When we live primarily on the external surface of our being, anchored to the physical world, the vital energy and mental status of living in the world, we try to judge everything that occurs within us by the standards of what we expect and understand from our outward existence, experience and education. We tend to put a primary focus on things that are palpable, that appear to our outer senses as real and substantial and that our mind can grasp in its ordinary way of seeing things.

Naturally, as spiritual experiences arise from an entirely different order of our reality, and are based in a different view and understanding of the nature of reality, we find a mismatch between what our external being sees and what may actually be taking place in the depths of our being. Unless we can suspend judgment by the outer mind, we tend to either dismiss or undervalue the spiritual experience and thus, may very well be making progress but fail to recognise it as such. The essential point here is that the mind cannot judge things that are beyond its frame of reference and must learn to know and grasp the spiritual existence with a spiritual outlook, vision and standpoint.

Sri Aurobindo observes: “… you speak of your experiences as vague and dream-like. In the first place the scorn of small experiences in the inner life is no part of wisdom, reason or common sense. It is in the beginning of the sadhana and for a long time, the small experiences that come on each other and, if given their full value, prepare the field, build up a preparatory consciousness and one day break open the walls to big experiences. But if you despise them with the ambitious idea that you must have either the big experiences or nothing, it is not surprising that they come once in a blue moon and cannot do their work. Moreover, all your experiences were not small. There were some like the stilling descent of a Power in the body — what you used to call numbness — which anyone with spiritual knowledge would have recognised as a first strong step towards the opening of the consciousness to the higher Peace and Light. But it was not in the line of your expectations and you gave it no special value. As for vague and dream-like, you feel it so because you are looking at them and at everything that happens in you from the standpoint of the outward physical mind and intellect which can take only physical things as real and important and vivid and to it inward phenomena are something unreal, vague and truthless. The spiritual experience does not even despise dreams and visions; it is known to it that many of these things are not dreams at all but experiences on an inner plane and if the experiences of the inner planes which lead to the opening of the inner self into the outer so as to influence and change it are not accepted, the experiences of the subtle consciousness and the trance consciousness, how is the waking consciousness to expand out of the narrow prison of the body and body-mind and the senses? For, to the physical mind untouched by the inner awakened consciousness, even the experience of the cosmic consciousness or the Eternal Self might very well seem merely subjective and unconvincing. It would think ‘Curious, no doubt, rather interesting, but very subjective, don’t you think? Hallucinations, yes!’ The first business of the spiritual seeker is to get away from the outward mind’s outlook and to look at inward phenomena with an inward mind to which they soon become powerful and stimulating realities. If one does that, then one begins to see that there is here a wide field of truth and knowledge, in which one can move from discovery to discovery to reach the supreme discovery of all.”

Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, Growing Within: The Psychology of Inner Development, Chapter VII Growth of Consciousness, Inner Experiences, pp. 132-133

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.