Developing a Working Faith of the Soul With Spiritual Experience

When the practitioner takes up Yoga, there are times and circumstances when various forms of what are generally called “spiritual experiences” take place. There also can occur various experiences which are new to the outer mind and life, and which are considered “occult” or “esoteric” or “psychic” experiences. All of these experiences, when they begin to appear, bring with them their own self-evident reality. In some cases the experiences are so overwhelming that they virtually demand full acceptance and adherence from the seeker. These experiences tend to reinforce faith generally, but they also have their risks and limitations. As opening to subtler aspects of reality, whether inner realms or higher spiritual realms of consciousness, begin to occur, there is always the danger of misinterpretation, since it is generally the mental framework that tries to sort through these experiences, or the danger of undue fixation on them as may occur with emotional or vital attachment to them. Spiritual and psychic experiences will naturally come, and have their role, but Sri Aurobindo cautions about the need to find a balanced and equal understanding of them and their role so as to avoid the dangers of the limitations or diversions that can occur.

“Here too the faith in us must be unattached, a faith that waits upon Truths and is prepared to change and enlarge its understanding of spiritual experiences, to correct mistaken or half true ideas about them and receive more enlightening interpretations, to replace insufficient by more sufficient intuitions, and to merge experiences that seemed at the time to be final and satisfying in more satisfying combinations with new experience and greater largenesses and transcendences. And especially in the psychical and other middle domains there is a very large room for the possibility of misleading and often captivating error, and here even a certain amount of positive scepticism has its use and at all events a great caution and scrupulous intellectual rectitude, but not the scepticism of the ordinary mind which amounts to a disabling denial. In the integral Yoga psychical experience, especially of the kind associated with what is often called occultism and savours of the miraculous, should be altogether subordinated to spiritual truth and wait upon that for its own interpretation, illumination and sanction. But even in the purely spiritual domain, there are experiences which are partial and, however attractive, only receive their full validit, significance or right application when we can advance to a fuller experience. And there are others which are in themselves quite valid and full and absolute, but if we confine ourselves to them, will prevent other sides of the spiritual truth from manifestation and mutilate the integrality of the Yoga.”

This brings us then to the quality or nature of the faith required in the soul for this endeavour: “Here too our faith must be an assent that receives all spiritual experience, but with a wide openness and readiness for always more light and truth, an absence of limiting attachment and no such clinging to forms as would interfere with the forward movement of the Shakti towards the integrality of the spiritual being, consciousness, knowledge, power, action and the wholeness of the one and the multiple Ananda.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Part Four: The Yoga of Self-Perfection, Chapter 18, Faith and Shakti, pp. 750-751