It is an obvious fact that as one grows and develops in the spiritual path, the concentration of conscious force, tapasya, will definitely increase not only the spiritual development, but also the powers that the individual has available to accomplish action in his life in the world. In the past, when spirituality was bifurcated from the outer life, seekers were advised not to utilize the various powers that arose. There was a fear, not without some basis, that seekers would become distracted and chase after the fruits of the worldly life and thereby lose the needed focus and attention on the spiritual path they were following. For similar reasons, seekers were asked to take vows of poverty, chastity and humble subservience, so as to keep them tied to a fixed path without deviation due to the action of desire. Of course, this disregarded the idea of transforming the outer life into something that expressed the Spirit fully and completely, inwardly and outwardly.

For those seekers who recognised that this is an artificial separation, a form of duality that treated Matter and Spirit as opposites and antagonists to one another, such a solution of abandonment of the outer life turned out to be unsatisfactory. Transformation of the outer life, however, necessarily involves deploying powers of action that develop along the way as part of a natural evolutionary process, albeit through an inward dedication and discipline that did not fall prey to the promptings or enticements of desire, or the motives of gaining power, wealth or sexual satisfaction, fame or any kind of self-aggrandisement.

We come then to the question of distinguishing the development and exercise of power that stems from the spiritual growth from the practice of the forms of magic that represent an attempt to gain results in the world through mental and vital means, with a self-seeking motive in the background. Magic, based in the use of specific words, forms, gestures, and strict adherence to a set methodology of invoking the forces or entities that manifest the forces, always carries with it both desire on the one side, and fear on the other.

Goethe, in Faust, explores the experiencet of a man who developed skills in all manner of arts and sciences, and at one point, explored the field of magic. He was able to invoke a being that was greater than he could control and he reacted with both awe and fear to the invoked presence. He later was taken by the hand through a life that tried to satisfy his every whim and desire, which took advantage of his developed powers to find enjoyment. He is said in the writing to be guided by the Devil who had made a wager with God that this striving soul could be corrupted. Eventually however he recognises the limits of that life and refuses to be satisfied with the fruits of a life of fulfilled desire and he was saved and protected. The story illustrates to a great degree the difference between the sterile and limited practices of magic, and the unlimited and spontaneous action of spiritual force in shaping a life and a soul’s destiny. Magic feeds on the vital impulses of desire and fear, and creates a type of magnetism that attracts the forces that support and then feed upon the individual’s vital expression.

The Mother observes: “To act in order to accomplish a work with the spontaneous powers of spiritual realisation, that is well understood. But one may say that everybody does that, because just the fact of thinking means that you are acting invisibly; and according to the power of your thought your action is more or less wide-spread. But to use small magical formulas to obtain a result is something that has no true relation with the spiritual life. From the spiritual point of view it appears even surprising that these things can always prove effective, because for each case the need is different; and how putting together certain words and making certain signs can always have an effect seems surprising.”

“When one wants to act spiritually and for some reason or other it is necessary, for example, to formulate words, the words come spontaneously and are exactly the words needed for the particular occasion. But things written beforehand which one repeats mechanically most of the time, without even knowing what one is saying and why one is saying it — it is difficult to see how this can always work. There is bound to be a great imprecision in the action. And one thing is certain, that this same formula cannot have exactly the same effect, and that one factor is indispensable for it to take effect: fear. The first thing is a kind of fear, a fright created in the person against whom the magic is done; for if he has no fear I am quite sure that it cannot have any effect or has so ridiculously small an effect that it’s not worth speaking about it.”

“What opens the door to the action of these forces is fear, a kind of apprehension, the feeling that something is going to happen; and it is these vibrations of fear which put out certain forces from you, forces which give these entities the power to act.”

Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, The Hidden Forces of Life, Ch. 5 Occult Forces, pp 105-106

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