Understanding the Duality of Soul and Nature

Whether we come at the meaning of life from the side of the materialist and treat the soul as a chance by-product of material chemical interactions, or from the side of the spiritual seeker and treat it as the one real center and source of consciousness, we still can recognize that there is an awareness that we hold that can look at Nature and attempt to deal with it in some way, whether by consciously choosing to ignore or abandon it, or by choosing to manipulate it for our pleasure and benefit.

Sri Aurobindo observes: “It does not matter at all how it came about; the fact is not only there, it determines our whole existence, it is the one fact which is really important to us as human beings with a will and an intelligence and a subjective existence which makes all our happiness and our suffering. The whole problem of life resolves itself into this one question,–‘What are we to do with this soul and nature set face to face with each other, this Nature, this personal and cosmic activity, which tries to impress itself upon the soul, to possess, control, determine it, and this soul which feels that in some mysterious way it has a freedom, a control over itself, a responsibility for what it is and does, and tries therefore to turn upon Nature, its own and the world’s, and to control, possess, enjoy, or even, it may be, reject and escape from her?’ In order to answer that question we have to know,–to know what the soul can do, to know what it can do with itself, to know too what it can do with Nature and the world. The whole of human philosophy, religion, science is really nothing but an attempt to get at the right data upon which it will be possible to answer the question and solve, as satisfactorily as our knowledge will allow, the problem of our existence.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Part Two: The Yoga of Integral Knowledge, Chapter 17, The Soul and Nature, pp. 410-411

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