The Essence of Religion Is Outside the Scope of Reason

Who are we?  How are we born?  Where did the universe come from?  Do we have a purpose in life, and if so, what is it?  These questions are among the eternal questions that religion focuses itself on answering.  Reason is baffled when it confronts the Infinite, the Absolute, the Beyond.  Since the intellectual apparatus is unsuited to answer the deeper questions of existence, religion takes up the quest with non-rational tools.  Thus we see the seeking for God in a vision quest, the opening to intuition, visions and direct experience of the divine reality of the world.

Sri Aurobindo observes:  “The deepest heart, the inmost essence of religion, apart from its outward machinery of creed, cult, ceremony and symbol, is the search for God and the finding of God.  Its aspiration is to discover the Infinite, the Absolute, the One, the Divine, who is all these things and yet no abstraction but a Being.  Its work is a sincere living out of the true and intimate relations between man and God, relations of unity, relations of difference, relations of an illuminated knowledge, an ecstatic love and delight, an absolute surrender and service, a casting of every part of our existence out of its normal status into an uprush of man towards the Divine and a descent of the Divine into man.  All this has nothing to do with the realm of reason or its normal activities; its aim, its sphere, its process is suprarational.  The knowledge of God is not to be gained by weighing the feeble arguments of reason for or against his existence:  it is to be gained only by a self-transcending and absolute consecration, aspiration and experience.  Nor does that experience proceed by anything like rational scientific experiment or rational philosophic thinking.  Even in those parts of religious discipline which seem most to resemble scientific experiment, the method is a verification of things which exceed the reason and its timid scope.  Even in those parts of religious knowledge which seem most to resemble intellectual operations, the illuminating faculties are not imagination, logic and rational judgment, but revelations, inspirations, intuitions, intuitive discernments that leap down to us from a plane of suprarational light.  The love of God is an infinite and absolute feeling which does not admit of any rational limitation and does not use a language of rational worship and adoration; the delight in God is that peace and bliss which passes all understanding.  The surrender to God is the surrender of the whole being to a suprarational light, will, power and love and his service takes no account of the compromises with life which the practical reason of man uses as the best part of its method in the ordinary conduct of mundane existence.  Wherever religion really finds itself, wherever it opens itself to its own spirit, — there is plenty of that sort of religious practice which is halting, imperfect, half-sincere, only half sure of itself and in which reason can get in a word, — its way is absolute and its fruits are ineffable.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Human Cycle: The Psychology of Social Development, Chapter 13,  Reason and Religion, pp. 131-132