Humanity, and the individuals who make up humanity, have gained tremendous power and benefit from the ability to treat material things as separate, distinct things and manipulate the properties, focus and use of those things for immediate results. There is clearly and without doubt, a real practical truth, and a real and palpable benefit from treating material objects as distinct and separate forms. This approach of course is the approach of Western science over the period of what we call the modern world, and it has brought about results that humans have only been able to dream about in the past, and we see the face of the world changing before us as a result.
Sri Aurobindo reminds us however of several things. First of all, that this is a practical knowledge that functions within specific limits; and second, that there are subsequent levels of knowledge which may in fact yield greater power and practical applications than this exclusive focus on the distinctions of material forms has been able to provide.
He explains: “but if we can get to the knowledge and control of their elements and the common properties of the class to which they belong, we may arrive at the power of making either a diamond or a pearl at our pleasure: go farther still and master that which all material things are in their essence and we may arrive even at the power of transmutation which woudl give the greatest possible control of material Nature. Thus the knowledge of distinctions arrives at its greatest truth and effective use when we arrive at the deeper knowledge of that which reconciles distinctions in the unity behind all variations.”
“There is an essentiality of things, a commonality of things, an individuality of things; the commonality and individuality are true and eternal powers of the essentiality: that transcends them both, but the three together and not one by itself are the eternal terms of existence.”
reference: Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine, Book 2, Part I, Chapter 3, The Eternal and the Individual, pp. 380-381