Since we cannot easily observe vital beings or mental beings operating on their respective planes to influence actions in our existence, and since we maintain a skeptical attitude about things which cannot be observed or measured, we find it difficult to accept the existence of conscious vital or mental beings, or entities, who either work to aid or oppose our existence, growth and development. It is also a well-recognised truth that the senses and the mind have a very limited frame of action so that things that occur above or below our field of perception, while still existent, are not perceived or understood. Thus, the sense organs and the mind are not the proper instruments to explore and understand the vital and mental realms outside the frame of their normal active capacity.

This brings us to the question of how we know what we know. We trust our external senses, but it has now been decisively proven that the senses, as well as our interpretation of perceptions of those senses, can ben faulty, misled or outright wrong. Multiple people observing the same event from different angles frequently report different perceptions. With AI deepfakes in today’s world, and with programs such as photoshop what we believe is real is often simply a manipulated or falsified version of facts. Knowledge based on the external sense organs is therefore subject to question.

In The Life Divine, Sri Aurobindo describes the different ways of knowing, with the reliance on the outer sense organs as being incomplete due to it being knowledge of what appear to be separate objects. Separative knowledge is always incomplete, inadequate and limited.

If we rely solely on the testimony of others, we are still subject to their potentially faulty observation or interpretation. To the extent that we appreciate the bona fides and intelligence of individuals who have deeply immersed themselves in a subject, we have a greater degree of confidence potentially than simply relying on the random interpretations of untrained individuals. Even there, we frequently ask for some kind of proof or evidence, and, as scientists have developed the scientific method of knowledge, we expect that repeated observations should be not only verifiable and measurable, but also reproducible.

We then come to knowledge obtained through inference of an effect that must have a cause. We treat invisible energies such as radiation, electricity, etc. by judging the effect and then developing tools to measure the force that is at work. Thus, we believe in invisible things that can be identified through their impact and which yield measurable results.

All of this is preparatory to the ultimate form of knowledge, which is knowledge by identity. In the end, we must find a way to rely on what we experience, to filter out the effect of dogma, propaganda, and the influence of desire or fear, or other factors which can distort the perception or the interpretation. We come then to the science of inner psychological study and growth. Swami Vivekananda, in his lectures on Raja Yoga, provides one method for gaining knowledge inwardly, and that is to bring the ‘mind stuff’ to a level of stillness that we can observe closely. This discipline starts with gaining mastery over various psychological reactive states, through control of desire in any of its forms, and through development of a quiet, harmless and balanced ‘seat’. When ripples in the mind-stuff arise, we can observe where they came from, what impact they are having and what they try to do within us. Thus, we turn the mind itself into a sensitive measuring device for the action of external energies that impact us.

When we match up our inward experience through some process such as this, with the force and its impact that is reaching us, it becomes easier to develop a reliable sense of what is taking place behind the scenes, so to speak. When we then correlate our own experience with that of others who are otherwise trusted guides or leaders, we have a higher degree of certitude which we can apply to an understanding of the beings and forces trying to influence us, for good or ill. It is at such a stage that we can begin to fit together the pieces of the puzzle that is our incapacity to grasp the fact of our consciousness and the general human aspiration with the apparently inconscient Nature within which we exist.

Sri Aurobindo writes: “This is certain that when we go back into ourselves very deep away from the surface appearance, we find that the mind, heart and sensational being of man are moved by forces not under his own control and that he can become an instrument in the hands of Energies of a cosmic character without knowing the origin of his actions. It is by stepping back from the physical surface into his inner being and subliminal consciousness that he becomes directly aware of them and is able to know directly and deal with their action upon him. He grows aware of interventions which seek to lead him in one direction or another, of suggestions and impulsions which had disguised themselves as original movements of his own mind and against which he had to battle. He can realise that he is not a conscious creature inexplicably produced in an unconscious world out of a seed of inconscient Matter and moving about in an obscure self-ignorance, but an embodied soul through whose action cosmic Nature is seeking to fulfil itself, the living ground of a vast debate between a darkness of Ignorance out of which it emerges here and a light of Knowledge which is growing upwards towards an unforeseen termination. The Forces which seek to move him, and among them the Forces of good and evil, present themselves as powers of universal Nature; but they seem to belong not only to the physical universe, but to planes of Life and Mind beyond it.”

Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, The Hidden Forces of Life, Ch. 4 Cosmic and Universal Forces, pg. 89

Author's Bio: 

Santosh has been studying Sri Aurobindo's writings since 1971 and has a daily blog at and podcast located at
He is author of 20 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.
Video presentations, interviews and podcast episodes are all available on the YouTube Channel
More information about Sri Aurobindo can be found at
The US editions and links to e-book editions of Sri Aurobindo’s writings can be found at Lotus Press