Understanding the Processes of the Human Mentality and the Need to Surpass Its Limitations

“I think, therefore I am”.  Rene Descartes famously uttered this statement (Cogito, ergo sum), announcing the self-awareness and power of the reasoning intelligence in the human being.  There is no doubt that the power of reason, the exercise of a conscious will, the power of self-observation and reflection, represents a power of knowledge and action not seen in Matter or Life prior to the advent of the human being.  Matter and Life-Energy act by what we call either a “law of physical nature” or “instinct”.  These simply define pre-existing lines of movement of energy and action that are carried out automatically without the need of self-observation or reflection or a conscious decision-making process based on a rational organization of perception and extrapolation upon those perceptions.

Humanity has built an incredible technological society based on the use of this power of mind, applying itself to the fields of life and matter, and thereby changing the way life and matter respond as they are put under increasing pressure by the mental force in action.

There is a tendency for a form of arrogance to arise as an individual masters the powers of the mind and sees the results.  Yet, a close observation leads us to understand that for all the positive aspects in the use and deployment of this power, there remain serious limitations, frames, and weaknesses in the approach of the mental consciousness.  These revolve around the primary methodology of linear thought, the need to extrapolate rather than “see” and “know”, and the very arrogance itself which cuts off, for many, the process of growth and development to greater capacities that remain as yet unexplored and mostly untested.

A knowledge that moves from point to point, that has to develop a linear process of understanding, that has to undertake an exclusive concentration in order to achieve its result, at the expense of creating imbalances in a wider, connected whole, is clearly a partial and transitional power.  The process of Yoga, as a means of speeding up the longer-term evolutionary development of a new state of consciousness, reveals other and greater ways of knowing that exceed the mental forms by as much or more than the mental forms exceed the material and vital limitations.

Sri Aurobindo observes in The Life Divine:  “It is a first condition of this change that the mental Man we now are should become inwardly aware and in possession of his own deeper law of being and its processes; he must become the psychic and inner mental being, master of his energies, no longer a slave of the movements of the lower Prakriti, in control of it, seated securely in a free harmony with a higher law of Nature…. In human mind there is the first appearance of an observing intelligence that regards what is being done and of a will and choice that have become conscious; but the consciousness is still limited and superficial: the knowledge also is limited and imperfect, it is a partial intelligence, a half understanding, groping and empirical in great part or, if rational, then rational by constructions, theories, formulas.  There is not as yet a luminous seeing which knows things by a direct grasp and arranges them with a spontaneous precision according to the seeing, according to the scheme of their inherent truth; although there is a certain element of instinct and intuition and insight which has some beginning of this power, the normal character of human intelligence is an inquiring reason or reflective thought which observes, supposes, infers, concludes, arrives by labour at a constructed truth, a constructed scheme of knowledge, a deliberately arranged action of its own making.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Future Evolution of Man, Chapter Seven, The Ascent Towards Supermind, pp. 79-80

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