Interpretative Activity of the Mental Being to Correct Sensory Data Impressions

Because the perceptions of the senses are subject to error and inaccuracy, there is a supplementary function that interprets and fills in the gaps of the sensory data. Sri Aurobindo explains: “But there intervenes a sense-mind intuition which seizes the suggestion of the image or vibration and equates it with the object, a vital intuition which seizes the energy or figure of power of the object through another kind of vibration created by the sense contact, and an intuition of the perceptive mind which at once forms a right idea of the object from all this evidence. Whatever is deficient in the interpretation of the image thus constructed is filled up by the intervention of the reason or the total understanding intelligence. If the first composite intuition were the result of a direct contact or if it summarised the action of a total intuitive mentality master of its perceptions, there would be no need for the intervention of the reason except as a discoverer or organiser of knowledge not conveyed by the sense and its suggestions: it is, on the contrary, an intuition working on an image, a sense document, an indirect evidence, not working upon a direct contact of consciousness with the object.”

While this process clearly improves upon the result of the analysis of the contacts from the outside world, it too remains imperfect and subject to error of interpretation or simply inaccurate due to incompleteness. The example of the sunrise or sunset makes it quite obvious that both our perception and our normal interpretation of the event are inaccurate; it takes the input from the higher reason, based on scientific inquiry and logical thought to determine that the earth is spinning and rotating around the sun, and that this is the ultimate cause of what we casually consider to be a sunrise or sunset phenomenon.

“Man has had perforce to develop his reason in order to make up for the deficiencies of his sense instrumentation, the fallibility of his physical mind’s perceptions and the paucity of its interpretation of its data.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine, Book 2, Part I, Chapter 10, Knowledge by Identity and Separative Knowledge, pp. 528-529

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