Most people identify closely with their active external personality, and as a result, they consider that to be the extent of their existence. They leave on the surface, interact with others, family, friends, acquaintances, associates and other members of society, and respond to the outer environment, the weather, the economic and political conditions, etc. This constitutes the framework of their lives.

Some individuals, however, particularly as they begin to have experiences that show them that there is another aspect and significance to their lives, find that they can observe this outer life and participate in it, yet feel themselves separate and apart from that existence. They begin to experience an inner life.

As these individuals explore the experiences, thoughts, emotions and feelings that are associated with this separation, they begin to recognise that the apparently superficial goals, objectives and purposes of the external life are insufficient to explain either the existence of the universal manifestation or, indeed, their own lives. In many cases they have intimations of a long developmental process, an evolution of consciousness, in which they have participated. In some cases, they have intimations of past lives and experiences that fall outside the framework of the external life they lead.

If pursued further, the individual either comes in contact with the psychic being, the soul which is apart from the mind-life-body that he occupies in this lifetime, or he finds himself achieving a new standpoint of a witness of the nature, free, independent and able to observe and eventually direct the outer being.

Sri Aurobindo notes: “There are, we might say, two beings in us, one on the surface, our ordinary exterior mind, life, body consciousness, another behind the veil, an inner mind, an inner life, an inner physical consciousness constituting another or inner self. This inner self once awake opens in its turn to our true real eternal self. It opens inwardly to the soul, called in the language of this yoga the psychic being which supports our successive births and at each birth assumes a new mind, life and body. It opens above to the Self or Spirit which is unborn and by conscious recovery of it we transcend the changing personality and achieve freedom and full mastery over our nature.”

Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, Growing Within: The Psychology of Inner Development, Chapter VIII The Psychic Being and Inner Growth, pg. 148

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.