Several days ago a seeker raised a question, rephrased here: “I read Sri Aurobindo’s writings regularly and for a time they stay active within me, but then, it falls away and I feel blank inside. Am I losing the benefit of Sri Aurobindo’s teaching, and if so, how can I ensure that it stays active within me?”

There are periods of active development and growth, and then there are other periods that are times of assimilation. During the assimilation period, not much, if anything, is visible on the surface of the being and thus, we may believe that our spiritual progress has been somehow suddenly arrested. We may experience a feeling of emptiness or dryness. Then, when the needed inner development is ready, it appears as if miraculously.

There is a phenomenon which is called the “all or nothing” response. For instance, if we are in a darkened area, we see only darkness. We will not perceive light until sufficient photons are available and firing our vision cells in our eyes. Thus, we do not see a gradual increase of light, but an appearance of darkness followed by a period of sudden light.

Sri Aurobindo describes something in the evolutionary development which is akin to this, when he discusses the concept of the ‘evolutionary saltus”, the sudden leap in consciousness that appears to have no direct precursor, and thus no immediately preceding species. This helps explain what anthropologists consider to be the ‘gaps’ in the fossil record that seem to imply a break in the evolutionary cycle of development.

An analogous process occurs in the development and growth of consciousness as the individual undertakes sadhana. If the seeker has the basic understanding of the phases, the light phase and the dark phase, of the development taking place internally, and recognises that the process continues, even if unseen, then faith, patience and persistence will eventually be rewarded with the next stage of consciousness manifesting in the seeker when all things have been prepared behind the scene.

Dr. Dalal writes: “Whatever the path followed, the process of inner growth involves a transformation of the normal state of consciousness, a progressive awakening of inner and higher states of being, culminating in a total reversal of consciousness, a new birth.”

“One feature of the reversal of consciousness — which gives it the appearance of a sudden revolution rather than a gradual change — is that it involves a process similar to what has been called ‘unconscious incubation.’ The term ‘incubation’ has been used in psychology to denote ‘a period of time during which no conscious effort is made to solve a problem but which terminates with the solution.’ [citation from Arthur Rebur, The Penguin Dictionary of Psychology] (Hence the advice to ‘sleep’ over an insoluble problem, waiting for the solution to emerge.) A somewhat similar phenomenon is involved in the reversal of consciousness. It is a sudden happening, preceded by a more or less long period of preparation which takes place behind the veil of the surface consciousness and of which the seeker is therefore unaware.”

The Mother observes: “For a long time you have the impression that nothing is happening, that your consciousness is the same as usual, and, if you have an intense aspiration, you even feel a resistance, as though you were knocking against a wall which does not yield. But when you are ready within, a last effort — the pecking in the shell of the being — and everything opens and you are projected into another consciousness.”

Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, Growing Within: The Psychology of Inner Development, Introduction, pg. xxi

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.