The Process of the Action of the Mental Consciousness in Life

Sri Aurobindo describes two basic processes that the mental consciousness in humanity applies to life.  The first of these is essentially a process of picking and choosing, weeding and feeding of various life energies and tendencies, through a selective action that attempts to advance the desires or goals of the individual and discourage those things which act as obstacles to those desires or goals.  The second one attempts to extract laws of Nature, or basic principles by which the mentality can systematically manage and guide the life.

Sri Aurobindo observes:  “In their primary aspect human ideas of life are simply a mental translation of the forces and tendencies of life itself as they emerge in the form of needs, desires and interests.  The human mind has a practical intelligence more or less clear and exact which takes these things into account and gives to one and another a greater or less value according to its own experience, preference and judgment.  Some the man accepts and helps in their growth by his will and intelligence, others he rejects, discourages and even succeeds in eliminating.”

“But from this elementary process there emerges a second and more advanced character of man’s ideas about life; he passes beyond the mere mental translation and ready dynamic handling to a regulated valuation of the forces and tendencies that have emerged or are emerging in him and his environment.  He studies them as fixed processes and rules of Nature and endeavours to understand their law and norm.  He tries to determine the laws of his mind and life and body, the law and rule of the facts and forces about him that constitute his environment and determine the field and the mould of his action.  Since we are imperfect and evolutionary beings, this study of the laws of life is bound to envisage two aspects as it perceives the rule of what is and the rule of what may or ought to be, the law of our actualities and the law of our potentialities.  The latter takes for the human intellect which tends always to an arbitrary and emphatic statement of things, the form of a fixed ideal standard or set of principles from which our actual life is a fall and deviation or towards which it is a progress and aspiration.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Ideal of Human Unity, Part Two, Chapter 17, Nature’s Law in our Progress — Unity in Diversity, Law and Liberty, pp. 148-149

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