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The approaches to Knowledge*

The Mother

"74 – Practical knowledge is a different thing; that is real and serviceable, but it is never complete. Therefore to systematise and codify it is necessary but fatal.

75 – Systematise we must, but even in making and holding the system, we should always keep firm hold on this truth that all systems are in their nature transitory and incomplete.” 1

I have looked at this very, very often. There was even a time when I thought that if one could have a total, complete and perfect knowledge of the entire working of physical Nature as we perceive it in the world of Ignorance, that might be a way to rediscover or to re-attain the truth of things. After my latest experience 2 I cannot think this any more.

I do not know if I am making myself clear. There was a time — for a very long period —when I thought that if science were to realise its full potential, but in an absolute way, if that were possible, it would reach true Knowledge. For example, in its study of the composition of Matter, by pushing and pushing its investigations further and further, a time would come when the two would meet. Well, when I had the experience of passing from the eternal Truth-consciousness to the consciousness of the individualised world, it became clear to me that this was impossible. And if you ask me now, I think that both these things, the possibility of a meeting by carrying science to its extreme and the impossibility of any true conscious connection with the material world, are equally incorrect. There is something else. And these last few days, more and more, I find myself faced with the total problem, as if I had never seen it before.

Perhaps they are two paths leading to a third point, and at the moment perhaps it is this third point that I am not exactly studying, but searching for, where the two would meet in a third one which would be the True Thing.

But certainly, objective, scientific knowledge carried to its extreme, if it is possible for it to become absolutely total, leads at least to the threshold. That is what Sri Aurobindo says. Only he says that it is fatal, because all those who have devoted themselves to that knowledge, have believed in it as an absolute truth, and for them this has closed the door to the other approach. In that way it is fatal.

But according to my personal experience, I could say that for all those who believe in the exclusive spiritual approach, the approach through inner experience, at least if it is exclusive, is also fatal — because it shows them one aspect, one truth of the Whole, not the Whole. The other aspect seems equally indispensable to me, in the sense that while I was so totally immersed in the supreme Realisation, it was absolutely indisputable that the other realisation, the outer, the illusory one, was only a distortion, probably accidental, of something that was just as true as that one.

It is this “something” that we are searching for — perhaps not only searching for it, but making it.

We are being used so that we can participate in the manifestation of “that”, of “that” which is still inconceivable to everyone, because it is not yet there. It is an expression that is yet to come.

This is all I can say.


That is really the state of consciousness I am living in at present. It is as if I were confronted with this eternal problem, but from another standpoint.

These standpoints, the spiritual and the “materialist”, if one may say so, that think they are exclusive — exclusive and unique, so that one denies the value of the other, from the point of view of Truth — are insufficient, not only because they do not accept one another, but also because to accept both and to unite both is not enough to solve the problem. It is something else — a third thing which is not the result of these two, but something that is yet to be discovered, which will probably open the door to the total Knowledge.

This is the point I have reached.

I cannot say more because that is where I am.

In practice, how can we participate in this… ?

This discovery?

Well!... Basically, it is always the same thing. It is always the same thing: to realise one’s own being, to enter into conscious relation with the supreme Truth of one’s own being, in any form, by any path — it does not matter at all — but this is the only way. We carry, each individual carries within him a truth, and this is the truth he must unite with, this is the truth he must live; and so the path he must follow to reach and realise this truth is the path that will lead him as near as possible to Knowledge. That is to say, the two are absolutely one: the personal realisation and the Knowledge.

Who knows, perhaps this very multiplicity of approach will yield the secret — the secret that will open the door.

I do not think that a single individual on the earth as it is now, a single individual, however great, however eternal his consciousness and origin, can on his own change and realise — change the world, change the creation as it is and realise this higher Truth which will be a new world, a world more true, if not absolutely true. It would seem that a certain number of individuals — until now it seems to have been more in time, as a succession, but it could also be in space, a collectivity — are indispensable so that this Truth can become concrete and realise itself.

Practically, I am sure of it.

That is to say, however great, however conscious, however powerful he may be, one Avatar cannot by himself realise the supramental life on earth. It is either a group in time, extending over a period of time, or a group spread out in space — perhaps both — that are indispensable for this Realisation. I am convinced of it.

The individual can give the impulsion, indicate the path, walk on the path himself — that is to say, show the path by realising it himself — but he cannot fulfil. The fulfilment obeys certain group laws which are the expression of some aspect of Eternity and Infinity —naturally, it is all the same Being! They are not different individuals or different personalities, it is all the same Being. And it is all the same Being expressing Himself in a way which for us becomes a body, a group, a collectivity.

There. Do you have another question on the same subject?

In what way has your vision become different since this experience?

I repeat. For a very long time it seemed to me that if a perfect union could be achieved between the scientific approach carried to its extreme and the spiritual approach carried to its extreme — its extreme realisation — if both could be joined, we would find, we would naturally obtain the Truth we are seeking, the total Truth. But with the two experiences I have had — the experience of external life, with universalisation, impersonalisation, in short, all the yogic experiences one can have in the physical body, and on the other hand the experience of total and perfect union with the Origin — now that I have had these two experiences and that something has happened, which I cannot describe yet, I know that the knowledge of the two and the union of the two is not enough; that they lead to a third thing and it is this third thing which is in the making, in course of elaboration. It is this third thing that can lead to the Realisation, to the Truth we seek.

Is it clear this time?

I had something else in mind.... In what way has your vision of the physical world changed since then?

One can only give an approximation of that consciousness.

Through yoga, I had achieved a kind of relationship with the material world, based on the notion of the fourth dimension — inner dimensions, which become innumerable in yoga — and the use of this attitude and this state of consciousness. I studied the relationship between the material world and the spiritual world with a sense of the inner dimensions, and by perfecting the consciousness of these inner dimensions — that was my experience until the latest one.

Naturally, for a long time, there has no longer been any question of three dimensions — this belongs absolutely to the world of illusion and falsehood. But now the whole use of the sense of the fourth dimension with all that it entails seems superficial to me! This is so strong that I have lost it. The other one, the three-dimensional world is absolutely unreal; and this one seems to be — how to put it? — conventional. As if it were a conventional interpretation that allows you to make a certain kind of approach.

And as for saying what the other one is, the true poise... it is so far beyond any intellectual state that I am unable to formulate it.

Yet the formula will come, I know. But it will come through a series of experiences that must be lived and which I have not yet had.


This approach, which was very convenient, very helpful to me, which I used in my yoga, which gave me a hold on Matter, appeared to me as a method, a means, a process, but it is not that. This is my present state.

More I cannot say.

* Heading provided by the Editor.

1 Sri Aurobindo. Thoughts and Aphorisms. Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust; 1971, p. 87.

2 A particular yogic experience which took place on 13 April 1962.

The Mother. Collected Works of the Mother, Volume 10. Cent. ed. Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust; 1977, pp. 135-41.

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