Sri Aurobindo describes the long, slow process of development of the universal manifestation. There is an evolution of consciousness which takes place over time spanning many millennia, and which does not involve the conscious participation of the individual. At a certain point in time, when the human being develops and has achieved a certain level of self-awareness, he is able to participate consciously in this evolutionary process and thereby speed it up and make it more complete. It is at this stage that the individual generally becomes conscious of the psychic being, the spark of the Divine around which the evolutionary development coalesces and proceeds. Through more direct contact with the psychic being, the progress becomes more focused and is solidified.

The physical, vital and mental progress have their impact on the general texture and background of life, such that all human beings are impacted, to some degree, by that general progress. This provides a context for the soul in its next birth, as a basis for the next phase of development.

More particularly, a highly developed psychic being can actually formulate elements that it needs or requires in its next birth and can either focus the birth into an environment where those things are available, or else, can even create a formation that is carried along or promptly reassembled by the soul in its next birth.

A disciple inquires: “Then everybody is progressing, always, isn’t that so?”

The Mother responds: “In a certain way, yes. Only it may not be apparent in one lifetime, because when there is no conscious participation of the being, the movement is relatively slow, even relative to the short duration of human life. And so it is quite possible, for example, that at the moment of death a being seems not to have progressed, and even sometimes it seems to have been going backwards, to have lost what it had at the beginning of its life. But if we take the great life-curve of its psychic being through many lives, there is always a progress. Each experience it had in one of its physical lifetimes helps it to make some progress. But it is the psychic being which always progresses.”

“The physical being, in the state in which it is at present — well, having reached a certain point of ascent, it comes down again. There are elements which may not come down again grossly; but still it does come down, one can’t deny it.”

“The vital being — not necessarily, nor the mental being. The vital being, if it knows how to get connected with the universal force, can very easily have no retrogression; it can continue to ascend. And the mental being, its absolutely certain, is completely free from all degeneration if it continues to develop normally. So these always make progress so long as they remain co-ordinated and under the influence of the psychic.”

Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, Growing Within: The Psychology of Inner Development, Chapter VIII The Psychic Being and Inner Growth, pp. 159-160

Author's Bio: 

Santosh has been studying Sri Aurobindo's writings since 1971 and has a daily blog at and podcast at He is author of 17 books and is editor-in-chief at Lotus Press. He is president of Institute for Wholistic Education, a non-profit focused on integrating spirituality into daily life.