The Spirit shall look out through Matter’s gaze
And Matter shall reveal the Spirit’s face.
Then man and superman shall be at one
And all the earth become a single life.
Sri Aurobindo – Savitri: CWSA, Vol. 34, Book Eleven, p. 709
Spirit is the crown of universal existence; Matter is its basis; Mind is the link between the two. Spirit is that which is eternal; Mind and Matter are its workings. Spirit is that which is concealed and has to be revealed; mind and body are the means by which it seeks to reveal itself. Spirit is the image of the Lord of the Yoga; mind and body are the means He has provided for reproducing that image in phenomenal existence.
Sri Aurobindo – The Synthesis of Yoga: CWSA, Vol. 23, p. 29
“In the world, people generally classify themselves as materialists who believe in nothing but matter, or as spiritualists who reject matter in order to lean on the spirit alone.
“Sri Aurobindo is neither a materialist nor a spiritualist. He admits both, but wants a matter transformed, divinized by the spirit, capable of expressing the truth instead of constantly denying it.”
The Mother – Agenda, Vol. 10, p. 218
I think one of the greatest difficulties in understanding things comes from an arbitrary simplification which puts spirit on one side and matter on the other. It is this foolishness that makes you incapable of understanding anything….The universe is a seemingly infinite gradation of worlds and states of consciousness, and in this increasingly subtle gradation, where does your matter come to an end? Where does your spirit begin?….
For the human consciousness as it is, there are certainly infinitely more invisible things than visible things. What you know, the things which are visible to you and which you are conscious of—it’s almost like the skin of an orange compared with the orange itself―and even an orange with a very thin skin, not a thick one! And so, if you know only the skin of the orange, you know nothing about the orange.
And this is more or less what happens. All that you know about the universe is just a superficial little crust―and even this you hardly know. But that is all you know about it, and all the rest escapes you.
The Mother – Questions and Answers : CWM, Vol. 8, pp. 86-87
…. A divine life in a material world implies necessarily a union of the two ends of existence, the spiritual summit and the material base. The soul with the basis of its life established in Matter ascends to the heights of the Spirit but does not cast away its base, it joins the heights and the depths together. The Spirit descends into Matter and the material world with all its lights and glories and powers and with them fills and transforms life in the material world so that it becomes more and more divine. The transformation is not a change into something purely subtle and spiritual to which Matter is in its nature repugnant and by which it is felt as an obstacle or as a shackle binding the Spirit; it takes up Matter as a form of the Spirit though now a form which conceals and turns it into a revealing instrument, it does not cast away the energies of Matter, its capacities, its methods; it brings out their hidden possibilities, uplifts, sublimates, discloses their innate divinity. The divine life will reject nothing that is capable of divinisation; all is to be seized, exalted, made utterly perfect….
Sri Aurobindo – Essays in Philosophy and Yoga : CWSA, Vol. 13, pp. 521 – 22
In the pursuit of perfection we can start at either end of our range of being and we have then to use, initially at least, the means and processes proper to our choice. In Yoga the process is spiritual and psychic; even its vital and physical processes are given a spiritual or psychic turn and raised to a higher motion than belongs properly to the ordinary life and Matter, as for instance in the Hathayogic and Rajayogic use of the breathing or the use of Asana…. It is not that the action from the two ends cannot meet and the higher take into itself and uplift the lower perfection; but this can usually be done only by a transition from the lower to a higher outlook, aspiration and motive: this we shall have to do if our aim is to transform the human into the divine life. But here there comes in the necessity of taking up the activities of human life and sublimating them by the power of the spirit. Here the lower perfection will not disappear; it will remain but will be enlarged and transformed by the higher perfection which only the power of the spirit can give….
Sri Aurobindo – Essays in Philosophy and Yoga : CWSA, Vol. 13, pp. 523 – 24
Sweet Mother, here Sri Aurobindo speaks of “the higher perfection” and “the lower perfection”…
The higher perfection is the spiritual perfection, integral union with the Divine, identification with the Divine, freedom from all the limitations of the lower world. That is spiritual perfection, the perfection that comes from yoga—quite independent of the body and the physical world….
And the lower perfection is to be able to make the human being in his present form and in his body, in his relation with all terrestrial things, do the utmost he can. This is the case of all great men of genius: artistic genius, literary genius, genius in organisation, the great rulers, those who have carried physical capacities to their maximum perfection, human development to the limit of its possibilities; and, for instance, all those who have complete control over their bodies and succeed in doing miraculous things, … all human qualities carried to their utmost limits. That is the lower perfection.
The higher perfection is spiritual and super-human. The lower perfection is human perfection carried to its maximum limits, and this may be quite independent of all spiritual life, all spiritual aspiration. One can be a genius without having any spiritual aspiration. One can have all the most extraordinary moral qualities without having any spiritual life….
The Mother – Questions and Answers : CWM, Vol. 9, pp. 91-92
I believe that is one of the things Sri Aurobindo is going to explain: why it is necessary to give to the physical, external being, its full development, the capacity of controlling matter directly; then you put at the disposal of the Spirit an instrument capable of manifesting it, otherwise… Yes, I knew several people who in their ordinary state could not write three lines without making a mistake, not only spelling mistakes but mistakes of language, that is, who could not express one thought clearly—well, in their moments of spiritual inspiration, they used to write very beautiful things, but all the same these very beautiful things were not so beautiful as the works of the greatest writers. These things seemed remarkable in comparison with what they could do in their ordinary state; it was true, their present possibilities were used to the maximum, it was something that gave a value to what otherwise would have had none at all. But supposing you take a real genius—a musician or artist or writer of genius—who has fully mastered his instrument, who can use it to produce works that express the utmost human possibility, if you add to this a spiritual consciousness, the supramental force, then you will have something truly divine.
And this is precisely the key to the effort Sri Aurobindo wanted us to make.
And your body, if you draw from it all the possibilities it holds, if you educate it by the normal, well-known, scientific methods, if you make this instrument into something as perfect as possible, then, when the supramental truth manifests in that body, it will become immediately—without centuries of preparation—a marvellous instrument for the expression of the Spirit.
That is why Sri Aurobindo used to repeat and has always said: You must work from both ends, not let go of one for the other. And certainly, if you want to have a divine consciousness, you must not give up spiritual aspiration; but if you want to become an integral divine being on earth, take good care not to let go of the other end, and make your body the best possible instrument.
It is a disease of the ordinary human intellect—which comes, moreover, from separation, division—to make a thing always either this or that. If you choose this, you turn your back on that; if you choose that, you turn your back on this.
It is an impoverishment. One must know how to take up everything, combine everything, synthesise everything. And then one has an integral realisation.
The Mother – Questions and Answers : CWM, Vol. 9, pp. 94-95
Work, even manual work, is indispensable to the inner discovery. If one does not work, if one does not put one’s consciousness into matter, it will never develop. To let consciousness organize some matter through one’s body is very good. To put things in order around oneself helps to put things in order in oneself.
One should organize one’s life not according to external and artificial rules, but according to an organized inner consciousness, because if one leaves life alone without imposing on it the control of a higher consciousness, it becomes hazy and inexpressive. It means wasting one’s time, in the sense that matter remains without conscious utilization.
The Mother – Agenda, Vol. 11, p. 228
“A spiritual evolution, an evolution of consciousness in Matter in a constant developing self-formation till the form can reveal the indwelling Spirit, is then the key-note, the central significant motive of the terrestrial existence. This significance is concealed at the outset by the involution of the Spirit, the Divine Reality, in a dense material Inconscience; a veil of Inconscience, a veil of insensibility of Matter hides the universal Consciousness-Force which works within it, so that the Energy, which is the first form the Force of creation assumes in the physical universe, appears to be itself inconscient and yet does the works of a vast occult Intelligence.” – Sri Aurobindo – The Life Divine : CWSA, Vol.22, pp. 856 – 57
I didn’t understand, Sweet Mother, what this Consciousness-Force was, so I did not understand anything!
The first thing to understand is precisely this first sentence which states the fact, the raison d’être and the very principle of universal existence…. from the purely intellectual point of view, what the purpose of existence is, and he formulates it like this: “the central significant motive of the terrestrial existence.” For he is not concerned with the entire universe, he has taken terrestrial life, that is, our life here on Earth, as a symbolic and concentrated representation of the purpose of the entire universe….In fact, according to very old traditions, the Earth, from the deeper spiritual point of view, has been created as a symbolic concentration of universal life so that the work of transformation may be done more easily, in a limited, concentrated “space”—so to say—where all the elements of the problem are gathered together so that, in the concentration, the action may be more total and effective. So here he speaks only of terrestrial existence, but we can understand that it is a symbolic existence, that is, that it represents a universal action. It is a symbolic, concentrated representation. And he says that “the central motive”, that is, the purpose of terrestrial existence is to awaken, to develop and finally to reveal in a total manifestation the Spirit which is hidden at the centre of Matter and impels this Matter from within outwards towards a progressive development which will liberate the Spirit working from within.
So, in the outer appearances as you see them, at first you find the mineral kingdom with stones, earth, minerals which to us, in our outer consciousness, appear absolutely unconscious. Yet, behind this unconsciousness there is the life of the Spirit, the consciousness of the Spirit, which is completely hidden, which is as if asleep—though that is only an appearance—and which works from within in order gradually to transform this Matter that is completely inert in appearance, so that its organisation may lend itself more and more to the manifestation of consciousness. And he says here that at first this veil of inert Matter is so total that, to a superficial glance, it is something that has neither life nor consciousness. When you pick up a stone and look at it with your ordinary eyes and consciousness, you say, “It has no life, no consciousness.” For one who knows how to see behind appearances, there is, hidden at the centre of this Matter—at the centre of each atom of this Matter—there is, hidden, the Supreme Divine Reality working from within, gradually, through the millennia, to change this inert Matter into something that is expressive enough to be able to reveal the Spirit within. Then you have the progression of the history of Life: how, from the stone there suddenly appeared a rudimentary life and through successive species a sort of organisation, that is, an organic substance capable of revealing life. But between the mineral and vegetable kingdoms there are transitional elements;… Then comes the development of the vegetable kingdom where naturally life appears, for there is growth, transformation—a plant sprouts up, develops, grows—and with the first phenomenon of life comes also the phenomenon of decomposition and disintegration which is relatively much more rapid than in the stone: a stone, if protected from the impact of other forces, can last apparently indefinitely, whereas the plant already follows a curve of growth, ascent and decline and decomposition—but this with an extremely restricted consciousness. Those who have studied the vegetable kingdom in detail are well aware that there is a consciousness there. For instance, plants need sunlight to live—the sun represents the active energy which makes them grow—so, if you put a plant in a place where there is no sunlight, you see it always growing up and up and up, trying, making an effort to reach the sunlight. In a virgin forest, for instance, where man does not interfere, there is this kind of struggle among all the plants which are always growing straight upwards in one way or another in their effort to catch the sunlight. It is very interesting. But even if you put a flower-pot in a fairly small courtyard surrounded by walls, where the sun doesn’t come, a plant which normally is as high as this (gesture), becomes as tall as that: it stretches up and makes an effort to find the light. Therefore there is a consciousness, a will to live which is already manifesting. And little by little, with species that are more and more developed, you again reach another transitional passage between what is no longer entirely a plant and still not yet an animal. There are several species like that, which are very interesting. There are those plants which are carnivorous, plants like an open mouth: you throw a fly inside, snap! they swallow it. It is no longer quite a plant, it is not yet an animal. There are many plants of this kind.
Then you come to the animal. They have their own completely independent will. They are very conscious and marvellously intelligent, like the elephant, for instance; you know all the stories about elephants and their wonderful intelligence. Therefore, it is already a very perceptible appearance of mind. And through this progressive development, we suddenly pass on to a species which has probably disappeared—traces of which have been found—an intermediate animal like a monkey or of the same line as the monkey—something close to it, similar, if not the monkey as we know it—but already an animal that walks on two legs. And from there we come to man. There is an entire beginning of the evolution of man; we can’t say, can we, that he shows a brilliant intelligence, but there is already an action of the mind, a beginning of independence, of independent reaction to the environment and the forces of Nature. And so, in man there is the whole range, right up to the higher being capable of spiritual life.
That is what Sri Aurobindo tells us on this page.
The Mother – Questions and Answers : CWM, Vol. 9, pp. 208-212
1) In view of the present and the future of national and international living, what is it that India should aim at in education?
Prepare her children for the rejection of falsehood and the manifestation of Truth.
2) By what steps could the country proceed to realise this high aim? How can a beginning in that direction be made?
Make matter ready to manifest the Spirit.
3) What is India’s true genius and what is her destiny?
To teach to the world that matter is false and impotent unless it becomes the manifestation of the Spirit.
4) How does the Mother view the progress of Science and Technology in India? What contribution can they make to the growth of the Spirit in man?
Its only use is to make the material basis stronger, completer and more effective for the manifestation of the Spirit.
The Mother – On Education: CWM, Vol. 12, p. 250