Opening of the Being to Spiritual Experiences

People generally classify any experience that falls outside the normal range of the physical-vital-mental experience as “spiritual”.  However, this is not an entirely accurate portrayal.  Many of these experiences, albeit real and palpable to the person experiencing them, are actually taking place on the physical, vital or mental plane.  We have heard of individuals, such as top athletes,  performing flawless, extraordinary feats of physical effort, who describe the sensation of being one that goes beyond “normal”.  They call this being “in the zone”, when the entire being is almost effortlessly carrying out actions in a concentrated and harmonious way.  Similarly, we know of “out of body” experiences which have been described at great length with similar terms by many individuals, where the vital being leaves the physical body and can observe it, or travel to other places and observe things outside the ken of the physical being itself.  Then there are the times when the mental clarity provides a breakthrough on some complex problem or issue being considered.  Each of these and other similar experiences can be understood as real, and accepted as such without necessarily classifying them as spiritual experiences.  They still reside within the bounds of the ego-personality and the human body-life-mind complex of the individual.  The vital ego chases after such experiences.  No doubt, the action of the soul is behind these openings, creating receptivity and faith in the workings of the universe and convincing the being of the reality of forces, powers and intentions beyond those normally available to the individual being, and actively preparing the various aspects of the individual being for a new way of seeing and working, with the spiritual force behind and informing the action.

The category of spiritual experiences encompasses those that shift the standpoint of the being from the individual human to the divine standpoint.  These may or may not yield specific immediate results in the world, but they carry a veracity and a conviction of truth to the being that can refocus the entire life of the individual.  They bring with them a sense of oneness, a sense of a vast peace, a sense of an infinite power, a sense of a larger will in creation, a sense of understanding the pattern and process of the universal creation, a sense of the divinity in all of existence.  Spiritual experiences cannot be forced; rather, they are experienced as an act of Grace.

Sri Aurobindo explains in The Life Divine:  “This is the first result, but the second is a free inflow of all kinds of spiritual experience, experience of the Self, experience of the Ishwra and the Divine Shakti, experience of cosmic consciousness, a direct touch with cosmic forces and with the occult movements of universal Nature, a psychic sympathy and unity and inner communication and interchanges of all kinds with other beings and with Nature, illuminations of the mind by knowledge, illuminations of the heart by love and devotion and spiritual joy and ecstasy, illuminations of the sense and the body by higher experience, illuminations of dynamic action in the truth and largeness of a purified mind and heart and soul, the certitudes of the divine light and guidance, the joy and power of the diving force working in the will and the conduct.  These experiences are the result of an opening outward of the inner and inmost being and nature; for then there comes into play the soul’s power of unerring inherent consciousness, its vision, its touch on things which is superior to any mental cognition; there is there, native to the psychic consciousness in its pure working, an immediate sense of the world and its beings, a direct inner contact with them and a direct contact with the Self and with the Divine, — a direct knowledge, a direct sight of Truth and of all truths, a direct penetrating spiritual emotion and feeling, a direct intuition of right will and right action, a power to rule and to create an order of the being not by the gropings of the superficial self, but from within, from the inner truth of self and things and the occult realities of Nature.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Future Evolution of Man, Chapter Six, The Triple Transformation, pg. 72

Soul Action in the Evolution of Body, Life and Mind

Our experience of human life and development, as well as our observation of the natural world, fails, generally,  to provide overt evidence of a soul or soul-action.  Under certain circumstances, however, the action of the soul is revealed or intimated, and as spiritual development takes place, it begins to play a larger and more central role in the understanding, will and actions of the individual undergoing that process.  For some, it occurs as a result of a life and death crisis, for others it comes through intense devotion or a practice of some form of concentration or meditation or yogic discipline, for others still it may come as a result of a vision quest or as the result of an utter distaste for the life of the world and its many sorrows, failures, weaknesses or incomprehensible demands.

The evolution of consciousness develops systematically and the action of the soul as a driver of the process in the individual can take place behind the scenes as the focus initially is on the development of the body, then the vital force, then the mental powers.  Once these are all active, and integrating their action into one another, the time for the next phase of development requires a more visible soul-action.

Sri Aurobindo uses the term “psychic being” which should not be confused with what is called “psychic” in today’s modern terminology.  The psychic being is the soul-entity.  It is not related to fortune-telling or manifestation of some kind of “psychic powers” as understood today.  His use of the term is more precisely to be understood as the soul and psychic-action is soul-action.

Sri Aurobindo writes in The Life Divine:  “Intimations rise to our surface from the psyche, but our mind does not detect their source; it takes them for its own activities because, before even they come to the surface, they are clothed in mental substance:  thus ignorant of their authority, it follows or does not follow them according to its bent or turn at the moment.  If the mind obeys the urge of the vital ego, then there is little chance of the psychic at all controlling the nature or manifesting in us something of its secret spiritual stuff and native movement; or, if the mind is over-confident to act in its own smaller light, attached to its own judgment, will and action of knowledge, then also the soul will remain veiled and quiescent and wait for the mind’s farther evolution.  For the psychic part within is there to support the natural evolution, and the first natural evolution must be the development of body, life and mind, successively, and these must act each in its own kind or together in their ill-assorted partnership in order to grow and have experience and evolve.  The soul gathers the essence of all our mental, vital and bodily experience and assimilates it for the farther evolution of our existence in Nature; but this action is occult and not obtruded on the surface.  In the early material and vital stages of the evolution of being there is indeed no consciousness of soul; there are psychic activities, but the instrumentation , the form of these activities are vital and physical, — or mental when the mind is active.  For even the mind, so long as it is primitive or is developed but still to external, does not recognise their deeper character.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Future Evolution of Man, Chapter Six, The Triple Transformation, pg. 65

The Nature and Action of the Soul, the Psychic Being in Man: the First Step of the Transformation of Human Consciousness

The transformation from the human individual confined and limited by the mind-life-body which he inhabits to that of a spiritual being starts with the recognition of the soul, which Sri Aurobindo also calls the “psychic being” which is the actual entity that utilizes the instrumental functions of mind-life-body to undertake its experience, growth and development.  The soul, or psychic being, survives the death of the body and, due to its being a portion of the Divine, it partakes of the knowledge, the power, the bliss and the inherent purity of the Divine, regardless of the weaknesses, limitations or failings of the bodily instruments.

Many people believe that human beings are inherently “sinful”, are born into “original sin” and are separated from God.  In Sri Aurobindo’s view, the soul is forever pure, not bound in “sin” and one with the Divine, regardless of the actions or inaction of the outer being fixated on its own egoistic fulfillment and satisfaction.

This view sets forth the rationale for this first step in the transformation from the mental being inhabiting a living body, to a soul-being utilizing mind, life and body for its own purposes.  The recognition of Oneness with the Divine comes about when the soul finally can come forward and takes it place as the key element in the evolutionary process which is developing in the world.

Sri Aurobindo observes in The Life Divine:  “At the beginning the soul in Nature, the psychic entity, whose unfolding is the first step towards a spiritual change, is an entirely veiled part of us, although it is that by which we exist and persist as individual beings in Nature.  The other parts of our natural composition are not only mutable but perishable; but the psychic entity in us persists and is fundamentally the same always:  it contains all essential possibilities of our manifestation but is not constituted by them; it is not limited by what it manifests, not contained by the incomplete forms of the manifestation, not tarnished by the imperfections and impurities, the defects and deprivations of the surface being.  It is an ever-pure flame of the divinity in things and nothing that comes to it, nothing that enters into our experience can pollute its purity or extinguish the flame.  This spiritual stuff is immaculate and luminous and, because it is perfectly luminous, it is immediately, intimately, directly aware of truth of being and truth of nature; it is deeply conscious of truth and good and beauty because truth and good and beauty are akin to its own native character, forms of something that is inherent in its own substance.  It is aware also of all that contradicts these things, of all that deviates from its own native character, of falsehood and evil and the ugly and the unseemly; but it does not become these things nor is it touched or changed by these opposites of itself which so powerfully affect its outer instrumentation of mind, life and body.  For the soul, the permanent being in us, puts forth and uses mind, life and body as its instruments, undergoes the envelopment of their conditions, but it is other and greater than its members.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Future Evolution of Man, Chapter Six, The Triple Transformation, pg. 64