Moving Beyond the Limits of the Mental Approach to Ethical and Moral Action

When we recognise that the mind is unable to reconcile the conflicting demands of justice, live and reason, and thus, all our ethical and moral laws, rules, guidelines and frameworks are necessarily limited and imperfect, we need to raise the question about whether and how these positive principles can be both put into effect and harmonised with one another.

Albert Einstein once observed that we cannot solve a problem using the same framework and thought process that created the problem.  It is thus necessary to acquire a new standpoint, a new level of consciousness, beyond the mental level, to be able to sort out the apparent conflicts and find a new harmony and synthesis that provides a new way forward.

Such a standpoint must necessarily be able to treat these different mental processes as elements of a larger, more comprehensive whole that automatically finds the balance and oneness that eludes us at the mental level.  Such a view must be able to deal with human action and interaction, not through a single limited lens, but with a flexibility that can understand the larger need and the larger context within which a determination needs to be made, including potentially the impact of both past and future on the present.

Sri Aurobindo writes in The Synthesis of Yoga, “The fact is that when we have reached the cult of absolute ethical qualities and erected the categorical imperative of an ideal law, we have not come to the end of our search or touched the truth that delivers…. And behind the inadequacy of these ethical conceptions something too is concealed that does attach to a supreme Truth; there is here the glimmer of a light and power that are part of a yet unreached divine Nature.  But the mental idea of these things is not that light and the moral formulation of them is not that power.  These are only representative constructions of the mind that cannot embody the divine spirit which they vainly endeavour to imprison in their categorical formulas.  Beyond the mental and moral being in us is a greater divine being that is spiritual and supramental; for it is only through a large spiritual plane where the mind’s formulas dissolve in a white flame of direct inner experience that we can reach beyond mind and pass from its constructions to the vastness and freedom of the supramental realities.  There alone can we touch the harmony of the divine powers that are poorly mispresented to our mind or framed into a false figure by the conflicting or wavering elements of the moral law.  There alone the unification of the transformed vital and physical and the illumined mental man becomes possible in that supramental spirit which is at once the secret source and goal of our mind and life and body.  There alone is there any possibility of an absolute justice, love and right — far other than that which we imagine — at one with each other in the light of a supreme divine knowledge.  There alone can there by a reconciliation of the conflict between our members.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Future Evolution of Man, Chapter Four, Standards of Conduct and Spiritual freedom, pp. 47-48

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