The mental consciousness, with its exclusive tendency, has a hard time with subtle distinctions and gradations or modulations in relationships. Thus, it can go from one extreme to another, from “everything is separate” to “everything is one” without recognizing that there are situations where both may be true at the same time without contradicting one another. The limitation is one of the mental process, not the reality that it is trying to understand and express.
Interfacing what we can understand of the integrated consciousness of the higher nature, with what we can understand of the action of the lower nature, we can see that while the one is causative of the other, they have different “roles”, if you will, and thus, within the scope of their own sphere of energy and action, take on different characteristics.
Sri Aurobindo describes it as being the difference of the essential quality or power in its pure form, in the higher nature, and the derivative function of that power as watered down or deflected through the influence of desire and the play of the Gunas with the action of passions, seeking and grasping and attachment.
“The practical distinction between this original power of essential quality and the phenomenal derivations of the lower nature, between the thing itself in its purity and the thing in its lower appearances, is indicated very clearly at the close of the series. ‘I am the strength of the strong devoid of desire and liking,’ stripped of all attachment to the phenomenal pleasure of thins, ‘I am in beings the desire which is not contrary to their Dharma.’ And as for the secondary subjective becomings of Nature, bhavah (states of mind, affections of desire, movements of passion, the reactions of the senses, the limited and dual play of reason, the turns of the feeling and moral sense), which are sattwic, rajasic and tamasic, as for the workings of the three Gunas, they are, says the Gita, not themselves the pure action of the supreme spiritual nature, but are derivations from it; ‘they are verily from Me,’…they have no other origin, ‘but I am not in them, it is they that are in Me.’ Here is indeed a strong and yet subtle distinction. ‘I am,’ says the Divine, ‘the essential light, strength, desire, power, intelligence, but these derivations from them I am not in my essence, nor am I in them, yet are they all of them from Me and they are all in my being.’ ”
Sri Aurobindo, Essays on the Gita, Second Series, Part I, Chapter 1, The Two Natures, pp. 261-262