Much of the confusion about the nature and action of the soul, the psychic being in man, is due to the loose and varied way the terms are thrown around in everyday parlance. We have ‘soul food’ and ‘soul mates’. We treat the soul as the seat of morality. At the same time, soul is used to identify some indistinct spiritual principle that underlies life and its significance for the individual being. Religions speak to us of the mortal peril to our soul for entering into activities they (variously) define as sinful. For some the soul is considered immortal, and for others, it is the element that transmigrates from life to life. In the end, we wind up with a very confused, and confusing, understanding of the nature of the soul.

Sri Aurobindo notes: “The word ‘soul’, as also the word ‘psychic’, is used very vaguely and in many different senses in the English language. More often than not, in ordinary parlance, no clear distinction is made between mind and soul and often there is an even more serious confusion, for the vital being of desire — the false soul or desire-soul — is intended by the words ‘soul’ and ‘psychic’ and not the true soul, the psychic being. The psychic being is quite different from the mind or vital; it stands behind them where they meet in the heart. Its central place is there, but behind the heart rather than in the heart; for what men call usually the heart is the seat of emotion, and human emotions are mental-vital impulses, not ordinarily psychic in their nature. This mostly secret power behind, other than the mind and the life-force, is the true soul, the psychic being in us. The power of the psychic, however, can act upon the mind and vital and body, purifying thought and perception and emotion (which then becomes psychic feeling) and sensation and action and everything else in us and preparing them to be divine movements.”

Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, Our Many Selves: Practical Yogic Psychology, Chapter 2, Planes and Parts of the Being, pg. 87

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.