In the plant, life-energy is incipiently apparent in its subconscious responses to different types of stimulation. Sri Aurobindo explains that there are only two gross differences between life in humans and life in plants:
(a) The human being has ‘the power of locomotion which has evidently nothing to do with the essence of vitality’(Ibid. pg.196); and
(b) The human being possesses ‘conscious sensation which is, so far as we know, not yet evolved in the plant’ (Ibid).
Yet not all responses in the human being are mediated consciously. Reviews of functioning magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) shows that subliminal stimuli activate specific brain areas without the participants being aware. Sri Aurobindo seemed to be aware of this fact a hundred years back when he wrote : ‘Our nervous responses are largely, though by no means always or in their entirety, attended with the mental response of conscious sensation ; they have a value to the mind as well as to the nerve-system and the body agitated by the nervous action’(Ibid).
Neuropsychology has established how the subconscious mind influences human behaviour expressed as response to a stimulus. In fact, researchers study neural drives that originate in the ‘subconscious’ mind which is different from the uncovering of repressed conflicts in the Freudian Unconscious mind. It seems that brain structures like the cerebellum and the basal ganglia manage our life outside our conscious awareness while our conscious minds are involved with more mundane affairs like designing a dinner menu! It is therefore understandable that some type of a rudimentary form of subconscious neural structures must be regulating plant life while a yet more rudimentary pattern of energy movements can be discernible in the world of atoms.
Science has demonstrated that complex intelligent activities can be regulated by subconscious neural drives. In researches with PET scans, cortical activity increased when one attempted to learn a skill like playing a video game and decreased when the skill was mastered. The conscious thoughts are first correlated with cortical activity and then converted into habitual drives. Later, these drives can subconsciously manage motor systems without one’s awareness. Such programmed drives are represented in increasingly rudimentary forms as we descend the evolutionary scale. The birds build nests driven by such programs while the Hydra, the earliest animal has nerve nets to trigger primitive drives enabling it to move about and reject or absorb food particles.
Eventually, the motor control systems in a human being lodge a galactic store of subconscious drives—preprogrammed habitual actions, finely tuned to meet specific objectives. The will decides objectives and the motor systems select appropriate action to achieve those goals. Thus when one travels on a transatlantic flight a single subconscious drive manages the trip while conscious actions are limited to reading a few airport signs to assist the current drive (Understanding The Subconscious Mind – Effective Mind Control, www.effective-mind-control.com)
Sri Aurobindo echoed similar observations a century back: ‘While I write, the physical act of writing is largely or sometimes entirely done by the subconscious mind; the body makes, unconsciously as we say, certain nervous movements; the mind is awake only to the thought with which it is occupied. The whole man indeed may sink into the subconscious, yet habitual movements implying the action of mind may continue, as in many phenomena of sleep; or he may rise into the superconscient and yet be active with the subliminal mind in the body, as in certain phenomena of samadhi or Yoga trance’ (The Life Divine, pg.197-198). It is interesting that Sri Aurobindo explained how one can rise from the zone of the subconscious to the Superconscious. Today, in the 21st century, it is being acknowledged that techniques like ‘mindfulness meditation’ can free one from the burden of subconscious drives (www.effective-mind-control.com).
In conclusion, it is important to acknowledge that life-energy that is consciously ascertainable in the human being even in its subconscious habitual functioning, has not fully emerged from the slumber of Matter in plant life and is fully submerged in the automatism of the world of atoms. ‘Life is a scale of the universal Energy in which the transition from inconscience to consciousness is managed; it is an intermediary power of it latent or submerged in matter, delivered by its own force into submental being, delivered finally by the emergence of Mind into the full possibility of its dynamis’ (The Life Divine, pg.198-199).
Date of Update:
- By Dr. Soumitra Basu