The paradigm that has ruled Western psychology has focused on treating the individual as a discrete entity, separate and apart from everyone else, and independent of his environment. Pressure may be exerted by societal influences, economic influences or family relationships and expectations, but the individual has been treated as a self-standing entity capable of making his own determinations and choosing what to do, or not to do. C.G. Jung began to break down the absoluteness of this paradigm with his focus on the collective unconscious and the influences that arose from that source and impacted how individuals would respond or react. Yet the reality of our interaction with the universal forces and other beings is far more complex than Western science has fully acknowledged. It is not truly possible to gain full insight, understanding and mastery without a more complete view of the relationship between the individual and the subconscient, superconscient and circumconscient, or environmental, consciousness.

Researchers have shown that there is an “energy field” surrounding the human body. It can be enhanced or depleted, based on factors such as the emotional state, psychological state, physical health, etc. of the individual. This energy field acts as a gateway for both communicating feelings and emotions or thought-forms to others, or to receive in those from others. In addition, universal forces that circulate in the world find their access to the individual from there.

We can see examples of these universal forces taking hold of large segments of humanity when we observe panic reactions to global pandemics, or the development of mobs incited to violence, where individuals later report that they participated in things that were entirely uncharacteristic of their own ideas and feelings as they were “carried away by the energy of the mob”. On a more individual scale, one can be influenced by forces of desire, fear, greed, hunger that are moving generally in the world around one and have one’s mood and responses changed as a result of what are usually unseen and unrecognised interactions.

In terms of sadhana, the practice of yoga, the ability to distinguish what is coming in from outside, and how it is impacting the various parts of one’s being is both important and necessary as it is easier to deal with these forces as external to oneself than to treat them as if they belong to one as an individual. This represents an important distinction from the guilt and suppression techniques that have characterised a number of Western spiritual practices of the past, and a new appreciation of the need to monitor and deny entry to these forces within oneself.

Sri Aurobindo recounted a major realisation he had when he sat for meditation and was able to see thoughts entering from outside and by rejecting them, was able to achieve the silent mind, a basis for opening to higher planes of conscious awareness.

Sri Aurobindo writes: “By environmental consciousness I mean something that each man carries around him, outside his body, even when he is not aware of it, — by which he is in touch with others and with the universal forces. It is through this that the thoughts, feelings etc. of others pass to enter into one — it is through this also that waves of the universal force — desire, sex, etc. come in and take possession of the mind, vital or body.”

“They [the subconscient and the environmental consciousness] are two quite different things. What is stored in the subconscient — impressions, memories, rise up from there into the conscious parts. In the environmental things are not stored up and fixed, although they move about there. It is full of mobility, a field of vibration or passage of forces.” Sri Aurobindo, Integral Yoga: Sri Aurobindo’s Teaching and Method of Practice, Planes of Consciousness and Parts of the Being, pp. 48-51

Author's Bio: 

Santosh has been studying Sri Aurobindo's writings since 1971 and is author of a daily blog at focused on this work. He is author of 16 books on the subject 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.