The unique position held by the intellectual reason in the evolutionary process is defined by its ability to not only focus on and impact the outer life of the vital and physical nature, but to also refocus its attention on higher principles and ideals which it can receive from a plane of awareness above its own capacities and position in the evolutionary development. The intellect in this case acts something like a “step-down transformer” which takes the insight and power of the higher awareness and turns it into intellectual insights which are capable of then being translated, albeit imperfectly, into the ideals, ideas, forces and specific lines of action which bring about action and change in the outer world of life. This function allows those higher principles to begin to permeate and influence life in an indirect manner, raising up the possibilities and bringing before the awareness ideals and principles that otherwise are not part of the daily experience of the vital world.
Sri Aurobindo notes: “It has also an upward and inward eye and a more luminous functioning by which it accepts divinations from the hidden eternities. It is opened in this power of vision to a Truth above it from which it derives, however, imperfectly and as from behind a veil, an indirect knowledge of the universal principles of our existence and its possibilities; it receives and turns what it can seize of them into intellectual forms and these provide us with large governing ideas by which our efforts can be shaped and around which they can be concentrated or massed; it defines the ideals which we seek to accomplish.”
“Only the forms we give these ideas are intellectual; they themselves descend from a plane of truth of being where knowledge and force are one, the idea and the power of self-fulfilment in the idea are inseparable. Unfortunately, when translated into the forms of our intelligence which acts only by a separating and combining analysis and synthesis and into the effort of our life which advances by a sort of experimental and empirical seeking, these powers become disparate and conflicting ideals which we have all the difficulty in the world to bring into any kind of satisfactory harmony. Such are the primary principles of liberty and order, good, beauty and truth, the ideal of power and the ideal of love, individualism and collectivism, self-denial and self-fulfilment and a hundred others. In each sphere of human life, in each part of our being and our action the intellect presents us with the opposition of a number of such master ideas and such conflicting principles. It finds each to be a truth to which something essential in our being responds, — in our higher nature a law, in our lower nature an instinct. It seeks to fulfil each in turn, builds a system of action round it and goes from one to the other and back again to what it has left. Or it tries to combine them but is contented with none of the combinations it has made because none brings about their perfect reconciliation of their satisfied oneness. That indeed belongs to a larger and higher consciousness, not yet attained by mankind, where these opposites are ever harmonised and even unified because in their origin they are eternally one. But still every enlarged attempt of the intelligence thus dealing with our inner and outer life increases the width and wealth of our nature, opens it to larger possibilities of self-knowledge and self-realisation and brings us nearer to our awakening into that greater consciousness.”
Sri Aurobindo, The Human Cycle: The Psychology of Social Development, Chapter 12, The Office and Limitations of the Reason, pp. 115-117