Ordinarily it is difficult to identify with the real self of the world as we live a superficial life where our dealings with the external world is modulated by the desire-soul. The desire-soul itself has to work through instruments like senses and reason which are imperfect in their workings and therefore receive the variegated and multifarious impacts of the external world in a rather chaotic and confused manner – ‘by a flux of reachings and surfings, cautious approaches or eager rushes and sullen or discontented or panic or angry recoils according as the touch pleases or displeases, comforts or alarms, satisfies or dissatisfies’. (Ibid) The end-result is that we miss the inalienable Delight, the Ananda, the Bliss whose essence or rasa permeates the whole of existence. We catch the outward impacts and misinterpret the hidden essence. Instead of ‘figuring the pure essential joy of being’, we render all things ‘unequally into the three terms of pleasure, pain and indifference’. (Ibid)
However, pleasure, pain and indifference are not absolute standards of reference, they are not inviolable, unalterable or non-exchangeable constructs. What is pain to someone can be pleasurable to others too. Thus in different trance states across several cultures, subjects can lie on a bed of thorns, walk through fire, pierce the tongue or develop the stigmata of Christ without bearing any pain, even for a temporary period. And we have instances of spiritual adepts, mystics and yogis who seem to go on bearing pain till at one point pain can become pleasure. Pain, pleasure and indifference are interchangeable because they are misinterpretations of the inalienable Delight or rasa of creation that runs in the subliminal depths of things behind their surface appearances:
‘Pleasure can become pain or pain pleasure because in their secret reality they are the same thing differently reproduced in the sensations and emotions. Indifference is either the inattention of the surface desire-soul in its mind, sensations, emotions and cravings to the rasa of things, or its incapacity to receive and respond to it, or its refusal to give any surface response or, again, its driving and crushing down of the pleasure or the pain by the will into the neutral tint of unacceptance. In all these cases what happens is that either there is a positive refusal or a negative unreadiness or incapacity to render or in any way represent positively on the surface something that is yet subliminally active’. (Ibid, pg.236-237)
The Subliminal Realm
All our experiences of the surface being are not lost. Freud has demonstrated that our experiences sink into the Unconscious. The Freudian Unconscious is designated as the subconscious in the Aurobindonian terminology which again sinks into the Inconscience – a realm that surpasses the Freudian Unconscious.
The experiences that sink into the subconscious (the Freudian Unconscious) are those that are perceived by the surface being and modulated by the desire-soul. But what about the experiences that arise from the pure inalienable Delight that permeates all existence –the rasa of creation, the Ananda of Sachchidananda. These experiences are not explicit but often implicit, hidden and in the form of intuitive flashes, subtle, esoteric and mystic. Sri Aurobindo explains that these subtle experiential perceptions are received not by the classical subconscious (the Unconscious) but by the soul in the subliminal realm standing behind the surface being and in communion with the cosmic consciousness. To realize this is real Self - knowledge.‘Self-knowledge is impossible unless we go behind our surface existence, which is a mere result of selective outer experiences, an imperfect sounding-board or a hasty, incompetent and fragmentary translation of a little out of the much that we are, -- unless we go behind this and send down our plummet into the subconscient and open ourself to the superconscient so as to know their relation to our surface being’. (Ibid, pg.237) The subliminal realm opens to the Superconscious above and sinks through the subconscious to the Inconscience below.
Our existence moves between the Superconscious above, the subconscious below and the subliminal realm behind and ‘finds in them its totality’:
(a) ‘The superconscient in us is one with the self and soul of the world and is not governed by any phenomenal diversity; it possesses therefore the truth of things and delight of things in their plenitude.’ (Ibid)
(b) ‘The subconscient …is not a true possessor but an instrument of experience; it is not practically one with the soul and self of the world, but it is open to it through its world-experience’. (Ibid)
(c) ‘The subliminal soul is conscious inwardly of the rasa of things and has an equal delight in all contacts; it is conscious also of the values and standards of the surface desire-soul and receives on its own surface corresponding touches of pleasure, pain and indifference, but takes an equal delight in all. In other words, our real soul within takes joy of all its experiences, gathers from them strength, pleasure and knowledge, grows by them in its store and its plenty’.(Ibid)
Influence of the Soul on the surface-being
The real soul in the subliminal depths of the being does not exist merely for its own enjoyment, it has the power to influence the surface being, to mould the surface mind, to calm the surface vital and to sublimate our physical urges. It is thus we can develop an aspiration to grow in consciousness, change the values of pain and pleasure and equalize things in indifference or equalize experiences in the joy of existence. (Ibid, pg.238) ‘Otherwise, if we lived only by the surface desire-soul, we could no more change or advance than the plant or stone in whose immobility or in whose routine of existence, because life is not superficially conscious, the secret soul of things has as yet no instrument by which it can rescue the life out of the fixed and narrow gamut into which it is born. The desire-soul left to itself would circle in the same grooves forever’. (ibid)
The subconscious (the Freudian Unconscious) stores experiences perceived by the outer senses and reasoning mind which get repressed but can have resurgences through our dreams and neurotic expressions. That is classical psychoanalytic thought. In a similar way, the real soul in the subliminal realm stores the experiences of pure and unalloyed joy –the rasa that runs through all worldly experiences. At optimal points in the journey of consciousness, the soul-memories can come forward to stimulate the outer being to have higher aspirations, to seek for the Universal Truth, to grow towards the Superconscious. This is spiritual psychology.
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- By Dr. Soumitra Basu