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The concept of the psychic being has received a special treatment in the thought of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother. The significance given here to the term psychic being is not to be found in any other philosophy, Eastern or Western. In the west the psyche usually means the "soul or spirit" that is not patent to the eyes, that is distinct from the body. Or it is the mind functioning as the composite centre of thought, feeling, and action; this is something like a combination of what we call the mental and vital beings. In India also the precise concept of the psychic being is not contained in any of the traditional philosophies. Though it may be asked whether the psychic being, which plays such a central role in the spiritual evolution of man, is not the same as the Atman, the Self, the Soul, it is not possible to answer simply yes or no.
To give an adequate idea of what the psychic being means we need to consider the origin of creation. When the Divine Spirit decided to manifest, the upanishad describes, a million sparks sprang out of the central Fire, each spark being a portion of that Divine Spirit. Each started out with a truth-idea to realize along its own line of fulfillment. Now, these millions of emanations from the Divine Spirit choose their own lines of manifestation, and each such spark stations itself at the head of its line. In the philosophy of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, this central portion of Divinity presiding over the line of each manifestation is called the Jivatman. It is the Divine Self indeed, but the Self individualized for the purpose of manifestation. You can imagine that there are millions of such individuations of the Self, yet the Self remains one. For purposes of creation or expression, it is formulated as so many centres of manifestation.
At the head of each manifestation - here we will consider only each human manifestation - there is, then this Jivatman. Standing above the evolution, it is not involved in it. It presides over the evolution of the truth-idea with which it is concerned from above. Now, in the course of evolution, the Jivatman projects a small portion of itself, a deputy as it were, as a spark. This spark of the Divine Self that is presiding over it, is called the psychic essence. It is the soul substance. It can be imaged as a small ray which from birth to birth gathers about it the stuff of experience and develops a shape, and gradually develops into an entity and then into a being. This evolution of the psychic essence into the psychic being is a fundamental part of human evolution.
Is there a difference between the soul and the psychic being? That part of the soul which participates in evolution is the psychic being. The part which does not involve itself in evolution is a witness, it hold itself aloof; that portion of the soul is not the psychic. The soul as involved in manifestation is the psychic being. The psychic being is never stationary; it grows, and to develop is its nature.
Where is it situated precisely? The psychic essence is at the core of the being. As an essence, one cannot feel the psychic as such, but one can begin to feel something when it acquires a certain individuality. The precise location is behind the cardiac centre, what is called the heart-centre in yoga. Behind the point of juncture of the vital from below and the mind from above, is the place of the psychic being. The psychic being may be called the growing Divine in the individual. Just as there is a distinction between the jivatman above and the psychic being within the evolution, a distinction has also to be made between this evolving Divine entity in the human form and what the Gita describes as the Lord stationed in the heart of all creatures, who turns them round and round mounted on a machine by his Maya. That Lord is somewhere still deeper than the psychic. The psychic being may be looked upon as a living representative of the Divine Lord, but it is not itself the Divine Lord.
Now, what exactly does the psychic being represent, beyond saying that it represents the Divine? For everything on earth, everything in evolution, represents the Divine. Sri Aurobindo has explained that just as matter is a projection, a representation of the sheer Existence above, just as the life-force is a projection of the Consciousness - Force, and just as the mind is a projection of the Supermind, the psychic is a projection of the Ananda, the Divine's principle of Delight and Love. The growth of the psychic is the efflorescence of joy, happiness and love. It is natural to the psychic being to be conscious of the parent Divine from which it is derived. The psychic being is always the Bhakta; devotion and love are as natural to it as breathing is to us. When a ray from the psychic reaches the surface of our external being, we are filled with a causeless joy, we become aware of the vast Divinity around us, we begin to see something auspicious, something holy in others recognize the infinite in Nature around us.
When the psychic influence begins to take shape and organizes itself increasingly in an individual, he awakes to the existence of spiritual life. man begins to question and to be dissatisfied with the ordinary life he is leading; he wonders whether there is not a greater and deeper reality more satisfying.
For the spiritual seeker it is not the mind, not the vital, not the physical body, but the psychic element in him that is of paramount importance. Indeed the seeker does not really need to awake the psychic being for he has turned to the spirit, he has taken to spiritual life because the psychic is awakened and its putting gifts pressure upon his external being. What he has to do is, aspire that more and more of the psychic influence may reach out to his being, may make itself present and felt. He has to exert his will and always keep one part of his attention turned inward towards the psychic calling and drawing it out.
The psychic always manifests itself in the values or in the powers of purity, harmony, beauty, joy, truth. These are not things to be taught and cultivated. Once the psychic influence begins to come to the front, these are things that come naturally; one spontaneously recognizes the truth, feels the purity and rejects impurity, breathes out a causeless joy, emanates a feeling of oneness and love towards all creatures. It stands to reason that when the seeker aspires for and calls out the psychic being from within, it is incumbent upon him to create a milieu, an environment within and around himself that is conducive to the emergence of the psychic. Necessarily he has to eliminate from himself movements - mental, emotional, and physical - which are opposed to purity, harmony, happiness, goodwill, beauty. Any vestiges of ugliness, disorder or falsehood, repel the psychic light.
In answer to the aspiration of the seeker, the psychic being first sends its influence. The psychic being cannot emerge at once, it first sends its rays and exerts its influence to modify and shape the outer life. Sri Aurobindo describes this working in his great epic Savitri:
Our soul from its mysterious chamber acts;
Its influence pressing on our heart and mind
pushes them to exceed their mortal serves.
Its seeks for Good and Beauty and for God.
First it sends out its influence in temporary rays; then as the outer being becomes purified and thus ready, the influence stays longer, a habit of psychic functioning is created. And it is only at the end of a long, long journey of personal self-equipment and development that the psychic being comes fully forward and takes charge of the spiritual evolution of the individual.
It may be asked if the psychic is indispensable for spiritual attainment. If there is only the question of attainment of liberation, moksha, salvation, release form the world, indeed the psychic contact and influence is not necessary. The usual detachment of the soul, of the Self, is quite enough as the first and decisive step. But where there is the question of submitting the whole of human nature to the impact of transformation in terms of the Spirit, of transcending with the whole being the barriers of ignorance and falsehood, and growth into the realm of light and truth, the intermediary role of the psychic being is indispensable. The psychic being not only puts one in contact with the Divine Lord within but opens up the doors to the ascent above, to the higher realms of spiritual consciousness. It always gives the lead, it holds the light for aspiring soul to scale the heights of the spirit. And, as Sri Aurobindo points out, the psychic being is a direct representative of the transcendent Divine on earth. Its agency, its intermediary is indispensable. He writes in Savitri:
Earth must transform herself and equal Heaven.
Or Heaven descend into earth's mortal state.
But for such vast spiritual change to be,
Out of the mystic cavern in mans's heart
The heavenly Psyche must put off her veil
And step into common nature's crowded rooms
And stand uncovered in that nature's front
And rule its thoughts and fill the body and life.
Thus far regarding the psychic being in the microcosm, in the individual. As in the individual, so in the universe. Just as the psychic principle or being is supporting from behind the veil the evolution of the individual from the nescient to the superconscient, from darkness to light, from death to immortality, through countless ages, births and deaths, similarly, in the worlds scheme also it is the psychic world that supports the terrestrial scheme. In the gradation of planes in the terrestrial scheme of manifestation, there is the physical world that we see, there is the life world which is not perceptible, there is the world of mind. Now this triple world in manifestation, the lower hemisphere as it is called, is supported at the back by the psychic world. It is in the psychic world that the evolution of souls, the progress of evolving beings is planned and directed.
The passage to that world is of interest. When a man dies on earth, first he sheds the physical body. He lives in his subtle-physical envelope. After the time which it takes for him to realize that he is dead, he looks round and finds himself in a subtle world which is a perfect replica of the physical world that he has left behind. That is the subtle.-physical world. Once he is free of those pulls which hold him to the earth - either by way of his own desire or the pulls of grief or attachment of those left behind - he leaves the subtle-physical world and goes to the vital world. There it is a world of desire. The karma that has been forged on earth by his vital being, the desires, sensations, ambitions, are all found formed there. If they have been desires of the higher type, he meets their renderings as heavens; if they have been of the crude and ugly type, he is confronted by a veritable hell. He has to stay in the vital world until, helped by the presiding powers, the vital sheath is gradually thinned and drops off. Then he goes to the mental world where he is surrounded by the formations that he has woven by his thoughts, idea and conceptions. These also take time to dissolve. So after all these sheaths - the subtle-physical, vital, and mental sheaths - are dissolved, the inner being, the soul is free to go to its place of rest and preparation, the psychic world:
The beings that once wore forms on earth sat there
In shining chambers of spiritual sleep.
...... ....... ......
All now was gathered into pregnant rest:
Person and nature suffered a slumber change.
In trance they gathered back their bygone selves.
....... ....... .......
Arranged the map of their coming destiny's course:
Heirs of their past, their future's discoveries,
Electors of their own self-chosen lot,
They waited for the adventure of new life.
This in brief is the role of the psychic principle in the individual and the universal schemes.
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