We are conscious and aware of forces and energies that operate within a certain specified range. Anything that falls outside that range, whether above or below, remains unseen and unknown to us, even if the forces operative in those superior or inferior ranges impact our thoughts, feelings, perceptions and life-energies.

We recognize that many operations of our lives, our internal organs, are basically ‘self-regulating’ without conscious control or intervention by our self-aware mental consciousness. We do not, for instance, regulate consciously the oxygen uptake into the blood or its dissemination into the cells of the body, nor do we regulate consciously the energy production functions of the cells.

Beyond these organic functions, however, there are also levels of consciousness that store up impressions and encapsulate reactions without conscious mental control either. Various stimuli can then ‘trigger’ responses from these levels that may surprise us with their suddenness and intensity.

Sometimes these subconscious elements arise in the state of dreaming and we can get a brief view into what is hidden in those layers of our being. For the most part however, they remain obscure and impact us without our consciously being aware of what is there and what they are actually able to effectuate in our lives and reactions.

We tend to also believe that there is no consciousness in Matter. Yet, the only way for consciousness to appear out of Matter is for it to evolve therefrom, and thus, we can understand that consciousness is encoded, involved in material nature, just as the tree is encoded in the purely material seed from which it develops.

Dr. Dalal writes: “The subconscient is what is below the mind and conscious life just as the subliminal is what is behind the outer consciousness. Whereas the subliminal is an inner and larger consciousness compared to the surface consciousness, the subconscious is a nether and inferior, diminished consciousness.”

Sri Aurobindo observes: “[The subconscient] covers the purely physical and vital elements of our constitution of bodily being, unmentalised, unobserved by the mind, uncontrolled by it in their action. It can be held to include the dumb occult consciousness, dynamic but not sensed by us, which operates in the cells and nerves and all the corporeal stuff and adjusts their life process and automatic responses. It covers also those lowest functionings of submerged sense-mind which are more operative in the animal and in plant life; in our evolution we have overpassed the need of any large organised action of this element, but it remains submerged and obscurely at work below our conscious nature. This obscure activity extends to a hidden and hooded mental substratum into which past impressions and all that is rejected from the surface mind sink and remain there dormant and can surge up in sleep or in any absence of the mind, taking dream forms, forms of mechanical mind-action or suggestion, forms of automatic vital reaction or impulse, forms of physical abnormality or nervous perturbance, forms of morbidity, disease, unbalance. Out of the subconscious we bring ordinarily so much to the surface as our waking sense-mind and intelligence need for their purpose; in so bringing them up we are not aware of their nature, origin, operation and do not apprehend them in their own values but by a translation into the values of our waking human sense and intelligence. But the risings of the subconscious, its effects upon the mind and body, are mostly automatic, uncalled for and involuntary; for we have no knowledge and therefore no control of the subconscient.”

Dr. Dalal continues: “Below the subconscient is the Inconscient, the nethermost plane of consciousness. It is not really devoid of consciousness as the term might imply, but a level of consciousness which represents a total involution of consciousness, the ‘inverse reproduction of the supreme superconscience.’ as Sri Aurobindo describes it. Evolution begins from the Inconscient, the first emergence to evolve from it being Matter.”

Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, Our Many Selves: Practical Yogic Psychology, Introduction, Sri Aurobindo on Our Many Selves, Planes and Parts of the Being, pp.xxvi-xxvii

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.