Physical (Sri Aurobindo)

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The Physical faculty or part of the being, in Sri Aurobindo's philosophy, refers not just to the physical body, but the body's consciousness as well. The body is just as conscious as the vital and mental parts of the being, only it is a different type of consciousness. One does not find the distinction of non-conscious body and conscious mind that characterises Western thought. A partial analogy might be made with the "Moving Center" of Gurdjieff and Ouspensky's "Fourth Way" philosophy and cosmology.

In Sri Aurobindo's reading of the Taittiriya Upanishad, the physical being (or perhaps just the Physical Purusha) is the anna-maya-atma - the self made of food. As with the other faculties or principles of the being, in Sri Aurobindo's integral psychology the Physical can be subdivided into finer sub-grades, some of which are only described briefly in letters or occasional refernces elsewhere. These might include:

  • the Inner physical - the physical component of the inner being, which is wider and more plastic than the outer physical body. This is also called the subtle physical
  • the True physical being - is the Purusha of the physical level, which is like the Inner Physical larger than the surface body consciousness and in touch with the a larger spiritual consciounsess.
  • the Mental Physical (similar to the Physical Mind - see "Mental")
  • the Vital Physical or Nervous Being (which seems to be equivalent to the Etheric body of western esotericism, and hence pertains to one of the subtle bodies
  • the Physical Proper or pure body consciousness, which represents the consciousness of the external physical body itself.

Like the other principles of man, the Physical not only shades upwards to higher ontological levels, but also downwards into the Subconscient, which equates to the Subconscious or Lower Unconscious, although Sri Aurobindo asserts that the Subconscient includes much more than the unconscious of (Freudian) psychology.

And like all the faculties of the being, the Physical in all its aspects has to be transformed and spiritualised through the practice of Integral Yoga.


  • Sri Aurobindo, (1972), Letters on Yoga, Volumes 22, 23, and 24, 1972, Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust

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