Each type of life, material, mental, spiritual, integral has its role in the overall schema of the world, and thus, each will have its own unique characteristics and rationale for existence. The material life has as its core principle the element of stability and survival. The material man is therefore focused on basics such as food, shelter, continuity, including children and families, and whatever ease and enjoyment can be attained during this process. Individuals may vary somewhat as to how they prioritize these particulars, but one way or the other, the material man is rooted in them.
This type of life provides the basic foundation required for the construction of a continuing stable social order, and thus, is essential in Nature’s plan. Sri Aurobindo explains: “Its immense importance in the economy of Nature is self-evident, and commensurate is the importance of the human type which represents it. He assures her of the safety of the framework she has made and of the orderly continuance and conservation of her past gains.”
This type has specific psychological characteristics that mirror the basic qualities and focus: “But by that very utility such men and the life they lead are condemned to be limited, irrationally conservative and earth-bound. The customary routine, the customary institutions, the inherited or habitual forms of thought,–these things are the life-breath of their nostrils. They admit and jealously defend the changes compelled by the progressive mind in the past, but combat with equal zeal the changes that are being made by it in the present. For to the material man, the living progressive thinker is an idealogue, dreamer or madman.”
Particularly in times of dramatic social and technological change, and the upheavals they cause, we can clearly identify the resistance and even obstructionism of this conservative material man, who wants desperately to cling to the past formations and avoid the risks involved with new and untested concepts and programs. This type, however, also helps ensure that change that does take place, does so over time on a more solid and balanced basis than perhaps would otherwise occur, and while it may take longer, the change, once integrated, is stable and becomes part of the foundation for the next stage of human development.
Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Introduction: The Conditions of the Synthesis, Chapter 3, The Threefold Life, pp. 17-18