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Integral psychology

Psychological perfection (cont.)

James Anderson

Editor’s note:

It is being increasingly recognised that our thoughts and feelings, desires and impulses have an effect upon the body, — surely on our own and in all likelihood upon other bodies as well. We are like receivers and transmitters of states of consciousness, of goodwill and ill-will and thereby decrease or increase the overall health or illness in the group-life we inhabit. This insightful article explores how we can improve upon what we receive and transmit by directing our consciousness upon any unwanted harmful thoughts and emotions that stand in the way of our individual and collective evolution. Based on the principles of the Integral Yoga, these psychological processes can be practised by anyone who aspires for an integral health.


There is one remedy that does not rely exclusively on the radiating touch of the soul. That is rejection. The Mother says that an inner aspiration is always important, but even if this is absent, a persistent refusal to allow the lower movements any acknowledgment will produce a positive effect. Because of this, it is logical that this practice can be particularly beneficial in the early phases of sādhanā, particularly at a time when the soul is more buried by its instrumental nature. This is clearly the realm of personal effort and this stage, we all know, can last a very long time. I guess too, it also depends on whether this process of catharsis resonates in the individual concerned. The Mother comments:

“It is by refusing to give expression — I mean not only in action but also in thought, in feeling. When impulses, thoughts, emotions come, if you refuse to express them, if you push them aside and remain in a state of inner aspiration and calm, then gradually they lose their force and stop coming. So the consciousness is emptied of its lower movements….

“In a great aspiration, if you can put yourself into contact with something higher, some influence of your psychic being or some light from above, and if you can manage to put this in touch with these lower movements, naturally they stop more quickly. But before even being able to draw these things by aspiration, you can already stop these movements from finding expression in you by a very persistent and patient refusal. When thoughts which you do not like come, if you just brush them away and do not pay them any attention at all, after some time they won’t come any longer. But you must do this very persistently and regularly (1).”

The Mother’s words are very clear here and the mode of rejection should never be confused with suppression. Suppression is no sort of solution. I find it only cramps and infuriates the nature. Goodness knows though, we still carry on doing it! But refusing to give the lower movement any expression deprives it of all sustenance. At least, that is my understanding. It cannot survive in such a void and so it sinks down into lower and lower regions. Finally, the Mother says, it reaches its final lodging in the inconscient, and when it is expelled from there it disappears for good. This, I guess, is what is often inferred when someone states that his or her yoga is ‘in the subconscient’: it indicates how far this process of rejection has gone.

Our path

Ultimately though, I believe that our path is one of transformation and not rejection. Rejection, on its own, is a preparation, albeit sometimes essential, but not the ultimate answer. I feel that each one of us has to finally find our own way to align ourselves. To be honest, it is not a solution that I have ever consistently espoused. There have been brief incursions, even the odd experiment, but another way has always seemed to more naturally fit.

Almost from the beginning, there has only been Her Force and Light and for me, they hold all the answers: even to our most deep-rooted disorders. It is just a matter of opening. The Mother’s way, I feel, is finally to transform and not reject. I understand that rejection can provide a crucial stepping-stone, particularly when one is groping in the dark. Sri Aurobindo’s ‘aspiration, rejection and surrender’ holds the key to so many doors but ultimately these three poises are quite meaningless without consciousness. Sri Aurobindo’s words always have to be understood in their entirety. I believe that consciousness is the single necessity whatever method (if any) one chooses to apply on our way to inner growth.

I also believe that there is a danger too that this action of rejection can almost become a religion. I feel that if the void is never filled by the Higher Force or never touched by the influence of the psychic being, one is left with something almost sterile and bone-dry. Here, Sri Aurobindo advises a disciple on the right action with regard to desire:

“No one can easily get rid of desires. What has first to be done is to exteriorize them, to push them out, on the surface and get the inner parts quiet and clear. Afterwards they can be thrown out and replaced by the true thing, a happy and luminous will one with the Divine’s (2).”

I am convinced that Sri Aurobindo never intended the Integral Yoga to be a path of rigid asceticism and self-denial. From his words here, it is clear that this distortion of desire is going to be replaced by something so much more rich and true. It is just a question of moving to a higher vibration. It is an elevation and not a sacrifice.

Man is neither an automaton nor a machine, he is something so much more: he is a living soul. This soul cannot be satisfied with lavish postures. This soul is waiting at every moment to step forward in our life. But surely it doesn’t require any overt sacrifice and austerity to respond to our call.


A detached attitude is such a boon to our inner well-being. I feel that the ability to ‘step back’, disengage and simply observe can save us from a whole heap of trouble. If something inside us remains alert and intact, it saves us from plunging into those chasms of nature. It is so necessary, as Sri Aurobindo often advised, to keep one’s station above the movement that you want to change.

There was a mistake I made on one occasion and it almost had disastrous consequences. I allowed myself to plunge down into the lower domains and proceeded to grapple with their elements head on. I suppose, at the root, there was a stupendous arrogance. It was almost as if I was trying to wrench the sādhanā from the Mother’s hands. Sooner or later, with the pressure of the practice, these movements would have surfaced in any case, but my mind and vital were insisting on their own protocol.

Rejection implies not paying attention to our lower movements and here I was, trying to wage war on all my desires. I allowed myself to go down to their level and I got swamped. But in the end, that still, quiet voice saved me from being caught in a very nasty mesh and the Mother disentangled me once more. The psychic voice is invariably our final recourse. If we lose touch with that, even madness can engulf us.

The action of truth

Most people, if asked, would claim that truth is just a static concept. It is one of life’s ‘shoulds’: you should tell and adhere to the truth and just that. It almost comes down to an ethical stance. But Truth, for me, really implies integrality: there is a wholeness about it. Its action brings a spontaneous harmony and it has such a power. It also has an action. Indeed, there is a vast consciousness-force that accompanies it. Moreover, this consciousness is our future; it is the next rung that man has to climb. It is what can even lift him up to the level of a god. The Mother says that it has to fully manifest before anything else, even before love. It is already alive and working in the earth atmosphere. Its effects can be felt quite concretely if we remain open.

Most of all, it bears the stamp of the Divine Mother. The Mother, I feel, is the living embodiment of this Truth: when I call Her, I simply call it into my being. There is a part of us which is a portion of this Truth and that is the soul. Not surprisingly, that is where the Mother resides. This is the perfection that integrates everything and the key, I suggest, is consciousness.


Finally the Truth resolves: it can have a very decisive action. It induces the very act of transformation. Very often, before I start working inside, I might sense a gnawing feeling of unease inside. Something is not right and I feel disturbed. However, I can’t put my finger on the root of the problem. It’s almost as if a little worm is wriggling inside and I can’t locate it. It’s just there and I wish it would go away.

So I call Sri Aurobindo and the Mother for help and guidance. I close my eyes and then look within. I quieten the mind and try to look at my nature from the perspective of the soul. I start at the top of my body and work my way slowly down, pausing at each energy centre. As I observe my nature disinterestedly, I can see many uneven patterns. But there can be long pauses when no response seems to come. There are locations where the flow of the Force is interrupted. I might also observe a stain buried somewhere but I have no idea why it is there. I simply cannot understand it. I am feeling in the dark.

I need to go into the source of the pain; I want to know what makes it live and breed. At this point, I might feel a stabbing pain and so I allow my consciousness to go right inside it and I silently enquire into its origin. I allow myself to absorb the pain and try to understand it. At the same time, though, a distance is always maintained.

When something true takes over, the action can proceed very quickly. Very often though, if the mind is active, I need to be patient and bide my time. I call for help and unexpectedly an illumination comes. A truth dawns and in the knowledge of that truth the distortion disappears. Its support vanishes into thin air. I also find it is good to express this knowledge out loud. I so often find that expression accompanies manifestation. If I am present in the psychic, the words will come out automatically. When this action happens, a peace descends. I know the process is complete when I can feel this state vibrating in all the pores of the body. Until the body itself can share in this joy, the work is still incomplete. When it does arrive, there is no feeling quite like it. Sometimes I call peace systematically from top to bottom in the body and this creates a unique vibration in my being. This peace has become my true support in life: it is the source of all stability.

I am finding that the work is going deeper now. I believe that if we are sincere, everything will eventually rise to the surface. When I first came here, I used to bruise quite easily from outer impacts. Now I find that my weak points have deeper roots and so a more probing observation is required. There are parts of my being which continue to cling to the past. There are so many longburied memories which need to be filed away and put away for good. So I find myself going down into darker corners. We can never stand still: if progress stops, we will simply fall back. We need a brighter beam all the time.

The light of truth

There is only one Truth. It is absolute, but I suggest that we translate it according to our own degrees. The action, I feel, is unique although it will often vary in intensity. Sometimes however, a more decisive remedy may be required. There may be a stubborn little twist that torments us deeply. It is like a foreign object that has taken up lodging inside our nature. It may indeed be something we can’t locate. But we almost feel as if something alien is trying to unbalance or take over our being.

When the Mother directs the light of truth upon us, I believe that the force is even more bright and intense. I guess too, much depends on our capacity to withstand it. The Mother has said that this light of truth is everywhere: it’s just that we don’t know how to use it. At the highest point, I believe that such tiny drops will one day be our first glimpse of the Supramental Force itself. This is something quite outside my experience, but as long as I open myself to the action of truth, I trust the Mother will prepare me in due time for the inevitable transformation. I also believe that whenever I align myself to the Mother, I open myself more and more to the action and light of the Truth. A simple aspiration is enough.

Calling the light

The Mother says that calling this light is quite simple:

“Of course if you ask me, ‘What should I do?’ — anyone at all among you — I shall tell you, ‘My children, it is very easy, you have only to call me, and then when you feel the contact, well, you put it upon the thing till that part has understood (3).”

The Mother describes the action as follows:

“There is a great difference between pushing back a thing simply because one doesn’t want it and changing the state of one’s consciousness which makes the thing totally foreign to one’s nature. Usually, when one has a movement one doesn’t want, one drives it away or pushes it back, but one doesn’t take the precaution of finding within oneself what has served and still serves as a support for this movement, the particular tendency, the fold of the consciousness which enables the thing to enter the consciousness. If, on the contrary, instead of simply making a movement of reprobation and rejection, one enters deeply into his vital consciousness and finds the support, that is, a kind of particular little vibration buried very deeply in a corner, often in such a dark corner that it is difficult to find it there; if one starts hunting it down, that is, if one goes within, concentrates, follows as it were the trail of this movement to its origin, one finds something like a very tiny serpent coiled up, something at times quite tiny, not bigger than a pea, but very black and sunk very deeply.

“And then there are two methods: either to put so intense a light, the light of the truth-consciousness so strong, that this will be dissolved; or else to catch the thing as with pincers, pull it out from its place and hold it up before one’s consciousness. The first method is radical but one doesn’t always have at his disposal this light of truth, so one can’t always use it. The second method can be taken, but it hurts, it hurts as badly as the extraction of a tooth; I don’t know if you have ever had a tooth pulled out, but it hurts as much as that, and it hurts here, like that. (Mother shows the centre of the chest and makes a movement of twisting.) And usually one is not very courageous. When it hurts very much, well, one tries to efface it like this (gesture) and that is why things persist. But if one has the courage to take hold of it and pull it until it comes out and to put it before himself, even if it hurts very much… to hold it up like this (gesture) until one can see it clearly, and then dissolve it, then it is finished. The thing will never again hide in the subconscient and will never again return to bother you. But this is a radical operation. It must be done like an operation (4).”

The Mother has stated that this procedure can be adopted and, whatever the circumstance, the result is always the same:

“Some people have all kinds of little things like this in their head, dark little things. Some people have them here (Mother points to the heart), others have them lower down, for each one it depends… but for each one it is the same thing, it is always… I am saying this because it is very remarkable that if one does the work — whoever it may be — the result is always the same, wherever it may be, whether in the head or the chest or in all the centres of consciousness, if one pushes the investigation far enough, step by step, step by step, untiringly, one always reaches something.... Then one takes it by the tail and pulls it out (5).”

Our nature

Many influences build up our nature. I sometimes have the feeling of a mighty edifice that goes back generations before my birth. I believe that even our individuality, which is unique, creates certain tramlines for these patterns of nature to emerge. These patterns create grooves and, over time, our nature is formed. Our nature is not ‘us’; it is but a façade, but I feel that our truth can get so buried inside it that we lose track of who we are. It is a very unpleasant situation and that probably explains why most of society is simply dissatisfied. To go through life without this knowledge seems almost absurd but that seems to be a reality for many.

It is only by changing the tilt of our awareness that this situation can change. I believe that we can transcend and rise above our nature. At least we can try. True fulfilment lies in growing, by meeting what Sri Aurobindo terms the ‘impulse towards self-exceeding’. This, I feel, must surely be why the Mother termed an ‘aimless life a miserable life’.

Truth of the being

It can take a while to understand our true individuality. I have found it requires considerable observation and this knowledge can only come through experience. Whenever I find my attention upstairs in the head I get pulled around in all sorts of directions. Over time, I have discovered that a truer home is the heart. For me, there is always a feeling of resonance when I stand in this truth; it’s like I become quite transparent. It’s a little like swimming with an enormous tide behind me. And nothing can move us as much as love. It brings such a simple joy and that’s why it particularly vibrates in this body. In fact, the body has become almost entirely dependent on it.

I sometimes feel that one single drop of love would be enough to totally transform and cure the body. It’s just that one must be in a proper state to receive it! When love rises up to more sublime heights, occasional glints of bliss pervade the being. For me, it is the most natural gateway to the soul. Every heightened experience I have seems to emanate from love. On the other hand, when I feel grey and dry inside, when the ordinary mind engulfs it, I feel lifeless and narrow. Whenever the mind stamps on the heart, it throttles the truth that the being wants to express.

Love and attachment

But I find that the way of the heart can bring complications. One that has particularly fazed me is attachment. From our first days on this earth, we seem to build up networks of attachment. We do this to people, to objects and to circumstances. In fact, we often seem to do it with almost anything we covet and, in so doing, we bind ourselves hand and foot. The trouble is, we build up requirements; we try to impose conditions. It’s like what we have inside us is not enough. We impose expectations on the outside and lose touch with what is true inside. Whilst we’re doing this, we’re not only imprisoning others but casting a huge net around ourselves too. And so we relinquish our seat of power to nature herself. We lose our freedom and we become more vulnerable to attack, creating many gaps that leave us gaping inside. There is a feeling of being raw and exposed.

I believe that many of us face a challenge with at least one relationship in our life. It is like a concentration of all our ‘impossibilities’. It is the one knot that we must untie in this life. The Mother emphasises the need to build up company which truly nurtures us. But sometimes we do not have a choice. There are some relationships which are not so free. I can feel such contacts suffocate the being and still they continue to cause me pain. I sometimes feel trapped: they reinforce negative patterns and the formations that often arise from them simply make me shrink. Distance is quite immaterial in this context; these threads of attachment can run for thousands of miles! When faced with a wall of negativity, I find it so difficult to stand in my truth. But the Mother tells us that the solution is not to run away:

“To be free from all attachment does not mean running away from all occasion for attachment. All these people who assert their asceticism, not only run away but warn others not to try!

“This seems so obvious to me. When you need to run away from a thing in order not to experience it, it means that you are not above it, you are still on the same level.

“Anything that suppresses, diminishes or lessens cannot bring freedom. Freedom has to be experienced in the whole of life and in all sensations (6).”

I’m convinced that it is possible to reach a zone where one can truly love without possibility of recoil. I have now concluded that my only solution is to only love more and try to love more truly. It might be more convenient to abide in a state of sattwic indifference but I really don’t think that is the way that the Mother intends for me. I feel that my challenge is to raise its level to the highest possible vibration. At the highest point, love is vast and free. It is an impersonal force. True love is, after all, totally disinterested, but I’d sooner love imperfectly than not at all.

The net

To have no idea who or what we are is the ultimate obscurity, but to have an inkling and pretend what one is not probably causes an even greater suffering. And yet, I suggest, this is what we do much of our time. It is so ingrained and, at the core, it is really a very subtle falsehood. The desire to be popular, the desire to be admired, the desire to be virtuous and even the desire to be just plain good are examples of this. Every time we project ourselves in a way we feel that the world should see us, we play this game of hide and seek. We try to create a stereotype of ourselves and that only cramps us and makes us very, very small. What’s more, we can never achieve anything: it is totally illusory. Even animals suffer less than man. In reality, we create our own net. The ego, after all, is the final limitation and the only way we can expand is to drop this cloak and stand in our truth. That is why I feel that it is the key to inner perfection.

A new life

To shed our nature and stand in our truth can sometimes be a painful journey. For some, I guess, it is a road laid with thistles and thorns. That is why I am so grateful to the Mother for the gentle way She has eased me into a very different culture and way of life. Over ten years’ ago, I came to Pondicherry and started a new life. I arrived weighed down with baggage. Inside, everything was tangled up and confused. I am so grateful that, from day one, the Mother hads taken charge of my being.

Most of all, I feel, the Mother has greatly simplified my life and simplified my being. At times though, She has almost stripped me down to the bone. The body too has emerged as an unusual ally and together they are teaching me the art of true humility. Any vestige of self-importance is still being squeezed out from me drop by drop. As a friend once told me long ago, it is easier to be a ‘nobody’ if you intend to walk this path.

Living in the soul

To live in the soul is the culmination of a colossal journey. In some ways, I believe that it is perhaps the greatest expedition that man has ever made. It is surely a voyage without end. It is a journey which takes us deeper and deeper to the core of our existence. I know that some reversals are inevitable but long-term progress must surely be a key to true inner health.

Just to aspire and grow, for me, is sufficient. It is a little like passing through a very long tunnel into the light. This light is truly the answer to all my yearning. Observing myself, this yearning, which was almost hidden at the outset, has now come more and more to the surface. I believe that it is this yearning that keeps us going. And when the destination is reached, the Mother says, it is truly a new birth:

“You become a new person, and whatever may be the path or the difficulties of the path afterwards, that feeling never leaves you. It is not even something — like many other experiences — which withdraws, passes into the background, leaving you externally with a kind of vague memory to which it is difficult to cling, whose remembrance grows faint, blurred — it is not that. You are a new person and definitively that, whatever happens. And even all the incapacity of the mind, all the difficulties of the vital, all the inertia of the physical are unable to change this new state — a new state which makes a decisive break in the life of the consciousness. The being one was before and the being one is after, are no longer the same. The position one has in the universe and in relation to it, in life and in relation to it, in understanding and in relation to it, is no longer the same: it is a true reversal which can never be undone again. That is why when people tell me, ‘I would like to know whether I am in contact with my soul or not’, I say, ‘If you ask the question, it is enough to prove that you are not. You don’t need an answer, you are giving it to yourself.’ When it is that, it is that, and then it is finished, it is no longer anything else (7).”


Last of all, I feel, truth means oneness. We are one. We are one with creation: we are one soul and we swim in a vast sea of oneness. I believe that when we realise this fact we at last stand in our truth. Indeed, it is only the action of truth that can harmonise the different shades and contrasts of existence. Indeed, perhaps it is these diverse hues that make life so rich and fascinating! But the reality is that everything is essentially one.

I believe that each one of us can start with one small detail to fully appreciate this. This detail can be our own being itself. I guess that all true understanding starts at the microcosm. As we get closer to this knowledge, we can clearly see that it is only separation and division that cramps us. We call that the ego. But once this simple wisdom is fully absorbed, even our own nature might be looked upon as just a small link in this captivating game of multiplicity and oneness.

Inside all of us, I believe, is something that fully understands this truth. It’s just that it wants to live it in all its aspects. Making our being one is true progress; only then can it truly expand and become free. And to live in the soul, I suggest, is to live in this state of oneness. I can’t really think of anything more perfect than that.


1. The Mother. Collected Works of the Mother, Volume 6. Pondicherry; Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust, 1979, p. 330.

2. Sri Aurobindo. SABCL, Volume 24. Pondicherry; Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust, 1970, p. 1399.

3. Op. cit. Collected Works of the Mother, Volume 7. Pondicherry; Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust, 1979, p. 88.

4. Ibid. pp. 83-4.

5. Ibid. pp. 88-9.

6. Op. cit. Collected Works of the Mother, Volume 10. Pondicherry; Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust, 1977, p. 196.

7. Op. cit. Collected Works of the Mother, Volume 9. Pondicherry; Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust, 1977, pp. 336-7.

Mr. James Anderson, a sadhak, is following the Yoga of Sri Aurobindo and working at SAIIIHR, Pondicherry.

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Integral Yoga








Sri Aurobindo and the Mother


Stubborn twist


A dark corner


Dark little things


Love and attachment




The net