In a brief compass, Sri Aurobindo integrates the soul and the universe into a coherent and significant process of Reality: “What we are is a soul of the transcendent Spirit and Self unfolding itself in the cosmos in a constant evolutionary embodiment of which the physical side is only a pedestal of form corresponding in its evolution to the ascending degrees of the spirit, but the spiritual growth is the real sense and motive.”
The past represents the prior stages of this evolution of consciousness in form. The present represents a stage in that evolution which has not yet been completed. The future holds the next stages and opens up the evolutionary development to new and greater manifestations of consciousness.
Our purpose in existence then is to act as a nexus of this increasing development of the spiritual evolution: “Why we are here is to be this means of the spirit’s upward self-unfolding. What we have to do with ourselves and our significances is to grow and open them to greater significances of divine being, divine consciousness, divine power, divine delight and multiplied unity, and what we have to do with our environment is to use it consciously for increasing spiritual purposes and make it more and more a mould for the ideal unfolding of the perfect nature and self-conception of the Divine in the cosmos.”
Sri Aurobindo has encapsulated here the essence of our striving and search for meaning. This provides not only a sense of the Reality of the material universal manifestation, but also a real purpose and meaning to the struggles for growth and aspiration for consciousness that we see within ourselves, and provides a significance to the process of rebirth as an essential mechanism for the successive growth of the soul and its ability to more and more effectively manifest the consciousness of the Spirit in matter, life and mind.
Sri Aurobindo’s guiding principle in his review of rebirth is to ensure that he answers the major issues and questions that revolve around both the process and the significance. This implies that we recognize the reality and purpose of the material universe and not simply try to dismiss it as an illusion or something that must be escaped from.
One of the greatest obstacles to finding a suitable solution is our tendency to remain fixated on the world as we see it today and to extrapolate both backwards and forwards in a static, rather than a dynamic, manner. Thus, we believe the current status of life and conscious awareness will continue as it is into the future and we have a hard time recognizing or visualizing a future that is greater than and significantly different than what we see as our opportunities and limits today.
Sri Aurobindo’s vision moves us out of these restrictions: “But what if rebirth were in truth no long dragging chain, but rather at first a ladder of the soul’s ascension and at last a succession of mighty spiritual opportunities? It will be so if the infinite existence is not what it seems to the logical intellect, an abstract entity, but what it is to intuition and in deeper soul experience, a conscious spiritual Reality, and that Reality as real here as in any far off absolute Superconscience. For then universal Nature would be no longer a mechanism with no secret but its own inconscient mechanics and no intention but the mere recurrent working; it would be the conscient energy of the universal Spirit hidden in the greatness of its processes, mahimanam asya.” And the soul ascending from the sleep of matter through plant and animal life to the human degree of the power of life and there battling with ignorance and limit to take possession of its royal and infinite kingdom would be the mediator appointed to unfold in Nature the spirit who is hidden in her subtleties and her vastnesses. That is the significance of life and the world which the idea of evolutionary rebirth opens to us; life becomes at once a progressive ascending series for the unfolding of the Spirit. It acquires a supreme significance: the way of the Spirit in its power is justified, no longer a foolish and empty dream, an eternal delirium, great mechanical toil or termless futility, but the sum of works of a large spiritual Will and Wisdom: the human soul and the cosmic spirit look into each other’s eyes with a noble and divine meaning.”