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The Life Divine - by Sri Aurobindo
(Lotus Press edition - Amazon com page)


Basic Themes
Development of The Book
List of Chapters
Structure of The Life Divine


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.

Basic Themes

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".

Development of The Book

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.

List of Chapters


Ch.1: The Human Aspiration
Ch.3: The Two Negations I. The Materialist Denial
Ch.3: The Two Negations II. The Refusal of the Ascetic
Ch.4: Reality Omnipresent
Ch.5: The Destiny of the Individual
Ch.6: Man and the Universe
Ch.7: The Ego and the Dualities
Ch.8: The Methods of Vedantic Knowledge
Ch.9: The Pure Existent
Ch.10: Conscious Force
Ch.11: Delight of Existence: the Problem
Ch.12: Delight of Existence: the Solution
Ch.13: The Divine Maya
Ch.14: The Supermind as Creator
Ch.15: Supermind, Truth Consciousness
Ch.16: The Triple Status of Supermind
Ch.17: The Divine Soul
Ch.18: Mind and Supermind
Ch.19: Life
Ch.20: Death, Desire and Incapacity
Ch.21: The Ascent of Life
Ch.22: The Problem of Life
Ch.23: The Double Soul of Man
Ch.24: Matter
Ch.25: The Knot of Matter
Ch.26: The Ascending Series of Substance
Ch.27: The Sevenfold Chord of Being
Ch.28: Supermind, Mind and the Overmind Maya


Part One:

Ch.1: Indeterminates and Cosmic Determinations
Ch.2: Brahma, Purusha, Ishwara
Ch.3: The Eternal and the Individual
Ch.4: The Divine and the Undivine
Ch.5: Cosmic Illusion
Ch.6: Reality and the Cosmic Illusion
Ch.7: The Knowledge and the Ignorance
Ch.8: Memory, Self-Consciousness and the Ignorance
Ch.9: Memory, Ego, and Self-Experience
Ch.10: Knowledge by Identity and Separative Knowledge
Ch.11: The Boundaries of the Ignorance
Ch.12: The Origin of the Ignorance
Ch.13: Exclusive Concentartion of Consciousness-Force and the Ignorance
Ch.14: The Origin and Remedy pof Falsehood, Error, Wrong, and Evil

Part Two:

Ch.15: Reality and the Integral Knowledge
Ch.16: The Aim of Life; Four Theories of Existence
Ch.17: The Progress to Knowledge -- God, Man and Nature
Ch.18: The Evolutionary Process -- Ascent and Integration
Ch.19: Out of the Sevenfold Ignorance towards the Sevenfold Knowledge
Ch.20: The Philosophy of Rebirth
Ch.21: The Order of the Worlds
Ch.22: Rebirth and Other Worlds; Karma, the Soul and Immortality
Ch.23: Man and the Evolution
Ch.24: The Evolution of the Spiritual Man
Ch.25: The Triple Transformation
Ch.26: The Ascent towards Supermind
Ch.27: The Gnostic Being
Ch.28: The Divine Life

Structure of The Life Divine

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

external link Complete on-line version of The Life Divine

external link Selections from "The Life Divine" by Sri Aurobindo

external link Sri Aurobindo: Life Divine Index Page - bibliographic note, a couple of chapters online

Study guides

external link Life Divine Study Guide, compiled by David HutchinsonThe study guide is a point by point summary of Sri Aurobindo's The Life Divine.

external link 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

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page by M.Alan Kazlev
The text of this page is from the Wikipedia link Wikipedia article, "The Life Divine" Apart from two typos that have been corrected, this is the same as the original review I wrote on 29 May 2005. Note, extra links and some other material have been added to this page. (see fork)
this page uploaded 15 August 2005, last modified 4 January 2011