The Beginning Signs of a Transition from the Age of Reason to a Subjective Age

Just as the Age of Reason began as a revolt from and a correction for the conventional age that preceded it, at a certain point in the last century, it became clear to more and more people that the reliance on intellectual efforts and the attempt to organize life based on principles of scientific efficiency or economic systems were not sufficient nor entirely satisfying.  Philosophers, psychologists and thinkers came along espousing concepts of getting in touch with ones deeper vital nature, which was aligned with Nature, and restoring a dynamism to a life otherwise regimented and controlled by a dogmatic adherence to “sound principles of economics”.  Charles Dickens, in his book Hard Times explored the weaknesses of the intellectual control of the education and life activities of people and opened up the concept that there was a life-energy, that had passion, emotion and vitality that must be cultivated to bring about a more true life.  Philosophers such as Nietzsche and Bergson asked us to get in touch with this deeper vitality.  C G. Jung pioneered advances in the field of psychology to try to contact and utilize deeper vital forces in the being that exercised power over the surface life and the intellectual reactions.  Many explored avenues to free the mind from the control of the strict reasoning intelligence and find new powers to guide and invigorate the life.  Some went in the direction of mysticism, others in the direction of various drug experiences, some chose religious disciplines, meditation or vision quests.  All of this represents a move away from the age of intellectual individualism toward a more inward, subjective period of discovering or rediscovering either the roots of life, or the relation of the individual to the evolutionary process of Nature.

Sri Aurobindo observes:  “…their emergence and greater dominance means the transition from the rationalistic and utilitarian period of human development which individualism has created to a greater subjective age of society.  The change began by a rapid turning of the current of thought into large and profound movements contradictory of the old intellectual standards, a swift breaking of the old tables. ”

“These tendencies of thought, … were not a mere superficial recoil from intellectualism to life and action, — although in their application by lesser minds they often assumed that aspect; they were an attempt to read profoundly and live by the Life-Soul of the universe and tended to be deeply psychological and subjective in their method.  From behind them, arising in the void created by the discrediting of the old rationalistic intellectualism, there had begun to arise a new Intuitionalism, not yet clearly aware of its own drive and nature, which seeks through the forms and powers of Life for that which is behind Life and sometimes even lays as yet uncertain hands on the sealed doors of the Spirit.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Human Cycle: The Psychology of Social Development, Chapter 3, The Coming of the Subjective Age, pp. 29-30

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