The Slow and Difficult Work of Transforming the Lower Nature

Each part of the being has its own natural foundation and mode of response that is habitual and deeply ingrained. Just because the mind and even the heart begin to turn toward a spiritual ideal and feel the influence of the spiritual and overmental forces in terms of their orientation, it does not imply that the entire nature in all its parts is transformed instantly, overnight, or completely. What we know of as an individual personality is actually a complex amalgam of patterns and habits of the different parts of the being fused together in a more or less functional set of responses to circumstances. Some of the reactions are almost entirely unconditioned reflexes from the lower physical or vital basis, in fact. The higher forces have their effect. “But even this intervention of a new dynamic principle and this powerful imposition may take long to succeed; for the lower parts of the being have their own rights and, if they are to be truly transformed, they must be made to consent to their own transformation.” Supression or a forceful mastery of the lower parts tends to be partial and in most cases leads to a reaction that can be quite harmful to the long-term goal. Sri Aurobindo continues: “This is difficult to bring about because the natural propensity of each part of us is to prefer its own self-law, its dharma, however inferior, to a superior law or dharma which it feels to be not its own; it clings to its own consciousness or unconsciousness, its own impulsions and reactions, its own dynamisation of being, its own way of the delight of existence.” In fact, there is a tendency to become more entrenched when these ways are ways of pain and suffering! “for that too has acquired its own perverse and opposite taste, rasa, its pleasure of darkness and sorrow, its sadistic or masochistic interest in pain and suffering.”

Even if the consent is obtained from the lower parts in principle, they are still very much bound by their habitual, natural course of action and response. “A complete and radical change can only be brought about by bringing in persistently the spiritual light and intimiate experience of the spiritual truth, power, bliss into the recalcitrant elements until they too recognise that their own way of fulfilment lies there, that they are themselves a diminished power of the Spirit and can recover by this new way of being their own truth and integral nature.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine, Book 2, Part 2, Chapter 26, “The Ascent Towards Supermind”

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