The Evolution of Consciousness Involved In Life

Sri Aurobindo places the seeking for knowledge as a central aspect of the deeper intention of the universal manifestation: “The pursuit of knowledge for the sake of knowledge is the true, the intrinsic dharma of the intellect and not for the sake primarily or even necessarily at all for the securing or the enlargement of the means of life and success in action.”

For most people, still rooted primarily in the vital striving for growth, expansion, aggrandizement and increase of scope and power of the life energy, this seeking of the intellect is both somewhat foreign and more or less secondary. Any action of intellect that does not seem to have a “practical” purpose may be acknowledged and accepted, but it is treated as an ornament by these individuals, not as a central purpose of life.

There is however a deeper and more essential movement of consciousness at work here: “Nature sees and stirs from the first to a larger and more inward Will and is moved with a greater purpose, and all seeking for knowledge springs from a necessity of the mind, a necessity of its nature, and that means a necessity of the soul that is here in nature.”

Even when we are focused on and even preoccupied with the use of the intellect for purposes of life-aggrandizement, this deeper movement of nature continues to develop and grow. “….for if her first dynamic word is life, her greater revealing word is consciousness and the evolution of life and action only the means of the evolution of consciousness involved in life, the imprisoned soul, the Jiva. Action is a means, but knowledge is the sign and the growth of the conscious soul is the purpose.”

It is the seeking for knowledge that distinguishes mankind from the other beings in the evolution of life. “Man’s use of the intelligence for the pursuit of knowledge is therefore that which distinguishes him most from other beings and gives him his high peculiar place in the scale of existence. His passion for knowledge, first world-knowledge, but afterwards self-knowledge and that in which both meet and find their common secret, God-knowledge, is the central drift of his ideal mind and a greater imperative of his being than that of action, though later in laying its complete hold on him, greater in the wideness of its reach and greater too in its effectiveness upon action, in the returns of the world energy to his power of the truth within him.”

Sri Aurobindo, Rebirth and Karma, Section III, Chapter 16, The Higher Lines of Karma, pp. 151-152,

The Development of the Power of Knowledge

The integration of the mental energy into the world of life follows a similar model to the integration of the life energy into matter. There is an initial stirring of the mental force, a reaching out, an inquisitive seeking, an attempt to understand the framework within which it is enclosed and the way its power can be exercised successfully. Subsequently, we see the mental energy engaging with the world of life and matter, gaining a deeper understanding of their functioning and beginning to exercise an increasing measure of influence or even control in that field. It is at this stage that the mental energy begins to provide serious returns in the form of more precise and powerful action, and, to the extent the life energy and physical matter have been properly understood, at least to some degree, a more successful result.

It is after the mental energy has engaged in this way that it begins to create for itself a uniquely mental space in which it can organize and express itself without concerning itself directly with the affairs of the world, and it is at this point that we see the functioning of the truly mental force in its native power and energetic action.

All along the way we see the basic principle at work that the greater the mental energy, the more knowledge is applied to the life efforts and the world repays this with results. In fact, the power of applied knowledge shows a much greater and more direct payback than other mental forces such as the moral or ethical energy that also stems from the mental realm.

Sri Aurobindo draws the following conclusions on this point: “In this material world it is at least doubtful how far moral good is repaid by vital good and moral evil punished by a recoil, but it is certain that we do pay very usually for our errors, for stupidity, for ignorance of the right way of action, for any ignoring or misapplication of the laws that govern our psychical, vital and physical being; it is certain that knowledge is a power for life efficiency and success. Intelligence pays its way in the material world, guards itself against vital and physical suffering, secures its vital rewards more surely than moral right and ethical purpose.”

Sri Aurobindo, Rebirth and Karma, Section III, Chapter 16, The Higher Lines of Karma, pp. 150-151,