The power of Mind brings new powers to the development of life in the material world. These new powers appear to be independent of Matter and Life in terms of their ideal formulation, but also can and do have an impact on the way Life and Matter respond and develop, once they are brought to bear on life.
Sri Aurobindo describes the powers of Mind in their pure sense, and then relates them to their implementation in the world. Inasmuch as Mind is an important player in terms of the evolutionary development of humanity, it is useful to understand this interplay to see both the opportunities and the weaknesses involved. “The mental life concentrates on the aesthetic, the ethical and the intellectual activities. Essential mentality is idealistic and a seeker after perfection….A dream of perfect beauty, perfect conduct, perfect Truth, whether seeking new forms of the Eternal or revitalising the old, is the very soul of pure mentality.”
Mind seeks for progress and takes essentially a “black and white” view of things, and thus, has trouble dealing with the resistances of Matter, the vital desire-force of Life and the “messiness” that ensues as a result. “But it knows not how to deal with the resistance of Matter. There it is hampered and inefficient, works by bungling experiments and has either to withdraw from the struggle or submit to the grey actuality.”
When it does intervene, it tends to create artificial constructs which eventually break down under the pressure of Life and Matter’s resistance or obstinate habitual patterns. The individual governed by the Mind therefore frequently tends to try to withdraw from this messy interface with the “real world” and tries to focus exclusively or at least primarily on mental activities, whether art, science, music, philosophy, or other pursuits, and in so doing, more or less abandons trying to directly relate to the world of life and matter.
Sri Aurobindo points out that such exclusive concentration can only be justified for a specific focused effort or leap forward, but in the end, it remains necessary for Mind to engage: “Mind finds fully its force and action only when it casts itself upon life and accepts equally its possibilities and its resistances as the means of a greater self-perfection. In the struggle with the difficulties of the material world the ethical development of the individual is firmly shaped and the great schools of conduct are formed; by contact with the facts of life Art attains to vitality, Thought assures its abstractions, the generalisations of the philosopher base themselves on a stable foundation o science and experience.”
This development may take place by the individual for his own development, but finds its optimal role when applied to the struggle of humanity to evolve, with the individual contributing to that general process and progress. “The progressive mind is seen at its noblest when it strives to elevate the whole race to its own level whether by sowing broadcast the image of its own thought and fulfilment or by changing the material life of the race into fresh forms, religious, intellectual, social or political, intended to represent more nearly that ideal of truth, beauty, justice, righteousness with which the man’s own soul is illumined…. The struggle of Mind to elevate life is the promise and condition of the conquest of life by that which is higher even than Mind.”
Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Introduction: The Conditions of the Synthesis, Chapter 3, The Threefold Life, pp. 19-20