Phenomena of Varieties of Spiritual Experience: Synthesis in Integral Realisation
There is, however, an important problem from the phenomena of the varieties of spiritual experience. In the course of the history of yoga, there have been detailed investigations of the object of knowledge, status of yogic knowledge that has been obtained through yogic processes and the results of yogic experiences for the highest well- being of the individual and the world at all levels of existence, spiritual, mental, vital, and physical. In this course of development, the field of inquiry would have been much easier and much simpler if methods were uniform and if the knowledge of the object inquired into were also uniform. This would have rendered unanimity in this field of inquiry more easily. But the yogic field is marked by varieties of lines of development, varieties of methods and varieties of reports in regard to the truth or reality of the objects that have been pursued by yogic processes and methods. Again, the difficulty would have been not very serious, if there would have been some kind of understanding and agreement, based on verifiable truth, that all experiences in yoga are valid, even when they are varied. But when we examine the history of yoga, we find differing claims, even conflicting claims, and even denials in regard to the veracity of the rival claims.
It is this situation which necessitates the study of varieties
of yogic experience with a more searching and critical sense. And even though this subject is very vast and very difficult, we need to bring forth although briefly, certain facts in regard to the varieties of yogic experience.
Let us first of all, admit that when we attempt to put ourselves into conscious relations with whatever supreme or universal Being there exists concealed or manifest in the world, we arrive at a very various experience and one or other variant term of this experience is turned by different intellectual conceptions into their fundamental idea of existence.
There is, for example, the crude experience of the Divine who is claimed to be seen quite different from and greater than ourselves, quite different from and greater than the universe in which we live; in this experience, all that is phenomenal seems a thing other than the infinity of the self- conscious spirit and all that is phenomenal seems an image of a lesser truth, if not an illusion. The question is whether this crude experience is scrutinised by yogic methods and whether this experience is the final experience of the Divine. It is true that if one dwells in this experience, we arrive at an intellectual conception, when we try to philosophise on the basis of that experience, of the divine as extra-cosmic. But we find that in the yogic field, there are other experiences also, and one of them is that in which it is found that all phenomena are contained in the Divine, and that no* phenomenon is outside the Divine. Another yogic experience affirms one self of all and of all that we have consciousness and the vision. In the light of that experience, we can no longer say or think that we are entirely different from him, but that there is self and there is a phenomenon of self-
existence.There is also an experience that all is one self, but all is variation in the phenomenon. There are reports of yogic experiences in which one can dwell in exclusive intensity of a union with the self as a result of which one may even come to experience the phenomenal existence as a thing dreamlike and unreal. But, again, there is a report of the yogic experience of a double intensity in which one may have the double experience of a supreme self-existent oneness with the self or the Divine and yet of oneself as living with that self or the Divine and in many relations to him in a persistent form, an actual derivation of his being. In that experience, the Phenomenal universe, as also our existence in the universe, become to us constant and real forms of the self- aware existence of the Divine.
In another yogic experience there are relations of differences between individual souls and the Divine, and there are also relations of differences between the Divine and all the other living or inanimate powers of the Eternal, and there are also relations in the dealings of the individual with the cosmic self in the nature of the universe. In philosophical terms, these relations are other than those of the supra- cosmic truth; they are derivative creations of a certain power of consciousness of the spirit. If one dwells in the yogic experience of the difference between the self and the forms of self , one may come to regard the Self as a containing an immanent reality, and one may admit the truth of omnipresent spirit, and yet the forms of the spirit, the moulds of its presence may affect us not only as something other than it, not only as transient, but as unreal images.
There is also the yogic experience of the Spirit as the divine being immutable and ever-containing in his vision the
multiplicity of the universe; there is also the yogic experience of the separate, of the simultaneous or the coincident experience of the divine immanent in our selves and in all creatures. There is also another yogic experience in which one sees all things as the very Divine, not only that Spirit which dwells immutable in the universe and its countless creatures, but all this inward and outward becomings are seen as divine Reality manifesting Himself in us and in the cosmos. If one dwells on this experience, one gets the pantheistic identity, the One that is all.
At first sight, these spiritual experiences seem vastly different from each other or even opposed to each other. Records of yogic experience show us that this situation of the variety of yogic experiences has been acknowledged, and they are-also shown to be reconcilable in some yogic experiences of synthesis of integrality. This synthesis is strikingly present in the synthesis of yoga as we find in the Veda, Upanishads and the Bhagavad Gita, and this synthesis is reflected even in short phrases as ekam sad viprā bahudhā vadanti,19 that reality is one but the knowers of that reality speak of it in different ways, tad ejati tannaijati²° that moves, and that moves not; dvāvimau puruṣau loke kṣaraś ca akṣara eva ca²¹, uttamaḥ puruṣastvanyaḥ paramātmetyudāhṛtaḥ²² — there are two purusas, one perishable and the other imperishable, but other than these two is the purushottama, called the highest self. The condition of this reconciliation or synthesis is to cease to press on one or the other exclusively, and if it is seen, as it is seen in an integral yogic experience, that the divine Reality is something greater than the universal existence, but yet that all universal and particular things are that Divine and nothing else, — significative of him, and not entirely That in part or some of their appearances but still they
could not be significative of him if they were something else and not term and stuff of the divine existence. That is the Real; but they are its expressive reality.
This means that in the yogic śāstra, there is recognition not only of variety of yogic experience but also of a hierarchy 01 yogic experience. Indeed, the experiences from the commencement of any process of yoga and experiences related to gradual advancement in the development of yogic accomplishment, there can be understandably a hierarchy of experiences, and degrees of approximation leading up to the culminating experience in any lines of development. But if all the culminating experiences of all lines of development speak of the union with the highest, and if all the yogic experiences speak of the highest as indivisible, then there should be unanimity among these experiences. This argument is admitted in the yogic śāstra, but it is pointed out that there are certain culminating experiences. Which when they touch that mental substance in its state of utter silence or love or utter passivity overwhelms that substance with such intensity and perfection that that aspect or quality of the indivisible infinite that is in the forefront in the experience is felt to le final or ultimate. But, if the mental substance is further deepened or widened or heightened, new experiences revealing other aspects of the Infinite join the previous states of realisation, and this process can continue and the mind gives place to the supermind, where integrality of the Supreme becomes ever-manifest. It is in connection with this integral experience that the Upanishad gives us the famous description:
That is perfect, this is perfect, from the Perfect rises the perfect, if the perfect is subtracted from the perfect, the perfect is the remainder.²³
In the light of this integral experience, the other culminating experience or realisations are seen as penultimate realisations and that even if these penultimate realisations sublate the other lower experiences belonging to their own lines of development as also of those belonging to others, even then differences among them continue, and differences are reconciled only in an integral experience in which all the penultimate realisations are integrated in a vast integrating experience.
But even then, the question is as to why the indivisible integral reality is not experienced integrally at the level of the penultimate realisation.
The answer lies in the psychology of yogic experience where the mind as a principle plays an important role. It is admitted that since the object of yogic quest is in its reality indivisible, the experience of that object should be experienced as indivisible and integral reality. However, the object of yogic quest is not only indivisible but also infinite. And the infinite cannot be experienced as a finite form or fixed form uniform for all approaches. Moreover, the experiencing substance in the human psychology is the mind, the nature of which is to reflect, not the indivisibility and infinity but some reflection of the same, which takes the form of an aspect of the infinite and indivisible reality. Which aspect of Infinite will be reflected in the mind will depend upon the line of training that the mind receives during the course of pursuit of yogic endeavour. Hence, at the level of mind, at the level of the pure rational mind some pure concept of an aspect of reality is reflected. But if the mind is quieted by a yogic process, then what is reflected is not a concept of an aspect, but some concrete experience of an aspect. If, therefore, the indivisible infinite reality is to be
reflected indivisibly and infinitely, the reflecting medium has to rise to levels higher than that of mind, such as the levels of higher' mind, illumined mind, intuitive mind, overmind and supermind. It is only at me level of the supermind that the integral experience of the infinite and the indivisible is obtained in its full infinity and indivisibility. It is claimed that the Rishis of the Veda, Upanishads and of some other records of yoga, which describe the integral reality in which different aspects of the reality are experienced in an integral cognition, had attained to the level of the supermind. Sri Aurobindo has described this entire process of the experience of the indivisible and infinite reality at the level of mind, overmind and supermind, and since the subject is extremely important, it is best to present the description of the entire process in Sri Aurobindo's own words. See Appendix XVI (p. 182)
Our account of the varieties of yogic experience can not be complete without referring to the two movements of yoga which have been found in some ancient records of yoga as also in those of Sri Aurobindo. These two movements are, first the movement of the ascent of yoga so as to rise up to the supramental consciousness and secondly, the movement of the descent in yoga by which the supramental consciousness can be brought down so as to transform lower levels of consciousness, including the physical consciousness. In fact, in pursuance of these double processes; Sri Aurobindo has spoken of a new integral yoga of three transformations, psychic transformation, spiritual transformation, and supramental transformation.
In the literature relating to the integral yoga, Sri Aurobindo has presented the yoga of self-perfection and described in detail the psychology of what he calls, the
Gnostic Being, a being that is thoroughly supramentalised by the consciousness and force of the supermind.
It is impossible to include in the scope of this book even an indication of this vast literature concerning the yogic experiences concerning the ascent to and the descent of the supramental consciousness into the human instrument that can enable the evolutionary nature in the human instrument so that the supramental being could be created as a first unveiled manifestation of the truth of the Self and Spirit in the material universe.
All this could be a part of another book in the future.
See also a Synoptic Note at the end of the book.