Material Life and Needs Are Nature’s First Foundation

After examing the 3 primary views on the meaning of life, the terrestrial, the cosmic-terrestrial, and the supraterrestrial, Sri Aurobindo next takes up the integration of these varying viewpoints.

The first step is to recognize that each of these three viewpoints speaks to a certain underlying truth which must in some way be accounted for. The first of these to be accounted for is the terrestrial, life in the material world and the physical body, because this is the first foundation of Nature in evolving life and consciousness on the material plane, and the basis upon which vital, mental and spiritual pursuits are eventually developed.

Sri Aurobindo discusses this necessity: “For, practically, it is impossible for man taken as a race, whatever a few individuals may succeed in doing, to guide his life permanently or wholly by the leading motive of any of these three attitudes, uniquely, to the exclusion of the others’ claim upon his nature.” He continues: “Almost all men normally devote the major part of their energy to the life on earth, to the terrestrial needs, interests, desires, ideals of the individual and the race. It could not be otherwise; for the care of the body, the sufficient development and satisfaction of the vital and the mental being of man, the pursuit of high individual and large collective ideals which start from the idea of an attainable human perfection or nearer approach to perfection through his normal development, are imposed upon us by the very character of our terrestrial being; they are part of its law, its natural impulse and rule, its condition of growth, and without these things man could not attain to his full manhood. Any view of our being which neglects, unduly belittles or intolerantly condemns them, is therefore by that very fact, whatever its other truth or merit or utility, or whatever its suitability to individuals of a certain temperament or in a certain stage of spiritual evolution, unfit to be the general and complete rule of human living. Nature takes good care that the race shall not neglect these aims which are a necessary part of her evolution; for they fall within the method and stages of the divine plan in us, and a vigilance for her first steps and for the maintenance of their mental and material ground is a preoccupation which she cannot allow to go into the background, since these things belong to the foundation and body of her structure.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine, Book 2, Part 2, Chapter 16, The Integral Knowledge and the Aim of Life; Four Theories of Existence