We tend to look on ourselves as being of a specific nature and having a specific personality. We see main lines of understanding, of reaction, and of action and look upon these as ‘who we are’. If we take a closer look, however, we soon begin to see that we are not as simple and homogeneous as it first seemed. A multitude of different forces, energies, levels of consciousness all find their place in the human individual and make us much more complex and difficult to categorize than we believe.

Dostoevsky, the famous Russian author of The Brothers Karamazov undertook a detailed study of the human personality, at least as far as he could trace it out, by trying to separate out the various personality elements into different individuals, although he also recognised that all of the primary characters, those that were the most unregenerate and those that were the most highly developed, shared certain basic underlying characteristics and could therefore understand one another and interact with one another. Alexei was the youngest brother who took up a more devotional line of interest, Ivan had a station that was quite mentalized. Dmitri was driven by emotion and by lower vital energies. Their father Fyodor was immersed in the vital and the lower vital energies related to greed, lust and anger.

In reality, each individual encompasses the entire gamut of human capability, with some extending their range far beyond those which prevail ordinarily, with development of higher spiritual, over-mental, intuitive and psychic/soul development obviously at play in their being.

With all of this interplay and complexity it is no wonder that it is virtually impossible to predict the exact line of development or action of any individual, or even how they will respond to specific circumstances. Those who have a characteristic primary personality or highly developed trait may frequently act according to the lines of that development, but there are always opportunities and circumstances where something else comes out and expresses itself. The field of psychiatry finds it difficult to deal with this complexity and therefore it sets a standard of what it considers to be ‘normal’ and tries to fit those who are struggling to understand their lives and their interaction with society into this defined and limited framework. Traditional psychiatry has developed a type of Procrustean bed and if they have to cut off an individual’s psychological legs or head to make him fit into this frame, then so be it! This shows a real lack of deeper understanding about the larger framework within which we exist, the significance of our lives, and the many-sided nature and personality that souls can express as they evolve, grow and develop new insights, powers and capacities. Luckily modern psychological research, and the work of individuals such as C.G. Jung, have worked to break out of this limitation and bring to an understanding of human psychology a much wider and more flexible approach that is beginning to recognize the inherent complexity of the human personality.

The Mother notes: “The complexity arises not only in extension but also in depth. Man does not live on a single plane but on many planes at the same time. There is a scale of gradation in human consciousness; the higher one rises in the scale the greater the number of elements or personalities that one possesses. Whether one lives mostly or mainly on the physical or vital or mental plane or on any particular section of these planes or on the planes above and beyond them, there will be, accordingly, differences in the constitution or psycho-physical make-up of the individual personality. The higher one stands, the richer the personality, because it lives not only on its own normal level but also on all the levels that are below it and which it has transcended. The complete or integral man, some occultists say, possesses three hundred and sixty-five personalities; indeed it may be much more. The Vedas speak of the three and thirty-three and thirty-three hundred and thirty-three thousand gods that may be housed in the human vehicle — the basic three being evidently the triple status or world of Body, Life and Mind.”

Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, Growing Within: The Psychology of Inner Development, Chapter VIII The Psychic Being and Inner Growth, pp. 150-151

Author's Bio: 

Santosh has been studying Sri Aurobindo's writings since 1971 and has a daily blog at http://sriaurobindostudies.wordpress.com and podcast at https://anchor.fm/santosh-krinsky 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.