There comes a stage when the mental being no longer focuses its efforts on achieving success or results on the vital plane in the physical world; rather, it is focused on a seeking for Truth, for Knowledge, for some higher Absolute that answers to its deepest inner calling, regardless of the result that may be achieved by the actual application or utility of the knowledge obtained.
We can see this type develop and take various forms. The pure scientist, with an inner drive to understand the workings of the universe is one such type. The pure thinker or philosopher represents another manifestation of this same higher seeking. The tradition of the yogin, the seer, the sage, abandoning material wealth and prosperity for a higher seeking of what is “beyond” represents yet another.
In his magnum opus, The Life Divine , Sri Aurobindo sets forth in the very first chapter the “human aspiration” for “God, Light, Freedom, Immortality.” This ultimate aspiration is a manifestation of the pure expression of the inner drive to obtain Knowledge.
The relevance to the question of Karma is that the return obtained by such a seeker has clearly nothing to do with reward or punishment in this life or hereafter, but with a return of greater knowledge and an experience of Oneness that results. “The lure of an external utility ceases to be at all needed as an incentive towards knowledge, just as the lure of a vital reward offered now or hereafter ceases on the same high level of our ascent to be needed as an incentive to virtue, and to attach importance to it under whatever specious colour is even felt to be a degradation of the disinterestedness, a fall from the high purity of the soul motive.”
There are various stages of this higher seeking, such as the scientist’s cold intellectual endeavor, or the inner drive or passion for an ultimate Truth. The common thread between them however is their lack of concern for the ordinary view of Karma and consequence. We see here the working of a higher order of the law of Karma, focusing on providing a return on the energy put out without an attempt at tying it to moral or ethical result or relevance.
Sri Aurobindo, Rebirth and Karma, Section III, Chapter 16, The Higher Lines of Karma, pp. 152-153, http://www.lotuspress.com/item.php?item=990117