By putting emphasis on ‘headline’ spiritual experiences and attempting to hold onto them or repeat them, the seeker is potentially losing sight of the larger process that is taking place to effect the transformation of the nature. All progress represents what may be called a ‘vertical ascent’ to a higher level of conscious awareness. This may come through an experience that either takes the seeker to that higher plane for a time, or else, brings the force of that plane down into his normal awareness for a time. The experience is intended to create a connection to that higher energetic force, and to bring the individual into an awareness of it and prepare him for its action. It comes, does its intended work, and then recedes, so that the seeker may allow that force to work within him, open up new pathways of understanding, change habitual patterns of action, etc. This process is one that is called ‘integration’ of the experience, or, as the Mother terms it, “horizontal progress” to consolidate what has occurred with the ‘vertical’ progress. The two go together and both are necessary for any true change of human nature to take place.

What people also lose sight of frequently is the fact that each experience, when it comes, is manifesting in a particular time, place and circumstance in the seeker’s sadhana, and even if a similar experience comes at a future time, it must be somewhat different as it meets the seeker under different circumstances, after the earlier experience has done whatever it was supposed to do.

The point of spiritual experience is not to attach one’s ego to it, but to allow it to open up and change the nature, prepare it for further progress and allow the contact and opening to create opportunities for further, greater experiences and realizations.

The Mother writes: “Now, at a particular time, a set of circumstances, inner and outer, has caused one to be receptive to a certain vibration; for example, as you say, while looking at the stars or contemplating a landscape or reading a page or hearing a lecture, one has suddenly an inner revelation, an experience, something that strikes him and gives him the impression of being open to something new. But if you want to hold on to this tightly like that, you will lose everything, because one can’t keep the past, one must always go forward, advance, advance. This illumination must prepare you so that you can organise your whole being on this new level, in order to be able suddenly, one day, to leap up again to a higher step.”

“There is a horizontal advance between abrupt ascents. It is the moment of the abrupt ascent which gives you an impression of something like a revelation, a great inner joy. But once you have climbed the step, if you want to climb it once more you would have to go down again. You must go on preparing yourself at this level in order to climb another higher step. These things which suddenly give you a great joy are always ascents. But these ascents are prepared by a slow work of horizontal progress, that is, one must become more and more conscious, establish more and more perfectly what one is, draw from it all the inner, psychological consequences, and in action also. It is a long utilisation of an abrupt leap and, as I say, there are two kinds of progress. But the horizontal progress is indispensable.”

“You must not stop, you must not cling in this way to your vertical progress and not want to mvoe because it has brought you a revelation. You must know how to leave it in order to prepare for another.”

Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, Growing Within: The Psychology of Inner Development, Chapter VII Growth of Consciousness, Inner Experiences, pp. 145-146

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.