“Seeing is believing” has been a proverb for humanity since time immemorial. Yet, as we delve deeper into the way the world functions, we come to understand that what we see is not always an accurate reflection of the underlying reality. We see the sun rise in the East and set in the West on a daily basis, and for ages, we believed that this meant that the sun rotated around the earth. Today in the age of the internet and digital manipulation of information and images, we understand that not everything we see is actually true and accurate. We learn to doubt what we see until we get further confirmations.

On the other hand, there are some experiences that do not necessarily require the input from our fallible senses and mental interpretations of what we perceive. The experience of being alive is one, but not the only, experience that transcends the sense perceptions and the mind’s interpretations. This is what we may call an ‘existential’ experience. Other existential experiences fall into the realm of what we experience as the certitude of spiritual experience. When these experiences occur, they have such a powerful and overwhelming intensity and reality that doubt does not enter into the picture. There are different forms of ‘knowing’ and the physical and vital sensations and the mental interpretations are one such way, but not the most certain or secure in their accuracy. The existential knowing, a knowledge by identity, which takes over the entire being, is the basis of spiritual experience and it resides on a bed of certainty that is missing from our physical forms of knowledge.

Sri Aurobindo notes: “…I have started writing [about doubt], but I will begin not with doubt but with the demand for the Divine as a concrete certitude, quite as concrete as any physical phenomenon caught by the senses. Now, certainly, the Divine must be such a certitude not only as concrete but more concrete than anything sensed by ear or eye or touch in the world of Matter; but it is a certitude not of mental thought but of essential experience. When the Peace of God descends on you, when the Divine Presence is there within you, when the Ananda rushes on you like a sea, when you are driven like a leaf before the wind by the breath of the Divine Force, when Love flowers out from you on all creation, when Divine Knowledge floods you with a Light which illumines and transforms in a moment all that was before dark, sorrowful and obscure, when all that is becomes part of the One Reality, when the Reality is all around you, you feel at once by the spiritual contact, by the inner vision, by the illumined and seeing thought, by the vital sensation and even by the very physical sense, everywhere you see, hear, touch only the Divine. Then you can much less doubt it or deny it than you can deny or doubt daylight or air or the sun in heaven — for of these physical things you cannot be sure but they are what your senses represent them to be; but in the concrete experiences of the Divine, doubt is impossible.” Sri Aurobindo, Integral Yoga: Sri Aurobindo’s Teaching and Method of Practice, Chapter 4 The Divine, the Gods and the Divine Force, The Divine pp. 77-82

Author's Bio: 

Santosh has been studying Sri Aurobindo's writings since 1971 and has a daily blog at http://sriaurobindostudies.wordpress.com He is author of 16 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.