Until an individual has an actual experience of what the Mother calls ‘interiorisation’, there is no real way to understand what it is about. Many people believe that if they sit quietly in meditation, or follow an internal train of thought, that they have an inner experience, but this is not what the Mother actually refers to. These things are still functions of the surface being, the external personality, and can be likened to the earth’s thin layer of topsoil. Most of the substance of the earth lies well below the few inches or feet of topsoil, and the deeper layers determine the nature of the earth’s rotation, axis, speed and shape, thus governing, together with the sun and the moon, the earth’s tides, climate, and lands.

When an individual has a true experience of ‘interiorisation’ there is a depth and power that can remove all awareness of the outer personality and being. Most individuals experience an existential fear of dissolution and death when they first taste such a state of awareness, as they feel the dissolving of the ego-shell that holds their personality together. If they react to this, they are quickly drawn back away from this interior state to the outer external being and they are left with the sense and feeling of something deeper, but lose the immediate opportunity to experience something other than their bodily life. Eventually, if the experience returns, they can reach deep states of immersion and can learn about the larger existence of which they are a part. Some experiences of this type are called “samadhi” or “turiya” at various times, describing different levels and types of inward experience.

Many people who have interacted with the Mother and Sri Aurobindo have reported having such an experience, sometimes repeatedly, as they absorb the psychic atmosphere by which they are surrounded.

The Mother was asked “But one can become conscious, Sweet Mother, can’t one?”

She replied: “Fully! But for this one must work a little within oneself. One must withdraw from the surface. … Almost totally, everybody lives on the surface, all the time, all the time on the surface. And for them it’s even the only thing which exists — the surface. And when something compels them to draw back from the surface, some people feel that they are falling into a hole. There are people who, if they are drawn back from the surface suddenly feel that they are crumbling down into an abyss, so unconscious are they! … They are conscious only of a kind of small thin crust which is all that they know of themselves and things and the world, and it is so thin a crust! Many! I have experienced, I don’t know how often… I tried to interiorise some people and immediately they felt that they were falling into an abyss, and at times a black abyss. Now this is the absolute inconscience. But a fall, a fall into something which for them is like a non-existence, this happens very often. People are told: ‘Sit down and try to be silent, to be very quiet’; this frightens them terribly. … A fairly long preparation is needed in order to feel an increase of life when one goes out of the outer consciousness. It is already a great progress. And then there is the culmination, that when one is obliged for some reason or other to return to the outer consciousness, it is there that one has the impression of falling into a black hole, at least into a kind of dull, lifeless greyness, a chaotic mixture of disorganised things, with the faintest light, and all this seems so dull, so dim, so dead that one wonders how it is possible to remain in this state — but this of course is the other end — unreal, false, confused, lifeless!”

Sri Aurobindo and The Mother, Living Within: The Yoga Approach to Psychological Health and Growth, General Methods and Principles, Becoming More Conscious, pp. 2-5

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 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.