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Sri Aurobindo. The Human cycle. Vital-Physical. OUR NORMAL conduct of life, whether the individual or the social, is actually governed by the balance between two complementary powers ,—first, an implicit will central to the life and inherent in the main power of its

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sri aurobindo

Sri Aurobindo

The Human cycle

vital physical

OUR NORMAL conduct of life, whether the individual

or the social, is actually governed by the balance between

two complementary powers,—first, an implicit

will central to the life and inherent in the main power of its

action and, secondly, whatever modifying will can come in from

the Idea in mind—for man is a mental being—and operate

through our as yet imperfect mental instruments to give this

life force a conscious orientation and a conscious method.



normally finds its own centre in our vital and physical being, in

its cravings and its needs, in its demand for persistence, growth,

expansion, enjoyment, in its reachings after all kinds of power

and possession and activity and splendour and largeness. The

first self-direction of this Life-Force, its first orderings of method

are instinctive and either entirely or very largely subconscient

and magnificently automatic: the ease, spontaneity, fine normality,

beauty, self-satisfaction, abundant vital energy and power

of the subhuman life of Nature up to the animal is due to its

entire obedience to this instinctive and automatic urge. (218/232)


We have seen that there are necessarily three stages of the

social evolution or, generally, of the human evolution in both

individual and society. Our evolution starts with an infrarational

stage in which men have not yet learned to refer their life and

action in its principles and its forms to the judgment of the

clarified intelligence; for they still act principally out of their

instincts, impulses, spontaneous ideas, vital intuitions or obey

a customary response to desire, need and circumstance,—it is

these things that are canalised or crystallised in their social institutions. (173/184)

Man proceeds by various stages out of these beginnings

towards a rational age in which his intelligent will more or less

developed becomes the judge, arbiter and presiding motive of

his thought, feeling and action, the moulder, destroyer and recreator

of his leading ideas, aims and intuitions.


Finally, if our analysis and forecast are correct, the human evolution must move through a subjective towards a suprarational or spiritual age in which he will develop progressively a greater spiritual, supra-intellectual and intuitive, perhaps in the end a more than intuitive, a gnostic consciousness.

And as with the psychological life of individuals, so

must it be with the ages of his communal existence; these may be marked off from each other by the predominant play of one element, its force may overpower the others or take them into itself or make some compromise, but an exclusive play seems to be neither intended nor possible. (174/185)


…we may

not realise the element of reason in a primitive theory of life or of spirituality in a barbaric religion, because it appears to us to be made up of symbols and forms to which a superstitious value is attached by these undeveloped minds. But this is because the

reason at this stage has an imperfect and limited action and the element of spirituality is crude or undeveloped and not yet selfconscious;


In order to hold firmly their workings and make them

real and concrete to his mind and spirit primitive man has to

give them shape in symbols and forms to which he clings with

a barbaric awe and reverence, because they alone can embody

for him his method of self-guidance in life. For the dominant

thing in him is his infrarational life of instinct, vital intuition

and impulse, mechanical custom and tradition, and it is that to

which the rest of him has to give some kind of primary order

and first glimmerings of light. The unrefined reason and unenlightened

spirit in him cannot work for their own ends; they are

bond-slaves of his infrarational nature. (175/186)


—the infrarational stage of society may

arrive at a very lofty order of civilisation. It may have great intuitions of the meaning or general intention of life, admirable ideas of the arrangement of life, a harmonious, well-adapted, durable

and serviceable social system, an imposing religion which will not be without its profundities, but in which symbol and ceremonial will form the largest portion and for the mass of men will be almost the whole of religion. In this stage pure reason

and pure spirituality will not govern the society or move large bodies of men, but will be represented, if at all, by individuals at first few, but growing in number as these two powers increase in their purity and vigour and attract more and more votaries.


Life organises itself at first round the ego-motive

and the instinct of ego-expansion is the earliest means by which

men have come into contact with each other; the struggle for

possession has been the first crude means towards union, the

aggressive assertion of the smaller self the first step towards a

growth into the larger self. All has been therefore a half-ordered

confusion of the struggle for life corrected by the need and

instinct of association, a struggle of individuals, clans, tribes,

parties, nations, ideas, civilisations, cultures, ideals, religions,

each affirming itself, each compelled into contact, association,

strife with the others. For while Nature imposes the ego as a veil

behind which she labours out the individual manifestation of the

spirit, she also puts a compulsion on it to grow in being until it

can at last expand or merge into a larger self in which it meets,

harmonises with itself, comprehends in its own consciousness,

becomes one with the rest of existence. To assist in this growth

Life-Nature throws up in itself ego-enlarging, ego-exceeding,

even ego-destroying instincts and movements which combat and

correct the smaller self-affirming instincts and movements,—

she enforces on her human instrument impulses of love, sympathy,

self-denial, self-effacement, self-sacrifice, altruism, the drive

towards universality in mind and heart and life, glimmerings

of an obscure unanimism that has not yet found thoroughly its

own true light and motive-power. (157/167)

mental vital

The ideal and practical reason of

man labours to find amidst all this the right law of life and

action; it strives by a rule of moderation and accommodation,

by selection and rejection or by the dominance of some chosen

ideas or powers to reduce things to harmony, to do consciously

what Nature through natural selection and instinct has achieved

in her animal kinds, an automatically ordered and settled form

and norm of their existence. But the order, the structure arrived

at by the reason is always partial, precarious and temporary. It

is disturbed by a pull from below and a pull from above. For

these powers that life throws up to help towards the growth into

a larger self, a wider being, are already reflections of something

that is beyond reason, seeds of the spiritual, the absolute.


REASON using the intelligent will for the ordering of the inner and the outer life is undoubtedly the highest developed

faculty of man at his present point of evolution; it is the sovereign, because the governing and self-governing faculty

in the complexities of our human existence. Man is distinguished from other terrestrial creatures by his capacity for seeking after a rule of life, a rule of his being and his works, a principle of order and self-development, which is not the first instinctive, original, mechanically self-operative rule of his natural existence.


The principle he looks to is neither the unchanging, unprogressive

order of the fixed natural type, nor in its process of change the

mechanical evolution we see in the lower life, an evolution which

operates in the mass rather than in the individual, imperceptibly

to the knowledge of that which is being evolved and without

its conscious cooperation. He seeks for an intelligent rule of

which he himself shall be the governor and master or at least a

partially free administrator. He can conceive a progressive order

by which he shall be able to evolve and develop his capacities

far beyond their original limits and workings; he can initiate

an intelligent evolution which he himself shall determine or at

least be in it a conscious instrument, more, a cooperating and

constantly consulted party. The rest of terrestrial existence is

helplessly enslaved and tyrannised over by its nature, but the

instinct of man when he finds his manhood is to be master of

his nature and free. (94/102)


…at present it is this which is at work; a self-conscious soul in

mind, mental being, manomaya purusa, 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. (95/103)


All action, all perception, all aesthesis and sensation, all impulse and will, all imagination and creation imply a universal, many-sided force of knowledge at work and each form or

power of this knowledge has its own distinct nature and law, its own principle of order and arrangement, its logic proper to itself, and need not follow, still less be identical with the law

of nature, order and arrangement which the intellectual reason would assign to it or itself follow if it had control of all these movements. But the intellect has this advantage over the others that it can disengage itself from the work, stand back from it to study and understand it disinterestedly, analyse its processes, disengage its principles.


Reason, … exists for the sake of knowledge,

can prevent itself from being carried away by the action, can

stand back from it, intelligently study, accept, refuse, modify,

alter, improve, combine and recombine the workings and capacities

of the forces in operation, can repress here, indulge there,

strive towards an intelligent, intelligible, willed and organised

perfection. Reason is science, it is conscious art, it is invention.

It is observation and can seize and arrange truth of facts; it is

speculation and can extricate and forecast truth of potentiality.

It is the idea and its fulfilment, the ideal and its bringing to

fruition. It can look through the immediate appearance and

unveil the hidden truths behind it. It is the servant and yet

the master of all utilities; and it can, putting away all utilities,

seek disinterestedly Truth for its own sake and by finding it

reveal a whole world of new possible utilities. (96/105)


In the other spheres of human consciousness

and human activity it may be thought that it has the right to

the sovereign place, since these move on the lower plane of the

rational and the finite or belong to that border-land where the

rational and the infrarational meet and the impulses and the

instincts of man stand in need above all of the light and the

control of the reason. In its own sphere of finite knowledge,

science, philosophy, the useful arts, its right, one would think,

must be indisputable. But this does not turn out in the end to

be true. Its province may be larger, its powers more ample, its

action more justly self-confident, but in the end everywhere it

finds itself standing between the two other powers of our being

and fulfilling in greater or less degree the same function of an

intermediary. On one side it is an enlightener—not always the

chief enlightener—and the corrector of our life-impulses and

first mental seekings, on the other it is only one minister of the

veiled Spirit and a preparer of the paths for the coming of its



This is especially evident in the two realms which in the

ordinary scale of our powers stand nearest to the reason and on

either side of it, the aesthetic and the ethical being, the search

for Beauty and the search for Good. (127/137)


Where the greatest and most powerful

creation of beauty is accomplished and its appreciation and enjoyment

rise to the highest pitch, the rational is always surpassed

and left behind. The creation of beauty in poetry and art does

not fall within the sovereignty or even within the sphere of the

reason. The intellect is not the poet, the artist, the creator within

us; creation comes by a suprarational influx of light and power

which must work always, if it is to do its best, by vision and

inspiration. It may use the intellect for certain of its operations,

but in proportion as it subjects itself to the intellect, it loses

in power and force of vision and diminishes the splendour and

truth of the beauty it creates. (128/137)

psychic and spiritual supramental
Psychic and spiritual/supramental

The secret of the transformation lies in the transference of

our centre of living to a higher consciousness and in a change

of our main power of living. This will be a leap or an ascent

even more momentous than that which Nature must at one time

have made from the vital mind of the animal to the thinking

mind still imperfect in our human intelligence. The central will

implicit in life must be no longer the vital will in the life and the

body, but the spiritual will of which we have now only rare and

dim intimations and glimpses. For now it comes to us

hardly disclosed, weakened, disguised in the mental Idea; but it is in

its own nature supramental and it is its supramental power and

truth that we have somehow to discover. The main power of

our living must be no longer the inferior vital urge of Nature

which is already accomplished in us and can only whirl upon its

rounds about the ego-centre, but that spiritual force of which we

sometimes hear and speak but have not yet its inmost secret. (227/241)


This means that man has developed a new power of being,

—let us call it a new soul-power, with the premise that we regard

the life and the body also as a soul-power,—and the being who

has done that is under an inherent obligation not only to look

at the world and revalue all in it from this new elevation, but

to compel his whole nature to obey this power and in a way

reshape itself in its mould, and even to reshape, so far as he can,

his environmental life into some image of this greater truth and

law. (221/235)


Now this is precisely what man has failed to do. He has effected

something, he has passed a certain stage of his journey. He has

laid some yoke of the intellectual, ethical, aesthetic rule on his

vital and physical parts and made it impossible for himself to be

content with or really to be the mere human animal. But more he

has not been able to do successfully. …


The main failure, the root of the whole failure indeed, is

that he has not been able to shift upward what we have called

the implicit will central to his life, the force and assured faith

inherent in its main power of action. His central will of life is

still situated in his vital and physical being, its drift is towards

vital and physical enjoyment, enlightened indeed and checked to

a certain extent in its impulses by the higher powers, but enlightened

only and very partially, not transformed,—checked, not

dominated and uplifted to a higher plane. The higher life is still

only a thing superimposed on the lower, a permanent intruder

upon our normal existence.


Man’s road to spiritual supermanhood will be open when he declares

boldly that all he has yet developed, including the intellect

of which he is so rightly and yet so vainly proud, are now no

longer sufficient for him, and that to uncase, discover, set free

this greater Light within shall be henceforward his pervading

preoccupation. Then will his philosophy, art, science, ethics,

social existence, vital pursuits be no longer an exercise of mind

and life, done for themselves, carried in a circle, but a means for

the discovery of a greater Truth behind mind and life and for

the bringing of its power into our human existence.