The confusion about the soul is pervasive at virtually every level of our being. Sri Aurobindo identifies what he calls the ‘desire soul’ which is a formation of the vital being, living on the surface of the consciousness and seeking gratification of desires for the external being. The amalgam of thoughts, emotions, feelings, desires and needs of the external being makes up the ego-personality and its fulfillment is the essential role of the desire soul.

The true soul is deep within the being, not on the surface. It is linked to the divine and the divine intention in the manifestation. It is not concerned with the gratification of the ego-personality. Those who live on the surface of their being focused on external factors do not know the true soul directly, although they may from time to time receive promptings or even guidance at moments when the surface personality happens to be receptive and quiet within. The soul is focused on the manifestation of the divine consciousness and its action is characterized by aspiration, gratitude, devotion and other such movements that evidence an opening that is not limited by the ego and its desires.

A disciple asks: “Are the soul and the psychic being one and the same thing?”

The Mother responds: “That depends on the definition you give to the words. In most religions, and perhaps in most philosophies also, it is the vital being which is called ‘soul’, for it is said that ‘the soul leaves the body’, while it is the vital being which leaves the body. One speaks of ‘saving the soul’, ‘wicked souls’, ‘redeeming the soul’… but all that applies to the vital being, for the psychic being has no need to be saved! It does not share the faults of the external person, it is free from all reaction.”

Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, Our Many Selves: Practical Yogic Psychology, Chapter 2, Planes and Parts of the Being, pp. 87-88

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.