The usual life of humanity is based in what Sri Aurobindo calls the “surface personality”. This is a construct centered around the ego consciousness, which interacts with and constantly reacts to the impressions and impulsions of the world. We take on the color of the reactions and become enmeshed in them. We become angry and react. We experience everything on the surface of our being and our consciousnes is focused outward.
The psychic transformation, the emergence of the soul at the center of our existence, and the connection of the soul with the universal and transcendent aspects of the divine, involves a shift of standpoint from this outer ego-centric personality to a deeper soul-essence that finds its basis and reference in the Oneness of the creation. This “true soul” (as contrasted with the “desire-soul” of the surface being), experiences a deep sense of calm, peace and equality which permeates the life and maintains a separation from the reactions of the surface personality, which can now be observed, as by a witness consciousness. Sri Aurobindo once said “live within, be not shaken by outward happenings”. This represents the shift of standpoint, for example, as we do not “become” anger, when it arises, but we “observe” the anger rising, and eventually, we can look on its rise dispassionately, and adjust our response to the situation for the soul’s perspective. This change takes place progressively over time and with practice, and as it takes hold, we are no longer limited by the reactions of the outer being.
Sri Aurobindo notes in The Life Divine: “But, for this change to arrive at its widest totality and profound completeness, the consciousness has to shift its centre and its static and dynamic position from the surface to the inner being; it is there that we must find the foundation for our thought, life and action. For to stand outside on our surface and to receive from the inner being and follow its intimations is not a sufficient transformation; one must cease to be the surface personality and become the inner Person, the Purusha…. It then becomes possible to pass through to the depths of our being and from the depths so reached a new consciousness can be formed, both behind the exterior self and in it, joining the depths to the surface. There must grow up within us or there must manifest a consciousness more and more open to the deeper and the higher being, more and more laid bare to the cosmic Self and Power and to what comes down from the Transcendence, turned to a higher Peace, permeable to a greater light, force and ecstasy, a consciousness that exceeds the small personality and surpasses the limited light and experience of the surface mind, the limited force and aspiration of the normal life-consciousness, the obscure and limited responsiveness of the body.”