Ritam "The Psychic Being and the sudden bursting of its veil"

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Ritam
December 2008

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The Psychic Being and the sudden bursting of its veil
In the light of Sri Aurobindo’s and Mother’s philosophy, and the words of some people who experienced it unexpectedly

By Alain Grandcolas



(Many thanks to A.S. Dalal for his compilation "The Psychic Being" which was a starter for this essay and a source for many quotations.)


The bursting of the Mother’s psychic being was related to Satprem on 30 October 1962 and 15 April 1972. It happened in 1912, when she was 34 years old. It was her “first contact”.

"To have it (just to give you an idea) took me a year of exclusive concentration on finding that within myself. ... I did nothing but that, thought of nothing but that, wanted nothing but that. I was entirely concentrated on that. I was in Paris, and I did nothing else but that; when I walked down the street, I was thinking only of that. ...
One day, as I was crossing the Boulevard Saint Michel... – suddenly, for no apparent reason – I was neither more concentrated nor anything else – poof! It opened. ...
That light, that dazzling light, that light and immensity. ... That concrete reality, that intensity beyond any possible physical intensity... ALONG WITH the sense of the eternal Divine. ... It didn’t just last for hours, it lasted for months.
This sense has never left me for a minute. And always, whenever I had a decision to make, I would simply stop for a second and receive the indication from there. ... My psychic being governs me – I am afraid of nothing... I have the Divine there." (Mother touches her heart)[1]

On several occasions, the Mother compared the sudden identification with the psychic being to a chicken coming out of the egg. Near the end of her talk of 26 June 1957 she said:

"One is shut up in a shell, and inside it something is happening, like the chick in the egg .... And it is only when all is ready that there comes the capacity to pierce the shell and to be born into the light of day. ...
I don’t think one can go through gradually, I don’t think it is something which slowly wears and wears away until one can see through it. I haven’t had an instance of this so far. There is rather a kind of accumulation of power inside, an intensification of the need. ...
One is like an explosive that nothing can resist, and one bursts out from one’s prison in a blaze of light."[2]

Many disciples remain under the impression that becoming aware of the psychic being is the result of a long process which has started before our birth and may need some more rebirths. In 1955 the Mother stated:

"In almost most cases, a very sustained effort is needed to become aware of one’s psychic being. Usually it is considered that if one can do it in thirty years one is very lucky – thirty years of sustained efforts, I say."[3]

But something has definitely changed in the world, as the Mother stated on 8th February 1973, just three months before she stopped meeting people, when she invited some teachers of the Ashram school to find their psychic being and to be united with it. She said:

"Usually, it takes a whole life, or sometimes, for some people, it takes several lives. Here, in the present conditions, it can be done in several months."[4]

An investigation into the subject has been undertaken, by interviewing 37 people, 28 of whom have been selected on account of the psychic sweetness they radiate. 15 of the interviewees were identified as having the knowledge of their psychic being. For 3 of them the knowledge had always been there, for 12 of them the knowledge came through a sudden experience. The initial awareness lasted from some hours to a few days or months. Then it disappeared and, for many, it came back several times, for a certain period, no longer in a dramatic way but in a soft and gradual manner. Then it could be easily recognised since the taste of the psychic being was already known.

One assumption is that these new conditions mentioned by the Mother have been triggered by the descent of the supramental manifestation on 29 February 1956. The Mother stated that on that evening, the supramental consciousness and force and light descended into the earth. One year later, she commemorated the first anniversary of that event by saying: “A new world has been born”. We wonder if one feature of the coming new world may perhaps be an acceleration of the blossoming of the psychic being and its bursting through the veil, even without a sustained effort in this life. The results of this very limited survey seem to illustrate this statement.

In the first section an attempt is made to describe several phases in the awareness of the psychic being. The second section describes what has happened to several interviewees at the moment they suddenly became aware of their psychic being. A third section describes what remained with them afterwards. The fourth section will give some consolidated results of the small survey which has been conducted on the sudden bursting of the veil for twelve people. A last section highlights some methods recommended for finding the psychic being.

I. How do we become aware of the psychic being?

For the clarity of the survey, it may be stated that three levels of knowledge of the psychic being are distinguished. It may manifest through an influence, through a sudden identification, or just as a touch. Sri Aurobindo writes:

"The psychic being emerges slowly in most men, even after taking up sadhana …. One has to wait till the necessary process has gone far enough before it can burst its agelong veil and come in front to control the nature."[5]

Usually the psychic being is felt as a presence and an influence.

"In every one, even at the very beginning, this spiritual presence… is there."[6]

In most people, the psychic being manifests itself as an influence, a presence in the heart region, more or less living according to the aspiration, the concentration and the rejection of the movements which contradict its expression within oneself. Its action is felt indirectly.

Anybody concerned with spiritual life perceives, in that region, some inner indication. Those who are following Sri Aurobindo’s and the Mother’s inner discipline will learn to give more importance to that presence, which will grow in their inner consciousness and which will more and more become a reference point for all their actions, all their thoughts, an indication of psychic approval or disapproval of some behaviour.

For some, the psychic presence is so living that they may wonder whether they know their psychic being or not. At this juncture, the answer from the Mother is clear:

"There are people who come and ask you: 'Am I conscious of my psychic being?' One can tell them: 'This itself is the proof that you are not' – because if you are, you can no longer ask this."[7]

To ‘know’ one’s psychic being is usually the result of a sudden and unexpected happening.

As the Mother describes it:

"We do not reach it little by little; it is not through a little constant and regular effort. It is something which arrives suddenly. It establishes itself without knowing how, without knowing why, but everything is changed. It cannot be expressed because as soon as we try to explain with words, it escapes you."

The sudden experience of the psychic being is in another dimension. Some features may be ineffable because there is ‘no point of recognition’ as one sadhak puts it. It can be translated into words, but only those who have experienced it, who have ‘tasted’ it, may understand the description.

A visitor to the Ashram will compare this sudden event to the fissure of an atom, in order to express in an image that something unknown and very powerful was hidden under some surface lid. In a similar way physicists were in contact with the atom for a long time without being aware that atomic energy existed. One day there was a fission of the atom, something sudden, very powerful and emitting an energy of a different nature.

(Note: The survey refers to a “Visitor”, an “Ashramite” or an “Aurovilian”, a status they had at the time of the happening. An individual may be referred to as a “Visitor”, in spite of now being an “Ashramite”. The narration of most of the experiences has been approved by the people concerned.)

The next section will narrate what has happened to some of the twelve persons who have described that sudden experience after which they state: ‘Now I know my psychic being.’ The features of the bursting are often very different, except for two which are common: a very deep untriggered and unexpected joy, and the certitude of having come to know the psychic being.

A sudden experience may also be the result of touching some parts of the being which are under a psychic influence, but it is not yet a contact with the soul.

Some readers may wonder whether the interviewee narrates a true contact with the psychic being or whether it is an experience of the inner consciousness (inner physical, inner vital, inner mental) or an experience of the higher (spiritual) consciousness. This question is valid, and it explains why three of the interviewees who have experienced some bursting which they link with an identification with their psychic being have not been retained as a contact with the psychic being.

The Mother comments on this matter:

"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 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... and then it gets veiled and one wonders: 'How is it that I touched my soul and now have fallen back into that 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."[8]

It has to be noted that an identification with one’s psychic being is also usually followed by a loss of this contact:

"It is quite a common phenomenon ... One may not have the power of keeping it all the time, but one can get it at will."[9]

In analysing the contents of the interviews, some errors of appreciation on the quality of the contact with the psychic being may have occurred, but it is felt that they should not alter the overall observations of this essay.

II. What happens at that instant when the psychic being bursts suddenly out of its veil?

Anybody who experiences a sudden contact with his psychic being has a personal, clear and living memory of that event.

"This is an absolutely tangible experience, something more concrete that the most concrete object, more concrete than a blow on your head, something more real than anything whatever… When people ask me how one may know whether he is in contact with his psychic being… it makes me laugh; when it happens to you… you can no longer ask any questions."[10]

One of the two common features for all these sudden events is that it triggers always a sudden great joy without external cause.

An Ashramite who was going to be operated on experienced suddenly what he perceived as the opening of his psychic being; it was accompanied by “a joy of an intensity he had never experienced in his life”. A lady in Europe who was delivering her first child will speak of an ‘explosion’ of joy, a “bursting of love and joy, without cause, in spite of the pain of the delivery.” A visitor in the Ashram who was reading a letter of Sri Aurobindo suddenly experienced an identification “filling the whole body with a great and pure joy”. All these descriptions of the joy are part of a global experience which has been identified as a total or partial contact. The Mother will describe this event:

"It is an experience that gives a very concrete joy; at the moment of identification one truly feels a very, very great joy."[11]

Sri Aurobindo will even go further:

"It is true that nothing can give so much inner happiness and joy."[12]

The second common feature of this sudden identification is that it brings the certitude of ‘knowing’ one’s psychic being.

For two Ashramites and one visitor, it was immediately clear that they had contacted their psychic being and could now state that they ‘know’ their psychic being. For six other interviewees, their intellectual knowledge of the concept of the psychic being was not sufficient and they could not recognise it immediately. One visitor to the Ashram was quite surprised by the experience since it did not correspond to whatever he had read on the psychic being before, no ‘dazzling light’ (he did not see any light) nor any ‘reversal of consciousness’ (there was the awareness of a new ‘being’, but no ‘reversal’!). A European person who had just finished reading The Adventure of Consciousness by Satprem had that experience after which he ‘knew’ his heart. It was quite concrete. It was something he cannot define: “I know that I know it”. Later on, he learned that it was his psychic being. Another lady in Europe could not recognise it since she did not know of the existence of any such thing.

Amongst the fifteen people who stated that they know their psychic being, for twelve of them the knowledge came after a sudden identification. Three of them stated they have always been conscious of their psychic being and they became aware of this fact when they read about it. One Indian visitor mentioned that when she read about the psychic being, it was clear for her that it had been always present and is always there. A foreigner who came and stayed some time in the Ashram mentioned to the Mother that for her that knowledge had always been there; the Mother confirmed to her that it is true that she had never lost the psychic knowledge that she had as a child, a rare feat. An Ashramite who came to Pondicherry with her parents and was brought up in the Ashram school at the time the Mother was closely supervising it, stated that her knowledge of the psychic being has always been there.

Several other people are well aware of their psychic as an influence but will answer negatively when asked if they ‘know’ their psychic being.

The experience often brings the awareness that the individual harbours something immortal in him.

In fact, the living awareness that our true self is immortal and cannot die, is a sign of the quality of the experience. The Mother will say on 9 April 1958:

"One has the feeling of having always been and of being for eternity. That is when one has touched the core of the soul."[13]

A guest who discovered his psychic being during that sudden happening states “the irrefutable knowledge that this psychic being has always been and precedes the birth of this body. It will always be and will not die with this body. Nobody can ever dismiss this certitude”. The Ashramite who was preparing himself for a surgery was afraid of the coming bypass, but after the emergence he had ‘the strong feeling that his body was the robe of his eternal psychic being and he was no longer afraid of the operation’. For that future Aurovilian, ‘death was no longer a concern’. For that visitor ‘he had the feeling of having always been and of being always’.

Very simply, the Mother will say:

"The moment you are in contact with your psychic being, you have the feeling of immortality, of having always been and being always, eternally."[14]
"Before the untiring persistence of your effort, an inner door will suddenly open and you will emerge into a dazzling splendour that will bring you the certitude of immortality, the concrete experience that you have always lived and always shall live, that external forms alone perish and that these forms are, in relation to what you are in reality, like clothes that are thrown away when worn out."[15]

This feeling is so well described through king Aswapati’s experience in Savitri.

He feels his substance of undying self
And loses his kinship to mortality.[16]

and also in Savitri’s own experience :

A being stood immortal in transience
Deathless dallying with momentary things.[17]

At the time of the bursting, some people have the experience of becoming aware of their “true being”.

On July 1st 1970, the Mother will ‘see’ with open eyes, the psychic being of Rijuta, an American sadhika. She said:

"It was clearly a being which was neither man nor woman, having the combined characteristics of both."[18]

Yes, a being, which will be defined by the Mother on 11 June 1958 as:

"an organised entity, fully conscious of itself, independent and having the power of asserting itself and ruling the rest of the nature."[19]

One visitor will say, when he became aware of his psychic being, that he discovered that this being was in fact himself, his real ‘I’. He started to talk in the third person, ‘he’, instead of using ‘I’, since the one who was speaking was the envelope of what he had identified as himself, the newly discovered being. A Parisian lady, who hardly knew about Sri Aurobindo and the Mother knew with certainty that her physical body was not ‘herself’. It is interesting to note how Sri Aurobindo describes the moment when Savitri discovers her soul, in Book Seven, Canto Five ‘The Finding of the Soul’. The first section finishes with the line:

There suddenly she met her secret soul.

The poem pauses with one blank line and resumes with solemnity in the next line:

A being stood immortal in transience.[20]

For several people, the bursting includes the appearance or even a rushing-in of a strong light.

Light is one of the spiritual experiences which is triggered by a descent, but it is also triggered by the bursting of the psychic.

"An inner door will suddenly open and you will emerge into a dazzling splendour. …"[21]

An Aurovilian describes ‘an ocean of light’, another saw a white light which was flowing everywhere, a third one describes a strong white light at the level of the heart. An Ashramite saw a red flame, as big as a thumb, within his heart, which went towards Sri Aurobindo and Mother’s photos, which were in full white light before him. But the flame did not remain with them and came back to his heart.

There may also be a sudden awareness that one has always been guided (by the psychic or by the Mother or by something undefined).

One Aurovilian said that since that time, he has had the feeling that he has always been guided, that everything is arranged. Another Aurovilian will feel that “there is a thread with an origin long before and that the psychic being is directing in spite of all obstacles”. A visitor will feel that “the psychic being indicates that it has always been there to overlook circumstances and nothing can happen in the future without its sanction.”

A visitor stated with conviction that the Mother and his psychic being are one. It is confirmed by these words by Sri Aurobindo:

"There is within you a psychic being which is divine, directly a part of the Mother."[22]

Nevertheless, it is worthwhile noting that, during the time of the experience, few people made an identification between the Mother of the Sri Aurobindo Ashram and their psychic being.

There is also the feeling and certitude that our psychic being cannot be touched by hostile forces.

A visitor who became aware of his psychic being inside himself suddenly got the strong conviction that hostile forces cannot touch this ‘being’ and cannot influence him as long as he has his psychic being as a reference. This feeling is confirmed by Sri Aurobindo who writes:

"[The psychic being] is the only part that cannot be touched by the hostile forces and their suggestions."[23]

A person united with his psychic being is, says the Mother:

"Almost if not totally free from external influences; for, being conscious, when these influences come, he sees them: those that seem to him to harmonise with his inner development and normal growth he accepts; those which are opposed he refuses."[24]

Often, it creates an increased consciousness and awareness.

A visitor will speak of ‘an increased consciousness, a feeling that the purpose of life is this consciousness.’ This acute consciousness makes everything become more concrete and living. An ashramite will speak of a truer and more vivid consciousness: he saw the world in different way. Everything had a luminous glow in it. Everything was conscious and alive. He had a different relationship with all things: human beings, animals and even plants.

His experience reminds us of what the Mother wrote for the February 1952 Bulletin of the Sri Aurobindo International Centre of Education:

"What seemed inert suddenly becomes full of life, stones quicken, plants feel and will and suffer, animal speaks in a language more or less inarticulate, but clear and expressive; everything is animated by a marvellous consciousness without time and limit. And this is only one aspect of the psychic realisation."[25]

Some powerful sensations are also mentioned, varying from one person to the other.

While describing the bursting of their psychic being, most will put the emphasis on one or two additional strong feelings or sensations which are often still vivid in their memory.

For some it was a feeling of ‘richness’ which remained for some time, for that visitor a feeling of ‘plenitude’, for that lady delivering a child ‘a very intense emotional moment and at the same time a great stillness, it was both together’. Several of these attributes are interestingly gathered together by the Mother in the following description she gave on 9 April 1958 while describing the soul:

"Something warm, quiet, rich in substance and very still and very full, like a sweetness – that is the soul. A kind of plenitude which gives the feeling of something complete."[26]

The word ‘sweetness’ is added by the Mother and it is true that in all the people who have been met who had this contact, a definite psychic sweetness is now underlying their general behaviour.

A sudden contact with the psychic being is one of the rare intense spiritual experiences which may happen with open eyes, in the midst of some activity.

This experience occurs while alone or interacting with people, with open eyes as well as closed eyes, and will not disappear when eyes are being open. Usually, spiritual experiences are characterised by a definite spiritual change in consciousness, a specific sensation within the body (peace, force, waves, current, electricity) and/or a vision. As soon as the experiencer moves, opens his eyes, returns outward, it vanishes quickly, which is not the case with the psychic experience.

In our survey more than half of the sudden emergences happened with open eyes, sometimes in the presence of other people quite unaware of the intense experience taking place. One mother described that she was delivering her child, an Ashramite was feeling the thumb of a respected person on his forehead, a visitor was alone but reading a letter of Sri Aurobindo, a young American visitor was receiving a fierce look from the Mother into his heart: “Her left eye appeared to begin to spin around as if it were a drill, and she bored down into my deepest heart right down to the level of my chest”; one time, two times and the third time “the obstruction ripped open. Her consciousness went right into my heart centre and opened it.”[27]

III. What remains after the sudden experience of the contact with the psychic being?

Whenever somebody experiences a sudden contact, he always has the feeling, at that time, that the new state is permanent.

"But it is difficult for a human being to keep up a constant contact with his psychic. As soon as he settles down and the freshness of the new experience fades away, the old person comes back to the surface with all its habits, preferences, small manias, shortcomings and misunderstandings"[28]

Experience teaches us it is not permanent, that it may withdraw after a time which may depend on the initial intensity but also on our ability to keep it.

That is why it is very important to know the fragility of this new state of being so that, when it happens, proper steps are taken to nurture it as long as possible and get the maximum psychic nourishment. One visitor mentioned that he narrated in a diary his sensations and feelings during the time that the psychic was fully living, and the description is rich and quite evocative. It has helped, at a later stage, to relive its vibration and some of the feelings and sensations experienced during that moment. Another remembers that this state seems so ‘normal’ at that time that one does not think it anything strange to write about! He was also wondering if there is not a risk of ‘mentalising’ the experience and thus diluting it.

How long did this experience remain living? How did it vanish?

More specifically, how long does this experience ‘carry with it its own reality and force?’[29] What is the duration of the various sensations and feelings?

In an interesting manner, the consciousness of the new psychic presence may last some minutes, some hours, some days, some months and even three years for one of the people interviewed, before getting clouded, (but it never disappeared entirely). After the experience, one usually lives with it in a permanent manner up to the time, one fine morning, we discover that it is not living any longer and we have to make a conscious concentration to become aware of it.

A visitor to the Ashram has spoken of several emergences and dispersions on the same day, feeling how his ego was mentalising and responsible for clouding it, but the original sensation came back often. On the following days, it was still a game of hide and seek, but less living, up to the time it vanished.

A man living in Europe kept the experience quite fresh during three to four days, in the midst of multiple activities, including a football match, “the best of my life, in which, instead of running after the ball, it was the ball which was coming to me!”

For an Ashramite, who had been prepared by some spiritual discipline, the awareness of the new state of being lasted several months. Peace emanated from him and was felt around and reported to him. He thought it would always last but it faded gradually. One day, he became unexpectedly aware that it had withdrawn. He attributed it to a flaw in his own sadhana, which may also be a subjective explanation. But for sure, he may still be able to connect with it at will. An elderly Ashramite will even tell that the contact has taken place 100 times. Considering the content of the meeting, we definitely believe him!

In all these cases, it is difficult to tell if it was the circumstances which were to be blamed for the loss of the psychic consciousness, or if the psychic consciousness was destined to fade sooner or later.

Once the psychic nature is known, one is in a better position to differentiate psychic perceptions and vital/emotional feelings.

Once a contact has been established, once the veil has been pierced, even slightly, once the taste of the psychic is known, it is always possible, at will, within some seconds, to feel again that presence, that influence, the quality of that vibration, the nature of that substance. One has gained a pretty sure way to recognise the psychic influence.

For a certain Aurovilian, the psychic has become a permanent reference point. For one ashramite, it can be recognized since it has ‘a different nature’. It can no longer be confused with anything else. This perception has been expressed by several other people.

"If one among you has had the experience, he knows in this way what comes from the Divine, and necessarily… he knows perforce all that does not... It is only after this experience that one knows, not before"[30]

After the identification, some are aware of ‘a reversal of consciousness’.

After a psychic contact, some people become aware of a sudden ‘reversal of consciousness’. It has to be noted that such a reversal may also be triggered by some other spiritual experiences.

"Those who have experienced this reversal know what I am speaking about; but if one hasn’t, one can’t understand."[31]

This is why we shall not try to describe it. Several people have acknowledged their failed attempts to share the reversal of consciousness brought about by their psychic experience. Unless it has been tasted, it cannot be recognised.

An Aurovilian stated that in 1972, he had the Mother’s darshan, and at the time of leaving, she opened her eyes and suddenly “everything turned over”. Another Aurovilian who has experienced this reversal of consciousness explains it by the fact that life is being seen with some other reference points.

The new knowledge and perception that some part of us is immortal remains permanent for most people.

Even if the living contact with the psychic being vanishes, the perception of the immortality of this ‘something else’ remains with everybody who has experienced it. The relation with death has changed. The fear of death is no longer there. One visitor in the Ashram, some days after such a psychic experience, came down with a high unidentified fever. The Ashram doctor was alarmed and the Mother was informed. The visitor felt that his consciousness was withdrawing from his legs and arms, starting from their extremities, as if death were invading the body, going towards the heart. With interest and even curiosity, and without the least fear, he remained concentrated in his living psychic being which, he knew, cannot die. He was wondering what would happen when the numbness/death would reach his soul, which cannot become numb. But he lost consciousness. An hour later, he awakened. This experience illustrates the vividness of this sense of immortality and its power, since he was in a position to look at Death as a witness.

There was an Ashramite who was fearful of a life-endangering heart surgery, but he was no longer worried after he got a contact with his psychic being and could then go undisturbed to the operating theatre.

A state of happiness without cause may also remain quite long.

One sadhak comments, “During the period of awareness of one’s psychic being, when one is so full of happiness, we make very little personal effort for progress since everything is so spontaneously beautiful. We accept any adverse circumstance without fighting since such things become secondary: nothing really matters”. He considers that it is “The Mother who gives us such an effortless state of happiness to show how beautiful life could be, and then she withdraws the experience so that we can start the work of transformation consciously”.

An Aurovilian, during that living psychic period, was aware of a constant state of happiness, from the time he awoke in the morning (kissing his pillow to say thank you to the new day to come!). Every hour, he would remember how happy he was to reside in Auroville ... up to an overnight withdrawal!

There is the feeling that whatever we experience is quite natural and must also be felt by those around us.

This is another unique feature of the psychic experience. As long as the experience is living, the one undergoing the experience feels that many people around him must have or share the same feelings, must be experiencing the same thing and be living with it. It is as if we are close to a tree with a lot of jasmine flowers and we breathe their perfume: we are convinced that others also smell the same fragrance, although they do not.

In the same manner, when we are in contact with our psychic being, whenever we meet somebody with some psychic sweetness, we think that he is also living with the inner perception of his psychic being. Such a feeling has been expressed by two visitors and one Ashramite.

After that contact, does life become a sunlit path?

With the new awareness, the new feelings and sensations, everything seems to contribute to the transformation of our lives, so that we get a lasting state of joy. As seen from the beginning of this essay, it is partly true that life may or may not become a sunlit path, but in any case life is no longer the same.

The Mother tells us that we can know that the psychic is there:

"… when one feels better within oneself, when one is full of light, hope, goodwill, generosity, compassion for the world, and sees life as a field of action, progress, realisation. Doesn’t it make a difference from the days when one is bored, grumbling, when everything seems ugly, unpleasant, wicked, when one loves nobody, wants to break everything, gets angry, feels ill at ease, without strength, without energy, without any joy?"[32]

Does this mean that life has become a sunlit path? Not quite, since another feature of this awakening must also be highlighted.

"The more psychic one is, the more he is in contradiction with the present state of the world .... The development of the psychic being has a double result, which is concomitant. That is, with the development of the psychic being, the sensitivity of the being grows. And with the growth of sensitivity, there is also the growth of the capacity for suffering; but there is the counterpart, that is, to the extent to which one is in relation with the psychic being, one faces the circumstances of life in an altogether different way and with a kind of inner freedom which makes one capable of withdrawing from a circumstance and not feeling the shock in the ordinary way. You can face the difficulty of outer things with calm, peace and a sufficient inner knowledge not to be troubled."[33]

After that experience, does one become a holy person?

The above talk from the Mother gives the answer! The bursting of the psychic being is a definite landmark in spiritual progress, but all the cellular residues are still quite present and living. One’s actions and reactions are still very often governed by instinct. The psychic presence is not permanent, even though there is the possibility at any moment to feel it again – sometimes too late, after we have reacted! Actions and reactions take place before the psychic being is consulted.

Even sometimes the being willingly follows the ordinary nature rather than the psychic indication. For those who do not know their psychic being, this may look like a sacrilege or a waste of the grace which has been received. But those who have tasted it, know how difficult it is to remain constantly within the psychic vibration.

How is a lost contact with the psychic being renewed: as a bursting forth, or progressively?

We have not met (yet) anybody who underwent two burstings! If we refer again to the image of an egg hatching, it seems as if the shell can be broken only once.

The psychic being may have come back in front from time to time but no longer suddenly. It has come back in a manner which was neither perceivable nor dramatic and in such a way that one discovers, one day, that the psychic is again quite present. In the same manner, we usually discover one morning that the psychic has become less living.

An Aurovilian, while concentrating on Sri Aurobindo, became aware that the psychic presence had come back. Since that time, that is a period of eight months at the time of the interview, the presence did not leave her.

A visitor who experienced a sudden bursting of his psychic being on January 2nd 1968, lost it gradually but, lacking the proper knowledge, did not identify how it went away within some months. He entered again, gradually, into the living psychic presence on 9th September 1973; it lasted eight months, up to 30th April 1974, on which date he did something which contradicted this psychic presence: the next morning it had gone. Quite a long time later, in December 2001, he discovered one morning while cycling that the contact with the psychic being was again there, but he lost it on March 25th 2002 after a violent verbal abuse which shook his whole body: next morning, the living awareness and plenitude had vanished. These dates are given to illustrate the fact that the living awareness of the psychic being is quite concrete: it exists or it does not. What is permanent is the capacity to contact it at will for reference.

IV. Some statistics on the survey

Among thirty-seven people with whom this matter was discussed, it has been found that twelve of them came to know their psychic being after a sudden bursting of the veil – an experience which can be differentiated from a psychicised higher emotion. There was no prepared questionnaire but an open discussion. In spite of the limited number of elements which have been produced, it is possible to start to gather some features on the bursting. According to the response to this essay, more meetings may take place and enrich the survey.

Features of the bursting

  1. A sudden happening: all the 12 interviewees could describe with precision the circumstances, place and time when it occurred.
  2. A great joy without cause: all the 12 interviewees have described this joy: maximum, intense, overwhelming, a bursting of joy, an explosion of joy.
  3. A flow of light: 4 interviewees out of 15 have seen much white light, a strong white light, a red light, an ocean of light.
  4. A knowledge of something immortal within oneself: 6 interviewees have mentioned the new knowledge and certitude of something immortal in them.
  5. A new individual entity within oneself: 4 people have mentioned that the psychic being has been perceived as an individual entity, distinct from the body.
  6. Other sensations described by more than one person were: an outstanding peace, love, richness, plenitude, an increased consciousness, a feeling of the divine in plants.

After-effects of the bursting

  1. Disappearance: For most of the people interviewed it was difficult to explain what has happened between the bursting which brought a psychic awareness and the moment when they suddenly became aware it had gone. From those who were aware of reasons for the disappearance, details were not asked – although it is now felt that more could be shared.
  2. The psychic area becomes a permanent reference point: Even if the permanent awareness of the psychic being has gone, it is always possible to connect, at will, to the psychic area which has a special vibration. Six interviewees mentioned that this area has become a permanent point of reference.
  3. Discrimination between emotional and psychic feelings becomes easier: This was mentioned by 6 people who have ‘tasted’ the psychic vibration.
  4. Circumstances are arranging themselves: this was mentioned by 3 people.
  5. Sense of Immortality still alive? Yes for 6 persons.

This part of the interviews has been weak. The five above features should have been presented for appraisal and feed-back, but at that time it was not yet known what would be relevant. Some other features have been indicated here and there, one or two times. This can be done if it is decided to enrich this initial survey. For the next paragraph, information on the circumstances of the bursting was easier to gather, although these have not been collected in an organised manner.

Circumstances of the bursting

In which year?:

  • In the sixties (3)
  • In the seventies (2)
  • In the eighties (2)
  • In the nineties (1)
  • After 2000 (1)

To be noted: 5 burstings out of 8 happened between 1965 and 1973.

At what age?

  • Below 20 (0)
  • Below 30 (5)
  • Below 40 (3)
  • Below 50 (0)
  • Below 60 (1)

It is hoped that this article will not throw people above forty into a depression!

Contact with Sri Aurobindo’s and Mother’s writings beforehand?

  • Yes (10)
  • 7 out of 15 had seen the Mother before
  • 2 persons knew only their names
  • 1 person did not know Sri Aurobindo’s name (two weeks later he sees The Life Divine in a bookshop and purchases it because of the title!)

Inner discipline before the bursting:

  • Serious inner discipline (7)
  • Some spiritual discipline (2)
  • No discipline but a psychotherapy (1)

The bursting is not limited to people who have done a concentrated sadhana. It has also happened to people who have been taken by surprise and did not know anything about it, whether they knew the Mother and Sri Aurobindo or not.

Yearning for something else: A little for one, very much for all the others. All the people who experienced the bursting were yearning for something else, were strongly aspiring for it, often without knowing what they were aspiring for.

In which psychological state? Only 2 were in a depressed mood.

Being alone or in company:

  • Alone (5)
  • Not alone (3)
  • With the Mother (1)
  • Not asked (3)

Where did it happen?

  • In their reading-room (2)
  • Just lying on the bed (1)
  • In the Mother’s room (1)
  • On the operation theatre (1)
  • In an office with people (1)
  • Outside in nature while meditating (1)
  • Outside on a boulevard while walking (1)

No places are privileged.

While doing what?

  • Meditating (2)
  • Doing pranayama (1)
  • Looking into the Mother’s eyes (1)
  • Reading a letter of Sri Aurobindo (1)
  • Musing on one’s bed (1)
  • Lying almost unconscious on one’s bed (1)
  • Standing in front of a revered person (1)
  • Delivering a child (1)
  • Walking in a boulevard (1)

A total kaleidoscope of situations. Although meditation may be a useful tool, only one was engaged in an organised meditation.

Any signs announcing this happening, which was for everybody (one of) the most important moment(s) of their life? Forerunner signs have not been identified, if any. In other words, any aspirant is a potential candidate for the crack of the shell which allows the psychic being to come out.

More Indians or more foreigners?

  • Among the 12 people who spoke of their psychic bursting, 8 were foreigners and 4 were Indians.
  • Among the 3 persons who did not lose the psychic contact since their childhood, 2 were Indians and 1 a foreigner.
  • Among the 37 interviewees, 21 were foreigners and 16 were Indians.

V. Method/process to initiate the bursting of the psychic being

At the end of this study, is it possible to recommend any method / process to find one’s psychic being, to identify with it?

In The Science of Living, published in 1950, referring to the psychic being, the Mother defines some gradation in the knowledge of the psychic being, as four phases.

"It is... of capital importance to become conscious of its presence in us, to concentrate on this presence until it becomes a living fact for us until we can identify ourselves with it."[34]

Identification is the last phase.

"We do not reach it little by little, it is not through a little constant and regular effort. It is something which arrives suddenly."[35]

By which method can we experience it?

"In various times and places many methods have been prescribed for attaining this perception and ultimately achieving this identification. Some methods are psychological, some religious, some even mechanical. In reality, everyone has to find the one which suits him best, and if one has an ardent and steadfast aspiration, a persistent and dynamic will, one is sure to meet, in one way or another – outwardly through reading and study, inwardly through concentration, meditation, revelation and experience – the help one needs to reach the goal."[36]

In fact the Mother highlights two common psychological conditions, aspiration and will, and considers that the inner or outer tools are many and each one must find those tools which are the most appropriate.

Practice of concentration is a basic tool

Sri Aurobindo wrote to somebody:

"The first necessity is the practice of concentration of your consciousness within yourself ... The concentration in the heart opens within and by following this inward opening and going deep one becomes aware of the soul or psychic being."[37]

Another person received the following letter:

"It is by concentration of whatever kind and the experiences it brings that one opens and becomes aware within and the new consciousness and nature begins to grow and come out."[38]

During one of the evening gatherings with the disciples, the Mother gives one practical method:

"For those who have the power of concentrating with images, they have one more facility. To sit in meditation before a closed door, as though it were a heavy door of bronze... and to pass to the other side; the whole concentration, the whole aspiration is gathered into a beam and pushes, pushes, pushes against this door, and pushes more and more with an increasing energy until all of a sudden it bursts open and one enters. It makes a very powerful impression. And so one is as though plunged into the light and then one has the full enjoyment of a sudden and radical change of consciousness, with an illumination that captures one entirely, and the feeling that one is becoming another person. This is a very concrete and very powerful way of entering into contact with one’s psychic being."[39]

A strong craving for contact is a basic psychological feature

Among the prime conditions that help to discover one’s psychic, it seems that a strong yearning, a strong aspiration is a very great help. Among all the people who participated in the above survey and spoke of their sudden psychic experience, all of them had a strong aspiration, as if it sucked the psychic being out of its shell. It may also be said that it makes it grow and is a call to it which accelerates the moment when it bursts.

The Mother emphasizes this condition several times. For example, on 8 June 1955:

"If one intensifies his aspiration, there is a moment when the pressure is so great and the intensity of the question so strong that something turns over in the consciousness."[40]

Also on 6 October 1969:

"To become conscious of the psychic being one must want to do so, make one’s mind as silent as possible, and enter deep into the heart of one’s being, beyond sensations and thoughts. One must form the habit of silent concentration and descent into the depths of one’s being."[41]

Scrupulously following any psychic indication received is a basic step in that direction

According to Sri Aurobindo, in a letter to Dilip Kumar Roy:

"This divine element in all living beings… grows in the consciousness by Godward experience, gaining strength every time there is a higher movement in us, and, finally, by the accumulation of these deeper and higher movements, there is developed a psychic individuality – that which we call usually the psychic being."[42]

In the same vein, an Aurovilian, speaking of the psychic being, has made the analogy with a muscle which develops with the practice. In the same manner, the psychic grows whenever there is a psychic movement.

This idea is corroborated by the Mother when she writes:

"In order to strengthen the contact and aid, if possible, the development of the conscious psychic personality one should… take great care, each time one receives an indication from it, to follow it very scrupulously and sincerely."[43]

Any other process/method?

Sri Aurobindo and the Mother have basically highlighted three methods: the practice of some concentration, a development of the aspiration, and an active obedience to indications received from the psychic.

One Ashramite has organised some one-week residential workshops, without leaving the campus. The focus on the psychic being was outstanding, the teaching included some practical exercises, the feeling of the psychic presence and the aspiration for it must have increased within each participant, as well as some knowledge to identify it. Unfortunately the return into the normal life is too abrupt, even aggressive. It may be advisable, during the second part of the workshop, to return for some hours into one’s social and working environment in order to learn how to keep the concentration on the psychic space in the midst of normal life.