Subtle sight and photographs

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“Of course, we'll add a note saying that for the time being, after they have read the brochures on “Why Auroville?” and have adhered to that, people will have to send their photograph along with their request, and I am the one who will accept them or not. As long as the number remains limited, a few hundreds, it's very easy to see their photos and thus have a minimum guarantee that tricksters won't come in. Because it's very easy to say, “Oh, I am thoroughly convinced and eager to participate,” but that's just words.... I can't see each and every one, but even with their photograph one can see clearly enough whether they are sincere or not.” (1967)[1]

“It can even be done through a photograph, but not so well. A photograph captures only a moment, a minute of somebody; if there were many photographs... But still, even with a photograph, by going a little deeper one can have a fairly clear idea.” (1953)[2]

“[Now], the perception of people's inner reality (not what they think they are or what they pretend to be or what they appear to be — all that disappears), the perception of their inner reality is infinitely more precise than formerly. If I see a photograph, for example, there's no question anymore of seeing ‘through’ something: I almost exclusively see what the person IS. The ‘through’ decreases to such a point that at times it no longer exists at all.” (1966)[3]

“My dear Barin,
         First about the photographs. The mounted photograph man is fully unfit for the Yoga. The face is empty except for a great deal of pretension, not warranted by any substance behind. He had better be put off or left aside. It is no use just now bringing in people who have not a definite possibility and even among those who have the best only should be chosen.
         As to the unmounted photograph, this is a much worse case. I cannot at all find what you say you see in his eyes. They seem to me rather the eyes of madness or at least mono-mania. The whole face is a nightmare. It seems to me a clear case either of possession or, even, of the incarnation of some vital being. Please do not meddle with him at all. It is only when we have obtained mastery over the physico-vital world and all the physical planes that it will be at all safe to deal with such cases and certainly even then it will not be to begin by taking them into the Yoga.
         I note from this case and from what you say in connection with Rathin that you have just now what seems to me a rather dangerous attraction (because likely to create hindrances or misdirect the energy) towards these vital cases. What you say about the different vital worlds is no doubt interesting and has a certain truth, but you must remember that these worlds, which are different from the true or divine vital, are full of enchantments and illusions and they present appearances of beauty which allure only to mislead or destroy. They are worlds of “Rakshashimaya” and their heavens are more dangerous than their hells. They have to be known and their powers met when need be but not accepted; our business is with the Supramental and with the vital only when it is supramentalised and until then we have always to be on our guard against any lures from that other quarter.” (1923)[4]

“My dear Barin,
         I answer first your letter of the 6th April. I have already let you know that I approve both the people whose photographs you have sent to me. As to Bibhuti Bhushan Datta you are right in thinking that he is a born Yogin. His face shows the type of the Sufi or Arab mystic and he must certainly have been that in a former life and brought much of his then personality into the present existence. There are defects and limitations in his being. The narrowness of the physical mind of which you speak is indicated in the photograph, though it has not come out in the expression, and it might push him in the direction of a rather poverty-stricken asceticism instead of his expanding and opening himself richly to the opulences of the Divine. It might also lead him in other circumstances to some kind of fanaticism. But on the other hand if he gets the right direction and opens himself to the right powers these things may be turned into valuable elements, the ascetic capacity into a force useful against the physico-vital dangers and what might have been fanaticism into an intense devotion to the Truth revealed to him. There is also likely to be some trouble in the physico-vital being. But I cannot yet say of what nature. This is not a case of an entirely safe development, which can be assured only where there is a strong vital and physical basis and a certain natural balance in the different parts of the being. This balance has here to be created and its creation is quite possible. Whatever risk there is must be taken; for the nature here is born for the Yoga and ought not to be denied its opportunity.” (1923)[5]

See also