A Spiritual Person Beyond Personality

When we consider the concept of personality, we recognise a surface formulation that embodies certain characteristic patterns of thought, feeling, expression and action. There will be a certain relatively fixed form within which our surface being responds, while there may still be a certain amount of flexibility for this personality to adapt to changing circumstances and modify itself in the flow of forces. We can still see and acknowledge a framework that we can call the personality.

Sri Aurobindo distinguishes, other and separate from this manifested personality, a spiritual Person, a Self or Soul or Purusha. “But besides this flux and this fixity there is also a third and occult element, the Person behind of whom the personality is a self-expression; the Person puts forward the personality as his role, character, persona, in the present act of his long drama of manifested existence. But the Person is larger than his personality, and it may happen that this inner largeness overflows into the surface formation; the result is a self-expression of being which can no longer be described by fixed qualities, normalities of mood, exact lineaments, or marked out by any structural limits.”

This spiritual Person “is a power of being rather than a structure.” As such it can be felt and recognised even if not directly grasped in a fixity of personality. “The ordinary restricted personality can be grasped by a description of the characters stamped on its life and thought and action, its very definite surface building and expression of self…”

“But such a description would be pitifully inadequate to express the Person when its Power of Self within manifests more amply and puts forward its hidden daemonic force in the surface composition and the life. We feel ourselves in presence of a light of consciousness, a potency, a sea of energy, can distinguish and describe its free waves of action and quality, but not fix itself; and yet there is an impression of personality, the presence of a powerful being, a strong, high or beautiful recognisable Someone, a Person, not a limited creature of Nature but a Self or Soul, a Purusha. The gnostic Individual would be such an inner Person unveiled, occupying both the depths,–no longer self-hidden,–and the surface in a unified self-awareness; he would not be a surface personality partly expressive of a larger secret being, he would be not the wave but the ocean: he would be the Purusha, the inner conscious Existence self-revealed, and would have no need of a carved expressive mask or persona.
Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine, Book 2, Part 2, Chapter 27, “The Gnostic Being”

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