Understanding the Constitutional Ignorance That Limits Our Knowledge

“This evolution, this process of heightening and widening and integralisation, is in its nature a growth and an ascent out of the sevenfold ignorance into the integral knowledge. The crux of that ignorance is the constitutional; it resolves itself into a manifold ignorance of the true character of our becoming, an unawareness of our total self, of which the key is a limitation by the plane we inhabit and by the present predominant principle of our nature. The plane we inhabit is the plane of Matter; the present predominant principle in our nature is the mental intelligence with the sense-mind, which depends upon Matter, as its support and pedestal. As a consequence, the preoccupation of the mental intelligence and its powers with the material existence as it is shown to it through the senses, and with life as it has been formulated in a compromise between life and matter, is a special stamp of the constitutional Ignorance.”

Sri Aurobindo describes here the fundamental character of the constitutional Ignorance, the first of seven forms of Ignorance that limit our self-expression and our knowledge. “the attempt to grow out of this limitation of the wholeness, power and truth of the spirit by the materialised mental intelligence and out of this subjection of the soul to material Nature is the first step towards a real progress of our humanity.” This Ignorance is more of a limitation than a complete darkness. Thus it tends to provide a partial image, to falsify through these artificial limits, and to divide us from a comprehensive view of the reality of our existence. “out of that limitation and falsification we have to grow into the truth of our spiritual being.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine, Book 2, Part 2, Chapter 19, “Out of the Sevenfold Ignorance towards the Sevenfold Knowledge.”

2 thoughts on “Understanding the Constitutional Ignorance That Limits Our Knowledge

    • an example would be our failure to realise in any real sense the Oneness of our being with other life. In our mental-physical individuality we tend to think of ourselves as separate from the rest of Nature, but fail to recognize that our entire life is symbiotic to the rest of Nature. Without plants, for instance, which produce oxygen which we require to breathe and live, we could not exist; and conversely, without the carbon dioxide which we excrete into the atmosphere, the plants could not live. This means that our true being is larger and unified compared to our normal view of ourselves, and constitutes an ignorance of our true nature.


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