Part Two — How do we know?
A short note before we start

Matthijs Cornelissen
last revision: 13 June 2023

As we noted in the Introduction, psychology is in a class of its own. While all other sciences are about the outside world and about things that can be studied objectively, psychology is about ourselves. The problem with this is, that what we are in our own selves can only be accessed by going inside, subjectively, and it is not easy to make subjective knowledge reliable. So much so, in fact, that in the beginning of the twentieth century, mainstream academic psychology simply gave up on it. It redefined itself as the science of behaviour and by doing so, it turned psychology into a science of the objectively observable outside world like all the others.

We already saw that in Infinity in a Drop we will not follow this path. We will stick instead to the original and more natural definition of psychology, take psychology as the science of the psyche, of the soul and consciousness, and study our own human nature directly, from the inside. This means that we will have to face all the ontological, epistemological and methodological difficulties which behaviorism so successfully escaped from. The core of all these issues is how we define consciousness, and so we explained in the Introduction why we take an integral understanding of consciousness as the foundation for our approach to psychology. More specifically, we discussed how Sri Aurobindo's concept of an ongoing evolution of consciousness can enrich and deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world.

In this Part of Infinity in a Drop we will have a look at cognition, and the crucial question how to make psychological knowledge more reliable and incisive. Before we can get into this, however, we need to get a clearer picture of the broader domain of knowledge, its different types, modalities, realms, degrees of awareness, objectives, and stages. The reason we need to do this is that the kind of explicit, constructed and evidence-based knowledge in which mainstream science presently specialises, is not sufficient for psychology. As we will see in chapter one, there are other, more suitable types of knowledge, which can be developed with an equal open-mindedness, intellectual rectitude and rigour.

In the second chapter we will explore how yoga, meditation and other elements of Indian know-how can be used to make these other types of knowledge more precise, detailed, and reliable.

In the third chapter we'll then take up the more down to earth question, how these yoga-based approaches to psychological knowledge can be introduced into mainstream academia.

The practical applications of these different types of knowledge we will take up in Part Four, Working on Oneself, and in Part Five, Working with Others.