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

Track Running The Human Aspiration - Track 003

We must know what the difference between scientific knowledge and philosophical knowledge. Then, we should be able also to understand ‘The Life Divine’ better, because ‘The Life Divine’ is a philosophical work. Therefore, it has followed a philosophical method. It is not a scientific book; it’s not a book of science.

In contrast to ‘The Life Divine’, we have another book, ‘The synthesis of Yoga’. ‘The synthesis of Yoga’ has a different method. There philosophy is also used but the method of exposition is scientific in ‘The synthesis of Yoga’, because Yoga is not philosophy, Yoga is science. Therefore, in ‘The synthesis of Yoga’ Sri Aurobindo follows a different method of exposition. We must be able to appreciate from a technical point of view, how ‘The Life Divine’s’ method is philosophical and how the exposition which is done in ‘The synthesis of Yoga’ follows a scientific method and it’s a scientific exposition and because there is a connection between philosophy and science, in one way or the other. You will find scientific method also in ‘The Life Divine’ and philosophical method also in ‘The synthesis of Yoga’ but these are only subordinate

Why do we the intellectuals of today very largely believe that knowledge can only be scientifically interpreted? Why do they believe that philosophy is not the right method of arriving at knowledge? If this statement is true, that philosophy is not a useful method, then the relevance of ‘The Life Divine’ would be in question. What is the justification of writing such a great philosophical work, if philosophy is basically not a very useful activity?

The reason behind is this: in science you arrive at a conclusion by the basic method of observation of facts. You observe facts and your conclusion is strictly tied to the facts. It is true that in a scientific method you add to the observations certain other things, which are so–called permissible in the scientific pursuit. Therefore this constitutes part of the scientific method, observation is the starting–point of science, then experimentation is the second step, but experimentation has also the aim of collecting further facts which are normally available directly without experimentation. This experimentation gives you additional facts, and then there is the question of coordinating these facts and those facts. Facts by direct observation and facts by experimentation and then you co–ordinate them, in the process of coordinating some intellectual process is involved.

Observation is not fundamentally a process of intellection. Observation is a part of experience, when you observe, you experience the facts. When you make an experiment it is also an experience of facts, additional facts. When you coordinate then intellection arises, it is added as it were, for coordinating purposes. To compare one set of facts with other set of facts. In fact if you ask the question, what is the origin of the intellectual movement, it starts, when you compare one sense experience with another sense experience, when two sense experiences are to be compared and this is the starting–point. You start intellectual process when you compare. This is the special faculty of the human beings that is why it is said that rationality is a special mark of human beings, which animals of lower order do not posses. This possibility of comparing one sense experience with another and then so many sense experiences with other sense experiences and the method by which you coordinate, that is the realm of intellectuality.

Comparison implies also a process of contrast; it also implies a process of analogy and more importantly, two important processes of what is called deduction and induction and then finally the process of what is called implication. So, you might say that the entire realm of intellectual development consists of these processes, ” comparison, contrast, deduction, induction, analogy and implication. Any activity in which you do these operations is intellectual in character. If it was possible for human beings to arrive at the totality of the whole world in one single experience, the whole world to be known directly by one experience then there is no need for the intervention of the intellectual operation at all. As long as I see and experience directly, I know it, the moment there is another experience and there is the question of the coordination of the two, intellectual development is involved.

There is a great connection between intellectual development and experiential development. This is very important to note. If however, you can arrive at one single experience of the totality of the whole world and all that is beyond the world, then there is nothing to compare with, no contrast, no inference, no analogy, no induction, no deduction, and no implication that is one single experience of knowledge.

Scientists however know that no experience is singly obtained. The scientist proceeds with ordinary levels of experience, sense perception, observation of sense perception and you know that sense perception is always having a limited field. Senses are not capable of bringing the entire totality in one sweep, such is not the nature of sense experience, it is not possible. The question is, is there any such possibility of having the totality of experience in one sweep? If not sensuous, any other, scientists would say, let us have an example of such an experience, ” that is their approach.

As I told you, the distance between intellectual operations and sense experience on the one hand and the spiritual experience, is so great that most of the people who are only confined to sense experience and intellectual experience, they are not able to understand at all, not always but very largely they are incapable of understanding the possibility of a spiritual experience at all. Therefore, that would simply say that there is no such thing as spiritual experience. We should confine ourselves to sense experiences and intellectual operation, which aims at coordinating of sense experiences of various kinds and whatever is result of this, ” is knowledge. Particularly when that knowledge expressed in language can be repeated, can be verified and can be falsified. These are the three marks, you should be able to repeat, able to verify, able to falsify. In the attempt of falsification, when you cannot falsify then you are obliged to accept it. Whatever is given to you should be at least capable of being falsified, attempts should be possible; this is what is now called scientific intellect, which consists of observation, explanation, analogy, implication, deduction and induction. This is all that science consists of. 

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