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The Relevance of Aurobindo
European metaphysical thought - even in those thinkers who try to prove or explain the existence and nature of God or of the Absolute - does not in its method and result go beyond the intellect.
But the intellect is incapable of knowing the supreme Truth; it can only range about seeking for Truth, and catching fragmentary representations of it, not the thing itself, and trying to piece them together. Mind cannot arrive at Truth; it can only make some constructed figure that tries to represent it or a combination of figures.
At the end of European thought, therefore, there must always be Agnosticism, declared or implicit. Intellect, if it goes sincerely to its own end, has to return and give this report:
Or, if it has received some light on the way from what is beyond it, it can say too:
Any seeking of the supreme Truth through intellect alone must end either in Agnosticism of this kind or else in some intellectual system or mind-constructed formula.
There have been hundreds of these systems and formulas and there can be hundreds more, but none can be definitive. Each may have its value for the mind, and different systems with their contrary conclusions can have an equal appeal to intelligences of equal power and competence. All this labour of speculation has its utility in training the human mind and helping to keep before it the idea of Something beyond and Ultimate towards which it must turn.
But the intellectual Reason can only point vaguely or feel gropingly towards it or try to indicate partial and even conflicting aspects of its manifestation here; it cannot enter into and know it. As long as we remain in the domain of the intellect only, an impartial pondering over all that has been thought and sought after, a constant throwing up of ideas, of all the possible ideas, and the formation of this or that philosophical belief, opinion or conclusion is all that can be done. This kind of disinterested search after Truth would be the only possible attitude for any wide and plastic intelligence.
But any conclusion so arrived at would
be only speculative; it could have no spiritual value;
it would not give the decisive experience or the
spiritual certitude for which the soul is seeking. If
the intellect is our highest possible instrument and
there is no other means of arriving at supra physical
Truth, then a wise and large Agnoticsm must be -our
ultimate attitude. Things in the manifestation may be
known to some degree, but the Supreme and all that is
beyond the Mind must remain forever unknowable.
This, you will see, answers your point about the Western thinkers, Bradley and others, who have arrived through intellectual thinking at the idea of an "Other' beyond Thought" or have even, like Bradley, tried to express their conclusions about it in terms that recall some of the expressions in the Arya. The idea in itself is not new; it is as old as the Vedas. It was repeated in other forms in Buddhism, Christian Gnosticism, Sufism. Originally, it was not discovered by intellectual speculation, but by the mystics following an inner spiritual discipline.
But still it has there too tried
constantly to return; the Neo-Platonists brought it
back, and now, it appears, the Neo-Hegelians and others
(e.g., the Russian Ouspensky and one or two German
thinkers, I believe) seem to be reaching after it. But
still there is a difference.
But, in the first place, they have not given mental thinking the supreme rank as an instrument in the discovery of Truth, but only a secondary status. The first rank has always been given to spiritual intuition and illumination and spiritual experience; an intellectual conclusion that contradicts this supreme authority is held invalid.
Secondly, each philosophy has armed itself with a practical way of reaching to the supreme state of consciousness, so that even when one begins with Thought, the aim is to arrive at a consciousness beyond mental thinking.
In the West it was just the opposite that came to pass. Thought, intellect, the logical reason came to be regarded more and more as the highest means and even the highest end; in philosophy, Thought is the be-all and the end-all.
It is by intellectual thinking and speculation that the truth is to be discovered; even spiritual experience has been summoned to pass the tests of the intellect, if it is to be held valid-just the reverse of the Indian position. Even those who see that the mental Thought must be over passed and admit a supramental "Other", do not seem to escape from the feeling that it must be through mental Thought, sublimating and transmuting itself, that this other Truth must be reached and made to take the place of the mental limitation and ignorance.
And again Western thought has ceased to be dynamic; it has sought after a theory of things, not after realisation. It was still dynamic amongst the ancient Greeks, but for moral and aesthetic rather than spiritual ends. Later on, it became yet more purely intellectual and academic; it became intellectual speculation only without any practical ways and means for the attainment of the Truth by spiritual experiment, spiritual discovery, a spiritual transformation.
In the extracts you have sent me from Bradley and Joachim, it is still the intellect thinking about what is beyond itself and coming to an intellectual, a reasoned speculative conclusion about it. It is not dynamic for the change which it attempts to describe. If these writers were expressing in mental terms some realisation, even mental, some intuitive experience of this "Other than Thought", then one ready for it might feel it through the veil of the language they use and himself draw near to the same experience.
Or if, having reached the intellectual
conclusion, they had passed on to the spiritual
realisation, finding the way or following one already
found, then in pursuing their thought, one might be
preparing oneself for the same transition. But there is
nothing of the kind in all this strenuous thinking. It
remains in the domain of the intellect and in that
domain it is no doubt admirable; but it does not become
dynamic for spiritual experience.
And if your mind-is sufficiently mobile, it will go on changing from one thing to another till the end without arriving at any sure way or any spiritual harbour. The mind can think and doubt and question and accept and withdraw its acceptance, make formations and unmake them, pass decisions and revoke them, judging always on the surface and by surface indications and therefore never coming to any deep and firm experience of Truth, but by itself it can do no more.
There are only three ways by which it
can make itself a channel or instrument of Truth.
Either it must fall silent in the Self and give room
for a wider and greater consciousness; or it must make
itself passive to an inner Light and allow that Light
to use it as a means of expression; or else, it must
itself change from the questioning intellectual
superficial mind it now is to an intuitive
intelligence, a mind of vision fit for the direct
perception of the divine Truth.
But yoga is not a mental field, the
consciousness which has to be established is not a
mental, logical or debating consciousness - it is even
laid down. by yoga that unless and until the mind is
stilled, including the intellectual or logical mind,
and opens itself in quietude or silence to a higher and
deeper consciousness, vision and knowledge, sadhana
cannot reach its goal. For the same reason an
unquestioning openness to the Guru is demanded in the
Indian spiritual tradition; as for blame, criticism and
attack on the Guru, it was considered reprehensible and
the surest possible obstacle to sadhana.
But the spirit of doubt doubts for its own sake, for the sake of doubt; it simply uses the mind as its instrument for its particular dharma, and this not the least when that mind thinks it is seeking sincerely for a solution of its honest and irrepressible doubts.
Mental positions always differ,
moreover, and it is well-known that people can argue
for ever without one convincing the other. To go on
perpetually answering persistent and always recurring
doubts such as for long have filled this Ashram and
obstructed the sadhana, is merely to frustrate the aim
of the yoga and go against its central principle with
no spiritual or other gain whatever. If anybody gets
over his fundamental doubts, it is by the growth of the
psychic in him or by an enlargement of his
consciousness, not otherwise. Questions which arise
from the spirit of enquiry, not aggressive or
self-assertive, but as a part of a hunger for knowledge
can be answered, but the "spirit of doubt" is
insatiable and unappeasable.
The Divine does not manifest himself so as to be recognised in the external world-circumstances - admittedly so. These are not the works of an irresponsible autocrat somewhere - they are the circumstances of a working out of Forces according to a certain nature of being, one might say a certain proposition or problem of being into which we have all really consented to enter and co-operate. The work is painful, dubious, its vicissitudes impossible to forecast? There are either of two possibilities then, to get out of it into Nirvana by the Buddhist or the illusionist way or to get inside oneself and find the Divine there since he is not discoverable on the surface.
For those who have made the attempt, and there were not a few but hundreds and thousands, have testified through the ages that he is there and that is why there exists the yoga.
It takes long? The Divine is concealed behind a thick veil of his Maya and does not answer at once or at any early stage to our call ? or he gives only a glimpse uncertain and passing and then withdraws and waits for us to be ready?
But if the Divine has any value, is it not worth some trouble and time and labour to follow after him and must we insist on having him without any training or sacrifice or suffering or trouble ? It is surely irrational to make a demand of such a nature. It is positive that we have to get inside, behind the veil to find him; it is only then that we can see him outside and the intellect be not so much convinced as forced to admit his presence by experience -just as when a man sees what he has denied and can no longer deny it. But for that the means must be accepted and the persistence in the will and patience in the labour....