In order to understand the mental energy as it manifests in the world, it is essential to look at its varying types of effort and impacts. The first, and most familiar to us, is the impact, influence and control the mental energy exercises on the physical and vital life. The power of mentality is at work, but the purpose, goal and focus is on achieving the aims of the vital life force. If we look at the characterisation made by ancient seers and sages, this would encompass the first two of the four goals or aspects they attribute as meaning to human existence, namely, artha and kama, the seeking and attainment of profit and fulfillment of desire.
The powers of mind concentrated on the achievement of these aims can be extremely powerful and can lead to tremendous success along these lines, but it is a success that remains quite limited and does not represent the power of mentality carrying out its own native lines of action. It is an important step for the transformation away from the purely animal existence, but it does not represent the true larger role that mentality is intended to play.
Sri Aurobindo discusses this aspect of mentality: “The mind no doubt feeds its powers on the effort and its fullness on the prize, but it is tethered to its pasture. It is a mixed movement, mental in its means, predominantly vital in its returns; its standard of the values of the return are measured by an outward success and failure, an externalised or externally caused pleasure and suffering, good fortune and evil fortune, the fate of the life and the body. It is this powerful vital preoccupation which has given us one element of the current notion of law of Karma, its idea of an award of vital happiness and suffering as the measure of cosmic justice.”
Sri Aurobindo, Rebirth and Karma, Section II, Chapter 15, Mind Nature and Law of Karma, pp. 129-130, http://www.lotuspress.com/item.php?item=990117