© Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust

Unconscious Nature

15 February 1956

Sri Aurobindo writes: "Nature,--not as she is in her divine Truth, the conscious Power of the Eternal, but as [new p. 60]she appears to us in the Ignorance,--is executive [old p. 60]Force, mechanical in her steps, not consciously intelligent to our experiences of her, although all her works are instinct with an absolute intelligence." —The Synthesis of Yoga, p. 91

Nature is not consciously intelligent?...

There is an intelligence which acts in her and through her, in her action, but she is not conscious of this intelligence. You can understand this with animals. Take ants, for example. They do exactly what they have to do; all their work and organisation is something which really looks perfect. But they are not conscious of the intelligence which organises them. They are moved mechanically by an intelligence of which they are not aware. And even if you take the most developed animals, like the cat and dog for instance, they know exactly what they have to do: a cat bringing up its little ones brings them up just as well as a woman hers--sometimes better than a woman but it is impelled by an intelligence which moves it automatically. It is not conscious of the intelligence which makes it do things. It is not aware of it, it can't change anything at all in the movement by its own will. Something makes it act mechanically but over that it has no control.

If a human being intervenes and trains a cat, he can make it change its behaviour; but it is the consciousness of the human being which acts upon it, not its own consciousness. It is not conscious of the intelligence which makes it act.

And this kind of self-awareness, this possibility of watching oneself acting, of understanding why one does things, how one does them and, therefore, of having a control and changing the action--that belongs to the mind and in his own right to man. This is the essential difference between a man and an animal--that a man is conscious of himself, that he can become aware of the force which makes him act, and not only become aware of it but control it. [new p. 61][old p. 61]

But all those who feel themselves driven by a force and say, "I was forced to do it", without the participation of their will, show that they are still deeply rooted in animality, that is to say, in the inconscient. One begins to become a conscious human being only when one knows why one does things and when one is capable of changing one's action by a determined will, when one has a control. Before having any control, one is still more or less an animal with a small embryo of consciousness which is just beginning, a little flame flickering and trying to burn, and likely to be blown out by the slightest passing breeze.


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