Proof, Moral Certitude and Reason

Before reviewing the theory of rebirth through the lens of our reasoning faculty, Sri Aurobindo first takes up the very question of the limitations of the reasoning faculty itself to establish the proof of anything. “After all, most of the things that we accept as truths are really no more than moral certitudes.”

He goes on to illustrate that over time, we have propounded various explanations for the astronomical events we see, each one of which was accepted as the “truth” (to the point where it became punishable by torture and death to contradict that truth during the time of the Holy Inquisition), only to later give way to a new explanation that became the new “truth” for some period of time. The Newtonian universe has subsequently been superseded by the premises of quantum physics and today the concept of the truth of the universe is far different than it was just 100 years ago.

Sri Aurobindo discusses these issues: “This is the ever-perplexing and inherent plague of our reason; for it starts by knowing nothing and has to deal with infinite possibilities, and the possible explanations of any given set of facts until we actually know what is behind them, are endless. In the end, we really know only what we observe and even that subject to a haunting question, for instance, that green is green and white is white, although it appears that colour is not colour but something else that creates the appearance of colour. Beyond observable fact we must be content with reasonable logical satisfaction, dominating probability and moral certitude,–at least until we have the sense to observe that there are faculties in us higher than the sense-dependent reason and awaiting development by which we can arrive at greater certainties.”

It is useful to explore the limitations of the reasoning faculty before we dive into the question of rebirth, because the very facts we need to review in regarding rebirth go beyond the realm of proof within the limits of the reason. We may be able to approach moral certitude, as we have done in other fields of review, but proof would have to await the action of higher and deeper faculties of knowledge.

Sri Aurobindo,