Monday, 3 December 2012

The ?Psychic Being? in Savitri ? An Initial Exploration - edgardo4s ...

Savitri, the book of revelations, is Sri Aurobindo?s magnum opus, the book of secrets into inner worlds and worlds above, holding the key to their discovery, to self-mastery and more. The Psychic Being, a central being within, whose discovery in life is pivotal to self-growth and discovery, a widening of consciousness which embraces all, is a ever-recurring theme in Sri Aurobindo?s philosophy. Does Sri Aurobindo mention the term ?Psychic Being? in Savitri? Does he describe it? If so where and how? These questions led to this initial exploration in Savitri, seeking the ?Psychic Being?. An idea of the ?Psychic Being? as glimpsed from literature on Integral Yoga is presented, followed by an examination of part of Canto 5, Book 7: ?Finding of the Soul? for reference to the Psychic Being. Some conclusions are then drawn from the brief study.

The Psychic Being and the Soul - Some Explanations

The Psychic Being is one of the central themes in Sri Aurobindo?s Integral Yoga which seeks the transformation of matter such that it would be capable of revealing the face of the Divine immanent in all of creation and beyond. The agent whose task it is to bring about that transformation of nature - the physical, vital and mental - is the Psychic being, which is a portion of the divine put into all life, and in man being given the opportunity to express itself and take over his nature, effecting a gradual transformation of all of his nature such that Divinity may express itself through the ?divinised mud?.

What is the relationship between the soul and the psychic being? Is there any essential difference between them? Further reading reveals an essential difference between the Soul and the Psychic Being. In Integral Yoga, the soul state is differentiated into two states, namely ?the soul in its essence? and ?the soul in its evolved, individualised form?. The soul in its essence is what is referred to in various terms in this yoga as ?psyche, psychic essence, soul spark or soul element? (Sri Aurobindo, 1989, p. iii). It is by this soul spark or soul element that ?we exist and persist as individual beings in Nature? (Aurobindo, 1970a, p. 891). The soul in its evolved, individualized form is referred to variously as ?psychic being, psychic personality, soul-form? or soul personality? (Sri Aurobindo, 1989, p. iii). This is the soul personality that evolves with the growth of consciousness during each life-time. The Psychic Being then is the evolving soul.

The term ?Psychic? is derived from the Greek term, ?psukhe?, which means the soul. In the many layers that make up the being, the Psychic Being is the innermost being which lends its support to all the other parts of the being, both inner and outer, the layers belonging to both the Purusha (Self) and Prakriti (nature or manifested self). It is described as a ?spark or portion of the Divine? present in all forms of creation. The Psychic Being is a flowering of what is called the Psyche or Psychic entity or soul. This psyche grows, in the course of its evolution and through its various experiences in life-times into an individual psychic personality in the human. This individualized personality is termed the Psychic Being (Dalal, 2007, p. 204).

Here is an extract of Sri Aurobindo?s description of these terms in ?Synthesis of Yoga? (Aurobindo, 1997, p. 141):

?But the true soul of man is not there; (heart of desire) it is in the true invisible heart hidden in some luminous cave of the nature: there under some infiltration of the divine Light is our soul, a silent inmost being of which few are even aware; for if all have a soul, few are conscious of their true soul or feel its direct impulse. There dwells the little spark of the Divine which supports this obscure mass of our nature and around it grows the psychic being, the formed soul or the real Man within us. It is as this psychic being in him grows and the movements of the heart reflect its divinations and impulsions that man becomes more and more aware of his soul, ceases to be a superior animal, and, awakened to the glimpses of the godhead within him, admits more and more its intimations of a deeper life and consciousness and an impulse towards things divine. It is one of the decisive moments of the integral Yoga when this psychic being liberated, brought out from the veil to the front, can pour the full flood of its divinations, seeings and impulsions on the mind, life and body of man and begin to prepare the upbuilding of divinity in the earthly nature.?

The Psychic Being in Savitri

We have a sense of the significance of the Psychic Being and its emergence in man as a decisive action in the course of individual evolution. However, in ?Savitri?, Sri Aurobindo?s magnum opus, it is quite a wonder that the term psychic being occurs nowhere in the 24,000 odd lines that constitute this epic poem, as revealed by a word search. However, its closest root, the term ?Psyche? occurs once, as described below (Aurobindo, 1970b, p. 487).

But for such vast spiritual change to be,

Out of the mystic cavern in man?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.

The Psyche, in Sri Aurobindo?s yoga is a direct reference to the ?soul? or ?innermost part of the being?(Sri Aurobindo, 1989, p. iii) as opposed to the psychic being. In other words, it is ?the soul; the essence of the soul; spark of the Divine which is there in all things.?

Going through the first 201 lines (in the first 5 pages, from pg. 522-527) of Canto 5; Book 7, there is some indication that Sri Aurobindo was referring to the Psychic Being, although the term psychic being was never used. These following lines especially hold the clue to the fact that Sri Aurobindo was referring to the Psychic Being (Aurobindo, 1970b, pp. 526, 527):

But since she knows the toil of mind and life

As a mother feels and shares her children?s lives,

She puts forth a small portion of herself,

A being no bigger than the thumb of man

Into a hidden region of the heart

To face the pang and to forget the bliss,

To share the suffering and endure earth?s wounds

And labour mid the labour of the stars.

The key to the fact that Sir Aurobindo was indeed referring to the Psychic Being appears in the line, ?A being no bigger than the thumb?. This line is a direct reference to the Upanishadic principle of the caitya purusa (Sri Aurobindo, 1989). It is in the ?Katho Upanishad?, that the Caitya Purusa is described as a being no bigger than the thumb. The subsequent lines give ample description of the being that is no bigger than the thumb is an out flowering or the putting out of this being in question by ?The Spirit?s conscious representative?, referred to in the feminine in order to bear nature?s pangs and toil with her. The Soul-Psychic being relationship echoed in these lines above are taken up again in ?Synthesis of Yoga?. Sri Aurobindo points out (Aurobindo, 1997, pp. 153-154) that even when a semblance of the Psychic Being is present, ?it is still in all but a few a smaller portion of the being??no bigger in the mass of the body than the thumb of a man? was the image used by the ancient seers..? He is referring here to the Caitya Purusa pointed out by the ancient seers, referred to him as the Psychic Being in later works.

Elsewhere too, in ?Synthesis of Yoga?, Sri Aurobindo makes a direct reference to the Psychic Being as the Caitya Purusa (Aurobindo, 1997, p. 238 - 239) as in :

? ??this veiled psychic entity is the flame of the Godhead always alight within us, inextinguishable even by that dense unconsciousness of any spiritual self within which obscures our outward nature. It is a flame born out of the Divine and, luminous inhabitant of the Ignorance, grows in it till it is able to turn it towards the Knowledge. It is the concealed Witness and Control, the hidden Guide, the Daemon of Socrates, the inner light or inner voice of the mystic. It is that which endures and is imperishable in us from birth to birth, untouched by death, decay or corruption, an indestructible spark of the Divine. Not the unborn Self or Atman, for the Self even in presiding over the existence of the individual is aware always of its universality and transcendence, it is yet its deputy in the forms of Nature, the individual soul, caitya purusa, supporting mind, life and body, standing behind the mental, the vital, the subtle-physical being in us and watching and profiting by their development and experience.?

We can be quite assured that Sri Aurobindo was referring to the Psychic Being through these cross-references. A further confirmation of this can also be drawn by analyzing the content in the following lines (Aurobindo, 1970b, pp. 526 -527) as follows:

A being stood immortal in transience,

Deathless dallying with momentary things,

In whose wide eyes of tranquil happiness

Which pity and sorrow could not abrogate

Infinity turned its gaze on finite shapes:

This being is the soul, transcendent, ?Observer of the silent steps of the hours, Eternity upheld the minute?s acts And the passing scenes of the Everlasting?s play?.. The Spirit?s conscious representative,..? However, to help the natural portion of man to receive and bear the impacts of life,

She puts forth a small portion of herself,

A being no bigger than the thumb of man

Into a hidden region of the heart

To face the pang and to forget the bliss,

To share the suffering and endure earth?s wounds

And labour mid the labour of the stars.

This being, ?no bigger than the thumb of man? is an out-flowering of the Soul entity or soul element, as described in these lines, something put forth by the Soul. Savitri gains proximity with The Soul through her Psychic Being. It is likely that in Savitri, her Psychic Being was fully formed and therefore eventually opened the gateway to the Soul, with which she merges, as the forthcoming lines depict.

Here in this chamber of flame and light they met;

They looked upon each other, knew themselves,

The secret deity and its human part,

The calm immortal and the struggling soul.

Then with a magic transformation?s speed

They rushed into each other and grew one.

It is to be understood that the soul spark or psychic spark is present in life forms, but in the more evolved human nature it is given a chance to step forward, influence at first the development of the nature - the physical, mental and vital - and eventually, use perfected nature as its means of self-expression which is a crucial step leading to the divine manifestation upon earth. The mental mind perceives this in a somewhat crude chronological order. It appears that soul states flow over each other, although there is apparent an evolutionary development. In this canto, it appears that Sri Aurobindo describes the psychic being as something that is encountered on the way to the Soul, something that aids the eventual soul contact.

The experience of diving into these few lines of Savitri cannot be described in words. It was a momentary dip into an ocean of delight and wonder, something in one knowing fully well that the best and brightest treasures were far, far away, beyond the clutches of this mind or this intellect. There was a sense of silence in the lines that continuously led and also trailed behind the search, there were deeper voices that hummed the secret of the route and the surface being knew itself ill equipped for that journey. A surrender total was demanded, nothing more, nothing less, to open oneself and wait in silent aspiration. One perhaps never finishes with Savitri. Fresh windows open each time something within us reaches out to Savitri. So it is with this initial exploration. It continues.


Aurobindo, S. (1970a). Life Divine. Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust.

Aurobindo, S. (1970b). Savitri. Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust.

Aurobindo, S. (1997). Synthesis of Yoga (Vol. VOLUMES 33 and 34). Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust.

Dalal, A. S. (2007). Sri Aurobindo and The Future Psychology - Supplement to A Greater Psychology. Puducherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust.

Huppes, N. (2001). Psychic Education. New Delhi: Sri Auriobindo Education Society.

Sri Aurobindo, A. (1989). The Psychic Being, Soul: Its Nature, Mission and Evolution (First ed.). Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust.


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