By Douglas McElheny
Even though I’ve been reading about and trying to dedicate my life to what you might call the advent of a divine life (or heaven on earth if you prefer) for years, it’s not yet something my vital can get greatly excited about. I don’t think I’m unique in this, but rather the rule and not the exception. This inability I feel comes from the limitations of the little mind and vital that I and most everyone else live in. I think it’s possible for that little mind and vital to get more excited and comprehending about the prospect of a divine life than mine do. In fact, the Integral Yoga of Sri Aurobindo aims at ultimately converting and transforming these parts (as well as the body) into willing and able instruments of the divine life.
There’s another part of us though referred to in the Integral Yoga as the psychic being or in more common language the soul. It’s a part of us which is “already given to the Divine”1 and just naturally possesses an ardent fire and aspiration for the divine life which can also spread to the other parts of the being. Now both the words soul and psychic get a lot of usage and can mean a lot of different things to different people. So before I go on, let me allow the Mother to explain in more detail what she’s pointing to with the terms ‘psychic being’ or ‘soul.’
It is the seat of the Divine Consciousness, the Divine Self in the individual being. It is a centre of light and truth and knowledge and beauty and harmony which the Divine Self in each of you creates by his presence, little by little; it is influenced, formed and moved by the Divine Consciousness of which it is a part and parcel. It is in each of you the deep inner being which you have to find in order that you may come in contact with the Divine in you. It is the intermediary between the Divine Consciousness and your external consciousness; it is the builder of the inner life, it is that which manifests in the outer nature the order and rule of the Divine Will. If you become aware in your outer consciousness of the psychic being within you and unite with it, you can find the pure Eternal Consciousness and live in it; instead of being moved by the Ignorance as the human being constantly is, you grow aware of the presence of an eternal light and knowledge within you, and to it you surrender and are integrally consecrated to it and moved by it in all things.2
Though I am not united with my psychic being nor even yet had a really definitive experience of it, I had a smaller experience recently that I believe was the result of an influence or contact with the psychic being and which was connected with a dream. So having set the scene, I’ll now get into what happened.
A few weeks ago I was getting out of bed in the morning and suddenly remembered something that seemed to come from a dream. The memory though was a feeling; there was no picture or image content to it. I wish at the time I had recorded what that feeling felt like on my voice recorder, because now I can’t really conjure it up, whereas it was quite concrete at the time. I do recall though that the feeling somehow grasped what you could call infinity or eternity for lack of a better word. It didn’t bowl me over though. I felt it faintly but distinctly on the left side of my chest for a few seconds and then it sunk back down out of my awareness. I knew it was something significant, figured it came from some kind of experience during the night, but didn’t give it much more thought than that. The whole thing kind of caught me off guard.
So I went about my day and in the afternoon I picked up one of the books I was reading, a book of short stories called Guardians of Oneness by a German disciple of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother who went by the name of Medhananda. The story I was currently reading was called ‘One Million A.D.’ It’s the story of an astronaut who returns to earth after a long tour of the galaxy. However, since the astronaut spent most of his time away “traveling on a G-beam in a galactic slipstream”3 only 10 years have passed for him, whereas a million have passed on the earth. A lot has changed. The earth, he discovers, has again become a forest clad Eden populated by self-conscious animals and one remaining man. This man, who introduces himself as homo ultimus, is evolved far beyond what we would call human and has remained behind to foster and oversee the evolution of the animals. The rest of humanity has gone to live and continue their evolution in the suns, where, as homo ultimus explains, they take part in “those higher intensities of life and love which are possible in a sun.’’4 After that initial meeting most of the story is dedicated to showing the life of peace, harmony and joy of creation and discovery that the animals enjoy. Toward the end of the story though, homo ultimus gives the astronaut and us a glimpse of the life man is now living in the suns, through a link between their minds. This is what the astronaut experiences:
all I could see was the stars. But as I looked through his eyes and vibration receptors they were not merely stars any more, they were my fellow beings: friends, comrades, brothers – each one speaking to me, singing his particular and eternal hydrogen song which vibrated directly by molecular resonance in my DNA chains. Each had its own message, each was a guardian of a whole solar system, each was telling me about his adventure in evolution on the planets with which he was surrounded. Each one was singing his paean of cosmic love, of encouragement, of bliss, of victory, of triumph over the difficulties and obstacles of life and evolution. For hours I lay there listening, learning by memory-absorption all this news of the universe, of solar adventures and experiences.5
This was I believe the third time I’ve read this story, and like the other two times, I was struck and somewhat awed by the what this passage implies. This time though it went a little further in me, somehow made me really see the reality of this greater life and helped trigger a little inner opening. Later on as I sat on the front porch and was thinking about what I’d read a strong excitement and yearning for that greater life arose as well as a sort of knowing that this divine life of splendors we can’t even hardly conceive was really waiting for us. This knowing though wasn’t an intellectual thing, but rather a feeling, a confidence. My mind in fact had gotten fairly quiet as this state came to the foreground. In addition, there was joy in the experience as well as calm and a feeling of purity A further boon was that the chronic pain I constantly experience was significantly diminished.
The yearning and excitement waned after I got up from the porch rocker and had to start actively doing things, but the joy and calm hung around and diminished over the course of a few hours. There was still a touch of it when I went to bed, but upon awakening the next day it was gone. It was just a little glimpse that came and went much like the one I referred to in my last blog post, and like that experience I feel it was a promise of something that could become permanent. One of the reasons I think this was a psychic contact is because the experience was mainly on the level of the heart which is where the psychic being has its nexus with the outer nature. Others things about the experience that for me are indicative of the psychic are the element of aspiration as well as the element of feeling/knowing. As the Mother points out the psychic being:
has the true knowledge, an intuitive instinctive knowledge. It says, “I know; I cannot give reasons, but I know.” For its knowledge is not mental, based on experience or proved true. It does not believe after proofs are given: faith is the movement of the soul whose knowledge is spontaneous and direct. Even if the whole world denies and brings forward a thousand proofs to the contrary, still it knows by an inner knowledge, a direct perception that can stand against everything, a perception by identity. The knowledge of the psychic is something which is concrete and tangible, a solid mass. You can also bring it into your mental, your vital and your physical; and then you have an integral faith—a faith which can really move mountains.6
Now I think I should point out that this wasn’t some exalted state. It all happened within the confines of normal human consciousness and was basically a temporary uplift. Regardless I think any sane person would find it much more preferable to exist in that state if they once had a taste of it. The requirement for that though it seems would be to unite with one’s psychic being, otherwise experiences like this will remain transient.
It also bears mentioning that this memory from the dream and the experience in the waking state were not identical. The essence of the dream memory was something more profound, but more subtle. Regardless, for me the link between the two is clear, and what I think happened was that there was an inner experience during sleep that spilled over a bit into my waking life first as the dream memory and then later as the waking experience. And even though reading Medhananda’s story helped trigger the state, the mostly unrecalled sleep experience was the primary thing in my opinion. I’m also of the opinion that things like this happen with some frequency during our sleep hours, but most of the time we’re unable to bring back any memory of them. In one of her talks on dreams the Mother explained why this is:
Some people do not have a passage between one state and another, there is a little gap and so they leap from one to the other; there is no highway passing through all the states of being with no break of the consciousness. A small dark hole, and you do not remember. It is like a precipice across which one has to extend the consciousness. To build a bridge takes a very long time; it takes much longer than building a physical bridge…. Very few people want to and know how to do it. They may have had magnificent activities, they do not remember them or sometimes only the last, the nearest, the most physical activity, with an uncoordinated movement—dreams having no sense.7
So the lesson here is that with the right development a conscious bridge can be built between all the regions we visit in sleep and our waking state. Then we can more easily recall these things upon awakening. I’m sure there are occult disciplines that have been laid out for building that bridge, but I haven’t come across them with the exception of Tibetan dream yoga. And while I’ve done a lot over the years to improve my dream recall and also my ability to lucid dream, the main thing I rely on now in dream work (other than keeping a journal of dreams I feel are important) is just trying to do the sadhana and asking the Mother to help me reach my psychic being as well as the higher levels of consciousness above the normal human mind while I’m in the dream state. In addition, I’ve asked her to take charge of my lucid dreams and to help me remember to call on her when I find myself lucid. When I do remember to call on her, usually a force takes me and I travel in blackness for a while. A few times I’ve reached another dream, but normally I find I either can’t hold the concentration and fully wake up or am back in my body in the cataleptic state.
I had some dreams though that came about three weeks before the experiences I relate in this article which I feel offer some encouragement that the process of building that bridge is moving forward. The reader should know that both of these dreams happened in the same night. I should also mention to the reader that Sam, who appears in the first dream, was a professor of mine and later a friend. More importantly though he was the first person I ever met who talked openly about how he was on a spiritual path.
In the first dream I’m in a car with Sam going down a country road and he’s driving. As we drive I’m reading a little book someone gave me that was written by Sam. I’m telling Sam the story of how I got the book, which had something to do with how I kept trying to bring someone’s business cards into the chamber of commerce where I work, and they kept blowing out of my hand. I’m reading something in the book, and the gist of it was that you keep up your practices until the zero hour, or maybe it said the third hour. It’s implying that grace eventually intervenes. It says something too about how the grace came for Sri Aurobindo. When I look back at that part of the text again, it’s changed now to say Sir Richmond and not Sri Aurobindo. I know that Sir Richmond is a name Sam uses to refer to himself in the book. Then Sam pulls over and stops the car because he thinks it’s acting up. I tell him we better turn around and head back. Instead though he pulls up a little side road, and we pass through a bit of forest until we get to a wooden bridge that is too narrow for the car. The bridge has some plants on it which are draping it with beautiful flowers. One was like a bougainvillea with purple or pinkish purple flowers. I believe there were light blue flowers too. On the other side of the bridge is a beautiful big stone house landscaped also with the purple flowers and also blue ones too if I remember correctly. The stones are cut and are about the size of cinder blocks. They fit together perfectly and are a dark grey. It’s almost like a fortress or castle in style, but it doesn’t have a sense of foreboding about it. On the contrary, it looks very cool and inviting the way a shady spot next to a cool stream would be. We’re both admiring the beauty, and I tell Sam that the house must be 5,000 square feet at least.
In the second dream, as the observer, I’m looking at a bridge that is being built from both sides to meet in the middle. The bridge is about 50 feet long and is an arch or at least slopes up toward the middle. It’s almost done and there is just a few feet more until the two sides connect. I’m semi lucid and remembering the bridge from the earlier dream with Sam as well as another bridge from another dream from that night, and I’m remembering them both as almost ready to meet in the middle too. I’m thinking this must have something to do with making the connection to the psychic being, and I’m repeating “Mother I must have this.”
Now in one dream the bridge was too narrow, and in the other it wasn’t complete, but I think it’s just two ways of saying the same thing. Namely that there’s some work to go to complete the bridge to whatever is represented by the beautiful stone house with all the flowers. My guess is that the house symbolizes the sanctuary of the psychic being, and the presence of flowers would seem to support that since flowers can represent things psychic. Another thing in favor of this idea is the intuition I had in the second dream that the bridge represented making the connection to the psychic being. I think I will trust that intuition for now until I feel I have good reason not to or I discover in time that the bridge represented something else. I should point out though that while in the Integral Yoga pink is a psychic color, blue is more of a spiritual color and purple a color corresponding to the vital. So maybe there’s more represented here than just the psychic change [or transformation] .
Another interesting point about the bridge in the second dream that was raised by my collaborator Donny, is the fact that it’s being built from both ends to meet in the middle. He suggested that could mean that the one end represents my own personal effort and aspiration in the sadhana while the other end represents the answering grace, and that both are needed to make that connection. I don’t know if that’s true, but it makes enough intuitive sense that I thought it worth putting forward for consideration.
In conclusion, I think that regardless of what the house in the first dream symbolizes, it’s clear the bridge to something good is nearing completion. How near to completion is hard to say. There were feet left to go and not inches, so it may not be something imminent. Being shown though that the bridge is being built has given a boost to my faith, and perhaps that was the primary purpose of these dreams. The first dream also gives some good advice, which I’ll try to take, which is to carry on with the sadhana keeping frustration at bay and with the faith that when the zero hour is reached the grace will take care of the rest.
1.Question and Answers 1929-1931 by the Mother pg 62
2.Question and Answers 1929-1931 by the Mother pg 62
3.Guardians of Oneness ‘One Million A.D.’ by Medhananda pg 45
4.Guardians of Oneness ‘One Million A.D.’ by Medhananda pg 53
5.Guardians of Oneness ‘One Million A.D.’ by Medhananda pg 63-64
6.Question and Answers 1929-1931 by the Mother pg 152
7.Question and Answers 1953 by the Mother pg 38