Utilizing Faith As a Tool for the Development of Conscious Evolution

If we intend to apply the methodology of the integral Yoga, which uses the higher forms of conscious awareness to master and control the lower, then it becomes necessary to recognize several things: first, that the existing habitual reactions of body, life and mind limit the growth and development of this higher consciousness and second, that the higher powers such as the reasoning intelligence, or the yet higher supramental or spiritual forces are able to effect changes in what are considered to be fixed habits of body, life and mind. Sri Aurobindo notes that, for instance, the seeker cannot initially distinguish between purely physical energy in the body and the action of the Prana, the universal life-force which expresses itself in the physical energy, but also in the more subtle forms of energy that activates our mind and higher vital functioning. Until we can actually see and experience the working of Prana, he calls for us to have faith as we focus, concentrate and extend our perceptive ability and thereby can eventually have the direct experience of its action.

Many people try to minimize the action of faith by opposing it to scientific evidence or principles, but it is not so straightforward a proposition. Sri Aurobindo reminds us that faith “…is only a will aiming at greater truths…”. As long as we remain locked within the habitual round of thought and effort, we cannot evolve toward a higher awareness. The necessary leverage to escape the bondage of the logic of the material life is an act of faith in something other or greater than what we currently can perceive and experience. This faith may inform the inferences drawn by the scientist every bit as much as the insight of the mystic or the vision of the leader in any form of action.

This brings us then to the discovery and experience of the Prana: “Most men are not conscious of this pranic force in the body or cannot distinguish it from the more physical form of energy which it informs and uses for its vehicle. But as the consciousness becomes more subtle by practice of Yoga, we can come to be aware of the sea of pranic Shakti around us, feel it with the mental consciousness, concretely with a mental sense, see its courses and movements, and direct and act upon it immediately by the will. But until we thus become aware of it, we have to possess a working or at least an experimental faith in its presence and in the power of the will to develop a greater command and use of this Prana force. There is necessary a faith, sraddha, in the power of the mind to lay its will on the state and action of the body, such as those have who heal disease by faith, will or mental action; but we must seek this control not only for this or any other limited use, but generally as a legitimate power of the inner and greater over the outer and lesser instrument. This faith is combated by our past habits of mind, by our actual normal experience of its comparative helplessness in our present imperfect system and by an opposing belief in the body and physical consciousness….But as we persist and find this power giving evidence of itself to our experience, the faith in the mind will be able to found itself more firmly and grow in vigour and the opposing faith in the body will change, admit what it first denied and only accept in its habits the new yoke but itself call for this higher action. Finally we shall realise the truth that this being we are is or can become whatever it has the faith and will to be,–…and cease to set limits to our possibility or deny the potential omnipotence of the Self in us, the divine Power working through the human instrument.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Part Four: The Yoga of Self-Perfection, Chapter 14, The Power of the Instruments, pp. 704-705