European culture takes credit for ‘discoveries’ that it makes despite the fact that societies in other parts of the world have long known about these things. Thus, Europeans ‘discovered’ America while disregarding the fact that it was already populated with numerous tribes of indigenous people, and had been visited by Scandanavian Vikings much earlier than the European “discovery”.

Similarly, European psychological researchers have, over the last 100-200 years ‘discovered’ the existence of a subconscious level that is the storehouse of memories, traumas, experiences, etc. which can trigger habits, complexes, traumatic reactions, or unexpected uprisings or outbursts of feelings, emotions, or responses that were outside the awareness or control of the conscious mind. An entire science of Western psychology has arisen, with key proponents, such as Freud, fixating on the role of embedded complexes in developing the personality and life experience of individuals, and the ability of dreams to provide clues to what is taking place in this subconscious realm. C.G. Jung went further by showing that certain archetypal experiences were actually part of a ‘collective unconscious’ that could arise across numerous individuals under a variety of circumstances. Some researchers began to experiment with ideas such as operant conditioning, or Pavlovian conditioning by attempting to ‘train’ or ‘influence’ the subconscious elements of the being to respond automatically to certain externally generated stimuli, and more recently many have touted the idea that through the use of subliminal suggestions, sleep induction of information, and the power of affirmations substantial changes can be effected in the subconscious level and thus, lead to powerful results for the external life and personality.

All of these things, however, have long been known and described in one form or another in ancient cultures that have focused on tapping into the expanded ranges of consciousness outside the conscious waking level that we utilize as we operate in the external world. In particular, various yogic disciplines have developed forms of this knowledge and put much of it into practice. Sri Aurobindo, in particular, codified this into a clearly defined overview of the various levels of consciousness in man, and he has described the subconscious level and its action at some length.

Sri Aurobindo notes: “… we mean by the subconscient that quite submerged part of our being in which there is no wakingly conscious and coherent thought, will or feeling or organized reaction, but which yet receives obscurely the impressions of all things and stores them up in itself and from it too all sorts of stimuli, of persistent habitual movements, crudely repeated or disguised in strange forms can surge up into dream or into the waking nature. For if these impressions rise up most in dream in an incoherent and disorganized manner, they can also and do rise up into our waking consciousness as a mechanical repetition of old thoughts, old mental, vital and physical habits or an obscure stimulus to sensations, actions, emotions which do not originate in or from our conscious thought or will and are even often opposed to its perceptions, choice or dictates. In the subconscient there is an obscure mind full of obstinate Sanskaras, impressions, associations, fixed notions, habitual reactions formed by our past, an obscure vital full of the seeds of habitual desires, sensations and nervous reactions, a most obscure material which governs much that has to do with the condition of the body. It is largely responsible for our illnesses; chronic or repeated illnesses are indeed mainly due to the subconscient and its obstinate memory and habit of repetition of whatever has impressed itself upon the body-consciousness. But this subconscient must be clearly distinguished from the subliminal parts of our being such as the inner or subtle physical consciousness, the inner vital or inner mental; for these are not at all obscure or incoherent or ill-organized, but only veiled from our surface consciousness. Our surface constantly receives something, inner touches, communications or influences, from these sources but does not know for the most part whence they come.”

Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, The Hidden Forces of Life, Ch. 2 Hidden Forces Within, pp. 35-36

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 20 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.
YouTube Channel
More information about Sri Aurobindo can be found at
The US editions and links to e-book editions of Sri Aurobindo’s writings can be found at