The Inner State of Consciousness

Before we proceed to the second step, the development of an upward and outward movement of consciousness, we should discuss in more depth the inner movement of consciousness. This is not a matter of thinking, or emotions, or some kind of practice of centering, but of a real, overpowering, and substantial experience of consciousness moving its seat of awareness and perspective in a way that is palpable and extremely vivid. There is a serious disconnection with the outer personality and its reliance on mind, life and body when this inner movement first takes place. One feels like a witness of an external person or personality, rather than oneself being the actor in one’s own life. This witness consciousness can lead to more or less a bifurcation of the awareness where there is an outer person who thinks, feels and acts, and there is an inner witness who watches and, in some cases, exerts an influence or even a control over that outer personality. The development of the witness consciousness is in fact one of the seminal realities of this inward movement, and has led to descriptions by those who experience these type of psychological realities, of a separation of Purusha and Prakriti, the Witness and the active Nature. The Upanishads talk about two birds seated on a single tree, one of them eating the sweet fruit of the tree, and the other one watching, clearly a description of this experience in consciousness.

It is important to keep in mind that none of this is achieved by holding a philosophy, a creed, a religious sentiment or being a member of some organised group or religion. In fact, the facts of the outer life are of very little real essential value in achieving this inner awareness. It is true however that seekers, mystics and devotees in all traditions have sought ways to achieve this inward movement and whether through fasting in the desert, silent meditation, or practices of yoga or intense devotional prayer, or through exercises such as sun-dancing in the Native American tradition, rhythmic hypnotic drumming, recitation of mantras, seekers have always recognized that there was a different state of consciousness, that it could be achieved and that it was worth virtually any price to attain it.

reference: Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine, Chapter 28, Supermind, Mind and the Overmind Maya