The psychic being(soul) in us is the portion of the Divine which sits behind the heart and guides individual evolution over incarnations. It’s presence is palpable in the innocence and spontaneity of the child but gradually it becomes camouflaged by the carefully cultivated self-image of the adult. It is an important step in Integral Yoga when this psychic being is unveiled because it has the capacity to accelerate the spiritual transformation (in conventional Yoga, this unveiling is symbolized by the opening of the heart Chakra). One has to replace in oneself, the craftiness of the adult with the joyful innocence of the child but this must be done without losing the wisdom and maturity one has gained.
How can we consciously aid the awakening of the psychic being? In the following passages, Kireet Joshi, a direct disciple of Sri Aurobindo & The Mother, discusses four types of activities which speed the psychic transformation.
(Excerpts from a talk by Kireet Joshi, with a few edits, highlights and reformatting)
There is an entity within us, the psychic being, which is spontaneous in character, spontaneous towards truth, beauty and goodness. It is as spontaneous as the body is spontaneous, as spontaneous as the vital is spontaneous. But the body and vital are not spontaneous towards truth, beauty and goodness, whereas the psychic being moves towards truth, beauty and goodness. In the vital being or in the physical being all our instincts are spontaneous, and most of us live a physical and vital life by instincts and impulses which are spontaneous; you do not need to train them. Hunger for example, physical hunger, appetite is spontaneous and one wants to eat food, one likes to eat food, enjoys food; it is instinctive, spontaneous. Similarly, there is spontaneity in the soul but its real food is goodness, its food is beauty, its food is truth. It is a natural spontaneous turning towards truth, beauty and goodness, it is the first mark of the distinct nature of the soul. Now all human beings, since they have got the presence of the soul in them, they sometimes feel the presence of it. At times they do feel this spontaneous turning towards truth, beauty and goodness. You witness a heroic action of somebody and you admire it; it is a psychic response, it is a soul response. You find somebody uttering the truth and you feel greatly uplifted; it is a soul response. You do not even reason why he is good or bad or anything; simply because of the truth force there is a spontaneous reaction to it. You may see a beautiful sunrise and you feel admiration for it, you feel the whole world quickened, everything marvellous and the whole scene turning into a kind of experience of beauty: it is a soul response. And such experiences we all have from time to time, without recognising that the source of it is in the soul.
But when these responses of the soul begin to infiltrate more and more into mind, life and body, they constitute some kind of an influence. That is how we are as it were turned to the soul, but not being aware of it even mentally. Very often it remains for most of us in the whole life a mere influence and nothing more than that, we are not profited by it very much, we turn back immediately to our mental, vital and physical activities. But if the impulse towards truth which comes from the soul becomes very powerful then we become seekers of the truth. Even mentally we become great thinkers and our personality of the mind becomes very powerful. If the impulse towards beauty becomes powerful we begin to become artists. Similarly if our impulse towards good becomes powerful we become heroic, we become ethical, we become good, like a sage, saintly. Such personalities begin to develop in us. And then we remain confined only again to the outer personality of the mind. Although this root is in the soul, we have taken a little advantage of it, we have dug out a little and then given a shape to it through our mind, and to some extent we allow these influences to go in the vital and the body also. If I have become very artistic, my dresses begin to undergo a change. My physical perfection also I begin to seek, my body I try to make as balanced as possible. Even my vital impulses I express them beautifully, I begin to write good poetry, poetry of romance, poetry of adoration, of beauty on various forms, and so on. So this has an effect upon the mind, vital and physical.
It is only when our mind begins to become clear about the presence of the soul which is distinct from itself, that a more fundamental change occurs in us. From influence which was coming to us from the higher realm of the soul, we begin to be attracted towards it and begin to live in it. In this process even the mind’s clarity about the soul becomes very helpful. For example the kind of description that is being given here can be a good help; if there is a clarity about it then the mind becomes more aware of it and then begins to look for it and while looking for it, you may touch it and you may begin to dwell in it. In other words you shift from preoccupations of the mind, of the vital, of the body to the preoccupations of the spontaneous aspiration for truth, beauty and goodness. This shift is a very important stage in human development. This is what I called the change. The first psychic change occurs when instead of being preoccupied only with the mind, life and body, we begin to be preoccupied with the spontaneous movement towards truth, beauty and goodness.
The soul is compared with a king who is screened and exiled by the ministers. Body, life and mind are compared with ministers. It is as if the whole kingdom which really belongs to the soul is used up by the ministers: body, life and mind and these have exiled the soul and screened him very tightly. A veil has been put between the soul and the body, life and mind. And then the ministers are ruling the government on their own according to their own wishes. Now the soul which is behind the screen goes on radiating its light on the screen and if the screen becomes quite transparent then the presence of the soul will be seen by everybody concerned. How to make the screen transparent is the first question. Now the first way of doing it is that the mind, life and body in their own development, in their own experience arrive at a point when they find themselves inadequate and they themselves begin to polish the screen, then that is one method. If consciously body, life and mind, try to knock at the veil then this veil may become thin. The other method is that in the surroundings of the body, life and mind if truth, beauty and goodness are presented, then the soul gets a kind of a magnetic pull and if it radiates very powerfully because of this magnetic pull, then the screen becomes thin and a transparency can come about. Now both these methods are admissible and can be tried according to the needs. According to the evolution of each individual, both the methods can be tried.
When this outflow begins to take place, in the first place a formation of the soul begins to peep out of the screen.Now this formation is what is called the psychic personality, and this formation looks first of all like a very small little thing in a big ocean of body, life and mind. Therefore the Katha Upanishad calls it not bigger than a thumb, angushtha matra. This personality is so small in the beginning that it looks like a small little cork floating on the ocean thrust by waves of the body, life and mind. This formation gradually becomes stronger. Then this, what is the size of a thumb, becomes bigger and a bigger psychic personality is formed. Now what is the method by which this personality can become much more developed? The first method is the consent of the body, life and mind to allow this element to be their ruler because he is the real king and they are only the ministers. The ministers have to give a consent now and they have to allow the real king to come forward and take charge. But this is a very difficult task because body, life and mind are tuned to their own rule and they do not normally accept to consent; it is like an abdication actually, and abdication is very difficult. But if that happens it will be a tremendous outflowering, immediately the soul can become strongly powerful and a great psychic personality can develop very quickly, rapidly.
A beautiful harmonious personality begins to grow, and this is quite possible if you know the science of it. But when the science is not known and when the things are allowed to develop pell-mell, then what happens is that this little formation, a small psychic personality not bigger than the thumb is invaded by these three ministers in different proportions depending upon which one of them is more powerful among them. Viziers of Sultan, have a rivalry among them and try to use up even this fragrant presence of the soul and then take advantage and profit from the presence of the soul. They exploit even whatever knowledge, whatever fragrance they get from the soul. They might grant some kind of obedience to the soul but then only to be able to profit from its presence. If a luminous idea has come from the soul, the mind says it is my own idea and it does not admit that the idea has come from the soul. Or if the vital is very powerful, it makes an exclusive possession of that idea and forces it upon everybody as if it is its own kingdom in which mind is not allowed any kind of play. So there is a great tug of war which takes place. It is for this reason that a very sound education is to be proposed, because if that is done consciously then many of these problems can be resolved much more easily. It is only a question of awareness.
Now between this formation and the soul which is behind, of which it is a formation, there is still the screen. Therefore whatever comes from the soul only with a very great difficulty infiltrates into the personality. The wires of communication are cut, obstructed, disturbed. Even the right impulse, when it comes out here becomes twisted by the vital, by the physical, by the mental. The strength and luminosity of what comes from the soul is polluted over here, therefore the need of purification. If the body, life and mind are more and more purified, then these obstructions will be much less obstructive, communication will be much more clear and this implies a process of yoga. By yoga we mean basically only three things: the process of concentration, the process of renunciation and the process of purification. If you can concentrate upon the soul, if you can renounce all that is not emerging from the soul and if you can purify the mixtures of various kinds then that constitutes the process of yoga and then the soul can flower much more easily; the screen becomes more and more transparent and ultimately the screen can be completely removed even; or at least for the time being, it can be removed. And even when it falls again, the memory of that experience is so vivid in the outer mind, life and body that a great attraction remains in the body, life and mind to return back to that experience. A great aspiration — inextinguishable aspiration — begins to burn in our outer being i.e. body, life and mind. And these three processes of concentration, purification and renunciation are aided by three processes: the process of jnanayoga, of bhaktiyoga and karmayoga. All these three processes basically are processes of purification, renunciation and concentration. And if that happens very successfully, then the psychic personality becomes very powerful. The body, life and mind consent and invite the soul. That is the meaning of agnimire. I worship the soul. When the body, life and mind begin to say agnimire, I’m worshipping the soul, when this repeats itself then the soul personality becomes very powerful, and the activities of the soul begin to multiply in the outer being. It may use body, life and mind as instruments, as real ministers but the real king really begins to govern and the real royal activities begin to take place, not only ministerial activities, but the real royal activities begin to operate.
These are four activities which are distinctly activities of the royal soul, the real governor of the soul.
- First is the activity of wisdom; and wisdom consists of seeing the invisible, knowing the unknowable. When this begins to take place then wisdom begins to grow. The ordinary mind only tries to see what is visible, tries to know what is knowable, but the mark of wisdom is that it tries to see the invisible and it knows the unknowable. That is the mark of the soul activity.
- The second is the activity of heroism. A spontaneous revolt against evil —spontaneous revolt — with a luminous idea of the truth. It is the second activity of the soul.
- The third is the activity of love which makes no demand from the loved, no merchandise in love. The true soul loves for the sake of love and makes no demand at all of return of any kind. It loves because it wants to love, it pours love for the sake of love, for the sake of joy. So it is distinguished from another kind of love. The other kind of love is what you might call the red love, this is the white love. The red love is what demands, you give a little love and then you demand a lot out of it, but this white love is simply a giver. (See also Four Stages of Human Love)
- And the fourth is development of spontaneous skills. You just take up a thing, you want to learn something and if the soul is developed then all the skills come automatically to you. You want to learn sitar for example, within a month you begin to learn it because the skill comes automatically to you. It is a special power of the soul, the secret of all skills is in the soul actually. In the outer body, life and mind it is a laborious movement; by tremendous repetition you get a skill. But the same thing if done by the soul personality, the skills becomes so easy, there is an out-flowering of skills. Saraswati(Goddess of inspiration) begins to play a full role and develops all the skills of personality. A great harmony is spontaneously manifesting when the soul begins to act. These are all activities of the soul.
And what is the distinctive experience of the psychic? Just as the mind has a distinctive activity mainly of conceiving — to develop concept is a specific activity of the mind, to have a drive and energy, enthusiasm is a vital capacity, is the activity of the vital, a distinctive characteristic. To provide a stable base for anything is the activity of the body. Similarly what is the specific activity, experience of the soul? It is to experience the sweetness of Divine Presence.It is the specific experience of the soul, automatic, it has to make no effort at all to feel the sweetness of the Divine Presence. If the soul is really developed then this experience becomes automatic, ever present. So those four activities of which I spoke: wisdom, heroism, love which demands nothing and skills and this specific experience of the sweetness of the Presence of the Divine — actually in the Katha Upanishad there is a word called madhvadaha, one who eats the honey — the soul is the eater of honey, that is its specific experience — when these activities flood our being, the mind, life and body are so surcharged, they vibrate with this constantly, then starts the process of psychic transformation.