We are used to superimposing our higher intellectual control on the physical mind and its operations. The physical mind still acts, but we generally limit its application through this process. At the same time, however, we do not consciously pay attention to its action or the impact of that action on our overall ability to understand and function in our lives.

The physical mind is a very rudimentary instrument, with a primary initial purpose of ensuring solidity of our position in the world. It focuses on our physical surroundings and our ability to respond and utilize those surroundings. When kept in balance by our other functions of intellect, it can be an important element to ensure perfection and completeness of what we do. When it gets out of balance, it can hold up everything with its fears, doubts and reservations.

The Mother writes: “… the truth is that the physical mind is truly completely stupid! You can prove it very easily. It is constructed probably as a kind of control, and in order to make sure that things are done as they ought to be. I think that this is its normal work. … But it has made it a habit to doubt everything.”

“I think I have already told you about the small experiment I made one day. I removed my control and left the control to the physical mind — it is the physical mind which doubts. So I made the following experiment: I went into a room, then came out of the room and closed the door. I had decided to close the door; and when I came to another room, this mind, the material mind, the physical mind, you see, said, ‘Are you sure you have locked the door?’ Now, I did not control, you know… I said, ‘Very well, I obey it!’ I went back to see. I observed that the door was closed. I came back. As soon as I couldn’t see the door any longer, it told me, ‘Have you verified properly?’ So I went back again…. And this went on till I decided: ‘Come now, that’s enough, isn’t it? Closed or not, I am not going back any more to see!’ This could have gone on the whole day. It is made like that. It stops being like that only when a higher mind, the rational mind tells it, ‘Keep quiet!’ Otherwise it goes on indefinitely…. So, if by ill-luck you are centred there, in this mind, even the things you know higher up as quite true, even things of which you have a physical proof — like that of the closed door, it doubts, it will doubt, because it is built of doubt.”

Sri Aurobindo and The Mother, Living Within: The Yoga Approach to Psychological Health and Growth, Disturbances of Mind, Obsessive and Compulsive Thoughts, pp. 32-35

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 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.