An Intuitive Reason, Not an Intellectual Reason, Is Needed to Assist in Religious Reformation

When religion becomes calcified in ritual and traditions that no longer express the inner spirit of the religious impulse, there is a movement which rejects the form and seeks for a new and wider formulation that can recapture the spirit.  The intellectual reason has played an active role in these movements of reformation, and to that extent, it has been of some service; yet there is a tendency when the narrow logic of the reason gets involved, to dry up the roots of inspiration and leave just an empty shell behind.  Thus, Sri Aurobindo calls for an intuitive reason, rather than an intellectual reason, if there is to be a possibility of a new inspiration and growth to proceed from the exercise.

Sri Aurobindo observes:  “… in its endeavour to get rid of the superstition and ignorance which have attached themselves to religious forms and symbols, intellectual reason unenlightened by spiritual knowledge tends to deny and, so far as it can, to destroy the truth and the experience which was contained in them.  Reformations which give too much to reason and are too negative and protestant, usually create religions which lack in wealth of spirituality and fullness of religious emotion; they are not opulent in their contents; their form and too often their spirit is impoverished, bare and cold.”

“The life of the instincts and impulses on its religious side cannot be satisfyingly purified by reason, but rather by being sublimated, by being lifted up into the illuminations of the spirit.  The natural line of religious development proceeds always by illumination; and religious reformation acts best when either it reillumines rather than destroys old forms or, where destruction is necessary, replaces them by richer and not by poorer forms, and in any case when it purifies by suprarational illumination, not by rational enlightenment.”

“If reason is to play any decisive part, it must be an intuitive rather than an intellectual reason, touched always by spiritual intensity and insight.  For it must be remembered that the infrarational also has behind it a secret Truth which does not fall within the domain of the Reason and is not wholly amenable to its judgments.  The heart has its knowledge, the life has its intuitive spirit within it, its intimations, divinations, outbreaks and upflamings of a Secret Energy, a divine or at least semi-divine aspiration and outreaching which the eye of intuition alone can fathom and only intuitive speech or symbol can shape or utter.  To root out these things from religion or to purge religion of any elements necessary for its completeness because the forms are defective or obscure, without having the power to illuminate them from within or the patience to wait for their illumination from above or without replacing them by more luminous symbols, is not to purify but to pauperise.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Human Cycle: The Psychology of Social Development, Chapter 13,  Reason and Religion, pp. 134-135