Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine, The Triple Transformation - Track 501

Philosophy and Psychology

 In a sense we have finished the chapter last time.

Question: Supramental Transformation?

That we will discuss later on. The whole chapter was finished last time but we might say that was the first reading of ours. We may have to revise the chapter now. So you might say that we are now beginning the chapter again.

You might say that this chapter is an answer to a very important question which is asked very often: can human nature be changed? Now there are people who believe that human nature can never be changed. Discussing this question Swami Vivekananda once said that human nature is like a dog's tail, however much you straighten it, the moment you leave it; it goes back to its original curve. If this is true then all hope of a new humanity, of a new world order, of a new consciousness descending upon the world, all that would be set aside. If human nature cannot be changed at all, then to talk of a new world is out of question, the world will always remain as it is.

There are some psychologists who really believe that human nature is fixed. Within the boundaries of those fixtures it can travel from point to point, it may even seem that it has changed from one level to the other, but those fundamentals, those pillars between which it is fixed, they remain completely unalterable and therefore we can never hope to change man as such. You can have ameliorations, platitudes and some kind of patented medicines for immediate relief from certain difficulties, but fundamentally you cannot change it.

There is for example the psychology of Freud. Freud is a great name in the field of psychology in modern times and he made remarkable discoveries. These discoveries were known already in the Vedic times. If you read the Vedas you find all the knowledge which is given by Freud present in the Vedic verses, and even much richer and much more penetrating than what you find in Freud. But still, in the modern times it has been regarded as a new discovery. This new discovery is the discovery of the unconscious. According to Freud, man's psychology is nine tenth unconscious, only one tenth is conscious. The unconscious plays a great role in determining the conscious. All that man is thinking consciously, feeling consciously, behaving consciously is determined by his unconscious drives. From where this unconscious is born he does not answer, because Freud is not a philosopher, he is only a psychologist.

The difference between a philosopher and a psychologist is that the psychologist only observes the phenomena within a certain limited domain, whereas the philosopher asks the question, "Why do these phenomena occur at all?" The ultimate origin of things is the search of a philosopher. A psychologist is a scientist, who does not ask the ultimate origin of things. He limits himself to a domain and says "I start with the assumption that this domain exists". What is the origin of that domain? He does not raise this question. Like a physicist for example assumes that matter exists. The question, what is the ultimate origin of matter, does not exist in his field. He starts with the assumption that matter exists, whether it really exists or not, from where it has come into existence, these questions fall outside the province of physics. A biologist for example is also a scientist, he assumes that life exists. But what the origin of life is, the ultimate origin of life? Why should there be life at all? These questions are not raised by the biologist. Similarly a psychologist will say: "I am concerned with the psychological phenomena and I can go as deep as possible in that domain. I can discover the origins of things provided you do not go beyond that domain. I do not go into physics; I do not go into biology to find the origin of psychology". It is for philosophers to raise this question of the ultimate origin.

So the question from where the unconscious has arisen? Freud does not raise. He starts by saying, "There is the unconscious in human beings". This unconscious he calls "libido". It is a name given by him just to indicate that it is a kind of a cluster of urges, impulses, irresistible in character. It is a cluster of drives by which man is really pushed to do all kinds of things. And at a certain point, these drives meet the world. Libido is within our inner world and this libido in its drive meets sometimes the outer world, knocks into the world, blindly. The external world does not permit the manifestation of this libido in all its fullness, so the external world as it were knocks it back, "not allowed, not permitted here". Much of the consciousness of man is a result of this knocking. The drives of man trying to manifest into the external world, being knocked by the external world awakens the man. And that constitutes his consciousness that consciousness itself is a belt in our being, which is very narrow. He compares it with an iceberg. Just as an iceberg floats on the ocean's waters, one tenth of it is seen on the surface and nine tenth of it is below the waters. Similarly, our conscious being is only one tenth on the surface; the rest is behind the surface and is all unconscious.  This consciousness is not aware of the unconscious. This consciousness is aware only of the external world and is not aware of the source of the drives which rush into his conscious being and for some time the conscious being allows this rush to come out and then when they are knocked backwards, this conscious being begins to learn that there is something like a danger zone and some principle begins to develop in us, which he calls the "ego principle", a kind of a watchman who looks below and who looks outward and keeps a watch and does not allow the unwanted elements to come out and manifest. A   for example, is like an animal according to him, who wants all kinds of things to be manifested. The drive of the unconscious is very much in him and then the outer world prohibits him and says: "do not do this, do not do that". Prescriptions go on coming upon the child and the child resists as much as possible, but ultimately the external world is very strong and the child ultimately begins to understand that this world is not allowing it and he will not be able to put forth all that he wants in the external world. All that goes on unconsciously, he doesn't even think consciously. All this is an unconscious process. Even suppression of what is not wanted, is done unconsciously. So according to Freud, much of the development of the child takes place by means of suppression. And all human beings today are, according to him, basically suppressed instruments. They all want to do many things, they want to manifest so many things which are in the libido but they are all suppressed. Only a little bit is allowed which by education, by training, we keep in order. In the libido things are so chaotic, so wild. So there is first the unconscious, secondly the consciousness pushing certain things backwards that also is unconscious. But when the "ego principle" goes to sleep, then the libido has a greater sway. There is no watchman now, so it can come out in a greater field. That is why there is what he calls the "dream consciousness". The dream consciousness is a state in which the unconscious begins to manifest without the control of the ego. And whatever is suppressed is experienced.

According to Freud if you can find out the dreams of a person, you will be able to know what is suppressed in the individual and very often the causes of sickness, both mental and physical can be cured if one becomes conscious of what is suppressed. Merely becoming conscious is enough, or after having become conscious, if what was suppressed is allowed to be manifested, then one becomes cured. That was his prescription.