Transcending the Domination of the Physical Self

For the most part, we remain mystified by the entire meaning of life, birth and death. This is due to our starting point in the consciousness of the physical self. As the vital and mental powers begin to evolve and develop, they each, in their own way, begin to transform and transcend the physical nature of the world. We can see this as the plant, and later the animal, turns “dead matter” into living matter with higher levels of responsiveness and reactivity than physical forms absent the vital input; and we can see this with the development of the mental powers in the world of Matter and the enormous transformations that the mind carries out in terms of manipulating and changing both Matter and Life-Energy.

None of this has any real meaning either, absent the larger context that incorporates the process of life-death-rebirth and the evolutionary mechanism that is inherent in that process. And this larger context is largely invisible to most individuals who remain based in the physical being, even with the input of vital and mental energies and forces enhancing their action and understanding.

Sri Aurobindo observes: “A more developed humanity allows us to make a better and freer use of all the capacities and experiences that we derive from the vital and mental planes of being, to lean more for support upon these hidden planes, be less absorbed by the physical and to govern and modify the original nature of the physical being by grater vital forces and powers from the desire-world and greater and subtler mental forces and powers from the psychical and intellectual planes. By this development we are able to rise to higher altitudes of the intermediary existence between death and rebirth and to make a better and more rapid use of rebirth itself for a yet higher mental and spiritual development. But even so, in the physical being which still determines the greater part of our waking self, we act without definite consciousness of the worlds or planes which are the sources of our action.”

“We are aware indeed of the life-plane and mind-plane of the physical being, but not of the life-plane and mind-plane proper or of the superior and larger vital and mental being which we are behind the veil of our ordinary consciousness. It is only at a high stage of development that we become aware of them and even then, ordinarily, only at the back of the action of our mentalised physical nature; we do not actually live on those planes, for if we did we could very soon arrive at the conscious control of the body by the life-power and of both by the sovereign mind; we should then be able to determine our physical and mental life to a very large extent by our will and knowledge as masters of our being and with a direct action of the mind on the life and body. By Yoga this power of transcending the physical self and taking possession of the higher selves may to a greater or less degree be acquired through a heightened and widened self-consciousness and self-mastery.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Part Two: The Yoga of Integral Knowledge, Chapter 20, The Lower Triple Purusha, pp. 442-443

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