As students of Sri Aurobindo, and as learners and researchers we find this article very thoughtful and thought-provoking. We hope our readers will also find it so.
Author: Dr. Alok Pandey. Published in Namah, Volume 17 (2), 2009.
There is a spirit of enquiry and there is a spirit of doubt. The two appear similar and close but are really very different in their origin and function.
The spirit of enquiry is born of a veiled faith, the faith that what is being sought for exists. The spirit of doubt springs from distrust, the distrust that what is being sought for does not exist. The spirit of enquiry is open, but the spirit of doubt is presumptuous. The former infers that things we do not know of may exist and can still be found. Therefore, it tries to find them, even through a slow, methodical way, for that is how the ordinary mind works. Doubt presumes that things we do not know, or of which we have no experience, most likely do not exist. Therefore it seeks to deny and discard any possible evidence it may find in support of the contrary.
Behind enquiry, there is a positive faith in the possibility of finding what we seek. Behind doubt too there is faith, we may say, albeit a negative faith, that what is being sought can never be found since it does not exist. The first leaps from the hilltops of affirmation climbing towards unreached summits. The other billows from the nadir of darkness dragging down higher truths into a fulminating abyss. So, where enquiry opens the doors to greater seeking and finding, doubt closes those left ajar, sealing whatever we may have found by colouring it with its own grey hue.
It may be said that the spirit of enquiry creates and builds, whereas the spirit of doubt destroys and demolishes. Both science and spirituality are built upon a spirit of enquiry. This is seen in their search for truth, light and wisdom or a seeking for the new and unknown. Anything short of this turns science into a repetitive cycle for the reproduction of old formulae until newer discoveries overtake them. So too, the absence of a thirst for truth, light and wisdom turns spirituality into a blind cult or ritualistic religion.
In the divine providence of things, both are reconciled and used by the secret divinity inside us to hasten our climb and open the roads to a greater discovery. For when science becomes a matter of fixed formulae and inflexible laws, and spirituality a mass of mechanical systems and dead customs, doubt emerges to challenge this safe edifice, the cocoon we have built around ourselves to hide our lethargy and inertia. This fixed rigidity, this dearth of will for progress, opens the floodgates for doubt to demolish our old familiar structures, though paradoxically awakening a fresh seeking in those who have survived its onslaught. Doubt razes to the ground our apparently secure monuments forcing us to dig deeper and raise new buildings on a stronger base and foundation. Or else, it frees us of all structures so we may stand before the infinity of truth that exceeds every man-made formula.
Yet enquiry and not doubt is the true way: a spirit of enquiry consistent with the faith that if there is a seeking, there must somewhere be a finding too. For thirst pre-supposes water somewhere. Enquiry strengthens faith and faith adds impetus to the spirit of enquiry. Or shall we say enquiry is like a waft of wind that fans the fire of faith? Doubt in contrast is like a storm that smothers and extinguishes it.
And so the wise advise for us is to proceed in our search for truth on the basis of a faith that searches and seeks rather than on the shifting grounds of doubt and skepticism. Let us then seek out and enquire, let us search and find.
About the Author:
Dr. Alok Pandey has been working in the field of psychiatry with a spiritual approach for more than 15 years. He has developed a working concept of integral health and integral psychology which he is using in his life and practice. He is one of the founders of Sri Aurobindo International Institute for Integral Health and Research (SAIIIHR), Pondicherry.
This article was first published in Namah, Journal of New Approaches to Medicine and Health, published by SAIIIHR.