The Need to Develop an Advanced Psychology With a Spiritual Foundation

Western psychology has focused its attention on the mental-vital-physical complex that makes up the “outer man”. Some sub-disciplines concentrate on the physiological basis of psychology and attribute responses, actions, feelings and thoughts to the material basis and physical chemistry. Some go so far as to indicate that we are simply a product of “chemistry” and there is no independent consciousness, no soul, no larger awareness possible other than what the physical body can create through its form and its processes. Other sub-disciplines may accept the reality of the mind, of things like intuition, instinct and a wider consciousness, such as a collective unconscious as posited by C.G. Jung. Even there, however, the limitations are based on the framework of the mind-body continuum. Psychology, as practiced in the West also may attempt to extrapolate from animal actions and reactions and imply that the human being is simply an advanced animal form in his entirety and thus, is always bound by the animal basis.

Yogic psychology, on the other hand, recognizes the reality of a larger consciousness not bound within the physical being of an individual which nevertheless acts upon and acts through the individual consciousness; and it accepts that upon attaining the human level, the individual begins to develop a self-awareness which is the first step towards breaking free of the bondage of the mind-body nexus.

Sri Aurobindo describes the greater possibilities available to the human being: “But the whole difference between man and the animal is that the animal mind, as we know it, cannot get for one moment away from its origins, cannot break out from the covering, the close chrysalis which the bodily life has spun round the soul, and become something greater than its present self, a more free, magnificent and noble being; but in man mind reveals itself as a greater energy escaping from the restrictions of the vital and physical formula of being. But even this is not all that man is or can be: he has in him the power to evolve and release a still greater ideal energy which in its turn escapes out of the restrictions of the mental formula of his nature and discloses the supramental form, the ideal power of a spiritual being.”

He thus concludes that a greater Yogic psychology must be developed and put into practice: “In Yoga we have to travel beyond the physical nature and the superficial man and to discover the workings of the whole nature of the real man. In other words, we must arrive at and use a psycho-physical knowledge with a spiritual foundation.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Part Four: The Yoga of Self-Perfection, Chapter 3, The Psychology of Self-Perfection, pp. 597-598