Robert Louis Stevenson wrote what is one of the classics in Western literature, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. The tale is one of a scientist who experiments with potions, one of which releases the dark side of his being, the suppressed inhibitions and dark urges of murder, lust, etc., while when he returns to the state of the enlightened good doctor, he displays an educated, cultured and dedicated individual. These two aspects reside side by side within him and while, in this story, a potion is needed to trigger the changes, it is clear that this is a parable of human nature that responds to input, provocations or events that trigger the response of the deepest and darkest parts of human nature from time to time.

The author was deeply interested in exploring the mixed energies of dark and light forces in each individual and this was his way to objectify what he observed was taking place internally.

The Mother takes up this theme and, from the perspective of the yogic practitioner, suggests ways to adjust this balance, or even, remove the dark shadows, not just through suppression where they can spring forth at the first opportunity, but through complete removal or transformation of the drive that manifests in these forms.

The Mother observes: “This is the dark side. And so, the moment one sees it, if one looks at it and doesn’t say, ‘It is I’, if one says, ‘No, it is my shadow, it is the being I must throw out of myself’, one puts on it the light of the other part, one tries to bring them face to face; and with the knowledge and light of the other, one doesn’t try so much to convince — because that is very difficult — but one compels it to remain quiet… first to stand farther away, then one flings it very far awy so that it can no longer return — putting a great light on it. There are instances in which it is possible to change, but this is very rare. There are instances in which one can put upon this being — or this shadow — put upon it such an intense light that it transforms it, and it changes into what is the truth of your being.”

“But this is a rare thing…. It can be done, but it is rare. Usually, the best thing is to say, ‘No, this is not I! I don’t want it! I have nothing to do with this movement, it doesn’t exist for me, it is something contrary to my nature!’ And so, by dint of insisting and driving it away, finally one separates oneself from it.”

“But one must first be clear and sincere enough to see the conflict within oneself. Usually one doesn’t pay any attention to these things. One goes from one extreme to the other. You see, you can say, to put it in very simple words: one day I am good, the next day I am bad. And this seems quite natural…. Or even, sometimes for one hour you are good and the next hour you are wicked; or else, sometimes the whole day through one is good and suddenly one becomes wicked, for a minute very wicked, all the more wicked as one was good! Only, one doesn’t observe it, thoughts cross one’s mind, violent, bad, hateful things, like that… Usually one pays no attention to it. But this is what must be caught! As soon as it manifests, you must catch it like this (Mother makes a movement) with a very firm grip, and then hold it, hold it up to the light and say, ‘No! I don’t want you! I — don’t — want — you! I have nothing to do with this! You are going to get out of here, and you won’t return!”

Sri Aurobindo and The Mother, Living Within: The Yoga Approach to Psychological Health and Growth, Exercises for Growth and Mastery, Becoming Aware of the Shadow, pp. 139-143

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.