The End Goal of the Action of the Reason in Mankind and Society

The limitations of the reason to the finite, and the impossibility of it grasping the entire sense and purpose of the Infinite, makes it clear that the reason is not the vehicle to achieve a complete understanding either of an individual’s life and purpose, nor that of the collective action of humanity in the society we formulate.  There are a number of issues surrounding the application of reason to life, and it is essential to appreciate the areas where the action of the reason is to be supported, and those areas where the reason must abdicate its action so that other powers, more appropriate to the larger need and situation, can take over.

Sri Aurobindo observes: “The reason cannot arrive at any final truth because it can neither get to the root of things nor embrace the totality of their secrets; it deals with the finite, the separate, the limited aggregate, and has no measure for the all and the infinite.  Nor can reason found a perfect life for man or a perfect society.  A purely rational human life would be a life baulked and deprived of its most powerful dynamic sources; it would be a substitution of the minister for the sovereign.  A purely rational society could not come into being and, if it could be born, either could not live or would sterilise and petrify human existence.  The root powers of human life, its intimate causes are below, irrational, and they are above, suprarational.  But this is true that by constant enlargement, purification, openness the reason of man is bound to arrive at an intelligent sense even of that which is hidden from it, a power of passive, yet sympathetic reflection of the Light that surpasses it.  Its limit is reached, its function is finished when it can say to man, ‘There is a Soul, a Self, a God in the world and in man who works concealed and all is his self-concealing and gradual self-unfolding.  His minister I have been, slowly to unseal your eyes, remove the thick integuments of your vision until there is only my own luminous veil between you and him.  Remove that and make the soul of man one in fact and nature with this Divine; then you will know yourself, discover the highest and widest law of your being, become the possessors or at least the receivers and instruments of a higher will and knowledge than mine and lay hold at last on the true secret and the whole sense of a human and yet divine living.’ ”

Sri Aurobindo, The Human Cycle: The Psychology of Social Development, Chapter 12,  The Office and Limitations of the Reason, pp. 122-123