Sri Aurobindo as a Critic

  • K. D. Verma


Radhakrishanan has called Aurobindo “the greatest intellectual of our age.”1 Is this tribute meant to recognize the poet of Savitri, the prophetic mind of The Life Divine, the philosopher of The Psychology of Social Development (The Human Cycle) and The Ideal of Human Unity or the interpreter of the Gita? Indeed, Aurobindo is mostly known as a philosopher and a poet, but his stature as critic remains somewhat unassessed—and deeply undervalued—and perhaps overshadowed by the unsurpassed brilliance and originality of his work in other areas.2 Whatever the merits of the three long essays in Significance of Indian Art, this volatile document shows Aurobindo’s successful attempt to offer his interpretation of Indian art based on his theory of the expansion of consciousness and the Indian idea of rasa-bhava-ananda, derived from Bharata’s Natya Shastra.3 Aurobindo has used these ideas in The Future Poetry (1917–20) on a larger scale, but this time the subject is the English language and literature, especially poetry. One must say unhesitatingly that The Future Poetry is an important and unique document in literary history and critical theory. In the introductory essay, Aurobindo straightforwardly and candidly refers to his reading of James Cousins’s New Ways in English Literature, that possibly provided the imrnediate context to a series of essays in the Arya.4 Aurobindo admits that since his “departure from England quarter of a century ago” all connections with contemporary English literature had come to “a dead stop” and that he had kept abreast only with contemporary continental literature. His last discovery of a poet in English literature, states Aurobindo, was Meredith.5


Critical Theory Indian Imagination Evolutionary Progress Eternal Truth Paradise Lost 
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© K. D. Verma 2000

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