Moving Beyond Definitions to Knowledge

When we are confronted with the mysteries of the universe and the existence of life in it, we tend to create definitions that we use to convince ourselves that we understand them. We talk about “space-time” for instance and yet we do not really gain an understanding of what is going on. Rather, the definition shuts off further consideration in many cases. “Case closed.”

We see that Matter is actually Energy, and we see the process of atoms and atomic particles, joining together in various combinations that create forms of matter and on that basis, the entire world is built up. We can manipulate these atoms and atomic processes and believe thereby to have gained knowledge or mastery, but at no time have we really understood how or why they exist.

Similarly in the field of life, Sri Aurobindo points out that while we can see the process of a seed developing into a tree, and we can even intervene in and manipulate that process to some degree, but we still do not understand the reasons why this occurs. We can see the genetic forces and lines of action which bring about specific forms from specific combinations of genetic material, but the infusion of a psychological characteristic, or the transmission of those characteristics remains a mystery not fully explained by the physical process.

We can in fact tap into these processes and use them for our own utility or advantage, all without understand the ultimate rationale. In Sri Aurobindo’s discussion, “we see the original indeterminate Energy throwing out general determinates of itself,–we might equally in their relation to the variety of their products call them generic indeterminates,–with their appropriate states of substance and determined forms of that substance: the latter are numerous, sometimes innumerable variations on the substance-energy which is their base: but none of these variations seems to be predetermined by anything in the nature of the general indeterminate.”

Clearly if we want to truly begin to understand and know, we need to put aside the definitions, processes and utilities we have grasped and go beyond the limits of our language and our logical mind.

reference: Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine, Book 2, Part I, Chapter 1, Indeterminates, Cosmic Determinations and the Indeterminable