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The subconscient is the repository of our rejected impulses and habits

There are many things which one doesn’t wish to keep and drives out from the active consciousness, but they go down there, hide there, and because it is subconscious one doesn’t notice them; but they haven’t gone out completely, and when they have a chance to come up again, they come up. For example, there are bad habits of the body, in the sense that the body is in the habit of upsetting its balance – we call that falling ill, you know; but still, the functioning becomes defective through a bad habit. You manage by concentrating the Force and applying it on this defect, to make it disappear but it doesn’t disappear completely, it enters the subconscient. And then, when you are off your guard, when you stop paying attention properly and preventing it from showing itself, it rises up and comes out. You thought for months perhaps or even for years, you thought you were completely rid of a certain kind of illness which you suffered from, and you no longer paid any attention, and suddenly one day it returns as though it had never gone; it springs up again from the subconscient and unless one enters into this subconscient and changes things there, that is, unless one changes the subconscient into the conscient, it always happens like this. And the method is to change the subconscient into the conscient – if each thing that rises to the surface becomes conscious, at that moment it must be changed. There is a more direct method still: it is to enter the subconscient in one’s full consciousness and work there, but this is difficult. Yet so long as this is not done, all the progress one has made – I mean physically, in one’s body – can always be undone.

(Collected Works of the Mother, Questions And Answers, Volume-07, 11 May 1955)

The subconscient controls Matter

Matter is under the control of this power(subconscient), because it is that out of which it has been created—that is why matter seems to us to be quite unconscious. The material body is very much under the influence of this power for the same reason; it is why we are not conscious of what is going on in the body, for the most part. The outer consciousness goes down into this subconscient when we are asleep, and so it becomes unaware of what is going on in us when we are asleep except for a few dreams. Many of these dreams rise up from the subconscient and are made up of old memories, impressions etc. put together in an incoherent way. For the subconscient receives impressions of all we do or experience in our lives and keeps these impressions in it, sending up often fragments of them in sleep. It is a very important part of the being, but we can do nothing much with it by the conscious will. It is the higher Force working in us that in its natural course will open the subconscient to itself and bring down into it its control and light.

(Sri Aurobindo, Letters on Yoga, Transformation of the Subconscient and the Inconscient)

The Earth’s subconscient and the individual subconscient

The subconscient is universal as well as individual like all the other main parts of the Nature. But there are different parts or planes of the subconscient. All upon earth is based on the Inconscient as it is called, though it is not really inconscient at all, but rather a complete “sub”-conscience, a suppressed or involved consciousness, in which there is everything but nothing is formulated or expressed. The subconscient lies between this Inconscient and the conscious mind, life and body. It contains the potentiality of all the primitive reactions to life which struggle out to the surface from the dull and inert strands of Matter and form by a constant development a slowly evolving and self-formulating consciousness; it contains them not as ideas, perceptions or conscious reactions but as the fluid substance of these things. But also all that is consciously experienced sinks down into the subconscient, not as precise though submerged memories but as obscure yet obstinate impressions of experience, and these can come up at any time as dreams, as mechanical repetitions of past thought, feelings, action, etc., as “complexes” exploding into action and event, etc., etc. The subconscient is the main cause why all things repeat themselves and nothing ever gets changed except in appearance. It is the cause why people say character cannot be changed, the cause also of the constant return of things one hoped to have got rid of for ever. All seeds are there and all Sanskaras of the mind, vital and body,—it is the main support of death and disease and the last fortress (seemingly impregnable) of the Ignorance. All too that is suppressed without being wholly got rid of sinks down there and remains as seed ready to surge up or sprout up at any moment.


(Sri Aurobindo, Letters on Yoga, Planes and Parts of the Being)


Subconscient (source unknown)

Our individual subconscient is inherited from our parents at birth (i..e. You are just like your father…!)

Question: Is the vital distorted from the very birth ?

If your birth has not been accidental, you could very well think there was no distortion, but what you are at your birth is most of the time almost absolutely what your mother and father have made you, and also, through them, what your grandparents have made you. There are certain vital traditions in families and, besides, there is the state of consciousness in which you were formed, conceived – the moment at which you were conceived – and that, not once in a million times does that state conform to true aspiration; and it is only a true aspiration which could make your vital pure of all mixture, make the vital element attracted for the formation of the being a pure element, free from all contagion; I mean that if a psychic being enters there, it can gather elements favourable to its growth. In the world as it is, things are so mixed up, have been so mixed up in every way, that it is almost impossible to have elements of the vital sufficiently pure not to suffer the contagion of all other contaminated beings.

I think I have already spoken about that, I have said what kind of aspiration ought to be there in the parents before the birth; but as I said, this does not happen even once in a hundred thousand instances. The willed conception of a child is extremely rare; mostly it is an accident. Among innumerable parents it is quite a small minority that even simply bothers about what a child could be; they do not even know that what the child will be depends on what they are. It is a very small élite which knows this. Most of the time things go as they can; anything at all happens and people don’t even realise what is happening.  So, in these conditions how do you expect to be born with a vital being sufficiently pure to be of help to you ? One is born with a slough to clean before one begins to live. And once you have made a good start on the way to the inner transformation and you go down to the subconscient root of the being – that exactly which comes from parents, from atavism – well, you do see what it is ! And all, almost all difficulties are there, there are very few things added to existence after the first years of life. This happens at any odd moment; if you keep bad company or read bad books, the poison may enter you; but there are all the imprints deep-rooted in the subconscient, the dirty habits you have and against which you struggle. For instance, there are people who can’t open their mouth without telling a lie, and they don’t always do this deliberately (that is the worst of it), or people who can’t come in touch with others without quarrelling, all sorts of stupidities – they are there in the subconscient, deeply rooted. Now, when you have a goodwill, externally you do your best to avoid all that, to correct it if possible; you work, you fight; then become aware that this thing always keeps coming up, it comes up from some part which escapes your control. But if you enter this subconscient, if you let your consciousness infiltrate it, and look carefully, gradually you will discover all the sources, all the origins of all your difficulties; then you will begin to understand what your fathers and mothers, grandfathers and grandmothers were, and if at a certain moment you are unable to control yourself, you will understand, “I am like that because they were like that.

(CWM, Questions And Answers Volume-4, 29 March 1951)

Mental, vital and physical parts of the subconscient

This is not done as a whole, for the subconscient is vast and complex; there is a mental subconscient, a vital subconscient, a physical subconscient,a bodily subconscient. We have to wrest the subconscient fragment by fragment from its ignorant and inert resistance


(CWM, Words Of The Mother Volume-14, The Senses)

Seat of the subconscient in our body consciousness

The Muladhar is the centre of the physical consciousness proper, and all below in the body is the sheer physical, which as it goes downward becomes increasingly subconscient, but the real seat of the subconscient is below the body, as the real seat of the higher consciousness (superconscient) is above the body.


(Sri Aurobindo, Letters on Yoga, Planes and Parts of the Being)

The subconscient records everything

The subconscient records everything, and if you have the impression that an ordinary book leaves no effect, it means that you are not conscious of what goes on within you. Each time you read a book in which the consciousness is very low, it strengthens your subconscient and inconscient – it prevents your consciousness from rising upward. It is as if you threw buckets of dirty water on the efforts you had made to purify your subconscient.


(CWM, Questions And Answers Volume-4 , 26 February 1951)

Action of the subconscient during sleep

Q: Does the subconscient go on recording during sleep?

A: For most people, in their sleep, it is precisely what has been recorded in the subconscient during the day or previously which becomes active again and constitutes their dreams.


(CWM, Some Answers From The Mother Volume-16, 27 Series Eleven)


Q: Can one learn to control one’s subconscient as one controls one’s conscious thought?

A: It is especially during the body’s sleep that one is in contact with the subconscient. In becoming conscious of one’s nights, control of the subconscient becomes much easier. The control can become total when the cells become conscious of the Divine in them and when they open themselves voluntarily to His influence. This is what the consciousness that descended on the earth last year is working for. Little by little the subconscient automatism of the body is being replaced by the consciousness of the Divine Presence governing the entire functioning of the body.

(CWM, Words Of The Mother Volume-14, The Senses)

What happens when Yogic light/force penetrates the subconscient

  1. The subconscient begins to show more easily what is in it.
  2. Things rising from there come to the awareness of the mind before they can touch or affect the consciousness.
  3. The subconscient becomes less the refuge of the ignorant and obscure movements and more an automatic response of the material to the higher consciousness.
  4. It gives less covert and less passage to the suggestions of the hostile forces.
  5. It is more easy to be conscious in sleep and to have higher forms of dream experience. Hostile dreams − e.g. sex-suggestions can be met and stopped in the dream itself and any result like emission prevented.
  6. A waking will put on the dream state before sleeping becomes more and more effective.

(Sri Aurobindo, Letters on Yoga, Transformation of the Subconscient and the Inconscient)

13 thoughts on “Subconscient

      1. Sandeep Post author

        I have no idea of the quality of your dreams but it is prudent to keep in mind that dreams can be misleading at times. It is only when one has attained Self-realization that the dream consciousness clears up considerably. Otherwise, most dreams tend to be a regurgitation of our fringe desires and stray thoughts. Furthermore, there is the subconscious (lower plane) and there is the superconscious(higher plane). It is preferable to receive intimations from the latter.

        There are certain symbols which Sri Aurobindo elucidates on the letters he wrote to disciples. See the collection on this page: Symbols seen in experiences. Carl Jung who wrote extensively on this topic, but I haven’t read much of his works so I can’t provide any pointers there.

  1. MT

    Could you elaborate on how can the sanskaras be removed and the subconscient become cleansed from past conditioning? How can we get the yogic light/force penetrate the subconscient?

    You mention becoming conscious of one’s nights, but this is something I’m not able to do yet.
    I see how, for example, avoiding ordinary books as you mention in this post may prevent new associations and lower thoughts making the subconscious even stronger, but I’m aware a deep “cleansing” or lightening of what I’m already carrying has to be done as well.

    1. Sandeep Post author

      The complete cleansing of the subconscious occurs only after the complete Psychic transformation as discussed at the end of this page . That is the silver bullet but this transformation can take time and also requires Grace. In the meantime, one has to rely on the intermittent flashes of light which come during meditation to illuminate the consciousness and assuage that turbid and festering subconscious swamp.

      As for making the nights conscious, one rule of thumb I can offer is :”Nights become conscious when the Days become serene”. Once you start living each day with full equanimity and awareness, the subconscious starts easing up at night and after that one begins to awaken in the higher worlds. Depending on the individual, this quiescing of daily movements may require a period of intensive practice. One has to reorganize one’s life:
      1) improve the quality of food intake
      2) reduce unnecessary conversation
      3) read better books
      4) reduce TV and Internet usage
      5) drop unnecessary socializing and make friends who are more sattwic/spiritual
      6) perform all work with equanimity and minimum fuss, etc), and so on and so forth.
      This is a tall order especially in today’s pervasive commercialized consumer culture but nevertheless it has to be done.

      Have you read Satprem’s Adventures of Consciousness?
      The chapters are roughly organized by the stages of spiritual growth. First one has attain long periods of mental silence (chap 4), then acquire vital immobility (chap 6) , after which one begins to feel the awakening of the psychic (chap 7), and then the nights dramatically brighten up (chap 9).

      1. MT

        Thank you for your advice. I see it’s going to take some time to make my daily movements more conscious, but it will be worth it.

        I have not read Satprem’s book, but just found it online and I’m going to begin now.

      2. Sandeep Post author

        Making daily movements more conscious will certainly be worth it! In fact, this is the secret meaning of the Bhagavad Gita verse 2:69 which says : “That which is day to the many is night to the sage; that which is night to the many is day to the sage”. The consciousness becomes inverted – the waking state becomes boring because attraction to friends, movies, food disappears even as the dreaming state becomes alive and dynamic.

      3. Sandeep Post author

        As for making the nights conscious, one rule of thumb I can offer is :”Nights become conscious when the Days become serene”.

        I found a Buddhist Yoga text which affirms this observation. The following extract is from The Practice of the Six Yogas of Naropa by Glenn H. Mullin, page 123 (Snow Lion Publications, 2006)

        “The stronger one’s ability to withdraw vital energies into the central channel during the waking state, the greater will be one’s success in working with the clear light of sleep. When those in whom this ability has matured enter into sleep, they are able to work with the heart Chakra in the central channel and to recognize and retain the fourth emptiness, that of the clear light of sleep. This in turn enhances their ability to work with the vital energies during the waking state and to draw them into the central channel”.

        Day and night are interlinked. Progress is one realm compliments progress in the other realm.

  2. Sandeep Post author

    Scientists are inventing novels methods to alter the subconscious Sanskaras (cravings) !

    Memory Extinction Technique Found to Relieve Drug Cravings
    Altering memories of drug use could help prevent ex-addicts from relapsing

    Researchers have come up with a way to help prevent recovering drug addicts from relapsing — without using other pharmaceuticals to help. The approach involves modifying addicts’ behavior by weakening their memory of drug taking, which relieves their cravings and might help to prevent relapse.

    Addicts tend to associate a drug’s effects with drug-taking equipment and a certain environment, which can make them vulnerable to relapse if they encounter those conditions. The technique, studied by Lin Lu of the National Institute of Drug Dependence at Peking University in Beijing and his colleagues, aims to break that link by briefly reactivating the memory of drug taking and following it with an ‘extinction session’ of repeated exposure to the same memory cues.

    The short reminder of drug-taking seems to take the memory out of storage and make it easier to overwrite.

    Existing therapies try to help addicts to unlearn their habit by, for example, showing them videos of people injecting, and having them handle syringes while not under the influence of the drug. This reduces cravings in the clinic, but not when addicts return to their usual surroundings. Other approaches tested in rats involved using memory-blocking drugs to change memories of past drug use, but these are not approved for use in humans.

    Read more @

  3. Pingback: Ways of navigating this blog | Integral Yoga of Sri Aurobindo & The Mother

  4. Peter

    I find this information on the Subconscient especially interesting. Most likely because when I meditate I struggle to stay awake. I see the dreamy images form from deeper moods or whatever. Thank you for all this.


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