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Integral Health

The metaphysical basis for Integral Health — divine life

Dr. Soumitra Basu

It is difficult to conceive the connotation of ‘divine life’. Ordinarily it would signify a life steeped in spirituality or religionism with a certain aloofness from materialistic pursuits. It would encourage a dwelling in the realm of high ideals. Indeed, such a divine life would be based on a eulogising of virtues, a glorification of ethical ideals and a rejection of all that constitutes ‘sin’. It would reject the pleasures of hedonism for an austere coldness or else for a religious ecstasy. It would be the rule of the pious, the preacher and the puritan. It would reject the sinner, the rebel, the anarchist. To be justified, it would reject the ordinary human being subject to the petty needs, the small desires, the selfish attachments and the mundane joys of earthly life. A ‘divine life’ thus constituted would have not accommodated science per se except for applications that would serve its purpose. Such a ‘divine life’ would be suitable for a handful of aspirants with the rest of the world immersed in filth and mire, enmeshed in falsehood and suffering, burdened with ignorance and crowned with death. Or else, the ‘divine life’ would have to be sought away from the earth in some elusive paradise.

Sri Aurobindo’s conceptualisation of the ‘divine life’ has different connotations. He describes that an ideal divine life ‘in the world’ (for he is interested in this world, not in the heavens beyond) would serve two desiderata:

(a) It would “at once justify Science by disclosing a living sense and intelligible aim for the cosmic and the terrestrial evolution” and

(b) It would “realise by the transfiguration of the human soul into the divine the great ideal dream of all high religions (1).”

This passage quoted from Chapter IV of The Life Divine is a culmination of several in-built hypotheses and experiential realisations worked through in this and previous chapters of the magnum opus:

(1) Firstly, Matter and Spirit are different principles of the “same unknowable Reality” and their discords can be resolved in the matrix of the cosmic consciousness by “a knowledge that perceives at once the truth of Unity and the truth of Multiplicity... (2).” Such knowledge needs an experiential venture that surpasses the limits of the ego. ”Matter reveals itself to the realising thought and to the subtilised senses as the figure and body of Spirit, — Spirit in its self-formative extension. Spirit reveals itself through the same consenting agents as the soul, the truth, the essence of Matter.... Mind and Life are disclosed in that illumination as at once figures and instruments of the supreme Conscious Being by which It extends and houses Itself in material form and in that form unveils Itself to Its multiple centres of consciousness (3).” The resolution of the discord between Matter and Spirit makes the true spirit of Science meaningful to the all-encompassing Consciousness of spirituality.

(2) Secondly, implicit in the passage quoted above is the contention that human life as it is organised today falls short of the idealised perfection that has been the aspiration of all religious striving. This is why generations of seekers have sought perfection in its fullest potential away from the earthly life in some heavenly paradise. Sri Aurobindo points out that this is because the human being is a transitional being with a potential to evolve further in the hierarchy or holarchy of consciousness. The human mind is not the summit of all evolutionary endeavours; it can be surpassed and progressively higher levels of consciousness can be embodied in a graded way in earth itself till a Supramental life of the highest perfection ever conceivable can blossom in the matrix of an elevated humanity.

(3) Thirdly, a perfect life on earth would necessitate a perfection of the instruments of the personality and this needs their transformation and transfiguration that would allow the highest consciousness to be manifested in terms of the lower. Thus the powers and ranges of supra-rational faculties, of intuitive vision, of global cognition can manifest at the level of the mental consciousness; the universal will and cosmic energy be accessible at the level of the vital consciousness and the subtle body consciousness can manifest to physically support a progressively evolving body. The crown of this transfiguration comes when the human soul transfigures in terms of the Divine which it was always in its essence but unable to manifest till an evolution of consciousness made it possible. It is then one can triumphantly announce the manifestation of spirit in matter.

The transformation and transfiguration of the instruments of the personality is not an easy task. Perhaps the most difficult of all is the transformation of the body. The mind (the seat of cognition and abstraction) and the vital (the repertoire of emotions and dynamism) can be universalised and transcended but the form of the body has to remain as the field of manifestation. To retain such a form without the limits of the ego and without losing the essence of individualisation was one of the most difficult endeavours undertaken in the history of spirituality by the Mother to universalise the potentiality of such a venture in the matrix of human consciousness (4). She had to work painstakingly to take up each element of the material substance constituting the body for the work of transformation. The material substance changed in its very quality with a new integer of plasticity, of suppleness. This replacement of Nature’s ordinary law with a higher determinism emanating from Supramental poise is risky and critical as it “creates a state of transition with all the appearances of a tremendous disorder and a very great danger. And as long as the body doesn’t know, as long as it’s in its state of ignorance, it gets panic-stricken... it thinks it’s a serious illness, and sometimes, with the help of imagination, it may even result in an illness. But originally it’s not that: it’s a withdrawal, the withdrawal of Nature’s ordinary law with its adjunct of personal vital and mental law (but Nature’s law in the body is generally much stronger than the mind’s and the vital’s law); well, it’s the withdrawal of that law and replacement by the other. So there is a moment when it’s neither this nor that, and that moment is critical. But if the body begins to know, it remains still and has faith – trust and faith; it remains still, then all goes well ( 5).”

The Mother’s venture was that of a pathfinder through a virgin zone unplumbed before and her replacement of Nature’s ordinary laws by a higher determinism has fixed the potentiality of such a transformation in the matrix of the earth- consciousness. Truly, this has been her spiritual gift to mankind to establish a divine life on earth. But this phenomenon also necessitates newer paradigms of health and healing, newer frontiers in psychological research, newer ways to understand the body, newer shifts in our cognitive stances, newer insights in metaphysics and science, newer ways of spiritual growth. It is an excellent opportunity to build up new integral models based on consciousness paradigms of a progressive dimension of health and futuristic psychology.

1. Sri Aurobindo. Birth Centenary Library, Volume 18. Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust; 1970, p. 26.

2. Ibid.

3. Ibid.

4. The Mother. Mother’s Agenda, Volume 9. English translation. Paris: Institut de Recherches Évolutives; 1995, pp. 44-5.

5. Ibid., p. 46.

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Matter and Spirit


The Mother


Virgin zone