It is not possible to fully understand the action of Karma solely by looking at the specific lines of energy of the physical, vital, mental and supramental levels. In the world we inhabit, these are always inextricably intertwined. While specific individuals may take their stand primarily within the framework of one or another of these levels, it is nevertheless obvious that they still must take into account the impact of the others. Focusing on the mental principles, for instance, does not absolve anyone from the demands and realities of the physical body or the vital impulsions.
It is therefore important to recognize the effects of this interaction and realize that we cannot truly understand Karma by analytical abstraction. The difficulties of the attempt to integrate the higher levels of consciousness into the world dominated by the physical and the vital forces has led the spiritual seeker to attempt to cut off or abandon that outer life of action. Sri Aurobindo describes the predicament: “The moment he tries to get at the absolute of the spirit, he feels himself obliged to reject body, to silence mind, and to draw back from life. It is that urgent necessity, that inability of mind and life and body to hold and answer to the spirit that is the secret of asceticism, the philosophical justification of the illusionist, the compulsion that moves the eremite and the recluse.”
The alternative is based on attempting to bring the higher forces of mind and spirit into life: “If on the other hand he tries to spiritualise mind and life and the body he finds in the end that he has only brought down the spirit to a lower formulation that cannot give all its truth and purity and power.”
This has led to the degradation of these higher energies, as the lower powers clearly water down the effect of the higher in action. “He has never yet spiritualised the body, at most he has minimised the physical by a spiritual refusal and abstinence or brought down some mental and vital powers mistaken for spiritual into his physical force and physical frame.”
Thus, we see the lines of Karma interwoven into a complex web of impacts that are not a straight, unbroken and direct line that can be teased out through mental process. The predominant lines must be seen, the intensity of the movement of that energy must be gauged, and the interaction with other parts of our being must be calculated to get at a more precise view of karmic action. These again must be taken in context of the larger movements of these energies across the entire world movements of energy.
Sri Aurobindo, Rebirth and Karma, Appendix 1, Chapter 17, The Tangle of Karma, pp. 156-158, http://www.lotuspress.com/item.php?item=990117