What kind of a book is this?

author: Matthijs Cornelissen
last revision: October, 2022

The scope

In some sense, this text is only a proof of concept. It indicates the direction in which the human sciences could move if they would accept at the same time the modern ideas of evolution and collective progress that originated in Europe, and on the other the ancient Indian ideas of the centrality of consciousness and individual, spiritual development that originated in India. Accordingly, the philosophical introduction is relatively long, and the applied part is relatively short: it provides on the one hand a different perspective, a different background philosophy, that can hold the many specialised theories that populate the disparate knowledge systems of science and spirituality, and on the other a different attitude with which to use the wealth of techniques that these many different schools have already developed. It does not pretend to give a comprehensive overview of all those theories and techniques, it only indicates a different background understanding of the theory and a different attitude with which the different techniques can be used.

Perhaps most importantly this book suggests a method to make research in the domain of psychology more productive. It could perhaps be described as "rigorous subjectivity", and if enough energy goes into it, might have the potential to make psychology as quickly progressive as the hard sciences already are.

The ultimate aim of this text is thus, in spite of it simplicity, ambitious. Infinity in a Drop hopes to show that Sri Aurobindo's spiritually deep and intellectually rigorous integration of Indian and Western thought can:

  • produce a genuinely integral, consciousness-centred philosophical foundation for science,
  • start off quickly cumulative progress in the field of psychology by using a yoga-based research methodology that fulfils the demands of rigour and intellectual rectitude developed by modern science,
  • and provide a common context for the welter of seemingly contradictory theories and practical know-how the various Indian and Western knowledge systems have already developed and are bound to develop further in the future.

The structure

Infinity in a Drop is somewhat of a hybrid. It starts with an attempt to set out an integral, consciousness-centred philosophical foundation for science, a foundation that works as well for the subjective reality of our own human nature, as for the objective reality that the hard sciences deal with. I hope to show that Sri Aurobindo's interpretation of the ancient Vedic understanding of reality and knowledge can take up that role. This section is relatively long because the ideas on which it is based are quite different from those on which mainstream science is built at present and they are also, in a more subtle way, different from those of the most widely known Indian schools of thought. Writing about them is moreover somewhat complex because they make sense only when they are all taken together.

The text that follows on it is in its outer structure more or less similar to any ordinary introductory textbook of Psychology. It starts with the self and the structure of the personality, followed by the basics of cognition and research methodologies suitable for the subjective domain. After that we find relationships, emotion, motivation and self-development, and at the end it looks at a few of the usual applications of psychology like education, counselling, therapy, etc. In what it says on these issues it is, however, substantially different from most mainstream texts because it is all based on the centrality of consciousness which one finds in the Vedic tradition. Accordingly, its approach presents science and especially psychology, in the words of Don Salmon, as if consciousness matters.

The style

I've kept the main text as simple as I could, and I've given most of the context, arguments and details in little side-notes and appendixes. The reason I have done it this way is that this approach to science is not yet well-established and people with different backgrounds and objectives may want to go into detail about different issues. I hope that my attempts at explaining core concepts in history, psychology and Indian philosophy are not too offensive to those who know much more about them than I do.