Once, the mathematician Donald Newman(1930-2007) was struggling hard with a problem, but couldn’t resolve it by any means. He went to sleep at night and had a dream. This was not the kind of dream which gives the solution to a problem, but a dream in which he met fellow mathematician John Nash. Newman asked Nash about the problem, and Nash told him the answer. When Newman finally wrote the paper, he gave credit to Nash. (I’m not kidding, read the story in this book or in the Scientific American ).
Someone wrote to me regarding his experience of worsening health due to the practice of Integral Yoga. He had read Satprem’s “Adventures of Consciousness” about 15 years ago and started practicing immediately. In the beginning, it was slow walking meditation where he would attempt to suspend his thought process while keeping attention on surrounding objects. Later, he imagined himself becoming one with his surroundings and offering it to the Divine.
Until recently, comatose patients who did not regain awareness in a few weeks would be written off as hopeless, but advances in neuroimaging technologies have revealed that comatose patients continue to display a degree of mental awareness. Scientists have found that disorders of consciousness are not an on-off phenomenon but span a continuum. These results validate remarks made by Sri Aurobindo and the Mother several decades ago. That is the subject of the first section below. The second section discusses the surprising learning abilities exhibited by sleeping newborn babies.
The Swiss psychologist, Carl Jung, was skeptical of the widespread Eastern notion that the individual ego can be completely transcended and some form of universal consciousness can be attained. He thought it was a psychological projection of an idea which had no foundation in human experience and was critical of any attempt to mix psychology and philosophy. Jung thought that the East made such reductionist errors because it had not reached the high level of self-awareness achieved in the Western development of scientific thought .
You can drive a car while listening to a song, but when you want to see better, you instinctively lower the radio volume in the car. You can listen to a melody while doing chores, but when you want to hear better, you inevitably stop and squint your eyes. The American President Lyndon Johnson once claimed that his political opponent Gerald Ford could not pass wind and chew gum at the same time. Such quotidian observations seem to suggest that there may be some natural constraints in our ability to do multiple tasks simultaneously.
Children have the preternatural ability to discern elementary puzzles that adults, burdened by their self-importance, are no longer able to unravel. A child once asked the Mother why depression seemed to last longer than pleasure. Before you read her answer, I would urge you to step back and reflect on the possible rationale on your own.
Fear plays a preeminent role in the human experience and manifests itself in diverse forms in our lives. There is fear of God which is an artifact of organized religion, fear of loss, failure and humiliation in society, fear of disease and death, fear of darkness, alarming creatures and ghosts and lastly, fear of the Unknown. If you ask anyone who has had a spiritual opening, he or she would instinctively tell you that fear is fundamentally a result of unconsciousness. Excessive indulgence in fear is counter-productive because that propagates vibrations which may attract the very phenomena that we cringe from, according to the Mother.
When we say someone is egoistic, we often imply that the person is proud. Sri Aurobindo observed that egoistic movements are actually of three types – sattwic(illumined), rajasic(kineticism) and tamasic(indolent). The sattwic ego revels in the brilliant power of its intelligence, the rajasic ego is eager to dominate, and the tamasic ego wallows in self-pity.
The Yogin who attains Self-realization discovers that latent powers of perception have awakened within his or her illumined consciousness. He or she begins to receive subtle images and sounds that convey the subjective internal states of the beings around him – humans, animals, and possibly even aliens. In this article, we demonstrate that observations on animal intelligence made by Sri Aurobindo decades ago have been fulfilled by recent results in comparative psychology and cognitive ethology (the field of science dedicated to studying animal cognition).
Noted reincarnation researcher, Dr Ian Stevenson(1918-2007), identified several cases of children whose birthmarks or birth defects seemed to coincide with the death wounds of the person they claimed to be in their previous incarnation. We shall discuss some cases here along with a possible explanation for the birthmarks in light of the insights of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother.
36 year-old Lee Hadwin of North Wales, Britain has neither the talent nor training to be an artist. His day job is a nurse. But he wakes up in the middle of the night and creates fantastical works of art, of which he has no recollection in the morning. He began drawing in his sleep in childhood and these drawings became more detailed by the time he was sixteen. Today, his work is displayed in art galleries! The Edinburgh Sleep Clinic has described his case as unique.
In our daily life, we perform many actions without complete cognitive control. You may drive the car while lost deep in thought and later exclaim that you can’t recall the route you traveled. Or you have the nagging feeling that you have forgotten to lock the door but after checking you discover that you had indeed locked it. The German mathematician David Hilbert(1862-1943) was so absent-minded that once he went to the bedroom to change clothes for an evening dinner, but instead ended up going directly to sleep. This article examines the basis of such phenomena from the standpoint of cognitive psychology, neuroscience and integral psychology.
In the May 2011 issue of the Scientific American Mind magazine, a reader asked the question “Why do memories of vivid dreams disappear soon after waking up?”. According to current science, clarity of dreams depends on neurochemical conditions in the brain. Dreams are forgotten due to deficiencies in the hormone norepinephrine in the cerebral cortex, and more generally, due to the fact that dreams are not highly conscious activities in the brain. Check the link given above to read the entire answer. In this article, we will examine this question based on the Integral Psychology of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother.
Neuroscience with its impressive array of technologies continues to plumb the depths of the human brain and throw up fascinating new results, not all of which can be adequately explained through the Yoga psychology model, which relies on occult insights handed down by Yogis, both ancient and modern. In a recent TED talk, neuroscientist Patricia Kuhl described an intriguing anomaly that she and her colleagues uncovered while investigating the linguistic abilities of 6-10 month old babies, which we briefly discuss here.
An Indian spiritual Guru, who shall remain unnamed, was recently asked the question by someone in an American audience: “When does the soul choose a body? After conception, is it ok to abort a foetus if we already have children and do not want an accidental pregnancy?“. The question assumes significance because unlike Christianity, which declares that life begins at conception, Hinduism avers that the souls reincarnate into newer bodies through reincarnation. Since abortion is a politically charged issue, a hushed murmur rippled through the crowd before the Guru gently defused the tension by leaving the question unanswered. (see also Religion_and_abortion)
In a experiment conducted in the 1970s by a Stanford professor Walter Mischel, children were tested for their ability to resist the temptation to eat a marshmallow (“deferred gratification” as the pros call it). As the children grew up into adults, Mischel discovered that the children who had successfully resisted the temptation were also the ones who went on to achieve academic and professional success. Although the study is never cited to be so, it is actually proof of the validity of Titiksha(forbearance), which is a foundational practice in the path of Yoga.
The worlds that we sojourn into during our dreams are as real as the physical world and nothing substantiates this fact better than the bone-chilling reports of physical body marks found on people who reported of being attacked in their dreams. These incidents may be isolated but they were independently reported and therefore seem credible and worth scrutinizing.
In her 2006 book “My Stroke of Insight”, neuroscientist Jill Bolte-Taylor describes a brain haemorrhage that incapacitated her left brain and induced a feeling of bliss and euphoria, a state she alludes to as being akin to Nirvana. (“I’m no authority, but I think the Buddhists would say I entered the mode of existence they call Nirvana“) This post explores the intriguing possibility whether her experience could resemble the transcendental moments experienced by yogis.
There have been perplexing reports of organ transplant receivers claiming that they seem to have inherited the memory, experiences and emotions of their deceased donors, causing quirky changes in their personality. We will present a few cases and then discuss a possible explanation in the light of the occult insights of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother Mirra Alfassa.
In the Ask Brains Column of the Nov 2010 issue of the Scientific American Mind magazine, a reader asked the question, “How we can “see” in our dreams when our eyes are closed (since the retina is inactive)?“. The answer given over there was that these dream visions originate either in the visual centers within the brain or in the latent memories residing in the brain which in turn stimulate the visual cortex. You can read the question and the response over here. That answer is based on current model of the brain in neuroscience; it assumes that the brain is equivalent to the mind and that consciousness is the result of brain activity. In this post, we present the answer from the perspective of “yoga psychology”.