The Complex Amalgam of Our Outer Nature and Actions

The personality that a human being puts forth and acts upon is not a harmonised, ordered and focused single personality organised around a central purpose, but rather, a complex aggregate made up of impulses, thoughts, feelings, instincts, and sensations stemming from the various parts of our being, the mental, emotional, vital and physical elements, with potentially some stirring of the inner psychic providing further intimations. We try to harmonise these disparate impulses by our mental will and understanding, but rarely succeed more than to a small degree, and much of what we believe to be our own conscious choice in action is in reality the buffeting of our mind and will by these varied forces. Sri Aurobindo discusses these issues as important elements in our self-finding and increasing understanding of the inner nature we are meant to eventually harness to the evolutionary development. “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 hm 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.”

Sri Aurobindo concludes that the mastery sought over this complexity can only be very imperfectly developed by the surface mind and will. “…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 expressions 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, Book 2, Part 2, Chapter 25, “The Triple Transformation”

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