While we are allured by the idea of spiritual experiences, or, if one looks at the popular media, the idea of some kind of unusual powers that an individual can develop, obtain or possess, we actually have very little idea about what is really possible, and how it actually occurs.

Popular entertainment fixates on clairvoyance, or superior strength, or in some cases fantastic powers of sight, hearing, speed, or the ability to fly, communicate with dead souls, or manifest other powers not generally seen within humanity. For the most part, these are the result of a general feeling of powerlessness in society, and are looked on as fantasy. Yet the fixation on these type of powers, show an attraction to the concept that there are potentially enhanced powers of some sort that will accompany the development and evolution of future stages of consciousness. The seed within these fantasies is the fact that there are many inexplicable experiences that arise which fall outside the framework of the normal current action of the body-life-mind complex that we identify as our existence and being.

The actual experiences that arise tend to be marked as extraordinary by those who have them, and carry with themselves a veracity and reality that cannot be challenged. Some individuals have experiences spontaneously, sometimes through a deep inner connection with someone or something undergoing an extraordinary event (such as experiencing the death of a loved on at the very instant of their death despite being on the opposite end of the earth, an experience which is recounted any number of times). Other individuals begin to have experiences that are outside any known context in this lifetime and which change the course of their lives and their focus. As they develop in this new direction, they may begin to recognise that this is an opening that was prepared in a past lifetime. Still others undertake a specific course of action to break through the wall of the external nature in order to experience the wider reality. They then undertake either a vision quest, or some kind of spiritual practice such as pranayama or tratak, which helps them break through the veil of the external nature. Some attempt to do this through use of mind-altering drugs, while still others use ecstatic song, prayer or trance-dance as a way to leave the ordinary consciousness behind.

A disciple asks: “On what do experiences depend, Mother?”

The Mother responds: “Ah, it depends on many things…. Some people have experiences quite spontaneously and it is understood that this depends on their former lives or the way in which they were formed, the forces which presided over the construction of their present physical being, and the influence they came under even before their birth. These people have experiences spontaneously. There are not many of these, but there are some. There are others for whom it is the result of a very sustained effort. They aspire to have experiences and impose a discipline upon themselves or adopt a discipline so as to be able to have them. Sometimes it takes very long to obtain something. It depends altogether upon the way one is built. I knew people who were ignorant, yes, and who had quite remarkable experiences of clairvoyance, of inner perception. They understood nothing of what was happening to them or of what they saw. But they had the gift.”

Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, Growing Within: The Psychology of Inner Development, Chapter VII Growth of Consciousness, Inner Experiences, pg. 127

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.