Miscellaneous Articles - Spiritual Experience

Spiritual Experience

The field of experience is increasingly vast, and critical rationality aims at testing the testimony of experience on the difficult anvil of criteria that demand the exact equation between idea and fact. Within the limits of sense experience, the only premise that guides the witness of enquiry is that the physical senses are our only sole means of Knowledge, and Reason, therefore, even it’s most extended and vigorous flights cannot escape beyond their domain. It must deal always and solely with the facts which they provide or suggest; and the suggestions themselves must always be kept tight to their origins. We are obliged to arrive at agnosticism or at certainties which are only temporarily valid and susceptible to vanish under the pressure of fresh evidence, which is always a possibility, and therefore always criticisable, registering an undeniable victory for rational criticality.

It may, indeed, be conceded that physical senses are not our sole means of Knowledge, and it will always be contended that there are factors in human consciousness which open to us the gates of increasing fields of knowledge. But since the reports of experiences from the faculties that transcend the senses begins to be admitted, one finds oneself in regions of unsubstantial quantities of brilliant fog or murk, visited by flashes which blind more than enlighten. Confronted with these regions, critical rationality finds it necessary to demand physical valid proof of the facts that are repeatedly caught within the faculties that transcend the physical senses. But the question for the critical rationality that must be answered is whether the demand for physical valid proof for supra-physical phenomena is truly justifiable. If the facts brought to us by senses other than the physical senses are supra-physical, would it be rational and logical to demand physical valid proof of a supra-physical fact? Why should it be assumed, it may be asked, that only the objective and the physical are fundamentally real? Answering this question the critical rationality would be obliged to declare that the assumption that equates physical objectivity with reality is a dogma and it is questionable. But then the critical rationality has a right to demand whether we can arrive at any satisfying answer to the question as to what really exists. There are, it may be admitted, domains of experience such as those of dream worlds or the worlds of artists and poets, even of the occultists and religionists. And it may be asked as to what all these experiences ultimately amount to. Do they not all prove to be deceptive? Do we not, it may be asked, end up with conflicting truth claims, as the history of art and poetry and even occultism and religion has shown? And does it not, therefore, provide us a wise counsel that critical rationality is not only valuable as a means of acquisition of knowledge but also as an end?

Spiritual Experience

Spiritual Experience

What, if a sustained enquiry into the domains of experiences that lie beyond the confines of the physical senses leads us ultimately to claim that only in those domains idea and fact coincide indubitably? And it is this claim that the science of experience invites us to enquire into. Indeed, this is not an unusual claim since religions have always made that claim, and the recent enquiries made into the psychology of the religious experiences seems to provide data which provide a sufficiently good ground that spurs us into a journey of exploration.

It is, indeed, beyond our scope here to undertake this difficult journey of exploration, but one line of enquiry, such as the one that has been carried out in India in the field of Yoga places before us the following arguments which compel our consideration:

(a)     If it be said that the experiences that come to us from faculties that transcend the physical senses are only subjective experiences which can easily be deceptive one would be obliged to conclude the finality of deceptiveness of subjective experiences, since we have at present no recognised method or standard of verification and a too great tendency to admit the extraordinary and miraculous or supernatural at its face value. But is it not a fact that deceptiveness or deceptive error is not the prerogative of the inner subjective faculties, but it is also a character of the experiences brought to us through physical senses? Should liability to error be a reason for shutting out an enquiry into an important domain of supra-physical and spiritual experience? Would it not be a matter worthy of scrutiny and would it not be right to find out in that domain its own true standards and its characteristic appropriate and valid means of verification?

(b)     The Yogic science, it is claimed, has witnessed the realm of supra-physical experiences and that realm when rightly interrogated, is a witness to truth and its testimony is confirmed again and again even in the physical objective field.

(c)     It is true that this field of the supra-physical experiences has largely been ruled by belief, and belief by itself is not evidence of reality, and one must demand something more valid as justifiable and rational.

Spiritual Experience

Spiritual Experience

(d)     Beliefs of the past are not sufficient basis for knowledge, because a belief is a mental construction and may be a wrong building. But does not belief answer to some inner intimation carrying with it some value, even though it disproves the intimation? Even then, it must be asserted that all true supra-physical or physical must be founded not on mental belief alone but on experience, and the significance of the experience must be scrutinised, according to its own law, since then only can we be sure of our steps and enlarge firmly our sphere of knowledge.

(e)     When the intimations of the supra-physical and spiritual realities are scrutinised, two main orders of experience are discovered; one is purely subjective, though in its subjectivity sufficiently vivid and palpable, the other is more objective.

(f)     It is possible for human consciousness to go inwards away from the restricted surface consciousness and develop a subtler sense in deeper awareness, and one comes into contact with element which bears the stamp of an insistent supra-terrestrial character. It is also possible to pass beyond a subjective contact and to enter actually into other worlds and know something of their secrets.

(g)     It is not possible for anyone, who has had these contacts with any intimacy and not only by scattered and sporadic abnormal accidents, to put them aside as mere superstition or hallucination, since they are too insistent, real, effective, organic in their pressure, too constantly confirmed by their action and results to be so flung aside: an appreciation, an interpretation, a mental organisation of this side of our capacity of experience is indispensable.

(h)     It is true that the human mind is capable of creating images, simple-forms, reflective shapes of them, and it is true that it is capable of creating the Divine Image that one worships, creates the forms of gods, creates new planes and worlds, but we have no proof and there is no likelihood that man’s mind can create a world where none was before, create in vacuo without a substance to build in or build on though it may well be that it can add something to a world already made.

(i)      It is on the basis of critical enquiry that one is obliged to recognise the principle of gradation of experiences, and that these gradations of experiences are not quite apart from the material universe and earth-nature, but penetrate and envelope it with their influences and have on it a secret incidence of formative and directive force which is not easily calculable.

Spiritual Experience

Spiritual Experience

(j)      The domains of experience, in their higher heights and deeper depths, provide affirmative witness and invariable evidence of the existence of higher worlds, freer planes of existence, and it is on the basis of these experiences that what is glimpsed in domains of rational thought, ethical will, and aesthetic search of beauty, in what is reflected by religions, however, conflicting they may be, promises us a basis for a secure field of enquiry and conclusions which can be visited and revisited  for purposes of verification by methods which are themselves established by constant applications and their confirmed results. These domains are the special fields of inquiry that has come to be known as Yoga.

(k)     This entire field of Yoga is a field of continuous research, rather than a field of dogmatic assertions demanding acceptance on the basis of belief and faith. And it is in this Yogic field that one discovers, in the higher highest gradation of consciousness, the creative power of the Idea that manifests the Real into real and objective actualities.

(l)      It is in that domain that one finds full justification of the demand of all enquiries to be ultimately satisfied in the attainment of the proof of the Idea in its correspondence with objective Fact. In the Yogic science, this consciousness has been described as supramental truth-consciousness or its Sanskrit equivalent rita-chit.

(m)    It is in the exploration of the truth-consciousness, which, it is claimed, can be attained methodically by a process of application of yogic methods, that one discovers the harmony of true truths, which have been partially, in various degrees, affirmed in various religions and various spiritual disciplines, which have crossed beyond the boundaries of religions.

Spiritual Experience

Back to Content