The Preoccupation of the Human Soul With the Material Life

The review of the planes of existence, and the ability to actually experience these planes and see their characteristic action, tells us that the world is substantially more complex and has substantially more significance than the human soul, preoccupied with the material life in the world is able to fully grasp.

Sri Aurobindo observes: “But to our ordinary materialised consciousness all this does not exist because it is hidden from us by our preoccupation with our existence in a little corner of the material universe and with the petty experiences of the little hour of time which is represented by our life in a single body upon this earth. To that consciousness the world is a mass of material things and forces thrown into some kind of shape and harmonised into a system of regulated movements by a number of fixed self-existent laws which we have to obey, by which we are governed and circumscribed and of which we have to get the best knowledge we can so as to make the most of this one brief existence which begins with birth, ends with death and has no second recurrence.”

However it is that we have become aware and come into existence in this world, we tend to take this all at face value as our entire existence. “Somehow or other a soul or mind has come to exist in a body and it stumbles about among things and forces which it does not very well understand, at first preoccupied with the difficulty of managing to live in a dangerous and largely hostile world and then with the effort to understand its laws and use them so as to make life as tolerable or as happy as possible so long as it lasts.”

The development of our physical capacities, vital, moral and emotional concepts, and our intellectual faculties for the most part is directed towards achieving these limited ends within this limited life. Speculations arise, of course, about the meaning of it all, and this leads to the various possible answers provided by the religions and philosophies; yet these tend to either get codified into systems of living in the world, thereby reinforcing the preoccupation with the outer life, or else, for a very few individuals they provide a starting point for the arduous search for meaning that leads to the spiritual life.

Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Part Two: The Yoga of Integral Knowledge, Chapter 20, The Lower Triple Purusha, pp. 438-439

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