Becoming Truly Human

If we look at the evolutionary development of consciousness over time, we can recognize that the primary characteristic that sets humanity apart from other species on the planet is the manifestation of the higher mental consciousness, which includes reflection, spiritual and philosophical thought, higher emotional development, art & music, and advanced capability of planning. This is the essence of what it is to be human rather than an animal, even a mentalised animal on the plane of consciousness. Sri Aurobindo describes it thus: “Our gain in becoming more perfect mental beings is that we get to the possibility of a subtler, higher and wider existence, consciousness, force, happiness and delight of being; in proportion as we rise in the scale of mind, a greater power of these things comes to us: our mental consciousness acquires for itself at the same time more vision and power and more subtlety and plasticity, and we are able to embrace more of the vital and physical existence itself, to know it better, to use it better, to give it nobler values, a broader range, a more sublimated action,–an extended scale, higher issues.”

The mental power, in its first expressions, obviously focuses on the needs of the Life and Body. This is true, not only for animals, but for the first steps of mental development in humanity. It is only later, as Mind continues its development in humans, that we see the true essential action of Mind coming into play and taking charge of the Life and Body in a more forceful and illumined action. “The mind liberated from a lower control and peroccupation introduces into life a government, an uplifting, a refinement, a finer balance and harmony; the vital and physical movements are directed and put into order, transformed even as far as they can be by a mental agency; they are taught to be the instruments of reason and obedient to an enlightened will, an ethical perception and an aesthetic intelligence: the more this can be accomplished, the more the race becomes truly human, a race of mental beings.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine, Book 2, Part 2, Chapter 19, “Out of the Sevenfold Ignorance towards the Sevenfold Knowledge.”