Putting the Reason to Work in the Service of the Vital and Physical Life

Many are those who lower their sights with respect to the employment of the Reason, the Intelligent Will, so as to utilize it as a practical tool or aid in the service of the enhancement of the vital and physical life in the world.   For these individuals, the reason becomes a power of action and the more tightly focused it is on the vital life, the more power of success in can generate in that field of action.  Not for these people are the higher flights of the powers of the mind into the realm of philosophy, metaphysics or spirituality.  They remain firmly grounded and keep the reason chained to their grounded efforts.  This is however not the ultimate destiny of mankind.

Sri Aurobindo observes:  “Reason can indeed make itself a mere servant of life; it can limit itself to the work the average normal man demands from it, content to furnish means and justifications for the interests, passions, prejudices of man and clothe them with a misleading garb of rationality or at most supply them with their own secure and enlightened order or with rules of caution and self-restraint sufficient to prevent their more egregious stumbles and most unpleasant consequences.  But this is obviously to abdicate its throne or its highest office and to betray the hope with which man set forth on his journey.  It may again determine to found itself securely on the facts of life, disinterestedly indeed, that is to say, with a dispassionate critical observation of its principles and processes, but with a prudent resolve not to venture too much forward into the unknown or elevate itself far beyond the immediate realities of our apparent or phenomenal existence.  But here again it abdicates; either it becomes a mere critic and observer or else, so far as it tries to lay down laws, it does so within very narrow limits of immediate potentiality and it renounces man’s drift towards higher possibilities, his saving gift of idealism.  In this limited use of the reason subjected to the rule of an immediate, an apparent vital and physical practicality man cannot rest long satisfied.  For his nature pushes him towards the heights; it demands a constant effort of self-transcendence and the impulsion towards things unachieved and even immediately impossible.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Human Cycle: The Psychology of Social Development, Chapter 11,  The Reason as Governor of Life, pp. 110-111