THE ancients had a most significant concept as to the intellectual make-up of Man, and before we proceed with our personal remarks on this topic, we shall try to give our readers just a passing glimpse of their view point. Says Aristotle: "There are in the fact of our knowledge two elements analogous to matter and form i.e., a passive principle and an active principle; in other words, there are two kinds of Intellect, the one material or passive and the other formal or active, the one capable of becoming all things by thinking on them, the other making things intelligible. That which acts is necessarily superior to that which suffers; consequently that active intellect is superior to the potential one. The active intellect is separate, impassable and imperishable; the passive intellect on the contrary is perishable and cannot do without the active intellect. Therefore the veritable intellect is the Separate Intellect and this intellect alone is eternal and immortal." Dr. Nishikanta commenting on this passage, says: "The function of this passive intellect is to receive all the data of sensation and that of the Active Intellect is to collect and compare, and by analysis
and synthesis to raise those sensuous or sensorious data to ideas and conceptions."
Now, I suppose, I might explain it in the light of modern psychology somewhat in this way: The senses, namely, touch, taste, smell, sight and hearing, together with the nervous systems, form the various lines of communication between the Ego and the non-ego, between the Self and the not-self, between purusha—to use the technicality of our Sankaya Philosophy—and Prakriti. The plastic mind of the child, like the photographer's sensitized plate is exposed to stimuli from the external world. Impressions from outside—the environmental conditions, i.e., the times, circumstances, and various other surrounding influences—impinge upon the mind and various combinations of brain-cells are formed. Registrations are enforced by further and further combinations, and the continued influx of impressions tend to the definite shaping of these brain-cells, according as one set of impressions corresponds with another and so on, till, in time, varying sets of group-cells are formed resulting in habits. The sum total of these impressions establishes itself in the mind of the child as tastes, likes and dislikes, inclinations and predilections. Their relative merits or demerits must be traced to the moulding influence of the early impressions. The child with the widening of its knowledge distinguishes between pleasurable and painful impressions. The child with the painful impressions, connects past with present, rejects painful impressions,
accepts pleasurable ones and thus learning to identify impressions by repetition, develops memory. Thus sensation produced thought; for, "Mind, as we know it, is resolvable into states of consciousness, of varying duration, intensity, complexity, etc., all, in the ultimate, resting on Sensation" (Secret Doctrine). The repetition of vibrations, by attraction and repulsion to pleasurable and painful sensations developed memory. The contemplation of the images mirrored in the mind produced knowledge, discrimination and reason; the desire to change from one state to another led to the manifestation of Will or energy, the inter-play of thought and desire gave birth to emotion.
Thus, however crudely put, we may for the nonce take it that the concrete mind with the physical brain as its organic base of operation is the passive intellect transmitting sensations to the thinker, who reasons upon same in his own sphere and who hence forms the centre of the Active Intellect. The passive mind is so much matter appropriated from the not-self, for certain purposes. It is alive or seems so because the ego works in and through it. Averros, the great commentator on Aristotle has made it all very clear: "The Passive Intellect aspires to unite with the Active Intellect as the potential calls for the Actual, as the matter calls for the form, or as the flame rushes for the combustible body. But the effect is not confined to the first degree of possession only, called the acquired intellect. The Soul can arrive at a much more intimate
union with the universal intellect at a sort of identification, with Primordial Reason. The acquired intellect has served to lead man up to the sanctuary but it disappears as that object has been gained, very nearly as sensation prepares the way for imagination and disappears as soon as the act of Imagination is too intense. In this way, the active intelligence exercises on the soul two distinct influences, of which the one has for its object, to elevate the material or passive intellect to a perception of Intelligibles, while that of the other is to draw it further up to a union with the Intelligibles themselves. Arrived at this state man understands all things by the Reason he appropriated to himself. Having become similar to God, he is in a certain sense all the beings that exist and knows them as they really are; because the being and their causes are nothing beyond the knowledge that he possesses of them. There is in every being a tendency to receive as much of this finality as suits his nature. Even the animal shares it and bears in itself the potentiality of arriving at this Being." The Higher Mind or the Active Intellect in each individual is a ray from the Universal Mind and since that is the common source, all minds are resolvable into One Mind:—the varying types of mentality between man and man being really due to changing cycles of race-evolution in varying environments.