The Rationale for the Existence of the Individual Soul

The status of the individual soul is one that has occupied, and perplexed, humanity for many millennia. Some have concluded that there is no individual soul; rather, that there are concatenations of energy and matter that create the form or the illusion of an individual soul-personality, which dissolves eventually, with the elements of that soul distributed into new forms and energies in the future. Others hold that the soul is created at some point by an omnipotent Creator God, but then survives eternally, although perhaps in some other place or circumstance, perhaps in some heaven beyond. Still others hold that the entire concept of the soul is an illusion that deceives humanity into a focus on the outer world, while the reality is the silent, infinite Brahman. The Sankhya philosophy holds that there are multiple Purushas, as otherwise when one is dissolved, the entire universe would dissolve with it, which obviously does not occur.

Sri Aurobindo observes that when we seek to find the underlying truth behind each of the observations of humanity, while reconciling all as One Brahman, we need to overcome the tendency toward mutually exclusive doctrines and find ways to understand the complexity. “…so complex is the Maya of the Infinite, there is a sense in which the view of all as parts of the whole, waves of the sea or even as in a sense separate entities becomes a necessary part of the integral Truth and the integral Knowledge. For if the Self is always one in all, yet we see that for the purposes at least of the cyclic manifestation it expresses itself in perpetual soul-forms which preside over the movements of our personality through the worlds and the aeons. This persistent soul-existence is the real Individuality which stands behind the constant mutations of the thing we call our personality. It is not a limited ego but a thing in itself infinite; it is in truth the Infinite itself consenting from one plane of its being to reflect itself in a perpetual soul-experience.”

“We are not a mere mass of changing mind-stuff, life-stuff, body-stuff taking different forms of mind and life and body from birth to birth, so that at no time is there any real self or conscious reason of existence behind all the flux or none except that Quiescent who cares for none of these things. There is a real and stable power of our being behind the constant mutation of our mental, vital and physical personality, and this we have to know and preserve in order that the Infinite may manifest Himself through it according to His will in whatever range and for whatever purpose of His eternal cosmic activity.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Part Two: The Yoga of Integral Knowledge, Chapter 11, The Modes of the Self, pp. 359-360

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