An Exploration into an Integral Approach to Knowledge
From 15 September 2007 to 15 December 2007 a varied group of people (from Auroville and Pondicherry) came together to create a series of workshops for the purpose of clarifying the vision of the University of Human Unity (UHU) and to discover integral approaches to knowledge.
The workshops were basically categorized under six approaches to knowledge including; the Linguistic, the Philosophical, the Psychological, the Scientific, the Artistic and the Sociological approach.
What follows are brief excerpts from each of these sessions with links to the complete audio files of each.
Introductory Overview of the Integral Approach to Knowledge - Rod (15/9)
…I think what would be especially unique about this endeavor – at least I hope this would constitute one of its unique features - is that in creating this platform for higher learning and integral knowledge we would not be presupposing a fixed body of knowledge that is to be offered to students. Because I think that if our intention is to discover something along the lines of the ideal law of social development and Higher Mind in the ascent towards Supermind, we must realize that there is the possibility of discovering new knowledge, and in fact it is a necessity. One of the unique features of this university of human unity would be its freedom to discover new knowledge, and a new consciousness. Manifesting this degree of freedom and unity that will enable us to discover and embody higher knowledge and methods of learning – and an integral knowledge, would I think constitute our purpose, the purpose of this group in this endeavor.
Listen to full audio presentation at http://www.universityofhumanunity.org/introduction_integral_learning
The Linguistic Approach to Knowledge – Vladimir (22/9)
In the beginning was the word, and the word was with god and the word was god. If you read further you will find what happened to that word. That word began to travel and came down and became flesh. Sri Aurobindo starts his observations from the vibrations of the spoken word, "…Let us suppose a conscious use of vibrations of sound that will produce corresponding forms or changes of form… a vibration of sound on the material plane presupposes a corresponding vibration on the vital…
"As a matter of fact, even ordinarily, even daily and hourly we do produce by the word within us thought-vibrations, thought-forms which result in corresponding vital and physical vibrations, act upon ourselves, act upon others, and end in the indirect creation of actions and of forms in the physical world. …Thus we see that the theory of creation by the Word which is the absolute expression of Truth, and the theory of the material creation by sound-vibration in the ether correspond and are two logical poles of the same idea. They both belong to the same ancient Vedic system (KU p.126)."
Sri Aurobindo defined four planes: supramental, mental, vital, and physical. If the word is tavelling from the highest down, we have these four levels – transcendental speech, mental speech, mediating speech, material speech. In the study of signs and trace, Saussure came to the discovery at the beginning of the 20th century, to the same one made long ago by Bharatrihari, of the correspondence of signified and signifier. Whatever we say about the object is the signifier, but what is signified is the concept of the object. These two build one sign – Derrida describes it as a trace structure. The signified is never there. Signifier is never that. The never there and never that makes the sign by which we suppose we know. …He never takes it for pure gold.…When you speak about anything or write anything you mean really the signified behind. If we presume the signifier is the signified we fall into the trap of logocentrism. We think what we speak is true, but there is nothing of the kind. There is a parallel reality to which we have very little relation. ..If we look at the illustration, we have on one side the reality, form, meaning, object; on the other side we have the signifier, and this is what is called vach, nama, speech, name. I propose here a solution: …the form of seeing, the face or form is of a direct nature, of the evidence of the truth; we hear the indirect evidence, vach – seeing is superior to speech. How they correspond – the form of the thing and of the name of the thing are not the same, but they are the same on the level of semantics, of meaning. Both the pen and its name mean the tool for writing. On the higher plane this power of consciousness is one, where the sound and meaning are one, beyond the mind. It is being realized below as word and as form. …They mirror each other. There is nothing that is not a mirroring. …So that was my solution, which I found many years back and I am happy with it.
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The Philosophical Approach to Knowledge – Ananda Reddy (29/9)
Let's concentrate on that aspect of knowledge which leads to a Unitarian approach in learning, knowledge and consciousness. I have specifically taken this angle because of another factor, that is when we read SA's Life Divine or the Synthesis, that his been his greatest stress – consciousness of unity. When he tells about this consciousness of unity he brings in the idea that all this is possible with the supramental consciousness. Mind can think and talk about unity but it becomes really feasible only with the coming of the supramental consciousness. That gives me a new understanding of SA, that all this knowledge he has given us and the Yoga he has put before us, is a means to hasten the supramental consciousness in ourselves and the world. Had it been for the sake of knowledge per se, it would not have been interesting. How do we invoke that consciousness? At least to start with, let's have this approach of unity. That is the widest road to the supramental consciousness. Here philosophy helps me individually always to have this comprehensive Unitarian consciousness. We at SACAR are not against any thinker or any religion. Keeping SA as the basis, we are consciously attempting to embrace all the other thinkers and yogis. If I have learned anything from the Life Divine, it is this, not to reject any thought – every human thought and endeavor has its own validity, however temporary it may be, it has a validity in the evolution of human consciousness…That is how when we started UHU, I felt SACAR would be a fitting partner.
When we speak about the philosophical approach to knowledge, SA comes out strongly telling us, the division we have made between philosophy and practical realization is a false division. We have a tendency to say philosophical thought is not practical, let's be pragmatic. …He goes to the basic definition of philosophy. He says we are talking about, what we have in India, darshana, the discovery of the basic truths of all existence, which could be the guiding principle of our own life. Philosophical approach to knowledge is the most urgent, pragmatic and utilitarian approach. Here especially in this environment of Auroville, we don't want metaphysical analysis but a principle that can guide our life, that can dominate our life and take us into a future consciousness. …
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The Psychological Approach to Knowledge - Matthijs (6/10)
We want to discuss knowledge today. Knowledge is a very intriguing subject. SA has said that all knowledge comes from within. In our daily life it looks as if knowledge comes from outside. We go somewhere to listen, we buy a newspaper, we try to get knowledge from outside. I would like to try to see how these different approaches to knowledge are related. I would like to see how one can make oneself believe that knowledge comes from inside and how we can increase the proportion of knowledge that actually comes from inside.
If knowledge comes from inside why do we think it comes from outside? According to Sankhya philosophy, it's because our consciousness identifies with our mind and our senses. We have in our brains an enormously complex machinery that takes things from outside and then constructs a kind of map of the outside world that helps us move round and do things. Western science is extremely active in trying to figure out how we do that. That whole apparatus makes some kind of image of the outer reality. And an exceedingly complex one… it is three dimensional, it has emotions attached to it, meaning, so an internal representation of the world somehow pops up – and our consciousness identifies with it. SA claims you can know even the most trivial outside things by going inside, indicating that this whole sensorial apparatus, the technical stuff we have inside our heads may not be the real essence of knowledge.
For the universe to work, every little bit of it must know every other. In each part there is all the knowledge of the universe. It is the intrinsic knowledge of how to be. …So each one of us has a limited subset of that huge amount of eternal knowledge appropriate to our station in the universal workings. We become what we are by concentrating on one specific thing at a time – by exclusive concentration. …Our main typical extra complexity is this huge brain that is inside that can make maps of the universe. …For the physicalists we are just brain states, we identify completely with our brain processes. Now the interesting part is where we can make our consciousness somewhat free from those processes. We can stand back and experience ourselves as a free consciousness. Then the brain and mind have nothing to do with who we really are. …In yoga this is called liberation, basically. …Anything that is, is also conscious. That deep knowledge by identity cannot be wrong. Knowledge by identity is self-awareness. Constructed knowledge by which we represent things outside is almost by definition necessarily wrong. The way to get to more reliable knowledge is to go inside. …If I concentrate on it I can know anything from inside because we are essentially one.
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The Psychological Approach to Knowledge - Larry (6/10)
I want to say something about what I feel that the subject of traditional psychology is, and what its limitations are compared to integral psychology. It's really the science of human behavior. It examines the determinants of our behavior from a variety of angles. The basic levels are the biological determinants, the micro and macro social determinants of behavior – culture, media, family, physical environment. It examines the cognitive and emotional processes that determine our behavior, and that are also connected to our biology and social environment. It examines personality structure, our personality traits and how these develop and change. And finally the determinants of psychological disturbances and dysfunctions and how these can be alleviated. It covers a vast area and the discipline is highly specialized, and each area is represented by hundreds of theories. It gives us important perspectives, but it lacks a unifying perspective on life as a whole. It doesn't give us much of a direction for life or any deeper significance or meaning to our life, as I perceived it.
This is where integral yoga psychology can complement traditional psychology. It provides a way to go forward. SA's integral yoga can be examined and presented from a number of different points of view. And I would like to give an outline of that, to give a broader perspective of what might guide us in a future educational program. From the most abstract level we can examine its theoretical foundations: the principles of knowledge discussed earlier, the Brahman, Satchidananda, Supermind, Self, Psychic Being, perhaps the Triple Transformation – the idea of the main stages of Integral Yoga. At the next level down we can consider the basic principles of the practice of Integral Yoga: Grace and personal effort, Aspiration, Rejection, and Surrender, Equality and Perseverance, and the main branches of yoga - karma yoga, jnana yoga, bhakti yoga, the yoga of self perfection – purification of the layers of consciousness. There's a range of more specific elements of yoga psychology we can examine: yogic approaches to life… And various practices such as meditation, concentration, mantra, japa, prayer, devotion, living within, satsang…the utilization of music, poetry and art. All the principles and practices help us to go in a particular direction. …the meaning of existence, the answer to our deepest fundamental questions.
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Spirituality and Religion – the group discussion (abbreviated) 13/10/07
Vlad - There was a suggestion to go deeper into the issue of different approaches that we represent, and how they can help us accept each other more easily and understand from which angle or perspective a person is speaking. If I develop this way of thinking in myself I can see clearly from which angle a person is speaking or arguing. This confusion of arguments is always the point of disunity in a group. Different approaches of knowledge could make us free to express ourselves and be understood. Really understanding the perspective from which another person speaks could be a central focus from which we will learn to be more integral and maintain the group. The exercise was proposed to be from many different angles, including bodily and even artistic – you see I have my preferences…
Rod – We were asking ourselves the question, What are we doing? and I was seeing a process that I think will repeat itself time and time again for years. This thing that we are doing now is the research into knowledge, into being, into relating, into discovering. What we bring to it from our past and from our particular approaches I don't think is as important as what actually happens in our process of discovering together, - the being of ourselves and the knowing of ourselves. When consciousness is evolving, it is evolving a relationship between what is and what is known. We are bringing the "subjecticon" and the "objecticon" into focus – we are bringing our consciousness into focus with everyone else's consciousness and with the world. …We are allowing a structure to emerge that will determine innumerable other structures over the time and space of the university of human unity. It will be a sort of blueprint for research of all kinds that will grow out of this insemination or dissemination process that we are engaged in. There are moments when I feel that the subjecticon and objecticon are nicely engaged. Consciousness is the product.
Dhanya – I asked Vladimir to help me understand the parameters of the discussion. And I came to understand that its about presenting certain domains of knowledge, and then there is the other dimension of the ways the learning process is activated through the different modes of knowledge. It is very different from sociology, linguistics, philososophy and psychology or music and arts or bodily activities. It is interesting to also ask how would you envision those different levels in the integral yoga – physical, vital, mental, spiritual are also represented in the different domains of knowledge and the specific ways of learning they access to develop the human being? …Nowadays what is a hot topic is emotional and social intelligence. It is based on good research we could use here in this group. If we are talking about the different levels of the being and try to strive to come from the highest part of the being, I have a sense that I am all over the place, there is a center but I have to notice there are parts of my being that want to communicate. And then it comes out in a certain way verbally as it is now, I am framing my reality. I am not making it known what my emotional level is or my heart rate. What I saw last week between R & A changed my biochemistry. I was affected on a cellular level. From a medical point of view when people get upset it reverberates and continues in email. So how do we share an awareness of where we are really coming from as we are presenting different avenues of creating and accessing learning and knowledge. I am sure there will be different reactions, responses, and resistances to what I have said. I would love to hear that because it might clear the field a bit more. It is a vast field of experiential learning that we are not accessing as a collective intelligence. Any topic of discussion should be possible here if its focused on a central theme. While we have different opinions about what our focus should be, for me it is about integrality. What does an integral approach mean today in Auroville, India and the modern world? How do we access that collective intelligence directly. Does what I am saying resonate with anyone? …(several yesses)
Rudy – Yes I resonate very much with what you said. I would pick up the suggestion that we should not finish without some kind of feedback or making a round of seeing whether we feel OK to leave in the spirit where we are, …and the other thing you said, about the different realms of knowledge, …I also wanted to share with you that I met Roger Anger in is home this summer and talking to him I was struck by how he remembered Mother's vision of the university. He said she wanted four different universities – physical, vital, mental, spiritual. What you are saying is very much in line with the original vision the Mother had. …anyway, he was so happy about the idea of the university and said it was really what Mother wanted and he was very encouraging. …I thought it was a wonderful suggestion made by Rakhal that after a break we could then go into small groups to talk more intensively. It is a suggestion we might come back to.
Kirti – The knowledge that we want to focus on should be at all levels, from the physical to the spiritual. The abstract knowledge we all have. Last week Ananda asked the most pertinent question, How can we be? Even though we are conscious we aren't able to answer that. I would like to move away from knowledge as an abstract thing and focus on how to be. We've got to carry something in us. The important thing is how one is.
Rakhal – Knowledge is a word which is a bit equivocal. It refers to outside knowledge and also to being a thing. I would like to put the question about consciousness. I think it is a process of consciousness which is the key to unity. Knowledge has a connotation which is very common and which should not be the focus. …(various comments follow)
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The Scientific Approach to Knowledge – Lucas (20/10)
Concepts and practices of environmental health. What is health? What is the environment? The definition of health according to the World Health Organization is a state of complete physical, mental and emotional well-being, accepted for a few decades, and there has been a lobby more recently to include spiritual well-being. The definition of environment I find more challenging. The biosphere – living organisms - reaches some 12 kilometres below sea level and 8 kilometres above sea level. One could rather say it is the lower portion of the atmosphere, the troposphere, which is our environment, it is ten to twenty kilometers above sea level, where the winds turn – this is very much our environment. It contains75% of the mass and almost all of the water.
Consider the statements of the first astronauts that went to the moon, and everyone since – the first cycle around the earth they say there's my country, the second day, there's my continent, and then after that there's my planet. This is a realization which everybody goes through. The moment you are out there you are on another level of consciousness. Since we have Google Earth we can all be astronauts. So what is our environment? What about interactions outside the atmosphere? …The moon is a big satellite for the earth, you might call it a double planet. We all know about the sea tides which are the effect of the moon. …There are about 600 organisms in the oceans whose reproductive cycles are tuned to the moon cycles. The stems of trees expand and contract with the daily tides. Forest stewards all over the world know that timber cut at full moon tends to be more susceptible to bugs. That's not all. The planets too have influences on earth. Some pines and spruces develop seeds or cones every thirty years which is the cycle of Saturn around the sun. …Mercury is the third planet from the sun and goes around in 114 days. From the point of view of the earth, three cycles of Mercury describe the shape of most monocot seeds.
What is environmental health? It includes public health. …historical examples of the development of vaccinations against small pox…1848 first public health act in London…1848-54 global cholera pandemic…the impact of the first Liverpool sewage system was doubling of life expectancy. By doubling life expectancy we double the population. …Smoke from fires, indoor air pollution causes more ill health and death than outdoor pollution, it cuts life expectancy by many year in developing countries (Kuilapalayam). The biggest air pollutants are particulates. Delhi had a big problem with diesel pollution and has improved enormously in a few years by switching to LPG. …Statistically we are less sick today, the only cancer that has increased is lung cancer, and tobacco is the culprit. It's the dosage – anything can be a poison if taken in large enough dosages.
Our organism is based on recycled elements –CHNOPS- the basic nutrients of life forms recycled by microorganisms. All life is recycling. We are all recycled. Take out the microorganisms and we come to a standstill. They are crucial to the maintenance of life. The vast majority are harmless or beneficial to us. Beautiful skin is due to microbes - 1010 microbes in our skin. …EM technology – environmental health: ecological sanitation – ecosan. Effective Microorganism technology has many uses. …The first microbes lived without oxygen, but produced oxygen, 3.5 billion years ago. They break down hydrocarbons and repair oil spills, microorganisms in nuclear waste – the enormous resilience of nature.
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Center for Scientific Research (CSR) , science and technology - Tency(20/10)
I am fascinated by the sentence of Mother, The City the Earth Needs. I asked myself, what do we need in order to realize the city the earth needs? I came to seven steps that could be a roadmap. You can add as many as you like.
1. The land – 80% is there. Now that we have the soul, the Matrimandir, we should work on the body. What can we do to get the rest together? We can all remember to ask the question. Everybody needs to be involved, actively or passively.
2. The water- through the work of Water Harvest we have mapped the aquifers and today the water table is in a most unhealthy state, in some places 50m below sea level. The more water we draw the more risk of massive salt water intrusion. To date, the conventional sewage system is unpayable. We should have a decentralized alternative. Quite a bit of our research is concentrated there at the moment. We need to work also on the macro level to secure water resources. For example the Pondicherry sewage farm releases 30 million litres of water every, which they have no intention of using, it just flows out. A professor at the Smithsonian has led us to research with algae for absorbing toxic material. The water comes out really pure and could be used to tackle the Pondy problem. …There are two aquifers flowing into the Kaluvelli tanks with an excess runoff of 200 million cubic litres of water a year. In order to catch that runoff there are huge challenges with land, salt flats, shrimp farms, sugar cane pesticides and excess water use, space for catchments, repairs of tanks, etc.
3. Energy – fire – Is uninterrupted power achievable? We are working with no-maintenance solar batteries, CFL lamps, we found a breakthrough with LED lamps which means the solar panel can be smaller. We have a built a prototype dehumidifier that keeps the conference room cool. They consume one-fourth of the energy used for AC. We produce solar water heaters. This machine makes ice with hot water – we are in the second generation and will be testing it on an AC. …We all spend double the amount for electric connection with back up systems… Is uninterrupted power such a dream? The 24 hours, 7 days a week electric supply is possible – we are maybe a year off getting for Auroville a heat transfer turbine system that could produce 6 Megawatts from solar energy – if the prototype comes through. It is being developed in Puna.
4. Food security – We are far from it. People are looking at hydroponics. If we want to grow we need to work on it.
5. Transport – The era of oil is out. We have several samples of electric mopeds. We should invest time and energy.
6. Afforestation – Its one of the most successful of achievement, but let's not become complacent. We have to maintain and expand afforestation in the bioregion.
7. An integral approach – It combines these six streams which should come together. We found inspiration in "the galaxy" - to build the city the earth needs. We should take care to protect the soul from what happens traditionally in the city with religions and vulgarity. There will be a huge water body, areas which are protected for water birds, a bridge for servicing Matrimandir, connecting roads…let's be very careful how we plan…
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The Artistic Approach to Knowledge – Aurelio (27/10)
Sound Knowledge – For the past fifteen years I have focused on listening or understanding through listening. Sound is also used to mean depth. Sound knowledge – depth, a receptive approach to the unknown… Working with sound is working with the unknown, ungraspable, unspeakable…we will focus today on what sound can bring us.
I will invoke the power of Saraswati, …in the Vedic image she is the river of inspiration descending from above…in later images she has a notebook and seems to stand out of the river and ask what it is. Just this image of descending energy in the form of a river or something flowing from above to below…(Flute tones played)…Descending, nourishing waters.
I am fortunate to have some tools with me, musical instruments to focus on hearing and listening. I will take you for a few minutes to focus on the primal perception in the uterine experience. Sound is the first sense fully developed in the 4-5th month. With the palms of the hands calm the eyes, feel the comfort and relax the eyes, then cup your ears, hear the white noise, close and open, relax your hands, close your eyes in you want, and if possible imagine an inter-uterine fluid medium, like floating, the first sounds we hear are from the body of the mother, her voice, and different sounds from the environment …(Sounds played with different textures – tones, scrapes, knocks, vibes, crackles, jingles…). Imagine you spend five months in this state just listening. Then at some point we come out of liquid perception into air – with a cry. And we open our eyes in a new medium. …
Now the fun starts because I am not only receiving, I can respond. Listening is coupled with speaking. In sound research it has been shown that we can only produce the sounds that we hear. It's the same with language development. … With sound we perceive the vibratory quality of existence. … (Chanting with tanpura) … The primal approach to sound is through magic. The Indian approach is through the mystery of life, the AUM is the unfolding of the immutable…it's differentiated in three levels of vibration: waking, dream, meditation. Existence is an expression of sound = vibration.
I want to go into the Greek tradition. Pythagoras possibly touched into Summerian, Babylonian, Indian culture – there lots of legends how he healed with music and could hear the stars - he put his mind on differentiation of sound. He worked with a monochord and found the beautiful mathematical logic that the frequency of sound is inversely proportionate to the length of the string. …(tonal resonance played on string, harmonic overtones heard)… And they observed that half the length of the string gave double the frequency or octave. In Greek culture there was the great need to understand, and they discovered the law behind music – it related to numbers. There were then centuries of speculation on musical intervals…
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Rolf – artistic approach (27/10)
For me art is not only painting, it is music, it 's feeling, it's a way of being, you bring down something from within or above as you see it. …I often compare it to music. You don't pick up a saxophone for the first time and play it like John Coltrane. It is question of learning the instrument. This part is also important in education. When I wanted to become more specialized, design school was there giving a test. I did some sketches of a few objects as I had done before. Then the instructor came and explained to us what we were seeing. The whole world suddenly changed radically for me and I immediately drew differently – like the instructor himself - and was accepted. It was like living in a two dimensional world and suddenly coming out into the three dimensional space with a heightened awareness. Later I learned that most people live in the two dimensional world.
Parallel to that, I had strong inner experiences. I was asking where it was coming from because it seemed more real than reality. Between seeing normally and seeing the energy state of matter, the air is visible… Art is one way to awaken in a student this kind of thing, and then developing the skill of the hand to express it on paper one needs the tools. Later when I learned all the techniques, in art history we went through self portraits, then at home and I sat in front of the mirror and made a self portrait. It was nice technically but akh, how could I get this (self) out ? – then something happened, it was like breaking the rules and leaving all the techniques. Two hours later my friends came in and I woke up. I was in a kind of trance and the whole room was full of self portraits. Here things go beyond what you learn in school. You become the tool. …(Some fun anecdotes about music and art, then photos of art work passed around)…
Art happened only here in Auroville. I was making music with some friends and closed my eyes and started to have a vision. There were three stars in endless space coming closer together. It was a beautiful crystalline structure hanging in space, luminous, with tiny crystals traveling between the three structures. Then a sound spoke to me like three hundred trumpets saying "what you see here are the arts, the three big structures, and the small crystals are the artists. You are one of them". I refused this. Later on in Auroville I remembered this vision. I painted a girl in the classical style, something didn't come out so I started again. I tried the next day and it still didn't work. Then I switched off the light to paint and there was a breakthrough. One has to let go of the mind and ideas, and be empty, then … not talking, thinking, just doing…by going inside and switching off the mind then I could see the finished thing, what is there.
Later when I discovered sculpture, I had to design an exhibition space, I was super busy, and then suddenly this and that didn't work out and I was suddenly free. I remembered that Pierre had a few pieces of marble and went there and got a piece, a hammer and a chisel. I started chipping and the whole world changed. The marble turned into a luminous diamond. I was forming this and during two hours I had a number of times the strong experience of being so familiar with this, I didn't need to learn it. If you become one with the stone it goes like butter. It's an approach to matter which is leaving your knowledge behind…it's there but it's behind, one doesn't think about it. I felt like the sculpture touched something deep inside me. …(wonderful anecdotes about going to Rajasthan for a lorry load of marble)…
Discovering an Integral Learning Paradigm - Rod (10/11)
When we started speaking about the UHU about a year ago, Vladimir's emphasis was and has always been on establishing a platform for learning that will enhance self development and make possible the discovery of integral knowledge. The Vedic paradigm he has chosen as a kind of symbol of the different approaches to knowledge that we can adopt in order to move towards that discovery.
Rudy, on the other hand, often spoke about the purpose of UHU, the structure, why should we do this, what is the meaning of this project in relation to Auroville and to the world? We know the Mother's quotation that Rudy has excavated from the layers of attempts which says the university of human unity is or could be a key to the reason for Aurovile' existence. We have the potential to create a forum that is a key or a pathway towards the meaning of Auroville, connections with the international zone are obvious – bringing into the discovery of Auroville itself research, knowledge, energy from the world and giving back solutions, knowledge, light, inspiration. So we envisioned beginning the seminar this Fall by having presentations by different individuals and institutions in order to begin to discovery different approaches to knowledge, with the idea that an integral approach might eventually emerge, and that this would provide a platform for all aspects of Auroville to converge and for interest and expertise of all kinds in the world to relate to what we are doing here. Now, we have heard various distinct, sophisticated approaches to knowledge and self discovery.
If we look at the Vedic paradigm briefly, it is a paradigm of the faculties – the faculties of consciousness are projected by Brahman in the universe and they are omnipresent. The interesting thing to me about this paradigm is that it is not just epistemological; if the faculties are omnipresent, it is also ontological. If we and everything in the worlds is made of the potentials of consciousness, then that enables the world to know itself. It knows itself through sight, speech, hearing, thought, aspiration, material organization. We are a material organization and we have sight, hearing, speech, thought, life force – a force of aspiration for integrating consciousness into matter. As I have done in the past with Vladimir, I have projected structures of knowledge that emerge in accordance with the six faculties, for example, theoretical knowledge of all kinds (mind), culture, art, music, architecture (hearing), linguistics, language (speech), social relations of all kind, governments, economies (sight), bodies, physical and biological structures (matter), spiritual and psychological systems (spirit). …There are interrelationships among all of these structures, as among the principles of consciousness; there is the internalization and externalization of the faculties. What is known by the knower through knowing is a unity. This concept transcends epistemology and ontology; it is an integrating principle of consciousness. The difference between mind and supermind, as Sri Aurobindo tells us, is that one is based upon division and the other is based upon unity: mind knows through difference, supermind knows through oneness. That oneness is not uniform, it is infinitely diverse but it knows that diversity as one; it doesn't need to break things down into categories as we have done. …I have suggested that the functions of mind Sri Aurobindo describes in LD (p.939-944) are most relevant to our intention in creating an integral learning paradigm. We should be engaged in a learning process that facilitates the emergence from rational mind into intuitive mind. The intermediate is higher mind.
As I look at this paradigm I ask myself, Where is the integration? And where do we place the body-life-mind-psychic being-spirit paradigm, the evolutionary paradigm? Where are the planes in the Vedic paradigm, and how do we integrate them? We can easily project the evolutionary planes on the faculties paradigm but we do not integrate. We can be absorbed in understanding internally that the life world, and physical world, and mental world, and supramental world are in us and everything, and we are engaged in a process of refining the whole structure through aspiration and receptivity. Then we can be quite stuck in a kind of preoccupation with our own inner clarity about the universal structures, which doesn't necessarily connect us with those universal structures. …What would be the new integral paradigm of Consciousness-Force – where the dynamics of the real world, the external world, and the dynamics of consciousness are one – its not a product of the real world, and that is not a precipitate of consciousness? In the new paradigm, Consciousness and the world are one. This is difficult for the mind habituated to difference and division. …(presentation of the Wilber developmental paradigm)…(summary of the spatial-temporal structures of consciousness paradigm of Gebser)…
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Auroville, the Villages and Human Unity (A Sociological Approach) – Bhavana (18/11)
Why is it that after many highly idealist and egalitarian people came to Auroville and what we see now is what looks like a neocolonial situation in which the outsiders are being served by the indigenous people. It's important to recall how very, very poor it was here when we moved onto the land. It was barren and eroded and professionals said it would not sustain life for another 25 years. Children had extended stomachs and flaky skin, in some houses the women shared a sari between them. So how did the villagers come to us? They would come to us in the morning and say "Any work?" I don't think many of us knew how intentional communities should be formed, with every one committed to the ideals and the work, and we should all experience all the work, …we know these things now. But there was so much work. How could we say No. It took a team of 400 workers to excavate the hole for the Matrimandir. Almost all of the trees were planted by villagers who were paid 4 rupees to dig a 1mx1mx1m hole. The natural division of labor overtook our egalitarian preferences. The people who could dig all day in the soil, and advise us on when to plant, and do all manner of manual tasks did the work and fed their families. So, the first thing we did for the villages was provide employment. It was the most empowering way to deal with poverty. The next thing was education – several schools were set up by Aurovilians for village children.
At a certain point I felt there was a missing dimension. Auroville was not developing a relationship with the villages as communities. I began to look into that with several other people, and eventually with some professional social workers. In the beginning I didn't have this concept but later I understood that in villages all over India, the people who had been responsible for carrying on the culture, managing resources, planning, being artisans, had moved into the urban areas. That's where the opportunities for work and education could be found. Who was left were those who had been born and bred to take orders. It was difficult to find anyone who could take responsibility for settling disputes, for example. We had a hard time finding any leadership, people knowing when the tank needed to be cleaned, or whatever. So we learned about development work – typically known at that time as technology transfer which left out the human element. Handpumps at measured intervals of space in African villages, for example, which were not used or when broken were left unrepaired. In Africa it took a long time before development agencies realized that women did most of the agricultural work. Awareness and techniques for involving the local people and communities came about, especially in India – sophisticated, effective methods were developed for involving people in their own development. ...It struck me that villagers were headed toward what Aurovilians were moving out of; villagers wanted education and prosperity while Aurovilians had had enough of that and wanted to move into a new consciousness with no more need for structure. …One thing that really helped me in my thinking about this was Sri Aurobindo's description of the four castes. As it has played out in history it has become a hereditary social system with all its faults, but as a conceptual system it is powerfully true. These four levels are in us all, any one person may have a particular level which is more developed, but for integral development we need to develop all four. The first is the Shudra consciousness which is pretty much limited to himself and his immediate family and survival. At a higher level of consciousness in relation to society is called the Vaishya. It's a business mind and its "we" is bigger, it can extend to the clan or tribe. The next step higher is the Kshatriya which can consider large numbers of people and dharma or law, how to organize a large number of people for the future. It considers larger concepts and spans of time. At the top of the system is the Brahmin consciousness, which is conscious of itself, it's seeking truth, teaching and advising the kshatriya. When I began to see it like that it became clear how important every level is to the whole and I began to relax into India's traditional system and our relationship with the villagers.
On top of this understanding I became aware of a system called Spiral Dynamics. …(brief history of Graves' development of the system…Beck and Cowen's development of Spiral Dynamics based on Grave's social psychology…they added color to the hierarchy of value sets or memes: beige – caveman, purple – tribal, red – individual power dominance, blue - laws made by gods/ religion/ science, orange - corporations, nations, green – egalitarian, liberal communities, (like the caste system each level of values and behavior is in us, coexists with the others and can come forward when needed or not needed), yellow – cultural creatives, people who see what needs to be done and just do it (Auroville is their place), turquoise – the integral, intuitive balance, harmony. It's a never ending cultural spiral, we move up and down largely according to circumstances around us…) I find this construct extremely helpful in understanding the villages and Auroville. I roughly put the two systems together, and the similarity is apparent - what the Vedic seers perceived and what Graves discovered through psychological research.
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A Theatrical Approach to Knowledge – Jill (1/12)
We're not in a theatrical environment here. We're in a kind of theatrical desert. So it must be we're completely mad and "must" do this thing called theatre. Our study has been to see what we know. There are people here who are actors, who have done it before and studied it. There is the whole gamut. There is a core group of about eight people. When we have a point of concentration, something that inspires us, we get together and do it. Theatre has this cycle. It is a great concentration of joy and love and energy, you work towards the goal, then you have to let it go. It vanishes. We want to make something out of nothing. You start with nothing and at the end you have something. Then it all disappears. You knock down the set, remove the nails and screws. All that's left is this light that never goes out. It's in the nature of theatre to exist in the moment; it's ephemeral.
There is a lot of theatre theory…theoretically what inspires us is, we feel we represent humanity, we are there for you, we speak the words you, he audience, cannot speak – we play you, become you. We don't act, we are. That's in the best of times when the character and the actor are one. We speak for our larger community as inspired beings who get something that comes through us, with words that may have been given by others or words we invent ourselves to tell your story. It's a bunch of people gathered around a campfire at night and we tell stories that are very cathartic and revealing. They are the essence of community because we speak from an inspired place. So if you have enjoyed that experience of sitting around a campfire telling stories you know it is a very strong necessary experience. We want to hold that energy in Auroville. …
UHU first anniversary presentation (26/11)
Arriving in Auroville in January 2006 it dawned on me that Auroville is a blessed environment for something like a university. And I enquired… and found there was a workshop in the SAWCHU building…"All Life is Yoga."
I was just sitting there and felt, this is a very special place - Auroville. I asked if there was a university and the answer was "no, but this idea has always been in the air".
My quest made its way and I found out for myself, what is evident for you, that the Mother wanted AV to be a place of unending learning and that as early as 1969 she had addressed her attention to UNESCO, asking Roger Anger to go to UNESCO and to plead for the creation of a Universite pour la Unite Humaine, the University of Human Unity . She added, "the permanent university will be the key to the raison d'etre of Auroville. It has to be a leap forward to hasten the advent of the future – a world of harmony, beauty and union." My experience was that whenever I mentioned the idea of the University of Human Unity to Aurovilians, it was as if I was just adding some fuel to an already existing flame and that a special quality of light manifested in their eyes. There is a deep rooted desire and consciousness that this university is meant to come into existence.
…After many intensive meetings with Vladimir and Rod at the Solar Kitchen after lunch, - we were sort of brainstorming and trying to imagine the whole thing - our initiative took shape to reach out to Aurovilians and explore this project collectively. We felt we had to gather because we need your help, advice, suggestions, intuitive intelligence. I am happy to see among us,.. well today Ananda Reddy cannot be here, he has gone out of station, and Matthias Cornelison is here, who both succeeded in founding institutions of higher learning in Pondicherry…
I would like to share some concerns of mine. I have been teaching in universities in Europe in the fields of philosophy and religious studies and later practiced as a trained psychotherapist. As a student I was fortunate to have experienced a university with some professors who were like gurus, real persons that you would meet and dialogue with and who literally made you feel you could move on in a direction where somehow you had already been moving to unwittingly, it was an atmosphere of experiential knowledge where learning becomes a personalized, living process, family like, natural, a chance to seek one's true identity, almost like breathing a self nurturing spiritual air…
One has to feel at large, in a free space, - to breathe deeply – I think that the university can grant exactly this kind of space, where the personal experience meets with the collective, inter-subjective experience and the endeavor of humanity as a whole. There is something fascinating and in a sense sacred about the university. Ideally it is totally dedicated to see the truth of things and of human beings as they are in themselves. It surpasses any limited point of view, it expands to reality as a whole, universitas means universal, all encompassing, turning or opening to all directions, katolitos… In the sense that Sri Aurobindo used the word "catholicity" of thought, meaning seeing all points of view at the same time. University is about unbiased universal openness.
When we were a baby we were smiling at the world happy to discover places and things, to touch, to love, to see them and somehow utter "wow". That's what a university may be for adults. This sacred space where we reach out to reality and reconnect with the sum precious knowledge we already carry in us, that for some or many reasons got blurred and temporarily seemed unavailable... Sri Aurobindo got it right: man may be, as he has been defined, a reasoning animal, but he is for the most part a very badly reasoning animal. So man needs to focus on what constitutes him most intimately; on that which makes a human being be a soul, a self. And that's what the university is about. …
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Discussion following Anniversary presentation (26/11/07):
Rod – I would like to invite Vladimir to take up this part of the discussion, and coordinate it a bit…he is the third member of the "original" group. Then the larger nuclear group has come about as a result of our meetings leading up to the seminars in Sept, who are the members of the already established learning institutions in Auroville, and individuals who are already engaged in developing learning experiences. All those of who have been presenting during this Fall period of seminars constitute our current core group. This is not an official structure. We decided in the beginning that structure would not be our aim. But "discovery" of substantial learning approaches would be our aim. So far we haven't congealed a structure. So far we are still engaged in the discovery of learning, discovery of a field of integral learning, which Auroville is and which can be accessed meaningfully by those who want to learn and discover. So, lest we get bogged down in a discussion of structure at this point, I think it would be nice to entertain these values, the values that an institution of higher learning in Auroville should have. What is it that this entity really wants to be? I am referring to Vladimir because he has put a lot of thought into this aspect of the identity of the University of HU.
Vladimir - Yes, when we were thinking what this day could be for us, this first anniversary, I thought it would be appropriate to see what we have done already, and where we are moving… what kind of structure is already emerging, in a very wide sense – not in a concrete sense of what everybody has to do. And I saw already that we are kind of ready to build up all fields of research. We have not yet touched the higher studies of consciousness, the psychic qualities of the Mother, and studies of consciousness as presented by SA and other great thinkers. It will come, we will come to that I guess.
We have already dealt with the middle part, with our faculties of consciousness and how they could make our studies more subjective, involved rather than only objectively oriented, studies not of information only but also for engagement of our consciousness and finding ways to exercise our consciousness in different domains, in different fields of knowledge. And so a new paradigm emerges slowly. And we have discussed how we could put it on the website, so it would be easy to navigate for any newcomer to find a meaningful way through for his own self-study. The very concept from the beginning was self-development and self study, for those who are ready already to move in that direction. Not for everybody in the wider sense, that people may come and learn something by listening and then write down and repeat the words, but for those who want to discover themselves and are looking for new ways of doing it.
And also as Rudy was saying, showing the whole Auroville as the prototype of this university, with its infrastructure already prepared for people who are looking for a new approach to life, and for activities, not in terms of supporting their livelihood, but in terms of developing themselves and their consciousness. If we could see Auroville as an infrastructure which supports this higher learning in all fields of activity, we could have an amazing project which is centered in such a way that it has feedback towards the higher consciousness in the center, and has again response back to the field of application, so there would always be communication on the periphery and back to the center. We need that feedback, because without it there is no proof of growing and real knowledge coming down into matter. So, this beautiful symbol of Auroville represents exactly what we thought about as the structure of the university.
I thought that this afternoon we would do two things. One would be to explore again with Rakhal what everyone could envision, and explore together and see where we could move, or to revue what we already have done and see new fields of research which are emerging and to see if some would like to join them and develop the whole field…
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Dhanya, group process (1/12) –
Rod called me on Thurs, you had a fertile process going on in the core group - Rudy, Grace, Vladimir and Rod – and said we are ready for some process. We talked for a half hour and I gave an idea. It would good to explore what came out of the group; different strands or directions that the UHU organism has been developing into, with perhaps some contradictions and differences there. If you can speak a bit to that we can get an idea of what to work on as a group…
For several weeks we have been having discussions as part of the Sat. seminars about the identity and future potentials of UHU. We did some focus group work here with Rakhal one morning. Whenever we have invited a discussion about this, it has tended to go into various directions that correspond to these strands because they represent what people themselves are interested in or conditioned to expect. There are those who eager to see us to be active and do something. To apply our learning paradigm in a way that influences Auroville… Then there are those who want to see a structure with programs and processes that relate to other institutions such as CIIS who would like their graduate students to get support to do research. And Ananda Reddy's university in Pondicherry would like to be affiliated in a way that would be, somehow, outside the technological box. Because their programs are mostly on-line. So, anyway, there are these different tendencies…So how do we relate to the world? How do we create channels for there to be more participation from the world into Auroville and from Auroville out to the world? We began in a modest way so as not to try to predetermine these structures and direction but instead to have a series of seminars in which we explore learning and knowledge and try to identify our meaning for this group, this project, and to provide a learning platform and explore knowledge… We began in this modest way and have progressed to the point where we can move in a variety directions and begin a process of focusing and reflecting about a larger identity and role.
Vlad – I will add a little because Rod didn't go into the details of the potential cracks as he defined it. And it's interesting because these potential cracks represent universal tendencies, in general, because everyone identifies with the truth he wants to contribute and because he is willing to do so he brings this forward but others have other things to contribute which naturally block him in his contribution. …For example I was always resisting this idea of process because having a process without a real content makes no sense. We have been through many processes in Auroville. I was attending every meeting to see what was going on but nothing was going on. The process was going on. …Those potential cracks show us how rich we can become and as potentials they have to be developed. So if somebody insists on structure we can accommodate him, and because we can welcome his approach he can find the true thing in his input. ..We made a list of these potential cracks which represent universal tendencies: where is the action, where is the structure, where is the program, where is the real inner truth, its all already there – why do we need UHU, where is the process, where is the application in the city, finally "cracks are good" because they show us the variety of approaches.
Dhanya – If you have a core group usually you represent a few of those strands and there may be an over emphasis on the role you need to play, and there is often some unconsiousness about all that is going on. Are there already personality issues that need to be worked out?
Rod – We are already seeing the identification between the personality and the push, or strand, and it's important for us to recognize the value of the push so the personality can be integrated in a way that is valuable to all of us.
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