The theme of this paragraph is that when you see opposition between one thing and the other, there is a contradiction between the two, it is not to be inferred that one is valid and the other invalid. This is the basic point, if there are two contradictory things it does not follow that if one is valid another is invalid, which is the normal assumption of in the world. Sri Aurobindo gives a new argument that if there is an opposition between the actual and the unrealized, then the unrealized may be valid, even though it is contradictory of the actual. Sri Aurobindo gives the example of the opposition between matter and life. Supposing one of you were present in the world, on the earth, at the time when evolution had just started. Today we are here after millions of years of evolution, but supposing we were on the earth, at least one of us, were present. Supposing there were, as Sri Aurobindo says, a witness, but uninstructed. That is to say one who did not know what it was all about? He was not told. Just out of curiosity he was on earth, and looking around. And only matter existed, nothing else.
You examine the characteristics of matter. Matter is inert; matter is mechanical; matter is unconscious. Even if you argue that matter is still dynamic – this knowledge came to us in the Twentieth Century – that matter even though inert, is dynamic. It is revolving; every atom is a revolution around the nucleus. Even if you argue that matter is not inert, it is dynamic, there is still one great limitation of matter. The dynamism of matter does not grow, it moves in its own orbit, on and on and on and on. What is the difference between matter and a tree? Both are dynamic. The tree is dynamic, the atom is also dynamic. But an atom does not grow like a tree. There is something like an organism which has a different quality to it.
If somebody were to argue with you: Look, on this matter there will grow a beautiful tree, a beautiful flower will come out of it, fruits will grow. You would have argued, like the modern materialists, that the actual fact is just matter – this growth this development, flowering, fruition all this is unrealized, this is utopia. It will never happen because matter and life are opposed to each other – matter is real, what you talk of: life, growth, is a dream. And you vainly dream – it will never happen. It is completely impossible. But if we have Sri Aurobindo's argument with us we could argue that this opposition between matter and life is a proof that nature is striving to effect a great harmony between that matter and this life.
Listen to what Sri Aurobindo says: "The accordance of active Life with a material of form in which the condition of activity itself seems to be inertia, is one problem of opposites that Nature has solved and seeks always to solve better with greater complexities..."
Let us analyse every word of this sentence. Basically, it answers our question whether matter can give rise to life which seem to be opposites of each other. But see Sri Aurobindo's description of life and see the description of matter. Sri Aurobindo says that the accordance of life in matter – this to say that the tree grows in matter, it does not grow outside matter – is also a very important thing. Accordance of life in matter, that is to say the very nature of matter is changed with the entrance of life in it. The two are joined together. There is no life on earth which can exist without matter – on the earth at least. All that is organic has to have its grounding in matter, which seems to be completely opposite to life. And yet the whole earth is such that if anybody has to live it has to be in matter. This accordance of life in matter is one of the stories of opposites which nature has accomplished already.
Now the description of matter is also very important. What is matter? Even if you grant that matter is not inert – even if you argue that matter is full of dynamism – Sri Aurobindo says that the activity itself seems to be inertia… You know the law of inertia? The scientific law of inertia is not that something is not moving. If something moves but cannot stop by itself it is called inertia. If you move once you are pushed once you go on moving on and on and on, and if you cannot stop yourself it is called inertia in physics. The definition of inertia is that you have no capacity to change the state of motion. When you are unable to change either the state of staticity or the state of motion it is called inertia. And that is the nature of matter. At one time it was thought that matter could move only if it was moved from outside. That was the law given by Newton. Newton did not know that matter already has motion within itself. This we have discovered only now in the Twentieth Century. When Newton, the great physicist, gave the laws, the first law was called the Law of Inertia. And he said that matter cannot move by itself. That is the meaning of inertia. He believed in God so he said: "God moved the first matter." And once it is in motion it moves on and on and on. And the fact that matter cannot stop by itself, it required external force to stop it or to change its direction was called the law of inertia. Matter has two kinds of inertia. First of all, it cannot move by itself, you require an outside agency to move it. And secondly, once it is in motion matter cannot stop by itself. You require an outside force. Either you do not move by yourself or once in motion you cannot stop your motion by yourself. This incapacity is called inertia.