The Revolt of Reason from the Stagnation of the Age of Convention

Transitions from one age to another take place over time;  As an age matures it tends to ossify and lose touch with the underlying living truth that gave birth to it.  The conventional age suffers from this process to such a degree that eventually individuals begin to question the established order of things in all fields of human endeavour and their questioning process begins the inevitable transition to the age of individualism, where truth must be rediscovered and reestablished on a living foundation.

Sri Aurobindo observes:  “The dawn of individualism is always a questioning, a denial.  the individual finds a religion imposed upon him which does not base its dogma and practice upon a living sense of ever verifiable spiritual Truth, but on the letter of an ancient book, the infallible dictum of a Pope, the tradition of a Church, the learned casuistry of schoolmen and Pundits, conclaves of ecclesiastics, heads of monastic orders, doctors of all sorts, all of them unquestionable tribunals whose sole function is to judge and pronounce, but none of whom seems to think it necessary or even allowable to search, test, prove, inquire, discover.  He finds that, as is inevitable under such a regime, true science and knowledge are either banned, punished and persecuted or else rendered obsolete by the habit of blind reliance on fixed authorities; even what is true in old authorities is no longer of any value, because its words are learnedly or ignorantly repeated but its real sense is no longer lived except at most by a few.  In politics he finds everywhere divine rights, established privileges, sanctified tyrannies which are evidently armed with an oppressive power and justify themselves by long prescription, but seem to have no real claim or title to exist.  In the social order he finds an equally stereotyped reign of convention, fixed disabilities, fixed privileges, the self-regarding arrogance of the high, the blind prostration of the low, while the old functions which might have justified at one time such a distribution of status are either not performed at all or badly performed without any sense of obligation and merely as a part of caste pride.  He has to rise in revolt; on every claim of authority he has to turn the eye of a resolution inquisition; when he is told that this is the sacred truth of things or the command of God or the immemorial order of human life, he has to reply, ‘But is it really so?  How shall I know that this is the truth of things and not superstition and falsehood?  When did God command it, or how do I know that this was the sense of His command and not your error or invention, or that the book on which you found yourself is His word at all, or that He has ever spoken His will to mankind?”

“The champions of the old order may be right when they seek to suppress him as a destructive agency perilous to social security, political order or religious tradition; but he stands there and can no other, because to destroy is his mission, to destroy falsehood and lay bare a new foundation of truth.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Human Cycle: The Psychology of Social Development, Chapter 2, the Age of Individualism and Reason, pp. 16-17

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