An Integral Approach to management and human development based on the spiritual vision of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother with an emphasis on its application to various domains of knowledge and life.
[Published in Next Future, April 2006.]
Holism: Age of Integration and Synthesis
The impulse and awakening towards the unity-consciousness leads to the awareness of the two dimensions of Unity: Horizontal and Vertical. The horizontal dimension leads to the consciousness of the universal Oneness of all existence; the vertical dimension leads to the unifying intuition which can create a perfect synthesis and integration of the inner being and outer life of man in a clear and conscious perception of the indivisible wholeness of life or in other words “Holism”. We have discussed the first aspect of unity in our previous section. Awakening in this horizontal dimension leads to the Global Consciousness. In this section we will discuss the future possibilities in the second vertical dimension of Unity. But to foresee the future in this vertical dimension of unity we have to first understand the present condition of our consciousness in this dimension.
The past history and evolution of the human race was governed mainly by the ego in the Mind with Reason as the pilot and the highest faculty of knowledge. But the ego-mind-reason is in its essence a consciousness of division and analysis and not of integration or synthesis. To arrive at a truly creative synthesis we must be able to comprehend the indivisible unity and wholeness of life. But the ego-centric mentality is inherently incapable of comprehending the unity and wholeness of life because it is by its very nature, a consciousness of division and analysis. It can not see and feel the whole but can only see the parts fragments and aspects of the whole and most of the time mistakes the fragment as the whole. So its quest for knowledge begins with the perception of a fragment and proceeds through the analysis of the fragment as if it is the whole. And the result is an attitude to knowledge which creates irreconcilable contradiction between what are actually complimentary aspects of existence and an outlook on life based on either- or that-or-this approach. Thus we have the eternal tug of war between unresolved antinomies capitalism vs. socialism, democracy vs. aristocracy, religion vs. science, reason vs. intuition, idealism vs. pragmatism, spiritualism vs. materialism. And the human evolution stumbled on in an Hegelian zigzag from thesis and antithesis to dubious synthesis… dubious because, as we have indicated earlier, the human mind is inherently incapable of a true synthesis. Whatever synthesis the human mind has arrived at is a superficial or an eclectic compromise, which only shifts the problem to a different domain or level, and not a deep synthesis which leads to a lasting solution. Had the human mind possessed the capacity for true synthesis, it would have by now solved most of its problems.
For as Sri Aurobindo points out, all problems are in essence problems of harmony; they are the result of a lack of balance and synthesis between the different aspects of life. The very fact none of the antinomies of mind and life which we have listed earlier (and many more) had been satisfactorily solved shows, reason is inherently incapable of synthesis. It may arrive at some form of synthesis or insight into the whole at the conceptual level in thought or idea, but it doesn’t have the practical intuition and the force to actualize this insight or synthesis in life and action.
This inherent defect of the human mind and reason can be more poignantly felt in the inner being of man. In most of us there is always an acute imbalance and disorder between the various parts of our being, our body, mind and heart, and their faculties of thought, sensations, feeling, will and action. Reason was never able to achieve a perfect or even a satisfactory integration or harmony between the various parts or powers of our being. Each part of our beings has its own legitimate needs, values and aspirations. Our body seeks for material survival, sustenance, ease, comfort; the will in the life and the dynamic force in us seeks for power action expansion, achievement, realisation possession and enjoyment; emotions seek for love and to be loved and for harmonious relationship; the intellect seeks for knowledge and understanding; there is a deeper and higher part of our mind, which seeks for ideals like truth, beauty, goodness, harmony and unity. Our human Reason, which is the highest faculty available to us in our present stage of evolution, is called upon to integrate and harmonise all these faculties and their aspirations into a coherent whole. Any one who made even a little bit of sincere effort towards self-development, and tried to control or integrate the various parts of his being using reason would have realized how hopelessly inadequate it is for the task. Our Reason cannot do it because it has neither the light nor the power to harmonise the conflicting pulls of the different part of our being.
For, our being or life is not entirely rational. Reason is not the highest source or destiny of our being or life; it is only a transitional or intermediate part or faculty of our being. There is a large tract of our being and life below reason like for example our subconscious instincts, vital impulses or heart’s emotions which are non-rational. Reason cannot control them because, first, their needs and aspirations are different from reason, so they don’t listen to or agree with reason; second, they are much more concrete and powerful than reason and its ideas and abstractions. Similarly there are large tracks of subliminal and superconscious regions behind or above Reason, which it cannot enter, unless it opens its consciousness to this unknown realm in a silent and humble surrender or they force themselves on Reason in the course of natural evolution. This suprarational ranges of our consciousness contain the deeper sources of our being and life and hold the key to the future evolution and destiny of our race and our plant. They contain a range of higher faculties and powers which can do what Reason cannot or unable to do and lead our human life to its highest fulfillment, harmony and perfection.
The reason may not be entirely incapable of enforcing some control or mastery over our being. But it is mostly a muted and forced control in which all other faculties are dominated and suppressed by a single rigid idea or ideal of the rational, ethical or aesthetic mind and will. But such a forced control can never lead to a true and lasting mastery over our nature. For, the suppressed faculties can at any moment surge up and destroy the forcefully held and constructed edifice when the dominating faculty becomes weak or lax in its vigilance. But such a forced control can never lead to true mastery which comes only through harmonious integration of the personality. But the mind’s approach and effort leads only to imbalanced human beings like for example the thinker, visionary idealist, poet or artist with no hold on the actual or practical realities of life; the pragmatic man with a narrow vision of life which cannot see beyond its nose; the efficient man who is immoral and the honest man who is inefficient. It should be noted here that whatever we have said regarding Reason applies to the ethical and aesthetic faculties of the mind. They are also afflicted with the same inherent defect of the divisible mental consciousness. Similarly, when this inner imbalance expresses itself in the outer collective life it creates more or less same type of imbalance in the groups, and civilizations like for example civilizations which are great in culture but weak in economy or polity and vice versa. This we have already discussed in some detail in our earlier articles.
This is the present condition of our mind. In the future we may probably witness the gradual healing of this inherent melody of the mind through the emergence of new and higher faculties beyond reason or a new mind altogether, which cannot only conceive wholeness but also can feel, live, manifest and realize wholeness in our inner being and outer life.
As the human consciousness evolves rapidly into the future, there will be a growing awakening to the horizontal and vertical dimensions of unity. The first result of the awakening will be an acute awareness of the inherent inadequacy of mind and reason and the perpetual and insoluble conflicts it engenders in our consciousness and life. In the past evolution of our race, we have lived with these conflicts because they have not become sufficiently painful, acute or urgent for our survival or success in the outer life.
The spiritual minds of humanity, or most of them, had a clear, concrete spiritual insight, vision or experience of the whole and arrived at an intuitive synthesis and integration of the various part of their being and different aspects of life. The intellectual and aesthetic mind of humanity, in its highest flights, on many occasions arrived at an intellectual or aesthetic insight into the whole and made some form synthesis in thought and imagination. But the pragmatic mind of humanity was never able to arrive at any practical synthesis and integration of the different aspects and dualities of life in the outer life of the race. This is because the ideal of integration or synthesis has not become a pragmatic necessity for survival or success in the outer life. But in the future as the humanity moves closer towards its destiny, a stage may come when the need for a lasting solution to the conflicts of mind and life becomes a pragmatic necessity for survival and success in the outer life. When this happens it will lead to a sincere and earnest quest for synthesis and integration not only in the thinking mind but also in the pragmatic mind. To this aspiration Nature will respond by bringing forward higher faculties which can lead to a lasting harmony of the inner being and outer life of man.
We will discuss the nature of these faculties a little later. First we need a little more clarity on the ideal of integration. Individually, it means integration of our physical, vital and mental being and all its faculties of thoughts, feeling, will and action around the deepest and innermost spiritual centre of our being. But this will not be a forced integration achieved through domination and suppression. The Spirit in us does not impose itself; it gently illumines, inspires and persuades each part of our being and its faculties to flower freely according to its unique nature, truth or law, dharma, in complementing harmony with other parts and faculties, and grow towards their highest potentialities. So a free, harmonious and integral development of all the powers faculties and potentialities of our being from the lowest physical to the highest spiritual level is the ideal of integration for the individual. For the collectivity, the ideal is the harmonious and integral self-expression of these powers of our being in the outer economic, social, political and cultural life leading to a perfect integration of the inner being and the outer life. When humanity awakens to this ideal and it begins to realize itself in the individual and the collective life of man, then all imbalances and conflicts which mar the present human life, governed by the divisive consciousness of mind, will be gradually healed and a great harmony will begin to reign over human life.
The imbalances of the truncated mind will be healed. Since all the faculties of the integrated human being will express harmoniously through every human activity there won’t be any conflict or imbalances like for example between ethics and efficiency or idealism and pragmatism. As a result, the pragmatic activities and institutions like business, politics or technology will be awakened to the ethical, aesthetic and spiritual dimension. Similarly idealistic activities and institutions which deal with the pure idea or the ethical, aesthetic or spiritual values will be awakened to the pragmatic dimension; they will seek and find methods to manifest and materialise their ideas and values in the outer economic, social and political life of man. The pragmatic mind of man will become more and more sensitive to the higher ethical, aesthetic and spiritual values and aims. The intellectual ethical, aesthetic and spiritual mind will become more and more sensitive to the pragmatic realities of life. There will develop in the consciousness of the race a spiritual pragmatism and a higher integral intuition which can reconcile the higher aims, ideals and values of the ethical, aesthetic and spiritual mind with the pragmatic realities of the material, economic, social and political life. A higher intuition will develop in the race and reconcile all the conflicting “isms” of the mind in a transcending synthesis, not merely in thought, but in life and action. This will be the future ideal of integration which the Mother articulates succinctly:
“To be integral is to make a harmonious synthesis of all one’s possibilities.”
This brings us to the content of integration. What are the unmanifest possibilities in man which will manifest in the future? To answer this question we have to understand the nature of the higher ranges of our consciousness beyond the present condition of our mind.