The Potential Central Role of Religion in the Development of Mankind

Modern society places a premium on either the intelligent will, the reasoning capability, or else, on the vital power as holding a central position in human development.  We can understand why this is so, when we see the almost miraculous development of life in the modern age, with the technological progress we have witnessed, and the widened understanding that reason and science have made possible.  Yet we have also seen the limitations of reason and vital force in terms of any ultimate resolution of the issues we face, either as individuals or as a developing society.  The question then arises whether there is any possible solution, and if so, what it may be.

Sri Aurobindo notes:  “Since the infinite, the absolute and transcendent, the universal, the One is the secret summit of existence and to reach the spiritual consciousness and the Divine the ultimate goal and aim of our being and therefore of the whole development of the individual and the collectivity in all its parts and all its activities, reason cannot be the last and highest guide; culture, as it is understood ordinarily, cannot be the directing light or find out the regulating and harmonising principle of all our life and action.  For reason stops short of the Divine and only compromises with the problems of life, and culture in order to attain the Transcendent and Infinite must become spiritual culture, something much more than an intellectual, aesthetic, ethical and practical training.  Where then are we to find the directing light and the regulating and harmonising principle?  The first answer which will suggest itself, the answer constantly given by the Asiatic mind, is that we shall find it directly and immediately in religion.  And this seems a reasonable and at first sight a satisfying solution; for religion is that instinct, idea, activity, discipline in man which aims directly at the Divine, while all the rest seem to aim at it only indirectly and reach it with difficulty after much wandering and stumbling in the pursuit of the outward and imperfect appearances of things.  To make all life religion and to govern all activities by the religious idea would seem to be the right way to the development of the ideal individual and ideal society and the lifting of the whole life of man into the Divine.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Human Cycle: The Psychology of Social Development, Chapter 17,  Religion as the Law of Life, pg. 173


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