Matter, Life and Mind – Sri Aurobindo

8 May 1926

In the West the highest minds are turned not towards spiritual truth but towards material science. The scope of science is very narrow, it touches only the most exterior part of the physical plane.

And even there, what does science know really? It studies the functioning of the laws, builds theories ever renewed and each time held up as the last word of truth! We had recently the atomic theory, now comes the electronic.

There are, for instance, two statements of modern science that would stir up deeper ranges for an occultist:

  1. Atoms are whirling systems like the solar system.
  2. The atoms of all the elements are made out of the same constituents. Different arrangement is the only cause of different properties.

If these statements were considered under their true aspect, they could lead science to new discoveries of which there is no idea at present and in comparison with which the present knowledge is poor.

According to the experience of ancient Yogis, sensible matter was made out of five elements, Bhutani: Prithivi, Apas, Agni (Tejas), Vayu, Akasha.

Agni is threefold:

  1. Ordinary fire, Jada Agni,
  2. Electric fire, Vaidyuta Agni,
  3. Solar fire, Saura Agni.

Science has only entered upon the first and the second of  these fires. The fact that the atom is like the solar system could lead it to the knowledge of the third. ²

Beyond Agni is Vayu of which science knows nothing. It is the support of all contact and exchange, the cause of gravitation and of the fields (magnetic and electric). By it, the action of Agni, the formal element, the builder of forms, is made possible.

And beyond Vayu is the ether: Akasha.

But these five constitute only the grossest part of the physical plane. Immediately behind is the physical-vital, the element of life buried in matter. J. C. Bose is contacting this element in his experiments. Beyond is the mind in matter. This mind has a far different form than the human mind, still it is a manifestation of the same principle of organisation. And deep below there are two more hidden layers

That is the occult knowledge concerning the physical plane only. Science is far behind this knowledge.

The Hindu Yogis who had realised these truths did not elaborate them and turn them into scientific knowledge. Other fields of action and knowledge having been open before them, they neglected what for them was the most exterior aspect of the manifestation.

There is a difference between the scientific mind and the cast of mind of an occultist. There is little doubt that one who could unite these two groups of faculties would lead science towards great progress.

Sri Aurobindo


²[It is remarkable to observe that since then (1926) we have indeed discovered a third “fire”, that which accompanies nuclear reactions – and that this fire is in fact that of the sun, the enormous radiation of which is liberated in course of the fusion of hydrogen nuclei into helium (Bethe cycle). The first fire is that of chemical reactions wherein molecules get destroyed and reconstituted without the constituent atoms being changed. The second fire comes from the modifications of the peripheral levels of the electrons in the atom, modifications which are at the origin of all electro-magnetic phenomena.]

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