As you put in the daily effort to live consciously, you might begin to obtain, perhaps after many years, fleeting and unmistakable glimpses of the psychic being which sits veiled within. You might find a strong mental conviction overturned by a clairvoyant voice which emerges unbidden from the deepest recesses of the heart; you may feel your obstinate subconscious tendencies being dissolved by a warm fire glowing within; or you may momentarily perceive that it is indeed possible to enjoy a self-existent bliss whose source seems to be an inner light. These experiences cannot establish themselves permanently because there are rebellious tendencies in the external personality which take time to dissolve. The peculiar vagaries of the meandering psychic transformation are the subject of this article.
The birth of psychic discernment
Most people are so dead on the inside that when they engage in profanities or perverse conduct, they feel delight instead of sorrow. The delight that they experience is rajo-tamasic– it is born out of the clash of intensities and morbidity. This perception becomes reversed when the psychic being begins to come to the fore. Now you might experience an intense pain in your heart when you abuse someone or engage in other reprobate conduct. As the Mother once said, “you feel as though all the nerves of the head were being pulled and there is also something churning here (gesture) which hurts you, and you feel a great emptiness within and have heartburn, as though you had eaten something very bad – all this only because of some uselessly spoken words”. This pain does not subside unless you have relinquished your malevolent thoughts or conduct. This is the first compelling proof that there is indeed a Divine Power that pervades the Universe and resides in the heart of all beings. Such incidents also unambiguously demonstrate that there is a law of Karma which binds all souls to one another. Instead of the long and inscrutable feedback cycle of Karma which you could previously never decipher, you now obtain instant feedback on your actions!
In the next exchange, a disciple relates how he found the psychic being exerting a weak but palpable and positive influence on his previously unchecked thought processes.
Nagin: Nowadays, I notice that when I do not check the useless thoughts and impulses, some part within feels a sense of uneasiness.
Sri Aurobindo: It may be something psychic-mental, that is, an influence of the psychic put out into the mind.
Nagin: When the psychic has put its influence into the mind, why is it so weak that it cannot prevent the wrong thoughts and impulses coming in, but simply tolerates them with an uneasy feeling?
Sri Aurobindo: The mind and the vital have always been dominant and developed themselves and are accustomed to act for themselves. How do you expect an influence coming forward and for the first time to be stronger? The psychic is not uneasy, it makes you uneasy when you do the wrong thing.
The uneasiness created by the psychic is not depression – it is in the nature of a rejection of the wrong movement. If the uneasiness causes depression or vital dissatisfaction, it is not the psychic. The uneasiness is simply a reminder to you to be more vigilant in future.
Nagin: In what way am I going so wrong that the psychic becomes too feeble to control my vital and its wrong movements?
Sri Aurobindo: You have been keeping the psychic in the background during a thousand lives and indulging the vital. That is why the psychic is not strong.
Nagin: Is not our psychic being in itself surrendered to the Divine?
Sri Aurobindo: It has to be surrendered consciously and with more knowledge. The psychic aspires to the Divine or answers to things divine, it is surrendered in principle, but it has to develop its surrender in detail carrying with it the surrender of all the being.
Nagin: Is it true that unless each of our parts – mind, vital and physical- aspires for transformation there cannot be a total surrender?
Nagin: Does your answer mean that all our being must come under the psychic influence and obey it?
Sri Aurobindo:Yes .
Ours is a polyphonic personality in which different elements apportion the will-power and misuse it to pull the consciousness in every deviant direction. The mind shies from complex cognitive work, the higher vital wants the freedom to fulfill its ambitions, the lower vital loves to indulge in its petty deeds, and so on and so forth. As each of these defects is identified and relinquished, the psychic flame burns with ever-new intensity creating a palpable warmth in various parts of the being. That is the subject of the next discussion:
Nagin: Up to the last year the Mother’s Force had to continue its pressure on my lower nature to change. But now a mutual understanding seems strangely to emerge between the higher and the lower. Through my mental Purusha the higher consciousness points out to my lower being its obscurity and also shows the right movements in place of the habitual wrong ones. For example, while passing by a woman, the usual reaction was an automatic sex imagination and sensation in my subtle physical. But under the present cooperation the higher asks the lower, “What is the use of all such stupid sensations, you get nothing out of them. Instead, if you open yourself to the Mother you get her love and joy which is wholesome and lasting.”
Sri Aurobindo: That kind of direct mental enlightenment of the lower parts is very necessary at a certain stage 
Nagin: While I was writing to you about desires, something like a light touched a part of the vital which up to now has been indulging desires. It suddenly felt an irresistible need to give up its desires! My mind had said nothing to my vital regarding this, nor was there any pressure or force on it. It was a spontaneous feeling coming from the light above, that the desires had better be given up. Later I found that such a feeling is far more effective and decisive than human will-power.
Sri Aurobindo: Yes, because it is the light from the psychic.
As Nagin discovered, this fluidity of self-control is undeniably the hallmark of the psychic being. The mental willpower can only temporarily hold back our depraved tendencies but the psychic transformation cleanses them once and for all.
Discerning the spiritual power behind words
A book of spiritual wisdom is in reality a concentration of forces (i.e. a battery), as discussed in an earlier article. Another sign of the “psychic coming to the front” is that one gains automatic discernment into the spiritual power which exists in someone’s writing, as Nagin found out once:
Nagin: When I wrote that while reading your answers I experienced something coming out of my heart, you replied, “It depends on the nature of the movement. Something from the psychic?” Well, it was something from the psychic. But how did it get connected with the answers?
Sri Aurobindo: The psychic can be connected with anything that gives room for love or bhakti.
Nagin: But more than love or Bhakti, I experienced a sort of psychic oneness with your answers. Will you please explain this?
Sri Aurobindo: You have explained it yourself – it is the psychic contact with what is in or behind the answers – what comes out into them from myself .
As Nagin explains above, what he felt in Sri Aurobindo’s writing wasn’t devotion but a psychic oneness. Followers of Sri Aurobindo sometimes get criticized for taking an uncritical view of his writings. They are uncritical not because they are credulous but because their psychic being feels connected to his consciousness and gets uplifted by the the power behind his words.
The anguish born out of the psychic touch
Those who walk on the spiritual path are often beset by a persistent anguish characterized by a feeling of being abandoned in the no-mans land between two verdant pastures. On one side, the delights of the phenomenal world beckon sporadically but no longer seem attractive, while on the other side, one intermittenly feels a psychic happiness but the link to the Divine Shakti remains insecure. It requires a durable and persistent faith to stand firm in this transitional period. In this passage, the Mother astutely identifies the source of this anguish:
Somebody asks what is the true intensity for wanting the Divine, in the will to unite with the Divine. And then this person says that he has found within himself two different modes of aspiration, especially in the intensity of aspiration for the Divine: in one of these movements there is a sort of anguish, like a poignant pain, in the other, there is an anxiety, but at the same time a great joy.
This observation is quite correct.
And the question is this: “When do we feel this intensity mixed with anguish, and when the intensity containing joy?”
I don’t know if several or many of you have a similar experience, but it is very real, this experience, very spontaneous. And the answer is very simple.
As soon as the presence of the psychic consciousness is united with the aspiration, the intensity takes on quite a different character, as if it were filled with the very essence of an inexpressible joy. This joy is something that seems contained in everything else. Whatever may be the outer form of the aspiration, whatever difficulties and obstacles it may meet, this joy is there as though it filled up everything, and it carries you in spite of everything. That is the sure sign of the psychic presence. That is to say, you have established a contact with your psychic consciousness, a more or less complete, more or less constant contact, but at that moment it is the psychic being, the psychic consciousness which fills your aspiration, gives it its true contents. And that’s what is translated into joy.
When that is not there, the aspiration may come from different parts of the being; it may come mainly from the mind or mainly from the vital or even from the physical, or it may come from all the three together—it may come from all kinds of combinations. But in general, for the intensity to be there, the vital must be present. It is the vital which gives the intensity; and as the vital is at the same time the seat of most of the difficulties, obstacles, contradictions, it is the friction between the intensity of the aspiration and the intensity of the difficulty which creates this anguish.
This is no reason to stop one’s aspiration.
You must know, you must understand the reason for this anguish. And then, if you can introduce just one more element in your aspiration, that is, your trust in the divine Grace, trust in the divine Response, it counterbalances all possible anguish and you can aspire without any disturbance or fear .
As a star, uncompanioned, moves in heaven
Unastonished by the immensities of Space,
Travelling infinity by its own light,
The great are strongest when they stand alone.
A God-given might of being is their force,
A ray from self’s solitude of light the guide;
The soul that can live alone with itself meets God;
Its lonely universe is their rendezvous.
(Sri Aurobindo, Savitri, Book VI, Canto II)
Misusing the puissance of the psychic experience
The fugitive glimpses of the psychic being are so exhilarating that, without proper vigilance, they can be imperceptibly appropriated and misused by the external personality. After such an experience, you might become woolly-headed and resume indulgence in some past subconscious defect that had been lying dormant all along. One has to guard against such dangers as Sri Aurobindo points out here:
Nagin: Now a rapid flow of love and joy springs out from my heart centre. Is there any possibility of the lower vital misusing this flow?
Sri Aurobindo: It can be misused on a large scale only if there is a strong and vehement vital ego not accustomed to correction or else a vital full of the kamavasana (sexual desire). On a small scale it can be misused by the small selfishnesses, vanities, ambitions, demands of the lower vital supporting themselves upon it. If you are on guard against these things, then there is no danger of misuse. If the psychic puts forth psychic discernment along with the love, then there is no danger, for the light of psychic discernment at once exposes all mixture or misuse .
Confusing lesser experiences with the psychic experience
On a final note, it is important to understand that there are subordinate spiritual experiences that can easily be mistaken for the complete psychic transformation. It take years of patient effort to fully attain the psychic transformation, as the Mother explains:
For very often, when one touches certain parts of the mind which are under the psychic influence and full of light and the joy of that light, or when one touches certain very pure and very high parts of the emotive being which has the most generous, most unselfish emotions, one also has the impression of being in contact with one’s soul. But this is not the true soul, it is not the soul in its very essence. These are parts of the being under its influence and manifesting something of it. So, very often people enter into contact with these parts and this gives them illuminations, great joy, revelations, and they feel they have found their soul. But it is only the part of the being under its influence, one part or another, for… Exactly what happens is that one touches these things, has experiences, and then it gets veiled, and one wonders, “How is it that I touched my soul and now have fallen back into this state of ignorance and inconscience!” But that’s because one had not touched one’s soul, one had touched those parts of the being which are under the influence of the soul and manifest something of it, but are not it .
So thin a veil divides
Us from such joy, past words,
Walking in daily life—the business of the hour, each detail seen to;
Yet carried, rapt away, on what sweet floods of other Being:
Swift streams of music flowing, light far back through all Creation shining,
Loved faces looking—
Ah! from the true, the mortal self
So thin a veil divides!
(Edward Carpenter, So thin a veil)
In a previously-posted article “How to awaken the psychic being”, Kireet Joshi, a direct disciple of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother offers invaluable tips.
A few conspicuous indicators of the advancing psychic transformation are discussed on the page dedicated to the psychic transformation.
- Mother. Collected Works of the Mother, vol. 6, p 76.
- Nagin Doshi. Guidance from Sri Aurobindo, Pondicherry: SABDA, 1987, vol. 1, pp 73-75.
- Nagin Doshi. Guidance from Sri Aurobindo, Pondicherry: SABDA, 1987, vol. 2, p 215.
- Nagin Doshi. Guidance from Sri Aurobindo, Pondicherry: SABDA, 1987, vol. 3, p 48-50.
- Mother. Collected Works of the Mother, vol. 8, pp 250-251.
- Nagin Doshi. Guidance from Sri Aurobindo, Pondicherry: SABDA, 1987, vol. 3, p 48-50.
- Mother. Collected Works of the Mother, vol. 7, p 263.
- The psychic joy derived from a selfless act
- The Nachiketa fire sacrifice
- How to distinguish between right and wrong?
- Subtle forms of the ego – (transcending suffocation)
- Jnana Yoga : the ego blocks that have to be dissolved
- The rhythms of our consciousness
- On being truthful in speech
- Identifying the signs of spiritual progress
- Self-control over speech
- The spiritual ego which can develop
- Sattwic ego, Rajasic ego and Tamasic ego