Sri Aurobindo's - 'The Life Divine' - The Human Aspiration - Chapter I

Track Running The Human Aspiration - Track 002

In fact many students of Sri Aurobindo and his Yoga particularly, even advocate the view that too much of intellectuality, that the study of ‘The Life Divine’ might generate, is not very conducive to the field of experience of the spiritual truths and there is a strength behind this argument, which you must acknowledge. But let us see the other side of the picture. There is relationship between intellect and experience, intellectual cultivation and spiritual cultivation.

There is very important statement of Sri Aurobindo, where he says, ” that while some people may be able to dispense with the intellectual approach to the truth, this approach cannot be avoided for the general collective development. Individually some people may dispense with an intellectual development but wherever you are dealing with the collectivity, this intellectual development, Sri Aurobindo says ‘it is of capital importance’, not only of importance but of capital importance. I would like to present to you a paragraph from one of the chapters of ‘The Life Divine’, so that you may have time to reflect on this important issue at the very outset, this on page 878.

Sri Aurobindo says as follows:

“Spiritual realisation and experience, an intuitive and direct knowledge, a growth of inner consciousness, a growth of the soul and of an intimate soul–perception, soul–vision and a soul–sense, are indeed the proper means of this (this means spiritual evolution) evolution: but the support of the reflective and critical reason is also of great importance; if many can dispense with it, because they have a vivid and direct contact with inner realities and are satisfied with experience and insight, yet in the whole movement it is indispensible. If the supreme truth is a spiritual Reality, then the intellect of man needs to know what is the nature of that original Truth and the principle of its relations to the rest of existence, to ourselves and the universe. The intellect is not capable by itself of bringing us into touch with the concrete spiritual reality, but it can help by a mental formulation of the truth of the Spirit which explains it to the mind and can be applied even in the more direct seeking: this help is of a capital importance.”

This is a paragraph, which I would invite you to read several times because it tells you exactly the limitation of the work that we are undertaking and at the same time its importance and it reminds us of that as far as our life in Auroville is concerned, this is only a help that we must not therefore, neglect or in any case hinder or hamper the experiential approach to the true Truths, to the Supreme Truth. But since as I said for general development this is very important, even for individual development it can be of a great help. It is only from this limited point of view, that I suggest we can have this programme.

Starting from page 887–880, these three pages deal with this question. I have read only the most important paragraph.

What is the meaning of a general collective development and why in a general collectivity development, this intellectual development is of fundamental importance. As Sri Aurobindo says, ” some individuals can dispense with it but when it’s a question of a large collectivity, a large number of them will not be capable of a direct intuitive soul experience. Large number of people will need even when they have some spiritual feeling even spiritual aspiration, they will need to develop intellectual approach to the realities of the spirit.

Normally, human beings when they live in the level of the intellect cannot even imagine what it is to have a spiritual experience. There are a number of intellectual giants in the world, who do not understand, what is meant by spiritual experience. This is a fact; they would even argue that spiritual experience, so called spiritual experience, they might say because they do not even grant the possibility of a spiritual experience, who do not understand, what is a spiritual experience? They would only say that the so–called spiritual experience is an emotional reaction to whatever is presented; and people give it a bombastic word calling it spiritual. There is a theory that not only spiritual experience, but even moral experience, which is of a lower nature, is nothing but an emotional reaction. When you say this is right and this is wrong, what is the guarantee, that it is objectively right and wrong? It is simply dependent upon individual’s idiosyncrasies, inclinations and predilections, and one chooses and says this is right or chooses and says this is wrong.

There is a very important paragraph in one of the last chapters of the book by Bertrand Russell; it is one of the very big works called ‘The History of Western Philosophy’. He argues, why should I advocate peace in the world and why should people be kind? Actually he is a great advocate of peace. There is a very beautiful passage ‘Free Man’s Worship’, where he speaks of the need of free man to have qualities which are specially those, which are advocated by mystics. Quality of patience, of stoicism, endurance, disregard of consequence of action and the kindness to people, genuine compassion for all creatures of existence. All these are beautiful qualities and he advocates them and yet this very author, when he examines, he says, from the point of view of knowledge there is only one way of knowing, and that is the scientific way of knowing, it does not regard philosophical way of knowing as a very genuine way of knowing.

He grants some place to philosophy, he calls it no–man’s land. Philosophy according to him is a no–man’s land, it does not belong either to science, which is definite and it does not belong to religion, which is definite. Philosophy is a no–man’s land. It is neither science, nor religion; it falls in between the two, perhaps, it is even worse perhaps it may be better to some extent, depends upon how we look upon it but such is the nature of philosophy, according to him. In any case genuine knowledge, the knowledge that can be called knowledge is according to him only scientific, only science is the right means of knowledge. He therefore, disregards the claim of philosophers, to be capable of arriving at knowledge. There is no such thing according to him as philosophical knowledge. There can be speculations of philosophy, there can be hypothesizes put forward by philosophically but philosophy according to him cannot make a statement, this is true. As far the statement, ‘this is true’, only science can say that.

There is a great force behind this statement. I myself agree in a very large manner, but from another point of view, not in the way he comes to this conclusion. There is at the very outset the question to understand the nature of philosophy, the nature of science, nature of knowledge and then to contrast all these to what we call spiritual knowledge.

This is an important discussion, particularly for us, who are swimming in the field of spiritual experience. We should be aware that this spiritual field has a great connection with the intellectual field, and this intellectual field has within it a good deal of controversy of the nature of science, nature of philosophy, nature of knowledge and the claims or disclaims of various kinds, very much effect the spiritual world not the spiritual pursuit.

There is a collectivity in the spiritual world and the collectivity consists of individuals at different levels of development. Many of them may be at the intellectual level, partly at least or predominantly, if not wholly and therefore, a spiritual world is greatly affected by what is happening in the intellectual field. If you want to give a good guideline to a spiritual world, we should have robustness by which we can understand the problems, which are raised by the intellectual world and place ourselves in the right relationship. 

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