The Mind’s Processes and Limitations

The human being relies heavily on the powers of the mind to both try to understand and master his existence in the world. The mental process, in accumulating information and sorting it, then tries to organize it and build logical inferences upon what it has collected and organized. There are some serious limitations at each step of the way, as Sri Aurobindo describes:

“It makes discovery after discovery, gets idea after idea, adds experience to experience and experiment to experiment,–but losing and rejecting and forgetting and having to recover much as it proceeds,–and it tries to establish a relation between all that it knows by setting up logical and other sequences, a series of principles and their dependences, generalisations and their application, and makes out of its devices a structure in which mentally it can live, move and act and enjoy and labour. This mental knowledge is always limited in extent: not only so, but in addition the mind even sets up other willed barriers, admitting by the mental device of opinion certain parts and sides of truth and excluding all the rest, because if it gave free admission and play to all ideas, if it suffered truth’s infinities, it would lose itself in an unreconciled variety, an undetermined immensity and would be unable to act and proceed to practical consequences and an effective creation. And even when it is widest and most complete, mental knowing is still an indirect knowledge, a knowledge not of the thing in itself but of its figures, a system of representations, a scheme of indices,–except indeed when in certain movements it goes beyond itself, beyond the mental idea to spiritual identity, but it finds it extremely difficult to go here beyond a few isolated and intense spiritual realisations or to draw or work out or organize the right practical consequences of these rare identities of knowledge.”

As long as the human being relies on the mind of acquiring and holding knowledge, there will be limits and the knowledge will be partial and subject to being both transitory and incomplete.

Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Part Four: The Yoga of Self-Perfection, Chapter 19, The Nature of the Supermind, pp. 760-761