Almost everyone has the experience, from time to time, of acting out a different personality. We may say that someone “got out of bed on the wrong side this morning” when we see a normally cheerful and upbeat individual responding in a totally uncharacteristic way. We chalk this up to some mood or temporary circumstance, stress, sleeplessness, worry or some physical condition or imbalance, or even some mental focus that distracts. We have times of intense mental focus, or emotionally charged aspects to our lives, or times of vital or physical challenges that impact the way we respond to life.

If we observe closely we can see that the changes we undergo are based on the variable effect of the predominance and modifications brought about by the three Gunas, the qualities of Nature, impacting the current aspect of the being that is ‘in front’, whether mental, vital or physical. If we look even more closely we find that the mental being, the emotional being, the vital being and the physical being are not unified and that there are different aspects that come forward even within these segments. Then we have to examine the interaction of the different aspects such that there is a current predominant physical being, combined with the current predominant vital or mental being. The possible combinations here are virtually endless. The Mother concludes that those who have developed a highly developed individuality represent an amalgam of innumerable ‘personalities’ and by no means are they all unified, thus leading to inner conflict or at least modification of the pure action of any one aspect of the being. The process of observing, understanding and unifying the being around a central focus and goal is, for such individuals, a difficult and lengthy one. Those who have a less complex inner life are able to deal with their lives in a much simpler, and easier manner.

Sri Aurobindo writes: “It is part of the foundation of Yoga to become conscious of the great complexity of our nature, see the different forces that move it and get over it a control of directing knowledge.”

A disciple inquires: “Are these forces different for each person?”

The Mother responds: Yes. The composition is completely different, otherwise everybody would be the same. There are not two beings with an identical combination; between the different parts of the being and the composition of these parts the proportion is different in each individual. There are people, primitive men, people like the yet undeveloped races or the degenerated ones whose combinations are fairly simple; they are still complicated, but comparatively simple. And there are people absolutely at the top of the human ladder, the elite of humanity; their combinations become so complicated that a very special discernment is needed to find the relations between all these things.”

“There are beings who carry in themselves thousands of different personalities, and then each one has its own rhythm and alternation, and there is a kind of combination; sometimes there are inner conflicts, and there is a play of activities which are rhythmic and with alternations of certain parts which come to the front and then go back and again come to the front. But when one takes all that, it makes such complicated combinations that some people truly find it difficult to understand what is going on in themselves; and yet these are the ones most capable of a complete, coordinated, conscious, organised action; but their organisation is infinitely more complicated than that of primitive or undeveloped men who have two or three impulses and four or five ideas, and who can arrange all this very easily in themselves and seem to be very co-ordinated and logical because there is not very much to organise. But there are people truly like a multitude, and so that gives them a plasticity. a fluidity of action and an extraordinary complexity of perception, and these people are capable of understanding a considerable number of things, as though they had at their disposal a veritable army which they move according to circumstance and need; and all this is inside them. So when these people, with the help of yoga, the discipline of yoga, succeed in centralising all these beings around the central light of the divine Presence, they become powerful entities, precisely because of their complexity. So long as this is not organised they often give the impression of an incoherence, they are almost incomprehensible, one can’t manage to understand why they are like that, they are so complex. But when they have organised all these beings, that is, put each one in its place around the divine centre, then truly they are terrific, for they have the capacity of understanding almost everything and doing almost everything because of the multitude of entities they contain, of which they are constituted. And the nearer one is to the summit of the ladder, the more is it like that, and consequently the more difficult is it to organise one’s being; because when you have about a dozen elements, you can quickly compass and organise them, but when you have thousands of them, it is difficult.”

Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, Our Many Selves: Practical Yogic Psychology, Chapter 1, Our Manifold Being, pp. 2-4

Author's Bio: 

Santosh has been studying Sri Aurobindo's writings since 1971 and has a daily blog at and podcast at He is author of 17 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.