When we reflect on the individuation process for which the ego-consciousness is the instrument of Nature, we oftentimes go to the extreme of believing that we are totally separate, independent and free of outside influence. We believe that our individuality is a wall of separation that keeps us safe and free. This viewpoint however is a mistaken one.

The creation of a separate individuality is not a repudiation of the interconnected nature of all existence. Even a cursory observation assures us that we are intimately affected by everything that happens around us, that we are influenced by both observed and unobserved forces, and that the individuation we experience is tempered by the relation we have to the collectivity. Even those who escape to the forest, or the cave, or the desert do not escape the influence of external forces, nor the residual impacts of their birth, growth, education and experiences, nor the influence of factors in their environment.

The goal of conscious awareness is not to do away with these influences, but to allow one to manage their impacts, choose consciously from among the numerous options that are available at each moment, and to avoid the worst impacts that can occur when one is not aware of the power and influence of the forces acting upon one.

The Mother notes: “You must also understand that you are not separate individualities, that life is a constant exchange of forces, of consciousnesses, of vibrations, of movements of all kinds. It is as in a crowd, you see: when everyone pushes all go forward, and when all recede, everyone recedes. It is the same thing in the inner world, in your consciousness. There are all the time forces and influences acting and reacting upon you, it is like a gas in the atmosphere, and unless you are quite awake, these things enter into you, and it is only when they have gone well in and come out as if they came from you, that you become aware of them. How many times people meet those who are nervous, angry, in a bad mood, and themselves become nervous, angry, moody, just like that, without quite knowing why. Why is it that when you play against certain people you play very well, but when you play against others you cannot play? And those very quiet people, not at all wicked, who suddenly become furious when they are in a furious crowd! And no one knows who has started it: it is something that went past and swept off the consciousness. There are people who can let out vibrations like this and others respond without knowing why. Everything is like that, from the smallest to the biggest things.”

“To be individualised in a collectivity, one must be absolutely conscious of oneself. And of which self? — the Self which is above all intermixture, that is, what I call the Truth of your being. And as long as you are not conscious of the Truth of your being, you are moved by all kinds of things, without taking any note of it at all. Collective thought, collective suggestions are a formidable influence which act constantly on individual thought. And what is extraordinary is that one does not notice it. One believes that one thinks ‘like that’, but in truth it is the collectivity which thinks ‘like that’. The mass is always inferior to the individual. Take individuals with similar qualities, of similar categories, well, when they are alone these individuals are at least two degrees better than people of the same category in a crowd. There is a mixture of obscurities, a mixture of unconsciousness, and inevitably you slip into this unconsciousness. To escape this there is but one means: to become conscious of oneself, more and more conscious and more and more attentive.”

Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, Our Many Selves: Practical Yogic Psychology, Chapter 4, Becoming Conscious, pp. 117-119

Author's Bio: 

Santosh has been studying Sri Aurobindo's writings since 1971 and has a daily blog at http://sriaurobindostudies.wordpress.com and podcast at https://anchor.fm/santosh-krinsky He is author of 17 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.