The mental viewpoint that dominates our ordinary lives makes us believe that we are individual beings, separate and fragmented from the rest of creation, and certainly separate and different than the Divine. As long as we are locked into that viewpoint, we cannot know or understand the deeper spiritual truths of existence. With the development of spiritual experience, however, we can enter into a state of awareness that overcomes the experience of separation and we then can know the Divine existence through knowledge by identity.
Sri Aurobindo describes some aspects of this deepening spiritual awareness: “We perceive a one self of all and of that we have the consciousness and the vision: we can no longer say or think that we are entirely different from him, but that there is self and there is phenomenon of the self-existent; all is one in self, but all is variation in the phenomenon.”
At one stage of this new experience we treat the phenomenon as something illusory and unreal, and we rest in the unity of the spiritual consciousness. This is the basis of some of the illusionist, (Mayavada), positions that have held strong sway from time to time in the spiritual traditions of the world.
At another stage, with increased understanding, we can move beyond this apparent duality to recognize that even the phenomenon we see and interact with outside ourselves is part and parcel of the one self, and that it is one with our own consciousness as well. “The universe, and our existence in the universe, becomes to us a constant and real form of the self-aware existence of the Divine.”
There is a reality to the external forms: “For it is ever itself and figures of itself and not things quite other than itself that the Spirit sees everywhere.”
Sri Aurobindo, Essays on the Gita, Second Series, Part I, Chapter 5, The Divine Truth and Way, pg. 300