Whether we describe it as a ‘shift of standpoint’ or a ‘reversal of consciousness’, it is an essential turning point in the development of a spiritual life that the individual adjust both his focus and his interpretation of the life experience to conform, not with the outer view on the surface which is immersed in family, enjoyment, work, and organization of the outer life, but with an inner view that sees the deeper purpose of life and the oneness of the entire creation that develops according to the designs of the Divine rather than from some standpoint of satisfaction of the individual ego-personality. This shift or reversal moves the consciousness inwards, makes it more reflective and connects it to the larger universal awareness.

The Mother observes: “To live the spiritual life, a reversal of consciousness is needed…. To live the spiritual life is to open to another world within oneself. It is to reverse one’s consciousness, as it were. The ordinary human consciousness, even in the most developed, even in men of great talent and great realisation, is a movement turned outwards — all the energies are directed outwards, the whole consciousness is spread outwards; and if anything is turned inwards, it is very little, very rare, very fragmentary, it happens only under the pressure of very special circumstances, violent shocks, the shocks life gives precisely with the intention of slightly reversing this movement of exteriorisation of the consciousness.”

“But all who have lived a spiritual life have had the same experience: all of a sudden something in their being has been reversed, so to speak, has been turned suddenly and sometimes completely inwards, and also at the same time upwards, from within upwards — but it is not an external ‘above’, it is within, deep, something other than the heights as they are physically conceived. Something has literally been turned over. There has been a decisive experience and the standpoint in life, the way of looking at life, the attitude one takes in relation to it, has suddenly changed, and in some cases quite definitively, irrecovably.”

“… so long as one is in the mental consciousness, even the highest, and sees the spiritual life from outside, one judges with one’s mental faculties, with the habit of seeking, erring, correcting, progressing, and seeking once again; and one thinks that those who are in the spiritual life suffer from the same incapacity, but that is a very gross mistake!”

“When the reversal of the being has taken place, all that is finished. One no longer seeks, one sees. One no longer deduces, one knows. One no longer gropes, one walks straight to the goal.”

Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, Growing Within: The Psychology of Inner Development, Chapter IX Reversal of Consciousness: The New Birth, pp. 165-166

Author's Bio: 

Santosh has been studying Sri Aurobindo's writings since 1971 and has a daily blog at http://sriaurobindostudies.wordpress.com and podcast at https://anchor.fm/santosh-krinsky 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.