The Role of the Rational Intelligence in the Progress of Humanity

The vital life of society develops habitual actions, whether they spring from some kind of instinctive knowledge, or come through experience, or the direction of an inspired leader.  Initial inspiration tends to get codified into ritual and convention.  At some point, the actions carry on while the actors have very little, if any, connection to the original source of the inspiration.  At that point, what was once a living force becomes a binding obstacle to progress.  It is the action of the rational intelligence, then, to question the conventions, and push the boundaries of the society to break out into new ways of knowledge, and thereby support the progress of humanity in its evolutionary cycle.

Sri Aurobindo observes:  “Man may for a time, for a long time even, live by the mere tradition of things whose reality he has lost, but not permanently; the necessity of questioning all his conventions and traditions arises, and by that necessity reason gets her first real chance of an entire self-development.  Reason can accept no tradition merely for the sake of its antiquity or its past greatness: it has to ask, first, whether the tradition contains at all any still living truth and, secondly, whether it contains the best truth available to man for the government of his life.  Reason can accept no convention merely because men are agreed upon it: it has to ask whether they are right in their agreement, whether it is not an inert and false acquiescence.  Reason cannot accept any institution merely because it serves some purpose of life: it has to ask whether there are not greater and better purposes which can be best served by new institutions.  There arises the necessity of a universal questioning, and from that necessity arises the idea that society can only be perfected by the universal application of the rational intelligence to the whole of life, to its principle as to its details, to its machinery and to the powers that drive the machine.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Human Cycle: The Psychology of Social Development, Chapter 19, The Curve of the Rational Age, pg. 195