The mind is a limited and limiting Intelligence. It can see things only in firm and fixed boundaries and distinct and separate from each other. Of course there is a larger movement of the Mind but that will be revealed to us at its appropriate place. Here Sri Aurobindo is referring to the animal mind as it evolves towards the human.
A little ordered world broke into view
Where being had prison-room for act and sight,
A floor to walk, a clear but scanty range.
With the coming of mind the spontaneous order of creation took a more deliberate turn. The mind tries to create order by cutting each element into bits and pieces and then arranging them according to its own limited vision of things. This classification and categorisation of things creates certain fixity and boundaries, cutting it from the integral whole.
An instrument personality
An instrument-personality was born,
And a restricted clamped intelligence
Consented to confine in narrow bounds
Its seeking; it tied the thought to visible things,
Prohibiting the adventure of the Unseen
And the soul’s tread through unknown infinities.
By a constant repetition of movements habits are born which then tend to become fixed as personality. But this surface personality that is largely a habitual pattern of behaviour fixed by the mind is only an instrument of something much deeper. But the outer mind bound by its senses and tied to visible things is unable to seek or probe these hidden depths. It limits its field of observation and study.
Reflex and habit
A reflex reason, Nature-habit’s glass
Illumined life to know and fix its field,
Accept a dangerous ignorant brevity
And the inconclusive purpose of its walk
And profit by the hour’s precarious chance
In the allotted boundaries of its fate.
This outward looking mind reacts habitually based on the inadequate surface information. Its field is narrow while the larger picture remains unseen by it. It seeks for immediate gains and not long term goals or the purpose of life.
A little joy and knowledge satisfied
This little being tied into a knot
And hung on a bulge of its environment,
A little curve cut off in measureless Space,
A little span of life in all vast Time.
Its knowledge and action are necessarily limited by the outward gazing senses and their limited field. Thus it remain tied to its environment and the superficial view of things confined to a brief moment in Time.
Small aims and narrow scope
A thought was there that planned, a will that strove,
But for small aims within a narrow scope,
Wasting unmeasured toil on transient things.
All its efforts were poured out on small insignificant and transient things. Its aims and scope were therefore limited and small.
No inward look
It knew itself a creature of the mud;
It asked no larger law, no loftier aim;
It had no inward look, no upward gaze.
It is an outward and downward gazing intelligence restricted to the immediate and outer field. Oblivious of larger aims and deeper truths it declares itself a creature of the mud. To its limited understanding the body is all; it knows the bodily self alone.
This is the first step in the unfolding of various aspects and powers and possibilities of the mind.