The Nature and Experience of Cosmic Consciousness

Without experience, it is difficult to comprehend the difference between the normal human ego-consciousness and the cosmic consciousness. Those who have had the experience try to disclose the type and quality of their experience, but using human words that relate to our normal body-life-mind way of experiencing reality, they can at best only paint a general picture of what cosmic consciousness is.

The experience of the individual person changes to become a point of reference and specific action, but not seen as separate or independent from the larger cosmic action. We may look upon certain business management styles as somewhat illustrative. Some businesses try to enhance the individual role and initiative by providing more knowledge and scope of action to individuals at the detail level, but nevertheless set major guidelines and controls and supply the focus, knowledge and energy needed for that individual initiative to succeed. The ego-personality can be seen as such a “front line worker” within the larger universal framework. Similarly, each cell of our bodies carries out its own unique functionality while at the same time being under the general control and direction of the larger cohesive framework of the body-life-mind complex. These approximations may help us to appreciate the continued existence of the individual awareness and function while the larger interaction and reality of existence controls the direction and action.

The ego-personality also provides the individual a certain amount of protection from the action of the larger universal forces. Anyone experiencing the wideness and power of the universal forces directly needs to be prepared tor the action of these larger forces, not all of which are beneficent to the individual, as they work with other needs, motives and directions that may cause results that are unintended and undesired by the individual. With their increased powers, they can easily mislead or manipulate the individual, particularly if there arises any sense of importance or vanity in the individual experiencing this larger reality.

Sri Aurobindo writes: “The cosmic consciousness is that in which the limits of ego, personal mind and body disappear and one becomes aware of a cosmic vastness which is or filled by a cosmic spirit and aware also of the direct play of cosmic forces, universal mind forces, universal life forces, universal energies of Matter, universal overmind forces. But one does not become aware of all these together; the opening of the cosmic consciousness is usually progressive. It is not that the ego, the body, the personal mind disappear, but one feels them as only a small part of oneself. One begins to feel others too as part of oneself or varied repetitions of oneself, the same self modified by Nature in other bodies. Or, at the least, as living in the larger universal self which is henceforth one’s own greater reality. All things in fact begin to change their nature and appearance; one’s whole experience of the world is radically different from that of those who are shut up in their personal selves. One begins to know things by a different kind of experience, more direct, not depending on the external mind and the senses. It is not that the possibility of error disappears, for that cannot be so long as mind of any kind is one’s instrument for transcribing knowledge, but there is a new, vast and deep way of experiencing, seeing, knowing, contacting things; and the confines of knowledge can be rolled back to an almost unmeasurable degree. The thing one has to be on guard against in the cosmic consciousness is the play of a magnified ego, the vaster attacks of the hostile forces — for they too are part of the cosmic consciousness — and the attempt of the cosmic Illusion (Ignorance, Avidya) to prevent the growth of the soul into the cosmic Truth. These are things that one has to learn from experience; mental teaching or explanation is quite insufficient. To enter safely into the cosmic consciousness and to pass safely through it, it is necessary to have a strong central unegoistic sincerity and to have the psychic being, with its divination of truth and unfaltering orientation towards the Divine, already in front in the nature.”

Sri Aurobindo, Integral Yoga: Sri Aurobindo’s Teaching and Method of Practice, Chapter 7, Experiences and Realisations, The Cosmic Consciousness, pp. 184-187

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