by Swami Krishnananda
The life of an individual passes through various stages. And, the formation of individuality is nothing but a concrescence of the forces of the thoughts, feelings and actions entertained and implemented in execution in the several previous lives through which one has passed. A particular group of these psycho-physical forces, allocated out of a vast reservoir of them existing as the potential background of all individualised manifestations, becomes the efficient as well as the material cause of the birth of the body-mind complex, the individuality, of the person.
The individuality of a person precisely consists of tendencies and of urges which are the manifestations of forces engendered in previous incarnations. The ways in which the urges express themselves spontaneously, without being tutored by any external influence, may be called the instincts of the individual, and the conglomeration of these spontaneous urges, which either remain latent due to the presence of conditions not favourable for their expression or elbow themselves into action for the purpose of the fulfilment of their motives when conditions for the same are favourable, is what is known as the instinctive nature of the individual. These instincts are manifold in their character, the principal among them being the self-preservative instinct, the possessive instinct, the self-regarding instinct, the self-reproductive instinct and the curiosity instinct, the last in this list being an incipient stage of the instinct for knowing more and more of things, i.e., the aspiration for knowledge.
At the very birth of the individual, as a child, it shows very little indication of the multiple character of the instincts of which it is constituted. There is then, merely, the predominance of the self-preservative instinct which begins to act first as the sensation of hunger and thirst and heat and cold, as well as sleep. Psychoanalysts tell us that a thorough deductive investigation of the behaviour of the child would reveal even then the rudimentary forms of the other instincts which have not yet fully matured into their natural activity. The child grows into a budding adolescent, and with the forceful opening of the energies of the system which have been, kept bottled up, up to this time, they endeavour to rush out into the arena of public life in the form of a vehement inclination and inducement to game and play as well as those social forms of relationship with the neighbouring individuals of the same age, which may safely be regarded as the innocuous moorings of those subtle instincts within, which are yet to flame forth in the future as the oppressive powers of self-manifestation in the form of one’s very outlook of life as a whole, upon which are based the various enterprises of one’s life. The desire to eat, to play and to sleep are the grossest forms of the medium. and manner in which the basic instincts allot to themselves their present function under those given conditions of childhood and adolescence. The instincts of hunger and sleep are, however, those features which persist till the end of one’s life and do not brook any intervention with them or permit of any modification in their modus operandi. The senses being the most powerful in their expression, at the very outset, in the life of the individual, and the ego-principle being equally dominant over every other urge even in the earliest stages of human development, the longings which spring forth initially at these moments of the dawn of one’s life are mostly sensory and self-assertive. There are what the society considers as the natural desires of the human being, namely, to eat and drink dainties, clothe oneself well and appear as one invested with a sort of intrinsic importance in the midst of human society. There is simultaneously the working of the possessive instinct which keeps on egging one to accumulate for oneself the good things of life, the beautiful things, the valuable things and the rare things, the loss of which would be indeed a great sorrow to the possessor. But more things are yet to come, and they are the principal soldiers in the battle of phenomenal existence, and they will come to the forefront a little later.
And what are these? They are nothing but the emissaries or ambassadors sent by the ruling law of life, which itself is a reflection of the Nature of the Great Reality of the universe. As the Prime Minister of a State is said to be the President-in-motion, the law of the universe may equally be regarded as the Supreme Reality in operation. The characters of Reality are eternity and infinity, and it is these features that are supposed to be worked out through the law of the universe which compels the individuals in it to conform to its requirements and mandates.
The process of nutrition by means of the double activity of anabolism and catabolism is the tendency of the growth of the body as the vehicle of the mind in and through the mutations, permutations and combinations known as life’s purpose. The seeking for food, clothing and shelter, the need felt for recreation and amusement and a natural inclination to a sociable nature of oneself are all the empirical formations of these sprouting stages in the life of an individual. Up to this level of expression, the conduct of one’s life is usually regarded as the normal way of living, but, unfortunately, this so-called normalcy of behaviour is not easily detected in its true colours. Its intention is something quite different, for it acts as a dynamo to produce the necessary power to drive the instincts into action. The individualistic urges are ultimately irrational cravings to perpetuate the individuality, which manifest themselves as self-assertion on the one hand and as self-expression on the other. The self-assertive instinct is the ego. Preservation of the integrity of the psycho-physical organism, compensation for inferiority feeling in society, an assertion of thwarted sense of power, status and distinction are the motives behind the activity of the building up of one’s ego by adding to it qualifications from outside. The desire for name and fame, will-to-power, exaltations of the ego, self-conceit, vanity, pride, jealousy and personal ambition are the tongues of the fire of egoism.
The self-expressive urge is the force behind the self-reproductive urge, which really disintegrates the constitution of the psycho-physical organism in the process of its work towards production of a new individual of its own species. In this sense it may safely be held that the reproductive urge is katabolic, self-destructive, for it destroys the individual by depleting its energy in the direction of the production of the individual whose birth is its aim. This force initially operates as mere self-love and then passes through the stages of love of parents, love of inanimate beings and beings who may even be sub-human, love of the best suited individuals of one’s own age group and species, and finally love of those individuals who can best act as cooperative mediums in the fulfilment of this self-expressive urge. The love of progeny or one’s own children is obviously a biological attraction one feels towards one’s own alter-ego seen in the individual born of one’s own blood and essence. This also explains one’s affiliation to those related by blood or otherwise indirectly related to oneself. When this self-expressive urge finds not its proper correlative object at any particular level of its expression, it seeks to fulfil itself at the next lower level by way of regression to an earlier stage of its expression.