A Dual Being–Nature and the Soul

The gulf between the traditional spiritual quest and the life in the world arises from an obvious and visible apparent duality in the world we experience. There is the experience of the soul, and for those who focus on this aspect, the world of nature becomes less relevant or real. And there is the experience of nature, and for those who focus on this aspect, the spiritual quest is seen as an illusory activity. There is an underlying basis that, while apparently dualistic in nature, actually is a unity when see from a yet more inclusive perspective. Before coming to the unifying perspective, Sri Aurobindo examines the various viewpoints regarding the apparent duality:

“It is given different names according to our view of the universe. The Vedantins spoke of the Self and Maya, meaning according to their predilections by the Self the Immutable and by Maya the power the Self has of imposing on itself the cosmic illusion, or by the Self the Divine Being and by Maya the nature of conscious-being and the conscious-force by which the Divine embodies himself in soul-forms and forms of things. Others spoke of Ishwara and Shakti, the Lord and His force, His cosmic power. The analytic philosophy of the Sankhyas affirmed their eternal duality without any possibility of oneness, accepting only relations of union and separation by which the cosmic action of Prakriti begins, proceeds or ceases for the Purusha; for the Purusha is an inactive conscious existence,–it is the Soul the same in itself and immutable forever,–Prakriti is the active force of Nature which by its motion creates and maintains and by its sinking into rest dissolves the phenomenon of the cosmos.”

“Leaving aside these philosophical distinctions, we come to the original psychological experience from which all really take their start, that there are two elements in the existence of living beings, of human beings at least if not of all cosmos,–a dual being, Nature and the soul.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Part Two: The Yoga of Integral Knowledge, Chapter 17, The Soul and Nature, pp. 409-410

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