Through long habit and through a process of socialisation, we desire and expect that a specific path of development can be placed in front of us to guide us systematically along a pre-determined track, and that this path is suitable for everyone. We therefore believe that our accepted form of worship, our preferred religion, our systems of governance and economic management, are the best and are suitable for everyone. This of course, has led to countless disputes and wars in human history.

When it comes to inner development, the development of consciousness, we apply these same, somewhat faulty ideas, to how this should occur. We thus expect everyone to have the same experience, or else, we tend to treat other results as somehow either invalid, or at least, lesser results or methods.

The Mother counters this notion with a clear statement about the uniqueness of the experience that brings an individual out of the surface consciousness and opens up the realms of the spirit to him. Whatever the specific experience, if it moves the individual away from the limitations of the body-life-mind complex and the ego personality to seek for and internalise the spiritual consciousness, it should be recognised as a valid and useful experience for the individual and not discounted, denigrated or denied by those who have a different entry to the spiritual realms.

A disciple inquires: “Mother, how to change one’s consciousness?”

The Mother responds: “Naturally, there are many ways, but each person must do it by the means accessible to him; and the indication of the way usually comes spontaneously, through something like an unexpected experience. And for each one, it appears a little differently.”

“For instance, one may have the perception of the ordinary consciousness which is extended on the surface, horizontally, and works on a plane which is simultaneously the surface of things and has a contact with the superficial outer side of things, people, circumstances; and then, suddenly, for some reason or other — as I say for each one it is different — there is a shifting upwards, and instead of seeing things horizontally, of being at the same level as they are, you suddenly dominate them and see them from above, in their totality, instead of seeing a small number of things immediately next to yourself; it is as though something were drawing you above and making you see as from a mountain-top or an aeroplane. And instead of seeing each detail and seeing it on its own level, you see the whole as one unity, and from far above.”

“There are many ways of having this experience, but it usually comes to you as if by chance, one fine day.”

“Or else, one may have an experience which is almost its very opposite but which comes to the same thing. Suddenly one plunges into a depth, one moves away from the thing one perceived, it seems distant, superficial, unimportant; one enters an inner silence or an inner calm or an inward vision of things, a profound feeling, a more intimate perception of circumstances and things, in which all values change. And one becomes aware of a sort of unity, a deep identity which is one in spite of the diverse appearances.”

“Or else, suddenly also, the sense of limitation disappears and one enters the perception of a kind of indefinite duration beginningless and endless, of something which has always been and always will be.”

Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, Growing Within: The Psychology of Inner Development, Chapter II Awakening of Consciousness, pp. 24-25

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.