For much of human history, spirituality has been looked upon as a contradiction of an active life in the world. The anchorite in the desert, the renunciate, the Sannyasin, the monk or nun in the cloister are held up to us as the examples of dedication to spiritual growth and purpose. All of these examples imply that if one is caught up in the world’s affairs, if one acts in a full and rich life in the world, that there is little hope for true spiritual progress. We create a duality between the “man of the world”, immersed in the goals of success, accumulation of wealth, relationships and enjoyment of life, and the “man of the spirit” who focuses on spiritual realisation at the expense of all other objectives or goals in life.
Sri Aurobindo reminds us that the universal creation is one and that there is an “omnipresent Reality” which does not artificially divide one aspect of living from another. The true fulfillment thus does not require abandonment of life, but the integration of the Spirit into all aspects of living. Life is not intended to be an illusion or a deception, but an expression of the divine intention.
What we observe is an evolution of consciousness that is initially involved in Matter. There is a progression from Matter to Life, from Life to Mind, and beyond to what Sri Aurobindo has termed the Supermind. This evolution of consciousness builds on and incorporates all the aspects of life. The spiritual seeker, consciously participating in this evolutionary process, works towards perfecting and uplifting human nature, not abandoning or destroying it.
Sri Aurobindo writes in The Life Divine: “If there is an evolution in material Nature and if it is an evolution of being with consciousness and life as its two key-terms and powers, this fullness of being, fullness of consciousness, fullness of life must be the goal of development towards which we are tending and which will manifest at an early or later stage of our destiny. The Self, the Spirit, the Reality that is disclosing itself out of the first inconscience of life and matter, would evolve its complete truth of being and consciousness in that life and matter. It would return to itself, — or, if its end as an individual is to return into its Absolute, it could make that return also, — not through a frustration of life but through a spiritual completeness of itself in life. Our evolution in the Ignorance with its chequered joy and pain of self-discovery and world-discovery, its half-fulfilments, its constant finding and missing, is only our first state. It must lead inevitably towards an evolution in the Knowledge, a self-finding and self-unfolding of the Spirit, a self-revelation of the Divinity in things in that true power of itself in Nature which is to us still a Supernature.”