January 28, 2006

Hobbes and Ryle, Kant and Sri Aurobindo

The Concept of the Poet in the Aesthetics of Sri Aurobindo
By Dr. Ranjan Ghosh Darjeeling Government CollegeUniversity of North Bengal(India)
Sri Aurobindo would brush aside as inadequate the tradition headed by Hobbes and recently given currency by Ryle by pointing to the complexity of the creative process. The notion of simple problem solving, particularly of the observable type, fails to account for creativity. Creative activity does not consist merely of the reshuffling of discrete elements of atomic contents and experienced forms into other combinations. The product of the creative mind is not a mere combination, but a creation in a sense that no behaviorist or mechanist can admit and remain true to his theories.
For Sri Aurobindo, aesthetic consciousness or creative imagination must imagine “difficult and hidden truths.” Arguing by his paradigmatic concept of mantra he would say that a metaphor or a symbol employed in the Vedic style is expected to convey a reality, as a revelative symbol of the unrevealed and hint luminously to the mind what for logical or practical thought would have ever remained inaccessible. The romantic view of imagination is that it is “a plaything and caterer for our amusement, our entertainer, the nautch-girl of the mind.” The artist must be a seer, “a revealer of hidden truths, imagination no dancing courtesan but a priestess in God's house commissioned not to spin fictions but image difficult and hidden truth” (Aurobindo, Human Cycle 8).
For Sri Aurobindo, the rational is surpassed and left behind by the genius, for the rational only constructs, but does not create. In this light one must better understand Kant’s celebrated view that creations of the mind which do not owe their origin in any way to the spiritual faculty in man (freedom and autonomy) are only a product of mechanical operations, of association of ideas, or even of mere lucky accidents. “Rule and precept are incapable of serving as the requisite subjective standard for...the aesthetic and unconditioned finality in fine art” (Meredith 212).
Kant finds the explanation of genius in “the supersensible substrate of all the subjects (unattainable by any concept of understanding), and consequently in that which forms the point of reference for the harmonious accord of all our faculties of cognition...” (Meredith 212).
Despite obvious differences between Kant’s and Sri Aurobindo’s respective philosophical positions, the points of accord also are striking. It may be noted in this context that Sri Aurobindo is not an advocate of reductionism. Though art or the aesthetic impulse, properly speaking, springs from the infra-rational parts of our being, it does seek the help of the rational. Reason lays down the laws of aesthetics, purifies our appreciation and improves our taste. Within restricted bounds, reason corrects and sets aright our aesthetic instinct and impulse, by making it self-conscious and rationally discriminative. The rational as such may not also be the artistic but it is the creator of our aesthetic conscience, judge and guide.
So the super-existentialist Sri Aurobindo, manifests a supra-normal familiarity with the intensities of our subliminal and supraliminal being. Spirituality for him is a much wider thing than formal religion. Art reaches its highest self expression when it is pressed into the service of spirituality. And spirituality denotes a threefold line of human aspiration – divine knowledge, strength, love and joy.

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