In the modern world, the concept of faith has been generally stigmatised by those who believe in science and rationality, and this is one of the major points of division between religion which has embraced faith, and science which has denied it. This division, however, is rooted in limited mental conceptions of faith, and a narrow view of faith that conflates spiritual intuition and the corresponding faith that arises therefrom with strict adherence to a specific religious teaching or dogma, even when it appears to fly in the face of reason.
Sri Aurobindo redefines and repositions the concept of faith. Faith is based on the knowledge of the soul that, naturally, exceeds the bounds of the mental consciousness, yet represents a truth that is both potential and representative of a future reality for the soul. Faith is the power that allows the self-exceeding of the body-life-mind that is required to achieve any evolutionary or spiritual result. Faith, in this context, represents the ability to envision and strive for something that is not yet manifest, because the soul recognizes the deeper truth that is waiting to be born.
As Sri Aurobindo observes: “The perfect faith is an assent of the whole being to the truth seen by it or offered to its acceptance, and its central working is a faith of the soul in its own will to be and attain and become and its idea of self and things and its knowledge, of which the belief of the intellect, the heart’s consent and the desire of the life mind to possess and realise are the outward figures. This soul faith, in some form of itself, is indispensable to the action of the being and without it man cannot move a single pace in life, much less take any step forward to a yet unrealised perfection. It is so central and essential a thing that the Gita can justly say of it that whatever is a man’s sraddha, that he is…and, it may be added, whatever he has the faith to see as possible in himself and strive for, that he can create and become.”
This understanding even illustrates the essential nature of faith in the fields of science, where the ideas of air travel, space travel, wireless communication, etc. all came about because someone envisioned something that did not yet exist in the material world and was willing and able to devote time, energy and insight into making it a reality for the future.
Given the nature of the task confronting the seeker in the integral Yoga, the faith must be unwavering and complete: “There is one kind of faith demanded as indispensable by the integral Yoga and that may be described as faith in God and the Shakti, faith in the presence and power of the Divine in us and the world, a faith that all in the world is the working of one divine Shakti, that all the steps of the Yoga, its strivings and sufferings and failures as well as its successes and satisfactions and victories are utilities and necessities of her workings and that by a firm and strong dependence on and a total self-surrender to the Divine and to his Shakti in us we can attain to oneness and freedom and victory and perfection.”
Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Part Four: The Yoga of Self-Perfection, Chapter 18, Faith and Shakti, pg. 743