that he accepted this term for his work in psychology and asked Indra Sen to write about it.

His first paper entitled ‘The Psycho- logical System of Sri Aurobindo’ was pre- sented to Sri Aurobindo and published in a journal of the Sri Aurobindo Ashram. All subsequent papers on the subject were also presented to Sri Aurobindo.

From 1940, he devoted himself to the study and sadhana of Integral Yoga under Sri Aurobindo and The Mother.

Notable among the author’s works is "The Urge for Wholeness", Presidential Address, Psychology Section, Indian Science Congress, 1946.


Preface ‘Man is the key to life and existence. It is man that seeks to know himself and his world. Our world has a quality and a character that correspond to the quality and character of our personality. A true and full knowledge of ourselves is, therefore, of prime importance. Through a knowledge of our more competent parts, we are able to solve the problems of the superficial parts and of the world that they create. It is the higher values of life that can truly and more satisfactorily harmonise and replace the lower ones.

It may also be stated that a truer and fuller exploration of mans personality is a matter of yogic research. Our ordinary scientific research remains limited to the superficial parts, the phenomena, the psycho-physical behaviour. However, some attempts are being made in the present times to go beyond and explain what man re- ally is.

The present book represents Sri Aurobindo’ work in this field and it tries to do so comprehensively. Part One represents his con- ception of man in his own words, with editorial explanations where necessary, to show its comparative position in relation to modern scientific psychology.

Part Two gives elaborative and comparative studies in Integral Psychology. Therein Freud, Jung and academic psychology find their due places. It, however, needs to be remembered that these studies were made at different times and under different circum- stances. But they all bear upon the same subject and represent the same standpoint.

Part Three deals with ‘Integral Personality and Life, where the main issue is: how does Integral Personality hold the possibilities of meeting our problems in philosophy, in religion, culture and the practical affairs of life? In the end, under the title, ‘Integral Person- ality and the Future, an attempt is made to show how the integral personality can give us an insight into the future course of human evolution.

However, Sri Aurobindo’s main purpose was, in fact, to show how these possibilities could be realised in life. That is to say, he evolved an Integral Yoga for an integral transformation of life. This evidently involved the conception of Integral Personality and of an Integral Psychology, which form the subject-matter of this book.


Sri Aurobindo’ writings span a wide spectrum. These include the highest type of metaphysical-writings at the apex of which I would place The Life: Divine. In the field of literature with a philo- sophical message, Savitri stands alone. Dantes Divine Comedy perhaps compares with Savitri in its philosophical depth, but the Divine Comedy does not have the philosophical sophistication or literary intricacies that one finds in Savitri. Apart from these two monumental works for a practising Yogi and a psychologist, the importance of the volumes under the title The Synthesis of Yoga where Sri Aurobindo expounds the theory and practice of Integral Yoga can hardly be surpassed. I am not mentioning his other writings as the list would be too long and too varied.

Dr. Indra Sen has undertaken a major task in expounding the important psychological principles in Sri Aurobindos writings for the benefit of students of psychology. He has accomplished this task by means of lengthy extracts of significant passages from the writings of Sri Aurobindo, as well as through his own expositions of his principles. Dr. Indra Sen is eminently qualified to do so. He has been a Professor of philosophy and psychology at the Univer- sity of Delhi (Hindu College), but gave up his assignment to go to the Ashram at Pondicherry to study and practice Integral Yoga at ‘the feet of the Master and the Mother. The present work, actually a collection of his writings on Integral Yoga over several years, is the product of nearly half-a-century of study and practice. He has been the President of the Psychology Section of the Indian Science Con- gress, recipient of the Eastern- Western Psychology Lecture Award of the Swami Pranavananda Psychology Trust, and a regular con- tributor to professional journals of psychology and philosophy. I, therefore, feel privileged and honoured to write this introduction to Dr. Indra Sen’s book.

The book is divided into three parts. Part One is a collection of extracts from the writings of Sri Aurobindo. The attempt here is to place before the reader the principles of psychology that are inherent in Integral Yoga. The focus is on consciousness and on personality. Perhaps the central point in Sri Aurobindos theory of personality is the concept of quality of consciousness in the human and its different levels. Sri Aurobindo speaks of four levels of hu- man consciousness: (i) The subconscient and the submental level comprising the material basis of our life and body and which ap- pears to us as inconscient (ii) The subliminal level which compris- es the inner life, inner mind and the inner physical with the soul or psychic entity supporting these (iii) The normal waking con- sciousness which the subconscient and subliminal "throw up on the surface, a wave of their secret urge" (iv) And most importantly, the superconscience, overarching and enveloping our submental, subliminal and waking consciousness. This superconscience is an extension of the earlier levels of consciousness as are accepted in contemporary psychology. This concept of the superconscient, of- ten used interchangeably with the term superconscience, or rather the experiences at the superconscient level, humanity speaks of vaguely as Spirit, God, the Oversoul.

Sri Aurobindo’ significant contribution to human psychology is, in my opinion, this extension of human consciousness upwards. If Sigmund Freud drew attention to the lower levels of conscious- ness, Sri Aurobindo did the same for the higher level. The super- conscience is above and beyond our present level of awareness in which are included the higher planes of mental being as well as the heights of supramental and pure spiritual being. The normal wak- ing human consciousness is hedged between items to me, the twin forces of the Freudian Id and the Aurobindian Superconscient. If Freud’s contribution to psychology has been to bring the primi- tive instinctual urges within boundaries of the Psychological Man, Sri Aurobindo’s contribution has been to bring the concept of the Transcendent, the Divine and its pull within the boundaries of the same Psychological Man. Like Freud again, Sri Aurobindo has de- pended heavily on clinical experiences for evidence. Freud’s case histories have been the neurotic personalities visiting his Vienna clinic and while Sri Aurobindo’s has been the yogic aspirants resid- ing in his Ashram. Personal clinical experiences have been impor- tant for both.

I cannot avoid drawing the attention of the redeveloped act that although personal clinical evidence abounds for the existence of the unconscious and for that of the superconscience or the tran- scendent, laboratory testing of the implications and consequences of these have not been conspicuously successful. ‘Can I bring God in the laboratory’ is a question that excites and haunts me.

Dr. Indra Sen’s inclusion of a section on Practical Guidance from the Integral Psychology point of view is an important con- tribution. Dr. Sen writes: "The human ego is most touchy and sensitive and gets easily hurt. Sensitiveness is an extremely com- mon problem." And Sri Aurobindo writes under the caption "True Remedy has not to cure oneself of one’s sensitiveness, but only ac- quire the power to rise to a higher consciousness taking such dis- enchantments as a sort of jumping board. One way is not to expect even square dealings from others, no matter who the others are. And besides it is good to have such experiences of the real nature of some people to which a generous nature is often blind; for that helps the growth of one’s consciousness." After this, can anyone say that mystics are impractical? Many of us who have undergone such hurts shall find the words of this sage a solace and a pointer to a new road for further growth.

"In discussing the crisis of life in contemporary society, Dr. In- dra Sen rightly says: "The contemporary crisis is virtually a crisis of personality, the surface personality being cultivated too exclusively, being taken as the whole man and full satisfaction sought from it which it cannot give" Apropos of this I quote a beautiful sentence of Dr. Indra Sen: "The inner or really the inmost consciousness is a complete world of thought, feeling and will, possessed of self- existence, independence, creativity, master of body, life and mind and the environment. It opens up a life of intrinsic values, a life of positive pursuit and enjoyment of these values, and thus gives to the life of external values a perspective altogether new and different’. At the individual level, meditation, and at the group level, education, are obviously the means for developing this type of new personality. Having studied persons practising meditations as well as on the basis of personal experience of this, I am constrained to insert a dissenting note at this stage. Meditation, both in its personal growth as well as in its symptom relief function, is not a simple solution. As in psychotherapies including psychoanalysis, in the initial stages, meditation can increase the psychic turbulence and not bring in in- stant harmony, peace and balance. For teenagers and young adults, perhaps football and hockey are to be preferred to meditation and intensive introspection. I say this because the craze for meditation and its alleged benefits are too much bruited about and for which there is little empirical support. We have in our studies established that much of the supposed gains from meditation are not due to meditation per se but due to the meditation subculture in which the lay meditator stays for a while. However, meditation practised seri- ously may lead to an enhanced capacity and range of functioning of the human brain and development of paranormal powers.

Dr. Indra Sen has made a strong and convincing plea for seri- ous study of psychological principles embedded in ancient Indian texts and in case histories of Yogis. In this he finds full support from an outstanding Indian psychologist, Professor G. Bose of Calcutta University, who has also written a commentary on Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra from the psychoanalytic viewpoint. Dr. Sen's present book will give substance and support to this legitimate hope. In fact a desire to explore psychological principles and concepts indigenous to India is already noticeable amongst some Indian psychologists. It is to be hoped that we will transit fast from description of these concepts to their experimental verification and modification.

Many Indian minds have a fascination for the writings of Carl Jung. Dr. Indra Sen is no exception. He has devoted quite some space to a discussion of Jung’s views mostly, I believe, to authen- ticate Indian concepts including those of Sri Aurobindo. This is one approach from which I respectfully differ from Dr. Indra Sen. Quoting authority or Sabda Pramana, even if of a person like Jung, is no substitute for hard experimental verification of the Indian concepts. Let these concepts be operationalised, tested and those which do not satisfy the acid test of the laboratory be rejected, howsoever ancient and holy these may be. The only condition for these tests should be an absence of experimenter bias.

Book's Contents and Sample Pages

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