Four Theories of Existence

Sri Aurobindo succinctly describes the 4 major directions in which the theories about the aim of life have gone. Given the tight organisation of this section, the best we can do is quote from the passage in this regard: “There are, roughly, from this viewpoint, four main theories, or categories of theory, with their corresponding mental attitudes and ideals in accordance with four different conceptions of truth of existence. These we may call the supracosmic, the cosmic and terrestrial, the supraterrestrial or other-worldly, and the integral or synthetic or composite, the theories that try to reconcile the three factors,–or any two of them,–which the other views tend to isolate. In this last category would fall our view of our existence here as a Becoming with the Divine Being for its origin and its object, a progressive manifestation, a spiritual evolution with the supracosmic for its source and support, the other-worldly for a condition and connecting link and the cosmic and terrestrial for its field, and with human mind and life for its nodus and turning-point of release towards a higher and a highest perfection. Our regard then must be on the three first to see where they depart from the integralising view of life and how far the truths they stand on fit into its structure.”

On a very personal note, my own very first introduction to Sri Aurobindo’s work some 40 years ago was with The Life Divine and by chance, this was the very first chapter that I read. I found that it clearly distinguished the different “conflicting” viewpoints about the aim and purpose of life, and found a way to integrate them into a coherent whole.

Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine, Book 2, Part 2, Chapter 16, The Integral Knowledge and the Aim of Life; Four Theories of Existence