There are many things in the world which we know exist, not because we can directly perceive them, but because we can experience their effects. Thus, we cannot see ‘gravity’ but we know it exists. We cannot see radiation, but again, we know it exists. As we continue to develop powers of the vital and mental planes we begin to recognise that there are many pressures, of feelings, of emotions, of thought, of will-power which are not perceptible directly, but which we understand by their impact on us. Each more advanced level of the evolutionary development brings us to more and more subtle levels of understanding, thus, making it possible for us to intuit and know these more subtle energies.

We come then to the experience of the soul. Those who live entirely on the external level of their being, primarily in the physical and vital consciousness, are unable to appreciate the existence of the soul. This is, however, not a conclusion that the soul does not exist; rather, it is a declaration of the limitations of the ability of those individuals, at that stage in their development, to relate to the soul-experience. Just as someone fully engaged at the physical level will rarely have the ability to appreciate and understand complex forms of reasoning, logic, mathematics, statistical analysis, scientific thinking, etc.,, we find that certain capacities develop only when the being is ready.

We can see individuals mature, either through the normal process of growth, or through an inner readiness that reorients the being towards the mental or spiritual realms of experience, and thereby begin to understand, appreciate and recognise the influence of the soul, and actually be able to encourage its action and ability to direct the external instruments of body, life and mind.

Sri Aurobindo outlines the way the soul begins to exert its influence over the outer being, and how we can recognise that influence, before ew have the direct contact and experience of the soul in its own native form.

Sri Aurobindo notes: “As the evolution proceeds, Nature begins slowly and tentatively to manifest our occult parts; she leads us to look more and more within ourselves or sets out to initiate more clearly recognisable intimations and formations of them on the surface. The soul in us, the psychic principle, has already begun to take secret form; it puts forward and develops a soul-personality, a distinct psychic being to represent it. This psychic being remains still behind the veil in our subliminal part, like the true mental, the true vital or the true or subtle physical being within us: but, like them, it acts on the surface life by the influences and intimations it throws up upon that surface; these form part of the surface aggregate which is the conglomerate effect of the inner influences and upsurgings, the visible formation and superstructure which we ordinarily experience and think of as ourselves. On this ignorant surface we become dimly aware of something that can be called a soul as distinct from mind, life or body; we feel it not only as our mental idea or vague instinct of ourselves, but as a sensible influence in our life and character and action. A certain sensitive feeling for all that is true and good and beautiful, fine and pure and noble, a response to it, a demand for it, a pressure on mind and life to accept and formulate it in our thought, feelings, conduct, character is the most usually recognised, the most general and characteristic, though not the sole sign of this influence of the psyche. Of the man who has not this element in him or does not respond at all to this urge, we say that he has no soul. For it is this influence that we can most easily recognise as a finer or even a diviner part in us and the most powerful for the slow turning towards some aid at perfection in our nature.”

Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, The Hidden Forces of Life, Ch. 2 Hidden Forces Within, pp. 46-47

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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