Objective and Subjective Reality

Sri Aurobindo next takes up the basically opposite viewpoint that holds that the material, outer, objective world is the sole reality, and that subjective phenomena are either essentially unreal, or at least less real and dependent upon the proofs that the objective world can provide for their ultimate valuation. In this viewpoint, which more or less underpins much of the viewpoint of the modern world, even if unstated, anything that is not subject to concrete evidence and proof is dismissed, disbelieved or treated with a form of disdain or skepticism. While a certain amount of objective verification can help avoid extremes of fantasy, taken to its own extreme, this viewpoint is unsustainable when viewed closely. Sri Aurobindo points out “If pushed to its extreme, it would give to a stone or a plum-pudding a greater reality and to thought, love, courage, genius, greatness, the human soul and mind facing an obscure and dangerous world and getting mastery over it an inferior dependent reality or even an unsubstantial and evanescent reality. For in this view these things so great to our subjective vision are valid only as the reactions of an objective material being to an objective material existence; they are valid only in so far as they deal with objective realities and make themselves effective upon them: the soul, if it exists, is only a circumstance of an objectively real world-Nature.”

This viewpoint essential holds that “All that is not physical and objective has a lesser reality dependent on the physical and objective; it has to justify itself to the physical mind by objective evidence or a recognisable and verifiable relation to the truth of physical and external things before it can be given a passport of reality.”

Of course, one could view things from a different direction, and hold that the objective reality only exists by virtue of the subjective experience and “the objective is created as a ground of manifestation for the subjective. The objective world is only an outward form of becoming of the Spirit; it is here a first form, a basis, but is not the essential thing, the main truth of being. The subjective and objective are two necessary sides of the manifested Reality and of equal value, and in the range of the objective itself the supraphysical object of consciousness has as much right to acceptance as the physical objectivity; it cannot be a priori set aside as a subjective delusion or hallucination.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine, Book 2, Part 2, Chapter 15, Reality and the Integral Knowledge