Sri Aurobindo has indicated that the evolution of consciousness is carried out by the gradual and mostly unconscious action of the divine intention within Nature. At the stage of the human being, however, it becomes possible for the individual to “speed up” the slow action of Nature through focus and participation through the practice of conscious Yoga.

Seen in a larger context, Nature reveals increasing levels of consciousness, from Matter, through Life, with the development of the rudimentary physical mind and vital mind, and eventually, the development of Mind proper. These stages occur under the impulsion of the Divine, but are not generally consciously seen and understood by those life-forms which embody the various stages.

At the human level, however, the ability to consciously participate and thereby speed up the evolution takes place only after the individual has become self-aware and ‘individualised’ enough to extract himself from total subservience to the mass of thought-forms that take up the vast majority of the mental energy that circulates within humanity.

The process of extracting oneself from the general mass of mental thought-forms that circulate takes place through the development of what the Mother calls ‘individuality’, which represents the ability to consciously screen, organise, and accept or reject specific thoughts as they circulate, and then to be able to synthesise developments that represent new understanding or application or which are a combination or complex inter-relation that were not directly implied in the thought-forms as circulated prior. It is this difference that creates a truly unique individuality, and from this standpoint, the seeker can focus conscious effort on development of the spiritual energy within himself and on participation in the next stage in the evolution of consciousness in a more direct and faster manner.

It should be noted that as with each stage, once the utility of a particular stage is finished for the individual, he must be prepared to leave it behind to take on the standpoint, the qualities and the energy of the succeeding stage. Thus, in his thoughts and glimpses, Sri Aurobindo could state ‘Reason was the helper; Reason is the bar,” as well as “the Ego was the helper; the Ego is the bar.”

The Mother notes: “Therefore, individuality is not at all the rule, it is an exception, and if you do not have that sort of bag, a particular form which is your outer body, and your appearance, you could hardly be distinguished from one another.”

“Individuality is a conquest. And, as Sri Aurobindo says here, this first conquest is only a first stage, and once you have realised within you something like a personal independent and conscious being, then what you have to do is to break the form and go farther. For example, if you want to progress mentally, you must break all your mental forms, all your mental constructions to be able to make new ones. So, to begin with, a tremendous labour is required to individualise oneself, and afterwards one must demolish all that has been done in order to progress. But as you do not watch yourself doing things and as it is the custom — not everywhere, of course; let us say here — the custom to work, to read, to develop yourself, to try to do something, to form yourself a little, you do it quite naturally and without even watching yourself, as I said.”

Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, Our Many Selves: Practical Yogic Psychology, Chapter 6, Some Answers and Explanations, pg. 156

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 19 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.