The Human Effort to Understand and See the Past and the Future and Its Limitations

While we live our lives very much from moment to moment, there remains still a strong impulsion or aspiration to both understand the past, and to see or understand what lies in the future.  This impulsion has its hidden springs in the evolutionary movement of consciousness, but while we remain locked into the physical mind and the senses, the ability to actually accomplish either knowledge of the past or insight into the future is constrained by the actual tools and instruments available to our mental nature.

Sri Aurobindo describes this effort:  “His first aid is that of the reason proceeding forward from cause to effect and backward from effect to cause, discovering the law of energies and their assured mechanic process, assuming the perpetual sameness of the movements of Nature, fixing her time measures and thus calculating on the basis of a science of general lines and assured results the past and the future.  A certain measure of limited but sufficiently striking success has been gained by this method in the province of physical Nature and it might seem that the same process might eventually be applied to the movements of mind and life and that at any rate this alone is man’s one reliable means in any field of looking with precision back and forwards.  But as a matter of fact, the happenings of vital and still more of mental nature escape to a very great degree the means of inference and calculation from assured law that apply in the field of physical knowledge: it can apply there only to a limited range of regularised happenings and phenomena and for the rest leaves us where we were amid a mixed mass of relative certainties, uncertain probabilities and incalculable possibilities.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Part Four: The Yoga of Self-Perfection, Chapter 25, Towards the Supramental Time Vision , pp. 858-859

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