When we see someone struggling, or when we ourselves are struggling, with some feeling, emotion, thought, idea, force of illness, or just feeling some pressure, we usually associate these with our internal experience of reality, but nevertheless, the fact that forces and influences come from outside, from our social environment, for example, does not escape us. People will frequently get advice to avoid certain places, people or circumstances as being a ‘bad influence’ on them. Some of this influence is overt, directed pressure, whether we call it the press of circumstances or peer pressure. Much of this influence however is subliminal, entering us without specifically being seen or noted by the external surface consciousness, but then rising up as if it came from within.

As the seeker works to quiet the mind and emotions, and thereby becomes more aware of his inner being, he can also begin to see influences that impinge upon the consciousness. He can see that there is in fact a vital sheath that extends beyond the physical body itself that acts as an interface, a buffer and even, a form of protection when the individual surface being relates to the external world and the forces at work there. Some call this the ‘aura’. Kirlian photography has succeeded in imaging the aura around the body. Various scientists have been able to measure the electrical signals and force that extend beyond the physical body. Some individuals are able to actually feel or see the aura and describe it. Various things have been found to weaken the aura, particularly fear, feelings of exclusion and ostracism, sadness, disharmony, feelings of failure, incapacity or insufficiency, etc. Various techniques have been found to strengthen the aura, such as happiness, feelings of love and inclusion, compassion, harmony, etc. Illness, once it has established itself in the physical body, also is shown to accentuate the weakness of the aura.

The aura is the connecting link between the individual and the forces at work in the world, and the awareness that describes the wider direct experience at the subtle levels to relate the being to that wider energetic reality is called by Sri Aurobindo the “environmental consciousness.”

Sri Aurobindo observes: “The individual is not limited to the physical body — it is only the external consciousness which feels like that. As soon as one gets over this feeling of limitation, one can feel first the inner consciousness which is connected with the body, but does not belong to it, afterwards the planes of consciousness above the body, also a consciousness surrounding the body, but part of oneself, part of the individual being, through which one is in contact with the cosmic forces and with other beings. The last is what I have called the environmental consciousness.”

Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, Our Many Selves: Practical Yogic Psychology, Chapter 2, Planes and Parts of the Being, pg. 68

Author's Bio: 

Santosh has been studying Sri Aurobindo's writings since 1971 and has a daily blog at http://sriaurobindostudies.wordpress.com and podcast at https://anchor.fm/santosh-krinsky He is author of 17 books and is editor-in-chief at Lotus Press. He is president of Institute for Wholistic Education, a non-profit focused on integrating spirituality into daily life.