The Life Divine is Sri Aurobindo's major philosophical opus. It combines a synthesis of western thought and eastern spirituality with Sri Aurobindo's own original insights, covering topics such as the nature of the Divine (the Absolute, Brahman), how the creation came about, the evolution of consciousness and the cosmos, the spiritual path, and human evolutionary-spiritual destiny
The book explores for the modern mind the great streams of Indian metaphysical thought, reconciling the truths behind each and from this synthesis extends in terms of consciousness the concept of evolution. The unfolding of Earth's and man's spiritual destiny is illuminated pointing the way to a Divine life on Earth.
Along with Savitri, this is Sri Aurobindo's masterwork. It is also repetitious, verbose, and extraordinarily hard to read. The original was written as a serial for the journal Arya, and the chapters have that rambling quality sometimes found in old magazine essays. The feel is similar to other spiritual teachers like H.P. Blavatsky, Rudolph Steiner, and Da Free John, all of whom could have benefited from greater conciseness (thois of course goes also for western philosophers like Kant, Sartre, etc). The best way to read this material is either a small bit at a time, absorbing the divine Light and meditating on it (Da Free John in The Dawn Horse Testament has divided the text into daily chunks). Or, if you want to read it straight, go to the last 4 chapters; they are among the most profound and inspiring writing I have ever come across, detailing as they do the ascent to the supramental consciousness and the resulting supramental transformation - the new, divinised world. Other gurus and teachers are satisfied to just teach nirvana or enlightenment, and that is as far as they ever went. But Sri Aurobindo goes much further, and - if you can attune to it - his vision of spiritual transformation is truely magnificent. He is not the only one to see this - compare Teilhard de Chardin for example, and even - in a strange technological way, Transhumanist concepts of the Singularity. But it is Sri Aurobindo who writes about it most clearly.
The universe was created from the Real Idea of the Absolute that ended in its Involution in and as the universe. Since the universe came into being as a result of powers of an Original Consciousness and Force (Spirit - Sachchidananda and Supermind), then we (and all beings) must also somehow consist of spirit. That spirit is concealed in the Physical, Vital, and Mental nature, into which it descended through involution.
Through Evolution the universe evolves from matter to life to mind and spirit. The purpose of existence is to discover the latent spirit in all things, and release infuse and elevate all of life with its spiritual attributes of peace, power, knowledge, wisdom, love, beauty, and delight and joy of being. This is achieved by overcoming the inherent Ignorance born of creation. Through a movement into the soul within and to Spirit above one establishes contact with the Divine, grows in consciousness, and progressively overcomes the inherent Ignorance born of creation.
Finally, through the ultimate state of Supramentalisation, evolution leads to the ultimate divinised evolutionary individuals, who have totally transcended the current human status to become Supramental Beings, gaining all of the powers and possibilities of the infinite manifest Divine (the Supermind) in physical existence. When a number of such beings develop, there is then the emergence of the basis for a Divine collective life on earth, the "Life Divine".
The Life Divine first appeared serially in the Arya, in fifty-two original chapters published from August 1914 to January 1919. In 1939 Sri Aurobindo revised and enlarged these chapters for publication in book form. Volume I was published in November 1939. It included the first twenty seven chapters from the Arya, with an entirely new twenty-eighth chapter. Chapters 19 and 23 also had major revisions. The other chapters were only revised in a minor way.
Volume II, recast and enlarged, followed in July 1940, in two separately bound parts. Of the twenty eight chapters there were twelve that were entirely new: chapters 1,2, 5,6, 10, 14, and 23 through to 28. All the remaining chapters were revised (chapters 18 and 21 thoroughly) and several had been given new titles.
The Arya Publishing House brought out a second edition of Book One (now called "Volume I") in 1943, and of Book Two ("Volume II") in 1947. These incorporate only a few minor corrections and changes. A third edition of Book One was published in 1947.
The first American edition was issued by the Sri Aurobindo Library, New York, as a single volume in 1949 and a comprehensive index provided; this edition was reprinted in 1951.
The Sri Aurobindo International Centre of Education in Pondicherry published the fourth Indian edition in 1955, reprinted in 1960; these also were of a single volume.
The India Library Society Edition (New York) came out in 1965, while the sixth Indian edition is part of the deluxe Sri Aurobindo Birth Centenary Library, and appeared in 1970 in two volumes, Book One and Book Two Part I comprising volume 18, and Book Two Part II volume 19 of the Complete Works of Sri Aurobindo.
Three following editions were reproduced by photo-offset from the Birth Centenary Library; the ninth edition included a glossary of Sanskrit terms and two appendixes, and the tenth (1977) was once again a single volume.
Book I is an examination of the ways of Nature's progress, the spiritual path, the reasons for the divisions and dualities in creation, and a detailed account of the nature of The Absolute, and how this unknowable, immutable omnipresent Reality became the universe we live in.
Book II Part 1 explores the original Knowledge and state of the Absolute, and the cosmic Ignorance which is the source of our false perceptions of divisions and dualities in finite existence. It examines the cause of the Ignorance, and the way out by discovering the Spirit or Divine within.
Book II Part 2 explains how through shedding the Ignorance we begin to more fully come in touch with the Spirit or Divine, and can then progress to ever higher levels of spiritual consciousness. From a practical point of view the last four chapters (as mentioned) are perhaps the most important in the book (although this may just be my own bias!), providing a roadmap to higher spiritual attainment, from spiritual awakening to Psychicisation, Spiritualisation, the Ascent to Supermind, the nature of Supramental consciousness and existence as a Gnostic Being, and the foundation of a collective Divine Life on Earth
Sri Aurobindo The Life Divine, Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry
Bibliographical Note, The Life Divine, 10th ed pp.1113-4
Selections or complete text on-line
Complete on-line version of The Life Divine
Selections from "The Life Divine" by Sri Aurobindo
Sri Aurobindo: Life Divine Index Page - bibliographic note, a couple of chapters online
Life Divine Study Guide, compiled by David HutchinsonThe study guide is a point by point summary of Sri Aurobindo's The Life Divine.
Summaries and Study Guide of The Life Divine by Karmayogin, basis for An analysis of Sri Aurobindo's The Life Divine , by Roy Posner both have chapter by chapter listing of major points