Ignorance and Separative Consciousness

Sri Aurobindo next proceeds to his review of the separative consciousness and its action and limitations. He acknowledges that behind the scenes, the oneness still prevails, but on the surface there is a separation that no longer consciously recognizes its inherent oneness and does not have the direct contact needed to experience that oneness in the activities of mind, life and body. “There is on the surface a complete separateness, a division into self and not-self; there is the necessity of dealing with the not-self, but no direct means of knowing it or mastering it. Nature then creates indirect means, a contact by physical organs of sense, a penetration of outside impacts through the nerve currents, a reaction of mind and its co-ordinations acting as an aid and supplement to the activity of the physical organs,–all of them methods of an indirect knowledge; for the consciousness is forced to rely on these instruments and cannot act directly on the object.”

We see here an external instrumentality of sense perception that replaces the direct knowledge that is seen at the higher levels of conscious awareness discussed previously. To this instrumentality is added the operation of analytical and rational faculties of the mind: “To these means is added a reason, intelligence and intuition which seize on the communications thus indirectly brought to them, put all in order and utliize their data to get as much knowledge and mastery and possession of the not-self or as much partial unity with it as the original division allows to the separated being.”

These instruments and analytical powers of course cannot totally replace the knowledge by identity and its direct and complete knowledge and power of action. This is however, the circumstance under which we have to labor as our consciousness slowly emerges out of the original material Inconscience.

Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine, Book 2, Part I, Chapter 10, Knowledge by Identity and Separative Knowledge, pp. 549-550

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