Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine, The Triple Transformation - Session III

Change, Conversion and Transformation

I think we have three words which we underlined last time. We spoke of triple transformation: the psychic transformation, spiritual transformation and supramental transformation. We shall start with the first one, the psychic transformation. There is a difference between change, conversion and transformation. These are three different words which are similar to each other but technically they are having different meanings. Change is only a shift from one point of concentration to another. Conversion is a more durable shift. There is a very interesting book by William James, which is called "Varieties of Religious Experience" in which he has devoted one full chapter on conversion, and to make the idea of conversion very simple, he has distinguished between two parts of our mind. One part he calls a hot place, another part he calls the cold place. He says every human being has two parts of his mind: the hot place and the cold place. Hot place is the place from where one's own dynamic activities emanate. One is conscious of that part, one feels vibrant with that part, one feels alive with that part, one feels thrilled with that part, excited about that part, one is able to give ready responses when one touches that part: that is the hot place, all the rest is the cold place. Our totality of consciousness which is not in the hot part is in the cold part. Something that is in the cold part today, if it shifts to the hot part, it is change; but if this becomes a more durable shift, then we call it conversion. Suppose for instance today I read a newspaper and I come across an advertisement saying that there is a conference in the United States of America on such and such a date. I simply read it, it is simply a kind of information given in the paper, it makes no meaning to me, no impression on me. So, it goes into the cold part. I take notice of it but it is so faint, it goes into the cold part. After a few days, a friend comes to me and says, "I am going to America for this conference" and then he says, "You must also come with me", and he arranges for my visit, and then I go there and I happen to meet some very important people who affect my life tremendously. That conference which was simply a faint ray in my mind now becomes a very important part of my life and begins to occupy me very much and I am in a hot part as far as that conference is concerned. This is called a shift from the cold to the hot part. But then suppose that that conference becomes a permanent conference, a continuing conference, and then I happen to be associated with it full time. Then my whole life shifts from what was before and it becomes centred around that conference. So that means that I am converted, my whole life is converted into a conference. It has not been a change, it is a conversion. Actually my whole being, my thoughts, my feelings, my actions, my programs, my activities, all of them begin to centre around that conference.

This is an example of conversion in ordinary life. But at a deeper level, certain ideas which today were simply passing ideas, if they happen to become very central to me — the ideas about God, ideas about soul, about destiny, aim of life — yesterday they were simply matters of passing interest and suddenly they begin to become more important to me, then a shift has taken place, a change has taken place. I begin to take interest in these matters: whenever somebody talks of God, my ears are pricked and I begin to listen to that much more seriously. But then a point may come when my whole life is centred in search of God, nothing else matters. My relationships, my activities, my thoughts, my feelings, all begin to turn towards God, then that is a state of conversion. In a state of conversion there should be a state of durability. In a mere change it is simply a passing movement from cold to the hot place but I do not get anchored into it. When I become anchored into it, then it is a state of conversion.

Personality of the logical, aesthetic and ethical mind

Psychic being in us today is in the cold place. It is there but our outer being has first of all no knowledge of it, no interest in it, no feeling about it, no perception of it. If somebody talks about it, it makes no impression, it is only a passing phenomenon and for a long time the awareness of the psychic being remains in the cold place. Most of the human beings pass their whole life without ever allowing the psychic being to come to the hot place. What is in the hot place for most of the human beings normally is the needs of the body and of life relationships; relationships where our life is intertwined: the home relationships, family relationships, social relationships, professional relationships. These relationships and the needs of the body, occupy basically our hot place. For some human beings the interests of the mind gradually begin to become more and more important. The activities of ideation, of conception, elements of ideas, systematic relationship of ideas with ideas, perceptions through these systems of ideas, visions of things, activities of analysis, activities of synthesis of ideas, debates, discussions, subtleties of ideas, complexities of ideas, these things begin to occupy the human mind and they come into the hot place. A small minority of humanity is interested in these mental objects and they are hot as far as the mind is concerned. So you might say they are converted from normal day to day activities to some more ideative activities. But to sustain these mental activities is normally quite difficult. Even the thinkers, whose main food stuff is ideas very largely, fall into the hot place, which is rooted in the relationships — life relationships, the vital impulses. It is only by strenuous effort that one can remain sustained in the mental world. But some people do it. Their whole life is nothing but a life of thinking, of reflection. Some great mathematicians, some great scientists, some philosophers, theologians, their whole life is centred on mental ideas.

Correspondingly therefore, there are basically three types of personalities: the physical personality, the vital personality and the mental personality. And most of the human beings have some kind of physical and vital personality developed, a rudimentary mental personality developed and the whole life is a struggle between these three personalities. Even these three personalities are not homogeneous, they are heterogeneous, they quarrel among themselves. What the body demands, the vital does not demand or does not like. What the vital wants, the physical does not want and vice versa. What the mind likes, the vital does not like and vice versa.

In the mind also there are three kinds of personalities. There is the personality of the logical mind, the personality of the aesthetic mind, and the personality of the ethical mind. These are the three major personalities of those who live in the mind.

Those who are tuned to a logical mind, their main interest is consistency of thought. They would like their own ideas to be consistent with each other and to arrive at an arrangement of ideas in which no idea contradicts the other. To remove all contradictions, to enlarge ideas and to make them as subtle as possible, as complex as possible is the fundamental need of the logical mind. The aesthetic mind is turned to the object of art, pursuit of beauty. Just as the logical mind pursues truth, the artistic mind pursues beauty and expression of beauty through various instruments, through line and colour, through rock and plastic material, or through tunes and music, or various other kinds of artistry.

The ethical mind is very much concerned with the pursuit of the good. What is right and what is wrong? What is ideal? What is the standard? It constantly tries to find out if there are norms of action and whether one's actions fit in with those norms or not and strives to arrive at perfection of arriving at those norms.

And these three minds also are in quarrels with each other. Very often what is logical may not be artistic, and what is artistic may not be ethical. What is ethical may not be artistic. In fact, the quarrel between the artistic and the good is very pronounced. Very often artists tend to live a life which is not ethical, and ethical people begin to abhor all that in the name of art is the so-called licence of life. They do not like the licentious life which many artists live. And in the same human being these three tendencies exist, some more developed, some others less developed, but they all exist. And because they coexist there is a quarrel among them, and this quarrel is very often mitigated by preponderance of one or the other; one simply suppresses the warring elements and prefers to allow only one part of the being to predominate. Therefore, some thinkers for example have no sense of beauty. You go to a thinker's house and you find things lying all in a pell-mell condition, there is no tidiness, there is no beauty.

Similarly, ethical minds are very wary of purely logical minds; they do not like philosophical discussions, debates on various kinds of ideas. They simply want to confine themselves to one thing: what is right and what is wrong.

So there is a quarrel between the physical, the vital, the ethical mind, the logical mind and the aesthetic mind. These are the five quarrelling elements in every human being normally and most of the people do not even try to recognise this quarrel; they are moved by impulses of the moment and they act according to the predominant impulse of the moment. At a little more advanced state people begin to become aware of this internal conflict, and when this awareness comes, then with it also comes the necessity to repair the conflict, and one does not know how to repair it. And many human beings just go on wasting time in search of some kind of a solution to the inner conflicts. It is only some kind of mental beings that succeeds to some extent in finding some kind of a solution to this conflict. The mind has an idea of harmony. The vital and physical do not have normally an idea of harmony, or a feeling for harmony is such, but the mind has a very clear perception of harmony and by the help of this idea of harmony it imposes it upon the vital and the physical and establishes a kind of a harmony.

Barbarism, Philistinism and Culture

For education this whole psychological understanding is very important. For mothers, fathers, teachers, this understanding is very important because children have basically physical and vital needs and they have been fed with some kind of mental ideas and every mental idea that is fed into the child's mind is like foreign material to the child's psychology in the beginning. That is why very often children begin to wonder as to who has created studies at all and why should there be so much of study and why so much in detail and why so many pages after pages have to be studied. Because every idea that is thrown into the mind is a foreign material and is not congenial to the normal rhythm of life. So the question is as to how to make the child understand the importance of ideas and to habituate the mind to enjoy the ideas.

To make the mind capable of enjoying ideas and capable of controlling the vital and physical needs by the power of ideas is the first step of culture. There are three states in which human beings live: the state of barbarism, the state of philistinism, and the state of culture. Those who are interested only in food, housing, clothing and nothing else, are living in a state of barbarism. Even a barbarian takes care of these three things, and is very much tied up with these three things. The physical needs — satisfaction of these physical needs — is all that is of importance to the barbarian. The satisfaction of the vital needs is the level of philistinism. It is slightly higher than barbarism and it takes interest into some kind of adventure, life of ambition, life of great desires, attractions, repulsions which are not merely physical. Like Alexander the Great for example, who had a tremendous ambition to conquer the whole world and to master the whole world and he sacrificed everything for the sake of this one single impulse and ambition. But the kind of personality that is formed as a result of this has a philistinic character. For him relations do not matter much at all, friendships can be useful only so long as ambitions are fulfilled through those friendships; otherwise they do not matter much at all. The higher ethical ideas do not make any difference. To be the first is the fundamental urge of a philistine. You know there is a story that Aristotle was the teacher of Alexander, and Aristotle wrote something which was very important. He made some new kind of discovery in the field of mind and he explained it to his students and then he wrote about it to Alexander. Alexander was furious with Aristotle and said: "Such a beautiful thing should have come first to me! How can you allow this to go to somebody else?" This is the special characteristic of a vital man who always wants to excel others by one means or the other.

It is when mind begins to influence the body and the vital, then culture begins to take shape, it is a beginning. You can say that somebody is cultured only when he has begun to influence his vital and physical by the help of the mind. And the greater the influence of his mind over the vital and the physical, the greater is the culture in the man. And then the greater heights of culture are reached when the ethical mind, the artistic mind and the logical mind all begin to develop and they all begin to influence the body and the vital, then you can say: a greater height of culture has been achieved by the man or by the nation where this has happened. Now if you look at the past history of the world, you will find that among all the nations, the one nation that had reached a great deal of mental culture was Greek — the Greeks, the Hellenics. They had reached a very high level of ethical thinking, artistic thinking and logical thinking. In fact with regard to art, the Greeks had reached a great perfection. Similarly they had also reached a great perfection with regard to logical thinking that is how we got great thinkers like Plato and Aristotle. Even with regard to ethical thinking, there was a great height reached which was represented by Socrates. And the Greeks have tried to harmonise the vital and the physical by the power of these three aspects of the human mind, and that is why the kind of life that they had reached was a highly cultured life, very refined culture. Even today after thousands of years, many civilisations look back to the Greeks to derive a fresh inspiration from them. In fact you might say that modern Europe and modern America are trying to reach back to the glory of Greek culture which was lost for many, many centuries after the Roman conquest of the Greeks in ancient times. You might say that secretly India too is worshipping the Greek culture, but in a diminished form because we do not know yet fully the great heights to which Greek culture had reached, but some kind of influences which are spreading from the Greeks, which is being absorbed by Europe and America, which is being infiltrated into India; a third remote level is reaching us, though adulterated. So in a sense you might say that today, what is happening in India is a kind of admiration for the Greek culture, although in a very diminished form, in a very corrupted form.

Culture, Harmony and Soul

India also had developed a similar kind of culture, a very highly developed intellectual culture. Particularly from the time of Mahabharata downwards for more than a thousand years, we developed a very highly developed intellectual culture. Some other time we shall discuss this point but I am only making a note now that this is the kind of culture that we also developed in India. And just as Greek culture fell, this intellectual culture of India also had a declining period although we had a longer history of intellectual life than Greek culture and other cultures of the world but still we went into decline. But whereas Greek culture died down completely, this culture did not die out. We still have some kind of intellectual idealism which still belongs to the ancient times and there is some kind of continuity with the present. Even in the period of decline, something of the glory of their intellectual period remained.

But as long as we remain confined to a physical, vital and mental culture, we have still not entered into the truly spiritual or psychic culture, and it is that to which now we turn. We find that even when the mind is very developed, even when all the three parts of the being of the mind — the logical, the ethical and the artistic — are very developed, even then the full harmony does not come about. Some harmony is achieved but not the true and full harmony, because what is ultimately the meaning of harmony? A true harmony is achieved when every element is placed in its right place. When you enter into this room and you find that everything is in the right place, you feel there is a harmony. Nothing juts out, nothing is excessive, everything is balanced and where a thing has to be that thing is to be found; you find that there is a real harmony. Therefore there must be a governing principle which decides which thing has to be at what place. A governing principle working luminously, affecting the direction and the placement of every element is the condition of harmony. So there must be a governing principle, there must be a hierarchy of things, each one of which obeys the governing principle and therefore, everything is in its own proper place. A governing principle, a hierarchy, and obedience of each element to the governing principle, these are the elements which are required for harmony. Since mind is not the governing principle, since vital is not the governing principle, body is not the governing principle, so long as you become aware only of these three elements, we can never arrive at the true harmony. We have to find out the real governing principle. That governing principle is called the soul.

The very meaning of soul is "the governing principle"; that which governs is the soul. The governing principle itself becomes the stuff of everything. "That" which governs and "that" which becomes the stuff of things is the soul. When I breathe with the breath of "that", then that is my soul by whose breath I breathe. "That" under whose command I am guided is my soul. So mind, life and body are truly governed by an entity which is the soul in us of which normally we are not aware. We are not aware of the real stuff of the body, life and mind; we are aware of the body, life and mind in their activities, even by perception, by experience, but we are not aware of whose stuff — they are made. What is the origin, what is the source of all this? What is the stuff of which the mind is the weaving? Mind is a fabric by itself but the stuff of which it is the fabric is the soul, and of that we are not aware; we are aware only of the threads of the fabric of the mind, but we are not aware of that stuff of which these are the fabrics. In other words you have not gone deep enough to find out from where these strings are spreading out in our body, life and mind. Normally what happens is that this particular stuff, the soul, is first experienced only in the form of an influence. It is like the breeze coming from somewhere and we experience that blow of the breeze and we find it is something different from the breeze of the mind, or life, or body: it has a different character in it. We first only distinguish it very indistinctly and we feel it is somewhat different but we like it very much. And when that influence begins to become stronger, and the breeze begins to become a wind and blows very heavily, then we are obliged to take cognizance of it, and we become aware of it much more concretely.

Then we begin to recognise that there is an entity within us, which is spontaneous in character, spontaneous towards truth, beauty and goodness. It is as spontaneous as the body is spontaneous, as spontaneous as the vital is spontaneous, but the body and vital are not spontaneous towards truth, beauty and goodness, whereas this stuff moves towards truth, beauty and goodness. In the vital being or in the physical being all our instincts are spontaneous, and most of us live a physical and vital life by instincts and impulses which are spontaneous; you do not need to train them. Hunger for example, physical hunger, appetite is spontaneous and one wants to eat food, one likes to eat food, enjoys food; it is instinctive, spontaneous. Similarly there is a spontaneity in the soul but its real food is goodness, its food is beauty, its food is truth. It is a natural spontaneous turning towards truth, beauty and goodness; it is the first mark of the distinct nature of the soul. All human beings, since they have got the presence of the soul in them, they sometimes feel the presence of it. At times they do feel this spontaneous turning towards truth, beauty and goodness. You witness a heroic action of somebody and you admire it; it is a psychic response, it is a soul response. You find somebody uttering the truth and you feel greatly uplifted; it is a soul response. You do not even reason why he is good or bad or anything; simply because of the truth force there is a spontaneous reaction to it. You may see a beautiful sunrise and you feel admiration for it, you feel the whole world quickened everything marvelous and the whole scene turning into a kind of experience of beauty: it is a soul response. And such experiences we all have from time to time, without recognising that the source of it is in the soul.

But when these responses of the soul begin to infiltrate more and more into mind, life and body, they constitute some kind of an influence. That is how we are as it were turned to the soul, but not being aware of it even mentally.

Truth, Beauty and Goodness—Psychic Change

Very often it remains for most of us in the whole life a mere influence and nothing more than that, we are not profited by it very much, we turn back immediately to our mental, vital and physical activities. But if the impulse towards truth which comes from the soul becomes very powerful then we become seekers of the truth. Even mentally we become great thinkers and our personality of the mind becomes very powerful. If the impulse towards beauty becomes powerful we begin to become artists. Similarly if our impulse towards good becomes powerful we become heroic, we become ethical and we become good, like a sage, saintly. Such personalities begin to develop in us. And then we remain confined only again to the outer personality of the mind. Although this root is in the soul, we have taken a little advantage of it, we have dug out a little and then given a shape to it through our mind, and to some extent we allow these influences to go in the vital and the body also. If I have become very artistic, my dresses begin to undergo a change. My physical perfection also I begin to seek, my body I try to make as balanced as possible. Even my vital impulses I express them beautifully, I begin to write good poetry, poetry of romance, poetry of adoration, of beauty in various forms, and so on. So this has an effect upon the mind, vital and physical.

It is only when our mind begins to become clear about the presence of the soul which is distinct from itself, that a more fundamental change occurs in us. From the influence which was coming to us from the higher realm of the soul, we begin to be attracted towards it and begin to live in it. In this process even the mind's clarity about the soul becomes very helpful. For example the kind of description that is being given here can be a good help; if there is a clarity about it then the mind becomes more aware of it and then begins to look for it and while looking for it, you may touch it and you may begin to dwell in it. In other words you shift from preoccupations of the mind, of the vital, of the body to the preoccupations of the spontaneous aspiration for truth, beauty and goodness. This shift is a very important stage in human development. This is what I called the change. The first psychic change occurs when instead of being preoccupied only with the mind, life and body, we begin to be preoccupied with the spontaneous movement towards truth, beauty and goodness. But even this preoccupation is in the beginning quite feeble, quite weak.

The soul is compared with a king, who is screened and exiled by the ministers. Body, life and mind are compared with ministers. It is as if the whole kingdom which really belongs to the soul is usurped by the ministers: body, life and mind and these have exiled the soul and screened him very tightly. A veil has been put between the soul and the body, life and mind. And then the ministers are ruling the government on their own according to their own wishes. The soul which is behind the screen goes on radiating its light on the screen and if the screen becomes quite transparent then the presence of the soul will be seen by everybody concerned. How to make the screen transparent is the first question. The first way of doing it is that the mind, life and body in their own development, in their own experience arrive at a point when they find themselves inadequate and they themselves begin to polish the screen, then that is one method. If consciously body, life and mind, try to knock at the veil then this veil may become thin. The other method is that in the surroundings of the body, life and mind; if truth, beauty and goodness are presented then the soul gets a kind of a magnetic pull and it radiates very powerfully because of this magnetic pull, then the screen becomes thin and a transparency can come about. Both these methods are admissible and can be tried according to the needs. According to the evolution of each individual, both the methods can be tried.

Education to aid psychic change

To have in your surroundings a great deal of truth, beauty and goodness is very important for the education of the children. If in the surroundings of the children you have truth, beauty and goodness spread out, then the child's soul will automatically be pulled out and the screen of the child will become less thick, more transparent and the child will be able to radiate the happiness of the soul. That is why the environment of the child is very important, the kinds of stories that are told to the children are very important, the behaviour of the people around is very important. The more this is done the greater is the outflow of the soul.

But even when this outflow begins to take place, in the first place a formation of the soul begins to peep out of the screen. This formation is what is called the psychic personality, and this formation looks first of all like a very small little thing in a big ocean of body, life and mind. Therefore katha upanishad calls it not bigger than a thumb, angushtha matram. This personality is so small in the beginning that it looks like a small little cork floating on the ocean thrust by waves of the body, life and mind. This formation gradually becomes stronger. Then this, what is the size of a thumb, becomes bigger and a bigger psychic personality is formed. What is the method by which this personality can become much more developed? The first method is the consent of the body, life and mind to allow this element to be their ruler because he is the real king and they are only the ministers. The ministers have to give consent and they have to allow the real king to come forward and take charge. But this is a very difficult task because the body, life and mind are tuned to their own rules and they do not normally accept to consent; it is like an abdication actually, and abdication is very difficult. But if that happens, it will be a tremendous out-flowering, immediately the soul can become strongly powerful and a great psychic personality can develop very quickly, rapidly. Therefore in education also, if the child is developed in such a way that the body, life and mind are tuned more and more repeatedly to the rule of the soul then you get new types of children altogether. As Sri Aurobindo called "the sun eyed children", so luminous because their personality will flower very quickly and the inner conquest will be very great; the real ruler comes to rule and governs everything and everything is put in harmony. A beautiful harmonious personality begins to grow, and this is quite possible if you know the science of it. But when the science is not known and when the things are allowed to develop pell-mell, then what happens is that this little formation, a small psychic personality not bigger than the thumb is invaded by these three ministers in different proportions depending upon which one of them is more powerful among them. Viziers or Sultan, have a rivalry among them and try to usurp even this fragrant presence of the soul and then take advantage and profit from the presence of the soul. They exploit even whatever knowledge, whatever fragrance they get from the soul. They might grant some kind of obedience to the soul but then only to be able to profit from its presence. If a luminous idea has come from the soul, the mind says, it is my own idea and it does not admit that the idea has come from the soul. Or if the vital is very powerful, it makes an exclusive possession of that idea and forces it upon everybody as if it is its own kingdom in which the mind is not allowed any kind of play. There is a great tug of war which takes place. It is for this reason that a very sound education is to be proposed, because if that is done consciously then many of these problems can be resolved much more easily. It is only a question of awareness.

Now between this formation and the soul which is behind, of which it is a formation, there is still the screen. Therefore whatever comes from the soul only with a very great difficulty infiltrates into the personality. The wires of communication are cut, obstructed, disturbed. Even the right impulse, when it comes out here, becomes twisted by the vital, by the physical, by the mental. The strength and luminosity of what comes from the soul is polluted over here.

... therefore the need of purification. If the body, life and mind are more and more purified, then these obstructions will be much less obstructive, communication will be much more clear and this implies a process of yoga.

Yoga—Concentration, Renunciation and Purification

By yoga we mean basically only three things: the process of concentration, the process of renunciation and the process of purification. If you can concentrate upon the soul, if you can renounce all that is not emerging from the soul and if you can purify the mixtures of various kinds then that constitutes the process of yoga and then the soul can flower much more easily; the screen becomes more and more transparent and ultimately the screen can be completely removed even; or at least for the time being, it can be removed. And even when it falls again, the memory of that experience is so vivid in the outer mind, life and body that a great attraction remains in the body, life and mind to return back to that experience. A great aspiration—inextinguishable aspiration—begins to burn in our outer being i. e. body, life and mind. And these three processes of concentration, purification and renunciation are aided by three processes: the process of jnanayoga, of bhaktiyoga and karmayoga. All these three processes basically are processes of purification, renunciation and concentration. And if that happens very successfully then the psychic personality becomes very powerful. The body, life and mind consent and invite the soul. That is the meaning of agnimile. I worship the soul. When the body, life and mind begin to say agnimile, I'm worshipping the soul, when this repeats itself then the soul personality becomes very powerful, and the activities of the soul begin to multiply in the outer being. It may use body, life and mind as instruments, as real ministers but the real king really begins to govern and the real royal activities begin to take place, not only ministerial activities, but the real royal activities begin to operate.

What are the royal activities of the soul which are distinguished from the activities of the body, mind and life? These are four activities which are distinctly activities of the royal soul, the real governor of the soul. First is the activity of wisdom; and wisdom consists of seeing the invisible, knowing the unknowable. When this begins to take place then wisdom begins to grow. The ordinary mind only tries to see what is visible, tries to know what is knowable, but the mark of wisdom is that it tries to see the invisible and it knows the unknowable. That is the mark of the soul activity. The second is the activity of heroism, a spontaneous revolt against evil—spontaneous revolt—with a luminous idea of the truth. It is the second activity of the soul. The third is the activity of love which makes no demand from the loved, no merchandise in love. The true soul loves for the sake of love and makes no demand at all of return of any kind. It loves because it wants to love; it pours love for the sake of love, for the sake of joy. So it is distinguished from another kind of love. The other kind of love is what you might call the red love, this is the white love. The red love is what demands, you give a little love and then you demand a lot out of it, but this white love is simply a giver. And the fourth is spontaneous skills, development of spontaneous skills. You just take up a thing, you want to learn something and if the soul is developed then all the skills come automatically to you. You want to learn sitar for example, within a month you begin to learn it because the skill comes automatically to you. It is a special power of the soul, the secret of all skills is in the soul actually. In the outer body, life and mind it is a laborious movement; by tremendous repetition you get a skill. But the same thing if done by the soul personality, the skills become so easy; there is an out-flowering of skills. Saraswathi begins to play a full role and develops all the skills of personality. A great harmony is spontaneously manifesting when the soul begins to act. These are all activities of the soul.

Psychic Transformation

And what is its distinctive experience? Just as the mind has a distinctive activity mainly of conceiving — to develop concept is a specific activity of the mind, to have a drive and energy, enthusiasm is a vital capacity, is the activity of the vital, a distinctive characteristic. To provide a stable base for anything is the activity of the body. Similarly, what is the specific activity, experience of the soul? It is to experience the sweetness of Divine Presence. It is the specific experience of the soul, automatic, it has to make no effort at all to feel the sweetness of the Divine Presence. If the soul is really developed then this experience becomes automatic, ever present. Those four activities of which I spoke: wisdom, heroism, love which demands nothing and skills and this specific experience of the sweetness of the Presence of the Divine — actually in the Katha Upanisbad there is a word called madhvadaha, one who eats the honey — the soul is the eater of honey, that is its specific experience — when these activities flood our being, the mind, life and body are so surcharged, they vibrate with this constantly, then starts the process of transformation. Till this time there is only a question of conversion, first of change and then conversion but when these activities radiate and they flood the body, life and mind and tune everything in terms of the psychic consciousness and the mind, life and body is psychisized, in every nook and corner the presence of the soul is felt and experienced, then you have reached the state of psychic transformation. This is the first step of transformation. Transformation is threefold: the psychic transformation, the spiritual transformation and the supramental transformation. What I have described so far is a very, very brief, very inadequate, very poor description of the psychic transformation.

Let us read a little now (page 891):

At the beginning the soul in Nature, the psychic entity, whose unfolding is the first step towards a spiritual change, is an entirely veiled part of us, although it is that by which we exist and persist as individual beings in Nature. The other parts of our natural composition are not only mutable but perishable; but the psychic entity in us persists and is fundamentally the same always: it contains all essential possibilities of our manifestation but is not constituted by them; it is not limited by what it manifests, not contained by the incomplete forms of the manifestation, not tarnished by the imperfections and impurities, the defects and depravations of the surface being. It is an ever-pure flame of the divinity in things and nothing that comes to it, nothing that enters into our experience can pollute its purity or extinguish the flame. This spiritual stuff is immaculate and luminous and, because it is perfectly luminous, it is immediately, intimately, directly aware of truth of being and truth of nature; it is deeply conscious of truth and good and beauty because truth and good and beauty are akin to its own native character, forms of something that is inherent in its own substance. It is aware also of all that contradicts these things, of all that deviates from its own native character, of falsehood and evil and the ugly and the unseemly; but it does not become these things nor is it touched or changed by these opposites of itself which so powerfully affect its outer instrumentation of mind, life and body. For the soul, the permanent being in us, puts forth and uses mind, life and body as its instruments, undergoes the envelopment of their conditions, but it is other and greater than its members.

If the psychic entity had been from the beginning unveiled and known to its ministers, not a secluded King in a screened chamber, the human evolution would have been a rapid soul outflowering, not the difficult, chequered and disfigured development it now is; but the veil is thick and we know not the secret Light within us, the light in the hidden crypt of the heart’s innermost sanctuary. Intimations rise to our surface from the psyche, but our mind does not detect their source; it takes them for its own activities because, before even they come to the surface, they are clothed in mental substance: thus ignorant of their authority, it follows or does not follow them according to its bent or turn at the moment. If the mind obeys the urge of the vital ego, then there is little chance of the psyche at all controlling the nature or manifesting in us something of its secret spiritual stuff and native movement; or, if the mind is over-confident to act in its own smaller light, attached to its own judgment, will and action of knowledge, then also the soul will remain veiled and quiescent and wait for the mind’s farther evolution. For the psychic part within is there to support the natural evolution, and the first natural evolution must be the development of body, life and mind, successively, and these must act each in its own kind or together in their ill-assorted partnership in order to grow and have experience and evolve. The soul gathers the essence of all our mental, vital and bodily experience and assimilates it for the farther evolution of our existence in Nature; but this action is occult and not obtruded on the surface. In the early material and vital stages of the evolution of being there is indeed no consciousness of soul; there are psychic activities, but the instrumentation, the form of these activities are vital and physical—or mental when the mind is active. For even the mind, so long as it is primitive or is developed but still too external, does not recognise their deeper character. It is easy to regard ourselves as physical beings or beings of life or mental beings using life and body and to ignore the existence of the soul altogether: for the only definite idea that we have of the soul is of something that survives the death of our bodies; but what this is we do not know because even if we are conscious sometimes of its presence, we are not normally conscious of its distinct reality nor do we feel clearly its direct action in our nature.

As the evolution proceeds, Nature begins slowly and tentatively to manifest our occult parts; she leads us to look more and more within ourselves or sets out to initiate more clearly recognisable intimations and formations of them on the surface. The soul in us, the psychic principle, has already begun to take secret form; it puts forward and develops a soul personality, a distinct psychic being to represent it. This psychic being remains still behind the veil in our subliminal part, like the true mental, the true vital or the true or subtle physical being within us: but, like them, it acts on the surface life by the influences and intimations it throws up upon that surface; these form part of the surface aggregate which is the conglomerate effect of the inner influences and upsurgings, the visible formation and superstructure which we ordinarily experience and think of as ourselves. On this ignorant surface we become dimly aware of something that can be called a soul as distinct from mind, life or body; we feel it not only as our mental idea or vague instinct of ourselves, but as a sensible influence in our life and character and action. A certain sensitive feeling for all that is true and good and beautiful, fine and pure and noble, a response to it, a demand for it, a pressure on mind and life to accept and formulate it in our thought, feelings, conduct, character is the most usually recognised, the most general and characteristic, though not the sole sign of this influence of the psyche. Of the man who has not this element in him or does not respond at all to this urge, we say that he has no soul. For it is this influence that we can most easily recognise as a finer or even a diviner part in us and the most powerful for the slow turning towards some aim at perfection in our nature.

But this psychic influence or action does not come up to the surface quite pure or does not remain distinct in its purity; if it did, we would be able to distinguish clearly the soul element in us and follow consciously and fully its dictates. An occult mental and vital and subtle-physical action intervenes, mixes with it, tries to use it and turn it to its own profit, dwarfs its divinity, distorts or diminishes its self-expression, even causes it to deviate and stumble or stains it with the impurity, smallness and error of mind and life and body. After it reaches the surface, thus alloyed and diminished, it is taken hold of by the surface nature in an obscure reception and ignorant formation, and there is or can be by this cause a still further deviation and mixture. A twist is given, a wrong direction is imparted, a wrong application, a wrong formation, an erroneous result of what is in itself pure stuff and action of our spiritual being; a formation of consciousness is accordingly made which is a mixture of the psychic influence and its intimations jumbled with mental ideas and opinions, vital desires and urges, habitual physical tendencies. There coalesce too with the obscured soul-influence the ignorant though well-intentioned efforts of these external parts towards a higher direction; a mental ideation of a very mixed character, often obscure even in its idealism, sometimes even disastrously mistaken, a fervour and passion of the emotional being throwing up its spray and foam of feelings, sentiments, sentimentalisms, a dynamic enthusiasm of the life-parts, eager responses of the physical, the thrills and excitements of nerve and body,—all these influences coalesce in a composite formation which is frequently taken as the soul and its mixed and confused action for the soul-stir, for a psychic development and action or a realised inner influence. The psychic entity is itself free from stain or mixture, but what comes up from it is not protected by that immunity; therefore this confusion becomes possible.

Moreover, the psychic being, the soul personality in us, does not emerge full-grown and luminous; it evolves, passes through a slow development and formation; its figure of being may be at first indistinct and may afterwards remain for a long time weak and undeveloped, not impure but imperfect: for it rests its formation, its dynamic self-building on the power of soul that has been actually and more or less successfully, against the resistance of the Ignorance and Inconscience, put forth in the evolution upon the surface. Its appearance is the sign of a soul-emergence in Nature, and if that emergence is as yet small and defective, the psychic personality also will be stunted or feeble. It is too, by the obscurity of our consciousness, separated from its inner reality, in imperfect communication with its own source in the depths of the being; for the road is as yet ill-built, easily obstructed, the wires often cut or crowded with communications of another kind and proceeding from another origin: its power to impress what it receives upon the outer instruments is also imperfect; in its penury it has for most things to rely on these instruments and it forms its push to expression and action on their data and not solely on the unerring perceptions of the psychic entity. In these conditions it cannot prevent the true psychic light from being diminished or distorted in the mind into a mere idea or opinion, the psychic feeling in the heart into a fallible emotion or mere sentiment, the psychic will to action in the life parts into a blind vital enthusiasm or a fervid excitement: it even accepts these mistranslations for want of something better and tries to fulfil itself through them. For it is part of the work of the soul to influence mind and heart and vital being and turn their ideas, feelings, enthusiasms, dynamisms in the direction of what is divine and luminous; but this has to be done at first imperfectly, slowly and with a mixture. As the psychic personality grows stronger, it begins to increase its communion with the psychic entity behind it and improve its communications with the surface: it can transmit its intimations to the mind and heart and life with a greater purity and force; for it is more able to exercise a strong control and react against false mixtures; now more and more it makes itself distinctly felt as a power in the nature. But even so this evolution would be slow and long if left solely to the difficult automatic action of the evolutionary Energy; it is only when man awakes to the knowledge of the soul and feels a need to bring it to the front and make it the master of his life and action that a quicker conscious method of evolution intervenes and a psychic transformation becomes possible.

This slow development can be aided by the mind’s clear perception and insistence on something within that survives the death of the body and an effort to know its nature. But at first this knowledge is impeded by the fact that there are many elements in us, many formations which present themselves as soul elements and can be mistaken for the psyche. In the early Greek and some other traditions about the after-life, the descriptions given show very clearly that what was then mistaken for the soul was a subconscious formation, a subphysical impression-mould or shadow-form of the being or else a wraith or ghost of the personality. This ghost, which is mistakenly called the spirit, is sometimes a vital formation reproducing the man’s characteristics, his surface life-mannerisms, sometimes a subtle-physical prolongation of the surface form of the mind-shell: at best it is a sheath of the life personality which still remains in the front for some time after the departure from the body. Apart from these confusions born of an after-death contact with discarded phantasms or remnants of the sheaths of the personality, the difficulty is due to our ignorance of the subliminal parts of our nature and the form and powers of the conscious being or Purusha which preside over their action; owing to this inexperience we can easily mistake something of the inner mind or vital self for the psyche. For as Being is one yet multiple, so also the same law prevails in ourselves and our members; the spirit, the Purusha is one but it adapts itself to the formations of Nature. Over each grade of our being a power of the Spirit presides; we have within us and discover when we go deep enough inwards a mind-self, a life-self, a physical self; there is a being of mind, a mental Purusha, expressing something of itself on our surface in the thoughts, perceptions, activities of our mind nature, a being of life which expresses something of itself in the impulses, feelings, sensations, desires, external life activities of our vital nature, a physical being, a being of the body which expresses something of itself in the instincts, habits, formulated activities of our physical nature. These beings or part selves of the self in us are powers of the Spirit and therefore not limited by their temporary expression, for what is thus formulated is only a fragment of its possibilities; but the expression creates a temporary mental, vital or physical personality which grows and develops even as the psychic being or soul personality grows and develops within us. Each has its own distinct nature, its influence, its action on the whole of us; but on our surface all these influences and all this action, as they come up, mingle and create an aggregate surface being which is a composite, an amalgam of them all, an outer persistent and yet shifting and mobile formation for the purposes of this life and its limited experience.

But this aggregate is, because of its composition, a heterogeneous compound, not a single harmonious and homogeneous whole. This is the reason why there is a constant confusion and even a conflict in our members which our mental reason and will are moved to control and harmonise and have often much difficulty in creating out of their confusion or conflict some kind of order and guidance; even so, ordinarily, we drift too much or are driven by the stream of our nature and act from whatever in it comes uppermost at the time and seizes the instruments of thought and action,—even our seemingly deliberate choice is more of an automatism than we imagine; our co-ordination of our multifarious elements and of our consequent thoughts, feelings, impulses, actions by the reason and will is incomplete and a half-measure. In animal being Nature acts by her own mental and vital intuitions; she works out an order by the compulsion of habit and instinct which the animal implicitly obeys, so that the shiftings of its consciousness do not matter. But man cannot altogether act in the same way without forfeiting his prerogative of manhood; he cannot leave his being to be a chaos of instincts and impulses regulated by the automatism of Nature: mind has become conscious in him and is therefore self-compelled to make some attempt, however elementary in many, to see and control and in the end more and more perfectly harmonise the manifold components, the different and conflicting tendencies that seem to make up his surface being. He does succeed in setting up a sort of regulated chaos or ordered confusion in him, or at least succeeds in thinking that he is directing himself by his mind and will, even though in fact that direction is only partial; for not only a disparate consortium of habitual motive-forces but also newly emergent vital and physical tendencies and impulses, not always calculable or controllable, and many incoherent and inharmonious mental elements use his reason and will, enter into and determine his self-building, his nature-development, his life action. Man is in his self a unique Person, but he is also in his manifestation of self a multiperson; he will never succeed in being master of himself until the Person imposes itself on his multipersonality and governs it: but this can only be imperfectly done by the surface mental will and reason; it can be perfectly done only if he goes within and finds whatever central being is by its predominant influence at the head of all his expression and action. In inmost truth it is his soul that is this central being, but in outer fact it is often one or other of the part beings in him that rules, and this representative of the soul, this deputy self he can mistake for the inmost soul principle.

Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine - II: The Triple Transformation