Three Stages of a Developing Spiritual Action

Just as there are steps or stages in the transition from the mental to the spiritual consciousness, so also there are stages in the transition from action based on the normal human ego-personality to action that is fully an expression of the spiritual Truth of existence. Sri Aurobindo identifies three major stages in this transition. Clearly there must be a way to bridge the wide gulf between egoistic and spiritual action, and these stages provide that bridge:

“…first, the personal will is occasionally or frequently enlightened or moved by a supreme Will or conscious Force beyond it, then constantly replaced and, last identified and merged in that divine Power-action. The first is the stage when we are still governed by the intellect, heart and senses; these have to seek or wait for the divine inspiration and guidance and do not always find or receive it. The second is the stage when human intelligence is more and more replaced by a high illumined or intuitive spiritualised mind, the external human heart by the inner psychic heart, the senses by a purified and selfless vital force. The third is the stage when we rise even above spiritualised mind to the supramental levels.”

“In all three stages the fundamental character of the liberated action is the same, a spontaneous working of Prakriti no longer through or for the ego but at the will and for the enjoyment of the supreme Purusha. At a higher level this becomes the Truth of the absolute and universal Supreme expressed through the individual soul and worked out consciously through the nature.–no longer through a half-perception and a diminished or distorted effectuation by the stumbling, ignorant and all-deforming energy of lower nature in us but by the all-wise transcendent and universal Mother.”

A struggle occurs where the intuition, the illumination, the inspiration appear and shed a brilliant light on the work to be done; and then the seeker returns to the habitual patterns, left with the vivid memory of the experience, and striving to have it return and repeat itself. “Our human effort at perfection fails, or progresses very incompletely, owing to the force of Nature’s past actions in us, her past formations, her long-rooted associations; it turns towards a true and high-climbing success only when a greater Knowledge or Power than our own breaks through the lid of our ignorance and guides or takes up our personal will….The period of slow emergence out of this lower working into a higher light and purer force is the valley of the shadow of death for the striver after perfection; it is a dreadful passage full of trials, sufferings, sorrows, obscurations, stumblings, errors, pitfalls. To abridge and alleviate this ordeal or to penetrate it with the divine delight faith is necessary, an increasing surrender of the mind to the knowledge that imposes itself from within and, above all, a true aspiration and a right and unfaltering and sincere practice.”

As the practice proceeds, the periods of illumination increase and the stages are traversed to arrive at a point where it is the divine Will acting through the individual as an occasion or a nexus of the action, rather than the weak and ignorant will of the egoistic individual personality.

Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Part One: The Yoga of Divine Works, Chapter 8, The Supreme Will, pp.207-208

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