Are There Greater Powers Than Reason?

Through the evolution of humanity, various powers have asserted themselves as the leaders of human life and human progress.  At a certain stage, the vital force asserts that “might makes right” and thus, brute force trumps the power of reason as the arbiter of human affairs.  In the further development, the aesthetic sense, the moral sense, the religious faith, all claim ascendancy and attempt to set themselves up as alternatives to the rule of reason.  The poet John Keats famously wrote, for instance, “Beauty is truth, truth beauty, —that is all Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know”, clearly a call to the leading role for the aesthetic powers as opposed to the preeminence of reason.  Similarly, religion makes a call to faith to recognize truths that the reason cannot and does not grasp nor understand.  Even those who have grown under the banner of reason, the scientists and philosophers, have begun to question whether the power of reason can actually comprehend truths of reality that exist far outside the realm of reason, and we see arise lines of exploration such as quantum mechanics, chaos theory and the attempts, through processes of yoga and meditation to exceed the limits of the reason and move to the next higher evolutionary stage where new powers of consciousness become naturally active.  The Isha Upanishad and the Taittiriya Upanishad show us for instance that ancient Rishis in India were well aware of the higher levels of conscious awareness and they placed the reason in the middle, not at the top of the range.

Sri Aurobindo notes:  “…there has been a very noticeable revolt of the human mind against this sovereignty of the intellect, a dissatisfaction, as we might say, of the reason with itself and its own limitations and an inclination to give greater freedom and a larger importance to other powers of our nature.  The sovereignty of the reason in man has been always indeed imperfect, in fact, a troubled, struggling, resisted and often defeated rule; but still it has been recognised by the best intelligence of the race as the authority and law-giver.  Its only widely acknowledge rival has been faith.  Religion alone has been strongly successful in its claim that reason must be silent before it or at least that there are fields to which it cannot extend itself and where faith alone ought to be heard; but for a time even Religion has had to forego or abate its absolute pretension and to submit to the sovereignty of the intellect.  Life, imagination, emotion, the ethical and the aesthetic need have often claimed to exist for their own sake and to follow their own bent, practically they have often enforced their claim, but they have still been obliged in general to work under the inquisition and partial control of reason and to refer to it as arbiter and judge.  Now, however, the thinking mind of the race has become more disposed to question itself and to ask whether existence is not too large, profound, complex and mysterious a thing to be entirely seized and governed by the powers of the intellect.  Vaguely it is felt that there is some greater godhead than the reason.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Human Cycle: The Psychology of Social Development, Chapter 11,  The Reason as Governor of Life, pg. 105