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

Track Running The Human Aspiration - Track 104

There is one sentence, however, which from the philosophical point of view is perhaps the most important. Now you find a sentence which I have not referred to so far. I have referred to practically all the sentences excepting one which is the most important sentence: "It is also the highest which the thought can envisage". This is a very important phrase. You will find a peculiarity in this phrase. In other phrases you will see the words "seems", "promises". But this is the only sentence in regard to which Sri Aurobindo says, "Is also the highest". You examine the whole paragraph; with regard to other sentences you find "seems", "promises". What is the difference between "seems", "promises" and "is"? Yes?

Answer: Seems and promises denotes a certain doubt and…

Correct. We cannot make an affirmative statement absolutely. While when you say "is", it is a confident statement. The other statements are historical in character. This statement is philosophical in character. This is the value of this sentence. When you speak historically, what will happen tomorrow nobody can say is bound to happen. You can only say it seems it might rain! Nobody can say it is bound to rain. Even if you say so, scientifically it is not correct.

Therefore in regard to all historical statements Sri Aurobindo says "seems" or "promises", but there is one domain where you can be sure. That is the philosophical domain. If you think philosophically, you can be sure. If your statement is philosophically valid you can say, "it is". In other words what Sri Aurobindo says is that mankind has been pursuing God, Light, Freedom, Immortality. These four terms are from the point of view of Truth inevitable, and definitively inevitable. As far as thought is concerned, for thought the highest – whether ultimately man will get God or not, that will be a different matter, he may he may not, but for thought, God is inescapable. You cannot but think of God when you reach in your thought the highest. It is a metaphysical statement, a philosophical statement. Now this is a subject on which I have to tell you a lot. This sentence is a very important sentence; today I will only give an introduction.

I will give an introduction from Western Philosophy: There was one philosopher in ancient Greece, even before Plato, called Parmenides. You should write down his name, because he is one of the philosophers whose thought has played a great role in framing Western Philosophy. I shall give you a sentence which he wrote, which is extremely important in the history of western philosophy, and which is connected with this sentence which you are reading now.

I shall dictate to you the whole sentence, please write it down because you should have it before your eyes. This is a sentence on which you need to contemplate. It is not very easy to understand at first sight. It is a very interesting statement.

"Thou canst not know what is not – that is impossible – nor utter it; for it is the same thing that can be thought and that can be."

It is a very simple sentence. In philosophy this is one habit that one should cultivate, to write accurately and thoroughly. No haziness, no ambiguity.

Every word is captured? Now be quiet for three–four minutes and try to understand it. We shall read it twice together. Since it is very important sentence, I am dwelling upon it. And since it is coming from the West, nobody can say it is a biased statement from East.

"Thou canst not know what is not – that is impossible…" Can you ever know what is not? That is the question that is asked. You can know only what exists! You cannot know what does not exist. So, "Thou canst not know what is not – that is impossible – nor utter it…" What is not existent, how can you speak of it? "… for it is the same thing that can be thought and that can be." You can think only of that which exists – that which can exist. I think it has a meaning now.

"Thou canst not know what is not – that is impossible – nor utter it; for it is the same thing that can be thought and that can be." Thought can only be about that which exists. If you examine the nature of thought, thought cannot escape that which exists. Thought can never speak of that which does not exist. 

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