As a scientist first conducts several experiments before launching upon the final product so also Nature brings out first the animal life before venturing onto man.
The Force that works by the light of Ignorance,
Her animal experiment began,
Crowding with conscious creatures her world-scheme;
But to the outward only were they alive,
Only they replied to touches and surfaces
And to the prick of need that drove their lives.
Animals are certainly more conscious than the insect and plant life, yet this consciousness is largely turned outwards. The animal life is aware of its immediate environment and the outward field. It has not yet the capacity of turning its gaze within such as man can. It is a life submerged in the darkness of Ignorance moved primarily by sensory touches and survival needs.
Knowing not the soul within
A body that knew not its own soul within,
There lived and longed, had wrath and joy and grief;
A mind was there that met the objective world
As if a stranger or enemy at its door:
Its thoughts were kneaded by the shocks of sense;
It captured not the spirit in the form,
It entered not the heart of what it saw;
It looked not for the power behind the act,
It studied not the hidden motive in things
Nor strove to find the meaning of it all.
We may well say that the sign of an evolving humanity is the awareness, however afar of the soul within. Without this intuition one is living more of an animal existence bound by the senses and driven by lust and fear and joy and grief. The sense of a greater Power behind creation is missing. Nor is this life concerned with studying and understanding the deeper laws and meaning of existence.
Beings were there who wore a human form;
Absorbed they lived in the passion of the scene,
But knew not who they were or why they lived:
Content to breathe, to feel, to sense, to act,
Life had for them no aim save Nature’s joy
And the stimulus and delight of outer things;
Identified with the spirit’s outward shell,
They worked for the body’s wants, they craved no more.
This early humanity was closer to the animal kind. It had a rudimentary mind like the animal. It lived absorbed in surface events and outer circumstances without care or seeking for anything deeper or higher than the spur of the moment and the passing impulse. All that they sought in life was passing pleasures and transient thrills of the flesh. The body’s wants were all while the spirit within remained unsought, unknown.
Sri Aurobindo draws here a parallel between the animal life and the life of primitive humanity that is driven largely by animal impulses. It is a life driven by external stimulus and instinctive impulse. Self-reflection, self-knowledge, self-awareness are not yet there.