Developing Capacity for Occult Knowledge

Sri Aurobindo discusses the opportunity of direct contact in consciousness with outer forms, forces and fields of consciousness, and the development of instrumentalities to gain knowledge based on this direct contact. This is different from our normal outer perception, and is only possible if we break down the walls between our inner subliminal being and the outer world. He explains: “In our surface mentality we are sometimes aware of a consciousness that can feel or know the thoughts and inner reactions of others or become aware of objects or happenings without any observable sense-intervention or otherwise exercise powers supernormal to our ordinary capacity; but these capacities are occasional, rudimentary, vague. Their possession is proper to our concealed subliminal self and, when they emerge, it is by a coming to the surface of its powers or operations. These emergent operations of the subliminal being or some of them are now fragmentarily studied under the name of psychic phenomena,–although they have ordinarily nothing to do wit the psyche , the soul, the inmost entity in us, but only with the inner mind, the inner vital, the subtle-physical parts of our subliminal being ; but the results cannot be conclusive or sufficiently ample because they are sought for by methods of inquiry and experiment and standards of proof proper to the surface mind and its system of knowledge by indirect contact. Under these conditions they can be investigated only in so far as they are able to manifest in that mind to which they are exceptional, abnormal or supernormal, and therefore comparatively rare, difficult, incomplete in their occurrence. It is only if we can open up the wall between the outer mind and the inner consciousness to which such phenomena are normal, or if we can enter freely within or dwell there, that this realm of knowledge can be truly explained and annexed to our total consciousness and included in the field of operation of our awakened force of nature.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine, Book 2, Part I, Chapter 10, Knowledge by Identity and Separative, pp. 536-537


Inner Awareness Expands Knowledge of Outer World & Other Forces

Sri Aurobindo points out that gaining increased inner awareness has not only a benefit for the individual self-knowledge, but provides a capability to gain increased knowledge and awareness of forces, events and forms in the outer world: “But the subliminal being has also a larger direct contact with the world; it is not confined like the surface Mind to the interpretaiton of sense-images and sense-vibrations supplemented by the mental and vital intuition and the reason. There is indeed an inner sense in the subliminal nature, a subtle sense of vision, hearing, touch, smell and taste; but these are not confined to the creation of images of things belonging to the physical environment,–they can present to the consciousness visual, auditory, tactual and other images and vibrations of things beyond the restricted range of the physical senses or belonging to other planes or spheres of existence. This inner sense can create or present images, scenes, sounds that are symbolic rather than actual or that represent possibilities in formation, suggestions, thoughts, ideas, intentions of other beings, image-forms also of powers or potentialities in universal Nature; there is nothing that it cannot image or visualise or turn into sensory formations. It is the subliminal in reality and not the outer mind that possesses the powers of telepathy, clairvoyance, second sight and other supernormal faculties whose occurrence in the surface consciousness is due to openings or rifts in the wall erected by the outer personality’s unseeing labour of individualisation and interposed between itself and the inner domain of our being….they add immensely to our possible scope of knowledge and widen the narrow limits in which our sense-bound outer physical consciousness is circumscribed and imprisoned.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine, Book 2, Part I, Chapter 10, Knowledge by Identity and Separative Knowledge, pp. 535-536

Powers of Knowledge of the Inner Being

Sri Aurobindo describes another important psychological tool for gaining insight and mastery of the surface nature that becomes available upon entry into the inner being, and that is the separation of the Purusha and Prakriti, the Witness Self and the active Nature. Not only can we see the lines of action more clearly and completely, with a greater comprehensive understanding, but we gain a much more intimate knowledge by identity which is not possible in our surface consciousness.

Sri Aurobindo explains: “But also there is or can be along with this intimacy of knowledge a detached observation of the actions of the nature by the Purusha and a great possibliity, through this double status of knowledge, of a complete control and understanding. All the movements of the surface being can be seen with a complete detachment, but also with a direct sight in the consciousness by which the self-delusions and mistakes of self of the outer consciousness can be dispelled; there is a keener mental vision, a clearer and more accurate mental feeling of our subjective becoming, a vision which at once knows, commands and controls the whole nature.”

Depending on what parts of the nature are the strongest, this can lead to either increased awareness which can manage the actions of the vital nature; or increased power with deficient knowledge, leading to aggrandisement of the vital nature.

Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine, Book 2, Part I, Chapter 10, Knowledge by Identity and Separative Knowledge, pg. 535

Methodology For Overcoming Self-Deception of Surface Nature, Part 2

Sri Aurobindo continues his discussion on how to take control of the psychology of the surface being from the inner central Being: “But while on the surface their action is mixed together, confused and conflicting, here in our depths they can be seen and worked upon in their independent and separate nature and action and a harmonisation of them by the mental being in us, leader of the life and body,–or, better, by the central psychic entity,–is not so difficult, provided we have the right psychic and mental will in the endeavor: for if it is with the vital-ego motive that we make the entry into our subliminal being, it may result in serious dangers and disaster or at the least an exaggeration of ego, self-affirmation and desire, an enlarged and more powerful ignorance instead of an enlarged and more powerful knowledge. Moreover, we find in this inner or subliminal being the means of directly distinguishing between what rises from within and what comes to us from outside, from others or from universal Nature, and it becomes possible to exercise a control, a choice, a power of willed reception, rejection and selection, a clear power of self-building and harmonisation which we do not possess or can operate very imperfectly in our composed surface personality but which is the prerogative of our inner Person. For by this entry into the depths the inner being, no longer quite veiled, no longer obliged to exercise a fragmentary influence on its outer instrumental consciousness, is able to formulate itself more luminously in our life in the physical universe.”

This series of insights into the inner psychology and its ability to see, understand and control the surface nature is a key line of action for the spiritual seeker. Sri Aurobindo related his own experience when he was asked to meditate and to see the thoughts coming in from outside and before they formed to reject them. The result was a liberation and silence of the mind, which became the basis for future realisations and yogic development.
Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine, Book 2, Part I, Chapter 10, Knowledge by Identity and Separative Knowledge, pg. 534

Methodology to Overcome Self-Deception of Surface Being

Sri Aurobindo’s exposition of the inner psychology and its functioning, and our ability to utilize this knowledge to gain self-mastery, is an important advance in the field. We shall focus the next few posts on this important segment as it can provide some real leverage for anyone attempting to take conscious control of their spiritual evolutionary destiny. Sri Aurobindo starts by describing the inner life: “For a larger mental being is there within us, a larger inner vital being, even a larger inner subtle-physical being other than our surface body-consciousness, and by entering into this or becoming it, identifying ourselves with it, we can observe the springs of our thoughts and feelings, the sources and motives of our action, the operative energies that build up our surface personality. For we discover and can know the inner being that secretly thinks and perceives in us, the vital being that secretly feels and acts upon life through us, the subtle-physical being that secretly receives and responds to the contacts of things through our body and its organs. Our surface thought, feeling, emotion is a complexity and confusion of impulsions from within and impacts from outside us; our reason, our organising intelligence can impose on it only an imperfect order: but here within we find the separate sources of our mental, our vital and our physical energisms and can see clearly the pure operations, the distinct powers, the composing elements of each and their interplay in a clear light of self-vision. We find that the contradictions and the struggles of our surface consciousness are largely due to the contrary or mutually discordant tendencies of our mental, vital and physical parts opposing and unreconciled with each other and these again to the discord of many different inner possibilities of our being and even of different personalities on each level in us which are behind the intermixed disposition and differing tendencies of our surface nature.”

This analysis sets the stage for the type of inner clarity and action that can be developed to disentangle the confused skeins and gain some insight and control or mastery over the thoughts, feelings, actions and perceptions of the composite surface being.

Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine, Book 2, Part I, Chapter 10, Knowledge by Identity and Separative Knowledge, 533-534

Self-Deception and the Ignorance

Sri Aurobindo points out that in addition to the limitations of consciousness under which we labor in our surface being, there is also an element of self-deception and play-acting that takes place as a result of the role of the vital-ego which attempts to aggrandise itself and convince the mind to accept its formulations in order to satisfy its desires.

Sri Aurobindo explains: “our self-view is vitiated by the constant impact and intrusion of our outer life-self, our vital being, which seeks always to make the thinking mind its tool and servant: for our vital being is not concerned with self-knowledge but with self-affirmation, desire, ego. It is therefore constantly acting on mind to build for it a mental structure of apparent self that will serve these purposes; our mind is persuaded to present to us and to others a partly fictitious representative figure of ourselves which suppports our self-affirrmation, justifies our desires and actions, nourishes our ego. This vital intervention is not indeed always in the direction of self-justification and assertion; it turns sometimes towards self-depreciation and a morbid and exaggerated self-criticism: but this too is an ego-structure, a reverse or negative egoism, a poise or pose of the vital ego. For in this vital ego there is frequently a mixture of the charlatan and mountebank, the poser and actor; it is constantly taking up a role and playing it to itself and to others as its public. An organised self-deception is thus added to an organised self-ignorance; it is only by going within and seeing these things at their source that we can get out of this obscurity and tangle.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine, Book 2, Part I, Chapter 10, Knowledge by Identity and Separative Knowledge, pp. 532-533

Beginning the Exploration of the Inner Self of Being

While it is necessary, for the spiritual evolution, to eventually break down the barriers set up to develop the individual self, and thereby to come into contact with both the inner reality and the outer, cosmic universal reality, there is a reason to start with the inner self. Sri Aurobindo explains: “the awakening to our inner realities, imposes itself as the prior necessity because it is by this inward self-finding that the second,–the cosmic self-finding,–can become entirely possible: we have to go into our inner being and learn to live in it and from it; the outer mind and life and body must become for us only an antechamber. All that we are on the outside is indeed conditioned by what is within, occult, in our inner depths and recesses; it is thence that come the secret initiatives, the self-effective formations; our inspirations, our intuitions, our life-motives, our mind’s preferences, our will’s selections are actuated from there,–in so far as they are not shaped or influenced by an insistence, equally hidden, of a surge of cosmic impacts: but the use we make of these emergent powers and these influences is conditioned, largely determined and, above all, very much limited by our outermost nature. It is then the knowledge of this inner initiating self coupled with the accurate perception of the outer instrumental self and the part played by both of them in our building that we have to discover.”

Many people do not recognize the occult or hidden impulses or motives of action that cause them to act a certain way in their external selves. Western psychology has grasped the concept, and starting with psychological researchers such as Freud and Jung, and a host of others who followed in their footsteps, has begun, ever so slightly, to peel back the layers toward the inner self. The psychological knowledge developed by the Vedic sages and the Upanishadic seers, as well as that developed later in the Buddhist tradition and the Vedantic path, in fact becomes a powerful tool for psychological self-discovery and exploration and goes far beyond the capabilities thus far developed in the West.

Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine, Book 2, Part I, Chapter 10, Knowledge by Identity and Separative Knowledge, pg. 532

Moving Beyond the Walls of the Ego-Self

If we plant a small tree, we take care to protect it from wind and animals while it is growing large enough to stand on its own, by protecting it with a barrier and even tying it up to ensure that it is not overpowered by the force of the wind. Similarly, the walls of the ego play a role in allowing the individual self expression to develop within the universal cosmic movement without being overwhelmed and overpowered by the intensity and vastness of the energies at that level.

Sri Aurobindo discusses this as follows: “It is, then, this double wall of self-imprisonment, this self-fortification in the bounds of a surface ego, that is the cause of our limited knowledge or ignorance, and if this self-imprisonment were the whole character of our existence, the ignorance would be irremediable. But, in fact, this constant outer ego-building is only a provisional device of the Consciousness-Force in things so that the secret individual, the spirit within, may establish a representative and instrumental formation of itself in physical nature, a provisional individualisaiton in the nature of the Ignorance, which is all that can at first be done in a world emerging out of a universal Inconscience.”

Of course, this is only a provisional phase and eventually the tree, as also the individualised self, no longer requires the protection of the barriers and can stand strong and free in its own place in the larger reality. For this to occur, Sri Aurobindo points out “Our being has to break the walls of ego-consciousness which it has created, it has to extend itself beyond its body and inhabit the body of the universe. In place of its knowledge by indirect contact, or in addition to it, it must arrive at a knowledge by direct contact and proceed to a knowledge by identity. Its limited finite of self has to become a boundless finite and an infinite.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine, Book 2, Part I, Chapter 10, Knowledge by Identity and Separative Knowledge, pp. 531-532

The Walls of the Ego-Self

The ego-sense walls off the surface being from both the deeper, inner realms of awareness and the cosmic, infinite consciousness, to enable the creation of a framed and distinct individuality. Sri Aurobindo describes the reason for the imperfection of our knowledge of the world as related to this phenomenon: “If we look for the reason of this limitation and imperfection, we shall find first that it is because we are concentrated on our surface; the depths of self, the secrets of our total nature are shut away from us behind a wall created by our externalising consciousness,–or created for it so that it can pursue its activity of egocentric individualisation of the mind, life and body uninvaded by the deeper and wider truth of our larger existence: through this wall we can look into our inner self and reality only through crevices and portholes and we see little there but a mysterious dimness. At the same time our consciousness has to defend its ego-centric individualisation, not only against its own deeper self of oneness and infinity, but against the cosmic infinite; it builds up a wall of division here also and shuts out all that is not centred round its ego, excludes it as not-self.”

Of course, there must be interchange between the ego-self and its inner deeper self; as well as with the world outside, and thus, various means of commuincation and interaction are developed using the senses as a gateway to the world. “The mind uses these means and invents others that supplement them and it succeeds in establishing some construction, some system of knowledge which serves its immediate purpose or its general will to master partially and use this huge alien environmental existence or deal with it where it cannot master it.”

Despite these walls, there is no absolute barrier and waves of thought, feeling, energies, invade from outside this artificially constructed self, and from our deeper selves; and because of the walls we have erected we only perceive these impulses partially and darkly, thus, essentially isolating ourselves within a walled off enclosure that permits only limited knowledge and limited power of action.

Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine, Book 2, Part I, Chapter 10, Knowledge by Identity and Separative Knowledge, pp. 530-531

The Insufficiency of our Knowledge of the World

Even with the corrective action of the reason, the mechanisms used to cognise and understand the world are weak, insufficient and flawed. Sri Aurobindo discusses the issues involved: “Our world-knowledge is therefore a difficult structure made up of the imperfect documentation of the sense-image, an intuitional interpretation of it by perceptive mind, life-mind and sense-mind, and a supplementary filling up, correction, addition of supplementary knowledge, co-ordination, by the reason. Even so our knowledge of the world we live in is narrow and imperfect, our interpretations of its significances doubtful: imagination, speculation, reflection, impartial weighing and reasoning, inference, measurement, testing, a further correction and amplification of sense evidence by Science,–all this apparatus had to be called in to complete the incompleteness. After all that the result still remains a half-certain, half-dubious accumulation of acquired indirect knowledge, a mass of significant images and ideative representations, abstract thought-counters, hypotheses, theories, generalisations, but also with all that a mass of doubts and a never-ending debate and inquiry.”

Sri Aurobindo goes on to point out that as we have developed these various faculties and the partial understanding that comes with them, we have gained various powers of action in the world, even as we continue to not understand the role and proper use of power. We can see the results of the misuse of these powers in the incredible destruction that we cause to the planet, the eco-sphere, through our one-sided application of knowledge without it being comprehensive, global and balanced to look at all aspects and unintended consequences.

Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine, Book 2, Part I, Chapter 10, Knowledge by Identity and Separative Knowledge, pg. 529