Three Categories in the Search For Knowledge

In this chapter Sri Aurobindo is exploring the development of our seeking for knowledge and the evolution of our search. He points out that it is impossible for man to envision the full and complete Oneness or totality of knowledge because we are bound by the limitations of the ego self and the instruments of mind, life and body. We thus tend to focus our seeking on one or another of three basic categories of knowledge into which we divide our experience: man, or the individual soul; Nature, or the cosmic manifestation of which we are a part; and God, or that which is either the creative intelligence behind everything or the Absolute Existence of which man and Nature are constituted.

“The first is that of which alone he is directly aware in his normal ignorant being; he sees himself, the individual, separate apparently in its existence, yet always inseparable from the rest of being, striving to be sufficient, yet always insufficient to itself, since never has it been known to come into existence or to exist or to culminate in its existence apart from the rest, without their aid and independently of universal being and universal nature. Secondly, there is that which he knows only indirectly by his mind and bodily senses and its effects upon them, yet must strive always to know more and more completely: for he sees also this rest of being with which he is so closely identified and yet from which he is so separate,–the cosmos, world, Nature, other individual existences whom he perceives as always like himself and yet always unlike; for they are the same in nature even to the plant and the animal and yet different in nature. Each seems to go its own way, to be a separate being, and yet each is impelled by the same movement and follows in its own grade the same vast curve of evolution as himself. Finally, he sees or rather divines something else which he does not know at all except quite indirectly; for he knows it only through himself and that at which his being aims, through the world and that at which it seems to point and which it is either striving obscurely to reach and express by its imperfect figurse or, at least, founds them without knowing it on their secret relation to that invisible Reality and occult Infinite.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine, Book 2, Part 2, Chapter 17, The Progress to Knowledge–God, Man and Nature”

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