The Impartial Witness Consciousness and the First Condition of Liberation From Nature

Most of us live our lives almost entirely consumed by the external events and objects in the world around us. Our lives are focused on achieving various external goals based on those events and objects and we spend precious little time or focus on whether or not there is any other higher, deeper or alternative reality that should command our attention.

At the same time, there are those who have seen the illusory nature of the eternal round of success and failure, happiness and suffering, joy and pain that accompany this external focus. These individuals have undertaken various disciplines of training their minds and senses to disconnect, even if at first just for short bursts of experience, from our fixation on the outer phenomena, and thereby to open up the pathway to experience some other status of consciousness.

These individuals, whom we call sages, seers, mystics, Yogins, report that there is indeed another consciousness that suffuses our external reality and yet exceeds it. Sri Aurobindo describes this as follows: “There is a spirit within us calm, superior to works, equal, not bound in this external tangle, surveying it as its supporter, source, immanent witness, but not involved in it. Infinite, containing all, one self in all, it surveys impartially the whole action of Nature, not is own action. It sees that the ego and its will and its intelligence are all a machinery of Nature and that all their activities are determined by the complexity of her triple modes and qualities. The eternal spirit itself is free from these things. It is free from them because it knows; it knows that Nature and ego and the personal being of all these creatures do not make up the whole of existence….There is something eternal, immutable, imperishable, a timeless self-existence, that is not affected by the mutations of Nature. It is their impartial witness, neither affecting nor affected, neither acting nor acted upon, neither virtuous or sinful, but always pure, complete, great and unwounded.”

“Man is not now conscious of this self, because he is wrapped up in his outward-going mind, because he will not learn or has not learned to live within; he does not detach himself, draw back from his action and observe it as the work of Nature. Ego is the obstacle, the linch-pin of the wheel of delusion, the loss of the ego in the soul’s self, the first condition of freedom. To become spirit, no longer merely a mind and ego, is the opening word of this message of liberation.”

Sri Aurobindo, Essays on the Gita, Second Series, Part I, Chapter 4, The Secret of Secrets, pg. 289