Individual Spiritual Change and the Collectivity

As the evolutionary pressure begins to develop individuals who undergo the spiritual transformation we have been discussing, there is still the issue of how these individuals can impact the wider life of humanity. Isolated individuals surrounded by an untransformed mass of humanity and the ordinary human social order have really only a couple of viable choices. The first is to withdraw themselves and develop their own inner life. The second is to do the best they can to help and guide humanity in its slow effort of transformation.

As these individuals identify each other, it is possible that they will join together in some form of spiritual collectivity. In the past, this impulse has led to the monastic orders, although they were primarily focused on individual realisation and the abandonment of the world and its life to its own devices. Occasionally we have seen attempts to develop societies that tried to create conditions for a more general life based on spiritual principles, harmony and a higher standard. In each case, however, the spiritual impetus has been blunted and diverted by the weight and drag of the normal impulses, needs and desires of the physical, vital and mental forces acting in the individuals and their collectivity.

Sri Aurobindo recognises the need for the spiritual change to go beyond isolated individuals if it is going to meet the needs of the evolutionary crisis. He therefore sets forth various principles that would guide the development of spiritual collectivities:

“A common spiritual life meant to express the spiritual and not the mental, vital and physical being must found and maintain itself on greater values than the mental, vital, physical values of the ordinary human society; if it is not so founded, it will be merely the normal human society with a difference. An entirely new consciousness in many individuals transforming their whole being, transforming their mental, vital and physical nature-self is needed for the new life to appear; only such a transformation of the general mind, life, body nature can bring into being a new worthwhile collective existence. The evolutionary nisus must tend not merely to create a new type of mental beings but another order of beings who have raised their whole existence from our present mentalised animality to a greater spiritual level of the earth-nature.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine, Book 2, Part 2, Chapter 28, “The Divine Life”, pg. 1060-1061

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