Hostile Forces and Their Impact on Spiritual Development

There are legends in major traditions about opposing and actively hostile beings who attempt to disrupt the spiritual evolution. Buddha was tempted by Mara. Jesus was tempted by the Devil. The Buddha and Jesus had to overcome the pressures of these beings in order to carry out their evolutionary task. The Puranas have numerous stories of beings that try to dominate the world of humanity and who challenge the gods for supremacy in the three worlds. These beings reside on various planes of existence, but try to influence and control events in the physical world. They have various goals in their action, including gaining and maintaining power, feeding off the energies of living beings, and maintaining a status quo in which they hold substantial power and control. These beings are known in various traditions as Asuras (or on a lower evolutionary plane, Rakshasas), Devils or Hostile Beings. They attempt to influence the action of human beings, drive the emotions and in some cases, actively try to possess individuals who are open to their influence. They can be particularly active on the vital plane and thus, there is a general warning to those who would journey outside the body into the vital worlds to be careful, have a knowledgeable guide, and call for the protection and presence of the Divine at all times.

In recent history, the rise of Adolf Hitler had all the earmarks of possession by a hostile being. When these beings fail in their attempts, they tend to destroy their instrument and try to bring down everything around them. Hitler’s late attempt to destroy the infrastructure of Germany when it was losing the war, and thereby enhancing the suffering of the people, looks to be a signature effort by a hostile force to accentuate its ability to make people in the material world suffer.

Another signature of such beings is that they are not destroyed when their instrument in the world fails; rather they tend to find ways to move to the party that has defeated their instrument, and through an increasing of pride and arrogance on the part of the victors, they, over time, may try again to effectuate their ambitions.

In the long run, they cannot finally oppose the evolutionary manifestation, but they can create obstacles, intense suffering and pressure along the way, thereby impacting those who are receptive to their whispers or brazen trumpeting.

That said, the vital being of man sometimes tends to over-dramatize the difficulties being faced by turning it into a fight with hostile forces, when for the most part, it may just be the normal conservative and slow-changing nature of the material world in its current state of evolutionary development.

Sri Aurobindo writes: “It is a fact always known to all yogis and occultists since the beginning of time, in Europe and Africa as in India, that wherever yoga or Yajna is done, there the hostile Forces gather together to stop it by any means. It is known that there is a lower nature and a higher spiritual nature — it is known that they pull different ways and the lower is strongest at first and the higher afterwards. It is known that the hostile Forces take advantage of the movements of the lower nature and try to spoil through them, smash or retard the siddhi. It has been said as long ago as the Upanishads (hard is the path to tread, sharp like a razor’s edge); it was said later by Christ ‘hard is the way and narrow the gate by which one enters into the kingdom of heaven’ and also ‘many are called, few chosen’ — because of these difficulties. But it has also always been known that those who are sincere and faithful in heart and remain so and those who rely on the Divine will arrive in spite of all difficulties, stumbles or falls.”

Sri Aurobindo, Integral Yoga: Sri Aurobindo’s Teaching and Method of Practice, Chapter 10, Difficulties in Transforming the Nature, Difficulties Due to the Hostile Forces, pp. 280-286

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