Sri Aurobindo the Avatar and the Shadow

I was stimulated to write this essay because of the heated discussion unleashed by Peter Heehs’ book, The Lives of Sri Aurobindo recently published in the United States. I argue that a complete picture of Sri Aurobindo as Avatar includes not only the Divine Consciousness, but his human instrumentality with its shadow side that was subjected to transformation. I indicate the nature of several shadow characteristics and experiences that he had to work through for the sake of humanity, as well as his comments on the nature and mission of the Avatar. I also discuss Jung’s view on the errors of Christianity in an attempt to introduce a warning on what could happen, or is happening, to some followers of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother and what is essential for the development of integral consciousness. Jung is particularly concerned with the fact that Christ is depicted as all light and stainless, without shadow in both his divine and human aspects.

He is also troubled by the Christian doctrine that evil in itself is insubstantial. He believes the devil and the feminine need to be integrated into the Christian Godhead and that a superior symbolic image to that of the crucified Christ alone is Christ crucified between the opposites, two thieves, one ascending to heaven, the other descending to hell. He warns that the shadow must be understood as substantial and needs to be integrated and transformed, and recognized as part of the image of Christ. I add a section on the Hindu tradition that indicates its greater interiority in comparison to Christianity and propose that that is the essential difference between the Hindu-born disciples and Western disciples understanding of Sri Aurobindo as Avatar [and the Mother]. I also argue that The Lives of Sri Aurobindo suffers from the author’s critical judgements on the nature of Sri Aurobindo’s life and work, as well as not treating Sri Aurobindo’s life as an inner myth. I finish by observing that the symbolic image the Mother originally designated for the centre of the inner chamber of the Matrimandir is the perfect symbol for humankind in the present unfolding age of the Self in God, multiplicity in-Oneness and integral consciousness.

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