The Role of the Intellect in Spiritual Evolution

When we enter upon the spiritual path, we begin to understand that the reasoning intellect cannot provide the experience of the Truths of our existence. We begin to search for ways to abandon the intellect, to rely more on intuition, inspiration, or various ecstatic emotional states that provide substantially more internal satisfaction than the apparently dry effort of the intellect. Yet the intellect is a signature capacity of the human being, and, eventually, to deny it is to deny who and what we are, and thereby to limit what we can become. Sri Aurobindo therefore points out that the intellect, in fact, has a real and substantial role to play in our spiritual evolutionary journey in life.

“in any total advance or evolution of the Spirit, not only the intuition, insight, inner sense, the heart’s devotion, a deep and direct life-experience of the things of the Spirit have to be developed, but the intellect also must be enlightened and satisfied; our thinking and reflecting mind must be helped to understand, to form a reasoned and systematised idea of the goal, the method, the principles of this highest development and activity of our nature and the truth of all that lies behind it. Spiritual realisation and experience, an intuitive and direct knowledge, a growth of inner consciousness, a growth of the soul and of an intimate soul-perception, soul-vision and a soul-sense, are indeed the proper means of this evolution: but the support of the reflective and critical reason is also of great importance; if many can dispense with it, because they have a vivid and direct contact with inner realities and are satisfied with experience and insight, yet in the whole movement it is indispensable. If the supreme truth is a spiritual Reality, then the intellect of man needs to know what is the nature of that original Truth and the principle of its relations to the rest of existence, to ourselves and the universe. The intellect is not capable by itself of bringing us into touch with the concrete spiritual reality, but it can help by a mental formulation of the truth of the Spirit which explains it to the mind and can be applied even in the more direct seeking: this help is of a capital importance.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine, Book 2, Part 2, Chapter 24, “The Evolution of the Spiritual Man”

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Occult Science

We see Western scientists coming to the extreme limits of their possibilities in regard to understanding physical phenomena, and automatically beginning to recognise that the next step is the exploration of the forces of Life, Mind and Consciousness in general. When Einstein created his famous E=Mc2 formula, he was pointing out that Matter was actually a form of Energy. During the intervening years, scientists have followed up with research into the psychic and the paranormal, some of which exploded myths or superstitions, but some of which has begun to yield serious results in various ways. The use of hypnotism for management of pain is one small sign. The understanding of the benefit of “placebo” drugs is another instance of Mind affecting Matter. Cases where a mother lifts a car to free a trapped child, far beyond her normal physical capacities, shows that there remain areas of research that can fruitfully be carried out.

Sri Aurobindo discusses the question of the role of occultism: “Occultism is associated in popular idea with magic and magical formulae and a supposed mechanism of the supernatural. But this is only one side, nor is it altogether a superstition as is vainly imagined by those who have not looked deeply or at all at this covert side of secret Nature-Force or experimented with its possibilities.”

He describes the direction that occult science should take: “…the true foundation, the true aim and direction, the necessary restrictinos and precautions of this line of inquiry have to be rediscovered; its most important aim must be the discovery of the hidden truths and powers of the mind-force and the life-power and the greater forces of the concealed spirit. Occult science is, essentially, the science of the subliminal, the subliminal in ourselves and the subliminal in world-nature, and of all that is in connection with the subliminal, including the subconscient and the superconscient, and the use of it as part of self-knowledge and world-knowledge and for the right dynamisation of that knowledge.”

Modern scientists are moving in this direction with their study of Quantum Physics, the advancement of the psychological sciences, behavior sciences and the admission that is developing that just as Matter is a form of Energy, so Energy is a form of Consciousness. The implications of this revelation in the field of science are sure to open the doors of occult science as the next frontier of knowledge to be fully explored.
Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine, Book 2, Part 2, Chapter 24, “The Evolution of the Spiritual Man”