Impersonality and Personality

There is no inherent opposition between the “impersonal” and the “personal”. What we see as opposition is essentially due to the limitations of our mental consciousness as we try to classify and pigeonhole states of consciousness and action.

Sri Aurobindo clarifies that in fact, these two aspects are One Reality, and can be looked at as “obverse and reverse” of that One. The universal forces of being and manifestation have an aspect of impersonality and can be looked at as larger and more transcendent than their manifestation in any particular individual. Personality represents the unique “selection” of these universal principles for manifestation in a particular form. Sri Aurobindo provides some examples: “Love is the nature of the lover, courage the nature of the warrior; love and courage are impersonal and universal forces or formulations of the cosmic Force, they are the Spirit’s powers of its universal being and nature. The Person is the Being supporting what is thus impersonal, holding it in himself as his, his nature of self; he is that which is the lover and warrior.” Regardless of which of the universal forces are collected together to form the essence of any personality, there is no inherent ultimate limitation of the real Person which is larger and more inclusive than the specific chosen attributes in a particular manifestation.

“In the formed limited individual it is his personal expression of what is impersonal, his personal appropriation of it, we may say, so as to have a material with which he can build a significant figure of himself in manifestation. In his formless unlimited self, his real being, the true Person or Purusha, he is not that, but contains in himself boundless and universal possibilities; but he gives to them, as the divine Individual, his own turn in the manifestation so that each among the Many is a unique self of the one Divine. The Divine, the Eternal, expresses himself as existence, consciousness, bliss, wisdom, knowledge, love, beauty , and we can think of him as these impersonal and universal powers of himself, regard them as the nature of the Divine and Eternal; we can say that God is Love, God is Wisdom, God is Truth or Righteousness: but he is not himself an impersonal state or abstract of states or qualities; he is the Being, at once absolute, universal and individual. If we look at it from this basis, there is, very clearly, no opposition, no incompatibility, no impossibility of a co-existence or one-existence of the Impersonal and the Person; they are each other, live in one another, melt into one another, and yet in a way can appear as if different ends, sides, obverse and reverse of the same Reality.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine, Book 2, Part 2, Chapter 27, “The Gnostic Being”