Knowledge Can Be Applied for Good or Ill in Life

As the intellect works to understand the deeper forces and truths of our existence, the fruits of its effort are then applied to life.  Every advance in human understanding, every invention, once loosed from the mind into the world, becomes an opportunity for positive or negative results.  Even those things which seem to be the most focused on achieving benefits for humanity, the advances of healing science, the spiritual insights expressed by major religious figures, masterful organization of society and the economy, can and have been turned to negative uses as well as positive.  The Third Reich in Germany turned their enormous progress in technical efficiency into a vast killing machine.  Religions, which should bring people to higher aspirations and unity have been used to turn people against each other and have been the excuse of numerous wars and genocidal action.  Advances in the healing sciences have been used to create biological weapons.  No matter how pure the intention of the intellectual, the scientist, the leader in any number of fields, the actual use put to his contribution is out of his control.

Sri Aurobindo elucidates this subject:  “…even if the intellect keeps itself as impartial and disinterested as possible, — and altogether impartial, altogether disinterested the human intellect cannot be unless it is content to arrive at an entire divorce from practice or a sort of large but ineffective tolerantism, eclecticism or sceptical curiosity, — still the truths it discovers or the ideas it promulgates become, the moment they are applied to life, the plaything of forces over which the reason has little control.  Science pursuing its cold and even way has made discoveries which have served on one side a practical humanitarianism, on the other supplied monstrous weapons to egoism and mutual destruction; it has made possible a gigantic efficiency of organisation which has been used on one side for the economic and social amelioration of the nations and on the other for turning each into a colossal battering-ram of aggression, ruin and slaughter.  It has given rise on the one side to a large rationalistic and altruistic humanitarianism, on the other it has justified a godless egoism, vitalism, vulgar will to power and success.  It has drawn mankind together and given it a new hope and at the same time crushed it with the burden of a monstrous commercialism.  Nor is this due, as is so often asserted, to its divorce from religion or to any lack of idealism.  Idealistic philosophy has been equally at the service of the powers of good and evil and provided an intellectual conviction both for reaction and for progress.  Organised religion itself has often enough in the past hounded men to crime and massacre and justified obscurantism and oppression.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Human Cycle: The Psychology of Social Development, Chapter 12,  The Office and Limitations of the Reason, pg. 120