As the individual confronts the various impulses, emotions, drives and thoughts that arise and drive his life and action, he begins to recognise that there are elements that are not easily identified on the surface, and that there is something that cannot quite be grabbed with the intellect, which represents a motive spring for many of the impulses that he contends with. When he tries to control these drives, habits or impulses through the use of mental reasoning or will-power, he soon finds that they nevertheless have their impact and in many cases, the individual finds himself doing things or experiencing feelings that he does not want to have. There is a ‘conflict’ within that needs to be understood and resolved.

This has led to the development, in the field of psychology of what is termed ‘psychoanalysis’, which essentially explores the subconscient regions to find out from whence these hidden motive springs of impulse arise, and thereby to try to gain some control over them. The problem with this approach however is that dredging up the enormous amount of unfuffilled desires, urges, habitual reactions and bringing them to the surface tends to give them reign to openly focus the attention in these areas and actually may strengthen them to a great degree. Sri Aurobindo suggests a different approach, whereby the primary focus is on the higher aspirations and motives, thereby tuning the consciousness to powers, forces and directions that are supportive of the higher seeking of the individual, and through bringing the light and force of this higher purpose and direction into action, removing the energy and power of the lower powers and drives submerged in the subconscient.

Sri Aurobindo writes: “The subconscient is not the whole foundation of the nature; it is only the lower basis of the Ignorance and affects mostly the lower vital and the physical exterior consciousness and these again affect the higher parts of the nature. While it is well to see what it is and how it acts, one must not be too preoccupied with this dark side or this apparent aspect of the instrumental being. One should rather regard it as something not oneself, a mask of false nature imposed on the true being by the Ignorance. The true being is the inner with all its vast possibilities of reaching and expressing the Divine and especially the inmost, the soul, the psychic Purusha which is always in its essence pure, divine, turned to all that is good and true and beautiful. The exterior being has to be taken hold of by the inner being and turned into an instrument no longer of the upsurging of the ignorant subconscient Nature, but of the Divine. It is by remembering always that and opening the nature upwards that the Divine Consciousness can be reached and descend from above into the whole inner and outer existence, mental, vital, physical, the subconscient, the subliminal, all that we overtly or secretly are. This should be the main preoccupation. To dwell solely on the subconscient and the aspect of imperfection creates depression and should be avoided. One has to keep a right balance and stress on the positive side most, recognising the other but only to reject and change it.”

Sri Aurobindo and The Mother, Living Within: The Yoga Approach to Psychological Health and Growth, Disturbances of the Subconscient, How to Deal with the Subconscient, pp. 108-109

Author's Bio: 

Santosh has been studying Sri Aurobindo's writings since 1971 and has a daily blog at and podcast at He is author of 16 books and is editor-in-chief at Lotus Press. He is president of Institute for Wholistic Education, a non-profit focused on integrating spirituality into daily life.