Growing Within: the Psychology of Inner Development: Summary and Conclusions

Humanity is facing an existential crisis. Scientists report that changes brought about by human civilisation have created the conditions that are causing what is now being called the sixth planetary die-off of species. The land, water and air are all being polluted. Toxic chemicals are poisoning the planet. Climate change is wreaking havoc with the entire planetary environment. The ocean is seeing its food chain decimated. Essential species required for food production, such as honeybees, are dying off in record numbers, threatening the world’s food supply. And the issues continue to compound with no end in sight.

The problems we see are based on the application of the mind in an attempt to satisfy the desire-soul of the vital ego. Mental solutions tend to be linear, limited in scope and generally fail to take into account the complex interactions of a complete organic system such as the interdependent relationship of all beings in existence. The result is the kind of imbalance that is driving this crisis to the potential for enormous devastation of the planet and humanity.

When we seek for a solution to this crisis, we find that as long as we remain locked into the mind’s framework and method of reaching its conclusions, there seems to be no solution. Some factor or factors simply overwhelm the best plans, and given the nature of the mind, disputes arise between those who want to approach the situation in one way and those who see a different line of development. We eventually reach a state of gridlock, where nothing can be done, while the pressures continue to mount.

We are then forced, under this intense pressure, to find a way to “adapt or die”. In such a circumstance, what is the nature of ‘adaptation’? Sri Aurobindo’s response is that the entire development of life on earth shows the theme of an evolution of consciousness. Man is not the final stage of that evolution, but what he calls a ‘transitional being’. Nature’s process is to set forth some kind of intense pressure, such as an evolutionary crisis, to create the intensity required for the manifestation of the next term of consciousness. This process is what we are experiencing today. The next term of consciousness is what Sri Aurobindo calls the “supramental” consciousness, to signify that it is a power of consciousness that exceeds the mental level.

Under the intensity of the pressure individuals are moved to shift their focus toward the conscious development and active participation in the evolutionary process. Sri Aurobindo indicates that man, the mental being, has the capacity to consciously take part in, and thereby dramatically speed up the long, slow and arduous developmental process of nature.

Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, as pathfinders, were able to determine how a shift from the ordinary human mentality, under the control of the external ego-personality, and driven by the desire-soul of the vital nature, to a spiritual consciousness could take place. This involved a process of growth whereby the individual gains contact with the psychic being, the soul, and shifts the direction of his life toward the contact with and development of a constant relation of the individual soul with the divine reality which is the actual driver of the universal manifestation. The being must first be prepared and the instruments developed, the aspiration for the change awakened and cherished and then, the being begins to turn its attention to the fulfillment of the spiritual quest.  This inner process is what Growing Within: the Psychology of Inner Development has systematically developed and outlined.

Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, Growing Within: The Psychology of Inner Development, Summary and Conclusions


The Shift or Reversal of Consciousness Happens All At Once, Not Gradually

We are used to the idea that if we practice something, if we undertake a course of study, we will gradually increase our ability and our level of understanding, so that eventually we move, in the academic field, for example, from primary school to high school, to college, potentially to graduate school, and at each stage, we become more accomplished in our chosen field of endeavour. The shift of consciousness does not appear to work under that mode of development however. The preparation takes place unseen, in the secret heart, deep within the being and until it comes forward to manifest, at best it throws up hints and glimpses of what is possible.

The shift tis thus more akin to what is known as the “all or nothing” phenomenon. Vision functions like that. Until there are a sufficient number of photons to trigger awareness, we believe everything is dark. The Mother uses the example of the chick maturing inside the egg. Outside there is no visible sign. Once ready, the chick breaks the egg and appears and can immediately begin to interact with the outer environment.

The Mother notes: “And so long as one is there, inside, one is in the falsehood. And only on the day when by the Divine Grace one can break the shell and come out into the Light, is one free.”

“This may happen suddenly, spontaneously, quite unexpectedly.”

“I don’t think one can go through gradually. I don’t think it is something which slowly wears and wears away until one can see through it. I haven’t had an instance of this so far. There is rather a kind of accumulation of power inside, an intensification of the need, and an endurance in the effort which becomes free from all fear, all anxiety, all calculation; a need so imperative that one no longer cares for the consequences.”

“One is like an explosive that nothing can resist, and one bursts out from one’s prison in a blaze of light.”

“After that one can no longer fall back again.”

“It is truly a new birth.”

Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, Growing Within: The Psychology of Inner Development, Chapter IX Reversal of Consciousness: The New Birth, pg. 176

Becoming Aware of the Illusion of the External Life

Many people are begin to reflect, and even entertain the notion, that the world we experience on a day to day basis is somehow unreal or illusory. Films such as the dystopian story set forth in The Matrix envision that human beings are fettered and their brains wired so they experience a form of reality while their actual bodies and lives are turned into an energy farming activity. When they are disconnected from the matrix, they wake up to a bleak reality and an enormous struggle to free humanity from subjection to this terrible illusion. Some find, however, that the illusion is so much more appealing than the real life they wake up to, so they want to get hooked up again!

This is not, of course, the first time that the thought has been entertained about the illusion. Going back to Plato’s parable of the cave, there is a thought that what we perceive may not be the reality, or at least, not all of the reality.

Sri Shankaracharya of course became a leading philosophical proponent of the illusion, the maya, of the life in the external world. Modern writers such as Hermann Hesse wrote tales about the illusory nature of life in society and the dream-like way it can be experienced.

Modern day scientists are now speculating about whether we live in a hologram! If so, we are not in touch with our reality to the extent we involve ourselves in the drama of the holographic world. Others extrapolate either multiple worlds that work out all possible variations in life, or the coexistence of the past, present and future through the implications of the theory of relativity.

All of these things point to an increasing readiness for humanity to recognise that the traditional objects of our lives were limited and preparatory and that there is a greater destiny and greater life possible, and that at some point, as we awaken to that, we undertake a reversal of consciousness, a shift to a new standpoint and status of awareness and begin the next phase of the evolution of consciousness that we see as a central thread in the development of life on earth to date. Whether one uses the analogy of the caterpillar living to eat, then secluding itself into a sheltered location and later emerging as a butterfly, or the story the Mother describes about the development and awakening into the outer world of a chick, there are examples we can see of dramatic transformations taking place that do not show any evidence of the result until after it is ready and actually occurs.

The Mother observes: “… these are not words, it is altogether true that everything changes its appearance, totally, that life and things are completely different from what they appear to be.”

“All this contact, this ordinary perception of the world loses its reality completely. This is what appears unreal, fantastic, illusory, non-existent. There is something — something very material, very concrete, very physical — which becomes the reality of the being, and which has nothing in common with the ordinary way of seeing. When one has this perception — the perception of the work of the divine force, of the movement being worked out behind the appearance, in the appearance, through the appearance — one begins to be ready to live something truer than the ordinary human falsehood. But not before.”

“There is no compromise, you see. It is not like a convalescence after an illness: you must change worlds. So long as your mind is real for you, your way of thinking something true for you, real, concrete, it proves that you are not there yet. You must first pass through to the other side. Afterwards you will be able to understand what I am telling you.”

“Pass through to the other side.”

“It is not true that one can understand little by little, it is not like that. This kind of progress is different. What is more true is that one is shut up in a shell, and inside it something is happening, like the chick in the egg. It is getting ready in there. It is in there. One doesn’t see it. Something is happening in the shell, but outside one sees nothing. And it is only when all is ready that there comes the capacity to pierce the shell and to be born into the light of day.”

“It is not that one becomes more and more perceptible or visible: one is shut in — shut in — and for sensitive people there is even that terrible sensation of being compressed, of trying to pass through and then coming up against a wall. And then one knocks and knocks and knocks, and one can’t go through.”

Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, Growing Within: The Psychology of Inner Development, Chapter IX Reversal of Consciousness: The New Birth, pp. 175-176

Attaining Certainty About the Actuality of the Reversal of Consciousness

Seekers wonder how they can be sure that the true shift of consciousness to the divine standpoint, or even a soul-centric standpoint has occurred. The status is so ‘real’ that it permits no doubt whatsoever. When one combines this sense of reality with the way in which one reacts totally differently than the ego-personality prior to this shift, it becomes obvious and there need be no doubt whatsoever at that point.

The Mother writes: “… so long as there is any doubt or hesitation, so long as one asks oneself the question of whether one has or hasn’t realised this eternal soul in oneself, it proves that the true contact has not taken place. For, when the phenomenon occurs, it brings with it an inexpressible something, so new and so definitive, that doubt and questioning are no longer possible. It is truly, in the absolute sense of the phrase, a new birth.”

“You become a new person, and whatever may be the path or the difficulties of the path afterwards, that feeling never leaves you. It is not even something — like many other experiences — which withdraws, passes into the background, leaving you externally with a kind of vague memory to which it is difficult to cling, whose remembrance grows faint, blurred — it is not that. You are a new person and definitively that, whatever happens. And even all the incapacity of the mind, all the difficulties of the vital, all the inertia of the physical are unable to change this new state — a new state which makes a decisive break in the life of the consciousness. The being one was before and the being one is after, are no longer the same. The position one has in the universe and in relation to it, in life and in relation to it, in understanding and in relation to it, is no longer the same: it is a true reversal which can never be undone again.”

Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, Growing Within: The Psychology of Inner Development, Chapter IX Reversal of Consciousness: The New Birth, pp. 174-175

Preparation for the Definitive Shift of the Consciousness to a New Standpoint

When a seeker has an unusual experience, when the consciousness shifts to a different standpoint, when new forms of understanding, inspiration, and response suddenly arise, there can be a feeling of intense disorientation, concern, fear or anxiety. ‘What is happening to me?’ Given the predominant mindset of the modern world, there may be concern about whether one is having some kind of psychological breakdown, an outbreak of madness of some sort. Family and friends may observe one acting in a new and strange way, and may even suggest psychological help or counseling. Needless to say, there are substantial adjustments necessary.

The Mother, in advance, provides a context for understanding to the spiritual aspirant, so that when, eventually, the shift of consciousness occurs, either temporarily as an experience, or definitively as a positive realisation that is embedded in the being, the individual will have enough assurances and information to understand that this is actually the normal process when a reversal of consciousness takes place, and rather than being a source of anxiety or fear, the experience or realisation should be embraced.

As the seeker becomes acclimatized to the change or shift of consciousness, he is able to build up his interface with the external world from a new viewpoint and is able to make necessary adjustments.

The Mother notes: “You see, one may have to wait for days, months, years, centuries, lives, before this moment comes. But if one intensifies his aspiration, there is a moment when the pressure is so great and the intensity of the question so strong that something turns over in the consciousness, and then this is absolutely what one feels: instead of being here one is there, instead of seeing from outside and seeking to see within, one is inside; and the minute one is within, absolutely everything changes, completely, and all that seemed to him true, natural, normal, real, tangible, all that, immediately, — yes, it seems to him very grotesque, very queer, very unreal, quite absurd; but one has touched something which is supremely true and eternally beautiful, and this one never loses again.”

“Once the reversal has taken place, you can glide into an external consciousness, not lose the ordinary contact with the things of life, but that remains and it never moves. You may, in your dealings with others, fall back a little into their ignorance and blindness, but there is always something there, living, standing up within, which does not move any more, until it manages to penetrate everything, to the point where it is over, where the blindness disappears for ever. And this is an absolutely tangible experience, something more concrete than the most concrete object, more concrete than a blow on your head, something more real than anything whatever.”

Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, Growing Within: The Psychology of Inner Development, Chapter IX Reversal of Consciousness: The New Birth, pp. 173-174

The Breakthrough to the Reversal of Consciousness

Sri Ramana Maharshi, to point the seeker towards the truth of his existence, asked ‘who am I?’ With persistent inquiry, the individual soon finds that this external personality, ego-self that we normally treat as who we are, is in reality a front, a shell, an illusion, and that the truth of our existence lies deep within, held as knowledge within the soul, and only released into the forefront of our consciousness when the being is ready. The readiness may be prepared over many lifetimes, and at the right moment, the realisation occurs as if by a miracle. The realisation involves a shift of the consciousness, away from the ego-personality to the divine consciousness. The individuality is recognized as a nexus of energy, one among an infinite number of such nodes, and simply a tool to be utilized for action from that particular view and location in time, space and circumstance.

Without recognising it, we experience from time to time modest ‘shifts of standpoint’ which represent, in their own limited way, a ‘reversal of consciousness.’ For instance, a person goes to work in a company and works in a particular department, imbibing the process, methods, and focus of that department. The department works to optimize its results in order to achieve the objectives set before it. The person then may work for another department and go through a similar process of acculturation in that department. He may recognise that some processes in the first department may actually interfere with the actions of the second department, but he is involved in his own work and the results of his own department so he can disregard this. At some point he obtains a position in management, and now gets to oversee and view not just one department, or another, but the entire functioning of the company’s apparatus and departments. Initially he may remain in his department-centric view, but eventually a day comes when he can actually see the entire workings of the company as a coordinated, integrated process, across all departments, and he sees how the departments are actually interfering with one another and with modest adjustments and interfaces, everything could operate much more smoothly, efficiently and effectively for the overall goal. He has experienced a “shift in standpoint” from employee to manager at this point.

Similarly, many people report a near death experience that involves an out of body experience. They report sitting up at the ceiling of a room, or along a wall, and observing the medical workers trying to revive their own body. They can then recognise that they are not the body, but some other consciousness that inhabits and uses the body. They bring this new awareness back with them when they are revived.

While these experiences may not lead to the type of permanent shift, or even to a full shift to the divine consciousness, they help the individual to understand the radical change of viewpoint that occurs when such a shift occurs.

A disciple inquires: “Is it possible to change this at once, change this consciousness? … One feels that it will be a revolution to change that.”

The Mother observes: “Yes, but a revolution can occur in half a second; it can also take years, even centuries, and even many lives. It can be done in a second.”

“One can do it. Precisely, when one has this inner reversal of consciousness, in one second everything, everything changes… precisely this bewilderment of being able to think that what one is, what one considers as oneself is not true, and that what is the truth of one’s being is something one doesn’t know. You see, this should have been the normal reaction, the one she had, of saying, ‘But then what is myself? If what I feel as myself is an illusory formation and not the truth of my being, then what is myself?’ For that she does not know. And so when one asks the question like that…”

“There is a moment — because it is a question which becomes more and more intense and more and more acute — when you have even the feeling, precisely, that things are strange, that is, they are not real; a moment comes when this sensation that you have of yourself, of being yourself, becomes strange, a kind of sense of unreality. And the question continues coming up: ‘But then what is myself?’ Well, there is a moment when it comes up with so much concentration and such intensity that with this intensity of concentration suddenly there occurs a reversal, and then instead of being on this side you are on that side, and when you are on that side everything is very simple; you understand, you know, you are, you live, and then you see clearly the unreality of the rest, and this is enough.”

Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, Growing Within: The Psychology of Inner Development, Chapter IX Reversal of Consciousness: The New Birth, pp. 172-173

A New Birth Into a Spiritual Life

There is a considerable amount of talk about being “born again” in the modern-day Christian tradition. When we explore what is meant, it seems like it is a matter of accepting in one’s heart a certain belief set central to the denomination that espouses this idea. There does not seem to be any experiential activity required, other than an acceptance of faith in the belief system.

There is, however, a different understanding and interpretation of an individual undergoing a new birth, and that is based on the individual making a definitive shift to the divine standpoint from the egoistic human standpoint. Once that shift occurs, it dominates the way one sees, thinks and acts. It is not a matter of mental belief or vital adherence, but a matter of a true alteration in the very way one lives and breathes.

When various countries sent astronauts (or sometimes called ‘cosmonauts’) into outer space, the participants experienced a profound and life-altering change of standpoint, which may help us understand something of the type of change that a true shift of awareness and consciousness can bring about. Astronauts reported that just seeing the earth from outside, as a fragile ecosystem shared by all beings that inhabit the planet, made them profoundly awake to the oneness of all life on earth, the interdependence of every being and the environment, and the need to protect and preserve the earth and its beings rather than carry out wanton, unthinking destruction. Some of these individuals took up spiritual research and practices, explored the need for an evolution of consciousness and began teaching along these lines, all of which represented a major change in their thought process and career path marked by the experience of seeing the earth from outside. Even the photographic images taken from that perspective have had a profound effect on many individuals around the world since they were published. A standpoint shift, albeit one that still relies on the mental development, can be seen here. A new birth would involve a shift to a new form and power of consciousness, the next evolutionary stage beyond the mental stage. This comes about through the soul taking charge of the life and directing it to the development of a spiritual purpose and understanding of the life one leads.

Some people report a major change in their lives based on some extremely traumatic experience, such as a near death experience. They begin to try to grasp and embody spiritual principles and take up spiritual practices. Some people are simply ‘ready’, possibly based on past lifetime development, and open, in what seems to be an almost effortless way, to the promptings and aspirations of the soul, and the call of the Spirit.

The Mother writes: “What is called ‘new birth’ is the birth into the spiritual life, the spiritual consciousness; it is to carry in oneself something of the spirit which, individually, through the soul, can begin to rule the life and be the master of existence….”

“In the individual existence, that is what makes all the difference; so long as one just speaks of the spirit and it is something one has read about, whose existence one vaguely knows about, but not a very concrete reality for the consciousness, this means that one is not born into the spirit. And when one is born into the spirit, it becomes something much more concrete, much more living, much more real, much more tangible than the whole material world. And this is what makes the essential difference between beings. When that becomes spontaneously real — the true, concrete existence, the atmosphere one can freely breathe — then one knows one has crossed over to the other side. But so long as it is something rather vague and hazy — you have heard about it, you know that it exists, but … it has no concrete reality — well, this means that the new birth has not yet taken place. As long as you tell yourself, ‘Yes, this I can see, this I can touch, the pain I suffer from, the hunger that torments me, the sleep that makes me feel heavy, this is real, this is concrete…’ (Mother laughs), that means that you have not yet crossed over to the other side, you are not born into the spirit.”

Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, Growing Within: The Psychology of Inner Development, Chapter IX Reversal of Consciousness: The New Birth, pp. 171-172

Spiritual Experiences Manifest When They Are Ready and When the Seeker Can Perceive Them

Our ability to perceive is limited both by the scale within which we are able to perceive, as well as the operation of the “all or nothing” phenomenon. Thus, events are occurring, activities are underway at wavelengths below those we can perceive, and above those we can perceive. At some point, the impact of those events that occur outside our frame, may have consequences within our frame, but until that occurs, we remain blissfully ignorant of the changes that are in preparation. Similarly, our sense organs have a threshold of perception. The eyes will perceive only darkness until a sufficient number of photons are firing to exceed the minimum threshold, at which point we suddenly perceive the existence of light. Scientific instruments can measure the existence of photons firing even when we cannot perceive them, thus helping us understand this principle. This principle operates with respect to spiritual experiences which elude us until such time as they are ready to manifest and can exceed the minimum limits of perception.

We also tend to live in a three dimensional world, and do not perceive the process of change as our existence passes from past into the present and then moves into the future. When we begin to see the process of time, what scientists call the fourth dimension, the entire picture changes as we are no longer limited to the snapshot that stands right before us, but can see the movement of time itself and the changes that occur. Intellectually we can appreciate the changes of the seasons, the changes within a single day, the aging process, but nevertheless we remain fixated on a very limited present set of circumstances — we cannot actually utilize this intellectual knowledge for our experience of life — until such time as the standpoint can shift to the divine standpoint and the three times are incorporated as an integral part of our experience. Beyond the fourth dimension there are also further dimensions. Scientists are now, for instance, beginning to discover quantum phenomena that seem to not be subject to the universal laws and limitations that we have created as a rule-book for the universe. They are now beginning therefore to entertain the concept that a fifth dimension, that of consciousness, is operative and thus, our understanding of existence now can move in five dimensions. This is not to say that this is the limit of the number of possible dimensions, but certainly for humanity which lives primarily in a three dimensional world, this represents a major breakthrough, or as the Mother indicates, a ‘reversal of consciousness.

The Mother notes: “This change of consciousness and its preparation have often been compared with the formation of the chicken in the egg: till the very last second the egg remains the same, there is no change, and it is only when the chicken is completely formed, absolutely alive, that it itself makes with its little beak a hole in the shell and comes out. Something similar takes place at the moment of the change of consciousness. For a long time you have the impression that nothing is happening, that your consciousness is the same as usual, and, if you have an intense aspiration, you even feel a resistance, as though you were knocking against a wall which does not yield. But when you are ready within, a last effort — the pecking in the shell of the being — and everything opens and you are projected into another consciousness.”

“I said that it was a revolution of the basic equilibrium, that is, a total reversal of consciousness comparable with what happens to light when it passes through a prism. Or it is as though you were turning a ball inside out, which cannot be done except in the fourth dimension. One comes out of the ordinary three-dimensional consciousness to enter the higher four-dimensional consciousness, and into a infinite number of dimensions. This is the indispensable starting-point. Unless your consciousness changes its dimension, it will remain just what it is with the superficial vision of things, and all the profundities will escape you.”

Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, Growing Within: The Psychology of Inner Development, Chapter IX Reversal of Consciousness: The New Birth, pp. 170-171

The Shift from Ego-Personality to Divine Standpoint

We generally tend to believe that if we focus intensely enough, if we undertake serious spiritual disciplines, we will achieve the goal of spiritual liberation or realisations that we may be seeking. There are no doubt many benefits from practicing spiritual disciplines, undertaking tapasya, and building the aspiration within the being. These steps can help to remove covering obstacles that would otherwise prevent or impede the development of the spiritual forces that need to manifest within us to effectuate the changes for which we aspire. They can also help us systematically begin to tune the being to become receptive and responsive to these forces when we come into contact with them. As the discipline proceeds, we get various experiences that represent the touch of the higher consciousness but eventually it recedes as our normal pattern of life reasserts itself. We continue to experience everything from the standpoint of the ego-consciousness, and we feel like we are in the center and see the world, other individuals and beings and the forces at work there as external and separate from us.

Seekers throughout human history have had such experiences, some of them arising spontaneously through some pressure or event, some arising along the way as the spiritual discipline proceeds, some from undertaking actions that put the being under intense stress, such as fasting, or some kind of vision quest in the desert or the mountains. Some people grow into a vibrational pattern that prepares them for the descent of a higher force.

Human history also relates numerous experiences sought through use of various entheogenic substances, such as psilocybin, mescaline, peyote, LSD, DMT, Ayahuasca, ganja etc. whereby they are able to temporarily release the hold of the ego-consciousness and the limited framework of the mental matrix. Many of these individuals report an experience whereby they no longer identify themselves with a small, fragmented, separated individuality, but see the entire world as a living, breathing, interactive oneness. They report seeing vibrational patterns in various colors and intensities that illuminate the relational status between the various objects, which are themselves participating in the oneness of the universal creation. Of course use of substances, while it may provide an individual with an experience that represents a different reality, does not effectuate any permanent shift of standpoint, and frequently have their own disruptive effects on the operation of the nervous system and the brain that may not be conducive to the long-term spiritual purpose of a seeker.

However such an experience arises, it is patent and obvious, not requiring any mental ideation, that they are participating in a different order of consciousness and relation to the reality of the universal creation. This is the difference between “knowing about” something through a mental framework, and “knowing” something through the actual experience of it.

The transformation of the consciousness occurs when there is an actual shift to the new standpoint of the divine consciousness. In such an instance, the seeker no longer identifies with the ego-personality, which may remain a nexus of energy flowing in and out, but which is clearly not separate or central to the divine process in the universe. At some point, this shift actually can elicit fear from the ego-consciousness as it reaches a barrier and knows that if it goes beyond that barrier, it will lose its ego-centrality. This is an existential fear of death that the ego can experience as an experience, or a complete shift occurs.

Once the shift occurs, the individual sees the world, its energies, its forces, its individuals, the whole creation from this new embracing and wide standpoint and the ego-personality essentially dissolves. Everything has a different meaning when seen from this other, wider perspective, and thus, those who have that experience refer to a “reversal of consciousness” or the flip of ‘day’ and ‘night’ between the ordinary awareness and the new standpoint of realisation.

The Mother notes: “And one can’t say that one ‘experiences’ this reversal — there is no ‘feeling’, it is almost a mechanical fact — it is extraordinarily mechanical. (Mother takes an object from the table beside her and turns it upside down….) There would be some very interesting things to say about the difference between the moment of realisation, of siddhi — like this reversal of consciousness for example — and all the work of development, the tapasya; to say how it comes about…. For the sadhana, tapasya is one thing and the siddhi another, quite a different thing. You may do tapasya for centuries, and you will always go as at a tangent — closer and closer to the realisation, nearer and nearer, but it is only when the siddhi is given to you… then, everything is changed, everything is reversed. And this is inexpressible, for as soon as it is put in words it escapes. But there is a difference — a real difference, essential, total — between aspiration, the mental tension, even the tension of the highest, most luminous mind and realisation: something which has been decided from above from all time and is absolutely independent of all personal effort, of all gradation. Don’t you see, it is not bit by bit that one reaches it, it is not by a small, constant, regular effort, it is not that: it is something that comes suddenly; it is established without one’s knowing how or why, but all is changed.”

“And it will be like that for everybody, for the whole universe: it goes on and on, it moves forward very slowly, and then one moment, all of a sudden, it will be done, finished — not finished: it’s the beginning!”

Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, Growing Within: The Psychology of Inner Development, Chapter IX Reversal of Consciousness: The New Birth, pp. 169-170

The Nature of the Reversal of Consciousness Cannot Be Fully Grasped by the Ordinary Human Externalized Consciousness

If we reflect for a moment that a being who does not have a highly developed abstract mental capacity, perhaps a fish or a honeybee, or even a cat or dog, is unable to truly appreciate and understand the functioning of the higher reasoning and logical capabilities that human beings consider to be their exclusive province. There is no doubt that the human being interacts with these other beings, and in some cases is able to train them up to a certain degree to understand certain simple ideas, concepts or commands, but thus far, we have been unable to identify the development of such a higher mental capacity in the animal or insect kingdom even under the direct influence of evolved human individuals.

If we now transpose this reflection to the ability of the higher mental capacity to truly appreciate and understand an evolutionary stage beyond the mind, it becomes possible to appreciate that there are statuses of being which cannot be fully understood or properly interpreted by even the most highly developed mental intelligence.

When someone has a spiritual experience, or undergoes a shift of consciousness which enables him to see and understand things from a totally different standpoint, there is clearly no pathway to communicate the actual experience to the mental substance. The best that can be done is to create imagery, develop analogies or other transcription tools to point the way, even if they cannot fully express the experience to a mind that is not prepared for it.

We see a similar situation when a profound, deep thinking individual tries to explain an esoteric concept. He winds up using language that has little or no meaning to the ordinary individual and, as the saying goes, the concept goes “right over the head” of the individual who does not have that capacity actively developed within him.

The Mother observes: “Those who have experienced this reversal know what I am speaking about; but if one hasn’t, one can’t understand. One may have a kind of idea by analogy, people who have tried to describe yoga compare it with the reversal of a prism: when you put it at a certain angle, the light is white; when you turn it over, it is broken up. Well, this is exactly what happens, that is to say, you restore the white. In the ordinary consciousness there is decomposition and you restore the white. However, this is only an image. It is not really that, this is an analogy. But the phenomenon is extremely concrete. It is almost as though you were to put what is inside out, and what is outside in. And it isn’t that either! But if you could turn a ball inside out, or a balloon — you can’t, can you? — if you could put the inside out and the outside in, it would be something like what I mean.”

Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, Growing Within: The Psychology of Inner Development, Chapter IX Reversal of Consciousness: The New Birth, pg. 169