When a scientist studies the physical properties of matter and energy, and thereby creates an invention that can do things such as communicate voice or sound wirelessly across the world, or predict general weather patterns, or develop pharmaceutical drugs or vaccines that can cure, mitigate or prevent serious diseases, we seem to take these things for granted. If we reflect for a moment, however, it soon becomes obvious that the discoverers or developers of these ‘miraculous’ things (from our everyday standpoint) was able to explore occult forces and relationships and learn how to harness them.

It should not be surprising, therefore, to consider that there are other powers, material, vital or mental, which remain as yet unexplored and unused. There is a good deal of skepticism surrounding the discovery and use of occult powers. Part of this is due to inability to see or directly experience the action of these forces. Part of this is due to misleading attempts to take advantage of gullibility by proclaiming things that are not actual in order to obtain an advantage. Part of this is due to fear of the unknown. It must be noted that many people are skeptical about the advances of science as well, despite the evidence that is available to them of the functionality of the very scientific advances they are unsure about! Whatever the cause of the skepticism, it behooves us to appreciate that occultism, to the extent that it takes up the exploration and integration of powers of mind, powers of vital force, or material powers, is part of the methodology of human advancement and has been throughout human history.

One of the issues with respect to vital or mental forces on an occult level is that, while material research is able to be validated through reproducibility of results by different researchers following the exact same protocol, this is not realistic when it comes to powers that depend on the inner development and level of receptivity of each individual. There is also the potential influx of desire, ambition or greed that can skew the results claimed. Thus, a certain amount of care must be exercised when evaluating claims of occult powers to ensure that they are real and actual, while still appreciating the necessarily subjective level of experience that is involved. Those powers that can be seen to have an external and measurable effect can more easily be validated than those that are less palpable to the external senses.

It is interesting to note that many powers considered to be ‘occult’ have actually been taken quite seriously by various military services, such as the Russian and the American military. They practice things like remote viewing quite seriously and have indeed shown results. It is not just the military however that is exploring the use of direct mental power. Medical science is creating opportunities for individuals who are physically paralyzed to operate computers or prosthetic limbs through the power of thought. Clearly the reality of mental powers being able to impact the external world is now being recognised to an ever-greater degree.

Spiritual aspirants have regularly been advised about the development of occult powers through various methods of concentration, pranayama, the power of visualisation, or through other means as the spiritual practices develop. Swami Vivekananda, for example, described the development of occult powers as a consequence of the practice of the Raja Yoga as outlined by Patanjali. For the most part, seekers have been advised to renounce the use of such powers as they tend to distract from the spiritual focus, which for most paths involves liberation from the life in the world. At the same time, some paths acknowledge the reality of these powers and work to organize, enhance and utilize them as part of the integration and development of all powers of body, life and mind, but in a balanced manner and subservient to the spiritual aims.

The development of heretofore unused powers of body, life and mind is part of the evolutionary process. The challenge then is to accept the development of these forces, but at the same time to make a proper, harmonious and balanced use of them to further the divine intention in the manifestation. There may be times when a focus on spiritual development requires an intensive, one-pointed concentration without the distraction of the outer world, its demands and the development of powers appropriate to the world, but such periods do not solve the deeper significance that harmonizes the material world with the spiritual world as one “omnipresent reality”.

Sri Aurobindo writes: “Occultism is associated in popular idea with magic and magical formulae and a supposed mechanism of the supernatural. But this is only one side, nor is it altogether a superstition as is vainly imagined by those who have not looked deeply or at all at this covert side of secret Nature-Force or experimented with its possibilities. Formulas and their application, a mechanisation of latent forces, can be astonishingly effective in the occult use of mind-power and life-power just as it is in physical Science, but this is only a subordinate method and a limited direction. For mind and life forces are plastic, subtle and variable in their action and have not the material rigidity; they need a subtle and plastic intuition in the knowledge of them, in the interpretation of their action and process and in their application, — even in the interpretation and action of their established formulas. An overstress on mechanisation and rigid formulation is likely to result in sterilisation or formalised limitation of knowledge and, on the pragmatic side, to much error, ignorant convention, misuse and failure. Now that we are outgrowing the superstition of the sole truth of Matter, a swing backward towards the old occultism and to new formulations, as well as to a scientific investigation of the still hidden secrets and powers of Mind and a close study of psychic and abnormal or supernormal psychological phenomena, is possible and, in parts, already visible. But if it is to fulfil itself, the true foundation, the true aim and direction, the necessary restrictions and precautions of this line of inquiry have to be rediscovered; its most important aim must be the discovery of the hidden truths and powers of the mind-force and the life-power and the greater forces of the concealed spirit. Occult science is, essentially, the science of the subliminal, the subliminal in ourselves and the subliminal in world-nature, and of all that is in connection with the subliminal, including the subconscient and the superconscient, and the use of it as part of self-knowledge and world-knowledge and for the right dynamisation of that knowledge.”

Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, The Hidden Forces of Life, Ch. 5 Occult Forces, pp 101-102

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 located at https://anchor.fm/santosh-krinsky
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 https://www.youtube.com/@santoshkrinsky871
More information about Sri Aurobindo can be found at www.aurobindo.net
The US editions and links to e-book editions of Sri Aurobindo’s writings can be found at Lotus Press www.lotuspress.com