What we actively perceive and pay attention to with our waking consciousness is a very small portion of the entire pattern of energetic forces we are constantly subjected to, and which act upon us, unseen and unrecognised. Whether it is physical radiation, vital forces, or mental thought-forms, or the spiritual forces of the higher planes of consciousness, there is an energetic impact that impinges upon our being, and helps to create and influence the way we respond on the most superficial levels of the external consciousness.

The “all or nothing” phenomenon illustrates just one way that such subliminal action takes place. We do not see the movement of photons impinging on our visual sense until a certain quanta of photons is present to trigger “sight”. Up until that point, the photons are impinging on the sense organ, but it is not triggering our awareness. We know from a tremendous amount of research that various forms of radiation can impact our health, our sense organs, and our brains, but we do not perceive that radiation without the use of measurement tools such as geiger counter to tell us that it is there and active. Anyone who has looked at the sun during an eclipse, with their unshielded eyes, is affected by the radiation that accompanies the sun’s visible light, and this can be blinding. We can feel the focus of an individual who is staring at us or fixating their attention on us, even if we cannot actually observe this: how many times do we get the sense that someone is watching and then, when we turn around, we can see that individual! Vibrations of all forms of emotional and vital energy, unseen by us, are nevertheless received. Even if we do not acknowledge them with our waking consciousness, they are exerting pressure. Mental thought-forms can exercise a similar unseen influence. When we enter a zone where intense study or mental work is taking place, we can actually feel the atmosphere, but its effect impacts us whether we consciously acknowledge it, or not.

Sri Aurobindo observes: “Our waking state is unaware of its connection with the subliminal being, although it receives from it, — but without any knowledge of the place of origin, — the inspirations, intuitions, ideas, will-suggestions, sense-suggestions, urges to action that rise from below or from behind our limited surface existence. Sleep like trance opens the gate of the subliminal to us; for in sleep, as in trance, we retire behind the veil of the limited waking personality and it is behind this veil that the subliminal has its existence. But we receive the records of our sleep experience through dream and in dream figures and not in that condition which might be called an inner waking and which is the most accessible form of the trance state, nor through the supernormal clarities of vision and other more luminous and concrete ways of communication developed by the inner subliminal cognition when it gets into habitual or occasional conscious connection with our waking self. The subliminal, with the subconscious as an annexe of itself, — for the subconscious is also part of the behind-the-veil entity, — is the seer of inner things and of supraphysical experiences; the surface subconscious is only a transcriber. It is for this reason that the Upanishad describes the subliminal being as the Dream Self because it is normally in dreams, visions, absorbed states of inner experience that we enter into and are part of its experiences, — just as it describes the superconscient as the Sleep Self because normally all mental or sensory experiences cease when we enter this superconscience. For in the deeper trance into which the touch of the superconscient plunges our mentality, no record from it or transcript of its contents can normally reach us; it is only by an especial or an unusual development, in a supernormal condition or through a break or rift in our confined normality, that we can be on the surface conscious of the contacts or messages of the Superconscience.”

Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, The Hidden Forces of Life, Ch. 2 Hidden Forces Within, pp. 41-42

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 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.
YouTube Channel www.youtube.com/@santoshkrinsky871
More information about Sri Aurobindo can be found at http://www.aurobindo.net
The US editions and links to e-book editions of Sri Aurobindo’s writings can be found at http://www.lotuspress.com