The Soul and the Limitations of the Lower Nature

While possessing the divine Nature, the soul manifested in the world nevertheless concentrates its attention on specific forms and forces and thereby loses sight of the reality of its divine origin and nature, and the Oneness of all forms and forces. This “exclusive concentration” allows the soul to experiment with and develop to a high degree, the specific formulations and applications of power and opportunity that otherwise would not be possible if the complete knowledge was always in the forefront.

Sri Aurobindo explains the process in some detail: “But in this inferior Prakriti in which we live, the Jiva follows the principle of selection and finite determination, and there whatever nexus of energy, whatever quality or spiritual principle he brings into birth with him or brings forward as the seed of his self-expression, becomes an operative portion of his Swabhava, his law of self-becoming, and determines his Swadharma, his law of action.”

What prevents this from being a straightforward self-discovery process and “self-unfoldment” of the divine Nature are the limitations of the lower nature within which this occurs. “But this lower energy of our world is a nature of ignorance, of egoism, of the three Gunas.” This has consequences that need to be addressed as the soul attempts to grow in knowledge and power, and expand itself into a wider sense of being.

“Because this is a nature of egoism, the Jiva conceives of himself as the separative ego: he works out his self-expression egoistically as a separative will to be in conflict as well as in association with the same will to be in others.”

“Because this is a nature of ignorance, a blind seeing and an imperfect or partial self-expression, he does not know himself, does not know his law of being, but follows it instinctively under the ill-understood compulsion of the world-energy, with a struggle, with much inner conflict, with a very large possibility of deviation.”

“Because this is a nature of the three Gunas, this confused and striving self-expression takes various forms of incapacity, perversion or partial self-finding.”

“To escape from this tangle, to rise beyond the ignorance, the ego and the Gunas is the first real step towards divine perfection. By that transcendence the Jiva finds his own divine nature and his true existence.”

Sri Aurobindo, Essays on the Gita, Second Series, Part I, Chapter 9, The Theory of the Vibhuti, pp. 357-358

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