The Limitations of the Faculty of Intuitive Reason of the Mind

Sri Aurobindo has already made a distinction between the true Intuition of the gnostic level of consciousness, and what is frequently mistaken for it in the intuitive action of the mind. He proceeds to identify specific limitations and failures of the intuitive reason so that the seeker can understand the difference and avoid falling into the trap of mistaking a false gleam for the true illumination.

Even at the vital level we can see specific types of actions which we call “instinct” that speak to an instantaneous knowledge possessed by that animal for a very limited specific purpose. This highlights one of the primary weaknesses that the intuitive reason also suffers from, which is that it is narrowly focused and restricted to a specific circumstance. The true intuition provides a comprehensive and embracing understanding, not just a pinpoint of light.

“The very character of the intuitive mind sets a gulf of great difference between its action and the action of the self-contained gnosis. In the first place it acts by separate and limited illuminations and its truth is restricted to the often narrow reach or the one brief spot of knowledge lit up by that one lightning-flash with which its intervention begins and terminates.”

“The higher mental intuition of the human being is an inner visional, not a sense intuition; for it illumines the intelligence and not sense-mind, it is self-conscious and luminous, not a half subconscious blind light: it is freely self-acting, not mechanically automatic. But still, even when it is not marred by the imitative pseudo-intuition, it is restricted in man like the instinct in the animal, restricted to a particular purpose of will or knowledge–as is the instinct to a particular life utility or Nature purpose. And when the intelligence, as is its almost invariable habit, tries to make use of it, to apply it, to add to it, it builds round the intuitive nucleus in its own characteristic fashion a mass of mixed truth and error. More often than not, by foisting an element of sense-error and conceptual error into the very substance of the intuition or by coating it up in mental additions and deviations, it not merely deflects but deforms its truth and converts it into a falsehood.”

These limitations make it difficult to give much ultimate weight to the faculty of the intuitive mind: “At the best therefore the intuition gives us only a limited, though an intense light; at the worst, through our misuse of it or false imitations of it, it may lead us into perplexities and confusions which the less ambitious intellectual reason avoids by remaining satisfied with its own safe and plodding method,–safe for the inferior purposes of the rason, though never a satisfying guide to the inner truth of things.”

Sri Aurobindo is pointing us to a new standpoint of consciousness in the Vijnana, the Gnosis, which has the illumination, the breadth and the certainty that the reflected action in the mind is missing.

Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Part Two: The Yoga of Integral Knowledge, Chapter 22, Vijnana or Gnosis, pp. 460-461


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