The decisive spiritual experiences an individual has stay with him throughout his life. Those who are anchored in their external lives undergo countless experiences but these tend to fade, become jumbled or simply blend into one another. Who can, after all, remember what they ate for breakfast 10 days ago, much less 25 years ago? We remember high points in our lives, whether they are external events, such as a wedding day, or the death of a loved one, or the birth of a child. Spiritual experiences are remembered as they, like the external events we tend to remember, are ‘high points’ in our awareness. This happens naturally without any prompting. In some cases these experiences come upon one suddenly, unannounced, unasked for, and yet, we remember them. This illustrates the importance of the experiences.

The imprint of the spiritual experience on the psyche of the individual is indelible and we frequently observe that an individual who has had such an experience tries to repeat and prolong the experience whenever possible. These experiences are important because they disclose a deeper, hidden truth of existence and speak to our true inner selves, the soul, the psychic being. They lead the individual beyond the domination of the body, the life-force and the mind and open up the realms of the soul and spirit, which is the origin and source of the central will in the being.

This leads eventually to the aspiration and seeking for a constant experience of these deeper truths of existence. It is a known fact that memory is encapsulated and can be released through recreation of the sight, the sound, the scent, the environment, the mental and emotional state during which it was experienced. The triggering effect of these things can either reopen the relation to the source of the experience, or at the very least, put the body in a receptive state that takes on the qualities of the experience. This is a secret behind visiting shrines or sacred groves or temples, behind the burning of incense, behind practices of visualisation or chanting of mantras, behind sitting for meditation in a space that is dedicated to the practice, and doing so at the same time on a consistent basis. Assuming one is not doing this by rote or by some mechanical process, but focusing the energy with awareness, one is putting oneself into a frame of reference that is related to the experience one is seeking to reproduce or extend.

A devotee asks: “How can one become aware of the central will?”

The Mother responds: “First of all one must become aware of what is highest, most true, most universal and eternal in one’s consciousness. … This is learnt gradually. One learns to discern among one’s ordinary, external movements and the different gradations of the movements of one’s inner consciousness. And if one continues to do this with a certain persistence, one realises what it is that puts this highest part of one’s being into motion, which represents the ideal of the being. There is no other way. Sometimes this awakens through reading something, sometimes through a conversation, sometimes through a more or less dramatic, that is, unexpected event, which gives you a shock, shakes you up, brings you out of your usual little rut. Sometimes when you are in very great danger, suddenly you feel as though you are above yourself and beyond your small habitual weakness, having within you something higher which can hold out against circumstances.”

“Such occasions make you enter, first, into contact with that. Afterwards by a methodical discipline you can make the contact continuous; but usually this takes time. But first you get it like that, suddenly, for one reason or another. (Long silence)

“This may come with a very strong emotion, with a very great sorrow, a very great enthusiasm. When one is called to perform a fairly exceptional action, in circumstances which are a little exceptional, all of a sudden, one feels something as though breaking or opening within him, and one feels as though he were dominating himself, as though he had climbed up a higher rung and from there was looking at his own existence with the habitual senses. Once one has experienced this, one does not forget; even if only once it has happened, one does not forget it. And one can by concentration reproduce the state at will, later. This is the first step to cultivate it.”

“Afterwards one can very easily call up this state each time a decision is to be taken, and then one takes it in full awareness of the implications and foreseeing everything that’s going to happen. I don’t think there’s one individual in the world who hasn’t experienced it — in any case one cultured individual — at least once in his life, something that breaks and opens… and one understands.”

Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, Growing Within: The Psychology of Inner Development, Chapter II Awakening of Consciousness, pp. 21-22

Author's Bio: 

Santosh has been studying Sri Aurobindo's writings since 1971 and has a daily blog at and podcast at He is author of 17 books and is editor-in-chief at Lotus Press. He is president of Institute for Wholistic Education, a non-profit focused on integrating spirituality into daily life.