Transforming Constitutional Ignorance Into True & Effective Knowledge

Sri Aurobindo describes the higher ranges of consciousness available to humanity as we evolve beyond the limitations of the physical and the vital planes; and he points out that a mental formulation for life is not the end and goal. “for mind itself is not enough; even its largest play of intelligence creates only a qualified half-light. A surface mental knowledge of the physical universe is a still more imperfect guide; for the thinking animal it might be enough, but not for a race of mental beings in labour of a spiritual evolution. Even the truth of physical things cannot be entirely known, nor can the right use of our material existence be discovered by physical Science and an outward knowledge alone or made possible by the mastery of physical and mechanical processes alone: to know, to use rightly we must go beyond the truth of physical phenomenon and process, we must know what is within and behind it. For we are not merely embodied minds; there is a spiritual being, a spiritual principle, a spiritual plane of Nature. Into that we have to heighten our force of consciousness, to widen by that still more largely, even universally and infinitely, our range of being and our field of action, to take up by that our lower life and use it for greater ends and on a larger plan, in the light of the spiritual truth of existence. Our labour of mind and struggle of life cannot come to any solution until we have gone beyond the obsessing lead of an inferior Nature, integralised our natural being in the being and consciousness, learned to utilize our natural instruments by the force and for the joy of the Spirit. Then only can the constitutional ignorance, the ignorance of the real build of our existence from which we suffer, change into a true and effective knowledge of our being and becoming.”

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

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Consequences of Failure to Develop Mental / Spiritual Standpoint for Human Life

In the prior post we discussed the need to establish, as the basis for a truly human life, the mental standpoint and focus as the centerpiece. This also provides a platform for the eventual evolutionary growth beyond the mental live and the consequent spiritualisation of life.

Various civilisations and cultures throughout human history have been inspired by this opportunity. Sri Aurobindo specifically points out the classical Greek culture as an example of such an attempt.

In each case in the past, the focus waned and the effort fell back as it was beyond the then current capabilities of the larger mass of humanity to sustain such an intensive effort. “In later times this perception was lost and, when it came back, it returned much diminished, mixed with more turbid elements: the perturbation of a spiritual ideal imperfectly grasped by the understanding and not at all realised in the life’s practice but present with its positive and negative mental and moral influences, and over against it the pressure of a dominant, an inordinate vital urge which could not get its free self-satisfied movement, stood in the way of the sovereignty of the mind and the harmony of life, its realised beauty and balance. An opening to higher ideals, a greater range of life was gained, but the elements of a new idealism were only cast into its action as an influence, could ont dominate and transform it and, finally, the spiritual endeavor, thus ill-understood and unrealised, was thrown aside: its moral effects remained, but, deprived of the sustaining spiritual element, dwindled towards ineffectivity; the vital urge, assisted by an immense development of physical intelligence, became the preoccupation of the race. An imposing increase of a certain kind of knowledge and efficiency was the first result; the most recent outcome has been a perilous spiritual ill-health and a vast disorder.”

We see this spiritual ill-health and disorder all around us in the world today. We have developed knowledge of the intricate atomic details of matter and biological processes of life, and, having lost our balance through the drive for self-aggrandisement and power, we try to effect change with these ill-understood tools and thereby drive the world and our civilisation totally out of all proportion and balance. We are left with massive unintended consequences and imbalanced ecological and social systems that have us all on the brink of massive species die off and potentially planetary desolution and extinction. It is therefore essential that we tackle the necessary changes to establish the spiritual foundation of existence if we are going to survive the current crisis.
Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine, Book 2, Part 2, Chapter 19, “Out of the Sevenfold Ignorance towards the Sevenfold Knowledge.”