The Potentialities of the Spirit

Every element of the complex personality of man has its own unique powers and its own unique aspirations to be fulfilled.  Whether it is physical capability, vital ambition or desire, emotional satisfaction, mental development we recognize a part of human life that has its role to play and cannot be simply excised from the complete human development.  Religion has played its part as a leading guide to the rest of the being by putting before humanity a purpose and meaning beyond the merely functional for the outer life.  Where religion has gone wrong is in any attempt to restrict or deny the fulfillment of the other members of the being, or to insist that one particular idea or creed should dominate over everyone and everything else.  This is where the concept of spirituality comes in.  Spirituality separates the seeking for the universal, the divine, the absolute from being tied to a specific creed or method of religion.  Spirituality thrives in and supports freedom of development.

  • Sri Aurobindo notes:  “In spirituality, then, understood in this sense, we must seek for the directing light and the harmonising law, and in religion only in proportion as it identifies itself with this spirituality. …  Spirituality respects the freedom of the human soul, because it is itself fulfilled by freedom; and the deepest meaning of freedom is the power to expand and grow towards perfection by the law of one’s own nature, dharma.  This liberty it will give to all the fundamental parts of our being.  It will give that freedom to philosophy and science which ancient Indian religion gave, — freedom even to deny the spirit, if they will, — as a result of which philosophy and science never felt in ancient India any necessity of divorcing themselves from religion, but grew rather into it and under its light.  It will give the same freedom to man’s seeking for political and social perfection and to all his other powers and aspirations.  Only it will be vigilant to illuminate them so that they may grow into the light and law of the spirit, not by suppression and restriction, but by a self-searching, self-controlled expansion and a many-sided finding of their greatest, highest and deepest potentialities.  For all these are potentialities of the spirit.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Human Cycle: The Psychology of Social Development, Chapter 17, Religion as the Law of Life, pg. 181