Understanding Other Worldly Existence and Experience

Recognizing the existence of worlds organised around the Life-principle or the Mind-principle and not subjected to the limitations of the Material world, we can see that the interaction between these worlds and the material world within which we habitually act is subject to a certain amount of interpretation which we bring to the experience from our normal viewpoint. Sri Aurobindo describes this process of translation as follows: “If we look from this point of view at man’s traditional accounts of other-worldly existence, we shall find that mostly they point to worlds of a larger Life liberated from the restrictions and imperfections or incompleteness of Life in earth-nature. These accounts are evidently built largely by imagination, but there is an element also of intuition and divination, a feeling of what Life can be and surely is in some domain of its manifested or its realisable nature; there is also an element of true subliminal contact and experience. But the mind of man translates what he sees or receives or contacts from other-nature into figures proper to his own consciousness; they are his translations of supraphysical realities into his own significant forms and images and through these forms and images he enters into communication with the realities and can make them to a certain degree present and effective.”

Examining subtle life-states which are commonly described by humans, we can see a number of phenomena which can be reviewed and understood from this perspective. One such experience is the after-death experience. People who have died and been brought back to life frequently describe an experience that has the characteristics of a subtle vital world which nevertheless has many familiar forms and figures. Sri Aurobindo discusses this issue: “The experience of an after-death continuance of a modified earth-life may be explained as due to this kind of translation; but it is also explainable partly as the creation of a subjective post-mortal state in which he still lives in figures of habitual experience before he enters into other-worldly realities, partly as a passage through Life-worlds where the type of things expresses itself in formations originative of those to which he was attached in his earthly body or akin to them and therefore exercises a natural attraction on the vital being after its exit from the body.” We see then that the consciousness may be translating an experience into more or less familiar terms; or it may actually be passing through states or worlds that are connected to the vital experience which it had on earth in life. This illustrates one way or the other the inter-relation and influence of the Vital worlds on the earthly life and consciousness.

Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine, Book 2, Part 2, Chapter 21, The Order of the Worlds

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