The Will To Mastery Over Physical Nature

Physical Nature is non-moral in its response to the efforts of humanity. This means that it will provide a commensurate energy response to the effort made to utilize or harness its forces, based solely on the energy and not on some concept of moral or ethical right or wrong. The law of Karma on the physical plane is essentially a law of “cause and effect.”

Sri Aurobindo describes this relationship: “But in fact all that the godhead of physical Nature is concerned with in man’s dealings with her is to observe a just law of return of her energies to his effort. Wherever his knowledge and will can harmonise itself with the lines of her energies, she makes a return according to its action on her: where it works on her with insufficiency, ignorance, carelessness, error, she overwhelms his effort or injures; as he wills more and discovers more, she returns to him a greater utility and fruit of her powers, consents to his masteries and favours his violences.”

We can witness this process at work in the events of the last 200 years. An increasing concentration and focus on the elemental powers of physical Nature has led to discoveries that could only seem miraculous to human beings of earlier centuries. Today we take it for granted that we can observe actions in distant parts of the globe through satellite, television and internet; communicate with virtually any part of the world via wireless cell phones; fly through the air at supersonic speeds; travel into outer space; unlock enormous energies through splitting of the atom; harness the power of the sun through solar energy; transplant organs from one human being to another; and modify the very genetic structure of living beings. Each of these developments, representative of the type of will to mastery over physical Nature that we have seen develop during this time, has dramatically increased the power of action and base of knowledge of humanity, but none of them has been without their down-side consequences, some of which threaten the continued existence of all life on the planet, such as destructive nuclear weapons; global climate change, world-wide chemical contamination of the air, soil and water; and unforeseen consequences of genetic tampering.

Sri Aurobindo anticipated this type of much wider responsiveness of Nature to human development of knowledge and will: “There are indications that by a more direct pressure of a mental and psychical energy on the physical, the response can be made more variable, the physical depart from what seem to be fixed limits and habits, and it is conceivable that as knowledge and will entered into the region of higher and yet higher powers, the action of physical energy might grow entirely responsive, giving whatever return is seemingly demanded from her, and its lines perfectly flexible. But even this transcendence would have to regard the great original measures fixed by the All-Will: there could be a free use, perhaps a large transformation of the physical energy, but not a departure from its fundamental law and purpose.”

Sri Aurobindo,Rebirth and Karma, Section II, Chapter 14, The Terrestrial Law, pp. 122-123,

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