Introduction to the University of Human Unity: the first meeting on 25 Nov 2006
Last Updated: January 3, 2008
Introduction to the first meeting of the University of Human Unity
25th November 2006
Unity Pavilion in Auroville
Arriving in Auroville in early 2006 it dawned upon me that Auroville is a blessed environment for something like a 'university' and I inquired: 'Is there a university in Auroville ?' The answers were: no, but this idea has always been in the air. My quest made its way and I found out for myself that the Mother wanted Auroville to be a place of unending learning and that as early as 1969 she had addressed her intention to Roger Angers sending him to the UNESCO to create a: "Universit� de l'Unit� humaine", a University of Human Unity. She added: "The permanent university will be the key to the reason for Auroville's existence. (la clef de la raison d'�tre d'Auroville). It has to be a leap forward, to hasten the advent of the future " a world of harmony and 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 were 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.
I was fortunate to get substantial informations from Kathy and Luigi, felt openness among Aurovilians and after many intensive tentative visionary meetings with Rod and Vladimir our initiative took shape to reach out to Aurovilians to explore this project collectively and get advice, suggestions, intuitive intelligence.
Ananda Reddy and Matthijs Cornelissen joined this initiative in a spontaneous way; they both succeeded in founding Pondicherry-based institutions : the 'Sri Aurobindo Darshan : The University of Tomorrow', that focuses on e-learning and offers a unique "Doctor of Sri Aurobindo Studies Program" and the 'Indian Psychology Institute'.
I would like to briefly share some of my concerns. I have been teaching in universities in Europe and since 1991 tenured in France in the fields of philosophy and religious studies and later got engaged in the study of psychoanalysis and practiced as a trained psychotherapist.
As a student I was fortunate to have experienced a university with some professors who were gurus, real persons that you would meet and dialogue with and who literally made you feel move on in a direction where somehow you had already been moving towards, 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 ; like in Hebrew, Greek or Latin, the Sanskrit word to signify the Self or Soul, 'atman', goes back to a root that means to breathe, 'an' (cf. the German atmen = breathing). One has to feel at large, in a free space, to breathe deeply.
I think that a university can grant exactly this kind of space where the personal experience meets with a collective intersubjective experience and the endeavour of humanity as a whole. There is something fascinating and in a sense sacred about a university. Ideally, it is totally dedicated to see the truth of things and of human beings as they are in themselves. It surpasses ego-limited points of view, it's space expands to reality as a whole, universitas means universal, all-encompassing (turning or opening to all directions, from the Greek katholikos: according to the whole, 'catholicity of thought' as Sri Aurobindo likes to write). A university is about unbiased universal openness.
When we were a baby we were smiling at the world, happy to discover faces and things, to touch, to love, to see them and somehow utter : Wow ! That's what a university may be for adults. This is a sacred space where we reach out to reality - and - reconnect with some precious knowledge we already carry in us and that for some or many reasons got blurred and temporarily seems unavailable.
A university mediates between two convictions, the Platonic one that says: knowledge is (mere) remembering and the Aristotelian that says: you have to acquire knowledge. There is truth in both and the Vedic tradition was conscious of this larger truth.
Adults are told by society to be realistic, that's ok, but then let's look and deconstruct the sort of worldly realism that sees man as a rational fighting and competitively conquering animal. Sri Aurobindo got it right : "Man may be, as he has been defined, a reasoning animal, but it is necessary to add that he is, for the most part, a very badly-reasoning animal". Hence, man needs to focus on what constitutes him most intimately, on that what makes a human being be a soul, a Self. The realization of the Self, the progressive unfolding through self-discovery - that's what the university is about.
The word "university" conveys the meaning of an intense quest for true understanding, for vision as liberation from ignorance and delusion, for the opening an ideal where we look at, for contemplation, contemplatio being the Latin translation of the fine Greek word theoria.
Knowledge has always been metaphorically expressed by sight: 'idea' and 'ideal' mean that what can or should be seen, departing from the Sanskrit vid, (v)eidenai (and idein) in Greek, the Latin videre and German wissen etc.: to know is to see. We came into this world 'eis theorian', for contemplation said Anaxagoras the Presocratic philosopher. "Voir ou p�rir", to see or to perish is what happens in evolution, wrote Teilhard de Chardin the French evolutionist so close to Sri Aurobindo's vision. To know, to see, means to correspond to what our soul most naturally likes to do: "anima nata est convenire cum omni ente" asserted a medieval philosopher : it is most natural to the soul to meet with whatever (existing) being. The activity of knowing is a kind of birthing, (there is this French expression : conna�tre : c'est na�tre avec) . Hence, to know is to be enabled to live with all that is different from me " and, paradoxically - has always already been part of me.
When I can see, I can assume, I can accept, I can actively build a bridge between the essence, the truth of the other's being and the possible way to realize something, connected with the other's ineffable presence, to co-realize a bit, and this bit gives the life-energy to navigate between the absolute and the relative, to mediate between the ideal and that part that we can indeed realize. A university would open this participatory learning space for this ongoing process, an interface or as Mother said an 'intermediate zone' between the supramental and the physical world.
Living in this intermediate zone means, in a way, to engage in an unending process of 'translating', mediating, connecting different layers of consciousness.
This alternative University of Human Unity stands for such a permanent activity of bridging over, where that what we see, vaguely at times, eventually gets translated into scientific knowledge. The original meaning of science is knowledge, from the verb scire, to know, and when we know something (almost) 'for sure' and then make it known to somebody else, this activity is sciens-faciens, scientific.
Talking about the origin of knowledge, it is interesting to dwell briefly on the language of dream. In the religious wisdom traditions the dreamlike state of understanding, of seeing a divine message is often chosen as a way to bypass the mental, to reach the soul directly whilst it is not encumbered by superficial or illusionary knowledge.
Mother's Dream of Auroville, as she said in August 1954, was a dream and not just a dream, but a real vision of what was meant to have: "effects in the outward world in the form of a new creation, beginning with a model town and ending with a perfect world". She said 'Dream' conscious of the fact that "the Earth is certainly not yet ready to realise such an ideal".
Among Sri Aurobindo's five 'Dreams', the third is about world-union, "the unification of the human world as a whole is under way… A new spirit of oneness will take hold of the human race. " The fourth is about "the spiritual gift of India to the world", "India's spirituality is entering Europe and America in an ever increasing measure," and the fifth concerns "the step in evolution which would raise man to a higher and larger consciousness and begin the solution of the problems which have perplexed and vexed him since he first began to think and to dream of individual perfection and a perfect society."
In Life Divine, Sri Aurobindo unhesitatingly evokes the: "dream or psychic prevision of a fulfilment exceeding the individual transformation, a new earth and heaven, a city of God, a divine descent upon earth, a reign of the spiritually perfect, a kingdom of God not only within us but outside, in a collective human life", and concludes prophetically: " But if his (man's) mind is capable of opening to what exceeds it, then there is no reason why man should not arrive at Supermind and supermanhood or at least lend his mentality, life and body to an evolution of that greater term of the Spirit manifesting in Nature".
The university is a kind of collective "pleasurable" laboratory of research exploring the universal structures of reality, of the nature of perception, mind, reason, intuitive intelligence, illumination-enlightenment, layers of consciousness, the "soul" or Self, and social interactions as ideally and really relevant for individuals and society as a whole. The scope of such a universal endeavour embraces all natural sciences that deal with our physical environment, our embodiment in nature and matter. Sri Aurobindo writes: "A greater whole-being, whole-knowledge, whole-power is needed to weld all into a greater unity of whole-life. (…) A life of unity, mutuality and harmony born of a deeper and wider truth of our being is the only truth of life that can successfully replace the imperfect mental constructions of the past".
Sri Aurobindo allows for a new holistic experience of existence that manifests the delight, the bliss, I take him by his word, the "pleasurability" that happens in Brahman all the time… and all that is somehow involved in Nature so as to evolve, to unfold in our lives.
George Leonard wrote a book in the sixties called 'Education and Ecstasy'; - there is something about what emerged in the West in these ninteenhundredsixties, with Alan Watts, as with Aldous Huxley's book 'Perennial Philosophy' that is built on Eastern and Western wisdom traditions. Huxley was convinced of the infinite possibilities in man, the 'Human Potential' as he called it. Now : how can man access this potential ? "
One of the questions at that time was : can it be done otherwise than by drugs ? (Thomas Leary's Politics of Ecstacy, Ram Dass…) It was a time of cultural upheaval, with John Lennon singing : "you will tell me I am a dreamer, but maybe I am not the only one, and one day you will join us and the world will be one!" The hippy-experience was a manifestation of the urge of the deep desire for authentic fulfilment by experiencing an altered, that is higher state of consciousness. The Mother was very attentive to this critical moment in Western civilization: "It's the whole vital in revolt against the mind, but that's magnificent! … You get the feeling that if they would just push a little bit farther, they would catch something." But how to deal with the impetuous drive for deep satisfaction ? In Life Divine, Sri Aurobindo unravels the knot: "Desire too can cease only rightly by becoming the desire of the infinite and satisfying itself with a supernal fulfilment and an infinite satisfaction in the all-possessing bliss of the Infinite."
Bypassing drugs, as it were, Sri Aurobindo manifested a realistic way when he came up with the novelty of the Integral Yoga, a world accepting, all vital life integrating yoga. Yoga can as well be translated as "integral connection", the connection with oneself, with the Divine, with the others, with the world, with or in the all-embracing Oneness. Integral Yoga can lead, as he says, to the "spiritualization of our natural activities", the "transmutation of consciousness, by a liberation of the spirit from its present veil of mind, life and body …", and to the "divinisation of the mind, the heart and the very body"
________________ In a way, the University of Human Unity has started, ideally, with the descent of the Supramental as described by the Mother on 28th of February 1956, the "Advent of the Supramental in the Physical". In this light we can see the many many research activities and learning centres as manifestations of the University of Human Unity and we can say: it has already been going on : so what do we need more ?
Researchers, scholars and post graduate students have been coming to Auroville to undertake specific research on Auroville-related topics in the fields of integral yoga, architecture, town planning, environmental studies, sustainability and society, philosophy and psychology. A German academic website lists more than hundred scientific publications on Auroville (MA, PhD theses and articles) written in universities all over the world, about 70 of them dealing with philosophical issues inspired by the work of Sri Aurobindo.
There are already working connections with the Californian Institute for Integral Studies and others institutions that promise to function in both directions as a real exchange of competencies.
Perusing the files of the Center of International Research in Human Unity, CIRHU, I was impressed by the work that has been done and by the idealism, dedication and generosity of its members that is evident as one goes through the minutes of their many meetings and the publication of the CIRHU-Papers.
In a meeting on 17th January 2000, referring to the then ongoing CIRHU project, Kireet Joshi made this (solemn) statement: "…it is as if it were the world setting up this centre. … our perception is that it is as if human beings…felt a need to establish on the earth at least one place where the highest research could be conducted. … It is not we, a small group of people, as it were, but mankind as a whole that is in need of this research and that has put up this particular small space on the earth which, happily, the government of India has made some effort to support."
The 'vocation', 'mission', sense or meaning of Auroville is to be 'professionally' open to the conditions for the emergence of evolution, to make this hastening process of the evolving Nature present and tangible. Auroville is this 'cradle' from where evolves and emanates a unique gift given to the world, an effective incentive for real transformation, here and now.
Does the Auroville of today need more ? What would the University of Human Unity add… ?
The genius of the University of Human Unity will consist in finding or inventing ways to ground the wisdom of integral self-realization or better realization of the Self as a self-learning process in the collective soil that is Auroville, to ground it by engaging students in participation in the work and process that makes Auroville the experiential home for new, fresh knowledge, to introduce them to integral karmayoga. To implement group work, get-togethers, to share what comes up after some time of experiencing Auroville and processing its complexity. It is about the way we do things, how we relate to one another, it is about the quality of a new space of togetherness.
One specificity of this university would be its freedom from political and ideological pressures, the quality of the way teaching, learning and research will be grounded in this specific environment, the experiencing of a different learning atmosphere existing between those who presently 'teach' and those who presently 'learn', the 'teachers' being but advanced facilitating learners. The university will not be a separated entity but an integral part of the living whole that constitutes Auroville ; it is part of the multi-cultural and art-intensive International Zone as The Mother described it so lively. We have reasons to hope that the furthering of the university activities and the international connections that they will entail will increase at the same time a renewed interest in the national or continental Pavilions. The specificity of this university may as well consist in a kind of intensity that arises when a limited number of truly seeking people get together in this broad spiritual field created by Sri Aurobindo and The Mother.
And, again, it is my conviction that the very term "university", in its composite form of University of Human Unity, conveys a dynamic force that emanates from the very self-effulgent word 'university' that everybody understands in what it is aiming at: universal knowledge, supported by some academic structure, internationality, crosscultural interdisciplinarity, the practice of objectivity in research, the desire for universal communication and much more that right now doesn't come to my mind and may be subsumed by 'humanistic'. This university evolves from a well-specified involved intentionality: Human Unity.
A free and alternative university may prove instrumental in realizing the emergence of the conditions that Sri Aurobindo describes as necessary for the 'Ideal of Human Unity'. "Brotherhood" is the mayor true goal to attain and to be ready to understand that: "A spiritual religion of humanity is the hope for the future".
This project has grown organically in The Mother's garden as a major challenge, a real "Adventure calling for Consciousness and Joy" (Savitri), and constitutes a chance for Auroville to lend fuller expression to her ideals and Aspiration.
There is a picture of two young students showing Michael Murphy, co-founder of the Esalen Institute in California and Member of the International Adviser Board of Auroville, arriving from Stanford University with his friend Dick Price at Esalen, Big Sur, with arms over their shoulders, saying to one another: this should become a place where things can be explored that Stanford University doesn't even think of... That of course was a different time and a different scene, a different story. Auroville has its own history and criteria, inspired by Sri Aurobindo's novelty of integral yoga and The Mother's inspiration of a collective karmayoga.
I am always impressed by The Mother's intrepidity, her divine fearlessness :
"We are now witnessing the birth of a new world; it is very young, very weak " not in its essence but in its exterior manifestation " not yet recognized, nor even felt, and denied by most people." "There are people who love adventure. It is these I call, and I tell them : 'I invite you to the Great Adventure.' It is before us, for our adventure begins beyond that. It is a matter of a new creation, entirely new, with all the unforeseen events, the risks, the hazards it entails. It is a real adventure, of which the goal is certain victory, but the road to which is unknown and must be made step by step in the unexplored. It is something that has never existed in this present universe and that will never be again in the same way. If this interests you, well, embark. What is awaiting you tomorrow, I couldn't say. You must leave behind all you have foreseen, all you have planned, all you have built up, and start walking into the unknown " come what may ! And that is that."
As for the future of our project, I felt that there is a call for some or better an abundant amount of faith, a faith in the feasibility of what seems still embryonic at the time being; a confidence in what is "involved" and is ready to "evolve". Yesterday, 24th of November 2006, the Ashram chose these words of Sri Aurobindo's that I feel can as well be applied to our collective commitment: "Do not allow any outward circumstance to shake the faith in you; for nothing gives greater strength than this faith to go through and arrive at the goal. Knowledge and Tapasya, whatever their force, have a less sustaining power " faith is the strongest staff for the journey."
OPEN Proposal for activities of the University of Human Unity in Auroville :
Liable to adopt different shapes in key with the availability of facilitators in the respective fields of learning and research.
Orientation into the field of UHU as an ongoing self-discovery and self-learning process
- with Facilitators
- Introduction to Integral Yoga
- Healing practices (therapeutic work)
- Body work
- Theory and practice of vibrations, sound and music
- Arts, Performing Arts, Painting, Sculpture, Clay…
- Music and Dance, Drama, Theatre (traditional and self-expressive
- Poetry, Creative Writing
- Dreamcatching as a practice of intuitive knowledge
Theories of Education:
Theories of Speech and Language " Linguistics -
Introduction to Vedic Literature and Thought
Sanskrit Language Courses:
- Spoken Sanscrit
Consciousness - studies
- East " West Philosophy
- East " West Psychology
Human Unity Studies
- Political Life, Politics, Political Sciences
- Human Rights
- International Law
- Social Sciences
- History; History of Utopias
- Auroville - its specificity, foundation, growth and mission
- Social Anthropology
- Consciousness in Economy, Business and Management
Spirituality beyond Religions " comparative studies in mysticism
- Hindu, - Bhuddist- Christian, - Islam…
Sri Aurobindo studies
- The novelty of Integral Yoga
- Evolution and Consciousness
- Vision of Human Unity in Diversity
Studies on Mother's Vision
Evolution, Education, Concentration, Surrender…
Consciousness and Body " transformation of Cells
The Supramental, 'overman', 'intermediate zone'…
Natural Sciences and Environmental Studies:
- Ecology, Environmental research, Forest, Sustainability
- Philosophy and Science of Evolution,
- Evolutionary Biology and Biophysics,
- Astronomy, Cosmology
- Brain Science and Consciousness
Living in a human space