We generally tend to believe that if we focus intensely enough, if we undertake serious spiritual disciplines, we will achieve the goal of spiritual liberation or realisations that we may be seeking. There are no doubt many benefits from practicing spiritual disciplines, undertaking tapasya, and building the aspiration within the being. These steps can help to remove covering obstacles that would otherwise prevent or impede the development of the spiritual forces that need to manifest within us to effectuate the changes for which we aspire. They can also help us systematically begin to tune the being to become receptive and responsive to these forces when we come into contact with them. As the discipline proceeds, we get various experiences that represent the touch of the higher consciousness but eventually it recedes as our normal pattern of life reasserts itself. We continue to experience everything from the standpoint of the ego-consciousness, and we feel like we are in the center and see the world, other individuals and beings and the forces at work there as external and separate from us.

Seekers throughout human history have had such experiences, some of them arising spontaneously through some pressure or event, some arising along the way as the spiritual discipline proceeds, some from undertaking actions that put the being under intense stress, such as fasting, or some kind of vision quest in the desert or the mountains. Some people grow into a vibrational pattern that prepares them for the descent of a higher force.

Human history also relates numerous experiences sought through use of various entheogenic substances, such as psilocybin, mescaline, peyote, LSD, DMT, Ayahuasca, ganja etc. whereby they are able to temporarily release the hold of the ego-consciousness and the limited framework of the mental matrix. Many of these individuals report an experience whereby they no longer identify themselves with a small, fragmented, separated individuality, but see the entire world as a living, breathing, interactive oneness. They report seeing vibrational patterns in various colors and intensities that illuminate the relational status between the various objects, which are themselves participating in the oneness of the universal creation. Of course use of substances, while it may provide an individual with an experience that represents a different reality, does not effectuate any permanent shift of standpoint, and frequently have their own disruptive effects on the operation of the nervous system and the brain that may not be conducive to the long-term spiritual purpose of a seeker.

However such an experience arises, it is patent and obvious, not requiring any mental ideation, that they are participating in a different order of consciousness and relation to the reality of the universal creation. This is the difference between “knowing about” something through a mental framework, and “knowing” something through the actual experience of it.

The transformation of the consciousness occurs when there is an actual shift to the new standpoint of the divine consciousness. In such an instance, the seeker no longer identifies with the ego-personality, which may remain a nexus of energy flowing in and out, but which is clearly not separate or central to the divine process in the universe. At some point, this shift actually can elicit fear from the ego-consciousness as it reaches a barrier and knows that if it goes beyond that barrier, it will lose its ego-centrality. This is an existential fear of death that the ego can experience as an experience, or a complete shift occurs.

Once the shift occurs, the individual sees the world, its energies, its forces, its individuals, the whole creation from this new embracing and wide standpoint and the ego-personality essentially dissolves. Everything has a different meaning when seen from this other, wider perspective, and thus, those who have that experience refer to a “reversal of consciousness” or the flip of ‘day’ and ‘night’ between the ordinary awareness and the new standpoint of realisation.

The Mother notes: “And one can’t say that one ‘experiences’ this reversal — there is no ‘feeling’, it is almost a mechanical fact — it is extraordinarily mechanical. (Mother takes an object from the table beside her and turns it upside down….) There would be soem very interesting things to say about the difference between the moment of realisation, of siddhi — like this reversal of consciousness for example — and all the work of development, the tapasya; to say how it comes about…. For the sadhana, tapasya is one thing and the siddhi another, quite a different thing. You may do tapasya for centuries, and you will always go as at a tangent — closer and closer to the realisation, nearer and nearer, but it is only when the siddhi is given to you… then, everything is changed, everything is reversed. And this is inexpressible, for as soon as it is put in words it escapes. But there is a difference — a real difference, essential, total — between aspiration, the mental tension, even the tension of the highest, most luminous mind and realisation: something which has been decided from above from all time and is absolutely independent of all personal effort, of all gradation. Don’t you see, it is not bit by bit that one reaches it, it is not by a small, constant, regular effort, it is not that: it is something that comes suddenly; it is established without one’s knowing how or why, but all is changed.”

“And it will be like that for everybody, for the whole universe: it goes on and on, it moves forward very slowly, and then one moment, all of a sudden, it will be done, finished — not finished: it’s the beginning!”

Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, Growing Within: The Psychology of Inner Development, Chapter IX Reversal of Consciousness: The New Birth, pp. 169-170

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.