Human Science and the Role of Sri Aurobindo

One of the fundamental assumptions of science today is that chance and necessity are the drivers of universal development. A corollary of this theory is that consciousness evolves from life in the same manner – by chance and necessity. While there is no scientific proof of this theory, it is taken as fact by many scientists and non scientists alike that our lives are an unlikely accident.

Sri Aurobindo, in The Life Divine, postulates that this assumption is incorrect. He theorizes that life is a product of consciousness, not vice versa, and goes on to build a rational and coherent explanation for the development of the universe, starting from this provocative assumption.

Sri Aurobindo was a multi-faceted man, viewed in different ways by various groups. To some, he was a spiritual or religious figure, to others he was a poet and philosopher, and to still others he was a political activist and a leader of the Indian independence movement. Though he is not portrayed as a scientist, he appears to have been driven as much to create a body of practical knowledge as by any of the motives by which he is more commonly described.

Perhaps Sri Aurobindo has not been described as a scientist because, as a thinker, he was completely outside of the scientific establishment, or any establishment for that matter. As a westernized easterner, he produced an original blend of western style critical thinking and eastern metaphysics that advances knowledge, but finds safe harbor with neither camp, and especially not with the scientists.

However, science was not always as it is today – reluctant, if not unwilling, to acknowledge a “final cause” , or to espouse theories about the nature or even the existence of a non-material reality dependant upon a “first mover” . A study of the history of science from Pythagoras through Galileo shows that science was often driven by intensely religious figures that intertwined a study of science and mathematics with a deep interest and inquiry into spiritual matters. Pythagoras was the leader of a religious movement that espoused metempsychosis, and Galileo, though he was imprisoned by the church, nonetheless was ever deferential in seeking an accommodation with Catholic doctrine .

Over time, an accommodation with the church was reached that would steer science clear of metaphysics and confine it to commentary on the empirically verifiable (so long as the knowledge verified did not conflict with church doctrine). Ironically, science has found such great success and power in the secular world that its avoidance (some would say denial) of the non-material world is now self enforced. One can imagine a figure like Pythagoras, for whom mathematics was simply a by product of contemplation about larger questions, expelled from today’s scientific establishment by his fellow scientists in much the same fashion as the excommunication of a priest in Galileo’s time. This oligopolistic arrangement between the institutions of science and religion has resulted in integral theories, such as Sri Aurobindo’s about the precedence of consciousness, being largely ignored by science through its narrowly defined mission.

But, we should remember that Science originally meant simply knowledge - regardless of the method by which it is obtained. Sri Aurobindo has, in Life Divine, supplied us with a beautifully reasoned body of knowledge that spans the material and non material realms of science and religion. It is encyclopedic in its scope, providing comprehensive analysis of a wide range of important questions ranging from basic animal and human behavior to the nature of matter and of the universe itself. Because it ignores the self imposed denial of the modern scientific establishment, it is able to address the big questions in a big way.

The big questions concerning the meaning of life are certainly the most important – for the answers (or lack thereof) establish the fundamental context for human life. Sri Aurobindo, the integral scientist, breaks arbitrary constraints and rises above established convention to develop theories that comprehensively span both the material and non-material realms and meld knowledge from both the physical and metaphysical worlds.

If, as Sri Aurobindo theorizes, life does in fact emerge from consciousness, rather than vice-versa, certain principles arise from this shift in perspective that can be applied to any field of life to raise the level of human accomplishment. Sri Aurobindo identifies these principles in The Life Divine. Human Science is an attempt to catalog these principals, show how to apply them, and to document the results. If the theories are correct, the results will be independent of any particular faith or belief system. Given the universal context of his theories and cognizant of the cultural tendency in India, Sri Aurobindo discouraged attempts to divinize himself or his work. He clearly desired his theories to stand on their own merit.

Currently, science limits itself to theories that can be proven false, if they are false. There is an awful lot about life that simply won’t fit into this category – at least with the relatively crude instruments at our disposal. Moreover, it is doubtful that modern science will embrace its metaphysical roots with a reawakened willingness to explore promising concepts and theories lacking a physical basis. In the meantime, science is silent on a lot of very significant questions for which solutions are urgently needed. We should not expect Science, as it is currently conducted, to find these solutions.

Fortunately, there are other ways that knowledge finds its way into the world than through the scientific method. One way is through accomplishment – the successful application of new ideas that achieve greater results. This method is available to each individual. The challenge of Human Science is to apply and prove the principals for accomplishment in our every day lives. Results speak for themselves. Practical knowledge is irrepressible. Knowledge, when accepted by enough people, becomes universal. Traditional science may be limited in its ability to solve our most pressing problems, but humanity’s ability to find solutions is unlimited. Human Science shows us how to tap into Sri Aurobindo’s principles for accomplishment.