Illumined Action and Transformed Action

When we reflect on the stages of spiritual development, we can recognise that for the most part the spiritual paths have emphasised liberation from the life of desire and the ego. This has mainly been interpreted to reflect an abandonment of the life of the world and development of detachment and concentration on the spiritual Oneness. The integral Yoga also seeks the perfection of action, and in this realm there are several stages possible. As we gain something of detachment, we are able to observe the “machinery” of Nature acting within us, we see the play of the three Gunas, and recognise that we are moved and directed by that machinery. At this stage, action in the world may go on, but it is not binding on the soul’s consciousness. Sri Aurobindo describes a further stage that represents not just an illumined understanding of the action of the Divine Shakti through the human instrument, but a poise of consciousness that represents a unity and Oneness with the Divine Master of existence, such that the work being carried out is not simply done with an awareness of the mechanics of the outer nature, but carried out as a conscious portion of the Divine with full knowledge and unified consciousness of the larger purpose and intent of the Divine action.

Sri Aurobindo describes these two modes of action: “But still this action may be of two very different kinds, one only illumined, the other transformed and uplifted into a greater supernature. For we may keep on in the way of action upheld and followed by our nature when by her and her illusion of egoism we were ‘turned as if mounted on a machine,’ but now with a perfect understanding of the mechanism and its utilisation for his world purposes by the Master of works whom we feel behind it. This is indeed as far as even many great Yogis have reached on the levels of spiritualised mind; but it need not be so always, for there is a greater supramental possibility. It is possible to rise beyond spiritualised mind and to act spontaneously in the living presence of the original divine Truth-Force of the Supreme Mother. Our motion one with her motion and merged in it, our will one with her will, our energy absolved in her energy, we shall feel her working through us as the Divine manifest in a supreme Wisdom-Power, and we shall be aware of the transformed mind, life and body only as the channels of a supreme Light and Force beyond them, infallible in its steps because transcendent and total in its knowledge. Of this Light and Force we shall not only be the recipients, channels, instruments, but become a part of it in a supreme uplifted abiding experience.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Part One: The Yoga of Divine Works, Chapter 11, The Master of the Work, pp. 240-241

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