Towards a consciousness-centered psychology
based on the work of Sri Aurobindo

author: Matthijs Cornelissen
last revision: May, 2019


This outline is a work in progress. Some items are linked to texts that are in fairly good shape; others are early drafts that still need considerable work; many items are not yet linked to any text; the very structure of the outline may still change. Over the coming months (if not years) I hope to refine its structure and add more links to actual texts.

Suggestions for change and additional resources are most welcome.

As said, this outline and the texts it links to are, as of now, only drafts, so you are kindly requested not to copy or share any material from here without explicit permission, in writing, from the author.


  1. Why this book is called "Infinity in a drop"
  2. A student's guide: How this book is organised and how to engage with it


    WHO AM I?

    A short note before we start with Part One

  1. √   August 2017 week 2,8,10

    Who am I? A first look inside
  2. week 5, 7, 9, 10, 12

    Natural individual development

    1. Development over many lives: reincarnation
      1. Arguments against and alternative explanations
      2. Arguments in favour
      3. A more detailed description of how it might work
        1. Karma
        2. "Unfinished business": neurotic influences from previous lives
        3. Skills and talents carried over from previous lives
        4. "Life between lives"
        5. The aim of life in a many-lives perspective
    2. Natural development within one life, seen from a many-lives perspective
      1. The influence of previous lives on childhood and life-span development
        1. Possible mechanisms
        2. Implications for education
        3. Avenues for research
      2. Formations and deformations during childhood: Freud's "traumas" in the light of IP
      3. "Old" and "young" souls
      4. Stages: samskaras & ashramas
    3. Progressive emancipation and integration as binding perspectives
    4. Being and becoming revisited


    A short note before we start with Part Two

  1. √   part, June 2018

    What is knowledge? Some basic distinctions

    • What is knowledge?
      [While this chapter is under construction, one could read this article which deals with the same basic issues.]
    1. Four types of knowing
      1. Knowledge by identity
      2. Experience
      3. Introspection
      4. Sense-based knowledge
    2. Two modes of knowing
      1. Naive
      2. Expert
    3. Four knowledge realms
      1. Objective
      2. Subjective
      3. Inner
      4. Direct
    4. Some lesser distinctions
      1. Degrees of consciousness and distinct territories within the subliminal
      2. Stages of knowing
      3. The purpose of knowing: why do we actually need to know?
      4. Abstract and situated knowledge
  3. week 4,7,10,15

    How to improve the quality of our psychological knowledge

    • What is knowledge?
      [While this chapter is under construction, one could read this article which deals with the same basic issues.]
    1. The basic issue  
    2. Stage one: The purification of the instrument of knowledge
      1. Rigorous subjectivity: honing of the antaḥkaraṇa, the inner instrument of knowledge
      2. Eliminating two root-causes of error:  
        1. Intrusions from "lower" planes of existence
        2. Atavistic errors intrinsic to the mind
      3. Equanimity
        1. Why it is both, difficult and essential
        2. Equanimity in the vital
        3. Equanimity in the mind
        4. Stages in the development of equanimity
          1. Endurance: the hero
          2. Resignation: the philosopher
          3. Joy: the ṛṣi
    3. Stage Two: Mental silence and the witness consciousness
      1. How it operates
      2. Why it is both, difficult and essential
      3. Detachment and commitment: a first look
      4. The power of silence
        1. The witness
        2. The sanctioner
        3. The master
      5. Methods of becoming silent
        1. Letting your thoughts run out of steam
        2. Looking for silence behind, above, below
        3. Listening...
        4. Throwing thoughts out, refusing them entry
    4. Stage Three: Developing knowledge by intimate direct contact
      1. All of the above, plus....
      2. Concentration
        • One-pointed concentration
        • All-inclusive concentration
    5. Stage Four: Developing knowledge by identity
      • Being open: aspiration, rejection and surrender
    6. Generic and situated knowledge revisited
      • Development of the Psychic Being and Progressive intimacy with the Divine as ultimate source of situated knowledge
  5. √   article, 2006

    Towards a yoga-based research methodology

      The text of this chapter has been taken from an article that was written quite a long time back.
      It needs revision in order to adjust to the context of Infinity in a Drop, and because the type of knowledge achieved by YBR is not the same as what comes from other types of research.

    1. Research about yoga and research in yoga
      1. Similarities between subjective and objective research
      2. Problems with subjective research
        1. The problem of 'privileged access'
        2. The malleability of the mental consciousness
        3. Not all knowledge is explicit and can be formulated unambiguously
      3. What YBR is not
        1. How YBR differs from second person qualitative research
        2. How YBR differs from autoethnography
      4. Conclusion: What YBR is
    2. The core of the Indian solution: Yoga as research methodology
      1. Developing the witness consciousness
        • Introspection versus the witness consciousness
      2. First person research on solving problems
      3. Developing siddhis
      4. The relation between the liberation of the Self, and the transformation of the nature.
    3. Four common objections against the use of the pure witness consciousness in psychological research
      1. Is pure consciousness possible?
      2. What has the silent inner consciousness of the yogi to do with the ordinary mind?
      3. Is yoga not too hard to use as a tool for psychological research?
      4. How to deal in a scientific manner with the ineffable?
    4. Research protocols
      1. Asking the right questions
        • Case-studies
        • Short experiments
        • Long term development
      2. Establishing "data"
        • Third person studies
          • Scope and limitations
        • Second person studies
          • Scope and limitations
        • First person studies
          • Scope and limitations
          • Special difficulties in arriving at knowledge
          • Special difficulties in sharing knowledge
      3. Analysis
        1. Existing methods of qualitative research
        2. What IP can add
      4. Sharing and utilisation
        1. Existing methods
        2. Methods specific and appropriate to YBR
    5. A few words on philosophical premises and scriptural support in the hard sciences, mainstream psychology and yoga-based research
    6. concluding remarks
      1. A look at the future
      2. How to make it more effective
      3. How to increase its impact
      4. How to make it cumulative
  7. week 4,7

    Inner and higher knowledge

    1. Introduction
      1. Terminology, overview of chapter,
    2. Alternative ways of being conscious in ordinary life
      1. Embodied mind
        1. Knowledge in the different chakras
        2. The consciousness of the body
      2. Sleep and dream
    3. Intuition's lookalikes: examples of "pseudo-intuition"
      1. Subconscious expert knowledge
      2. Instinct
    4. Three types of the "peer-to-peer" variety of intuitive knowledge
      1. Knowledge by intimate direct contact
      2. Knowledge from other realms
      3. Trikāladṛṣṭi
        1. Physicalist explanations of déjà-vu
        2. Why genuinely predictive visions and dreams may exist
        3. Types of predictive visions and dreams
    5. True intuition: unconstructed, pre-existing, true knowledge
      1. Why it should exist
      2. Inner and higher, situated and abstract knowledge
        • The knowledge in things revisited
        • Independent planes revisited
      3. How we lost it
      4. How we can find it back
    6. Types of true intuition
      1. Indicative intuition
      2. Discriminative intuition
      3. Inspiration
      4. Revelation
    7. Knowledge planes
      1. Two preliminary warnings
        1. Distortions and impurities
        2. Shadows on lower planes
      2. Higher levels of the individual mind
        1. Higher mind
        2. Illumined mind
        3. Intutition
      3. Overmind and supermind
        1. The difference between overmind and supermind
        2. Some more detail about the overmind
        3. Some more detail about the supermind
        4. Why the supermind must be there and why it was forgotten
      4. Some important Vedic distinctions revisited
        1. Saṃjñāna, ājñāna, vijñāna, prajñāna
        2. Satyam and ṛtam
    8. The future of the embodied mind
      1. The intuitive mind
      2. The mind of light


  1. Rasa, the "taste of existence"

    1. Emotions: colours and "tastes" of self and nature
    2. Some classical listings
    3. Vital emotions and psychic emotions
    4. Intrinsic delight; why nothing can exist without ananda at its core
    5. Drama and the rasa in things
    6. The Godward emotions
    7. Equanimity and "being there"
  3. week 11,13


    1. The pervasiveness of relationships
    2. Different types of relationships
      1. People, things, nature, work
      2. "Life in general"
      3. Yourself
      4. Significant other(s)
      5. The Divine
        • The many ways the Divine can come to us
        • The transcendent, the cosmic and the immanent
    3. Self-giving and re-owning yourself
    4. Being lonely, alone, all one
    5. Human love and love divine
    6. Love and oneness
  5. week 5,


    1. Group membership
      1. Permanent and temporary memberships
      2. Overlapping memberships
    2. The group as source of identity
    3. The group as functional unit
    4. Roles and hierarchies within groups
    5. The group as carrier of culture
    6. Conflicts between groups: us against them
    7. Harmony within and between groups
    8. Symphony
  7. week 11,13

    Action and agency, fate and free will

    1. What makes me act the way I act?
      1. The force that drives us
        1. Hunger, fear, desire and ego-driven action
        2. Desire as atavistic deformation
          1. Desire instead of intrinsically happy energy
          2. Constructed instead of intrinsic knowledge
        3. Is all action due to desire?
          • Neurotic, healthy, and ego-less action
    2. What is egoless action?
      1. The action of equality
      2. Will as conscious force
      3. Śraddhā and śakti, faith as force
      4. Agni revisited
      5. individual will and universal will
    3. The scope for conscious, self-willed alignment
      • Detachment and commitment
    4. Is freedom real?
      1. Why freedom cannot be there
      2. Why freedom must be there
      3. "Most bound most free"


  1. week 5, 7, 9, 10, 12

    Positive and negative motivation for change

    1. Mind the gap
      1. The perception of a gap
      2. The innate sense of an ideal
    2. Changing the world
      • Why shortcuts are tempting, yet not good enough
    3. Changing oneself
    4. The need for integration
      • The ideal of the Isha: the roles of vidya and avidya
    5. The innate aspiration
      1. How the will for progress manifests at different stages of the journey
      2. How the will for progress manifests at the level of the different cakras
      3. Aspiration versus ambition
    6. ... And what holds us back
    7. The role of pain
    8. The sunlit path
  3. week 12,13

    Basic methods and things that help

    1. Aspiration and the Grace that answers
    2. Self-observation as tool: insight and detachment
    3. Knowledge and reason as tools
      1. The different ways knowledge
      2. Types of knowledge and the roles they play
        1. Knowledge of the Divine and one's deepest self
        2. Knowledge of one's aim in life; svabhava and svadharma
        3. Psychological knowledg e and know-how
        4. Knowledge of the world
        5. Understanding of one's own nature
      3. Limitations
    4. Silence as tool
      • Invoking "the power of harmony"
    5. Remember and offer
    6. Aspiration, rejection, surrender
      1. Aspiration versus ambition revisited
      2. Rejection versus suppression
      3. Active and passive surrender
    7. Humour, detachment, commitment and love
    8. Helpful attitudes and psychological perfections
      1. Plasticity
      2. Courage
      3. Perseverance
      4. Equanimity
      5. Humility
      6. Cheerful endeavour
    9. The four aids
      1. Knowledge
      2. Effort
      3. Teacher
      4. Time
  5. Dealing with difficulties and dangers

    1. Common principles
      1. Atavisms: the “right” of the past to endure
      2. The role of faith
      3. Using hurdles as steppingstones
    2. Dealing with the mind
      1. The arrogance of ignorance
      2. Common errors of the mind
      3. Encouraging its innate aspiration for truth
    3. Dealing with the vital
      1. The fraudulence of drama
      2. The vital on strike
      3. Relationships gone sour
      4. Encouraging the vital's innate aspiration for pure joy and harmonious action
    4. When mind and vital gang up
      1. Debating in order to learn or to win?
    5. Dealing with the body
      1. A servant with many masters
      2. Helping "brother donkey"
    6. The unholy trinity
      1. Power and ambition
      2. Sex
      3. Money
    7. Some common issues
      1. Fear
      2. Anger
      3. Depression
      4. Confusion
    8. In conclusion: dealing with the ego
  7. Realisation, liberation and transformation

    1. Changes within the normal range
      1. Making life bearable
      2. Self-actualisation
    2. Realisation: meeting the infinite
      1. Why would one want it?
      2. Are there preconditions?
      3. Are there paths and methods?
      4. Samādhi and nirvāṇa
      5. Jumps and gradual ascents
    3. Mukti, liberation
      1. Are there varieties and degrees? If so, how do they relate?
      2. Liberation and then what?
        1. Changes automatically following after
        2. Jīvakotis and īśvarakotis
        3. Ascent and integration
    4. Embracing the shadow
      1. Holding up into the light
      2. Surrender
    5. The difference between change and transformation
    6. Psychic transformation
      1. What is the psychic?
      2. Signs of the psychic
      3. The presence of the psychic
      4. Consciously organising oneself around the psychic
      5. "Realising" the psychic
      6. Psychic transformation
    7. Spiritual transformation
      1. The higher planes of mind revisited
        1. Higher mind
        2. Illumined mind
        3. Intuition
        4. Overmind
      2. Spiritual experiences and their value
      3. Siddhis, spiritual powers and their use
      4. Re-positioning the self
    8. Supramental transformation
      1. The difficulty of envisioning it from below
        1. A monkey's view of "super-monkey": he cannot see man as he is to himself
        2. The limitations of living in a brain-based mind
      2. Some theoretical considerations
      3. Multiplicity and differentiation in a divine harmony
      4. Shadows on the lower planes
      5. Why it cannot go faster than it goes
      6. Preparatory steps
      7. A being of light
    9. The complexity of human nature revisited
      1. The nonlinear nature of progress
      2. The impossibility of self-assessment
      3. Faith revisited


  1. General introduction

    1. Helping others: a word of caution
    2. General principles
      1. Developing the nature as an instrument for the soul to express itself in the world
      2. The roles of teacher, therapist, counsellor, social worker, manager
    3. Motivation, insight, skill, and effort
    4. Building a tool box
    5. Helping others to help themselves
  3. Education

    1. Integral education: basic principles
      1. Soul-based respect
      2. Devolving responsibility for choices and evaluation to the learner
      3. The importance of integrated projects
    2. Educating the mind
      1. The mind's role and potential
        1. organising one's model of the world
        2. improving the input
        3. improving the processing
          1. Freeing the mind from vital and physical immixtures
          2. Widening of the mind: acknowledging opposites as equally true
        4. improving the output
      2. Opening up to higher possibilities
      3. Dealing with the mind's limits and difficulties
    3. Educating the vital
      1. The vital's role and potential
      2. Fostering good attitudes
        1. Equanimity
        2. Cheerful endeavour and "voluntary optimism"
        3. Training the will
      3. Dealing with vital difficulties
        1. Vital dramas
        2. The vital on strike
      4. Opening to higher energies and the power of harmony; surrender
    4. Educating the body
    5. Psychic education
    6. Spiritual education
    7. Helping others revisited
      1. The pitfall of over-educating: Sri Aurobindo's "nothing can be taught"
      2. The pitfall of "inculcating values"
      3. The pitfall of over-evaluating
    8. Imagine a society in which education would encourage honesty, collaboration, and the pursuit of perfection in whatever sphere of interest the child has.
  5. week 9,

    Helping other with their physical health

    • Sorry, this part of the outline is "Closed for Renovation"
  7. week 9,

    Helping other with their psychological health

    • Sorry, this part of the outline is "Closed for Renovation"
  9. Social & organisational psychology

    • Sorry, this part of the outline is "Closed for Renovation"


  1. Psychology and the future of humanity

    1. Why, in spite of all obstacles, an increasing influence of an integral, Indian approach to psychology is inevitable
    2. Some strategic possibilities and considerations
  3. Life as sādhanā; sādhanā as life

    1. Still to come...
  5. An expression of gratitude


  1. √   partially, 2017

    Psychology and the scientific method: a difficult relationship

    1. 1913 and beyond: psychology's three lineages
      • A mini-history of psychology in modern times
    2. How assumptions and methods of enquiry determine what different schools of psychology can see
    3. Classical Behaviourism
    4. Is schooling injurious to health ?
    5. Mainstream yoga research
  3. √   partially, 2015

    Biographical and bibliographical notes on Sri Aurobindo
  4. References and recommended reading
  5. √   partially, 2015