Four Main Lines of Approach For Spiritual Development

Inasmuch as the evolution requires that the spiritual consciousness develop systematically, we should be able to identify the movements used by Nature to bring about this emergence. Sri Aurobindo describes them as follows: “There are four main lines which Nature has followed in her attempt to open up the inner being,–religion, occultism, spiritual thought and an inner spiritual realisation and experience: the three first are approaches, the last is the decisive avenue of entry. All these four powers have worked by a simultaneous action, more or less connected, sometimes in a variable collaboration, sometimes in dispute with each other, sometimes in a separate independence. Religion has admitted an occult element in its ritual, ceremony, sacraments; it has leaned upon spiritual thinking, deriving from it sometimes a creed or theology, sometimes its supporting spiritual philosophy,–the former, ordinarily, is the occidental method, the latter the oriental: but spiritual experience is the final aim and achievement of religion, its sky and summit. Butalso religion has sometimes banned occultism or reduced its own occult element to a minimum; it has pushed away the philosophic mind as a dry intellectual alien, leaned with all its weight on creed and dogma, pietistic emotion and fervour and moral conduct; it has reduced to a minimum or dispensed with spiritual realisation and experience.”

Similarly, each of the other of the 4 main lines have at times found positive interface and interaction with the others, or in some cases, dispensed with or dismissed the others in a more exclusive focus on its own primary force or effort.

With respect to the meaning of these various directions and responses to the spiritual urge expressing itself in mankind, Sri Aurobindo points out that “All these variations were necessary; the evolutionary endeavour of Nature has experimented on all lines in order to find her true way and her whole way towards the supremen consciousness and the integral knowledge.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine, Book 2, Part 2, Chapter 24, “The Evolution of the Spiritual Man”