Integral Yoga Literature - By Sri Aurobindo

Selections from the Sri Aurobindo Birth Centenary Library

from Volume 18 and 19, The Life Divine


The contents of this document are copyright 1972, Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust, Pondicherry, India. You may make a digital copy or printout of this text for your personal, non-commercial use under the condition that you copy this document without modifications and in its entirety, including this copyright notice.

Book Two, Chapter Twenty-Seven, "The Gnostic Being" (Part 4 of 5)

A supramental gnostic individual will be a spiritual Person, but not a personality in the sense of a pattern of being marked out by a settled combination of fixed qualities, a determined character; he cannot be that since he is a conscious expression of the universal and the transcendent. But neither can his being be a capricious impersonal flux throwing up at random waves of various form, waves of personality as it pours through Time. Something like this may be felt in men who have no strong centralising Person in their depths but act from a sort of confused multi-personality according to whatever element in them becomes prominent at the time; but the gnostic consciousness is a consciousness of harmony and self-knowledge and self-mastery and would not present such a disorder. There are, indeed, varying notions of what constitutes personality and what constitutes character. In one view personality is regarded as a fixed structure of recognisable qualities expressing a power of being; but another idea distinguishes personality and character, personality as a flux of self-expressive or sensitive and responsive being, character as a formed fixity of Nature's structure. But flux of nature and fixity of nature are two aspects of being neither of which, nor indeed both together, can be a definition of personality. For in all men there is a double element, the unformed though limited flux of being or Nature out of which personality is fashioned and the personal formation out of that flux. The formation may become rigid and ossify or it may remain sufficiently plastic to change constantly and develop; but it develops out of the formative flux, by a modification or enlargement or remoulding of the personality, not, ordinarily, by an abolition of the formation already made and the substitution of a new form of being, -- this can only occur in an abnormal turn or a supernormal conversion. 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. But neither is it a mere indistinguishable, quite amorphous and unseizable flux: though its acts of nature can be characterised but not itself, still it can be distinctively felt, followed in its action, it can be recognised, though it cannot easily be described; for it is a power of being rather than a structure. 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; even if we may miss whatever was not so expressed, that might seem to detract little from the general adequacy of our understanding, because the element missed is usually little more than an amorphous raw material, part of the flux, not used to form a significant part of the personality. 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.

This, then, would be the nature of the gnostic Person, an infinite and universal being revealing, -- or, to our mental ignorance, suggesting, -- its eternal self through the significant form and expressive power of an individual and temporal self-manifestation. But the individual nature-manifestation, whether strong and distinct in outline or multitudinous and protean but still harmonic, would be there as an index of the being, not as the whole being: that would be felt behind, recognisable but indefinable, infinite. The consciousness also of the gnostic Person would be an infinite consciousness throwing up forms of self-expression, but aware always of its unbound infinity and universality and conveying the power and sense of its infinity and universality even in the finiteness of the expression, -- by which, moreover, it would not be bound in the next movement of farther self-revelation. But this would still not be an unregulated unrecognisable flux but a process of self-revelation making visible the inherent truth of its powers of existence according to the harmonic law natural to all manifestation of the Infinite.

All the character of the life and action of the gnostic being would arise self-determined out of this nature of his gnostic individuality. There could be in it no separate problem of an ethical or any similar content, any conflict of good and evil. There could indeed be no problem at all, for problems are the creations of mental ignorance seeking for knowledge and they cannot exist in a consciousness in which knowledge arises self-born and the act is self-born out of the knowledge, out of a pre-existent truth of being conscious and self-aware. An essential and universal spiritual truth of being manifesting itself, freely fulfilling itself in its own nature and self-effectuating consciousness, a truth of being one in all even in an infinite diversity of its truth and making all to be felt as one, would also be in its very nature an essential and universal good manifesting itself, fulfilling itself in its own nature and self-effectuating consciousness, a truth of good one in all and for all even in an infinite diversity of its good. The purity of the eternal Self-existence would pour itself into all the activities, making and keeping all things pure; there could be no ignorance leading to wrong will and falsehood of the steps, no separative egoism inflicting by its ignorance and separate contrary will harm on oneself or harm on others, self-driven to a wrong dealing with one's own soul, mind, life or body or a wrong dealing with the soul, mind, life, body of others, which is the practical sense of all human evil. To rise beyond virtue and sin, good and evil is an essential part of the Vedantic idea of liberation, and there is in this correlation a self-evident sequence. For liberation signifies an emergence into the true spiritual nature of being where all action is the automatic self-expression of that truth and there can be nothing else. In the imperfection and conflict of our members there is an effort to arrive at a right standard of conduct and to observe it; that is ethics, virtue, merit, punya, to do otherwise is sin, demerit, papa. Ethical mind declares a law of love, a law of justice, a law of truth, laws without number, difficult to observe, difficult to reconcile. But if oneness with others, oneness with truth is already the essence of the realised spiritual nature, there is no need of a law of truth or of love, -- the law, the standard has to be imposed on us now because there is in our natural being an opposite force of separateness, a possibility of antagonism, a force of discord, ill-will, strife. All ethics is a construction of good in a Nature which has been smitten with evil by the powers of darkness born of the Ignorance, even as it is expressed in the ancient legend of the Vedanta. But where all is self-determined by truth of consciousness and truth of being, there can be no standard, no struggle to observe it, no virtue or merit, no sin or demerit of the nature. The power of love, of truth, of right will be there, not as a law mentally constructed but as the very substance and constitution of the nature and, by the integration of the being, necessarily also the very stuff and constituting nature of the action. To grow into this nature of our true being, a nature of spiritual truth and oneness, is the liberation attained by an evolution of the spiritual being: the gnostic evolution gives us the complete dynamism of that return to ourselves. Once that is done, the need of standards of virtue, dharmas, disappears; there is the law and self-order of the liberty of the Spirit, there can be no imposed or constructed law of conduct, dharma. All becomes a self-flow of spiritual self-nature, Swadharma of Swabhava.

Here we touch the kernel of the dynamic difference between life in the mental ignorance and life in the gnostic being and nature. It is the difference between an integral fully conscious being in full possession of its own truth of existence and working out that truth in its own freedom, free from all constructed laws, while yet its life is a fulfilment of all true laws of becoming in their essence of meaning, and an ignorant self-divided existence which seeks for its own truth and tries to construct its findings into laws and construct its life according to a pattern so made. All true law is the right motion and process of a reality, an energy or power of being in action fulfilling its own inherent movement self-implied in its own truth of existence. This law may be inconscient and its working appear to be mechanical, -- that is the character or, at least, the appearance of law in material Nature: it may be a conscious energy, freely determined in its action by the consciousness in the being aware of its own imperative of truth, aware of its plastic possibilities of self-expression of that truth, aware, always in the whole and at each moment in the detail, of the actualities it has to realise; this is the figure of the law of the Spirit. An entire freedom of the Spirit, an entire self-existent order self-creating, self-effectuating, self-secure in its own natural and inevitable movement, is the character of this dynamis of the gnostic Supernature.

At the summit of being is the Absolute with its absolute freedom of infinity but also its absolute truth of itself and power of that truth of being; these two things repeat themselves in the life of the Spirit in Supernature. All action there is the action of the supreme Self, the supreme Ishwara in the truth of the Supernature. It is at once the truth of the being of the self and the truth of the will of the Ishwara one with that truth -- a biune reality--which expresses itself in each individual gnostic being according to his supernature. The freedom of the gnostic individual is the freedom of his spirit to fulfil dynamically the truth of his being and the power of his energies in life; but this is synonymous with an entire obedience of his nature to the truth of Self manifested in his existence and to the will of the Divine in him and all. This All-Will is one in each gnostic individual and in many gnostic individuals and in the conscious All which holds and contains them in itself; it is conscious of itself in each gnostic being and is there one with his own will, and at the same time he is conscious of the same Will, the same Self and Energy variously active in all. Such a gnostic consciousness and gnostic will aware of its oneness in many gnostic individuals, aware of its concordant totality and the meaning and meeting-point of its diversities, must assure a symphonic movement, a movement of unity, harmony, mutuality in the action of the whole. It assures at the same time in the individual a unity and symphonic concord of all the powers and movements of his being. All energies of being seek their self-expression and at their highest seek their absolute; this they find in the supreme Self, and they find at the same time their supreme oneness, harmony and mutuality of united and common self-expression in its all-seeing and all-uniting dynamic power of self-determination and self-effectuation, the supramental gnosis. A separate self-existent being could be at odds with other separate beings, at variance with the universal All in which they co-exist, in a state of contradiction with any supreme Truth that was willing its self-expression in the universe; this is what happens to the individual in the Ignorance, because he takes his stand on the consciousness of a separate individuality. There can be a similar conflict, discord, disparity between the truths, the energies, qualities, powers, modes of being that act as separate forces in the individual and in the universe. A world full of conflict, a conflict in ourselves, a conflict of the individual with the world around him are normal and inevitable features of the separative consciousness of the Ignorance and our ill-harmonised existence. But this cannot happen in the gnostic consciousness because there each finds his complete self and all find their own truth and the harmony of their different motions in that which exceeds them and of which they are the expression. In the gnostic life, therefore, there is an entire accord between the free self-expression of the being and his automatic obedience to the inherent law of the supreme and universal Truth of things. These are to him interconnected sides of the one Truth; it is his own supreme truth of being which works itself out in the whole united truth of himself and things in one Supernature. There is also an entire accord between all the many and different powers of the being and their action; for even those that are contradictory in their apparent motion and seem in our mental experience of them to enter into conflict, fit themselves and their action naturally into each other, because each has its self-truth and its truth of relation to the others and this is self-found and self-formed in the gnostic Supernature.

In the supramental gnostic nature there will therefore be no need of the mental rigid way and hard style of order, a limiting standardisation, an imposition of a fixed set of principles, the compulsion of life into one system or pattern which is alone valid because it is envisaged by mind as the one right truth of being and conduct. For such a standard cannot include and such a structure cannot take up into itself the whole of life, nor can it adapt itself freely to the pressure of the All-life or to the needs of the evolutionary Force; it has to escape from itself or to escape from its self-constructed limits by its own death, by disintegration or by an intense conflict and revolutionary disturbance. Mind has thus to select its limited rule and way of life, because it is itself bound and limited in vision and capacity; but gnostic being takes up into itself the whole of life and existence, fulfilled, transmuted into the harmonic self-expression of a vast Truth one and diverse, infinitely one, infinitely multiple. The knowledge and action of the gnostic being would have the wideness and plasticity of an infinite freedom. This knowledge would grasp its objects as it went in the largeness of the whole; it would be bound only by the integral truth of the whole and the complete and inmost truth of the object, but not by the formed idea or fixed mental symbols by which the mind is caught and held and confined in them so as to lose the freedom of its knowledge. The entire activity also would be unbound by an obligation of unelastic rule or by the obligation of a past state or action or by its compelling consequence, Karma; it would have the sequent but self-guided and self-evolving plasticity of the Infinite acting directly upon its own finites. This movement will not create a flux or chaos, but a liberated and harmonic Truth-expression; there would be a free self-determination of the spiritual being in a plastic entirely conscious nature.

In the consciousness of the Infinite individuality does not break up nor circumscribe cosmicity, cosmicity does not contradict transcendence. The gnostic being living in the consciousness of the Infinite will create his own self-manifestation as an individual, but he will do so as a centre of a larger universality and yet at the same time a centre of the transcendence. A universal individual, all his action would be in harmony with the cosmic action, but, owing to his transcendence, it would not be limited by a temporary inferior formulation or at the mercy of any or every cosmic force. His universality would embrace even the Ignorance around him in its larger self, but, while intimately aware of it, he would not be affected by it: he would follow the greater law of his transcendent individuality and express its gnostic truth in his own way of being and action. His life would be a free harmonic expression of the self; but, since his highest self would be one with the being of the Ishwara, a natural divine government of his self-expression by the Ishwara, by his highest self, and by the Supernature, his own supreme nature, would automatically bring into the knowledge, the life, the action a large and unbound but perfect order. The obedience of his individual nature to the Ishwara and the Supernature would be a natural consonance and indeed the very condition of the freedom of the self, since it would be an obedience to his own supreme being, a response to the Source of all his existence. The individual nature would be nothing separate, it would be a current of the Supernature. All antinomy of the Purusha and the Prakriti, that curious division and unbalance of the Soul and Nature which afflicts the Ignorance, would be entirely removed; for the nature would be the outflowing of the self-force of the Person and the Person would be the outflowing of the supreme Nature, the supramental power of being of the Ishwara. It is this supreme truth of his being, an infinitely harmonic principle, that would create the order of his spiritual freedom, an authentic, automatic and plastic order.

In the lower existence the order is automatic, the binding of Nature complete, her groove firm and imperative: the cosmic Consciousness-Force evolves a pattern of Nature and its habitual mould or fixed round of action and obliges the infrarational being to live and act according to the pattern and in the mould or round made for it. Mind in man starts with this prearranged pattern and routine, but, as it evolves, it enlarges the design and expands the mould and tries to replace this fixed unconscious or half-conscious law of automatism by an order based on ideas and significances and accepted life-motives, or it attempts an intelligent standardisation and a framework determined by rational purpose, utility and convenience. There is nothing really binding or permanent in man's knowledge-structures or his life-structures; but still he cannot but create standards of thought, knowledge, personality, life, conduct and, more or less consciously and completely, base his existence on them or, at least, try his best to frame his life in the ideative cadre of his chosen or accepted dharmas. In the passage to the spiritual life the supreme ideal held up is, on the contrary, not law, but liberty in the Spirit; the Spirit breaks through all formulas to find its self and, if it has still to be concerned with expression, it must arrive at the liberty of a free and true instead of an artificial expression, a true and spontaneous spiritual order. ``Abandon all dharmas, all standards and rules of being and action, and take refuge in Me alone'', is the summit rule of the highest existence held up by the Divine Being to the seeker. In the seeking for this freedom, in the liberation from constructed law into law of self and spirit, in the casting away of the mental control in order to substitute for it the control of the spiritual Reality, an abandonment of the lower constructed truth of mind for the higher essential truth of being, it is possible to pass through a stage in which there is an inner freedom but a lack of outer order, -- an action in the flux of nature childlike or inert like a leaf lying passive or driven by the wind or even incoherent or extravagant in outer semblance. It is possible also to arrive at a temporary ordered spiritual expression of the self which is sufficient for the stage one can reach for a time or in this life; or it may be a personal order of self-expression valid according to the norm of what one has already realised of the spiritual truth but afterwards changing freely by the force of spirituality to express the yet larger truth that one goes on to realise. But the supramental gnostic being stands in a consciousness in which knowledge is self-existent and manifests itself according to the order self-determined by the Will of the Infinite in the Supernature. This self-determination according to a self-existent knowledge replaces the automatism of Nature and the standards of Mind by the spontaneity of a Truth self-aware and self-active in the very grain of the existence.

In the gnostic being this self-determining knowledge freely obedient to self-truth and the total truth of Being would be the very law of his existence. In him Knowledge and Will become one and cannot be in conflict; Truth of spirit and life become one and cannot be at variance: in the self-effectuation of his being there can be no strife or disparity or divergence between the spirit and the members. The two principles of freedom and order, which in mind and life are constantly representing themselves as contraries or incompatibles, though they have no need to be that if freedom is guarded by knowledge and order based upon truth of being, are in the supermind consciousness native to each other and even fundamentally one. This is so because both are inseparable aspects of the inner spiritual truth and therefore their determinations are one; they are inherent in each other, for they arise from an identity and therefore in action coincide in a natural identity. The gnostic being does not in any way or degree feel his liberty infringed by the imperative order of his thoughts or actions, because that order is intrinsic and spontaneous; he feels both his liberty and the order of his liberty to be one truth of his being. His liberty of knowledge is not a freedom to follow falsehood or error, for he does not need like the mind to pass through the possibility of error in order to know, -- on the contrary, any such deviation would be a departure from his plenitude of the gnostic self, it would be a diminution of his self-truth and alien and injurious to his being; for his freedom is a freedom of light, not of darkness. His liberty of action is not a license to act upon wrong will or the impulsions of the Ignorance, for that too would be alien to his being, a restriction and diminution of it, not a liberation. A drive for fulfilment of falsehood or wrong will would be felt by him, not as a movement towards freedom, but as a violence done to the liberty of the Spirit, an invasion and imposition, an inroad upon his Supernature, a tyranny of some alien Nature.

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Last modified on Nov. 8, 1995