During the early 1900’s Sri Aurobindo was involved in the political battle to free India from the yoke of the British. At one point, he was arrested and held in jail for trial in a case against revolutionaries who had undertaken to use “any means necessary” to free India from the British. Sri Aurobindo had used his considerable powers of expression to rile up the British and thus, when they had an excuse they locked him up for trial. He was eventually acquitted and freed, but his description of the experience he had in jail illustrates today’s subject. He was prepared to focus his powers of concentration, his powers of mind and his force of will into defeating all the arguments the British were making against him, but during his time in jail, he experienced a change in his consciousness that led him to a different standpoint. He described his experience in the moving Tales of Prison Life. He saw the jail as a protective shelter where he was to undertake the spiritual path that would later become his focus in life. He looked out of the window and saw a marvelous unity of all existence. He did not see in the prosecuting attorney or the judge an enemy, but the face of the Divine looking back at him. His own defense counsel was inspired and motivated to make the arguments and Sri Aurobindo understood he was to let the process take its course, while he underwent the transformation from the mental standpoint to the spiritual standpoint. Everything he saw, every experience he had took on a new character. He eventually also realized that there was a larger work in front of him, that the freedom of India was assured and that he needed to focus on the spiritual change that was the necessary next evolutionary step for humanity to overcome the existential crisis that was coming as a result of the mental-vital-physical society that the world had developed, and which was out of balance without the spiritual vision and guidance so badly needed to control the advances in technology that were the result of the mental force applied, without a wider insight, to the forces and material of Nature.
In The Life Divine, Sri Aurobindo writes: “For this new consciousness has itself the nature of infinity: it brings to us the abiding spiritual sense and awareness of the Infinite and Eternal with a great largeness of the nature and a breaking down of its limitations; immortality becomes no longer a belief or an experience but a normal self-awareness; the close presence of the Divine Being, his rule of the world and of our self and natural members, his force working in us and everywhere, the peace of the infinite, the joy of the infinite are now concrete and constant in the being; in all sights and forms one sees the Eternal, the Reality, in all sounds one hears it, in all touches feels it; there is nothing else but its forms and personalities and manifestations; the joy or adoration of the heart, the embrace of all existence, the unity of the spirit are abiding realities. The consciousness of the mental creature is turning or has been already turned wholly into the consciousness of the spiritual being. This is the second of the three transformations; uniting the manifested existence with what is above it, it is the middle step of the three, the decisive transition of the spiritually evolving nature.”