Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Deep synthesis of Eastern and Western worldviews

SABDA – Distributors of the Sri Aurobindo Ashram Publications
Spiritual Insights on Life, Art, and Psychology
Michael Miovic
Price: Rs 250 Soft CoverPages: 296 Dimensions (in cms): 14x22 Publisher: Sri Aurobindo Society, Hyderabad ISBN: 978-81-7060-215-6
About Initiation
Initiation: Spiritual Insights into Life, Art, and Psychology is a compilation of essays, travelogues, short stories, art criticism, and poems that revolve around the theme of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother's vision. The author gives personal reflections on his spiritual quest, impressions of travels in India and Greece, and critical reviews of the emerging field of spiritual/transpersonal psychology and consciousness studies. He also applies Sri Aurobindo's model of social evolution to the study of various topics in cultural history. Although broad in scope and varied in focus, the seemingly diverse writings in this book are woven together by an underlying critical perspective and deep synthesis of Eastern and Western worldviews.
In his Chasing the Rainbow, Manoj Das recounts how the caretaker of the auditorium stopped the social scientist as he was leaving after delivering a speech on evolution. The caretaker, a man from a village, had often marvelled at the sight of a lotus in bloom: "If a wonder like this heavenly flower could be possible out of sheer mud and mire, with the intervention of the sunlight, why on earth can't the human mind, despite all the filth at its bottom, change into a godly mind with the intervention of Grace?" The same conviction runs solid through the 296 pages of the votive garland offered to the Mother by her bhakta scientist child Michael Miovic. Taking up topics as diverse as psychiatry, translation technique, travel, art criticism, biography, as well as writing short stories and poems, Michael keeps always to the fore a strong aspiration, a robust optimism, and cheerful good humour. With these sadhaklike qualities he illumines all he touches with the light that touched and transformed him for ever one evening in 1993: "... spontaneously and without any effort, the Mother burst upon my awareness like a barrage of fireworks, and suddenly the whole universe became just Her." That was definitive. As is the name of Michael's book: Initiation.
For the contents, barring two exceptions, were written post '93 and bear the Midas touch of a consciousness opening to Sri Aurobindo's perspective. Visiting Calcutta, Michael set foot in the Ganges and "all became undulating vastness and peace, perfect clarity. Ganga is indeed a holy river, but only the camera of the soul can register her real image." This is the camera Michael chooses to use in every case. An exhibition of Monet's late work "was a significant spiritual event, indeed, for me the proof that Western art is capable of responding to the spiritual force and inspiration of Sri Aurobindo's consciousness". Looking at the Parthenon, he has "the impression that it has been beamed down to earth straight from the Overmind". But the real surprises are his takes on the Beatles and Hollywood, as well as his experience of Calcutta. Stuck in Dumdum Airport due to fog which prevented their landing at Delhi, Michael is not at all fazed by the chaos and harassment of the situation. He sees Sri Aurobindo's "milky-blue aura" hovering everywhere in the city where he was born. Discussing the early music of the Beatles he perceives "the impress of a spiritual force that used the Beatles as a vehicle for expression" and compares their impact to Darshan! He looks at Hollywood and even there his viewfinder succeeds in peering through the scum and detecting "the persistent action of a higher force upon the primitive Hollywood brain". And yet Michael's is not a facile optimism, content to whitewash the world and sit back satisfied. His observational acuity and analytical bent amply justify the M.D. tagged to his name on both cover and spine of his book. Seeing a force at work behind expressions of popular culture does not blind him to the limitations of such media.
His observations on his own country, America, bring out the balance between accurate observation and elevated idealism. He says that America's mantra is in her Declaration of Independence: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these rights are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." The nation, like the individual, prospers to the extent it adheres to its swadharma. He comments: "So far, we have tried to achieve these freedoms of the individual in a rather simplistic, external and materialistic fashion; the widespread sense of alienation in American culture today is proof that this experiment is failing, and eventually the pain will become acute enough to make us try another route." In a previous issue of this newsletter, a reviewer said of a festschrift that part of it ought to have been brought out as a separate volume to give it its proper weight.
Michael's book is a seed-bank for future studies in art criticism, holistic healing and social analysis. In his wholehearted adoption of Aurobindonean approach in every field of his life and interests he reminds us of Sri Aurobindo's view: "Science, art, philosophy, ethics, psychology, the knowledge of man and his past, action itself are means by which we arrive at the knowledge of the workings of God through Nature and through life. At first it is the workings of life and forms of Nature which occupy us, but as we go deeper and deeper and get a completer view and experience, each of these lines brings us face to face with God." — Sunam Mukherjee Sunam is a former student of the Sri Aurobindo International Centre of Education. A member of the Ashram, he works at the Sri Aurobindo Ashram Press. October 2004

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