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The Vital

Psychic Being
(Chaitya Purusha)

The Vital or Life faculty or part of the being, in Sri Aurobindo's philosophy, refers not simply to the etheric being or life force as to the various passions, desires, feelings, emotions, affects, compulsions, and likes and dislikes that strongly determine human motivation and action through desire and enthusiasm.

It would seem to correspond to the "animal soul" or "irrational soul" of Platonic, Neoplatonic, Christian, and Islamic thought, the Nefesh Habehamis of Chabad Hassidism and Kabbalah, Blavatsky's Kama or desire principle (see the Septenary), Leadbeater's (and later New Age) Emotional body, and Théon's Nervoux or Nervous Principle.

Unlike Western psychology, in which mind, emotions, instincts, and consciousness are all lumped together, Sri Aurobindo strongly distinguishes between the "Vital" and the "Mental" faculties.

This is divided into a higher and a lower as follows

Higher vital usually refers to the vital mind and emotive being as op posed to the middle vital which has its seat in the navel and is dynamic, sensational and passionate and the lower which is made up of the smaller movements of human life-desire and life-reactions...

The lower vital as distinguished from the higher is concerned only with the small greeds, small desires, small passions, etc. which make up the daily stuff of life for the ordinary sensational man - while the vital-physical proper is the nervous being giving vital reflexes to contacts of things with the physical consciousness.
Sri Aurobindo Letters on Yoga vol. I pp.325, 326

Grades of Being - the the various sublevels of the life plane

The True Vital
The Inner Vital
Mental Vital
Emotional Vital
Vital proper
Physical Vital

The Vital Plane as the Dynamicism of Being

Yet the Vital is more than just "lower self".  As Mirra explains:

 "The vital is the centre of dynamism of the being, of active energy..."
[Collected Works, vol 4, p.59]


 "The vital is a sort of stronghold of energy  and power....Yet generally this power is  diverted; it is no longer at the service of the Divine, it is at the service of the vital itself for its own satisfaction...."
[Collected Works, vol 8, p.299]

Clearly, the Vital can be identified with the element of Will, of motivation and energy (several times Sri Aurobindo and Mirra say "without the help of the vital, nothing can be achieved").

Vital Beings

The Vital Plane and its correspondences in other esoteric systems of thought

In addition to the individual Vital faculty, Sri Aurobindo refers to a Vital Plane or Vital world, which would seem to be partly equivalent to the Astral Plane of popular occultism and New Age thought.

Sri Aurobindo Platonism Kabbalah Theosophy My terminology
Mental Vital
Emotional Vital
Central Vital
irrational (alogos) soul;
World of Asiyah (apart from Malkut); Nefesh, Nefesh behemis Higher Astral Plane The Psychic Hypostasis
Physical Vital
(=small vital)
Lower Astral Plane

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page by M.Alan Kazlev
page uploaded 12 November 1998, last modified 23 October 2007