The Knowledge That Divides and the Knowledge That Unites

It is a central characteristic of the mental consciousness that it tends to analyze, divide and fragment into parts. This is due to the need for a practical application in the life of the world, and the exclusive concentration thus made possible allows understanding and progress. At the same time, the knowledge so generated is always partial and limited. This characteristic has been applied in the traditional Yoga of knowledge whereby different aspects of consciousness are viewed separately and essentially independently of one another. The distinctions served a practical purpose to also advise the seeker in that path that these were all limited applications and that the real and true knowledge came about through abandoning these lesser forms and focusing on the One, Absolute, that exists beyond all these names, forms and circumstances and does not have any interaction with them.

To be sure, the traditional Yoga of knowledge acknowledged the ultimate unity. Sri Aurobindo explains: “The old ascetic Path of Knowledge admitted the unity of things and the concentration on all these aspects of the one Existence, but it made a distinction and a hierarchy. The Self that becomes all these forms of thing is the Virat or universal Soul; the Self that creates all these forms is Hiranyagarbha, the luminous or creatively perceptive Soul; the Self that contains all these things involved in it is Prajna, the conscious Cause or originally determining Soul; beyond all these is the Absolute who permits all this unreality, but has no dealings with it. Into That we must withdraw and have no farther dealings with the universe, since Knowledge means the final Knowledge, and therefore these lesser realisations must fall away from us or be lost in That.”

As Sri Aurobindo observes, however, this is essentially an artificial set of distinctions that create an illusion of separation, but cannot ultimately overcome the Unity of All. “Our view of the world insists on unity; the universal Self is not different from the perceptive and creative, nor the perceptive from the causal, nor the causal from the Absolute, but it is one ‘Self-being which has become all becomings.’ and which is not any other than the Lord who manifests Himself as all these individual existences nor the Lord any other than the sole-existing Brahman who verily is all this that we can see, sense, live or mentalise. That Self, Lord, Brahman we would know that we may realise our unity with it and with all that it manifests and in that unity we would live. For we demand of knowledge that it shall unite; the knowledge that divides must always be a partial knowing good for certain practical purposes; the knowledge that unites is the knowledge.”

The unifying knowledge comes from attaining the divine standpoint in consciousness, and from that standpoint, all the distinctions, mental separations, and exclusive knowings that abound in the human standpoint founded on the mental processes, are brought to a state of Oneness. They all become aspects or views that nevertheless are part of one comprehensive unified field.

Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Part Two: The Yoga of Integral Knowledge, Chapter 6, The Synthesis of the Disciplines of Knowledge, pp. 325-326