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Sri Aurobindo on Himself

Part One

Section Two

Beginnings of Yoga

An Early Experience

Q: X says that it is written somewhere that you had a realisation in 1890. Is it true?

A: A realisation in 1890? It does not seem possible. There was something, though I was not doing Yoga and knew nothing about it, in the year of my departure from England; I don't remember which it was but probably 1892-93.... I don't remember anything special in 1890. Where did he see this written?


Glimpses of Spiritual Possibility

Q: Is it true that only those who had, before beginning their sadhana, a clear knowledge of their spiritual possibility through a definite glimpse received by the Divine Grace are able to stick to their path till the end, while those who had no such glimpse may get some experience but will not be able to stick to their sadhana?

A: At least I had no such glimpse before I started Yoga. I can't say about others – perhaps some had – but the glimpse could only bring faith, it could not possibly bring knowledge; knowledge comes by Yoga, not before it.

I repeat that all one needs to know is whether the soul in one has been moved to the Yoga or not.



Do you think that Buddha or Confucius or myself were born with a prevision that they or I would take to the spiritual life? So long as one is in the ordinary consciousness, one lives the ordinary life. When the awakening and the new consciousness come, one leaves it – nothing puzzling in that.


The One Thing Essential

I do not know what X said or in which article, I do not have it with me. But if the statement is that nobody can have a successful meditation or realise anything till he is pure and perfect, I fail to follow it: it contradicts my own experience. I have always had realisation by meditation first and the purification started afterwards as a result. I have seen many get important, even fundamental realisations by meditation who could not be said to have a great inner development. Are all Yogis who have meditated with effect and had great realisations in their inner consciousness perfect in their nature? It does not look like it to me. I am unable to believe in absolute generalisations in this field, because the development of spiritual consciousness is an exceedingly vast and complex affair in which all sorts of things can happen and one might almost say that for each man it is different according to his nature and that the one thing that is essential is the inner call and aspiration and the perseverance to follow always after it, no matter how long it takes, what are the difficulties or impediments, because nothing else will satisfy the soul within us.


If absolute surrender, faith, etc. from the beginning were essential for Yoga, then nobody could do it. I myself could not have done it if such a condition had been demanded of me.


The First Concrete Realisation

In a more deep and spiritual sense a concrete realisation is that which makes the thing realised more real, dynamic, intimately present to the consciousness than any physical thing can be. Such a realisation of the personal Divine or of the impersonal Brahman or of the Self does not usually come at the beginning of a sadhana or in the first years or for many years. It comes so to a very few; mine came fifteen years after my first pre-yogic experience in London and in the fifth year after I started Yoga. That I consider extraordinarily quick, an express train speed almost, although there may no doubt have been several quicker achievements. But to expect and demand it so soon would be taken in the eyes of any experienced Yogi or sadhak as a rather rash and abnormal impatience. Most would say that a slow development is the best one can hope for in the first years and only when the nature is ready and fully concentrated towards the Divine can the definitive experience come.

June, 1934

Personal Effort and Action of Grace

By the way, what is this story about my four or five hours' concentration a day for several years before anything came down? Such a thing never happened, if by concentration you mean laborious meditation. What I did was four or five hours a day prāṇāyāma – which is quite another matter. And what flow do you speak of? The flow of poetry came down while I was doing prāṇāyāma, not some years afterwards. If it is the flow of experiences, that did come after some years, but after I had stopped the prāṇāyāma for a long time and was doing nothing and did not know what to do or where to turn once all my efforts had failed. And it came not as a result of years of prāṇāyāma or concentration, but in a ridiculously easy way, by the grace either of a temporary guru (but it was not that, for he was himself bewildered by it) or by the grace of the eternal Brahman and afterwards by the grace of Mahakali and Krishna. So don't try to turn me into an argument against the Divine, that attempt will be perfectly ineffective.



What is the use of saying things if you deliberately misinterpret what I write? I said clearly that the prāṇāyāma brought me nothing of any kind of spiritual realisation. I had stopped it long before. The Brahman experience came when I was groping for a way, doing no sadhana at all, making no effort because I didn't know what effort to make, all having failed. Then in three days I got an experience which most Yogis get only at the end of a long Yoga, got it without wanting or trying after it, got it to the surprise of Lele who was trying to get me something quite different. But I don't suppose you are able to understand, so I say no more.



Why did not everything open up in me like the painting vision and some other things? All did not. As I told you I had to plod in many things. Otherwise the affair would not have taken so many years (30). In this Yoga one can't take a short cut in everything. I had to work on each problem and on each conscious plane to solve or to transform and in each I had to take the blessed conditions as they were and do honest work without resorting to miracles. Of course if the consciousness grows all of itself, it is all right, things will come with the growth, but not even then pell-mell in an easy gallop.



It is not that there is anything peculiar to you in these difficulties; every sadhak entering the way has to get over similar impediments. It took me four years of inner striving to find a real way, even though the divine help was with me all the time, and even then, it seemed to come by an accident; and it took me ten more years of intense Yoga under a supreme inner guidance to trace it out and that was because I had my past and the world's past to assimilate and overpass before I could find and found the future.



I think you have made too much play with my phrase ‘an accident’, ignoring the important qualification, ‘it seemed to come by an accident’. After four years of prāṇāyāma and other practices on my own, with no other result than an increased health and outflow of energy, some psycho-physical phenomena, a great outflow of poetic creation, a limited power of subtle sight (luminous patterns and figures, etc.) mostly with the waking eye, I had a complete arrest and was at a loss. At this juncture I was induced to meet a man without fame whom I did not know, a bhakta with a limited mind but with some experience and evocative power. We sat together and I followed with an absolute fidelity what he instructed me to do, not myself in the least understanding where he was leading me or where I was myself going. The first result was a series of tremendously powerful experiences and radical changes of consciousness which he had never intended – for they were Adwaitic and Vedantic and he was against Adwaita Vedanta – and which were quite contrary to my own ideas, for they made me see with a stupendous intensity the world as a cinematographic play of vacant forms in the impersonal universality of the Absolute Brahman. The final upshot was that he was made by a Voice within him to hand me over to the Divine within me enjoining an absolute surrender to its will – a principle or rather a seed force to which I kept unswervingly and increasingly till it led me through all the mazes of an incalculable Yogic development bound by no single rule or style or dogma or Shastra to where and what I am now and towards what shall be hereafter. Yet he understood so little what he was doing that when he met me a month or two later, he was alarmed, tried to undo what he had done and told me that it was not the Divine but the devil that had got hold of me. Does not all that justify my phrase ‘it seemed to come by an accident’? But my meaning is that the ways of the Divine are not like those of the human mind or according to our patterns and it is impossible to judge them or to lay down for Him what He shall or shall not do, for the Divine knows better than we can know. If we admit the Divine at all, both true reason and bhakti seem to me to be at one in demanding implicit faith and surrender. I do not see how without them there can be avyabhicāriṇī bhakti (one-pointed adoration).

May, 1932

Deficiencies of the Human Guru

It is not the human defects of the Guru that can stand in the way when there is the psychic opening, confidence and surrender. The Guru is the channel or the representation or the manifestation of the Divine, according to the measure of his personality or his attainment; but whatever he is, it is the Divine that one opens to, in opening to him; and if something is determined by the power of the channel, more is determined by the inherent and intrinsic attitude of the receiving consciousness, an element that comes out in the surface mind as simple trust or direct unconditional self-giving, and once that is there, the essential things can be gained even from one who seems to others than the disciple an inferior spiritual source, and the rest will grow up in the sadhak of itself, by the Grace of the Divine, even if the human being in the Guru cannot give it. It is this that X appears to have done perhaps from the first; but in most nowadays this attitude seems to come with difficulty, after much hesitation and delay and trouble. In my own case I owe the first decisive turn of my inner life to one who was infinitely inferior to me in intellect, education and capacity and by no means spiritually perfect or supreme; but, having seen a Power behind him and decided to turn there for help, I gave myself entirely into his hands and followed with an automatic passivity the guidance. He himself was astonished and said to others that he had never met anyone before who could surrender himself so absolutely and without reserve or question to the guidance of the helper. The result was a series of transmuting experiences of such a radical character that he was unable to follow and had to tell me to give myself up in future to the Guide within with the same completeness of surrender as I had shown to the human channel. I give this example to show how these things work; it is not in the calculated way the human reason wants to lay down, but by a more mysterious and greater law.


Experience of the Adwaitic Self

Q: I have read what you wrote to X the other day about the way in which you had the experience of the Self; that such a thing could have happened seems to me almost unthinkable!

A: I can't help that. It happened. The mind's canons of the rational and the possible do not give spiritual life and experience.

Q: But can you not tell us what the experience was like? Was it by any chance like the one you speak of in your Uttarpara Speech – the Vasudeva experience?

A: Great jumble-Mumble! What has Vasudeva to do with it? Vasudeva is the name of Krishna, and in the Uttarpara I was speaking of Krishna, if you please.

Q: By the Self, I suppose, you mean the individual Self!

A: Good Lord, no. I mean the Self, sir, the Self, the Adwaita, Vedantic, Shankar Self. Atman, Atman! A thing I knew nothing about, never bargained for, didn't understand either.

Q: But didn't you begin Yoga later on in Gujerat?

A: Yes. But this began in London, sprouted the moment I set foot on Apollo Bunder, touching Indian soil, flowered one day in the first year of my stay in Baroda, at the moment when there threatened to be an accident to my carriage. Precise enough?


Realisation of the Self and Love for the Divine

Q: Don't you think your realisation of the Self helped you in your crucial moments, kept up your faith and love?

A: That has nothing to do with love. Realisation of Self and love of the personal Divine are two different movements.

My struggle has never been about the Self. All that is perfectly irrelevant to the question which concerns the bhakta's love for the Divine.

Q: But the sweet memory of that experience of the Self must have sustained you.

A: There was nothing sugary about it at all. And I had no need to have any memory of it, because it was with me for months and years and is there now though in fusion with other realisations. My point is that there are hundreds of bhaktas who have the love and seeking without any concrete experience, with only a mental conception or emotional belief in the Divine to support them. The whole point is that it is untrue to say that one must have a decisive or concrete experience before one can have love for the Divine. It is contrary to the facts and the quite ordinary facts of the spiritual experience.


The Experience of Nirvana

I have never said that things (in life) are harmonious now – on the contrary, with the human consciousness as it is harmony is impossible. It is always what I have told you, that the human consciousness is defective and simply impossible – and that is why I strive for a higher consciousness to come and set right the disturbed balance. I don't want to give you Nirvana (on paper) immediately because Nirvana only leads up to Harmony in my communication. I am glad you are getting converted to silence, and even Nirvana is not without its uses – in my case it was the first positive spiritual experience and it made possible all the rest of the sadhana; but as to the positive way to get these things, I don't know if your mind is quite ready to proceed with it. There are in fact several ways. My own way was by rejection of thought. “Sit down,” I was told, “look and you will see that your thoughts come into you from outside. Before they enter, fling them back.” I sat down and looked and saw to my astonishment that it was so; I saw and felt concretely the thought approaching as if to enter through or above the head and was able to push it back concretely before it came inside.

In three days – really in one – my mind became full of an eternal silence – it is still there. But that I don't know how many people can do. One (not a disciple – I had no disciples in those days) asked me how to do Yoga. I said: “Make your mind quiet first.” He did and his mind became quite silent and empty. Then he rushed to me saying: “My brain is empty of thoughts, I cannot think. I am becoming an idiot.” He did not pause to look and see where these thoughts he uttered were coming from! Nor did he realise that one who is already an idiot cannot become one. Anyhow I was not patient in those days and I dropped him and let him lose his miraculously achieved silence.

The usual way, the easiest if one can manage it at all, is to call down the silence from above you into the brain, mind and body.

Freedom and Mastery of Mind

All developed mental men, those who get beyond the average, have in one way or other, or at least at certain times and for certain purposes to separate the two parts of the mind, the active part, which is a factory of thoughts and the quiet masterful part which is at once a Witness and a Will, observing them, judging, rejecting, eliminating, accepting, ordering corrections and changes, the Master in the House of Mind, capable of self-empire, sāmrājya.

The Yogi goes still further,— he is not only a master there but even while in mind in a way, he gets out of it as it were, and stands above or quite back from it and free. For him the image of the factory of thoughts is no longer quite valid; for he sees that thoughts come from outside, from the universal Mind or universal Nature, sometimes formed and distinct, sometimes unformed and then they are given shape somewhere in us. The principal business of our mind is either a response of acceptance or a refusal to these thought-waves (as also vital waves, subtle physical energy waves) or this giving a personal-mental form to thought-stuff (or vital movements) from the environing Nature-Force. It was my great debt to Lele that he showed me this. “Sit in meditation,” he said, “but do not think, look only at your mind; you will see thoughts coming into it, before they can enter throw these away from your mind till your mind is capable of entire silence”. I had never heard before of thoughts coming visibly into the mind from outside, but I did not think either of questioning the truth or the possibility, I simply sat down and did it. In a moment my mind became silent as a windless air on a high mountain summit and then I saw one thought and then another coming in a concrete way from outside; I flung them away before they could enter and take hold of the brain and in three days I was free. From that moment, in principle, the mental being in me became a free Intelligence, a universal Mind, not limited to the narrow circle of personal thought as a labourer in a thought factory, but a receiver of knowledge from all the hundred realms of being and free to choose what it willed in this vast sight-empire and thought-empire. I mention this only to emphasise that the possibilities of the mental being are not limited and that it can be the free Witness and Master in its own house. It is not to say that everybody can do it in the way I did it and with the same rapidity of the decisive movement (for, of course, the latter fullest developments of this new untrammelled mental power took time, many years) but a progressive freedom and mastery of one's mind is perfectly within the possibilities of anyone who has the faith and the will to undertake it.


Silence of Mind by Descent of Stillness

I find nothing to object to in Prof. Sorley's comment on the still, bright and clear mind, for it adequately indicates the process by which the mind makes itself ready for the reflection of the higher Truth in its undisturbed surface or substance. One thing perhaps needs to be kept in view – this pure stillness of the mind is always the required condition, the desideratum, but to bring it about there are more ways than one. It is not, for instance, only by an effort of the mind itself to get clear of all intrusive emotion or passion or of its own characteristic vibrations or of the obscuring fumes of a physical inertia which brings about the sleep or torpor of the mind instead of its wakeful silence that the thing can be done – for this is only the ordinary process of the Yogic path of knowledge. It can happen also by a descent from above of a great spiritual stillness imposing silence on the mind and heart and the life stimuli and the physical reflexes. A sudden descent of this kind or a series of descents accumulative in force and efficacy is a well-known phenomenon of spiritual experience. Or, again, one may start a process of one kind or another for the purpose which would normally mean a long labour and be seized, even at the outset, by a rapid intervention or manifestation of the Silence with an effect out of all proportion to the means used at the beginning. One commences with a method, but the work is taken up by a Grace from above, from That to which one aspires or an irruption of the infinitudes of the Spirit. It was in this last way that I myself came by the mind's absolute silence, unimaginable to me before I had its actual experience.

The Real Difficulty1

Sri Aurobindo has no remarks to make on Huxley's comments with which he is in entire agreement. But in the phrase ‘to its heights we can always reach’, very obviously ‘we’ does not refer to humanity in general but to those who have a sufficiently developed inner spiritual life. It is probable that Sri Aurobindo was thinking of his own experience. After three years of spiritual effort with only minor results he was shown by a Yogi the way to silence his mind. This he succeeded in doing entirely in two or three days by following the method shown. There was an entire silence of thought and feeling and all the ordinary movements of consciousness except the perception and recognition of things around without any accompanying concept or other reaction. The sense of ego disappeared and the movements of the ordinary life as well as speech and action were carried on by some habitual activity of Prakriti alone which was not felt as belonging to oneself. But the perception which remained saw all things as utterly unreal; this sense of unreality was overwhelming and universal. Only some undefinable Reality was perceived as true which was beyond space and time and unconnected with any cosmic activity, but yet was met wherever one turned. This condition remained unimpaired for several months and even when the sense of unreality disappeared and there was a return to participation in the world-consciousness, the inner peace and freedom which resulted from this realisation remained permanently behind all surface movements and the essence of the realisation itself was not lost. At the same time an experience intervened: something else than himself took up his dynamic activity and spoke and acted through him but without any personal thought or initiative. What this was remained unknown until Sri Aurobindo came to realise the dynamic side of the Brahman, the Ishwara and felt himself moved by that in all his sadhana and action. These realisations and others which followed upon them, such as that of the Self in all and all in the Self and all as the Self, the Divine in all and all in the Divine, are the heights to which Sri Aurobindo refers and to which he says we can always rise; for they presented to him no long or obstinate difficulty. The only real difficulty which took decades of spiritual effort to carry out2 towards completeness was to apply the spiritual knowledge utterly to the world and to the surface psychological and outer life and to effect its transformation both on the higher levels of Nature and on the ordinary mental, vital and physical levels down to the subconscience and the basic Inconscience and up to the supreme Truth-Consciousness or Supermind in which alone the dynamic transformation could be entirely integral and absolute.


Intellectual Statement of Spiritual Experience

I do not think, however, that the statement of supra-intellectual things necessarily involves a making of distinctions in the terms of the intellect. For, fundamentally, it is not an expression of ideas arrived at by speculative thinking. One has to arrive at spiritual knowledge through experience and a consciousness of things which arises directly out of that experience or else underlies or is involved in it. This kind of knowledge, then, is fundamentally a consciousness and not a thought or formulated idea. For instance, my first major experience – radical and overwhelming, though not, as it turned out, final and exhaustive – came after and by the exclusion and silencing of all thought – there was, first, what might be called a spiritually substantial or concrete consciousness of stillness and silence, then the awareness of some sole and supreme Reality in whose presence things existed only as forms but forms not at all substantial or real or concrete; but this was all apparent to a spiritual perception and essential and impersonal sense and there was not the least concept or idea of reality or unreality or any other notion, for all concept or idea was hushed or rather entirely absent in the absolute stillness. These things were known directly through the pure consciousness and not through the mind, so there was no need of concepts or words or names. At the same time this fundamental character of spiritual experience is not absolutely limitative; it can do without thought, but it can do with thought also. Of course, the first idea of the mind would be that the resort to thought brings one back at once to the domain of the intellect – and at first and for a long time it may be so; but it is not my experience that this is unavoidable. It happens so when one tries to make an intellectual statement of what one has experienced; but there is another kind of thought that springs out as if it were a body or form of the experience or of the consciousness involved in it – or of a part of that consciousness – and this does not seem to me to be intellectual in its character. It has another light, another power in it, a sense within the sense. It is very clearly so with those thoughts that come without the need of words to embody them, thoughts that are of the nature of a direct seeing in the consciousness, even a kind of intimate sense or contact formulating itself into a precise expression of its awareness (I hope this is not too mystic or unintelligible); but it might be said that directly the thoughts turn into words they belong to the kingdom of intellect – for words are a coinage of the intellect. But is it so really or inevitably? It has always seemed to me that words came originally from somewhere else than the thinking mind, although the thinking mind secured hold of them, turned them to its use and coined them freely for its purposes. But even otherwise, is it not possible to use words for the expression of something that is not intellectual? Housman contends that poetry is perfectly poetical only when it is non-intellectual, when it is nonsense. That is too paradoxical, but I suppose what he means is that if it is put to the strict test of the intellect, it appears extravagant because it conveys something that expresses and is real to some other kind of seeing than that which intellectual thought brings to us. Is it not possible that words may spring from, that language may be used to express – at least up to a certain point and in a certain way – the supra-intellectual consciousness which is the essential power of spiritual experience? This, however, is by the way – when one tries to explain spiritual experience to the intellect itself, then it is a different matter.


Silence and Action

Since 1908 when I got the silence, I never think with my head or brain – it is always in the wideness generally above the head that the thoughts occur.



Realisation3 of the silent, inactive Brahman is no bar to the dynamic side of the Yoga, often it is the first step. One must not associate it with attachment to inertia. The silent Brahman is attached to nothing. Your mind is associated with inertia and attached to it.

Work itself is no solution, the spirit behind the work is important. The real remedy is to open oneself to the Force. When one gets free through the silent Brahman, one does not go back to the old way of work. By this liberation one becomes free from the ego, one becomes an instrument of the Divine Force by receiving the Force and feels it working; then inertia goes away and work in a new way becomes possible. Until that can be done, one has to work in the ordinary way. But becoming an instrument of the Divine is the proper way.

I had the realisation of sublime Nirvana first. There was complete cittavṛtti nirodha, entire silence. Then came the experience of action, not my own, but from above. One has to grow into it unless it comes easily.



What you describe is not at all a drawing away of life-energy; it is simply the effect of voidness and stillness caused in the lower parts by the consciousness being located above. It is quite consistent with action, only one must get accustomed to the idea of the possibility of action under these conditions. In a greater state of emptiness I carried on a daily newspaper and made a dozen speeches in the course of three or four days – but I did not manage that in any way; it happened. The force made the body do the work without any inner activity. The drawing away of the life-energy leaves the body lifeless, helpless, empty and impotent, but it is attended by no experience except a great suffering.



It ought to be possible to read with the inner consciousness looking on and, as it were, seeing at the act of reading. In the condition of absolute inner silence I was making speeches and conducting a newspaper but all that got itself done without any thought entering my mind or the silence being in the least disturbed or diminished.



When I got the emptiness, it lasted for years. Whatever else came, came in the emptiness, and I could at any time withdraw from the activity into the pure silent peace.


Self-Realisation and Sense of the Body

Q: During the state of self-realisation very little sense remains of my body. I do not know what it does or holds or even where it lies.

A: That is usual. I was in that way unconscious of the body for many years.


Yogic Experience and Scientific Objections

Your bells etc., mentioned by you as recent experiences were already enumerated as long ago as the time of the Upanishads as signs accompanying the opening to the larger consciousness, brahmaṇyabhivyaktikarāṇi yoge. If I remember right your sparks come in the same list. The fact has been recorded again and again in yogic literature. I had the same experience hundreds of times in the earlier part of my sadhana. So you see you are in very honourable company in this matter and need not trouble yourself about the objections of physical science.



I remember when I first began to see inwardly (and outwardly also with the open eye), a scientific friend of mine began to talk of after-images – ‘these are only after-images’! I asked him whether after-images remained before the eye for two minutes at a time – he said, “no”, to his knowledge only for a few seconds; I also asked him whether one could get after-images of things not around one or even not existing upon this earth, since they had other shapes, another character, other hues, contours and a very different dynamism, life-movements and values – he could not reply in the affirmative. That is how these so-called scientific explanations break out4 as soon as you pull them out of their cloudland of mental theory and face them with the actual phenomena they pretend to decipher.



I suppose I have had myself an even more completely European education than you, and I have had too my period of agnostic denial, but from the moment I looked at these things I could never take the attitude of doubt and disbelief which was for so long fashionable in Europe. Abnormal, otherwise supraphysical experiences and powers, occult or yogic, have always seemed to me something perfectly natural and credible. Consciousness in its very nature could not be limited by the ordinary physical human-animal consciousness, it must have the other ranges. Yogic or occult powers are no more supernatural or incredible than is supernatural or incredible the power to write a great poem or compose great music; few people can do it, as things are,– not even one in a million; for poetry and music come from the inner being and to write or to compose true and great things one has to have the passage clear between the outer mind and something in the inner being. That is why you got the poetic power as soon as you began Yoga,– yogic force made the passage clear. It is the same with yogic consciousness and its powers; the thing is to get the passage clear,– for they are already within you. Of course, the first thing is to believe, aspire and, with the true urge within, make the endeavour.


You ask me whether you have to give up your predilection for testing before accepting and to accept everything in Yoga a priori – and by testing you mean testing by the ordinary reason. The only answer I can give to that is that the experiences of Yoga belong to an inner domain and go according to a law of their own, have their own method of perception, criteria and all the rest of it which are neither those of the domain of the physical senses nor of the domain of rational or scientific enquiry. Just as scientific enquiry passes beyond that of the physical senses and enters the domain of the infinite and infinitesimal about which the senses can say nothing and test nothing – for one cannot see and touch an electron or know by the evidence of the sense-mind whether it exists or not or decide by that evidence whether the earth really turns round the sun and not rather the sun round the earth as our senses and all our physical experience daily tell us – so the spiritual search passes beyond the domain of scientific or rational enquiry and it is impossible by the aid of the ordinary positive reason to test the data of spiritual experience and decide whether those things exist or not or what is their law and nature. As in Science, so here you have to accumulate experience on experience, following faithfully the methods laid down by the Guru or by the systems of the past, you have to develop an intuitive discrimination which compares the experiences, see what they mean, how far and in what field each is valid, what is the place of each in the whole, how it can be reconciled or related with others that at first might seem to contradict it, etc., etc., until you can move with a secure knowledge in the vast field of spiritual phenomena. That is the only way to test spiritual experience. I have myself tried the other method and I have found it absolutely incapable and inapplicable. On the other hand, if you are not prepared to go through all that yourself,– as few can do except those of extraordinary spiritual stature,– you have to accept the leading of a Master, as in Science you accept a teacher instead of going through the whole field of Science and its experimentation all by yourself – at least until you have accumulated sufficient experience and knowledge. If that is accepting things a priori, well, you have to accept a priori. For I am unable to see by what valid tests you propose to make the ordinary reason the judge of what is beyond it.

You quote the sayings of X and Y. I would like to know before assigning a value to these utterances what they actually did for the testing of their spiritual perceptions and experiences. How did X test the value of his spiritual experiences – some of them not easily credible to the ordinary positive mind any more than the miracles attributed to some famous Yogis? I know nothing about Y, but what were his tests and how did he apply them? What are5 his methods? his criteria? It seems to me that no ordinary mind will accept the apparition of Buddha out of a wall or the half hour's talk with Hayagriva as valid facts by any kind of testing. It would either have to accept them a priori or on the sole evidence of X, which comes to the same thing, or to reject them a priori as hallucinations or mere mental images accompanied in one case by an auditive hallucination. I fail to see how it could ‘test’ them. Or how was I to test by the ordinary mind my experience of Nirvana? To what conclusion could I come about it by the aid of the ordinary positive reason? How could I test its validity? I am at a loss to imagine. I did the only thing I could – to accept it as a strong and valid truth of experience, let it have its full play and produce its full experimential consequences until I had sufficient Yogic knowledge to put it in its place. Finally, how without inner knowledge or experience can you or anyone else test the inner knowledge and experience of others?



1 These remarks were dictated by Sri Aurobindo a propos of the phrase ‘to its heights we can always reach’ occurring in the following passage in The Life Divine quoted and commented upon by Aldous Huxley in his book. The Perennial Philosophy (Chatto and Windus, London, 1946), p. 74:

"The touch of Earth is always reinvigorating to the son of Earth, even when he seeks a supraphysical Knowledge. It may even be said that the supraphysical can only be really mastered in its fullness – to its heights we can always reach – when we keep our feet firmly on the physical. ‘Earth is His footing’, says the Upanishad whenever it images the Self that manifests in the universe."

The Life Divine (Centenary Edition, 1972), Ch. II, p. 11.


2 work out (later edition)


3 this text was omitted in Sri Aurobindo Birth Century Librarry in 30 Volumes. It was present, however, in Sri Aurobindo International Univercity Centre Collection .- Vol.1.- Pondicherry, 1953.- P.135.


4 down (later edition)


5 were (later edition)