By Swati Chopra April 2004Author Georges Van Vrekhem has spent several years researching Sri Aurobindo and the Mother and their role in raising human consciousness. In a freewheeling interview, he answers questions ranging from evolution and superman, to asuric forces and who is a �typical Aurobindonian� The aim of Integral Yoga is complete mastery of all levels and elements of human natureI first met Auroville-based Aurobindonian author Georges Van Vrekhem in October 2001. I had just read his Beyond Man, a book on Sri Aurobindo, and was deep in his biography of the Mother (The Mother: The Story of Her Life). What struck me in his writing and during the interview were the honesty with which he could deal with sticky issues, and the simple, heartfelt language he used to communicate. This time round too, he was sharp, direct and witty as ever. Excerpts: An article in an American spiritual magazine suggested that Sri Aurobindo is �cool� because he spoke of radical ideas like transformation of matter and experimenting with consciousness. Would you agree he is the philosopher of the day because of his farsightedness? Sri Aurobindo has always been a radical and will remain so as long as the transformation of matter and the realisation of a being beyond humanity have not been accomplished. From his views I could easily distil ten ideas you would politely call �cutting-edge� and others, �outrageous� or �crazy�. Only a part of people�s mind has grown used to wonders; another part is still conservative (out of ignorance, insecurity and fear). To me, Sri Aurobindo is the philosopher of the age. I have been exploring cultural aspects of humanity in the light of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother; my books are about this. My constant amazement is about the width and depth of the Aurobindonian vision and knowledge. Several of Sri Aurobindo�s ideas, the rise of a collective consciousness for instance, don�t seem so implausible in the age of quantum physics and internet. Do you think modern discoveries have validated some of Sri Aurobindo�s philosophy? Sri Aurobindo and the Mother had a profound understanding of science, and great respect for humanity�s effort to build a better world even if part of this effort has, as human undertakings often do, misfired. They also saw science as a necessary though transitory phase in evolution. But science is of the mind, which is constitutionally limited in its knowledge. The Aurobindonian attempt at physical transformation of the human body is a spiritual attempt. Spirit is not something gaseous; spirit is the stuff matter, quasars, planet earth and the bones of our body are made of, and much more than that. Therefore the attempt at transformation is an integral attempt including domains of matter, life, mind and spirit. This integrality is what makes it so complex and often misunderstood. Modern discoveries, however, clearly constitute an intermediary phase between the age of our forefathers and future more-than-human beings. Technology might be compared to a playpen in which the human baby acquires the knowledge which he will need as an adult�a complete being or �superman�. The surprising new paradigms of science and technology surely make one dream of something beyond. Are we moving closer to superman? Superman is an archetype in the psyche of humanity. In all mythologies one finds dreams of unbeatable strength, of being invulnerable, and of freely moving in marvellous worlds. Indian epics are full of such dreams (some of which may have been realities), of supermen and glorious gods. The superman became common in European philosophy around 1900. Friedrich Nietzsche along with many others seemed to be calling for a less miserable life than the kind provided by �the human condition�. Sri Aurobindo and the Mother took the aspiration seriously and made the effort to discover a supramental transformation. But the more they experienced their great adventure, the more they became aware that to realise the superman was a long-term process. Matter, the earth and its offspring including the human species, proved immensely difficult to master and transform. It became evident that transitional beings would be required before the superhuman being could appear, as has happened throughout evolution. It is na�ve to dive into Sri Aurobindo and the Mother with the intention of becoming a superman. They laid the foundations and we are now in the period (300 years?) in which transitional beings will build the bridge to a fully divinised being that will be materially present on earth. This being will differ so much from us that it is not possible to imagine how it will manifest. In the dreams of humanity one finds indications of what the superman will be like, but he will be much more and better, as our dreams are limited by our constitution and knowledge. � Recently, Deepak Chopra was asked about Sri Aurobindo�s idea of evolution and he responded through an analogy of metamorphosis. To become a butterfly, the caterpillar has to disintegrate completely. Similarly, the present chaos will lead to evolution. Is this a correct view? From the Aurobindonian perspective, there is no doubt that the present times usher in a higher stage of evolution. All new phases of evolution have been experienced as �traumatic� by the species in which the next, higher species took shape. For Sri Aurobindo and the Mother evolution is a matter of consciousness; the Darwinian, or neo-Darwinian, theory of evolution describes only the most outward aspect. At a time when colonialism was still dominant, Sri Aurobindo noted some of the conditions that would make the higher race possible. Asia had to awaken; India had to become free; the East�s spirituality had to be shared, and an honest interchange between East and West enabled. Humanity had to become one. Then, all this seemed to be an idealistic chimera. Today, point after point has been accomplished to an amazing degree, and globalisation, the unification of humanity, is in full progress. Fundamental change always seems to take place on the brink of the abyss. The greater the change to come, the greater is the disorientation and dread of a catastrophic unknown. Sri Aurobindo and the Mother assure us that behind a situation unfathomable for the human mind, a divine Plan is being worked out. All available facts fit into the vision. Sri Aurobindo and the Mother are seen as avatars. Now avatars are supposed to return when the need arises. Do you believe this? The Bhagavad Gita says that avatar comes in times of crises, for instance when essential changes in evolutionary progress need to happen, like the appearance of a higher species. Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, the complete, bi-poled, male-female avatar necessary for the stage humanity is in, have incarnated in such a time. They have themselves given pointers, mainly as answers to questions, to some of their former embodiments as avatars and often as vibhutis. (Whereas an avatar comes for the really big jobs, to open a new, fundamental stage in evolution, a vibhuti comes to do the required but humanly difficult work in the course of such a stage.) Of course I have read what Sri Aurobindo and the Mother wrote about the future, but what matters is what I have to do at present. Being part of their work by trying to practise their yoga is what I consider a vocation. Their greatness and help, the context of the undertaking and the perspectives in which it takes place are, to me, largely sufficient to make one�s life worth living. There is a distinct air of bhakti at the Pondicherry Ashram. Is devotion a valid aspect of Sri Aurobindo�s path, or is it something that is part of the trappings of being a guru in India? The yoga of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother requires mastery of all elements in human beings�physical, vital (the life forces), mental and spiritual. That is why Sri Aurobindo called it Purna Yoga or Integral Yoga, and that is why it is difficult. Bhakti is based on feelings and definitely has a place in Integral Yoga. The door to this yoga is a calling, an impulse in the soul. He or she who starts on this yoga must be willing to surrender completely to the Guidance; for accomplishment of the aim is far-off, and realisation of its objectives (divinisation of the body) cannot be supposed to be for this life. Integral Yoga practitioners are building the road. Given the complexity of the human being, and the many threads of previous lives, it is not possible to put down prescriptions to be followed by all; this is an individual yoga, even when practised in communal circumstances. One begins where one is ready to begin, here and now, on the physical level (of karma), vital level (of bhakti), or mental level (jnana), or even on two or three levels at the same time depending on one�s personality. The aim, however, is complete realisation. If one limits oneself to bhakti, then one is not practising Integral Yoga. Sri Aurobindo passed on in 1950 and the Mother in 1973. How would you evaluate the current state of the movement? It was Sri Aurobindo and the Mother�s work to lay foundations of this movement and ensure its viability. The Mother assured us that this was done. At present, there are Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Auroville, centres in India and abroad, and the numerous individuals who try to live according to Sri Aurobindo�s vision and others who are inspired by it. If we take Auroville as an example, few realise what a miracle it is that the township is still there. Standards used to judge Aurobindonian work are mostly inappropriate because they are borrowed from traditional spirituality. The Aurobindonian yoga has no ceremonies, no creed and no longer an embodied guru. Even people who join
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