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Notes on counselling

The unborn spirit and the Self of eternal light

Dr. Soumitra Basu


A deviation from the ideals of one’s life can be very distressing. A search for its cause by probing repressed materials is incomplete as the whole story of life is not scripted in the Freudian unconscious and even extends to the cosmic consciousness. Sri Aurobindo’s epic Savitri offers valuable insights to tide the crisis. An identification with the ‘unborn spirit’ can bring one in touch with the consciousness of eternity that surpasses karma. Besides, the human being is a delegate of eternity and is thus accompanied, even in deviation, by the ‘Self of eternal light’ which can always illumine and uplift.

Life does not follow a straight course; it has its upheavals, its ups and downs, its sharp bends, its pitfalls, its glory and fall, its unenviable destiny. One of the most disconcerting moments occurs when one realises that there has been an insincere movement, a deviation from one’s cherished goals, a fall into the nether depths, a negation of the ideals once pursued, a breach of morality, a betrayal of trust, an abject lack of faith, a devaluation of life. This can lead to dejection, demoralisation or depression, a chronic state of neurosis, a resort to drugs or alcohol or a disruptive aggression. The counsellor has several choices for tackling such a situation. There might be an immediate technique to relieve stress but the benefit gained is usually short-lived, as the impressions persist in the subconscious with the potential for resurgence leading to repeated recurrences in one disguise or another. There might be a prolonged psychoanalytical journey to discover the roots of the behavioural anomaly in the past, in the unconscious with unexpected unravelling of repressed elements stored deep down in the psyche of the individual. In the end, the result of such a therapeutic intervention is always bound to be incomplete, because the whole story of life is not scripted in the Freudian unconscious. A piece of anomalous behaviour cannot solely be accounted for by repressed conflicts in the unconscious. There are collective suggestions, huge disruptive forces in the cosmic consciousness as well as karmic consequences of memory traces in the cosmos from bygone eras. It is immaterial to trace such memory traces to the past lives of a single individual for they are usually the residual material of the collective psyche of past races.

Sri Aurobindo’s epic poem, Savitri, offers several insights to tackle such a crisis:

1. Instead of overemphasising effects of the past emanating from repressed material in the individual’s unconscious or memory traces from past eras stored in the cosmic consciousness, one can benefit as well as make a progressive movement in consciousness by identifying with the Individual Self who is simultaneously poised as the Universal Self and the Transcendental Self. It is this “unborn spirit” whose “timeless power” can alone “lift the yoke imposed by birth in time”; strike out “from Time the soul’s long compound debt” as well as “the heavy servitudes of the Karmic Gods (1).” Sri Aurobindo considers that the Individual Self (the Jivatman) is a permanent phenomenon in the manifestation while all the ancient spiritual-mystic traditions say it disappears with the body (2), that is to say, it dissolves in the Infinite or disappears into the Nihil. He considers the surface personality (described in psychology) as a passing “experimental and structural self” emerging as a resultant of the interaction of the Individual Self with nature during a particular time of the human cycle (3). As time shifts its denouement and nuances, the outer surface personality or structural self changes in every era or point in history but the Individual Self whose uniqueness lies in its impersonality, persists in the Universal Consciousness. As such it is more judicious to seek for one’s unborn element behind the surface personality to transcend one’s karma rather than exaggerating one’s repressed elements in the unconscious. One can then come into contact with the consciousness of eternity that alone helps to cross the ebbs and tides of karma.

2. Sri Aurobindo explains that though the human being seems to dwell in ignorance, it is actually a delegate from eternity emerging from beyond the cosmos in the same way as the “trail of Ideas that made the world” emerged from apparent nothingness (4). Hence, even if the human being gets deviated from cherished ideals and values and falls in the chaos of falsehood and perversity, the Light does not abandon him. In fact, “The Self of eternal Light” always follows in “the shadow of the spirit’s descent (5).” This Light is even present in the unconscious though its jewel-glow is obscured and hidden, draped in “folds of velvet darkness (6).” The unconscious therefore not only contains the repressed dark elements of psychoanalysis but the unmanifest potentialities of the “Self of eternal light”. This hidden Light in the inconscience (symbolised as the ‘cave’ in the Vedas), manifest through the twin dimensions of ‘knowledge’ and ‘force’, was symbolised in the Angirasa Legend of the Vedas as stolen cows and horses that had to be recovered by the luminescence of the Divine Mind (7). Hence, instead of harping on the morality (or immorality) of the deviation in life and devising ways to get out of it, it would be more judicious to align with the Light that never abandons us even in adversities. It is Light alone that can deliver us from the past moorings that tie us down; it is Light alone that can give a meaning to our lives; it is Light alone that leads to the fulfilment of our highest aspirations and cherished ideals.


1. Sri Aurobindo. Birth Centenary Library, Volume 28. Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust; 1970, pp. 12-3.

2. The Mother. Mother’s Agenda, Volume 2. English Translation. Paris: Institut de Recherches Évolutives; 1981, pp. 293-5.

3. Sri Aurobindo. SABCL, Volume 20. 1970, p. 262.

4. Sri Aurobindo. SABCL, Volume 28, 1970, p. 40.

5. Ibid., p. 34.

6. Ibid., p. 42.

7. Sri Aurobindo. SABCL, Volume 10. 1971, pp. 160-5.

Dr. Soumitra Basu, a practising psychiatrist and member of SAIIIHR, is the Director of a school of psychology, Integral Yoga Psychology. He is also one of the editors of NAMAH.

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