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Integral Health

The metaphysical basis for Integral Health — the Integral Manifestation

Dr. Soumitra Basu

In Chapter V of The Life Divine, Sri Aurobindo uses the term ‘Integral Manifestation’ in a technical sense. In experiential spirituality, Reality is conceived to be one, whether manifest or unmanifest, and in the various forms and processes of manifestation. As the Unmanifest, Reality is viewed as a Being or Non-Being while whatever has manifested within the limits of space and time have been termed as Becoming. Some view ‘Being’ to be ‘Real’ and ‘Becoming’ to be illusory, ephemeral, existing only in subjective perception. Sri Aurobindo (1) views both ‘Being’ and ‘Becoming’ to co-exist simultaneously:

“Being and Becoming are the single One. The One does not become the Many, but the One is for ever the Many even as the Many are for ever the One….

“This One can be all because it is no one in particular, it can be all-pervading and eternal in its essence because it is not bound by Space or by Time. It is One but it is also multitudinous, its multitudes are the self-expression, not the denial, the abundance, not the division or fragmentation of its oneness. Each being of its multitudes seems to be a portion of the One…(1)” (p. 196)

This means that in each form of manifestation, the Infinite is present as a finite phenomenon of itself.

If this is true, then what we call as the manifestation is not a haphazard phenomenon. If all that is manifested is simultaneously another poise of that which exceeds the manifestation, then obviously, such a manifestation must follow its own law, rhythm and harmony. Indeed the manifested worlds have their own laws and processes, which are so exact and precise that the human being has been able to systematise their knowledge in logical codes. The world of Matter has given rise to the physical sciences, the world of Life has given rise to the biological sciences, the world of Mind has given rise to the psycho-social and philosophical disciplines. Likewise, Reality, which is experientially perceived as a Oneness in essence that pervades all manifested forms must have its own laws and processes. This Oneness is perceived and conceptualised in mystical disciplines in terms of Consciousness.

Actually, it is Consciousness that is the great underlying fact of existence, which formulates different planes at different levels of a graded universe. Consciousness is essentially the same throughout but variable in status, condition and operation. When mystics use the term ‘consciousness’, they refer to the essence of the ‘Being’ but Sri Aurobindo explains that the same is also the essence of ‘Becoming’. Only, when the same consciousness that is self-absorbed in the Being becomes the basis of all that is self-expressed in the Becoming, it has to have certain unique characteristics. These are:

a. The ‘manifestation’ of different planes of existence follows an ‘evolutionary’ spiral in the matrix of consciousness itself. The evolutionary nisus starts from the ‘Inconscience’ and progresses towards the ‘Super-conscience’. Evolution however cannot proceed from nothing. It is possible only because in the Inconscience is hid the potentiality of the Superconscience just as in the seed is hid the potentiality of the tree.

b. The manifestation of different and diverse planes and poises of consciousness shows that consciousness is pluri-dimensional in nature. “Brahman expresses Itself in many successive forms of consciousness, successive in their relation even if co-existence in being or coeval in Time …(2)”. Consciousness is not only manifested in different planes (Matter, Life, Mind) but also in different poises: Individual, Universal, and Transcendent.

c. The different planes, forms and poises of Consciousness are not discrete and scattered but all can be represented in each and the one omnipresent Reality can be represented in all. Besides, any higher plane of consciousness does not reject the preceding planes but incorporates, upgrades and transmutes them. Thus Life does not reject Matter but the quality of Matter inherent in living systems is vastly different from that in inorganic matter. Likewise, Mind does not reject ‘Life involved in Matter’ but uplifts it so that the life of the highly mentalised human being is qualitatively superior to the life of an animal with a rudimentary mind. Again, the essence of the omnipresent Reality, which is present in each plane and form of consciousness also progressively, unfolds its potentialities as the evolutionary nisus traverses the hierarchies of consciousness. That is why the same essence of Reality is termed differently at different planes of consciousness – in Matter it is the True Physical Being (Annomay Puruṣa) while at the plane of Life, it is the True Vital Being (Pranomay Puruṣa) and at the plane of Mind it is the True Mental Being (Manomay Puruṣa). It is the same being in different poises — the ‘sameness’ or ‘oneness’ is indisputable but the capacity of unfolding of potentialities gives a meaning to the ‘difference’ too.

d. The consequence of ‘Oneness’ expressed uniquely in different planes of the manifestation permits the ‘lowest’ to be ‘transmuted’ in terms of the highest and the highest to be ‘manifested’ in terms of the lowest. In other words, if the ‘individual’ can ‘universalise’ oneself and climb to the ‘transcendence’, the ‘Transcendence’ can also manifest in the ‘universal’ and the ‘individual’. “For the World-Transcendent embraces the universe, is one with it and does not exclude it, even as the universe embraces the individual, is one with him and does not exclude him. The individual is a centre of the whole universal consciousness; the universe is a form and definition which is occupied by the entire immanence of the Formless and Indefinable (3)”. Thus the manifestation is in its nature an integral manifestation.

Sri Aurobindo’s usage of the term ‘integral manifestation’ acknowledges the complexity of the manifestation; accepts it as an expression of the Omnipresent Reality and not an illusion; describes the ‘pluri-dimensional’ nature of the manifestation; traces the evolutionary curve in the matrix of consciousness that formulates the grades of the manifestation; and forwards the capacity of ‘transformation’ of the lowest integers in manifestation in terms of the highest and pari-passu, the blossoming of the ‘highest’ in conditions of the lowest. In other words, the ‘super-conscient’ can manifest in earthly life; the Transcendent can be expressed in terms of the Universal and Individual. Inspite of the complexity of what has been described, the entire manifestation culminates in an integral movement where the Infinite can be expressed in terms of the Finite and the Finite can be transformed in terms of the Infinite. In this scheme of things, the manifestation itself is integrally dynamic. That is why Sri Aurobindo qualifies the manifestation as an ‘integral manifestation’.

In an integral manifestation where the complexity of a variegated existence has a meaning and a purpose and where yearning of the finite to expand into the infinite is justified because the infinite can manifest in the finite, the paradigms of health, well-being and psychology must be viewed in the context that any expression of an anomaly is reflective of a broader disharmony in the gestalt of consciousness and likewise, any corrective intervention is partial and limited unless it ultimately deals with a general harmony that supports the integration of the manifestation along an evolutionary trajectory. Thus the quintessence of Integral Health in an integral manifestation lies in the shift from the position of anomaly to the poise of harmony and equilibrium within the depths of the being so as to facilitate an evolutionary growth in consciousness. Thus the raison d’être of the concept and practice of Integral Health arises from the fact that the manifestation itself is not a disorganised chaos but an integral manifestation.


1. Sri Aurobindo. Complete Works of Sri Aurobindo, Volume 12. Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust; 1994.

2. Sri Aurobindo. Birth Centenary Library, Volume 18. Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust; 1970, p. 36.

3. Ibid., p. 37.

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Evolutionary spiral