Soul and Nature Poised in the Principle of Matter

In the material world we experience a particular poise of the relationship between Purusha and Prakriti, the Soul and Nature. This is not the only possible poise in their relations, and there are other worlds of manifestation that are based in other poises. Sri Aurobindo observes: “All is determined by the Spirit, for all from the subtlest existence to grossest matter is manifestation of the Spirit. But the Spirit, Self or Being determines the world it lives in and the experiences of its consciousness, force and delight in that world by some poise–among many possible–of the relations of Purusha and Prakriti, Soul and Nature,–some basic poise in one or other of its own cosmic principles.

The poise from which we begin in this world is the poise rooted in Matter. Sri Aurobindo describes the characteristics of this poise: “…it becomes the physical self of a physical universe in the reign of a physical Nature; Spirit is then absorbed in its experience of Matter; it is dominated by the ignorance and inertia of the tamasic Power proper to physical existence. In the individual it becomes a materialised soul, annamaya purusha, whose life and mind have developed out of the ignorance and inertia of the material principle and are subject to their fundamental limitations.”

This relation has consequences. The material principle and its basic involved consciousness limits the action of the vital principle, of the mental principle and the higher principles of Sat-Chit-Ananda. “For life in Matter works in dependence on the body; mind in Matter works in dependence on the body and on the vital or nervous being; spirit itself in Matter is limited and divided in its self-relation and its powers by the limitations and divisions of this matter-governed and life-driven mind. This materialised soul lives bound to the physical body and its narrow superficial external consciousness, and it takes normally the experiences of its physical organs, its senses,its matter-bound life and mind, with at most some limited spiritual glimpses, as the whole truth of existence.

Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Part Two: The Yoga of Integral Knowledge, Chapter 21, The Ladder of Self-Transcendence, pg. 447