The Role of Faith In the Spiritual Quest

There is an ongoing debate about whether faith is a help or a hindrance in terms of seeking for knowledge. Clearly, in the outer world, where factual knowledge and practical procedure are pre-eminent, and where the mental processes are operative as the primary mode of acquisition of knowledge, it is important to be open-minded and view the information and conclusions reached with a degree of healthy skepticism.

When we come, however, to the higher realm of knowledge, an area where the intellectual process cannot effectively operate, and where the logical, linear process of the mind cannot grasp the completeness or intensity of the experience of that higher truth, we find that skepticism founded in the mental realm is not only quite useless, but counter-productive.

Sri Aurobindo discusses the role of faith: “Finally, we must have a faith that no intellectual doubt can be allowed to disturb…” “In fact, it is true that without faith nothing decisive can be achieved either in this world or for possession of the world above, and that it is only by laying hold of some sure basis and positive support that man can attain any measure of terrestrial or celestial success and satisfaction and happiness; the merely sceptical mind loses itself in the void.”

“In intellectual knowledge there is always a mixture of falsehood or incompleteness which has to be got rid of by subjecting the truth itself to sceptical inquiry; but in the higher knowledge falsehood cannot enter and that which intellect contributes by attaching itself to this or that opinion, cannot be got rid of by mere questioning, but will fall away of itself by persistence in realisation.”

“And what is not yet realised must be prepared for by faith, not by sceptical questioning, because this truth is one which the intellect cannot give and which is indeed often quite opposed to the ideas in which the reasoning and logical mind gets entangled: it is not a truth which has to be proved, but a truth which has to be lived inwardly, a greater reality into which we have to grow.”

For the spiritual path, faith represents an intuition of that greater realisation waiting to manifest.

Sri Aurobindo, Essays on the Gita, First Series, Chapter 20, Equality and Knowledge, pp. 195-196