The True Nature of Knowledge

When we explore the question of truth and falsehood, Sri Aurobindo starts by distinguishing between what we can perceive and understand using our limited mental faculties, and the perception we gain when we move beyond reliance solely on the mental powers. The limitations of the mind build in automatically the dichotomy of truth and falsehood, because we cannot actually gain complete knowledge by the mind, and thus, even our most broadly framed understanding of truth is mingled with falsehood and limitation.

“It might almost be said that no mental statement of things can be altogether true; it is not Truth bodied, pure and nude, but a draped figure,–often it is only the drapery that is visible. But this character does not apply to truth perceived by a direct action of consciousness or to the truth of knowledge by identity; our seeing there may be limited, but so far as it extends, it is authentic, and authenticity is a first step towards absoluteness: error may attach itself to a direct or identical vision of things by a mental accretion, by a mistaken or illegitimate extension or by the mind’s misinterpretation, but it does not enter into the substance. This authentic or identical vision or experience of things is the true nature of knowledge and it is self-existent within the being, although rendered in our minds by a secondary formation that is unauthentic and derivative. Ignorance in its origin has not this self-existence or this authenticity; it exists by a limitation or absence or abeyance of knowledge, error by a deviation from truth, falsehood by a distortion of truth or its contradiction and denial. But it cannot be similarly said of knowledge that in its very nature it exists only by a limitation or absence or abeyance of ignorance: it may indeed emerge in the human mind partly by a process of such limitation or abeyance, by the receding of darkness from a partial light, or it may have the aspect of ignorance turning into knowledge; but in fact, it rises by an independent birth from our depths where it has a native existence.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine, Book 2, Part I, Chapter 14, The Origin and Remedy of Falsehood, Error, Wrong and Evil