The Nature and Action of the Soul in Man

Sri Aurobindo describes the soul: “It is the very nature of the soul or the psychic being to turn towards the Divine Truth as the sunflower to the sun; it accepts and clings to all that is divine or progressing towards divinity and draws back from all that is a perversion or a denial of it, from all that is false and undivine.”

It remains then to understand how to identify the soul within oneself, and how to align one’s thoughts, feelings and actions with the promptings of the soul. “…for the most part it is veiled in its inner sanctum and to reveal itself it has to call on the mind, the life-force and the physical consciousness and persuade them, as best they can, to express it…”

The soul’s promptings are subtle and easily overpowered by the drives and impulsions of the vital being. It grows in strength each time its voice is heeded, and over time, it begins to form itself into a distinctive presence within, the psychic being. “This soul is obliged to accept the human mental, emotive, sensational life as it is, its relations, its activities, its cherished forms and figures; it has to labour to disengage and increase the divine element in all this relative truth mixed with continual falsifying error, this loved turned to the uses of the animal body or the satisfaction of the vital ego, this life of an average manhood shot with rare and pale glimpses of Godhead and the darker luridities of the demon and the brute.”

The soul is not misled by these deformations, weaknesses or failures of the outer nature. “Unerring in the essence of its will, it is obliged often under the pressure of its instruments to submit to mistakes of action, wrong placement of feeling, wrong choice of person, errors in the exact form of its will, in the circumstances of its expression of the infallible inner ideal. Yet is there a divination within it which makes it a surer guide than the reason or than even the highest desire, and through apparent errors and stumblings its voice can still lead better than the precise intellect and the considering mental judgment.”

Some consider what we call conscience to be the voice of the soul, but Sri Aurobindo distinguishes this. “…that is only a mental and often conventional erring substitute; it is a deeper and more seldom heard call; yet to follow it when heard is wisest: even, it is better to wander at the call of one’s soul than to go apparently straight with the reason and the outward moral mentor.”

In the end, the seeker’s path must eventually put the soul at the center of the aspiration: “But it is only when the life turns towards the Divine that the soul can truly come forward and impose its power on the outer members; for, itself a spark of the Divine, to grow in flame towards the Divine is its true life and its very reason of existence.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Part One: The Yoga of Divine Works, Chapter 5, The Ascent of the Sacrifice-1, The Works of Knowledge–The Psychic Being, pp. 144-145

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