Occult Experience of Visualization Applied to Contacting the Soul

Many people have reported the experience of visualizing, either in deep meditation, or in what may be called a dream state, or a lucid dream state, a house, or building, or even in some cases a cave, and when one enters into that space, there are numerous passages or doors, and if one follows it up, all kinds of information and awareness is revealed. C.G. Jung explored what he called the “collective unconscious” and others report visualizing a massive repository of scrolls or books that each open up a branch of knowledge about oneself, about the past, the future or about some other time, place or event. These represent occult or mystical experiences of realms of consciousness transcribed to our external mental faculty as moving through and exploring rooms and tapping into the knowledge contained therein. These are in fact symbolic experiences of actual events in consciousness for the person undergoing the experience.

The Mother builds on this to show how one can contact the soul through conscious process of deep meditation and the use of visualization techniques to explore and open the door, behind which the soul-consciousness, the psychic being deep within the being, awaits.

The Mother observes: “When I ask you to go deep down within yourselves, some of you will concentrate on a sensation, but others may just as well have the impression of going down into a deep well, and they clearly see the picture of steps going down into a dark and deep well, and they go down farther and farther, deeper and deeper, and sometimes reach precisely a door; they sit down before the door with the will to enter, and sometimes the door opens, and then they go in and see a kind of hall or a room or a cave or something, and from there, if they go on they may come to another door and again stop, and with an effort the door opens and they go farther. And if this is done with enough persistence and one can continue the experience, there comes a time when one finds oneself in front of a door which has… a special kind of solidity or solemnity, and with a great effort of concentration the door opens and one suddenly enters a hall of clarity, of light; and then, one has the experience, you see, of contact with one’s soul….”

Sri Aurobindo and The Mother, Living Within: The Yoga Approach to Psychological Health and Growth, Exercises for Growth and Mastery, Visualization for Discovering One’s Being, pp. 131-134


The Power of Visualisation Can Aid in Overcoming the Limits of the Logic-Bound Mental Consciousness in Achieving Realisation in the Spiritual Endeavour and the External World

The mental being tends to accept that if it has an intellectual understanding of something, that it has ‘accomplished’ that thing. It does not tend to concern itself with the vital or physical world per se, and thus, if it ‘knows’ that it is one with the rest of the universal creation, or if it ‘knows’ that it has had an experience of liberation from the ego-consciousness, it accepts that it has ‘accomplished’ the task at hand, even though the external nature, and particularly the physical and the vital consciousness, remains mired in duality and the sense of being ensnared in the material world.

The mind tends to work using the logical thought process and thus processes its activities most of the time in a linear, sequential fashion based in language. When a seeker recognises these limitations and tries to shift the mental paradigm, a number of paths have recommended and described a process of visualisation as a mechanism to aid in making the consciousness take hold of external forms more precisely and powerfully. The Tibetan Buddhist path, in particular has highly detailed visualisation exercises, using mandalas or thangkas or detailed constructs that the mind has to build to visualize certain forms, forces, deities and specific locations within oneself, specified colors and shapes, etc.

Some people have determined that the power of visualisation also aids in the realisation of actions in the external world. Modern-day science has applied this concept in particular to various sports, where the participant is asked to visualize the steps, the strokes, the development of the process, and thereby to create a formation for the eventual action to be realized.

Others have recognised this power and used visualisation to achieve success in many fields of outer endeavour, even though the best use of this power is to apply it to the spiritual activity, to use it to, for instance, move the awareness to the psychic being, or to visualise the rising of the coiled force at the base of the spine through the various chakras to join the individual human consciousness with the divine consciousness residing above the head in the 1000-petalled chakra that can be experienced there.

The Mother notes: “Some people are just intellectuals; for them everything is expressed by ideas and not by images. But if they were to go down into a more material domain, well, they risk not touching things in their concrete reality and remaining only in the domain of ideas, remaining in the mind and remaining there indefinitely. Then one thinks one is making progress, and mentally one has done so, though it is something altogether indefinite.”

“The mind’s progress may take thousands of years, for it is a very fast and very indefinite field, which is constantly renewed. But if one wants to progress in the vital and physical, well, this imaged representation becomes very useful for fixing the action, making it more concrete. Naturally it doesn’t happen completely at will; it depends on each one’s nature. But those who have the power of concentrating with images, well, they have one more facility.”

Sri Aurobindo and The Mother, Living Within: The Yoga Approach to Psychological Health and Growth, Exercises for Growth and Mastery, Visualization for Discovering One’s Being, pp. 131-134

Out of Body Experiences

Most people, embedded in the physical body and its consciousness, find it difficult, if not impossible, to accept or validate the reality of the out of body experience. At the same time, there are countless anecdotes of people who have an out of body experience, or the related ‘near death experience.’ The descriptions by those who have these experiences are remarkably similar, despite coming from a diverse cross-section of humanity and occurring among people who in many cases have no preconception of the possibility of such an experience. Such an account was related by the famous actress Shirley Maclaine in her book (and film of the same name) Out on a Limb. She was unprepared for the experience, was skeptical, but nevertheless, she was able to depart the physical frame with her vital being, view her physical body waiting and was able to fly off into other places and situations in her vital sheath, leaving the body behind.

People who have out of body experiences relate being able to look down upon their physical body and view its circumstances. In many cases they identify a silver cord that seems to attach their consciousness to the physical body and occult practitioners mention that this cord is the bond between the vital being and the physical body, and that care must be taken to not let it snap, as that would prevent the vital being from reentering the physical frame.

Near death experiences relate the movement of the awareness out of the body, generally towards a brilliant light, leaving the physical body behind. At a certain point, the consciousness moves back into the physical body and what was supposedly a ‘clinical death’ is suddenly reversed and the person revives. Dannion Brinkley in his book Saved by the Light recounts his own experience of clinical death, the traveling of the vital being and his conscious awareness outside the body, and, after receiving guidance, his return to life in the physical body, with a new understanding and mission in his life.

These are illustrative examples, yet there are numerous people who have had similar experiences. In many cases this occurs involuntarily and without the conscious control of the individual; however, there are individuals who indicate that through practices they implement, they can leave the body more or less at will and travel through other planes and worlds.

The physical body, which provides something of a protection from the powers at work on the vital planes, is left behind, and in many cases the individual appears either dead or in some kind of deep trance. This implies that the active consciousness with which one identifies has moved with the vital being out of the physical body, at least temporarily, yet has remained intact with the ego-sense holding the vital form together. The vital worlds, however, harbour forces and beings that, when acting directly in their own native sphere of action can be extremely powerful. This can lead to either an extraordinary sense of upliftment or in some cases a rising of fear or terror in the being when confronted with forces, divine and undivine, of such power.

Sri Aurobindo notes: “When the vital being goes out [of the body], it moves on the vital plane and in the vital consciousness and, even if it is aware of physical scenes and things, it is not with a physical vision. It is possible for one who has trained his faculties to enter into touch with physical things although he is moving about in the vital body, to see and sense them accurately, even to act on them and physically move them. But the ordinary sadhak who has no knowledge or organised experience or training in these things cannot do it. He must understand that the vital plane is different from the physical and that things that happen there are not physical happenings, though, if they are of the right kind and properly understood and used, they may have a meaning and value for the earth life. But also the vital consciousness is full of false formations and many confusions and it is not safe to move among them without knowledge and without a direct protection and guidance.”

Sri Aurobindo, Integral Yoga: Sri Aurobindo’s Teaching and Method of Practice, Chapter 7, Experiences and Realisations, Exteriorisation, pp. 199-200

Issues in Understanding the Mechanism of Sleep and Dreams

We spend a large percentage of our lives in the realm of sleep, and the dreams that accompany the sleep state. We have very little actual knowledge of what takes place during our period of sleep, although scientists do extensive studies on the electrical activity in the brain during sleep and the different phases or stages of sleep. Psychologists have also made an extensive study of the patterns of imagery and symbolism that occur in dreams and which seem to either represent a jumbled raising up of impressions of the waking life, or some kind of symbolic messaging that comes about through some kind of universal archetypal repository that we all share.

Given the significance of sleep and dream in our overall lifespan, it is important and highly useful to gain an understanding of the state of consciousness active during sleep. There are stages we call ‘light sleep’, ‘deep sleep’ ‘REM sleep’ as well as transitional stages as the consciousness hovers between sleep and waking. In some cases we can become aware of events in consciousness in the transitional stages as well as partial transcriptions of dreams if we awaken directly from the REM sleep stage that represents a primary dreaming stage of high activity. We can categorize and define these things using our waking ideas, but a true understanding of the deeper significance of sleep and dreams requires us to gain an awareness of the deeper stages of sleep, the purpose of dreams, and the different type of dreams that can occur.

We tend to treat sleep as a kind of ‘death’ inasmuch as we lose our awareness and our ego-consciousness during deep sleep. The questions arise, where does the consciousness go, and what does it do, and in what manner does it return to a waking state? Is it possible to create a link that will allow us to bring the experience of the sleep state into awareness in our waking consciousness?

Sri Aurobindo observes: “Your second experience is a first movement of the awakening of the inner being in sleep. Ordinarily when one sleeps a complex phenomenon happens. The waking consciousness is no longer there, for all has been withdrawn within into the inner realms of which we are not aware when we are awake, though they exist; for then all that is put behind a veil by the waking mind and nothing remains except the surface self and the outward world — much as the veil of the sunlight hides from us the vast worlds of the stars that are behind it. Sleep is a going inward in which the surface self and the outside world are put away from our sense and vision. But in ordinary sleep we do not become aware of the worlds within; the being seems submerged in a deep subconscience. On the surface of this subconscience floats an obscure layer in which dreams take place, as it seems to us, but, more correctly it may be said, are recorded. When we go very deeply asleep, we have what appears to us as a dreamless slumber; but, in fact, dreams are going on, but they are either too deep down to reach the recording surface or are forgotten, all recollection of their having existed even is wiped out in the transition to the waking consciousness.”

Sri Aurobindo, Integral Yoga: Sri Aurobindo’s Teaching and Method of Practice, Chapter 7, Experiences and Realisations, Experiences in Dream, pp. 196-199

Waking and Sleep, Day and Night

During daytime, we see the sun, the atmosphere and the world around us, and our thoughts and activities, for the most part, are focused on the life of the world. At night, we see the vast ranges of space and the myriad of stars, and can thereby recognise that our world is a small part of a much larger and more complex universal creation. Similarly, our waking mind is preoccupied within the framework and limits of the life of the day, while our sleep state moves beyond these boundaries and can openly participate in the wider reality within which the human waking state is just a small element. During the day, and during the waking state, the larger reality is not withdrawn from us, but remains active and has its influence. This larger reality is, as Sri Aurobindo terms it, “behind the veil” that is thrown up by the waking consciousness to circumscribe our seeing and acting within the limits of that waking state.

The sleep state is therefore an interesting part of life, and for most people can occupy almost 1/3 of their entire time. Clearly sleep cannot be disregarded if we intend to truly understand our lives and purposes in life, just as we cannot ignore the significance of the solar system, the galaxies and the universes when we reflect on the deeper meaning of existence.

The experiences of the sleep state bring us into contact with other realms of consciousness and existence, and they do not follow the type of understanding and rules of knowledge that we use to frame our outward existence. For this reason, to the extent that these experiences are brought into our waking awareness, they frequently are partial or distorted transcriptions that try to bring them into the framework of our mental logic, while they follow other rules and communicate forces not bound within our logical framework.

Sri Aurobindo writes: “In sleep we leave the physical body, only a subconscient residue remaining, and enter all planes and all sorts of worlds. In each we see scenes, meet beings, share in happenings, come across formations, influences, suggestions which belong to these planes. Even when we are awake, part of us moves in these planes, but their activity goes on behind the veil; our waking minds are not aware of it. Dreams are often only incoherent constructions of our subconscient, but others are records (often much mixed and distorted) or transcripts of experiences in these supraphysical planes. When we do sadhana, this kind of dream becomes very common; then subconscious dreams cease to predominate.”

Sri Aurobindo, Integral Yoga: Sri Aurobindo’s Teaching and Method of Practice, Chapter 7, Experiences and Realisations, Experiences in Dream, pp. 196-199

Understanding the Various Causes of Visions of Deities, Saints and Sages

The transcription of inner events and experiences into our mental framework will generally utilize symbols, images and personalities which fit into our background, education, and experience, so as to build a link and acceptance through use of familiar images. We frequently find recounted the appearance of Jesus or the Virgin Mary to those who follow the Christian faith, while a Hindu may see Krishna (or any other Deity, Saint or Sage in the various traditional forms of worship), and a Buddhist, Lord Buddha. The insights provided thereby are packaged so as to be acceptable to the seeker’s understanding.

Yet, not every experience of this sort is a transcription. In some cases, there may be a real emanation that carries forward the energy and direction of the being. Some enlightened beings have the ability to project themselves, or create an aura of themselves, into multiple locations to be seen by numerous devotees at one time. The Tibetan yogi, Milarepa, at the time of his departure from his physical body, was reported seen by disciples residing at vast distances from one another, and he presented these disciples a final teaching in his physical being. Others may create an ongoing form or formation that resides active at the subtle physical level, impinging upon and influencing the external world and, in particular, guiding seekers who follow their teachings. These forms may have a tenacity that keeps them active long after the physical lifetime of the individual sage or seer.

At other times there may be a conscious force of being from another plane that acts upon the seeker’s awareness and utilizes a familiar visage or form that meets the seeker’s predisposition and background. This may occur, not only for followers of a specific path, but for someone who has a connection through thought, idea or intuition that matches up with that thought. Many seekers have found that viewing a photograph of the teacher or master, or hearing a recording or watching a video presentation of the teacher, can bring the force carried by that teacher into direct action in their inner life. Thus, one may enter into the ‘atmosphere’ of a Master through study of his work or through other means of relation, and thus open up a receptivity that brings about the form of that teacher in the life of the seeker as a bringer of knowledge, intuition, or an opening of some part of the inner being.

Sri Aurobindo notes: “These things [seeing Buddha, Ramakrishna, Vivekananda, Shankara frequently in vision] are the result of past thoughts and influences. They are of various kinds — sometimes merely thought-forms created by one’s own thought-force to act as a vehicle for some mental realisation — sometimes Powers of different planes that take these forms as a support for their work through the individual, — but sometimes one is actually in communion with that which had the name and form and personality of Buddha or Ramakrishna or Vivekananda or Shankara.”

“It is not necessary to have an element akin to these personalities — a thought, an aspiration, a formation of the mind or vital are enough to create the connection — it is sufficient for a vibration of response anywhere to what these Powers represent.”

Sri Aurobindo, Integral Yoga: Sri Aurobindo’s Teaching and Method of Practice, Chapter 7, Experiences and Realisations, Symbols, Lights, Colours, Sounds, pp. 193-196

How to Gain an Understanding of the Meaning of Inner Perceptions

As the seeker begins to enter and experience the inner and higher realms of consciousness, he comes into contact with beings, forces, planes and worlds that transcribe experiences into his awareness, yet do not generally function under the same methods and laws that are operative in the normal mind-life-body complex and the world of Matter which we inhabit. This leads to considerable attempts by the mental understanding to apply its normal rules to what it experiences elsewhere, and additionally, to the “filling in’ of data that is missing through the mind’s habitual pattern recognition process. This can lead to a great deal of misunderstanding and confusion, misapplication and misidentification of what is actually occurring and being communicated to the seeker. This issue gets accentuated through intervention of the ego and the vital desire which tries to appropriate the experience to enhance the self-aggrandisement of the individual.

It is essential therefore that the seeker not jump to conclusions about what the significance of any experience, whether it be colour, sound, or touch, may be, but rather, withhold judgment, collect a body of facts over time, and allow the new pattern to form to allow correct identification of what is actually occurring. Sri Aurobindo describes the complexity of the process in discussing the different ways these varying experiences can manifest.

Sri Aurobindo observes: “In interpreting these phenomena [colours seen in vision] you must remember that all depends on the order of things which the colours indicate in any particular case. There is an order of significances in which they indicate various psychological dynamisms, e.g., faith, love, protection, etc. There is another order of significances in which they indicate the aura or the activity of divine beings, Krishna, Mahakali, Radha or else of other superhuman beings; there is another in which they indicate the aura around objects or living persons — and that does not exhaust the list of possibilities. A certain knowledge, experiences, growing intuition are necessary to perceive in each case the true significance. Observation and exact description are also very necessary; for sometimes people say, for instance, yellow when they mean gold or vice versa; there are besides different possible meanings for different shades of the same colour. Again, if you see colour near or round a person or by looking at him or her, it does not necessarily indicate that person’s aura; it may be something else near him or around him. In some cases it may have nothing to do with the person or object you look at, which may serve merely the purpose of a background or a point of concentration — as when you see colours on a wall or by looking at a bright object.”

Sri Aurobindo, Integral Yoga: Sri Aurobindo’s Teaching and Method of Practice, Chapter 7, Experiences and Realisations, Symbols, Lights, Colours, Sounds, pp. 193-196

Lights and Sounds Can Indicate Opening to Inner or Subtler Planes of Existence

Everything that exists in the universe has an energy signature or frequency which is manifested by light, colour and sound, whether perceived by our limited sense capabilities or outside their range. As the seeker begins to shift awareness inwards, he is no longer totally reliant on the external sense organs and thus, as openness to other planes or worlds begins to occur, he can start to perceive the energetic signature of forms, forces and beings that operate on these other planes. As this is still being transcribed into his body-life-mind complex, these may take forms that are recognisable to him, even if these are not full and complete representations of the reality on those other planes. Given the limits of the mind and the capacity of language, the transcriptions try to illustrate the light, colour or sound with something known and able to be communicated externally.

The fact of the experience implies some interaction with one of these inner or subtler planes and thus, the interaction of the energy into the being stationed here. Thus one may be able to identify a linkage between the light or the sound and a palpable expression that occurs in the conscious awareness of the individual.

Sri Aurobindo writes: “The sounds of bells and the seeing of lights and colours are signs of the opening of the inner consciousness which brings with it an opening also to sights and sounds of other planes than the physical. Some of these things like the sound of bells, crickets, etc. seem even to help the opening. The Upanishad speaks of them as brahmavyaktikarani yoge. The lights represent forces — or sometimes a formed light like that you saw may be the light of a being of the supraphysical planes.”

“Fire, lights, sun, moon are usual symbols and seen by most in sadhana. They indicate movement or action of inner forces. The Sun means the inner truth.”

“Lights are of all kinds, supramental, mental, vital, physical, divine or Asuric — one has to watch, grow in experience and learn to know one from another. The true lights however are by their clarity and beauty not difficult to recognise.”

Sri Aurobindo, Integral Yoga: Sri Aurobindo’s Teaching and Method of Practice, Chapter 7, Experiences and Realisations, Symbols, Lights, Colours, Sounds, pp. 193-196

The Source and Significance of Visions

Seeking visions has been a part of what has been called a “spiritual journey” by countless individuals around the world throughout history and in all religious and spiritual traditions. The “vision quest” is a well known and accepted activity among seekers. Christian mystics, for instance, chose to go out to the desert or into a monastic order to focus on their religious life and seek for a vision. Native Americans would go out to a sacred spot for a vision, to discover one’s totem animal and path forward. South American shamanic tradition used various plant medicines to induce the vision, whether it was peyote, psilocybin, ayahuasca or other entheogenic substances. Various sects of yoga practitioners in India used cannabis in concentrated forms for similar purposes. The Middle East was known for its use of hashish as a means of gaining a vision. Whether aided by plant medicine, or achieved through various forms of yogic development or practices, the vision has been a sought-after and coveted experience for those who chose to go inwards and seek a real significance to their lives.

Sri Aurobindo acknowledges the value and role of visions for the seeker, while distinguishing the source of visions and the role they play from the spiritual focus that he sets as the primary importance for the seeker in the integral yoga.

Sri Aurobindo observes: “Visions do not come from the spiritual plane — they come from the subtle physical, the vital, the mental, the psychic or from the planes above the Mind. What comes from the spiritual plane are experiences of the Divine, e.g. the experience of self everywhere, of the Divine in all, etc.”

“All visions have a significance of one kind or another. This power of vision is very important for the yoga and should not be rejected although it is not the most important thing — for the most important thing is the change of the consciousness. All other powers like this of vision should be developed without attachment as parts and aids of the yoga.”

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

Developing the Power of Supraphysical Sight

If we accept the idea that supraphysical sight is a latent power of humanity, and not some kind of illusion or otherwise some miraculous special power, then we can seek to understand the conditions under which this power manifests, and show, first, that it is something that is reproducible and verifiable, and second, that it is possible under creation of those conditions needed for it to act, to develop this power in a broader segment of individuals in the society.

We see reports of this power manifesting throughout history and from all around the world, and thus, it meets the basic test of being reproducible and verifiable. The descriptions provided by those who experience it, are similar enough in substance, regardless of differences in language and detail, to validate the truth of this power and its general availability to human beings. We also see that there are methods described in various texts that are said to support the development of this power in an individual who practices these steps. The texts also, in most cases, describe the phases or stages by which this power manifests as it begins to develop in the individual.

Modern day scientists are indeed taking up the challenge to verify and codify results for experimentation in this direction. The human being is in a state of transition, first to fully develop the mental powers, which are still in process of manifesting, and then to move beyond to the next phase beyond the mind, into the ranges of the intuition and the overmind and eventually the supermind, where powers that lie dormant or are not yet evolved have their opportunity to come forward and act under the new conditions of consciousness that progressively develop.

Sri Aurobindo notes: “When one starts yoga, this power is often, though not invariably — for some find it difficult, — one of the first to come out from its latent condition and manifest itself, most often without any effort, intention or previous knowledge on the part of the sadhak. It comes more easily with the eyes shut than with the eyes open, but it does come in both ways. The first sign of its opening in the externalised way is very often that seeing of ‘sparkles’ or small luminous dots, shapes, etc., which was your first introduction to the matter; a second is, often enough, most easily, round luminous objects like a star; seeing of colours is a third initial experience — but they do not always come in that order. The yogis in India very often in order to develop the power use the method of tratak, concentrating the vision on a single point or object — preferably a luminous object. Your looking at the star was precisely an exercise in tratak and had the effect which any yogi in India would have told you is normal. For all this is not fancy or delusion, it is part of an occult science which has been practiced throughout the historic and prehistoric ages in all countries and it has always been known to be not merely auto-suggestive or hallucinatory in its results, but, if one can get the key, veridical and verifiable.”

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