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

Author's Bio: 

Santosh has been studying Sri Aurobindo's writings since 1971 and has a daily blog at and podcast at 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.