Ethical Principles Are Not Essentially Constructs of Reason–They Arise from the Divine Impulses in Man

Standards of conduct that are developed by the reasoning intelligence are generally measured by some outer form of success or satisfaction, and are set up with a set of rules or guidelines imposed by the reason, but not relating necessarily to the actual life-actions.  Some standards hold up the idea of worldly success as a measure of ethical rightness, while others may hold up moral precepts that fail to stand the test of life.  Many codes have arisen, such as the code of Hammurabi, the Laws of Manu, the Ten Commandments, and rules of conduct set down by Confucius to name just a few.  In today’s world we even see a basic rule that exonerates conduct if it leads to great accumulation of wealth, adopted by some as self-justifying, while opposed by others on grounds of immorality in the acquiring of that wealth.  Even rules that the mind holds dear, such as a prohibition against lying, killing, adultery are disregarded by most people in daily life, with that disregard justified by situational ethics.  There are even conflicting standards where actions held as unethical or immoral by one societal group are accepted as perfectly fine by another.  The mind cannot therefore determine the ultimate ethical development of humanity.  As with religion and art, so with ethics, the mental capacity cannot grasp and integrate the complexity of life within its fixed rule-making process.

Sri Aurobindo observes:  “The ethical being escapes from all these formulas: it is a law to itself and finds its principle in its own eternal nature which is not in its essential character a growth of evolving mind, even though it may seem to be that in its earthly history, but a light from the ideal, a reflection in man of the Divine.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Human Cycle: The Psychology of Social Development, Chapter 15,  The Suprarational Good, pp. 148-149