Wisdom that conceives the order and principle of things and manifested by Maheswari, Goddess of supreme knowledge;
(b) The Power that sanctions, upholds and enforces it, aided by Mahakali, Goddess of the supreme strength;
(c) The Harmony that creates the arrangements of its parts with the help of Mahalakshmi, the Goddess of love and beauty; and
(d) The Work that carries out what the rest directs with the sanction of Mahasaraswati, Goddess of skill and perfection. *
These four principles justified the four‑fold order of the society. They can also be used to justify and build up an ideal four‑fold personality as the same Reality expresses itself equally in man and the collectivity. Sri Aurobindo describes that the very nature of our life is such that it is at every moment subject to the influence of these four principles at work ‑'Our life itself is at once an Inquiry after truth and knowledge, a struggle and battle of our will with ourselves and surrounding forces, a constant production, adaptation, application of skill to the material of life and a sacrifice and service.' (25) Sri Aurobindo explains that the crude external idea that a man is born
* These four principles effected by the four Powers of the Divine Shakti fulfill the mission of the four kings of the Vedic pantheon‑Varuna, Mitra, Aryaman and Bhaga ‑ they represent the purity and vastness of The Truth‑Consciousness, its law of light, love and harmony, its power and aspiration, its pure and happy enjoyment of things. (24) into a particular caste is not a psychological truth of our being. 'The psychological fact is that there are these four active powers and tendencies of the Spirit and its executive Shakti within us and the predominance of one or the other in the more well‑formed part of our personality gives us our main tendencies, dominant qualities and capacities, effective turn in action and life. But they are more or less present in all men, here manifest, there latent, here developed, there subdued and depressed or subordinate, and in the perfect man will be raised up to a fullness and harmony…………………the most outward psychological form of these things is the mould or trend of the nature towards certain dominant tendencies, capacities, characteristics, form of active power, quality of the mind and inner life, cultural personality or type.' (26) The turn is often towards the predominance of the intellectual development. According to the grade of development arises the inquisitive mind, the intellectual, and lastly, the thinker, sage and prophet. In others, the turn of their nature is to the predominance of will‑force and capacities which make for strength, leadership and victory. According to the grade of power, we have the man of action, the man of self‑imposing active will and personality and finally the conqueror, creator, founder in what ever field of active formation of
life. A third turn of human nature is towards the practical arranging intelligence and instinct of life to produce, exchange, possess, enjoy, contrive, put things in order and balance and this power outwardly
expresses itself as the legal, professional, commercial, industrial, economical, practical and scientific, mechanical, technical and utilitarian mind. The fourth turn of human nature is towards work and service. A
mechanical discharge of duty without any enlightenment and gratifying only primal wants of life places one automatically at the bottom of the social hierarchy. Only if his work is uplifted by knowledge, mutuality and
strength, the true dignity of labour can be established.
Sri Aurobindo points out that each of these four types of personality patterns cannot be complete if it does not bring into it something from the other types. (27) Thus
(a) the man of knowledge cannot serve truth unless he has will‑force (otherwise he will be impotent and ritualistic) and unless he has adaptive skill to work out his knowledge in the practical field (otherwise his ideas will remain utopian) and his knowledge cannot be consecrated unless he has a spirit of service to humanity (otherwise he will be too egoistic). That is why Sri Aurobindo postulates that 'it was the Kshatriya bringing his courage, audacity, spirit of conquest into the fields of intuitive knowledge and spiritual experience who first discovered the great truths of Vedanta. ‘(28); (b) the man of power must supplement his force by knowledge and reason (otherwise he becomes a Titan and an Asura), must have skill to administer and regulate his own strength and make it creative, adaptive and fruitful (otherwise his force is more destructive than constructive) and must be capable of obedience (or else he becomes a tyrant and brute dominator),
(c) the man of productive mind and work must have an open and enquiring mentality (or else he has no expansive growth), must have courage and enterprise along with a spirit of service (or else he will only amass and enjoy without consciously aiding social growth);
(d) the man of labour and service must bring knowledge, honour and aspiration and skill into work since only then the true dignity of labour can be established. Sri Aurobindo proceeds further to emphasise that if work and service can be truly developed in the spirit of love, obedience and selflessness, we can be capable of 'atma‑samarpana'‑complete self-surrender, a necessary prerequisite for spiritual development.
The greater perfection of man comes when he enlarges his repertoire to include all the four qualities even though one of them may lead the others. These four qualities correspond to the head and limbs that spring from the body of the creative deity in the original Vedic imagery. The head and the limbs are dependent on the body but the body exceeds its parts as the latter can remain either quiescent or active. Similarly, the four-fold powers of man must have a base (analogous to the body of the creative deity) to which they relate but which in turn is not exhausted by them. This is the Soul‑Force presiding over and filling the powers of its nature. It is something "Impersonal in the personal form, independent and self‑sufficient even in the use of the instrumentation, indeterminable though determining both itself and things, something that acts with a much greater power upon the world and uses particular power only as one means of communication and impact on man and circumstance." (29) The four‑fold powers have to be harmonised and integrated around this soul force * which surpasses the ego.
The four‑fold personality perfected around an integrating soul‑force is the synthesis perceived by Sri Aurobindo. This task requires not only a human effort but a response from the Divine. This new synthesis is built from the same seed‑ ideas that gave birth to the Caturvarna. The Caturvarna was an expression of the Universal spirit as a four‑fold social hierarchy. With the passage of time the form lost its significance and became a burden‑ something that occurredwhen the Caturvarna became a diseased
* This soul‑force in the Aurobindonian glossary arises not from an ethical base but is inherent in the power of the Psychic Being which is the frontal evolutionary principle of the Atman of the Indian tradition,
caste system. But the spirit of the original seed‑ideas born from an intuitive seer‑vision outlives the forms and can always be used for a new synthesis. The four‑fold personality featuring Wisdom, Strength, Harmony and Service integrated around the Soul‑force is such a new synthesis made from the same seed ideas that produced the Caturvarna. This would be more acceptable to the Indian psyche to whom the Vedas, Upanishads and Gita continue to be living spirit.
Such a new synthetic vision of personality has another dimension. The reaction to conventionalism in the West took the form of materialism, secularism and mechanical organisation in the age of Individualism. Sri Aurobindo had opined that the Indian reaction might differ from that of the West and take the form of subjectivism and practical spirituality.30 An acceptance of Sri Aurobindo's synthesis of a perfected personality type constructed from the seed-ideas that evolved the Caturvarna while rejecting the worn‑out caste system would itself be a classical Indian reaction to the age of conventionalism. As such an attempt will have to integrate Wisdom, Strength, Harmony and Service around a Beyond‑Ego principle, it will be mandatory for the Time‑Spirit to press the Human Cycle to move towards a spiritual age en route an era of subjectivism.
(1) Sri Aurobindo : The Foundations Of Indian Culture, Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry, 3rd Ed, 1971 Pg. 159.
(2) Sri Aurobindo: Essays On The Gita, Sri Aurobindo Ashram , Pondicherry, 10th Ed, 1976, Pg 505.
(3) Sri Aurobindo: The Human Cycle, The Ideal Of Human Unity. War And Self Determination, Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry, 5th combined Ed, 1977, Pg, 464.
(4) Sri Aurobindo The Renaissance in India, Arya Publishing House, Calcutta, 3rd Ed, 1946, Pg. 14.
(5) Sri Aurobindo The Foundations of Indian Culture, Sri Aurobindo Ashram Pondicherry. 3rd Ed, 1971, Pg. 104‑ 105.
(6) Sri Aurobindo : The Spirit And Form Of Indian Polity, Arya Publishing House, Calcutta, Ist Ed, 1947, Pg. 7‑18,
(7) Sri Aurobindo : The Spirit And Form Of Indian Polity, Arya Publishing House, Calcutta, I st Ed, 1947, Pgs. 36‑62.
(8) Purani, A. B. : Evening Talks With Sri Aurobindo, Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry, 3rd Ed, 1982, Pgs.280‑282.
(9) Sri Aurobindo The Spirit And Form Of Indian Polity, Arya Publishing House, Calcutta, Ist Ed, 1947, Pgs, 62‑64.
(10) Sri Aurobindo The Spirit And Form Of Indian Polity, Arya Publishing House, Calcutta, I st Ed, 1947, Pgs. 80‑81
(11) Sri Aurobindo The Spirit And Form Of Indian Polity, Arya Publishing House, Calcutta, Ist Ed, 1947, Pg.45.
(12) Sri Aurobindo: The Human Cycle. The Ideal Of Human Unity, War And Self Determination, Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry, 5th Combined Ed, 1977, Pgs. 2‑ 10.
(13) Kapali Sastry, T.V. Sri Aurobindo :Lights On The Teachings, Sri Aurobindo Library, Madras,
(14) Subbannachar,N.V. Social Psychology. The Integral Approach, Scientific Book Agency,
Calcutta, 1966, (Table 9, Pg 259 & 323).
(15) Subbannachar, N.V. : Social Psychology. The Integral Approach, Scientific Book Agency,
Calcutta, 1966, Pg.380.
(16) Sri Aurobindo: The Human Cycle. The Ideal Of Human Unity. War And Self‑Determination, Sri