However much we try, we find that we cannot constantly and consistently hold onto any particular focus of concentration, emotional state, mood or feeling for an extended period of time. The constant action of the 3 Gunas cycles us through periods of light and darkness, action and inaction, excitement and despondency, joy and sorrow, pleasure and pain. The dualities we recognise as inextricably tied together in our lives are the result of the changing action of the Gunas.

This same dynamic is operative for the spiritual seeker. This leads to periods of great insight, joy and aspiration followed by periods of dullness, lack of inspiration and dryness. It is important for a spiritual seeker to realise that this is the nature of our earthly existence and that these alternations are natural and must be endured without giving up. Patience and persistence are the watchwords of spiritual attainment in the end.

It is difficult for the vital nature to appreciate this when suddenly experiences on the various occult planes occur and lift up the vital enthusiasm, and then just as suddenly disappear and seem not to reoccur. During active periods there may be ecstatic upwellings of love and dedication, or deep experiences of meditation, or various occult experiences such as out of body experiences, astral travel, or experiences of various powers on the occult planes. The vital being latches on to these things and feels important, uplifted and joyful. When they are removed from the active experience, the vital being can become discouraged, sulk or revolt at having to carry out the mundane tasks assigned to the individual or which are simply part of daily life. These reactions of the ego-personality attached to the vital being and its desires can cause substantial disruption if the seeker is not properly prepared and has not effected the separation of the witness consciousness from the active, outer nature.

Sri Aurobindo writes: “The up and down movement which you speak of is common to all ways of yoga. It is there in the path of bhakti, but there are equally alternations of states of light and states of darkness, sometimes sheer and prolonged darkness, when one follows the path of knowledge. Those who have occult experiences come to periods when all experiences cease and even seem finished for ever. Even when there have been many and permanent realisations, these seem to go behind the veil and leave nothing in front except a dull blank, filled, if at all, only with recurrent attacks and difficulties. These alternations are the result of the nature of human consciousness and are not a proof of unfitness or of predestined failure. One has to be prepared for them and pass through. They are the “day and night” of the Vedic mystics.”

“Everyone has these alternations because the total consciousness is not able to remain always in the above experience. The point is that in the intervals there should be quietude, at least in the inner being, no restlessness, dissatisfaction or struggle. If that point is attained, then the sadhana can go on smoothly — not that there will be no difficulties but there will be disquietude or dissatisfaction etc. etc.”

Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, Growing Within: The Psychology of Inner Development, Chapter VI Growth of Consciousness, Difficulties and Pitfalls, pg. 120

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.