The Ideal of a True Culture and Beginning of an Accomplished Humanity

The development of the practical intelligence that can respond to impressions and can carry out the conventional patterns of the society is an intermediate step through which humanity passes as it develops beyond the instinctive behavior of the animal and begins to flex the mental capacities of which it is eventually capable.  The mind so organized is hemmed in on all sides and does not have a truly free and open intellectual activity.  Opinion, custom, prejudice, convention all act to circumscribe the intelligence within a narrow range.  Sri Aurobindo likens this to an imprisonment and asserts that this is just a stage which must eventually be overcome to achieve the true and destined realizations of a liberated humanity:

“In the range of the mind’s life itself, to live in its merely practical and dynamic activity or in the mentalised emotional or sensational current, a life of conventional conduct, average feelings, customary ideas, opinions and prejudices which are not one’s own but those of the environment, to have no free and open play of mind, but to live grossly and unthinkingly by the unintelligent rule of the many, to live besides according to the senses and sensations controlled by certain conventions, but neither purified nor enlightened nor chastened by any law of beauty, — all this too is contrary to the ideal of culture.  A man may so live with all the appearance or all the pretensions of a civilised existence, enjoy successfully all the plethora of its appurtenances, but he is not in the real sense a developed human being.  A society following such a rule of life may be anything else you will, vigorous, decent, well-ordered, successful, religious, moral; but it is a Philistine society; it is a prison which the human soul has to break.”

“Not to live principally in the activities of the sense-mind, but in the activities of knowledge and reason and a wide intellectual curiosity, the activities of the cultivated aesthetic being, the activities of the enlightened will which make for character and high ethical ideals and a large human action, not to be governed by our lower or our average mentality but by truth and beauty and the self-ruling will is the ideal of a true culture and the beginning of an accomplished humanity.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Human Cycle: The Psychology of Social Development, Chapter 10, Aesthetic and Ethical Culture, pp. 93-94

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