We generally rely on the information provided by our senses to understand the world we live in. This information, however, is subject to misperception and misinterpretation, leading us to vastly distort the truth of what we ‘know’. For countless years, most of humanity believed that the sun rotated around the earth, based on the evidence of the senses. We now know this to be the opposite of the truth. A smaller portion of humanity relies heavily on the powers of the intellect to determine truth. Yet the intellect is also very much subject to the same issues of faulty data and faulty interpretation of the data, and other logical fallacies. Yet with the combined power of the senses and the intellect, somehow humanity has found a way to advance its knowledge over time, identify and correct errors and improve its overall ability to act in the world. Yesterday’s truth turns into today’s error, as new information and new interpretive powers come forward and bring us a new understanding. The disease we call malaria was named such because the leading lights of the time associated it with “bad air” rather than with an infection carried by a specific type of mosquito. European explorers faced disbelief and fear when they eventually concluded the world was round, not flat, and thus, could be circumnavigated. Much of the technology we rely on today, to communicate wirelessly across the world, to fly in the air, to send people to the moon, to create vaccines to deadly diseases, was based on ideas that the senses and the intellect previously had indicated were crazy and impossible.
The mystic recognises that each step of humanity’s progress brings forward knowledge that was more subtle, and unseen by either the senses or the rational mind prior to the discovery, and thus, there is a real basis for the knowledge of the mystic as informing the next steps in humanity’s progress towards the recognition of the truth of existence. The famous inventor of the 20th Century, Nikola Tesla once described the vision he had that led to the understanding of electricity and the invention of technology based on “alternating current”, a concept that was derided by the intellectual luminaries of the time, including Thomas Edison. Today we rely on alternating current to power electrical systems throughout the world. Mystics of the past have described the spherical nature of the world, long before the intellectual knowledge caught up. Mystics have recognised the oneness of all life and the interdependence of that life, a fact which is just now becoming clear to the intellectual knowledge, and which is certain to be the key to saving us from the existential crisis brought about by a fragmented, linear process that has taken over humanity at least since the advent of the industrial revolution and which is destroying the very basis of existence on the planet. Mystics also recognised that Matter was actually made of Energy, and that Energy was created by Consciousness. This also is now being recognised and accepted by the intellectual elite of the world.
It thus becomes obvious that whatever processes are utilized by the mystics to obtain their knowledge, they provide valuable insights and advance direction for the mind and the senses to later appreciate, understand and then utilize to implement the technology that we rely on in the world, as well as provide potentially significant insight into the purpose and significance of our existence and our individual human lives. Of course, as with all forms of knowledge, that obtained through mystical insight is eventually subject to validation and development in all fullness; yet, the mystical knowledge eventually not only can withstand the test of time, but can find validation by the developed human instruments of knowledge.
Sri Aurobindo observes: “As there is a category of facts to which our senses are our best available but very imperfect guides, as there is a category of truths which we seek by the keen but still imperfect light of our reason, so according to the mystic, there is a category of more subtle truths which surpass the reach both of the senses and the reason but can be ascertained by an inner direct knowledge and direct experience. These truths are supersensuous, but not the less real for that: they have immense results upon the consciousness changing its substance and movement, bringing especially deep peace and abiding joy, a great light of vision and knowledge, a possibility of the overcoming of the lower animal nature, vistas of a spiritual self-development which without them do not exist. A new outlook on things arises which brings with it, if fully pursued into its consequences, a great liberation, inner harmony, unification — many other possibilities besides. These things have been experienced, it is true, by a small minority of the human race, but still there has been a host of independent witnesses to them in all times, climes and conditions and numbered among them are some of the greatest intelligences of the past, some of the world’s most remarkable figures. Must these possibilities be immediately condemned as chimeras because they are not only beyond the average man in the street but also not easily seizable even by many cultivated intellects or because their method is more difficult than that of the ordinary sense or reason? If there is any truth in them, is not this possibility opened by them worth pursuing as disclosing a highest range of self-discovery and world-discovery by the human soul? At its best, taken as true, it must be that — at its lowest taken as only a possibility, as all things attained by man have been only a possibility in their earliest stages, it is a great and may well be a most fruitful adventure.”
Sri Aurobindo, Integral Yoga: Sri Aurobindo’s Teaching and Method of Practice, Chapter 7, Experiences and Realisations, Spiritual Experience and Realisation, pp. 171-174