Western psychologists have identified extreme cases of what they call ‘multiple personality disorder’. This is when an individual has divergent personalities that take over the frontal being and manifest themselves in different ways, in most cases suppressing the others to such a degree that the individual does not carry active knowledge of the thoughts or acts of the leading personality at any point in time to the other parts when any of them come forward.

What we do not generally recognise or acknowledge, however, is that each one of us carries multiple personalities within our being, represent the different planes of consciousness or aspects of development, and that these personalities generally pull in different directions and in some cases oppose one another. The ascendancy of one or another aspect may be temporary, and is very frequently directly related to the play of the Gunas, the qualities of Nature. As one quality or another takes precedence, it tends to favor the expression of those personalities or aspects that have a preponderance of that particular quality.

This makes the work of the sadhak of the yoga extremely complicated, as he tries to appreciate the inerwoven aspects, separate them, and support those that further the process of the yoga, while minimizing or even eliminating entirely the expression of those that are in conflict with the central aspiration.

Sri Aurobindo notes: “… you have many sides to your personality or rather many personalities in you; it is indeed their discordant movements each getting in the way of the other, as happens when they are expressed through the external mind, that have stood much in the way of your sadhana. There is the vital personality which was turned towards success and enjoyment and got it and wanted to go on with it but could not get the rest of the being to follow. There is the vital personality that wanted enjoyment of a deeper kind and suggested to the other that it could very well give up these unsatisfactory things if it got an equivalent in some faeryland of a higher joy. There is the psycho-vital personality that is the Vaishnava within you and wanted the Divine Krishna and bhakti and Ananda. There is the personality which is the poet and musician and a seeker of beauty through these things. There is the mental-vital personality which, when it saw the vital standing in the way, insisted on a grim struggle of Tapasya, and it is no doubt that also which approves Vairagya and Nirvana. There is the physical-mental personality which is the Russellite, extrovert, doubter. There is another mental-emotional personality all whose ideas are for belief in the Divine, yoga, bhakti, Guruvada. There is the psychic being also which has pushed you into the sadhana and is waiting for its hour emergence.”

Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, Our Many Selves: Practical Yogic Psychology, Chapter 5, Organisation, Harmonisation, Unification, pp. 143-144

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 19 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.