Psychic Education - Some Insights from Sri Aurobindo and the Mother
Some Insights from Sri Aurobindo and the Mother
Although the term ‘psychic’ in ordinary English usage often refers to a person who seems to have supernatural, even magical, abilities, it derives from an ancient Greek word meaning ‘soul’ or ‘spirit’, and this is the way in which it is used in the teachings of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother. They refer to the ‘psychic being’ as the evolving divine personality which is developed around an original divine spark through the experiences of many successive lives. The psychic is the soul—it is a portion of the Divine that supports the mind, life and body in the evolution.
Sri Aurobindo LY -1 CWSA 28 p.60
The soul is something that comes from the Divine into the evolution and as the psychic being it evolves and assumes different personalities from life to life. Ibid. p. 32
In Savitri, referring to the Supreme Divine Mother, Sri Aurobindo tells us that:
… Since she knows the toil of mind and life As a mother feels and shares her children's lives, She puts forth a small portion of herself, A being no bigger than the thumb of man Into a hidden region of the heart To face the pang and to forget the bliss, To share the suffering and endure earth's wounds And labour mid the labour of the stars.
This in us laughs and weeps, suffers the stroke, Exults in victory, struggles for the crown; Identified with the mind and body and life, It takes on itself their anguish and defeat, Bleeds with Fate's whips and hangs upon the cross, Yet is the unwounded and immortal self Supporting the actor in the human scene.
Through this she sends us her glory and her powers, Pushes to wisdom's heights, through misery's gulfs; She gives us strength to do our daily task And sympathy that partakes of others' grief And the little strength we have to help our race, We who must fill the role of the universe Acting itself out in a slight human shape And on our shoulders carry the struggling world.
This is in us the godhead small and marred; In this human portion of divinity She seats the greatness of the Soul in Time To uplift from light to light, from power to power, Till on a heavenly peak it stands, a king. . Savitri Pp. 526-27
Probably you are already familiar with the following words of Sri Aurobindo, which occur in his book The Human Cycle, originally written during the First World War and published in its present form in 1949, in a passage where he speaks of the need for a new approach to education if humanity is to evolve its higher potentialities.
The hope of the race lies in those infant and as yet subordinate tendencies which carry in them the seed of a new subjective and psychic dealing of man with his own being, with his fellow-men and with the ordering of his individual and social life. The characteristic note of these tendencies may be seen in the new ideas about the education and upbringing of the child that became strongly current in the pre-war era. Formerly, education was merely a mechanical forcing of the child's nature into arbitrary grooves of training and knowledge in which his individual subjectivity was the last thing considered,and his family upbringing was a constant repression and compulsory shaping of his habits, his thoughts, his character into the mould fixed for them by the conventional ideas or individual interests and ideals of the teachers and parents.
The discovery that education must be a bringing out of the child's own intellectual and moral capacities to their highest possible value and must be based on the psychology of the child-nature was a step forward towards a more healthy because a more subjective system; but it still fell short because it still regarded him as an object to be handled and moulded by the teacher, to be educated. But at least there was a glimmering of the realisation that each human being is a self-developing soul and that the business of both parent and teacher is to enable and to help the child to educate himself, to develop his own intellectual, moral, aesthetic and practical capacities and to grow freely as an organic being, not to be kneaded and pressured into form like an inert plastic material.
It is not yet realised what this soul is or that the true secret, whether with child or man, is to help him to find his deeper self, the real psychic entity within. That, if we ever give it a chance to come forward, and still more if we call it into the foreground as “the leader of the march set in our front”, will itself take up most of the business of education out of our hands and develop the capacity of the psychological being towards a realisation of its potentialities of which our present mechanical view of life and man and external routine methods of dealing with them prevent us from having any experience or forming any conception.
These new educational methods are on the straight way to this truer dealing. The closer touch attempted with the psychical entity behind the vital and physical mentality and an increasing reliance on its possibilities must lead to the ultimate discovery that man is inwardly a soul and a conscious power of the Divine and that the evocation of this real man within is the right object of education and indeed of all human life if it would find and live according to the hidden Truth and deepest law of its own being. … First deepening man's inner experience, restoring perhaps on an unprecedented scale insight and self-knowledge to the race, it must end by revolutionising his social and collective self-expression.
Sri Aurobindo The Human Cycle CWSA Volume 25 p. 32
This deeper approach to the inner life was the method used by Sri Aurobindo and the Mother in guiding their disciples, and the one which the Mother wished to be used in the Ashram School which she established to carry on their work. I hope that all of you are not only aware of the Mother’s writings on Education, which we find principally in Volume 12 of her Collected Works, but that you are also actively cultivating your familiarity with its inspiring contents. Let us take a brief overview of some of them now.
The first essay is called The Science of Living : to know oneself and to control oneself. In it the Mother emphasises that:
Education to be complete must have five principal aspects corresponding to the five principal activities of the human being: the physical, the vital, the mental, the psychic and the spiritual. Usually, these phases of education follow chronologically the growth of the individual; this, however, does not mean that one of them should replace another, but that all must continue, completing one another until the end of his life.
And she adds the following advice:
If we truly want to progress and acquire the capacity of knowing the truth of our being, that is to say, what we are truly created for, what we can call our mission upon earth, then we must, in a very regular and constant manner, reject from us or eliminate in us whatever contradicts the truth of our existence, whatever is opposed to it. In this way, little by little, all the parts, all the elements of our being can be organised into a homogeneous whole around our psychic centre.
The Mother has given similar guidance in the text she prepared for aspiring Aurovilians, where she worded the first paragraph as follows:
To Be a True Aurovilian
1. The first necessity is the inner discovery in order to know what one truly is behind social, moral, cultural, racial and hereditary appearances. At our centre is a being free, vast and knowing, who awaits our discovery and who ought to become the active centre of our being and our life in Auroville.
The Mother then takes up one by one the themes which she calls ‘five principal aspects … corresponding to the five principal activities of the human being: the physical, the vital, the mental, the psychic and the spiritual. She devotes one particular chapter to the theme of ‘Psychic and Spiritual Education’. You may already be familiar with it, but let us take a close look at its first part together now.
The Mother writes: Every human being carries hidden within him the possibility of a greater consciousness which goes beyond the bounds of his present life and enables him to share in a higher and a vaster life. Indeed, in all exceptional beings it is always this consciousness that governs their lives and organises both the circumstances of their existence and their individual reaction to these circumstances. What the human mental consciousness does not know and cannot do, this consciousness knows and does. It is like a light that shines at the centre of the being, radiating through the thick coverings of the external consciousness. Some have a vague intimation of its presence; a good many children are under its influence, which shows itself very distinctly at times in their spontaneous actions and even in their words. . . .
With psychic education we come to the problem of the true motive of existence, the purpose of life on earth, the discovery to which this life must lead and the result of that discovery: the consecration of the individual to his eternal principle. . . .
To sketch a general outline of psychic education, we must give some idea … of what we mean by the psychic being. One could say, for example, that the creation of an individual being is the result of the projection, in time and space, of one of the countless possibilities latent in the supreme origin of all manifestation which, through the medium of the one and universal consciousness, takes concrete form in the law or the truth of an individual and so, by a progressive development, becomes his soul or psychic being. . . .
It is through this psychic presence that the truth of an individual being comes into contact with him and the circumstances of his life. In most cases the presence acts, so to say, from behind the veil, unrecognised and unknown; but in some, it is perceptible and its action recognisable and even, in a very few, the presence becomes tangible and its action fully effective. These go forward in life with an assurance and a certitude all their own; they are masters of their destiny. It is for the purpose of obtaining this mastery and becoming conscious of the psychic presence that psychic education should be practised.
But for that there is need of a special factor, the personal will. For till now, the discovery of the psychic being and identification with it have not been among the recognised subjects of education, and most often the attempt is left to one’s own personal initiative. The discovery is a personal matter and a great determination, a strong will and an untiring perseverance are indispensable to reach the goal. Each one must, so to say, trace out his own path through his own difficulties. that is why anyone wanting to take up the adventure usually first seeks out some person who has successfully undertaken it and is able to sustain him and enlighten him on his way....
Yet there are some solitary travellers and for them a few general indications may be useful.
The starting-point is to seek in yourself that which is independent of the body and the circumstances of life, which is not born of the mental formation that you have been given, the language you speak, the habits and customs of the environment in which you live, the country where you are born or the age to which you belong. You must find, in the depths of your being, that which carries in it a sense of universality, limitless expansion, unbroken continuity. . . .
You will notice that this advice from the Mother to the solitary seeker of the psychic is exactly equivalent to the advice she has given later to those wishing to become true Aurovilians.
Her article continues:
The path to that realisation is long and difficult, strewn with snares and problems to be solved, which demand an unfailing determination. It is like the explorer’s trek through virgin forest in quest of an unknown land, of some great discovery. The psychic being is also a great discovery which requires at least as much fortitude and endurance as the discovery of new continents. A few simple words of advice may be useful to one who has resolved to undertake it.
The first and perhaps the most important point is that the mind is incapable of judging spiritual things. All those who have written on this subject have said so; but very few are those who have put it into practice. And yet, in order to proceed on the path, it is absolutely indispensable to abstain from all mental opinion and reaction.
Give up all personal seeking for comfort, satisfaction, enjoyment or happiness. Be only a burning fire for progress, take whatever comes to you as an aid to your progress and immediately make whatever progress is required.
Try to take pleasure in all you do, but never do anything for the sake of pleasure.
Never get excited, nervous or agitated. Remain perfectly calm in the face of all circumstances. And yet be always alert to discover what progress you still have to make and lose no time in making it.
Never take physical happenings at their face value. They are always a clumsy attempt to express something else, the true thing which escapes our superficial understanding.
Never complain of the behaviour of anyone, unless you have the power to change in his nature what makes him act in this way; and if you have the power, change him instead of complaining.
Whatever you do, never forget the goal which you have set before you. There is nothing great or small once you have set out on this great discovery; all things are equally important and can either hasten or delay its success.
Thus before you eat, concentrate a few seconds in the aspiration that the food you are about to eat may bring your body the substance it needs to serve as a solid basis for your effort towards the great discovery, and give it the energy for persistence and perseverance in the effort.
Before you go to sleep, concentrate a few seconds in the aspiration that the sleep may restore your fatigued nerves, bring calm and quietness to your brain so that on waking you may, with renewed vigour, begin again your journey on the path of the great discovery.
Before you act, concentrate in the will that your action may help or at least in no way hinder your march forward towards the great discovery.
When you speak, before the words come out of your mouth, concentrate just long enough to check your words and allow only those that are absolutely necessary to pass, only those that are not in any way harmful to your progress on the path of the great discovery.
To sum up, never forget the purpose and goal of your life. The will for the great discovery should be always there above you, above what you do and what you are, like a huge bird of light dominating all the movements of your being.
Before the untiring persistence of your effort, an inner door will suddenly open and you will emerge into a dazzling splendour that will bring you the certitude of immortality, the concrete experience that you have always lived and always shall live, that external forms alone perish and that these forms are, in relation to what you are in reality, like clothes that are thrown away when worn out.
Then you will stand erect, freed from all chains, and instead of advancing laboriously under the weight of circumstances imposed upon you by Nature, which you had to endure and bear if you did not want to be crushed by them, you will be able to walk on, straight and firm, conscious of your destiny, master of your life.
The Mother MCW 12 pp. 30-35
You may be wondering why I am sharing with you this advice given by the Mother to spiritual seekers. It is because I believe that only those who are themselves endeavouring to follow the path to the great discovery can help others on the way. In order to be able to transmit psychic education to your pupils, your words, your behaviour, your attitude must become a living example which will have a lasting influence in their lives, although at first they may not be aware of that. How many of us owe decisive moments of progress in our own lives to the influence of sincere educators! I am sure that each of you will be able to recall at least one such in your lives.
Perhaps you are aware that the Mother was not able to fully establish the principles of Psychic Education and Free Progress in the Ashram School in her lifetime. She continued to guide some selected educators up to the last months of her time on earth with us. Our beloved elder brother Shri Kireet Joshi participated in those last talks. In memory of him and gratitude to him, I would like to share part of one of them with you before we close our time together today.
8 February 1973
Q: What is the best way of preparing ourselves, until we can establish a new system?
Naturally, it is to widen and illumine your consciousness—but how to do it? Your own consciousness ... to widen and illumine it. And if you could find, each one of you, your psychic and unite with it, all the problems would be solved.
The psychic being is the representative of the Divine in the human being. That’s it, you see — the Divine is not something remote and inaccessible. The Divine is in you but you are not fully conscious of it. Rather you have... it acts now as an influence rather than as a Presence. It should be a conscious Presence, you should be able at each moment to ask yourself what is... how... how the Divine sees. It is like that: first how the Divine sees, and then how the Divine wills, and then how the Divine acts.
And it is not to go away into inaccessible regions, it is right here. Only, for the moment, all the old habits and the general unconsciousness put a kind of covering which prevents us from seeing and feeling. You must lift that up. In fact, you must become conscious instruments ... conscious of the Divine.
Usually this takes a whole lifetime, or sometimes, for some people it is several lifetimes.
Do you know what the fourth dimension is? Do you know what it is?
B: We have heard about it....
Do you have the experience?
B: No, Sweet Mother.
Ah! But in fact that is the best approach of modern science: the fourth dimension. The Divine, for us, is the fourth dimension... within the fourth dimension. It is everywhere, you see, everywhere, always. It does not come and go, it is there, always, everywhere. It is we, our stupidity which prevents us from feeling. There is no need to go away, not at all, not at all, not at all.
To be conscious of your psychic being, you must once be capable of feeling the fourth dimension, otherwise you cannot know what it is.
Life begins with that. Otherwise one is in falsehood, in a muddle and in confusion and in darkness. The mind, mind, mind, mind!
Otherwise, to be conscious of your own consciousness, you have to mentalise it. It is dreadful, dreadful! You mentalise everything, everything.... What you call consciousness is the thinking of things; that is what you call consciousness: the thinking of things. But it is not that at all, that is not consciousness. The consciousness must be capable of being totally lucid and without words. (Silence)
There, everything becomes luminous and warm... strong! And peace, the true peace, which is not inertia and which is not immobility.
A: Mother, can this be given as an aim to all the children?
All ?... no. They are not all of the same age, even when they are of the same age physically. There are children who are at an elementary stage.
If you were fully conscious of your psychic, you would know the children who have a developed psychic. There are children in whom the psychic is only embryonic. The age of the psychic is not the same, far from it. Normally the psychic takes several lives to form itself completely, and it is that which passes from one body to another and that is why we are not conscious of our past lives: it is because we are not conscious of our psychic.
But sometimes, there is a moment when the psychic has participated in an event; it has become conscious, and that makes a memory. One sometimes has a fragmentary recollection, the memory of a circumstance or an event, or of a thought or even an act, like that: this is because the psychic was conscious.
You see how it is, now I am nearing a hundred, it’s only five years away now. I started making an effort to become conscious at five years old, my child. And I go on, and it goes on. Only... Of course, I have come to the point where I am doing the work for the cells of the body, but still, the work began a long time ago. This is not to discourage you, but to let you know that it does not happen just like that!
The body is made of a substance which is still very heavy, and it is the substance itself which has to change for the Supermind to be able to manifest. There you are.
Compiled by Shraddhavan