Supraphysical Sensory Experience: Latent Powers, Not Miracles or Delusions

It is human nature to want to be able to explain away events, circumstances or experiences that are not understood. For much of human existence, the rising and setting of the sun and moon, the existence of the stars, the power of the oceans, the wind or the storms were described as actions of gods who controlled these things. Human events have been instilled with significance by somehow tying them to the will of an unseen power, a god, or some mechanism of fate.

With the rise of science, many phenomena formerly termed to be miraculous or the result of divine action have been revealed in their material nature to be processes we call ‘laws of nature’. In doing so, we create lengthy explanations that do away with the sense of the miraculous by making these things appear to be fixed processes. Similarly, as science explores the workings of the senses, the nervous system and the brain, it has begun to describe the operations of these instruments of perception, analysis, understanding and action.

Yet, as science, particularly mind-science is still somewhat in its infancy, we continue to discover new things about the operations that formerly remained mysterious. C.G. Jung for instance described a ‘collective unconscious’ as a repository of archetypal imagery that rises up in dreams, and which signify overarching forms of understanding heretofore inexplicable. It is clear, as science continues to develop, that other occult or latent powers will find an explanation that can eventually satisfy the scientists. Until that time, they stick a label on something as an ‘hallucination’ or a ‘delusion’ or some kind of manipulated event or self-misleading circumstance; yet, none of these labels explains what exactly is taking place or how it is occurring. Science is now studying, and validating phenomena such as clairvoyance, clairaudience, distance-seeing, telekinesis, which implies that in the not too distant future, these things will be moved out of the classification of a form of pure illusion into a hidden and latent power of humanity waiting to manifest more generally as the human mind is developed and trained.

Sri Aurobindo observes: “No, it was neither optical illusion nor hallucination nor coincidence nor auto-suggestion nor any of the other ponderous and vacant polysyllables by which physical science tries to explain away or rather avoid explaining the scientifically inexplicable. In these matters the scientist is always doing what he is always blaming the layman for doing when the latter lays down the law on things about which he is profoundly ignorant without investigation or experiment, without ascertained knowledge — simply by evolving a theory or a priori idea out of his own mind and plastering it as a label on the unexplained phenomena.”

“There is, as I have told you, a whole range or many inexhaustible ranges of sensory phenomena other than the outward physical which one can become conscious of, see, hear, feel, smell, touch, mentally contact — to use the new established Americanism — either in trance or sleep or an inward state miscalled sleep or simply and easily in the waking state. This faculty of sensing supraphysical things internally or externalising them, so to speak, so that they become visible, audible, sensible to the outward eye, ear, even touch, just as are gross physical objects, this power or gift is not a freak or an abnormality; it is a universal faculty present in all human beings, but latent in most, in some rarely or intermittently active, occurring as if by accident in others, frequent or normally active in a few. But just as anyone can, with some training, learn science and do things which would have seemed miracles to his forefathers, so almost anyone, if he wants, can with a little concentration and training develop the faculty of supraphysical vision.”

Sri Aurobindo, Integral Yoga: Sri Aurobindo’s Teaching and Method of Practice, Chapter 7, Experiences and Realisations, Supraphysical Vision, Audition, Sensation, pp. 189-193

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