Faith Guides the Spiritual Development

There are those who oppose faith to science and try to create an artificial conflict between them. The argument goes, from the side of science, that faith has no basis in fact and therefore cannot be true or actual; while from the side of faith, science is too bound to a rigid factual reality that misses the greater sense and significance of life and all its manifestations.

Underlying this division however is a deeper reality in which both aspects are important and play their role. They are not so much opposites as complements. Knowledge, facts and science rule the world of the mind, and the viewpoint, seeing and action of the mental being in the world of life and matter. We build thereupon various edifices and create for ourselves laws of action, laws of ethics and morality, and laws of right action, which we call Dharma. This provides us a firm footing in life to overcome the wild, unruly impulsions of desire which is the first law of life before the evolution of the mental power.

Sri Aurobindo points out, however, that to pass beyond the limits and boundaries of the mental laws, and to act upon an impulse that is neither the expression of desire, nor the following of the dictates of the society’s framework of understanding, there is only one power that can provide the guidance, and that is the inner sense of “rightness”, of necessity, and this is guided by the faith within the individual that charts out a new path, a new direction, a new sense and meaning.

There is a danger in this approach, because as with everything else in this world, a man’s faith is ruled by the action of the Gunas. Sri Aurobindo explains: “If he is tamasic, obscure, clouded, if he has an ignorant faith and inapt will, he will reach nothing true and fall away to his lower nature. If he is lured by false rajasic lights, he can be carried away by self-will into bypaths that may lead to morass or precipice. In either case his only chance of salvation lies in a return of Sattwa upon him to impose a new enlightened order and rule upon his members which will liberate him from the violent error of his self-will or the dull error of his clouded ignorance. If, on the other hand, he has the sattwic nature and a sattwic faith and direction for his steps, he will arrive in sight of a higher yet unachieved ideal rule which may lead him even in rare instances beyond the sattwic light some way at least towards a high divine illumination and divine way of being and living.”

“In all effort at self-finding these possibilities are there; they are the conditions of this spiritual adventure.”

Sri Aurobindo, Essays on the Gita, Second Series, Part II, Chapter 18, The Gunas, Faith and Works, pp. 464-465