Wednesday, February 17, 2016

What Stephen H. Phillips has done is infinitely more pernicious than anything Peter Heehs has done

Yes Paul Brunton is very interesting. You all may recall in Letters on Yoga, Book 1, Planes and Parts of the Being, Sri Aurobindo comments on Paul Brunton’s meditation instructions, and his use of the term “Oversoul” (not overself). (sorry, don’t have the page number here; it’s right near the beginning of that section, about 10-20 pages in?). Also, Brunton and Amal Kiran had a series of letter exchanges, published in Amal’s book “The Vision of Sri Aurobindo.” Brunton was critical of Sri Aurobindo’s conception of “matter” and Amal was critical of Brunton’s idea of “mentalism.” This exchange could serve as a model for Auroconf (!! – for example, talking in a calm, mature manner about the pros and cons of the Peter Heehs matter) as they start quite opposed but listen carefully and respectfully and just about come to a complete meeting of minds at the end. Amal rethinks Brunton’s idea of mentalism, and Brunton rethinks Sri Aurobindo’s idea of matter, and they come quite close at the end. This all too rarely happens in the Integral Yoga world:>))
If you do want to understand Sri Aurobindo’s idea of matter before (I saw this with considerable irony), and you have a scholarly bent, you might enjoy the last 150 pages of “The Hidden Teaching Beyond Yoga” of Brunton. He’s presenting basically a Vedantic view, combined with the Citta-Matra view of the Buddhists, and bringing in a great deal of basic physiology and perceptual psychology (not entirely unlike the article Sandeep wrote on the epistemology of perception, and which was the underlying basis for our book on yoga psychology).
I spent about 3 months in 1994 working my way through Brunton’s book, and when I finally dove in to study The Life Divine, in 1996, I found that I had been immensely helped by my study of Brunton. I have been rather amazed to discover the extent to which conventional materialistic views exist in the integral yoga community (among Indians as well as Europeans and Americans) and I think this is one of the single biggest stumbling blocks to understanding Mother and Sri Aurobindo, and can even be a huge stumbling block in meditation and other forms of spiritual practice.
This goes back to the very first paragraph of “The Teaching of Sri Aurobindo” – as long as we take the appearance for the Reality it’s hard to make a sustained breakthrough, and establish ourselves in any dimension beyond the ordinary surface consciousness. If anybody claims he is open to the inner, or established in the psychic being, or functioning at the level of the higher, or intuitive mind (or beyond!) and believes in the inherent existence of non-conscious matter, they are either lying to you or deluding themselves.
l think we have to be careful about believing everything Brunton says, in light of what SA said about him. lt’s been discussed here in another thread. Here’s a bit of that conversation:
Mike – did you think I was suggesting taking everything Brunton says at face value? Did it come across that way to anybody else? if so, I’m sorry. I would think that discernment is required for reading anybody, even Mother and Sri Aurobindo. many people read some suggestion in Letters on Yoga and try to apply it, forgetting that Sri Aurobindo was talking to a specific person at a specific time and place. He wouldn’t even necessarily make the same suggestion to that person a few years (or weeks!) later.
All I was saying was that one of Sri Aurobindo’s leading disciples felt positive enough about Brunton that he corresponded with him at some length. I also mentioned – I don’t know if you were taking this into account – that Amal disagreed with Brunton as well.
I hope I didn’t misunderstand you. I just wanted to caution against too much black and white thinking.
Thanks Mike. I was just offering what I thought was also a balanced view:>)) (though I’m not sure who you thought Brunton’s major disciple was; his “heir” as teacher was Anthony Damiani, who never disowned him). Anyway, I was recommending Brunton primarily as an aid in something I’m very interested in, challenging materialism in science.
As for Peter, I’ve spoken with him personally. he told me both in 1989 and 2001 that he had a purely intellectual interest in Sri Aurobindo, having neither had any kind of spiritual experience nor any interest in it. It shows in his books, so why all the fuss? He never made any pretense to be otherwise. He’s written nonsense about Sri Aurobindo, but that’s what all the scholars do. For my money, what Stephen Phillips has done, completely mangling every idea and point in The Life Divine, is infinitely more pernicious than anything Heehs has done. Phillips has academic ‘credentials” that Peter can’t pretend to have. Even Malhotra and his erstwhile Infinity Foundation have been taken in by Phillips. I know it doesn’t really matter in terms of our individual sadhana/practice, but Sri Aurobindo, in the Human Cycle, said at one point the ***single most important** thing that can happen to move us toward a truly spiritual age is for “the mental mind of humanity” to accept a genuinely spiritual vision. People like Phillips, with much influence and nil understanding, do a great deal of harm in terms of what Sri Aurobindo called for.
yes, I know, ultimately She is in charge and it is not for us to worry about. And I’m not worried.
As they say, “jes sayin’
Sometimes, in the integral Yoga world, I almost wish we could have a temporary moratorium on all the big words (subliminal, psychic being, supramental, etc) and just practice being normal, thoughtful, kind, compassionate people. It might be an enormous step forward in the evolution of the IY community. Start with where we’re at – for most of us – in the “ordinary mental mind” – and though we may have a large, profound, even infinite vision – with great humility and sincerity, take very small steps toward being just a slight bit more mindful in our dealings with each other (I’m talking about me as much or more than anybody else!!!) – well, I think that would be nice.
I suspect also (and in fact Nolini’s writings bear this out- particularly his wonderful volume 3, The Yoga Of Sri Aurobindo) that a fairly large number of IY disciples were at least capable of functioning – at times?? – on the level of the mind proper (though again, to go back in the other direction, if you follow the conversations at Auroconf, it is true that there are times you wish one could ban all the big words – overmind, super mind, even psychic being – in the interest of simply having a reasonable conversation.
I’m not sure that Nolini’s point is to avoid overintellectualizing those higher spiritual realities. I thought his point was (and if it’s not, it’s still a great point). that we have a LOT to do in terms of purifying the ordinary surface consciousness.
Maybe it would be easier to put it in incredibly everyday, normal, superficial language.
Let’s say I’m irritated at someone. In fact, I have a habit of getting irritated at them. This happens when I talk to them in person and when I write on line. Since we’re online now, let’s take the 2nd example... I think all of this is implied in Nolini’s passage, which is why I think it should be engraved in all Integral Yoga blogs, websites and online groups (just kidding; but it would be nice if people paid more attention to these simple, everyday things. 
Just think what it would be for the community if we could talk about Peter Heehs in a calm, mature, adult manner. You don’t need to be a yogi to do that, and look how everyone on both sides talks like hurt, wounded 4 year old children. Peter seems to be a lightning rod for all of our worst qualities, and i would hope if one good thing could come out of this whole mess, it’s we would stop taking sides and blaming the insensitive Westerners or the cultish trustees or that nasty old Peter and instead, blame the real culprit, the separative ego, which is in essence, the same problem we all have. This way we’re all on the same side and we all face the same problem, together, as One.
right here.

Don Salmon, 15th Apr 2015, 06.14 PM
As an American clinical psychologist living in a community (Asheville, North Carolina) where both NVC and RC are very popular, I'm glad to see these being used in Auroville.
Having said that, I feel deeply saddened that techniques aimed at what Sri Aurobindo characterized as the superficial, surface consciousness are not being adapted along the lines of the deeper integral yoga vision.
Jan (my wife) and I hope to be able to visit Auroville more regularly beginning some time in the next year or two. I've been hearing for many years that people in Auroville don't really spent time actually studying the writings of Mother and Sri Aurobindo. I am not so much of a cultist as to say, "You don't need NVC or RC - just read Mother and Sri Aurobindo".
But it is rather strange and perplexing that the Aurovillian approach seems so much the opposite - practice mindfulness, try out NVC, RC or whatever, and even if we borrow a bit from Integral Yoga (Awareness Through the Body) only take as much as can be made to accommodate to the surface, modern consciousness, with perhaps a mention or two of the psychic being thrown in.
I hope this changes substantially in the coming years, as I believe the lack of in-depth, deep attention to Integral Yoga is at the root of all the problems Auroville faces.

1 comment:

  1. Dr. Alok Pandey labours a lot to elaborate but gets bogged down in verbosity. Healing needs precision and certainty.