It is practically a universal experience among religious and spiritual seekers, and even among people who are simply developing some kind of an inner life, that they have an aspiration, a desire to consecrate themselves to some goal, principle or idea, and yet, they struggle with opposing predilections that cause them extreme distress. Some religious devotees, for instance, take on a vow of celibacy as part of their commitment to the religion they follow. And yet, there is an extraordinary amount of sexual tension they experience through their lives which leads in some cases to sexual activities, much of which has been exposed in recent years in the various sexual abuse scandals that have rocked some of the major religious institutions of the world; or in others to forms of self-torture such as use of the cilice, or sackcloth, or even self-flagellation as they tried to beat the recalcitrant parts of their being into submission.

There are of course other instances such as overcoming the impulse to anger, judgment and condemnation of others, and extreme instances, such as the Holy Inquisition in the Catholic Church, that evidence an internal conflict between a stated ideal held by part of the being, and the opposition within the nature that tries to save, express and enjoy the objects of desire held by other parts of the being. Those things that an individual cannot face within himself he then turns outwards to try to dominate or control what he sees in others.

The reality is that each individual has within him the entire range of response and capacity of each of the component aspects of the being, physical, vital, emotional and mental. Under certain pressure or sets of circumstances, the seed sprouts and they suddenly experience an uprising of things that they may have thought had been totally extirpated from the nature. Aspects of the being which had been suppressed still remained in seed form just waiting for the right conditions to make themselves felt.

The Mother observes: “An ‘entity’ is a personality or an individuality. There are many such ‘personalities’ in each one of us. If these personalities agree and are complementary with one another, they make up a human being, a rich and complex ‘person’. But that is not what usually happens. These personalities do not agree with one another. For example, one of them might wish to make some progress, to become more and more perfect, to get a deeper knowledge of things, to realise more and more, to proceed towards the perfection of the being, while another one may simply want to have fun and enjoy itself as much as it can; one day it will do this, the next day something else, etc. If the personalities do not agree, this person’s life will be incoherent, and that is not unusual: in fact, these cases are very common….”

“What happens then? Conflicts, friction, inner disorder created by these individualities which are unable to get on with one another. The strongest one gets the upper hand; it is not only dominant over the others but curbs them to stop them from rebelling. So, in the end, the unlucky ones, the repressed ones, go to sleep. They bide their time, and when that time comes, they suddenly jump up and turn everything upside down. If that happens very often, that person’s life will be a very disorderly one. He will take up one thing today and go on with another tomorrow and so on.”

Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, Our Many Selves: Practical Yogic Psychology, Chapter 1, Our Manifold Being, pp. 6-7

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.