It is man’s destiny to represent and carry out the establishment of the force of mentality into the world, as man is characteristically a mental being. While the mental power takes up and thereby influences and modifies the action of physical forces and vital forces, the essence of mentality can be seen when we exercise the truly mental powers, independent of their specific impact on physicality and vitality.
Sri Aurobindo discusses this: “There is a higher law of mental being and nature of which he is bound to become aware and to seek to impose it on his life and his action. At first he is very predominantly governed by the life needs and the movement of the life energies, and it is in applying his mental energy to them and to the world around him that he makes the earliest development of his powers of knowledge and will and trains the crude impulses that lead him into the path of his emotional, aesthetic and moral evolution. But always there is a certain obscure element that takes pleasure in the action of the mental energies for their own sake and it is this, however imperfect at first in self-consciousness and intelligence, that represents the characteristic intention of Nature in him and makes his mental and eventually his spiritual evolution inevitable.”
The initial preoccupation with the physical and vital levels, to satisfy the needs, desires and demands of life, focused on survival, enjoyment, growth and success in life, seems to be the primary function carried out by the mind. This viewpoint dismisses or devalues the “seeking for knowledge, mastery, beauty, a purer emotional delight for their own sake….”
“But the finer and more developed mind in humanity has always turned towards an opposite self-seeing, inclined to regard this as the most characteristic and valuable element of our being and been ready to sacrifice much and sometimes all to its calls or its imperative mandate.”
This represents a reversal of seeing that takes the animal being out of the center of our universe and reorients our viewpoint toward the longer evolutionary cycles and the systematic development of higher forms of energy in the successive manifestation. “Then life itself would be in reality for man only a field of action for the evolution, the opportunity of new experience, the condition of difficult effort and mastery of the mental and spiritual being.”
Sri Aurobindo, Rebirth and Karma, Section II, Chapter 15, Mind Nature and Law of Karma, pp. 128-129, http://www.lotuspress.com/item.php?item=990117