The Limitations of the Thinking Mind

The development of the mental consciousness has brought about enormous changes for life on earth, and as the foremost species utilizing the mental consciousness, humanity has taken the mind to limits never before considered as possible. Advances in logic, science, philosophy, psychology, mathematics, astronomy, quantum physics and many other fields, as well as technological applications of theoretical concepts, show off the powers that the mental development can manifest in life. Yet, for all of these advances, the mind also has very serious limitations and progress is obstructed as a result of these limitations. In order to advance further, the mental framework and its limitations must be overcome. The mind operates best in an analytical mode, where it can undertake systematic decomposition or fragmentation of large issues into component parts and then manipulate those parts, codifying, labeling, organising and combining and recombining. Yet this approach tends to narrow down the vision and miss the “big picture”, so to speak, which leads to false conclusions, and an enormous number of ‘unintended consequences” that result from the limits of this approach.

The pride of the mental consciousness in all its accomplishments also leads to a sense of arrogance and thus, limits the openness and potential for growth. The next stage in the evolutionary process, the development of the higher mind and eventually the supramental consciousness, embodies a new, global manner of seeing and understanding, holistically and comprehensively, that reverses the methodology of the mind and thereby overcomes its essential limitations.

Sri Aurobindo writes: “To have a developed intellect is always helpful if one can enlighten it from above and turn it to a divine use.”

“The intellect can be as great an obstacle as the vital when it chooses to prefer its own constructions to the Truth.”

“The intellect of most men is extremely imperfect, ill-trained, half-developed — therefore in most the conclusions of the intellect are hasty, ill-founded and erroneous or, if right, right more by chance than by merit or right working. The conclusions are formed without knowing the facts or the correct or sufficient data, merely by a rapid inference and the process by which it comes from the premises to the conclusions is usually illogical or faulty — the process being unsound by which the conclusion is arrived at, the conclusion is also likely to be fallacious. At the same time the intellect is usually arrogant and presumptuous, confidently asserting its imperfect conclusions as the truth and setting down as mistaken, stupid or foolish those who differ from them. Even when fully trained and developed, the intellect cannot arrive at absolute certitude or complete truth, but it can arrive at one aspect or side of it and make a reasonable or probable affirmation; but untrained, it is a quite insufficient instrument, at once hasty and peremptory and unsafe and unreliable.”

Sri Aurobindo, Integral Yoga: Sri Aurobindo’s Teaching and Method of Practice, Chapter 9, Transformation of the Nature, Transformation of the Mind, pp. 240-245

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