Three Types of Mental Individuality

Sri Aurobindo next explores the relationship of mental individuality to the process of knowledge and the possibilities of error entering into this process. He reminds us of the Sankhya psychological analysis which recognizes three basic qualities, or types, which blend together to create the mental tendency of each individual; and in fact, he points out that each person has a blend of these three operative in different ways and circumstances,–in other words, no one is all of one type all of the time. These three types are described as “tamasic” which is the principle of obscurity, darkness and inertia, and which resides primarily in the physical mind. The tamasic mind is either dull or slow in taking on new ideas and concepts, is stubborn in clinging to its established ways and acts as a conservative principle of holding onto previously developed knowledge and resisting expansion and modification of that knowledge. “Rajasic” mind is seated primarily in the vital principle and works on the principle of desire and avoidance. It is of two kinds as described by Sri Aurobindo: “one kind is defensive with violence and passion, assertive of its mental individuality and all that is in agreement with it, preferred by its volition, adapted to its outlook, but aggressive against all that is contrary to its mental ego-structure or unacceptable to its personal intellectuality; the other kind is enthusiastic for new things, passionate, insistent, impetuous, often mobile beyond measure, inconstant and ever restless, governed in its idea not by truth and light but by the zest of intellectual battle and movement and adventure.” The third, “sattwic” type of mentality is seated in the mind, and seeks knowledge and light, within the limits of the mental sphere, but has its own mental ego which needs to be noted.

In the next post we shall interface these three types to the limitations and potential for error that can arise through their action.

Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine, Book 2, Part I, Chapter 14, The Origin and Remedy of Falsehood, Error, Wrong and Evil