We can understand the role of genetic predispositions in the formation of the physical body. The transmission of physical characteristics from generation to generation, the blending of dominant and recessive genetic traits and the atavistic background that led to the status of the genetic material at the time of conception are relatively well-recognised processes nowadays.

We then come to the question of the vital nature of the individual and how it comes about. While there is clearly a physical component to the vital energies of the individual, the specific traits and predispositions come through the mechanisms of vital transmission, which arise as a result of the vital forces active within the parents at the time of conception and during the gestation process, and then as developed through the family, friends, relatives, educational process, and societal forces that help shape the vital nature.

The first step is to recognise that along with the physical genetic material, there is a vital component that exists at the time of conception, based on the status of the parents and their focus. Some people undertake sexual activity without the intention of creating a child. In some cases, this occurs through failure of a birth control medium. In other cases it occurs through sexual union that occurs in a state of intoxication or other forms of distraction. Some sexual unions occur non-consensually and result in an unplanned pregnancy. To the extent that the child is conceived under such circumstances, a certain amount of wild vital energies are subtle transmitted. The parents, as the child gestates in the womb also contribute to the vital atmosphere that surrounds the child. Bouts of anger, lust, fear, all have their own subtle impact on the prenatal environment.

Once the child is born, there is then the overt influence of the rest of the social environment, through extended family, and eventually through friends, school and the influence of the overall psychological atmosphere of the society. A society grounded in fear, or greed, or lust as primary forces that motivate much of the social structure, will inevitably influence the child in terms of its values and the way it focuses its vital energies.

It is true, however, that it is possible for a conscious birth, focused and based in aspiraition can and does occur and in such instances, the positive influences also have an impact on the child and its formation and development. Such instances, while more rare than those that occur relatively unconsciously, can nevertheless provide a pathway forward for vital growth and development under the influence of the psychic being, avoiding much of the turmoil that the soul would otherwise undergo to reach such a state of consecration and aspiration against the tide of vital obstruction or deflection which occurs through the noted unconscious influences at work generally.

A disciple inquires: “Is the vital distorted from the very birth?”

The Mother answers: “If your birth has not been accidental, you could very well think that there was no distortion, but what you are at your birth is most of the time almost absolutely what your mother and father have made you, and also, through them, what your grandparents have made you. There are certain vital traditions in families and, besides, there is the state of consciousness in which you were formed, conceived — the moment at which you were conceived — and that, not once in a million times does that state conform to true aspiration; and it is only a true aspiration which could make your vital pure of all mixture, make the vital element attracted for the formation of the being a pure element, free from all contagion; I mean that if a psychic being enters there, it can gather elements favourable to its growth. In the world as it is, things are so mixed up, have been so mixed up in every way, that it is almost impossible to have elements of the vital sufficiently pure not to suffer the contagion of all other contaminated beings.”

Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, Our Many Selves: Practical Yogic Psychology, Chapter 6, Some Answers and Explanations, pp. 149-150

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 19 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.