Genius or Madness and the Evolution of the Mind-Body Relationship

We may observe that most people, including the Western scientific community, will look upon the idea of changing the historical and customary relationship between mind and body as something either impossible or imbalanced. The touchstone of Western psychology for instance is the idea of bringing people to the state of being “normal”, which is defined essentially as abiding by the habitual lines of understanding and action and not exceeding them.

Sri Aurobindo observes that this is contradictory to the very approach of physical science which constantly seeks to overcome the established “laws of nature” and find ways to exceed, develop and enhance the basic actions of nature.

Yoga seeks to apply the concept of evolutionary progress to the realm of psychology and thereby must, by definition, work toward the upsetting of the “normal” relations of mind and body. The result here can be seen as madness and insanity if it leads to pure fantasies, but it can also lead to a breakthrough in human psychology and understanding. Western psychological researchers have also commented on the link between “genius” and “madness” with the difference being the ability of the “genius” to integrate the new experiences and understanding into a consistent and effective formation, while the “mad person” loses that basic sense of integration.

Sri Aurobindo comments: “Suffice it to say here once for all that a change of mental and physical state and of relations between the mind and body which increases the purity and freedom of the being, brings a clear joy and peace and multiplies the power of the mind over itself and over the physical functions, brings about in a word man’s greater mastery of his own nature, is obviously not morbid and cannot be considered a hallucination or self-deception since its effects are patent and positive. In fact, it is simply a willed advance of Nature in her evolution of the individual, an evolution which she will carry out in any case but in which she chooses to utilise the human will as her chief agent, because her essential aim is to lead the Purusha to conscious mastery over herself.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Part Two: The Yoga of Integral Knowledge, Chapter 7, The Release From Subjection to the Body, pp. 331-332