Developing and Expressing the Flame of Divine Love While Avoiding the Misappropriation of the Energy for Lower Vital Gratification

Suppression of the vital being and the emotions is often prescribed by those following a spiritual or religious discipline, due to the mixed nature of the expression that occurs in an untransformed and unpurified vital being. It is also true that there have been a number of cases, including high profile leaders of spiritual programs, where the development of the emotional powers in the direction of devotion has been abused through misdirection, to provide gratification and even sexual exploitation for the leader in control of the practices, with excuses such as “deepening the spiritual connection”. This has occurred as widely publicised in the pedophilia scandal that has rocked the Catholic Church (although much of this was not based in creation of a devotional energy, but in pure expression of lower vital drives), but it is not limited to the Catholic Church nor to exploitation of children, but covers the entire gamut of religious or spiritual traditions for the most part, and includes all manner of indiscretions. Clearly the raising up of the emotional force of the being can have its dark aspects. Does this mean it should be avoided entirely?

Sri Aurobindo counsels that the devotional force should be cultivated and utilized to help raise up the rest of the being. This requires an understanding of the interplay of the emotions with other aspects of the being, and the influence that energy, when not yet fully purified, can have on the lower vital nature in particular. We see in human relationships of romantic love that the heart’s attraction and opening can lead quickly to a rising up of the sexual energies, for example. This occult linkage is one of the areas that requires work, so that as the heart opens towards the Divine Presence, the lower vital energy is not similarly activated, but in an unpurified state of expression. This linkage is how those leading various spiritual or religious communities can take an innocent and positive opening of devotion and turn it towards the lower, darker expressions that eventually snuff out the flame of the devotional energy and embroil the seeker in sometimes lurid expressions.

There is a responsibility on the part of the guides and leaders to work towards purification of their own energies, and to avoid exploiting the innocent movements of those who come within their sphere of influence. There is also a responsibility for the seekers to keep the aspiration and devotional energies pure and directed towards the Divine, and not transferred to a human intermediary in an uprush of a lower vital drive.

There may of course still be the desire active to experience human love and relationships. To the extent these are based on the higher nature and not exploitative in their intent or action, clearly there is a stage in the development where such actions may take place while the spiritual flame in the heart continues to grow and develop. Much of the problem lies in the confusion and mixing of the two as if they represent the same energy at work, when in fact, the psychic and the spiritual aspects of love develop a different energetic field than the human forms of emotional expressions of love (and all that tends to come with them). The secret lies in understanding the energy that is experienced. Is it rajasic, based on the force of desire and control? Is it dark and tamasic, leading into weakness, enslavement to vital or physical gratification, or even lower forms of expression? Is it a sattwic force that comes with light and a deep sense of peace and upliftment? As one experiences the opening of the heart of devotion, one can begin to understand and identify the quality of that force and work to purify and uplift it, not letting it stray into rajasic or tamasic forms, until such time as it can manifest without any admixture of desire, attachment, lust or greedy impulse.

Sri Aurobindo writes: “If one does not encourage the devotion of the emotional being merely because the lower vital is not yet under control and acts differently, then how is the devotion to grow and how is the lower vital to change? Until the final clarification and harmonising of the nature there are always contradictions in the being, but that is not a reason for in any way suppressing the play of the better movements — on the contrary it is these that should be cultivated and made to increase.”

Sri Aurobindo, Integral Yoga: Sri Aurobindo’s Teaching and Method of Practice, Chapter 6, Sadhana Through Love and Devotion, Divine Love, The Emotions, pp. 162-164

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