Our Subliminal Self

Sri Aurobindo continues his exploration of the subliminal self in relation to our waking surface consciousness. “If we undertake this self-discovery and enlarge our knowledge of the subliminal self, so conceiving it as to include in it our lower subconscient and upper superconscient ends, we shall discover that it is really this which provides the whole material of our apparent being and that our perceptions, our memories, our effectuations of will and intelligence are only a selection from its perceptions, memories, activities and relations of will and intelligence; our very ego is only a minor and superficial formulation of its self-consciousness and self-experience. It is, as it were, the urgent sea out of which the waves of our conscious becoming arise.”

Clearly Sri Aurobindo’s insight here dramatically changes the way we can see and understand our normal conscious experience. Just as our view of the relationship of the sun and the earth changed with the application of science to our daily experience, a similar revolution of our understanding needs to take place to appreciate that it is the inner subliminal self that is the true source of what we experience on the surface.

Sri Aurobindo continues his review: “But what are its limits? how far does it extend? what is its fundamental nature? Ordinarily, we speak of a subconscious existence and include in this term all that is not on the waking surface. But the whole or the greater part of the inner or subliminal self can hardly be characterised by that epithet; for when we say subconscious, we think readily of an obsucre unconsciousness or half-consciousness or else a submerged consciousness below and in a way inferior to and less than our organised waking awareness or, at least, less in possession of itself. But we find, when we go within, that somewhere in our subliminal part,–though not co-extensive with it since it has also obscure and ignorant regions,–there is a consciousness much wider, more luminous, more in possession of itself and things than that which wakes upon our surface and is the percipient of our daily hours; that is our inner being, and it is this which we must regard as our subliminal self and set apart the subconscient as an inferior, a lowest occult province of our nature. In the same way there is a superconscient part of our total existence in which there is what we discover to be our highest self, and this too we can set apart as a higher occult province of our nature.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine, Book 2, Part I, Chapter 11, The Boundaries of the Ignorance, pp. 557-558

2 thoughts on “Our Subliminal Self

  1. Does it mean we all have the same subliminal self? or this entity called ‘subliminal self’ is individualised in all beings, developed more in some and less in others?
    What does it mean when we say ” when we go within?”. who is going within? Ego-self?

    • The ego-consciousness fragments and creates apparent walls between one individualised personality and another, and thus, the subliminal self, as with the outer personality, may appear to be separated and individualised, although it is larger than the individual form of the outer personality and interacts freely with the universal forces. That is why, in many cases, we experience thoughts that we believe are “our own” but which in reality came from a “wave” which has impacted the subliminal self and thence rose up as if we had made it ourselves! Sri Aurobindo describes this when he described his experience of the silent mind, when he saw thoughts entering from outside and rejected them until the mind became silent.

      Regarding going within, this is a term used by Sri Aurobindo to describe the process of moving the attention from the outer experience and the objects of the senses and repositioning it to the inner awareness, as he references in Savitri: “In moments when the inner lamps are lit, and the life’s cherished guests are left outside, Our spirit sits alone and speaks to its gulfs. A wider consciousness opens then its doors…..”

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