There is a serious rationale behind the many spiritual paths that counsel the true seeker to abandon his family, his friends, his social life, and live secluded in a cave, in the forest, in the desert, to practice his spiritual discipline. All of these connections and social interactions bring with them vibrational patterns that express the forces of thought, the forces of emotions, the forces of desires, the forces of physical and vital demand, that automatically enter into one and raise those similar vibrations within oneself. There are not only the unspoken assumptions that are part of the cultural background, but very concrete expectations that arise from one’s family, friends, co-workers and associates, even from strangers with whom we have just a passing interaction!

Even a cursory observation can lead one to understand that many of the impulses that arise within each individual are the result of these interactions. We may enter a place that is filled with desire for certain foods and suddenly, we have a craving. Or we may enter a place where people are expressing their sexual desires and suddenly we too may feel that impulse! Someone may be angry and we engage with our own angry response. Or someone may be deep in a state of depression and we feel drained and tired after an interaction with that individual. People who imbibe recreational drugs frequently talk about something they call a “contact high” where an individual, not partaking of the drug, nevertheless gets a glimpse of the experience just from being in the environs of those who are under that influence. Sometimes an individual experiences a sudden fear, and it takes hold of other individuals nearby. People visit churches, temples, ashrams and experience there a deep sense of peace or contentment or a blissful feeling, out of a similar influence from individuals who are experiencing that state in that environment.

It is of course not possible, nor necessary, for everyone seeking spiritual realisation to try to isolate himself from others; nor join an Ashram. And it must be noted that such isolation is in many cases counter-productive or even a failure over the long-term. What is required is an awareness of this influence, and thus an increasing consciousness of the play of forces, of the vibrational patterns that are provoked and the need to exercise a review and some amount of self-control over them, with a recognition that they are coming to one from outside, and are not inherently one’s own feeling, sensation, impulse, desire or thought.

For the most part the vibrations that arise from one’s associations in the world are relatively weak, as most people do not concentrate the force of these vibrations consciously or intensely. There is also a mixing influence as various impulses may cross one another, partially cancel each other out, or dilute themselves. Thus, it is like a low-grade vibrational state that is constantly operative, but which can be viewed and managed with conscious awareness. In rare instances there is someone who is consciously trying to extend a control or an influence and these individuals can have a greater impact, which leads to things we can observe in the world such as the development of a cult of personality where the followers come under the direct influence, and control, of a specific individual, who then becomes a ‘leader’ whether religious. spiritual, political or some form of charismatic individual in any field.

The Mother notes: “You live surrounded by people. These people themselves have desires, stray wishes, impulses which are expressed through them and have all kinds of causes, but take in their consciousness an individual form. For example, to put it in very practical terms, you have a father, a mother, brothers, sisters, friends, comrades; each one has his own way of feeling, willing, and all those with whom you are in relation expect something from you, even as you expect something from them. That something they do not always express to you, but it is more or less conscious in their being, and it makes formations. These formations, according to each one’s capacity of thought and the strength of his vitality, are more or less powerful, but they have their own little strength which is usually much the same as yours; and so what those around you want, desire, hope or expect from you enters in this way in the form of suggestions very rarely expressed, but which you absorb without resistance and which suddenly awaken within you a similar desire, a similar will, a similar impulse…. This happens from morning to night, and again from night to morning, for these things don’t stop while you are sleeping, but on the contrary are very often intensified because your consciousness is no longer awake watching and protecting you to some extent.”

“And this is quite common, so common that it is quite natural and so natural that you need special circumstances and most unusual occasions to become aware of it. Naturally, it goes without saying that your own responses, your own impulses, your own wishes have a similar influence on others, and that all this becomes a marvellous mixture in which might is always right!”

Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, The Hidden Forces of Life, Ch. 3 Hidden Forces Around, pp. 59-60

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 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.
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