Human beings are essentially dependent on their mental perception in order to function in the world. This mental perception frames what we see, how we experience it, and our interpretation. We thus try to transcribe anything provided to us by our senses (or provided directly to the mind without reliance on the senses) into a mental framework. It is similar to the idea that we try to translate one language into another, where the one language has heavy inflection, inference and subtle meanings that are not truly captured in the language into which it has been translated. Something is ‘lost” in the translation. Similarly, there is a divergence between the mental framework of the logical, sequential, analytical intelligence and the creative, comprehensive and combining intelligence. Thus, it is virtually impossible for the logical intellect to understand and pick up all that is being communicated through a work of art or a piece of music, for instance.

This provides a background for understanding the difficulty the mind has in perceiving, understanding, interpreting and communicating the truth and essence of spiritual experiences, which require a different type or form of understanding than that provided by the mind. For this reason, many people who have deep spiritual experiences wind up having them in a state of deep inward focus, a trance state of Samadhi, or else, they may describe what they can as a type of dream-state. In these cases, there is simply no “bridge” between the spiritual experience and the mental framework which provides the everyday understanding of the individual, and thus, the experience cannot be explained or held by the mind. Additionally, the attempt to transcribe the experience into a mental framework winds up shifting the focus from the spiritual, where the experience actually occurs, to the mental, where it is simplified and stored as a memory, without the power of the original experience.

The Mother writes: “For most people an experience exists only when they can explain it to themselves. The experience in itself — contact with a certain force, a widening of consciousness, communion with an aspect of the Divine, no matter what experience, an opening of the being, the breaking down of an obstacle, crossing over a stage, opening new doors — all these experiences, if people cannot explain them to themselves in so many words and materialise them in precise thoughts, it is as though these did not exist! And it is just this need for expression, this need for translation, which causes the greater part of the experience to lose its power of action on the individual consciousness. How is it that you have a decisive, definitive experience, that, for instance, you have opened the door of your psychic being, you have been in communion with it, you know what this means, and then –it does not stay? It is because it does not have a sufficiently tangible power unless you can express it to yourself. The experience begins for you only when you are able to describe it. Well, when you are able to describe it, the greater part of its intensity and its capacity of action for the inner and outer transformation has already evaporated. There it may be said that expression, explanation is always a coming down. The experience itself is on a much higher plane.”

Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, Growing Within: The Psychology of Inner Development, Chapter VII Growth of Consciousness, Inner Experiences, pg. 142

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.