Spiritual Experiences Are Real

For the individual who has a spiritual experience, one of the most notable characteristics is the absolute and incontrovertible ‘reality’ of the experience. Yet, people who live primarily in the surface consciousness tend to treat such experiences, when related, as somehow less real or even unreal, compared to the experience of the outer world. Terms such as dream, hallucination, or delusion frequently are used, and in many cases, the person having such inner experiences is lumped in with those who require some form of counseling or mental health support.

Sometimes the experiences take the form of an action in some other world or plane, particularly in a subtle physical, vital or inner mental plane, where events take place and work themselves out somewhat differently than in the outer world. Some of the vital planes may in fact transcribe themselves to the individual in something of a dreamlike character as to sequence or interaction within the experience.

Several points must be kept in mind. First, the experience of the outer world itself can take on the sense of being a phantasmagoria with no ultimate provable reality. We do not experience the outer world directly, but through interaction through senses which relay signals to the mind, which then goes ahead and interprets them. The same outer circumstance may indeed be perceived differently by different individuals based on the acuity of their senses, the clarity of the reception, and the filter and interpretation placed by the mind. Using the criteria so often cited by those who live in the surface consciousness upon the spiritual experiences of others, the outer world would suffer the same analytical result.

The second point is that our surface being is strictly limited as to the type of things it can actually perceive or relate to, and we constantly are finding that we have to correct our understanding of the world as our knowledge becomes more subtle and our capacity to measure and identify increases. Many things which make little or no sense when viewed purely from the outer consciousness suddenly gain real significance when viewed from the spiritual viewpoint. The existence of other worlds, other planes of existence, and other forces or beings who inhabit and act on these planes is something that science today is beginning to appreciate, and theories such as multiple universes, string theory etc. are developments taking the scientist into the realm already trod by the spiritual explorer. It is also true that we are not strictly limited to the outer surface body-life-mind complex, but ourselves act and interact on these subtler inner levels of consciousness and existence.

A third point is that spiritual experiences, which present themselves with an overwhelming sense of greater reality than the outer world to those who experience them, tend to change the way the individual responds, thinks, acts, feels and perceives things. This shows us the power and reality of this experience, in that it has the ability to change the life of the seeker. For the practitioner of the integral yoga, which recognises that the transformative forces which are in the processing of manifesting into the physical world actually have their source in other planes of existence, it is important to understand these forces and the planes from which they act upon the seeker.

Sri Aurobindo notes: “The sadhak must understand that these experiences are not mere imaginations or dreams but actual happenings, for even when, as often occurs, they are formations only of a wrong or misleading or adverse kind, they have still their power as formations and must be understood before they can be rejected and abolished. Each inner experience is perfectly real in its own way, although the values of different experiences differ greatly, but it is real with the reality of the inner self and the inner planes. It is a mistake to think that we live physically only, with the outer mind and life. We are all the time living and acting on other planes of consciousness, meeting others there and acting upon them, and what we do and feel and think there, the forces we gather, the results we prepare have an incalculable importance and effect, unknown to us, upon our outer life. Not all of it comes through, and what comes through takes another form in the physical — though sometimes there is an exact correspondence; but this little is at the basis of our outward existence. All that we become and do and bear in the physical life is prepared behind the veil within us. It is therefore of immense importance for a yoga which aims at the transformation of life to grow conscious of what goes on within these domains, to be master there and be able to feel, know and deal with the secret forces that determine our destiny and our internal and external growth or decline.”

Sri Aurobindo, Integral Yoga: Sri Aurobindo’s Teaching and Method of Practice, Chapter 7, Experiences and Realisations, The Inward Movement, pp. 174-179

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.