Sri Aurobindo's younger brother, Barindra, was like an orbiting planet round the Sun that was the elder brother… During his stay at Baroda, Barindra who had been reading about the then widely popular phenomenon of "Spiritualism" started experimenting with planchette writing, table tapping and mediumistic communication. Sri Aurobindo sometimes joined the séances, partly out of amusement and partly as an experiment worth watching that tried to break the barriers between life and death. Among the persons or spirits for whom Barin acted as medium was his own father Dr. Krishnadhan. Once when Tilak was present, and Dr. Krishnadhan's spirit was asked what kind of man the Lokamanya was, the answer came: "When all your work will be ruined and many men bow their heads down, this man will keep his head erect." This was an anticipation of the greatness of Tilak's compelling eminence after the first suppression of the nationalist movement and his solitary confinement at Mandalay. In after-years, Sri Aurobindo testified to Barin's "very extraordinary automatic writing at Baroda in a very brilliant and beautiful English style and remarkable for certain predictions which came true and statements of fact which also proved to be true although unknown to the persons concerned or any one else present".
On another occasion, Ramakrishna Paramahamsa was called, and after a long silence his spirit seems to have said (as recorded by Barin), "Mandir gado! Mandir gado! (Make a temple! Make a temple!)". Such disclosures were intriguing and tantalising enough, and Sri Aurobindo was to make further experiments, both at Calcutta and at Pondicherry, before reaching the final conclusion that "though there are sometimes phenomena which point to the intervention of beings of anther plane... the mass of such writings comes from a dramatising element in the subconscious mind". Commenting on these phenomena of mediumistic writing or speaking, Nolini Kanta Gupta has also remarked:
There are worlds upon worlds in a regular series, from the most gross to the most subtle.... Any of the beings from any of these worlds or planes can manifest himself. But he has to manifest through the instrumentality of the human medium, through the substance of the medium's mind, life and body.... Very often it is the make-up of the medium that predominates and the being that manifests preserves very little of its own.
A sensitive and honest medium is one thing, but with an impure and dishonest medium charlatanism must take full control.
Since Barin himself was an unusual and extremely sensitive medium, what did the Paramahamsa mean by "Mandir gado! Make a temple!" One more temple added to so many in the country? A special kind of temple? Or did he merely mean that one should make one's body itself a temple for the indwelling spirit? Sri Aurobindo himself interpreted "Make a temple!" in later years as Sri Ramakrishna's "command to make in ourselves a temple to the Mother, to effect such a transformation of ourselves that we become the temple of the Mother". What was wanted was not a mortal material edifice but an ineluctable imperishable spiritual abode for the Mighty Mother, Mother Free!
- K R Srinivas Iyengar
(On Sri Aurobindo, pp. 192-193)
Sweet Mother, what kind of forces can be called up by using the planchette, and how is it done?
Oh! Oh!…Do you mean automatic writing?
That depends on the people who do it. Sometimes there are no forces at all! It is the mental and vital vibrations of the people who use the planchette, and it is their own subconscious ideas which they bring up, ninety-eight times out of a hundred. ¹ If they are in contact with invisible entities, it may be all sorts of things but nothing very advisable!
Almost with certainty it could be said that it is not what people think it is, in the sense that most often they try to evoke what they call the “spirit” of a dead person, a relative or a friend or someone they loved and with whom they wish to remain in touch; and besides, they ask them the most foolish questions. Fortunately they don’t succeed in disturbing them.…
From this point of view one can say that if you had a relation of deep and sincere love with someone who has passed away, left his body, and if you are calm and strong enough yourself, this person may choose to take shelter vitally in your atmosphere – the atmosphere of the one he loves – for a more or less long period. In this case it means that the relation was very close, very intimate, and if you are not altogether materialistic to the point of not having any direct mental perception, you can remain in mental contact with this person, in communication with him. It is a rather exceptional case, for usually if your atmosphere is calm and strong enough to be able to truly serve
(¹ Later Mother added the following remark: “I say ninety times out of a hundred, for there are exceptions – I know of some – but they are so rare that it is better not to speak about them.”)
as a protection, the person who has left his body enters into a deep rest there, and it is not at all good to disturb it; and the best thing you can do is to enfold this person with your love and leave him in peace.
Therefore, even if it were possible to enter into communication with him by this means, which I would call very crude, it would be improper to do so. But usually, people who have the capacity, the faculties required to serve as a shelter for some time, a transitional shelter for those who have gone, do not have this ridiculous idea of disturbing the rest of the one they love by tapping on a planchette…fortunately!
But those who indulge in this exercise, an exercise of unhealthy curiosity, get what they deserve; for the atmosphere we live in is filled with a great number of small vital entities which are born of unsatisfied desires, vital movements of a very low type, also the decomposition of larger beings of the vital world; indeed, it is swarming with them, you see. It is surely a protection that most people do not see what is going on in this vital atmosphere, for it is not especially pleasant; but if they have the presumption to want to come into contact with it and set about trying automatic writing or table-turning or…indeed, anything of this kind, out of an unhealthy curiosity, well, what happens is that one of these small entities or several of them have fun at their expense and collect all the necessary indications from their subconscious mind and then furnish these things to them as clear proofs that they are the person who has been called!
I could write a book for you with all the examples I have known of these stories, for people are very proud of doing things like this and immediately write them down, giving “proofs” of the truth of the experience which are so ridiculous that they should be enough to show them that someone was making fun of them! I had another instance, very recently, of somebody who fancied that he had entered into contact with Sri Aurobindo and was receiving sensational revelations from him — that was comical in the extreme.
But anyway, as a rule, it is – oh! most often – is your own forces, your subconscious mental and vital forces which you put into the planchette – and you make sensational revelations to yourself! One can do many things in this way.…Once I wanted to prove to people that what they were evoking was nothing but themselves; so I had a little fun, simply with a concentration of the will, tapping the furniture, making tables walk and, well!…As for automatic writing, you only have to withdraw your conscious will into yourself, to let your hand go – just like this (gesture) – and leave it free, and then the hand will begin to make movements; but there is a little part in you which is interested and would like these movements to make sense and this little part appeals to the subconscious mind which begins to make sensational revelations. Indeed, it is a booby-trap, all this business, unless one does it scientifically – but then, scientifically, one realises that it leads to nothing, nothing at all except just passing your time in what you consider an interesting way.
In some cases vital entities really get hold of you, and there it is dangerous. But fortunately these cases are not very frequent. Then it becomes very dangerous.
A very long time ago when I was in France, I knew the case of a man who, through practices of this kind, had put himself into contact with a vital entity. This man happened to be a gambler and he spent his time speculating and playing roulette. He spent part of the year at Monte Carlo playing roulette and the rest of the time he lived in the south of France and speculated on the Stock Exchange. And now, some being was really using him\was through automatic writing – using him, and for years it gave him absolutely precise, exact indications. When he played roulette it used to tell him, “Bid on this number or this place”, and he would win. Naturally he just worshipped this “spirit” which gave him such sensational revelations. And at the Exchange it also told him, “Speculate on this or on that” and gave him all the indications. This man became colossally rich.
He used to boast to all his friends about the method by which he had grown rich.
Someone put him on his guard, told him, “Be careful, this doesn’t look very honest, you should not trust this spirit.” He fell out with this person. A few days later he was inMonte Carlo and…He always played for high stakes, you see; since, naturally, he always won and would break the bank, he was much feared. Then the spirit told him, “Stake everything, everything you have on this....” He did, and at a single stroke lost everything! And yet, he still had some money left from his Stock Exchange speculations. He said to himself, “It is bad luck.” Again he received a very precise indication, “Do this”, as usual. And he did it – he was completely cleaned out! And to finish the job, the spirit told him, just for the fun of it, “Now, you are going to commit suicide. Put a bullet through your head”. And he was so much under its influence, he did so.…That’s the end of the story. And this is an authentic story. So, the least one can say is that it is dangerous, it is much better not to indulge in occupations of this kind.
No! Either they are rather senseless amusements or else they are unwholesome occupations.
Mother, Sri Aurobindo wrote the book Yogic Sadhan in this way…
No, no! It is not that at all. You must not confuse things. That was something different. Sri Aurobindo knew] with whom he was in contact, he did it deliberately and chose the person he was in touch with, and that had nothing to do with the little entities I am speaking about, nothing at all, at all. It was something that took place in the mental world, directly; you must not confuse things. This has no connection, none at all.
One can, if one has the knowledge, the control, the power, the ability to go into a certain state of passivity – one can very easily lend one’s hand to someone, deliberately, knowing who it is and acting on a higher plane, but that already demands a great consciousness and a great self-mastery, which is not within everybody’s reach. One must have quite a considerable inner development to be able to see whom one is dealing with on a particular plane and willingly lend oneself to the experiment with full knowledge of what one is doing and without losing one’s control. Not everybody can play with that. But to work the planchette, one only has to delude oneself enough for it to start working!
- The Mother
(Questions And Answers, Volume 9, pp. 362-366)