It is a distinct entity. In the religious language the soul is called the breath of God. And once breathed it never dies; it is permanent. If there is an individual soul which inhabits a body but if the soul itself is not participating either in its own evolution of consciousness or in the evolution of nature in which it is inhabiting, then since it is a reality, after the death it continues to exist. Therefore it may reincarnate into another body but since it has no purpose of evolving in nature it may not necessarily enter into another body. It has no further purpose if its purpose is not evolutionary. Its purpose may be very limited, to be simply in the body and to take a decision to surrender to God or not to take a decision of this kind. If this is the only purpose and not evolutionary purpose then rebirth is not necessary at all.
One body is given to you according to this theory and in this lifetime you have to take a decision as to whether you accept Christ as your saviour or Mohammed as the prophet of God and declare your allegiance to God. If you do so, that is the purpose and there is no evolutionary purpose. It is not that you are going to evolve new forms and higher levels of consciousness. If this is the only purpose then a choice is given to you in this life and you exercise the choice even at the point of death you have a chance of taking a decision. And if you do not take a decision in favour of this alternative, then there may be another possibility for you. If you are favourable to God you will go to heaven. You will not come to another rebirth, but you will go to heaven. Or if your decision is unfavourable to God then you will go to hell. And on the Day of Judgment this decision will be taken by God. This is a kind of logical conclusion one can derive from this kind of theory. If there is an individual soul inhabiting the body but which has no evolutionary purpose in nature then it may take rebirth, because it is an individual soul, but it has no necessity to take rebirth. And its future existence will be either in heaven or hell in this world or somewhere else but not in this particular world which we know. So this is the fourth alternative.
You may have piety, you may have a great feeling of purity, kindness, charity, benevolence – all these good qualities by which you may come to a decision that you would like to have allegiance but what we call the knowledge of God, by becoming one with God, to live in God, the way in which we understand ‘living in God’, to continue to have allegiance to God is in itself living in God. And to continue to have allegiance in God is living in God. This is the fourth alternative.
But if there is an evolution of consciousness in an evolutionary body and a soul inhabiting the body – a real and conscious individual, then it is evident that it is a progressive experience of that soul in nature which takes the form of this evolution of consciousness. Rebirth is self evidently a necessary part, the sole possible machinery of such an evolution, because you cannot evolve the possibilities of consciousness in one brief life. If it was possible in one brief life then there is no need of rebirth. In one brief life the purpose of evolution of consciousness could not be accomplished, since the purpose of the real individual soul is evolution of consciousness in this body, then once this body is over you have to take birth in another body. So rebirth then becomes a necessity.
If rebirth has to be a necessary conclusion of any data, these have to be the data viz. there must be an evolutionary process of nature; this body itself be a product of evolution; the soul is not a temporary formation, not an illusory formation, not merely a persistent formation but a Real Entity and its purpose must be evolution of consciousness in the evolutionary body. If this is the purpose, then since in one body this purpose cannot be fulfilled it can be fulfilled by another process viz. rebirth. Then rebirth becomes a necessity. This is all that Sri Aurobindo shows by all alternatives that these are all the alternatives available – comprehensive data. It is as necessary as birth itself. For without it birth would be an initial step without a sequel, the starting of a journey without its further steps and arrival. It is rebirth that gives to the birth of an incomplete being in a body a promise of completeness and its spiritual significance.
This is where the chapter starts.
In the first chapter, the first paragraph
“Our first conclusion on the subject of reincarnation has been that the rebirth of the soul in successive terrestrial bodies is an inevitable consequence of the original significance and process of the manifestation in earth–nature; but this conclusion leads to farther problems and farther results which it is necessary to elucidate.”