If we cast our gaze backwards through evolutionary history, we can see that there are a series of steps or stages that each wrought enormous and consequential changes in existence on the planet. Out of the apparently unconscious mass of Matter, we see the first stirrings of the life force, awakening and changing the responsiveness and nature of Matter out of which it evolves. Just as an apparently inanimate, unconscious seed bursts forth into an outpouring of the life energy when provided the proper conditions, so the world of Matter burst forth with life. Just as in the seed, the life force has been encoded and involved, so also, this life force in the world is encoded and involved in Matter. The next major evolutionary step was the development of the physical mind in the animal creation. Here once again, extraordinary changes were wrought in the relation of Matter and Life under the impulsion of this new mental force as it evolved. A more obvious and impactful change was wrought with the development of the higher mental capacity of intelligence, self-awareness and will as became possible with the development of humanity. The changes wrought upon Matter and Life are clearly visible in every possible sphere of life and in every direction. Humanity is now even at work to work out changes in life and physical being at the level of the genetic code, with consequences that are yet to be fully comprehended.
Sri Aurobindo describes this progression, the causes and impacts as follows: “…it is a second kind of Nature, a stage of being in which Nature becomes self-conscious in the individual, tries to know, modify, alter and develop, utilise, consciously experiment with herself and her potentialities. In this change a momentous self-discovery intervenes; there appears something that is hidden in matter and in the first disposition of life and has not clearly emerged in the animal in spite of its possession of a mind; there appears the presence of the Soul in things which at first was concealed in its own natural and outward workings, absorbed and on the surface at least self-oblivious. Afterwards it becomes, as in the animal, conscious to a certain degree on the surface, but is still helplessly given up to the course of its natural workings and, not understanding, cannot govern itself and its movements. But finally, in man it turns its consciousness upon itself, seeks to know, endeavours to govern in the individual the workings of his nature and through the individual and the combined reason and energy of many individuals to govern too as far as possible the workings of Nature in mankind and in things. This turning of the consciousness upon itself and on things, which man represents, has been the great crisis, a prolonged and developing crisis, in the terrestrial evolution of the soul in Nature.”
“But at present it is this which is at work; a self-conscious soul in mind, mental being, manomaya purusha, struggles to arrive at some intelligent ordering of its self and life and some indefinite, perhaps infinite development of the powers and potentialities of the human instrument.”
Sri Aurobindo, The Human Cycle: The Psychology of Social Development, Chapter 11, The Reason as Governor of Life, pp. 102-103