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THE SYNTHESIS OF YOGA first appeared in seventy-seven monthly instalments
in the philosophical review Arya, beginning with its first issue, August
1914, and continuing until its last, January 1921. The Arya text of the
Synthesis consisted of five introductory chapters numbered I-V and seventy-two
other chapters numbered I-II and IV-LXXIII (the number III was inadvertently
omitted). Each of the instalments was written immediately before its publication.
In the Arya the division of the main series of chapters into four parts,
corresponding to the yogas of Works, Knowledge, Devotion and Self-Perfection,
was not marked explicitly until the fifth year, when the heading The
Yoga of Self-Perfection began to be added above the chapter numbers.
The Synthesis of Yoga was left incomplete when the Arya ceased publication
in January 1921. Before abandoning the work, Sri Aurobindo wrote part
of a chapter entitled The Supramental Time Consciousness,
which was meant to follow the last published chapter of The Yoga
of Self-Perfection. He never completed this chapter and never published
the portion that he had written. A letter that Sri Aurobindo wrote in
1936 gives some idea of his purpose in writing The Synthesis of Yoga and
his overall plan for the work:
The Synthesis of Yoga was not meant to give a method for all to follow.
Each side of the Yoga was dealt with separately with all its possibilities,
and an indication was given as to how they meet so that one starting from
knowledge could realise Karma and Bhakti also and so with each path. It
was intended when the Self-Perfection was finished, to suggest a way in
which all could be combined, but this was never written.
One can gauge how much of The Synthesis of Yoga remained to be written
by comparing the actually completed chapters of The Yoga of Self-Perfection
with the outline of this part found in chapter X of Part IV. The elements
and requisites of perfection, siddhi which are set forth discursively
in that chapter are listed more explicitly in Sapta Chatusthaya, a text
of 1913 published along with Record of Yoga in volume 10 of The Complete
Works of Sri Aurobindo. The system of seven (sapta) sets of four elements
(catustaya) evidently underlies the structure of Part IV of The Synthesis
of Yoga. The last and most general catustaya, the siddhi catustaya, is
taken up first, in chapters I to IX. Chapters XI to XVIII correspond to
the shanti and samata catustayas, the first two of the seven. Chapters
XIX to XXV, and the incomplete chapter The Supramental Time Consciousness,
correspond to the first two elements of the third or vijñana catustaya.
By breaking off at this point, Sri Aurobindo left untreated the rest of
the third and all of the fourth catustayas. He had covered the fifth and
sixth catustayas to some degree in the rest of the Synthesis, but undoubtedly
intended to deal with them in more depth before concluding. When Sri Aurobindo
turned his attention to The Synthesis of Yoga during the 1930s after a
gap of more than a decade, he made no effort to complete The Yoga
of Self-Perfection. Instead he applied himself to the revision of
already existing chapters.
The Revision of The Synthesis of Yoga
Sri Aurobindo revised the text of The Synthesis of Yoga during three distinct
periods, referred to below as Period 1, Period 2, and Period 3.
Period 1. At various times after the printed text of the Arya began to
appear, perhaps up to the end of the 1920s, Sri Aurobindo made corrections
to certain chapters of The Synthesis of Yoga while reading over his own
copies of the journal. Most of these chapters received only sporadic and
minor revision; two chapters of Part II, however, were substantially altered.
Period 2. During 1932, and possibly somewhat before and after, Sri Aurobindo
undertook a full-scale revision of The Synthesis of Yoga with a view to
publishing it as a book. At this time he revised all the chapters of what
became Part I, The Yoga of Divine Works, and nine chapters
of what became Part II, The Yoga of Integral Knowledge (the
addition of part-titles was part of the revision). He began this work
by marking up pages torn from the Arya and then continued on copies handwritten
or typed by disciples.
Period 3. During the early 1940s, Sri Aurobindo did further work on the
later chapters of Part I, using typed copies of the pages from the Arya
revised during Period 2. At the same time he began to write two new chapters,
which he apparently intended to add to this part, but which he abandoned
before completion. During the later part of the 1940s, Sri Aurobindo lightly
revised the entire first part of the Synthesis while preparing it for
publication. What follows is a brief part-by-part description of the revision.
Introduction: The Conditions of the Synthesis
Sri Aurobindo made sporadic minor changes to these five chapters during
Period 1 and possibly also Period 2 of the revision. His alterations and
additions, marked in issues of the Arya and a set of pages torn from the
journal, were not discovered until the 1970s, and appear as part of the
text for the first time in the present edition.
Part I: The Yoga of Divine Works
The twelve chapters of this part correspond to eleven Arya chapters: I-II
and IV-XII. (There was no chapter numbered III in the Arya; the present
chapters V and VI correspond to Arya chapter VI.) Sri Aurobindo revised
each of these chapters during Period 2. The work done ranges from the
light retouching of some pages to the rewriting or new-writing of long
passages. During Period 3 he continued the work of revision begun in Period
2, concentrating on the last six chapters, and prepared the entire part
Chapter I. Moderately revised during Period 2.
Chapters II-IV. Heavily revised during Period 2. Sri Aurobindo added the
entire second half of chapter IV at this time. He also made stylistic
changes and added new material to all three chapters, but did not fundamentally
alter their structure.
Chapters V and VI. Completely rewritten during Period 2 on the basis of
Arya chapter VI, little of which remains in the final text.
Chapters VII-XII. Extensively revised during Periods 2 and 3. The typed
sheets containing the later stages of the Period 2 revision of chapters
VII and VIII were misplaced before the start of Period 3, obliging Sri
Aurobindo to work on transcripts of the Arya pages containing only the
earlier stages of the revision. The unused versions from Period 2 have
since been found, and are reproduced in the reference volume (volume 35).
Appendix: Chapter XIII. During Period 3, Sri Aurobindo wrote this draft
of a chapter meant to follow the last complete chapter of Part I, but
did not prepare it for publication in the 1948 edition of the Synthesis.
Found among his papers after his passing, it was published for the first
time in the 1955 edition of the book. Around the same time that Sri Aurobindo
worked on the chapter published as Appendix: Chapter XIII,
he produced several drafts of a chapter entitled The Yogic Consciousness
and Works, which he also intended to place at the end of Part I.
None of these drafts are sufficiently well worked out to be published
as part of the text of The Synthesis of Yoga. The most important of them
are reproduced in the reference volume.
Part II: The Yoga of Integral Knowledge
These twenty-eight chapters correspond to Arya chapters XIII-XL. Sri Aurobindo
revised eleven of these chapters during Periods 1 and 2, but did not prepare
any of them for publication. The Period 2 revision was incorporated into
the text of the 1955 edition; the Period 1 revision was not discovered
until the 1970s.
Chapter I. Extensively revised during Period 2.
Chapter II. First four paragraphs revised significantly during Period
Chapters III-VIII. Never revised.
Chapter IX. Extensively revised during Period 2.
Chapters X-XIV. Never revised.
Chapter XV. Moderately revised during Period 1.
Chapter XVI. One page lightly revised during Period 1.
Chapter XVII. Some of the later paragraphs revised significantly during
Period 1; the first paragraph separately revised during Period 2. The
present text includes both sets of revision, which do not overlap.
Chapters XVIII-XX. Never revised.
Chapters XXI-XXIV. Extensively revised during Period 2.
Chapter XXV. Never revised.
Chapter XXVI. Lightly revised during Period 2.
Chapters XXVII and XXVIII. Never revised.
Part III: The Yoga of Divine Love
No chapter in this part was ever revised by Sri Aurobindo. The texts of
these eight chapters are identical to those of Arya chapters XLI-XLVIII.
They were renumbered I-VIII and the part-title was added by the editors
of the 1955 edition.
Part IV: The Yoga of Self-Perfection
No chapter in this part was ever revised by Sri Aurobindo. The texts of
these twenty-five chapters are identical to those of Arya chapters XLIX-LXXIII.
They were renumbered I-XXV by the editors of the 1955 edition. The Appendix
consists of two incomplete versions of a chapter Sri Aurobindo began to
write in 1920 or 1921, just before he discontinued the Arya.
The revised versions of chapters VII-XII of Part I of The Synthesis of
Yoga were published in the quarterly review Advent between August 1946
and April 1948. The entire first part was published by the Sri Aurobindo
Library, Madras, in October 1948. In 1950, and again in 1953, the same
text was brought out by the Sri Aurobindo Library, New York. In each of
these editions, the title of the book was given as The Synthesis of Yoga.
A half-title specified that the contents consisted only of Part I (Book
One in the American edition) of the complete work. Separate publication
of the other parts had been planned, but this plan was never carried out.
In 1955, the Arya text of the Introduction, the 1948 text of Part I, a
text of Part II incorporating Sri Aurobindo's revisions from Period 2,
and the Arya texts of the chapters comprising Part III and Part IV, were
published by the Sri Aurobindo International University Centre as On Yoga
I: The Synthesis of Yoga. (On Yoga II, published in 1958, consisted of
a selection of Sri Aurobindo's letters on yoga.) The incomplete chapter
The Supermind and the Yoga of Works appeared in this edition
for the first time as chapter XIII of Part I. The SAIUC edition was reprinted,
with corrections, in 1957. The same publisher (under the new name Sri
Aurobindo International Centre of Education) issued a new edition of the
same text in 1965. In 1970 The Synthesis of Yoga was published as volumes
20 and 21 of the Sri Aurobindo Birth Centenary Library (SABCL). This edition
was reprinted many times. In 1999 The Synthesis of Yoga was issued as
volumes 23 and 24 of The Complete Works of Sri Aurobindo (CWSA). The text
of this edition was carefully checked against all related manuscripts
and printed texts. Many typographical and other errors were corrected.
This edition included for the first time Sri Aurobindo's scattered revisions
in the Introduction and substantial revision of chapters XV-XVII of Part
II. It was the first edition of the book to include the text of The
Supramental Time Consciousness, the incomplete chapter Sri Aurobindo
wrote for Part IV before setting aside The Yoga of Self-Perfection.