Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine, The Triple Transformation - Track 502

Western Psychology – Freud, Jung and Alder

Question: That is - becoming aware of your suppressions?

That is right, and then to manifest what is suppressed.

 In this great movement of libido, there are its expressions, the movements of suppressions and the formation of the ego and there is what he calls the formation of a super ego. According to him, apart from the ego there is also a formation of a super ego which is, as it were, a representative of the external world within ourselves. The do's and don'ts of the external world are transplanted into ourselves and we ourselves become the external principle within ourselves. What we call normally the conscience is the super ego according to Freud. So a human being is basically bound in this gamut of things: the libido, ego, suppressions, super-ego, the frustrations, and occasional repercussions of the suppressions and manifestations without suppressions and man's struggle against suppressions. This is all the human life and human story according to him. Accordingly to Freud, therefore, the question of the change of human nature hardly arises. He felt that the human being is destined to remain like this, is like this, and the human being will continue to be like this.

You can at the most give advice as to how not to suppress and how to allow the manifestations of the libido, and the many forms in which this libido can express itself. Sometimes the external principle may not allow a certain manifestation in one form, but it may allow it in another form.

We just now spoke of poetry and painting and so on. It is basically an expression of the libido in the form in which the external world allows it. It is a form which is very beautiful; it is what is called sublimated. It is a sublimation which takes place. You sublimate the form in which your drives are manifested, and that way you satisfy your expressions and therefore you are more healthy because there is no suppression. But those individuals who cannot sublimate and who cannot express themselves in this form and who do not have the chance of manifesting because of the external world, are, according to Freud, doomed to suppressions and therefore they are suffering from various kinds of complexes.

The idea of complex is another Freudian concept. If you want to translate exactly in our Indian terminology, it is called granthi. Granthi is a kind of a complex, a knot in our consciousness. In the childhood a certain child went near the staircase and he fell down from the staircase. He was almost killed but survived. He was too young to remember this event but the experience was horrible, so the child suppresses this experience and it goes into the subconscious. Even when he has grown up, whenever he sees a staircase, he withdraws from it, he does not want to climb down and he feels horrible even looking at the staircase and he always feels he is about to fall without knowing why he so feels. Sometimes he even tries to overcome this and in his adventures he tries to climb up and down heroically. The action which proceeds from this heroism and the fear which is underlying, the two things meeting together constitute a complex. Some child is always told that he is good for nothing and the child feels very resentful of this remark, does not want to hear it, does not like it and does not want to remember it even. So he suppresses it and outwardly he goes on doing so many things, which will bring a kind of an appreciation that he is good. But he overdoes it because he actually tries to overcome an unconscious feeling that he is good for nothing. So there is an unnatural movement in the child to overdo, to do certain things which are heroic for him, which are not natural for him and it creates a kind of a complex. Wherever he goes, he wants to show off that he can do so many things. There is no natural development because there has been so much of snubbing and there is a complex in him. The other way round is also true, if a child is told that he is wonderful, he is very good and actually he is not so good and he knows that he is not so good, yet every time he is put up on the skies. This creates an opposite kind of suppression which also is not healthy. So these examples can be multiplied in many ways.

Now what is peculiar in Freud is that according to him the libido consists only of two basic drives. If you analyse all human actions, ultimately you will find that they are reducible to two basic things, Eros and Thanatos, the desire to love and the desire to kill. These are the two things which are exclusive in all human beings. Every human being is in search of love, in search of killing. Freud's discovery is that if you analyse a human being, totally, ultimately you will find only these two basic drives which are constantly trying to manifest through him.

Question: Is this not also an animal drive?

Quite true, your statement that when you go down below the human rung and go to the animal world, you will find the same instincts over there, in human beings, however, there is a further element that they can become conscious of this to some extent.

Question: And because of that they can change their nature to some extent?

According to Freud, sublimation of some kind so as to come into contact with the outer world is possible. But change to some extent as I said does not mean that you can change the basic libido. According to Freud, the basic libido remains the same, the very form of expression, the polish of the expression, the manner of expression, the finesse of it you can change, but basically what is to be expressed is this and that is where the problem lies. So the question is: "Is man really nothing but a packet of Eros and Thanatos?" If man is only this and there is nothing else in man, then naturally all talk of change of human nature is out of the question, it is an irrelevance. You can slightly modify man, you can slightly make him happier than what he is; you can make more poets and more painters in this world, more refined human beings, but that is all. Therefore Freud said that ultimately mankind is doomed, whatever you may do, he said, whatever civilisation should build up now, ultimately there is a doom awaiting mankind. This is a pessimistic note that Freud ended with; he didn't see in humanity any possibility of a great new world to come over. Actually he saw what was happening in the western world. He said "This is exactly what is happening, desire to kill, this tremendous desire. There is violence all over the world because of this basic libido".

 This was Freud's theory, but his disciples disagreed with him. There is for example a famous disciple of his called Jung, and he disputed with the analysis of Freud and he said that in the unconscious these are not the only elements, there are much greater elements. And in our being there is not only the ego principle, but there is also an intimating centre, which is much wiser, much more intimate and intuitive. And that is why he said that the eastern psychology is much profound and he wanted that the eastern wisdom should be studied by the west to understand man. He also felt that astrology, for example, is a very important science and mankind can learn a great deal, if one were to turn to astrology. There is an attraction of human beings to learn mythological stories or to revel in mythological stories because of the unconscious which consists not only of Eros and Thanatos but certain archetypal images. According to Jung, all human beings have unconscious in-built figures which drive and shape their personalities. In many mythological stories you have a young prince in search of a young princess attacked by old women or witches, and then advised ultimately by a wise old man, by whose help the secret of the young princess and her abode is known. The young prince is able to rescue her and then they live forever in happiness. This is a kind of story that you find recurring in mythological stories, and although people may know or not the story in advance, they always like the stories and in their own imagination these things play their role. Everybody is in a search of an old wise man and everybody is attacked by the old witches and everybody is a youthful human being and everybody wants to have company of another youthful person. It is a constant search of youth for the youth and all attack of the old and the rescue comes from wisdom.  This kind of an in-built psychological makeup of the human being is a deeper truth of the unconscious than what Freud explained.

There is another disciple of Freud called Adler who maintains that it is not the desire to love and the desire to kill that is so important in man. What is important is that every human being is in search of the way by which he can dominate. The desire to dominate is the most fundamental drive. The way, by which he can be superior to the others, the way by which he can have his own style of life, something distinctive, something which will make him different from the others and make his mark on the world.

This is what man is seeking fundamentally. And now of course there are many theories as to what exactly man is and there is still a lot of search. In fact one of the famous sentences of the modern psychologists is that modern man is sick and is in search of his soul. That is one of the famous statements of the modern psychologists today.