In various parts of the world, homes and buildings have a clear ‘identity’, through shape, color, size, layout of the rooms, functionality, and location. In other places we see vast tracts of virtually identical houses or apartments in rows, with the same size, shape, color and layout. Someone trying to locate a house or apartment in such a location can easily be confused as to which one they are trying to find, and, except for the identifying numerical address, it can be a daunting affair.

If we reflect that among the billions of human beings on the planet, there is a convergence of similarity that causes us to find little variance or difference in terms of the thoughts, feelings, perceptions etc. We actually see this carried out to an extreme in assembly line production facilities where the individual is fully interchangeable with another individual. What differentiates people is generally a matter of specific opinion or habit, such as what entertainment choices one makes, or what occupies an individual’s mind when he is not at work carrying out his (mostly) interchangeable functionality in the society. We personalize this by having unique names for each individual rather than simply assigning numbers, which is seen as a ‘dehumanizing’ factor used for prisoners, but not for free individuals.

As the Mother points out, we tend to identify ourselves by that name and by our function in society. In societies that have a more ‘unique’ view of things, such as some of those that have varied and unique housing models, as noted above, there are further distinguishing factors that may include parents and family associations, class, political persuasion, religious convictions, etc., although within each of these sub-classifications there is again a similarity or likeness among the individuals who are part of that particular subgroup.

Of course, as the mental power develops, and people begin to take interest in more complex and difficult questions, we see further levels of differentiation begin to appear, so that we see people who follow a path of exploring nature, or considering questions of science, or delving into the secrets of the universe, or who take up spiritual matters, practice yoga, meditation, concentration, etc. At this level of development, there seems to be more individuation that accompanies the development of the more complex and higher functionalities seen with the increasing power of consciousness as it evolves and manifests. Such individuals can clearly identify their uniqueness as individuals and they have a more intense and varied inner life associated with this sense of individuality.

The Mother writes: “Therefore, before an individuality becomes truly individual and has its own qualities, it must be contained in a vessel, otherwise it would spread out like water and would no longer have any form at all. Some people, at a rather low level, know themselves only by the name they bear. They would not be able to distinguish themselves from their neighbours except by their name. They are asked, ‘Who are you?’ — ‘My name is this.’ A little later they tell you the name of their occupation or about their main characteristic. If they are asked, ‘Who are you?’ — ‘I am a painter.’ “

“But at a certain level the only answer is the name….”

Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, Our Many Selves: Practical Yogic Psychology, Chapter 6, Some Answers and Explanations, pg. 155

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.