[Published in http://fdi.sriaurobindosociety.org.in/cms/index.php, Feb 2011]
(Our consciousness has two aspects: Awareness and the Energy Inherent in it. The awareness is the light which reveals the contents of our inner and outer world and the energy expresses itself through the faculties and instruments of our consciousness. For a total and effective action both these aspects of consciousness have to be fully developed.)
Becoming Conscious of our Consciousness
There are two things to be considered: consciousness and the instruments through which consciousness manifests.
First of all one must know what one’s consciousness is, that is, become conscious of one’s consciousness, localise it. And for this there are many exercises. But one of them is very well known, it is to observe oneself and watch oneself living, and then see whether it is really the body which is the consciousness of the being, what one calls “myself”; and then when one has realized that it is not at all the body, that the body expresses something else, then one searches in his impulses, emotions, to see whether it’s that, and again one finds out that it is not that; and then one seeks in his thoughts, whether the thought is truly himself, what he calls “myself”, and at the end of a very short time one becomes aware: “No, I am thinking, therefore ‘myself’ is different from my thoughts.” And so, by progressive eliminations one succeeds in entering into contact with something, something which gives you the impression of being—“Yes, that’s ‘myself’. And this something I can move around, I can move it from my body to my vital, to my mind, I can even, if I am very… how to put it?… very practised in moving it, I can move it into other people, and it’s in this way that I can identify myself with things and people. I can with the help of my aspiration make it come out of my human form, rise above towards regions which are no longer this little body at all and what it contains.” And so one begins to understand what one’s consciousness is; and it’s after that that one can say, “Good, I shall unite my consciousness with my psychic being and shall leave it there, so that it may be in harmony with the Divine and be able to surrender entirely to the Divine.” Or else, “If by this exercise of rising above my faculties of thinking and my intellect I can enter a region of pure light, pure knowledge…” then one can put his consciousness there and live like that, in a luminous splendour which is above the physical form.
But first this consciousness must be mobile, and one must know how to distinguish it from the other parts of the being which in fact are its instruments, its modes of expression. The consciousness must make use of these things, and not you mistake these things for the consciousness. You put the consciousness in these things, so you become conscious of your body, conscious of your vital, conscious of your mind, conscious of all your activities through your will for identification; but for this, first your consciousness must not be completely entangled, mingled, joined, so to say, with all these things; it must not take them for itself, must not be deceived.
When one thinks of himself (obviously out of millions of men perhaps there are not ten who do otherwise) he thinks “Myself… that’s my body, that’s what I call ‘myself’, what’s like this. And so, I am like that; and then my neighbour, he also is the body. When I speak of another person, I speak of his body.” And so, as long as one is in this state he is the plaything of all possible movements and has no self-control.
The body is the last instrument and yet it’s this which one calls “myself” most of the time, unless one has begun to reflect. (1)
The Instrument of Consciousness
Let us take the instruments: there is the mental being which produces thoughts, the emotional being which produces feeling, the vital being which produces the power of action and the physical being that acts.
The man of genius may use anything at all and make something beautiful because he has genius; but give this genius a perfect instrument and he will make something wonderful. Take a great musician; well, even with a wretched piano and missing note, he will produce something beautiful; but give him a good piano, well-tuned, and he will do something still more beautiful. The consciousness is the same in either case but for expression it needs a good instrument – a body with mental, vital, psychic and physical capacities.
If physically you are badly built, badly set up, it will be difficult for you, even with a good training, to do gymnastics as well as one with a beautiful well-built body. It is the same with the mind – one who has a well-organised mind, complex, complete, refined, will express himself much better than one who has a rather mediocre or badly organised mind. First of all, you must educate your consciousness, become conscious of yourself, organise your consciousness according to your ideal, but at the same time do not neglect the instruments which are in your body.
Take an example. You are in your body with your deepest ideal but you find yourself before a school class and you have to teach something to the students. Well, this light is up there, this light of consciousness, but when you have to explain to your class the science you have to teach, is it more convenient to have a fund of knowledge or will the inspiration be such that you will not need this fund of knowledge? What is your personal experience?. . You find, don’t you, that there are days when everything goes well-you are eloquent, your students listen to you and understand you easily. But there are other days when what you have to teach does not come, they do not listen to you- that is, you are bored and are boring. This means that in the former case your consciousness is awake and concentrated upon what you are doing, while in the second it is more or less asleep-you are left to your most external means. But in this case, if you have a fund of knowledge you can tell your students something; if you have a mind trained, prepared, a good instrument responding well when you want to make use of it, and if you have also gathered all necessary notes and notions all will go very well. But if you have nothing in your head and, besides, you are not in contact with your higher consciousness, then you have no other recourse than to take a book and read out your lesson – you will be obliged to make use of someone else’s mind.
Take games. There too you find days when everything goes well; you have done nothing special previously, but even so you succeed in everything; but if you have practised well beforehand, the result is still more magnificent. If, for example, you find yourself facing someone who has trained himself slowly, seriously, with patience and endurance, and who all of a sudden has a strong aspiration, well, this one will beat you in spite of your aspiration unless your aspiration is very much superior to that of your adversary. If you have opposite you someone who knows only the technique of the game but has no conscious aspiration, while you are in a fully conscious state, evidently it is you who will defeat him because the quality of consciousness is superior to the quality of technique. But one cannot replace the other. The one which is superior is more important, granted, but you must also have nerves which respond quickly, spontaneous movements; you must know all the secrets of the game to be able to play perfectly. You must have both the things. What is higher is the consciousness which enables you to make the right movement at the right moment but it is not exclusive. When you seek perfection, you must not neglect the one under the pretext that you have the other. (2)
1. The Mother, CWM, Vol.7, pp. 254-55
2. The Mother, CWM, Vol.4, pp.40-41