Materialist Critique of Spirituality and Mysticism

The current prevalent viewpoint held by materialists holds that religion and mysticism are more or less a waste of human energy and potential because they divert useful focus and energy from the “only thing real” which in their minds is the physical world. Psychoanalysts hold that the spiritual urge in mankind is a type of sublimated sexual energy, frustrated from its normal expression, bottled up and repackaged so to speak, but having no ultimate reality beyond that. Modern day scientists are now trying to describe the entire existence of the universe as occuring without any Creator, as a result of “nothingness” which in their view is unstable. Scientists such as Stephen Hawking (in his latest book The Grand Design), indicates that the balance of positive and negative energy in the universe virtually balances out to “zero”, making “nothingness” the underlying cause of existence. From this viewpoint, then, the materialists question whether there is any ultimate value or benefit to the practice of religion or mysticism. Is the evolution of the saint, seer, sage, spiritual warrior or mystic of any ultimate “benefit”? “In this epoch religion was pushed aside as an out-of-date superstition and spiritual realisation and experience discredited as a shadowy mysticism; the mystic in this view is the man who turns aside into the unreal, into occult regions of a self-constructed land of chimeras and loses his way there. This judgment proceeds from a view of things which is itself bound to pass into discredit, because it depends ultimately on the false perception of the material as alone real and the outward life as alone of importance.” A second critique is that all of the spiritual focus has yielded very little benefit or result. “it has not solved the problem of life nor any of the problems with which humanity is at grips. The mystic either detaches himself from life as the other-worldly ascetic or the aloof visionary and therefore cannot help life, or else he brings no better solution or result than the practical man or the man of intellect and reason: by his intervention he rather disturbs the human values, distorts them with his alien and unverifiable light obscure to the human understanding and confuses the plain practical and vital issues life puts before us.”

We shall take up the response to this critique in subsequent posts.

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