Immortality and the Mental & Vital Personalities

Having determined that the usual conception of immortality of the ego-personality is not realistic, it still remains to be explored whether and, if so, how, the evolved mental or vital individualities might attain some kind of immortality. Sri Aurobindo discusses these issues: “What our normal demand of survival asks for is a similar survival for our mind, our life, even our body; the dogma of the resurrection of the body attests to this last demand,–even as it has been the root of the age-long effort of man to discover the elixir of immortality or any means magical, alchemic or scientific to conquer physically the death of the body. But this aspiration could only succeed if the mind, life or body could put on something of the immortality and divinity of the indwelling Spirit.”

In the case of a highly evolved, complex and integrated mental personality, for instance, one could conceive of it surviving the death and dissolution of the body if it were identified with the inner mental Person and able to adapt itself flexibly to the changing needs of the evolving Soul in Time. This would overcome the need “to dissolve the old form of mind and create a new one in order to progress.” Similarly, a highly evolved surface vital being identified closely with the inner vital Person, and flexible enough to adapt to new and changing demands, might conceivably also survive the death of the body. “Our mind-nature and our life-nature could then be a continuous progression expression of the soul and not a nexus of successive formations preserved only in their essence. Our mental personality and life-personality would then subsist without dissolution from birth to birth; they would be in this sense immortal, persistently surviving, continuous in their sense of identity. This would be evidently an immense victory of soul and mind and life over the Inconscience and the limitations of material Nature.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine, Book 2, Part 2, Chapter 22, Rebirth and Other Worlds; Karma, the Soul and Immortality

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Immortality and the Ego Personality

When we generally speak of “immortality”, most of us imagine some kind of perpetuation of our current individual ego personality. The idea of what immortality may be, and what relationship it has to our current lifetime is never clearly defined in our minds. Some people more or less imagine that they are going to be reunited with their family after death or in some heaven beyond. Others conceive of some kind of other worlds or planes where they continue on, enjoying or suffering as their actions in this lifetime have caused; still others conceive of a persistent personality taking new births and continuing its immortal trek through the universe and Time. In all cases, there is more than a hint of a specific “John Smith” who remains “John Smith” now and into these future destinies or lifetimes.

Sri Aurobindo clarifies the question of “who” or “what” is Immortal: “it is that secret Spirit or divinity of Self in us which is imperishable, because it is unborn and eternal. The psychic entity within, its representative, the spiritual individual in us, is the Person that we are; but the “I” of this moment, the “I” of this life is only a formation, a temporary personality of this inner Person: it is one step of the many steps of our evolutionary change, and it serves its true purpose only when we pass beyond it to a farther step leading nearer to a higher degree of consciousness and being. It is the inner Person that survives death, even as it pre-exists before birth; for this constant survival is a rendering of the eternity of our timeless Spirit into the terms of Time.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine, Book 2, Part 2, Chapter 22, Rebirth and Other Worlds; Karma, the Soul and Immortality