We all generally understand the concept of force at the material level. Our entire world is driven by this force as the sun energizes the planet, as the wind, the water and the power of fire in the depths of the earth create our material environment. We understand the concept of force at the vital level as we move to the impulses of hunger and thirst, fear and greed, domination and submission and the consequences of these impulses. We understand even the concept of force at the mental level, when an idea helps transform our lives and changes the way we see and respond to the world around us. It is therefore not difficult to understand that there is also a spiritual force that acts upon the world and each of us with its own power.

In the novel Les Miserables by Victor Hugo, we can see an example of a powerful spiritual force at work. The convict Jean Valjean escapes from the galleys after having been enslaved, and brutalized, for theft of a loaf of bread to feed his family. He was, in the eyes of society a “lost cause” and he acted in line with that expectation. After spending a night at the home of a priest in a small town, he stole the silver candlesticks and was soon caught. When the gendarmes brought him to the door of the priest, they were told by the priest that he had given the candlesticks and was wondering why Jean Valjean had not also taken the silver plate that went with them. After the gendarmes had left, the priest told Jean Valjean, in response to his query, that he had bought his soul to do good in the world and not continue his depraved life. This event transformed Jean Valjean and he acted in an exemplary way even at the risk of his own freedom and comfort in the coming years. This example was not based on some mental or religious idea, but on a powerful experience communicated to him by the priest.

We hear of similar stories such as Saul on the road to Damascus, or Valmiki being converted from being a notorious thief to living a life of spiritual purity and eventually writing the Ramayana. The story of the spiritual transformation of the worldly Prince Siddhartha into the Buddha, or the story of Milarepa, who went from being a vengeful youth, then a practiced black magician who wreaked vengeance on his oppressors, to eventually practicing yoga and transforming his life into one of deep spiritual realization, both show us the impact of spiritual force. When one reads the Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramahansa Yogananda, the power of the Spirit infuses the mind and heart.

In our own lives, as we take up the spiritual practice, we find that sometimes slow and steady, sometimes dramatic changes take place, which change our mode of thought, our way of life, our very physical being, based on the spiritual influence and force. Those without any experience of spiritual force will try to deny it, but the same could be said of those who have had no serious mental development who scoff at the power of mind to transform the vital and physical world, as it has done in the last centuries.

Sri Aurobindo writes: “By Force I mean not mental or vital energy but the Divine Force from above — as peace comes from above and wideness also, so does this Force (Shakti). Nothing, not even thinking or meditating can be done without some action of Force. The Force I speak of is a Force for illumination, transformation, purification, all that has to be done in the yoga, for removal of hostile forces and the wrong movements — it is also of course for external work, whether great or small in appearance does not matter — if that is part of the Divine Will. I do not mean any personal force egoistic or rajasic.”

“…it is part of the experience of those who have advanced far in Yoga that besides the ordinary forces and activities of the mind and life and body in Matter, there are other forces and powers that can act and do act from behind and from above; there is also a spiritual dynamic power which can be possessed by those who are advanced in the spiritual consciousness, though all do not care to possess or, possessing, to use it, and this power is greater than any other and more effective.” Sri Aurobindo, Integral Yoga: Sri Aurobindo’s Teaching and Method of Practice, Chapter 4 The Divine, The Gods and the Divine Force, Invisible Forces and the Divine Force pp. 85-87

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.