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At the Feet of The Mother

JNANA 13-15: Hallucinations, Visions and Reality

In this talk we see in some detail an understanding of some mystic and other-worldly perceptions often discredited by a materialistic Science.


13 – They told me, “These things are hallucinations.” I inquired what was a hallucination and found that it meant a subjective or psychical experience which corresponds to no objective or no physical reality. Then I sat and wondered at the miracles of the human reason.

What does Sri Aurobindo mean by “the miracles of the human reason”?

In this aphorism, by “they” Sri Aurobindo means the materialists, the scientists and, in a general way, all those who only believe in physical reality and consider human reason to be the one infallible judge. Furthermore, the “things” he speaks of here are all the perceptions that belong to worlds other than the material, all that one can see with eyes other than the physical, all the experiences that one can have in subtle domains from the sense perceptions of the vital world to the bliss of the Divine Presence.

It was while discussing these and other similar “things” that Sri Aurobindo was told that they were “hallucinations”. When you look up the word “hallucination” in the dictionary, you find this definition: “Morbid sensation not produced by any real object. Objectless perception.” Sri Aurobindo interprets this or puts it more precisely: “A subjective or psychical experience which corresponds to no objective or no physical reality.”

There could be no better definition of these phenomena of the inner consciousness, which are most precious to man and make him something more than a mere thinking animal. Human reason is so limited, so down to earth, so arrogantly ignorant that it wants to discredit by a pejorative word the very faculties which open the gates of a higher and more marvellous life to man…. In the face of this obstinate incomprehension Sri Aurobindo wonders ironically at “the miracles of the human reason”. For the power to change truth into falsehood to such a degree is certainly a miracle.

5 January 1960


14 – Hallucination is the term of Science for those irregular glimpses we still have of truths shut out from us by our preoccupation with matter; coincidence for the curious touches of artist in the work of that supreme and universal Intelligence which in its conscious being, as on a canvas, has planned and executed the world.

What does the “artist” represent here?

Here Sri Aurobindo compares the work of the Supreme Lord, creator of the universe, to the work of an artist painting in his conscious being, with sweeping brush-strokes, as on a canvas, the picture of the world. And when by “curious touches” he paints one stroke over another, we have a “coincidence”. Usually the word “coincidence” suggests unconscious,

meaningless chance. Sri Aurobindo wants to make us understand that chance and unconsciousness have nothing to do with this phenomenon; on the contrary, it is the result of a refinement of taste and consciousness of the kind that artists possess, and it can reveal a deep intention.

12 January 1960


15 – That which men term a hallucination is the reflection in the mind and senses of that which is beyond our ordinary mental and sensory perceptions. Superstition arises from the mind’s wrong understanding of these reflections. There is no other hallucination.

Can hallucinations be compared to visions?

A vision is a perception, by the visual organs, of phenomena that really exist in a world corresponding to the organ which sees. For example, to the individual vital plane there corresponds a cosmic vital world. When a human being is sufficiently developed he possesses an individualised vital being with organs of sight, hearing, smell, etc. So a person who has a well-developed vital being can see in the vital world with his vital sight, consciously and with the memory of what he has seen. This is what makes a vision.

It is the same for all the subtle worlds—vital, mental, overmental, supramental—and for all the intermediate worlds and planes of the being. In this way one can have visions that are vital, mental, overmental, supramental, etc. On the other hand, Sri Aurobindo tells us that what is termed a hallucination is the reflection in the mind or the physical senses of that which is beyond our mind and our ordinary senses; it is therefore not a direct vision, but a reflected image which is usually not understood or explained. This character of uncertainty produces an impression of unreality and gives rise to all kinds of superstition. This is also why “serious” people, or people who think themselves serious, do not accord any value to these phenomena and call them hallucinations. And yet, in those who are interested in occult phenomena, this type of perception often precedes the emergence of the capacity of vision which may be in course of formation. But you must guard against mistaking this for true vision. For, I repeat, these phenomena occur most often in a state of almost complete ignorance and are too frequently accompanied by much error and wrong interpretation; not to mention the cases of unscrupulous people, who introduce into the account they give of their experiences many details and particulars not actually there, thus justifying the discredit with which these phenomena are received by rational and thoughtful people.

So we shall reserve the word “vision” for experiences that occur in awareness and sincerity. Nevertheless, in both cases, in “hallucination” as well as in vision, what is seen does correspond to something quite real, although it is sometimes much deformed in the transcription.

20 January 1960

[CWM 10: 39-42]

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