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Integral Health

The metaphysical basis of Integral Health — the cosmic consciousness

Dr. Soumitra Basu

We acknowledge that a synthesis of Western and Eastern paradigms is essential to build the future foundation of health. However this is a difficult endeavour. The Western paradigm is materialistic in attitude, which means that it is mechanical, rational, empirical, pragmatic and neutral. It is mechanical because it relies on measurements. It is rational because it is based on logic. It is empirical because it gives credence to observation. It is pragmatic because it is based on verifiable experiments. It is neutral because it does not mix up religion, morality and spirituality with science. The fact that Francis Bacon (1561-1626) was imprisoned for taking bribes despite being the Attorney-General and Lord Chancellor did not rob him of his enshrinement as the father of the modern scientific method . Even if a Western scientist is a firm believer in the Church, his scientific acumen has to be neutral or at best supplemented by agnosticism.

The Eastern paradigm is subtle, suprarational, and intuitive. While the materialistic paradigm is experimental, the Eastern paradigm is experiential. While the Western paradigm works through science, the Eastern approach springs from a mystical-spiritual base. The Western approach generalises after analysing and classifying data; hence it acts through division and exclusivity. The Eastern approach is more inclusive and holistic. It also springs from the consciousness of an enlightened visionary who has practised living a holistic life centred on one’s inner poise.

It is to the credit of Copernicus (1473-1543) and Galileo (1564-1642) that measurement became a standard desideratum to validate scientific truth. However, human civilisation preceded Copernicus and Galileo, preceded Bacon’s plea for empiricism in scientific research, preceded the modern scientific laboratories and preceded the era of universal education. It is obvious that until human civilisation built up a universal rationaltechnological base of knowledge, some other faculty of knowledge must have been operative in supporting and sustaining human systems. Indian yogis had probed and refined suprarational techniques of acquiring knowledge, of which the foremost is intuition. It was through intuition that the Rig Veda seers had discriminated between ordinary fire, electricity and nuclear fission. It is through intuition that AAyurvedic physicians had used Rauwolfia Serpentina as the only pharmacologically correct drug for schizophrenia till Chlorpromazine was discovered in the 1950s. However, although suprarational faculties like intuition could be cultivated by exceptional seers, it could not be generalised in the mass. Hence, intuitive knowledge had to recede so that the rational base of knowledge could develop in a universalised way. It is here that Europe took a lead over the Orient and modern science based on rationalistic Materialism came as a panacea to the quest for knowledge. This lasted till the early years of the 20th Century when the old rigid laws of science became inadequate and giant physicists like Einstein, Bohr, Schrödinger and Heisenberg brought in subtle non-physical insights to bridge explanatory gaps, albeit, bordering on the metaphysical.

When even Matter despite its grossness needed subtle dissection, it was apparent that human behaviour too could not be explained simply as a bundle of reflexes. Thus, in between the physical sciences and spiritual-mystic knowledge, there arose a vast intermediate array of psychological and social sciences ranging from psychology to social anthropology, political science to transcultural psychiatry.

One great practical problem arose. It was traditionally considered that the physical sciences were supposed to be based on objectivity, the spiritual-mystic realisations were supposed to be based on subjectivity. The psychological and social sciences were somewhere in the middle and hence were not strictly scientific like ‘physics’. However, quantum mechanics led to a drastic reappraisal of the objective reality and physicists began to acknowledge metaphysical insights. Nearly half a century after physics accepted the significance of intuitive speculation, transpersonal psychology reinstated the importance of consciousness and spirituality in the study of human nature. This has led to a reappraisal of our way of looking at things from a more holistic perspective. One momentous resultant was a modification of the WHO definition of health. In addition to the physical, psychological and social dimensions, the spiritual dimension of health was acknowledged and incorporated in the definition of health.

A new matrix of consciousness

The acknowledgment of non-physical, intuitive insights by physicists is a great step but does not automatically qualify for a synthesis of science and spirituality, of Western and Eastern paradigms. Sri Aurobindo did not approve of reducing science in terms of spirituality and vice versa. Rather he preferred a non-judgmental approach in observing how certain conclusions of science matched certain conclusions of metaphysics(1). Actually he advocated that a unity-principle can be constructed in a new matrix of consciousness where both science and spirituality, Matter and Spirit can be accommodated in equal weightage without belittling each other. This third dimensional matrix is the cosmic consciousness. Sri Aurobindo elaborates the nature of the cosmic consciousness in the third chapter of The Life Divine.

The extension of the individual consciousness by an inner enlargement from the individual to the cosmic existence increases the field, repertoire and range of consciousness. To experientially come into contact with the cosmic consciousness implies that one has to surpass the individual cognitive field. This means one has to expand beyond the ego that supports the individuality. In the cosmic consciousness, the debate between subjectivity and objectivity assumes a radical significance because the ‘subject’ known as ‘Witness’ is no longer the individual embodied mind, but the Cosmic Being who is as much a poise of Reality as the Individual Being (which supports the individual manifestation) and the Transcendental Being (known as ‘God’ in many traditions).

In the cosmic consciousness, one perceives:

“Matter as one existence and of bodies as its formations in which the one existence separates itself physically in the single body from itself in all others and again by physical means establishes communication between these multitudinous points of its being. Mind we experience similarly , and Life also, as the same existence one in its multiplicity….Nor do we become merely conscious of this cosmic existence, but likewise conscious in it, receiving it in sensation, but also entering into it in awareness. In it we live as we lived before in the ego sense, active, more and more in contact, even unified more and more with other minds, other lives, other bodies than the organism we call ourselves, producing effects not only on our own moral and mental being and on the subjective being of others, but even on the physical world and its events by means nearer to the divine than those possible to our egoistic capacity (2).”

This experiential construct of the cosmic consciousness has important ramifications in the field of psychology and health. It necessitates that the different parts and planes of an individual should be viewed not as closed systems but as unique formations of universal planes of consciousness. Disruptive forces that cause disharmony and illness can originate either in an individual formation at any plane or in a corresponding universal plane and can travel either way. Thus an individual can be ill by being overwhelmed by disruptive universal forces. Likewise, a disharmony emanating from an individual can get to universalise itself and affect vulnerable others at the corresponding plane of consciousness. Similarly an individual therapist can effectuate healing of another individual in a unique way; likewise, universal healing forces can be therapeutically beneficial at multiple levels.

In Integral Health and integral yoga psychology, the cosmic consciousness has another significance. Transformative forces can act through the cosmic consciousness in a universalised way, effectuating mutant changes in the bodily form including physical organs as well as in the emotional and cognitive fiefdoms. To participate in this unfolding drama, the protagonists of Integral Health need to develop the suprarational techniques of acquiring knowledge in a novel and innovative way.


1. Purani, A.B. (recorded by). Evening Talks with Sri Aurobindo. Pondicherry; Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust, 1970, p. 87.

2. Sri Aurobindo. The Life Divine, SABCL, Volume 18. Pondicherry; Sri Aurobbindo Ashram Trust, 1970, pp. 21-2.

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Materialistic attitude






Sri Aurobindo


Cosmic consciousness